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Title: Samba - A Story of the Rubber Slaves of the Congo
Author: Strang, Herbert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Frontispiece: Samba and the crocodile]



SAMBA

A Story of the Rubber Slaves

of the Congo


By

HERBERT STRANG

_Author of "One of Clive's Heroes," "Kobo," "Brown of Moukden," "Tom
Burnaby," etc., etc_



ILLUSTRATED BY WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I.



"Botofé bo le iwa!--Rubber is Death!"--_Congo Proverb_.



_SECOND EDITION_



LONDON

HENRY FROWDE ------ HODDER & STOUGHTON

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS ------ WARWICK SQUARE, E.C.

1908



Copyright, 1906, by the BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY,

in the United States of America.



_Butler and Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London_



PREFACE

Nearly a generation has passed since King Leopold was entrusted by the
great Powers with the sovereignty of the Congo Free State.  The
conscience of Christendom had been shocked by the stories, brought back
by Stanley and other travellers, of Arab slave raids on the Upper
Congo; King Leopold, coming forward with the strongest assurances of
philanthropic motive, was welcomed as the champion of the negro, who
should bring peace and the highest blessings of civilization to the
vast territory thus placed under his sway.  For many succeeding years
it was supposed that this work of deliverance, of regeneration, was
being prosecuted with all diligence; the power of the slave traders was
broken, towns were built, roads made, railways opened--none of the
outward signs of material progress were wanting.

But of late the civilized world has been horrified to find that this
imposing structure has been cemented with the life blood of the Congo
races; that the material improvements to which the administrators of
Congoland can point, have been purchased by an appalling amount of
suffering inflicted upon the hapless negroes.  The collection of
rubber, on which the whole fabric of Congo finance rests, involves a
disregard of liberty, an indifference to suffering, a destruction of
human life, almost inconceivable.  Those who best know the country
estimate that the population is annually reduced, under King Leopold's
rule, by at least a hundred thousand.  No great war, no famine, no
pestilence in the world's history has been so merciless a scourge as
civilization in Congoland.

Yet owing to mutual jealousies, the Powers are slow to take action, and
while they hesitate to intervene, the population of this great region,
nearly as large as Europe, is fast disappearing.

It has been my aim in this book to show, within necessary limitations,
what the effect of the white man's rule has been.

If any reader should be tempted to imagine that the picture here drawn
is overcoloured, I would commend him to the publications issued by Mr.
E. D. Morel and his co-workers of the Congo Reform Association, with
every confidence that the cause of the Congo native will thereby gain a
new adherent.

I must express my very great thanks to the Rev. J. H. Harris and Mrs.
Harris, who have spent several years on the Upper Congo, for their
kindness in reading the manuscript and revising the proofs of this
book, and for many most helpful suggestions and criticisms.

HERBERT STRANG.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

The Coming of the White Man


CHAPTER II

"Rubber is Death"


CHAPTER III

Monsieur Elbel


CHAPTER IV

Night Alarms


CHAPTER V

The Order of Merit


CHAPTER VI

Samba is Missing


CHAPTER VII

Blood Brothers


CHAPTER VIII

Jack in Command


CHAPTER IX

Samba Meets the Little Men


CHAPTER X

A Trip with a Crocodile


CHAPTER XI

Bula Matadi Comes to Ilola


CHAPTER XII

Samba comes Back


CHAPTER XIII

"Honour thy Father and thy Mother"


CHAPTER XIV

Lokolobolo's First Fight


CHAPTER XV

A Revolt at Ilola


CHAPTER XVI

The House by the Water


CHAPTER XVII

A Buffalo Hunt


CHAPTER XVIII

Elbel's Barrels


CHAPTER XIX

Breaking the Blockade


CHAPTER XX

David and Goliath


CHAPTER XXI

A Dash and all Together


CHAPTER XXII

A Message and a Meeting


CHAPTER XXIII

Elbel Squares Accounts


CHAPTER XXIV

A Solemn Charge


CHAPTER XXV

A Break for Liberty


CHAPTER XXVI

Turning the Tables


CHAPTER XXVII

The Return of Lokolobolo


CHAPTER XXVIII

The Chicotte


Chapter XXIX

Reaping the Whirlwind


Chapter XXX

Sinews of War


Chapter XXXI

Summons and Surrender


Chapter XXXII

The Dawn of Freedom


Chapter XXXIII

Conclusion



ILLUSTRATIONS


PLATE

   I Samba and the Crocodile . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

  II The Finding of Samba

 III A Midnight Encounter

  IV Jack Turns the Tables

   V Jack Rushes Elbel's Camp

  VI Samba Rescued from the Burning Hut

Ilombekabasi and surrounding Country, showing Elbel's first
  camp in foreground

Ilombekabasi and surrounding country, showing the diverted
  stream and Elbel's third camp



"Every boy and youth is, in his mind and sentiments, a knight, and
essentially a son of chivalry.  Nature is fine in him....  As long as
there have been, or shall be, young men to grow up to maturity; and
until all youthful life shall be dead, and its source withered for
ever; so long must there have been, and must there continue to be, the
spirit of noble chivalry.  To understand therefore this first and, as
it were, natural chivalry, we have only to observe the features of the
youthful age, of which examples surround us."

EDWARD FITZGERALD.



CHAPTER I

The Coming of the White Man

Samba lay face downwards upon the yellow sand, amid which his body
shone in the sunlight like polished ebony.  Behind, the rising bank was
thick with trees and shrubs ablaze with colour, overspread with the
delicate tracery of lianas and, creeping plants.  Here was a spot of
red, there a dash of orange; at intervals the pale yellow flowers of
climbing gourds and the mauve blossoms of convolvuli peeped from the
wall of vivid green.  Tiny rills made music as they trickled through
the foliage; and near at hand was a path trodden by herds of antelopes
as they came to drink.

Before, rolled the brown waters of a broad river, rippling over
whitened rocks in the bed, or over the gnarled limbs of fallen trees.
Here, on a sandy islet, flashed the scarlet and blue of little
kingfishers, contrasting with the sober grey of the bittern, or the
black and white of the vulture.  A giant heron perched on a low
overhanging branch, gazing solemnly at the ibis standing solitary by a
distant bush.

On a smooth spot at Samba's right sported innumerable butterflies, blue
and green and crimson, amid bees and dragon-flies lazily basking in the
heat.  Samba had but to stretch out his hand to make prisoners of what
he chose.  But Samba's attention was already occupied.  Looking over
the brink into the placid water, his eye was caught by a small round
soft object lying motionless on the surface.  A tiny crocodile, only a
few inches long, darted from beneath the leaf of a water-lily, in
pursuit of a tinier fish.  The round object suddenly contracted: there
was a ripple on the water, and the baby crocodile found itself in the
grasp of a droll little proboscis that shot out, gripped its hapless
prey, and drew it beneath the surface.  Samba smiled: he knew that just
below lay a trionyx, the owner of that little nostrilled proboscis; he
wasted no sympathy on the baby crocodile, which would never grow big to
snap up little negro boys at the waterside.

All around was silence, save for the hum of insects and the gentle
lapping of the water on the sand.  Then a slight sound caught Samba's
ear, and turning, he saw a handsome young lizard, pied with yellow and
greenish black, flashing along in chase of a fat frog which it had
marked for its own.  A swish of its flexible tail, a snap of its savage
teeth, and ranunculus disappeared--a choice morsel for breakfast.

Such scenes as these gave Samba constant entertainment.  He would often
wander alone from his village, as he had done to-day, carrying his
little broad-bladed dagger in case a snake should cross his path, and
spend hours in the forest or by the river bank, listening to the
chatter of the monkeys and the screams of the parrots, watching the
little stingless bees at their work, mocking the hollow note of the
drumbird or the wild pigeon's doleful call, studying the busy doings of
the multitudinous ants.  There was not a bird or beast or insect within
range of his village with whose ways Samba was not familiar.

The trionyx steered himself down stream; the lizard, swishing his
pliant tail, went off in search of other prey; and Samba's bright eyes
followed the mazy movements of the myriad flies sporting on the surface
of the sunlit water, and the shining fish darting this way and that in
the clear depths.  Suddenly a scream of the fishing eagle caused him to
glance up.  Then a shout made him spring to his feet and look
wonderingly in the direction of the sound.  He knew no fear.  His lithe
dusky body, bare save for a scrap of cloth about his loins and a string
of cowries round his neck, stood erect and alert; his keen intelligent
eyes expressed nothing but surprise and curiosity.  Again came the hail.

"W'onkoe!"[1]

"Em'one!"[2] called Samba in reply.

A boat was being slowly paddled up the stream.  Ten stalwart Baenga
stood at the paddles, bending forward as they made their strokes.  Two
other negroes squatted in the forepart of the boat.  Amidships sat
another figure, the sight of which gave Samba a delightful thrill of
expectation.  It was a white man, with fair hair and beard, clad all in
white.  Could this be Bula Matadi, Samba wondered, the white man whom
his grandfather, the chief Mirambo, had seen long ago at Wanganga?  He
waited, standing still as a rock.  The boat drew nearer, a few more
strokes of the paddle and it came under the bank.  The white man leapt
ashore, followed by the two men who had been seated.  They were big
fierce-looking fellows.  Each carried a long strangely-shaped stick
with a hollow tube; about his waist dangled a bag of skin.  The white
man stepped up to Samba, smiled upon him, patted his woolly head.  Then
one of the negroes began to question him.  Where was his village?  What
was it called?  Who was its chief?  How many huts did it contain?  Was
there much forest about it?  To these questions Samba replied frankly;
surely it was a great honour to his grandfather that the white man
should take such interest in him!  Then came a question that somewhat
amused him.  Did the forest contain _botofé_?[3]  He smiled.  Of course
it did.  Were not the drumsticks in his village made of _botofé_?  What
a strange question to ask of a forest boy!  The white man smiled in
return, and said something in a strange tongue to the negro who had
spoken.  "Take us to your village," said the man; and, nothing loth,
Samba set off like a young deer, the three men following him.

Samba was eleven years old.  His home was the village of Banonga, a
street of bamboo huts thatched with palm leaves and shadowed by the
broad foliage of bananas and plantains and tall forest trees.  His
grandfather Mirambo was the village chief, a tall, strong, wise old
man, a great fighter in his day, his body scarred with wounds, his
memory stored with the things he had seen and done.  Samba's father,
Mboyo (or Isekasamba, "father of Samba," as he was called after his boy
was born), was the old chief's favourite son, a daring hunter, a
skilful fisher, and the most silent man of his tribe.  He had several
wives, but Samba's mother was the best loved of them all, and wore
about her ankles the brass rings that betokened her supreme place in
her husband's affections.  Grandfather, father, mother, all doted on
Samba, and for eleven years he had lived a happy merry life, the pet of
the village.

Nothing had troubled the peace of the little community.  Banonga was a
secluded village, on the outskirts of a dense forest, not far from one
of the innumerable tributaries of the great river Congo.  Life passed
easily and pleasantly for these children of Nature.  In the morning,
ere the sun was up, the men would spring from their simple bamboo beds,
fling their hunting-nets or fishing-baskets on their shoulders, hang
about their necks the charms that would preserve them from accident and
ensure success in the work of the day, and repair to the old chief,
who, sitting on his forked chair in the middle of the street, gave them
the _bokaku_--the blessing without which they never left the village.
"May you be preserved from accident," he would say; "from wild beasts,
from snags in the path and snakes in the grass, and return with great
plenty."  Then they would shout their farewells, and hasten with
light-hearted laughter into the forest or down to the river.

Meanwhile the women had been long astir.  Some, babe on one arm,
calabash in the other, went singing to a forest stream, to bathe their
children and fill their vessels with water for the day's cooking.
Others, with baskets slung upon their backs and rude implements upon
their shoulders, sped to the gardens and cultivated fields, to perform
their simple operations of husbandry, and to return by and by with
manioc, plantains, ground-nuts, which they would prepare against their
husbands' return.  The morning's work done, they would dress their
hair, carefully, even fastidiously; kindle the fires of three
converging logs, and set upon them well-heaped pots of manioc, covered
with leaves of plantain or nongoti to prevent the escape of steam.
Some would prattle or sing lullabies to their babes, others form little
knots and gossip, laughing and jesting without a thought of care.

All day the village was cheered by the merry antics and joyous shouts
of the children at play.  Like children all over the world, the boys
and girls of the Congo delight in mimicking their elders.  The boys
made little hunting-nets and ran hither and thither in mock chase, or
spread their fishing-nets in the stream and gleefully boasted of their
tiny catches.  The girls wove little baskets and played with beads and
shells.  One and all, the children of Banonga were deft with their
fingers, and none so deft as Samba.  He was always busy, shaping now a
mortar for his mother, now a chair for his grandfather, now a wicker
basket so close in texture that he could bring in it water from the
stream without spilling a drop.

Most of all Samba loved to squat by his grandfather's chair in the late
afternoon, when the old chief sat alone, chin on hand, waiting for the
return of the men.  Then, and on dark nights, Mirambo would recite, in
his deep musical voice, interminable stories and legends, of the
spirits that haunted the woods, of the animals he had hunted and slain,
of narrow escapes from the greedy jaws of crocodiles, of fierce fights
with cannibals, of adventurous journeys by field and flood.  Samba
never tired of one story: how, years before, Mirambo had made a long
journey to Wanganga, far, very far away, and had there seen a white
man, who wore cloth all over his body, and had come up the river on a
wonderful smoke-boat, driven by a fiery snorting devil that devoured
insatiably great logs of wood.  Bula Matadi, "breaker of rocks," this
wonderful white man was called; but Mirambo had heard that in his own
country he was called Tanalay.[4]  Samba would listen with all his ears
to his grandfather's long narratives, inwardly resolving that he too,
when he became a man, would take long journeys and see marvellous
things--white men, and smoke-boats, and all.

Then, as the sun draws towards its setting, out of the forest there
come faint strains of song.  Mirambo's monotone ceases: he sits erect,
expectant; the women run out of the huts above which the wreathing
smoke proclaims preparations for the evening meal; the children gather
in a laughing chattering flock at the end of the street.  The sound of
singing draws nearer: at length it stops abruptly, but instantly is
followed by a loud prolonged shout; only Lianza's brazen throat can
utter that sonorous cry:--

"I-yo-li-o!  I-yo-li-o-o!"

And the long-drawn hail of Lianza is broken in upon by the roar of his
companions.  "Yo!" shout eighty men as one.  And out of the forest
spring the dusky band, laden with their spoils, which with an exultant
shout they set down before the chief, amid cries and hand-clapping and
slapping of the thighs by the women and children welcoming their
return.  The flesh is cut up, the fish divided: the women return to
their huts to cook the supper; the children cling about their fathers'
legs and recount the little adventures of the day.  The meal is eaten:
the whole population form a wide circle in the street, and, squatting
on their hams, give themselves up to the joy of watching the gyrations
of the dancing women, who, in their aprons of long grass, decorated
with tinkling bells, whirl around to the barbaric music of drums and
castanets, as the day darkens and the moon throws her silvery beams
upon the scene.

Such were the daily scenes amid which Samba passed his happy boyhood,
in the village of Banonga, whither he was now leading the white
stranger.

The village came in sight, nestling in a glade.  The laughing children
ceased their play, and stood finger in mouth shyly contemplating the
new comers.  The women, busily grinding manioc with pestle and mortar
in the open, looked up with startled glance and fled into their huts,
where they stood peeping from behind the posts of palm.  Mirambo, the
chief, rose from his seat and awaited with dignity the approach of the
white man.  Ceremonious greetings were exchanged.  Then ensued a long
conversation, the white man speaking, his negroes translating to the
chief.  He listened intently, and replied in brief phrases, most often
contenting himself with exclamations of assent--"Inde!" "Ng'oko!" or of
dissent--"Lako!" "O nye!"

_Botofé_!  Yes, he knew where _botofé_ could be found.  And the white
man, the Son of Heaven, wanted _botofé_; it had some value for him?
Well, he should have it.  Who so hospitable as the men of Banonga?
They were not as the men of Kinshassa, who met the white man with cries
of anger, and spears, and knives.  Had not he, Mirambo, seen Bula
Matadi, the friend of the black man?  "When my sons return from their
hunting," said Mirambo, "they shall provide the stranger with all that
he needs.  They shall give him plantains, and fowls, and cakes of
_kwanga_;[5] they shall make ready a hut for him; and _botofé_--yes, if
he needs _botofé_, my young men shall go into the forest and fill their
baskets with _botofé_ for him.  No one shall say but that the white man
is welcome in Banonga."



[1] Are you there?

[2] I am here.

[3] Rubber.

[4] H. M. Stanley.

[5] A preparation of manioc.



CHAPTER II

"Rubber is Death"

"Whew!  This is a warm country, Jack.  There'll soon be nothing left of
us."

"There's plenty at present, uncle," replied Jack Challoner with a
smile.  "Barney can spare less, after all."

"Sure an' that's the truth's truth, sorr.  'Twas the sorrow uv me
mother's heart that I ran to length instid uv breadth.  Whin I was a
bhoy she had to buy breeches always a size too long for me, and me
bones grew so fast they almost made holes in me skin--they did."

"Confound it, man, that's where you score.  The mosquitoes leave you
alone: can't find enough juice in you to make it worth their while to
worry you.  Whereas they suck at me till I'm all ulcers.  Hi!  Nando,
when shall we get to this Banonga we've heard so much about?"

"Berrah soon, sah.  Paddle small small, sah, den Banonga."

Mr. Martindale mopped his brow and drew his white umbrella closer down
upon his head.  He was lying under a grass shelter amidships a dug-out,
with his nephew Jack at his side and his man Barney O'Dowd at his feet.
The clumsy native craft rocked to and fro under the paddles of twelve
stalwart Baenga, who stood, their bodies bent slightly forward, singing
in time with their strokes.  They were paddling against the current of
a stream that forced its brown waters into one of the tributaries of
the Congo.  It was a broiling day.  A rainstorm in the night had
cleared the sky of the haze that commonly covered it, and the sun beat
down out of a dome of fleckless blue, irradiating the crimsons and
purples, the golds and whites, of the rich vegetation on the banks.

"I tell you, Jack," continued Mr. Martindale, "I shall grumble if this
talk of Banonga turns out to be wind.  I don't see what the Congo State
has to gain by exterminating the natives; and we know what liars these
blacks can be."

"Suppose the talk of gold turns out to be wind, uncle?"

"Eh?  What's that?  Wind!  Rubbish!  The difference is that we hear of
Banonga from the blacks; but 'twas Barnard told me of the gold, and
Barnard hasn't got enough imagination to say more than he knows.  No,
the gold is there safe enough; and I tell you I shall be glad when we
get through this Banonga and can proceed to business."

John Martindale was a florid well-preserved man of fifty-five years.
Born in New York, he had early gone west, rapidly made his pile in
California, and retired from the direction of his mines.  But meeting
one day in San Francisco an old friend of his, a queer stick of a
fellow named Barnard, who spent his life in roaming over the world and
making discoveries that laid the foundation of other men's fortunes,
not his own, he learnt from him that clear signs of gold had been
observed in the Maranga district on the Upper Congo.  Mr. Martindale
was very rich; but, like many another man, he found after his
retirement that time hung somewhat heavy on his hands.  He was still
full of energy, and Barnard's story of gold in a new country stirred
the imagination of the old miner.  He decided to take a trip to Africa
and test his friend's information.  As a matter of course he invited
Barnard to accompany him.

"No, no, John," replied his friend.  "I scratched the soil; I know gold
is there; I've no further interest in the stuff.  I'm off to the
Philippines next week.  Go and dig, old fellow, and take plenty of
quinine with you."

It happened that Mr. Martindale's only nephew, Jack Challoner, a lad of
seventeen, was just home from school.  He was an orphan.  His mother,
Mr. Martindale's sister, had married an English barrister of great
ability, who had already made a name at the Parliamentary Bar.  But he
died when his boy was only six years old; two years later his wife
followed him to the grave, and the guardianship of Jack fell to his
uncle, who, being a bachelor without other ties, readily assumed the
charge.  He surprised his friends by the course he took with the boy.
Instead of bringing him to America, he entered him at Bilton and
afterwards at Rugby, declaring that as the boy was English it was only
fair he should receive an English education.  "I read _Tom Brown_ years
ago," he would say, "and if they turn 'em out now as they did
then--well, we can't do better this side of the herring pond."  Jack
spent his holidays either in America, or in travelling about Europe
with his uncle, and the two became great chums.

But when Jack reached his seventeenth birthday Mr. Martindale again
surprised his friends.  "Send him to Oxford?" he said.  "Not much!  He
has had nearly four years at Rugby, he's in the fifth form, and I guess
he's enough book learning to serve his turn.  He's tip-top at sports:
he's a notion of holding his own and helping lame dogs; and I don't
want his nose to turn up, as I believe noses have a trick of doing at
Oxford.  No: the boy'll come home.  I don't know what he's to be; but
I'll soon find out what he's fit for, and then he'll have to work at
it.  The least I could do for his father's sake was to give him an
English education; he'll come back to America for a smartening up."

It was not long after Jack's return that Mr. Martindale met his friend
Barnard.  Since Barnard would not be his companion, Jack should.  "It
will do you no harm to see a little travel off the beaten track," he
said, "and I'm not going to work the gold myself: my mining days are
done.  You may tumble to it; in that case you'll stay in Africa and
take care not to waste my capital.  You may not: that'll be one thing
settled, anyway."

Accordingly, when Mr. Martindale sailed for Europe he took Jack with
him.  With characteristic energy he very quickly settled the
preliminaries.  He obtained for a comparatively small sum from a
Belgian trading company, the holders of a large concession on the Upper
Congo, the mining rights in the Maranga district, on condition of the
company receiving a percentage of the profits.  The first practical
step having been taken, Mr. Martindale's interest in his project became
keen.  He had never travelled out of America or Europe; there was a
certain glamour about an adventure in the heart of Africa; and he was
rich enough to indulge his humour, even if the results of Barnard's
discovery should prove disappointing.

Uncle and nephew sailed for Africa, spent a few days at Boma, travelled
over the cataract railway from Matadi to Leopoldville, and thence went
in a steamer for nearly three weeks up the Congo.  Then, leaving the
main river, they embarked on a smaller steamer, plying on a tributary
stream.  In about a week they arrived at a "head post," whence they
continued their journey, up a tributary of a tributary, by canoe.  This
last stream was quite a considerable river as the term would be
understood in Europe, though neither so broad nor so deep as the one
they had just left.  But this again was insignificant by comparison
with the mighty Congo itself, fed by a thousand tributaries in its
course of fifteen hundred miles from the heart of Africa to the sea.
Mr. Martindale became more and more impressed as the journey
lengthened, and at last burst out: "Well, now, this licks even the
Mississippi!"

But not the Shannon!  Barney O'Dowd was a true Irishman.  Mr.
Martindale had engaged him in London as handy-man to the expedition.
He had been in the army; he had been a gentleman's servant, wardroom
attendant at a hospital, drill-sergeant at a boys' school, 'bus
conductor, cabman, and chauffeur; but in none of these numerous
vocations, he said with a sigh, had he ever grown fat.  He was long,
lean, strong as a horse; with honest merry blue eyes, and curly lips
that seemed made for smiling.  He drove the travellers in a hansom
during the week they stayed in London, and looked so sorrowful when Mr.
Martindale announced his departure that the American, on the spur of
the moment, with bluff impulsiveness, invited him to join the
expedition.

"Sure an' 'tis me last chance, sorr," cried Barney, cheerfully
consenting.  "A sea voyage does wonders for some.  There was Terence
O'Bally, now, as thin as a lath in the ould counthry; he went to
Australia, and by the powers! when he came back to say 'God bless you'
to his ould mother, she did not know him at all at all, he was so full
in the flesh, sorr.  Sure an' I'll come wid ye wid the greatest
pleasure in the world, and plase the pigs I'll fatten like Terence.
Only wan thing, sorr; ye would not have any inshuperable objection to
Pat, sorr?"

"Who on earth's Pat?"

"Just a dog, sorr; a little darlint uv a terrier no fatter than me,
sorr; as kind an' gentle as wan uv the blessed angels.  He has as poor
appetite, sorr, an' sleeps on my coat, so he will not cost ye much for
board and lodging.  And I would thank ye kindly, sorr, if I might but
go home to 'm an' say, 'Pat, me darlint, times is changed.  We are in
luck, Pat.  There's a nice, kind, fat, jolly American gentleman that
takes very kindly to dogs an' Irishmen, an'----'"

"There then, that'll do," said Mr. Martindale, laughing.  "Bring Pat,
if you like.  But he'll have to go if he proves a nuisance."

And so Pat became a member of the party.  And he lay curled up now in
the bottom of the canoe, and cocked an eye as Barney declared with
emphasis that the Congo was a "mighty foine river, sure an' 'tis only
fair to say so; but by all the holy powers 'tis not to be compared wid
the Shannon, blessed be its name!"

It was Pat that sprang first ashore when the paddlers with a resounding
"Yo!" drove the canoe alongside a turfy platform by the bank, worn
level by the treading of innumerable feet.  The dog uttered one sharp
bark, faced round to the river, and stood with ears pricked and stumpy
tail wagging, to watch his master step to land.

"Now, Nando," said Mr. Martindale, when all were ashore, "lead the way.
Not too fast: and not too near skeeters or jiggers."

"Berrah well, sah; me go fust; frighten skeeters all away."

Leaving ten of the crew in the canoe, the rest of the party set off
under Nando's guidance.  He led them through the mass of tall grass
that lined the river bank, across a swampy stretch of heath, where a
narrow path wound in and out among trees large and small, beset by
dense undergrowth and climbing plants.  Insects innumerable flitted and
buzzed around the travellers, provoking lively exclamations from Mr.
Martindale and Jack, and many a vicious snap from the terrier, but
leaving Barney almost untouched.  Once a wild pig dashed across the
path and plunged into the thicket, with Pat barking frantically at its
heels.  Here and there Mr. Martindale caught sight of red-legged
partridge and quail, and sighed for his rifle.  Parrots squawked
overhead; once, from the far distance, muffled by the foliage, came the
trumpet of an elephant; but signs of humanity there were none, save the
meandering track.

At length, however, they came to a clear open space amid the trees,
where, on a low hill, stood a crude open hut, consisting of upright
supports surmounted by a roof of bamboos and leaves, and partly walled
by cloth.

"Berrah nice place, sah," said Nando cheerfully.  "Chief him missis
buried dah."

The travellers approached with curiosity.  Inside the shed they saw a
small image, roughly carved in semblance of a human figure, set upright
in the ground.  At one side lay two or three wicker baskets, at the
other a bottle; in front a big iron spoon stuck out of the soil, and
all around were strewed hundreds of small beads.  Nando explained that
these had been the property of the deceased lady.

"And is she buried under them?" asked Mr. Martindale, stepping back a
pace.

"Bit of her, sah."

"What do you mean--a bit of her?"

"All dey find, sah.  Bula Matadi come, make big bobbery; bang! chief
him missis lib for[1] dead, sah.  Bad man cut up, put in pot, only
little bit left, sah."

Mr. Martindale shivered, then waxed indignant.

"I don't believe it," he declared stoutly.  "Such things aren't done in
these days.  There are no cannibals in these days--eh, Jack?"

"I hope not, uncle.  But are we near Banonga, Nando?"

"Small small, sah, den Banonga."

"Lead on, then," cried Mr. Martindale; "I want to see with my own eyes
whether those fellows were telling the truth."

Some distance down the river, just after camping for the night, Mr.
Martindale's rest had been disturbed by a loud and excited conversation
between his own party and a group of newcomers who had halted to
exchange greetings.  Inquiring the cause of the commotion, he learnt
that the men had brought news of a terrible massacre that had taken
place at Banonga, a village in the forest many miles up stream.  The
villagers had been remiss in their collection of rubber; the agents of
Bula Matadi (which, originally the native name for Sir H. M. Stanley,
had become the name for the Congo Free State) had appeared at the
village with a force of native soldiers, and, according to the
informant, who had received the news from an up-country man, the whole
population had been annihilated.  Mr. Martindale had heard, in America
and England as well as in Africa, strange stories of the administration
of the Congo State; but, like many others, he had been inclined to
pooh-pooh the rumours of cruelty and atrocity as the vapourings of
sentimentalists.  But the stories imperfectly interpreted by Nando on
that pleasant evening by the river made a new impression on him.  He
was a hard-headed man of business, as little inclined to sentimentality
as any man could be; he hated any appeal to the emotions, and unasked
gave large subscriptions to hospitals and philanthropic societies so as
to avoid the harrowing of his feelings by collectors and other
importunate folk; but beneath his rough husk lay a very warm heart, as
none knew better than his nephew Jack; and the stories of cruelty told
by the lips of these natives made him feel very uncomfortable.  At a
distance he could shut his eyes to things--open his purse to deserving
objects and believe that his duty was done; but here, on the spot, this
easy course was not possible.  He did not like discomfort, bodily or
mental; it annoyed him when any external cause ruffled the serenity of
his life; and he made up his mind to pay a visit to Banonga on his way
up the river, test the negroes' story, and prove to his own
satisfaction, as he believed he would do, that it was exaggerated if
not untrue.  That done, he would dismiss the matter from his thoughts,
and proceed to the proper business of his journey without anything to
disturb his peace of mind.

The party left the grave on the hill and followed the same path through
another stretch of forest until they came, almost unawares, upon a
large clearing.

"Banonga, massa," said Nando, stretching out his hand, and looking into
Mr. Martindale's eyes with a glance as of some frightened animal.

"Banonga!  But where are the huts?" said Mr. Martindale.

No one answered him.  The party of five stood at the edge of the
clearing, looking straight before them.  Pat the terrier trotted
around, wagging his stump, and blinking up into their faces as if to
ask a question.  What did they see?  A long broad track, leading
between palms and plantains away into the impenetrable forest.  These
leafy walls were vivid green, but the road itself was black.  A smell
of charred wood and burnt vegetation filled the air.  There was not a
complete hut to be seen.  The space once thronged with a joyous
chattering crowd was now empty, save for ashes, half-burnt logs,
shattered utensils.  Here and there a bird hopped and pecked, flying up
into the trees with shrill scream as Pat sprang barking towards it.
But for these sounds, the silence was as of death.

"Come," said Mr. Martindale, stepping forward.  It was he who led the
way now as the party left the ring of forest and walked into the
clearing.  Barney, coming behind with Nando, groaned aloud.

"Stop that noise!" cried Mr. Martindale, swinging round irritably.
"What's the matter with you, man?"

"Sorrow a bit the matter wid me, sorr; but it just brought into me
mimory a sight I saw in the ould counthry whin I was a bhoy; sure there
was nothing to see there either, and that's the pity uv it."

Mr. Martindale walked on without speaking, poking with his stick into
the black dust of the road.  Nando went to his side, and pointed out
such traces of former habitations as remained: here a cooking pot,
there a half-consumed wicker basket, a broken knife, a blackened
bead-necklace.  And among the other scattered evidences of rapine there
were the remains of human beings--skeletons, separate bones.

"Whoever did this did it thoroughly," remarked Mr. Martindale with
darkening brow.  "But who did it?  I won't believe it was Europeans
till 'tis proved.  There are cannibals here; Nando said so: a cannibal
tribe may have raided the place.  Eh?  But where are the people?"

In the thick undergrowth, beyond the desolated village, crouched a
negro boy.  His cheeks were sunken, his eyes unnaturally bright.  His
left arm hung limp and nerveless; in his right hand he clutched a
broad-pointed dagger.  He had been lying in a stupor until roused by a
sharp sound, the cry of some animal strange to him.  Then he raised
himself slowly and with difficulty to his knees, and peered cautiously,
apprehensively, through the foliage amid which he was ensconced.

He glared and shrank back when he saw that among the strangers moving
about were two white men.  But what was this animal they had brought
with them? he wondered.  Goats he knew, and pigs, and the wild animals
of the forest; he knew the native dog, with its foxy head, smooth
yellowish coat, and bushy tail; but this creature was new to him.
True, it was like a dog, though its brown coat was rough and its tail
stumpy; but he had never seen the dogs of his village trot round their
masters as this was doing, never heard them speaking, as it seemed, to
the men with this quick sharp cry.  The dogs he had known never barked;
their only utterance was a long howl, when they were hungry or in pain.
He hated white men, but loved animals; and, weak as he was, he raised
himself once more, and bent forward, to look at this active dog-like
creature that came and went in apparent joyousness.

A bird flew down from a tree, and alighted hardily within a couple of
yards of the terrier.  This was too much for Pat.  He darted at the
audacious bird, pursued it into the thicket, then came to a sudden
surprised stop when he descried a black form among the leaves.  He
stood contemplating the boy with his honest brown eyes, and his tail
was very active.  Then with one short bark he trotted back to his
master, and looked up at him as if to say: "I have made a discovery;
come and see."  But man's intelligence is very limited.  Barney did not
understand.

"And did the cratur' give ye the slip, then?" he said, patting the
dog's head.

"That's not the point," said Pat's barks; "I want you to come and see
what I have found," and he ran off again towards the thicket, turning
once or twice to see if his master was following.  But Barney paid
little attention to him, and Pat, giving him up as hopeless, went on
alone to scrape acquaintance.  He stood before the boy at a distance of
a yard, blinking at him between the tendrils of a creeper.  Then he
advanced slowly, wagging his stump, poked his nose through the leaves,
and after a moment's sniffing deliberation put out his tongue and
licked the black knee he found there.  The boy made with his closed
lips the humming sound with which the negro of the Congo expresses
pleasure, and next moment the dog's paws were in his hands, and the
two, dog and boy, were friends.

But whoever was a friend of Pat's must also be a friend of Barney
O'Dowd.  It was not long before Pat awoke to a sense of his duty.  He
tried with the negro the plan that had just failed with his master.  He
retreated a little way, cocked his head round and barked, and waited
for the boy to follow.  The latter understood at once; but he shook his
head, and said, "O nye!  O nye!" under his breath, and lay still.  Pat
began to see that there was something keeping the white man and the
black boy apart.  It was very foolish, he thought; they were both such
good fellows: it was quite clear that they ought to be friends; but
what was a dog to do?  He trotted slowly back to Barney, and began to
speak to him seriously, with a bark of very different intonation from
that he had previously employed.

"Well, and what is it wid ye thin?" said Barney.

"He has caught the bird, I expect," said Jack, amused at the dog's
manner, "and wants you to go and see it."

"Sure thin I will," said Barney, "and mutton being scarce, we will have
a new kind uv Irish stew, Pat me bhoy.  But why did ye not bring it, me
darlint?"

He made to follow the dog, whose tail was now beating the air with
frantic delight.  But he had no sooner reached the edge of the
plantation than there was a rustle among the leaves: the boy was
leaving his hiding-place and trying to crawl away into the forest.

"Begorra!" quoth Barney, "'tis a living cratur', and a bhoy, black as
the peat on me father's bog, and not knowing a word uv Irish, to be
sure."

Pat was rubbing his nose on the boy's flank, wondering why he had taken
to going on all fours.  But the negro did not crawl far.  Faint with
weakness, moaning with pain, he sank to the ground.  Pat gave one bark
of sympathy and stood watching him.  Meanwhile Jack had come up.

"A boy, did you say, Barney?  What is he doing here?"

"Sure I would like to know that same, sorr, but niver a word uv his
spache did I learn.  Perhaps he has niver seen a white man, not to say
an Irishman, before, and thinks 'tis a ghost."

"Nando, come here!" called Jack.

The paddler hurried up, followed quickly by Mr. Martindale.

"What's this?  What's this?  A boy!  They're not all killed then."

"I think he's hurt, uncle, and scared.  He tried to crawl away from us,
but seemed too weak."

"Well, lift him up, Barney; we'll see."

Barney approached, but the instant he stretched forth his hands the boy
uttered a piercing shriek, and made to thrust at him with his dagger.

"Come, this will never do," said Mr. Martindale.  "Speak to him, Nando;
tell him we are friends, and will do him no harm."

Nando went up to the boy, and Pat stood by, wagging his tail and
looking inquiringly from one to the other as the negro talked in his
rapid staccato.  A few minutes passed; then Nando turned round and with
a beaming smile said:

"He understan' all same now, sah.  I say massa Inglesa ginleman, blood
brudder Tanalay, oh yes.  He know 'bout Tanalay: he no 'fraid dis time;
he come along along.  He Samba, sah."



[1] i.e. _live for_, an expression commonly used in all kinds of
circumstances by the natives, practically an intensive for various
forms of the verb _to be_.



CHAPTER III

Monsieur Elbel

Samba made no resistance when Nando lifted him and carried him to the
centre of the clearing.  He moaned once or twice as the Baenga pressed
his wounded arm, and almost fainted when he was laid on the ground
before Mr. Martindale.  But a sip from the traveller's flask revived
him, and he smiled.

"That's better," said Mr. Martindale.  "Poor boy!  He looks half
starved.  Have you any food about you, Nando?"

"No, sah: get some one time."[1]

He went off into the thicket, and soon returned with a couple of
scorched bananas.  These Samba devoured ravenously.

"Now I wonder if he could tell us all about it?" said Mr. Martindale.
"Ask him, Nando."

Samba told his story.  His dialect was different from Nando's, but
there is a freemasonry of speech among the tribes of the Congo, and
Nando understood.  It was not so easy for the others to get at the
meaning of Nando's strange jargon as he interpreted, but they listened
patiently, and missed little of the narrative.  Mr. Martindale sat on
an upturned pot, Jack and Barney on charred logs.  Nando squatted
beside Samba on the ground, and Pat thrust his muzzle contentedly
between the boy's knees and seemed to sleep.

[Illustration: The finding of Samba]

One night, when the moon was at the full, a messenger had come into
Banonga village.  The time was at hand when the agent of Bula Matadi
would attend to collect the tax--the weight of rubber exacted by the
Congo State from every able-bodied man.  The messenger reminded the
chief that Banonga had several times been in default.  Only a few men
had hitherto been punished, only a few women carried away as hostages
for the diligence of their husbands.  But the patience of Bula Matadi
was exhausted.  If on this occasion the due measure of rubber was not
forthcoming, the anger of Bula Matadi would blaze, the soldiers would
come, and the men of Banonga would have cause to rue their idleness.

The chief listened in silence.  He was old; his body was bowed, his
spirit broken.  Life in Banonga was no longer the same since the white
man came.  All the joy of life was gone; the people spent their days in
unremitting toil, endeavouring to satisfy the cry of their rulers for
rubber, always rubber, more rubber.  When the messenger arrived the men
were away hunting for rubber, but Mirambo knew that, were they doubled
in number, they could not gather the quantity required.  The vines in
their district were exhausted; the men had not been taught how to tap
them; they destroyed as they went, and now the whole district around
Banonga would not yield half of what was demanded of them.  The poor
old chief trembled when he thought of the woe that was coming to
Banonga, for he now knew from the fate of other villages on the river
what the messenger of Bula Matadi foreshadowed.  Unless his men could
achieve the impossible, find rubber where there was none, the blow
would fall.  And when it fell Banonga would be no more.  The village a
little while ago so happy and prosperous would be destroyed, its people
killed or scattered.  So it had happened to other villages: how could
he hope that Banonga would be spared?  The messenger indeed had spoken
of the leniency of Bula Matadi, but the chief might have reminded him
of the outrages the people had suffered; of the rapacity, the ruthless
brutalities, of the forest guards.  But he said no word of provocation;
only, when the man had gone, Samba heard him mutter the terrible
sentence now too often on his lips: "Botofé bo le iwa: rubber is death!"

The day came: the agent of Bula Matadi appeared, with an armed escort.
The men of Banonga had not returned.  They came dropping in by ones and
twos and threes, worn out with their long quest.  The rubber was
weighed: in many cases it was short; excuses were rejected, entreaties
scoffed at.  The hapless victims suffered taunts, abuse, the terrible
whip.  One, less enduring than the rest, resisted.  This was the
signal.  A dozen rifles were raised--a dozen shots rang out, strong
forms lay writhing in the agony of death.  A brief, sharp struggle;
another fusillade; and the terrified survivors, men, women and
children, fled helter-skelter to the forest, pursued by the shots of
the soldiery, ruthless of age or sex.  A raid was made upon their
deserted huts: everything that had value for the native levies was
seized; then the match was applied, and soon what had once been a
prosperous happy village was a heap of smouldering ruins.

Samba saw it all.  He remained dauntless by his grandfather's side
until a bullet put an end to the old chief's life; then he too fled
into the forest, to find his father and mother, his brothers and
sisters.  But he had delayed too long; one of the sentinels fired at
him as he ran: his left arm was struck.  He struggled on, but his
friends were now out of reach: he could not find them.  For several
days he wandered about, supporting his life on roots and herbs in the
vain search for his people.  Then, growing hourly weaker, he crept back
to his village, hoping that by and by the survivors would return to
their desolated homes, to rebuild their huts, and sow new crops.  But
none came.  He was alone!  And he had lain down among the trees--as he
thought, to die.

"Poor little fellow!" said Mr. Martindale.  "How old is he, Nando?"

"He say ten three years, sah," replied Nando after consulting the boy.

"Thirteen.  He looks older.  This is a pretty kettle of fish.  What can
we do with him?"

"We must take him with us, uncle!" said Jack.

"Take him with us, indeed!  What can we do with him?  We can't hunt for
his father and mother: he'd be of no use to us in our job.  He wants
doctoring: he might die on our hands."

"I learnt a little doctoring in the hospital, sorr," said Barney.
"Sure I think I could mend his arm."

"Well, well, Nando and the other man had better bring him along to the
canoe--gently, you know.  Don't make him squeal."

The two negroes lifted the boy, and the party set off to return to the
river.

"A fine responsibility you have let me in for, Jack," said Mr.
Martindale as they went along.  "I've no notion of a Crusoe and Friday
relationship."

"Why not say Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, uncle?"

"A man of my girth!" said Mr. Martindale, chuckling.  "But joking
apart, Jack, this is a serious business.  What am I to do with the boy,
supposing he gets better?  I am not a philanthropist; I can't start a
boys' home; and the little chap will be of no use to us in our proper
work.  For the life of me I don't see daylight through this."

"We may find him useful in other ways, uncle.  Besides, we may come
across his people."

"And we may not--we may not, Jack.  Still, have your way; only remember
he's your protégé; I wash my hands of him.  And mind you, I'm not going
to start a crusade.  There's been terrible work in this village: no
mistake about it; but I'm not convinced it's the doing of white men: in
fact, I refuse to believe it."

"But they're responsible.  They shouldn't employ natives who are so
blackguardly."

"That's where it is, you see.  You Britishers employed Red Indians in
our war of Independence, didn't you?"

"Yes, and Lord Chatham thundered against it, and it was put a stop to."

"They taught you history at Rugby, did they?  Glad to hear it.  Well, I
dare say Leopold will put a stop to it if representations are made to
him.  It's none of my business, but I'll mention the matter when I get
back to Boma.  Now, Sambo----"

"Samba, uncle."

"Bo or ba, it's all the same.  You'll have to be a good boy, Samba.
But what's the good of talking!  He can't understand what I say.
Doesn't know good from bad, I warrant.  Well, well!"

They reached the canoe and laid Samba gently down upon rugs.  The rude
craft was soon under way.  For a time Samba lay asleep, with his arm
about Pat's neck; but by and by, when the paddlers paused in the song
with which they accompanied their strokes, the boy awoke, and began to
sing himself, in a low musical voice that struck pleasantly upon the
ear after the rougher tones of the men.

"Bauro lofundo! (he sang); bauro lofundo!  Bompasu la Liwanga bao
lindela ud' okunda ilaka nkos'i koka."

This he repeated again and again until he was tired and slept once more.

"Very pretty," said Mr. Martindale.  "The boy'd make a fortune in New
York, Jack.  But what does it all mean, anyway?"

"Berrah nice song, sah," said Nando.  "Me tell all 'bout it.  People of
Bauro, sah, plenty bad lot.  Bompasu and Liwanga been and gone after
'long 'long into de forest, not come back till parrots one two free
twenty all dah."

"Well, I can't make much of that.  Doesn't seem to have any more sense
than the songs that our gals sing at home."

But further inquiry brought out the story.  It appeared that a rubber
collector, not satisfied with exacting from the people of Bauro the
usual quantity of rubber, had required them to furnish him by a certain
day with twenty young parrots which he wished to take with him to
Europe.  Being unable to obtain so large a number by the given date,
the people were declared to be surpassingly obstinate and wicked, and
the sentries Bompasu and Liwanga were let loose upon them until the
twenty parrots were delivered.

"Humph!" grunted Mr. Martindale.  "Say, wasn't it Macaulay who said
he'd write a nation's history from its ballads?  Rubber and parrots;
what next, I wonder?  These Congo people have original ideas in
taxation."

"Begorra, sorr," said Barney, "and don't I wish the taxes in the ould
counthry were uv the same kind.  Sure and ivery man in the counthry
would be glad to supply the collectors wid scores uv sparrows or
peewits or any other fowl, and murphies and blackthorns--ivery mortal
thing but money, sorr."

In the course of a few hours the stream they had hitherto been
navigating ran into a larger tributary of the Congo some hundred and
fifty miles above the point where it joined the main river.  The canoe
had scarcely entered the broader river when the crew suddenly stopped
paddling, and Nando, turning round with some excitement, said--

"Smoke-boat, sah."

"What?"

"Smoke-boat nebber dis way before, sah."

"A steamer, eh?"

"A launch flying the Congo State flag, uncle--blue with a golden star,"
said Jack, standing up in the canoe and taking a long look ahead.

Nando explained that the rapids, a day's paddling down stream, had
prevented the State officers hitherto from bringing steam launches into
this part of the river.  Evidently the vessel now approaching must have
been carried, as a whole or in sections, overland past these rapids--a
work of great difficulty and labour, for the rapids were at least three
miles in length, and the shores were at some parts rocky, at others
covered with dense scrub.

Almost before Nando had finished his explanation the canoe had been put
about, and the men began to paddle hard up stream towards the mouth of
the little river, into which the launch could not follow them.

"Hi, now, Nando, what are you about?" cried Mr. Martindale.

Nando replied that it was always best to avoid the State officials.  He
would lie in a creek until the launch was past.

"I don't see why we should run away," said Mr. Martindale.  "However,
after what we've just seen, I've no wish to meet them.  I might say
something that would lead to a row with the Company."

He lit a cigar and lay back in the canoe.  Jack turned flat on his face
and watched the launch.  It was soon clear that Nando's plan was
impossible.  The launch was a swift one: it came on with increased
speed, and when within hailing distance a voice in French called
peremptorily upon the canoe to stop.

"Nando, stop paddling," said Mr. Martindale, leisurely turning round on
his seat.  "Answer their hail, Jack."

"Who are you?" shouted Jack in English.

The foreigner in the bow of the launch was somewhat taken aback.  He
had thought to do the questioning, not to be questioned.  But he
replied stiffly--

"I am Monsieur Elbel, of de Société Cosmopolite du Commerce du Congo."

The launch was now within a few yards of the canoe.  Monsieur Elbel was
a short thick-set man with reddish hair, and a thick red moustache that
stuck out rigidly a couple of inches on each side of his nose.  He wore
a white topee and white trousers, but his coat was blue, with brass
buttons, and gold lace at the shoulders.  All but himself on deck were
negroes.

Mr. Martindale ordered the paddlers to bring the canoe round, so that
he might face the Belgian.  Then, still seated, he blew out a cloud of
smoke and said--

"Well, I don't know you, Mr. Elbel, and if the work in Banonga yonder
is due to you I don't wish to.  Paddle ahead, Nando."

The crew looked somewhat awestruck, but obediently dropped their
paddles into the stream.  Monsieur Elbel's cheeks had turned a fiery
red several shades deeper than his hair, and the veins upon his
forehead swelled.  The canoe sped past him while he was still
endeavouring to collect himself.  Suddenly a tall negro at his side
threw out his hand, exclaiming: "Ok'ok'ok'oka!"[2]

The Belgian looked in the direction pointed out, and the negro followed
up his exclamation with a rapid excited sentence.  Monsieur Elbel at
once sent the launch in pursuit of the canoe, ran her alongside, and
cried:

"Halt!  I bid you halt.  You are rude.  I vill run you down if you have
not care.  Dat boy I see in your canoe I know him; he belong to my
société: I demand him to be given up."

"Not so fast, Mr. Elbel.  I treat men as they treat me.  You have no
right to stop me.  I am an American, a citizen of the United States,
travelling in the Free State, which I believe, is open to all the
world.  Besides, I have a patent from your company.  I propose to
continue my journey."

"But--but--I tell you, dat boy is not American: he is subject of Congo
State, in concession of my société; still vunce, I demand him."

"Sorry I can't oblige you.  The boy is in my service: he has been
wounded--perhaps you know how; nothing but an order from the Free State
courts will compel me to give him up.  And even then I won't, knowing
what I know.  That's flat, Mr. Elbel.  You stop me at your risk.  Go
ahead, Nando."

The negroes dug their paddles into the water, and the canoe darted past
the side of the launch.  Monsieur Elbel bit his moustache and savagely
tugged its ends; then, completely losing control of his temper, he
shouted--

"You hear; I varn you.  You act illegal; you come to seek for gold; dat
is your business: it is not your business to meddle yourself viz de
natif.  I report you!"

The launch snorted away up stream, the canoe continued its journey at a
moderate pace, and each was soon out of sight of the other.

For some minutes Mr. Martindale seemed preoccupied.

"What is it, uncle?" asked Jack after a time.

"I was thinking over what that fellow Elbel said.  He knows more about
our business here than I quite like.  Of course they all know we're
after minerals, but Barnard's find is not the dead secret he thought it
was.  Or say, Jack, d'you think we are being watched?"

"Perhaps he was fishing?"

"I don't think so, for he didn't wait for an answer.  However, we
needn't meet our difficulties half-way.  Anyhow, 'twill do Mr. Elbel no
harm to know that we don't care a red cent for him or any other Congo
man.  I suppose he's in charge of this section.  But what on earth did
the fellow want with the boy?"

Nando, without ceasing to ply his paddle, turned his head and spoke
over his shoulder to Samba, now wide awake.

"Samba say him uncle dah, sah: uncle Boloko, plenty bad man."

"A wicked uncle, eh?"

"He berrah angry, sah, 'cos Samba him fader hab got plenty more wives,
sah; must be chief some day.  Boloko he want to be chief: berrah well:
Banonga men all say 'Lako! lako!'[3] plenty loud.  Boloko berrah much
angry: go to white men: tell berrah bad fings 'bout Banonga men.  Samba
say Banonga men lib for cut off Boloko his head if catch him."

"Wigs on the green, Jack.  Then I guess this Boloko fellow wanted to
get in first.  Well, it doesn't raise my opinion of Mr. Elbel; you know
a man by the company he keeps, eh?"

"And the Company by him, uncle."



[1] Immediately.

[2] Exclamation of surprise.

[3] Exclamation of refusal.



CHAPTER IV

Night Alarms

In the course of an hour or two Mr. Martindale's canoe reached the
camp, on a piece of rising ground immediately above the river.  Here he
found the rest of his party--some fifty strong West African
natives--the three canoes in which they had come up stream lying nose
to stern along the low bank, only the first being moored, the others
roped to it.

The party had reached the spot three days before, and were resting
after the fatigues of their journey.  These had been by no means
slight, for the men had had to haul the canoes through the rapids, and
sometimes to make portages for a considerable distance.  Fortunately
the canoes were not heavily laden.  They contained merely a good stock
of food, and a few simple mining tools.  This was only a prospecting
trip, as Mr. Martindale was careful to explain before leaving Boma.

His friend Barnard's instructions had been clear enough.  The discovery
had been accidental.  Coming one day, in the course of his wanderings,
to the village of Ilola, he happened to learn that the chief's son was
down with fever.  The villagers had been somewhat unfriendly, and
Barnard was not loth to purchase their goodwill by doing what he could
for the boy.  He cured the fever.  The chief, like most of the negroes
of Central Africa, had strong family affections, and was eager to give
some practical token of his gratitude for his son's recovery.  When
taking the boy's pulse, Barnard had timed the beats by means of his
gold repeater.  The chief looked on in wonderment, believing that the
mysterious sounds he heard from the watch were part of the stranger's
magic.  When the cure was complete, he asked Barnard to present him
with the magic box; but the American made him understand by signs that
he could not give it away; besides, it was useful only to the white
man.  Whereupon the chief had a happy thought.  If the yellow metal was
valuable, his friend and benefactor would like to obtain more of it.
There was plenty to be found within a short distance of the village.
The chief would tell him where it was, but him alone, conditionally.
He must promise that if he came for it, or sent any one for it, the
people of Ilola should not be injured; for every month brought news
from afar of the terrible things that were done by the white men in
their hunt for rubber.  Perhaps the same might happen if white men came
to look for gold.

Barnard gave the chief the desired assurance, undertaking that no harm
should come to him or his people if he showed where the gold was to be
found.  The American was then led across a vast stretch of swampy
ground to a rugged hill some three or four miles from Ilola.  Through a
deep fissure in the hillside brawled a rapid stream, and in its sandy
bed the traveller discerned clear traces of the precious metal.

Barnard explained to Mr. Martindale that Ilola was several days'
journey above the rapids on the Lemba, a sub-tributary of the Congo,
and provided him with a rough map on which he had traced the course of
the streams he would have to navigate to reach it.  But even without
the map it might be found without much difficulty: its name was well
known among the natives along the upper reaches of the river, the chief
being lord of several villages.

So far Mr. Martindale's journey had been without a hitch, and he was
now within three or four days of his destination.  It was the custom of
the party to stay at night in or near a native village.  There a hut
could usually be got for the white men, and Barnard had told them that
a hut was for many reasons preferable to a tent.  Sudden storms were
not infrequent in these latitudes, especially at night--a tent might be
blown or washed away almost without warning, while a well-built native
hut would stand fast.  Moreover, a tent is at the best uncomfortably
hot and close; a hut is more roomy, and the chinks in the matting of
which its sides commonly consist allow a freer passage of air.  The
floor too is dry and hard, often raised above the ground outside; and
the roof, made of bamboo and thatched with palm leaves and coarse
grasses, is rain-tight.

Up to the present Mr. Martindale had met with nothing but friendliness
from the natives, and a hut had always been at his disposal.  But he
had now reached a part of the river where the people knew white men
only by hearsay, and could not distinguish between inoffensive
travellers and the grasping agents whose cruelty rumour was spreading
through the land.  The people of the village where he wished to put up
for this night were surly and suspicious, and he decided for once to
sleep in his tent on the river bank instead of in a hut.

The party had barely finished their evening meal when the sun sank, and
in a few minutes all was dark.  Samba had been handed over to Barney,
whose hospital experience enabled him to tend the boy's wound with no
little dexterity, and the boy went happily to sleep in Barney's tent,
his arm round Pat's neck.  Jack shared his uncle's tent.  He had been
somewhat excited by the scenes and events of the day, and did not fall
asleep the moment he lay down, as he usually did.  The tent was very
warm and stuffy; the mosquitoes found weak spots in his curtains and
sought diligently for unexplored regions of his skin, until he found
the conditions intolerable.  He got up, envying his uncle, who was
sound asleep, his snores vying with the distant roars of hippopotami in
the river.  Taking care not to disturb him, Jack stepped out of the
hut, and understood at once why the air was so oppressive.  A storm was
brewing.  Everything was still, as if weighed down by some monstrous
incubus.  Ever and anon the indigo sky was cut across by steel-blue
flashes of forked lightning, and thunder rumbled far away.

Jack sauntered on, past Barney's tent, towards the river bank,
listening to noises rarely heard by day--the grunt of hippopotami, the
constant rasping croak of frogs, the lesser noises of birds and insects
among the reeds.  The boatmen and other natives of the party were a
hundred yards away, beyond the tents he had just left.  Sometimes they
would chatter till the small hours, but to-night they were silent,
sleeping heavily after their toil.

He came to a little eminence, from which he could look down towards the
stream.  Everything was black and indistinguishable.  But suddenly, as
a jagged flash of lightning momentarily lit the scene, he fancied he
caught a glimpse of a figure moving below, about the spot where the
nearest of the canoes was moored.  Was it a wild beast, he wondered,
prowling for food?  Or perhaps his eyes had deceived him?  He moved a
little forward; carefully, for the blackness of night seemed deeper
than ever.  Another flash!  He had not been mistaken; it was a figure,
moving on one of the canoes--a human form, a man, stooping, with a
knife in his hand!  What was he doing?  Once more for an instant the
lightning lit up the river, and as by a flash Jack guessed the man's
purpose: he was about to cut the mooring rope!

Jack's first impulse was to shout; but in a moment he saw that a sudden
alarm might cause the natives of his party to stampede.  The intruder
was alone, and a negro; Why not try to capture him?  Jack was ready
with his hands: his muscles were in good order; he could wrestle and
box, and, as became a boy of Tom Brown's school, fight.  True, the man
had a knife; but with the advantage of surprise on his side Jack felt
that the odds were fairly equal.  He stole down the slope to the
waterside, hoping that the darkness would remain unbroken until he had
stalked his man.  A solitary bush at the very brink gave him cover;
standing behind it, almost touching the sleeping sentry who should have
been guarding the canoes, Jack could just see the dark form moving from
the first canoe to the second.

He waited until the man bent over to cut the connecting rope; then with
three long silent leaps he gained the side of the foremost canoe, which
was almost resting on the bank in just sufficient water to float her.
The man had already made two or three slashes at the rope when he heard
Jack's splash in the shallow water.  With a dexterous twist of his body
he eluded Jack's clutch, and swinging round aimed with his knife a
savage blow at his assailant.  Jack felt a stinging pain in the fleshy
part of the thigh, and, hot with rage, turned to grapple with the
negro.  His fingers touched a greasy skin; the man drew back, wriggled
round, and prepared to leap overboard.  At the moment when he made his
spring Jack flung out his hands to catch him.  He was just an instant
too late; the negro had splashed into the shallow water on the far side
of the canoe, and disappeared into the inky blackness beyond, leaving
in Jack's hands a broken string, with a small round object dangling
from the end.  At the same moment there was a heavy thwack against the
side of the canoe; and Jack, mindful of crocodiles, bolted up the bank.
He turned after a few yards, shuddering to think that the man had
perhaps escaped him only to fall a victim to this most dreaded scourge
of African rivers.  But if he was indeed in the jaws of a crocodile he
was beyond human help.  He listened for a time, but could detect no
sound betraying the man's presence.  Pursuit, he knew, was useless.
Except when the lightning flashed he could scarcely see a yard beyond
him.

[Illustration: A midnight encounter]

Jack did not care to disturb his uncle.  He went round the camp, found
Nando with some difficulty in the darkness, and ordered him to send ten
of the crew to occupy the canoes for the rest of the night.  Then he
went back to his tent, bound up his wound, and stretched himself on his
mattress.  He lay awake for a time, wondering what motive the intruder
could have for damaging the expedition.  At last, from sheer weariness,
he dropped off into a troubled sleep in which he was conscious of a
deluge of rain that descended upon the camp.

The morning however broke clear.  Jack told his uncle what had occurred.

"Humph!" grunted Mr. Martindale.  "What's the meaning of it, I wonder?"

"Do you think it was a move of that Belgian fellow, uncle?"

"Mr. Elbel?  No, I don't.  He has no reason for interfering with us.
I've bought the rights from his company, and as they'll get royalties
on all the gold I find, he's not such a fool as to hinder us."

"But Samba, uncle?"

"Bah!  He was egged on to demand the boy by that villainous-looking
nigger, and his dignity being a trifle upset, he thought he'd try it on
with us.  No, I don't think he was at the bottom of it.  I've always
heard that these niggers are arrant thieves; the villagers were
unfriendly, you remember, and most likely 'twas one of them who took a
fancy to our canoes.  Glad you frightened him off, anyway.  What about
your wound?"

"It's nothing to speak of--a slight flesh wound.  I washed it with alum
solution, and don't think it will give me any bother."

"Lucky it's no worse.  We'll set a careful watch every night after
this.  And take my advice: if you can't sleep, don't go prowling about;
it isn't safe in these parts.  Try my dodge; shut your eyes and imagine
you see forty thousand sheep jumping a patent boundary fence in single
file; or if that don't work, say to yourself: 'How much wood would a
woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?'--and keep on saying
it.  I've never known it fail."

"Perhaps it's a good job I didn't know it last night," replied Jack,
laughing.  "We should have been minus four canoes."

"And all our stores.  But don't do it again, there's a good fellow.
I've paid double passage, and I don't want to go home alone."

The camp was by this time astir.  The natives, chattering like monkeys,
were busily preparing their breakfast.  Barney was engaged in a like
service for the white men, and Samba proved himself to be an adept at
cleaning the fish which some of the men had caught in the early morning.

"Sure an' he'll be a treasure, sorr," said Barney, as he handed Mr.
Martindale his cup of tea and plate of broiled fish.

"Is the boy getting better?"

"As fast as he can, sorr.  'Twas want uv food more than wounds that was
wrong wid him.  All he really needs is a dish uv good honest murphies
twice a day, and sorry I am they do not grow in this haythen counthry."

It was one of Barney's crosses that the only potatoes obtainable _en
route_ were the sweet variety.  Mr. Martindale rather liked them--a
weakness which Barney regarded with sorrow as an injustice to Ireland.

Breakfast finished, the canoes were manned and the expedition resumed
its journey.  Samba kept the negroes amused with his songs and chatter
and clever imitations of the cries of birds and beasts.  His restless
eyes seemed to miss nothing of the scenes along the river.  He would
point to what appeared to be a log cast up on the sand and exclaim
"Nkoli!" and utter shrill screams: and the log would perhaps disappear,
leaving no trace, or move and open a sleepy eye, and Barney ejaculate,
"A crocodile, by all the holy powers!"  Once he drew Jack's attention
to a greenish lizard, some eight inches long, creeping down an ant-hill
towards a tiny shrew mouse.  Spying the enemy, the little creature
darted down the slope, and took a header into the water; but the lizard
came close upon its heels, sprang after it, and dragged it down into
the deep.

"And what do you make of this?" said Jack suddenly, showing Samba the
amulet he had torn from the neck of the midnight marauder.  The boy
started, stared at the piece of bone, looked up in Jack's face and
exclaimed--

"Bokun'oka fafa!"[1]

"Him say belong him uncle," Nando interpreted.

Samba spoke rapidly to Nando.

"Him say belong berrah bad uncle on smoke-boat, sah.  Him say how massa
get him?"

Jack related the incident of the night, Nando translating to the boy,
who listened gravely, but smiled at the end.

"Why does he smile?" asked Jack.

"He say him uncle no lib for good any more: lost medicine ring; he no
fit for do bad fings any more: get cotched ebery time."

"Begorra, sorr, 'tis like me very own uncle Tim, who niver had a day's
luck after he lost the lucky sixpence given to 'm by a ginerous kind
gentleman for holding a horse in Sackville Street whin he was a bhoy.
He had always been unlucky before that, sorr, and sure the lucky
sixpence would have made a rich man uv him in time; but he lost it the
very same day, sorr, and had no luck at all at all."

"Well," said Mr. Martindale, laughing, "if the loss of this amulet
means that the owner will never succeed in any tricks against us, I
congratulate you, Jack.  Will you wear it yourself?"

"No, uncle; I'll give it to Samba."

But Samba, when the charm was given to him, looked at it seriously for
a moment, then his face broke into a beaming smile as he slipped the
string about Pat's neck.

"Mbua end' ólótsi!"[2] he cried, clapping his hands.

Pat barked with pleasure and licked the boy's face.

"They're great chums already," remarked Mr. Martindale pleasantly, as
he bit the end off a cigar.

That evening, when the time for camping came, there was no village in
sight from the river, and Nando reported that the nearest lay too far
from the stream to suit his employer.  The banks were thickly wooded,
and it appeared as if there would be some difficulty in finding a space
sufficiently clear for a camp.  But at last the travellers came to a
spot where a stretch of level grassland ran wedge-like into the
vegetation.  At one end the ground rose gradually until it formed a
bluff overhanging the river at a considerable height.  This seemed as
favourable a place as was likely to be discovered, and here the camp
was pitched, the evening meal was eaten, and the travellers sought
repose.

The night was very dark, and deep silence brooded over the
encampment--such silence as the dweller in towns can never know.  Not
even the shriek of a nocturnal monkey or the splash of a fish pursued
by a crocodile broke the stillness.  Every member of the party was
asleep.  But all at once, Samba, lying just within the flap-door of
Barney O'Dowd's tent, one arm pillowing his head, the other clasping
the terrier, was disturbed by a low whine.  He was awake in an instant.
He had never heard Pat whine; the dog barked at everything; why had he
changed his manner of speech?  Samba got up: Pat had left him and stood
in the entrance to the tent; the whine had become a growl.  The boy
followed him, stooped and felt in the dark for his head, then lifted
him in his arms and went out, laying a hand on the dog's muzzle to
silence him.  Like other terriers, Pat objected to be carried.

The whine had wakened Barney also; Pat and he had passed many a night
together.  He heard the slight sound made by Samba's departure, and
rising, went out in his stockings to follow him.  He walked a few yards
in the direction he supposed Samba to have taken; but it was too dark
to see him, and neither boy nor dog made any further sound.  Barney
retraced his steps, and, wandering a little from the way he had come,
stumbled over the sleeping body of one of the men placed as sentinels.
He gave him a kick.

"Get up, you varmint!" he cried.  "Is that the fashion uv keeping
gyard?"

But as soon as he had passed on the man rolled over, gave a grunt, and
was fast asleep again.

Meanwhile Samba had walked on towards the river bank, stopping at
intervals to listen.  He heard nothing; not even the usual nightly
sounds came to him; the surrounding forest seemed asleep.  But
suddenly, Pat became restless and uttered a rumbling growl.  Samba held
him close and whispered to him, and the dog apparently understood, for
the growl ceased.  Then Samba caught the faint sound of paddles
up-stream--a sound so familiar to him that he could not be mistaken.

He crept cautiously along, up the gradual ascent, until he came near
the summit of the overhanging cliff.  Moving stealthily to the edge he
peered over; but in the blackness he could see nothing.  The sound had
ceased.

Feeling his way carefully with his bare feet, Samba slowly made his way
down the grassy cliff until he came near the water's edge, then crept
along the bank up stream.  Again Pat uttered his low growl, but was
instantly silent in response to the boy's whispered warning.  Samba
seemed to find his way by instinct over the uneven ground.  Now and
again he heard a beast scurry away at his approach and rustle through
the bushes or plunge into the river; but he was not afraid: there was
little risk of encountering a dangerous animal, and he was too far
above the sandy level to stumble upon a crocodile lying in wait.

He went on steadily.  It was not a native custom to move about in the
dark hours, and, remembering what had happened the night before, he was
intent upon discovering the business of the mysterious paddlers.  After
Pat's last smothered growl he proceeded more cautiously than ever.  At
last the sound of low voices ahead made him halt.  Whispering again to
Pat, who licked his hand as if to reassure him, he set the dog down and
crept forward again, bending low, and taking care, dark as it was, to
avail himself of every bush for cover.  To judge by the voices, a large
number of men must have gathered at some point not far ahead.  He drew
still nearer.  All at once he halted again, and laid a hand on Pat's
neck.  Among the voices he had distinguished one that he knew only too
well: it was that of his uncle Boloko.  He stood rooted to the spot
with dismay.

A few minutes later his quick ears caught the sound of men moving off
at right angles to the river in a direction that would enable them to
skirt the cliff and come upon the sleeping camp through the forest in
its rear.  In a flash he saw through their scheme.  Bidding Pat in a
whisper to follow him, he turned and hurried back, climbing the face of
the cliffs with a panther's surefootedness, and racing along at his top
speed as soon as he came to the downward slope.  With Pat at his heels
he dashed into Barney's tent.

"Etumba!  Etumba!"[3] he exclaimed breathlessly.  "Ba-lofúndú bao
ya!"[4]

And Pat chimed in with three rapid barks.



[1] My father's younger brother.

[2] Good dog!

[3] Fight! (the natives' alarm signal).

[4] The villains are upon us!



CHAPTER V

The Order of Merit

"Bad cess to you, you young varmint!" exclaimed Barney, waking with a
start.  "What do you say at all?"

"Ba-lofúndú bao ya!  Boloko!"

"Be jabers if I know what you'd be meaning.  Off!  Run!  Nando!  And
it's pitch dark it is."

The boy scampered, Pat still at his heels.  The dog had evidently been
impressed by Samba's warnings, for he ran silently, without growl or
bark.  They came to the spot where Nando lay, beneath a spreading
acacia.  Samba shook him without ceremony.

"Ba-lofúndú bao ya!" he cried.  "Betsua!  Betsua!"[1]

Nando growled and bade him be off; but when the boy poured his story
with eager excitement into the big negro's sleepy ears, Nando at last
bestirred himself, and hurried to Mr. Martindale's tent, bidding Samba
remain at hand.

"Samba him uncle, berrah bad man, come to fight," said Nando
breathlessly when Jack came to the door of the tent.  "Bad man go round
round, hide in trees, come like leopard.  Massa gone 'sleep: massa him
men all lib for big sleep; Boloko shoot; one, two, massa dead all same."

"What, what!" said Mr. Martindale, flinging off his rug.  "Another
alarm, eh?" He pressed the button of an electric torch and threw a
bright light on the scene.

"An attack in force this time, uncle," said Jack.  "Some black fellows
are coming to surprise us in the rear."

"How many are the villains?" said Mr. Martindale, pulling on his
trousers.

"Two, free, hundred, fousand."

"A dozen all told, I suppose!  Well, we'll fight 'em."

"Rather risky that, uncle," said Jack.  "There may be more than a
dozen, after all, and our men are not armed: we two couldn't do much
against a hundred, say."

"True.  Why was I such a fool?  That Britisher at Matadi said I'd
better arm my men, and I wish I'd taken his tip.  We're in a tight
corner, Jack, if the nigger is correct.  Here, Nando, are you sure of
this?"

"Sartin sure, sah.  Me see fousand fifty black men creep, creep 'long
ribber, sah: big lot guns, 'Bini guns, massa, go crack, crack.  Come
all round, sah; run like antelope: no time for massa run away."

Nando's face expressed mortal terror; there was no doubt he believed in
the reality of the danger.

"How did they come?" asked Mr. Martindale.

"In boat, sah."

"Where are they?"

"Small small up ribber, sah."

"And I suppose you've alarmed the camp?"

"No, sah, no.  Me no tell one boy at all."

"Well, it looks as if we're going to be wiped out, Jack.  We can't
fight a hundred armed men.  If our fellows were armed, we might lay a
trap for 'em; but we aren't strong enough for that.  But perhaps if we
show we're ready for 'em, and they're not going to surprise us, they
may sheer off."

"Then why not take the offensive, uncle?"

"What d'you mean?"

"Attack the canoes while the most of them are marching round.  They'd
hear our shots and bolt back, as sure as a gun."

"That's slim.  We'll try it.  Go and wake Barney, Jack."

Barney, however, was already on his way to the tent, Jack explained the
situation to him.

"Here's a revolver, Barney," said Mr. Martindale, as the Irishman came
up.  "You must do the best you can if there's a rush.  Jack and I are
going right away to the river: you're in charge."

Barney handled the revolver gingerly.

"Sure I'd feel more at home wid me shillelagh!" he muttered as he went
away.  Mr. Martindale turned to the negro.

"Now you, Nando, lead the way."

The man's eyes opened wide with fear.

"Me plenty sick in eyes, sah," he stammered.  "Me only see small small.
Boy Samba him eyes berrah fine and good, see plenty quick, massa; he
show way."

"I don't care who shows the way," said Mr. Martindale, too much
preoccupied with his hunting rifle and ammunition to notice the
inconsistency between Nando's statement and the story he had already
told.  Nando called to Samba and told him what was required, and the
party set off, the boy going ahead with Pat, Mr. Martindale and Jack
following with their rifles, and Nando in great trepidation bringing up
the rear.

Mr. Martindale puffed and panted as he scaled the bluff, and breathed
very hard as he followed Samba down the rough descent to the brink of
the river.  When they came to comparatively level ground they halted.

"How far now?" asked Mr. Martindale, in a whisper.

"Small small, massa," replied Nando.

"Well, Jack, when we come near these precious canoes we'll fire both
barrels one slick after the other, then reload."

"And go at them with a rush, uncle?"

"Rush!  How can I rush?  I'm pretty well blown already.  But I could
fetch wind enough to shout.  We'll shout, Jack.  Nando, you'll bawl
your loudest, and the boy too.  If I know these niggers they'll bolt.
And look here, Jack, fire in the air: we don't want to hit 'em.  If
they stand their ground and resist, we can fire in good earnest; but
they won't."

They took a few cautious steps forward, then Samba ran back, clutched
Nando by the arm and whispered--

"Boat dah, sah," said the negro, under his breath.  "Oh! me feel plenty
sick inside!"

"Hush!  Howl, then, when we fire.  Now, Jack, ready?  I'll let off my
two barrels first."

Next moment there was a flash and a crack, followed immediately by a
second.  Nando and Samba had begun to yell at the top of their voices.
Mr. Martindale bellowed in one continuous roll, and Pat added to the
din by a furious barking.  The noise, even to those who made it, was
sufficiently startling in the deep silence of the night.  Jack fired
his two shots, but before his uncle had reloaded there was a yell from
the direction of the canoes, then the sound of men leaping on shore and
crashing through the bushes.  Immediately afterwards faint shouts came
from the forest at the rear of the bluff.

"We've done the trick," said Mr. Martindale with a chuckle.  "Now we'll
get back.  They've had a scare.  Let's hope we shall have no more
trouble to-night."

He flashed his electric torch on the river bank below, and revealed
five large canoes drawn up side by side.

"There must be more than a hundred of them," he added.  "Each of those
canoes can carry thirty men."

On the way back to the camp, they heard renewed shouts as the men who
had marched into the forest broke out again in a wild dash for the
threatened canoes.  The camp was in commotion.  Barney was volubly
adjuring the startled natives to be aisy; but they were yelling,
running this way and that, tumbling over one another in the darkness.
The sight of Mr. Martindale's round red face behind his electric torch
reassured them; and when Nando, who had now quite recovered his
spirits, told them that he, with the white men's assistance, had put to
flight twenty thousand bad men and Boloko, they laughed and slapped
their thighs, and settled down in groups to discuss the event and make
much of Nando during the rest of the night.

There was no more sleep for any of the party except Samba.  He,
satisfied that his new friends were safe, curled himself up on his mat
with the inseparable terrier, and slept until the dawn.  But Mr.
Martindale sat smoking in his tent, discussing the events of the night
with his nephew.

"I don't like it, Jack.  We're on top this time, thanks to a little
bluff.  But there must have been a large number of them to judge by the
canoes and the yells; and but for that fellow Nando we might easily
have been wiped out.  And from what Nando says they are those
villainous forest guards of the Concession.  What's the meaning of it?
It may be that the Concession have repented of their bargain and want
to keep me out, or perhaps Elbel is terrified lest I shall expose him
when I get back to Boma.  Either way, it seems as if we're going to
have a bad time of it."

"I don't think it can be Elbel's doing, uncle.  It's such a risky game
to play, your expedition being authorized by his own people."

"I don't imagine Elbel is such a fool as to attack us officially.  He
can always disavow the actions of those natives.  At any rate, I shall
make a point of getting rifles for the men as soon as I can."

"They can't use them."

"Of course they can't; but you'll have to turn yourself into a musketry
instructor.  Meanwhile I must give that fellow Nando some sort of
reward.  It will encourage him and the others too."

When daylight broke Mr. Martindale went down to the river while Barney
was preparing breakfast.  There was no trace of the enemy.  Presumably
they had set their canoes afloat and drifted down stream in the
darkness.  They had no doubt reckoned on surprising the camp, and their
calculations had been upset by the certainty of meeting with
resistance, the fact that the travellers were poorly armed being
forgotten in the panic bred of the sudden uproar in the night.

After breakfast Mr. Martindale had the men paraded in a semicircle
around the tent, and, sitting on a stool in front of it, with Jack on
one side and Barney on the other, he called Nando forward.

"We are very much pleased with your watchfulness, Nando."

The negro grinned, and with a ludicrous air of importance translated
the sentence to his comrades.

"It is due to you that we were not surprised in the dark: you did very
well, and set an excellent example to the men."

"Me plenty clebber, sah, oh yes!"

"I shall take care in future to have our camp more closely guarded, and
punish any carelessness.  But now, to show how pleased I am with you, I
am going to give you a little present."

Nando's mouth spread from ear to ear.  He translated the announcement
to the negroes, looking round upon them with an expression of
triumphant satisfaction that tickled Jack's sense of humour.  Barney
had shut one eye; his lips were twitching.

"But before I do that," went on Mr. Martindale, "I want you to tell us
how you came to discover the enemy in the darkness."

Nando for a moment looked a little nonplussed, scratching his head and
shifting from foot to foot.  Then inspiration seized him; he
elaborately cleared his throat, snapped his fingers, crossed his arms
on his brawny chest, and began--

"Me no get sleep, me get up and go round about, fink see if massa's
fings all right.  Me stop, go sick inside; one, two eyes like twinkle
twinkle look down out of tree."  He waved his arm towards the acacia
under which he had been sleeping.  "Me fink dis plenty bad; what for
man lib for hide in tree and look at Nando?  Me no 'fraid, no, no; me
walk all same, like me no see nuffin.  Yah! me see all same, wait long
time, man no fit for see Nando.  Bimeby man come down like snake,
creep, creep, 'long, 'long; me go too, what for? 'cos man plenty bad
man, him go 'Bini gun, him go into wood.  What for?  Muss see; s'pose
he go fetch bad man and shoot massa?  He no come dis way 'less he lib
for do bad fings.  Him got 'Bini gun, me got spear; no good!  Me no
'fraid.  Plenty debbils in forest!  Me no 'fraid.  Massa say Nando look
after fings; all same: Nando look after, no 'fraid, 'Bini gun, debbils
and all.  What for?  Massa him Nando him fader and mudder.  S'pose bad
men shoot; s'pose debbil come; all same: muss do what massa say, look
after fings, look after massa.  Me no 'fraid!"

Again Nando paused and scratched his head, looking troubled.  Then his
face cleared; he took a deep breath and continued--

"Me go 'long 'long after bad man.  He come to place no trees, grass all
same: one, two, twenty, fousand bad men dah.  Bad man say 'Kwa te!  Kwa
te!'[2]  Dey talk, oh yes! whish! whish! same as trees when wind make
talk.  Me get behind tree; me hab got two, four, twenty ears.  Me
listen!  Dey say come, creep, creep, bring 'Bini gun; white man all
'sleep; black man come, no nise, shoot: oh my gracious!  White man all
lib for dead!  Me no 'fraid!"

"Who was the chief of these bad men?" interrupted Mr. Martindale.

"Boloko, sah!--Samba him uncle."

"But how could you tell that in the dark?"

"Dey hab got light: one, two, twenty tiny small fire on stick."

"Torches, he means, I suppose," said Mr. Martindale.  "How did you find
your way back in the dark?"

"Yah!  Me know all 'bout dat.  Me lib long time in forest, oh yes!  Me
fight little tiny men; dey plenty small, plenty good fighter all same;
shoot one, two, free arrow; one, two, free fings gone dead.  Me fight
dem; so me find way like leopard."

"Well, you're a clever fellow, and you did very well.  Here is a
present for you."

He took from his pocket a huge bone-handled penknife, and displayed its
various parts one by one: four blades, a corkscrew, a file, a hook, and
an awl.  Nando's eyes opened wide with delight; he chuckled gloatingly
as one after another these treasures came to view.  Mr. Martindale was
shutting them up before handing over the knife when Barney stepped
quietly forward, touched his cap and said--

"If you plase, sorr, before you part wid this handsome presentation,
will I have yer leave to ax Mr. Nando wan question?"

"Why, you can if you like," said Mr. Martindale in surprise.

"Thank you, your honour.  Now Mr. Nando, would you plase tell us if you
ate a big supper uv maniac last night?"

"Manioc, Barney," corrected Jack with a smile.

"Sure that's what I said, sorr!  Would you plase tell his honour, Mr.
Nando?"

The man looked in amazement from one to another.  He seemed to suspect
a pitfall, but was puzzled to make out the bearing of the question.

"Sure I speak plain.  Did ye, or did ye not, eat a big supper uv
anything at all last night?"

"Me eat plenty little manioc," said Nando, thinking he was expected to
defend himself against a charge of gluttony.  "Me no pig like common
black man."

"And you did not get a pain?"--here Barney helped out his meaning with
pantomime--"nor dream all that terrible wild stuff you have just been
telling us?"

"Me no can dream!" cried Nando, indignantly.  "Me say true fings all
same."

"Sure, thin, if your supper didn't give ye the nightmare, mine did.
Begorra! 'twas a mighty terrible dream I dreamt, indeed, Mr. Nando.  I
dreamt you was snoring like a pig--like a common black pig, to be sure;
and there came a little spalpeen uv a black bhoy, a common black bhoy,
and shook ye by the shoulder, and called 'Baa!  Baa!  Bloko!' and some
more I disremimber now; and thin----"

Nando, who had been looking more and more uneasy, here interrupted,
hurriedly addressing Mr. Martindale--

"Me plenty sick inside, sah," he said, pressing his hands to the pit of
his stomach.  "Me eat plenty too much manioc all same."

Crestfallen and abashed the big fellow slunk away, Jack roaring with
laughter, Mr. Martindale looking on in speechless amazement.

"Begorra, sorr," said Barney, "'tis a born liar he is.  He was fast in
the arms uv murphies, or maniac, speaking by the card, till the bhoy
Samba woke him up.  'Twas Samba, sorr, that spied the enemy, and 'twas
me little darlint uv a dog that gave the first alarm.  Give a dog his
due, sorr, and if you plase, give Samba the knife."

Mr. Martindale first looked annoyed, then broke into hearty laughter.
He called for Samba, who came up smiling, with Pat at his heels.

"Where's that villain Nando?" cried Mr. Martindale.  "He shall come and
interpret."

In response to a summons Nando came from behind the crowd of natives.
He had recovered his composure, and translated with glib and smiling
unconcern the story which Samba told.  Only when Mr. Martindale handed
Samba the knife did the negro look sorry.

"Me no lib for eat too big lot manioc nudder time," he said glumly, as
he went away.



[1] Wake up!

[2] Hush!



CHAPTER VI

Samba is Missing

Nando was like a child in his humours.  His broad face
could not long be overclouded.  When the party once
more embarked he performed his work as chief paddler
with his usual cheerfulness.  All that day the river washed
the edge of a continuous forest tract--a spur, as Jack
understood from Nando's not too lucid explanations, of the
vast Upper Congo forest that stretched for many hundreds
of miles across the heart of Africa.  Jack gazed with great
curiosity, merged sometimes in a sense of awe and mystery,
at the dark impenetrable woodland.  It was only a year
or two since he had read Stanley's account of his wonderful
march through the forest, and his vivid recollection
was quickened and intensified by the sight of the actual
scene.

"And are there pigmies in that forest--little men, you
know?" he asked Nando.

"Sartin sure, sah.  Me fight fousand hundred little
tiny men: me no 'fraid.  Dey shoot plenty good, sah:
one arrow shoot two free birds.  Dey hab berrah fine
eye, sah; see what big man no can see.  Massa see dem
some day: make massa laugh plenty much."

Here and there, in places where the river widened out,
the travellers came upon herds of hippopotami disporting
themselves in the shallows.  Their presence was often
indicated first by strange squeals and grunts: then a huge
head would be seen on the surface of the water as the
beast heard the regular splash of the paddles and was
provoked to investigate its cause; his jaws would open,
disclosing a vast pink chasm; and having completed his long
yawn, and satisfied himself that the strangers intended no
harm, he would plunge his head again beneath the water,
or turn clumsily to wallow in uncouth gambols with his
mates.  The negroes always plied their paddles more
rapidly at such spots.  Nando told stories of hippopotami
which had upset canoes out of sheer mischief, and of others
which, pricked and teased by native spears, had lain in
wait among the rushes and wrecked the craft of fishers
returning to their homes at dusk.

"Me no 'fraid of little man," said Nando; "me plenty
much 'fraid of hippo."

Now and again a crocodile, disturbed in his slumbers by
the splashing of the paddles or the songs of the men, would
dart out of a creek and set off in furious chase; but finding
the canoe a tougher morsel than he expected, would sink
after a disappointed sniffing and disappear.  Occasionally
Mr. Martindale or Jack would take a shot at the reptiles,
but they were so numerous that by and by the travellers
desisted from their "potting," Mr. Martindale regarding
it as a waste of good ammunition.

The natives whom they saw at riverside villages were
now sometimes suspicious, and disinclined to have any
communication with the strangers.  Returning from
interviews with them, Nando reported that they had heard of
the massacre at Banonga, and though he assured them
that his employer was no friend of the tyrants, he failed
to convince them: he was a white man; that was enough.
It was with some difficulty, and only after the exercise
of much tact, patience, and good humour on Nando's part,
that he managed to secure enough food to supply the
needs of the men.

Two days passed amid similar scenes.  The journey never
became monotonous, for in that wonderful land there is
always something fresh to claim the traveller's attention.
Jack began to give Samba lessons in English, and found
him an apt enough pupil, though, in practising his
newly-acquired words afterwards, the boy, to Jack's amusement,
adopted a pronounced Irish accent from Barney.

On the morning of the third day, when the camp became
active, Barney was somewhat surprised to find that Samba
and Pat did not join him as usual at breakfast.  Boy and
dog had gone to sleep together in his tent, and he had not
seen or heard their departure.  Breakfast was cleared
away, everything was packed up in readiness for starting,
and yet the missing members of the party had not appeared.
Both were very popular; Samba's unfailing cheerfulness
had made him a general favourite, and Pat's sagacity, his
keen sporting instincts, and the vigour of his barking when
hippopotami or crocodiles came too near the canoe, won
for him a good deal of admiration from the natives.

"What!  Samba gone!" exclaimed Mr. Martindale,
when Barney told him of the disappearance.  "Have you
called him?"

"Sure me throat is sore wid it, sorr," said Barney,
"and me lips are cracked wid whistling for Pat, bad cess
to 'm."

"The dog has gone too, eh?  I reckon Samba's a thief
like the rest of 'em."

"Begging yer pardon, sorr, it takes two to make a thief,
one to steal, the other to be stolen.  Pat would never agree
to be stolen, sorr; besides, he would never be such an
ungrateful spalpeen uv a dog, not to speak uv the bad
taste of it, as to desert his ould master for a nigger bhoy."

"Well, what's become of them, then?  Nando, where's Samba?"

"Me no can tell, sah.  Me fink crocodile eat him, sah.
Little tiny black boy go walk all alone alone night time.
Yah! crocodile come 'long, fink black boy make plenty
good chop.  Soosh! little black boy in ribber, crocodile
eat him all up, sah.  What for black boy go walk alone?
One time all right, Nando eat manioc[1]; nudder time all
wrong, crocodile eat Samba."

Nando shook his head sententiously; Samba's exploit
on the night of the alarm was evidently still rankling.

"That's not it at all," said Barney.  "Pat would niver
permit any crocodile, wid all his blarney, to eat him; and
if a crocodile ate Samba, sure Pat would have been the
first to come and tell us."

"No, it's your Irish that has frightened the boy," said
Jack gravely.  "I've been trying to teach him a few
words of English; but I've noticed once or twice, after
I've done with him, that he pronounces the words as if
he'd learnt them in Ireland.  No decent black boy could
stand that, you know, Barney."

"Faith, 'tis Irishmen that speak the best English,"
returned Barney; "did I not hear them wid me very own
ears in the house uv Parlimint?"

"Well, Jack, we must go on," said Mr. Martindale.
"I was afraid the boy would be a botheration."

"He has done us a good turn, uncle.  Couldn't we wait
an hour or two and see if he appears?"

"It's not business, Jack."

"My dear uncle, it's no use your posing as a hard-hearted
man of business.  You know you're quite fond
of the boy."

"Eh!  Well, I own he's a likely little fellow, and I sort
of felt he's a part of the concern; in short, Jack, we'll
put in an hour or two and give him a chance."

An hour passed, and Pat made his appearance.  He
trotted soberly into the camp, not frisking or barking
joyously as was his wont.

"Arrah thin, ye spalpeen, where's Samba?" cried
Barney as the dog came to him.

Pat hung his head, and put his tail between his legs and
whined.

"Go and fetch him, then," cried Barney.

The terrier looked at his master, turned as if to do
his bidding, then moved slowly round and whined
again.

"Sure 'tis not devoured by a crocodile he is, or Pat
would be in a terrible rage.  The bhoy has deserted, sorr,
and Pat's heart is after being broken."

"Well, we'll wait a little longer, Barney," said
Mr. Martindale; "he may turn up yet."

The day wore itself out, and Samba had not returned.
Mr. Martindale and Jack spent part of the time in shooting,
adding a goodly number of wild ducks, a river hog and an
antelope to the larder.  Part of the time they watched
the men fishing, or rather harpooning, for they caught the
fish by dexterous casts of their light spears.  Towards
evening Mr. Martindale became seriously anxious, and a
little testy.

"I'm afraid a crocodile has made a meal of him, after
all," he said.  "I don't reckon he'd any reason for leaving
us; he got good victuals."

"And a good knife, uncle.  Perhaps he has gone to
find his father."

"No, I don't bank on that.  Too far for a young boy
to go alone, through the forest, too, on foot.  Anyway,
he's an ungrateful young wretch to go without saying a
word; I've always heard these blacks don't measure up
to white people in their feelings."

Mr. Martindale delayed his departure until the middle
of the next day in the hope that Samba would return.
Then, however, he declared he could wait no longer, and
the party set off.

Late in the afternoon of the next day they came to a
spot where a gap occurred in the thick vegetation that
lined the bank.  Here, said Nando, they must land.  Ilola,
the principal village of the chief to whom they were bound,
stood a short distance from the river, and the way to it lay
through the clear space between two forest belts.  A quarter
of an hour's walking brought them to the village, a cluster
of tent-shaped grass huts almost hidden in the bush.  The
settlement was surrounded by a stockade, and the plantations
of banana, maize, and ground-nuts showed signs of
careful cultivation.

Nando went alone to interview the chief, bearing a
present of cloth and a small copper token which Mr. Martindale
had received from his friend Barnard.  The chief
would recognize it as the replica of one given to him.  Nando
returned in an hour's time, troubled in countenance.
Imbono the chief, he said, had refused to meet the white man,
or to have any dealings with him.  He well remembered
the white man who had cured his son and given him the
token two years before; had they not become blood
brothers!  But since then many things had happened.
Dark stories had reached his ears of the terrible consequences
that followed the coming of the white man.  One of his
young men--his name was Faraji--who had joined a party
of traders carrying copper down the Congo, had just come
back with dreadful tales of what he himself had seen.
When Imbono was a boy his people had lived in terror of
the white-robed men from the East.[2]  There had been a
great white-robed chief named Tippu Tib, who sent his
fighting men far and wide to collect ivory and slaves.
These men knew no pity; they carried destruction
wherever they went, tearing children from parents, husbands
from wives, chaining them together, beating them with
cruel whips, strewing the land with the corpses of slaves
exhausted by long marching or slain because they were
ill or weak.

But terrible as were the warriors of Tippu Tib, surely
the servants of the Great White Chief[3] were more terrible
still; for it often happened that the slave hunters, having
come once, came not again; like a fierce tempest they
passed; but as, when a storm has devastated a forest, new
trees grow and flourish in the room of the old, so when
a village had been robbed of its youth, their places were in
course of time filled by other boys and girls.  And even
when the slave hunters came some villagers would escape,
and hide in dens or among the forest trees until the danger
had passed.  But the servants of the Great White Chief
were like a blight settling for ever on the land.  They came,
and stayed; none could escape them, none were spared,
young or old.  Imbono feared the white man; he prayed
him to go in peace; the men of Ilola were peaceable, and
sought not to make enemies, but they had bows and arrows,
and long shields, and heavy-shafted spears, and if need
be they would defend themselves against the stranger.

"I guess this is kind of awkward," said Mr. Martindale
when Nando had finished his report.  "You can't trade
with a man who won't see you.  Did you explain that
we don't belong to the Great White Chief, Nando?"

"Me say all dat, sah; chief shake him head."

"I suppose you told him our men are not armed?"

"No, sah; me forgot dat, dat am de troof."

"Well, go back; tell the chief that I'm a friend and
want to see him.  Say that I'll come into the village alone,
or with Mr. Jack, and we'll leave our guns behind us.
Tell him the white man he saw two years ago said he was
a very fine fellow, and I'll trust myself unarmed among
his people, bows and arrows and spears and all."

Nando went away, and after another hour returned and
said that Imbono, after much persuasion, had agreed to
receive the white man because he was a friend of his blood
brother.  Leaving their rifles and revolvers in Barney's
charge, Mr. Martindale and Jack accompanied Nando to
the village.  The single entrance to the stockade was
guarded by a throng of tall warriors with curiously painted
skins, and armed with the weapons Nando had described,
carrying in addition knives with long leaf-shaped blades.

"They ain't the daisiest of beauties," said Mr. Martindale
as he passed them.

"Ugly fellows in a scrimmage," said Jack.

They went on, past the first huts, stared at by knots of
the villagers, until they came to the chief's dwelling in the
centre of the settlement.  Imbono was a tall, well set up,
handsome negro, standing half a head taller than the men
about him.  He received the strangers with grave courtesy,
offered them a cup of palm wine, and motioned them to
two low carved stools, seating himself on a third.

Through Nando Mr. Martindale explained his business,
dwelling on the friendly relations which had existed between
the chief and the white man, and assuring him of his
peaceable intentions and of his absolute independence of the
servants of the Great White Chief.  Imbono listened in
silence, and made a long reply, repeating what he had
already said through Nando.  Suddenly he turned to the
young man at his side, whom he called Faraji, and bade
him tell the white man what he had seen.

"Ongoko!  Ongoko!"[4] exclaimed the other men.  Faraji
stepped forward and told his story, with a volubility that
outran Nando's powers as an interpreter, and at the same
time with a seriousness that impressed his hearers.

"I come from Mpatu," he said.  "It is not my village:
my village is Ilola.  I passed through Mpatu on my way
home.  It is no longer a village.  Why?  The servants
of the Great White Chief had come up the river.  They told
the people that the lords of the world, the sons of heaven,
had given all the land to the Great White Chief.  Mpatu
belonged no more to the chief Lualu: it belonged to the
Great White Chief.  But the Great White Chief was a good
chief; he would be a father to his people.  Would he take
their huts, their gardens, their fowls, their children?  No,
he was a good chief.  Everything that was theirs should
be left to them; and the Great White Chief would keep
peace in the land, and men should live together as brothers.
Only one thing the Great White Chief required of them.
In the forest grew a vine that yielded a milky sap.
This stuff when hardened with acid from another plant
would be of use to the Great White Chief, and he
wished them to collect it for him, and bring to his
servants every fourteenth day so many baskets full.  Every
man of Mpatu must bring his share.  And they said too
that the Great White Chief was just: for all this rubber
they collected he would pay, in brass rods, or cloth, or salt;
and seeing the Great White Chief was so kind and good, only
a bad man would fail in the task set him, and such bad
men must be punished.  And two servants of the Great
White Chief would be left in Mpatu to instruct the people
as to the furnishing of the rubber; and these kind teachers
the men of Mpatu would surely provide with food and
shelter.

"The men of Mpatu laughed at first.  Well they knew
the vine!  Was there not enough of it and to spare in the
forest?  How easily they could collect what was demanded!
How soon would they become rich!  And they set the
women and children to weave new baskets for the rubber,
and made ready new and well-built huts for the men who
were to teach them their duty to the Great White Chief.

"But as time went on, woe came to Mpatu.  The two
servants of the Great White Chief were bad men, selfish,
cruel.  They stalked about the village, treating the people
as their slaves; they seized the plumpest fowls and the
choicest fruits; if any man resisted, they whipped him
with a long whip of hippopotamus hide.

"But the servants of the Great White Chief demanded
still more.  It was not only rubber the men of Mpatu
were bade to bring them, but so many goats, so many
fowls, so many fish and cassava and bananas.  How could
they do it?  The rubber vines near by were soon
exhausted.  Every week the men must go farther into
the forest.  They had not enough time now to hunt and
fish for their own families.  How supply the strangers too?

"Grief came to Mpatu!  For long days there was no
man in the village save the chief Lualu and the forest
guards.  The women cowered and crouched in their huts.
No longer did they take pride in tidy homes and well-tended
hair; no longer sing merrily at the stream, or croon lullabies
to their babes; all joy was gone from them.

"Some of the men fled, and with their wives and
children lived in the forest, eating roots and leaves.  But
even flight was vain, for the forest guards tracked
them, hunted them down.  Some they killed as soon
as they found them; others they flogged, chained by
the neck, and hauled to prison.  There they are given
heavy tasks, carrying logs and firewood, clearing the
bush, cutting up rubber; and there is a guard over them
with a whip which at a single blow can cut a strip from the
body.  Many have died; they are glad to die.

"And now Mpatu is a waste.  One day the rubber was
again short; the soldiers came--they burned the huts;
they killed men, women, and children; yea, among the
soldiers were man-eaters, and many of Mpatu's children
were devoured.  Only a few escaped--they wander in the
forest, who knows where?  I tell what I have seen and
heard."

When Faraji had finished his story, there was silence for
a time.  The chief seemed disposed to let the facts sink
into the minds of the white men, and Mr. Martindale was
at a loss for words.  Faraji's story, so significantly
similar to what he had himself discovered at Banonga, had
deeply impressed him.  Were these atrocities going on
throughout the Congo Free State?  Were they indeed a
part of the system of government?  It seemed only
too probable--the rubber tax was indeed a tax of blood.
And what could he say to convince Imbono that he
was no friend of the white men who authorized or
permitted such things?  How could the negro distinguish?

"'Pon my soul," said the American in an aside to Jack,
"I am ashamed of the colour of my skin."

Then the chief began to speak.

"The white man understands why I will have nothing
to do with him--why I will not allow my people to trade
with him.  It may be true that you, O white man, are
not as these others; you may be a friend to the black man,
and believe that the black man can feel pain and grief; but
did not the servants of the Great White Chief say that they
were friends of the black man?  Did they not say the
Great White Chief loved us and wished to do us good?
We have seen the love of the Great White Chief; it is the
love of the crocodile for the antelope: we would have none
of it.  Therefore I say, O white man, though I bear you
no ill-will, you must go."

Courteously as the chief spoke, there was no mistaking
his firmness.

"We must go and take stock of this," said Mr. Martindale.
"It licks me at present, Jack, and that's a hard
thing for an American to say.  Come right away."

They took ceremonious leave of the chief, and were
escorted to their camp at the edge of the stream.

"What's to be done, my boy?" said Mr. Martindale.
"We can't find the gold without the chief's help, unless
we go prospecting at large: we might do that for months
without success, and make Imbono an open enemy into
the bargain.  We can't fight him, and I don't want to
fight him.  After what we've seen and heard I won't be
responsible for shedding blood; seems to me the white
man has done enough of that already on the Congo.  This
is a facer, Jack."

"Never say die, uncle.  It's getting late: I vote we
sleep on it.  We may see a way out of the difficulty in the
morning."



[1] The native word for any food or meal.

[2] Arab slave raiders.

[3] Leopold II, sovereign of the Congo Free State and king of
the Belgians.

[4] Yes, do so.



CHAPTER VII

Blood Brothers

But in the morning the situation appeared only more grave.  Provisions
were threatening to run short.  Hitherto there had been no difficulty
in procuring food from the natives met _en route_, and Mr. Martindale's
party had carried with them only a few days' provisions, and the
"extras" necessary for the white men's comfort.  But now they were come
to a less populous part of the country: Imbono's villages were the only
settlements for many miles around; and unless Imbono relaxed the rigour
of his boycott Mr. Martindale's party would soon be in want.

Mr. Martindale was talking over matters with Jack when, from the slight
eminence on which the camp was pitched, they saw a canoe, manned by six
paddlers, pass up stream.  Jack took a look at the craft through his
field glass.

"It's Imbono, uncle," he said; "I wonder what he is up to."

He followed the progress of the canoe for some distance through the
glass; then, looking ahead, his eye was caught by a herd of eight or
nine hippopotami disporting themselves on a reedy flat by the river
bank.

"What do you say, uncle?  Shall we go and get some hippo meat?  It will
relieve the drain on our stores, and Nando told me the men are rather
fond of it."

"We'll go right away, Jack.  We must keep the larder full at any rate.
I suppose we shall have to stalk the beasts."

"I don't think so, uncle.  Those we saw as we came up seemed pretty
bold; they've such tough hides that they've no reason to be much afraid
of the native weapons."

"Well, we'll paddle up to them and see how we get on."

A canoe was launched, and Mr. Martindale set off with Jack, Barney, and
the terrier, Nando and six of the men paddling.  By the time they
arrived opposite the feeding ground several hippos had come out from
the reeds for a bath in the shallows of the river, only their heads and
backs showing above the water.  The rest had moved off into the thicker
reeds and were hidden from sight.

"One will be enough for the present," said Mr. Martindale.  "Our
fellows are great gluttons, but there's enough meat in one of those
beasts to last even them a couple of days; and we don't want it to go
high!"

"Let us both aim at the nearest," suggested Jack.  "Fire together,
uncle: bet you I bag him."

"I guess I won't take you, and betting's a fool's trick anyway.  We'll
aim at the nearest, as you say; are you ready?"

Two shots rang out as one.  But apparently there had been a difference
of opinion as to which of the animals was the nearest.  One of them
disappeared; another, with a wild roar of pain and rage, plunged into
the reeds; the rest sank below the surface.  Nando, knowing the ways of
hippopotami, began to paddle with frantic vigour, and set the canoe
going at a rapid pace down stream, much to the indignation of Pat, who
stood with his forefeet on the side of the canoe, barking fiercely.
Half a minute later a head appeared above the surface some fifty yards
behind; then another and another: but the beasts seemed to have
recovered from the alarm, for after a long cow-like stare at the
receding canoe, they turned and swam ashore, to rejoin their companions
in the reeds.

"Easy all!" said Mr. Martindale.  "We'll give 'em a quarter of an hour
to settle down, then we'll go back.  What about your bet, eh, Jack?"

"It's your hippo, uncle, no doubt of that," said Jack with a rueful
smile.  "An awful fluke, though; you didn't hit once to my twice coming
up stream."

"A fluke, was it?  I kind o' notice that when you young fellows make a
good shot or pull off a good stroke at billiards or anything else, it's
real good play; whereas an old boy like me can only do anything decent
by a fluke."

"Well, you've lost him, anyway.  The hippo hasn't come up."

"Too cocksure, my boy; he's only just below the surface."

The beast mortally wounded by Mr. Martindale's rifle was lying in
shallow water.  Pat could no longer restrain himself.  He leapt
overboard and swam towards the hippo, barking with excitement, and
becoming frantic when he found that it was just out of his reach.  In
his eagerness to attack the animal he even made an attempt to dive, so
comical that all on board the canoe were convulsed with laughter.
Being paddled to the spot, Mr. Martindale found that the beast was
quite dead.

"Now what are we to do with him?" said Mr. Martindale.  "Shall we go
back and send a party to cut him up?"

"No, no, sah," said Nando instantly.  "Tie rope; pull, pull; hippo he
come 'long all behind."

"Tow him, eh?  Very well.  I allow that'll save time."

A rope was fastened firmly about the beast's neck and jaws; the other
end was fixed to the canoe; and the men began to paddle down stream,
towing the hippo.  The tendency of the animal being to sink, the canoe
seemed to Jack to be dangerously low in the water at the stern.  But
they had only a part of the usual complement of men on board, and the
paddlers were among the most skilful on the Congo.  They had gone but a
few strokes when Jack, glancing back, caught sight of Imbono's canoe
returning.  Like Mr. Martindale's it was keeping fairly close to the
bank.  All at once a great shout of alarm broke from the chief's
paddlers; their easy swing was quickened to desperate exertion, and
they pulled out violently towards the middle of the stream.

"By Jove! uncle, a hippo's after them," cried Jack.

Just astern of the chief's canoe, between it and the shore, a huge
hippopotamus, with jaws distended, showing his gleaming tusks, was
swimming along in pursuit.  For a little he gained, and Jack's pulse
beat more quickly with excitement as he saw that the enraged beast was
not more than half a dozen yards from the canoe.  But the gap widened
as soon as the six strong paddlers had settled down to their quickened
stroke.

Imbono, sitting in the stern, had caught sight of the white men as his
canoe cut for a few moments across the current, and with the natural
vanity of the negro he began to show off.  At a word from him one of
the crew dropped his paddle, and, catching up a spear, hurled it at the
pursuing hippo.  There was a hoarse bellow from the animal, and a wild
cheer from the men; the shaft of the spear was seen standing almost
perpendicularly above the hippo's shoulder.  With fierce exertion the
beast increased his pace, and the gap momentarily diminished; but the
negro resumed his paddle, and again the canoe drew away.

As the canoe came almost level with the towed hippo at a considerable
distance towards mid-stream, Imbono ordered the same manoeuvre to be
repeated.  But fortune doubly befriended the pursuing animal.  Just as
the negro was poising his spear, a submerged tree stopped the canoe
with a sudden jerk; the man lost his balance and fell overboard; half
of the crew followed him into the water, the rest tumbled over one
another into the bottom of the canoe.  Imbono had been thrown backward
as the vessel struck the snag.  He had barely time to rise and plunge
into the water when there was a hideous crackling sound; the stern of
the canoe was caught between the hippo's gaping jaws and crunched to
splinters.

The consequences of the chief's temerity would have been amusing but
for his manifest danger.  The negroes were swimming in all directions,
keeping as much as possible under water to escape the eyes of the
hippo; but Imbono, an older man than the rest, was not so expert a
swimmer, and Jack saw with concern that the hippo, leaving the sinking
canoe, was making straight for the chief.

A hippopotamus may be distanced by a canoe, but not by a man swimming.
Imbono did not look behind, but seemed to know instinctively that death
was within a few yards of him, and he struck out more and more
desperately for the bank.

At the moment when the canoe struck the snag, Jack had seized his
rifle; but after the catastrophe, canoe, hippo, and swimming natives
were so intermingled that he could not venture a shot at the beast
without the risk of hitting a man.  The hippo's huge body provided a
target sufficiently broad, indeed; but Jack knew that to strike it
anywhere save at a vital spot would merely add to the beast's rage and
make it doubly formidable to the men in the water.  When he saw the
plight of the chief, however, the great head now only a couple of yards
behind him, the jaws already opening, disclosing the vast red chasm
flanked by gleaming tusks and molars--when Jack saw Imbono thus in the
very article of peril, he could no longer hesitate.  The canoe was
already at rest.  Bidding Nando keep it steady, Jack raised his rifle
to his shoulder and took careful aim.

The chief was gasping for breath after a vain attempt to dodge the
beast by diving; the horrid jaws were just about to snap, when a shot
rang out.  A squealing grunt came from the closing gullet; the uncouth
actions of the beast ceased; and he began to sink slowly and silently
beneath the surface.

"A1!" ejaculated Mr. Martindale.  "That makes up for your miss, Jack."

"Oka mö!"[1] shouted the negroes.  Imbono's men had gained the bank,
but the chief himself, overcome more by his fright than his exertions,
seemed unable to swim any farther.

"Quick, haul him in, Jack," said Mr. Martindale.  "There may be a
crocodile after him next!"

A few strokes of the paddles brought the canoe within reach of the
chief.  Laughing heartily--the negro's laugh is always very near the
surface--Nando and a comrade hoisted Imbono into the canoe.

"Me tell Imbono he oughter die of shame," said Nando gravely.

"What on earth for?" asked Mr. Martindale.

"What for, sah!  Has he not made big puddle in massa's canoe?  He
plenty much wet, sah."

"Well, he couldn't help that.  Tell him we're glad he came off so well.
You need not say anything about the puddle."

But Nando had his own views as to the proper thing to do.  As he spoke
the chief glanced at the pool of water that had flowed from his body,
and replied in a tone that was clearly apologetic.

"He say he die with shame him so wet, sah," said Nando.  "Him no do it
no more.  Say he praise de young Inglesa for shooting de hippo; say he
gib massa de hippo and manioc and bananas and anyfing whatever dat
massa like.  Say he want massa and young massa to be blood brudder.  Me
say berrah good; tell him oughter had sense before."

"That's all right.  We'll accept supplies with pleasure, and pay for
them.  The hippo is Mr. Jack's already, of course.  As for becoming his
blood brothers, I don't just know right off what that means; but if
it'll please him, and doesn't mean any nastiness, we'll think it over."

The canoe, towing Mr. Martindale's hippo, was rapidly paddled down
stream to the encampment, the second beast being left to drift slowly
down the river until, in the course of some hours, it should finally
rise to the surface.  On landing the chief renewed his protestations of
gratitude, then went off to the village, to polish himself up, said
Nando, and replace his ruined headdress, a curious structure of cloth
and feathers stuck on to the chignon into which his hair was gathered.
Mr. Martindale sent back another canoe to find and tow down the dead
hippo.  When it was hauled up on the low sandy bank, Jack and his uncle
went down to examine it.

"You said I missed, uncle," cried Jack.  "What do you make of this?"

He pointed to a furrow ploughed across the full breadth of the beast's
forehead.

"Nothing but a bullet did that, I know.  My shot must have hit him, but
didn't enter the skull.  I suppose he hid in the reeds, and vented his
fury on the chief.  He happened to have a harder skull than your hippo,
uncle; you see it was a fluke after all."

Mr. Martindale slowly cut and lighted a cigar.  Not until he had
watched a big cloud of smoke float across the river did he speak.  Then
he said quietly--

"Just so!"

Somehow Jack felt that he had not the better of the argument.

Before the sun went down, a group of men came from Ilola staggering
under loads of grain and fruit, a quantity large enough to supply the
camp for several days.  That night the men had a royal feast, consuming
so many hippo steaks that Barney professed himself indignant.

"Bedad! 'tis greedy scoundhrels they are," he said, "Wheniver me mother
gave us bhoys a stew--and 'twas not often, ye may be sure, meat being
the price it was--'twas wan tiny morsel uv mutton, and a powerful lot
uv murphies: she said too much meat would spoil our complexion and ruin
our tempers.  And begorra! isn't it meself that proves it!"

Mr. Martindale laughed at Barney's logic.

"I'm not afraid of the niggers' complexions or their tempers," he said;
"I only hope they won't keep up that hullabaloo all night and spoil our
sleep."

The men were indeed very uproarious, and remained around their fires
for the greater part of the night, recounting for the hundredth time
the exciting events of the day, and composing on the spot songs in
praise of the young white man whose fire-stick had slain the terror of
the river.  One of these songs seemed especially to strike their fancy,
and it remained a favourite for many days:--

  Happy Imbono!
  Oh! oh! Imbono!
  Who saved Imbono?
  The good stranger!
  The young stranger!
  The brave stranger!
  Good Jacko!
  Young Jacko!
  Brave Jacko!
  He came to Ilola!
  Happy Ilola!
  Lucky Ilola!
  He saved Imbono
  From five hippos,
  From ten hippos!
  Lucky Imbono!
  Happy Imbono!
  Oh! oh! Imbono!


Next morning, as soon as it was light, Imbono came to pay a visit of
ceremony.  He had got himself up most elaborately for the occasion.  A
strip of yellow cotton was wound about his waist.  His arms were
covered with polished brass rings, and copper rings weighing at least
ten pounds each encircled his wrists and ankles.  A new headdress
decked his hair; and he must have kept his barber busy half the night
in arranging his top-knot and painting his face with red camwood and
white clay.  Pat by no means approved of the change, and barked at him
furiously.

"Whisht, ye spalpeen!" said Barney, calling off the excited dog.  "Sure
'tis only his Sunday clothes!"

Surrounded by a group of his young men, who were again loaded with
offerings of food, the chief began a long speech, which was by no means
abridged in Nando's translation.  He related the incident of the
previous day, omitting none of the most insignificant details,
accounting, as it appeared, for every tooth in the jaws of the huge
animal from which he had been saved.  He went on to say that in
gratitude to the white man he had changed his mind.  No longer would he
withhold food; his young men even now had their hands full of the best
products of Ilola.  No longer would he refuse his friendship; he would
even show the white man the place where the yellow metal was to be
found--on one condition, that the white man would become his blood
brother.  Imbono and the white men would then be friends for ever.

"Well, I'll be very glad to be friends with the chief," said Mr.
Martindale, "and I'm right down obliged to him for agreeing to show me
the location of the gold.  And what's this blood brother business
anyway?  I don't size up to that without knowing something about it,
you bet."

"Me tell all 'bout it, sah.  Imbono hab got knife; he come scratch,
scratch massa his arm; den blood come, just little tiny drop, oh yes!
Den Imbono he lick massa him blood.  Massa he hab got knife too: he
scratch Imbono him arm all same, lick Imbono him blood.  Me fink massa
not like black man him blood--not berrah berrah much.  Den massa gib
Imbono little tiny present--knife, like knife Samba stole from Nando;
Imbono gib massa fowl, or brass ring, or anyfing massa like.  Den massa
and Imbono dey be blood brudder, be friends for eber and eber amen."

"Well, I guess the blood business sounds rather disgusting.  What do
you think, Jack?"

Jack made a grimace.

"Couldn't we leave all the licking to him, uncle?"

Here Nando broke in.  "Me fink massa not like black blood.  All same, I
show de way.  Massa hold Imbono him arm tight, berrah tight, pretend to
lick, get little drop of blood on hand; dat nuff; Imbono pleased."

"If he's satisfied with that I'm willing, so fire away."

The chief beamed when he learnt that the white man had given his
consent.  The ceremony was quickly performed.  Then Imbono handed them
each a copper ring, and received in return a pinch of salt from Mr.
Martindale and a lucifer match from Jack, Nando assuring them that no
more acceptable presents could have been thought of.  Imbono recited a
sort of chant, which was explained to mean that he, his sons, his
friends, the men of Ilola, from that time forth and for evermore would
be the true friends of the white men; everything he had was theirs.
With a suitable reply from Mr. Martindale and Jack the ceremony ended.

Jack noticed when the chief had gone that Nando's face wore a somewhat
woebegone look.

"What's the matter, Nando?" he asked.

"Nando berrah sick, sah.  Imbono hab got present, massa hab got
present, little massa hab got present all same; Nando hab got no
present, no nuffin.  Dat make Nando sick.  Samba hab got Nando him
knife: what for Nando no hab nuffin at all?"

"Seems to me he wants a commission on the transaction," said Mr.
Martindale with a smile.  "Give him something, Jack; he's not a bad
sort."

"I've got a lucky sixpence, uncle; he can string that round his neck.
Here you are, Nando."

The negro took the coin with delight.

"Bolotsi O!" he exclaimed.  "Nando no sick no more.  Him plenty comfy
inside.  All jolly nice now sah: oh yes!"



[1] Bully for you!



CHAPTER VIII

Jack in Command

"We've come out of that better than I expected," said Mr. Martindale,
when the chief had gone.  "I only hope our new brother won't carry his
affection too far.  If he keeps piling in food in this way, our fellows
will wax fat and kick."

"You'll have to give him a hint, uncle.  Proverbs are mostly
old-fashioned rubbish, but there's one that would suit him: 'Enough is
as good as a feast.'"

"Which no nigger would believe.  Now I wonder when he will take us to
find this ore.  The sooner the better, although I calculate he doesn't
know the value of time."

Imbono returned in the course of the afternoon, and said that he would
be ready to conduct the white men to the gold region next day.  But he
stipulated that only his new brothers should accompany him.  To this
condition no one objected but Nando, who appeared to regard it as a
personal slight.

"Berrah well, berrah well," he said, his tone suggesting that he washed
his hands of the business.  "Nando no go, massa no can say nuffin to
Imbono.  Berrah well; all same."

Immediately after breakfast next morning the two set off in Imbono's
company, Jack carried a prospector's pan for washing the soil, Mr.
Martindale having declared that he didn't expect to find nuggets lying
around.  They also carried enough food for the day.  Imbono struck off
due west from the village; then, when well out of sight, he made a
detour, and passing through a couple of miles of dense forest, entered
a broken hilly country, which to Mr. Martindale's experienced eye
showed many traces of volcanic disturbance.  At last, forcing their way
through a belt of tangled copse, with many scratches from prickly
sprays, they came upon a deep gully, at the bottom of which ran a
stream of brownish water, now some twenty feet in breadth.  That it was
much broader at certain seasons was shown by the wide edging of sand
and pebbles at each side.

The chief came to a halt at the edge of the gully, and pointing up and
down the stream, said something in his own language.  Mr. Martindale
nodded his head, but said to Jack--

"I suppose he means we're right there.  Why on earth could not he let
Nando come and do the translating?"

"Show him your watch, uncle!"

At the sight of the watch Imbono nodded his head rapidly and ejaculated
what was clearly an affirmative.  Then he led the way down the rocky
side of the gully, the others scrambling after him.  On reaching the
sandy strand Mr. Martindale bent down and eagerly examined it.  Taking
some of the sand and pebbles in his hand, he stuck a magnifying glass
in his eye and picked them over carefully.

"Looks promising, Jack," he said, with the enthusiasm of an old miner.
"There are little granules of quartz mixed up with the sand, and a
particle or two of iron.  But that don't prove there's gold.  We'll
just try a little experiment."

He emptied a few handfuls of the soil into the pan, filled this with
water from the stream, and moved the pan to and fro so as to give the
water a concentric motion, Jack and the chief watching him with equal
interest.  Every now and then Mr. Martindale would cant off a little of
the water, which carried off some of the lighter sand with it.

"What you may call a process of elimination or reduction," he said.

"_Reductio ad absurdum_, uncle?"

"I hope not.  Guess you're smartening up, Jack."

"Call it survival of the fittest, then."

"Of the thickest, I'd say.  This washing carries off the useless light
sand, and leaves the heavy stuff behind, and it's in that we'll find
gold if at all."

After nearly half an hour's patient manipulation of the pan, there was
left in the bottom a blackish powder and some coarse grains of quartz,
with just enough water to cover them.

"Look at that, my boy," said Mr. Martindale.  "First time you've seen
anything of that sort, I guess."

"But where's the gold, uncle?"

"That's what remains to be seen--perhaps.  Keep your eye on that groove
as I tilt the pan round.  The black stuff is iron-stone; you needn't
trouble about that.  See if it leaves anything else."

He gently tilted the pan so that the water slowly flowed round the
groove, carrying with it the quartz grains and the powder.  Jack
watched narrowly.  After the contents of the pan had made the circuit
two or three times he suddenly exclaimed--

"There's a sort of glitter left behind the powder, uncle."

"I reckon that's enough," said Mr. Martindale, setting down the pan.
"We've hit it, Jack."

Jack could not refrain from giving a cheer.  The chief, who had but
half approved the proceedings at the beginning, caught the infection of
the lad's enthusiasm, and snapped his fingers and slapped his thighs
vigorously.

"We'll have another look higher up," said Mr. Martindale.  "One swallow
don't make a summer--another piece of what you call antiquated rubbish,
Jack.  There's gold here, that's certain; but I don't know whether it's
rich enough to be worth working."

They walked for half a mile up the stream, and Mr. Martindale went
through the same process with the soil there.  He was again rewarded.
This time, however, the trace of gold was more distinct.

"Jack, my boy," he said, "there's a small fortune in the bed of the
stream alone.  But I'm not satisfied yet.  It's up to us now to
discover the mother lode.  To judge by the size of the stream it can't
be far off.  The botheration is we can't talk to the chief, and I say
it's most unbrotherly to refuse us the advantage of an interpreter."

"Well, we've plenty of time, uncle.  I vote we have our lunch and then
go on again."

They sat down on boulders at the edge of the river and ate the manioc
cakes and bananas with which Barney had provided them.  Imbono seemed
pleased when he was invited to share their lunch.  Going into the
forest, he returned with a large leaf which he shaped like a cup, and
in this he brought water from the stream for the white men.

After lunch they followed up the stream.  At intervals Mr. Martindale
stopped to test the gravel, and found always some trace of gold, now
slight, now plentiful.  Some three miles up they came to a confluence.
The stream was joined by a smaller swifter one, which evidently took
its rise in the steep hilly country now becoming visible through the
trees.

"We'll try this, Jack."

"Why?"

"Because the bed's more gravelly than the other.  I guess the big
stream comes out of the forest somewhere; the other will suit our book
best."

They found their progress becoming more and more difficult.  The ground
was more rocky, the sides of the gully were steeper, and the edging of
dry gravel diminished until by and by it disappeared altogether, and
the prospectors had to take off their boots and socks and wade.  There
were trees and bushes here and there on the sides and at the top of the
gully, but the vegetation became more and more scanty as they ascended.
Presently the sound of falling water struck upon their ears, and a
sudden turn of the stream brought them into full view of a cataract.
At this point the gully had widened out, and the water fell over a
broad smooth ledge of rock, dashing on the stones after a descent of
some fifty or sixty feet.

"That's fine!" exclaimed Jack, halting to watch the cascade sparkling
in the sunlight, and the brownish white foam eddying at the foot.

"Grand!" assented Mr. Martindale.  "There's enough water power there to
save many a thousand dollars' worth of machinery."

"I was thinking of the scenery, not machinery, uncle," said Jack, with
a laugh.

"Scenery!  Why, I've got a lot finer waterfall than that on my
dining-room wall.  It isn't Niagara one way or t'other, but it'll do a
lot of mill grinding all the same.  Now, Jack, you're younger than I
am.  I want to see what there is by those rocks ten feet away from the
bottom of the fall.  Strip, my boy; a bath will do you a power of good,
a hot day like this; and there are no crocodiles here to make you feel
jumpy."

Jack stripped and was soon waist deep in the water.  Reaching the spot
his uncle had indicated, he stooped, and found that he could just touch
the bottom without immersing himself.  The water was too frothy for the
bottom to be seen; he groped along it with his hands, bringing up every
now and then a small fragment of quartz or a handful of gravel, which
Mr. Martindale, after inspecting it from a distance, told him to throw
in again.

At last, when he was getting somewhat tired of this apparently useless
performance, he brought up a handful of stones, not to as eyes
differing from what he had seen for the past half hour.  He spread them
out for his uncle, now only two or three yards away, to examine.

"I guess you can put on your clothes now," said Mr. Martindale.  "Why,
hang it, man! you've thrown it away!"

Jack had pitched the stones back into the water.

"I thought you'd done, uncle," he said.

"So I have, and you're done too--done brown.  D'you know you've thrown
away a nugget worth I don't know how many dollars?"

"You didn't tell me what you were after," said Jack, somewhat nettled.
"I couldn't be expected to know you were hunting for nuggets."

"No, you couldn't be expected: and that's just exactly what I brought
you over to America for.  When you've had the kind of smartening up I
mean you to have, you won't talk about what's expected or not expected;
you'll just figure it out that there's some reason in everything, and
you'll use your own share of reason accordingly."

"All right, uncle," replied Jack good-humouredly.  "I might have put
two and two together, perhaps.  At school, you see, they liked us to do
as we were told without arguing.  'Theirs not to reason why'--you know.
Shall I fish for that nugget?"

"Not worth while.  A few dollars more or less are neither here nor
there.  I know what I want to know, and now I think we'd better be
getting.  Put your clothes on.  Our brother Imbono has several times
anxiously pointed to the sun.  He evidently isn't comfortable at the
idea of being benighted in these regions."

Screwing some of the sifted gravel into a bag of leaves, Mr. Martindale
signed to the chief that he was ready to return.  They reached the camp
just as the sun was setting.  In honour of the recent discovery, Mr.
Martindale invited the chief to supper, and gave him a regale which
astonished him.  To see the white man bring peaches out of a closed pot
made Imbono open his eyes; but the sensation of the evening was
furnished by a bottle of soda water.  When the stopper was loosed and
the liquid spurted over, the chief shrank back in amazement, uttering a
startled cry.  Nando, not skilled in European politeness, guffawed
uproariously.

"Him say debbil water, sah.  Yah! yah!"

Nothing would induce Imbono to drink the stuff.  But he took kindly to
tea, and being prevailed on to try a pinch of snuff, he laughed
heartily when the paroxysm of sneezing was over, and asked for more.

"Him say like laugh-cry dust plenty much," said Nando.

When the chief had eaten his fill, Mr. Martindale, with considerable
diplomacy, explained that the discovery of gold was of little use to
him unless he could take men to the spot, and desired the withdrawal of
the prohibition.  Nando took a long time to convey this to Imbono, and
Jack suspected that he was making somewhat lavish promises in the
nature of _quid pro quo_.  Imbono at length agreed to the white man's
request, provided none of the workers he wished to take with him were
servants of the Great White Chief.  He consented also to lead him back
to the cataract next day, so that he might complete his search for the
gold-bearing rocks.

On this second journey Mr. Martindale and Jack were accompanied by two
of their negroes with picks.  On arriving at the spot the men were set
to break away portions of the rocky wall on the left of the cataract.

"You see, Jack," said Mr. Martindale, "the fact that we found gold in
the stream shows that it is still being washed down by the water;
otherwise it would have been swept away or buried long ago.  The rock
must be of a soft kind that offers comparatively little resistance to
the water, and I'm rather inclined to think that not so very many years
ago the cataract was a good deal farther forward than it is now.  Well,
the gold-bearing stratum must run right through the cataract,
horizontally I suspect.  It may not be a broad one, but it will
probably extend some distance on each side of the fall, and a few
hours' work ought to prove it."

As the rock fell away under the negroes' picks, Mr. Martindale and Jack
carefully washed samples of it.  In less than an hour the glittering
trail shone out clear in the wake of the granules of rock as they slid
round the groove.

"So much for the first part of our job," said Mr. Martindale, with a
quiet sigh of satisfaction.  "The next thing is to see if the gold
extends above the cataract."

Under Imbono's guidance the party made their way by a detour to the
river banks above the falls.  After a search of some hours Mr.
Martindale declared himself satisfied that the lode was confined to the
rocks over which the water poured.

"We can't do much more for the present," he said.  "The next thing is
to get machinery for working the ore.  We'll have to go back to Boma.
We can probably get simple materials for working the alluvial deposits
there, but the machinery for crushing the ore must be got from Europe,
and that'll take time.  We'll pack up and start to-morrow."

But after breakfast next morning, when Mr. Martindale had lighted his
morning cigar, he startled Jack by saying suddenly--

"Say, Jack, how would you like to be left here with Barney and some of
the men while I go back to Boma?"

"What a jolly lark!" said Jack, flushing with pleasure.

"Humph!  That's a fool's speech, or a schoolboy's, which often comes to
the same thing.  I'm not thinking of larks, or gulls, or geese, but of
serious business."

"Sorry, uncle.  That's only my way of saying I should like it
immensely."

"I've been turning it over in the night.  I want to make a man of you,
Jack; I want to see if there's any grit in you.  There ought to be, if
you're your mother's boy.  Anyway this will give you a chance.  Things
are this way.  We've struck a fortune here.  Well, I'm an old miner,
and I don't allow anybody to jump my claim.  I don't reckon any one is
likely to jump it; still, you never know.  That fellow Elbel, now; he's
an official of the Belgian company, and he knows what I'm here for.  He
might take it into his head to steal a march on me, and though I've got
the mining monopoly for all this district, you bet that won't be much
of a protection of my claim all these miles from civilization.  So it's
advisable to have a man on the spot, and it's either you or me.  You
don't know anything about mining machinery, so I guess it's no good
sending you to Boma.  Consequently, you must stay here."

"I'm jolly glad of the chance, uncle.  I'll look after your claim."

"Spoiling for a fight, eh?  But we mustn't have any fighting.  Mind
you, all this is only speculation--foresight, prudence, call it what
you like.  I don't calculate on any one trying to do me out of my
rights.  And if any one tries to jump my claim, it won't do for you to
make a fool of yourself by trying to oppose 'em by force.  All you can
do is to sit tight and keep an eye on things till I get back.  I don't
know I'm doing right to leave you: you're the only nephew I've got, and
you can't raise nephews as you raise pumpkins.  But I thought it all
out while you were snoring, and I've made up my mind to give it a
trial.  Patience and tact, that's what you want.  You've got 'em, or
you haven't.  If you have, I reckon it's all right: if you haven't----"

"Your cigar has gone out, dear old man," said Jack, laying his hand on
his uncle's.

"So it has.  I'll try another.  Well, that's settled, eh?  I'll be as
quick as I can, Jack: no doubt I'll find a launch when I reach the
Congo, or even before if Elbel's boss at Makua likes to make himself
pleasant.  But I've no doubt Elbel has coloured up our little meeting
in his report to headquarters.  Anyhow, I should be right back in two
or three months--not so very long after all.  I'll forward some rifles
and ammunition from the first station where I can get 'em: the sale of
arms is prohibited in this State, of course; but that isn't the only
law, by all accounts, that's a dead letter here, and I don't doubt a
little palm-oil will help me to fix up all I want.  You'll have to
teach the men how to use 'em, and remember, they're only for
self-defence in the last extremity.  See?"

"I'll be careful, uncle.  It's lucky we've a friend in Imbono.  I think
we'll get along first-rate.  Nando can do the interpreting till I learn
something of the language."

"Jingo!  I'd forgotten Nando.  That's a poser, Jack.  I shall want him
to pilot me down to Boma.  I can't get along without an interpreter.
That's a nailer on our little scheme, my boy; for of course you can't
stay here without some one to pass your orders to the men."

Jack looked very crestfallen.  The prospect of being left in charge was
very delightful to him, and he had already been resolving to show
himself worthy of his uncle's trust.  The thing he had regretted most
in leaving Rugby was that he would never be in the Sixth and a "power."
He did not shrink from responsibility; and it was hard to have his
hopes of an independent command dashed at the moment of opportunity.
Suddenly an idea occurred to him.  "Are you sure none of the other men
know enough English to serve my turn?" he said.

"Nando said not a man jack of 'em knows it but himself.  I'll call him
up and ask him again."

Nando came up all smiles in answer to the call.  "You told me that none
of the men speak English but yourself," said Mr. Martindale; "is that
true?"

"Too plenty much true, sah.  Me speak troof all same, sah."

"That's unfortunate.  We're going back to Boma.  I wanted to leave Mr.
Jack here, but I can't do that unless he has some one to do the talking
for him.  Go and get the things packed up, Nando."

The negro departed with alacrity.  But not five minutes later he
returned, accompanied by a negro a little shorter than himself, but
otherwise showing a strong resemblance.  Both were grinning broadly.

"My brudder, sah," said Nando, patting the younger man on the shoulder.
"He berrah fine chap.  Him Lepoko.  Speak Inglesa; berrah clebber.
Nando go with big massa, Lepoko stay with little massa; oh yes! all too
fine and jolly."

"Lepoko speaks English, does he?" said Mr. Martindale.  "Then you're a
liar, Nando!"

"No, sah, me no tell lies, not at all.  Lepoko no speak Inglesa all de
time, sah.  What for two speak Inglesa one time?  Too much nise, massa
no can hear what Nando say.  Nando go, all same; massa muss hab some
one can talk.  Berrah well; den Lepoko hab go; can talk all right.  He
show massa what can do."

"One, two, free, forty, hundred fousand," began Lepoko glibly.  "Ten
little nigger boys.  What de good of anyfink?  Way down de Swannee
ribber----"

"That'll do, that'll do!" cried Mr. Martindale, laughing.  "You've got
your interpreter, Jack.  Nando, get ready to start.  Bring nine men
with you, the rest will stay with Mr. Jack.  The fellow was hankering
after the flesh-pots of Boma, I suppose," he added, when Nando had
gone, "and that accounts for his sudden discovery of his brother's
eloquence--too jealous of his own importance to give it away before.
Now there's Barney, Jack.  I don't know how he'll take being left here."

Barney took it very well.  When Mr. Martindale mentioned that he would
be absent for at least two months, he remarked--

"Bedad, sorr, I'll be getting fat at last.  Imbono sent another heap of
maniac this morning, and seeing that I'll have nothing whativer to do
for two months, sure I'll be a different man entirely by the time you
come back."

An hour later the shore was crowded with natives come to bid the white
man farewell.  Imbono was there with all the men of his village.  At
his final interview with Mr. Martindale he had promised to watch
carefully over the welfare of his young blood brother; he would supply
him and his men with food, and defend him from wild beasts and
aggressive black men, and his villagers should at once set about
building new huts for the party.

"Remember, Jack, patience--and tact.  God bless you, my boy."

"Good-bye, uncle.  Hope you'll have a pleasant journey.  And on the way
down keep an eye lifting for Samba."

Then the ten natives struck the water with their paddles, the canoe
glided down the stream, and as it disappeared round a bend of the river
Jack heard the men's voices uplifted in a new song composed for the
occasion.

"What are they singing, Lepoko?" he asked of his new interpreter.

"Me tell massa.

  "Down brown ribber,
  Broad brown ribber,
  White man go
  In canoe.
  Good-bye, Ilola,
  Good-bye, Imbono,
  Good-bye, Jacko,
  Brave Jacko,
  Young Jacko.
  He save Imbono,
  Lucky Imbono;
  Down brown ribber
  White man go."



CHAPTER IX

Samba Meets the Little Men

Samba had cheerfully accompanied Mr. Martindale's expedition, in the
confidence that one of its principal objects, if not indeed its main
one, was the discovery of his parents.  Nando had told him, on the
ruins of Banonga, that the white man would help him in his search, and
the white man had treated him so kindly that he believed what Nando
said.  But as the days passed and the canoes went farther and farther
up stream, miles away from Banonga, the boy began to be uneasy.  More
than once he reminded Nando of his promise, only to be put off with
excuses: the white man was a very big chief, and such a trifling matter
as the whereabouts of a black boy's father and mother could not be
expected to engage him until his own business was completed.

Samba became more and more restless.  He wished he could open the
matter himself to the white men; but the few words of English he had
picked up from Jack and Barney were as useless to him as any
schoolboy's French.  Jack often wondered why there was so wistful a
look upon the boy's face as he followed him about, much as Pat followed
Samba.  He spoke to Nando about it, but Nando only laughed.  Samba
began to distrust Nando.  What if the man's assurances were false, and
there had never been any intention of seeking his father?  The white
men had been kind to him; they gave him good food; he was pleased with
the knife presented to him as a reward for his watchfulness; but all
these were small things beside the fact that his parents were lost to
him.  Had the white men no fathers? he wondered.

At length he came to a great resolution.  If they would not help him,
he must help himself.  He would slip away one night and set off in
search.  He well knew that in cutting himself adrift from the
expedition many days' journey from his old home he was exchanging ease
and plenty for certain hardship and many dangers known and unknown.
The forest in the neighbourhood of Banonga was as a playground to him;
but he could not know what awaited him in a country so remote as this.
He had never been more than half a day's journey from home, but he had
heard of unfriendly tribes who might kill him, or at best keep him
enslaved.  And the white men of Bula Matadi--did not they sometimes
seize black boys, and make them soldiers or serfs?  Yet all these
perils must be faced: Samba loved his parents, and in his case love
cast out fear.

One morning, very early, when every one in the camp was occupied with
the first duties of the day, Samba stole away.  His own treasured knife
was slung by a cord about his neck; he carried on his hip,
negro-fashion, a discarded biscuit tin which he had filled with food
saved from his meals of the previous day; and Mr. Martindale's knife
dangled from his waist cord.  It was easy to slip away unseen; the camp
was surrounded by trees, and within a minute he was out of sight.  He
guessed that an hour or two would pass before his absence was
discovered, and then pursuit would be vain.

But he had not gone far when he heard a joyous bark behind him, and Pat
came bounding along, leaping up at him, looking up in his face, as if
to say: "You are going a-hunting: I will come too, and we will enjoy
ourselves."  Samba stopped, and knelt down and put his arms about the
dog's neck.  Should he take him?  The temptation was great: Pat and he
were staunch friends; they understood each other, and the dog would be
excellent company in the forest.  But Samba reflected.  Pat did not
belong to him, and he had never stolen anything in his life.  The dog's
master had been good to him: it would be unkind to rob him.  And Pat
was a fighter: he was as brave as Samba himself, but a great deal more
noisy and much less discreet.  Samba knew the ways of the forest; it
was wise to avoid the dangerous beasts, to match their stealth with
stealth; Pat would attack them, and certainly come off worst.  No, Pat
must go back.  So Samba patted him, rubbed his head on the dog's rough
coat, let Pat lick his face, and talked to him seriously.  Then he got
up and pointed towards the camp and clapped his hands, and when Pat
showed a disposition still to follow him, he waved his arms and spoke
to him again.  Pat understood; he halted and watched the boy till he
disappeared among the trees; then, giving one low whine, he trotted
back with his tail sorrowfully lowered.

Samba went on.  He had come to the river, but he meant to avoid it now.
The river wound this way and that: the journey overland would be
shorter.  He might be sought for along the bank; but in the forest
wilds he would at least be safe from pursuit, whatever other dangers he
might encounter.  At intervals along the bank, too, lay many villages:
and Samba was less afraid of beasts than of men.  So, choosing by the
instinct which every forest man seems to possess a direction that would
lead towards his distant village, he went on with lithe and springy
gait, humming an old song his grandfather Mirambo had taught him.

His path at first led through a grassy country, with trees and bush in
plenty, yet not so thick but that the sunlight came freely through the
foliage, making many shining circles on the ground.  But after about
two hours the forest thickened; the sunlit spaces became fewer, the
undergrowth more and more tangled.  At midday he sat down by the edge
of a trickling stream to eat his dinner of manioc, then set off again.
The forest was now denser than anything to which he had been accustomed
near Banonga, and he went more warily, his eyes keen to mark the tracks
of animals, his ears alive to catch every sound.  He noticed here the
scratches of a leopard on a tree trunk, there the trampled undergrowth
where an elephant had passed; but he saw no living creature save a few
snakes and lizards, and once a hare that scurried across his path as he
approached.  He knew that in the forest it is night that brings danger.

The forest became ever thicker, and as evening drew on it grew dark and
chill.  The ground was soft with layers of rotted foliage, the air
heavy with the musty smell of vegetation in decay.  Samba's teeth
chattered with the cold, and he could not help longing for Barney's
cosy hut and the warm companionship of the terrier.  It was time to
sleep.  Could he venture to build a fire?  The smoke might attract men,
but he had seen no signs of human habitation.  It would at any rate
repel insects and beasts.  Yes--he would build a fire.

First he sought for a tree with a broad overhanging branch on which he
could perch himself for the night.  Then he made a wide circuit to
assure himself that there were no enemies near at hand.  In the course
of his round he came to a narrow clearing where an outcrop of rock had
prevented vegetation, and on the edges of this he found sufficient dry
brushwood to make his fire.  Collecting an armful, he carried it
unerringly to his chosen tree, heaped it below the hospitable branch,
and with his knife whittled a hard dry stick to a sharp point.  He
selected then a square lump of wood, cut a little hollow in it, and,
holding his pointed stick upright in the hollow, whirled it about
rapidly between his hands until first smoke then a spark appeared.
Having kindled his fire he banked it down with damp moss he found hard
by, so as to prevent it from blazing too high and endangering his tree
or attracting attention.  Then he climbed up into the branch; there he
would be safest from prowling beasts.  The acrid smoke rose from the
fire beneath and enveloped him, but it gave him no discomfort, rather a
feeling of "homeness" and well-being; such had been the accompaniment
of sleep all his life long in his father's hut at Banonga.  Curled up
on that low bough he slept through the long hours--a dreamless sleep,
undisturbed by the bark of hyenas, the squeal of monkeys, or the wail
of tiger-cats.

When he awoke he was stiff and cold.  It was still dark, but even at
midday the sun can but feebly light the thickest parts of the Congo
Forest.  The fire had gone out; but Samba did not venture to leave his
perch until the glimmer of dawn, pale though it was, gave him light
enough to see by.  He was ravenously hungry, and did not spare the food
left in his tin; many a time he had found food in the forest near his
home, and now that he felt well and strong, no fear of starvation
troubled him.  Having finished his simple breakfast, he slung the empty
can over his hip and set off on his journey.

For two days he tramped on and on, plucking here the red berries of the
phrynia, there the long crimson fruit of the amoma, with mushrooms in
plenty.  Nothing untoward had happened.  In this part of the forest
beasts appeared to be few.  Now and again he heard the rapping noise
made by the soko, the gibber of monkeys, the squawk of parrots: once he
stood behind a broad trunk and watched breathlessly as a tiger-cat
stalked a heedless rabbit; each night he lighted his fire and found a
serviceable branch on which to rest.

But on the third day he was less happy.  The farther he walked, the
denser became the forest, the more difficult his path.  Edible berries
were rarer; fewer trees had fungi growing about their roots; he had to
content himself with forest beans in their brown tough rind.  When the
evening was drawing on he could find no dry fuel for a fire, and now,
instead of seeking a branch for a sleeping place, he looked for a
hollow tree which would give him some shelter from the cold damp air of
night.  Having found his tree he gathered a handful of moss, set fire
to it from his stick and block, which he had carefully preserved, and
threw the smouldering heap into the hollow to smoke out noxious
insects, or a snake, if perchance one had made his home there.

The fourth day was a repetition of the third, with more discomforts.
Sometimes the tangled vines and creepers were so thick that he had to
go round about to find a path.  The vegetation provided still less
food, only a few jack fruit and the wild fruit of the motanga rewarding
his search.  He was so hungry at midday that he was reduced to
collecting slugs from the trees, a fare he would fain have avoided.
Fearless as he was, he was beginning to be anxious; for to make a
certain course in this dense forest was well-nigh impossible.

At dusk, when again he sought a hollow tree and dropped a heap of
smouldering herbage into the hole, he started back with a low cry, for
he heard an ominous hiss in the depths, and was only just in time to
avoid a python which had been roused from sleep by the burning mass.
In a twinkling the huge coils spread themselves like a released
watch-spring beyond the mouth of the hole and along the lowermost
branch of the tree.  With all his forest lore, Samba was surprised to
find that a python could move so quickly.  The instant he heard the
angry hiss he crouched low against the trunk, thankful that the reptile
had chosen a branch on the other side.  Armed only with a knife, he
knew himself no match for a twenty-foot python; had he not seen a young
hippopotamus strangled by a python no larger than this?  Like Brer
Rabbit, Samba lay low and said nothing: until the python, swinging
itself on to the branch of an adjacent tree a few feet away,
disappeared in the foliage.  Then, allowing time for the reptile to
settle elsewhere, Samba sought safer quarters.  The python's house was
comfortable, even commodious; but Samba would scarcely have slept as
soundly as he was wont in uncertainty whether the disturbed owner might
not after all return home.

He felt very cramped and miserable when he rose next day to resume his
journey.  This morning he had to start without breakfast, for neither
fruits nor berries were to be had: a search among fallen trees failed
even to discover ants of which to make a scanty meal.  Constant walking
and privation were telling on his frame; his eyes were less bright, his
step was less elastic.  But there was a great heart within him; he
plodded on; he had set out to find his father and mother; he would not
turn back.  The dangers ahead could be no worse than those he had
already met, and no experienced general of army could have known better
than Samba that to retreat is often more perilous than to advance.

In the afternoon, when, having found a few berries, he had eaten the
only meal of the day and was about to seek, earlier than usual, his
quarters for the night, he heard, from a short distance to the left of
his track, a great noise of growling and snarling.  The sounds were not
like those of any animals he knew.  With cautious steps he made his way
through the matted undergrowth towards the noise.  Almost unawares he
came upon an extraordinary sight.  In the centre of an open space,
scarcely twenty feet across, a small man, lighter in hue than the
majority of Congolese natives, was struggling to free himself from the
grip of a serval which had buried its claws deep in his body and thigh.
Two other small men, less even than Samba in height, were leaping and
yelling around their comrade, apparently instructing him how to act,
though neither made use of the light spears they carried to attack the
furious beast.  The serval, its greenish eyes brilliant with rage, was
an unusually powerful specimen of its kind, resembling indeed a leopard
rather than a tiger-cat.  It was bent, as it seemed, upon working its
way upward to the man's throat, and its reddish spotted coat was so
like his skin in hue that, as they writhed and twisted this way and
that, an onlooker might well have hesitated to launch a spear at the
beast for fear of hitting the man.

One of the little man's hands had a grip of the serval's throat; but he
was not strong enough to strangle it, and the lightning quickness of
the animal's movements prevented him from gripping it with the other
hand.  Even a sturdily-built European might well have failed to gain
the mastery in a fight with such a foe, and the little man had neither
the strength nor the staying power to hold out much longer.  Yet his
companions continued to yell and dance round, keeping well out of reach
of the terrible claws; while blood was streaming from a dozen deep
gashes in the little man's body.

Samba stood but a few moments gazing at the scene.  The instinct of the
born hunter was awake in him, and that higher instinct which moves a
man to help his kind.  Clutching his broad knife he bounded into the
open, reached the fainting man in two leaps, and plunged the blade deep
into the creature's side behind the shoulder.  With a convulsive
wriggle the serval made a last attempt to bury its fangs in its
victim's neck.  Then its muscles suddenly relaxed, and it fell dead to
the ground.

Samba's intervention had come too late.  The man had been so terribly
mauled that his life was ebbing fast.  His comrades looked at him and
began to make strange little moaning cries; then they laid him on a bed
of leaves and turned their attention to Samba.  He knew that he was in
the presence of Bambute, the dreaded pigmies of the forest.  Never
before had he seen them; but he had heard of them as fearless hunters
and daring fighters, who moved about from place to place in the forest,
and levied toll upon the plantations of larger men.  The two little men
came to him and patted his arms and jabbered together; but he
understood nothing of what they said.  By signs he explained to them
that he was hungry.  Then, leaving their wounded comrade to his fate,
they took Samba by the hands and led him rapidly into the forest,
following a path which could scarcely have been detected by any except
themselves.  In some twenty minutes they arrived at a clearing where
stood a group of two score small huts, like beehives, no more than four
feet high, with an opening eighteen inches square, just large enough to
allow a pigmy to creep through.  Pigmies, men and women, were squatting
around--ugly little people, but well-made and muscular, with leaves and
grass aprons for all clothing, and devoid of such ornaments as an
ordinary negro loves.

They sprang up as Samba approached between his guides, and a great
babel of question and answer arose, like the chattering of monkeys.
The story was told; none showed any concern for the man left to die;
the Bambute acknowledge no ties, and seem to have little family
affection.  A plentiful dinner of antelope flesh and bananas was soon
placed before Samba, and it was clear that the pigmies were ready to
make much of the stranger who had so boldly attacked the serval.

One of them knew a little of a Congolese dialect, and he succeeded in
making Samba understand that the chief was pleased with him, and wished
to adopt him as his son.  Samba shook his head and smiled: his own
parents were alive, he said; he wished for no others.  This made the
chief angry.  The chiefs of some of the big men had often adopted pigmy
boys and made slaves of them; it was now his turn.  The whole community
scowled and snarled so fiercely that Samba thought the safest course
was to feign acquiescence for the moment, and seize the first
opportunity afterwards of slipping away.

But nearly three weeks passed before a chance presented itself.  The
pigmies kept him with them, never letting him go out of their sight.
They fed him well--almost too well, expecting his powers of consumption
to be equal to their own.  Never before had he seen such extraordinary
eaters.  One little man would squat before a stalk bearing fifty or
sixty bananas, and eat them all.  True, he lay moaning and groaning all
night, but next morning would be quite ready to gorge an equal meal.
Since they did not cultivate the ground themselves, Samba wondered
where they obtained their plentiful supply of bananas and manioc.  He
learnt by and by that they appropriated what they pleased from the
plantations of a neighbouring tribe of big men, who had too great a
respect for the pigmies' poisoned arrows and spears to protest.  Samba
hoped that he might one day escape to this tribe, but a shifting of the
village rendered this impossible, though it afforded the boy the
opportunity for which he had so long been waiting.

On the night when the pigmy tribe settled down in its new home, four
days' journey from the old, Samba took advantage of the fatigue of his
captors to steal away.  He had chosen the darkest hour before the dawn,
and knowing that he would very soon be missed and followed up, he
struck off through the forest as rapidly as he could.  With plentiful
food he had recovered his old strength and vigour, and he strode along
fleetly, finding his way chiefly by the nature of the ground beneath
his feet; for there was no true path, and the forest was almost
completely dark, even when dawn had broken elsewhere.  As the morning
drew on the leafy arcades became faintly illuminated, and he could then
see sufficiently well to choose the easiest way through the obstacles
that beset his course.

Despite all his exertions his progress was very slow.  Well he knew
that, expert though he was in forest travel, he could not move through
these tangled mazes with anything like the speed of the active little
men who by this time were almost certainly on his track.  At the best
he could hardly have got more than two miles' start.  As he threaded
his way through the brushwood, hacking with his knife at obstructive
creepers, and receiving many a scratch from briar and thorn, he tried
to think of some way of throwing the pursuers off the scent; but every
yard of progress demanded so much exertion that he was unequal to the
effort of devising any likely ruse.

Suddenly coming upon a shallow stream about two yards wide that ran
across his line of march, he saw in a flash a chance of covering his
trail.  He stepped into the stream, pausing for a moment to drink, then
waded a few paces against the current, narrowly scanning the bordering
trees.  They showed a close network of interlacing branches, one tree
encroaching on another.  Choosing a bough overhanging the brook, just
above his head, Samba drew himself up into the tree, taking care that
no spots of water were left on the branch to betray him.  Then,
clambering nimbly like a monkey from bough to bough, he made a path for
himself through the trees at an angle half-way between the directions
of the stream and of his march through the forest.  He hoped that,
losing his track in the stream, the Bambute would jump to the
conclusion that he was making his way up or down its bed, and would
continue their chase accordingly.

Among the trees his progress was even slower than on the ground.  Every
now and again he had to return on his tracks, encountering a branch
that, serviceable as it might look, proved either too high or too low,
or not strong enough to bear his weight.  And he was making more noise
than he liked.  There was not only the rustle and creak of parting
leaves and bending twigs, and the crack of small branches that snapped
under his hand; but his intrusion scared the natural denizens of the
forest, and they clattered away with loud cries of alarm--grey parrots
in hundreds, green pigeons, occasionally a hawk or the great blue
plantain-eater.  The screeches of the birds smothered, indeed, any
sound that he himself might make; but such long-continued evidence of
disturbance might awaken the suspicion of the little men and guide them
to his whereabouts.

By and by he came to a gap in the forest.  The clear sunlight was
welcome as a guide to his course; but he saw that to follow the
direction which he believed would bring him towards Banonga he must now
leave the trees.  He stopped for a few minutes to recover breath, and
to consider what he had best do.  As he lay stretched along a bough,
his eye travelled back over the path he had come.  The vagaries of
lightning that had struck down two forest giants in close proximity
disclosed to his view a stretch of some twenty yards of the stream
which he had just crossed on his primeval suspension bridge.  What
caused him to start and draw himself together, shrinking behind a leafy
screen thick enough to hide him even from the practised eyes of the
little forest men?  There, in the bed of the stream, glancing this way
and that, at the water, the banks, the trees on every side, were a file
of Bambute, carrying their little bows and arrows and their short light
spears.  They moved swiftly, silently, some bending towards the ground,
others peering to right and left with a keenness that nothing could
escape.  Samba's heart thumped against his ribs as he watched them.  He
counted them as they passed one after another across the gap; they
numbered twenty, and he was not sure that he had seen the first.

The last disappeared.  Samba waited.  Had his ruse succeeded?  There
was absolute silence; he heard neither footstep nor voice.  But the
little men must soon find out their mistake.  They would then cast back
to the point where they had lost the scent.  Could they pick it up
again--trace him to the tree and follow him up?  He could not tell.
They must have been close upon him when he climbed into the tree;
evidently he had left the path only in the nick of time.  This much he
had gained.  But he dared not wait longer; there was no safety for him
while they were so near; he must on.



CHAPTER X

A Trip with a Crocodile

Samba looked warily round, then began to descend from his perch in the
tree, moving as slowly and with as many pauses as a timid bather
stepping into the water.  Once more he was on the ground.  Pausing only
to throw a rapid glance on all sides, he struck off in a direction at
right angles to the course of the stream, and resumed his laborious
march through the forest maze.

Hour after hour he pushed on without meeting a living creature.  But he
had heard too much of the cunning and determination of the Congo dwarfs
to delude himself with the idea that he had finally shaken them off.
Tired as he was, sweating in the moist oppressive heat, he dared not
rest, even to eat in comfort the food he had brought in his tin.  He
nibbled morsels as he went, hoping that by good speed during the whole
day he might get far enough from the pigmies to make his ultimate
escape secure.

Towards evening he heard in front of him the long monotonous rustle of
a stream foaming over a rocky bed.  He was careful in approaching it:
to meet a crocodile ambushed near the bank would be as dangerous as to
meet a man.  Pushing his way cautiously through the shrubs, he came to
the edge of a broad river, flowing in swift eddies from white rapids
above.  It seemed to Samba that this must be a tributary of the Lemba,
the river on whose bank he had left the white men, and to which, lower
down, he must ultimately make his way.  Pursuit by the white men might
now be safely disregarded; Samba thought he could hardly do better than
keep to the stream, taking his chance of meeting negroes at isolated
villages on the banks.  These, if he met them, would at any rate be
easier to elude than the Bambute.

But the sun was going down, the air becoming chill.  He must find a
shelter for the night and pursue his riverside journey next day.  A
little search revealed, on a bluff above the river, a boulder having a
deep cavity on one side.  Here Samba sat down to eat the little food
left in his tin; then he curled himself up for the night.  Nothing
disturbed his sleep.

In the morning he felt more than usually hungry.  His tin was empty; he
did not care to leave the river and go hunting in the forest, perhaps
vainly, for berries or roots.  A little way down stream he noticed a
spot where the dark surface of the water was scarcely disturbed by a
ripple; was that a deep pool, he wondered, where fish might be?  He
went down to the edge and, leaning flat upon a rock peeped over.  Yes;
in the depths he caught the scaly gleam of darting fish.

Springing up, he went to a swampy patch hard by and cut a long,
straight, stiff reed.  Then he took the hard stick with which he made
fire, and, sharpening the point until it pricked like a needle, he
fitted the wood to the reed so as to make a spear.  With this in his
hand he once more leant over the pool.  He lay still for a few moments,
intently watching; then, with a movement of extraordinary swiftness, he
plunged his spear into the depths, and brought it out with a silvery
trout impaled.  The fish had stopped to nibble at a root in the bank.
When Samba had thus caught three he was satisfied.  He did not pause to
cook the fish.  He split them open, dexterously boned and cleaned them,
and ate them raw.

He had scarcely finished his breakfast when he saw, hurtling down the
rapids above him, a huge forest tree--a mass of green, for most of its
branches in full leaf were still upon it.  Clearly it had not long lost
its grip of earth.  It came swirling towards Samba, every now and then
stopping as its submerged part was caught by some rock, only to be
whirled round and driven past the obstacle by the weight of water
behind.  It made a zigzag course through the rapids, and then floated
peacefully down the still reach of water beneath.

As he watched the tree sailing gently towards him, Samba had an idea.
Why not use it as a raft to carry him on his way?  It was strong enough
to bear his weight; he could hide in the foliage with at least as good
a chance of escaping observation as if he were moving along the banks.

By the time he had grasped the notion the tree was past him.  He sprang
up, raced along until he was level with it, then took a neat header
into the water.  A minute's rapid swimming brought him to the end of
the trunk, which, he saw, had been snapped clean off and was not
encumbered by the roots.  He clambered up, and the trunk was so long
that his trifling weight scarcely depressed its end.  Smiling with
pleasure, he crawled along it until he was in the centre of the leafy
screen.

This, however, now that he was there, did not seem so dense as when he
had viewed it from the bank; he was not concealed so well as he had
hoped.  Every now and again, too, his novel raft gave an ominous lurch
and roll, suggesting that the portion above water might at any moment
change places with that below.  If that happened, Samba wondered, would
he be able to disengage himself from the tangle of branches and swim
clear?  But these momentary fears were banished by the novelty and
excitement of his position.  How delightful it was, after his toilsome
and fatiguing journey through the forest, to float down the river
without effort of his own in a leafy arbour that defended him from the
fierce rays of the sun!  And his voyage had the pleasures of variety.
Sometimes the foliaged top went first; then, when the branches swept
the bottom of the stream in shallow reaches, the trunk swung round and
went broadside to the current.  Sometimes the branches stuck fast, the
current carried the trunk round in a circle, and when an eddy set it
again in motion, the trunk end became the bow of this uneasy ship.
Bump!  That was some rock or sandbank; the tree shook, and Samba was
nearly toppled from his perch.  Nk'oketo![1] It was all right; the
friendly water had washed the tree clear, and Samba was off again, his
black eyes gleaming with fun as he peered between the branches.

It was early in the afternoon, and very hot even for those latitudes.
Everything seemed asleep.  No breeze ruffled the leaves in the trees
along the banks.  The air quivered.  Samba was dozing, lulled by the
gentle motion of the tree, whose progress had not for some time been
checked.

All at once there was a shock.  Samba instinctively clutched a branch
as he felt himself jerked from his seat.  His lumbering vessel was
twirling round; and looking through the leaves, he saw that it was
caught by the head on a sandbank in midstream.

But next moment he felt a shiver run down his spine, and an eery
creeping about the roots of his hair.  Below him, not four feet away, a
gigantic crocodile was staring at him with his cunning baleful eyes.
The swish of the projecting branches upon the sandbank had aroused the
reptile from his siesta on this vantage ground, whence, at the lazy
opening of an eye, he could survey a long stretch of the river.  And he
had awoke to see a plump and tempting black boy at the inconsiderable
altitude of four feet above his snout.

Those who have seen the crocodile only in his hours of ease, lazily
sunning himself on a river bank, or floating with scarcely more than
his eyes and forehead visible on the surface of the stream, may have
come to the comfortable conclusion that he is a slow-moving and
lethargic beast.  But see him rushing at the bank to seize in his
terrible jaws the unwary antelope or zebra that has come to drink, or
to sweep it into the river with a single blow of his mighty tail.
Watch him when, roused from his doze on a sandbank, by the sting of a
rifle bullet on his armour, he vanishes with lightning rapidity beneath
the water.  At one moment to all seeming as lifeless as a log, the next
he is a raging monster, ready to tear and rend any hapless creature
which his inertness has beguiled.

Of the two, Samba and the crocodile, it was the saurian that first
recovered his wits.  His instinct when disturbed at close quarters is
to rush forthwith upon his enemy or victim.  Thus did the crocodile
now.  Considering that he is a beast not built for jumping, the leap he
attempted, with a spasmodic wriggle of his formidable tail, was quite a
creditable feat.  With his teeth he grazed the lower part of the branch
on which Samba sat; and the boy, gazing down into the beast's eyes,
shuddered and shrank away.  Fortunate it was for him that his legs had
not been dangling.  Nothing could then have saved him.

The reptile, slipping back after its failure, maintained its hold on
the lower branches with its forefeet.  Before it could make a second
attempt, Samba had swung himself into the branch above.  The tree
toppled slightly, and for one moment of terror Samba feared he would be
thrown into the very jaws of the monster.  But the sandbank held the
tree firmly, and that peril was past.

With thick foliage between it and the boy, the crocodile saw no chance
of securing its victim from its present position.  But it was
determined not to be balked, and, cunning beast! could afford to wait.
It seemed to know that the boy was only safe so long as he clung to his
perch.  On the sandbank, or in the water, his end would alike be
speedy.  So the reptile slid off the bank into the water, and swam to
the trunk end of the tree, which had been swung round by the current
and was now pointing down stream.  If it could not leap, it could
crawl, and up the trunk the approach to its prey was easy.

Samba's eyes were now wide with fright, as he saw the beast's
intention.  Up a tree on the river bank he could have laughed any
crocodile to scorn; but this sandbank in midstream was ground
peculiarly the creature's own, even though the prey was on a branch ten
feet above it.  With its experience of sandbanks the crocodile knew
there was no permanency in this arrangement.

The attempts of the huge reptile to gain a footing on the trunk had a
result which caused Samba mingled hope and fear.  The tree floated
clear of the bank, and the voyage began again.  But how different were
the circumstances!  In the stern, no longer a cheerful smiling boy,
carelessly watching the slow banks glide by, but a boy whose hands and
feet gripped his perch with anxious tenacity, and whose scared eyes
were quick to mark every movement of the unwelcome, the abhorred,
passenger amidships.  With many a splash of its tail, and many a grunt
of impatient fury, the monster at last made good its footing on the
broad trunk, which under its weight was for more than a quarter of its
length invisible beneath the surface of the water.  For some minutes it
lay still, staring at Samba with unwinking eyes, displaying all its
teeth as if to grin sardonically at its victim.  Samba regretted for
the moment that he had not swarmed down from his perch and attacked the
crocodile with his knife while he was still struggling to mount the
trunk.  But then he reflected that he had after all done wisely, for
the reptile would have slid back into the water, and before Samba could
gain his retreat, he might have been swept off by one swish of the
terrible tail.

Samba, as he had shown more than once, and notably in the recent
incident of the serval, had no lack of courage; but he had never before
been at such close quarters with a crocodile, the most terrible of all
the natural enemies of man in the regions of the Congo.  And as he sat
and watched the glassy stare of the hideous reptile now wriggling inch
by inch towards him, he felt a strange helplessness, a kind of
fascination that seemed to chill and paralyse his power of movement as
of thought.  He had retreated as far as he dared.  His weight had
caused some of the slenderer and more elastic branches to bend towards
the water; he had even imagined that, as he tested them, the pressure
threatened to make the tree revolve.  What his fate would be if the
whirling of the trunk on its axis brought him into the river he well
knew.  The crocodile would slip as nimbly as an eel after him; and,
entangled in the foliage, which to his armoured enemy would offer no
obstacle, he would fall an easy prey.

The crocodile wriggled on, till it came to the place where the first
branch forked from the trunk.  Scarcely more than its own length now
separated it from Samba.  Apparently it had come as near as it cared to
venture; not being a climber, the feat of crawling up the tapering
branch on which Samba was perched was not one to its taste.  It lay
still, with jaws agape, its eyes half-closed in a kind of wicked leer.

Samba tried to look away from the hideous beast, but in vain; he found
his gaze drawn back uncontrollably.  He felt even more subject to the
fascination now that the crocodile's movements had ceased.  The
conviction was growing upon him that sooner or later he would slide
down the branch and fall dreamily into the open jaws.  He was fast
becoming hypnotized.

But he was roused from this dangerous trancelike state by a sudden roll
of the tree.  Perched high as he was, the motion caused him to swing
through an arc of several yards and brought him perilously near the
water.  The danger quickened his faculties: he clung on with a tighter
grip, bethinking himself to look whether his fishing spear, which he
had stuck into the bark, was still safe.  He was relieved to find that
it was undisturbed.  The tree righted itself, and a gleam of hope
lightened Samba's mind when he saw that the crocodile was in the water.
Though, stretched on the trunk, the beast had felt the roll less than
Samba above, it had a less tenacious grip and less ability to adapt
itself; and first the tail, then the rest of its body had slid off.  It
was violently struggling to regain its position, its jaw resting on the
trunk, its forepaws furiously beating the water.

The memory of the reptile's former difficulties in mounting inspired
Samba with an idea, which, impelled equally by terror and hate, he was
prompt to act upon.  The tree was still rocking slightly before
regaining its steadiness, and the crocodile, despite its efforts, was
unable to gain a firm grip on the moving trunk.  All its attention was
engaged upon the accomplishment of its immediate purpose: it would lose
the dainty morsel if it did not once more mount the tree.  Samba was
quick to seize the critical moment.  Spear in hand he crept downwards
along the branch on which he had been perched, careful that his
movements should not divert the crocodile's attention.  Reaching the
junction of the branch with the parent stem, only five or six feet from
the reptile, he let himself down noiselessly into the river on the far
side of the tree, and swam for a second or two until he came opposite
the crocodile.  During these few seconds he had been hidden from the
creature's view by the mass of the trunk, which rose out of the water
to some height above his head.

The crocodile had now managed to get its forepaws on the tree, and in
struggling to hoist itself its snout was raised almost upright,
exposing the soft underside, the sole part in which it is vulnerable to
anything except a very heavy bullet.  Samba caught sight of the tip of
the snout above the tree; here was the opportunity he had hoped for in
making this hazardous experiment.  Taking with his left hand a firm
grip of a wart on the trunk, he raised himself in the water, and with
the right hand drove his spear twice into the monster's throat.  The
crocodile made no sound; a lash of the powerful tail drove up a wave
that caused the tree to rock violently: then the huge body slipped
backwards into the water.

The moment he had driven his spear home Samba let go his hold on the
tree, and trod water until the current brought the foliage to him.
Then he drew himself nimbly up into the branch he had formerly
occupied.  He was breathless, and scarcely yet recovered from his
scare; but there was no sign of the crocodile, and knowing that the
reptile when mortally wounded sinks into deep water, he felt that his
enemy had gone for ever.  He heaved a deep sigh of relief, but chancing
to look back, he noticed with a start of renewed dread that the water
in the wake of the tree was faintly tinged with red.  Was it possible
that the crocodile, though wounded, was still following?  He felt a
shiver thrill through him, and, bending down from his perch, kept his
eyes fixed in a stare on that ominous sanguine thread.

The minutes passed.  Still the water showed that faint persistent
tidge.  Samba was becoming more and more nervous.  Like the reptile's
eyes but a little while ago, that line of red held his gaze in a
strange fascination.  He was still watching it when the tree suddenly
gave a violent lurch, and turned half over.  Samba, whose hold had
relaxed in his nervousness, was flung off the branch into a clump of
bushes at the side of the river, which here began to race rapidly
through a deep gorge.  Scratched and dazed by the fall he picked
himself up slowly.  He rubbed his eyes.  What was this?  He was in the
midst of a group of pigmies, who were pointing excitedly, uttering
their strange coughing cry, to the branches of the tree.  In its lurch
it had been turned almost completely round, so that the foliage
formerly beneath the water was now uppermost.  And there, firmly wedged
in a fork of two boughs, lay the lifeless body of the crocodile.

The Bambute jabbered to Samba, stroked his arms, patted his back,
examined the spear which, though it was broken in his fall, he had not
let go.  From the bank they had witnessed the boy's bold fight, and
they had followed the course of the floating tree until it ran ashore
on a jutting bed of rock.  Samba made signs that he wished to pursue
his journey on foot; but the Bambute shook their heads and grunted and
carried him away with them.  Once more he was a prisoner.



[1] Nothing wrong!



CHAPTER XI

Bula Matadi comes to Ilola

"Well, Barney," said Jack, when Mr. Martindale's canoe had disappeared,
"I don't know how a first mate would feel if he lost his captain in
mid-ocean, but I should fancy he'd feel pretty much as I do now."

"And what sort of feeling is now consuming ye, sorr?"

"Mixed, Barney, very mixed!  I like the idea of being left in charge,
trusted, you know; there's something jolly pleasant about that.  But
that's the point, you see; I am left in charge."

"Sure I see your maning widout your telling me, sorr.  'Tis just the
very same feeling I used to have whin a bhoy, and me mither put the
baby in me arms and tould me to sit wid her on the doorstep.  'Twas a
sweet pretty colleen, an' I thought a powerful deal uv having such a
heap uv loveliness in me arms; but thin, just as you say, sorr, she was
in me arms, an' they being thin an' she being fat--begorra!  I was soon
mighty tired uv it, an' I wished she was ugly so that I might hate her
widout sin."

"I hope I shan't feel quite so bad as that, Barney," said Jack with a
laugh.  "But I own I'm a little anxious with so many people in my
charge."

"And not wan uv them to be trusted, saving Pat and meself."

"And this mining claim of my uncle's to keep an eye on and defend
without using force."

"And wild beasts prowling around----"

"And that villainous uncle of Samba's somewhere in the neighbourhood, I
suppose, waiting a chance to molest us."

"And bedad! if he does, he'll find an Irishman, an Englishman, and a
terrier, Irish by breed and Irish by nature, and them three are a match
for any fifty Blokos, widout a doubt."

"You're an optimist, Barney.  But you're right.  It's silly to meet
troubles half-way.  We had better set about doing something.  I used to
think our house-master kept our noses rather too close to the
grindstone, but I begin to see he was right when he said work was the
best cure for the dumps."

"And for what the advertisements call a tindency to corpilence.  But
what will you be after doing at all, sorr?"

"Well, don't you think that, now our numbers are reduced, it would be
as well to move our camp nearer to Imbono's village?  We shall be here
for a couple of months or so, and if Boloko is still on our tracks we
should be less open to surprise near Ilola.  Besides, it will give the
men something to do.  They'd better build grass huts for the whole
party, and I don't see why we shouldn't try our hands at architectural
improvements."

"Indeed, 'tis a good notion, sorr.  But are ye sure Imbono would be
willing to have us for close neighbours?"

"We can try.  He's my blood brother, you know.  And I dare say we can
put him up to a thing or two."

The chief made no objection to the suggested change of site; indeed, he
offered the assistance of his men in the construction of the new huts.
This, however, Jack declined in the politest terms, thinking it better
to provide plenty of work for his own men until he had had time to take
his bearings.  The new huts were built within a short distance of
Ilola, near a stream.  They were the ordinary grass huts of the
natives, but Jack, seeing a number of wooden slabs taken from the
bottoms of old canoes, had purchased them from Imbono, and when shaped
a little they made a very fair substitute for flooring boards.  The new
settlement was surrounded with a stockade in the native manner, space
enough being left within to accommodate Mr. Martindale and his party
when they should return.

This work occupied a fortnight.  Everything had gone smoothly, save for
trifling squabbles among the natives.  These Jack managed to settle
with little difficulty, in great part through the excellent qualities
of Lepoko, who turned out to be a much better man all round than his
brother Nando.  When the new village was completed, Jack set the men to
make Indian clubs from the trees near at hand, and spent part of the
cool hours in instructing his followers in their use.  They took
readily to the new pastime, and very quickly became proficient in
executing a great variety of intricate figures.  Jack was elated at the
success of his experiment: it not only provided an admirable drill for
the men, but accustomed them to take commands from him and thus
consolidated his authority.

Imbono's men caught the infection: Indian clubs were soon the order of
the day in Ilola; and it gave Jack and Barney no little amusement to
see men, women, and children at all times of the day whirling clubs
around their heads.  Imbono saw that his men's performances were
greatly lacking in rhythm and grace, and he begged his blood brother
(whom he had named Lokolobolo, "strong leg") to allow some of his men
to join in the daily practising.  Jack was nothing loth; the more
influence he could obtain in this way the better his chances of success
in the task his uncle had set him.

He was casting about for some new employment to occupy and interest his
men, when a couple of canoes came up the river bearing a letter from
Mr. Martindale, and a small consignment of Mauser rifles and
ammunition.  The letter was dated from Baraka.


DEAR JACK,--

I've got here safely, no interference, no upsets.  I've managed to get
hold of some rifles--I won't tell you how--and send them to you in
charge of some canoe "boys."  Hope they'll reach you safely.  I've paid
the boys well, and promised them as much more if they return and meet
me with an acknowledgment from you.  I'm off to Boma; will write you
again from there if I can find a means of sending the letter.  Let me
know by the bearer how you are getting on.

On the way down I made more particular inquiries than were possible in
coming up as to the methods of the Congo Government.  At Stanleyville I
met a Frenchman who told me a good deal, and here got rather chummy
with an English missionary on his way home to tell the British public
some of the effects of King Leopold's rule.  One need only look at the
man to see that he is the right sort, with the stuff in him for
martyrdom if the call came.  The things he told me made my skin creep.
Leopold seems to be doing his best to depopulate the country.  He'll
soon make Vanderbilt sing small as a multi-millionaire; but when his
pile's made this State of his will be a wilderness.

I find that the natives are required to bring in four kilos of rubber
every fortnight.  They're supposed to be paid for it, and they do get
brass rods or something of the sort; but the pay works out at the rate
of three cents a pound--when rubber to my knowledge fetches about
eighty cents a pound in the European market!  I hear of cases where
they don't even get that; a spoonful of salt is supposed to be
sufficient.  If the rubber don't measure up to the standard, the least
punishment the poor wretches get is twenty-five lashes with a whip of
hippo hide--the _chicotte_, an outrageous thing that would cut through
a pine log.  But they don't stop at twenty-five; a hundred ain't
uncommon; no wonder some of the poor creatures peg out after it.

But that's not the worst.  These precious "forest guards," as they call
them, seem to be little less than fiends.  I saw with my own eyes, at
one of the villages on the way down, a basket filled with hands, cut
from the people these savages have killed for not bringing in enough
rubber.  The Frenchman told me they have to produce these hands before
the Commissary to prove they haven't wasted their cartridges.
According to State law they oughtn't to be armed with rifles, but
they've got a Belgian thing called the Albini, and that's how they use
it.  I wouldn't believe that this hand-chopping was done with the
knowledge of the officials, though even then it don't relieve them of
responsibility; but I heard of a State officer at one of the outposts
who actually paid in brass rods for the hands brought him.

Law doesn't count here, and justice is only a name.  What do you think
of this?  A Belgian official quartered himself with twenty native
soldiers on a small village, and because they couldn't fix up at once
the food required for the visitors, he carried the chief and some of
his men to his camp up river, and kept 'em there tied up for a month
till a fine of 5,000 brass rods had been paid--ruination for such a
small place.  The missionary told me that "fights" are constantly
taking place, and "fight" simply means massacre.  Districts that once
held a thousand people are now reduced to a hundred; what natives are
not killed get so worn out and dispirited that they are bowled over by
sleeping sickness.  If this sort of thing goes on much longer, the
whole population will be wiped out.

You'll be surprised to get such a long letter; but fact is, I can't
think of anything else just now.  It makes me fairly sick to think that
America had a hand in putting this huge territory under the control of
a man whose philanthropic high-falutin comes to this.  The whole system
is organized murder and pillage under the form of law, and for this
King Leopold, who pockets a thumping profit, is responsible before God
and man.  Now I've told you this you'll know how to deal with that
fellow Elbel if he tries any tricks.  But remember, no fighting except
in self-defence.  Patience, my boy--_toujours la patience_, as the
Frenchman said to me when I was boiling with rage and wanted to go
right away and speak my mind to the Governor.

Your affectionate uncle,
  JOHN MARTINDALE.

P.S.--I saw and heard nothing of Samba.


There was plenty of food for thought here, especially when Jack learnt
from the head paddler who had brought the letter that the officials of
the Trust in which Ilola was situated were coming up the river to
establish new dépôts for the rubber.  He wrote a brief account of what
he had been doing, and despatched it by the same men.  Then, to be
prepared for eventualities, he picked out the most intelligent of his
followers and began to teach them the use of the rifle.  Only a few of
them showed any promise as marksmen.  But Jack was very patient with
them; and having a good stock of ammunition and the promise of more, he
did not spare practice, and in a short time had about fifteen fairly
trustworthy shots.  One man, named Makoko, took to the rifle from the
first and ran Jack close as a marksman.  Jack was very proud of his
pupil.  He himself had been the crack shot of his school company; and
though there was all the difference in the world between shooting at
the butts from a position of rest and shooting at alligators or hippos
from a canoe, he had tested his marksmanship with success as he came up
the Congo.

Now that some of his men had rifles it occurred to Jack to teach them
what he remembered of his company drill.  It was a welcome change after
their long practice with the Indian clubs, and they entered into it
with the pleasure and zest of children.  Lepoko was gratified with the
rank of sergeant, and Makoko made corporal in recognition of his
diligence and skill in musketry.  When the company was formed Barney
reminded Jack that he had been a corporal in the Irish Fusiliers.  "And
sure I'd be in the army now, sorr, only they didn't invent the Irish
Guards till I was a time-expired man.  But having been a corporal, it's
meself that is cut out to be your liftinant here, sorr.  We've got Pat
for the pet uv the reg'mint," he added, "and the only thing that's
wanting is the uniform."

"Well, Barney, perhaps for the sake of uniformity we'd better strip and
take to the loincloth."

"Ah! you must always be having your bit uv fun, sorr.  We'd be far too
conspicuous, for my skin at any rate would turn red wid modesty, and
the generals say that red coats make the best targets for the inemy."

The drilling of Jack's company was followed with great interest and
admiration by Imbono and his men.  They never failed to attend the
daily parade, and soon desired to join it.  Jack delighted the chief by
putting the villagers through the same exercises as his own men,
excepting, of course, the musketry practice, for which they had no
rifles.  Before long Jack found himself captain of a company a hundred
and fifty strong, all but his fifteen riflemen being spearmen.

Nearly two months had now passed.  Jack had not heard again from his
uncle, whose return he daily expected.  He was anxious to see him
again, for lately news had been brought in by excited natives that the
servants of the Great White Chief were drawing nearer, their progress
being attended by wanton cruelties which boded ill for the men of
Ilola.  So distressed was Imbono at the tales he heard from these
messengers that he thought of dismantling his village and migrating
into the depths of the forest.  There for a time he and his people
might hide from the destroyer.  But to a people accustomed to the open
the prospect of making a new home in the forest was gloomy indeed.
Most of them would probably die of disease before they became
acclimatised, and there was great risk of starving while clearings were
being made and brought under cultivation.  Imbono resolved to wait a
little longer, hoping that Bula Matadi might turn back, sated with the
spoils from lower reaches of the Lemba.

One day, the visitors so long expected and so little desired arrived at
the village.  Jack's settlement being on the further side of Ilola from
the river, he did not know of their approach until informed of it by a
messenger from Imbono.  Thirty forest guards of the Great White Chief
had come, and with them twenty nondescripts, hangers-on of the licensed
pillagers.  Their leader was not a white man, as Imbono had expected,
but a black man like themselves.  This surprised Jack.  It was of
rather ill omen that the first representatives of King Leopold in
Imbono's village should be negroes free from white men's control.  But
the strangers reported that a white man--his name, they said, was
Elobela--was coming up the river behind them.  Meanwhile they, in his
name, called upon the chief to supply rubber.  Imbono desired that his
brother Lokolobolo would come into the village and give him advice.

"Faith, I'd do nothing of the sort, sorr," said Barney.  "What would ye
have any truck wid Elbel's scoundhrels for?"

"But it would be a poor return for Imbono's kindness to refuse.  I
shall certainly go; the question is, shall I go armed?"

"The blessed angels help ye if ye don't, sorr.  Take your revolver;
I'll come wid ye, and so will Pat; 'tis right to make a good show for
the honour of the reg'mint."

Accordingly captain, lieutenant, and regimental pet, with Lepoko as
interpreter, left the stockaded camp and crossed to Ilola.  They found
the thirty forest guards already swaggering about the village as if it
belonged to them.  They were big muscular Ngombe, armed with rifle,
cutlass, and whip.  Their leader was engaged in conversation with the
chief.  No sooner did Pat perceive him than he darted forward with a
growl, and coming to the negro, began to bark furiously at his heels.
The man turned round quickly and aimed a blow with his whip at the dog,
which made Pat bark and jump more vigorously than ever.  At the same
moment the man caught sight of Jack, and his face expressed surprise,
guilt, and bravado in turn.

"Begorra!" said Barney under his breath, "'tis Bloko himself!"

The chief's countenance cleared; he was unmistakably pleased at Jack's
ready response to his request.  Then he anxiously asked what he should
do.

"I don't think you can do anything but obey," replied Jack.
"Undoubtedly the Great White Chief is lord of the land.  By the laws he
has made you are bound to supply these people with rubber.  It is your
tax.  If you resist it will mean ruin to yourself and your villages.
How is the rubber to be paid for?"

"In brass rods."

"Well, let your men do their best.  We will see if you get your due
pay.  My uncle will soon be back; he is a determined man, and if you
are not properly treated he will take care that somebody hears of it."

Boloko scowled, then laughed, when Lepoko translated this answer to the
chief.  He swaggered away to his men, and the whole crowd were soon
laughing heartily, every now and then making derisive gestures at the
white men.  With some difficulty Barney had got hold of Pat, whose
barking had subsided into a rumbling growl.  But for his restraining
hand Barney knew well that the dog would have thrown prudence to the
winds and set upon the strange negroes.

From that day Imbono's villagers began the collection of rubber.
Boloko and his men seized as many huts as they required, and demanded
regular and copious supplies of food for themselves and their
hangers-on.  Before twenty-four hours had passed Boloko, with half a
dozen of his guards, strolled over to Jack's village, and looked in at
the gateway of the stockade.  Jack had already decided to adopt
military precautions.  Two of his best men were doing sentry-go at the
gate.  When Boloko saw them and their rifles he thought better of
entering as he had purposed.  He stood for some time taking stock of
the tidy compound and the neat new huts around, and discussing with his
men this unexpected discovery.  Then with a malignant scowl he returned
to Ilola.

For some days Jack saw no more of Boloko.  He remained within his own
stockade, thinking it would do the chief no good if he too openly
showed friendship.  Every day he put the men through their usual drill,
never giving the least sign that he was aware of being closely observed
by the forest guards.  The drilling of Imbono's men had ceased; the
adult villagers were now engaged in the collection of rubber.

From what Jack heard from his men, it soon became clear to him that
Boloko was anxious to pick a quarrel with the chief.  His motive, Jack
guessed, was partly to show his authority, partly to flaunt his
contempt of the friendship between Imbono and the white men.  His
design was to some extent kept in check by the knowledge that Jack had
fifteen men well armed and trained, and the presence of the two white
men, Inglesa too--he had a wholesome respect for the Inglesa--was in
itself a considerable deterrent.  But he began to find fault with the
quality of the rubber brought in; declared that the villagers kept the
best fish for themselves and gave him the worst; complained that his
men were made ill by rotten manioc.  Imbono took care that the details
of these grievances were carried to Jack, who, however, held aloof,
still feeling that interference on his part would do no good, while it
would certainly aggravate the situation.  When the Congo Free State
entrusted the collection of its revenue to such subordinates as Boloko,
commanding ruthless savages like the forest guards, there was nothing
to be done.

One evening, after sunset, Lepoko came into Jack's hut to say that the
chief desired to see him.  Jack hurried out, and found Imbono in
company with one of his villagers.  He invited them into his hut,
lighted a candle, and setting food and palm wine before them, inquired
the object of their visit.

"Look, my brother!" said the chief, pointing to his companion.

The man turned, and showed three terrible gashes in his back.  He
lifted his right foot and removed a bandage; Jack saw that two of the
toes were missing.

"You see, brother!" said Imbono.  "Ifumi was eating caterpillars in his
hut.  The guard Bomolo saw him and came to him and said, 'Your rubber
is short.  You eat caterpillars instead of collecting rubber.'  Ifumi
said: 'No, my rubber is not short.  There is my basket; you see it is
full.'  But Bomolo cut three gashes in his back, and struck off two of
his toes with his knife."

"That is the truth, Ifumi?" asked Jack.

"It is true," replied the man.

"You did not provoke Bomolo?"

"No, I said to him only what the chief has told."

"You did right to come, Imbono," said Jack quietly.  "Go back now: you
had better not be seen here.  I will send you a message in the morning."

The two men thanked him and went away, Ifumi limping as he walked,
supported by the chief's arm.  Jack called Barney and told him what had
happened.

"It makes my blood boil, Barney.  I hoped it would not come to this.
Poor wretches--to be at the mercy of such savages!  I can't stand by
and see such things done.  I'm sure my uncle would not wish me to.  Yet
what can I do?  We could fight Boloko and his men, and beat them I
hope; but goodness knows what that would lead to.  Whatever little
right they have to maim these poor people, we have none whatever to
interfere, and we should have the regular forces of the State down on
us for treason or rebellion or what not.  But something must be done.
I wish my uncle were here!"

"Well, sorr, I'm ready for anything.  The quickest and easiest way
would be to fight, for wid all this drill wan uv our men is worth two
uv those blagyards."

"No, my uncle said we were to fight only in self-defence.  I can't go
against that.  Couldn't we persuade Boloko to keep his men in
order--bribe him, perhaps?"

"I'd sooner try to persuade the divil, sorr."

"Well, I shall try it.  I'll invite him to a palaver.  We'll give him a
feast--open our last bottle of soda water; a good dinner improves a
man's temper sometimes, you know, Barney."

"True, sorr; but it sometimes makes a man very impident.  Will I send
Lepoko over wid the invitation the morn's morn, sorr?"

"Yes, directly after breakfast.  Say that I shall be pleased if Boloko
will come to see me in my camp.  He may bring his rifle and half a
dozen of his men."



CHAPTER XII

Samba Comes Back

As Jack had expected, Boloko was flattered by the invitation, with its
implied recognition of his importance.  There is nothing a negro likes
better than an opportunity for talk, and Boloko declared himself quite
ready to meet the Inglesa.  But he would not venture into the camp; the
meeting must take place outside.  The objection, considering the
thinly-veiled hostility of the two parties, was not unreasonable.  Jack
gave up the idea of a banquet, and, about eight o'clock in the morning,
went with Barney and Lepoko to the site of his original camp, where he
found Boloko and half a dozen of his men already assembled.

It is of the essence of a palaver to be deliberate, not to say
long-winded, and Jack followed the advice of Lepoko in passing many
compliments and talking about a great variety of matters before he came
to the point.  Then, however, he made the point perfectly clear.  He
spoke of what he had learnt of the forest guards' behaviour in the
village, and of Bomolo's outrage in particular.

"You must know," he concluded, "that it is against the law of the land
to injure or assault the people.  Your duty is to see that they do not
destroy the vines by improper cutting, and that they go regularly into
the forest.  You have no right to ill-use them."

"The white man speaks very wisely; he knows much more than Boloko.
Boloko knows nothing of law or right; he does what is the custom."

"But you know, my friend, it is a wrong custom."

"It may be as the white man says, but the Inglesa is not my master.  My
master is Elobela.  Let the Inglesa complain to Elobela.  As for right,
what right has the Inglesa to interfere?  He is a stranger; he is not a
servant of the Great White Chief."

"I am indeed a stranger; I am not a servant of the Great White Chief.
But the Great Spirit who made the world and all men bids me speak if I
see wrong done."

Boloko broke out in insolent laughter, and said something to his men
which Lepoko refused to translate.

"Him say berrah nasty fing 'bout massa; me no can tell massa."

Jack saw that it was time to bring the interview to a close.  There was
no coping with insolence.

"Very well," he said sternly.  "It will be my duty to report at Boma
what I have seen and heard in the village.  And more, Boloko; I shall
lay a complaint against you for attempting to cut loose our canoes, and
for conducting an attack by night upon our camp."

Boloko looked startled and began to bluster when this was translated to
him.  But it was evident that this manner was assumed as a cloak to a
real uneasiness.  The moment Lepoko had concluded, Jack walked away
from the meeting, and as he returned to his own quarters he heard the
guards discussing in excited and vehement tones what he had said.  For
all his bluster, Boloko had been impressed.  For a few days Jack heard
of no overt acts of violence.  Imbono's gratitude for the intervention
was almost overwhelming.  He heaped praise and compliments upon his
brother Lokolobolo, and, not content with words, made him a valuable
present.  Half a dozen of his men staggered to Jack's hut one night
under the weight of a huge tusk of ivory, which Imbono had kept since
the time when elephant-hunting was a profitable occupation.

Two days after the palaver a canoe arrived with another dozen Mauser
rifles and ammunition from Mr. Martindale.  The head paddler was
cautious enough to send one of his men in advance to the camp to
announce his arrival, and Jack managed to get the rifles brought
secretly within his stockade under cover of night.  It was just as
well, he thought, to keep Boloko in ignorance of this new acquisition
of strength.

The man reported that he had been despatched from Irebo by an Inglesa
who had entrusted him with a bonkanda[1] for the young Inglesa.  Jack
opened the note eagerly.  This time it was very short:--


DEAR JACK,--

All going well.  Have been delayed by little investigating trips I have
made in the concessions of the Abir Trust and the Domaine de la
Couronne.  Atrocities even worse than I thought.  Hope all well with
you.  Patience--and tact.

J.M.

P.S.--I am sending a dozen rifles and some ammunition; can't get any
more.


The paddler said that he had had great difficulty in eluding the white
men and their agents.  Only a few days before, he and his companions
had almost run into a white man who was coming up the river in a
smoke-boat, establishing new outposts for the collection of rubber.  No
doubt an outpost would be established at Ilola; for Imbono was the
chief of several villages and had many young men.

This news gave Jack no little uneasiness.  Instinctively he felt that
the difficulties arising from Boloko's presence would be increased by
the arrival of his Belgian superior.  For after what he had learnt from
his uncle he could not doubt that the tyranny of the forest guards was
practised at least with the connivance, if not by the actual authority,
of the officials.  As a precaution he took care to have men constantly
on the look-out at the river bank for the approach of strange boats,
and when one day Elbel's launch was sighted, he withdrew all his men
within the stockade and posted double sentries.  He felt pretty sure
that the white man in command was Monsieur Elbel, the man with whom Mr.
Martindale had already had a brush; and of Elbel he had a profound
mistrust, formed at first sight and accentuated by all that he had
subsequently heard.

Boloko and his satellites went in a crowd to the bank of the river to
greet the new arrivals.  From behind his stockade Jack watched them
through his field-glass as they landed from the launch and set off for
the village.  The white man was certainly Elbel.  He was accompanied by
a number of forest guards armed like Boloko's, and by a crowd of
hangers-on--negroes of many varieties.  On the way up to the village
Boloko walked by Elbel's side, talking very earnestly, and Jack saw the
Belgian throw a keen and inquisitive glance in the direction of his
camp.

Not an hour afterwards Elbel left the village and walked over to Jack's
settlement, which the natives had named Ilombikambua, "house of the
dog," in reference to Pat the terrier.  Jack had given orders that the
white man was to be admitted if he came, but no black man in his
company.  The Belgian had come alone, and looked a little surprised
when the sentries at the gate received him with a correct military
salute.  Jack rose from his stool in front of his hut and doffed his
hat courteously.  Outwardly he was calm enough; but he felt by no means
easy in mind, realizing that his responsibility was far from being the
"jolly lark" he had light-heartedly called it when Mr. Martindale
announced his intention of leaving him in charge.

"Good morning, sir," said the Belgian in his foreign accent.

"Good morning.  I think I have the pleasure of addressing Monsieur
Elbel?"

"Dat is my name.  I do not know your name."

"John Challoner."

"Yes, I believe I see you before in a canoe."

"When I was coming up the river with my uncle."

"Who is now returned to Boma.  Yes, I heard of dat.  Mr. Martindale--I
zink dat is de name--have found de gold he sought?"

"I am not at liberty to discuss Mr. Martindale's business."

"Exactly.  I see.  Ve must not be indiscreet, hein?  Now as for your
Mr. Martindale, I am not pleased, I say at vunce.  I am not pleased viz
Mr. Martindale.  He refuse to give me up de black boy dat vas in your
canoe.  Dat vas against de law: it is not permitted in de Congo State
for de natives to leave deir village."

"But if the village no longer exists, Mr. Elbel?"

The Belgian shrugged.

"Dat make no difference!  But I have more to say.  I have learn dat
your men have rifles; I see dem myself; dey even hold deir rifles at de
salute, dey have military training, hein?  Now it is not permitted to
have rifles in de Congo State: dey are vat you call contraband.  I muss
ask you to be so kind and give de rifles to me."

"I am afraid I can't oblige you, Mr. Elbel.  The rifles belong to my
uncle."

"Dat make no difference!  I find de rifles here: I muss ask you in de
name of de Free State to give dem up."

"I don't know that you have any right to speak in the name of the Congo
State.  I believe, sir, you are an official of the Société Cosmopolite
du Commerce du Congo--a private trust.  I can't recognize your
authority, Mr. Elbel."

"But it is de law."

"If you talk of law! ... are your practices legal, Mr. Elbel?  Is it
legal to shoot and maim the natives as you have been doing for a
hundred miles and more along the river?  Is it legal to incite a night
attack on peaceable travellers?"  (Here Elbel could not suppress a
start, and looked far from comfortable.)  "But whether I am acting
legally or not, I cannot recognize your authority.  If you want the
rifles, I must ask you to wait until Mr. Martindale's return and demand
them from him.  Until then they are in my charge, and I cannot give
them up."

Jack thought afterwards that he might have spoken a little less
bluntly; but he wished to put an end to a disagreeable interview.  His
firmness made the Belgian angry.

"Ver' vell, ver' vell!" he said, flushing with annoyance.  "You vill
suffer for dis.  You not recognize my right: vell, Capitaine Van Vorst,
an officer of de State, comes up de river; he have right; and I say,
Mr. Chon Shalloner, you shall be arrest and made to pay heavy
amende--if not put in prison."

Jack's bow was a courteous intimation that the interview was ended.
But the Belgian caught the flicker of a smile on his face, and flung
away in a rage which he made no attempt to disguise.  Jack's sentries,
who again brought their rifles to the salute, shrank back before
Elbel's scowl as he passed out of the gate.

Jack was not ill-pleased with the result of the interview.  You have
always scored a point when the enemy loses his temper.  Apparently
Elbel did not intend to take strong measures himself.  He knew the
weakness of his position.  The situation would be changed if a State
officer was indeed on his way up the river: but Jack did not allow
himself to be disturbed by Elbel's threat; his uncle would doubtless be
back in a few days, and he had unbounded faith in Mr. Martindale's
judgment and discretion.

From that time he took care that either Barney or himself should be
always in the stockaded camp.  His men had become a well-disciplined
force, but he could not answer for their being able to act discreetly
towards a white man whom they had reason to dread.

For a day or two there was no sign of hostility from Elbel.  He did not
repeat his visit, which Jack did not feel called upon to return.  But
news came from Ilola that, while the Belgian's arrival had checked the
ghastly ferocities of the forest guards, the chicotte had been still
more freely in play than before.  Every man whose basket did not
contain the requisite five kilos of rubber, or the quality of whose
rubber did not approve itself to Elbel, was unmercifully flogged.
Those with whom no fault could on any pretext be found were paid with
perhaps a piece of cloth or some trumpery article which was useless to
them, and which in many cases they threw away.

Imbono sent word one day that the most distant of his villages had been
burnt.  It contained a hundred adult male inhabitants, but only fifty
had brought rubber to Ilola, the remainder having been engaged in
hunting down a herd of elephants which had been ravaging their crops.
Elbel had refused to accept the explanation.  He had retained the fifty
men as hostages, and sent a detachment of his forest guards to bring in
the unruly fifty and burn their village down.  Jack could only express
his sympathy: he felt that there was nothing to be done.

One morning Barney, who acted as storekeeper to the camp, reported that
food was running short.

"Well, Imbono will supply us," replied Jack.

"Beggin' your pardon, sorr, Imbono has little enough for himself since
Elbel and his blagyards came to the place.  The thieving villains will
have the best, and divil a ha'penny do they pay for it."

"We must have food.  When I was at Akumbi the other day I saw a good
crop of ground-nuts.  I'll go over myself and see if I can arrange for
a supply."

Akumbi was the smallest of the chief's villages, situated about five
miles up the river.  Jack set off early with Lepoko, taking the
well-worn path through the fringe of forest.  As he approached the
village he heard cries of pain.  Instinctively he quickened his steps
and hurried through the gateway in the stockade; then he came upon a
scene that made his blood boil.  Tied to a tree was a youth, who,
Lepoko told him, was the son of Lofundo, the sub-chief of the village.
Elbel was thrashing the captive with the chicotte, every lash cutting
into the quivering flesh and provoking shrieks of agony.  Not another
villager was to be seen; all had fled either into their huts or into
the forest.

Infuriated at the sight, Jack forgot all counsels of prudence.  He
rushed towards the spot, peremptorily calling on Elbel to desist.  The
Belgian swung round savagely, gave one disdainful look at the
interrupter, and raised his arm with the intention of putting all his
force into another stroke.  But Jack sprang at the uplifted arm, caught
Elbel by the wrist and arrested the blow.  Wrenching himself free, the
Belgian, livid with rage, made a fierce cut at Jack.  He was too near
for the long lash to have the full effect intended; but Jack felt the
sting as the flexible thong curled round him.  Then his attitude
changed.  Before, he had merely been conscious of a desire to protect
the negro; now, he was afire with a personal grievance.  Elbel had not
time to raise the whip for a second stroke.  Flinging out his left fist
Jack caught him a smashing blow on the cheek, and followed it up with a
right-hander which hurled him half senseless to the ground.  Elbel
staggered to his feet, presenting a piteous spectacle, blood streaming
from his nose, his left eye half closed.  He groped for his revolver,
but the sight of Jack standing over him, pale but determined, revolver
in hand ready for the next move, cowed him.  He fumbled for a few
seconds at his belt, then slunk away without a word.

[Illustration: Jack turns the tables]

The village compound was immediately filled with a crowd of natives,
who poured out of the huts: whence they had secretly watched the scene.
Jack was overwhelmed with protestations of gratitude.  He cut the boy
loose and restored him, bleeding from the lash, to his father.  Then he
extricated himself from the excited throng, took Lofundo aside, waived
his demonstrations, and, completing the business on which he had come,
left the village as soon as he could.  Now that the heat of the moment
was passed, he feared he had not done the villagers or himself any
good.  A personal affray with Elbel was the last thing he would have
desired; and though he felt that he could hardly have acted otherwise
than he had done, he was in anything but an elated mood when he
returned to his camp.

He at once told Barney of what had occurred, and spoke of his
misgivings.

"Arrah thin, sorr," said the Irishman, "I do not see any cause for
disthress at all at all.  The villain got his deserts, and 'twill tache
him a lesson.  Sure I'd like to have seen his face, the spalpeen!"

"But I'd no right to interfere, Barney; you can't get over that."

"Begging your pardon, sorr, I do not agree wid that at all.  Ye may say
a father has the right to thrash his children; 'twas the holy Solomon
himself said so!  But if he lays it on too heavy, the law steps in and
says 'Hands off!'  A farmer has a right to get work out uv his horse;
but if he overtaxes the poor baste, the law steps in again and says 'No
more uv that.'  These poor niggers seem to have to work widout fair
pay, and pay rent into the bargain.  That's more than an Irishman would
stand; and when the nigger-driver begins to maul 'em as well, worse
than poor dumb beasts widout souls uv their own--be jabers! sorr, what
would I do, if I saw a man ill-treating my Pat?  I would knock him
down, sorr, if he was the Lord-Liftinant himself!"

The fact that several days passed without any sign of resentment or
vengeance on Elbel's part did not make Jack less uneasy.  So far from
his trouncing having a deterrent effect, the treatment of the natives
became steadily worse.  Things were following the inevitable course.
The vines in the neighbourhood of the village had yielded all the
rubber of which they were at present capable, and the men had to go
continually further afield.  This necessitated their remaining for days
at a time away from their homes, in improvised shelters which afforded
poor protection against the weather and the wild beasts.  They had to
put up with indifferent food that gave scanty nourishment.  When,
having collected the rubber, they returned at last to their homes, they
could only remain there a couple of days, for the next demand was upon
them.  Meanwhile their families had been at the mercy of the forest
guards.  Day by day complaints came to Jack from Imbono of the
brutalities of these ruffians, some of them so horrible that his whole
being quivered with passionate indignation.  Why did not his uncle
return?  How long must he remain helpless here, unable to lift a hand
in defence of the oppressed?

One evening, just as he had retired to rest, he was woke by Barney and
told that a strange negro had come to the gate and asked admittance.
He had specially desired to see the Inglesa.  Jack sent word that the
man was to be brought to him, and awaited his coming outside the hut.

The negro came up in charge of Lepoko.  By the light of his electric
torch Jack saw a tall man, so much emaciated that he appeared almost a
skeleton.  His cheeks were sunken in, his arms and legs were no thicker
than a child's, and--what was this!  The man held up one arm; the hand
was gone!

"Who is he?" asked Jack, shuddering at the sight of the half-healed
stump.

"Him call Batukuno, sah.  Come from Nsongo.  Him carry baumba[2] to
brudder, sah: Ekila, him forest guard, meet Batukuno, say, 'Gib me
baumba.'  Batukuno say, 'No can do: me carry to brudder.'  Rubber day
come.  Batukuno bring basket; Ekila say, 'Rubber too much bad,
Batukuno.'  Batukuno say, 'No bad at all; good rubber all same.'  Ekila
laugh, sah; cut off Batukuno him hand."

"Just in revenge for not getting the baumba?"

"Rebenge, sah, rebenge, all same."

"But how came he here?"

"Boy Samba, sah.  Him tell Batukuno Inglesa massa good white man,
brudder Tanalay, oh yes!  Inglesa no 'fraid Boloko, no 'fraid Elobela;
Inglesa gib Batukuno hut, gib food, gib plenty rings.  Him come long
long way: hurt berrah much, sah, berrah sick; want eat, no can find
nuff.  Him hide long time 'cos 'fraid Boloko.  Now hab got massa; no
'fraid no more; Boloko, Elobela, dem 'fraid now."

"Where is Samba then?"

"Samba him long long way: him go find fader and mudder."

"I was right after all," said Jack turning to Barney.  "I'm glad to
hear the boy's alive.  Well, Lepoko, take Batukuno to one of the huts
and give him some supper.  Another sign of King Leopold's fatherly
treatment, Barney!  Uncle said they cut the hands from the dead, but it
appears that the living are mutilated too."

"The curse uv Cromwell on them, sorr.  But, begging your pardon, you
made a mistake."

"How's that?"

"Sure you said 'twas my Irish English that sent little Samba away."

"Did I?" said Jack, laughing.  "I'd forgotten it.  He's a capital
little fellow, Barney.  Fancy, going by himself that long journey
through the forest to find his people!  And yet there are fools who
think that because a man is black he hasn't feelings or affections like
ourselves."

Batukuno was only the firstfruits of Samba's missionary zeal.  From day
to day, men, women, and children began to drop in at Jack's camp, many
of them mutilated, all showing terrible signs of ill-usage and
privation.  Some were survivors of Samba's own people, the villagers of
Banonga; but they numbered among them men from other tribes.  Some had
heard of the benevolent Inglesa from Samba's own lips; others from
people he had told.  Among them was an old chief, who appeared
heart-broken at having been compelled to leave his country.

"Why did I leave, you ask, O white man!" he said in reply to a question
of Jack's.  "In the morning, bullets; in the evening, bullets.  They
shot our mouths away, they shot through our hearts and our sides.  They
robbed us of everything we had.  Why should we stay to be killed like
that?  That is why I ran away."

"Were many of your people killed?"

"Ah, ah!" he replied, "once we were as bafumba[3] in multitude; now we
are only as these."

He spread out his fingers twice or thrice.

"And they have been killed--not dying by the sleeping sickness?"

"No.  We have lost a few by the sleeping sickness, but only a few.  It
is rubber that has killed our people.  Botofé bo le iwa!"

Jack's sympathy was keenly enlisted on behalf of these unfortunate
people; and he looked forward more and more eagerly for Mr.
Martindale's return.  He could not but smile a little whimsically,
remembering his uncle's protestations, to find that Mr. Martindale was
gaining a reputation for general philanthropy through a large section
of the Upper Congo territory.  But as the stream of fugitives showed no
signs of diminishing he began to feel a certain embarrassment.  It was
all very well to open a cave Adullam for every one that was distressed:
to start a hospital for the halt and lame and blind; but the space he
had at command within his stockade was limited: already the huts he had
reserved for Mr. Martindale and his men were occupied, and every
fugitive meant another mouth to feed.  He feared, too, lest the peace
and order of his settlement should be disturbed by the influx of so
many idle strangers.  And more than all, he feared that some of the
poor wretches who came seeking asylum with him would fall into the
hands of Elbel ere they reached their desired haven.  It was that
consideration that induced him to refuse none who sought admittance.
Elbel had been absent for some days from Ilola, and the fugitives, by
choosing always the fall of night to approach the place, had so far
managed to elude observation by their enemies.  But that could not
continue; the presence of strangers in Ilombikambua must soon become
known to Elbel; then a watch would be set, and the wanderers would be
intercepted.  What their fate then would be Jack knew too well.  None
suffered so terribly at the hands of the forest guards as people caught
straying from their villages.  Such absences interfered with the
regularity of the rubber supply, which in turn affected the revenue and
reduced profits.  No runagate serf in mediæval Europe was more severely
dealt with than the Congo native who dared to range afield.

Jack could not hand the people over to Elbel's tender mercies; yet it
would soon be impossible to find room for more.  While he was puzzling
how to deal with this perplexing situation it was suddenly made still
more complicated.  Early one morning he heard Pat barking with more
than his usual vigour, and with a note of wild pleasure which he had
not expressed for many a day.  Leaving his hut to ask what had
happened, he was met by the terrier, who ran up to him, leaped this way
and that, darted off towards the gate, then back again, all the time
barking with frantic joy.  In a moment Jack saw the meaning of the
dog's excitement.  Samba himself was running towards him!

The boy flung himself down at Jack's feet, paying no attention even to
Pat.

"I am glad to see you, very glad," said Jack in Samba's own tongue.
"What have you been doing?"

His knowledge of the language was not great enough to permit him to
follow Samba's answer, poured out as it was with great rapidity, and a
pitiful earnestness that brought a lump to Jack's throat.  But Lepoko
was at hand, and translated faithfully.

Samba was in terrible distress.  He had found his father and mother,
and had brought them through peril and privation to the very verge of
safety, when they fell among a number of forest guards evidently placed
to intercept fugitives.  All three were captured and taken to Boloko,
who was beside himself with delight at the sight of his brother Mboyo a
prisoner.  He had a special grudge against him, dating from their old
rivalry in Banonga.  Elbel had just returned from a visit to outlying
villages; the prisoners had been carried before him, and when Boloko
explained who they were, the Belgian ordered them to be tied up, and
sentenced them to be thrashed publicly on the next day.  Samba had
contrived to escape from custody, and had now come to implore the
Inglesa to save his parents.  They were so worn out by their long
journey, so ill from the hardships they had suffered, that they would
certainly die under the whip.

"Poor little fellow!" said Jack, laying his hand soothingly on the
boy's head.  "The whipping is to be to-morrow?  You are sure?"

Yes; Elobela would be absent this day; he would not return till the
evening.  The flogging was fixed for dawn on the following morning.

"Come into my hut; we will see what can be done.  Barney, you come too."

"Niggers have no feelings!" said Barney, releasing Pat from the grasp
in which he had been struggling while Samba told his story.  "Begorra!
they might as well say the same uv dogs!"



[1] Any kind of letter or document.

[2] Riches.

[3] Driver ants.



CHAPTER XIII

"Honour thy Father and thy Mother"

Jack felt himself in a distressing predicament.  Could he allow Samba's
father and mother, for whom he suspected the boy must have made heroic
exertions, to undergo a punishment which, as he had learnt from more
than one of the refugees, frequently ended in the death of the victim?
Yet how prevent it?  Whatever might be urged against it, the use of the
chicotte had become established as a recognized instrument of
administration in the Congo Free State.  As a stranger and a foreigner
he had, to begin with, no right to interfere, and his previous
relations with Elbel had been such that a protest and an attempt at
dissuasion would be equally useless.  His action on behalf of Lofundo's
son had been taken on the spur of the moment; it would not dispose
Elbel to pay any attention to calmer and more deliberate measures now.
Even a threat to report him would probably have no effect on the
Belgian.  He was only doing what the officers of the State, or the
officials of the Trusts holding authority from the State, were
accustomed to do, whether by themselves or their agents.  A protest
from Jack would merely aggravate the punishment of the wretched people.

Although Elbel had not taken any open step against Jack since their
last meeting, the latter felt assured that he was nursing his spite and
only awaiting a favourable opportunity to indulge it.  Indeed it was
likely that something had already been done.  Perhaps Elbel was in
communication with Boma.  He had mentioned that a captain of the State
forces was on his way up the river; for all that Jack knew the officer
might deal very summarily with him when he arrived.  That Elbel would
tamely endure the humiliation he had suffered Jack did not for a moment
believe.

Jack put these points to Barney.

"If I attempt to do anything for Samba's people," he added, "I must be
prepared to back up my demands by force, and that will mean bloodshed.
I can't run the risk, Barney.  Uncle left me in charge, and, as I've
told you, said I wasn't to fight except in self-defence."

"Bedad, sorr, but he'd fight himself if he were here."

"That may be, but I can't take the responsibility."

"Cannot we get the people out uv the scoundhrel's clutches widout
fighting, sorr?  The bhoy escaped, to be sure."

"True; how did you get away, Samba?"

The boy explained that he had been imprisoned separately from his
parents: he did not know why.  They had been chained by the neck and
fastened to a tree in front of Boloko's hut; he had been roped by the
ankle and secured to another tree farther away.  In the middle of the
night he had wriggled and strained at his bonds until, after much toil
and pain, he had released his foot.  Then, when the sentry's back was
turned, he had slipped away, stolen behind the huts, and with great
difficulty clambered over the stockade.

"And are your parents still chained to the tree?"

Samba did not know.  He had not ventured to approach them after
releasing himself, for his sole hope was in the Inglesa, and if he were
recaptured he knew that his parents' fate was sealed.  But if the
Inglesa wished, he would steal back into the village and see if the
prisoners were still at the same spot.

"That will never do," said Jack.  "The boy would certainly be caught,
Barney."

"That's the truth, sorr.  But 'tis the morning for Lingombela to go to
the village for eggs; could he not find out what you wish to know?"

"He's a discreet fellow.  Yes, let him try.  He must be very careful.
I wonder that Elbel has not forbidden our men to go into the village;
and if he suspects any interference there'll be trouble."

Barney went out to send Lingombela on his errand.  Meanwhile Jack got
Samba to tell him, through Lepoko, how he had found his parents.  The
boy gave briefly the story of his wanderings, his perils from the wild
beasts of the forest, his hunger and want, his capture by the Bambute,
his escape, his adventure with the crocodile, his second capture and
more successful escape under cover of a great forest storm.  Jack was
deeply impressed at the time; but many of the details came to him later
from others, and each new fact added to his admiration for the
indomitable young traveller.

The pigmies who had captured Samba at the river were a different tribe
from those with whom he had lived in the forest.  Like those, however,
they made much of him, giving him plenty of food, but never letting him
go out of their sight.

One night, a fierce tempest swept through the forest, snapping great
trees and whirling them about like feathers.  Thunder crashed,
lightning cut black paths through the foliage; and the Bambute cowered
in their huts, dreading lest these should be crushed by a falling tree
or scorched by the lightning's flame, yet feeling safer within than
without.  But Samba rejoiced in the elemental disturbance.  Reckless of
the terrors of the storm in his fixed determination to escape, he stole
out when the uproar was at its height and plunged into the forest.  All
other peril was banished by the fury of the tempest.  Once he passed a
leopard within a few feet, but the beast was too much scared by the
lightning to seize the opportunity of securing an easy meal.

After many days of wandering and privation Samba came within a day's
journey of what had been his village.  Stumbling accidentally upon one
of his fellow-villagers, he told him his story, and was taken by him to
a cave in the forest where several of the fugitives from Banonga were
in hiding, some badly wounded.  Samba came to them like a sunbeam.
What he told them about Mr. Martindale gave them courage and hope.
Some set off at once to seek out the Inglesa whose praise Samba was so
loud in singing; they would implore his protection: others, more
timorous or less hardy, dreading the long and toilsome journey,
resolved to remain where they were, for they were at least in no
straits for food.  None of them could give Samba any news of his
parents: so after remaining a day or two with them he went on alone.
He reached the site of the desolated village in the evening, and took
refuge in the branches of a tree.  His intention was to push on next
day and search the forest beyond the village.  But with morning light
something impelled him to wander round the scene of his happy
childhood.  Here had stood his father's hut; there, not far away, the
old chief Mirambo had dwelt.  It seemed to Samba that the place was
altered in appearance since he had left it in company with Mr.
Martindale.  An attempt had been made to repair the ruins of Mirambo's
hut.  Somewhat startled, Samba approached it curiously, and was still
more startled to hear low groans proceeding from a spot where a corner
of the site had been covered with rough thatch.  Entering, he
discovered with mingled joy and terror that his father and mother lay
there, nearly dead from wounds and starvation.

With the negro's instinct for returning to his old haunts, Mboyo had
come back with his wife to Banonga, and managed to rig up a precarious
shelter in his father's shattered hut.  Then his strength failed him.
He had been wounded in the attack on the village, but had made good his
escape to the forest with his favourite wife.  His other wives and
children had disappeared; of them he never heard again.  The unwonted
exposure soon told upon his wife Lukela; she fell ill, and, weakened as
Mboyo was by his wounds, they were unable to scour the forest as they
might otherwise have done for food.  As the days passed their condition
had gone from bad to worse, and at last they had painfully,
despairingly, made their way back to their old home, to die.

But Samba did not mean them to die.  He set himself at once to rescue
them.  As he knew well, there was little or no food near by; the wanton
destruction of plantations had been very thorough.  They were too weak
to travel.  He emptied his tin, to which he had clung through all his
wanderings, of the food it contained, and making a rough barrier for
them against wild beasts, cheered them with hopeful words and started
back on his tracks for a further supply of food.

When he reached the cavern where he had left his fellow-villagers, he
found it empty.  Apparently even the timid ones had set off to seek the
protection of the good Inglesa.  He could do nothing that night, but
next morning he went down to the stream whence they had obtained their
supply of fish and plied his spear until he had caught several.  Then
he made the long journey back, filling his tin as he went with berries
and nuts and anything else from which nourishment could be obtained.
His parents were already a little better, thanks to the food he had
already given them, and perhaps also to the new spirit awakened in them
by the unexpected arrival of their dearly loved son.

Thus for several days Samba watched over them, making long journeys for
food.  Each time he left them his absence became more prolonged; food
was harder to get, and he was less able to hunt for it.  While his
parents slowly regained a little strength, Samba weakened from day to
day.  At last he could scarcely drag one foot after the other; he was
worn out by the terrible fatigue of constant marching through the
forest, and by want of sleep, for he stinted himself of rest so that
his parents might be left alone as little as possible.  More than once
he sank exhausted to the ground, feeling that he could go no farther,
do no more.  His strength was spent; his head swam with dizziness; a
mist gathered before his eyes.  Thus he would remain, half conscious,
perhaps for minutes, perhaps for hours; he knew not: he had lost count
of time.  Then with the enforced rest the small remnant of his strength
returned to him, and with it the memory of his parents' plight.  Upon
him depended the life of the two beings he held dearest in the world.
As the perils to which they were exposed were borne in upon his fevered
intelligence he would struggle to his feet, and grope his way painfully
along the forest track, his feet blistered, his flesh torn with spikes
and thorns: above all, a dreadful gnawing hunger within him, for he
would scarcely spare himself sufficient food for bare sustenance while
his parents were ill and in want.

This dark and terrible period was illumined by one ray of hope.  His
weariness and toil were bearing fruit.  Day by day his parents grew
stronger; in a fortnight they were able to move about, and a week later
they were ready to start for the cavern.  But now it was Samba who
required tendance.  He could walk only a few yards at a time, supported
by Mboyo, who almost despaired of reaching the cavern before starvation
again overtook them.  But the weary journey was completed at last, and
after a few days' stay at the cavern within easier reach of food, the
party became fit to undertake a longer march, and set out hopefully for
Mr. Martindale's camp.

Jack could only conjecture what the terrors of that march had been, for
before Samba's story was finished Lepoko returned from the village.  He
reported that Elobela, furious at the boy's escape, had announced that
he would double the punishment to be meted out to his parents.  This
practice of striking at children through parents, and at parents
through children, was so much the rule in the Congo system of tax
collection that Jack did not doubt Elbel would carry out his threat.
Meanwhile the two prisoners had been removed from the open air before
Boloko's hut at the far side of the village, and conveyed to a
stoutly-built fetish hut near the stockade.  This change of quarters
had provoked murmurs not only from the villagers, but from Elbel's own
men.  The fetish hut was sacred to the medicine man of the village, and
even he affected to approach it with fear and trembling.  The whole
population was talking about the desecration of the hut by the presence
of the two captives; men were shaking their heads and saying that
something would happen; and the medicine man himself--a hideous figure
with his painted skin--did not fail to seize the opportunity of
inflaming the minds of the villagers against the impious white man.
But no one ventured to remonstrate with Elbel.  He meanwhile had gone
off with a number of forest guards to an outlying village, leaving
orders that the captives were to be watched with particular vigilance.

Samba's face was an image of despair as he listened to Lepoko's report.
What hope was there of his parents' rescue now?

"Poor little chap!" said Jack.  "After going through so much for them
he'll be heart-broken if he loses them now.  What can we do for him,
Barney?"

"Faith, I can see nothing for it, sorr, but to lead a storming party.
And I would go first, wid the greatest pleasure in life."

"That's out of the question, especially as Elbel's away.  All's fair in
war, they say, Barney; but I shouldn't like to attack the village in
Elbel's absence.  In any case I don't want to fight if there's any
other way.  Samba, run away with Pat; don't go beyond the gate; I want
to see if I can think of any way of helping your parents."

Both the white men were touched by the boy's wistful look as he left
the hut.  Jack stuck his legs out straight in front of him, plunged his
hands into his pockets, and bent his head upon his breast as he
pondered and puzzled.  Barney sat for a time leaning forward with his
elbows on his knees, smoking an old clay pipe.  But he soon tired of
inaction, and rising, proceeded to open a tin of oatmeal biscuits in
anticipation of lunch.  He had just wrenched the lid off when Jack
sprang up with a sudden laugh and slapped him on the shoulder.

"I have it, Barney!" he cried.  "They said something would happen;
well, they were right; something shall happen, old man.  And it's your
doing!"

"Mine, sorr!  Niver a thing have I done this blessed day but smoke me
pipe, and just this very minute tear a hole in my hand wid this
confounded tin."

"That's it, Barney!  It was the tin gave me the idea.  You know how
giants are made for the Christmas pantomimes?"

"Divil a bit, sorr."

"Well, don't look so surprised.  Empty that tin of biscuits while I
tell you, and when that's empty, open another and do the same."

"Bedad, sorr, but all the biscuits will spoil."

"Let 'em spoil, man, let 'em spoil.  No, I don't mean that, but at
present I think more of the tissue paper in those tins than of the
biscuits.  We'll make a framework, Barney--any stalks or sticks will do
for that--and cover it with that tissue paper, and paint a giant's face
and shoulders on the paper, and we must find some coloured glass or
something for the eyes, and something white for the teeth.  We have
some candles left, luckily.  Don't you think, Barney, a lighted candle
behind the paper would make a very decent sort of bogie?"

"And is that the way, sorr, they make the giants at the pantomime?"

"Something like that, Barney.  But what do you think of the idea?"

"'Tis the divil's own cleverness in it, sorr.  But I'll niver enjoy a
pantomime any more, now that I know the way 'tis done.  And how will ye
go to work wid the bogie, sorr?"

"Why, we'll make the framework to fit my shoulders.  Then you'll see.
The first thing is to get it made.  Go and get the materials.  We shall
want sticks about three feet long, and ngoji cane[1] to tie them
together, as there are no nails here.  And you must send over to Imbono
and ask for some colouring matter.  Red and black are all we shall
need.  I don't know what we shall do for the eyes; there's no coloured
glass handy, I suppose.  We must do without if we can't find anything.
Now, hurry up, Barney, and send Lepoko to me."

For the rest of the day Jack and Barney were very busy in the hut.  It
was an easy matter to put the bamboo framework together.  The tissue
paper from the two biscuit tins proved just sufficient to cover it.
When this was done, Jack sketched with his pencil as ugly a face as his
artistic imagination was capable of suggesting, then laid on the
pigments with his shaving brush, no other being at hand.  He gave the
giant very thick red lips, opened in a hideous grin, heightening the
effect by carefully tying in a number of goat's teeth.  The eyes
presented a difficulty.  No coloured glass could be found among any of
the villagers' treasures, and after several attempts to supply its
place with leaves, petals of red flowers, and glass beads stuck
together, Jack decided that the best effect would be made by leaving
the eye slits empty.  The making of the bogie was kept a close secret
between himself and Barney; but he got some of his men to make two
light bamboo ladders, which they did with great expedition, wondering
not a little to what use Lokolobolo would put them.

In the afternoon, as soon as he was assured that his bogie would turn
out a success, Jack sent Lepoko into Ilola to foment the villagers'
fear that the desecration of the fetish hut would certainly be followed
by a visit from the offended spirit.  He was to talk very seriously of
a great medicine man he had once met on the coast, who knew all about
the spirits of the streams and woods, and those who protected the
forest villages.  One of these spirits, said the medicine man, took the
form of a giant, and any mortal upon whom he breathed would surely die.
Jack knew that this story would be repeated by the villagers to the
forest guards, and would soon be the property of the whole community.
Reckoning upon the fact that Elbel had his quarters near the gate of
the stockade, and that the fetish hut was on the opposite side of the
enclosure, not far from the stockade itself, so that the whole width of
the village separated them, Jack hoped to create such a panic among the
superstitious sentries that he would have time to free the captives
before Elbel could intervene.

At dead of night, when he believed that the enemy must be sound asleep,
Jack left his camp silently, accompanied only by Samba.  He himself
carried the bogie; the boy had the ladders.  But even his own parents
would not have recognized the Samba of this midnight sortie.  Jack had
been much interested on the way up the Congo by a kind of acacia which,
when cut with an axe, exudes a sticky substance, emitting in the
darkness a strong phosphorescent glow.  With this substance a series of
rings had been drawn on Samba's body, and he wore on his head a number
of palm leaves arranged like the Prince of Wales's feathers, smeared
with the same sticky material.  He made an awful imp in attendance on
the horrific monster.

Samba stepping close behind Jack to avoid observation, the two made
their way stealthily around the village, keeping within the fringe of
the encircling forest.  Then Jack fixed the bogie upon his shoulders,
lighted the candles placed in sconces of twigs cunningly constructed by
Barney, and crept forward towards the stockade, closely followed by
Samba, both bending low so as to escape discovery before the right
moment.

Lepoko had reported that two sentries had been placed over the fetish
hut.  Jack guessed that by this time their nerves would be at pretty
high tension, and that they would not improbably be keeping a safe
distance from the awful place they had been set to guard.  One of the
ladders was planted by Samba against the stockade.  On this Jack
mounted, and the hideous countenance rose slowly and majestically above
the palisade.

A small oil lamp swung from the eaves of the hut.  By its light Jack
saw the two sentries some distance away, but near enough to keep an eye
on the entrance so that the inmates could not break out unnoticed.  At
first they did not see the apparition.  To quicken their perception,
Jack gave a weird chuckle--a sound that would have startled even sturdy
English schoolboys in the depth of night.  The negroes turned round
instantly; there was one moment of silence: then shrieking with fear
they rushed helter-skelter into the darkness.

Taking the second ladder from Samba, Jack calmly descended on the other
side, and was quickly followed by the boy.  The latter made straight
for the fetish hut.  A light shone through the entrance immediately he
had entered; there was a muffled shriek; then voices in rapid talk,
followed by the sound of heavy hammering.  By the light of Jack's
electric torch Samba was breaking the fetters.

By this time the whole village was astir.  At the first instant of
alarm every man, woman, and child gave utterance to a yell; but as soon
as they caught sight of the dreadful apparition, the vengeful spirit
Whose visit had been predicted, the giant with hideous jaw and flaming
eyes, they ceased their cries, and scampered in awestruck silence
across the compound towards the gate.

Slowly Samba's parents limped out of the hut after him, and with his
assistance mounted the ladder and descended on the other side of the
stockade.  Jack had bidden Samba take them for a time into the forest.
To harbour them in his camp would involve further embroilment with
Elbel, a thing to be avoided if possible.  They had barely disappeared
in the darkness when a shot rang out, and Jack felt something strike
the framework above his head.  Elbel had been awakened from sleep by
the first yell, but on leaving his hut found himself enveloped in so
thick a crowd of quivering, panic-stricken negroes that he could
neither see what had caused their alarm nor get an answer to his
irritable questions.  The delay had been just long enough to allow the
prisoners to escape.

Jack heard Elbel's voice raging at the people.  As another shot whizzed
by he reached up and extinguished the candles, then slipped over the
stockade, drawing the ladder after him.  Burdened with the bogie and
the two ladders he hastened away into the forest.  For some minutes he
wandered about, missing the guidance of Samba, who was with his
parents.  At length he struck the path, and making his best speed
regained his camp.  Barney was awaiting him at the gate with loaded
rifle, the trained men drawn up under arms.

"The bogie did it!" he cried, feeling very hot and tired now that his
task was accomplished.

"Praise be!" ejaculated Barney.  "Eyes front!  Present arrms!  Dismiss!"



[1] This abounds in the forest, and is alike nails, string, and rope
for the natives.



CHAPTER XIV

Lokolobolo's First Fight

"I am afraid we are in for it now," said Jack, as he sat with Barney,
when the camp had become quiet, discussing the situation.  "Elbel will
know well enough who played the bogie, and he has now another grievance
against me.  I wonder what he will do."

"I would not disthress meself about it at all, sorr," said Barney.  "He
had a peep at a Pepper's ghost widout paying for a ticket, and 'tis
himself that ought to be plased."

"Don't you ever have a fit of the dumps, Barney?  You seem to live
always in the top of spirits."

"What would be the good uv doing anything else, sorr?  I've too little
flesh on me bones now; what would I be if I grizzled?"

"I'm glad enough, I assure you.  I don't know what I should have done
without you.  Uncle little imagined what he was leaving me to.  Do you
think anything has happened to him?  It is three months since he went
away, and five weeks since I had any news of him.  I am getting
anxious."

"'Tis true he is behind, like the cow's tail, sorr.  An 'tis meself can
explain it.  Ye see, sorr, I've noticed wan thing about these niggers.
Time is not much to an Irishman, to be sure, but 'tis less than nothing
to a nigger.  They don't keep count uv the days; an almanac would be
clean beyond them; and 'tis my belief Nando has just put the master
back a month, sorr, unbeknown."

"That's an original explanation, at any rate.  But by Jove! here's
Samba again.  What does he want now?"

"Him say mudder lib for plenty sick, sah," said Lepoko, called in to
interpret.  "Mudder plenty tired fust; muss stand all de night in hut;
no gib no food; her no can go no more; tumble down in forest.  Samba
say please massa, let fader and mudder come; please, please, massa,
please, massa, him say please massa plenty too much all time."

"We must have them in, I suppose," said Jack, unable to resist the
appeal in Samba's eyes and gestures.  "I didn't want them here, they
only add to our dangers and difficulties.  Let him fetch them, Lepoko;
he must be careful; if they are captured again they are sure to be
shot."

Samba's face shone with delight.  He scampered away.  An hour passed
before he returned.  Mboyo was carrying his wife in his arms; she was
in the last stage of exhaustion.  They were given shelter in Lepoko's
hut; and that night, when Samba curled himself up to sleep with Pat,
for the first time for many weeks he was a happy boy.

Jack had but just finished his breakfast next morning when a note was
brought him from Elbel.


MONSIEUR,--

On m'a fait informer que les deux individus échappés de ce village sont
a présent réfugiés dans votre camp.  J'ai l'honneur de vous sommer de
rendre ces individus immédiatement, en outre le petit garçon dont j'ai
déjà demandé la reddition.  Au cas que lesdits sujets de PEtat du Congo
ne soient pas ramenés dans ce village avant midi cejourd'hui, je serai
obligé de faire à leur égard des démarches qui me sembleront bonnes.

Agréez, monsieur, l'assurance de ma
  considération distinguée,
      ELBEL,
  _Agent de la Société cosmopolite
      du Commerce du Congo_.


"What do you think of this, Barney?  He says he's been told that the
two persons who escaped from Ilola are now in my camp.  He has the
honour to request that I will give them up at once.  Listen: 'In case
the said subjects of the Congo State are not brought back to this
village by noon to-day, I shall be compelled to take such steps in
regard to them as may seem to me good.' Very precise and formal.  My
answer shall be a little shorter."

He lost no time in penning his reply.  He wrote:


SIR,--

The three people you mention are with me.  I shall be glad to learn the
offence with which they are charged, and by what authority you take it
upon yourself to try them and punish them.

Yours truly,
    JOHN CHALLONER.


"We shall get no answer to that, Barney."

But he was mistaken.  A second note was brought him in which Elbel
refused to explain or justify his actions to Monsieur Challoner.  He
was responsible to his Société and to the administration of the Free
State.  He repeated his threat that at twelve o'clock, failing
compliance with his demand, he would take steps to recover the
fugitives, and concluded by saying that Monsieur Challoner must be
answerable for the consequences.

"The fat's in the fire now, sorr," said Barney, when Jack had
translated this letter to him.  "I suppose you'll just say 'Go and be
hanged' in answer to that?"

"No.  I shan't answer it on paper.  The crisis has come at last,
Barney.  I couldn't attack Elbel yesterday and be responsible for the
first blow.  But things are changed now.  His action in regard to these
poor people is sheer persecution; they've sought my protection, and no
Englishman that I ever heard of has given up a wretch fleeing from
persecution.  We'll have to stand firm now, Barney.  Elbel shan't get
hold of them if I can prevent it."

"I'm wid ye, sorr, heart and soul.  Sure an Irishman is not the man to
stand by and see poor people ill-treated.  What'll we do to get ready
for him, sorr?"

"You can go and get some of the men to rig up platforms at several
points inside the stockade.  What a lucky thing it was we taught 'em
how to board and floor the huts!  Those planks will come in handy now.
And stay: set two or three men to bore loopholes in the stockade--not
our riflemen; the men who've lost their right hands can manage that,
perhaps, with their left if they try.  Meanwhile, parade the riflemen.
I'll come out to them in a few minutes."

When the men were paraded, Jack felt very proud of his little company.
They were all alert, eager, ready.  Jack explained to them through
Lepoko what the difficulty was.

"I don't want you to fight against your will," he said.  "If any man is
unwilling to fight he may leave the camp if he chooses, or remain and
do any other work required.  But if he elects to fight he must obey
orders, do his best, and never give in.  You understand that: never
give in!"

The men responded with loud cries of approval.  Not a man of them fell
out of the ranks.  The exercise and drill they had undergone had filled
them with military ardour; they were proud of their new
accomplishments, and evidently eager to test them in earnest.  And the
white officials were so well hated that the opportunity of setting one
at defiance was in itself a sufficient motive.  Jack paid them a
compliment on their readiness to serve--the negro dearly loves
praise--and after inspecting each man's rifle and ammunition, dismissed
them to various duties in the camp until the moment for action arrived.

The day's water supply had scarcely been got in, and there were no
vessels at hand for storing a large quantity.  The stock of food in the
camp was sufficient to keep the whole population for three days on full
rations, and might be eked out for a week or more if each man's
allowance was reduced.  It was inevitable that the idea of a siege
should cross Jack's mind, and he foresaw that the difficulty about
water would prove serious.  Meanwhile, he could at least send out a few
men to obtain supplies of food from the chief's other villages.  He
chose for this errand the men least likely to be useful as fighters,
and impressed on them the necessity of avoiding Elbel's men.  It would
not be long before Elbel had the surrounding country closely patrolled,
and then no man would be able to approach without taking his life in
his hand.  What supplies they should succeed in collecting were to be
held concealed in the forest until there was an opportunity of
conveying them into the camp without danger.

There were now within his stockade, besides himself and Barney,
twenty-two men armed with rifles; the chief Mboyo, with his wife and
Samba; fifteen men, ten women, and twenty-five children who had sought
asylum with him; and the livestock of the natives--a few goats and
fowls.  Pat was one by himself.  There were rifles for twenty men
besides the twenty-two, but the fugitives were too much maimed, or too
much reduced in strength by their sufferings, to make it seem worth
while to arm them.  Four or five, however, had recovered very rapidly,
and seemed likely to prove useful recruits.  They had at any rate
enough reason for fighting well; not only on behalf of their chief, but
in memory of their own sufferings.  Pending an opportunity of teaching
them the use of the rifle, Jack armed them with spears and employed
them as sentries.  A careful watch was kept to guard against surprise,
which was little likely to occur in broad daylight across the wide open
space between the two settlements.

Jack awaited with no little anxiety the approach of noon, trying to
forecast Elbel's course of action.  The Belgian had, so far as he had
been able to gather, about sixty men armed with Albini rifles, with
probably as many hangers-on; but the natives' conceptions of arithmetic
are so vague that this information could not be relied on; the actual
number might be larger or smaller.  It was not likely that the
followers of the forest guards could be utilized as fighting men; but
the guards themselves were well armed and full of confidence, for they
had become accustomed to lording it over the virtually unarmed and
helpless populace from whose forced labour the Congo Free State derives
its profits.  Jack was quite prepared to find that Elbel, knowing that
his opponent's men had but recently been armed, and were not, like his
own men, to all intents professional soldiers, would think himself
strong enough to rush the camp, especially as, since the day of his
arrival, the Belgian had appeared to show no further interest in the
force at Jack's disposal.

"Perhaps he thinks we've drilled them merely for parade," he remarked
with a smile to Barney.  "But I think he'll find we can hold our own.
I'm not afraid of a direct attack.  But if he tries to starve us out
it'll be a different matter.  I'm bothered about the water."

"Be aisy, sorr.  Whin I was a bhoy me mother often did not know at
breakfast time where the supper was coming from; but I only went to bed
wance widout it, and that was whin I'd eaten it before the time, and
was put to bed early as a punishment."

Soon after twelve o'clock the sentries reported that the white man was
approaching from the direction of the village.  Jack hastened to the
platform near the gate, which he had had barricaded, and saw Elbel at
the head of about forty men, at his side a negro bearing a white flag.
About fifty yards from the stockade he halted, and formally demanded
the surrender of the fugitives.  In phrases as formal as his own Jack
replied that they would not be given up.

While this brief exchange of courtesies was going on, the sentries
stationed on similar platforms within the stockade had turned round
with natural curiosity to see what was passing, and withdrew their
attention from the ground they were supposed to be watching.  All at
once Jack felt a tug at his arm, and looking round, saw Samba excitedly
pointing to the rear of the camp.  A score of Elbel's riflemen were
scurrying across the open ground.  To Jack's surprise they were headed
by a white man in military uniform.  Was this the Captain Van Vorst, he
wondered, who, Elbel had told him, was coming up the river?  Had he to
contend with a regular officer of the State as well as an official of
the Concession?  One thing was clear, that while his attention was
being held by the parade of the men in front, an attempt was being made
to rush the camp from the rear.

Jack gave no sign of his discovery, but quietly ordered Barney to take
ten men with rifles and five with spears and deal with the attackers
when their heads or hands appeared above the stockade.

"Keep out of sight until they're upon you," he added in a low tone.
"Fifteen men on the platform will be equal to more than double their
number trying to scramble over."

He had kept his face turned towards Elbel as he spoke, apparently
intent upon a serious consideration of what the Belgian was saying.

"I varn you.  Dis is not child's play.  Vunce more I say gif up de
people; den I interfere no more.  I am satisfied.  But if you refuse,
den I repeat: I will haf de people, and you shall see vat it is to defy
de officers of de Free State."

Jack was spared the necessity of replying.  A series of yells and cries
of pain told that the rear attack had begun.  Next moment a couple of
shots rang out from the trees behind Elbel, and Jack, whose head just
appeared over the stockade, felt one bullet whistle close above his
topee, while a second embedded itself beside him in one of the saplings
of which the stockade was constructed.  Taken in conjunction with the
attempted surprise, this was as close an approximation to the methods
of an assassin as could well be imagined; and Jack, as he dodged down
out of harm's way, felt, not for the first time, that he had to deal
with a man who was not only astute but quite unscrupulous.

In less than a minute the attack on the stockade had become general.
The assailants showed no want of dash.  Perhaps they were encouraged by
the impunity with which they had hitherto made their assaults on native
villages similarly protected.  But the conditions were different now.
The defenders were armed with weapons as precise and deadly as those of
the attackers themselves.  Elbel's men came forward at a rush, in a
more or less compact body, and Jack was amply satisfied with the result
of his training as his men, at a sign from him, poured a volley through
the loopholes bored in the stockade, while the enemy were still a dozen
yards distant.  Several of them dropped; Jack's men were completely
screened from any effectual reply.

The moral effect of white leadership became apparent when the forest
guards, scarcely realizing their losses in the excitement of their dash
towards the stockade, helped one another to swarm up, many effecting a
lodgment on the top.  It was at this point that in ninety-nine cases
out of a hundred the defenders of an African village would have flung
away their arms and run.  But the discipline of the past two months
told.  At Jack's command, before the enemy on the stockade had made
their footing sufficiently sure to enable them to use their weapons,
the men within, clubbing their rifles, sprang at them and hurled them
to the ground.

Meanwhile Barney, who thanks to Samba's watchfulness had been enabled
to forestall the surprise in the rear, had beaten off the attack and
sent the enemy scurrying for cover.  Leaving only three or four men
under Lepoko to watch the position there, Jack was able to bring almost
the whole of his force to bear on repelling the main attack.  Elbel had
greatly reduced his chances of success by detaching a third of his
body; and he entirely lost their co-operation, for when they were
repulsed by Barney they made no attempt to rally, but simply
disappeared from the fight.

Elbel and his men were crouching at the foot of the stockade in
temporary security, for in that position the defenders could not bring
their rifles to bear upon them.  Jack heard him give his men an order;
in a few seconds a crowd of black heads again appeared above the
stockade, but now some thirty yards from the point where the first
assault had been made.  With Barney at his right hand Jack led his men
to the spot.  From his platform he might have shot the attackers down
with comparative ease; but he was determined from the first to do his
best to avoid bloodshed, never forgetting his uncle's injunction to use
rifles only in the last resort.  The enemy themselves had no chance of
firing, for they no sooner showed their heads above the palisade than
they were beset by the defenders.  There was a brisk five minutes in
which Jack and Barney found plenty to do leading their men wherever the
show of heads, hands, and shoulders over the stockade was thickest.
Barney was in his element.  His rifle fell like a flail, and for every
blow that got home he shouted a wild "Hurroo!" which evoked responsive
yells from the negroes beside him, catching his enthusiasm.  Jack's
heart glowed as he saw how stoutly they fought.

It was not until the enemy had made two attempts to mount the stockade
that they realized how very different their present task was from the
massacre of unresisting men, women, and children that had hitherto
represented their idea of fighting.  The first repulse merely surprised
and enraged them: they could not understand it; they were not
accustomed to such a reception; and they yelled forth threats of
exacting a terrible vengeance.  But when for the second time they found
themselves hurled back, they had no heart for further effort.  Suddenly
Elbel discovered that he was alone, except for one man lying stark
beside him; the unwounded had scampered across the open to the shelter
of the nearest trees.  Some half dozen who had been hit with rifle
bullets or clubbed at the palisade, were dragging themselves painfully
towards the same shelter.

Jack, watching from his platform, perceived that Elbel was not among
the retreating crowd.  Was he hurt, he wondered?  The next moment,
however, he saw the Belgian sprint after his men, bending his head
between his shoulders as a boy does to avoid a snowball.  Several of
Jack's men who had joined him on the platform brought their rifles to
the shoulder, and only a curt stern order from Jack to drop their
weapons saved Elbel from almost certain death.

"Bedad, thin, 'tis a pity not to let them have their way, sorr,"
expostulated Barney.

"That may be," replied Jack, "but I'm only on the defensive, remember.
We're in no danger for the present; they've had enough of it; it's not
for me to continue the fight.  I hope Elbel has learnt a lesson and
will leave us alone."

"Sure I do not agree wid you at all at all, sorr," said Barney, shaking
his head.  "To judge by the phiz uv him, Elbel is a disp'rate bad
character.  And isn't it all his deeds that prove it, with his whips
and his forest guards--blagyards I call 'em--and all?  Why, sorr, whin
ye knocked him down the other day, why didn't he stand up fair and
square and have it out wid ye?  'Twas an illigant chance which no
gentleman, no Irishman, bedad! would have missed for worlds.
Gentleman!  'Tis not the fortieth part uv a gentleman he has anywhere
about him.  'Twas not the trick uv a gentleman to try to take ye by the
back stairs while he blarneyed ye at the front door.  And did he not
try to murder ye before the fight began?  A dirty trick, sorr; I would
have let my men shoot him widout the hundredth part uv a scruple."

Jack was compelled to smile at Barney's honest indignation.

"All you say is very true," he said, "but we couldn't take a leaf out
of his book, you know, Barney.  Besides, look at it in another way.
Suppose we shot Elbel?  What would happen to uncle's mining venture?
There's another Belgian here--I wonder where he came from.  Apparently
he has skedaddled.  He'd certainly go and report to the authorities
what had happened.  You may be sure he wouldn't put our side of the
case; and even if he did, there's no knowing how the Free State people
would twist the evidence.  They say the Free State judges are
completely under the thumb of the executive.  No doubt Elbel
himself--who I suppose has to account for the cartridges his men
use--will report this fight as a little affair with natives revolting
against the rubber collection.  He hasn't come well enough out of it to
be anxious to call general attention to the matter.  We've got off with
a few bruises, I'm thankful to say; and we may very well be satisfied
to let the quarrel rest there if Elbel takes no further steps."

Barney shook his head.

"Ye're a powerful hand at argyment, sorr," he said, "and ye'd be
elected at the top uv the poll if ye stood as mimber uv Parlimint for
Kilkenny.  But an Irishman niver goes by argyment: he goes by his
feelings, and my feeling is that there's no good at all in a man who
refuses such an illigant chance uv a stand-up fight."

"Well, he's not altogether a ruffian.  Look! there are three of his
negroes coming with a flag of truce, to fetch the poor fellow who was
killed, I expect.  The State officials as a rule look on the negro as
so much dirt; but Elbel seems to have some of the instincts of a human
being."

"Bedad thin, I wouldn't be surprised if they're cannibals come for
their dinner."

"Shut up, Barney.  It's too terrible to think of.  You'll take away my
appetite; here's Samba, coming to tell us, I hope, that dinner's ready."

Jack scanned the neighbourhood.  Save for the negroes carrying their
dead comrade there was no sign of the enemy.  He left two sentries on
guard and returned to his hut, hot and famished.  The sultry heat of
the tropical afternoon settled down over the camp.  Outside the
stockade all was still; inside, the natives squatted in front of their
huts, volubly discussing the incidents of the morning, and watching the
antics of Pat, who, having been tied up, much to his disgust, during
the fight, was profiting by his liberty to romp with the children.

The victory did not pass unchronicled.  Before the negroes retired to
rest, one of them had composed a song which will be handed down from
father to son and become a tradition of his tribe:--

             To the house of the dog
             To fight Lokolobolo.
             Inglesa was he,
             Brave Lokolobolo,
             Lion and leopard,
             Friend of Imbono,
             Chief of Ilola.

             Came Elobela,
  (_Chorus_) Yah!
             Bad Elobela,
  (_Chorus_) Yo!
             To the house of the dog
             Came Lokolobolo,
  (_Chorus_) Yah!  Yo!
             Short was the fight.
             Where is he now,
             Sad Elobela?
             Gone to the forest,
             Beating his head,
             Hiding his eyes
             From Lokolobolo,
             Friend of Imbono,
             Lion and leopard,
             Brave Lokolobolo.



CHAPTER XV

A Revolt at Ilola

Every day since the advent of Elbel, Jack had been conscious of the
growing danger of his position.  A negro village, in the grip of rubber
collectors; adjacent to it, a little settlement occupied mainly by
negroes, many of whom were fugitives from a tyranny illegal indeed, but
regularized by custom; in both settlements, natives who looked to him
for help against their oppressors.  It was a situation difficult enough
to daunt the pluckiest lad not yet eighteen.  But it is lads like Jack
Challoner who make one of the prime glories of our Anglo-Saxon race.
Is not page after page of our national annals filled with the deeds of
youths--drummers, buglers, ensigns, midshipmen--who have stepped
forward in moments of crisis, and shown a noble courage, a devotion to
duty, and a capacity beyond their years?

Jack did not quail before the responsibility his uncle had all
unwittingly thrown upon him, even though he knew that his victory over
the Belgian might enormously increase his difficulties.  Already he had
wondered why Elbel had not put his settlement in a state of siege.  The
only conclusion he could come to was that the man was little more than
a blusterer, without enough imagination to conceive the right means to
adopt, or destitute of sufficient organizing power to put them in
force.  It would have been a comparatively simple matter, seeing his
overwhelming strength in point of numbers, to prevent Jack from
securing his needful supply of water from the stream; but day by day
Elbel had allowed the women with their calabashes to go and come
unmolested.  Surely, Jack thought, he would now at any rate take that
most obvious step towards the reduction of his enemy.  And as he sat in
his hut that evening, his head racked with pain from long thinking, he
felt sick at heart as he realized how the fate of these poor people who
had sought his aid seemed to depend on him alone.

Just as darkness had fallen, the chief Imbono came into the camp.
Elbel had forbidden any one to leave the village, but the chief had
bribed the sentry and been allowed to pass.  He came to report that his
young men had just returned from their rubber hunt after a week's
absence in the forest, and learning of what had taken place, were bent
on exacting vengeance for the insults and injuries inflicted on their
people by the forest guards and by Elbel himself.  With his defeat the
Belgian's prestige had utterly gone, and to the ignorant negroes the
opportunity seemed favourable for revenge.  But Imbono, more far-seeing
than they, had come to ask advice.  He had great difficulty in holding
his men in.  Should he let them loose, to work their will upon their
oppressors?

Jack earnestly advised the chief to do his utmost to restrain them.

"Believe me, my brother," he said, "if they do as you say they wish to
do, it will almost certainly bring ruin upon you.  Elobela will be only
too glad to have an excuse for visiting upon you the rancour caused by
his reverse.  True, he failed to force my camp; but he is still
stronger in arms and men than I.  I could do nothing to help you; for
if I once move out of the shelter of my stockade, I shall be at
Elobela's mercy.  In the open it is only rifles that count."

"I will do as you say, O Lokolobolo.  But it is hard for me, for since
the coming of Elobela my people do not obey me as they used to do.  If
I say, do this, Elobela forbids it; if I say, refrain from this,
Elobela bids them do it.  It is hard for them to serve two masters.
But I will tell them what my brother says; I can do no more."

"You have another white man with you now, besides Elobela?"

"It is true, and he was struck by one of the balls from your guns, and
is now lying sick in my hut: they have turned me out, and Elobela has
said that I am no more to provide food for you, my brother, either from
Ilola or from my other villages.  But one of my young men told me that
the party you sent out have obtained a supply, and wait in the forest
until you bid them bring it in."

Jack thanked the chief, who returned to his village.

The news he brought was not of a kind to lessen Jack's anxiety.  What
he had expected had at last happened.  He had little doubt that the
commandeering of food would soon be followed by the stoppage of his
water supply.  Without access to water the camp was doomed.  It was
possible that if he made common cause with Imbono their united forces
might overcome Elbel's forest guards; but the attempt could be made
only at a terrible risk, and if it failed the whole population of the
two settlements must be annihilated.  Jack saw now that the presence of
his camp so near Ilola was a source of danger to it.  This could not
have been foreseen; but how much better it would have been, he thought,
if he had chosen a different site.  At another spot, remote from the
village, with a more defensible position, and near a good water supply,
the present weaknesses would not have existed, and at all events Imbono
might not have been involved in the consequences of the quarrel with
Elbel.

But it was too late to think of that.  Certainly no move could be made
while Elbel was close by with a considerable force.  If Elbel took
advantage of his superiority to hold the camp closely invested, there
would never be any possibility of moving at all.  Deprived of water,
Jack must soon choose between the alternatives--to surrender, or to
make a sally at the head of his men and put all to the hazard of an
open fight.

Two days passed.  Jack kept a close watch on Ilola through his
field-glass; all seemed quiet there, and of Elbel himself he saw
nothing.  What was his amazement, when at daybreak he took his stand on
the platform overlooking Ilola, to see Elbel marching out at the head
of the greater part of his force, and making for the river bank.  He
waited an hour, and when they did not return, and the patrols had not
appeared, he sent out a couple of men by a roundabout way to follow the
movements of the force, and allowed the usual water carriers to go out
with their calabashes.  These, returning soon with water, reported a
strange thing.  From the women of Ilola whom they had met on a like
errand at the river, they had learnt that Elobela had set off with his
men in their smoke-boat, and that Boloko had been left in charge of the
village with about as many men as he had brought at first.  Several
hours later Jack's scouts came back, and said that they had followed
along the bank the course of Elobela's launch; he was going rapidly
down the river.  They could only suppose that he was making for the
headquarters of his company some hundreds of miles away.

"What did I say at all at all?" remarked Barney when Jack told him the
great news.  "He's no gentleman, that's as plain as the nose on his
face, sorr.  A man who will take two lickings and thin run away is not
fit to wipe your shoes on."

"You seem disappointed, Barney, but frankly I'm very glad.  I could
fling up my hat and cheer if I hadn't to keep up my dignity before
these natives.  Though I fear we haven't seen the last of Mr. Elbel by
any means.  We shall have him upon us sooner or later with an
overwhelming force.  But sufficient unto the day; my uncle should be
back long before that, if Elbel doesn't meet and stop him on the road.
Well, we now have a chance to move our camp, for if Elbel is on his way
to headquarters he can't get back for weeks.  And first of all, Barney,
take a dozen men and bring in that food that's waiting in the forest.
We shan't be able to move for a day or two, at any rate; we must choose
our site more carefully this time."

Thinking over the matter, Jack was not long in coming to the decision
that the best place to establish his new camp would be near the
cataract.  From his recollection of the ground above it he thought it
was admirably situated from a strategical point of view.  It would have
the incidental advantage of protecting Mr. Martindale's claim.

The one disadvantage was its distance from the sources of food supply.
But this caused Jack to give serious consideration to a matter which
had once or twice dimly suggested itself to him.  He had been more and
more impressed with the necessity of his party being self-supporting,
so far as the staple articles of food were concerned, if they were to
make a long stay in this country.  He remembered how Stanley during his
search for Emin Pasha had been able to sow, grow, and reap crops at
Fort Bodo in a remarkably short time.  Why should not he do the same?
When he was joined by Mr. Martindale's contingent a large quantity of
food would be needed.  No doubt they would bring stores with them; but
these could not last very long, especially in view of the unexpected
drain upon the resources of the expedition caused by the arrival of the
fugitives from Banonga and elsewhere.

"I wonder what Uncle will say when he sees them," Jack remarked to
Barney, when he opened up to him this question of food supply.  "You
remember at Banonga he said he wasn't going to start a boys' home; this
is still more serious--a sort of convalescent home for non-paying
patients."

"'Tis meself that isn't wan little bit afraid uv what the master will
say.  Sure don't I know to a letther what 'twill be!  'My gracious
me!'--don't ye hear him, sorr?--'what in the world will I want wid all
these disgraceful lookin' objects?  This ain't business.  I'm not a
philanthrophy, an' I don't exactly see my way to run a croosade.'  An'
thin he'll say, 'Poor fellow!' an' 'Poor wumman!' an' 'Poor little
chap!' an' he'll dive his hands into his pockets an' suddenly remimber
himself that money is no manner uv good in this counthry, an' he'll
say: 'We must kind uv fix up some sort uv something for 'em, Barney.'
Didn't I know 'm by heart the first day I drove him in London, and he
went up to the horse and opened his jaw an' looked in his eyes an' says
'He'll do.'  Sure I'd niver have named me little darlint uv a Pat to 'm
if I hadn't known the kind uv gintleman he was at all."

Jack smiled at Barney's way of putting it, but admitted the truth of
the portrait.  Mr. Martindale was indeed a capable man of affairs--an
example of the best type of the American man of business, the
embodiment of the qualities by which the extraordinary commercial
prosperity of the United States has been built up.  But Jack knew that
he was more than a man of business.  His was a big heart, and it was
one of the minor vexations of his life that he had to take some trouble
to conceal it.

Jack's final conclusion was that there was not only every prospect of
an extended stay if this mining scheme was to be followed up, but that
the number of persons to be provided for would be more considerable
than it was possible at present to calculate.  Obviously, then, it
behoved him to employ the time before Mr. Martindale's arrival in
preparing for contingencies.

Elbel's departure had immediate consequences in Ilola.  His presence
had in some measure curbed the worse propensities of his black
followers: they could only be brutal in obedience to orders; but the
moment he was gone they began to show themselves once more in their
true light.  Before a day had passed Imbono came into the camp to
complain of the insolence and rapacity of Boloko and his men.  Jack
advised him to do nothing to give Boloko any excuse for violence, but
he had still to plumb the depths of savagery and brutality in the men
whom the Free State Government callously allowed the trading companies
to employ in the exploitation of rubber.  He had still to learn that
where violence was intended, not even the shadow of an excuse was any
longer considered necessary.

One morning Imbono came to him in a frenzy of rage and indignation.
His third wife had been tending her cooking pot when Boloko came up and
asked what food she was preparing.  "A fowl," she replied civilly.
"Give it me," he demanded.  "It is not yet cooked, O Boloko," the poor
woman answered.  "You refuse me, Ngondisi?" cried the ruffian.  "Lift
your hands and open your eyes wide that I may see the white of them, or
I will shoot you."  Ngondisi in terror obeyed.  "You do not open them
wide enough," said the wretch with a laugh, and he lifted the gun and
fired; and the woman fell upon her face; she would never open her eyes
again.

But Boloko had in this case reckoned without the spirit of confidence
engendered in the natives by the discomfiture of Elbel.  He had only
ten men in the village when the incident occurred; the rest were
absent, levying toll on Imbono's other villages a few miles distant.
Even while Imbono, with tears of anguish, was telling Jack what had
been done, the spark had been applied to the tinder.  An extraordinary
commotion was heard in the direction of Ilola: shots, yells, the war
cry of infuriate men.  Rushing out with Imbono, Jack arrived in the
village to find that retaliation had at last been wreaked for months of
wrong.  It was difficult at first to make out what had happened.  It
appeared that in Imbono's absence the men of the village had suddenly
seized their arms, and flung themselves in one desperate rush upon
Boloko and his men.  What cared they if several of their number fell
before the tyrants' rifles?  Heedless of wounds they closed about the
forest guards; there was a brief hand-to-hand fight, eight of Boloko's
men had fallen to weapons wielded with the energy of despair, and of
the party only Boloko himself and two men had made their escape into
the forest.

Elate with their victory, the men of Ilola had hastened off to the
other villages, to surprise the guards there.  It was too late now to
recall them, but Jack had arrived on the spot just in time to rescue
one man, whom the villagers were on the point of massacring.  The white
sous-officier who had been wounded in the fight before Jack's camp had
been placed in Imbono's hut.  Roused by the sound of firing, he had
dragged himself from his mattress and, rifle in hand, came to the
entrance of the hut just as Jack entered the gate with the chief.  The
villagers had forgotten him; but when they saw in their power a white
man, one of those to whom all their afflictions were due, a band of
them sprang towards him with uplifted spears.  He fired: one of the men
fell.  The rest paused for an instant, and were on the point of dashing
forward to make an end of their enemy when Jack rushed between them and
their prey, and cried to them in Imbono's name to stay their hands.
Reluctantly, with lowering countenances, they obeyed the command of
their chief's white brother.  No mercy had been shown to them: why
should they show mercy?  But when Imbono reminded them that the slaying
of a white man would bring upon them the hordes of Bula Matadi, and
that Elobela had already gone down the river, probably to bring many
soldiers back with him, they sullenly drew off, and allowed Jack to
remove the man to the safety of his own camp.

The Belgian knew no English, but Jack had a fair working knowledge of
French which he found was equal to the occasion.  The man explained
that he was an ex-noncommissioned officer of the State forces, whose
services had been enlisted by Elbel in dealing with the refractory
natives.  He seemed quite unable to understand Jack's point of view.
To him the natives were so many parasites, the goods and chattels of
the State, with no property and no rights.

"Why, monsieur," he said, "we pay them for the work they do; we have a
right to demand labour of them for nothing.  See what we have done for
their country!  Look at the rubber stations on the river, the fine
buildings, the telegraphs, the cataract railway; where would all these
blessings of civilization have been but for the noble self-sacrifice of
King Leopold?"

Jack gave up the attempt to argue with him that the country belonged
primarily to its natural inhabitants, forbore to point out that King
Leopold had expressly declared that he had the advancement of the
natives at heart.  He contented himself with insisting that the actions
of which Elbel and his minions had been guilty in Ilola were contrary
to the law of the Free State itself.  He was much struck by the
Belgian's answer.

"Ah, monsieur, we have no book of rules, no code of laws.  What can we
do?  We are the only law.  Yes, monsieur, we are the only God in the
Maranga."

Next day Jack went with Imbono and Lepoko to the waterfall, to survey
the place as a possible site for a camp, or, to speak more strictly, a
settlement.  The chief was troubled and displeased at the prospect of
the removal of his blood brother's camp, but made no urgent
remonstrance.  On arriving at the spot, Jack at once detected signs
that some one had recently been making investigations there.  He had no
doubt that this was Elbel.  The secret of the gold had probably been
disclosed in an incautious moment to one of his escort by the men who
had accompanied Mr. Martindale on his second visit.  Elbel already knew
enough of the American's business to make him keenly interested, and
alert to follow up the slightest clue.  Knowing what he now knew of the
methods of the State officials, Jack was ready to believe that Elbel
would strain every nerve to get Mr. Martindale hounded out of the
country, in order to have an opportunity of turning the discovery of
gold to his own profit.  Could his sudden departure from the village,
Jack wondered, have been his first move in this direction?

Carefully examining the ground above the waterfall, Jack saw that a
good deal would have to be done to make it suitable for a settlement.
He heard from Imbono that during several months of the year the stream
was much broader than at present, and at the point where it debouched
from the hill, three or four miles below, it and other streams
overflowed their banks, forming a wide swamp, almost a lake, some ten
miles from east to west and more than half a mile broad.  This, during
the rainy season, practically cut off all communication from the
direction of the village.  On the far side of the hill the bluffs were
so precipitous as to make access very difficult.  This isolated hill
formed therefore a kind of huge castle, of which the swamp for half the
year was the natural moat.

It seemed to Jack that the most convenient site for his new camp was
the slope of the hill immediately above the cataract.  The incline here
was very slight; the hill face only became steep again about a quarter
of a mile from the fall; there it rose abruptly for fully fifty or
sixty yards, sloping gently for the next half mile.  Jack saw that if
he built his entrenched camp in the neighbourhood of the waterfall, it
would be to a slight extent commanded by an enemy posted on the steep
ascent above.  But by raising his defences somewhat higher on that side
he hoped to overcome this disadvantage.

With a little labour, he thought, the soil around the cataract could be
made suitable for planting food-stuffs.  It was virgin soil, and owing
to the slight fall of the ground at this spot, and to the fact that it
was partially protected by the contour of the hill against floods from
above, the leaves that for ages past had fallen from the thick copses
fringing the banks, and from the luxuriant undergrowth on the small
plateau itself, had not been washed down.  These deposits had greatly
enriched the alluvium, and Imbono said that large crops of manioc,
maize, groundnuts, and sweet potatoes could easily be grown, as well as
plantains and bananas and sugar cane.

On returning to his camp by Ilola, Jack told Barney the results of his
investigation, and announced that he had definitely made up his mind to
settle on the new site.

"Very good, sorr," said Barney; "but what'll become uv Ilola?  Beggin'
your pardon, sorr, 'twas a very solemn affair, that ceremony uv
brotherhood, an' though sure it had niver a blessing from a priest--an'
like enough Father Mahone would think it a poor haythen sort uv
business--still, to the poor niggers, sorr, it may be just as great a
thing as if the priest had blessed it in the name uv Almighty God."

"Well, what are you driving at, Barney?"

"Why this, sorr.  The chief and you made a bargain to help wan another;
an' sure ye've kept it, both uv you.  Well, if we go away, there's no
more help for either uv you, an' 'tis Imbono will be most in need uv
it."

"You mean that I'm deserting my ally, eh?"

"Bedad, sorr, isn't it me that knows ye'd niver do it?  But I just
speak for the look uv the thing, sorr.  Sure niver a man knows betther
than Barney O'Dowd that things are not always what they seem."

"To tell you the truth, Barney, I've been thinking it over on the way
back.  I could see that Imbono doesn't like the idea of our moving,
though he was too polite to mention it----"

"'Tis a rale Irish gintleman he is, sorr," interrupted Barney.

"There's no doubt that Elbel, or Boloko, or both, will come back sooner
or later.  Leaving me out of the question, the slaughter of Boloko's
party won't go unpunished.  To overlook that would ruin the authority
of the forest guards for hundreds of miles round.  Well, what does it
mean when they return?  They'll make a terrible example of Ilola.
Imbono and his people will be wiped out.  And you're quite right in
believing that I couldn't stand by and see that done.  But you see what
it involves.  We must plan our camp so as to be able to take in the
whole of Imbono's people from the three villages--I suppose about four
hundred in all, children included.  That's a large order, Barney."

"True it is, sorr.  But you wouldn't keep out the childher, poor little
souls; an' mighty proud uv Pat they are, too.  Besides, sorr, they'll
all help, ivery soul, to build the camp; many hands make light work;
an' ye couldn't expect 'em to set up a lot uv huts for us barring they
saw a chance uv bein' invited now and again, at least as payin' guests,
sorr."

"Well, Barney, I'd made up my mind to it all along, but I thought I'd
like to sound you first.  So all we've got to do now is to relieve
Imbono's suspense and set to work.  We'll start with clearing the soil
for crops.  It will take some time to plan the new camp, and we've
always this one to retreat to.  Take Lepoko over to Ilola and make the
announcement yourself, Barney."

"I will, sorr, wid the greatest pleasure in life.  'Deed, 'twas meself
that took the news to Biddy O'Flaherty whin her pig had won the prize
at Ballymahone Show, and was just coming away wid a penny in me pocket
when I met Mike Henchie.  'An' what would ye be afther, Mike?' says I.
'Carryin' the news to Biddy O'Flaherty, to be sure,' says he.  'Arrah
thin, 'tis too late ye are,' says I.  'Isn't it meself that's just got
a penny for that same news?' 'Bedad,' says he, 'what will have come to
Biddy at all?'  'What is it ye'd be maning?' says I; 'sure she didn't
give me a penny,' says Mike, 'last year whin I brought her the news.
She gave me a screech and went black in the face, an' sure 'twas for
the same fun I'm here this blessed minute?'  'Husht!' says I.  'Biddy
didn't win the prize last year at all.  'Twas Patsy M'Manus.'  'An' who
is it this time but that same Patsy?' says Mike.  'But I heard the
judge wid me very own ears give it to Biddy!' says I.  'Deed so,' says
he; 'but some wan renumbered him that Patsy had won it two years on
end.  "Me old friend Patsy!" says he.  "Sure I couldn't break her heart
by spoilin' the third time.  I'll give it to Patsy," says he.'  An'
Patsy hadn't shown a pig at all that year, sorr."



CHAPTER XVI

The House by the Water

With characteristic energy, Jack next day set about the work in
earnest.  He posted sentinels several miles down the river and on the
only forest paths by which a force was likely to approach, to give him
timely notice if the enemy appeared.  Then, with as many men as he
could muster, and a great number of women, he hastened to the
waterfall, and began the work of clearing the ground.  He had decided
to start from the site of the proposed settlement and work outwards, so
that the crops would be as much as possible under the protection of the
camp: it would never do to raise a harvest for the enemy to reap.

He placed Mboyo, Samba's father, in command of all his own people who
had turned up, and of such people from other tribes as now came
dropping in daily, the news of the white men who helped the negroes and
feared not Bula Matadi having by this time spread abroad in the land.
Every new contingent of fugitives brought a fresh tale of outrage,
causing Jack to persevere under the discouragements with which he met,
and to vow that he would do all in his power to protect the poor people
who looked to him for succour.  What the ultimate result of his action
would be he did not stay to consider.  It was enough for him that a
work of urgent need lay ready to his hand.

He did not blink the fact that he and his followers were now in reality
in revolt against the constituted authorities of the Free State.
Elbel, it was true, was only a servant of a concessionnaire company,
vested with certain trading and taxing privileges; but government as
understood in the Free State was conducted by the delegation of powers
from the central authority to private or corporate trading concerns.
How far the powers of such a man as Elbel really extended in point of
law Jack did not know.  But he had been driven into his present
position by a series of events in the face of which he could not find
that any other course of action than the one he had adopted was open to
him.  And while he recognized fully the essential weakness of his
position, however well fortified he might regard himself on grounds of
humanity, he faced boldly what seemed the likeliest immediate
consequence of his actions--the return of Elbel in force.

Meanwhile he was beginning to be a little concerned at not hearing from
Mr. Martindale.  It was many weeks since his last note had arrived.
Jack was not yet seriously anxious about his uncle's non-appearance in
person, for he could easily conceive that delays might occur in the
prosecution of his business in strange places and among strange people,
and when he reflected he came to the conclusion that Mr. Martindale
might naturally hesitate to send many messengers.  They were very
expensive, having to come so many hundreds of miles, and moreover there
was always a chance that a letter might miscarry.  The Congo was not
too safe a highway; the Free State methods had not been such as to
instil a respect for "law" among the victims of its rule.  Jack knew
full well that if a messenger from his uncle fell into Elbel's hands,
he would not be allowed to proceed.  It was possible that Mr.
Martindale's purchase of rifles, and their destination, had been
discovered; and the idea that he might be involved in some trouble with
the courts made Jack feel uneasy at times.

But he was so extremely busy that he had little leisure for speculation
of any kind.  The work of clearing the ground proceeded with wonderful
rapidity.

"They talk about the negro being lazy," he remarked one day to Barney;
"he doesn't look like it now."

"Ah, sorr, they say the same about my counthrymen.  Perhaps the truth
is the same in Ireland as 'tis here.  For why are the niggers here not
lazy, sorr?  Just because you'd explained to them what the work's for,
and they know they'll get the good uv it.  There may be scuts uv
spalpeens that won't work at any time for anything or anybody at all.
'Tis they I'd use that chicotte on, sorr; but I don't see any here, to
be sure."

When enough ground had been cleared and sowed to furnish a considerable
crop, Jack turned the whole of his available force on to the work of
building the entrenched camp.  Imbona had welcomed with gratitude and
enthusiasm the suggestion that the new settlement should be made large
enough to contain the whole population of his villages in case of need;
and his men having discontinued their unprofitable search for rubber
when the forest guards disappeared, he could employ them almost all in
the work.  For Jack did not recognize the prescriptive right of the men
to leave all the field work, when the clearing had been done, to the
women, as is the invariable negro custom.  Whether in the fields or on
the new defences, he insisted on all taking a share.

The greatest difficulty he encountered in the construction of his new
camp was the want of materials.  The country in the immediate vicinity
of the waterfall was only sparsely wooded, and too much time and labour
would be consumed in hauling logs from the forest below.  But he found
a large copse bordering the stream, higher up, and here he felled the
trees, floating the logs down to the side of his settlement, not
without difficulty, owing to the narrow tortuous bed.  These, however,
proved quite insufficient for the construction of a thick and
impenetrable stockade round the whole circuit of the chosen site.  Jack
therefore determined to use the boulders that lay in the course of the
stream, thus unawares making his camp a cross between an Afghan stone
sangar and a log fort, such as were built by the pioneers and
fur-traders of the American west.  The labour of transporting the heavy
boulders to the site of the settlement was very great; but the heart of
the labourers being, as Barney had said, in their work, they toiled
ungrudgingly, and, with the ingenuity that the negro often unexpectedly
displays, they proved very fertile in simple labour-saving devices.

The fort was built on the left bank of the stream just above the
cataract, so that the steep cliffs formed an effective defence to its
southern side.  Before falling over the precipice, the stream ran
through a gully some twelve feet deep.  The western side of the fort
rested on the gully, and was thus with difficulty accessible in this
quarter.  Only on the north and east was it necessary to provide strong
defensive works.  These faces were each about a hundred yards long.  At
the western extremity of the northern face, where it rested on the
stream, Jack placed a solid blockhouse of logs.  He constructed a
similar blockhouse at the eastern extremity of this face, and a third
at the south-east corner where the stone wall abutted on the precipice.
All three blockhouses were constructed as bastions, so as to enfilade
the northern and eastern faces.

When the outer defences were thus completed, the negroes were set to
work to build the necessary habitations within.  Hundreds of tall
stems, thousands of climbers, vines, and creepers, piles of palm and
phrynia leaves, were collected, and in an amazingly short time the
space so lately bare was covered with neat huts built in native fashion
for the negroes, with three more substantial dwellings, somewhat apart
from the rest, for Mr. Martindale, Jack, and Barney.  A wide open space
was left in the middle.  At one point a great heap of boulders was
collected for repairing the wall if necessary; and Jack placed his
ammunition securely in an underground magazine.

In two months from the departure of Elbel Jack was able to transfer his
stores to the new settlement.  The crops in the cultivated area were
already far advanced.  Jack was amazed to see how quickly in this
teeming soil the bare brown face of the earth became covered with the
tender shoots of green, and how rapid was the progress to full
maturity.  Clearly the new village, to which the natives had given the
name Ilombekabasi, "the house by the water," would be in no straits for
its food supply.

It was Barney who suggested a doubt about the water.  Jack found him as
a rule a good commentator, but a poor originator; he could very
prettily embroider an idea, but very rarely had an idea of his own.
But on this occasion he had a flash of insight.

"By the powers, sorr," he said one morning, as Jack and he were walking
along the stream, "I do remimber just this very minute two lines uv
poethry, out uv a poethry book I was made to learn whin I was a bhoy
an' they talked uv sendin' me in for 'zamination by the Intermaydiate
Board.  It never come to anything, to be sure, because by the time I
was old enough to sit for the 'zamination I was too old, sorr."

"Well, what are the lines?"

  '"Water, water iverywhere,
  An' not a dhrop to dhrink.'"

'Twas about some poor sailor man that shot a bird at sea, an 'twas a
holy bird, an' whin 'twas dead the wind did not blow, an' the sailors
dropped down dead, an' ghosts came aboard, an' the sky was like a hot
copper, an' this poor divil uv a fellow was alone, all, all alone, as
the book said, wid the dead bird slung round his neck, an' his lips
parched, an' water all about, but as salt as a herring, so that he
couldn't drink it; bedad, sorr, I remimber how mighty bad I felt meself
whin my ould tacher--rest his sowl!--read out those lines in a sort uv
whisper, an' me lips went as dhry as an old boot, sorr."

The idea, you perceive, was by this time pretty well smothered under
its embroidery.

"You mean that the enemy might try to divert the stream if they
attacked our camp?"

"'Tis the very marrow uv it, sorr, an' mighty aisy it would be.  Sure
there are plenty uv boulders left, an' they could make a dam that would
turn this stream at the narrow part above, an' niver a blessed dhrop uv
dhrink should we get."

"You're right, Barney.  We must be prepared for anything.  Let us go
and look round."

Strolling up stream, they came, within a short distance of the spot
where inspiration had flashed upon Barney, to a small spring bubbling
up near the river bank.

"Here's water, Barney," said Jack.  "It rather suggests that we'd find
water inside the camp if we sank a well."

"True, sorr; but I'm thinking that would need a terrible deal uv
diggin'."

"Still it may have to be done.  We can't use this spring; it's a
hundred yards at least away from the stockade--too far to come, under
fire from Albini rifles."

"And we couldn't make it run into the camp, sorr, more's the pity."

"Stop a bit.  I don't know that we couldn't.  We might make a conduit."

"What might that be, sorr?"

"A pipe.  It would have to be underground."

"And if we got a pipe, an' could lay it, the marks uv the diggin' would
bethray us.  Don't the streets uv London prove it whin the County
Council has been taking up the drains?"

"Unless we could cover them in some way.  That might be managed.  A
greater difficulty is the natives.  They've worked very well, but we
don't know yet how far they can be trusted; and if they knew of this
water-pipe we propose, they might blab the secret and undo all our
work."

"And where's the pipe, sorr?  There are no gas pipes or drain pipes in
this haythen counthry."

"No, but there are plenty of bamboos.  We could make an excellent pipe
of them.  The digging is the difficulty.  We can't get the natives to
do it without giving our plan away, and we can't do it ourselves for
the same reason.  I shall have to think this out, Barney."

"Sleep on it, sorr.  Begorra, I remimber two more lines from that same
poetry book--

  'Sleep, sleep, it is a blessed thing
  Beloved from pole to pole';

an' no wonder at all, for many a time I've gone to me bed bothered
about wan thing or another, and bedad, the morn's morn 'twas all as
clear as the blessed daylight, sorr."

"Well, I'll sleep on it, Barney, and let you know to-morrow what the
result is."

It was close thought, however, before he fell asleep that gave Jack the
solution of the problem.  All the natives now knew that the object of
the white man's presence here was to search for gold; they knew also
that to obtain the gold the soil had to be excavated.  Why not turn
their knowledge to good account?  Instead of laying his conduit in a
direct line from the spring to the nearest point of the stockade, he
would lay it along, or rather in, the side of the gully; it would thus
be more likely to escape observation, and the disturbed ground could be
planted with quick-growing creepers or covered up with boulders.  As a
blind to the natives, he would have a number of excavations made at the
edge of the gully, both above and below the waterfall, and one of these
could be used for the bamboo pipe without anybody being the wiser save
the few who must necessarily be in the secret.

Next morning, accordingly, Jack, under pretence of continuing the
search for gold, set the men to make a series of shallow excavations.
Most of these were cut below the cataract, and, using the prospector's
pan, Jack obtained what he hoped his uncle would consider good results
from the soil.  He carefully noted the places along the exposed bed of
the stream in which the best returns were found.  But the excavations
were abandoned one by one, and attention was not unduly directed to any
of them.

One of the excavations above the waterfall was the channel for the
conduit.  Jack carried it from within a few yards of the spring to a
spot near the north-west blockhouse, overlooking the gully.  At one
time it seemed that his plan would be wrecked, literally upon a rock,
for a huge mass of stone of almost granite hardness was met with a
little less than half-way from the spring.  But Jack was relieved to
find soft earth beneath it, and the obstacle was turned by sinking the
conduit at this place some feet below the usual level.

At a short distance from the blockhouse, within the stockade, Jack set
the men to excavate a large tank, with a surface outlet over the
cataract; and from the bottom of the tank he drove a tunnel, just large
enough to accommodate a bamboo pipe, to the nearest point of the gully.

The tank was an object of great curiosity to the natives, both those
who had dug it and those who looked on.  The children amused themselves
by jumping in and out until the bottom became so deep as to make that
sport dangerous; their elders congregated at the edge, chattering among
themselves, some suggesting that it was intended as a storehouse for
grain, others, as a grave in which to bury Elobela and his men when
they were killed in the fight that all expected.

Meanwhile Jack had taken two of the natives into his confidence.  They
were Mboyo and Samba.  The former was silent by nature and habit.
Samba would have torn out his tongue rather than divulge any secret of
his master's.  Jack entrusted to them the construction of the conduit.
He knew enough of their language by this time to be able to explain
what he wanted without Lepoko's assistance, and they quickly seized his
idea.  Working by themselves in a bamboo plantation at Ilola, they
selected stalks of slightly different thickness which would fit into
one another; and Jack found that by carefully packing the joints with
earth from the peaty swamp, he could make a pipe of the required length
practically free from leakage.

It remained to lay the conduit in position.  This task he reserved for
himself and Barney, with the assistance of Mboyo and Samba.  To avoid
observation by the people, it was necessary to do the work at night.
Accordingly one day Jack gave orders that no one was to leave the camp
without permission after the evening meal was eaten.  Immediately after
sunset the four quickly issued from the gate in the northern wall of
the fort, one at a time so as not to attract attention.  Mboyo and
Samba brought the sections of the pipe from the place where they had
concealed them, and under Jack's direction they laid them along the
gully, covering up each length of bamboo as it was placed.  The trench
having been already prepared, the actual labour involved was not great,
the only difficulty being to remove as far as possible the traces of
their operations.  But it took time, and was impeded by the darkness,
so that on the first night, after several hours of work, only the pipe
had been laid, no connexion having yet been made with the tank or the
spring.

The work was continued under similar conditions on the following night.
A connexion having been made with the tank, it only remained to tap the
spring.  A hole, some three feet deep, was dug where the water bubbled
up, and formed into a fairly water-tight chamber by lining it with
stone chipped from the boulders.  Into this one end of the conduit was
carried.  Then the hole was filled in, and covered with two heavy
pieces of rock, placed in as natural and unstudied a position as
possible.  While this was being done by Mboyo and Samba, Jack and
Barney dibbled the roots of sweet potato creepers into the soil along
the whole length of the conduit, knowing that they would grow so
rapidly that in a few weeks every trace of their work would be hidden
by the foliage; moreover the plant would serve a double purpose.

The spring was a small one; nevertheless, by the time the night's task
was completed, and the party returned to the camp, there were already
two or three inches of water in the tank, and it was steadily rising.
Barney was even more delighted than Jack.

"'Tis wonderful what a power uv good poethry can do in the world,
sorr," he said.  "An' sure the commissionaires uv education in the ould
counthry would be proud men the day did they know that Barney O'Dowd,
though he didn't pass his 'zamination, has made a mighty fine use uv
the little poethry book."

Great was the surprise of the natives when they awoke next morning to
see the mysterious tank full of water, and a tiny overflow trickling
from it over the cataract.  They discussed it for the whole of the day,
inventing every explanation but the right one.  The original spring had
been so near the river and so inconspicuous that its disappearance was
not noticed.

Jack felt a glow of satisfaction as he looked round on his work.  Here
was an orderly settlement, on an excellent natural site, defended by a
stockade and wall impregnable save to artillery, with fresh clean huts,
well-cultivated fields, and an inexhaustible water supply.  It had
involved much thought and care and toil; how amply they had been
rewarded!

His men were now all transferred from their old settlement to the new
one.  Imbono's people still remained in their villages, not without
reluctance.  They knew that the gate of Ilombekabasi would always be
open to them if danger threatened; but they felt the attractions of the
place, and wished to migrate at once.  And they were particularly
jealous of the refugees.  These people were strangers; why should they
have better habitations and stronger defences than they themselves?
Why were they permitted to remain in Imbono's country at all?  Jack had
much ado to keep the peace between the two parties.  Quarrels were
frequent, and that they did not develop into open strife was a tribute
to Jack's diplomacy, and to the strange influence which Samba had
acquired.  The winning qualities which had captivated Mr. Martindale
seemed to have a magical effect upon the people.  The boy had always
been a special pet among his own folks; his merry nature won the
affection of Imbono's subjects also.  Jack kept an observant eye upon
him, and more than once saw him quietly approach a group where
bickering and recrimination were going on, and by some grace of
address, or some droll antic played with his inseparable companion Pat,
turn frowns to smiles, and suspicion to good fellowship.

Among the inhabitants of Ilombekabasi was the Belgian sergeant rescued
from the villagers in Ilola.  He gave his parole not to attempt to
escape, and indeed endured captivity patiently, for he knew not how far
away his friends might be, and to wander alone in this forest country
meant death.  Jack sometimes talked with him, taking the opportunity of
airing his French, and finding some little interest in sounding the
man's views.  At first the Belgian would not admit that the natives had
any rights, or that there was anything particularly obnoxious in the
system of administration.  But he changed his mind one day when Jack
put to him a personal question.

"How would you, a Belgian, like it if some strange sovereign--the
German emperor, say--came down upon you and compelled you to go into
your woods and collect beech-nuts for him, paying you at the rate of a
sou a day, or not at all, and thrashing or maiming or killing you if
you did not collect enough?"

The question was unanswerable, and from that time the Belgian became a
meditative man.

The refugees were gradually increasing in number.  By the time the camp
was finished Mboyo's command had grown to sixty men, with nearly as
many women and twice as many children.  All brought stories of the
barbarous deeds of the rubber collectors; many bore in maimed limbs or
scarred backs the personal evidences of the oppressors' cruelty.  Jack
was moved almost to tears one day.  A fine-looking negro came into the
camp carrying something wrapped in palm leaves, and asked to be taken
to Lokolobolo.  When brought before Jack he removed the wrappings, and,
unutterable woe depicted on his face, displayed a tiny black hand and
foot.  His village had been raided, he said, and with his wife and
children and a few others he had fled to the forest, where they lived
on roots and leaves and nuts.  The forest guards tracked them out.  One
day, when he was absent fishing, a brutal sentry came upon his wife as
she was collecting leaves for the evening meal.  He learnt from one of
his friends what happened.  Before the woman could escape the sentry
shot her, and as she was only wounded, his "boys" chopped her with
their knives till she died.  Others of his hangers-on took the
children; and when the father returned to the place where he had left
them, he found the dead body of his wife, and one hand and foot, all
that remained of his little ones from the cannibal feast.

It was incidents like these that stiffened Jack's back.  He had crossed
his Rubicon: the gate of Ilombekabasi stood open to all who chose to
come.  And they came steadily.  For a time many of them were too weak
to be useful members of the little society.  But as with good food and
freedom from care their strength increased, they began to be
self-supporting, Mboyo employed them in attending to the crops and
bringing new ground under cultivation.  Several were artificers, and
were useful in doing smith's or carpenter's work.

In addition to keeping the villagers employed, Jack set apart a portion
of every day for military exercises.  Every able-bodied man was armed;
those for whom there were no rifles carried the native spears.  When
Boloko fled from Ilola he left a number of Albini rifles and a stock of
ammunition behind.  These Jack appropriated, so that his corps of
riflemen now numbered sixty.  He used his cartridges very sparingly,
for his stock was not large, and he saw no possibility of replenishing
it.

Now and again he arranged for a sham fight.  One party of men was told
off to storm the stockade, an equal party to defend it.  No firearms
were used on these occasions; the weapons employed were wooden poles
with wadded ends.  Such fights afforded excellent practice against a
real attack, and not a little amusement and enjoyment to the natives,
who entered into the spirit of them enthusiastically, and took the hard
knocks and bruises with as much cheerfulness as schoolboys on a
football field.  These little operations were useful to Jack also.  By
their means he discovered the weak spots in his defences, and was able
to strengthen them accordingly.

But he was now becoming seriously alarmed at Mr. Martindale's continued
absence.  Eight weeks had passed since his last letter came to hand,
nearly five months since his departure.  What could have happened?
Jack could not think that his uncle had willingly left him so long to
bear his heavy responsibility, and now that he had more leisure he
could not prevent himself from imagining all kinds of mishaps and
disasters.  At last, when he was on the point of sending a special
messenger down the river to make inquiries, a negro arrived at the
settlement with a letter.  He had come within a hundred and fifty miles
of Ilombekabasi as a paddler on a white man's canoe; the remainder of
the distance he had covered on foot.  Jack opened the letter eagerly.
It read:--


MY DEAR JACK,--

Sorry to leave you so long.  Have been on my back with an attack of
malaria; three weeks unconscious, they told me.  No need to be anxious:
I'm on the mend; soon be as fit as a riddle.  Pretty weak, of course;
malaria isn't exactly slathers of fun.  It will be a fortnight or three
weeks before I can start; then must travel slowly.  Expect me somewhat
over a month after you get this.  I've been in a stew about you.  Hope
you've had no trouble.  Can you stomach native food?  Didn't forget
your birthday.  Got a present for you--quite a daisy.

Your affectionate uncle,
  JOHN MARTINDALE.

P.S.--Got some hydraulic plant at Boma: a bargain.



CHAPTER XVII

A Buffalo Hunt

"Dear old uncle!" said Jack as he handed the letter to Barney.  "'Pon
my soul, I'd forgotten my own birthday, and I haven't the ghost of a
notion what the day of the month is; have you, Barney?"

"Divil a bit, sorr."

"Though, of course, I could reckon it out by counting up the Sundays.
D'you know, Barney, I almost wish I'd made these negroes knock off work
one day a week."

"Sure it wouldn't have answered atall atall sorr.  A day's idleness
would mean a day's quarrelling.  Uv coorse 'tis a pity they're ignorant
haythens, an' I wish we could have Father Mahone out for a month or two
to tache the poor craturs; but until they can be tached in the proper
way, betther let 'em alone, sorr."

"Perhaps you're right, Barney.  Doesn't it seem to you odd that Uncle
says nothing about the rubber question?  His first letter, you
remember, was full of it."

"Master's a wise man, sorr.  What he does not say says more than what
he does.  He wouldn't be sure, you see, that his letter would iver
reach you.  And bedad, if he'd had good things to say uv the State
officers, wouldn't he have said 'em?  He's found 'em out, sorr, 'tis my
belief."

"I shall be jolly glad to see him, dear old boy."

"And so will I, sorr, an' to see some things fit for a Christian to
ate.  Master's stomach won't take niggers' food, an' mine wouldn't if I
could help it."

"But you're getting fat, man!"

"Sure that's the terrible pity uv it.  Wid dacent food I kept as lean
as a rake, and I'd niver have believed that the only way to get fat was
to ate pig's food; for that's what it is, sorr, this maniac and other
stuff.  I'll now be wanting to get thin again, sorr."

The white men's stores had long since given out.  For weeks they had
had no sugar, no coffee, tea, or cocoa.  Jack as well as Barney had to
share the natives' food.  Jack did not mind the change, and he believed
that Barney's objection was more than half feigned, for the Irishman
ate with unfailing appetite.  The native diet was indeed nutritious and
not unappetising.  It included fish from the streams, which they ate
both fresh and smoked; bananas, pine-apples, plantains, Indian corn,
manioc, ground-nuts, and sweet potatoes.  Manioc was their most
important food, and Jack after a time began to like it, as made into
_kwanga_.  The root of the plant is pounded to a pulp, soaked for
twenty-four hours in running water, and when it ferments, is worked up
into a stiff dough.  Cut into slices and fried in ground-nut oil it is
very palatable.  Jack also found the groundnuts delicious when roasted.
A few goats kept in the settlement provided milk, and they had a
regular supply of eggs from their fowls, so that Jack at least
considered himself very well off.

The crops around the settlement ripened and were gathered: fine fields
of Indian corn, amazing quantities of manioc and ground-nuts, that
ripen beneath the soil.  Yet Jack began to wonder whether his
plantations would meet the needs of the population.  It was still
growing.  The renown of Lokolobolo and Ilombekabasi had evidently
spread far and wide, for every week more refugees came in from villages
far apart.  Besides the men of Jack's original party, there were now
nearly two hundred people in the settlement, and Jack always had to
remember that these might any day be increased by the four hundred from
Imbono's villages, if Elbel returned to avenge Boloko's expulsion, as
he certainly would do.  Further, Mr. Martindale would no doubt bring
back with him a certain number of trained workmen--carpenters,
engine-men, and so forth; all these must be provided with house room
and food.  Jack was glad that he had planned the settlement on generous
lines, though as he looked around he asked himself somewhat anxiously
whether it would suffice to accommodate all.  And what would his uncle
say to it?  Would he endorse what Jack had done, and take upon himself
the protection of these outcasts against their own lawfully
constituted, however unlawfully administered, government?  Only time
could decide that, and Jack awaited with growing impatience his uncle's
return.

One morning a messenger came in from Ilola to say that news had reached
Imbono of a herd of buffaloes which were feeding about five miles off
in the open country to the west.  Hitherto Jack had not had leisure to
indulge his tastes for sport; but the knowledge that big game was now
so near at hand prompted him to try his luck.  Leaving Barney in charge
of the settlement, he set off the same morning with Imbono and Mboyo,
who had both become very fair marksmen, the former with an Albini rifle
that had been Boloko's, the latter with a Mauser presented to him by
Jack.

Samba and Lepoko were in attendance, carrying lunch for the party.
Though Jack had picked up a good deal of the language, he found it in
some respects so extraordinarily difficult that he was always glad of
Lepoko as a stand-by.

By the time they had reached the spot where the herd had first been
sighted, it had moved some distance away; but it was easily tracked,
and by dint of careful stalking up the wind the party got within three
hundred yards without being discovered by the keen-scented beasts.
Then, however, the country became so open that to approach nearer
unseen was impossible, and Jack decided to take a shot at them without
going farther.

He had brought the heavy sporting rifle which had accounted for
Imbono's enemy the hippopotamus in the river.  Selecting the largest of
the herd--they were the red buffaloes of the district, a good deal
smaller than the kind he had seen in America--he fired and brought it
down.  The others broke away towards a clump of euphorbias, and Jack
got another shot as they disappeared; but neither this nor the
small-bore bullets of the chiefs' rifles appeared to take effect, for
in an instant, as it seemed, the whole remaining herd vanished from
sight.

Jack slipped two more cartridges into his empty chamber, and, leaving
the bush from behind which he had fired, ran towards his kill.  It was
his first buffalo, and only those who have known the delight of bagging
their first big game could appreciate his elation and excitement.  He
outstripped the rest of his party.  The two chiefs, chagrined at their
failure to bring down the animals at which they had aimed, seemed to
have lost all interest in the hunt.  Samba left them discussing with
Lepoko the relative merits of their rifles, and hurried on after his
master.

Jack bent over the prostrate body.  Despite the tremor of excitement he
had felt as he cocked his rifle he found that his aim had been true:
the buffalo had been shot through the brain.  At that moment--so
strange are mental associations--he wished his school chum Tom Ingestre
could have been there.  Tom was the keenest sportsman in the school;
how he would envy Jack when he saw the great horns and skull hanging as
a trophy above the mantelpiece when he paid that promised visit to New
York!

But while recollections of "Tiger Tom," as the school had nicknamed
him, were running through his mind, Jack was suddenly startled by a
bellow behind him and a couple of shots.  Springing erect, he faced
round towards the sound, to see Samba's dark body darting between
himself and a second buffalo plunging towards him from the direction of
the bushes.  As happened once to Stanley travelling between Vivi and
Isangila, the suddenness of the onset for the moment paralysed his
will; he was too young a sportsman to be ready for every emergency.
But the most seasoned hunter could not have dared to fire, for Samba's
body at that instant almost hid the buffalo from view, coming as it did
with lowered head.

The animal was only ten yards away when Samba crossed its track; but
the boy's quick action broke its charge, and it stopped short, as
though half inclined to turn in pursuit of Samba, who had now passed to
its left.  Then it again caught sight of Jack and the dead buffalo, and
with another wild bellow dashed forward.  In these few instants,
however, Jack had recovered his self-possession, and raised his rifle
to his shoulder.  As the beast plunged forward it was met by a bullet
which stretched it inert within a few feet of Jack's earlier victim.

"Bonolu mongo!"[1] exclaimed Jack, clapping Samba on the shoulder.
"But for your plucky dash I should have been knocked over and probably
killed.  You saw him coming, eh?"

"Njenaki!"[2] replied Samba, with his beaming smile.

Meanwhile the two chiefs had run up with Lepoko and were examining the
second buffalo, with an air of haste and excitement.  They began to
talk at one another so loud and fiercely, and to gesticulate so
violently, that Jack, though he could not make out a word of what they
were saying, saw that a pretty quarrel was working up.

"Now, Lepoko," he said, putting himself between the chiefs and sitting
on the buffalo's head, "what is all this about?"

"Me tell massa," said Lepoko.  "Imbono he say he kill ngombo; Mboyo say
no, he kill ngombo; Lepoko say massa kill ngombo; no can tell; me fink
one, two, free hab kill ngombo all same."

"Well, my own opinion is pretty well fixed, but we'll see.  Why, there
are three bullet marks in his hide besides mine.  That's mine, you see,
that large hole in the middle of the forehead.  One of you two must
have hit him twice.  And I'm hanged if the bullets didn't go clean
through him.  No wonder he was in a rage.  Tell them what I say,
Lepoko."

On hearing what Jack had said, the chiefs began to jabber at each other
again.

"Kwa te!" said Jack.  "What do they say now, Lepoko?"

"Imbono say he make two holes, Mboyo say no, he make two holes.  Lepoko
fink bofe make two holes--how can do uvver way?"

"Two and one make three, my man, not four.  I'll soon tell you who made
the two."

By comparing the wounds he found that two of them had been made by
Mauser bullets and one by an Albini.

"There's no doubt about it, Mboyo hit him twice.  But to put an end to
your squabble let me tell you that you both might have fired at him all
day and never killed him if you hit him in those parts.  Neither of you
did him any damage, though you might have done for me, irritating him
as you did.  We'll settle the matter by saying he is Samba's buffalo.
It was Samba who got in his way and gave me time to take good aim at
him.  And Samba might have been killed himself.  I am grateful to your
son, Mboyo, and proud of him, and when I get back I shall give him one
of the rifles I have left, as a reward."

This end to the controversy satisfied both the chiefs.  Neither grudged
Samba anything.  As for the boy, he was more than delighted.  He had
never dreamt of handling a rifle until he was at least fifteen, when
the negro boy is as old as the white boy of twenty; and to have one his
very own made him enormously proud.

"He say larn shoot one time, massa," said Lepoko.  "Lepoko plenty
mislable.  What for?  'Cos he shoot plenty well; but massa no tell him
to bring gun.  No; Lepoko must lib for talk, talk, talk all time; me no
happy all same."

"You shall have your chance next time.  Now, Samba, run off to the camp
and bring some men to cut up the buffaloes.  We will wait hereabouts
until you come back."

When Samba had gone it occurred to Jack that he would eat his luncheon
at the summit of a small hill that rose steeply about half a mile from
the spot where the buffaloes had been killed.  The chiefs, disinclined
like all Africans for exertion that was avoidable and seemed to have no
object, pointed out that their present situation was quite suited for
having the meal, and they were quite hungry enough without climbing for
an appetite.  But Jack persisted.  He wished to ascertain whether there
was a clear view from the hill, and though he might have ascended it
alone, he feared lest in his absence the chiefs would again fall out
over the buffalo.  With an air of resignation the negroes accompanied
him on the short walk, and luncheon was eaten on the hill-top.

Jack at least felt that he was well rewarded for his climb.  A
magnificent panorama was open to his view--a vast extent of forest-clad
country, with here and there strips of open ground such as that below
in which they had discovered the buffaloes.  The forest stretched in an
almost unbroken mass of foliage as far as the eye could reach,
approaching on the north-east very close to Imbono's village.

After luncheon Jack got up and walked about the hilltop, taking a
nearer view of the country through his field-glass.  Here he caught a
glimpse of the river, a small bluish patch amid the green; there, of a
little spire of smoke rising perhaps from the fire of one of Imbono's
scouts.  All at once he halted and stood for some moments gazing
intently in one direction.  Far away, across a clearing only just
visible through the trees, something was moving, continuously, in one
direction.  So great was the distance that the appearance was as of an
army of ants.  But he fancied he detected a patch or two of white amid
the mass of black.

"Mboyo, look here!" he called.

The chief went to his side, and, stretching his head forward, gazed
fixedly at the moving mass.

"Soldiers!" he exclaimed suddenly.  "Black soldiers, and white chiefs!
They are going to Ilola."

Imbono sprang to his side.

"It is true," he cried.  "Mboyo speaks the truth.  They are going to
Ilola!"

Jack drew a deep breath.  The long-expected was coming to pass.  The
enemy was at hand!  And it was ominous that he was coming from the west
by land instead of by river from the south.  This must have involved a
detour of many miles, through difficult forest country; but thus the
enemy avoided the certainty of his approach being heralded in advance,
as it would have been if he had come by the river.  Elbel was planning
a surprise!

There was no time to be lost in getting ready for his coming.

"Can they reach Ilola to-day, coming through the forest?" Jack asked
Imbono.

It was just possible, replied the chief, but only by dint of very hard
marching, and they could not arrive before nightfall.

"We must get back," said Jack.  "Come, my brothers."

They descended the hill, and set off at full speed for Ilombekabasi.
On the way they met a party of men coming under Samba's guidance to
bring in the buffaloes.  Jack bade them hasten in their task; they were
far from any probable line of march of the enemy, and the meat might
now prove very valuable.  Hurrying on to his camp, Jack told Barney
what he had seen.

"We're in for it now, Barney," he said.

"And we're ready, sorr, praise be!" said Barney.

Jack lost no time.  At his request Imbono sent out scouts to get more
exact particulars of the column and its progress, warning them to use
the utmost care to avoid discovery.  Imbono himself returned to Ilola
to prepare his people for a migration to Ilombekabasi.  Later in the
day the scouts returned with the news that the enemy had pitched their
camp about ten miles away.  The force consisted of some two hundred
forest guards armed with rifles, and a much larger number of followers
carrying spears.  Boloko was with them, and Elobela, and two other
white men.  The line of march had been direct for Ilola, and strict
silence was kept.  One of the scouts had seen Elobela himself strike a
man who had incautiously shouted to his comrades.

"There's no doubt of their intentions, Barney," said Jack.  "They want
to surprise Ilola.  That means a massacre; but by God's mercy we know
in time!"

The inhabitants of Ilola and of Imbono's other villages were already
flocking into the camp, bringing with them large supplies of food and
their principal belongings.  Before the sun set the villages were
deserted.  Jack was glad now to think that this contingency had been so
long foreseen.  It would have been impossible to make adequate
arrangements for so large an additional population if he had waited
until the danger was upon them.  As it was, the huts stood ready.

It was a strange and impressive scene as Imbono's people filed in.
They were excited, but not with alarm or fear.  Some of them even were
merry, laughing at little mishaps--the dropping of a basket of manioc,
the breaking of a pot, the sprawling of children as Pat dashed in and
out among them, barking as though it was he that was shepherding the
throng.  Barney was the master of ceremonies.  With Samba's help he
separated the various families, and showed each father the hut or huts
he was to occupy.  It was not a wealthy community, and only a few of
the men had more wives than one; but these tried Barney's patience
sorely, and he sighed for Father Mahone to come and tache the haythens
betther manners.

"Only what could he do, if he came?" he said.  "Whin a man has been
fool enough to marry two or three wives, faith, I don't see how ye can
alter it unless ye make 'em all widders."

About two miles from the camp there was a spot above the river from
which the clearing and village of Ilola could be seen.  An hour before
dawn Jack went out with Samba to this spot and waited.  Just after day
had broken they perceived a large body of men rushing out from the
forest towards the village stockade.  Through his field-glasses Jack
saw that the negroes were led by two men in white.  Imbono, before he
left, had had the gate of Ilola closed and barricaded.  The invaders
did not pause to break it down; they swarmed up the stockade and
momentarily hesitated at the top, as though suspecting, from the
silence of the village, that a trap had been laid for them.  Then some
of them could be seen dropping down inside; the rest instantly
followed; and Jack smiled as he saw them assemble in little groups in
the deserted compound, gesticulating in their excitement.

A few minutes later dense volumes of smoke rose from the village.  The
forest guards had fired the huts, no doubt in their first fury at the
escape of the villagers.  Jack could not help thinking that they would
regret their hasty action.  If they intended any long stay in the
neighbourhood, the village would have been more useful to them intact
than as a ruin.  He had dismantled his own former camp, so that unless
Elbel's men set about building for themselves they would have no
shelter.  Their folly only confirmed Jack's belief that they were but a
poorly-disciplined rabble, and that Elbel himself was out of his
element in work of a military kind.

Having learnt all that he wished to know, Jack returned to his camp.
Elbel had clearly not expected the village to be abandoned.  Jack
wondered if he had learnt of the formation of the new camp.  It seemed
likely that news of it would long since have been carried down the
river.  He had apparently planned to wipe out the villagers first and
tackle Jack later.

"Bedad, sorr, if he's any sinse at all he will lave us alone," said
Barney when Jack told him what he had seen.

"I don't expect that.  I'm sure he'll use his men against me.  He'll
want his revenge, for one thing; and then he has his eye on the gold,
remember.  He didn't dig about the cataract for nothing.  He'll be glad
of any excuse for attacking, if he sees a fair chance of beating us.
You may depend upon it he knows all that Uncle has been doing, and if
he can manage to drive us out and occupy this ground before Uncle gets
back, it's all up with poor Uncle's claim, Barney.  Possession is more
than nine points of the law in this State.  If Uncle had known the sort
of things that go on here, he'd have thought twice before spending his
money."

Very soon after Jack regained his camp, Imbono's scouts came in to
report that the enemy was on the move.  Before midday the head of the
column was sighted making its way up the stream, this forming on the
whole an easier approach than the rough stony ground on either bank.
There was immense excitement in the camp as the people watched the
advancing crowd.  Jack could not but be touched as he observed the
demeanour of the people.  A few months before the sight of so many of
the dreaded forest guards would have made them cower in abject fear;
now, so great was their trust in the young Inglesa who had twice
defeated Elobela, and who had prepared for them this fine new village
with its wonderful defences, that they viewed the progress of the enemy
with feelings only of anticipated triumph.

"Please God, I won't fail them," thought Jack.

About half a mile below the cataract the column came to a halt, and
three men in white, attended by half a dozen armed negroes, advanced to
within less than a quarter of a mile of the wall.

"The impident scoundhrels!" quoth Barney, standing at Jack's side.

"They do show a pretty cool trust in our forbearance," said Jack; "we
could pick them off easily enough."

"Begorra, I would, sorr; do they deserve any betther?  Elbel was a
deceitful villain--you remimber, sorr, whin he fired under a flag uv
truce at the ould camp.  I wouldn't have any more mercy on him than I
would on a rat."

"Yes, you would, Barney.  We must play the game, whatever they do.  And
I wonder what they're up to.  Here comes a man with a white flag.  We
shall soon see."



[1] "Brave boy."

[2] "I saw."



CHAPTER XVIII

Elbel's Barrels

The negro looked by no means comfortable as he clambered up the steep
side of the gully from the bed of the stream and approached the fort.
There was no gate in the western face, and the man seemed somewhat
uncertain what to do.  But perceiving that he had a note in his hand,
Jack ordered Lepoko to lean over the wall and take the paper on the
point of a spear.

"Now let's see what he has to say," said Jack, unfolding the paper.
"Listen, Barney.  'Having returned with a force sufficient to
re-establish law and order in this part of the Congo State, I call upon
you instantly to surrender the camp which you have constructed without
permission on the territory of the State.  The negroes who are with you
are subjects of the State, and will be dealt with by me in accordance
with the powers that I possess.  You, being a foreigner, will be taken
to Boma, to be tried under due form of law by the State Courts.'"

"Which means quick murder for the niggers, sorr, and slow murder for
you.  Don't answer his impidence, sorr."

"Oh, I must answer.  We can't let things go by default, and we can go
one better than he, Barney.  He hasn't copied his letter, you see.
It's very lucky I've got a duplicate book; who knows?--these documents
may come in handy some day."

He wrote a brief reply, saying that he was not aware there was anything
illegal in constructing a suitable camp on ground leased from the
Société Cosmopolite; that, on the other hand, the natives who had
sought shelter with him complained of treatment which was clearly
against all law and justice; and that in these circumstances he
proposed to remain where he was.  When this note reached Elbel, he read
it to the two white men with him, laughed, put it in his pocket-book,
then returned with his party down the stream.

"A pretty little farce!" said Jack.  "He knew what my answer would be;
all he wanted was a chance of examining our defences."

"Sure he didn't get much for his trouble.  He'd have to be a deal
taller to see much uv us, sorr."

During the rest of the day Elbel was seen in the distance on various
sides of the camp making further observations.  From a point on the
slope above he could overlook part of the enclosure, and what he
observed from there through his field-glass evidently gave him food for
thought, for before sunset he marched all his men down the stream,
followed cautiously by Imbono's scouts.  These reported by and by that
the enemy had encamped about two miles away.  The white men had tents,
the natives were cutting branches to form temporary shelters.  Foragers
had been sent out in all directions.  Jack knew that they would do
little good.  There were no people to harry, all were within his walls,
and the crops around the villages had been gathered in.  But this
dearth was not likely to affect the besiegers for the present; for the
scouts reported that some of their canoes had now come up the river
loaded with stores.

Jack concluded from the fact of Elbel being in command that the
Administration of the Congo State had not yet seen fit to intervene and
equip an expedition under regular military officers.  The Société
Cosmopolite, in fact, an extremely wealthy corporation, had determined
to root out this source of disaffection and revolt within its
territory.  The force commanded by Elbel represented practically the
whole military establishment of the Company.  He had no doubt received
telegraphic authority from Europe to undertake the expedition, and
could rely on the ultimate support of the State Government, which
meanwhile would prefer the work to be done by the Company's troops
rather than magnify the affair by employing its own forces.

It soon became clear to Jack that the lesson of his previous reverse
had not been lost on Elbel.  For a time, at least, there was to be no
repetition of the rushing tactics that had proved so disastrous.  Two
days passed, and he had made no move.  Scouts reported that he was
busily engaged in building and fortifying his camp.  The site chosen
was a good deal nearer to Ilombekabasi than the first night's bivouac.
It lay in a hollow somewhat more than half a mile from the cataract--in
the face of an equal or inferior enemy, a very dangerous position,
commanded, as it was, on almost all sides by the heights around.  But
it was sheltered from rifle-fire from the fort, and had a good water
supply from a brook that fell some distance below into the stream that
flanked Jack's settlement.  Elbel could afford to ignore its
strategical weakness by reason of his greatly superior numbers.  For
Jack could not occupy the rim of the hollow without drawing most of his
men out of the fort, thus leaving it open to attack; and in any case,
with only forty-five rifles, he could not do much to endanger a camp
held by two hundred.

[Illustration: Ilombekabasi and Surrounding Country, showing Elbel's
First Camp in Foreground]

These reflections passed through his mind as he pondered on the
information given by the scouts.  His constant preoccupation during the
past months with problems of attack and defence had given rise to a
habit of looking at every move or incident in its military bearings.

"I wonder whether the fellows in the army class would envy me or pity
me most!" he thought.

Elbel attempted nothing in the way of fortification for his camp except
a light stockade--with his superior numbers defensive work seemed
almost a superfluity.  By comparing the reports of various scouts--who,
as usual with negroes, were somewhat erratic in their ideas of
number--and by his own observation through his field-glass, Jack
concluded that Elbel had, in addition to his two hundred rifles, about
five hundred spearmen.  Jack himself had, in addition to his forty-five
rifles, three hundred spearmen.  The mere numbers were, of course, no
real index to the proportionate strength of the two forces.  In
ordinary circumstances, indeed, the spearmen might almost be neglected;
the striking power was to be measured in rifles alone.  But Jack hoped
that, with the drill and discipline his men had undergone, it would be
proved that a determined fellow behind a spear was still by no means a
combatant to be held lightly.  Had not the Arabs of the Soudan shown
this?  He had no little confidence that, when the time of trial came,
his three hundred spearmen would prove every whit as staunch as the
dervishes who broke the British square at Abu Klea and threw away their
lives by the thousand at Omdurman.

On the second morning after Elbel's appearance Jack found that pickets
were posted all round the fort.  Clearly it was no longer safe to send
out scouts, at all events by daylight.  The danger was little
diminished after dark, for fires were lit at various points and a
regular patrol was established.

"I don't care about sending out any of the men now," said Jack to
Barney.  "If one of our fellows was caught, his fate would be horrible.
It's to prevent scouting, I suppose, that Elbel has posted men round
us."

"Might it not be to prevent reinforcements from reaching us, sorr?"

"Not likely.  There are no people for scores of miles round, and the
country indeed is mostly virgin forest.  The only reinforcement likely
to reach us is my uncle's contingent, and their arrival is sure to be
advised all along the river for days or perhaps weeks in advance; and
that's one of my worries, Barney.  I don't want Uncle to fall into
Elbel's hands, but how can I stop it?"

"Send a couple of men off to meet him, sorr, and tell him of the
danger."

"I might do that, perhaps.  But, as you see, they'd have to run the
gauntlet of Elbel's forest guards.  Elbel either wants to catch my
uncle, or he has got some scheme of attack in preparation which he's
anxious we shouldn't discover.  Whichever it is he means to keep us
bottled up."

Jack was sitting at the door of his hut with Barney, talking by the
light of a small fire.  Samba had been hovering about for some time,
waiting, as Barney thought, until the time should come for him to curl
himself up as usual at the entrance to the hut after his friend the
Irishman had entered.  The conversation ceased for a moment, Jack
bending forward and drawing patterns on the ground with his stick.
Samba came up and began to speak.

"Begorra, massa," he said, "me can do."

"What can you do, my boy?" asked Jack, smiling a little at the
exclamation Samba had adopted from Barney.

Samba struggled to find words in the white man's puzzling tongue.  But,
recognizing that his small stock of phrases was insufficient, he ran
off and fetched Lepoko.

"Me tell massa all same," said the interpreter, when Samba had spoken
to him.  "Samba boy say, sah, he lib for go out see fings for massa.
He no 'fraid.  He go in dark, creep, creep, no 'fraid nuffin nobody.
He lib for see eberyfing massa want see, come back one time say all
same fings he see."

"No, no, it's too dangerous.  Samba is the very last of my people I
should wish to fall into Elbel's hands."

Samba laughed when Lepoko repeated this to him.

"He no 'fraid Elobela," said Lepoko.  "He hab got foot like leopard,
eye like cat, he make Elobela plenty much 'fraid.  Want go plenty much,
sah; say Mboyo one fader, massa two fader; two times he want go."

"Shall we let him go, Barney?" asked Jack doubtfully.

"To be sure I would, sorr.  He's gone through the forest and cheated
the lions and tigers and all the other beasts and creeping things,
ivery wan uv 'm a mighty power cleverer than Elbel."

"Barring the lions and tigers, I think you're right, Barney.  Well, if
he's to go we must do all we can to help him.  Could he get down the
gully side, I wonder?"

"He say dat plenty good way, sah.  He lib for swim like fish, go
through water, come back all same."

"We'll let him down by a rope, Barney, and we'll place Mboyo at the
stockade in charge of it; he'll have the greatest interest in seeing
that the boy goes in and out safely.  And look here, I've heard Samba
imitating the cries of various animals; he'd better arrange with Mboyo
to be ready for him when he hears a certain cry.  And he must carry
enough food with him to last a day in case he is prevented from getting
back.  If he's out more than one day he must fend for himself; but I
fancy, after what he has already been through, at least it'd be a very
bare country where he couldn't pick up enough to keep him going.  He's
a splendid little fellow."

"That's the truth's truth, sorr; and sure, whin we leave this haythen
country, he'd better come back wid us to London, sorr.  Wid him wan
side uv me an' Pat the other, I'd be on me way to be Lord Mayor, bedad!"

Thus it was arranged.  With a tinful of food slung about him, Samba was
let down by a rope from the stockade, and crept in the darkness down
the gully.  A few minutes later, from some point on the other side,
came the strident call of a forest-beetle twice repeated, and Mboyo
knew that his son was safely across.

When morning broke, Jack saw that the pickets were placed as they had
been on the previous day.  He could easily have disposed of several of
them, either by rifle fire or by a quick sally; but even at the present
stage he had a great reluctance to open hostilities, which must involve
much bloodshed and suffering.  He resolved to bide his time, knowing
that so far as food supply was concerned he had enough for at least a
couple of months, and was in that respect probably better placed than
Elbel, while the secret of the water supply with good luck would escape
detection.  Now that the purpose of the tank was known, Jack's prestige
among the natives, great as it had been before, was much enhanced, and
they had added to their stock of songs one in which the wonderful
providence of the Inglesa in arranging that the daily water should not
fail was glowingly extolled.

The day passed undisturbed.  Jack was puzzled to account for the
enemy's silence.  Elbel must have a scheme in preparation, he thought.
What could it be?  Jack had heard a good deal of hammering going on in
the camp below, the sound coming faintly on the breeze; except for that
there was no sign of activity; and the hammering was sufficiently
accounted for by the work of finishing off the construction of the camp.

Before turning in for the night he went to the spot where Mboyo was
posted, to learn whether anything had been heard of Samba.  While he
was there, he caught the low rasping notes of the forest-beetle.

"Samba n'asi!"[1] cried Mboyo, springing up.

He lowered the rope over the stockade.  In a few moments it was gently
tugged, and soon Samba slipped over the stockade and stood beside Jack.
He had an interesting report to make.  In the forest, he said, a large
number of men were tapping certain trees for a resinous gum, which was
being run into small barrels.  It was the work of making these barrels
that had caused the continuous hammering Jack had noticed.

"Good boy!" said Jack.  "I suppose you are very tired now, Samba?"

No, he was not tired; he was ready to go out again at once if
Lokolobolo wished.  But Jack said he had done enough for one day, and
bade him go to sleep.

"So that's their game!" said Jack to Barney, when all was quiet.
"There's only one use for resin here, and that's to fire our fort, and
they can't intend to make fireballs, or they wouldn't take the trouble
to make barrels.  They want barrels for carriage, and that means that
they intend to bring the resin here.  They can't shy barrels at the
natives' huts, and so much of the wall is stone that it won't easily
catch fire.  What else is there inflammable?"

"There's the blockhouses at the corners, sorr."

"You're right.  They are going to fire the blockhouses.  I'm sorry now
I didn't make 'm of stone as I intended.  But we had enough trouble
with the wall, and the natives are so little used to stonework that
perhaps after all they'd have made a poor job of it."

"Sure, I don't see how they are going to get near enough to do any
damage, sorr.  They can't come up under fire.  Do the spalpeens think
they'll catch us napping, begore?"

"Can't say, Barney.  We must wait and see.  The sentries are arranged
for the night, eh?"

"They are that, sorr.  'Tis mighty hard to keep the niggers awake; not
wan uv 'm but would see the inside uv the guard-room pretty often if
they were in the Irish Fusiliers.  But Samba and me just take turns to
go the rounds all night and keep 'm stirring, sorr; and 'twould be a
lucky man that got across into this place widout a crack over the head."

The full purpose of Elbel was seen earlier than Jack had expected.  A
little before dawn Makoko, who had been on duty at the gate in the
northern wall, hurried down to say that he had heard a sound as of a
number of men marching for some distance up the hill above the fort.
Jack accompanied him back, gently reprimanding him on the way for
leaving his post.  Judging by the sounds, there was unquestionably a
large body of men on the move.  They were approaching as quietly as
negroes can; it is not an easy matter to persuade a force of black men
to keep perfect silence.

While Jack was still with Makoko, another man came running up from the
southern end of the fort and reported that he had heard the sound of
many men advancing up the stream.  Clearly a serious attack was
intended at last.  Sending word to Barney to remain on the _qui vive_
at the southern wall, Jack waited anxiously for the glimmering light of
dawn to reveal the enemy.

At last he could see them.  They took little pains to conceal
themselves.  Elbel's riflemen were assembling on the ridge of the slope
above.  Among them were men carrying each a small barrel on his
shoulder.  They must have made a wide circuit from their camp below so
that their movements might not be suspected until they were well in
position.

The word was rapidly passed round the fort.  In a few seconds every man
was at his appointed place.  The women and children had been bidden to
remain in their huts, for a part of the enclosure being exposed to fire
from the slope above, it would have been dangerous for any one to
cross.  Barney and his men at the southern wall were protected from
this fire in their rear by the huts.  At the northern wall Jack stood
on a narrow platform by the gate, similar to that which he had used at
his former camp near Ilola.  His riflemen were posted below him, half
of them at loop-holes left at intervals in the wall, the remainder just
behind, ready to take their places at the word of command.

Jack was surprised to feel how little flustered he was.  The
responsibilities of the past months had bred self-control, and the
capacity to grasp a situation quickly and act at once.  And constant
work with the same men, whom he had learned to know thoroughly, had
created a mutual confidence which augured well for their success when
put to the test.

A glance assured Jack that the main attack, if attack was intended,
would be made by the riflemen.  The spearmen in the valley of the river
were designed to create a diversion and weaken the force available to
oppose the principal assault.  Barney could be trusted to hold his own
against them.

So little did the enemy, having gained the position above, seek to
conceal their movements, that Jack was tempted to salute them with a
volley that must have done great execution--the range being scarcely
two hundred yards.  But Elbel seemed to know by instinct the feeling by
which Jack would be animated.  He evidently counted on being allowed to
fire first.  And indeed there was little time for Jack to consider the
matter, for even as he made a mental note of the enemy's bravado, he
heard a word of command given in a loud voice, and saw Elbel emerge
from a small clump of bushes at the edge of the gully.  The whole
force, except ten men carrying barrels, flung themselves flat on their
faces; and Jack had only time to give a rapid warning to his men when a
scattered volley flashed from the line of prone figures, the bullets
pattering on the stone wall like hail on a greenhouse.

Next moment the men with the barrels dashed forward, some making for
the blockhouse above the gully, others for that at the opposite end of
the northern wall.  Through the clear space between the two parties the
riflemen continued to fire as fast as they could reload.  It was clear
to Jack that Elbel expected the fire of his two hundred rifles, added
to the unexpectedness of the movement, to keep down the fire of the
defenders long enough to enable the barrel men to reach the
blockhouses.  But in this he was disappointed; nothing but a direct and
combined assault on the wall would have gained the time he required.
His rifle fire from a distance was quite ineffective.  Jack had ordered
his men to keep out of sight, and to fire through the loop-holes in the
wall, aiming, not at the riflemen lying on the ground, but at the men
sprinting with the barrels.  Consequently, when the twenty-five rifles
within the fort replied to the first volley, three of the runners fell
on the one side and two on the other, their barrels rolling down the
slope, some over the edge into the gully, others towards the copse on
the east.

The other men, seeing the fate of their comrades, thought of nothing
but their own safety.  They dropped their barrels and rushed back.  But
even then they did not take the safe course.  Instead of scattering and
so lessening the chances of being hit, the two parties joined, and ran
up the slope in a compact group.  None of them reached the line of
prostrate riflemen who were still blazing away ineffectually at the
walls and blockhouses.  The unfortunate men were caught in full flight
and fell almost at the same moment, each man struck by several bullets.

Not till then did Jack allow his riflemen to turn their attention to
the enemy's firing line.  But one volley was sufficient.  Elbel saw
that his scheme had totally failed, and his position was untenable.
Not a man of his opponents could be seen; his men had only small
loop-holes to fire at, and the average negro is not a sufficiently good
marksman to be formidable in such conditions.  The defenders, on the
other hand, found the enemy an excellent target; for, by some
inexplicable piece of folly, Elbel had not ordered them to seek cover
behind the many rocks and boulders that were scattered over the ground.
He had lost all his barrel men and several of his riflemen, and within
five minutes of the first volley he drew off his troops.

A yell of delight from the stockade followed his retirement.  The men
slapped their thighs and shouted "Yo!  Yo!" until they were hoarse.
The women and children poured out of the huts and danced about with
wild enjoyment.  Imbono's drummer banged with all his might.  Some of
the boys had made small trumpets of rolled banana leaves, and tootled
away to their hearts' content, the sound being not unlike that made by
blowing through tissue paper on a comb.  Amid all the uproar Pat's
joyous bark acclaimed the success.

"Faith, sorr, 'tis real mafficking, to be sure."

"Not quite, Barney.  There's nobody drunk."

"True, an' the haythen sets an example to the Christian.  There are no
grog-shops here, praise be, wan at this corner and wan at that, to
tempt the poor craturs."

"I only hope they're not shouting too soon, Barney.  We haven't done
with Elbel yet."



[1] Below.



CHAPTER XIX

Breaking the Blockade

Throughout that day Jack was on the alert in anticipation of another
move on the part of the enemy.  But Elbel's men, except the pickets,
did not come within sight of the fort, and nothing was heard of them.
Samba wished to go out again on a scouting mission, but Jack refused to
allow him to leave the fort in daylight; perhaps in the darkness he
might risk a journey once more.

Although the attempt to fire the blockhouses had been foiled, Jack,
thinking over the matter, saw that the feat would not have been
impossible with the exercise of a little common sense coupled with
dash.  A second attempt, better organized, might be successful.

"I wish we could guard against the risk," he said to Barney.  "We don't
want to be continuously on the fidget in case the blockhouses are
fired.  Yet we can't make 'em fireproof."

"That's true, sorr; still, something might be done to rejuce the
inflammation."

"What's that?" said Jack without a smile.  To call in question Barney's
English was to wound him in the tenderest part.

"Why, sorr, why not drop down some uv them boulders we keep for
repairing the wall?  If we let them down wid care to the foot uv the
blockhouses, close up against the woodwork, 'twould prevent any wan
from setting a match to 'm."

"A good idea! we'll try it.  Get the men to carry the stones up to the
wall.  We won't do anything more till it is dark."

When the sun had set, Jack had the stones hauled up to the roof of the
blockhouse at the north-west corner, and then dropped down outside, as
close to the woodwork as possible.  The task was carried on in almost
total darkness, only a few rushlights inside the camp preventing the
workers from colliding with one another.  But it was impossible to
contrive that the heavy stones should fall silently, and a shot from up
the slope soon told that the enemy had discovered what was going on.
Active sniping for a time gave Jack a good deal of annoyance, and one
or two of his men were hit; but he persevered in his work, and had
partially accomplished it, when another danger suddenly threatened.

Up the slope, near the position occupied by the enemy in the morning,
there appeared small points of light, which moved apparently at random
for a few moments, and then came all in one direction, down the hill.
They all started fairly close together, and Jack counted twelve in a
line; but soon some diverged from the rest and went off at an angle.
The others came on more and more rapidly towards the fort, jumping
occasionally, but keeping on the whole a surprisingly straight course.

"Barrels again!" said Jack to Barney.

Only a few seconds after he had first observed them, they came with a
quick succession of thuds against the wall and the half-finished
rampart at the foot of the blockhouse, and the points of light spread
out into fierce tongues of flame.  Lighted matches had been attached to
the barrels, and with the bursting of these by the stonework the resin
they contained had taken fire.  Of the dozen barrels that started, only
four had reached their goal, the rest having rolled over the gully on
the western slope as had happened during the day.

Jack hoped that his new stonework was sufficient to protect the logs at
the base of the blockhouse.  But one of the barrels, under the impetus
gained in its passage down the hill, had jumped the boulders, and
breaking as it crashed over, burst into flame within an inch or two of
the woodwork.  Another line of barrels was starting down the slope.
Jack had called up his best marksmen at the first alarm, and ordered
them to take pot-shots at the twinkling points of light, or the figures
above, dimly lit up by the matches attached to the barrels.  Whether
any of the shots got home he could not tell; another set of barrels was
trundling down towards the fort.

It appeared to Jack that nothing could save the blockhouse.  Burning
resin could only be extinguished by a deluge of water, and he had no
means of bringing water from the tank in sufficient quantities.  The
logs were dry, and, when once fairly alight, would burn furiously.
Barney suggested dropping a heavy boulder on the barrel most
dangerously near, but Jack saw that the effect of this would be merely
to spread the flames without necessarily extinguishing them.  The fire
would continue beneath the stone; it would lick the lowest logs, and in
a few minutes the whole base of the blockhouse would be ablaze.  The
imminence of the danger acted as a spur to Jack's resourcefulness.  It
flashed upon him that there was one chance of saving the fort.  Calling
to Samba to follow him, he rushed from the roof of the blockhouse down
the ladders connecting it with the second floor and this with the
ground, and ran at full speed to his hut, where he seized an empty
tobacco-tin and searched for a piece of wire.  For a few moments he
could not lay hands on any, but he then bethought himself of the wired
cork of a Stephens' ink-bottle.  Wrenching this out, he hastened to the
underground magazine where the ammunition was, stored.  Samba had
preceded him thither with a lighted candle in a little lantern of
bamboo.

Among the ammunition was a keg of loose powder sent up by Mr.
Martindale for refilling cartridge cases.  While Samba very cautiously
held the lantern out of harm's way, Jack, with the brad of a penknife,
bored two thin holes in the tin and two corresponding holes in the lid.
Then he inserted the wire and filled the tin with powder.  Clapping on
the lid and firmly securing it by twisting up the wire, he rushed back
to the blockhouse, up to the roof, and cleared out all the men
helter-skelter, bidding them go with Samba and bring baskets full of
earth to the base of the wall.

The place was now reeking with acrid smoke from the burning resin,
great black eddies of it whirling over the roof, stinging Jack's eyes
and making him cough and choke.  When none but himself was left--for
there was some danger in what he purposed--he went to the edge of the
roof, and bending over, almost blinded by the fumes, he marked the spot
where the flame seemed the fiercest, and dropped the tin into the midst
of it.  Though he sprang back at once, he had not reached the inmost
edge of the roof when there was a loud explosion.  The blockhouse
rocked; clouds of sparks flew up; and feeling the tremor beneath him,
Jack feared he had destroyed rather than saved.  But the trembling
ceased.  He rushed back to the fore edge of the roof and peered over.
As the smoke cleared away he saw no longer a blazing mass below him;
nothing of the barrel was left; but all the ground for many yards
around was dotted with little tongues of flame.  The force of the
explosion had broken up the huge devouring fire into a thousand
harmless ones.

But the woodwork near which the barrel had rested was smouldering.
There was still a danger that the blockhouse would burn.  While that
danger remained Jack felt that his task was not yet done, and he
instantly prepared to meet it.  Flames from the other barrels that had
struck the wall were lighting up the scene.  To carry out his purpose
involved a great risk, but it was a risk that must be run.  Calling to
Samba, who had remained nearest at hand, he bade him bring a rope and
send Barney and Makoko to him.  When they arrived he got them to knot
the rope about him, and let him down over the wall on the gully side,
which was in deep shadow.  Creeping round the blockhouse on the narrow
ledge between it and the gully, he called to the men above to lower
some of the baskets of earth which had been placed in readiness.  As
they reached him he emptied them upon the smouldering logs.  It was
impossible now to keep in the shadow; his every movement was betrayed
by the still flaming barrels; and his work was not completed when
bullets began to patter about him.  His only protection was the rough
rampart of boulders which had been thrown over from the roof.  But he
bent low; it is difficult even for expert marksmen to aim without the
guidance of the riflesights, and Elbel's men were far from being
experts; Jack finished his job as rapidly as might be, and escaped
without a scratch.  Then creeping round once more to the gully, he laid
hold of the rope and was drawn up into safety.

The other blockhouses meanwhile had been in no danger.  That at the
north-east corner was defended by the nature of the ground, which
sloped so rapidly that a barrel rolled from above could never hit the
mark.  That at the southeast corner, being at the edge of the
precipice, could only be fired by the hand of man, and no man could
approach it safely.  By averting the danger at the north-west Jack had
saved the camp.

But the attempt had been so nearly successful that he resolved to lose
no time in completing the work of protection already begun.  The moment
was come, too, for showing Elbel that he could only maintain a thorough
investment of the fort with the acquiescence of the besieged.  At any
time a sally must break the chain of pickets, for Elbel's force was not
large enough to support them adequately all round.  Averse as Jack was
from shedding blood, he felt that it was necessary to teach the enemy a
wholesome lesson.

Before he could do anything, however, he must know how the force was
distributed, and how the pickets were placed.  He remembered his half
promise that Samba should be allowed to go scouting that night.  No
other could be trusted to move so warily or act so intelligently.
Samba was accordingly let down into the gully.  While he was gone Jack
explained to Barney the plan he proposed to try should the boy's
information favour it.

"I shall lead some of the men out, I don't know yet in what direction.
At least it will surprise Elbel.  I hope it will alarm his men and
throw them into confusion.  You must take advantage of it to go on with
our defences.  Let down more boulders from the roof, and build them up
as fast as you can to form a facing three or four feet high to the two
northern blockhouses.  You'll only have about half an hour for the job,
for Elbel will have got his whole force together by then, and I shan't
be able to fight them all.  But we've plenty of men to turn on to it,
and when I give the signal they must tumble over the wall and get to
work."

Within an hour Samba returned.  He reported that the enemy had all
retired to their camp except the pickets.  About forty men were posted
about a camp fire up stream near the place where the barrels had been
rolled down.  Another picket of the same strength was lying at the edge
of the copse about a quarter of a mile to the east, and a third picket
lay across the gully to the west.  Samba had had great difficulty in
eluding this western picket, and would have returned sooner but for the
detour he had been obliged to make.

All favoured Jack's enterprise.  The pickets were so far from the camp
below the southern face of the fort that some time must elapse before
help could reach them.  They could only support one another, and the
idea of a ruse to prevent that had already flashed through Jack's mind.

Selecting fifteen of his steadiest riflemen, including Makoko and
Lepoko, Jack had them lowered one by one into the gully, and then
himself followed.  The night was fortunately very dark; all the flames
from the barrels had gone out, and he trusted that the enemy would be
quite unprepared for any movement from the fort.  When all were
assembled, they crept up the gully in dead silence, walking as far from
the water as the steep sides allowed, so as to avoid kicking stones
into it and making a splash.  At first the gully was at least twelve
feet deep, but it became more shallow as they proceeded, until by and
by its top barely rose above their heads.

They had not gone far when they heard laughing and talking beyond them.
However Elbel might regard his defeat, it had evidently not affected
the spirits of his men; the negro's cheerfulness is hard to quench.  At
a bend in the stream, out of sight from the fort, shone the faint glow
of the camp fire; and Jack, peeping cautiously round, saw a sentry on
each bank, moving backwards and forwards, but stopping now and again to
exchange pleasantries, or more often fatuous remarks about food, with
the rest of the picket at the fire.  It was nothing new to Jack that
the Congo soldier's idea of sentry-go is somewhat loose.

Again Jack was favoured by circumstances.  The glow of the fire did not
extend far into the darkness of the gully; the noise of the laughing
and talking was loud enough to drown all slight sounds for some
distance around.  Thus the sixteen men in the gully could approach very
near the camp fire without being seen or heard.  Jack's plan, already
half formed before he started, was quickly adapted to the conditions.
Silently gathering his men together, he ordered them in a whisper to
follow him in a charge with the bayonet; not to fire except at the word
of command; not in their pursuit of the enemy to go beyond the camp
fire.  It would have been easy to dispose of at least a third of the
picket by firing upon them from the darkness; the distance was only
about a hundred yards, and every shot would tell, for they were huddled
together.  Such an act would be justified by all the rules of warfare.
Jack knew that in a like case he would receive no mercy from the enemy;
but he was too young a campaigner to deal with them as they would deal
with him; he could not give the order to shoot them down unawares.

When his men clearly understood what was required of them he led the
way, and they all crept forward again.  The glow of the fire now made
them dimly visible to one another, but not to the picket, who were in
the full light, nor to the sentries, whose attention was largely taken
up by the proceedings of their comrades.  When the sound of talking
lulled for a few moments, Jack halted; when it grew in force, and he
heard the sentries join in the chatter, he seized the opportunity to
steal forward a few yards more.  So by slow degrees they approached
within forty paces.

To go further without discovery seemed to Jack impossible.  Pausing for
a moment to whisper once more to his men, he suddenly shouted the order
to charge, and, springing up the bank, dashed forward with a cheer that
was reinforced by the yells from fifteen lusty throats.  The sounds of
joviality about the camp fire died on the instant; the cheer from the
river, echoed by the rocky walls of the gully, seemed to come from a
host of men.  Yells of alarm broke from the dusky figures by the fire.
Some of the men seemed for the moment spellbound; others leapt to their
feet and made a dash for the rifles stacked close by, tumbling over one
another in their agitation; the majority simply scurried away like
hares into the darkness, only anxious to get as far away as possible
from this shouting host that had sprung as it were out of nothingness.
As Jack's men rushed up there were a few reports of rifles hastily shot
off, and eight or nine men made as if to stand firm near the camp fire;
but they could not face the steel gleaming red in the glow.  One or two
hapless wretches were bayonetted before they had time to run; the rest,
with a wild howl, flung down their weapons and bolted.

The sound of the conflict, Jack knew, would be taken by Barney as the
signal to begin work outside the blockhouses.  What would be its effect
on the enemy?  Would it draw their pickets on the right and left to the
support of their comrades?  Or would they be so much alarmed that
nothing but flight would occur to them?  He thought the probabilities
favoured the former, for the firing having ceased, the immediate cause
of alarm would seem to have been removed.  Without staying to consider
that the chain of investment would be broken by their action, the outer
pickets would in all likelihood move towards each other for mutual
support.

Here was an opportunity which Jack was quick to seize.  Without a
moment's loss of time, he called his men together and hurried back down
the gully, where he ordered them to line the banks on both sides,
keeping well in shadow from the light of the fire.  The position they
took up was about forty yards below the bivouac, almost the same spot
from which the charge had been made.  The men had only just established
themselves when the picket from the eastern quarter came running up.
Jack's situation was now so serious that he had no longer any
compunction.  As the negroes emerged from the gloom into the light of
the camp fire, he ordered his men on the opposite bank to shoot.
Several of the enemy fell; the rest turned tail, finding their comrades
falling about them without being able to see their assailants.  But
they did not run far; when they had passed beyond the circle of light
they halted.

Meanwhile all was quiet from the direction of the other picket beyond
the gully.  If this was advancing, it was with more caution.  For some
minutes no sound was heard; then on his left hand Lepoko detected a
slight rustle in the brushwood, and he whispered to Jack that the enemy
were creeping forward, feeling their way.  At the same time there were
sounds of movement on the right.

Now was the chance to attempt a ruse.  Withdrawing his men stealthily
down the stream for a hundred yards, Jack halted.  The camp fire was
dying down for want of fresh fuel; he hoped that the two parties would
mistake each other in the gloom.  A quarter of an hour passed.  Then
the air rang with shots and shouts; the two pickets had met and come
into conflict.  The error was soon discovered, and then there arose a
terrific clamour as each party accused the other.

Jack considered that the work of the fort should have been completed by
this time, all danger of interruption by the pickets having been
removed by his sortie.  He therefore led his men back along the gully,
and arrived to find Barney putting the finishing touches to the work by
the light of his bamboo lantern.

"All well?" said Jack.

"All well, sorr.  You're not hurt at all?"

"Not a bit.  None of us scratched.  Now we'll get back.  I don't think
they'll try that particular dodge again."

They had hardly returned within the stockade when they heard the sound
of a considerable body of men moving up the opposite bank of the stream
towards the pickets above.

"Too late!" said Jack with a chuckle.

"Truth, sorr.  That Elbel was niver intended for a sojer, 'tis plain.
But who are the two white men wid him, thin?  Sure, I thought he'd
brought 'em wid him to tache him what to do, but they would all seem to
be birds uv wan feather, sorr."

"We may find out by and by, perhaps to our cost.  Meanwhile we had
better man the walls and blockhouses in case he's going to favour us
with a night attack."

But the sounds of movement among the enemy ceased, and the remainder of
the night passed in unbroken quietness.



CHAPTER XX

David and Goliath

Next morning Jack's men found resting against the stone wall of the
fort several barrels of resin which had not burned.  The bumping they
had received in rolling down the slope had shaken out the fuses.  This
was a lucky discovery.  The inflammable contents of the barrels would
come in useful--for making fireballs, if for no other purpose.  Jack
had them carried into the fort and stored in the magazine.

Very soon after daybreak Jack saw what seemed to be the greater portion
of Elbel's force moving up the hill.  He counted at least five hundred
men, and noticed that only about a hundred of these were riflemen, the
remainder carrying spears, or tools of some kind.

"You see what they are at, Barney?" he said.

"Shifting their camp, by what it appears, sorr."

"No, I don't think that's it.  Elbel has failed with fire; he's now
going to try water.  He's going to cut off our water supply."

"Sure he's entitled to, as we don't pay rates, which is rubber.  But we
can do widout his water supply, sorr, having a private distillery uv
our own."

"I'm pretty sure I'm right, for you see the men are going a great deal
farther up the hill than they need if they're merely looking for
another base of attack."

"Bedad, why shouldn't we have a little rifle practice at 'em, sorr?
'Tis long range firing, indeed, but mighty good practice."

"No.  Our ammunition is too precious to be wasted; and even if we hit a
few of them, that wouldn't stop Elbel's scheme, whatever it is.  We'll
keep our eye on the river and see if there's any shrinkage."

It was not until late in the afternoon that he got positive proof that
Elbel was in fact diverting the stream.  He had fancied for some time
that the height of the water was less, but only about four o'clock did
the fall become decided.  After that, however, the stream dwindled very
rapidly, until, towards nightfall, there was only a thin trickle of
water in the river bed below the fort, where in the morning the stream
had been twenty feet broad and nearly six feet deep.  At the same time
a remarkable change in the appearance of the country east of the fort
had attracted the attention of the natives, who swarmed upon the
platform on that side and gazed in amazement.  Lokolobolo had brought
water into their camp; but who had made water run in a swift river
where no river had ever been before?

Nearly a mile away to the east, a broad shallow stream was rushing down
the slope that extended from the precipice on which the fort stood to
the foothills two miles beneath.  The river, dammed no doubt by
boulders far up the hill, had now been forced into the course which,
but for a rocky barrier, it would long since have discovered for itself.

"A very pretty scheme, bedad!" said Barney.  "And I just wish we could
set a fountain going, like those in Trafalgar Square, just to show Mr.
Elbel that he may have his river all to himself if he pleases."

"That wouldn't do at all, Barney.  We don't want to flaunt our good
fortune.  In fact, our best course is to keep Elbel in the dark.
Indeed I think we had better stop that overflow from our tank.  Now
that the cataract has dried up, the overflow would easily be seen."

"But what'll we do wid the overflow, sorr?  Sure, we don't want a flood
in the camp!"

"Certainly not.  We'll break it up into a number of tiny trickles, and
let them find their way through the wall at different points.  They'll
be sucked up or disappear before they reach the ground below."

"Bedad, now, I would niver have thought of that!  Mr. Elbel will think
we get our water from heaven, sorr, if he's iver heard uv it."

The work of damming the river having been accomplished, the main body
of the enemy marched down just before dark and regained their camp.  As
they passed within earshot of the fort, Elbel's negroes could not
refrain from flinging taunts at the men of their colour within the
walls, telling them that they could no longer cook their food, much
less wash their babies.  This made the men very angry; they prepared to
blaze away with their rifles at the gibing enemy, and Jack's command to
drop their weapons might, perhaps, for once have been disregarded had
not Samba suddenly struck up the song which one of the men had
composed, chronicling Lokolobolo's great deeds with water and fire:

  Lokolobolo
  In Ilombekabasi
  Dug a great hole,
  Filled it with waters
  Great is his magic!
  How can we praise him--
  Lokolobolo?
  Lo!  Elobela
  Came with the fire tubs
  To Ilombekabasi.
  But the Inglesa
  Lokolobolo
  Filled a pot with the fire-stuff.
  What a noise!
  What a smoke!
  Fire tubs are broken.
  Ha!  Elobela!
  Where is your fire now?
  What is the good of you?
  Inglesa's magic
  No one can master.
  Is it fire?
  Is it water?
  Lokolobolo
  In Ilombekabasi
  Quenches the fire,
  Keeps water for black men.
  Ha!  Elobela,
  Go home to your cook-pot.
  No good in this land,
  In Ilombekabasi.


The song was taken up one by one by the people, and in the delight of
singing Lokolobolo's praise and Elobela's shame, the jeers of the
negroes outside were forgotten.

That night Elbel posted no regular pickets round the fort.  He had
clearly given up the idea of a strict blockade, which was indeed
impossible with the force at his command; but except for the desire to
mask his own movements, he lost nothing by the withdrawal of his
pickets, for even if the garrison took advantage of it to issue from
the fort, they could make little use of their freedom in a country bare
of supplies.  Jack did not doubt that Elbel had many scouts abroad, and
would be on the watch for an attempt to obtain water.  He would imagine
that none was procurable save from a distance of at least half a mile
from the fort, and was doubtless already congratulating himself on the
success of his strategy.

Several days passed, and life went on in the camp as peacefully as
though no enemy was near.  The women performed their daily tasks of
cleaning and cooking; the men drilled and exercised; the children
amused themselves as children always can.  Jack took it into his head
to teach them some of the round games popular with English children,
knowing that the elders were sure to copy them; and every little
novelty tended to amuse them and keep them cheerful.  Indeed, he found
the men so like children in their capacity for finding easy amusement,
that one day he started a game of leap-frog for them, and soon the
whole camp was hilarious, the men springing over one another's backs
all round the enclosure with great shouts of laughter.

As Jack expected, Elbel kept a sharp watch by means of scouts all round
the fort, to ensure that no water reached the besieged.  Jack smiled as
he pictured the Belgian's amazement, when day after day went by without
any sign of distress.  Now that the regular night pickets were removed,
some of Jack's men found it easy to get out for little scouting
expeditions; and except for an occasional brush between men of the two
forces employed in this duty, there was nothing to show that four
hundred men on the one side, and seven hundred on the other, were
engaged in deadly warfare.  In these duels the men of Ilombekabasi
invariably came off best.  They were at home equally in the forest and
the plain; the enemy were for the most drawn from the Lower Congo--an
inferior type of negro and less used to fighting in wooded districts.
And a long immunity had rendered them careless.  They were accustomed
to see whole villages panic-stricken at the sight of an Albini rifle.
They had had no need to cultivate the art of scouting, except in
tracking runaways; nor even the higher kind of marksmanship; for it was
their practice to tie their victim to a tree before shooting: in this
way the State or the Concessionary Company was saved ammunition.
Indeed, one cartridge was frequently sufficient to account for two or
more men, women, or children, if they were tied up with due regard for
the convenience of the marksman.  It was a new and very disconcerting
experience to meet men of their own colour who were not afraid of them,
and they did not easily adapt themselves to the new condition of things.

For this work of scouting Jack had found no man yet to match Samba.
The boy seemed to be endowed with a sixth sense, for he went safely in
the most dangerous places, returned more quickly than the rest, and
brought more information.  And though he soon made himself expert with
the rifle presented him by Jack after the buffalo hunt, he never took
it with him on these scouting trips, preferring to go unencumbered.  He
relied on his knife.

One morning, when Jack was awakened as usual by Barney, he noticed a
very comical look on the Irishman's face.

"Anything happened?" he said.

"Bedad, sorr, I didn't mean to tell ye till ye were dressed.  What d'ye
think that little varmint has done now?"

"Samba?  No mischief, I hope."

"Mischief, begorra!  Just after daybreak, whin you were sound asleep,
sorr, and I was going the rounds as usual, Mboyo calls to me from the
wall, and whin I comes up to 'm, there he is hauling like the divil on
the rope.  'Samba must be getting fat like me,' says I to meself,
lending a hand, 'for sure the boy will not need such a mighty big
haul.'  Mboyo jabbered away, but I couldn't understand him.  And then,
sorr, up comes a villainous ugly head, followed by a body ten times the
size of Samba's, and a big nigger comes over, almost choked with a new
kind uv necklace he was wearing, and shaking with the most terrible
fright mortal man was iver in.  Mboyo lets down the rope again, and up
comes Samba, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"'Me hab catch,' says he.  'Catch what?' says I.  'Begorra!' says he,
'bont'one!'[1]  Which was Dutch to me, sorr, only he pointed to the
nigger.  'Catch him?' says I.  He nodded his head till I thought
'twould break off.  'Ku?'[2] says I.  'Nyango!'[3] says he; and thin I
laughed, sorr, 'cos the idea uv a boy taking prisoner a man ten times
his size----"

"Draw it mild, Barney."

"True, sorr, he doesn't look quite so big as he did.  I wished to wake
ye at once, but Samba said no, he'd keep the prisoner safe till your
usual time, and here he is, sorr, and the prisoner too."

Jack had been putting on his clothes while Barney spoke.  Leaving the
hut he saw Samba holding one end of the tendril of a creeper, the other
end being looped about the neck of a tall strong negro.  Jack listened
patiently, and with the aid of many questions, was able to piece out
his story.

Creeping in the darkness up the dry river bed some distance from the
fort, Samba had seen for a moment the form of a man dimly silhouetted
against the starlit sky.  Then the man disappeared; but it was child's
play to find him again, for he made his way into the channel and moved
slowly down towards the fort.  He had a rifle, and was head and
shoulders taller than Samba; but neither his strength nor his weapon
was to avail him against the ingenuity and cat-like agility of his
young enemy.

It would have been easy for Samba to stalk him and make an end of him
with the knife; but a brilliant idea occurred to the boy: how much
better to capture him and take a living prisoner to the fort!  For two
hours Samba kept in touch with him, never more than a few yards away,
yet never by the slightest sound betraying his presence.  At last the
man found a position above the fort which satisfied him, for he
established himself there, apparently intending to wait for the dawn.

Samba felt sure that when he moved to regain his own camp he would
retrace his steps up stream.  To go down would bring him within view of
the fort.  His course would be to ascend the channel and fetch a wide
circuit back to his own people.

Samba acted quickly on this assumption.  As silently as a shadow he
glided past the man until, some distance up the channel, groping on the
bank, he came across a tough creeper.  From this he cut off three or
four yards of a pliant tendril, and with deft fingers made a slip-knot
at one end.  Then he went again down stream, and made his way to a rock
overhanging the left bank, whence he had many a time speared fish while
the fort was being built.  On this rock he lay at full length, ready to
move at the slightest sign of the negro stirring.

When dawn broke Samba saw that the man was staring intently at the
fort.  After a prolonged examination he turned, and, as Samba expected,
moved up the gully, keeping under the left bank to avoid observation
from the walls.  Slowly and cautiously he picked his way upward, little
recking of the lithe form stretched like a panther on the rock above.
He was passing the rock, the rifle in his left hand, the right hand
assisting his wary steps over the rugged channel, when the lasso curled
gently over his head; a short vigorous tug, and the man, dropping his
rifle and clutching at the strangling cord around his throat, was
pulled backward on to the rocky side of the gully.  Samba had marked
where the rifle fell, and leapt nimbly down.  Before the negro,
wriggling to his feet, had succeeded in loosing the terrible noose,
Samba was at his side, the Albini in his hand.

The suddenness of the onset and the shock of his fall had robbed the
man of all power of action.  When Samba said that he must either
accompany him to Ilombekabasi or be shot, he saw no third course and
accepted the first.  Perhaps he was tired of his service with Elobela;
perhaps he was curious to see the village of the wonderful Lokolobolo;
certainly he was very much afraid of being shot.  So he made no
resistance, but went quickly down the gully, a step or two in advance
of Samba, who carried the rifle, as he did not fail to remind his
captive from time to time.

Through Lepoko Jack questioned the man.  He showed no reluctance to
answer; no wish to conceal his employer's purposes.  _Esprit de corps_,
Jack surmised, was a sentiment not cultivated on the Congo.  The
prisoner confessed that Elobela exulted in the belief that within a few
days the fort would be compelled to surrender by lack of water.  And he
had promised his men an orgy when the surrender should take place.  Not
a soul should be spared.  There were man-eaters among his force, and
they were looking forward to a choice banquet; many young and tender
children frolicked in Ilombekabasi.

Jack felt himself turn pale as he heard this.  The facts were coming
home to him.  The thought that little Bakota, the chubby boy whom
Barney employed to wash dishes, or little Ilangala, the girl whom the
same indefatigable factotum had taught to darn his socks, might fall
into the hands of these ruthless cannibals, to be torn limb from limb,
and sacrificed to their brutal appetites, kindled emotion within him
much more poignant than the mere report that such things had happened
in the collection of rubber on the Congo, somewhere, at some time.

He dismissed the man under guard, and went to his hut, wishing to be
alone.  An hour or two later Lepoko came to him; the prisoner had given
more information.

"Him say, sah, big massa lib for come back up ribber.  Him say Elobela
no let massa come to Ilombekabasi; catch him, sah."

Here was a new source of uneasiness and anxiety.  Jack had longed for
his uncle's return; now he almost wished that something had happened to
prevent his departure.  Already he had had such proofs of Elbel's
vindictive and unscrupulous temper that he dreaded what might happen
should Mr. Martindale fall into his hands.  But for the moment he saw
no means of warning his uncle, and he tried to crush his fears and
forebodings.

During the next few days several of Elbel's scouts were killed or
wounded by Jack's men, who had so far been wonderfully successful in
escaping injury.  One man of the enemy who was brought in wounded
confirmed the first prisoner's statement that the Inglesa was said to
be on his way.  The river was being watched at various points of its
course, and Jack recognized the hopelessness of attempting to evade
these sentinels and give his uncle timely warning.

Ten days had passed since the stream had been diverted, and the last
captured scout said that Elobela was growing very impatient.  He could
not understand how the fort had been able to hold out so long.  Every
day he expected to see a flag of truce hoisted, and to receive a
message asking for the terms of surrender.  One evening another scout
was captured, and from him Jack learnt that his secret had at last been
partially discovered.  Angry at being so long baulked, Elbel had
determined to find out the source whence the defenders obtained the
water he knew they must have.  He sent out scouts for this express
purpose.  One of them, creeping up the bed of the stream below the
southern face of the fort, had discovered that the precipice, which
from a distance looked dry, was running with water, and that a thin
stream was trickling into the gully.  The ground had gradually become
saturated, and the overflow, which had at first disappeared into the
earth, was now making itself only too visible.  When the discovery was
reported to Elbel, he concluded that there must be a spring within the
fort.  Great was his fury at having wasted so much time and labour
fruitlessly.  In his anger he declared that the defenders should have
plenty of water in future.

"What did he mean by that?" asked Jack.

The man did not know.  Elobela did not tell all his purposes to the
black men.

The very next morning it was observed that a large body of men was
again on the move up the hill.  Jack hurried to the top of the
north-west blockhouse and followed the movements through his
field-glass.  This time an even larger force was engaged than had been
previously employed to dam the stream.  Two parties, riflemen and
spearmen, numbering in all, as he estimated, nearly six hundred, were
marching up the heights.  Clearly some new work was to be undertaken,
and it must be of no little magnitude.  There were no signs of
preparation for an immediate attack.  The troops continued their upward
march for at least a mile.  Then Jack was surprised to see them set to
work rolling boulders down the hill towards the slope at the north-east
of the fort and the new course of the river.  Whatever the scheme was,
it involved a great deal of labour, for the whole day was spent upon
it, and still the parties of workers had made but small progress down
the hillside.  It became clear to Jack that the supply of boulders
lower down had been used up in constructing the dam.  More boulders
were evidently required, and to procure these Elbel had had to take his
men a considerable distance up the hill.

Late in the afternoon the negroes were marched back to camp.  As soon
as it appeared safe, Jack sent Samba out to ascertain what had been
done.  When he came back he reported that a large quantity of stones
had been collected near the dam, and that though the main body had
returned to their camp, there were still several large parties engaged
in hauling boulders nearly a mile away from this point.

Jack could form no idea of what Elbel's plan was; but it seemed to him
that in any case the time had come to meet it with a counterstroke.
For hours that night he sat with Barney discussing every means of
striking a blow that occurred to him; but he came to no decision.  A
stand-up fight in the open was impossible; there could only be one end
to that, outnumbered as Jack was in riflemen by nearly five to one, and
at present the enemy's movements did not suggest to him any opportunity
for stratagem.

Next morning he stood with Barney at the wall, watching the enemy as
once more they marched up to the scene of the previous day's work.  As
usual, he did his best to count them--no easy matter, for the men did
not march in orderly ranks like a disciplined regiment, but either in
small groups or in several long files.

"Elbel is getting impatient," remarked Jack at last.  "He wants to
hurry up that work of his, for I make out that he is taking over fifty
more men up to-day."

"Sure there can't be more than fifty left in camp, sorr."

"I suppose not.  That's rather risky," he added thoughtfully--"in an
enemy's country, Barney."

"Would you be meaning to go for them, sorr?" returned Barney, his eyes
lighting up.  "Bedad, I'd rejoice in that same.  I haven't told ye,
sorr, but many's the time I've felt I should just go raging mad if I
had to stay in this camp much longer.  'Tis all very safe and
comfortable, sorr, but 'tis a prison all the same, and there's no man
on earth likes to be caged up less than an Irishman."

"D'you think we could do it, Barney?  The camp is only about half a
mile below us; Elbel's men are a mile above, some at least a mile and a
half.  Could we rush the camp before the main body could be brought to
its relief?"

"Say 'tis two miles between 'em as the crow flies; they could run that
in twelve minutes widout distressing themselves."

"But they couldn't take the shortest road, because that would bring
them under fire from our walls.  The distance would be a good deal more
than two miles.  And we should have to cover half that distance to the
camp and back, the return journey up hill.  It doesn't leave much
margin, Barney."

"Five minutes at the very most, sorr.  But a man can do a power uv
fighting in five minutes."

"Let us think it out carefully.  We mustn't throw away all our success
by a mad enterprise now.  We oughtn't to weaken the defensive strength
here much, for Elbel has such numbers that he could afford to lose a
few in storming."

"And we needn't, sorr.  'Tis not numbers that will count in rushing the
camp; 'tis dash, sorr, and ivery man together."

"That's quite true.  And I think our men will work together better than
Elbel's.  But there's a very serious difficulty--that outpost of his
half-way between us and his camp.  It's the only post he has kept up
permanently, and now it's a nuisance to us."

He referred to a couple of men stationed at the edge of a copse to the
west of the stream.  They were screened by rocks, and from their
position they could see the blockhouses and the tops of the huts, and
keep the west and south quarters of the fort under fairly strict
observation.

"You see, they would instantly detect any movement of ours down the
hill; and by the time we got to the camp the enemy would be on the _qui
vive_."

"There's only wan thing to be done, sorr."

"Well?"

"Shut the eyes and the ears and the mouths uv the niggers at the
outpost."

"All very well; but they're too well screened to be shot at, and
killing them is the only way to destroy all their senses.  Besides, it
would be madness to fire.  The sound would alarm the enemy and spoil
our plans."

"'Twas not meself that thought uv firing at all at all, sorr.  I was
thinking uv Samba."

"Samba!  What can he do?"

"Sure and I don't know no more than the dead, or I'd tell it you
meself, sorr.  But Samba's the ould wan himself at schaming; will I
fetch him?"

"Certainly.  We'll see if he can do anything.  Hurry up!"



[1] This man.

[2] Are you speaking the truth?

[3] Mother!--the strongest affirmative.



CHAPTER XXI

A Dash and All Together

Barney brought back with him both father and son.  Mboyo was a
finely-built negro, but Samba, who had been growing rapidly, promised
to outstrip his father in height, as he already excelled him in
nimbleness of wit.  He had a noble brow, and eyes of extraordinary
lustre; and Jack could not help contrasting him with the mean-looking
white man, who, in the providence of King Leopold, was entrusted with
the lives of such people as these.

Jack explained his purpose, and the difficulty which seemed to stand in
the way.  A glance was exchanged between Samba and his father; then the
boy said that they would deal with the outpost.

"How will you do it?"

"We will creep upon them."

"But it is daylight."

"True.  We may fail; but we will do our best."

"Very well.  Now we must get our men together, Barney.  It will be
useless for Samba and Mboyo to start until we are ready.  In fact, we
will postpone the whole thing for an hour or two.  In the hottest part
of the day the men in the camp will very likely be dozing or fast
asleep; even if they're awake, they'll probably not have all their wits
about them."

He selected twenty riflemen, including Imbono, Makoko, and Lepoko, and
fifty spearmen, the pick of the force, and ordered them to assemble at
a given signal at a small exit he had recently had cut in the base of
the wall on the gully side.  The hole had been made at a spot where the
gully was very rugged and covered with creepers, so that any one
leaving the fort by this small aperture could scarcely be detected
except by an observer placed immediately opposite.  The portion of the
wall which had been removed could be replaced, and it would be
impossible, save on very close scrutiny, to discover the existence of
the exit.

A dozen of the men, besides carrying their weapons, were to sling round
their shoulders some large fireballs which had been made under Barney's
superintendence from the resin in the confiscated barrels.

"Begorra, sorr, 'tis meself that has an idea!" cried Barney in the
midst of these preparations.  "Couldn't we do something to hould the
attention uv those villains at the outpost while Samba and the chief
are doing their job?"

"A good idea, indeed.  What do you suggest?"

"'Deed now, I wish we had Mike Henchie and Denis O'Sullivan and a few
more uv the bhoys.  We'd treat the niggers to the finest dancing wid
the shillelagh that iver was seen this side uv Limerick."

"I wish we had!  You speak of shillelaghs.  Won't Indian clubs do?  I
have it!  We'll get some of the children to go through their exercises.
Go and collect them, Samba--Lofinda and Ilafa and Lokilo and Isungila,
they're the best, and about a dozen more.  But hang it!  I forgot.
They won't be seen over the wall."

"Sure there's the platform by the blockhouse, sorr.  'Tis uncommon
small for a stage play, but 'tis meself could make it wider in a brace
uv shakes."

"Then do so, like a good fellow.  It's a capital idea of yours, Barney."

The platform was quickly enlarged.  Then, just after midday, when the
sun was blazing fiercely, and in the ordinary course of things
everybody would be at rest in the huts, Barney marshalled some twenty
children, boys and girls, on the platform, and Jack accompanied Mboyo
and Samba to the little exit.

"You must give me a signal if you succeed with the outpost," said Jack,
as they prepared to slip through.  "It must not be a sound.  You had
better show yourself for a moment above the rocks, Samba."

The instant they had reached the gully, Imbono's drummer began to beat
his drum, not with the powerful strokes that would have sent a
thunderous boom echoing for miles around, but with gentle taps that
would scarcely be heard beyond the two outposts.  At the same time two
or three children blew softly through their little trumpets of banana
leaves.  In a moment two woolly heads could be seen cautiously peeping
over the rocks for which Mboyo and Samba were making.  Then the
performance began.  Instructed by Barney, the children on the platform
swung their clubs about, wondering why they were forbidden to sing the
song about Lokolobolo which usually accompanied their exercise.  They
knew nothing of the intention of their instructor, nor why he had
chosen this hot hour instead of the cool of the evening; but they loved
him, and delighted in the rhythmic motion, and they plied their clubs
gracefully, all unconscious of the four curious eyes watching them from
the rocks a few hundred yards away.

Jack saw nothing of their pretty movements.  He was at the wall.  The
two men of the outpost gazed at the children.  Jack gazed at them.
Below him squatted his warriors, subdued to unnatural quietness by the
thought of what was before them.  Impatiently they waited for the word.
They did not know exactly what they were to do; Lokolobolo had simply
said they were to follow him.  But they knew Lokolobolo; had he not
time and again brought Elobela's schemes to nought?  Lokolobolo had
said they were to follow him; and they were confident that where he led
was the one place in the world for them.

Twenty minutes passed.  The performance on the platform still went on.
Then Jack suddenly saw the two black heads above the rocks disappear.
Next moment Samba's head showed itself where they had been.

"Aiyoko!"[1] said Jack to his men.

Quickly, one by one, they slipped through the narrow hole, and formed
up under cover of the thick-growing creepers in the gully.  Jack went
last, saw that the opening was closed behind him, and turned to address
his men.

"We are going to Elobela's camp," he said.  "We shall go down the gully
until we come opposite to it, then I shall lead you; you will come
behind me silently, keeping your ranks.  I hope the men in the camp may
be asleep.  You will not fire until I give the word.  When we have
driven them out of the camp, those of you who have fireballs will set
fire to their huts.  Then seize on all the guns and ammunition you can
find, and return as quickly as possible to the fort."

The men's eyes gleamed with excitement.  Stealthily as panthers they
crept down the dry gully after their leader.  They did not know that
behind them, at the wall, Barney, having abruptly dismissed the
children, was watching with a very wistful look.  The good fellow
wished that he were with them.

Down they went, as rapidly as the rough ground permitted, scarcely
making a sound.  At length Jack halted.  He turned and gave one quick
glance over the eager faces; there was no falterer among his band.
Then he scrambled over the brink of the gully.  Lepoko was first after
him, Makoko was second; the rest of the men stood upon no order of
going, but made each for the easiest point of ascent.  And there Mboyo
and Samba joined them.  Standing on gently sloping ground Jack looked
eagerly ahead.  Had his movement been detected?  There, two hundred
yards away, was the camp within its light stockade.  Not a man was to
be seen.  The midday sun beat fiercely down; doubtless the garrison
were enjoying a siesta.  No sentry was posted, or, if posted, he had
forgotten his duty.  The gate of Ilombekabasi on the northern face was
far away; what simple negro would suppose that the enemy was
approaching silently from the nearer end?

In compact and orderly ranks Jack's men were sprinting noiselessly
after him, holding their weapons so that no clash or click should
disturb the silent camp.  They were within a few yards of the stockade
when suddenly there was a cry.  All were black men in the camp save
one.  At that moment he, in the intolerable heat, was about to leave
his tent and bathe in a clear stream that ran through the enclosure.
He saw the running band; he cried to his men, and, flinging away his
towel, sprang back to his hut to get his rifle.  He was too late.
Jack, getting a "shove up" from one of his men, was on and over the
stockade in a few seconds; his men were leaping all around him.  And
now their tongues were loosened.  Yells and rifle shots aroused the
lethargic garrison, some from sleep within their huts, some from drowsy
lolling in shady quarters by the stockade.  For most of them one glance
was enough.  Here was Lokolobolo, the Inglesa, and with him a crowd of
men among whom they recognized some they had beaten in Ilola with the
whip.  With frantic yells of alarm they ran for dear life across the
compound to the gate on the further side, out into the open, never
pausing until they had gained the forest fringe, with half a mile
between them and the men they feared.

But not all; the white man had seized his rifle and collected a small
band about him.  Mboyo, near Jack, gave a cry; among the negroes around
the white man he saw Boloko, his renegade brother.  Taking cover where
they could, they began to fire at the invaders, hastily, frantically.
But Jack had his men in hand.  Bidding them also take cover, he sent
those who had fireballs to creep round the camp and set light to the
huts.  Soon volumes of dense suffocating smoke bellied across the camp,
screening attackers from defenders.  Then Jack gave the order to close
in upon the few who resisted.  With triumphant yells his men swept
forward through the smoke--a few shots were fired; one or two men fell;
then the white man, with Boloko and the rest of his band at his heels,
made a dash for the gate.  Two men dropped ere they could pass through;
but the white man and Boloko and half a dozen others were more
fortunate.  Out in the open they ran like hunted deer; and Elobela's
burning camp was left in the hands of Lokolobolo.

Jack lost no time.  The stockade and the huts on the windward side were
ablaze; soon the whole place must be in flames.  The sound of the
shots, the sight of the smoke, would bring back Elbel and all his
force.  Shouting to his men to collect all the arms and ammunition they
could carry and then rush back to the fort, Jack went outside the
stockade beyond the cloud of smoke to keep watch.  The flames were
roaring and crackling behind him; but even at this distance, nearly two
miles from the place where Elbel was at work, he fancied he heard the
shouts of the amazed and angry enemy.  Then suddenly the deep resonant
note of Imbono's drum struck his ear.  Barney must be warning him!  He
turned and called to his men to delay no longer.  Back to the fort!
Meanwhile Barney had followed the movements of the gallant band.  He
heard the shots and yells, and saw the first spiral of smoke; then he
hastened to the northwest blockhouse, calling to all the riflemen left
with him to line the wall overlooking the gully.  In a few minutes he
saw the negroes above dashing helter-skelter down the slope.  And yes!
there was Elbel at their head, a figure in white, running as though he
were running for a prize.  Barney smiled with satisfaction.

"Begorra!  They're forgetting me!" he murmured pleasantly, as he saw
that the enemy, in their frantic haste, were making for the shortest
path along the further edge of the gully, within easy range of the
camp.  Barney determined to wait until they were well abreast of him,
and then give them a volley.  But the impatience of a negro forced his
hand.  In the excitement of the moment one of the riflemen, free from
Jack's restraining presence, fired his piece.  The shot brought Elbel
to his senses.  He suddenly remembered the danger into which he was
running.  Turning sharp to the right, he sprinted straight to the cover
of the copse.  Some of his men followed him; others ran heedlessly on.
Growling at the man who had spoilt his scheme, Barney gave the order to
fire, and half a dozen of the enemy fell.  But Elbel had escaped; and
the rest of his men took warning and diverged from the direct course as
he had done.  Barney saw that further efforts would be wasted; so,
ordering his men to cease fire, he returned to the other end of the
fort to see how Jack was faring.

[Illustration: Jack rushes Elbel's camp]

Here they come!  Makoko is leading, staggering up the gully under the
weight of half a dozen rifles.  Behind him is Lombola, poising a load
of ammunition on his head.  There is Lingombela, with a bundle of
cartridge pouches roped to his back.  So one after another they file up
the gully.  Barney opens the little gate in the wall; willing helpers
within haul the loads through.  No man enters until all the rifles and
ammunition have been handed in; then they scramble through, laughing
and jesting; and Jack comes last of all.

"Well done, sorr!" said Barney heartily.

"Well done, Barney!" returned Jack, gripping his hand.  "By Jove!
What's that?"

A loud explosion set the air trembling, and a hundred echoes flying
from the rocks around.  A dense volume of flame and smoke rose from the
site of Elbel's camp.

"There goes the last of their ammunition!" said Jack with a laugh.
"We've got best part of it here."

"Bedad, sorr, now's the chance for me meself.  Give me leave, sorr, and
I'll go at them wid the men and wipe them clean off the face uv the
earth."

"Stop, stop, Barney!  We mustn't be impatient.  They've no more
ammunition in reserve, but every man who was with Elbel will have a
good many rounds with him.  We can't risk a pitched battle against two
hundred rifles."

"Ochone, sorr!  Will I niver get a chance at all?"

"Cheer up!  Your chance will come, and you've done splendidly as it is.
It was a fine idea of yours to sound that drum when you saw them
running down.  And it was your idea to set something going here to
occupy the attention of the outpost.  By the by, I haven't had time to
ask Samba yet how they dealt with those fellows."

He called up the boy.  His story was very simple.  Mboyo and he had
crawled round under cover of the rocks and bushes, and came upon the
unsuspecting sentries from the rear.  They had their knives; the men
died without a sound.  Jack shuddered.  It was not an Englishman's way
of dealing with an enemy; it was the negro's way.  But his feeling of
compunction was somewhat diminished when Samba added that one of the
men was Bomolo, the brutal forest guard who had been the terror of
Imbono's people.  For how many maimings and murders had this man been
responsible?  Surely in this quick death he had met with far less than
his deserts!

Jack had every reason to be satisfied with the success of his sortie.
To have burned the enemy's camp; captured more than half his reserve
ammunition, and destroyed the rest, was no mean feat.  And as for the
people of Ilombekabasi, they were frantic with delight.  So quietly had
Jack made his preparations that the majority of the people knew nothing
of what was happening until they heard the first shot.  Then they
crowded to the wall and watched eagerly.  The camp itself was hidden
from them by the contour of the hill, but they saw the smoke rising
above the bushes and hailed it with loud shouts.  When they understood
the meaning of the great noise that followed Lokolobolo's return they
were almost beside themselves with joy.  And in the cool of the evening
Jack allowed them to hold a great feast, after which Imbono reeled off
a long oration in praise of Lokolobolo, and the village bard composed
and chanted a new song in numerous stanzas, the whole populace roaring
the chorus:--

  O kelaki na?
  Bomong'ilombe,
  Bosak'owa wanga,[2]
  Lokolobolo!


For several days after the sortie Jack was left undisturbed.  He
guessed how Elbel was occupied, and his conjecture was confirmed by
Samba, who at once resumed his scouting work.  Elbel was constructing
another camp a good distance east of his former position.  And he was
spending more time and labour on it; the stockade was more than usually
high and thick, and was flanked with bastions after the model of the
blockhouses at Ilombekabasi.

Samba also discovered that on the day after the burning of the camp one
of the white men with twenty paddlers had gone down the river.  Jack
had no doubt that he had been despatched to the headquarters of his
Company for more ammunition.  Clearly Elbel was rendered only the more
determined by his successive rebuffs.

"And I don't wonder at it," remarked Jack, talking the situation over
with Barney.  "We are making hay of the rubber collection in this
district, and Elbel's Company will be pretty mad with him.  I
understand why he hasn't got help before this from the State forces.
For one thing he has got to rehabilitate himself with his Company,
who'll certainly cashier him if he doesn't find a way out of the mess
he has got into.  For another thing, if he brings the State forces on
the scene, he'll most likely lose all chance of collaring uncle's gold,
and I believe that's at the bottom of it right through.  But things
can't last much longer as they are.  The State must intervene soon,
whether Elbel likes it or not."

"And what then, sorr?"

"Then it will be all up with us, I'm afraid.  But we won't look forward
to that.  I only wish I could find some means of sending word to
England of what goes on here, and what we're doing."

"What would be the good uv it, sorr?  Sorrow a bit."

"Why do you say that?"

"Why!  Because in England they're all too busy making money to attend
to such things--making money, sorr, or fighting tooth and nail about
education, or dreaming about football.  Now if Ireland had Home
Rule----"

"No politics, Barney!  I don't agree with you.  I'm as sure as I'm
alive that if the people at home really knew how abominably the natives
are treated--knew about the floggings and maimings and murders, they'd
make such an outcry that either King Leopold would be forced to change
his policy, or some one would step in and manage things for him.  If
only England and America would join hands!"

When Elbel had completed his new camp, he resumed the work far up the
hill which the sortie had interrupted.  Jack was still at a loss to
understand what the Belgian's scheme was, and he was prevented from
finding out, by the fact that every night a strong body was left on
guard, as he knew by the many camp fires at the top of the ridge.

One afternoon, however, the secret was explained.  One of the men
placed on the look-out at the north-eastern blockhouse reported that he
saw a stream of water rushing down the hill.  Jack hastened to the spot
with his field-glass, and was somewhat alarmed to see that the man's
information was correct; water was certainly streaming down over the
rocky ground, making a course that seemingly would bring it right
against the fort wall.

"He's going to flood us out!" thought Jack.  "He must have built an
embankment across the new course of the river."

This was a manoeuvre which he had not foreseen, and one which it seemed
impossible to counter.  The water, gathering impetus as it flowed down
the hill, would almost infallibly undermine the wall, even if it had
not force enough to wash it away altogether.  But as he watched, for
the moment so much taken aback that he could not think of anything to
be done, his consternation was changed to amusement, for about two
hundred yards up the hill the water made a swerve to his right, and
flowed with increasing rapidity in that direction.  The slope was such
that, instead of coming straight down as Elbel had evidently expected,
the stream, finding the easiest course, took at this point a trend to
the south-east.  After all it would only wash the blockhouse on which
Jack stood.

Jack instantly saw what he ought to do.  Running down to the base of
the stockade, he summoned a large body of workers, and set some of them
to dismantle the blockhouse, the remainder to pull down the wall and
build it up again several feet behind its former position, and in such
a way that instead of forming the angle of a square it lay across,
making a line parallel with the course of the stream.

They had hardly got to work before the full body of water was upon
them.  But so many men were employed, and they moved so rapidly, that
only one or two logs were carried away by the current, the solidly
built blockhouse serving as a dam and protecting the workers behind.
The main stream fell with a roar over the steep slope on the edge of
which the blockhouse stood--a slope only less precipitous than that of
the cataract, now a thing of the past, at the opposite corner of the
fort.

Only a few minutes later a tremendous outcry was heard from the
direction of Elbel's new camp.  For a moment it startled Jack.  Had the
enemy taken advantage of the sudden flood to organize an attack in
force?  But the thought had hardly crossed his mind when he burst into
laughter, causing his workers to pause and look round in astonishment.

"A magnificent idea!" he said to Barney.  "D'you see what has happened?
The silly fellow is flooding his own camp!"

"Bedad, sorr, that's what comes uv being too clever by half."

"It comes of playing with things he knows nothing about.  He's tried an
engineer's job without experience and without surveying instruments.
It's ticklish work interfering with the course of nature, and you never
know what will happen if you set water on the run.  Look at them,
Barney!  'Pon my soul, it's the funniest thing I've ever seen.  There's
Elbel himself, do you see? scampering down the hill like a madman."

"Like a mad gorilla, sorr."

"And all his men after him!  By Jove! can't they yell!  He'll have to
shift his quarters again, Barney."

"And sure I hope all his food is soaked and all his clothes in the
wash-tub.  A bath will do those greasy niggers no harm."

"We'll build up our blockhouse a few yards to the left, and be none the
worse.  Let's go and lend a hand."



[1] Now.

[2] Who did it?
    The master of the house,
    A most clever person.



CHAPTER XXII

A Message and a Meeting

Ilombekabasi had peace.  Elbel was sufficiently occupied for a couple
of days in constructing a third camp, which he placed still further
eastward in the direction of Ilola, but still between Jack and the main
river.  And even when the camp was completed he gave no sign of further
operations.  Jack was forced to conclude that his enemy was tired of
his continual failures, and would now wait inactive until
reinforcements reached him.

One afternoon, about a week after the flooding of the camp, a negro was
seen running up the gully.  Shots rang out in the distance, and far
down the gully appeared a band of Elbel's men, who relinquished the
pursuit of the runner on coming within sight of the fort.  The man
scampered up to the hole in the stockade.  He was unarmed save for the
universal dagger.  He cried out to be admitted; he had a message for
the Inglesa; and Jack ordered him to be hauled up through the aperture.

"Me nearly lib for dead," he said panting, "me run too fast."

"Well, who are you, and what do you want?"

"Me Lofembi, sah.  Me boy massa him uncle."

"What!"

"Yes, sah; me massa Martindale boy."

"Where is he?" cried Jack, feeling himself go pale with excitement at
the sudden news.

"He long long in forest, sah.  Come up ribber in boat; one man say
young massa shut up in Ilombekabasi; old massa get out of boat, hide in
forest so long for young massa to know.  He plenty sick at Boma, sah;
nearly gone dead.  Fust small small better, sah! lib for go sick all
same; talk small small, sah; no make head straight.  He try write; no
can hold black stick; he fit for go sleep."

"Good heavens, Barney!  Poor old Uncle!"

"Sure, the man may be a liar, sorr," said Barney.

Jack gave the man a keen glance.

"My uncle tried to write, you say.  What did he try to write?"

"Bonkanda to massa; oh yes!  He want say he come; he want know what he
fit to do.  No want see bad man; no; want to come to Ilombekabasi.
Plenty hard job, 'cos bad man dah."  He pointed in the direction of
Elbel's camp.

"If he is so very sick, how did he come from the river into the forest?"

"Four five men carry him, sah.  Plenty big lump; oh yes."

"Why did he send you?  Where's Nando?"

"Nando lib for sick at Leo[1]; no fit to come; him plenty sick; oh yes.
Me Lofembi; me come, do talk for massa.  Massa gib fing to show young
massa; here he am."

He produced a gold scarf ring and handed it to Jack.

"This is my uncle's, sure enough, Barney.  It's genuine.  What on earth
can we do?  Poor old Uncle!  In his last note he said he was
recovering; he must have had a relapse.  How can we get him into the
fort?  We must bring him in somehow.  It's awful to think of him lying
ill in the forest without any one to look after him; and I am cooped up
here!"

"Send Samba to fetch him, sorr."

"I can't, Barney," said Jack after a moment's thought.  "Samba goes
alone safely, but I simply can't trust him to lead a party in,
especially as Uncle seems to be too bad to move.  I can't see any way
out of it.  If I took some men out myself, and made a dash for it, the
enemy would be on our track, and we should have to fight our way in
against the whole lot of them.  Impossible; they outnumber us so
greatly."

Barney was sympathetic, but unable to offer a suggestion.  Bidding him
keep an eye on Lofembi, Jack went back to his hut to think the matter
out by himself.  He was torn with anxiety.  An unlucky chance might at
any moment reveal his uncle's whereabouts, and he knew what mercy Mr.
Martindale might expect if he fell into the hands of Elbel.  Something
must be done; yet what?  A dozen plans occurred to him, only to be
rejected.

One thing was clear; whatever was done must be done either by Barney or
himself.  Mr. Martindale being incapacitated, another white man must
lead his party, for the natives, unless properly led, might be seized
with panic at the slightest check and bolt.

Barney he could not send.  There was no finesse about him; he was a
good fighter, with any amount of pluck, but the very antithesis of a
scout.  Jack felt that he must go himself if his uncle was to have the
best chance of getting in.  There was no other course that offered the
same prospect of success.

What were his chances?  His sortie against the enemy's camp had been a
brilliant success.  Since then Elbel had been practically on the
defensive; he was afraid of wasting ammunition; afraid also of leaving
any small body unsupported by his main force.  During the past week
Jack's scouts had reported night after night that no pickets had been
posted as formerly around the fort, so that, except on the south-east,
where Elbel's camp was, the neighbourhood was open.  He could thus
easily steal out at the gate in the northern wall under cover of
darkness, and by making a wide detour ought to be able to bring Mr.
Martindale and his party back in safety.

Yet he had qualms.  Ought he in any case to leave the fort?  Supposing
he failed, what would happen to the hundreds of people who depended on
him?  Driven by force of circumstances into a life-and-death struggle
with Elbel's Company, he had not ventured to look forward to its
ultimate issue.  The duty of the moment seemed to be to hold on, to
keep the poor negroes out of the clutches of their oppressors, and
leave the end with God.  Could he trust Barney to continue his work if
he should be removed?  Ought he to think of it?  Thus he pondered and
puzzled, the arguments for and against chasing one another in a circle
through his mind.

He had reached no conclusion when Barney came to the hut.  The good
fellow seemed a little uncomfortable; he stood hesitating at the
entrance, his readiness of speech having apparently deserted him.

"Barney, I'm the most miserable fellow alive," said Jack, looking up.

"All but wan, sorr; all but wan.  'Tis the master who is more miserable
than you or me, sorr.  Think uv it; alone in the forest, wid none but
black idjuts to wait upon 'm.  I've been thinking mighty hard, sorr,
and the end uv it is this; 'tis you that must go, sorr.  Sure I can
hold the fort while you are gone."

"But what if I never come back, Barney?"

"'Twould be a desp'rate hard case, sorr.  But what thin?  I'm an
Irishman, and, bedad! 'twas for hard cases Irishmen was born.  Niver a
fear but I'd stick to it, sorr.  We've beaten the scuts all along.  And
if the captain goes, sorr, sure the liftinant takes his place and does
his best to fill it dacently.  What would have happened if ye had got
knocked on the head in that sortie uv yours?  Do ye think Barney O'Dowd
would have hung out a white rag and surrindered?  Sorrow a bit!  I'd
have nailed my colours to the mast, speakin' by the card, and dared the
rufn'ns to come and take 'em."

"You're a brick, Barney!" cried Jack, springing up and gripping him by
the hand.  "I'll go!  I'll take Samba, this very night, and bring dear
old Uncle in."

"That's right, sorr.  And we'll nurse him back to health and strength,
and make him colonel uv the reg'mint."

"Call out those men who captured Elbel's camp with me, and place them
at the gate to make a dash if they hear firing.  And meanwhile you man
the wall and hold yourself ready to cover our entry.  And, Barney, if
I'm caught and Uncle doesn't come in, hold the fort as long as you can.
Don't make sorties; simply sit tight.  The rainy season will be on us
soon, Imbono said, and Elbel's camp is so badly placed that when the
rains come he will be swamped.  He may then get tired of the siege and
draw off.  If he does, I should arrange with the two chiefs for a trek
into the forest.  But if Elbel still presses the siege and food begins
to run short--it won't last for ever, you know--you had better choose a
dark night and make a dash out to the north-east.  If you go quickly
you'll get a good many hours' start before Elbel realizes what has
happened; and when once in the forest you may shake off pursuit.  Our
rifles will form a rearguard."

"I'll do all that same, sorr.  But I hope it will not be me fate to do
it at all.  I'd sooner be liftinant for iver, sorr."

Shortly after nightfall, Jack, Samba, and Lofembi the messenger, made
their exit by the hole in the wall.  Jack had wished to follow his
original intention and leave by the northern gate, but Lofembi
earnestly begged him not to do this, saying that he would not be able
to find the way if he did not go out by the same gate that he had
entered.  At the moment of departure Barney gripped Jack's hand.

"The blessed angels go wid ye, sorr, and bring poor ould master back in
safety."

"Good-bye, Barney.  Hope for the best, and remember--hold the fort."

It was slow work moving across the broken hilly country by night; but
Lofembi had previously pointed out to Samba the general direction in
which they had to go, and the boy was able to keep a fairly straight
course.  They had to strike, said Lofembi, a path through the forest
following the course of the sun.  Mr. Martindale's camp was pitched
close to the path, not far from where two large trees had fallen across
it.  In about an hour they came to the outskirts of the forest in that
direction, the course being in the main the same as that taken by Jack
some weeks previously on his buffalo hunt, but leaving the open country
somewhat earlier.  So far there had been no sign of the enemy.

Progress was even slower in the forest itself.  More than once Lofembi
halted in doubt; then after a whispered colloquy with Samba he started
again, guiding himself by the stars seen through the tree tops.  Save
for these whispered conversations not a word was spoken.  Jack was too
much absorbed in his mission, too anxious about his uncle, to have any
inclination to talk, even if the risk of coming upon a scout of Elbel's
had not been present to his mind.

At length the three came upon the narrow track Lofembi had been
seeking.  Here they went in Indian file, the guide leading, Jack coming
next, then Samba.  The path was so narrow and so beset by obstructions
that walking was a toil.  Sometimes Lofembi swerved to one side or the
other to avoid a prickly bush; sometimes they had to clamber over a
fallen tree; more often the path wound round the obstacle.  It seemed
to Jack many hours since they started; in reality it was scarcely more
than three before they came upon the two fallen trees.  Lofembi stopped.

"Small small now, massa," he whispered.

He gave a long low-pitched call.  From the blackness on the left came a
similar call in reply.  The guide moved forward, plunging boldly along
a narrow path--more narrow even than that by which they had reached
this spot--in the direction of the sound.  Jack was about to follow him
when Samba touched him on the arm.

"Samba go first," said the boy.

"No, no," said Jack kindly.  "We are all right; this is my place,
Samba."

His heart beat faster under the stress of his emotion as he followed
Lofembi through the tangled undergrowth.  How would he find his uncle?
Was he very ill?  Surely, surely, he was not in danger--he would not
die?  Beads of sweat broke out upon Jack's brow as the terrible
possibility occurred to him.  He went on almost blindly.  Three
minutes' groping in the darkness brought them to a natural clearing, in
which, by the dim light of the stars, Jack saw a couple of tents, and,
some little distance from them, what appeared to be a number of roughly
made grass huts.

"Dis way, massa," said Lofembi, touching Jack on the arm.

"Which one?" said Jack in a low tone,

"Dat one," replied Lofembi, pointing to the nearer of the two huts.

He stepped forward into the clearing.  At the same moment a score of
dusky forms rose and closed in stealthily from the undergrowth around.
With a little cry Samba plucked Jack by the sleeve.  But almost
unconsciously he shook off the detaining hand, so full of anxiety was
he.  His uncle must be very ill, or he would be standing by the tent to
welcome him.  He sprang forward, stopped, and raised the flap of the
tent.  By the light of a small oil lamp swinging from the top he saw a
form stretched upon a camp bed.

"Uncle! uncle!" he cried, falling on his knees by the side of the
prostrate figure.

A low murmur answered him.  At the same moment he heard a sighing
groan, as it were, from the entrance to the hut, and the sound of a
heavy fall.  Then the forest glade rang with fierce shouts and the
crack of a rifle.  Jack rose to his feet, confused by this sudden
turmoil coming when his nerves were overstrung.  As he half turned, a
figure came out of the darkness towards him.

"Good efening, Mr. Shalloner," said a smooth voice.

Jack started back.

"Yes, it is me--Guillaume Elbel, bien entendu!"



[1] Leopoldville.



CHAPTER XXIII

Elbel Squares Accounts

Jack saw through it all now.  Elbel had captured his uncle, and used
him to decoy from the fort the enemy whom fair fighting and open
manoeuvres had failed to dislodge.  He could have shot the Belgian with
his rifle where he stood, but saw in a flash how vain the action would
be.  Outside was a horde of savage natives, who would instantly wreak
vengeance on the white men.  Mr. Martindale was too weak to resist, and
what he would suffer at their hands was too horrible to be thought of.

When Elbel had spoken Jack turned once more to his uncle, and kneeling
down by his bedside clasped his hand.  His pressure was returned but
feebly.  Mr. Martindale's weakness, coupled with his distress at Jack's
capture, rendered him unable to speak.

"I beg you listen to me," said Elbel.  "I have a varrant for the arrest
of Chon Martindale, Chon Shalloner, and a third man, whose name I do
not know, on a charge dat dey incite de natives to rebel against de
Congo Free State.  I have two of the dree; dat is vell.  It vill be for
your advantage, to-morrow, to send a written order to de third man to
render dat fort on de hill.  It vill be for your advantage at de trial.
If de fort resist longer, and cause blood to spill, it vill be so much
de vorse for you ven you appear before de court in Boma."

"Where is your warrant, Mr. Elbel?" asked Jack.

"Ah!  I have it not viz me; of course, it is in my camp."

"I suppose you are going to take us there?  You can show it to me when
we get there."

"No, you meestake.  I vill not take you to my camp.  I vill send you
both at vunce to Boma, vere you vill be tried."

"But my uncle is not in a condition to travel; you know that."

"Bah!  He vas in condition to travel here; vell, he is in condition to
travel back."

"But that is preposterous, Mr. Elbel.  Are you absolutely inhuman?  I
find my uncle so ill that he cannot even speak to me.  God knows how
much his illness is due to you or your friends.  At least you will
allow him to remain until I can give him some little attention--until
he regains a little strength.  To do anything else will be nothing less
than murder."

"Dat is not my affair," said Elbel with a shrug.  "It is instructed me
to send you to Boma.  To Boma zerefore muss you go, and at vunce."
Then, as a thought struck him, he added, "Though truly I will vait vun
day, two days perhaps, if you give command to de man in de fort to
render himself."

"Never!" came in a fierce whisper from the bed.  Mr. Martindale had
gathered his little strength for Jack's sake.  "Never!  We will make no
terms with you.  What my nephew has done he has done merely in
self-defence against the acts, the illegal acts, of you and your
freebooters.  I am an American citizen; he is a British subject; as
you, yes, and your Free State, will find to your cost."

He spoke in feeble gasps, yet with an energy that spoke of an
unconquerable spirit.  The exertion exhausted him, and he fell back on
the bed from which he had half risen.

"Bah!  Fine vords!" said Elbel.  "Ver' fine vords, monsieur.  You say
you are American--you dink dat frighten me!  Vy, I laugh.  Vat good is
de American or de English in de Congo Free State?  Ve mock of dem.  Ve
have our own vays to deal viz such canaille.  You vill not send order
to de fort?  Ver' vell; I do vizout."

"Your warrant won't hold in any case.  No one can order the arrest of a
man unnamed."

"You zink so?  Ver' vell, it does not matter.  You vill have
opportunity to zink about my vords as you promenade yourselves to Boma.
So I vish you bonsoir.  To attempt to escape, I tell you it is
impossible.  You see dat?  You hab revolver, Mr. Shalloner.  Be so kind
to gif me dat."

Jack hesitated.  But he saw that resistance was useless, and handed
over the weapon.

"Danks.  In de morning you vill begin your promenade to Boma.  Au
revoir, messieurs; au revoir Monsieur Chon Shalloner!"

He left the tent.  The interview had been too much for Mr. Martindale.
He lay half unconscious, and was scarcely roused when Elbel, in a
couple of minutes, returned in a towering rage.

"You, Chon Shalloner!" he shouted.  "You make de natives to rebel, and
more, you make dem to do murder.  Dat man, who I sent to the fort, he
lie now outside, a dead man.  Some vun dat come viz you he stab him in
de back.  You English hombog, I teach you.  Dey shall know of dis in
Boma."

Jack did not condescend to answer him, and Elbel flung out of the tent.
If his messenger was dead, he had paid the penalty of his treachery.
Jack could only pity the poor wretch for meeting with such an end in
such a service.  No doubt it was Samba's doing.  Jack remembered now
the groan and the fall outside.  Had Samba escaped?  He was anxious on
the boy's behalf, but it was impossible to ascertain what had happened
to him.  From Elbel's manner and words he inferred that Samba was safe.
And as for Elbel's indignation at the deed Jack was not impressed by
it.  When he thought of the murders and maimings this man was
answerable for, he could find no blame for the faithful boy who had
punished as his instincts taught him, the spy who had betrayed his
master.

Jack was left alone with his uncle.  He looked vainly round the tent
for a restorative--a drug, a flask of brandy, even a cup of water.
There was nothing.  He bent over the still form, and touching the brow,
gently, felt it burning with the heat of fever.  He knew that his uncle
was accustomed to keep a small phial of quinine pills in his waistcoat
pocket, and searching for that he found it and persuaded the sick man
to swallow a little of the medicine.  Then he sat on the foot of the
bed, not knowing what to do.

How fully his forebodings had been justified!  It had been a mistake to
leave the fort.  And yet he could not rue it, for otherwise he might
never have seen his uncle again.  He looked at the face with the
half-closed eyes; how thin it was! how pale!  The ruddy hue, the
rounded shape of health, were gone.  Where was that bright twinkling
eye that looked so shrewdly out from beneath a shaggy brow?  What
sufferings he must have undergone!  At that moment Jack looked over the
past months to the day when he so light-heartedly bade his uncle
good-bye, and so cheerfully accepted the charge laid upon him.  How he
wished they had never been parted!

And then another thought drove out his regret.  But for this parting
Ilombekabasi would never have been, and several hundreds of poor black
people would almost certainly have been tortured, mutilated, done to
death, in the name of law.  Could he have done otherwise than he had
done?  Had Providence, moving in mysterious ways, arranged all
this--that one should suffer for the sake of many?  He did not know; he
could not think; his mind seemed to be wrapt in a cloud of mist,
through which he saw nothing but the present fact--that his uncle lay
before him, sick--perhaps unto death.

By and by a negro entered, bearing food and palm wine.  Mr. Martindale
could not eat, but the wine revived him.

"Jack, old boy!"

Jack knelt by the bedside, clasping his uncle's hand.

"Jack, I must tell you what happened."

"Don't, Uncle; you will distress yourself."

"No, I shall do myself no harm.  If you will be patient--for I shall be
slow--a little at a time, Jack.  You must know.  I've got pretty nearly
to the end of my tether, dear boy.  I shan't live to do anything for
these poor niggers, but you will--you will, Jack.  And I want you to
vow here, at this moment, to do what I must leave undone--fight the
Congo State, Jack, fight Leopold, with your hands, your tongue, your
pen, here, in Europe, in America; fight him in the name of humanity and
of God.  Promise me that, Jack, so that if I do not live till the
morning I shall at least die happy."

"God helping me, Uncle, I will."

Mr. Martindale pressed his hand.  For some time there was silence, then
the elder man began again.

"I must try to speak calmly, my boy; I have so little strength; but it
is hard.  I told you in my first letter of what I had learnt about the
ways of the Congo State.  You wondered, I dare say, why I never
mentioned them again.  You will understand why.  When I got to Boma, I
reported to the Governor-General, in a written memorial, the incidents
that occurred as we went up the river--the altercation with Elbel, the
attempt on our canoes, the night attack on our camp, frustrated by
Samba.  (I can't tell you how glad I was, Jack, when you told me the
boy had returned to you.)  I forestalled the probable answer that Elbel
had nothing to do with those attempts by pointing out that the negroes
Samba saw were fully armed, and must have been under a white man's
control.  Even then it was illegal, for I found that men in Elbel's
position, representing Concessions, are not entitled to take more than
five riflemen as escort beyond the limits of their trading factories.
In my memorial I said that, after these attacks on me, I should be
forced in self-defence to arm a certain number of my followers, and I
disclaimed responsibility for the consequences.  I also reported the
scene of desolation at Banonga, and the story I had heard from Samba's
lips; and called upon the Governor-General to take instant action in
the matter."

Jack moistened his uncle's lips, and he continued:

"I got an acknowledgment, polite enough, even pleasant, promising that
these matters should be inquired into.  The Governor-General added that
the possession of firearms and the arming of the natives being
prohibited by law, I should become liable to heavy penalties and
imprisonment if the law was broken.  I had luckily already sent you the
rifles and ammunition; though had I not done so, I could easily have
bribed an official to give me a permit to carry arms; it would have
cost me five hundred francs for the licence, and as much as I chose for
the bribe.

"For a week I heard no more.  I was deceived by the politeness of the
Governor-General's letter into believing that I was perfectly safe, and
free to do, in this Free State, what I had come to do.  I set about my
business, and, as I told you, bought a little machinery, from a fellow
named Schwab, agent for a Düsseldorf firm.  But I was a marked man.
One day an officer came and asked me to show my patent.  I did so.  The
man complained that it was not properly filled up; my name was spelled
with an 'e' instead of an 'i'--Martendale!  I laughed at him, and he
went away in a huff.  Next day another fellow came and said that my
patent was worthless.  Since it had been granted a new arrangement had
been entered into between the Concession and the State, and all the
mineral rights in the district reverted to the State.  I laughed at
that; a patent granted by the Concession and authorized by the State
could not be revoked; it had five years to run, and I meant to stick to
it.  They wanted to bluff me--an American!--out of it.

"But things began to go badly with me.  I was practically boycotted,
Jack.  None of the storekeepers would supply me with anything I wanted.
One of them frankly told me that to do so was as much as his life was
worth.  I did not believe him at first.  But I found it was only too
true.  A storekeeper in Boma I heard of--a British subject, Jack, from
the Gold Coast--had a part in showing up the rascality of some legal
proceedings that had recently taken place.  The officials gave the
word.  He was boycotted; his trade dwindled; he became bankrupt; one of
his sons was driven mad by the persecution he suffered; and his
troubles and worries so preyed upon the old man's mind that he took his
own life.

"Then I fell ill.  It was a near touch, Jack.  Only the devotion of a
fellow-countryman--a fine fellow from Milwaukee--saved my life.
Remember his name, Jack--Theodore Canrehan; if you ever meet him, and
can do him a good turn, do it for my sake.  When I got on my feet
again, I was amazed to find the tune changed.  Everybody was as sweet
as butter.  The officers came and apologized to me; they regretted the
unfortunate misunderstandings that had arisen; they would do all in
their power to forward my business.  I arranged for the dispatch of the
machinery I had ordered from Europe, and started to return.  I couldn't
make out what had made them suddenly so attentive; thought it was
because I was an American, and they had some respect for the Stars and
Stripes after all.  Canrehan told me that since I sailed a strong
feeling had been growing in America with regard to the Congo question;
and I flattered myself the State authorities weren't anxious to add
fuel to the flames by provoking a real serious grievance in which an
American was concerned.  But it was all a trap, Jack--all a trap.  I
saw it too late--too late."

Hitherto Mr. Martindale had spoken slowly and calmly, husbanding his
strength.  But at this point his feeling overcame him.

"Don't talk any more now, Uncle," said Jack, fearing that the exertion
would be too much for him.  "Tell me the rest another time.  Try to
sleep.  I will watch over you.  Thank God I shall be with you in the
journey to Boma.  You'll pull through even now, and we shall be able to
fight together."

Mr. Martindale had already fallen into a doze.  Jack did his best to
make his bed more comfortable, and watched him through the night,
pacing round the tent for hours together to keep himself awake.  From
time to time his thoughts went back to the fort.  What was Barney
doing?  What would he do when morning came and yet the absent had not
returned?  What would be the fate of the poor people committed to his
charge?  At present all was dark to Jack.  It seemed that he and all
connected with him were now in the fell grip of the Congo State.

As soon as it was light Elbel came into the tent.

"I hope you had good night," he said, with a grin.  "You vill have
breakfast, den you vill begin your promenade.  Tventy-five Askari vill
escort you.  You vill go to de river vere Mr. Martindale left his
canoes; dey are still dere.  Ah! he did hide dem, but vat good?  You
vill go on canoes till you come to de falls; dere you vill for a time
voyage overland.  By and by you come to Stanleyville; dere you find
steamer; de State officers vill have care of you de rest of de vay to
Boma.  You understan'?"

"I warn you, Mr. Elbel, that I shall hold you responsible for my
uncle's safety down the river.  You see for yourself he is not fit to
travel.  I shall take the earliest opportunity of informing the
American Government of your actions--your persecution, for it is no
less."

"Dat is all right," returned Elbel, grinning again.  "De courts at Boma
vill give immediate attention.  De judges, dey are excellent.  Now
still vunce before you go, write de order to de vite man in your fort
to render himself.  It vill profit you."

"Never!" said Jack.  "Go and execute your warrant."

"Ver' vell, ver' vell.  It matters noding.  In a half-hour de Askari
vill be here.  You be ready."

Jack managed to get his uncle to eat a little food.  He seemed somewhat
stronger and less feverish than on the preceding evening.  At seven
o'clock the twenty-five soldiers appeared, accompanied by eight men as
carriers.  Mr. Martindale recognized these as belonging to the party he
had brought up the river; the rest of his men, he supposed, had been
impressed by Elbel for service in his camp.  It being obvious that the
sick man was unable to walk, a litter had been constructed for him.  He
was placed on this.  Four men were told off to carry it, the other four
bearing food sufficient to last the whole party until they reached the
canoes.

Jack had wondered whether he was to be manacled; but the prestige of
the white man, not any consideration for his feelings, had prevented
Elbel from going to such extremes.  But as he stood behind his uncle's
litter, two Askari with loaded rifles placed themselves one on each
side of him.

When the party were ready to start, Elbel sauntered up, his hands
behind his back, and, approaching Jack, said with a smile:

"Now, Mr. Shalloner, before ve part I have a little vat you call
reckoning viz you.  You strike me vunce, tvice, viz your feest.  Dat is
de English vay--de boxe, hein?"  Elbel showed his teeth.  "On de Congo
ve have anoder vay--de chicotte.  Vun does not soil vun's hands.  So!"

He took from behind his back a hippopotamus-hide whip, and, cutting
short so as to avoid the Askari close beside Jack, dealt him two cuts
with his utmost strength.  Jack clenched his teeth to stifle a cry as
the edges of the thong cut through his thin clothes.

"Dere!  Now are ve quits!"

As he spoke Jack, blazing with anger and mortification, made a fierce
spring at him.  But Elbel was ready: he jumped nimbly backwards, while
half a dozen Askari rushed between them, and pinioned Jack's arms.

Honour was satisfied--so Elbel appeared to think, for with a grin of
malicious triumph he nodded to the Askari in charge: the party might
now proceed.

"You see," said Elbel, as they moved away, "if you try to escape you
vill be shot.  I vish you agreeable promenade."



CHAPTER XXIV

A Solemn Charge

The party set off.  They marched all day, with brief intervals for food
and rest.  Jack was only allowed to speak to his uncle during these
pauses.  The sick man lay inert, with closed eyes, protected from the
heat by a light covering of grass, which his bearers made and fixed
above his litter.  Jack watched him anxiously.  He seemed no worse when
they arrived at the river just before sunset.  Mr. Martindale had
brought up four canoes; two of these had already been appropriated by
Elbel and conveyed up the river; the other two remained.  They passed
the night on the canoes, and in the small hours, when the natives were
asleep, Mr. Martindale insisted on continuing the story broken off the
night before.

"Better now, dear boy," he said, when Jack implored him to wait until
he was stronger.  "I shall never see Boma; Elbel knows that.  He knows
that in this climate a sick man cannot survive a journey of over a
thousand miles.  I want you to understand clearly before I go what
these officials are doing.  They call it the Free State!--free!  No one
is free but the officials!  The natives, poor wretches! are not free.
Never, when slavery was an institution, were there slaves in such
abject misery as these slaves of the Congo.  Why, they made a great
to-do about slavery in my country fifty years ago, and some of the
pictures in Uncle Tom's Cabin were lurid enough.  But the American
slave's life was Paradise compared with this hell upon earth.  Trade on
the Congo was to be free.  Is there any such freedom?  Look at my case.
They give me a patent to work minerals; they let me make my prospecting
trip; then when I have located the gold and ordered my machinery they
revoke my patent.  I make the loaf, they eat it.  Oh! it was all
planned from the beginning.  We have been fooled right through, Jack."

"But what of their courts, Uncle?  Surely there is some redress for
injustice."

"Their courts!  They're all of a piece, Jack.  The State grants a
concession to a trading company.  Half the time the State _is_ the
trading company; it takes up the larger portion of the shares.  The
Congo Free State is nothing but a big commercial speculation, and the
courts dare not do anything that conflicts with its interests.  Men
come here, Belgians, Germans, Italians, good fellows some, honest,
well-meaning; but they haven't been here long before they have to swim
with the current, or throw up their careers.  One poor fellow, a
district judge, ventured to protest against an illegal sentence passed
by a court-martial; he was broken, and hounded out of the country.  In
a sense he was lucky, for it is easier for such a man to get into this
country than to get out of it--alive!  A man who does justice and loves
righteousness has no place in the Congo Free State.

"You see now why they let me go.  They let me make what arrangements I
pleased--engage a large party, buy a large quantity of stores; well
knowing that at any moment of my journey they could arrest me and
plunder my goods.  And they knew of your doings up here, be sure of
that.  They intended to let me get into the neighbourhood of your fort
and use me to decoy you out.  They've done it.  Oh! it was all planned
in Boma.  Neither you nor I will ever reach Boma if Elbel and the
officials have their way.  Elbel's suggestion of delaying so that we
could get Barney to surrender the fort was all a part of the trick; it
would make no difference to our treatment, and it would be the
death-warrant of those poor negroes.  Jack, I approve of all that you
have done--approve with all my heart.  I am proud of you, dear boy.
What does it matter that I've lost my money, and my gold mine, and very
likely my life too!  I am thankful to Almighty God that we came to this
country, glad that He has put it into our power to do some little good.
I wouldn't undo any of it; I am proud that one of my blood has been
called to this good work.  Jack, Providence has made us responsible for
the poor negroes who have trusted their lives to us.  Do you remember I
said at Banonga that I wasn't a philanthropist and wasn't set on
starting a crusade?  I spoke lightly, my boy.  I would say now that if
God spared my life I would spend all my strength and all my energy in a
nobler work than ever mediæval crusader undertook.  I shall not live to
do it; but I leave it to you.  Were this my last breath I would say,
help the negroes of the Congo, fight the corrupt Government that
enriches itself on their blood; go to the fountain-head and expose the
hypocrisy of King Leopold."

"He may not know of it, Uncle.  So far away he cannot check and control
all the actions of his agents."

"Not know of it!  How can he help knowing of it?  Are not these things
happening every day?  And it is his business to know of it.  Suppose I
had a factory in the United States, and it was proved that while I was
coining millions my hands were dying of overwork, or of insanitary
buildings, or getting wages insufficient to keep them decently clothed
and fed; wouldn't there be an outcry?  Wouldn't the law step in, or if
the law failed, public opinion?  Where does Leopold get his dollars
from?  Who pays for the estates he is buying, the palace he is
building, the fine public works he is presenting to Belgium?  It is
these poor black people.  He is draining the life-blood out of the
country he vowed before Almighty God to rule justly and administer
wisely for the good of the people; and the cries and groans of these
negroes, men like himself, are rising to Heaven, terrible witnesses of
his broken vows, his callousness, his selfish apathy.  Oh!  I grant him
good intentions to begin with.  Twenty years ago he did not foresee all
this; no man is a villain all at once!  But it might have been
foreseen.  He was king of a few hundred miles of country; with a stroke
of the pen he became sovereign of a State as big as Europe; and if a
man has the passion for getting, unlimited opportunities of doing so
will bring him to any villainy unless he has the grace of God in him."

Jack was deeply moved by his uncle's earnestness.  At the same time he
was concerned to see the exhaustion that followed his passionate
speech.  He gave him a little wine, imploring him to spare himself.

"Don't trouble, dear boy," said Mr. Martindale with a smile.  "The fire
is burning out; what does it matter if it burns a little more quickly?
But I won't distress you; you will think over my words when I am gone."

In the morning the river journey was begun.  It continued for several
days, until with their arrival at the falls progress by water was
interrupted, and a long portage had to be made.

It was just at this point that they met a party of Askari marching in
the other direction.  As soon as they came in sight the leader of
Jack's escort cried--

"O etswa?"[1]

"O!" replied the leader of the approaching band.

"Where are you going?"

"To the camp of Elobela."

"What have you got in those bundles?"

"Cartridges for Elobela's guns."

"Bolotsi O!  He will be glad of them.  He has very few left."

"Has he killed many people?"

"No.  But Lokolobolo captured nearly all his cartridges."

"Mongo!  Who is Lokolobolo?"

"Here he is!  An Inglesa who has built a fort and fights Elobela.  But
we have got him at last, and he goes with an old Inglesa to Boma.  Oh!
he will fight no more."

"O kend'o?"

"O!"

During the river journey Mr. Martindale had grown steadily weaker.  He
fought hard against his illness; he had a new motive for desiring life;
and Jack, observing his occasional rallies, hoped still that he would
pull through.  But he was so weak when lifted from the canoe that he
fainted, and Jack feared that he would not survive the day.  He rallied
again, and once more Jack had a gleam of hope.

The horrors of that overland march will haunt Jack's memory till he
dies.  For some time the Askari had been ill-using the carriers.  The
greater part of the stores which Mr. Martindale had taken up the river
had been appropriated by Elbel, and the food left in the canoes was not
sufficient for full meals for the whole party.  It was the carriers who
went short.  They had to bear the burdens, to make frequent journeys to
and fro up the steep river banks, while the Askari looked on and had
the best of the food.  When the portage was begun, one of the canoes
was added to their load.  The other was left hidden in the bush to be
fetched later.  Weak from lack of proper nourishment, they could go but
slowly, and Jack's blood boiled as he saw them quiver, heard them
shriek, under the merciless chicotte.  Before the first day was ended,
two of the men fell, worn out with hunger and fatigue.  Jack heard
shots behind him, and saw that the wretched men had been put out of
their misery.  On the second day another man succumbed; what little
life was left in him was beaten out with the clubbed rifles of the
Askari.  Three men ran away during the night, preferring the perils of
the forest to the certain fate that awaited them at the hands of their
fellow-men.  Only two carriers were now left, and since these were
useless they were shot in cold blood.  Jack's heart was like a stone
within him.  These atrocities recalled the worst horrors of the old
Arab slave-raiding days; and he was unable to lift a hand to oppose
them.  If he had been the only white man with the party he felt that he
would have risked anything in an effort to save the poor wretches; but
while his uncle still lived he could do nothing that might involve his
own death.

The bearers being all gone, the Askari had to take turns themselves in
carrying the canoe, the remainder of their provisions, and Mr.
Martindale's litter.  This necessity did not improve their temper or
their manners, and the litter-bearers went so carelessly over the rough
ground that Jack was constrained to protest.  He implored, he
threatened, feeling that the only chance for his uncle was to make more
frequent halts; the fatigue of constant travelling would certainly kill
him.  But the Askari roughly replied that they had orders to continue
their journey without delay, and the march was resumed.  After his
protest Jack was forced to walk at a distance from the litter, and even
when the caravan halted for food he was not allowed to attend his
uncle.  Sick at heart he plodded on, torn by his anxieties, yet still
nourishing a hope that when they arrived at a station where a doctor
might be found, and whence the journey would be continued by steamer,
all might yet be well.

But one evening, when the halt was made, he heard his uncle faintly
calling.  The sound of his voice struck a chill through him.  In
desperation, snatching a rifle from the guard next him, he threatened
to shoot any one who tried to keep him from the dying man.

"It's all up with me, old boy," said Mr. Martindale feebly, when Jack
knelt by his litter.  "Elbel is having his way.  I shan't see another
morning."

Jack gripped his hands; they were chill and clammy.  A lump came into
his throat; he could not speak the yearning affection that filled his
heart.

"Bend down, Jack; I'm afraid I cannot make you hear.
Remember--remember what I have said; it is my bequest to you--the cause
of the Congo natives.  Do what you can for them.  Fight!  It is called
the Free State; fight to make it free.  I cannot see the future; all is
dark; I dread what may await you in Boma.  But buck up, dear fellow.
Barney--remember him.  Go to the British consul; tell him all.  Your
people have generous sympathies; wake them up; wake them up!  If they
are roused, all this wrong will come to an end."

"I will do all I can, Uncle," murmured Jack.

"Don't mourn overlong for me.  I've had a good time.  And this year the
best of all.  I wouldn't lose it, Jack.  Tell my friends I'm not sorry;
I'm glad, glad to have seen with my own eyes something that's worth
doing.  And I have faith in the future--in my fellow-men, in God.  What
is it about wicked doers?  'They encourage themselves in mischief, and
commune how they may lay snares; they imagine wickedness and practise
it.  But God shall suddenly shoot at them with a swift arrow; yea,
their own tongues shall make them fall.'  How does it go on?  I cannot
remember.  'The righteous shall rejoice----.'  Jack, are you there?"

"Yes, Uncle, I am here," replied Jack, tightening his clasp.

"Is it the fifteenth Psalm?  'He that walketh uprightly----'  I cannot
remember, Jack.--Is that boy Samba better?  Poor little chap!  No
father and mother!--Barnard said there was gold; why can't he find
it?--No, that's not a nugget, that's----  Only a dog, eh?  I'm kind o'
set on dogs...."

And so he rambled on, muttering incoherently in his delirium; and Jack
did not stir, but remained cramped while the slow hours crawled on, and
nocturnal insects hummed, and frogs croaked, and the leaves faintly
rustled above him.

Then, as the dawn was creeping up the sky, Mr. Martindale opened his
eyes.  They rested on Jack's pale drawn face, and the dying man smiled.

"Buck up!" he whispered.  "Remember!  'Though I walk through the valley
of the shadow....'"

And so he died.



[1] Are you awake?  (the morning greeting)



CHAPTER XXV

A Break for Liberty

With his own hands Jack dug a grave near the brink of the river, and
there he laid his uncle to rest.  The Askari looked on stolidly as he
gathered stones from below the bank and heaped them to form a low rude
cairn.  Then he went back with them to their camping-place.  He could
not touch the food they offered him, and when they told him the time
was come to march he got up silently and moved away mechanically with
the rest.

He trudged on among his captors, a prey to utter dejection, conscious
of nothing but his irreparable loss.  He saw nothing, heard nothing, of
what was going on around him, walking automatically in a kind of
stupor.  His uncle was dead!--for the moment the world had for him no
other fact.  By degrees, as his first dazed feeling passed away, he
recalled little incidents in his past life that till then had lain
dormant in his memory.  He remembered the first time he had consciously
seen his uncle, when he was a child of four, and he was dragged in all
grubby from the garden, face and hands stained with strawberry juice,
to see a big man with a red face, who laughed at him, and showed him a
rough yellow lump that he wore on his watch-chain.  He remembered the
letter when his father died; and that other letter when his mother
died; and the first visit to school, when, shown into the headmaster's
study, the headmaster being absent, Mr. Martindale had made friends of
the dog, and was found by the great man in the act of balancing a pen
on the animal's nose.  He remembered too the delightful holidays,
climbing in Switzerland, roaming in Normandy, gondoliering in Venice.
Odd things came to his recollection, and there was not one of them but
recalled some trait of character, reminded him of some past happiness.

Then as he walked his grief took on a new complexion--a longing for
vengeance on the miscreant whom he regarded as directly responsible for
his uncle's death--morally as culpable as if he had with his own hands
committed the murder.  Was this villain to remain unpunished?  The
thought of Elbel induced a new change of feeling.  What of the natives
who for so many months had looked to him for guidance and leadership?
What was Barney doing?  Had Samba escaped the clutches of his enemy and
got back to the fort?  Was the fort, indeed, still there?  He
remembered his promise to his uncle.  At the most solemn moment of his
life, under the very shadow of death, he had vowed to do all in his
power to help the negroes of the Congo--and here he was, himself a
prisoner among soldiers of this iniquitous government, on his way to an
unknown fate.

Thus recalled to actuality, he roused himself and began to think.  He
had no longer his uncle to consider; that good man was beyond reach of
chicanery and spite.  Why should he go to Boma?  Nothing good awaited
him there.  He would be thrown into prison on arrival--supposing he
ever arrived; he would be tried, sentenced no doubt: at Boma in such
cases there were none of the law's delays; he might never be heard of
again.  What chance was there of fulfilling his uncle's wishes there?
Was not his place at the fort, at Ilombekabasi, with Barney and Imbono
and Mboyo, the people for and with whom he had already toiled and
fought?  There at the fort was tangible good to be done; he felt an
overpowering impulse to return to his friends.  Elbel had been worsted;
if the resistance could be still further prolonged surely the Belgian
would withdraw, though it were only to gather strength for a crushing
blow; and the interval might be seized to migrate with the whole
community into the forest or across the frontier.

But there was the rub.  Between him and the fort there was a band of
well-armed Askari and several days' journey by river and forest.  Even
if he escaped the former, what chance was there of success?  A white
man was very helpless in these African wilds--easily seen and followed,
not used to fend for himself in obtaining the necessaries of life.
Even Samba, forest-bred, had barely survived the perils of a solitary
journey: how could a white man expect to fare so well?

Yet, so strong was Jack's longing, he resolved that, be the
difficulties and dangers what they might, he would seize the barest
chance of escape that offered itself.  Anything would be better than to
be carried on to Boma, with the terrible uncertainty, not merely
regarding his own ultimate fate at the hands of an unscrupulous
officialdom and a tainted judicature, but still more as to the fate of
his friends at Ilombekabasi.

From that moment his whole mental attitude changed.  He did not forget
his grief; that pitiful scene by the river's brink could never be
effaced from his mind and heart; but he resolutely set his wits to work
to find an avenue of escape, and the mere effort brought relief to his
sorrow.  No longer was he inattentive to his surroundings.  Without
allowing his guards to suspect him, he was keenly on the alert,
watching everything.

It was not until the midday meal that accident befriended him.  The
Askari came to a village which had clearly been for some time
deserted--another monument, Jack supposed, to King Leopold's rule.  He
took refuge from the burning heat, which did not appear to incommode
the negroes, in one of the empty and half-ruined huts.  There he ate
his meal of rancid _kwanga_--all that his guards would allow him.
While he squatted on the floor eating, his eye was attracted by a
bright light, the reflection of the sun on some polished surface in the
wall of the hut.  Out of sheer curiosity he stepped across, and drew
from the interlaced wattles the head of a small axe.  Its edge was very
sharp, as Jack found to his cost when he drew his finger across it; and
although in parts rusty, it appeared to be of very fine steel, too fine
to be of native workmanship.  Wondering who had been its owner, and how
it came to be stuck, separate from its shaft, into the wall of a rough
native hut, he slipped it into his pocket; it might prove a weapon of
value to an otherwise unarmed man.

There was nothing to cause his guards to suspect him when the march was
once more resumed.  In an hour or two they came to a place below the
series of rapids where it was safe to launch the canoe.  There the
party divided.  The carriers being all gone, the canoe left behind
could only be fetched by some of the Askari; and after some squabbling,
ten of them went back, the rest promising to wait for them at a
convenient spot down the river.  As they paddled away, Jack gathered
from the talk of his escort, in a dialect which had some slight
resemblance to that of the men of Banonga, that they expected to arrive
at this place, an old camping-ground of theirs by the river, before
nightfall.  They had placed him in the bow of the canoe, a light one
suitable for portage, with no platform, and therefore nothing between
him and the water but the thin side.

Keenly he watched the banks, hoping to be able at a favourable moment
to turn his observations to account.  But except for a few hippos half
hidden in the long grass or reeds at the river-side, and here and there
a crocodile basking on a rock or sandbank, its scaly back scarcely
distinguishable from the soil, the river was deserted.  Forest lined
the banks on both sides, its continuity only occasionally broken by
clearings showing signs of burnt villages.  The trees were beginning to
throw long shadows over the water; sunset must be fast approaching;
still no means of escape had suggested itself.  Yet escape, if effected
at all, must be effected soon, for he did not know when, with his
transference to a steamer, his immediate fate would be sealed.

Should he risk all, spring overboard, and swim for the bank?  He was
tempted to do so, though he could not repress a shudder as he thought
of the crocodiles now beginning to wake from their afternoon nap.  But
he knew that as soon as he came to the surface he would be overhauled
in two or three strokes of the paddles, even if the paddlers did not
think his attempt to escape sufficient justification for a little
Albini practice.  In any case his death or capture could be a matter of
only a few minutes.

But as time passed, Jack resolved that he would chance the crocodiles
if he could elude his guards.  He would run any risk rather than go to
Boma and submit himself to the tender mercies of the Congo State
officials.  A crocodile, after all, might prove a more merciful enemy!

They came to a part of the river where the channel narrowed, and though
the fall was not enough to deserve the name of a rapid, the increased
velocity of the current and the presence of large rocks necessitated
some caution on the part of the paddlers.  Jack could not help hoping
that the canoe would come to grief.  In the confusion there might be a
bare chance of escape, though, being no more than a fair swimmer, he
was not blind to the added risk he would run owing to the strength of
the current and the danger of being dashed against the rocks.

But the Askari, experienced voyageurs, successfully navigated this
stretch of the river, and as the canoe shot safely into smoother water
Jack's hopes again fell.  Then a thought occurred to him: Why wait upon
chance?  Why not make his own opportunity?  He felt in his pocket; the
axe-head was still there; its edge was sharp.  If the canoe did not
meet with disaster from without, why not from within?  He was sitting
on one of the thwarts amidships; the paddlers were standing on the
thwarts forward and astern of him.  All the Askari were paddling except
three, and these were squatting, two at the one end of the canoe, one
at the other, with their rifles between their knees.  In his position
Jack was almost completely screened from them.  The paddlers had their
rifles slung over their shoulders; the baggage was equally distributed
over the whole length of the canoe.

Though built of the frailest material, the canoe was of considerable
length.  This was the one drawback to the plan which had suggested
itself to Jack--to drive a hole in the craft at any moment when the
attention of the crew seemed sufficiently engaged to give him a chance
of doing so unobserved, for the size of the canoe rendered it doubtful
whether any hole he might make would be large enough to sink the vessel
before it could be paddled ashore.  This could only be proved by making
the attempt.

Time passed on; no opportunity occurred.  The passage here was easy,
and the paddlers did their work almost automatically.  It needed no
attention.  Jack was almost giving up the idea when a chance suddenly
came.  He heard the leader of the Askari call out: "There is the gorge
just ahead: soon we shall be at our camping ground.  Be steady!"

The canoe went faster and faster, and in a few minutes entered a gorge
strewn with jagged rocks threatening destruction at every yard.  The
men stopped singing--they sang at their paddles from morning till
night--and shouted with excitement when the vessel escaped as by a
miracle being dashed to pieces on one or other of the rocks in
mid-stream.  Choosing the moment when the shouting was loudest and the
danger probably greatest, Jack stooped down from his thwart and,
drawing the axe-head from his pocket, thrust it with all his strength
into the side of the canoe near the bottom, where there was already an
inch of bilge water.  Working the steel to and fro, he enlarged the
hole as much as he could, and then withdrew his clumsy implement; the
water rushed in with a gurgling noise which must, he feared, attract
the attention of the paddler just above him.  But the man gave no sign;
he was too intent upon his task.

A few seconds later Jack seized another moment of excitement to repeat
his work on the other side of the canoe.  His heart jumped to his mouth
as he heard one of the men shout a word of warning; but he maintained
his stooping position, thinking there was less chance of detection than
if he suddenly moved.  In consequence of the water rising in the bottom
the second hole was made somewhat higher than the first; and as Jack
watched the level of the water gradually creeping up, he felt that the
gaps were not large enough to prevent the paddlers from beaching the
canoe if they ran into smooth water during the next few minutes.  The
bark seemed to close up as soon as the axe-head was withdrawn, leaving
only as a narrow slit what had been a gaping rent.  A glance ahead
showed smooth water within a few yards.  There might be just time to
make two more rapid cuts.  He plunged his hand into the water, now some
inches deep, and drove the steel with all his force twice into the
bottom beneath his feet.  As soon as the canoe left the race, the heavy
going due to the water that had been shipped would at once be detected,
even if none of the paddlers, indeed, should happen to glance down and
see the water washing the packages.  True, they might suppose that it
had come over the sides of the canoe during their recent rough passage;
but the mistake must soon be discovered.

Jack saw that there was little chance of the canoe sinking in
midstream.  What could he do?  Was this, apparently his only
opportunity, to be lost?  He had only a few seconds to decide.  He
would wait until the leaks were discovered, and the canoe was headed
towards the shore.  Then if he dived into the river his guards would be
torn between two impulses--the one to pursue him, the other to beach
the canoe before she sank with them and their stores.  To them the
situation would be complex; they would waste time in their confusion;
and with a sinking canoe beneath them they would scarcely be able to
use their rifles.

Things happened almost exactly as Jack expected.  When the canoe left
the troubled reaches one of the Askari suddenly caught sight of the
water slowly rising, and washing from side to side with every stroke of
the paddles.  "A leak!" he shouted, inferring that a hole had been
knocked in the bottom by a rock.  The leader at once cried to the men
to run for the right bank.  Jack's time came as the canoe was swinging
round.  Rising suddenly from his seat, with a vigorous shove he sent
the paddler behind him rolling back upon the next man; he in his turn
fell upon the next; until four of the paddlers in the after part of the
canoe were floundering in the water, and the frail craft rocked almost
gunwale under.  The other paddlers were so much occupied in adjusting
themselves to the difficulty and preventing the canoe from being
swamped that they were hardly aware of what their prisoner was doing
until it was too late to prevent him.  While the vessel was tilted
over, Jack placed one foot on the side farthest from the bank towards
which they were paddling, and dived into the river.

The leader of the Askari immediately shouted to the men in the water to
pursue him, pointing out the direction in which he had disappeared
beneath the surface.  He was making for the left bank.  Glancing back
when he came up, Jack saw that two men were swimming after him, and
realized that he was no match for them.  He was only a fair swimmer;
his pursuers, drawn from one of the riverine villages of the Lower
Congo, were as dexterous in the water as they were in the canoe.  When
Jack became aware that he was being rapidly overhauled, he gripped more
tightly the axe-head which he had never let go, resolving to fight to
the last rather than suffer recapture.  The negroes had divested
themselves of their rifles, or had lost these when thrown so suddenly
into the river; and even such a clumsy weapon as an axe-head might
prove very formidable to unarmed men.

In the excitement, Jack had forgotten all about the constant peril of
the Congo--the crocodiles.  Straining every nerve, he was wondering
whether he should stop swimming before he ran the risk of being
completely exhausted, since there seemed little chance of his gaining
the opposite bank before his pursuers, when he was startled by a
despairing scream behind.  The horrible meaning of it flashed upon him;
he glanced back; only one swimmer was to be seen, and he was no longer
coming towards him; he had turned and with frantic haste was making for
the nearest point of the bank.  The second man had disappeared; the
crocodile had proved a better swimmer than any.  Shuddering in every
limb, Jack for a moment felt his strength leaving him.  As in a
nightmare he seemed to see the horrid jaws of crocodiles all round him
waiting to tear him limb from limb.  But he recovered in a moment; and,
still gripping the axe-head, he struck out desperately for the far
bank, which was now, indeed, scarcely more distant than the other.  He
touched the sandy bottom, struggled panting up the bank, and,
completely exhausted by the physical and mental strain of this day's
events, crawled rather than walked to a spot where he felt himself
secure at least from the dreaded reptile.  For several minutes he lay
with his head upon his arms, so much spent as to be almost careless of
what might become of him.  But, rousing himself at length, he rose and
scanned the river for signs of his late escort.  What was his alarm to
see them hastening towards him from the opposite bank; three minutes'
hard paddling would bring them within reach of him.  The sight of them
woke Jack fully to his danger; he turned his back on the river and
plunged into the thick bushes that came almost to the water's edge, and
extended into, the forest behind.  With what marvellous quickness, he
thought, had the Askari brought their waterlogged vessel to the bank,
emptied her of water, and temporarily stopped the leaks!  No doubt they
had been spurred to their utmost effort by the knowledge of what
awaited them if they returned to their commander with the report that
the prisoner had escaped them by any means but death.

It was now late in the afternoon.  Within three or four minutes the
pursuers would have beached the canoe and dashed in pursuit.  Jack knew
that he must make the most of his few minutes' start.  If he could
evade them for an hour he would be concealed by the darkness.  Already,
indeed, it was dim and dusky in the forest shades he had now entered.
There was no path; he could but plunge on where the undergrowth seemed
thinnest, his general direction being as nearly as he could judge at an
obtuse angle with the stream.  The Askari would expect him either to
follow the river, or to strike directly inland; at least he hoped that
the diagonal between these two courses would not occur to them.  While
daylight lasted his trail would betray him, of course; but even if the
men were trained forest trackers the light would in a few minutes be
too bad for them to pick up his trail.

In a few minutes he heard muffled shouts behind him.  The pursuers had
landed.  Then all was silent, save for the forest sounds now familiar
to him.  He moved as cautiously as the necessity for haste permitted,
aware that the breaking of a twig, a stumble, any unusual sound, might
bring his quick-eared enemy upon his track.  But with all his care he
could not avoid accidents.  Here a branch of cactus would rip a great
rent in his thin linen coat, with a sound that set the teeth on edge.
There a low-growing creeper would trip him up, so that he fell with a
crash headlong, and rose with his face bleeding from a dozen deep
scratches.  But he kept the axe-head always in his grasp; that was his
only defence.

The fall of night found him still pressing resolutely forward; but when
he could no longer see to thread his way in the close tangle of
vegetation he halted, and became aware that he was dripping wet, and
that he had to spend the night, soaked as he was, without shelter in
the primeval forest.  It would not have been a pleasant prospect even
to a native inured to forest travel; the negroes indeed are careful not
to be benighted far from their villages.  In other circumstances, as
black darkness wrapt him round, Jack might have felt not a few tremors;
from Samba he had learnt something of the perils of night in
densely-wooded places.  But he had lately passed through experiences so
trying that the visionary terrors of these gloomy depths had no power
to trouble him.  He sought, however, a suitable tree and climbed out of
the reach of prowling beasts, hoping that he would also escape the
attentions of leopards and pythons, which made no account of the lower
branches.

He had never spent a more uncomfortable night.  Insects stung him;
caterpillars crawled over him; woodlice worried him.  Dozing in spite
of these annoyances, he would wake with a start and the nightmare
feeling that he was falling, falling helplessly through space.  His wet
clothes stuck clammily to his skin; he shivered as with ague, his teeth
chattered, his head was racked with pain.  Stiff and sore from his
narrow perch and his cramped position he clung on through the night;
and when, after the long darkness, the pale dawn at last stole through
the foliage, and he dropped to the ground, he moved like an old man,
with aching limbs, unrefreshed, feeling the want of food, yet utterly
without appetite.

But he must go on.  His enemies had not discovered him; no beast had
attacked him; these were positive gains.  He could make no plans; all
that he could do was to follow a course calculated by the sun to take
him in the direction of the river, going up stream.  He walked stiffly,
but steadily, during the morning, picking here and there handfuls of
phrynia berries--the only berries of the forest which he knew to be
edible.

About midday he resolved to risk a more direct course to the river, in
the hope that his pursuers, finding no trace of him, had given up the
hunt.  But it was easier to decide than to carry out.  For all he knew
he might have been wandering in a circle, and the windings of the river
might make every step he took one in the wrong direction.  After some
hesitation he turned somewhat to the left and trudged on, so intent
upon his immediate surroundings that his range of vision was restricted
to a few yards.

He noticed that the ground, as he walked, was becoming a little less
thickly covered with undergrowth; but it was with a shock of alarm
that, at a sudden lifting of the eyes, he saw, standing in front of
him, a young straight dusky figure armed with a long rifle.  Springing
instinctively behind the nearest tree, he grasped the axe-head ready to
do battle.

But what was this?  A voice spoke to him, a voice that he knew, giving
him pleasant salutation, calling him by name.

"Lokolobolo losako[1]!"

He came from behind the tree and went forward, stretching forth his
hands.

"Samba!" he cried joyously.



[1] Salutation addressed to a superior.



CHAPTER XXVI

Turning the Tables

Samba at once led the way in a different direction from that lately
followed by Jack, saying that he would explain his presence as they
went along.

Jack had hardly reached the tent to which he had been decoyed by
Elbel's messenger before Samba knew that his uneasy feeling was
justified; his master had fallen into a trap.  Stealing up close behind
Lofembi he had plunged his knife into the man's back, and dashed into
the forest.  He had no difficulty in escaping from the spot; but the
report of the rifle fired after him had reached Elbel's camp below the
fort, and Samba found that he had to make a very wide detour to avoid
the enemy's scouts.  But he managed at last to get into the fort, and
implored Barney to send out a party to rescue his captain.  Barney was
much distressed by the news, but resolutely refused to throw away lives
and risk the safety of the fort in a forlorn hope of that kind.  All
that he would do was to allow Samba, with three other men, Makoko,
Lianza, and Lingombela, to follow up Mr. Martindale and Jack, and
rescue them if any chance occurred; if not, to see what became of them.

But the four had great difficulty in getting out of the fort
undetected; the enemy's vigilance appeared to be doubled, and a full
day elapsed before they were able to set off in the track of the
prisoners.  Failing to overtake the party in the forest before they
embarked on the canoes, they had had to cover on foot the long distance
for which the Askari were able to use the river, though they shortened
the journey to some extent by cutting straight across country when the
river wound.

At last, when Samba had all but given up hope, they saw a party of ten
Askari coming towards them from down the river.  Samba did not suspect
at first that these men were connected with those he sought.  But
keeping well out of sight he tracked them to a spot where a canoe was
concealed, and then he guessed at once that the men had been sent back
to fetch a canoe left behind for want of sufficient carriers.  It would
be easy to keep ahead of this party, burdened as they were with the
vessel; so Samba and his three companions pushed on, and soon came upon
tracks of Mr. Martindale and Jack.  They had noticed the newly-made
grave with its stone cairn: it had puzzled them, and they did not know
it was a grave until Samba pointed out that the litter had ceased to be
used: there were no longer the marks of four men walking always at the
same distance apart; they then concluded that the elder Inglesa had
died.

They came by and by to the place where the party had re-embarked.
Samba's only hope of overtaking them now was that they would certainly
wait at some part of their journey until they were caught up by the
other canoe; and it seemed to him that his expectation was borne out
when, scouting ahead of the three, he sighted in the dusk a long canoe
lying under the opposite bank in charge of three Askari.  He ran back
to his companions and told them to hide in the bush; then he returned
to the spot, and from a safe concealment prepared to wait and watch.
Night fell: the river was too broad for him to see across it; but
presently he heard the sound of men approaching the canoe, and soon
afterwards voices.  Then all was silent.  He kept up his watch for some
time, half expecting to hear the sound of paddles; but concluding from
the continued silence that the men would not move till the morning, he
went to sleep in a tree.

Waking before dawn, he resumed his watch.  In the early morning he saw
eleven men land and make off in two parties into the forest, leaving
three men on guard.  Instantly he jumped to the conclusion that
Lokolobolo had escaped; and a daring scheme suggested itself to him.
Returning to his friends, he told them what he had seen, and what he
proposed.  The four immediately set about building a light raft of
bamboos and cane "tie," and when it was finished they carried it some
distance along the bank launched it out of sight of the men in charge
of the canoe' and punted themselves across to the other side.  An hour
later only one man remained in the enemy's canoe, and he was a prisoner.

Jack forbore to inquire what had become of the others; Samba merely
said that their ammunition had been spoilt by the water.  Samba and his
companions were Congo natives; free from the restraining influence of
the white man, it would be scarcely surprising if they took the
opportunity of paying off some of the wrongs they had suffered at the
hands of the Askari.

From the prisoner Samba learnt the whole history of the party since the
time it left Elbel in the forest.  Tying the man up, Samba and his
companions at once set to work to find the trail of the fugitive, and
of the men who had gone in pursuit.  In the morning light it was easy
to a practised scout like Samba to find what he sought.  He soon
discovered that the two parties of Askari had failed to track their
quarry, and were going haphazard through the forest.  He himself then
started to follow Jack up, and his three companions went forth to the
canoe to await the return of the enemy.  It was unlikely that the two
bands would appear at the same time.  If they returned separately, the
three scouts in ambush would only have to deal with six men or five
men, as the case might be.  They were still waiting.

What would they do, asked Jack, when the enemy came back?

"Fire upon them from behind the trees," replied Samba.  "Three men will
certainly be killed; are not the scouts Makoko, Lianza, and Lingombela,
three of the best marksmen in Ilombekabasi?  If the two or the three
men left do not run away, they will fight them.  If they run away, they
will follow them up and fire at them from behind trees."

Even as Samba spoke there came through the trees a sound as of distant
firing.  Samba quickened his steps; for an hour or more his master and
he plunged through the forest, the boy halting every now and then to
listen intently.  At length whispering "Nkakayoko!"[1] he laid his hand
on Jack's sleeve and gave a low call like the rough scratching sound of
a forest beetle.  It was answered from the right hand.  Striking off
sharply in that direction he led the way through a thin copse, and in a
few moments the two stood at the brink of the river beside the canoe.
Samba looked keenly around, whispered "Mpiko!"[2] and pointed to a low
bushy tree close at hand.  For a second or two Jack could see nothing
but green: but then through the dense foliage he caught the glint of a
rifle barrel, and behind it--yes, a black face.  The man came out with
a low chuckle of amusement.  It was Makoko.  "Bolotsi o!" he said.  His
forest craft had been too much for Lokolobolo.

Suddenly Samba held up his hand in warning.  They listened; it must
have been the flight of a forest bird.

"What was the firing?" asked Samba in a low voice.

"The killing of five men," replied Makoko.

Jack caught the last words, "Bant'atanu!" and started.

"Where are they?" he asked.

"Gone to feed the crocodiles.  Three first, then two."

Again Samba raised his hand.  All listened intently.  Jack heard
nothing; but Samba whispered, "They come!" and plucked him by the
sleeve.  All three hid among the trees.  Two men came out from the
other side--they were Lianza and Lingombela.

"They are coming--six men," said Lianza in answer to Samba's question.
"Quickly! they heard the shots."

"We must shoot again from behind the trees," said Samba.

But Jack could not bear the idea of shooting down the unsuspecting
wretches in cold blood.

"Perhaps we can make them surrender," he whispered.

"Lako! lako!" said the negroes indignantly.

"Yes; we will try."

Makoko and the other two men grumbled, but Samba silenced them.

"It is Lokolobolo's order," he said.

He offered Jack his Mauser, but Jack refused it with a smile, taking
one of the Albinis which had been removed from the canoe.  With the
four he concealed himself behind the bushes.  He had already noticed
that all traces of the recent incidents had been carefully obliterated.

A few minutes later six Askari came from the thick wall of bush.  They
started and looked at one another when they saw the canoe unguarded.
Then they called their comrades.  Receiving no answer, they began to
discuss the strange disappearance of the three men who had been left in
charge.  With a sign to Samba to follow him, Jack came out from behind
his bush.  The men ceased their chatter; their jaws dropped, they
stared at their late captive in blank amazement.  He spoke to them
quietly, Samba translating.

"I was hiding: I come to save you from being killed.  Your eight
comrades are already dead.  If one of you lifts his hand, he is a dead
man.  Behind the bushes my men wait ready to shoot you.  Listen!  They
will answer when I call.  You will see how hopeless it is to resist.
Makoko!"

"Em'one!"

"Lingombela!"

"Em'one!"

"Lianza!"

"Em'one!"

"Lay down your rifles," continued Jack, "and beg for mercy."

There was but a moment's hesitation, then one of the men sullenly
obeyed, and the rest, one after another, followed his example.  At
Jack's call the three scouts came from their hiding-place.  Two of them
covered the Askari with their rifles, while the third collected the
surrendered Albinis and placed them in the canoe.

How Jack's position had altered!  An hour or two ago he was a fugitive,
practically unarmed, with nearly a score of Askari hunting him down.
Now he was in command of four scouts fully armed, and in possession of
a canoe and half a dozen prisoners, who had proved themselves on the
journey down to be expert paddlers.  But, as Samba reminded him, he had
still to deal with the ten Askari who had been sent back to fetch the
second canoe.  They must be on their way down stream: perhaps they were
near at hand.  Something must be done with them.  To let them pass, or
to leave them behind, would be equally unwise; they would almost
certainly follow up Jack and his party, perhaps find a means of sending
word to Elbel in time to cut them off from the fort.  The safety of
himself and his men demanded that this second band should be disposed
of.

To deal with them as he had dealt with the six would not be easy.  They
would come by water, not by land.  He did not wish to kill them.  What
other course was open to him?

He remembered that the Askari had spoken of an old camping-place a
little below the spot on which they stood.  This had doubtless been
fixed as the rendezvous of the whole party.  The prisoners would know
its exact locality.  With a little luck, he thought, all the ten might
be captured unharmed.  He got Samba to question the sullen men.  Yes,
they knew the camping-ground.

"Then they must paddle us to it," said Jack.

Making sure that the holes he had cut in the canoe had been
sufficiently caulked to allow of a short passage without danger, Jack
embarked with all the men, and in a quarter of an hour reached the
camping-ground.  It was about a hundred yards back from the opposite
bank, pretty well hidden from the river.  A few rough grass shelters,
somewhat tumbledown, and traces of former encampments, showed that it
was a frequent place of call for parties going up or down.  When all
had landed, Jack sent Makoko and Lianza along the bank up the river to
look for the oncoming of the Askari, who, though they must necessarily
have moved slowly while carrying the canoe, would no doubt make rapid
progress when once more afloat.  The six Askari looked a little hopeful
when they saw the two scouts leave; but Samba damped their spirits at
once when he told them that at the slightest sign of revolt they would
be shot without mercy.  To make things sure, and prevent the scheme he
had in mind from being foiled, Jack ordered the men to be bound hand
and foot, which was very quickly done by Samba and Lingombela with the
stripped tendrils of climbing plants.

It was dark before the scouts returned.  They reported that the Askari
had camped for the night some distance up stream, and would certainly
arrive early next morning.  Jack arranged that when the canoe should
come in sight, only himself and two of his prisoners would be visible
in the centre of the camp.  The Askari would suppose that the rest of
the party were out foraging--taking, as the custom is with the troops
of the Free State and the Concessions, what they pleased from the black
subjects of King Leopold, and paying nothing, except perhaps blows, in
return.  The newcomers, not expecting any change in the relations of
their comrade with the white prisoner, would march unconcernedly into
camp.  Jack was pretty confident that if things came to this point, he
would succeed in making the men surrender without fighting.

In the early morning the Askaris' paddling song was heard as they came
down the river.  The singing ceased; there was a shout; and Jack
ordered the captured Askari by his side to call an answering greeting.
Then the party came in sight, eight men in a straggling line
approaching up the path.  The remaining two had evidently been left
behind to tie up the canoe.

The first man addressed a chaffing remark to the Askari with Jack, and
then asked where the rest of the party were.  The men pointed vaguely
to the forest; their comrades were, in fact, there, gagged and securely
bound to the trees.  Half a dozen rifles were stacked in the middle of
the camping ground, the newcomers placed theirs close by, and then
began to chatter about trifles in the African's way.

Meanwhile Jack was keeping a keen eye on the men.  The two captured
Askari were obviously ill at ease.  There were the rifles within a few
yards of them, yet they dared not move towards them, for they knew that
in the shelter of the trees behind stood Samba with the three scouts
ready to shoot them down.  They replied briefly to their comrades'
questions; and then, in obedience to instructions given by Jack
previously, suggested that the newcomers should go to a cane-brake a
few yards down stream, and bring back a supply of canes for building
shelters like those already erected; there were not sufficient for the
whole party.  The men moved off.  No sooner had they disappeared than
Samba and the three men came from behind the trees, removed all the
rifles into the huts, and all except Samba stationed themselves in
hiding on the side of the encampment opposite to that through which the
Askari had just gone.  Samba remained with Jack.

In a quarter of an hour the men returned.  To their amazement the white
prisoner went forward to meet them.  Through Samba he spoke to them.

"It will not be necessary for you to build the huts."

"Why?  What does the white man mean by talking to us?  And who are you?"

Samba did not reply to their questions: he waited for the next words
from Jack.

"There are enough empty huts here!"

"How can that be?  There are ten of us, and fifteen before.  The huts
will not hold half of us; and who are you?"

"The fifteen are dead, or taken prisoners."

The men gaped, unable to appreciate the full import of the news.  They
dropped their loads of cane and looked at the boy in astonishment.

"What do you mean?  What has happened?  Who are you?"

"Tell them, Samba."

"I am Samba, the servant of Lokolobolo.  I came down the river with
other servants of Lokolobolo.  We fell upon your comrades and scattered
them like the leaves of the forest.  We have the rifles--your rifles."

The men gave a startled glance to where the stacks of arms had been.
Jack thought they paled beneath their dusky skin.

"See!" continued Samba, "if Lokolobolo lifts his hand you will all be
shot.  His men are there, behind the trees.  You have no rifles.  Of
what good are knives against guns?  You will be even as the men who are
short with their rubber.  You will be shot down before you can strike a
blow.  No; do not move," he said quickly, as the men appeared inclined
to make a dash for the forest.  "You cannot run so fast as the bullets.
You know that, you men who shoot boys and women as they flee from you.
Throw down your knives at Lokolobolo's feet, if you wish to live!"

The man who had acted as spokesman for his comrades obeyed without a
word.  The rest were but little behind him.  At a sign from Jack,
Makoko and the others came from their place of hiding, and tied the
feet of the prisoners, in such a way that while they could walk with
short steps, they were unable to run.  In a few moments the two men
left at the canoe were similarly disposed of.

And now Jack was in command of four armed scouts and sixteen unarmed
prisoners.  He at once decided to make use of the Askari as paddlers.
One canoe would be sufficient; he would sink the vessel in which he had
dug the holes.  With sixteen men expert in the use of the paddle, he
would make a rapid journey up stream.

He was about to give the order to start when it suddenly occurred to
him that it would be well to assure himself first that the coast was
clear.  So far he had seen no natives either on river or on land since
he left Elbel, save those of his own party and the band coming up with
ammunition.  The riverine villages had all been deserted, and the
tributary down which he had travelled was at all times little
frequented.  But it seemed very unlikely that many more days should
pass without his seeing a stranger, and when he began to think on these
lines, he wondered whether perhaps Elbel himself might not have
occasion for sending messengers down stream, and whether the party they
had met conveying stores to Elbel's force might not be returning.
Having escaped by such wonderful good fortune, it would be sheer folly
to throw away his chances of getting back to Ilombekabasi by any want
of caution.  Accordingly he sent Makoko up the river and Samba down the
river to do a little preliminary scouting.

About midday Samba came running back in a state of great excitement.
He had run so fast that his legs were trembling, and sweat poured from
his body.  Not an hour's paddling distant, he had seen a smoke-boat and
a large number of canoes coming up the river.  He had never seen so
many boats before, and they were crowded with men.  And on the
smoke-boat there were white men.

"At last!" ejaculated Jack.  This, he supposed, was the Captain Van
Vorst, of whom Elbel had spoken, coming up with regular troops of the
State.  Whoever was in command, the flotilla could portend no good to
Jack or Ilombekabasi, and he saw at once that he must give up the idea
of using the Askaris' canoe.  He could certainly travel faster than the
expedition, which must go at the pace of its slowest cargo boats; but
scouting or foraging parties of the enemy might push on ahead and sight
him on one of the long stretches of the river; and his men could be
descried from a long distance as they made the portage.  Pursuit and
capture would then be almost certain.

His mind was instantly made up.  His journey to the fort must be a land
march, and it must be begun in all haste.  He quickly gave his orders.
The canoes were unloaded, and the stores and ammunition given to the
Askari to carry.  The vessels were then scuttled and sunk, and the
whole party plunged into the forest, after a time taking a course
almost the same as that which Samba had followed on his solitary
journey.  But before they had gone far, Jack, not disposed to leave the
neighbourhood without getting more exact particulars of the advancing
host, went back with Samba, leaving the rest of the party to continue
their march.

Samba rapidly wormed his way through the forest back to the river bank.
They reached a position, whence, unseen themselves, they could command
a long reach of the river.  There they waited.

Soon they heard the regular beat of the steamer's paddles; then the
songs of the canoe-boys.  By and by a steam launch came into view round
a bend of the river.  It was crowded.  Far away as it was as yet, Jack
could easily distinguish the white-clad figures of three Europeans on
deck, amid a crowd of negroes in the tunic, pantaloons, and fez of the
State troops.  Clearly it was as he had feared.  The Concession had
followed the usual course, when the rapacity of its officials had
provoked a revolt too formidable to be coped with by its own forces,
and had called in the aid of the regular army.  As canoe after canoe
appeared in the wake of the steamer, Jack could not help a feeling of
dismay at the size of the force arrayed against him.  His spirits sank
lower and lower as he watched.  By the time the steamer came abreast of
his hiding-place, the flotilla filled the whole of the stretch of river
open to his view.  In the still air, amid the songs and chatter of the
natives, he could hear the laughter of the Europeans as they passed.
He knew that only a portion of the men in this armada were fighting
men; the rest were paddlers and carriers, not part of the combatant
force.  But a rough attempt to count the men bearing rifles gave him at
least three hundred, and he started as he saw in one canoe what was
clearly the shield of a machine gun.  Captain Van Vorst, if it was he,
undoubtedly meant business.  Before the last canoe had passed their
hiding-place Jack and Samba started to overtake their party.  The
former was deep in thought.

"We must reach the fort before them," he said.

"They go very slow," was Samba's reply.

"Yes, and the carrying of all their stores and canoes up the rapids
will take many days.  But we must hurry as fast as we can."

"Much chicotte for the paddlers," said Samba, with a grin.

Jack did not reply.  He could not adopt the barbarous methods of the
enemy; but he had not the heart to dash Samba's very natural hopes of
paying back to the Askari something of what they had dealt to the
carriers on the way down.  Short of thrashing them he would urge them
to their utmost speed.  What difficulties he might meet with in
regaining the fort he did not stop to consider.  The thought of Barney
holding his own there--had he been able to hold his own?--and of the
large reinforcements coming to support Elbel, was a spur to activity.
Ilombekabasi and its people were in danger; and the post of danger
demanded the presence of Lokolobolo.



[1] Immediately.

[2] There.



CHAPTER XXVII

The Return of Lokolobolo

"Lokolobolo!  Lokolobolo!  Lokolobol'olotsi!  Lokolobolo is here!
Lokolobolo has come back to us!  Bolotsi O!  Why do we laugh?  Why do
we sing?  Samba has found Lokolobolo!  Samba has brought him back to
us!"

Ilombekabasi was delirious with joy.  Men and women were shouting,
laughing, singing; the children were dancing and blowing strident notes
upon their little trumpets; Imbono's drummer was banging with all his
might, filling the air with shattering thunder.  Jack quivered with
feeling; his lips trembled as he sat once more in his hut, listening to
the jubilant cries his arrival had evoked.  It was something, it was
much, that he had been able so to win the devoted affection of these
poor negroes of the Congo.

Outside, the two chiefs Imbono and Mboyo were talking of the joyful
event.

"Yes! wonderful!  Lokolobolo is here! and with him two strange white
chiefs.  Wonderful!  Did you ever see such a big man?  I am big," said
Imbono, "but I am not so big as Makole the chief of Limpoko, and one of
the strange white men is bigger than he."

"It needed two ropes to draw him up from the gully," said Mboyo.  "I am
strong, but though I had four men to help me it was hard work.  He must
be a very great chief."

"And the other must be a great chief too.  Did not Samba say that
Lokolobolo gave him his last bottle of devil water?"

"But the big man is hurt.  It is the leg.  It is not so bad as Ikola's;
but Ikola was shot.  They have put him in Barnio's hut; the other chief
is with Lokolobolo.  It is good that the white chiefs have come.  Now
Lokolobolo will sweep Elobela down the hillside, even as a straw in the
storm."

"But what of the smoke-boat that Samba says is coming with the white
men in white, and the black men in cloth the colour of straw, and
things on their heads the colour of fire?  Will Lokolobolo be able to
beat them too?"

"Lokolobolo is able to beat all Bula Matadi; and he has the other white
men to help.  Never fear!  Lokolobolo will beat them all.  We shall
see.  There he is, coming out of his hut with the white chief.
Lokolobolo wanda!"[1]

"You must be a proud man to-day, Mr. Challoner," said the stranger.

"I am too anxious to be proud," said Jack with a smile.  "I haven't the
heart to stop them shouting and making a noise, but it's a pity to
disturb our enemy in the camp down yonder.  I shall have to go and make
a speech to them, I suppose; it is more in your line than mine, Mr.
Arlington.  Luckily I'm not sufficiently fluent in their language to be
long-winded."

They went together into the midst of the throng.

When within three marches of Ilombekabasi Jack's party had stumbled
upon a wretched encampment in the forest which proved to contain two
white men and three negroes.  Samba came upon them first, and, startled
to find white men at this spot, he was cocking his rifle, supposing
them to be State officers, when one of them called to him in a Congo
dialect not to shoot; he was an Inglesa.  When Jack came up he found
that the taller of the two men, the one who had spoken, a huge fellow
with a great black beard, was a missionary named Dathan, the other
being the Honourable George Arlington, with whose name Jack was
familiar.  Mr. Arlington was a man of mark.  After a brilliant career
at Cambridge he had entered Parliament, and became an Under-Secretary
of State at a younger age than almost any one before him.  When his
party was out of office he took the opportunity of travelling in many
quarters of the globe, to study at first hand the great problems which
more and more demand the attention of British statesmen.  Now, in his
fortieth year, he was recognized as an authority on the subjects which
he had so specially made his own.  He had come out to make a personal
study of the Congo question, and in order to secure freedom of
observation had decided to enter Congo territory, not from Boma, whence
he would be shadowed throughout by officials, but from British
territory through Uganda.  In Unyoro he had met his old college chum
Frank Dathan, now a missionary engaged on a tour of inspection of his
Society's work in Central Africa.  Dathan, having completed his task in
Uganda, was to make his way into the Congo State and visit several
mission stations there.  The two friends thereupon arranged to travel
together.

Mr. Arlington being anxious to see a little of what was an almost
unexplored part of Africa, they chose as their route the northern
fringe of the great forest.  But they got into difficulties when they
entered country which, though not yet "administered," or "exploited,"
was nominally Free State territory.  At the sight of white men the
natives they met with one accord took to the woods.  The result was
that the travellers were once or twice nearly starved; many of their
carriers deserted with their loads; and they both suffered a good deal
from exposure and privation.  To crown their misfortunes, Dathan fell
with a loose rock one day when he was climbing down a steep bank to get
water, and broke his leg.  Arlington tried without success to set the
bone, and was hurrying on in the hope of finding a Free State outpost
and a doctor when Jack came upon them.

Jack at once frankly explained his position.  He did not give details
of his work at Ilombekabasi, but he saw no reason for concealing the
circumstances which had driven him into antagonism with the officials
of the Concession.  He related what had happened to his uncle, and how
he had escaped from the net woven about him by Elbel; he told the
strangers also what he had actually seen of the Congo Government's
method of dealing with the natives.  Then he asked them whether they
would like to place themselves under the care of Elbel, who could, if
he were disposed, send them under escort to Stanleyville, where the
missionary might receive competent treatment.  Both were disinclined to
do this; they would prefer to keep themselves free from the Congo State
or its Trusts.  The alternative seemed to be to accompany Jack.  This
might certainly give rise to complications; Mr. Dathan especially was
loth to appear to identify himself with an armed revolt against the
State.  Missionaries, as he told Jack, were already in bad odour with
the authorities; they had told too much of what was going on.  In many
parts they had come to be looked upon as the natives' only defenders,
and had done a little, a very little, towards mitigating the worst
features of their lot.  But he was still more loth even to seem to
countenance Elbel's proceedings by seeking his camp; and Mr. Arlington
thought that his presence in Ilombekabasi, when it became known to
Elbel, might have a salutary effect on him.  Ultimately, then, they
decided to run the blockade with Jack into the fort.

The augmented party had had no difficulty in reaching their
destination.  The same general course was followed as had been arranged
for the reception of Mr. Martindale's party.  They halted in a copse on
an eminence about six miles from the fort and above it.  To reach this
spot they had to make a longer circuit than either Mr. Martindale or
Elbel in his first attempt to surprise Ilola.  But before going farther
it was necessary to discover how the land lay.  Samba was obviously the
best of the party for this scouting work, but he could hardly be spared
if the fort happened to be too closely invested for the entrance of the
whole party to be made.  Jack therefore chose Makoko, a sturdy fellow
and an excellent scout, scribbled a brief note to Barney, hid it in the
negro's thick woolly hair, and sent him on alone.  If he came safely to
Ilombekabasi and it seemed to Barney possible to run the blockade, a
flag was to be hoisted on one of the blockhouses.  The signal would be
acted on as soon as possible in the darkness.

Makoko left at nightfall.  Before dawn Samba went on some two miles
ahead to a place whence he could see the fort.  He returned with the
welcome news that a piece of red cloth was flying on the northern
blockhouse.  Jack waited impatiently throughout the day; as soon as it
was dark Samba led the party forward.  They moved slowly, partly to
allow time for careful scouting, partly because Mr. Dathan had to be
carried, and proved a heavy burden even for six strong Askari.  No
difficulties were met with; Elbel had ceased to patrol the surroundings
of the fort at night, and in the early hours of the morning in pitch
darkness the party marched quietly in at the gate on the north side of
the fort.  Jack put his own hut at Mr. Arlington's disposal.  Mr.
Dathan was carried to Barney's; and before hearing what had happened
during his absence Jack insisted on the missionary's having his
injuries attended to.  Barney managed to set the broken limb, though
not without causing a good deal of pain for which he whimsically
apologized.  Then Jack listened eagerly to his account of what had
happened.

Elbel had made two serious attacks.  The first was an attempt to carry
the fort by assault, from the place whence he had sent his fire barrels
rolling.  But after the capture of Elbel's rifles and ammunition a
considerable number of Jack's men who had hitherto been spearmen had
been trained in the use of the Albini; so that Barney had a force of
nearly ninety riflemen with which to meet the attack, half of them at
least being good shots.  One charge was enough for the enemy; the fire
from the wall and blockhouses mowed down the advancing negroes by the
score; they never reached the defences, but turned and fled to cover in
the gully and behind the rocks above.

[Illustration: Ilombekabasi and Surrounding Country, showing the
Diverted Stream and Elbel's Third Camp]

Then Elbel demolished the dam he had built on the slope, and allowed
the river to flow again in the channel it had cut for itself down the
long incline to the eastward.

"What would he be doing that for, sorr?  Seems to me he has wasted a
terrible deal uv good time in putting up and pulling down.  Two men I
sent out as scouts niver came back, and I wondered to meself whether
they'd been bagged, sorr, and had let out something that made Elbel
want to play more tricks wid nature.  Often did I see Elbel himself
dodging round the fort wid his spyglass in his hand, and 'tis the
truth's truth I let some uv the men have a little rifle practice at
him.  Sure he must have a cat's nine lives, sorr, for ten uv the
niggers said they were sartin sure they'd hit him."

"Trying to solve our water puzzle, Barney!  Go on."

There was an interval of some days; then, at daybreak one morning,
while a strong demonstration, apparently the preliminary of an attack,
was observed on the north and east, a body of men crept up the gully
and made a sudden rush with ladders for the hole in the wall by which
the scouts had been accustomed to go in and out.  It was clear that
Elbel's best men were engaged in this job, for Barney heard loud cries
for help from the small body he had thought sufficient to leave on the
western face of the fort.  Rushing to the place with a handful of men,
he was just in time to prevent the enemy from effecting an entrance.
There was a brisk fight for two or three minutes; then the ladders
placed against the wall were hurled into the gully, and with them the
forlorn hope of the storming party.

"That was three days ago, sorr.  And two or three uv our men declared
they saw Mbota among the enemy, pointing out the very spot where the
hole is--whin it is a hole.  You remember Mbota, sorr--the man who
brought in his wife on his back, her wid the hands cut off.  'Twas he I
sent out scouting.  Sure the chicotte had been at work wid him; for
niver a wan uv our men, I would swear before the Lord Chancellor uv
Ireland, would turn traitor widout they were in mortal terror for their
lives, or even worse."

"And you have not been attacked since?"

"No, sorr.  But I've had me throubles all the same.  Samba ought to be
made, beggin' your pardon, sorr, high constable uv this fort."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, sorr, 'cos it seems 'tis only he that can keep the peace.  Would
you believe it, sorr, the very next day after you were gone, Imbono's
men and Mboyo's men began to quarrel; 'twas Orange and Green, sorr, and
a fine shindy.  Whin Samba was here, he'd make 'em laugh, and 'twas all
calm as the Liffey; but widout Samba--bedad! sorr, I didn't know what
in the world to do wid 'em.  Sure I wished Elbel would fight all the
time, so that there'd be no time left for the spalpeens here to fight
wan another.  But at last, sorr, a happy thought struck me; quite an
intimation, as one might say.  I remimbered the day when the
master--rest his soul!--and you made yourselves blood-brothers uv
Imbono.  That was a mighty fine piece uv work, thinks I.  So wan
morning I had a big palaver--likambo the niggers call it, your honour."
(Barney's air as he gave this information to Mr. Arlington was
irresistibly laughable.)  "I made a spache, and Lepoko turned it into
their talk as well as he could, poor fellow; and sure they cheered it
so powerful hard that I thought 'twas a mimber uv Parlimint I ought to
be.  Well, sorr, the end was I made Imbono and Mboyo blood-brothers,
and niver a word uv difference have they had since."

"A plan that might be tried with leaders of parties at home," said Mr.
Arlington with a smile.

"There's wan other thing that throubles me," added Barney.  "Our food
is getting low, sorr.  We had such a powerful lot that wan would have
thought 'twould last for iver.  But in a fortnight we shall be on very
short commons; we've been on half rations this week or more."

"That's bad news indeed.  But we shall know our fate in a fortnight.
The State troops are coming at last, Barney."

Barney pulled a long face when Jack told him about the flotilla he had
seen coming up the river.  But the next moment he smiled broadly.

"Sure 'twill be our salvation, sorr.  There'll be a power uv food on
those canoes, and 'twill come in the nick uv time to save us from
famine."

"But we've got to capture it first!"

"And won't it be aisy, sorr?  It won't drop into our mouths, to be
sure, but there's niver a doubt we'll get it by this or that."

Jack smiled at Barney's confidence, which he could hardly share.  He
estimated that he had about a week's grace before the State troops
could arrive, unless they made a forced march ahead of their stores,
which was not very likely.  He could not look forward without
misgiving.  Elbel's troops, strongly reinforced and commanded by an
experienced military officer, would prove a very different enemy.  He
doubted whether it would be wise to wait the issue of a fight.  Apart
from the risk of being utterly crushed, there was a strong political
reason against it, as Mr. Arlington did not fail to point out.
Hitherto Jack had been dealing with an officer of the Société
Cosmopolite, and he could argue reasonably that he was only opposing
unwarranted interference.  But if he resisted an armed force of the
State, it became at once open rebellion.

"You render yourself liable to the punishment of a rebel, Mr.
Challoner," said Mr. Arlington, "and your British nationality will not
help you.  You might be shot or hanged.  What I suggest to you is this.
When the State forces appear, let me open negotiations with them.  They
will probably know my name; I have a certain influence in high
quarters; I could probably make terms for you."

"But the people, Mr. Arlington!  You could not make terms for them.
What would happen to them?  They would fall into the power of their
oppressors, and the old tale would be continued--illegal demands and
exactions, floggings, maimings, murders.  It was a solemn charge from
my uncle to stand by the defenceless negroes; it is no less the dictate
of humanity: we, they and I, are in the same boat, sir, and we must
sink or swim together."

As it was of supreme importance to Jack to know at what rate the
hostile column was moving, he sent out that night Samba, Makoko, and
Lingombela with orders to report the progress of the expedition from
day to day.  By taking the road through the forest they should get into
touch with the enemy by the time they reached the place where Mr.
Martindale had left his canoes.  If the scouts should find themselves
unable to return to the fort they were to light a large fire on the
spot whence Samba had seen Barney's flag flying, as a signal that the
expedition had passed the place in question.  If a small column should
be coming on in advance they were to light two fires a little apart
from one another.  Samba was even more light-hearted than usual when he
left the fort with his comrades.  He seemed to feel that this was a
mission of special importance, the prelude to a final victory for
Lokolobolo; for the possibility of defeat for Lokolobolo never
suggested itself to any man in Ilombekabasi.  Mboyo and Lukela were at
the wall to bid their son goodbye.  He laughed as he slipped down into
the darkness.

"Ekeke e'afeka!"[2] he whispered gleefully, and hastened to overtake
Makoko and Lingombela, who were already some distance up the gully.

Shortly after dawn next day the sentries reported a sound as of a large
body of men moving up the hill.  Jack instantly called the garrison to
arms.  There was a good deal of noise in the darkness above the fort.
Here and there a dim light showed for a few moments, and was promptly
fired at.  When day broke Jack saw that the enemy had built a rough
wall of stones loosely piled up, some fifty yards long and about four
feet high, parallel with the north wall of the fort, one end resting on
the edge of the gully.  From a convenient spot in the gully, about two
hundred yards above the fort, the enemy could creep to the extremity of
the wall without coming under the fire of the garrison.  It had
evidently been erected to screen some operations going on behind it.
To guard against a sortie from the fort a covering force had been
placed on the hill a quarter of a mile farther up; and between the
ill-fitting stones there were small gaps which would serve as loopholes
for the riflemen.

During the day the enemy were hard at work digging a trench under cover
of the wall.  Jack wondered at first whether Elbel was going to make
approaches to the fort by sap and mine, in the manner he had read of in
histories of the great sieges.  But another and still more disturbing
thought occurred to him.  Would the trench cut across the line of his
conduit?  Had Elbel at last fathomed the secret of his water supply?
He anxiously examined the landmarks, which had been disturbed somewhat
by the construction of the wall.  As nearly as he could judge, the
spring was a few yards south of the wall, and neither it nor the
conduit would be discovered by the men digging the trench.  Yet he
could not but feel that Elbel's latest move was not so much an attempt
to undermine the defences of the fort as to discover the source of its
water supply.  If he should have hit upon the fact that the water was
derived, not from a well inside the walls, but from a spring outside,
he would not be long in coming to the conclusion that it must be from a
spot opposite the northern face; and by cutting a trench or a series of
trenches across the ground in that direction he must sooner or later
come upon the conduit.

The work proceeded without intermission during the whole of the day,
and apparently without success, for the level of the water in the fort
tank did not fall.  But Elbel's activity was not stopped by the
darkness.  When morning dawned Jack saw that during the night an
opening about five feet wide had been made in the wall, giving access
to a passage-way of about the same height leading towards the fort and
roughly covered with logs, no doubt as a protection against rifle fire.
Only about twenty yards of this passage-way had been completed.  The
end towards the fort was closed by a light screen of timber resting on
rollers, and sufficiently thick to be impervious to rifle fire, as Jack
soon found by experiment.  Evidently another trench was to be dug near
the fort.  To avoid the labour of building a second covering wall,
Elbel had hit on the idea of a passage-way through which his men might
reach the spot where he desired the new trench to be begun.  Protected
by the screen, they could dig a hole several feet deep, and then, too
low to be hit by shots from the fort, could proceed with the trench in
safety.

Jack wondered whether Elbel had not yet heard of the approach of the
State forces.  Such feverish activity was surely unnecessary when
reinforcements were only a few days' march distant.  It was Barney who
suggested that Elbel had made such a mess of things hitherto that he
was eager to do something, to gain a success of some kind, before the
regular forces should arrive.

Under cover of the wooden screen the enemy, as Jack had expected,
started to dig another trench parallel with the wall.  They had no lack
of labourers; as soon as one gang was tired another was ready to take
its place; and the work was carried on very rapidly.  With growing
anxiety Jack watched the progress of the trench towards the gully.  His
conduit was only three feet from the surface of the ground.  Judging by
the fact that his marksmen never got an opportunity of taking aim at
the diggers, the trench must be at least five feet deep; and if an
opening were made into the gully the conduit was sure to be exposed.
There was just one hope that they would fail.  Jack remembered the
outcrop of rock which had necessitated the laying of the pipes, for a
length of some yards, several feet lower than the general level.  If
the enemy should happen to have struck this point there was a fair
chance of the conduit escaping their search; for, coming upon the layer
of rock, they would probably not guess that pipes were carried beneath
it.  To reassure himself, Jack called up Imbono and Mboyo and asked
them if they could locate the spot where the rock occurred.  Their
impression agreed with his, that it must at any rate be very near the
place where the enemy's trench would issue into the gully.

But Jack's anxiety was not relieved at the close of the day, for again
the work was carried on all night.  He thought of a sortie, but
reflected that this would be taken by Elbel as an indication that he
was hot on the scent.  And while a sortie might inflict loss on the
enemy, it would not prevent Elbel from resuming his excavations as soon
as the garrison had retired again within their defences.

With great relief Jack at last heard the sound of pick-axes striking on
rock.  It seemed too good to be true that the enemy had come upon the
exact dozen yards of rock where alone the conduit was in little danger
of being laid bare.  Yet this proved to be the case.  In the morning
Elbel drew off his workmen, apparently satisfied, before the trench had
been actually completed to the gully, that he was on the wrong track.
A great load was lifted from Jack's mind.  If the secret of the water
supply had been discovered, he knew that the end could only be a matter
of a few days.

As soon as the enemy drew off, Jack's men issued forth, demolished the
wall, and filled up the trench.

Three days passed in comparative inactivity.  During these days Jack
had much of his time taken up by Mr. Arlington, who required of him a
history of all that had happened since the first meeting with Elbel.
The traveller made copious jottings in his note-book.  He asked the
most minute questions about the rubber traffic and the methods of the
State and the Concessions; he had long interviews with Imbono and
Mboyo, and endured very patiently Lepoko's expanded versions of
statements already garrulous; he took many photographs with his kodak
of the people who had been maimed by the forest guards, and asked Jack
to present him with a chicotte--one of those captured along with the
Askari.  He said very little, probably thinking the more.  Certainly he
let nothing escape his observation.

Meanwhile Mr. Dathan was making friends of all the children.  Unable to
endure the stuffiness of the hut, he had himself carried on a sheltered
litter into the open, where, propped up on pillows, his burly form
might be seen in the midst of a large circle of little black figures,
who looked at him earnestly with their bright intelligent eyes and
drank in the wonderful stories he told them.  Many of their elders
hovered on the fringe of the crowd; and when the lesson was finished,
they went away and talked among themselves of Nzakomba[3] the great
Spirit Father who, as the bont' ok'ota-a-a-li[4] said, had put it into
the heart of Lokolobolo to defend and help them.

Before the dawn one morning Lingombela came into the fort.  He reported
that the new enemy had only just finished the portage of their canoes
and stores.  The steamer had been left below the rapids, and the white
men were embarking on canoes.  There were not enough to convey the
whole expedition at one time, although some had been sent down the
river to meet them.  Two or three had been lost through attempting to
save time by dragging them up the rapids.  Lingombela had himself seen
this, with Samba.  Samba had no doubt already told what he had seen,
but he did not know about the big gun which could fire as many shots as
a hundred men, for the white men had not begun to practise at a mark in
their camp above the rapids until Samba had left.

"But we have seen nothing of Samba; where is he?"

"He started to return to Ilombekabasi a day before I did."

"And Makoko?"

"Makoko is still watching."

Lingombela's statement about Samba alarmed Jack.  What had become of
the boy?  Had he fallen into the enemy's hands?  It was too much to be
feared.  What else could have delayed him?  In threading the forest
none of the scouts could travel so fast as he.  If he had started a day
before Lingombela he should have gained at least five or six hours.

The news soon flew through the settlement that Samba was missing.
Mboyo and his wife came to Jack to ask whether Lingombela had told the
truth.  Their troubled looks touched Jack, and he tried to cheer them.

"Samba has not arrived yet, certainly," he said, "but he may not have
come direct.  Something may have taken him out of his course; he would
go a long way round if he thought it would be of use to us.  Don't be
worried.  He has gone in and out safely so often that surely he will
come by and by."

The negroes went away somewhat comforted.  But Jack felt very anxious,
and his feeling was fully shared by Barney.

"'Tis meself that fears Elbel has got him," he said.  "Pat has been
most uncommon restless for two days.  He looks up in the face uv me and
barks, whin he's not wanting anything at all.  'Tis only Samba can
rightly understand all Pat says, and seems to me Pat has got an idea
that something has happened to Samba."

An hour later Pat also had disappeared.  He had broken his strap and
run away.



[1] The highest salutation, given to a person of great dignity.

[2] The last time.

[3] God.

[4] Very tall man.



CHAPTER XXVIII

The Chicotte

A small palm, spared for the sake of its welcome shade when the rest of
the ground was cleared, sheltered Monsieur Elbel's tent from the
fiercest rays of the tropical sun, In the tent Monsieur Elbel, smoking
a bad Belgian cigar, his camp chair tilted back to a perilous angle,
his feet on a small rickety table, read and re-read with a smile of
satisfaction a short official communication that had just reached him
from Brussels.  Owing to the retirement of the Company's principal
agent, and in recognition of Monsieur Elbel's energy in doubling the
consignment of rubber from his district during the past year, the
Comité had been pleased to appoint Monsieur Elbel to be administrative
chief of the Maranga Concession.  At the same time the Comité hoped
that Monsieur Elbel would see his way to deal promptly and effectively
with the reported outbreak at Ilola, without incurring undue expense,
and that the American who had been giving trouble, and whose patent was
now revoked (with the concurrence of the State) would be persuaded of
the necessity of leaving the country.

Monsieur Elbel was gratified by the news of his promotion; although it
was his due by all the standards of conduct set up for the guidance of
officials, whether State or Trust, charged with the exploitation of
Congoland.  Under no officer had the development of King Leopold's
African dominions gone more blithely forward than under Monsieur Elbel.
Where he and his men went they left a wilderness behind them; but the
amount of rubber they collected was most gratifying; and if Maranga
stock stood high it was largely through their exertions.  True, in
twenty years there would be no people left in Maranga, even if there
were rubber to collect.  But after all that was not Monsieur Elbel's
concern: in twenty years he would not be on the Congo; those who came
after him must find their own collectors.  He and the King took short
views: sufficient unto the day--they were both men of business.  Yes,
as a man of affairs Guillaume Elbel was hard to beat.  It was no wonder
that the Comité had promoted him to the vacant post; if he had been
passed by, where would be the inducement to zeal, to loyal faithful
service?  Where indeed?

In the circumstances Monsieur Elbel was in good humour, a relaxation he
rarely allowed himself.  He drank the remains of his absinthe, tilted
his chair back to the critical angle, and blowing a cloud of smoke
skywards saw in the curling eddies visions of snug directorates in
Brussels.  Why not?  He flattered himself there were none who knew more
about the Congo than he; he could estimate to a few francs the
possibilities of any district as expressed in rubber; and, what is
more, he knew how to get it.  With him the people always lasted as long
as the rubber.  There was no waste; he plumed himself on the point.
_He_ had never burnt a village before the rubber was exhausted,
whatever might be said of other agents.  For after all, his business
was to promote commerce--that is, collect rubber--not mere destruction.
And if he did not know his business there was nobody who could teach
him.  Yes--his Majesty had an eye to men of his stamp.  A
directorate--a few directorates--a snug place at Court--who knows? ...

Monsieur Elbel again glanced at the official letter; and again smiled
and blew a ring artistically true.  Then his eye caught the word
"expense," and his expression changed.  This Ilola difficulty would not
only reduce his rubber consignments; it would mean a considerable
outlay--how much he did not like to think.  And then there was the
column of State troops now on its way.  No doubt the Concession would
have to pay for that, too.  Peste! if only he could finish this
business before Van Vorst came up!  He did not desire the presence of
Van Vorst or any other State officer, if it could be avoided.  For
there was gold in the stream, without a doubt; and those State
officials were greedy rascals; they were capable of edging him
out--they had no scruples--his moral claim would go for nothing,
absolutely.  Yes, the fort must be captured at once before Van Vorst
came up.  If only he could tap the water supply it would be easy
enough.  It could be done; the little fool had let out so much; but
how?--that was what he had to find out, and his name was not Elbel if
he couldn't do it.

He rose and went to the door of the tent.  A few yards away, securely
tied to the trunk of the slender palm, was a negro boy.  Monsieur Elbel
looked at him critically as if measuring his strength.  Last night,
although threatened with the chicotte, the boy had refused to speak.
Only once, when Elbel had offered him freedom and rewards if he would
point out the source of the water in the camp above, did he open his
lips, saying fiercely: "I will never tell you!"--betraying to the
questioner that he had some knowledge of the secret.  Now he had had
twelve hours of hunger and thirst to help him to a more reasonable
frame of mind.  All night the cords had been eating into his wrists and
ankles; he was weak from want of food, and consumed with an intolerable
thirst.  He stood there in the blazing sun, a listless, pitiable
figure, held upright only by the thongs that bound his wrists; and
Monsieur Elbel as he looked at him, felt not a little irritated.  It
was absurd that he should be inconvenienced; nay, more, that the
development of the Concession should be delayed, and expense
incurred--avoidable, unnecessary expense--expense without any return in
rubber--all because this slip of a boy refused to tell what he knew.

Elbel beckoned to his servant and interpreter, standing close by,
attentive and expectant.

"Tell him," he said, "that I will give him one more chance.  If he will
not speak he shall be thrashed with the chicotte until he does."

The man roughly grasped the boy by the shoulders and translated his
master's words.  The captive slowly shook his head.

"Fetch the chicotte," said Elbel sharply.  "We'll see what that will
do."

The man entered the tent, where the chicotte invariably lay ready to
hand; and when he emerged the space in front of Elbel's quarters was
filling with Askari and their followers flocking like vultures to the
feast.  Samba, the son of Mboyo, chief of Banonga, was to be whipped.
Boloko had caught him last night: he was a clever man, Boloko.  And
Samba knew where the Inglesa got the water for his camp, the secret was
to be cut from him by the chicotte.  That was good; it would be a sight
to see.

No time was lost.  Elbel signed to the man as he approached, and
stepping back left him a clear space to swing the whip.  The negro
prided himself upon his skill; as Elbel's servant, indeed, he had more
opportunities of perfecting himself with this typical instrument of
Congo government than falls to most.  He could deliver a stroke with
great delicacy, raising only a long red weal upon the skin, or if the
case called for real severity could cut the offender's flesh from his
body almost as neatly as with a knife.

In this case his master desired information; it was not a mere question
of punishing a sullen defaulter.  He would begin gently lest the
prisoner should lose the power of speech and shame the executioner
before his master and the crowd.

A slight convulsive shiver shook the boy's frame as the whip fell, but
he clenched his teeth and no sound escaped him.  The man waited for a
moment.

"Will you tell?"

There was no answer.

Again the whip rose and fell, this time with a more vicious sound; it
was answered by a low groan; but still to the same question there was
no reply.

By slow degrees the executioner increased the vigour of his stroke.
The Askari applauded, and surely he was meriting praise from his
master, for after many strokes the prisoner was quite conscious, as his
pallid face and staring eyes and clenched teeth clearly showed.  And
besides, did he not writhe and groan with every blow?

But there is no reckoning with the vagaries of the white man.  The
culprit's obstinate silence irritated Monsieur Elbel more and more as
the punishment went on.  It was intolerable that he should be defied in
this way.  It was a bad example to the natives.  Where would the white
man's authority be if this kind of thing were permitted?  They would
lose all respect: the collection of rubber would become a farce.
Suddenly he blazed out in anger, snatched the whip from the hands of
his servant, and, whirling it round his head, brought it down with all
his force on the bruised and bleeding form.  It cut a deep purple gash
in the boy's back; but Monsieur Elbel's wrath had come too late; before
the lash fell Samba had fainted.

Elbel hesitated for a moment; then, seeing that further punishment
would be a mere waste of time, he gave a curt order.  They cut Samba's
cords and carried him away.  He was to be whipped again to-morrow.


That afternoon Lepoko came to Jack with a broad grin on his face.

"Mbota come back, sah."

"That's the scout of Massa Barney's who was captured, isn't it?"

"Yussah!  He come back, sah.  Oh!  it make me laugh plenty much.
Elobela send Mbota back; he say, 'You go back, cut off Lokolobolo him
head.  Me gib you twenty, fousand, plenty, plenty brass rods!'  Mbota
say, 'All same, massa.  Anyfing what massa like.  Me get plenty men
what help.'  Den Mbota come back; he laugh, sah; Elobela plenty big
fool fink him lib for hurt Lokolobolo."

"Bring Mbota to me at once."

When the man came, Jack got out of him a more lucid story than Lepoko
had given.  Elbel had promised freedom and large rewards if he would
stir up a revolt against Jack, or assassinate him.  The negro had
readily promised, with no intention but to reveal the whole scheme to
his beloved Lokolobolo.

Jack was still talking to the man when he heard loud cries.  Running
out of his hut, he found Barney clutching by the arm a strange negro,
thronged about by a shouting crowd of the men of Ilombekabasi.

"Who is he?"

"'Tis wan uv Elbel's men, sorr.  Lianza caught him in the forest, and
brought him in.  The men are simply mad to get at him, sorr, especially
since they've heard uv what Elbel said to Mbota."

"Leave him to me.  I will deal with him."

The men slowly dispersed.  Jack took the trembling negro to his hut and
questioned him.

"Do you know anything of Samba, the son of Mboyo and nephew of Boloko,
one of your master's men?"

Yes, he knew.--Was there a man in Elobela's camp who did not know?--who
had not exulted when the news spread that Samba, the best of
Lokolobolo's scouts, had been captured and was to pay the penalty?
Surely not a man was absent when Samba suffered the torture.  Had not
many of them tried in vain to discover the secret which Samba would be
forced to betray?

The scout described to Jack the whole pitiful scene, in the glowing
language, with the telling dramatic gestures, which the negro has at
command when he feels that his audience is interested.  And while the
man told his story Jack went hot and cold by turns--cold with sheer
horror of the scene conjured up by the man's vivid words, hot with a
great wrath, a burning passionate desire to seek instant vengeance upon
the evildoer.

Bidding Barney keep the negro carefully under guard, he went back to
his hut, at the entrance to which Mr. Arlington had been anxiously
watching the scene.

"It is devilish, sir," he burst out.  "Elbel not only offers rewards
for assassinating me, but he uses his brutal whip on a boy, to force
him to reveal the secret of our water supply.  Samba is probably
half-dead--he fainted under the lash but would not betray us--brave
little fellow!  Think of the agony he must have suffered!  And he is
only one; thousands have suffered in the same way before him, and are
suffering to-day in one part or another of this State.  Do you blame me
now, sir?"

"No, I don't blame you.  I am deeply sorry for the poor boy.  The whole
thing is an outrage upon human nature, so revolting that any action
that can be taken against it is fully justified.  I have been thinking
over what we said the other day.  It is not for me to advise; indeed,
my friends at home would open their eyes at the idea of my abetting
resistance to authority; but I will give you my opinion.  You must hold
your fort.  While the banner of revolt is kept flying there is always a
prospect of forcing the hand of the officials in the direction of
effective reform.  They have an enormous area to control--a disaffected
area seething with indignation against bitter wrong.  A successful
revolt will encourage outbreaks elsewhere.  If you can only hold out;
if you can make yourself strong enough here in this remote corner to
defy the authorities, it will be an opportunity of forcing the
government to terms--to the granting of elementary rights of justice
and liberty to its own subjects, and the throwing open of this
sorely-afflicted country to free intercourse with the outside world."

"Ah!  If only I can do it, sir!  But I can only hold the fort now by
striking a blow at Elbel before his reinforcements join him.  If the
forces unite, they will be strong enough to carry on a strict siege.
Our food is giving out; the people have been for some time on half
rations; they don't grumble, but it will have to be quarter rations
soon, and then the end is not far off.  We must either surrender or
trek."

"If you have to trek, it would be better to do so at once, while you
have food to take your party on your way."

"Yes, we must either do that or thoroughly beat Elbel.  That would ease
the pressure; the others would think twice before attacking us; they
might even draw off until an overwhelming force could be brought
against us.  That would give time for us to grow more crops, and for
you to go back to England, sir, and raise your voice against this
atrocious government."

"I shall certainly do that.  But you talk of fighting Elbel; have you
thought of the risk?"

"Till my head aches with thinking.  I know that failure will mean ruin.
It must be a smashing blow; pin-pricks are no good; and I can't smash
him without taking a large force out of the fort.  If we were obliged
to retreat we should be followed up; they might rush the fort, and
there would be an end of everything."

"It is a difficult position.  I can't help you; I am not a soldier--it
seems to me you ought to be one, Mr. Challoner.  I could take no active
part; I should in any case be little good.  I feel that you have landed
me in a very awkward position," he added with a smile.  "But it can't
be helped now; I can only wait and see you go through with it."

At the back of Jack's mind there was another consideration which he did
not mention.  He could not have said how far he allowed it to count.
It was the bare chance of rescuing Samba--if Samba was still alive.  If
it had been put to him, he would probably not have admitted it.  The
good of the community could not be jeopardized by any action on behalf
of an individual, whatever his claim; the circumstances were too
critical.  But that the fate of Samba was an additional argument in
favour of the course he was on other grounds inclined to adopt there
can be no doubt.

Next day the urgency of the situation was brought home to him.  Two
fires were seen at the appointed spot; Makoko had done his work.  Five
or six hours later, just after nightfall, Makoko himself came in.  He
reported that one white man with twenty soldiers in two canoes, with
many paddlers, had started up river in advance of the bulk of the
force, which had now reached camp at the head of the rapids.  Jack
guessed that the white man was the officer in command, probably the
Captain Van Vorst of whom Elbel had spoken, coming ahead to view the
position and select an encampment for his followers.

About noon on the next day there was a great sound of jubilation from
the camp below.  Van Vorst, if it was he, had arrived.  He must have
travelled night and day, the river route being so much longer than the
forest one that otherwise he could hardly have reached the camp in
another twelve hours.  But his paddlers were no doubt pressed men from
the riverine villages, costing nothing and having no rights, and a
Congo State commandant in a hurry would not hesitate to drive them.

In the afternoon a negro bearing a white flag was seen approaching the
fort from the south.  He evidently expected to be admitted by the hole
in the wall.  But at Jack's bidding Lianza of the brazen throat called
to him to come round to the gate on the north; it was well to observe
due order and ceremony.

The man brought a note signed "Van Vorst," demanding the instant
surrender of the fort.  In reply Jack wrote asking for the assurance
that his people, having acted throughout in self defence against the
illegalities of the Société Cosmopolite, should be guaranteed liberty
to depart, and immunity except against the regular legal process of the
courts.  In half an hour the messenger returned with a curt summons to
unconditional surrender.  Jack sent back a polite refusal, feeling that
he had now burnt his boats.

Shortly afterwards he saw a party of three white men and about twenty
State soldiers, all armed with rifles, making a tour round the
position, keeping carefully under cover.  Through his field-glass Jack
recognized Elbel, one of his subordinates, and one of the officers he
had seen on the steamer.  Elbel pointed this way and that with
outstretched hand, and appeared to be talking with some excitement.
Occasionally they came within easy range of the fort, and Barney begged
Jack to let the men fire upon them; but Jack resolutely stuck to his
determination to refrain from provocation.

The party by and by reached a position above the fort, near the spot
whence the abortive barrel-rolling had been started.  From this place a
small area of the fort enclosure was open to the view of the enemy.
All at once Jack saw the strange officer take a rifle from one of the
soldiers and raise it to his shoulder.  Jack instantly ordered his men,
who were crowding the wall, to drop down out of sight.  The officer
fired: there was a moment's silence; then Jack heard a great yell of
rage from the men behind him.  Turning, he saw an old woman lying
huddled in the centre of the enclosure.  Two calabashes lay near; she
had been crossing the exposed portion of the area to fetch water from
the tank when Van Vorst's bullet struck her.  A shout of delight from
the negro soldiers up the hill acclaimed the successful shot of their
officer; the old woman was quite dead.

Jack went hot with rage.  And Mr. Arlington, who had witnessed the
officer's action, was stirred out of his usual philosophic calm.

"That is not an act of warfare, Mr. Challoner, but of sheer
savagery--the act of a callous marksman showing off.  It invites
reprisal."

"You see how the State treats its subjects, Mr. Arlington.  They have
taken cover; it's too late to fire now.  But it settles the matter for
me.  The State has fired the first shot and killed a non-combatant.  I
shall do my best this very night to deal the enemy a staggering blow."



CHAPTER XXIX

Reaping the Whirlwind

During the inaction of the past two days Jack had been carefully
thinking out his plan.  Stout-hearted as he was, he felt oppressed by
the difficulties of his position.  He had now four hundred men in all;
scarcely a hundred of them were armed with rifles, and not more than
fifty were practised shots.  How could he hope to dislodge from a
stockaded camp more than seven hundred, of whom some two hundred and
fifty, including Van Vorst's advance guard, were riflemen?  It seemed
at the best a desperate hazard, but the alternative was worse, and
having resolved upon his course he rejected all half measures.  Some
few of his own men must be left in the fort, if only to prevent a
panic; but those must be the minimum--he would need every man he could
muster.  He was staking all on the cast of a die; it would never do to
risk failure by timorousness in using all his effective combatant
strength.  He would throw his whole available force against the enemy
in one supreme effort to break and scatter him.

The offensive, he knew, counted for much, especially with men who had
not known defeat.  Where he and Barney led he felt sure they would
follow.  But a check might be fatal.  A single well-directed volley
from the enemy might sweep his little company of riflemen away, and his
spearmen would then never get to close quarters.

He gave full weight to all these considerations.  But having decided
that the attempt must be made he devoted long hours of anxious thought
to the devising of a plan that would give best promise of success.  He
had to do his thinking alone.  Barney was a fighter, not a strategist.
He could be trusted to strike hard and carry out orders to the minutest
detail; he could not plan or organize.  Mr. Arlington and the
missionary of course must not be consulted.  So that when Barney was
called into Jack's hut that afternoon, it was to learn particulars of a
scheme worked out by Jack alone.  When he left it an hour or two later,
his eyes were glowing with a new light.

"Sure 'tis me chance that has come at last!" he said to himself.


It was two o'clock in the morning.  Ilombekabasi was astir.  Men and
boys were moving this way and that.  The night was dark, but by the
light of the small lamps kept burning before a few of the principal
huts it could be seen that every face was tense with excitement and a
subdued energy.  In one spot congregated the maimed people, armed with
such weapons as they could wield, for the news that a great movement
was intended had spread in the camp, and every man and many of the
girls and women had begged to be allowed to bear arms.  Near the
south-eastern blockhouse the bulk of the able-bodied men and boys were
squatting, rifles and spears lying beside them.  At the gate in the
north wall stood twenty-five men, the picked men of the corps, the men
whom Lokolobolo had twice led out to victory.  There was Lepoko, all
smiles and consequence.  There was Makoko, hugging his rifle as though
he loved it.  There was Lianza of the brazen throat, and Lingombela the
man of hard bargains, and Imbono, the prudent chief of Ilola, and
Mboyo, solemn and silent, thinking of Samba.  On the ground lay a
number of bundles and bales, large and small.

A group approached the gate from Lokolobolo's hut.  Lokolobolo himself,
and Barnio, as the natives called him, came first, walking slowly side
by side.  Behind came Mr. Arlington, his strong features fixed
impassively.  At his side was the litter of Mr. Dathan, borne by four
negroes.

"Is it quite clear?" said Jack to Barney.  "You have twenty good men
here, besides another twenty of the maimed who may be of use in an
emergency.  Batukuno will be left in command.  All the rest will go
with you; yes, let the boys go; they can use their knives even if they
cannot throw a spear.  Get them all paraded an hour before dark, ladder
men first.  Keep them as quiet as you can.  Wait till you hear shots in
the enemy's camp; that will be the signal.  Then send your men out,
over the stockade by the south-eastern blockhouse; they can scramble
down the slope there.  You had better take half of them first and form
them up at the bottom.  The rest can follow as soon as they see you
move off.  Lead them at the double straight down the hill and fling
them at the stockade.  The second party will be just in time to support
you if the first rush is checked.  But there must be no check; we
daren't admit the possibility.  This is your job, Barney."

"Amen, sorr.  For the honour uv ould Ireland and the sake uv these poor
niggers I'll do me very best."

"I know you will, old fellow."

They grip hands, looking into each other's eyes.  This may be their
last good-bye.  One long hand-clasp, one moment of tense emotion, then,
clearing his throat, Jack gives an order to his men.  They stoop to
their bundles, then file quietly out of the gate.  Each man has a
package to carry, such a package as forms part of every white man's
baggage in Africa: one a trunk, another a gun-case, a third a canvas
bag, others bales of various kinds.  Two strong negroes at the end of
the line bear, slung on ropes, a package, strangely shapeless, and to
all appearance particularly heavy.

The last has gone out into the darkness.  Then Jack turns once more.

"Good-bye, Mr. Arlington."

"Good-bye!  Success to you."

"Good-bye, Mr. Dathan."

"God help you, my dear lad," says the missionary.

Then Jack too leaves Ilombekabasi, and the darkness swallows him up.

Towards dusk on the following evening, a party of twenty-five carriers
were marching through the forest in the direction of Elbel's stockaded
camp.  In the midst were four men carrying a litter.  They followed the
path leading from the river--the path along which Captain Van Vorst had
come a few days earlier.  For some time they had been shadowed by a
negro bearing the arms of a forest guard.  They paused for a few
moments to rest, and the negro, apparently satisfied by his
observations, came up and accosted them.

"You are the servants of Mutela?"

"Yes, that is so.  Has Mutela arrived?"

Mutela was the native name for Van Vorst.

"Oh yes!  He came two or three days ago."

"Are we on the right road?"

"Certainly.  The camp is but a little way beyond us.  I will lead you
to it.  You have heavy loads."

"Ah!  Mutela is a man of riches.  He has many pots, and many bottles,
and very many coats for his back.  And guns too; see, here is his
elephant rifle.  Mutela is a great hunter; a great man of war."

"True, he is a great man of war.  Yesterday he killed a woman in the
fort of the Inglesa.  I saw it.  I laughed; we all laughed; it was so
funny!  But who is in the litter?"

"A white officer.  Oh yes!  He is as great a man of war as Mutela.  But
he is sick; white men so easily turn sick!  And he sleeps, although it
is a rough road."

"Aha!  It is a pity he is sick.  Mutela will be sorry.  Mutela is going
to kill all the men in the Inglesa's fort.  Lokolobolo they call him.
Aha! we shall see how strong he is!  See, there is the camp yonder
through the trees."

When the party were still within some yards of the gate, the scout gave
a hail.  It was answered by a negro whose face appeared just above the
stockade.  By the time the leading men reached the gate it had been
thrown open by one of Elbel's European subordinates, and a crowd of
negro soldiers and hangers-on was collected to witness the entrance of
the white officer and Mutela's baggage.

Lepoko, who had led the file, deposited his bundle just inside the gate
and burst into a roar of laughter, holding his sides and bending his
body in uncontrollable mirth.  He was soon surrounded by a crowd of
negroes, to whom he began to relate a very funny story; how Ekokoli,
the daring Ekokoli, had mounted a crocodile's back just below the
rapids, and had a splendid ride.  The comical story set the throng
laughing in chorus, and they begged to hear it again.  Meanwhile, the
rest of the carriers had filed in with their burdens, the litter had
been set down, and the white officer, though so sick, stepped out quite
briskly to greet the Belgian, whose attention was divided between the
laughing negroes and his guest.  At the same time the four bearers drew
out from the litter a rifle apiece--for a sick man rifles surely made
an uncomfortable couch!--and also half a dozen objects which to a man
of Ilombekabasi would have looked suspiciously like fire-balls.  From
the packages which lay near the gate each of the other carriers with a
single pull abstracted a Mauser or an Albini; while the two men who had
staggered along at the end of the line under the weight of a clumsy
heavy bundle dropped it in the gateway with a thud that suggested the
fall of a rock rather than a carrier's ordinary load.  It lay against
the gate, preventing it from being closed.

Lepoko was already telling his story for the second time.  Elbel's
officer, about to speak to the sick white man, who had just stepped out
of the litter, suddenly hesitated, wheeled round, and with a loud cry
of alarm rushed toward the centre of the camp, where, in a large tent,
Elbel was at that moment regaling Captain Van Vorst with a dinner that
did much credit to his native cook.  His cry passed unnoticed by the
delighted negroes whom Lepoko was so humorously entertaining.  But next
moment they choked their guffaws, and, without waiting for the end of
the story, scampered with more speed than grace after their white
officer towards Elobela's tent.  What had startled them?  The sick man
from the litter, after one hasty glance round, had suddenly fired into
the air the rifle he bore.  And the carriers who seemed so tired and so
glad to lay down their burdens had all at once sprung into feverish
activity.  Dividing into two parties they had disappeared behind the
huts nearest to the stockade on each side of the gateway, and if the
hubbub had not been so great, an attentive listener might have heard
sundry scratches that ensued upon their disappearance.  But there was
no one to hear.  The garrison of the camp were rushing still towards
the centre with loud cries; the carriers and the sick officer were no
longer to be seen; and what was this?  Clouds of smoke, thick, acrid,
suffocating, were floating on the south wind from the huts towards
Elobela's tent.

And now the camp was in an uproar.  Mingled with the yells of alarm
were distinct cries, "Mutela!" "Elobela!" "Lokolobolo!"  And amid all
the din came ever and anon the sharp piercing bark of a dog.

Monsieur Guillaume Elbel, of the Société Cosmopolite du Commerce du
Congo, had just opened a second bottle of Madeira for the delectation
of his guest Captain Van Vorst, of the Congo State Forces.  The dinner
had been a good one; the Captain had praised his cook, the best cook on
the Congo; and Monsieur Elbel was in better humour than he had been
since the arrival of the State troops.  He was even pleasantly boasting
of the coming triumph at Ilombekabasi, and discussing what they should
do with the Englishman after they had caught him, when sounds from
outside so startled him that he poured the wine on to the tablecloth
instead of into the glass, and interrupted himself with the sudden
exclamation--

"What's that?"

He snatched up a rifle and hurried out, followed more slowly by his
companion, who had seen too many camp quarrels to be greatly alarmed by
this sudden outbreak.  Elbel at first could distinguish nothing in the
confusion.  The short dusk of a tropical evening was already becoming
darkness, but he could see that crowds of men were pouring out of the
huts, rushing, hustling, in a state that was very like panic.  And a
pungent smoke saluted his nostrils; it was drifting in great whorls
northwards over the camp, and surely behind it he saw here and there
little red flashes of flame.

Who had fired that shot which had so shaken Monsieur Elbel's hand?  He
did not know; it had been a single shot; surely the camp could not be
attacked, for other shots would have followed long before this.  But
the moment he appeared outside the tent a volley rang out, and Elbel
saw that it was fired by his own men into the midst of the smoke.  He
was hurrying across the camp to inquire into the meaning of all this
when a volley flashed from the other direction--from the very heart of
the smoke.  Shrieks proclaimed that some of the shots had told.
"Fools!" cried Elbel, "don't you see they're screened by the smoke,
whoever they are?  What's the good of firing when you can't take aim?
Curse that dog!  I can't hear myself speak!"

Another volley flashed from the smoke.  Men were dropping on every
side; there were wild rushes for cover.  Soon the central space was
deserted, and the panic-stricken garrison fled for shelter behind the
huts on the north side of the camp.  While Elbel and Van Vorst were
shouting themselves hoarse in a vain attempt to stem this tide of
flight, the sergeant who had opened the gate had rushed to the north
side, where Van Vorst's contingent were quartered, and hastily got them
into some sort of order, together with those of Elbel's men who, having
their huts on that side, has been less affected by the sudden alarm.
Dividing the company of about a hundred men into two parties, he sent
them skirmishing forward in the spaces between the huts towards the
enemy he supposed to be approaching on the east and west.

That enemy, however, was not approaching.  Jack had fired the huts and
thrown the camp into confusion; his little party was not strong enough
to turn the confusion to utter rout.  Its smallness would be perceived
if he led it into the open; his was a waiting game.  The wisdom of his
policy was soon proved.  A sharp volley came from the men whom the
Belgian sergeant had got together.  Jack heard the man beside him groan
heavily and fall to the ground; then he himself felt a stinging burning
pain below the left knee.  He called to his men to keep within cover,
and hastily bound a handkerchief about the wound.  And now the wind
dropped, and the smoke which had hitherto screened his movements
floated upwards.  A scattering volley from the enemy reduced his band
by two more men.  The State troops were working round on each side of
him; and the red glare from the burning huts was lighting up the whole
camp.  It would soon be seen how small his little company was; then one
determined rush would annihilate it.

Less than four minutes had passed since he entered the gate; it seemed
an age.  Would Barney never come?  Why was he delaying?  Surely he had
heard the signal shot; surely by this time he must have seen the ruddy
glare!  The enemy were regaining confidence; their cries of alarm were
changed to yells of defiance.  Elbel and Van Vorst had taken command,
one on each side; each was steadily moving down from the northern
stockade towards the gate.  Barney, Barney, will you never come?

Hark!  What is that?  The cries of the enemy are suddenly drowned in a
babel of yells behind them.  They halt, amazed; Van Vorst shouts an
order; the men wheel round and dash northwards, leaving only a few to
watch the rear.  The Belgian sees now the meaning of this daring
scheme.  What has he to gain by routing the little band behind?  Before
him is pandemonium; a whole host must be upon him; here is the danger
to be met.

But he is too late!  "Lokolobolo!  Lokolobolo!"  Two hundred voices
roar the name.  And Lokolobolo himself sees a portion of the northern
stockade black with moving figures, and rifle barrels, spear heads,
gleaming red in the light of the flaming huts.  Towards him rushes the
greater part of the garrison, their first fright trebled.  These guards
of the forest can fight unarmed despairing rubber collectors, but their
hearts are as water when the villagers prove to be men.  Let the men in
uniform, the clad soldiers of Bula Matadi, fight if they will; this is
no place for forest guards; the gate! the gate!

Van Vorst's handful of more disciplined men present a bolder front to
the enemy.  But it would need many times the number he can muster to
break the wave of exultant warriors now swarming over the stockade.
There is Barney!  Jack sees him drop to the ground, brandishing in one
hand a rifle, an ancient cutlass in the other.  "Hurroo! hurroo!" he
shouts.  A second, no more, and then the crest of the wave breaks over
the stockade into the camp.

"Barnio!  Lokolobolo!"  With a great roar the men of Ilombekabasi
follow their leader.  They are already sweeping the garrison like
sea-wrack before them, when another wave comes tumbling behind, the
shrill cries of boys mingling with the deeper shouts of the men.  See,
they come, furiously, irresistibly!  And who is this?  A tall
white-clad figure springs over with the movement of a hurdle-racer.  It
is Mr. Arlington himself, stirred for the nonce out of his habitual
calmness, caught up and carried away in this roaring current.

The enemy fire once, then, though Van Vorst may rave and storm, they
turn their backs and flee helter-skelter for the gate.  "Lokobololo!
Barnio!"  The tempestuous war-cries pursue them.  Struggling, yelling,
they converge to the narrow gateway.  It is jammed, wedged tight with
human forms, squeezed by the presence of the frantic crowd behind into
a solid mass of feebly struggling wretches lost to all consciousness
but that of a great fear.  The weaker men fall and are trampled to
death; the stronger push and pull, and scramble over the fallen, mad
with fright.  Some win through or over, and rush with blind haste into
the forest.  Others, despairing of escape by that one constricted
outlet, climb the palisade.  Some impale themselves on the
sharp-pointed stakes, and, hapless benefactors! serve as gangways for
their comrades who follow.

Seeing the utter rout of the enemy, Jack had already ordered his men to
cease fire.  His end was gained; he had no lust for useless slaughter.
But although Makoko and Lingombela and the rest with him loyally
obeyed, nothing could check the storming party.  They heard nothing,
saw nothing, but the enemy in front.  Not one of them but had a father,
or mother, a wife or child, to avenge--a ruined home, a blasted life.
As well attempt to bridle the whirlwind as this infuriate flood.  On
and on they pressed, past the spot where Jack held his men in leash;
and as they ran they shot and stabbed, yelling "Barnio!  Lokolobolo!"
And as they were accustomed to receive no mercy, so now, in this hour
of retribution, they gave none.

As Jack made his way towards the gateway, hoping to do something to
ensure quarter for the fleeing wretches, he caught sight of a figure
crawling painfully forth from a burning hut.  At one moment he
recognized the man and the man him.

"Nando!" he cried.

"Sabe me, massa!"

"Getaway to the other end.  Wait for me there.  Any other men in the
hut?"

"No, massa, no! only me!"

But as he turned to run Jack heard the bark which ever and anon had
struck his ears during these full minutes, and felt a tug at his coat.
The cloth, already tattered, gave way; but Pat caught his trousers,
then ran a little way ahead, then back again, then once more towards
the burning hut.  Tearing off his coat, Jack wrapped it round his head
and dashed in.  The smoke was so dense that nothing could be seen save
here and there spurts of flame.  Scarcely able to breathe he flung
himself on the ground and began to grope round the right of the hut.
By and by his hands touched a human body, and then the shaggy coat of
the terrier.  Lifting the body in both arms he staggered with it to the
entrance, guided by the dog's barks.  He gasped and drew long breaths
when once again he came into the open air; but as he laid his burden
upon the ground he stumbled and fell beside it, sick and dizzy.

[Illustration: Samba rescued from the burning hut]

He was unconscious but for a few moments.  When he came to himself and
sat up, he saw that Samba lay in his father's arms.  Mboyo was sobbing,
rocking his body to and fro, murmuring endearing words.  Pat was
stretched beside him, his eyes fixed on Samba, his ears pricked forward.

"He dies, O Lokolobolo!" said Mboyo piteously, seeing Jack rise.

"No, no!  Get water!  Take him to the other end of the camp.  I will
come to you when I can."

Jack hurried off.  Many of the huts were blazing; now that the fire had
done its part it must be checked, or the stores and ammunition which
would be invaluable in Ilombekabasi would be destroyed.  Collecting
such of the men as had not dashed out of the camp in pursuit of the
enemy, Jack set them to beat out the flames where they could, and to
demolish one or two of the still unburnt huts that were most in danger
of catching fire.  Luckily the wind had dropped; there was little risk
of sparks or cinders flying through the air.

Then he set some of the boys to make torches, and by their light he
surveyed the camp.  He shuddered as he passed over the scene of the
disastrous flight and pursuit.  The forms of dead and wounded lay
scattered over the ground.  He ordered Nando and other of Mr.
Martindale's carriers who had been left in the camp to attend the
wounded as well as they were able, and sternly forbade the despatching
of those of the enemy who were still alive but unable through injuries
to escape.  Then he went towards the gate.  It was with a shock that he
saw, amid the black bodies crushed to death in the gateway, the
white-clad form of Van Vorst.  In that terrible struggle for precedence
the white man's skin had not saved him.  But he was the only European
left in the camp; Jack looked for Elbel and his subordinate; they were
nowhere to be seen.

Complete darkness had settled over the country, and put a stop to the
pursuit.  Jack's men began to return, at first in ones and twos, by and
by in groups that grew larger as the night drew on.  They came laughing
and singing; once more Elobela, even aided by Mutela, had been beaten
by Lokolobolo.  What a night it was for the men of Ilombekabasi!  And
Barnio!--was it not Barnio who had led them to the stockade with that
wild war-cry of his?  They must not forget Barnio! and Lianza made a
song as he marched back to the camp:

  Barnio!  Barnio!
  Down from the forty
  From Ilombekabasi,
  Dashed in the night,
  Sought Elobela,
  Cruel Mutela.
  Hurroo!  Hurroo!
  Barnio leads,
  After him black men,
  Hundreds and thousands,
  Sweep like the wind,
  Rage like the torrent,
  Over the wall.
  Hurroo!  Hurroo!
  Big clouds of smoke,
  Forests of flame,
  Into the midst,
  Barnio!  Barnio!
  Over the wall,
  Into the camp,
  Straight for the gate
  Barnio rushes,
  After him black men.
  Hurroo!  In the gate
  Thousands of black men,
  Only one white man,
  Cruel Mutela!
  Ha!  He will never,
  Never whip black men,
  Never kill women,
  Never kill children,
  Laugh again never!
  Dead is Mutela!
  Why do we sing?
  Why do we laugh?
  Whom do we praise?
  Barnio!  Barnio!
  Lokolobolo!
  Friends of Imbono,
  Friends of the black men
  Of Ilombekabasi.
  Hurroo!
  Begorra!



CHAPTER XXX

Sinews of War

Barney came back to the camp tired out.  Following up the only party
that seemed to have cohesion after leaving the fort--a party led by the
Belgian sergeant--he had soon found himself left far behind in the
race.  But his men had done their work thoroughly; they had dispersed
the band, few of whom escaped.

"'Twas for this I was born, sorr," said Barney as he gripped Jack's
hand.  "Sure I'll be a fighter for iver more."

"You did splendidly, old fellow.  I knew all was well when I heard your
hurroo!  But there are five hundred men roaming the country and only a
score of able-bodied men in our fort.  We must look after that.  Get
fifty fellows together and send them back under Imbono, Barney."

"And what'll ye be afther doing yourself, sorr?"

"Oh!  I'm going down to the river.  The job's only half done while that
flotilla is intact.  I'm going to have a shot at it before the enemy
get over their fright.  I'll take a couple of hundred men with me.
You'll keep a hundred and remove all the stores and ammunition here to
the fort; get the women and children to help; you can light the way
with flares.  When the camp's empty burn it.  And look after Samba,
Barney; he's here, nearly dead, poor little chap!  Mboyo's got him;
we'll go and see how he is getting on."

Making their way to the north side of the camp they found Samba laid on
the floor of a hut, his father on one side of him, Pat on the other.
The dog leapt up excitedly when he saw his master, and invited him with
a yelp to come and see Samba.  By the light of a torch Barney tenderly
examined the boy.  He was conscious, and smiled, even though he winced
under the gentlest of touches.

"Ochone!  Ochone!" exclaimed Barney.  "'Tis the divil's own work, sorr.
His poor flesh is wan jelly.  By all the holy powers, if I catch that
murdering ruff'n uv a fellow, that Elbel----  And I've no ointment at
all at all.  Bedad! but now I remimber Mr. Arlington has a whole
docthor's shop in wan uv his traps, and if he hasn't got boracic
ointment among his stuff, sure I'll think a mighty deal less uv him.
'Twill take a month or more, sorr, to heal all the wounds on this poor
body; but we'll do it, plase God! and make a man of him yet."

"He dies, O Lokolobolo?" said Mboyo, looking up yearningly into Jack's
face.

"No, Barnio says no.  He is very ill, but in a month he may be well,
and Barnio says he is going to make a man of him."

"Bolotsi O!  Bolotsi O!" cried the negro, slapping his thighs.  "N'dok
'olo aiyoko!"[1]

He laughed and clapped his hands like a child.

"It was Pat that showed me where Samba was," said Jack to Barney.
"Nando was tied up in a hut with him--he must have been captured with
dear old Uncle--and the wretch saved himself by burning his ropes
through and left Samba to perish in the flames.  Pat dragged me to the
spot."

"The darlint is worth his weight in gold," cried Barney delighted.
"That's twice he has saved Samba, sorr.  Black men and white men are
brothers, or ought to be, and there's niver a doubt that dogs are
cousins at the very least.  And beggin' your pardon, sorr, I'll take a
pleasure in kicking Nando whin I get a look uv him.  'Tis a little
military discipline he needs, to be sure."

"You can give him that in the fort.  And by the way, you'll find a lot
of rifles here; the enemy either hadn't time to get hold of them or
else threw them away.  Arm some of our spearmen; they can tell the
muzzle from the stock at any rate, and if any attempt is made to rush
the fort they could do a good deal of damage at close quarters.  And
keep scouts out.  We don't know the exact whereabouts of Van Vorst's
main body, and it won't do to risk anything.  But I hope you won't have
any trouble."

Bidding Barney farewell, Jack called up Makoko and Lingombela, and sent
them out with orders to discover the exact position of the flotilla,
and to return at daybreak.  An hour afterwards, with a hundred and
fifty picked spearmen, sixty rifles, and a body of carriers with food
for three days, he began a night march to the river.  He himself was
unable to walk.  His wound was becoming more and more painful, but he
had said nothing about it to Barney, being resolved not to spare
himself while anything remained to be done to complete his work.  Four
men, relieved at frequent intervals, carried him in the litter of which
he had made such effective use to gain an entrance to the enemy's camp.
This time, he thought with a smile, there was no pretence about it.

He guessed that Van Vorst's flotilla would be found about half way
between Ilola and the spot where Mr. Martindale's canoes had been
hidden.  It was one day's march across country, a much longer distance
by the river.  For some hours he followed the path on which his uncle
and he had been escorted by the Askari.  The recollection of that march
brought sad thoughts to his mind.  Lying in the litter amid his men, as
the column wound its slow way along the forest track, the red glare of
their torches throwing weird shadows around, he had plenty of time for
melancholy reflections.  The incidents of his uncle's last days were
burnt into his memory.  He remembered the drawn, wasted features, now
pale with exhaustion, now bright with the hectic flush of fever; the
quick uneasy breath; the slow labouring voice.  He remembered the tale
of persecution and wrong.  More than all he remembered the earnest,
passionate words in which the dying man had bequeathed to him the cause
of the Congo natives, and besought him to use his utmost strength on
their behalf.  "Dear old Uncle!" he thought; "I am trying to do what
you would have wished me to do.  I can't do much; this is only a small
corner of the plague-ridden country; how many thousands of poor people
are without even such help as I can give!  But it will be something if
only the few hundreds in Ilombekabasi can regain and keep a little of
their former happiness; and Uncle would be pleased; he is pleased, if
he knows."

Then the other side of the picture stood out sharply to his mental
view.  He saw the fleeing crowds of the enemy; the jammed gateway; the
camp enclosure strewn with dead and wounded.  Once or twice, even, his
marching column came upon wounded men, too weak to crawl away into the
bush, and he could do nothing for them.  This terrible loss of life,
this misery--was not this too due to the evil government of a monarch
who, far away, in wealth and luxury and ease, spoke with two
voices--one the voice of beneficence, benignity, zeal for peace and
good order; the other the voice of greed, avarice, the callous demand
for riches even at the price of blood?  "Botofé bo le iwa!  Rubber is
death!"--the woful proverb haunted him like a knell: death to the
dwellers in this well-favoured land, death to the minions of the power
that oppressed them, death to those who, like his uncle, dared to make
a stand for freedom and found themselves engulfed in the whirlpool of
injustice and wrong.

As Jack approached the river, these gloomy thoughts gave way to the
necessities of the moment.  Lepoko, leading the column, announced that
the river was very near.  Then Jack ordered the torches to be put out,
and the men to creep forward even more silently than they had already
done.  Had news of the storming of the camp been carried, he wondered,
by fugitives to the flotilla?  Since they had left the direct path to
the river and struck obliquely towards it there had been no sign of
fugitives.  He supposed that the scared enemy had kept to the route
they knew, and would follow the river bank until they reached the
canoes.  This involved many extra miles through the winding of the
stream, unless the flotilla had come farther up than he thought was
likely.

The principal danger was that some of Elbel's scouts, knowing the
country better than the majority of the garrison, might already have
taken the short cut Jack was now taking and would reach the flotilla
before him.  There were two white officers in charge; they might set
off at once to the relief of their superior and reach the fort while
Jack was still absent.  Would Barney be strong enough to hold out
against them?

The march was continued with brief rests throughout the night.  Shortly
after dawn a man sprang panting out of the thicket to the right of the
path, and hurried to Jack's litter.

"O Lokolobolo!" he cried, "I have news!"

Jack saw that it was Lofundo, sub-chief of Akumbi.

"It was in the smoke and the flame, Lokolobolo.  I saw Elobela, with
fear in his face, climb over the fence and rush out into the night.
After him I sprang--I, and Bolumbu, and Iloko, and others.  It was
Elobela, the cruel, the pitiless!  After him, into the night! but first
Iloko tired, then Bolumbu, then the others.  I, Lofundo, I did not
tire; no; was it not Elobela whose men ill-used and slew my people and
burnt my village, and who with his own hands flogged my son?  I ran and
ran, hot on his trail, and in the morning light I came up with him, and
saw him with fear in his face; and I had my knife; and now Elobela is
dead, yonder, in the forest."

"Is it far, Lofundo?"

"A little march in the forest, Lokolobolo."

Jack had himself carried to the spot.  There, beneath a tree, covered
with felled branches and leaves to protect it from beasts, lay the
stark body of Guillaume Elbel.  Jack could not help pitying the wretch
whose zeal in an evil cause had brought him to so miserable an end.
But as he thought of the misery this man had caused--the ruined homes,
the desolated lives: as he remembered his uncle, lying in his lonely
grave, and Samba, lacerated by this man's cruel whip, pity froze within
him.

"Cover him up," he said.

He waited while his men buried Elbel, there at the foot of the tree.

"Let us go!" he said; "we have work to do."

When Jack's column, according to Lepoko, was still an hour's march from
the river, Lingombela, one of the advance scouts, came back with a
negro in his grasp.  He had captured him, said Lingombela, as he was
running from the river into the forest.  Jack questioned the man
through Lepoko.  He said that his name was Bandoka, and he had been a
paddler in Mutela's flotilla, and had suffered many times from the
chicotte; he showed the marks on his back.  Just after daybreak several
men had come rushing madly into the clearing on the river bank where
the soldiers of Bula Matadi had halted for the night.  There was great
confusion in the camp.  He had heard it said among the paddlers that
there had been a fight up the river at the Inglesa's fort, and that the
men of Elobela had been badly beaten.  The paddlers had already heard
the name of Lokolobolo.  The fugitives said that Mutela was sorely in
need of help, and the white officer had at once started up the river in
swift canoes, with most of the fighting men, leaving the rest to follow
with the carriers.  In the confusion attending the departure of the
force with three days' stores, Bandoka had contrived to slip away into
the forest.  He would rather brave anything than endure further service
with Bula Matadi.

Jack's first thought on hearing this news was that it simplified his
position.  The Congo officers had two days' journey before them; it was
strange if he, with his lightly equipped force of men thoroughly
acquainted with the country, knowing the short cuts through the forest,
the fordable places on the river, could not do much to impede and
harass their advance.  But on subsequent reflection a still bolder
course suggested itself to him.  Was it possible to cut off the main
body from its stores?  The fighting men under their white commander had
already started up the river; the stores would follow more slowly;
Jack's line of march would strike the river at a point between the two
portions of the enemy's force.  If he could capture the stores, would
he not have the main body at his mercy?

"How many fighting men are left to escort the canoes?" he asked.

"Him say no can tell.  He run away plenty soon; plenty much nise, all
talk one time."

In the absence of precise information Jack could only conjecture.  The
news brought by the fugitive from Elbel's camp was such that a force
despatched in support would probably consist of at least two-thirds of
the available combatant strength.  The officer must be aware that a
body of men that could defeat Elbel with his seven hundred mixed troops
could scarcely be met with less than two hundred and fifty rifles.  No
doubt he would expect to be joined by some of Elbel's men; the full
magnitude of the disaster would hardly be known; and like any other
white commander he would be inclined to discount the alarmist reports
of the fugitives.  It would be safe to assume, thought Jack, that not
more than a hundred rifles had been left with the stores.  How many of
the paddlers were also fighting men, how many impressed like Bandoka,
it was impossible to guess.

"Bandoka is sure the white officers are not coming through the forest?"
he asked, as the bare chance of meeting them occurred to him.

"Sartin sure, massa.  Dey come in boats.  Bandoka he fit to paddle in
white man's canoe.  'No, no,' he say; 'me no like dat.  White man lib
for go too fast; me know what dat mean; dat mean chicotte!'  Den he run
away, sah."

"Well, I wish I knew a little more about the men with the stores."

"Know plenty more one time," said Lepoko, pointing ahead.  "Dat am
Makoko."

Makoko, a scout in a thousand, had brought just the news Jack most
desired.  He had counted the fighting men on the canoes: there were a
hundred and ten with rifles and more than two hundred with spears.  On
each cargo canoe there was a rifleman--to encourage the paddlers,
thought Jack.  The flotilla had just started when Makoko left the
river, at least two hours after the main body had left.  One white
officer had gone with the swift canoes, a second remained with the
stores.  The line of boats was headed by two large war canoes, each
containing twenty riflemen besides the paddlers; and two similar canoes
similarly manned brought up the rear.

It was clear to Jack that the enemy was doing everything possible to
hasten progress.  But the canoes were heavily laden, and the paddlers
had the stream against them.  Meanwhile Barney must be warned of the
approaching expedition.  Jack was not anxious about the fate of the
fort.  Behind the walls Barney's hundred and twenty riflemen and three
times as many spearmen could easily hold their own.  The enemy's
machine gun, a deadly weapon in the open, would be of little use
against stone walls.  So, confident in Barney's ability to sit tight,
Jack sent Lingombela back through the forest to give him timely notice
of the troops coming towards him by the river.

The arrangements made by the officer in charge of the convoy of stores,
as reported by Makoko, were well enough adapted for progress through a
country in which the natives, even if hostile, were armed only with
bows and arrows or spears.  By keeping in mid-stream the canoes were
practically out of danger from the banks, and an enemy on the water
could be effectively dealt with by the leading canoes, carrying a
strong force of riflemen armed with Albinis.  The similar force acting
as a rearguard discouraged any tendency on the part of the crews of the
store-boats to bolt down stream.  And each canoe had a forest guard
ready with a chicotte to stimulate the paddlers' zeal.

Jack felt sure that by setting an ambush at a suitable point he could
produce a panic among the guards and paddlers almost as effectual for
his purpose as the panic in Elbel's camp.  But he had a not unnatural
shrinking from such a course.  An ambuscade--concealing oneself to
shoot another man down--went against the grain with him.  He knew that
it was fair by all the rules of warfare, and warfare had been thrust
upon him by the State troops.  But he preferred if possible to attain
his end by other means, involving the minimum of bloodshed and
suffering.  The scenes in Elbel's camp and in the forest were too fresh
in his memory for him to court a repetition of this wholesale
destruction, even of the savages who wore the uniform of King Leopold.

The disposition of the enemy's forces suggested a plan whereby his end
might be gained with little or no serious fighting.  If the plan failed
there still remained the alternative of an attack in force on the
long-drawn-out line of the flotilla.

He had noticed, when coming up the river to Ilola with his uncle, that,
about half a day's paddling from the flotilla's point of departure, the
channel was divided by a small island.  Only on the near side was the
river navigable at this season, even by canoes; on the other side the
channel was wide but shallow, thickly beset by sandbanks.  By striking
to the left and taking a short cut through the forest known to Makoko,
the river bank opposite this island could be reached in two hours' hard
marching.  There would still be a good margin of time to make all
necessary arrangements for carrying out his plan before the head of the
convoy came into view.  The men had already had a couple of hours'
rest; the worst of their fatigue after the night march was gone; there
was now no time to be lost, and Jack gave the order to move off under
Makoko's lead.

Before midday the troops were halted opposite the island, a
lozenge-shaped eyot about a third of a mile in length and a hundred
yards across, covered with rank vegetation and patched with one or two
clumps of large trees.  On reaching the spot Jack left his litter to
superintend the men's work, in spite of his stiff leg.  He posted
scouts in each direction, up and down the river, to guard against
surprise, then set the men to cut a large number of tough creepers
which abounded in the forest, and by twisting and knotting the tendrils
to make a rope about eighty yards long.  While this was being done with
marvellous speed by the expert negroes, a few saplings were uprooted
and lashed together to form a raft, too slight indeed for serious
navigation, but strong enough to convey a few men at a time across the
river.  When the rope was finished one end was taken across to the eyot
and firmly secured to one of the large trees; the other end was left
for the present loose.  The place where the rope entered the water on
each side was carefully screened from view, and a few stones attached
to it at intervals sank it beneath the surface of the stream.

Jack directed the work untiringly, encouraging the workers with praise.

"Bravo!" he cried, when all was done.  "Now we'll have some chop,
Lepoko."

"Plenty hungry, massa," returned the man.  "Men all want to know
somefing, massa."

"Well, what is it?"

"Dey say: 'Lokolobolo make us do plenty fings.  What for?  We lib for
do anyfing for Lokolobolo; no fit to know what for.'  Dat am what dey
say, sah."

Jack smiled.

"Well, Lepoko, I'll tell you in confidence, and I know it won't go any
further.  We're going to see an exhibition of swimming."

"Me no like big talk like dat," said Lepoko, looking puzzled.

"Here's little talk, then.  Men no want to swim; we want to see them
swim.  Savvy?"

"Me know all 'bout dat, sah," cried Lepoko delighted, and he went off
to tell the men, Jack smiling at their satisfaction with an explanation
that explained so little.

The whole force had a meal, keeping almost perfect silence in obedience
to an impressive order from Jack.  They were concealed within the
forest fringe.  When the meal was finished a dozen men with rifles were
sent across to hide themselves amid the vegetation on the island, and
all waited with rifles ready.

Presently the scout from down stream came running up with the news that
the leading canoes of the flotilla were approaching a bend in the river
half a mile below the eyot.  The paddlers, who had apparently had a
meal and a rest, were sending the canoes along at a good rate.  Jack
bade twelve of his men grasp the rope of creepers, and stand ready to
pull when he gave the word.  There was dead silence among the troops.
They heard the enemy drawing near--the songs of the paddlers, the
chatter of the fighting men, occasionally a yell as the chicotte fell
with stinging force upon a paddler's back.  Jack watched from his coign
of vantage in the bush.  There were the two war canoes as Makoko had
described them; in the second of them was a white officer.  They passed
the eyot.  Then came the store canoes, one after another, keeping about
the same distance apart.  Jack forgot to count them, for he was beyond
measure delighted to see in one of them the shield of the machine gun.
"What luck!  What tremendous luck!" he thought.  "Where the shield is
the gun is sure to be."  The last of the store canoes passed.  Then, at
a little longer interval than separated the store canoes, came the
first war canoe of the rearguard, the second about a boat's length
behind.  Jack signed to his twelve men to be ready.  Watching carefully
the point at which the rope entered the water and the point on the
opposite side where it reached the eyot, he waited for the first of the
war canoes to approach the line.  The nose of the vessel was within two
or three yards of the rope when he gave his men the signal.

With desperate energy the twelve sturdy negroes hauled on the rope.
Jack could not have timed the movement more fortunately.  As the rope
became taut and rose to the surface it struck the bottom of the canoe
about a fourth of its length from the bow.  The united pull of the
twelve men lifted the forepart of the vessel bodily from the water; the
stern dipped under, and in a moment the canoe filled and its occupants
were struggling in the water.

At any other time such a feat would have provoked yells of triumph from
the performers.  It was a tribute to Jack's discipline that his men
made no other sound than a grunt of satisfaction, which must be
entirely smothered by the shouts of the men in the water.  And at a
word from Jack they rushed at full speed down stream with the rope,
holding it a few inches above the gunwale level of the last canoe, the
crew of which were frantically back-paddling to escape the mysterious
fate of the other.  But the paddlers had not got into their swing when
the rope, stretched tight between the fastening on the eyot and the
running men, overtook them.  It caught them about the knees; they were
swept from the thwarts, and fell towards the opposite bank; and the
sudden weight on the starboard side turned the canoe completely over.
Not half a minute from the time when Jack gave the first sign the whole
of the rearguard was out of action.  In mortal dread of crocodiles the
men swam desperately for the banks, some on one side, some on the
other; but as they landed they fell an easy prey to Jack's men, and
were promptly hauled into the forest and tied up.

But while they were still in the water the news of the disaster had
been communicated with marvellous rapidity from canoe to canoe, and
reached the head of the flotilla and the white officer.  Standing up
and lifting his field glass to his eyes he could just see, over the
intervening vessels, a capsized canoe, a number of men swimming in the
river, and others moving on the bank.  There was no sign of the cause
of the disaster.  The paddlers indeed were shouting "Lokolobolo!
Lokolobolo!" in accents of terror; but the name appeared to convey
nothing to the lieutenant, who was disposed to attribute the upset to a
hippopotamus or a snag.

Certainly it was causing a great deal of confusion in the flotilla, and
some of the paddlers, the rearguard being removed, seemed inclined to
turn their canoes and head down stream.  It was very annoying.
Shouting to the men in the leading war canoe to paddle just enough to
keep their vessel stationary against the stream, the lieutenant hurried
to the scene of the accident.  On the way the shouts of the paddlers
became more coherent; what was this they were saying?  Ilombekabasi?
Absurd!  But it was as well to prepare for anything that might occur,
so the officer ordered his men to be ready to fire when he gave the
word.  At present he saw nobody to fire at.

His canoe was going rapidly on the current towards the eyot when a
volley flashed from the undergrowth on the right bank, and he heard the
shots strike the side of his vessel.  The effect of the discharge at a
range of only thirty yards was instantaneous.  Jack had ordered his men
to aim at or near the waterline; not a man had been hit; but the
paddlers waited for no more.  With one accord they sprang overboard and
swam for the nearest shore, that of the eyot.  One or two of the
soldiers replied to the volley, aiming hap-hazard at the bank; the rest
awaited the order of their officer, who, however, was either dazed by
the unexpected attack or unwilling to waste ammunition by aimless
firing into the bush.  The boat meanwhile was drifting down the stream:
a second volley bored another score of tiny holes in the thin side.
The occupants were without paddlers or paddles; they had no means of
beaching the vessel; and Jack, watching her progress, felt that it was
only a question of minutes before, riddled like a sieve, she would have
shipped enough water to sink her.  Then the occupants, officer and men,
would share the fate of their comrades.  He sent Makoko with twenty
rifles and twice as many spearmen to the nearest point where the
hapless party might be expected to land; and at the same time he
despatched a band of the same size up river to deal with the war canoe,
which had by this time gone out of sight.

In a few minutes the lieutenant and his men struggled one after another
up the bank.  Those who retained their weapons were unable to use them,
for they were dripping wet.  Jack's men dealt with them as with the
others, leaving the white officer, however, unbound.  Him they led to
Jack, who commiserated the crestfallen man on his unfortunate plight,
and promised him excellent treatment if he made no attempt to escape.

For some time Jack's party had made no further effort to conceal
themselves.  The store canoes had been moving aimlessly about the
river, the paddlers not knowing whether to go ahead or to retreat.  At
Jack's bidding Lepoko now ordered them to beach their vessels,
promising that Lokolobolo would protect them, and, if they pleased,
would take them into his service.  They obeyed with alacrity, and soon
the whole of the stores and the machine gun were in Jack's possession.
He wondered why the latter had not been taken up the river with the
main body, and questioning the officer, learnt that in the haste and
confusion one of the parts of the gun could not be found, and but for
the delay in searching for it he himself would have arrived an hour or
more earlier.

The capture of the convoy had been effected so quickly that Jack felt
there might still be time by a forced march to reach the fort before
the arrival of the enemy's main column.  Hastily selecting from the
stores such food and other articles as he urgently needed, and taking
care to bring with him the machine gun, he made instant preparations to
return.  He placed Makoko in charge of the flotilla, with a body of
thirty riflemen and eighty spearmen, ordering him to drop down the
river half a day's paddling and await further instructions.  He
arranged for a chain of messengers to keep up communication between
Makoko and himself; then he set out with the bulk of his force for
Ilombekabasi, sending a scout to order the men who had gone up river to
join him across country as soon as they had captured the only remaining
canoe.



[1] Now I am well.



CHAPTER XXXI

Summons and Surrender

Two days after, on a strip of open ground half-way between Ilombekabasi
and Elbel's ruined camp, a group of six negroes were assembled.  Three
of them were in the uniform of the State troops; the other three were
Lepoko, Imbono, and Mboyo.  All were unarmed.  In the midst of the
group were two rough chairs such as were used by native chiefs.  The
southern wall of Ilombekabasi was thronged with men, women, and
children eagerly surveying the scene; lower down the hill the State
troops, in a rude encampment hastily constructed on the previous day,
were drawn up in orderly ranks, and gazed north with equal intentness.

All at once a great cry of "Lokolobolo!" rent the air, and floated down
the hill from the fort to the camp.  No answering shout met it.  But an
officer in white left the camp and walked slowly up the slope.  At the
same time a tall figure in tattered garments of European cut limped out
of the fort, and moved downwards.  The group of negroes fell apart as
the white men arrived.  The latter touched their helmets in military
salute; and the younger of the two smilingly motioned to the elder to
seat himself on one of the chairs, he himself taking the other.  They
sat facing each other, and the negroes moved a few paces back on each
side.

The two men formed a strange contrast: the one, a tall slim young
fellow not yet nineteen, his bronzed face clean shaved, showing firm
well-cut lips and an obstinate kind of chin; his nose prominent, his
brown eyes large and searching, his hair black as night and somewhat
unruly; not a handsome face, but a strong one, worth looking at twice
and not easily forgotten: the other nearly as tall, but much broader
and more stiffly built; some ten years older; lips and chin concealed
by thick brown moustache and beard, blue irritable eyes blinking
through big spectacles under fierce and shaggy brows.

"Instead of replying to your summons to surrender, Monsieur Jennaert,"
said Jack slowly in his best French, "I thought it better to meet you,
so that we might clearly understand each other.  I am obliged to you
for so readily agreeing to my proposal."

The Belgian bowed.

"Yours, monsieur, is the third or fourth summons of the same kind.
Monsieur Elbel summoned us----"

"Where is Monsieur Elbel, monsieur?"

"Monsieur Elbel, monsieur, is dead."  Lieutenant Jennaert started.

"Dead, monsieur?"

"Yes, he was pursued into the forest by a man whose son he had
thrashed, whose relatives his men had maimed and butchered, whose
village he had burned.  The man killed him.  Well, as I was about to
say, Monsieur Elbel summoned us more than once.  At first he was much
stronger than we were, both in arms and men.  But when he began to back
his summons by force of arms he failed,--more than once.  As you know,
four days ago we captured his camp for the second time and dispersed
his troops, largely with the aid of rifles which had once been his."

"Yes, I know that," said Lieutenant Jennaert somewhat impatiently.
"But Monsieur Elbel was not a trained soldier, and his men were only
forest guards.  I did not come to hear of your exploits, monsieur, but
to receive your surrender.  I am a soldier; my men are State troops;
the case is different."

"Quite so, monsieur.  I appreciate the difference between his men and
yours.  But you will pardon my pointing out that you are in a far more
critical position than Monsieur Elbel before his camp was stormed."

"You think so, monsieur?" said the officer with an amused smile.
"Would it be indiscreet to ask your reasons?"

"Not at all.  I wish to be entirely frank.  It is to the interest of us
both."

"Assuredly, monsieur."

Lieutenant Jennaert's smile was now quite indulgent.  He was at first
inclined to be peremptory with this young man, who appeared to presume
on the victories he had obtained over a Company's official, and a
captain taken at a disadvantage, and never particularly competent, in
his subordinate's opinion.  But the young fellow was certainly very
polite; why not humour him by letting him talk?  So Jennaert smiled
again.  The other continued--

"Well, monsieur, what is the position?  Take mine first.  You see
before you a fortified camp, difficult of approach, as Monsieur Elbel
could have told you, and as you can judge for yourself; well
provisioned, and with a good water supply; garrisoned by four hundred
or more well-armed men--all now provided with Albinis or Mausers, and a
machine gun."

The officer started.

"A machine gun?"

"Yes--a machine gun."

"Monsieur Elbel made no mention of a machine gun."

"No, it is a new acquisition.  But if you would like to assure yourself
on the point I can convince you."

The officer hesitated.  Jack turned to Lepoko.

"Run up and tell Mr. Barney to show the big gun on the blockhouse."

Lepoko ran away.

"It is very hot, monsieur," said Jack pleasantly.  "The rains, I am
told by my friends the chiefs here, are long overdue.  I am afraid you
would have found your journey rather more difficult if it had been a
little later, with the river in flood.--Ah! there it is!"

A number of men had hoisted the gun on to the edge of the parapet, in
full view of the group below.

"You see, monsieur, we are well provided.  A machine gun, you will
admit, is even more useful within walls than without.  Now as to your
position.  You have under your command some three hundred men
trained--more or less.  Whether as a military force they are better
than our men can only be decided if unfortunately you determine to put
the matter to the test.  But consider your risks.  Two days ago we
captured your stores."--The officer jumped.--"Your rearguard is in our
hands, and that was your machine gun."--The officer stared.--"You are
at least three weeks from your base, with perhaps two days' provisions
in hand, no reserve of ammunition, and, as I said, the rains overdue.
Yonder country, during the rains, is a swamp."

Lieutenant Jennaert turned pale.  His messengers sent back to hurry on
the dilatory convoy had strangely failed to return.  But recovering
himself, with a feeble attempt to smile he said--

"You are joking, monsieur.  You permit yourself a ruse.  Ah! ah!  I am
not to be entrapped in that way."

"Pardon me, monsieur.  You shall have the fullest assurance as to the
truth of what I am saying.  Lepoko, ask Mr. Barney to send out the
white officer."

The Belgian was now looking very uncomfortable.  This was a strange
turning of the tables; his summons to surrender had been completely
forgotten.  Jack had no need to kill time by keeping up the
conversation, for in a minute or two the lieutenant captured in the
river left the fort under an armed guard and walked quickly down.

"Beuzemaker!" exclaimed Lieutenant Jennaert under his breath.

"Yes, monsieur--Monsieur Beuzemaker."

Lieutenant Beuzemaker smiled ruefully as he joined the group.  He gave
a rapid narrative of the capture of the convoy.

"It only remains, therefore," said Jack, "for you to decide upon your
course, monsieur.  May I make you a proposal?  You shall surrender your
arms and ammunition except a dozen rifles.  I will supply you with
canoes to take your men down the river, and provisions for a fortnight.
Within ten days you should enter a district where more food can be
obtained.  As you know, the country hereabouts has been made almost a
desert by your people."

But this was too much.  Was it he, Lieutenant Jennaert, who was being
called upon to surrender?  He rose in a fury.

"Never!  The thing is absurd!  Monsieur, I take my leave.
Beuzemaker!----"

He stopped, biting his lips.

"Monsieur Beuzemaker is my prisoner," said Jack suavely, rising.  "He
will accompany me back to my camp.  Of course, if you accept our terms,
we will release all the prisoners."

The Belgian turned away in a rage.  The meeting broke up; the two
parties went their several ways.  Jack, as he walked back to the fort,
hoped that on thinking the matter over the officer would see the wisdom
of compliance.  The alternative was starvation.  He must see that it
would be no easy matter to storm the fort, and that Jack had only to
sit tight for a few days.  The State troops, none too well disciplined
at the best, would soon be clamouring for food.  With a starving
soldiery, an active well-fed enemy on his rear, and a swarm of scouts
cutting off his foraging parties, he must see the impossibility of
making his way back through several hundred miles of country inhabited
by tribes only waiting an opportunity to rise against their oppressors.
So that when Barney met him as he re-entered the fort, and asked
eagerly, "Well, sorr, and did the patient swallow the pill?" he smiled
as he shook his head, saying--

"Not yet, Barney.  But he _will_ swallow it, bitter as it is."

"Or his men will swallow him, bedad!"

And a few hours later a negro soldier marched up the hill with a white
flag.  Lieutenant Jennaert's note was very brief.


MONSIEUR,--

J'agrée vos conditions.

JENNAERT,
  _Lieutenant dans l'armée de l'État du Congo_.



CHAPTER XXXII

The Dawn of Freedom

It was a fortnight later.  Ilombekabasi was the scene of great
activity.  Gangs of negroes were busy carrying, hauling, stones of all
shapes and sizes from the dry bed of the stream that once flowed past
the fort; other gangs were building a wall above the original northern
wall of the fort, a few yards beyond the spring whence the water supply
was derived.  On the cultivable land on the west and east men and women
were digging, ploughing, planting, hoeing, for in some parts seed sown
only two weeks before was already sprouting.  Barney O'Dowd
superintended the mason work, sporting a red fez taken from one of the
slain Askari and dry-cleaned by a process of his own.  In his mouth was
his old short clay pipe, in which, after long deprivation, he was
smoking a mixture made by himself from tobacco grown on a bed in front
of his hut.  It was not shag, he said, nor twist, but it made a betther
smoke than cavendish, and sure 'twould give a man a little comfort till
the rale thing could be grown.  The agriculturists were directed by
Imbono.  An air of cheerful industry pervaded the whole settlement.

When the State troops under Lieutenant Jennaert had disappeared, Jack
determined, after a breathing space, to enlarge the fort and to plant
new crops.  The enlargement was prompted not merely by the wish to have
the source of the water supply within the wall, but by the expectation
that the defeat of Bula Matadi would cause an increase of the
population.  And, in fact, within a week of Jennaert's departure,
natives from distant parts to which the news had penetrated came
flocking into Ilombekabasi to join the community which looked up to
Lokolobolo as its invincible chief.

Looking round upon the cheerful faces of the people; observing their
willingness to work, and eagerness to please; watching the happy family
life they led when unmolested and free from anxieties, Jack felt that
his toil had not been in vain, and was immeasurably glad that
Providence had laid this charge upon him.  If only his uncle had lived
to see this day!

Jack found that his feelings were shared by Mr. Arlington and his
friend the missionary.  They had awaited the issue of his hazardous
enterprise with more anxiety than they cared to admit, and while they
hailed his success with cordial congratulations, they were scarcely
less troubled about the future.  The Congo State could not permit this
leaven of revolt to spread; it would certainly organize an
expeditionary force of sufficient strength to crush Jack and his
people; and then would not their lot be infinitely worse than it had
ever been?

"Even so we shall have had some months of happiness, and set an
example," said Jack, talking things over with his friends the day
before they left Ilombekabasi.  "But I hope for better things.  We may
have the rains upon us any day now; the country for miles around will
be one vast morass; we shall be safe in our castle for six months,
perhaps.  And what may not be done in six months, Mr. Arlington?"

"You mean?"

"I mean if you and Mr. Dathan will hurry home and tell what you have
seen and know.  Mr. Arlington, you are no longer a member of
Parliament, I believe?"

"No.  The House of Commons is no longer what it was."

"Surely it is what men like you choose to make it, sir.  If you would
go home, stand at a bye-election, and return to the House, what an
immense influence a man with your record might wield!  Do you know what
I would do in your place, sir?  You do not mind my speaking out?"

"Not a bit.  I am deeply interested."

"Well, sir, I would badger the Foreign Secretary; I would move the
country until England moved the world."

"Go on the stump like Gladstone?"

"Why not, sir?  Isn't the cause of the negroes every bit as good as the
cause of the Bulgarians or Macedonians or Armenians?  Nay, ten times
better, because they're more helpless and suffer under a Christian
King!  And you would succeed, sir."

"I haven't Gladstone's power of moving the masses."

"What does that matter?  The facts don't need any eloquence to back
them, sir.  I don't mean that you are not eloquent," he added with a
smile.  "I haven't heard you speak, but I have read your speeches; and
if you tell what you have seen here, the country must listen, and
something will surely be done.  Why, if you go to my old school and
speak to the fellows in the schoolhouse, I'll back there's not a boy
there but will want to rush off here by the first train, to lend a
hand!"

"Upon my word, Mr. Challoner, I think you'd better come back with us
and do the stumping yourself."

"No, no," said Jack, his face flushing.  "I cannot leave these people.
My place is here, and here I'll stick until I'm driven out, or until
Leopold is brought to book."

"Well, I'll do what I can.  I promise you that.  Perhaps I've ploughed
the lonely furrow long enough.  What do you say, Dathan?  Shall we join
hands in this?  We rowed in the same boat at Trinity; we kept the head
of the river.  This boat's rather low down now, but d'you think we
could make a bump?"

"We'll make a shot for it, George.  And please God, we like Bishop
Latimer, will light such a candle in England as shall not be put out
until this wrong is crushed and right is done."

Jack felt more than satisfied.  If his countrymen had not grown
strangely deaf, surely they would listen to these two--ay, and do more
than listen.

"You leave to-morrow?" he said.

"Yes.  My leg won't carry me yet, but with a canoe and a litter I can
make shift to get along until we reach the Nyanza.  Can you lend me an
interpreter?"

"Lepoko is a good fellow.  I think I can spare him now.  We'll see what
he says."

He sent for the man, and explained that he wished him to accompany the
travellers during the first part of their journey.

"Me plenty sorry, massa," said Lepoko.  "Me no fit to go.  What for?
Me comfy heah!  No lib for go talk talk for nudder massa.  What for?
Nando go to Boma with old massa; what den?  He come back, get cotched,
chicotte, feel plenty bad.  No, no, sah; Lepoko know all 'bout dat.
Lepoko go long long, do anyfing for massa; he lib for lub Lokolobolo,
no nudder massa dis time.  Why, me hab got wife in Ilombekabasi; what
for leabe wife?  No good at all; dat what Bula Matadi make black man
do, leabe wife, leabe pickin, go 'way all 'lone 'lone.  Make black man
sick inside, sah; feel awful bad.  No, no, I tell massa.  Nando go.  He
know Inglesa plenty fine; he hab no got wife; he die of shame 'cos he
leabe Samba in fire hut; no one lub Nando now.  Oh yes, sah!  Nando go:
me tell him one time."

After this breathless speech, Lepoko ran off to find his brother.
Nando at first was by no means disposed to leave the fort on so long
and hazardous a journey.  But at last he was persuaded, though on
bidding Jack good-bye he said earnestly--

"Me nebber, nebber, nebber lib for hab nudder brudder what talk
Inglesa: oh no!"

One afternoon a few days after this, one of the look-outs on the
south-eastern blockhouse reported that he saw a crowd of people
emerging from the forest a couple of miles away.  Hurrying to the spot,
Jack took a long look through his field-glasses and made out that the
approaching throng was composed of natives, men, women, and children,
the women being laden with babies and bundles.  When the crowd came
within earshot of the fort, a negro stepped forward, and, lifting his
hands to his mouth, vociferated--

"Yo!  Yo!"

"Answer him, Lianza," said Jack to the man of the brazen throat.

"I am here," shouted Lianza.

"Is that Ilombekabasi?"

"It is Ilombekabasi."

"And Lokolobolo?"

"And Lokolobolo."

"I am Lokua.  My chief is Makole.  We come from Limpoko to see
Lokolobolo."

"Lokolobolo says that Makole and Lokua may enter, but no more."

"I am going."

"Are you going?"

"O!"

The negro returned to his company, who were now squatting in a series
of circles just above the site of Elbel's ruined camp.  He presently
returned with a negro in chief's array, a head taller than himself.

The two negroes were admitted.  Makole stood before Jack, a bundle of
palm leaves in one hand.  They exchanged greetings.

"I am proud to see Lokolobolo," said Makole.  "I come from Limpoko.
All my people have come with me, my four wives, my children, all my
people.  We have heard of the great things done by Lokolobolo in
Ilombekabasi, and how he beat Elobela and Mutela and other servants of
the Great White Chief who eats up the black men.  We come to ask
Lokolobolo to let us be his people.  I am Makole, the chief; I have
four wives and many children; but I say I will be Lokolobolo's servant;
all my people shall be his servants, if he will take us into
Ilombekabasi and let us live in peace."

"Why do you wish to leave Limpoko?" asked Jack.

"We do not wish to leave Limpoko.  But what can we do, O Lokolobolo?
The rubber is done; we have no more of it; day by day the servants of
the Great White Chief beat us and kill us because we cannot fill our
baskets; Limpoko will soon be a wilderness.  We come before we are all
gone, and we beg Lokolobolo to hear our entreaty."

"Shall we admit Makole?" asked Jack of Imbono, who had come to his side.

"Makole is a tall man, a great chief.  We will be blood brothers and
live together."

"You may bring your people in, Makole.  But I warn you it may not be to
live in peace.  We have offended Bula Matadi; Bula Matadi will come
with a great host to destroy us.  All who live in Ilombekabasi must not
look for ease and peace, but for work and war.  Your people must share
with the rest; they must build their own huts, till the fields, repair
the walls, learn to scout and to fight in our way.  It is not peace,
Makole."

"I praise Lokolobolo!  I trust Lokolobolo!  I will do all he says, and
my people shall learn all that he teaches," cried the chief, slapping
his thighs.  Then, unwrapping the bundle of palm leaves, he displayed a
shrivelled hand, and said--

"This is my gift to Lokolobolo."

"What is this, Makole?" asked Jack, shuddering.

"It is the hand of Boloko, who whipped us and killed us, who can say
how many?  We met him as we came through the forest, and my young men
killed him, and I bring his hand to Lokolobolo to show that he is dead,
and will trouble us no more."

"But we do not deal with our enemies thus," said Jack.

The chief looked surprised.

"It is the way of the servants of the Great White Chief," he said.
"They kill us, and cut off our hands, and take them to their chiefs,
and the chiefs are pleased and pay brass rods for them.  I thought
Lokolobolo would be pleased."

"Lokolobolo is Inglesa," said Lepoko.  "It is only Bula Matadi that
pays for the hands of black men.  Give it to Mboyo; he is Boloko's
brother.  Boloko hated Mboyo,  he hated Samba; Mboyo will be pleased."

"Bury it at once, out of sight," said Jack, "Bring your people in,
Makole.  Lepoko, take him to Mr. Barney; he will show him where to
build his huts."

All Ilombekabasi flocked to the gates to see the entrance of this new
contingent.  They came in laughing, singing, dancing, the mothers
eagerly asking where was Lokolobolo that they might point him out to
their little ones.  But Lokolobolo was not to be seen.



CHAPTER XXXIII

Conclusion

Jack had turned sadly from the sight of this joyous entry, and made his
way towards the largest of the huts--the hut built for Mr. Martindale.
There Samba lay--had lain since Barney, with a woman's tenderness, had
carried him from Elbel's camp to the beloved Ilombekabasi which he had
thought never to see again.  Little indeed he saw of the fort and of
what was passing there as he lay, day by day, on his simple bamboo bed;
for though his wounds slowly healed, not all the loving care lavished
upon him by his parents and by Barney, who spent every spare hour at
his bedside--not the constant companionship of Pat himself--brought
back strength to his slowly wasting form.

Still, he was always cheerful.  The ready smile lit up his face as
Lokolobolo appeared in the narrow doorway.  Barney rose as Jack entered
and made room for him at the head of the bed.

"How are you now, Samba?" asked Jack, taking his hand.

"Better, master, better," answered the boy, his voice scarcely audible.

"That's right.  Getting a little appetite, eh?  Must eat, you know, if
you're to grow strong."

"See my _kwanga_," said the mother, coming forward.  "He eats no more
than a bird."

"It is nice, mother; I will eat more by and by.  I am so tired now."

"Poor little fellow!  You are in no pain?"

"No, master, no pain; only tired."

"Cheer up!  You will feel better in the morning."

He pressed the boy's hand and turned to leave with Barney.  At the door
Mboyo overtook him.

"He will not go yet to the Great Spirit, O Lokolobolo?" he whispered
anxiously.

"We cannot tell, Mboyo.  All we can do is to tend him well.  Hope for
the best."

"Poor bhoy!" said Barney as they went away; "'tis mighty little betther
he is, sorr, I'm fearing.  'Twould tax the strength uv a horse to get
over it, widout docthors an' all."

As they walked across the camp, here a man, there a woman, paused in
their work to ask Lokolobolo how Samba was.  Children came up--Lofinda,
for whom Samba had shaped a tiny gun; Lokilo, proud of his little
fishing-rod, Samba's gift; Isangila, wearing a necklace of dried maize
he had made for her--and asked shyly when Samba would come out and play
with them again.  Some brought offerings of food specially prepared,
delicate fish and rare fruits, the choicest spoil of forest and stream
for miles around.  Everybody loved the boy; and Jack loved him with a
particular affection.  Over and above his winning ways, Samba stood for
so much to Jack, who, in thoughtful moods, seemed to see him as the
spirit of the negro race, the embodiment of all that was best in the
black man, the representative of millions of his kind, helpless pawns
in a royal game of beggar my neighbour.  It was Samba whose woful
plight had first brought home to his heart the terrible realities of
the rubber slavery; it was Samba who had been the means of founding
Ilombekabasi; to him was due the torch of freedom lit at last in this
stricken land--a torch that Jack, in his heart of hearts, dared to hope
would never be extinguished.  Surely the conscience of Christendom was
awakening!  Pray God the awakening came not too late!


A great silence lay upon Ilombekabasi.  To a stranger beyond the walls
the place might have seemed deserted, so still it was, with none of the
cheerful bustle that marks the beginning of a new day.  Men and women
were gathered in little knots; they talked in whispers; some were
sobbing; the eyes of most were dim with tears.  Even the children were
subdued and quiet; they forgot their play, staring at their elders with
puzzled, solemn eyes.  Why was the world so sad to-day?  Was it because
Samba was going away?  Surely he would come back to them; he had come
back before.

Samba was leaving Ilombekabasi.

Four persons stood by the little bamboo bed.  At the foot a dog
crouched, whimpering.  Father and mother bent in mute agony over their
son; Lukela, the fountain of her tears dried through long weeping,
hovering above her boy as though by sheer power of love to guard him
from the dread visitant already at the threshold; Mboyo rocking himself
to and fro in the abandonment of sorrow.  And the two white men bowed
their heads in silent sympathy and grief.  They knew that the end was
very near.

Jack felt a great lump in his throat as he gazed at the still form,
lying with outstretched arms, too weak to move.  Poor little fellow!
Was this the end of the bright young life, so full of promise?  He
thought of the days of health, when the boy with happy face went hither
and thither, eager to do some service for his beloved master, no matter
how hard or how perilous.  He thought of the dangers Samba had faced
for his parents' sake, and the brightness he had brought into their
lives and the lives of hundreds of his people.  He thought with agony
of the terrible scene when Samba, rather than say a word to the undoing
of those he loved, had endured the tortures inflicted by the inhuman
agent of a detestable tyranny.  And now the end was at hand!  The
blithe spirit was departing, the poor body done to death by the greed
of a Christian King.  "Botofé bo le iwa!  Rubber is death!"  The words
rang in Jack's ears; would they were the knell of this despotism, this
monstrous "system" that bought wealth with the price of blood!

The end came soon.  Samba moved his hand, and turned his eyes, and
murmured "Pat!"  The watchers barely caught the word, but the dog
sprang up, and went to the bed, and nestled his head on the boy's
shoulder.  Samba murmured his pleasure, a happy smile lit up the brave
young eyes, and then the light faded, and went out.  Samba had left
Ilombekabasi.

They buried him next day in the forest he knew and loved so well, with
the ceremonies of his people, and as befitted the son of a chief.

All the people of Ilombekabasi, men, women, and little children,
followed him to the grave.  They laid by his side the few possessions
of the boy--his rifle, his knife, his tin, his wooden spear.  And some
of his comrades, Makoko and Lingombela and Lianza and Lepoko, fired a
salute over him and left him there among the trees.

That night, sitting in Jack's hut, Barney talked of the past and the
future.

"Poor ould master came here for gold, sorr.  All the gold in all the
world is not worth little Samba's life.  Whin the master looks down out
uv Paradise and sees the people here, I know what he'll say, just as if
I heard 'm.  He'll say: 'I was niver a philanthrophy, niver did hould
wid that sort uv thing.  But I'm rale glad that bhoy uv mine wint out
wid me in time to make a few poor black people happy.  Poor craturs!
God bless 'em!'  Sure, sorr, black people have got their feelings--same
as dogs."



THE END



_Butler and Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London_



JUST PUBLISHED

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


One of Clive's Heroes

A STORY OF THE FIGHT FOR INDIA

ILLUSTRATED BY W. RAINEY, R.I.

The Headmaster of Harrow: "I have read it and think it a very good
book.  The historical accuracy is really wonderful in a romance, and
the local Indian colour well preserved.  Mr. Strang is to be
congratulated."

Athenaeum: "An absorbing story....  The narrative not only thrills, but
also weaves skilfully out of fact and fiction a clear impression of our
fierce struggle for India."

Aberdeen Free Press: "Mr. Strang may congratulate himself on having
achieved another superlatively good story."

Guardian: "An excellent tale.  Mr. Herbert Strang's care and accuracy
in detail are far beyond those of the late Mr. Henty, with whom it is
the fashion to compare his work, while he tells a story infinitely
better."

Christian World: "A book from Mr. Herbert Strang is now as regular and
welcome an event as in former days were Mr. Henty's yearly volumes.
_One of Clive's Heroes_ will thrill many a young heart during the
Christmas holidays.  Sound history and thrilling romance."

Lady's Pictorial: "When in doubt what to buy for a boy, or boys, for a
Christmas gift, choose Mr. Herbert Strang's _One of Clive's Heroes_."

Church Times: "Boys are fortunate indeed to have found in Mr. Strang a
worthy successor to their old friend, the late G. A. Henty."

Notts Guardian: "'The successor to Henty' is a title that needs living
up to; but Mr. Herbert Strang, upon whom it has been conferred, richly
deserves it."

Educational Times: "Far better than Henty."

Education: "A splendid book for boys.  We used to think that no one
could take Henty's place; and we feel certain that no one will ever be
able to take Mr. Strang's."

Saturday Review: "Herbert Strang tells a story as well as Henty told
it, and his style is much more finished."


HODDER AND STOUGHTON

PUBLISHERS LONDON


      *      *      *      *      *


JUST PUBLISHED

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

(HERBERT STRANG'S FIRST HALF-CROWN BOOK)

Jack Hardy

OR, A HUNDRED YEARS AGO

ILLUSTRATED BY W. RAINEY, R.I.

Bookman: "A story about a gallant young middy could not have a more
alluring sub-title than 'A Hundred Years Ago.'  On his way to join the
_Fury_ the gallant midshipman discovered a hotbed of smuggling at
Luscombe, and unearthed a spy of Napoleon's.  Jack's first fight with
the smugglers ended disastrously, and he soon found himself in a French
prison.  Thence he made a daring escape, recaptured the _Fury_, and
picked up a fine prize ship on his way back to Portsmouth.  The
characters in the story are drawn with originality and humour,
especially that fine seaman Babbage....  Finally Jack triumphs all
along the line, and his gallantry is rewarded by his appointment to
join the _Victory_.  Boys will expect to hear more of Jack Hardy, and
of what he did at Trafalgar."

Athenaeum: "Herbert Strang is second to none in graphic power and
veracity....  Here is the best of character sketching in bold outline."

Speaker: "A greater than Henty."

School Guardian: "Mr. Herbert Strang fills in stories for boys the
place of the late Mr. Henty."

Tribune: "Herbert Strang's former books 'caught on' with our boys as no
other books of adventure since Henty's industrious pen fell from his
hand."

Dublin Express: "It has become a truism to say that the mantle of Henty
has descended to Herbert Strang, and indeed in some respects Mr. Strang
surpasses Henty."


HODDER AND STOUGHTON

PUBLISHERS LONDON


      *      *      *      *      *


BY HERBERT STRANG


Kobo

A STORY OF THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR

Athenaeum: "In Kobo, Herbert Strang has provided much more than a good
boys' book for the Christmas market.  Whilst readers of _Tom Burnaby_
will not be disappointed of an ample meal of stirring adventures and
hard war fights, readers of a more serious turn will find an excellent
picture of Japanese life and character, ... not to mention some vivid
sketches of modern naval warfare."

Spectator: "An excellent story, such as one might expect to have from
the author of that capital book, _Tom Burnaby_....  'With a Japanese,
duty comes inexorably first.'  This, indeed, is the key-note of the
whole story.  This principle of action dominates Bob's friend, and it
dominates the story."

Saturday Review: "Last year a new name of great promise appeared in the
list of writers of boys' books.  This year the promise shown by Mr.
Herbert Strang in _Tom Burnaby_ is more than borne out by _Kobo_ and
_Boys of the Light Brigade_....  He shares the late Mr. Henty's
knowledge of history and war; he is less encyclopaedic in his
descriptive methods perhaps than was Henty, though he gives the same
air of verisimilitude to his chapters by means of maps and charts ...
he has an admirable style, and a sense of humour which he handles with
the more effect because he never turns a situation into broad farce."

Academy: "For vibrant actuality there is nothing to come up to Mr.
Strang's _Kobo_."

Daily Telegraph: "This vivid story owes not a little of its
attractiveness to its many picturesque touches of local colour."

Pall Mall Gazette  "Mr. Herbert Strang, whose splendid story, _Tom
Burnaby_, proved so brilliantly successful last year, has written
another that will rank as its equal for vivid interest."

Westminster Gazette: "An adventure story after a boy's own heart."


      *      *      *      *      *


BY HERBERT STRANG


Brown of Moukden

Athenaeum: "Herbert Strang may be congratulated on another first-rate
book....  Characterization is a strong feature, ... and Ah Lum, the
literary chief of the brigands, is a memorable type."

Spectator: "Mr. Strang has very rightly taken up again the subject in
which his story of _Kobo_ achieved such a success last year....  The
story is very skilfully constructed....  Of particular scenes we may
single out for mention the episode of the railway train, ... a most
effective piece of narrative....  The relief of humorous passages and
situations has been given, and without stint....  Ah Lum, the
spectacled brigand chief, with all the wisdom of Confucius and Lao-Tze
at his finger tips, is a most amusing person....  _Brown of Moukden_ is
certainly a success."

Academy: "Related with the same spirit and intimate knowledge of the
East that made _Kobo_ a marked success."

Church Times: "The incident of the locomotive race down the Siberian
Railway is, for breathless interest, the equal of anything we know of
in the whole range of juvenile fiction....  The book will hold boy
readers spellbound."

Army and Navy Gazette: "When Mr. Henty died boys were disconsolate, for
they had lost a real friend; but now we have Mr. Herbert Strang most
capably taking his place.  He was welcomed as showing great promise in
_Tom Burnaby_, but he did better in _Kobo_, that strong story of the
earlier pages of the Russo-Japanese War, and now he has done better
still in _Brown of Moukden_."

Gentlewoman: "Mr. Herbert Strang may really be said to be the successor
of the late Mr. Henty, and parents and others on the look-out for
desirable boys' books must be grateful to him each year for an
excellent story at Christmastide....  This is the literature we want
for young England."

Journal of Education: "Mr. Strang's former books have led us to expect
great things from his pen, and these volumes prove him to be in the
foremost rank of writers of boys' books.  They are thoroughly healthy
in tone, full of stirring adventures; and in each case linked to
history in a manner that is never oppressive, and adds considerably to
the interest of the story."


      *      *      *      *      *


BY HERBERT STRANG


Boys of the Light Brigade

A STORY OF SPAIN AND THE PENINSULAR WAR

Spectator: "Mr. Strang's name will suffice to assure us that the
subject is seriously treated, and a better subject could hardly be
found....  Altogether a capital story."

Professor Oman (Chichele Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and
Author of _A History of the Peninsular War_): "Pray accept thanks from
a historian for having got historical accuracy, combined with your fine
romantic adventures."

Outlook: "Let us be thankful for a boy's book really worth reading."

Schoolmaster: "We have read this book with great interest and delight.
More than four hundred pages of the most thrilling events are told with
a marvellous fidelity to history."

Standard: "It is a book which no boy will be able to put down when once
started."



The Adventures of Harry Rochester

A STORY OF THE DAYS OF MARLBOROUGH AND EUGENE

Academy: "_Tom Burnaby_ and _Kobo_--the best books of their
season--have a worthy successor in _The Adventures of Harry Rochester_."

Glasgow Herald: "Mr. Herbert Strang again displays all the qualities
that attracted attention and secured for him such a brilliant success
when he made his appearance two years ago as the author of _Tom
Burnaby_....  We recommend it to all parents who want something
thoroughly sound, as well as interesting, to put into the hands of
their boys."

Army and Navy Gazette: "The descriptive power and characterization are
quite remarkable."

Dundee Advertiser: "In some essentials, such as constancy in bold
action, this well-studied and finely-coloured tale is superior to any
written by the lamented Henty.  With the need of some one to take
Henty's vacant place has come the man."


      *      *      *      *      *


BY HERBERT STRANG


Tom Burnaby

Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley: "It is just the sort of book I would give
to any schoolboy, for I know he would enjoy every page of it."

Sir A. Conan Doyle: "... I think it is a really excellent picture of
African life."

Mr. J. L. Paton, Head-master of Manchester Grammar School: "... It is
worth reading and thoroughly wholesome.  I wish it all success."

Dr. R. P. Scott, Secretary of the Head-masters' Association: "... I
have read the book from cover to cover, and found it thoroughly
interesting, vivid, healthful, and helpful.  I can cordially recommend
it to boys, and will do so whenever opportunity offers."

Pall Mall Gazette: "That splendid story _Tom Burnaby_."

Educational News: "The stirring pages of _Tom Burnaby_."

Literary World: "... Mr. Strang ... has put as much work into this
story as one finds in a really good novel; the little bits of useful
information that he sprinkles through it are palatable and readily
digestible, and the 'atmosphere' (if one may mix one's metaphors)
'rings true.'"

Mark Lane Express: "... Mr. Strang has come to the front rank with a
bound...."

World: "... The tone of the story is excellent; manly and spirited, it
cannot fail to rouse a response in a boy's heart."

Financial News: "As a writer of stirring stories the author of the
famous _Tom Burnaby_ stands in the front rank of those who devote their
talents to the edification of the rising generation."

School Government Chronicle: "Mr. Herbert Strang understands the taste
and temper of the British public-school boy."

Liverpool Mercury: "The record of his career deserved to be bound in
leather and blocked on all sides with gold."

Dundee Advertiser: "... as good as the plot is the way in which the
author conveys a living impression of the region and its inhabitants."

Glasgow Evening News: "... a masterpiece in the Henty manner."

Englishman (Calcutta): "It is a book that every wholesome-minded boy
will revel in, for it is alive with action and picturesque adventure."





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