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Title: Kate Meredith, Financier
Author: Hyne, Charles John Cutcliffe Wright
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kate Meredith, Financier" ***

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[Frontispiece: They explained in bold, clear tones that they were the
chief ju-ju men of all Africa.  Page 224.]



  Kate Meredith
  _FINANCIER_

  By

  C. J. CUTCLIFFE HYNE

  Author of
  "Captain Kettle, K.C.S.," "McTodd,"
  "The Filibuster," "Adventures of Captain Kettle,"
  "The Trials of Commander McTurk."



  Illustrated in Water-Colors by FRANK PARKER


  Copyright, 1906, by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne



  A. HAMBURGER & SONS, INC.,
  SPECIAL EDITION,
  LOS ANGELES, CAL.


  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  THE AUTHORS AND NEWSPAPERS ASSOCIATION
  1906



_Copyright 1906 by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne_

_Entered at Stationers' Hall_

_All rights reserved_



  Composition and Electrotyping by
  J. J. Little & Co.
  Printed and bound by the
  Plimpton Press, Norwood, Mass



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I. A West Coast Welcome
  II. Introduces Miss Laura Slade
  III. The King who Stopped the Roads
  IV. The Beach by Moonlight
  V. Events at Malla-Nulla
  VI. The Coming of the Okky-Men
  VII. The Invisible Fire
  VIII. Presents the Head of the Firm
  IX. Navigation of Dog's-Leg Creek
  X. Envoys in Council
  XI. Again Presents the Head of the Firm
  XII. Exhibits Antiseptics
  XIII. At the Liverpool End
  XIV. Tin Hill: The Journey
  XV. Tin Hill: The Mine
  XVI. The King's Bounty
  XVII. Kate Sends a Cablegram
  XVIII. Carter Makes A Purchase
  XIX. Senhor Cascaes
  XX. Major Meredith
  XXI. The Feeling on the Coast
  XXII. A Fisherman and his Catch
  XXIII. The Song of Speed



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

These explained, in bold, clear tones that they were the chief ju-ju
men of all Africa . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

He fired on and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till the heated
barrels of the repeaters burned Laura Slade's hands

Then, as the crocodile jumped once more, he threw up the rifle and shot
it under the left foreleg, where the protective plates are absent

She gazed her fill on this very crude presentment of George Carter



[Illustration: (Facsimile Page of Manuscript from KATE MEREDITH
FINANCIER)]



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER



CHAPTER I

A WEST COAST WELCOME

"Mighty beach to-day!" grumbled Captain Image, and handed binoculars
across to the purser.

Mr. Balgarnie tossed his cigarette over the lee rail and tucked a sheaf
of papers into his mouth so as to have two spare hands.  Day had ten
minutes before glared up over an oily swell-writhing sea of
bottle-green; dew lay in fat greasy gouts on the deck planks and the
skylight frames, foretelling in clear prophecy another spell of
scalding West African sunshine; and a mile out from the crashing,
bellowing surf that smoked along the beach, the S.S. _M'poso_ buttocked
sullenly over the swells, with engines rung off, and sweating firemen
on the top of the fiddley, slewing ventilators to catch a flavor of the
breeze.

"They've seen us, sir, at the factory," said Mr. Balgarnie.  "All the
boys are out working cargo, and there's old Swizzle-Stick Smith sucking
his eternal pipe and hustling them with a chiquot.  I can catch the
glint of his eyeglass.  Wonder how long that man's been out on the
Coast?  Must be a matter of twenty years now by all accounts since he
had his last run home.  He's found the right kind of ju-ju to dodge
fever-palaver, anyhow.  They say he's a lazy old beach-comber as a
general thing, but he's up bright and early this morning."

"Wouldn't you rouse out in a hurry if you only saw a Christian
steamboat once in three months at the oftenest?  I told the second mate
to make fast the whistle string to the bridge rail when he judged he
was five miles off the old sinner's beach, and I guess Swizzle-Stick
Smith jumped slap through his mosquito bar at the first toot.  See
those pyjamas he's wearing?  He bought them at the forecastle shop
aboard here just six months ago."

"Blue, with a pink stripe, so they are.  This is a rare good glass of
yours, sir.  Yes, I remember Chips telling me.  Three pairs he got at
nine bob a pair.  Wouldn't pay a sixpence more.  And tried to get a
bottle of Eno thrown in as a make-weight.  Phew! but this day's going
to be a ringtailed scorcher.  Look at the mist clearing away from those
hills at the back already."

Captain Image stuffed a pipe and lit it.  "It's a murdering bad beach
to-day," he repeated.  "Always is when there's a few tons of cargo
waiting for me to get commission on."

The purser touched no cargo commission, and so had but small sympathy
for cargo gathering.  "I see old Swizzle-Stick's making his boys run
down the oil casks into the surf.  They'll never swim them through.
Rather a pity, isn't it, sir, to stay on here and let them try?
They're bound to get half of them stove at the very least."

"That's his palaver.  I missed calling here last round.  There was a
swell like a cliff that day; but then there always is a bad beach along
this run of the Coast; and so he should have double lot of cargo ready
for me.  There'll be oil and there'll be rubber, and I shouldn't wonder
but what he's a few bags of kernels as well.  I bet that factory on the
beach there is just bulging with cargo.  It ought to tally up to quite
fifty tons, and I'm not going to have some other captain snapping up
old Swizzle-Stick Smith's trade if I know it.  Balgarnie, my lad, I'd
the straight tip given me from O'Neill and Craven's in Liverpool when I
was home.  If we don't make it handy to call at their factories along
this Coast, the Hamburg boats will.  They've shipped a new director or
something at O'Neill and Craven's--K. O'Neill he signs himself--and
that man intends to make things hum."

"My Whiskers!" said the Purser.  "I clean forgot.  We've a new clerk
for O'Neill and Craven's here at Malla-Nulla.  It's that red-haired
young chap, Carter, in the second class."

"Last three red-haired passengers I knew all pegged out within three
months of being put ashore.  Color of the hair seems to counteract the
effects of drugs.  Purser, I'll bet you just two cocktails Carter's
planted before we're here again next trip."

"It's on," said Mr. Balgarnie, "and I shall remember it.  The young
chap's made me a picture frame for my room as good as you could buy in
a shop, and he's built the Doc some barbed arrows just like those Kasai
ones the old chief brought along from the Congo when he was on the
Antwerp run.  He's a handy young fellow."

"That doesn't get over the red hair, Purser.  You'll lose that
cocktail.  Bet you another cocktail, if you like, he gets spilt in the
surf getting ashore."

Mr. Balgarnie winked pleasantly.  "Then we'll consider that last one
lost already."  He put his head inside the chart-house and called out
the captain's Krooboy steward--"Brass-Pan?"

"Yessar."

"We fit for two cocktail."

"Savvy."

"You lib for my room, you fetch dem gin-bottle, an' give him to bar
steward."

"Savvy."

"Well, what are you waiting for?  Get along, you bush-man, one-time ...
That's a poor boy I'm afraid you've got, Captain."

"Pipe-clays shoes very neatly," said Captain Image.  "Oh, you've
brought those papers for me to sign.  Well, come into the chart-house,
Purser, and we'll get them through.  Hope that fool of a boy will bring
the cocktails quick.  These early morning chills are dangerous unless
you take the proper preventives."

Meanwhile the brazen day had grown, and work proceeded at a forced
speed both on the steamer and on the beach.  Ashore, the lonely factory
bustled with evil-scented negroes, who strained at huge white-ended
palm oil puncheons.  On the _M'poso_ a crew of chattering Krooboys
busied themselves aft, and presently under the guidance of a profane
third mate a brace of surf-boats jerked down towards the water, the
tackles squealing like a parcel of angry cats as they rendered through
the blocks.  The boats spurned away into the clear sea before the
steamer's rusty iron side crashed down onto them: the Krooboys perched
themselves ape-like on the gunwales, paddle in hand: and in the stern
of each straddled a noisy headman, in billycock and trousers, straining
and swaying at the steering oar.

The headman was in charge, and the well-spiced official English of
ship-board ceased.  The speech in the boats was one of the barbaric
tongues of savage Africa.  But the work they got through and the skill
they showed exceeded by far that which could have been put forth by any
crew of white men.  Indeed, in his more pious moments, Captain Image,
in common with other mariners of his kind, firmly believed that God had
invented certain of the West African Coast tribes for the sole purpose
of handling the boats of the Liverpool oil tanks on surf-smitten
beaches.

Now, Captain Image was not in the least degree a snob, and he did not
take even first-class passengers on their face value.  As he would
explain to intimates, he was not out on the Coast for his health; he
very much wished to be able some day to retire on a competency, and
grow cabbages outside of Cardiff; and so he dispensed his affability on
a nicely regulated scale.  If a man could influence cargo in the
direction of the _M'poso_, Captain Image was ready at all times to
extend to him the rough red hand of friendship, and to supply gin
cocktails and German champagne till conversation flowed into the
desired commercial channel.  He called this casting bread upon the
waters, and could always rely on getting the prime cost back in
commission.  But he was no man to waste either his good liquor or his
pearls of speech on a mere fifty-pound-a-year clerk, with a red head,
who would very possibly be dead before the _M'poso's_ next call, and
who certainly could influence no cargo for the next two years to come.
So from the day they left Liverpool to the day when the steamer's
forefoot scraped at her cable off Malla-Nulla beach, Captain Image had
not condescended to offer that particular second-class passenger so
much as a morning nod.

But Captain Image was kindly enough in the West African way, and when
he had drunk his morning cocktail and gone through the Purser's papers,
he came out of the chart-house again and produced from his pyjama
pocket a half-filled box of pills.

"There, my lad," he said to Carter, as he made the presentation, "you
take one of those according to the directions on the lid, when
required, and you'll have your health kept in a repair that will
surprise you.  Now, mark me well; you'll be tempted with other brands
of pills; old Swiz--I mean Mr. Smith, your boss, is a regular crank on
drugs; but as sure as you tip other medicines down into your inside, my
pills will get hindered at their proper work, and you'll be knocked
over."

"Thanks," said Carter.  "But I always understood----"

"I'm sure you did.  Now there's one other thing I want to impress on
you, my lad.  Your duty is to get on, and the way to do that is to
scratch up cargo and send it home by the _M'poso_.  You see, my lad,
I've got more influence with O'Neill and Craven than any other captain
on the Coast (though you needn't go and stir up mischief by spreading
that about), and if you keep yourself in my memory by the way
Malla-Nulla ships cargo by me, I'll let them fully understand at the
home office that services like yours want a big raise in salary.
There, don't you bother to thank me, my lad, and just you stow that box
of pills where they won't get lost if you're spilt going ashore through
that surf.  It's a mighty bad beach to-day."

"Ah, morning, Carter," said Mr. Balgarnie as he bustled up.  "Got all
your things up on deck?  It's no concern of mine, of course, but if
there are any little odds and ends you want, such as socks, or Florida
water, or a mosquito bar, I believe Chips and the bos'n keep a sort of
surreptitious shop somewhere in the forecastle where you could fill up
your stores."

"Much obliged," said the passenger, "but I think I've got all I want,
or rather all I can afford."

"Remembered to bring donkey-clippers for hair-cutting?  No?  Well, just
as you please.  What I really wished to mention to you was this: when
your pay comes in, you'll naturally want little comforts sent out from
home, and you won't care to worry any of your friends to get them for
you.  Now don't you have any qualms about making use of me.  Just say
what you want, and I'll get it and bring it out."  Mr. Balgarnie winked
most pleasantly.  "I'm purser here, of course, and have to back up the
Company's charges, but I can always make the rates reasonable to oblige
a friend.  There, good-by, old fellow.  The boat's ready to take you
off."

A surf boat swung dizzily up and down at the guess-warp alongside and
the two yellow gladstone bags on its floor seemed ludicrously out of
place beside the savage paddlers.  Carter was conscious that his heart
worked up to an unpleasant activity; but he carried a serene face,
dropped to his knees in the gangway, and began with unaccustomed feet
to clamber down the Jacob's ladder.  He noted without disturbance that
he was daubing coal dust and orange-colored palm oil onto his hands and
white drill clothes in the process; but he had a mind now which
entirely disregarded the trivial; all his interest was fixed upon the
boat.

"Don't jump too soon."

"Take care you don't drop that new pith hat."

"Mind, don't let the boat come up and squash you."

"Don't flurry the man so.  Put your feet in your pocket if you see a
shark."

A stream of advice, much of it satirical, pelted him from above.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw beneath him the leaping boat and a
ring of negro grins.  It was these last that stiffened him into action.
The surf-boat swooped up sideways, and when it seemed to him that she
had reached the zenith of her leap, he let go the Jacob's ladder and
sprang for her.

It is a matter of nice judgment, this determination of the
psychological moment for a jump; and the amateur has it not.  As a
consequence Carter's foot slid on the wet gunwale; he buttocked
painfully onto a thwart; and was saved from spinning overboard by rough
and ready black fingers.  The new pith helmet received its first crack,
the white drill clothes were further soiled, and he was left to gather
himself out of the slop of water on the bottom of the boat as best he
pleased.  Already the Krooboy crew were perched ape-like on the
gunwales, and stabbing strenuously at the water with trident-headed
paddles.  The headman straddled in the stern with the muscles standing
out in him like nuts, as he sculled with the steering oar.

It had all passed so quickly that the steamer had only accomplished
one-half of a roll.  The white faces that he had seen last beside him
were now small and far away at the top of an enormously high iron wall,
and to their shouts of farewell and fluttering of handkerchiefs he
could not bring himself to return more than a curt hand-wave.  It
seemed to him that he was cut off entirely from white men and white
man's territory, and was launched beyond release into West Africa with
all its smells and accoutrements.

He settled himself in the mid thwart of the surf-boat with the water on
the floor flowing merrily in and out of his pipe-clayed shoes.
Whatever a white man may feel, he always assumes coolness and
indifference before the black, and Carter picked up the instinct of his
race.

His progress shoreward had two distinct phases.  At one time he and the
boat lay in a watery ravine with high sides towering above him, and no
view save of sleek bottle-green water and cobalt sky overhead.  The
next moment he was expressed upwards on to an eminence and there before
him lay landscape and seascape of most pleasant qualities.  At these
last moments of exaltation, he saw a glaring beach set along the sea's
edge, carrying white factory buildings, and backed in by an orderly
wall of green.

He saw also palm-oil puncheons being brought off, and an interest in
the work bit him immediately.  Here was the commodity which (bar death)
would for years to come be his chiefest intimate.  Between eclipses of
the rollers, he watched every stage of the work--the great white-ended
barrels rolled down the glaring beach, naked savages swimming them
through the surf with unimaginable skill, a green painted surf-boat at
anchor outside the breakers making them fast to a buoyed hawser.  He
saw another hawser-load being heaved out to the steamer's winch, with
the great casks popping about like a string of gigantic cherries.
Already on the _M'poso_ he had seen other puncheons howked on board by
a steam-crane which was driven by a one-eared Krooboy.

He had grasped this much of his new trade when sight seemed to grow
misty to him, and his body was chilled with an unpleasant perspiration.
It is one thing to take one's regular meals on a fine-sized steamboat,
whatever weather may befall; it is quite another to do one's voyaging
in a leaping, lancing, dancing, wallowing surf-boat.  Few men take
their first surf-boat ride over a bad roll without being violently
seasick, and Carter was no exception to the normal law.

In a hazy sort of way he noted that the paddlers had stopped their song
and their monotonous effort, and he was seized with a tremendous desire
to hurry them forward and get himself and his gladstone bags planted on
the stable beach.  Ahead of them were roaring, spouting breakers, which
it seemed impossible for any boat to live through; but waiting outside
their fringe was even more intolerable.

"Oh, get on!  For Heaven's sake, get on!" he wanted to shout, but
almost to his astonishment pride of race kept him grimly silent.  He
had never felt before the whole debt that is owing to a white skin.

The headman in the stern-sheets sculled now and again with his oar to
keep the boat head on to the roll, and between whiles chattered
nervously.  The Krooboy paddlers on the gunwales rested on their
paddles and scratched themselves.  Roller after roller went by,
flinging the boat up towards heaven, sucking her back again to the sea
grass below, with a rocking motion that was horrible beyond belief.
Carter felt the color ebb from his cheeks; he wondered with a grisly
humor if his head was paling also.

But at last the headman delivered himself of a shriek, and a galvanic
activity seized the paddlers.  They stabbed the water with their
trident-shaped blades, and stabbed and stabbed again.  The surf-boat
was poised on the crest of a great mound of water, and they were
straining every sinew to keep her there.  But the water motion
travelled more swiftly than the clumsy boat.  She slid down the slope,
still paddling frantically, and the following wave lifted her rudely by
the tail.  She reared dizzily almost to the vertical, the headman at
the apex of the whole structure keeping his perch with an ape's
dexterity.

She just missed being upset that time, and part of the water which she
had shipped was flung over the gunwales as she righted.  But she
floated there half swamped: labor with what frenzy they choose, the
iron-muscled Krooboys could not keep her under command; and the next
roller sent the whole company of them flying.

There is one piece of advice constantly dinned into a white man's ear
on the West Coast.  "If in a surf-boat you see the boat boys jump
overboard, jump yourself also if you do not wish to have the boat on
top of you."  Profoundly sound advice it is.  But it has the
disadvantage of presupposing capability for obedience, and if (as
frequently happens) the passenger is dizzy and weak from sudden
seasickness, then the leap may be neither prompt nor well-aimed.

As to where Carter's fault occurred, I have no certain information.
The headman shrieked an order in his own barbarous tongue; the boat
boys took to water on either side like so many black frogs; the boat
spilt, flinging far two yellow gladstone bags and one limp passenger in
soiled white ducks; and, look how one would into that boiling hell of
broken water, no red head appeared.

On the glaring beach Swizzle-Stick Smith broke off from his overseeing
for a moment, and limped down into the smoke of the surf.  He had a
chiquot in his hand, which is a whip made of the most stinging part of
the hippopotamus, and with it he slashed venomously at every black form
that scrambled out of the brine.

He screamed at them in their own tongue.  "Get back, you black swine!
Get back, and fetch out my clerk.  If you drown my clerk, I will drown
you, too.  My last clerk died a year ago, and they have got me no other
out here since.  I won't lose this one.  Back, you bushmen!"

The chiquot had many terrors to the Krooboys, the water few.  It was as
much out of forgetfulness as anything else that they had not brought
their passenger to shore with them.  Besides, how were they to know
that he could not swim as well as themselves (that is, about as well as
a seal can swim)?  But they were not above striking a bargain for their
services.  A black head, served upon a white pother of creamy surf,
gave tongue.

"Oh, Smith.  You give cash, suppose we fit for catch 'im?"

"You lib for beach with my clerk, and I dash you one whole box of gin.
Hurry up now, you thieves, or a shark will chop him, or else he'll
drown."

Heads disappeared, and many pairs of black heels kicked upwards.  The
old man hitched together his shabby pyjamas, and stared industriously
at the broken water through his eyeglass.  "It's all very well for this
K. O'Neill to send out letters that the firm is going to double its
business," he grumbled, "but if they don't send me men that can get
ashore in one piece, how this factory at Malla-Nulla is going to buck
up, I can't see.  By Jove, they've got him, the beggars.  Red-headed
chap, too.  Well, I might have saved that dash, I'm thinking.  Men with
red heads never seem to stand the climate here for long.  It will be a
nuisance if the beggar pegs out within the month, after I've spent a
case of gin on him."

It was a very limp and bedraggled Carter that was brought ashore
presently by the Krooboys.  He was held up by the heels, _more
Africano_, to let the Atlantic drain from his inside back into its
proper place, but he did not show any sign of consciousness till he had
been lifted up and carried to the shelter of the retail store.

Swizzle-Stick Smith limped beside him, puffing at his briar.  "Beggar's
got an arm broken," he commented.  "Just my luck.  And K. O'Neill will
expect the work to be done just the same.  Oh"--he said when the
dripping Krooboys had put down his guest on the counter--"so you've
concluded to come to your senses again?"

Carter shuddered and slowly opened his eyes.  A brown cockroach,
horrible with dust, dropped from the rafter above onto his face.

"I'm afraid you've had rather a rough bout of it, landing, my lad.
It's a very bad beach to-day.  There, don't move.  You're all right.
You'll feel a bit queer yet."

"The boat upset----"

"It did, most thoroughly.  But you're now at Malla-Nulla factory in
West Africa, and I bid you welcome.  I'm Mr. Smith, your commanding
officer.  You'd like to lie still for a bit, perhaps?"

"Yes."

"Well, buck up, and you'll soon be all right.  You needn't fancy you'll
be a candidate for a top-hat and a gun-case yet."

"For a which?"

The trader pointed with his pipe stem across the store to a wooden box
full of flintlock trade guns.  "That's a gun case.  Man's usually too
long to fit it comfortably, especially if he's as well-grown as you
are.  So we knock out one end, and nail on an old top-hat.  Then you
can plant him in style."

The patient's mouth twitched with the corner of a smile.  "A most tidy
custom," he said faintly.  "But I say, could you do anything for my
arm?  Sorry to trouble you, but it's most abominably painful."

"Your arm's broken, worse luck.  I'll set it for you when I've got off
this cargo."

"I'd rather have a doctor.  Will you send off to the _M'poso_ for the
doctor there, please?"

The old man laughed and polished his eyeglass on a sleeve of his
pyjamas.  "My lad, you don't understand.  You've left the steamer now,
and her doctor's not the kind of fool to risk his own bones trying to
get here with the beach as bad as it is to-day.  I don't suppose he
mistakes you for a millionaire.  You came out in the second class, I
suppose?"

"Yes."

"Then there you are.  His responsibility ended when you left the
steamer, and ship's doctors don't come ashore on this Coast unless
they're sure of touching a big fat fee.  Now you must just lie quiet
where you are, and bite on your teeth till I've some time for surgery.
Trade comes first in West Africa."

With which naked truth, Swizzle-Stick Smith relit his pipe, and went
out again into the brazen sunshine, and presently was hustling on the
factory boys at their cargo work with his accustomed eloquence and
dexterity.



CHAPTER II

INTRODUCES MISS LAURA SLADE

If a white man in a West African factory volunteers details of his
previous history, all hearers are quite at liberty to believe or
disbelieve, as suits their whim; but if, on the other hand, no word
about previous record is offered, Coast etiquette strictly rules that
none shall be asked for.

George Carter found even upon the surface of his superior officer at
Malla-Nulla factory much that was mysterious.  There were moments when
Mr. Smith exhibited an unmistakable gentility; but these were rare; and
they usually occurred when the pair of them lunched _en tête-à-tête_ at
11 o'clock, and Smith had worked off his morning qualm, and had not
commenced his afternoon refreshment.  With a larger audience he was one
part cynic and six parts ruffian; he was admitted to be the most
skilful compounder of cocktails on all that section of the West African
seaboard; and he sampled his own brews in such quantities, and with
such impunity, as gave the lie to all text-books on topical medicine.

His head was bald, and the gray hair on his face and above his ears was
either as short as clippers could make it, or else bristled with a two
weeks' growth.  Day and night he wore more or less shrunken pyjamas,
from the neck buttonhole of which a single eyeglass dangled at the end
of a piece of new black silk ribbon.  Carter guessed his age as
somewhere between fifty and fifty-five, and wondered why on earth
Messrs. O'Neill and Craven kept such a disreputable old person as the
head of what might have been a very prosperous factory.

Indeed, theories on this very point were already lodged in the older
man's brain.  "It's this new partner, K. O'Neill, that I don't like the
sound of," he explained to Carter one day.  "By the way, who is he?"

"Don't know.  As I told you I was staying with my father at the
vicarage, and I was engaged by wire the day before the _M'poso_ sailed,
and only caught her by the skin of my teeth.  There was nobody there to
see me off, and on the boat all they could tell me was that 'K.' came
into the business when the late head died."

"Old Godfrey, that was"--Swizzle-Stick Smith sighed--"poor old Godfrey
O'Neill!  He was one of the best fellows going in the old days, not a
bit like the usual cut of palm-oil ruffian as we used to call the
traders then.  And, my God! to think of my coming down to the grade of
one of them myself."

Again the subject cropped up when one of their rare mails came in.
"Here's expense!" grumbled Swizzle-Stick Smith.  "Letters landed at our
Monk River factory, and sent on to Mulla-Nulla by special runner.  K.
O'Neill's orders, the Monk River agent says.  In the old days you could
always bet on the beach being too bad for the steamer to call twice out
of three times, and you weren't pestered with a mail more than once in
six months.  That's mainly why I've stuck by O'Neill and Craven all
these years.  Now this new man wants our output of kernels to be
doubled by this time next year, and hopes I'll take steps to work up
the rubber connection.  If I can't see my way to do all this, will I
kindly give my reasons in writing, and if necessary forward same by
runner to a steamer's calling point, so that reply may be in Liverpool
within six weeks at latest.  What do you think of that?"

"Oh, I should say it was reasonable enough from the Liverpool point of
view."

"Bah!  There's not much of the Coast about you."  He tore the letters
into shreds, and folded these carefully into pipe-lights.  "Dear old
Godfrey trusted me up to the hilt, and this new fellow's got to learn
to do the same, or I shall resign my commission.  If he understood
anything about running the office, he might know I should do all the
work that was good for me."

"I'm sure you do," said Carter civilly.  "I'm afraid I'm the slacker.
You let me have such an easy time of it whilst my arm was getting well,
that I've slid off into lazy ways.  I must buck up, and if you'll load
the work onto me, Mr. Smith, you'll find I can do a lot more."

Swizzle-Stick Smith dried the perspiration from his eye socket, fixed
his glass into a firmer hold, and stared.  "Well," he said at last,
"you _are_ a d--d fool."  And there the talk ended.

It was that same day that Carter had his first introduction to Royalty.
He was in the retail store--"feteesh," they call it on the
Coast--weighing out baskets of palm kernels, measuring calabashes of
orange-colored palm oil, judging as best he could the amount of
adulterants the simple negro had added to increase the bulk, and
apportioning the value in cotton cloth, powder, flintlock guns at
twelve and six-pence apiece, and green cubical boxes of Holland gin.
Trade proceeded slowly.  The interior of the feteesh was a stew of heat
and odors, and the white man's elaborate calculations were none of the
most glib.  To knock some idea of the fairness of these into the black
man's skull was a work that required not only eloquence, but also
athletic power.  The simple savage who did only one day's shopping per
annum was willing always to let the delights of it linger out as long
as possible, and all the white man's hustling could not drive the
business along at more than a snail's pace.

By Coast custom, work for Europeans starts in those cool hours that
know the daybreak, and switches off between eleven and twelve for
breakfast; and thereafter siesta is the rule till the sun once more
begins to throw a shadow.  But on this particular day, when
Swizzle-Stick Smith had knocked out his pipe and turned in under his
mosquito bar, Carter sluiced a parrafin-can full of water over his red
head by way of a final refreshment, and went down once more from the
living rooms of the factory to the heat and the odors of the feteesh
below.

The sweating customers saw him come and roused up out of the purple
shadows, and presently the game of haggle was once more in full swing.

Carter had a natural gift for tongues, and was picking up the difficult
Coast languages to the best of his ability, but his vocabulary was of
necessity small, and a Krooboy stood by to translate intricate passages
into idiom more likely to penetrate the harder skulls.  The Krooboy
wore trousers and singlet in token of his advanced civilization, and
bore with pride the name of White-Man's-Trouble.

There was a glut of customers that baking afternoon.  High-scented
trade stuffs poured into the factory in pleasing abundance, and bundles
of European produce were balanced upon woolly craniums for
transportation through bush paths to that wild unknown Africa beyond
the hinterland.  The new law of K. O'Neill allowed no lingering in the
feteesh.  Once a customer had been delivered of his goods, and had
accepted payment, White-Man's-Trouble decanted him into the scalding
sunshine outside, and bade him hasten upon his ways.  K. O'Neill had
stated very plainly, in a typewritten letter, that the leakage by theft
was unpleasing to the directorate in Liverpool, and must be stopped.
K. O'Neill understood that the thefts took place after a customer had
spent all his cash on legitimate purchase, as then all his savage
intelligence was turned to pilfering.  Carter, as the man on the spot,
recognized the truth of all this, and carried out the instructions to
the foot of the letter.

Mr. Smith warned him he would have trouble over it.  "Ever since the
first factory came down to blight this Coast," Smith explained, "the
boys have been allowed to hang around the feteesh and steal what wasn't
nailed down.  They look upon it in the light of a legitimate discount,
and it's grown up into a custom.  Now in West Africa you may burn a
forest, or blot out a nation, or start a new volcano, and nobody will
say very much to you, but if you interfere with a recognized custom,
you come in contact with the biggest kind of trouble."

"Still," Carter pointed out, "these orders are definite."

"And you are the kind of fool that goes on the principle of 'obeying
orders if you break owners.'  Well, go ahead and carry out
instructions.  I won't interfere with you.  I'd rather like to see this
cocksure K. O'Neill get a smack in the eye to cure his meddling.  And
for yourself, keep your weather eye lifting, or some indignant nigger
will ram a foot of iron into you.  It's the Okky-men I'd take especial
care of if I were you.  They've got their tails up a good deal more
than's healthy just now.  I'm told, too, that their head witch doctor
wants his war drum redecorated."  Mr. Smith grinned--"I don't want to
be personal, of course."

"Oh, don't mind me.  So far I rather fail to understand what I've got
to do with the Okky City war drum."

"You see you carry round with you something that would make the very
best kind of heap-too-good ju-ju."

"Still I don't understand."

Swizzle-Stick Smith got up and stretched, and limped across to the
door.  "It's that red head of yours, my lad," he said over his shoulder
as he went out.  "Every witch doctor in West Africa that sees it will
just itch to have it amongst his ornaments.  I'd dye it sky-blue if I
were you, just for safety sake."

This of course might be Mr. Smith's delicate irony, or again it might
be literally true.  Carter had already been long enough in West Africa
to know that very unusual and unpleasant things can happen there; but
that made no change in his determination.  K. O'Neill was perfectly
right about the matter; this pilfering ought to be stopped; and he felt
convinced that White-Man's-Trouble would help to see that justice was
done.  That particular Krooboy was thievish himself, certainly, but he
had a short way with any fellow African who dared to be light-fingered.

So during all that hot morning, and all that sweltering afternoon,
merchant after merchant was shown out into the sunshine, and those who
chattered and would not go willingly were assisted by the strong right
arm of White-Man's-Trouble.

Just upon the time when siestas generally ended, that is, about four
o'clock, there came a burly Okky trader who swaggered up to the factory
with five carriers in his train laden down with bags of rubber.

Carter examined the evil smelling stuff, and cut open two or three of
the larger round lumps.  The gentle savage had put in quite thirty per
cent. of sticks, and sand, and alien gum by way of makeweight, and was
as petulant as a child at having this simple fraud discovered.  He
still further disliked the price that was offered; and when it came to
making his purchases, and he found that the particular
spot-white-on-blue cotton cloth on which he had built up his fancy was
out of stock, the remaining rags of his temper were frayed completely.
For an unbroken ten minutes he cursed Carter, and Malla-Nulla factory,
and an unknown Manchester skipper in fluent Okky, here and there
embroidered with a few words of that slave-trader's Arabic, which is
specially designed as a comfort for the impatient, and when he had
accepted a roll of blue cloth spotted in another pattern, and was
invited to leave the feteesh, he held himself to be one of the worst
used Africans on the Dark Continent.

Carter, who was tired and hot, signed to his henchman.  "Here, fire
that ruffian out," he said.

But White-Man's-Trouble affected to hear a summons from outside.  "Dat
you, Smith?  Yessar, I come one-time," said he, and bolted out through
the doorway.

"Here you," said Carter to the big Okky-man, "you follow that Krooboy
out of here.  If I have to tell you a second time, there'll be trouble.
Come, now, git."

Carter's command of the native might be faulty, but the grammar of his
gestures was correct enough.  What, go out of the feteesh before he
chose?  The Okky-man had no idea of doing such a thing.  He lifted his
walking spear threateningly, and snarled.

Simultaneously Carter put his right hand on the greasy counter and
vaulted.  He caught the upraised spear with his other hand before his
feet had touched ground, and broke the blade close off by the socket;
and a short instant later, when he had found a footing, he carried his
weight forward in the same leap, and drove his right against the
negro's left carotid, just beneath the ear.  The man went down as if he
had been pole-axed.

Carter went outside and beckoned to the Okky-man's carriers.  "Here,
you, come and carry your master outdoors"--the men hesitated--"or I'll
start in to handle you next."  They did as they were bidden.  And
thereupon Carter, with his blood now well warmed up, was left free to
attend to another matter elsewhere.

A noise of voices in disagreement, and the intermittent sounds of
scuffling had made themselves heard from the south side of the factory
buildings, and now there were added to these a woman's voice calling in
English for some one to help her, and then a sharp, shrill scream of
unmistakable distress.

Now, Carter was no knight-errant.  He had set up the unknown K. O'Neill
as his model, and had told himself daily that he intended to meddle
with nothing in West Africa, philanthropic or otherwise, which would
not directly tend to the advancement of George Carter; but at the first
moment when they were put to the test, all these academic resolutions
broke to pieces.  He picked up his feet and ran at speed through the
sunshine, and as he went a mist seemed to rise up before his eyes which
tinged everything red.

He felt somehow as he had never felt before; strangely exhilarated and
strangely savage; and when he arrived on the scene of the disturbance,
he was little inclined to weigh the consequences of interference.
There was a woman, white-faced and terror-stricken--he could not for
the life of him tell whether she was handsome or hideous.  Negroes were
handling her.  On the ground lay a pole hammock, in which presumably
she had arrived.  In front of her was a fat negro, over whose head a
slave held a gaudy gold and red umbrella, and grouped around this fat
one were eight or ten negro soldiers, with swords slung over their
shoulders, and long flintlock trade guns in their hands.

The whole scene was, as I say, dished up to Carter's eyes in a red
mist, and this thinned and thickened spasmodically so that sometimes he
could see clearly what he was doing, and at other times he acted like a
man bewitched.  But presently the red cleared away altogether, and he
found himself clutching the fat negro by a twist of the shoulder cloth,
and threatening to split his skull with a sword recently carried by one
of the man's own escort.  The girl sat limp and white on a green case
before them, clearly on the edge of a faint, and round them all stood
negro carriers and Haûsa soldiery, frozen to inaction by the fat man's
danger.

All human noises had ceased.  Only the hot insect hum and the cool
diapason of the Atlantic surf droned through the silence.  From the
dull upraised sword blade outrageous sunrays winked and flickered.

Upon this impasse came Swizzle-Stick Smith from the bush side of the
white factory buildings, polishing his eyeglass, and limping along at
his usual pace, and no faster.  He removed his pipe, and wagged it at
them.

"Upon my soul a most interesting picture!  Just like a kid's fairy tale
book.  Gallant young knight rescuing distressed damosel from the
clutches of wicked ogre, who incidentally happens to be the King of
Okky as anyone but a born fool could have guessed from his state
umbrella, and one of the firm's best customers.  Kindly observe that
I'm the good fairy who always comes in on the last page to put things
safe.  Carter, I prithee sheath thy virgin sword, and then for God's
sake run away and drown yourself."

He had reached the group by this time, and took up in his own the damp
black hand of offended majesty, and shook it heartily.  He broke out in
a stream of fluent Okky, and gradually the potentate's wrath melted.
The King still gesticulated violently, and apparently demanded Carter's
red head upon a charger as a prelude to truce, but Swizzle-Stick Smith
was an old Coaster and knew his man.

"Champagne," Mr. Smith kept on suggesting, "bubbly champagne with
plenty of Angostura bitters in it to make it bite.  I call attention to
your Majesty's historic thirst.  Come up into the factory, old
Tintacks, and we'll break up a case in honor of the day."

Finally the King, who being a West African king was necessarily a
shrewd man, decided that though vengeance would keep till another day,
Mr. Smith's champagne might not; and he let himself be led back to the
factory, and up the stair.  He graciously accepted the most
solid-looking of the long chairs in the veranda, sat in it carefully,
kicked off his slippers, and tucked his feet beneath him.  He waved
away Mr. Smith's further speech.  "Oh, Smith," he said, "I fit for
champagne-palaver, one-time," and loosened the tuck of his ample
waist-cloth to give space for the expected cargo.  "No damn use more
talk-palaver now."

Outside in the sunlight the Haûsa soldiers had taken the cue from their
master, and dissolved away unobtrusively; the carriers were dismissed
to the Krooboys' quarters under the charge of White-Man's-Trouble, who,
now that the disturbance was over, bustled up with many protestations
of sorrow for his unavoidable absence, and Carter was left for further
attendance on his distressed damsel.

For the first time he found himself able to regard her critically; and
he was somehow rather disturbed to find before him a girl who was
undeniably beautiful.  When he had rushed blindly in to the rescue, he
had taken it for granted that the person he saw so vaguely through that
red mist was an English or an American missionary woman in distress,
and (to himself) excused his mad lust for battle by picturing himself
as the champion of the Christian martyr beset by pagans.

The white missionary women of that strip of the Coast occasionally
quartered themselves at Malla-Nulla factory on their journeyings, in
spite of the very niggardly civility of Mr. Smith, and Carter had been
much impressed in the way beneficent Nature had safeguarded them by
homely features and unattractive mien from attack by the other sex.  He
could have taken off his hat to one of these, and said:

"Most happy to have been of service to you, madam.  Won't you come into
the factory and have a cup of tea?"

But this slim beauty in the frilled white muslins sent speech further
and further away from him the more that he looked at her.  For the
first time since landing in Africa six months before he was ashamed of
mildew-stained pyjamas for afternoon wear, and disgusted with the
yellow smears of palm oil which bedaubed them.  He was hatefully aware
too that he had let his razors rust in the moist Coast climate, and
White-Man's-Trouble's fortnightly efforts with the clippers had merely
left his chin and head covered with an obscene red bristle.

"... It would be ridiculous," the girl was murmuring, "merely to say
'thank you' for what you did, Mr. Carter.  You see I know your name.
News about new-comers soon spreads amongst the other factories on the
Coast here.  If you only knew how I dread that fearful King, you would
understand my gratitude.  You see this isn't the first time he's tried
to carry me off."

"I wish you'd mentioned it earlier," Carter blurted out, "and I'd have
split his dirty skull, trade or no trade."

She shook her head.  "No, that wouldn't have done.  There's the law to
be thought of even here.  Besides, he's a King, and could let loose, so
they say, twenty thousand fighting men against the Coast factories, and
wipe them out.  If only I could get away to some place he couldn't
reach!"  She shivered.  "If I stay on here at my father's factory, I'm
bound to be caught and taken to Okky City."

Carter's brown eyes opened in sheer surprise.  "You speak of your
father's factory.  Do you mean to say that you live here on the Coast?"

"At the Smooth River factory."

"What, Slade's place?"

"Yes, I'm Laura Slade.  Couldn't you guess?"

"How could I?" Carter blurted out.  "Mr. Smith told me that Slade's
girl--"  And there he stopped, and could have bitten off his tongue for
having said so much.

She finished his sentence quietly, and, as it appeared, without
resentment.  "Mr. Smith, I suppose, described me as a nigger."

Carter made no reply.  His brown eyes hung upon her pretty face
intently.

"Mr. Smith, of course, knew my father, and my mother, too, for that
matter, before I was born.  My mother was a quadroon, and that makes
me, you see, one-eighth African."

"You did not arrange your pedigree any more than I did mine.  If you
hadn't told me, I should never have guessed you weren't a full-blooded
European.  And after all, what does it matter?"

"There speaks the man who has only been out on the Coast six months."

"Six months or six years," said Carter stoutly, "makes no difference so
far as I am concerned.  We're neighbors, it appears, and I hope you
will let me be one of your friends.  Miss Slade, will you take
compassion on a very lonely man and let him come over to Smooth River
occasionally and see you?  I can't tell you how ghastly the loneliness
has been with only the Krooboys and Mr.--er--Swizzle-Stick Smith to
talk to, though perhaps you can guess at it by the way I've let my
outward man run to seed."

She gave him her slim brown hand.  "I take frankly what you offer," she
said.  "If you let me become your friend, I shall count myself
fortunate; you see, after what you have done for me to-day we can
hardly start from the ordinary basis."

From there onwards their talk flowed easily.  She had come over on a
business errand for her father, and Carter settled that quickly and
promptly.  She went presently into the factory to rest after her long
hammock ride, and Carter seized upon the chance to dive into his own
room.  Therefrom he emerged an hour later with a chin half-raw from
recent shaving with a rusty razor, and wearing creased white drill
clothes and a linen collar that sawed his neck abominably.

"I've arranged," he said, when next he saw her, "that you and I dine
_tête-à-tête_, if you don't mind, down under those palm trees yonder.
The mosquitos don't trouble down there just at sunset, and my boy,
White-Man's-Trouble, only tastes things when they're going back to the
cook house.  It's mere prejudice to say he's had his filthy paw in
every dish before it comes to me.  Oh, by the way, Mr. Smith and his
Majesty of Okky ask you to excuse them, as they have still more
business to discuss before they can break up their meeting."

She laughed and understood him to a nicety.  They slipped off into
light easy talk as though they had known one another all their lives,
and there was neither that narrow escape from tragedy behind them, nor
Africa and possible tragedy ahead.  The girl was good comrade.  The man
was hardly that.  He too frankly devoured her with his eyes.  And
certainly, in her cool, frilled muslin dress, and her big green sun hat
she was pretty enough to paint.  Her hair was black assuredly, but her
pale olive face was moulded in curves of the most delicious.  In
England, and as an Englishwoman, she would have been dark perhaps,
though not noticeably so.  Nine hundred and ninety-nine English people
out of the thousand would have commented on her beauty only.  In
America--well, in America, she would at once have been placed in that
class apart.

But Carter, the recently imported Englishman, saw nothing save only her
beauty and her charm, and he behaved towards her as the English
gentleman behaves towards his equal.  A man who had been longer in
Africa would have had the wisdom of one who had lived in the Southern
States, and have picked out the African blood at a glance, and, as is
the way of men who have eaten of the tree of that wisdom, would have
ordered his civilities accordingly.



CHAPTER III

THE KING WHO STOPPED THE ROADS

Mr. Smith was unsteady neither of speech nor foot, but an expert could
have diagnosed that he had been dining.  The expert, however, unless he
had acquired his expertness near Malla-Nulla factory, would hardly have
guessed that Mr. Smith was the better (or worse) for at least half a
case of German champagne, generously laced with Angostura bitters.

He limped into Carter's bedroom, put his lamp down on the table, sat on
the chair beside the mosquito bar, and very carefully eased up the
knees of his shrunk pyjamas.

"I say, Mr. Assistant, wake up."

Carter woke, and blinked at the glare of Mr. Smith's eyeglass.

"Don't get up, please.  I apologize for waking you, my dear follow, but
since you turned in, you've been made a pawn in the great game of
diplomacy.  The fate of empires trembles on your nod."

Carter roused up onto his elbow.  "Don't you think the empires would
tremble no more if we left them over till to-morrow morning?"

"It would be most undiplomatic to leave them trembling too long.  I can
tell you I have had a devilish hard time of it putting his Majesty to
sleep.  He can carry his liquor like a man, and he'd a most royal way
of seeing I drank level with him.  But he may wake up any minute.  Put
not your trust in the sleep of kings, Mr. Carter."

"All right, sir.  I'll make a note of that.  I'll brew the gasolene,
and when the King wakes I'll stand by with soda-water and fusel oil,
which I should think will heal the breach between us."

"Don't you believe it for one instant.  The King of Okky's a seasoned
vessel with a copper tummy, and you could no more thaw the wickedness
out of him with soda-water than you could bring the devil to a reformed
temperature in an ice machine.  You must recognize, Mr. Carter, that
both the King of Okky and the devil have their little ways, and it's
above your art to change either of them very much.  Question is, how
much allegiance do you think you owe to O'Neill and Craven?"

This was a change of front with a vengeance.  But Carter took it coolly
enough.  "That's an interesting point, sir.  I hadn't reckoned it up
before.  But I shouldn't like to give you an answer to so important a
question about the firm on the spur of the moment.  So by your leave,
I'll sleep over it, and tell you in the morning."

"Sorry, but can't allow you the time, and as you don't seem to grasp
the fact, I must point out that the fate of this factory of O'Neill and
Craven's at Malla-Nulla depends on the august will of the King of Okky.
His Portliness also threatens to stop the roads which feed our other
factories at Monktown and Smooth River, though I don't think when it
comes to the point he'll do that.  However, Burgoyne and Slade must see
to those themselves.  After the way this new K. O'Neill's been treating
me on paper, I'm not going to concern myself with the general welfare
of all the firm's factories on this coast.  But I am in charge of
Malla-Nulla, and I'm going to preserve the trade here from extinction
if it can be managed."

Carter lifted the mosquito bar and got out of bed.  "I'm afraid, sir, I
must ask you to come down to my level, and speak rather more plainly."

Swizzle-Stick Smith sat back resignedly in his chair, and dropped his
eyeglass to the end of its black watered silk ribbon.  "_Dulce et
decorum est pro factoria mori_, though I don't suppose it will come to
dying if you play your cards right."  Mr. Smith closed his eyes and
evidently imagined that he was uttering his next thought silently.
"Keep the young beggar out of the way of Slade's girl, too.  By Gad,
I'd no idea Laura would grow up such a pretty child.  If he'd been an
ordinary clerk I wouldn't have minded, but the lad's a gentleman by
birth, and now he's done the gallant rescue business as a start, he's
just the sort of quixotic young ass to think he ought to go and marry
the girl as a proper capping for the romance.  And that of course would
be the end of him socially."

"I say," Carter called out loudly, "Mr. Smith, do you know it's four
o'clock in the morning, and there are some dangerous chills about just
now?  Don't you think you had better have a cigarette paper full of
quinine by way of a night cap, and then go to bed?  It will be
turning-out time in another hour or so."

"Matches, please.  My pipe's out.  Ah, thank you, Mr. Carter.  Well, as
I was saying, the King's awfully taken with that punkah you rigged for
the mess-room, and the water wheel you set up in the river to run it,
and when I showed him the native arrowheads, and the spears, and the
execution axes you'd made to sell to the curiosity shops at home, he
began to change his tune.  By the time we'd got to the fifth bottle
he'd given up asking for your head in a calabash to take home with him,
and before we'd finished the case he'd offered you the post of Chief
Commissioner of Works in Okky City, with a salary in produce and quills
of gold that'll work out to £1,000 a year."

"That's very flattering."

"Yes, isn't it, when you remember how he started.  The only question
is, will he keep his royal word when he's sober?"

"It's a nice point.  Among other things I believe they're cannibals up
in Okky City."

"Oh, come now, Mr. Assistant, you mustn't malign my friend, the King,
too much.  You need have no fears on that score.  The Okky men have
never been known to eat anybody with a red head.  The only thing you'd
have to funk would be sacrifice--with, of course, a most full and
impressive ceremony.  So I think you'll go, eh?  All for the sake of K.
O'Neill, whom you admire so much?  And then the King won't stop the
roads."

"No," said Carter shortly.  "I have no intention of committing suicide
at present.  But if I'm an embarrassment at Malla-Nulla, you may fire
me, or I'll resign if you wish it."

Swizzle-Stick Smith screwed his eyeglass into place and examined his
assistant with thoughtful care.  "Shouldn't dream of letting you go, my
dear fellow.  Always make a point of sticking by my officers.  Just
thought I'd let you know of the King's offer in case his Majesty refers
to it to-morrow.  There now, go to bed again, and don't dream the
fighting's begun.  You'll see plenty of service over this affair
without dreaming over it on ahead."


When Carter set out for the West Coast of Africa from the Upper
Wharfedale Vicarage, the one article in his kit which he thought
suitable for the Coast was a small-bore nickel-plated revolver, which
he had picked up second hand in Skipton for ten and six.  It had been
smuggled in without his mother's knowledge, as there was no reason to
add to her already great anxiety.  His father had provided half a
sovereign towards the cost, had advised him not to use the wretched
thing except in case of necessity, but if need arose, to take heed that
he held it straight.

Of course on arrival he found, firstly, that the weapon was too small
to be of effective use; secondly, that he could not hit a mark six feet
square at more than a twelve-yard rise; and, thirdly, that revolvers
are not really articles of fashionable wear for clerks in West Coast
factories, whatever they may be in story-books.  So the weapon lay in
his mouldy portmanteau, and the moist Coast climate changed its nickel
dress for a good coat of bright red rust.

But the morning after the King of Okky's arrival, while that bulky
potentate was still asleep in the factory, Carter went in, cleaned the
revolver as well as he could, and jammed cartridges into its reluctant
chambers.  He carried it pirate-fashion for the remainder of that day
inside the band of his trousers, to his great personal discomfort, and
to the vast enjoyment of Mr. Smith.  However, the truculent Okky
soldiers who had deliberately shaken weapons at him in the morning were
reduced by the sight of it to a certain surly civility, and work in the
feteesh went on without any open rupture.

Mr. Smith was distinctly irritable when dawn came in with the morning
tea, but presently, when the swizzle-stick began its merry swishing in
the cocktail pitcher, he thawed into a pleasing geniality, which, by
frequent application of the same remedy, endured throughout the day.
Laura Slade had returned in her hammock by the beach road in the cool
of the preceding night, and Carter's thoughts followed her to Smooth
River factory, to the detriment of his work down in the feteesh.  He
gave no mental attention whatever to the King of Okky who sat
cross-legged in a long chair in the factory veranda above him, but that
bulky potentate kept returning with a dogged persistency to the subject
of George Carter.

"Oh, Smith," he kept on saying, "I savvy champagne palaver, n' I savvy
cocktail palaver, n' I fit for chop when chop-time lib.  But I ask you
for tell me, one-time, if you fit for dash me dem Red-head that savvies
machine-palaver.  If you no fit, I stop dem road, an' no more trade lib
for Malla-Nulla."

To which Mr. Smith, who knew his West Africa from a twenty-five years'
study of its men and customs, would reply with an unruffled geniality
that he was sure the King was far too good a heathen to try any such
dirty game as putting ju-ju on the factory of an old friend.  "You're
pulling my leg, old Cockiwax," Mr. Smith would say.  "I pray you cease,
and you shall have the best cocktail this pagan Coast has seen or
sniffed."

"Oh, Smith," the King would say, "I fit," and thereafter there would be
truce till the houseboy brought the ingredients, and Mr. Smith with his
far-famed skill compounded them, and the pink cocktails went their
appointed journey to perform their accustomed work.  After which the
African would once more repeat his unwearied demand.

From the rising of the King from his mat, to the hour of the midday
meal, this demand and reply went on, and Swizzle-Stick Smith parried it
with unruffled serenity.  But an open rupture very nearly came at the
meal time.  As a king, the visitor was invited to sit at meat with the
white men in their mess-room.  He said little during the meal, but he
appraised Carter's head so persistently with his eyes that that
irritated young man, with the pride of race bubbling within him, would
have openly resented the performance if he had not given a promise to
Mr. Smith on this very point only a short half-hour before.

Such a state of things could not last long without bringing about an
open breach, and Swizzle-Stick Smith, with his vast experience, saw
this earlier than anybody, and made his arrangements accordingly.

He tried hard to write a letter, but his pen was not in the mood for
intelligent calligraphy.  So he had to fall back on verbal instructions
and a verbal message.

"Mr. Assistant," he said, when at last he put down his knife and fork,
and the houseboy handed him his pipe and a match, "Mr. Assistant, I
intended to make you a bearer of dispatches, but the gout's got into my
confounded fingers this morning, and I doubt if even Slade could read
my writing.  So we'll just have to do the thing informally.  We must
have some more of that spot-white-on-blue cloth, and you must post off
to the Smooth River factory and bring it back with you.  It seems to be
in heavy demand just now, though why, I can't imagine.  I've been on
the Coast twenty-five years now, and I can no more foretell the run of
native fashions than I could the day I landed.  But there it is, and
though I'm sure Slade won't want to part, you must just make him.  Say
we'll pay him back in salt.  He's sure to be short of salt.  I never
yet knew Slade to indent for half as many bags of salt as his trade
required.  You needn't hurry.  If you're back here in three days' time
that will be quite soon enough.  You can take a hammock, of course."

"Thanks, very much, but I'd rather walk."

"Well, just as you please.  You must commandeer what carriers you want
from Slade."

So it came to pass that when the sun had dropped to a point whence it
could throw a decent shadow, and the sea breeze mingled a bracing chill
even into a temperature of eighty, Carter set off along the beach, with
White-Man's-Trouble balancing a mildew-mottled Gladstone bag on his
smartly-shaved cranium, in attendance.  On one side of him Africa was
fenced off by a wall of impenetrable greenery; on the other the
Atlantic bumped and roared and creamed along the glaring sand.  On the
horizon the smoke of a Liverpool palm oil tank called from him the
usual Coaster's sigh.

"Oh, Carter," said his valet when they had left the factory buildings
well out of earshot, "you plenty-much fine, and you no lib for steamah."

"It was about time I tidied up.  When we get back to the factory I'll
teach you how to pipe-clay shoes."

The Krooboy thought over this proposition for some minutes.  Then said
he: "I fit for tell you, Carter, dem last white man I pipe-clay shoes
for, he lib for cemetery in two week.  Savvy, Carter?  Two week."

"All right, don't get so emphatic.  I wasn't doubting you.  But I'm
going to risk the cemetery all the same.  You may start by providing me
with one pair of clean shoes a day, and when I get the taste of
cleanliness again, maybe I'll run to two.  Savvy?"

"Savvy plenty," grumbled White-Man's-Trouble, and then presently.  "You
no fit for steamah palaver?  You no lib for home?"

"No, I'm not going home yet awhile."

"But you plenty-much fine."

"Yes," admitted Carter, "I caught sight of myself in mildewed pyjamas
and a fortnight's beard, and was struck with the general filthiness of
my personal appearance.  Savvy?"

"Savvy plenty.  Oh, Carter, you lib for wife-palaver?  Dem plenty-much
fine clothes always one of the customs before wife-palaver."

The Krooboy pondered over this discovery during the next two miles of
the march, and then said he, "Oh, Carter?"

"Well?"

"Dem Slade.  You savvy seegar?"

"I suppose so.  Why?"

"I see Smith dash dem Slade one box seegar an' he got what Slade said
'no fit' for before.  Oh, Carter, you dash dem Slade one box seegar,"
said White-Man's-Trouble, and he treated his employer to a knowing wink.

"Whatever for?"

"Because then, after he got dem seegar, he sell you Laura for half dem
price he ask before."

"You're an impertinent savage," said Carter half tickled, half annoyed.

But White-Man's-Trouble stopped, put down the yellow Gladstone bag on
the baking sand, and pointed to the blue parallel tribal tattoo marks
between his brows.  "I Krooboy, sar.  I no bushboy, sar!  I lib for
educate as deckboy an' stan'-by-at-crane boy on steamah, sar.  I no fit
for stay with you, sar, if you call me impertinent savage."

Carter stared.  "Good heavens, man!  I didn't intend to hurt your
feelings."

White-Man's-Trouble waved the bleached inside of his paw towards his
master.  "Oh, Carter, you apologize.  Palaver set."  He bowed a head
which was quaintly shaved into garden patches, replaced the Gladstone
bag on its central bed of wool, and once more strode cheerfully ahead.

Carter followed moodily.  How had they all guessed at his admiration
for Laura?  He had thought it the most intimate of secrets, a delicate
confidence that he had no more than dared breathe even to his own inner
consciousness.  But first old Smith had blurted it out, and now even
his servant talked about it openly.  He had no doubt whatever that the
whole thing had been fully discussed over the cooking fires of the
native compound at Malla-Nulla the night before.

Then somehow his eyes swung round to the dancing horizon, and the
Liverpool steamer's smoke, boring up towards the North, easily ferried
his thoughts across the gap which lay between that baking African
beach, and the cool village tucked snugly in beneath the Upper
Wharfedale moors.  He tried to concentrate his mind on the roses in the
vicarage garden.  His mother liked abundance of blooms, and cared
little about the size.  The Vicar admired big blooms and snipped off
superfluous buds when his wife was out of the way, and during summer a
gentle wrangle over the roses was quite one of the features of their
quiet life.

But the roses refused to stay in the centre of the picture.  Laura
insisted on taking their place.  Suppose he took Laura back to
Wharfedale--as Mrs. George Carter.  His mother, blessed woman, might be
sorry, but she would accept her.  He was sure of that.  But his father?
Almost the last piece of advice the Vicar had given on parting was:

"Now, lad, remember always you're a white man, and don't get mixed up
with any woman who owns a single drop of blood darker than your own.
If you do, you can never come back here, and you'll hate yourself all
the rest of your life.  Remember I held an Indian chaplaincy before I
got this living, and I know what I'm talking about."

Carter shook a sudden fist at the steamer's smoke for supplying him
with such a distasteful train of thought, and turned for light
conversation to White-Man's-Trouble.  That garrulous person was quite
ready to humor him in the matter.

The sea breeze died away a little after six, and they marched in
breathless heat till the cool land breeze took its place, and brought
them spicy odors of the inland trees.  And always on one side of them
the surf roared, and crashed, and creamed along the beaches.

The sun drooped to the horizon and hurried beneath it in visible inches
of fall.  Daylight went out.  The colors were blotted from the sky, and
the stars lit up, one racing another to be first.  The noises from the
forest changed in correspondence.  From close at hand a leopard roared
a greeting to the darkness.

Night was fully dressed ten minutes after the sun had vanished.  It was
after nine o'clock, and in the chill of a wet gray mist, that they
reached O'Neill and Craven's factory on the banks of Smooth River.

Now nine o'clock in the lonely factories of the Coast is usually bed
time, and Carter was a good deal surprised to hear the hum of a great
activity pulsing out into the night; and presently, when they came
within eye-range, to see the buildings aglow with lights.  But there
was a further surprise packed and ready for him.  As they came close, a
black man leaned over the end of an upraised wall of palm oil
puncheons, and deliberately pointed a gun squarely at Carter's chest.

A good deal of discussion took place afterward as to what would have
been the proper procedure under the circumstances, but that may
conveniently be omitted from this record, which deals only with
immediate history; and the fact is that Carter rushed the sentry,
clipped him under the ear, skinned his own knuckles, and captured the
gun.  White-Man's-Trouble in the meanwhile had with much presence of
mind thrown himself on his face to avoid any discharge of pot-leg from
the concealed marksmen, and was bawling lustily for "Slade, oh Slade,"
to "Stop dem dam gun-palaver."  Which noisy request presently had its
wished for result.

Slade himself came out to meet them, and even then his reception was
sufficiently startling.  "Good God!" he rapped out, "then you've
escaped, too, Carter, as well as the Krooboy.  What liars these niggers
are!  I imagined that your--that parts of you were up at Okky City by
now.  I supposed they've scuppered poor old Swizzle-Stick Smith all
right, though?  Did he have a bad time of it?  Why?" he said as he came
nearer, and saw his caller's spruce getup, "you don't look as if you'd
been scrapping much.  Or bolting very hard, either," he added as an
afterthought.

"Unless," said Carter, "you're referring to an invasion by the Turks,
or the French, or the Men in the Moon, I haven't a notion what you're
talking about."

"Haven't you come from Malla-Nulla?"

"Left there about a quarter to four."

"And hasn't it been sacked?"

"It was sitting down by the beach, looking just as white hot as usual,
and no more, when I left."

"What about the King of Okky, then?"

"He was there at Malla-Nulla, filling a very big chair on the veranda."

"And there has been no raid?  I don't understand."

"The King of Okky," said Carter patiently, "has raided our factory to
the extent of one case of fizz, of which Mr. Smith says he drank half,
but barring that, and about six gallons of other mixed drinks, I didn't
see him get much out of us.  He certainly was threatening to stop the
roads when I left, but I think that was all gas.  He only wanted to
stick Mr. Smith for more drinks."

"He's stopped the roads right enough."

"Not he," said Carter cheerfully.

The older man thought a minute and then, "Come along with me," he said.
"I guess ocular demonstration is about the only thing that will
convince you that there is mischief in the air, and that that crafty
old devil of a king is at the bottom of it."  He led to a factory
outbuilding, threw open a door, and scraped a match.  "Look in there."

Carter did so, and promptly felt sick, and came out.  But he got
another light and returned resolutely to the inspection.  "Two, four,
seven.  And all killed the same way.  I say that's pretty ghastly."

"Isn't it?  They were all fine healthy Krooboys when they marched out
of here this morning, carrying up some salt bags to our sub-factory on
the Okky road.  There were some bits of feathers and a rag or two
strung up alongside the path, and they didn't notice them, or didn't
tumble to it that they were ju-ju.  Consequently they are now what you
see.  This is the King of Okky's way of hinting that the road is
stopped.  That pot-leg must have been fired at not more than a two-yard
range.  Some of the poor devils are regularly blown inside out.  Here,
come into the open again."

"Thanks, you needn't give me the details over again.  I saw all that
for myself."

"That infernal King must have sent off his messengers the very moment
after you had that turn-up with him about Laura--which, by the way, is
a thing that I personally shall never forget, so you can draw on me
over that down to the last breeches button.  You see Okky City is
closer in at the back here, but it's quite five hours' march further
from Malla-Nulla.  So the treacherous old brute stayed where he was,
tippling with Smith, in the pious hope of keeping you all quiet till
his men could come down and blot you all out.  How you got through is a
marvel to me.  They must have reckoned on getting you as you walked
here along the beach or they'd never have let you slip away.  You and
your boy have certainly escaped by the skin of your teeth.  It's a
moral certainty that they've got old Smith."

"I don't think so.  But I shall go back and see."

"Rubbish!  We may be able to hold out here, and perhaps will not be
attacked at all when they find out we're ready for them.  But it's
perfectly impossible for you to get back along the beach to
Malla-Nulla.  Come up into the house, and we'll find you a bite of
something to eat, and Laura shall mix you a whiskey and soda.  We've a
bit of the last steamer's ice still left, and you shall have it."

"Thanks.  I'll come up and see Miss Slade, but I shall start back for
Malla-Nulla in half an hour from now.  And if, as you prophesy, I don't
land, well, at any rate, I shall have done my best to get there."

"It's very nice of you, and all that, but do you think old Smith is
worth it?"

Carter laughed.  "Mr. Smith's a rough handful, but he's a good sort,
and I like him.  Besides he happens to be a gentleman."

"Or was one once.  A lot of us on the Coast were gentlemen originally.
I come of good people myself, and was at Eaton and Jesus, although I
don't suppose you'd have guessed it if I hadn't told you.  But you see
Nature built me with a cutaway chin, and I couldn't hold down a job at
home.  However, come in, and we'll scratch you up some chop.  Here,
Laura, I've brought a caller."

"I feel this dreadful trouble is all my fault," said the girl as they
came into the lamplit room.  "If you had been killed, Mr. Carter, I
should have looked upon myself as a murderess."

"My dear Miss Slade, you really mustn't worry about a matter you've no
concern in whatever.  The whole thing's a 'regrettable incident'--I
believe that's the proper term--that Mr. Smith told me has been brewing
for years.  It's all due to the drop in the price of palm oil on the
Liverpool market, which means that we white traders pay less for it on
the Coast here, and the black traders get less, and so there's less for
the King of Okky to squeeze out of them as they march through his
territory from the hinterland.  That's what's put his fat back up.  The
only great mistake that's been made is that I didn't split the old
brute's iniquitous skull when I had the chance.  I say, do you mind my
commenting on those flowers you've got on the table?  I haven't seen a
cut flower since I left England."

He turned to his host.  "You do the thing rather palatially here, Mr.
Slade.  Board walls and real glass in the windows!  We've bamboo walls
at Malla-Nulla that let in the dust and the mosquitoes and the
Krooboys' stares just as they occur.  It felt rather like living in a
bird-cage till one got used to it."

"The walls are Laura's doing.  You know she was at school in a convent
in Las Palmas, and came home with all sorts of extravagant notions.
Why, she actually insisted on a tablecloth for meals, and napkins.
I'll trouble you, napkins!  And yet they still call us palm oil
ruffians in Liverpool, and firmly believe that we live on
orange-colored palm oil chop, which we pick out of calabashes with our
fingers.  I sent K. O'Neill a photograph of this room by the last mail,
with the table laid for chop, and flowers as you see in a china bowl,
in the hope he'd be impressed by it, and raise my screw."

"He's quite likely to do it, too," said Carter, "if I understand Mr. K.
right.  He's always insisting in his letters to Malla-Nulla that if we
make ourselves comfortable, and adapt ourselves to the climate, we
shall be able to do more and better work.  By the way, do you know Mr.
K. O'Neill at all?  At Malla-Nulla we only know him on paper."

"I'm in the same box," Slade confessed.  "Godfrey, his predecessor, of
course I knew well enough.  But this new chap I only know from his
letters, and they're a deal too rousing for my easy-going tastes.  Ah,
here's the boy with a tray of chop for you.  Observe the parsley;
that's Laura's latest triumph in Coast gardening.  Boy, Mr. Carter will
sleep in the spare bed in my room.  See that there are no live things
inside the mosquito bar."

"I thank you," said Carter firmly, "but I am going to do as I said."

"He wants to go back to Malla-Nulla," Slade explained to his daughter,
"and I tell him it is suicide to think of such a thing.  Here, you have
a go at him, Laura."  Slade always put off onto someone else anything
which he found hard to do himself.

But Laura Slade read a certain doggedness in Carter's face that told
her what to say.  She did not join in imploring him to stay at Smooth
River when he had so obviously determined to go.  But instead, her mind
flew to some scheme that might make his passage less desperately risky.
"I am sure father could spare you some men.  With an escort you might
get through.  I wish you were not so plucky."

Carter laughed.  "Oh, I am frightened hard enough, but I should be
still more frightened at what I should think of myself if anything
happened to Mr. Smith which I could have prevented if I'd been there.
It's very kind of you to offer an escort, and I'd thought of that
before; but I'm sure I shall be able to move quicker and more quietly
without one.  But if Mr. Slade could lend me a gun, I'd feel a lot more
comfortable with that."

"Certainly, my boy, certainly.  You shall have my Winchester, and I
believe I can scare up a revolver somewhere."

"You are very good.  I have a revolver already, but it's only useful to
me as a sort of knuckleduster.  I couldn't hit a haystack with it ten
yards off.  Same with the rifle; I've never used one.  But where I was
brought up in Wharfedale, you see, the Governor had some glebe, and his
income was small.  We mostly lived on rabbits and a few grouse in the
season, and so you see I learned to be pretty useful with a shot gun."

Slade handed a weapon.  "There you are.  That's a double 12-bore hammer
gun, and both barrels are cylinders.  It's an early Holland and was a
swell tool in its day, which was some time ago."

"Thank you very much.  I hope I shan't have to use it, but it'll feel
comfortable under my arm.  When you've lived most of your life in the
country, you miss going out with a gun.  Well, now, I'll say good-by."

"Wait a minute till we've called up your boy.  I'll shout from the
veranda."

"Don't, please," said Carter, remembering that on all previous
occasions when trouble foreboded White-Man's-Trouble disappeared.  He
did not wish to call Laura's attention more than necessary to the risks
of the journey.  "I'd far rather go alone."

"Oh, Carter," said the voice of the Krooboy from the darkness outside,
"then you plenty-much dam fool.  I say I lib for come with you to
Malla-Nulla.  You no fit to go by your lone."

They looked out through the lit doorway and saw the yellows of
White-Man's-Trouble's eyes, and the gleam of his teeth, which latter
were eclipsed when he finished his speech, leaving the eyes alone to
tell of his whereabouts.

"Now, that's a real stout boy of yours, Carter," the trader said.  "Hi
you, come in.  You fit for a peg?"

"I fit for a bottle," said White-Man's-Trouble, who looked nipped and
gray when he stood up in the lamplight.  Poor fellow, he thought he was
going to certain death with perhaps torture as an addition, but when it
came to a pinch, and the white man led, he screwed up his pluck to
follow.

So at last the pair of them set off quietly into the shadows.  Two
handshakes were all the farewell, but there was a soft something in
Laura's eyes that sent queer thrills down George Carter's spine.  Slade
himself saw them through the outer line of the sentries, and warned
those enthusiasts not to fire on them should they presently return; and
a dozen yards away from those sentries, they melted into the warm
blackness of the African night.

Up on the veranda of the factory Laura Slade leaned over the rail and
listened to the beating of her own heart.  She strained her eyes and
she strained her ears along the line of mysterious phosphorescence
which marked the beach, but no trace or hint did she get of how it
fared with the man she loved.  Once only during that watch did she hear
a sound which she took to be a distant gunshot, and then, _din, din,_
as though two other shots followed it.  Then the roar of the surf and
the night noises of Africa closed in again, and for safety or hurt
Carter had passed beyond her reach.

"Kate will like that man," she said to herself, and then she shivered a
little.  "I wonder if Kate will take him away from me?"



CHAPTER IV

THE BEACH BY MOONLIGHT

White-Man's-Trouble was abominably frightened during that night march
along the beach to Malla-Nulla, and did not mind showing it.  Indeed,
the fact that he screwed up his determination sufficiently to make the
trip at all, says a great deal for his admiration of Carter.

Carter, on the other hand, though he was fully alive to the desperate
risks that lay ahead, felt himself to be the white man in command, and
adjusted his demeanor accordingly.  To look at him one might have
thought that he was merely taking exercise and the evening air for the
general good of his health.

Had there been cover he would have taken it, but there was none.  The
beach was the only path; the bush which walled it on one side was
impassable, and though the sea might have been considered an
alternative route, they had only cotton-wood dug-outs at the Smooth
River factory, and it would have taken at least a surf-boat to get out
over the Smooth River bar, to say nothing of landing, when the time
came, through the rollers which crashed always on Malla-Nulla beach.
So he marched along where the sand was wet and hard, just above the
cream of surf, and he carried the twelve-bore, hammers downwards, over
his shoulder, with his forefinger on the trigger guard above.  He was
very grateful for those past days of rabbit shooting in Upper
Wharfedale which had taught him to be so quick and deadly on a sudden
mark.

The surf on one side, and the night noises of Africa on the other,
roared in their ears as they marched, and every now and again they came
into a cloud of fireflies, which switched their tiny lamps in and out
with inconceivable rapidity, and left them quite blinded during the
intervals of darkness.

So that on the whole, as Carter realized very fully, if the King of
Okky had set men to waylay them, these could scarcely be incompetent
enough to miss their mark.  But he did not admit this knowledge to
White-Man's-Trouble.  When that Krooboy stated things exactly as they
were, Carter pooh-poohed his deductions lightly enough, and stormed at
the man because he was ignorant of the most approved method of
pipe-claying shoes.

An African moon floated cleanly overhead, and great African stars
punctured the purple roof of heaven, and to Carter's chilled fancy he
and the Krooboy were as conspicuous as two actors strutting under lime
light.  But there were two things he overlooked, and these I believe
must have been the salvation of the pair of them.  The thick night
mists were steaming out of the forest, and from the surf the thick
white sea smoke drove in on the land breeze to meet them.  This
translucent fog, though it might not be very apparent to the eyes of
the walkers themselves, would be quite enough to screen them from the
gaze of hostile pickets who, after the manner of Africans, were already
half scared out of their dusky skins by the fear of ghosts.

They had made the journey out to Smooth River in five and a quarter
hours; they completed the journey back to Malla-Nulla in four, which
meant good travelling; and because a heavy march like this may not be
undertaken without physical payment in the stewy climate of the Coast,
Carter felt certain premonitory symptoms which told him that a good
thumping dose of fever would be his when once he slackened his efforts
and gave it a chance to take charge.  But he was not much alarmed at
the circumstance.  As he told himself coolly enough, either by the time
the fever came on he would have rejoined Mr. Smith at Malla-Nulla, who
in that case was perfectly capable of looking after him, or he would
have rejoined Mr. Smith in the Shades Beyond, and a fever owing to his
body left behind on earth would not matter.  As it happened neither of
these alternatives had to be bargained with.

Malla-Nulla factory was eaves deep in white wet mist when they got to
it, and found it earthy-smelling and empty.  It was unmarked by fire,
unsmirched by signs of battle, and, strangest of all, unlooted.

The pair of them charged up the veranda steps, Carter in the lead, with
the twelve-bore held ready for an instant discharge.  The Krooboy with
matchet uplifted and teeth at the snarl looked the very picture of
savage desperation and ferocity.  They stepped into the empty mess-room
and lit matches and a lamp.  The land breeze sang through the bamboo
walls, and Carter's home-made punkah swished overhead to the unseen
impulse of the water wheel; but of quick human life, there was not a
trace.

He had fitted up bells about the place, or rather strings that actuated
wooden clappers which could beat on wooden drums.  He set these all
a-clang and listened.  The place reeked of its usual mildew, and the
smell nauseated him.  They had got rid of the mildew scent at the
Smooth River factory.  But there was not a murmur of reply to his
clamor.

White-Man's-Trouble delivered himself of wisdom.  "Oh, Carter, I think
dem Smith, an' all dem boys at factory lib for die.  Dis place lib for
full of ghosts.  I fit for run back for Smooth River."

"Run away, then," said Carter, who was beginning to examine the
mess-room systematically.

The Krooboy cowered in a chair and covered his eyes.  "Oh, Carter, I no
fit for march back alone.  Dem ghosts plenty-too-much fond o' Kroo
chop.  Oh, Carter, you no be dam fool an' stay here.  You lib back for
Smooth River all-e-same me."

"My pagan friend, don't get too familiar.  The next time I hear you
calling me names, I shall break my knuckles up against one of the
places where the worsted's been shaved off your skull.  Observe"--said
Carter, and poured some whiskey onto the table top and set light to
it--"Observe those blue flames that crawl and flicker about, but do not
burn the wood.  In those the ghosts that have been threatening you are
now being most painfully consumed.  Do you believe it?"

"I fit for see 'em die," said White-Man's-Trouble devoutly.  "Oh,
Carter, you plenty-much-fine witch doctor.  I fit for pipe-clay dem
shoes, three pair a day.  Oh, Carter, if Okky men lib for come, you
burn them, too?"

"Certainly," said Carter, "anything to soothe your nerves.  Though, as
a matter of fact, I should demonstrate to them with a shotgun, not by
burning methylated.  Now, just nose around, boy, and help me to find
out where Mr. Smith's evaporated to.  They can't have eaten him, or
some of them must have stayed behind to digest the meal; and they can't
have kidnapped him, or he'd have broken up the happy home before he
condescended to go, and as we see it now, it's no more squalid than
usual.  So now, Trouble, produce Mr. Smith."

"Smith?  Oh, Carter, dem Smith lib for surf boat."

"How on earth do you know that?"

"Dem surf boat no lib for beach.  Dem paddles no lib for veranda, Okky
man no fit for boat boy.  So Malla-Nulla Krooboy, dey boat boy for dem
Smith in Malla-Nulla surf boat.  Savvy?"

"I do clearly.  But why the deuce didn't you tell me all this before?"

"Because," said the Krooboy simply, "I too plenty-much frightened o'
dem ghosts before you burn 'em."

"I wonder," said Carter thoughtfully, "if I shall ever understand all
the workings of the African mind."  He went onto the veranda and peered
out into the mists.  A fleecy blanket covered the sea and blotted out
the water, and all things of low elevation that floated thereon.  In
the distance, between him and the moon, the two black mastheads of an
invisible steamer ploughed through the whiteness, but between him and
it a whole fleet of canoes and surf boats might have been snugly tucked
away from his sight.

Then a sudden pang of coldness came upon him, which made him button up
his white drill coat, and step back into the mess-room and huddle into
a chair.

"Fever lib," said White-Man's-Trouble looking at him critically.

"I'm in for my usual two days' touch," said Carter, with the
listlessness of the malaria already creeping over him.

"You fit for quinine-palaver?"

"I suppose so."

The Krooboy fetched the quinine bottle from Mr. Smith's well-filled
medicine shelf.

"I'd some pills of my own somewhere."

"Steamah pills.  Dem Cappy Image pills no dam good.  I eat dem box
myself."

"You thieving scoundrel!"

"Oh, Carter, I tell you dem pills no good."  He laid a hand on his
midriff.  "No fit for give you even small-small twist there.  Oh,
Carter, I save you lose your temper over dem pills when I eat 'em mine
self."

"I wish they'd been calomel.  You'll get poisoned one of these days,
Trouble, if you don't stop stealing.  I've some corrosive sublimate
tabloids for skin preserving stowed away somewhere, and if you bolt one
of those, you lib for die one-time.  Here, give me a dose of quinine."

The Krooboy found a cigarette paper, tapped it full of the feathery
white powder, and rolled it up.  Carter put it on his tongue and
swilled it down with whiskey and water.  "Quick, now, get me some
blankets," he chattered.  "I shall burst if I don't sweat directly."

White-Man's-Trouble packed him with rugs and coats, till in the baking
atmosphere of the mess-room one wondered that any skin could resist the
invitation.

But presently the wraps were flung aside, and Carter sat aching and
burning in his clammy drill clothes, with his skin bone-dry, and a feel
in his head as though it were moving in and out like a concertina.

"That last's the quinine," he told himself; and then, "I say, Trouble,
you'd better think for your own neck now.  I shall be otherwise
occupied for the next thirty hours.  You'll be well advised if you went
away back to Smooth River.  If the Okky men come here and knock me on
the head, I really don't care.  And if they'll only chop my unwholesome
carcass, and get indigestion from it afterwards, I feel I shall get a
grim enjoyment from watching their writhings from my own comfortable
(or maybe uncomfortable) seat on the Other Side."

"You lib for bad fever," said White-Man's-Trouble thoughtfully.

Carter clutched at the Krooboy's brawny hand and wrung it
enthusiastically.  "Hullo, Pater!  Fancy seeing you out here in this
filthy hole!  Well, sir, it is real good of you to leave Wharfedale and
come all this way to look me up.  How's the Mater?  All right, eh?  And
did she do you in the eye this year over the roses, or did you manage
to snip off the buds ahead of her?  You didn't happen to bring any beer
with you, did you, sir?  Nice cool draught of Pateley ale, in your big
silver tankard that you won for stewing Hindoo babies alive at the
burning ghats?  We've got muggers here, too....  Lord, what rot I'm
talking, and you aren't the Pater at all, but only a dashed good sort
of an ugly nigger with a blue frying pan tattooed across the bridge of
your nose.  White-Man's-Trouble, tell me solemnly and truly.  Why do
noses have bridges?  Why, for instance, not ferries?  Wake up, you
image, and give me a civil answer."

"You lib for dam bad fever," said White-Man's-Trouble still more
thoughtfully, "an' if you lib for die, Okky men catch me one-time.  So
I fit for make you well one-time.  Oh, Carter, you hear, I plenty-much
fine doctor."

"You a doctor!  With peacock's feathers growing out behind your ears
instead of whiskers!"

"I savvy nothing white-man's drug-palaver.  But I savvy plenty cure
fever Krooboy fashion."

"Do you?  Which of you?  What rot I'm talking!  But upon my Sam, the
Pater's gone, and there are three distinct White-Man's-Troubles
standing there all in a row.  I'll just talk to the middle one, and you
others shut up.  Now, then, sir, you say you savvy Krooboy
doctor-palaver?"

"Savvy plenty."

"Then, doc, I offer myself as a patient.  Never mind sending in to
Grasington for your amputating tools.  Remember you are a Dales doctor,
and as you've pointed out with offensive cheerfulness many times, you
saw me into this hot and wicked world, and I know you jolly well hope
to see me out.  You catch the patient and we do the rest, as the
undertakers say when they send round their cards about top hats and gun
cases.  Special quotations for fever patients F.O.B., for then a couple
of firebars out of the engine room does the trick, and saves the cost
of an elaborate coffin."

"Oh, Carter, listen to me."

"Well?"

"I lib for Krooboy quarters for fetich ju-ju.  You sit here.  No run
away.  Savvy?"

"Be long gone?"

"I come back one-time."

"All right.  Give my compliments to Miss Slade, and say we had a jolly
walk in the moonlight and found everything all right when we got here,
except that Mr. Swizzle-Stick--whose other name I forget--had eloped
with the assistant typewriter.  Say, it was rather a nuisance about the
typewriter woman, because she was the one who made the jellies, jolly
cool yellow jellies with just a drop of sherry in them that were
perfectly ripping when you had been sick.  My mother used to make
jellies like that herself for us kids when we were sick----"

He was still rambling on when the Krooboy returned, and by that time
the fever was burning dangerously high.  It was not running its normal
course.  He had undergone abnormal exertion, and the resulting fever
was correspondingly fierce.

White-Man's-Trouble came in out of the warm moist night outside, with
some liquid in a cracked teacup.  The patient refused to know him, and
so the Krooboy picked him up in his enormous arms and got the liquid
down his throat by drenching him as a nurse might drench a fractious
child.

Carter coughed and spat, but the dose was down, and in three minutes it
had started its work.  In five minutes it had laid him out, and then
White-Man's-Trouble carried him into the next room and laid him on a
bed.  Then from a bag he produced materials and did with them what will
not be set down here....  And after that he groped around inside the
mosquito bar, killed what insects were lodged there, pulled down the
netting, and tucked it accurately round the mattress.

Then he took up his matchet again, spat in his great right hand to get
a good grip on the hilt, lay down on the mat before the door and went
to sleep.

The room pinged with mosquitoes; a leopard roared persistently from the
bush at the back of the factory, and a rat somewhere up in the rafters
gnawed at a sounding piece of board with irritating persistence.
Moreover, of course there was the probability of the Okky men coming to
the factory at any moment for that much talked-of massacre.  But none
of these things disturbed White-Man's-Trouble.  He suddenly wished for
sleep, and therefore to sleep he promptly resigned himself.  All
thoughts of anything beyond that immediate desire were blotted out from
his simple brain.  The patient might awake, and rave, or want
assistance; but that did not matter.  Nothing mattered beyond his wish
there and then for sleep.

The beautiful unreliability of his tribe was strongly present in
White-Man's-Trouble.



CHAPTER V

EVENTS AT MALLA-NULLA

Mr. Smith had been away from his creature comforts for a spell of
twenty hours, and most of that time had been spent on the thwart of a
dancing surf boat in the embraces of a dank sea fog.  He had been
divorced from food, stimulant and tobacco smoke for all that time--the
surf boat had been twice upset in getting off, and drowned all the
matches--and as a consequence his temper was vile, and his language was
sulphurous.  He was barely thankful when he came back to the beach
again and found Malla-Nulla factory neither burned nor looted; he was
openly ungrateful when he found that the last of the stock of limes had
gone mouldy, and realized for the moment a Coast cocktail was beyond
the limitations of art.  As a consequence Mr. Smith romped up and down
the untidy mess-room in a state bordering on frenzy, and in his own
especial polyglot reviled the unknown K. O'Neill as the _fons et origo
mali_.

In addition to the legitimate boat boys, the whole of the other factory
boys had been crammed into the surf boat, and as a consequence they
also were chilled, cramped, and bad-tempered.  His own body servant was
openly insolent when commanded to produce dry tobacco and a pipe.  And
when on the top of all this Mr. Smith opened Carter's bedroom door,
stumbled over the sleepy White-Man's-Trouble, and was promptly floored
by that nervous savage and threatened with a well-filed matchet, the
remaining rags of his temper at last gave way.  He sat there on the
floor, a very unkempt figure, and for five minutes without stopping (or
repeating himself) said exactly what he thought.

During four of these minutes his Assistant had been awake, and
listening to him through the thin filter of the mosquito bar.

"Perhaps I should explain, sir," said Carter, stiffly, when the flow of
words at last ended, "that I came back here because I thought you were
in a hole and I might be of use.  I have not been indulging in whiskey
as you suggest, but I believe I have been through a stiffish bout of
fever."

"Get up, man, and look at yourself in the glass."

Carter did that, inspected a moment, and then whistled.  "Good Lord,"
he said, "I don't wonder you think I had been on the razzle.  What on
earth's this white stuff painted round my eyesockets?  I look like a
clown in a circus."

"Oh, Carter," said White-Man's-Trouble, "dem ju-ju.  Last night you lib
for fever plenty-too-much bad.  I fit for cure you.  Now you well.  If
you touch dem ju-ju, you lib for fever again, one-time."

Carter's meddling hand dropped to his side as though the white stuff
round his eye had stung him.  He turned half-apologetically to Mr.
Smith.  "Do you think that's likely, sir?  You know West African ways
better than I do."

"Beyond me.  But you never can tell, and there's always the probability
of Africa springing something new upon one.  If I were you I should let
your personal appearance slide and risk wearing that decoration for the
day, if your boy says so.  Ju-ju's a dangerous thing to meddle with
anyway, and he calls it that.  Besides your fever's gone, you say?"

"Absolutely.  And I don't even feel a wreck."

"You're sure you were pretty bad last night?"

"I fancy I was close upon pegging out.  I never had such a stiff bout
before."

"Well, Mr. Carter," said the old man screwing in an eyeglass and
staring at him, "if I were you I should dash Trouble five bob for
saving your life, and follow out the rest of his instructions.  Ju-ju
often gets there when drugs won't touch the spot at all, and, mark you,
you're getting that admission from the man who knows more about drugs
suitable for Coast ailments than anybody in West Africa.  The only
trouble about putting this into general practice, is, where are you
going to find the proper ju-ju to meet the case?  But you seem to have
got hold of the right boy for this sort of thing in Trouble.  Turning
to business for a moment, I hope you're satisfied with your exertions
on behalf of Craven and O'Neill with his Majesty of Okky?"

"Well, I don't know what he's done yet, sir.  Mr. Slade said he had
wiped out Malla-Nulla factory and killed you and all the boys, but that
seems, well, exaggerated."

"Slade always takes the gloomy view.  The King talked; and I'll admit
things looked ugly for a bit.  You see you'd walked off with the Firm's
artillery."

"Good heavens, do you mean that my tin-pot ten-and-sixpenny revolver
was the only gun about the place?"

"Certainly I do.  You see--er--Mr. Carter, one occasionally--er--dines
rather heavily here, and once after dining too well I saw a man shoot
another whose loss he regretted afterwards.  So as I wished to spare
myself those regrets, I saw to it that there was nothing more deadly
about the place than trade guns, and you wouldn't catch me loosing off
one of those, however drunk I might be.  I regret to say the King
didn't continue to carry his liquor like a gentleman after you'd left;
he grew quarrelsome; and finally I had to pull him up with some
sharpness.  Then came the ultimatum.  He said I should find the roads
stopped already--the old scoundrel had been playing me like a trout, it
seems, till everything had been got ready, and he told me that as a
fine for your lèse-majesté he should help himself to the contents of
the factory as they stood."

"But you headed him off there, sir, at any rate."

Swizzle-Stick Smith chuckled.  "Well, I haven't been on this Coast for
twenty-five years without knowing a thing or two.  I told the King I
was rather glad to hear him say that because it showed that a prophecy
made a year ago was now going to be fulfilled.  He asked what it was.
I spouted to him

  'Maecenas Atavis edite regibus
  O et præsidium et dulce decus meum,
  Sunt, quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
  Conlegisse juvat, ...

as the first thing that came into my head, and fine pompous lines they
are, as you'd remember if you'd ever been to a public school, which you
haven't."

"I've written out all Horace twenty times over in impositions and know
the bulk by heart, but I can't say I ever got a taste for construing
it."

"Well, we won't argue out the value of a classical education just now.
Anyway the King of Okky was impressed.  Of course he twigged the stuff
was not English, or Okky, or Kroo, or Arabic, or any of the tongues
hereabouts.  He asked what it was.  I said it was a priest's tongue.
He asked what the words meant.  I romanced then and told him they
prophesied that the factory would be looted by a King who had made
himself a King--the old scoundrel was born a slave, you'll remember,
and made the throne vacant by killing his predecessor--and that two
days afterwards a new and very curious sort of ju-ju would be put on
that King, who would thereupon die a new and very painful sort of
death."

"Ripping!" said Carter.

"The meeting broke up in confusion just about then, because his
soldiers down below began to run amuck among our boys, and the King
heard the row and went for me.  However, I'd my big lead tobacco box
handy, and I wiped him over the head with that, and as the boys below
were frightened, and had got our surf boat ready for launching, I saw
that they intended to quit, whatever I might say, and I didn't see the
force of holding the fort here alone.  So I went to sea with them, and
spent the evening preaching them a long sermon on the vice of
cowardice.  I hadn't much faith that the King would be fool enough to
swallow my prophecy, but as I say, you can never be sure which way the
African brain will twist.  And here you see's the factory untouched."

"When Mr. K. gets a report on this, sir, I fancy you'll have a letter
you will like."

"Maybe.  But I shan't wear myself out expecting it.  Look here"--Mr.
Smith produced a letter from the breast pocket of his stained
pyjamas--"came in just after you'd left.  Sent by canoe and special
runner from our factory on the Monk River.  Agent there says he wants
to charge me seven pound ten for forwarding my mail.  If that's K.
O'Neill's idea of running a business economically, I wish he'd come out
to the Coast here and find a way of making profits to correspond."

Carter had a shrewd suspicion that if Mr. K. had ordered an expenditure
of seven pounds ten shilling sterling over the forwarding of a letter,
it contained an idea which that very astute business man was sure would
produce at least seventy pounds in the near future.  But he did not
irritate his superior by mentioning this aloud.  Instead he asked, "Any
instructions for me, sir?"

"Well, yes.  First of all there is a direct one.  K. says, 'As Mr.
Carter seems a good hand at collecting native curios, I should be glad
if he would get me some ivory war horns.  I want a row of them on my
drawing-room wall.'  So, young man, you had better get hold of some
escribellos and your carving tools and set to work."

"I don't propose," said Carter shortly, "to start faking curios for Mr.
K.  A man like that would spot them at once.  But I'll send my model
horn, and see to it he has some other good specimens of the real thing."

"As you like.  Well, the letter goes on to advise us that the next
thing America and France and Great Britain are going to gamble over is
rubber.  Not collected wild rubber, you understand, but rubber estates
where the vines can be planted and cultivated.  K.'s evidently going in
for Company Promoting, and as a preliminary he instructs me to get
options of suitable territory.  He's got an idea that an uncleared
estate on the Coast here, which could grow rubber if it had the chance,
can be bought at the rate of a case of gin per thousand acres; and if
you've a fancy for untouched bush, and a doubtful title, I daresay that
is so."

"But one can get a clear title, I suppose, if one takes the trouble?"

Mr. Smith's pipe finally refused even to bubble, so he started to clean
out its more obvious horrors into Carter's wash basin.  He went on
between the throes of this nice operation--"Depends who you mean by
'one.'  If you're hinting at yourself, I have no doubt you could manage
it, because--you're a very painstaking young man, and I'm sure--you see
yourself as a partner of K. O'Neill already.  Isn't that so?"

"That might do when I'm ready, sir," said Carter laughing, "unless I
see something better in the meantime.  But as a point of fact I wasn't
setting up myself as a man to see through the tangle of African land
transfer."

"If you were referring to me, I shouldn't recommend you to bet on the
result, unless the odds are big on your side.  And mark you I've been
dabbling in West African real estate at intervals for five-and-twenty
years"--he pointed to the crown of his bald head--"that's what's worn
my hair so thin in places.  You get your eye on a piece of land here,
you get all the local evidence you can rake up as to who is owner, and
you pay that man and put up your buildings.  If within the next six
months more than three other owners don't turn up with absolutely
flawless-looking titles, you'll be lucky.  It's a case of pay each of
them in turn, or clear out."

"But surely there's the alternative of doing neither?"

"Certainly, if you can get the Government to back you up, and that's
the rarest thing imaginable.  You see any land trouble of that kind,
whatever the rights or wrongs of it may be, always means a war when the
white man refuses either to pay or quit.  The local kings and ju-ju men
always snap at the chance.  Well, we needn't argue this out any
further.  I know all the districts in at the back here where rubber can
be grown, and I shall go off on a trip up country and see what I can do
in the way of negotiations.  I leave you in charge here at Malla-Nulla.
Your particular object in life will have to be keeping down expenses."

"You think there will be no trade then?"

"Not now the King of Okky has closed the roads," said Smith decisively.

Now Swizzle-Stick Smith had a long list of failings, but letting his
assistants eat the bread of idleness was not among them.  "Nothing like
work--and a moderate amount of drugs--for keeping fever and mischief
out of a man," was his motto, and he saw to it that Carter remained
steadily on the run.  But now the roads were stopped, and it was only
the rare merchant who straggled in scared, and often wounded, from that
mysterious Africa behind, George Carter discovered that life was a very
different thing.  Beforetime, he had found work in the feteesh, and
round the factory generally, a trial to the flesh; but the idleness
that took its place was infinitely more objectionable.

He employed the Krooboy staff in whitewashing, in building, in making a
caricature of a garden; he made the native clerks polish up their books
into a shape that would have satisfied even a Glasgow Chartered
Accountant; and for himself he made Okky arrows, axes, spears, drums
and warhorns, in such quantities that even the curiosity shops of
Europe would have been glutted if they had all gone home.

In despair he even thawed to a certain intimacy with the Portuguese
linguister, but presently cast him off in disgust, and realized why on
the West Coast one divides up the population into white men, black men,
and Portuguese.  Of course White-Man's-Trouble was always at his elbow,
but he hardly fulfilled the requirements of a companion.

To be precise, after the roads were stopped, and Mr. Smith had departed
elsewhere, the Trader-in-charge of Malla-Nulla factory discovered for
himself what many millions of men have found out before, that it is not
good for man to live alone, and though he made many ingenious plans for
remedying the evil, all of these, save one, invariably broke down on
being tested.  The one plan that was sound related to Laura Slade.

Every time that Laura's name inserted itself into the argument his mind
would presently leap back to Upper Wharfedale, and he would hear afresh
that warning of his father's about taking a wife of one's own color.
And his father, he reminded himself, had once held an Indian
chaplaincy, and knew what he was talking about.

But by degrees, as this proposition was argued out again and again, and
the loneliness of West Africa in general, and Malla-Nulla in particular
bit deeper and deeper home, so did England and all that dwelt therein
drift further and further away.  He had found occasion the day after he
had been left in sole charge of the factory to send a business note to
Slade at Smooth River.  In it he enclosed another to Laura, and to this
latter he received a reply that he found charming.  The affairs of the
factories required many messages after that; and presently the pair of
them did away with the cloak and pretence of commerce altogether, and
White-Man's-Trouble was kept trotting backwards and forwards across the
glaring beaches, frankly as Cupid's messenger.  Only once did Slade
interfere, and that was when the Krooboy, presuming on his peculiar
position, stole from the Smooth River factory some article of more than
customary value.  Slade said nothing publicly, but took the law into
his own hands, and after the custom of the Coast banged
White-Man's-Trouble lustily with a section of a packing case; and even
then Carter would have known nothing about the matter had not there
been a nail in the weapon of offence, which left its marks, and about
which he made inquiries.

Slade it seemed had also received from K. O'Neill similar instructions
to those recorded above, on the matter of rubber estates, and with his
usual indecision would determine one day to set off personally into the
bush, and the next day to do the necessary bargaining by
correspondence.  Finally he wrote to Carter a querulous letter saying
that as he got no help from anybody in deciding on such an important
subject, he was just going to stay on at Smooth River and twiddle his
thumbs, and so Carter was not in the least surprised to hear from Laura
within the next twenty hours that her father with hammock-train and
escort had that day set off for a prolonged expedition into the bush.

"His last instructions," wrote Laura, "were that I was not to be in the
least nervous; he was going to avoid the Okky country; and anyway he
was an old Coaster, and knew most thoroughly how to take care of
himself.  And so, nervous I refuse to feel.  But, oh!  I am so lonely
here with no one whiter than Mr. and Mrs. da Silva to talk to.  I
somehow quite share your instinctive dislike to West Coast Portuguese."

Within ten minutes after reading that letter, Carter was out under a
brazen glare of heat, marching along the sand where it was wet and
hard, and nearing the straggle of palms which marked the banks of
Smooth River, at the rate of four good miles to the hour.  When a white
man walks at that speed through West Africa mid-day heat, it is only
because some question of life or death hangs upon the speed; though in
this case Carter told himself that love was the same as life.  He
pinned his eyes on the Smooth River palms, which the refraction made to
dance up and down most coquettishly, and repeated this over and over
again, because another voice within him persisted in sneering something
about two very lonely people with nothing to do, who were not in love
at all, but merely bored with idleness and their own society; and
finally he got quite angry over the matter.  He stuck out his great
dogged chin, and presently cursed aloud.  He shook his fist at the
splendor of the tropical sun.  "I do love the girl," he declared, "and
I will marry her in spite of my father, and K., and everyone, if she
will have me.  Curse it!  Why should I hesitate when I love her?  This
infernal climate is making me as slack and undecided as even poor old
Slade."

So with the surf booming ceaselessly in his ears, and the sea-smoke
driving over him and making his white drill collar damp and sticky, he
marched resolutely on to meet Fate.



CHAPTER VI

THE COMING OF THE OKKY-MEN

The attack on Smooth River factory did not take place without due
warning.  It seemed that a large caravan of native merchants from the
hinterland had come through the Okky country with a fine cargo of
produce since the King had stopped the roads.  Whether they had cut new
roads through the bush for themselves, or fought their way past the
obstructing ju-ju, they did not explain; they arrived at the factory
with kernels, a few tusks of discolored ivory, a few quills of
water-worn gold, and a fine parcel of high-grade rubber, which were
duly valued; they took cloth, six flint-lock guns, a case or two of
gin, and the balance in pink Kola-nuts by way of payment; and with
these on the skulls of their carriers, they marched away along the
Beach and out of this history.

Then presently there came down envoys from the King of Okky demanding
with a fine inconsistency that O'Neill and Craven's factory should pay
his Majesty the transit blackmail which he had been unable to collect
himself.  Carter was sent for, post-haste, from Malla-Nulla, and was at
first minded to tell those envoys to go to a kingdom which repute says
is even hotter than West Africa.  But thoughts of Laura living there by
herself, and a dread of the horrors of native war made him offer a
compromise.  "Open the roads," said he, "and we'll pay up these
fellows' dues, though your King knows perfectly well he hasn't an atom
of claim on this factory.  It's the custom for traders to pay for going
through a country if they can't avoid paying; they never pay once they
are through; and never, never, never, throughout all the wicked history
of Africa has there been a case of an English factory being fool enough
to pay toll which its casual customers have slipped through without
paying.  But, as I say, I am ready to meet you in the matter.  Open the
roads and I'll dash you this amount you ask for."

Kwaka, the head envoy, a big, fine, bold-eyed Haûsa, requested that the
money might be handed them there and then.

"Not one sixpence," said Carter, "till the roads are opened."

The Haûsa was a professional soldier, and here he could see was going
to be a chance of working at his trade.  He gleefully delivered the
King of Okky's ultimatum.  If the tribute was not paid, the King would
withdraw his permission for O'Neill and Craven's factories to exist on
the Coast.

"Tell your old King," said the Englishman contemptuously, "that he may
have authority over his own filthy mud-villages inland, but his law
does not carry along the Coast, as he knows full well.  The Coast is
the white man's."

Things were going exactly as Kwaka could have wished.  The man with the
red head was warming up nicely.  "If you fight when we come down to the
factory," said Kwaka, "I will see to it that you are crucified
separately.  I should like to take the woman who lives here into my own
harem, but the King has bespoken her already."

"You," said Carter savagely, "a Moslem, ought to know shame for living
in the employ of pagans like Okky-men.  If you come back here, my first
shot shall be for you, and after you are dead I will have that done to
your face with the white man's doctor's tools as shall forever spoil
its beauty.  So that when the Prophet takes you up into Paradise, even
the least of the houris will shrink from you and hide her eyes from all
sight of you in the folds of her green robe.  Just you stick that in
your memory, Mr. Kwaka, and don't come boasting 'round here.  Observe,
I am a man of my hands: I can make white iron burn."

He pulled a length of magnesium wire from his pocket and lit it with a
match.  The big Haûsa stared owlishly at the fierce white flame.

"That is the glare of Gehenna," said Carter, "into which if you come to
Smooth River again you will presently descend, after being cast out
from Paradise because of the reason I mentioned.  You have now my
permission to depart.  And I wonder," he added to himself, "if my
Mohammedan theology is fairly correct.  Kwaka's swallowed it right
enough, but if he hands it along to a mullah, he may find a flaw, and
we shall have the whole brood of them down about our ears in half
no-time."

However the portent was sufficiently startling for the moment.  Kwaka
argued that a man who could make iron burn could doubtless (as he
claimed) spoil the good looks of a True Believer by some other of his
infernal arts, and therefore was a person whom it would be healthy to
let alone.  So he and his escort took themselves off into the forest as
unobtrusively as might be.

But with Laura, Carter took another tone.  "Look here, my dear," he
said, "you simply must run across to the Canaries till things have
simmered down again here.  I don't want to alarm you, but it's quite on
the cards that infernal old Mormon of a King may take it into his
woolly head to be dangerous.  You've had one taste of his quality
already."

"Two," said the girl, and shuddered, "and he's sent my father presents
and messages since.  But I can't go away from Smooth River, at any rate
till my father comes back.  He left me in charge, you see."

"Which I think very improper of him.  I don't believe in girls being
mixed up in business matters, at any rate in West Africa, and I am sure
K. O'Neill would be frightfully down on it--what are you laughing at?
Laura, tell me one-time what you are sniggering about in that
ridiculous way.  Oh, I see.  You think I have never seen Mr. K. and am
talking through my hat.  Well, my dear, if you had read fifty times
over every letter that K. has written to Malla-Nulla factory during the
last eighteen months, you would know that man and his likes and his
dislikes, and his ambitions, and his cranks just about as accurately as
I do.  Anyway, I repeat, he'd hate to have you here in charge."

"Just remember that I don't agree with you one bit, Mr. Carter."

"Very well, Miss Slade, you can jolly well do the other thing.  But
take charge here I shall, and go to the Islands you must.  There's a B.
and A. boat due to call at Monk River the day but one after to-morrow.
I'll send for our surf boat, and we'll take you there in style.  Won't
you have a ripping time of it at Las Palmas and up in the Monte!  I
wonder what the new hotel's like up there.  And I say, Laura, go down
to that farm at the bottom of the Caldera, and I bet you a new hat it
takes you half an hour longer than my record time to get up again as
far as Atalaya--Hullo, what's the matter now?"

"You are making things rather hard for me.  I'd go away from this
hateful Coast if I could, but we simply can't afford it, and there you
have the bare fact."

"But I thought----"

"Oh, yes, of course you did, that father was a sort of local
millionaire.  Well, he isn't.  He did once have private means, but that
I think was before I was born, and only the reputation of them remains
now.  He's made big commissions on the factory's trading, I know, but
he's invested badly, and I think he's been robbed.  Probably, too, I've
been extravagant."

"Rubbish."

"Well, anyway, the money's gone, and the brutal truth is I haven't a
sovereign in the world."

"Good Lord!  You ought not to have been left here like that.  It was
beastly careless of Slade."

"He never thought of it.  And if he had, he couldn't have done
anything.  His equipment of course came from about the factory, but as
regards money, he went away without a pound in his pocket.  There
aren't shops that one can spend money in to be found up in the bush."

"It's disgustingly awkward," said Carter frowning.  "Of course every
penny that I have in the world would be as much yours as it ever had
been mine, but the fact is, my dear, I've paid it all away as it came.
You see, in a way I was a sort of bad egg before I got a billet out
here on the Coast, where, I suppose, if you come to look at it, there
are small opportunities of roystering.  Besides, with Mr. Smith always
before one as an example of what not to be, it doesn't take very much
resolution to keep straight.  Anyway, in ancient days I ran up all the
debts I could get tick for, and I landed in the poor old Pater for a
lot more than a younger son's share.  Well, what with selling curios
through that old blackguard Balgarnie on the _M'poso_ (who I know robs
me of half the proceeds), and commission on our turnover at
Malla-Nulla, which has increased a lot since I've been there (till of
course this row cropped up), and my small bit of regular screw,
altogether I've made a very decent income, and I've taken a bit of
pride in paying off the old debts with ten per cent. of interest added.
I knew that extra ten per cent. would tickle some of them frightfully.
It was just that chunk of interest that cleaned me out down to the
bone, and I chucked it in because I thought one could not possibly want
hard cash down on the Coast here.  What idiots men are to let
themselves run short of money!  However, I shall have another quarter's
screw due in a couple of months' time and in the meanwhile you must go
to the Islands on tick."

"You're a dear good boy, but it can't be done.  I shall stay on here
and make the best of things."

"You will do nothing of the kind, young woman.  You will travel on a
Madeira chair in a palatial surf boat as far as Monk River as we just
now arranged, and then I shall walk on board the B. and A. boat with
you, and explain to the purser who you are, and everything will be as
right as ninepence."

She looked at him with full eyes.  "You make things difficult for me."

"Not a bit of it.  I'm the man that's going to shoulder the
difficulties."

"Oh, you didn't know it.  But if you asked a favor for my father's
daughter from the purser of the _Secondee_--she's the boat that's
due--you would get an unkind answer.  We're in debt all round, and I'm
afraid he didn't behave very well to either the purser or the captain
of the _Secondee_.  Now, please do not press me any more.  I stay here
at Smooth River factory."

George Carter hit the table with his fist.  "Then I stay, too.  The da
Silvas will put me up, and if they object, I'll turn them out into the
bush and live in their house alone.  Malla-Nulla must look after
itself."

"What will Mr. K. say to that?"

"He will approve.  K.'s a tough nut in business matters, but he's a man
all through."

"Is he?" said the girl with a queer smile.  "I don't agree with you."'

"One may not at the moment like the way he hustles one along in his
letters," said Carter stoutly, "but he's a man all through, and if he
was to get to know how things are fixed here, and to hear I'd stuck to
my own job at Malla-Nulla and left you in the lurch at Smooth River,
he'd fire me one-time, even if he had to get a steamer specially
stopped to land his mail.  No, K. O'Neill would have no use for brutes
of that description in his employ.  Now, if you'll be so very nice, my
dear, as to pick up that swizzle-stick and make me a good grippy
cocktail, when I've had that I'll go out and do what I can to
discourage the Okky men if they see fit to pay a call."


Now, his Majesty the King of Okky once boasted to a West African
official that he could put 20,000 spearmen into the field, but there is
no doubt that this was an over-estimate.  Moreover many of the Okky
troops carried flintlock guns and matchets in place of the spear, and
others again were bowmen, and still others wielded the Dahomey axe.
But his Majesty was a parvenu king who had fought his way to the
throne, and he saw to it that there was no inefficiency in his War
Office.  He made the conditions of service sufficiently pleasant to
tempt in the fighting Moslemin from the Haûsa country, and these fine
soldiers of fortune gave the needful stiffening to his own pagan levies.

Then, also, the King of Okky made full use of the great cult of Ju-ju.
The average West African king is completely under the thumb of the
ju-ju men, and if he is not actually their nominee and puppet, he knows
that if he runs at all counter to their wishes and policy, he will die
some frantic death devised by the cleverest poisoners on earth.  But
King Kallee the First was not only King of Okky but he was also Head
Ju-ju man of that mysterious state, or as it is sometimes written, Head
Witch-doctor.  He could, when he chose, hale a subject from his
dwelling and pin him to the Okky City crucifixion tree for no further
reason than his kingly will.  He could also cause a piece of fluttering
rag, or a bunch of hen's feathers to be tied above a subject's lintel,
and that subject and all his household would not dare to pass the
charm; nor would anyone else dare to have communion with them; so that
in the end they would die of hunger and thirst and become a pestilence
to the community among whom they had lived; and no one thought of
raising the breath of objection.  The King had put ju-ju on one of his
own subjects, and that was all.

Moreover the King, having set eyes on Laura Slade, wished to instal her
in a wing of the great mud palace of Okky as his wife.  So far,
throughout life, when he had created a wish, fulfilment followed as a
matter of course, be the means what they might.  In his demands for
Laura, Kallee was at times amazed at his own moderation.  He had
approached Slade (who to him was the girl's proprietor) just as one
native gentleman might approach another, and inquired her price.
Slade, who could not give a decisive answer even to such a preposterous
matter as this, temporized after his usual custom.  The King naturally
saw in this a scheme to enhance the girl's price and displayed royal
munificence.  He would pay Slade a thousand puncheons of palm oil and a
thousand bags of rubber, and two thousand bags of kernels; and when
Slade waved this aside and spoke of his daughter's reluctance for
matrimony, Kallee spoke of the splendor in which his chief queen would
live.  Slaves in all abundance, cloth as fine as silk, ornaments of
gold, and an American alarm clock should be hers; her food should be
coos-cousoo of the finest, her drink should be Heidsieck of a vintage
year exclusively.  All the affairs of State should be exhibited for her
approval, and even his two brass cannon should be housed in her
apartments.  The King showed himself to be the royal lover in lavish
perfection, and Slade could not bring himself to cut short the offer
and tell him that the whole thing was impossible.  He temporized, and
congratulated himself each time the matter came up on having got rid of
the King without rupture of their friendly relations.

However, the royal patience, which had never been strung out to such a
length before, reached its breaking strain that day at Malla-Nulla
under circumstances already recorded, and what the King could not
obtain by this new diplomacy he very naturally made up his mind to get
hold of by methods which were more native to his experience.

Being moreover a strategist with a good deal of sound elementary skill,
he did not give the enemy time to bring in reinforcements after the
first news of danger.  Kwaka's embassy was a reconnoitring expedition
as much as anything, and the detail that the brazen Kwaka should be
scared out of his seven senses by the man whose red head the King had
already ordered for a palace ornament, was a small thing which stood
beyond his calculation.  A force of 500 picked men lay in bivouac a
bare five miles inland from the factory; the ju-ju signs on the bush
roads protected these from all espionage; and when night fell, a ju-ju
man who was the King's special envoy performed a ceremony which he
said, and which they understood, granted the soldiers a special
dispensation against those ghosts which all West African natives know
haunt the darkness.  So they advanced to the attack through the gloom
of the steaming forest shades, those of them who were pagans with high
spirit and fine hopes of loot, and those of them who were Moslemin
filled with a vague fear which they gleaned from Kwaka's hints.

Now Carter did not fall into the usual Englishman's trick of despising
his enemy.  Indeed he had that figure of 20,000 fighting men firmly
lodged in his head, and short of the opportune arrival of a British
gunboat, expected sooner or later a furious fight.  But he reckoned
that Kwaka would have to go back to Okky City with his report, and
afterwards return from thence with an attacking force; and he counted
also on the African's fear of ghosts, and looked with confidence to no
disturbance during the hours of darkness.

So although he worked the sweating factory hands at high pressure in
piling up puncheons and cases, and bales of cloth, and sacks of salt
into a substantial breastwork, he went to bed himself that night and
felt, as he tucked in the edge of the mosquito bar, that few white men
on the Coast had ever earned better a spell of sleep.

It was at 2 A.M. when the Okky yell and the crash of a volley of
pot-leg woke him, and he leaped up and through the gauze in one jump.
He ran out onto the veranda, and met there Laura Slade.  She was
dressed, and had in her hand the cheap Skipton revolver which he had
given her, and towards the purchase of which his father had once
contributed a hard-to-spare ten shillings out of the whole half guinea
that it cost.  Moonlight poured down upon them pure and silvery from a
clear night overhead, but all the land below up to the level of the
veranda was filled with a mist that was white and thick as cotton wool.
In this fog invisible black men screamed and yelled and cursed, and
occasionally there came to them the red glare, and the roar, and the
raw black-powder-smoke smell of the flintlocks.

"The beggars will rush those barricades," said Carter, "if I don't look
out.  You stay here, Laura, and put that pistol down.  It's a beastly
dangerous toy."

"I may want it for myself."

"Don't be melodramatic.  Now run into the mess-room, there's a good
girl, and get down those two Winchesters, and load up the magazines.
I'm going down to help the boys."

But even as he spoke there came a sudden hard puff of the land breeze
that made the mist swirl and twist up into ghostly life, and left
canals and pools of clearness.  He darted inside, snatched up one of
the rifles, and crammed it full of cartridges.  "I wish I'd a
scatter-gun," he said.  "I used to be a nailer at rabbits and the
occasional grouse at home.  However, it won't do to miss here, although
the tool is new."  He threw up the weapon to his shoulder, and shot as
a game shot shoots, with head erect and both eyes staring wide at a
leather charm-case on the broad black chest which he picked as his
object.  He did not know how to squint along the barrel.  Then he
pressed home the trigger, and had the thrill of knowing that he had
shot his first man....  He warmed to the work after that, and fired on
and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till the heated barrels of the
repeaters burned Laura Slade's hands as she charged the magazines
beneath them.  From somewhere in the lower part of the factory came
White-Man's-Trouble, and when in answer to the fusillade, showers of
pot-leg began to rustle over the veranda and scream through the roof,
that valiant person presently dragged out bedding to form a breastwork.
But although Carter kicked him till his foot ached the Krooboy would
not show his own head over it sufficiently to use a gun for the mutual
defence.  He stuck to it stolidly that he was a "plenty-too-much bad
shot," and Carter was too much occupied in keeping up his own fire to
spare time for further coercion.  But as he changed rifles with Laura,
he said every poisonous thing to White-Man's-Trouble that his mind
could invent, and that African listened, but made neither answer nor
reply.

[Illustration: He fired on and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till
the heated barrels of the repeaters burned Laura Slade's hands.]

The fight was going badly against the factory force.  The Okky men's
original surprise had been very complete, and they had rushed the outer
line of the defences all round.  The inner line consisted merely of the
buildings; and the factory boys had bolted for these, and had joined
the mulatto clerks and the Portuguese who were there already.  The
whole defence, of course, was badly managed; but then it must be
remembered that it was devised by traders, not by soldiers.  If it had
not been for Carter's education on the moors and warrens of Upper
Wharfedale, and his consequent deadliness with a rifle against rushes
at close quarters, the factory would have been put to the storm within
five minutes of the first attack.

Besides, with a few exceptions, the factory boys were Kroos; and these,
though they are magnificent workers and about as amphibious as seals,
are emphatically not fighting men.  They battled manfully enough after
the shock of the first surprise, and because no path of escape offered
itself; and whilst there were trade guns to fire, they derived a fine
encouragement from the noise of the black trade-powder explosions, and
the acrid smell of smoke.  But few of them made any attempt to reload
their flintlocks a second time, and for cold matchet work at close
quarters they had little appetite.  So by ones, and twos, and tens,
they began slipping off into the bush (to be hunted down piecemeal by
the savage enemy later on) and soon only the clerks and the two
fever-shaken Portuguese were left alive in the lower buildings.

It was at this point a new engine was added to the attack.  Dawn had
just leaped up yellow and sickly over the sea, when a crash rang out
that jarred the air and every building about the place.

"Hear that?" croaked Carter.  "That's a cannon, and a brass one as you
can tell by the ring.  It's probably one of those old brass guns that
the Portuguese used to cast for the natives two hundred years ago.  One
of my curiosity dealers promised me fifty golden sovereigns for a
genuine specimen.  If I don't spot that gun and pick off the men who
are serving it, they'll jug us for a certainty.  But they've got the
blessed thing so jolly well hidden among the bush!  Well, I'm going to
ease up on my own shooting and watch for the next flash.  Get me a
drink, you plucky darling, will you, or else my throat will crack in
two.  Bring a chattie of water; that's what I want.  The heat of this
night has been about the worst I have known on the Coast."

"It is too hot to last," said the girl.  "I'm afraid even the water in
the chattie will be as warm as tea."

She went into the mess-room, and presently came back on hands and knees
to keep below the showers of pot-leg which were persistently whistling
overhead, and gave him the wet porous bottle, and crouched beside him
under the breastwork as he drank.

"Well, my sweetheart," said Carter, "if it isn't unlucky to drink one's
best girl's health in water, here's your toast!  You're the finest
plucked lassie in all the wide and wondrous earth, and now I come to
think of it, I don't believe I ever proposed to you."

"No, you never did.  I don't see why you should."

"Stick your head lower down.  That thing that said 'whisp-whisp!' was a
rifle-bullet.  They've got a blooming marksman down there, and I can't
have you picked off.  And don't talk rubbish.  You know you're jolly
going to marry me as soon as ever we can afford it, if ever we get out
of this, which isn't likely."  He clapped an arm snugly round her, and
_w-o-s-h_ came a load of pot-leg into the other side of the bedding
which protected them.  "Got any silly objections to make to that?"

"Have you thought over what it means, George?  You know I'm not white."

"Bosh!  Anyway you're white enough for me.  Let go the chattie.  And as
I said before, Here's luck.  Ugh!  African river water, half mud, half
essence of nigger from higher up.  Moreover, as you remarked, hot as
tea.  Bang! there goes that infernal cannon again, and I've been
gossiping with you--proposing, I mean--and haven't seen the flash.
Plunked a shot into one of the palm oil puncheons in the store below,
by the sound of it.  Hullo, here comes the wind.  Now, somebody will
have his hair combed."

As though the discharge of the ancient brass gun had been a signal, a
tornado opened upon them without warning, and almost in its full
strength in the first blast.

One minute there was a stagnant calm, with air so hot and stale that it
hardly seemed to refresh one to breathe it.  The next wind travelling
often at a hundred miles an hour bellowed and roared at them in tearing
spasms of fury.  The factory building reeled and groaned at its impact.
Sticks, boards, corrugated roofing and empty barrels solved the problem
of aerial flight.  The close-grown trees of the forest that hemmed the
factory in on the landward side were flattened earthwards as though by
the pressure of some unseen giant hand; yes, flattened down, and down,
till one thought that any human beings that were beneath them must
inevitably be crushed out of all living shape into the foul, soft
swampy ground beneath.  And in cold truth some of the Okky men who
cowered there during the enforced lull of the attack did so die.

The firing had ceased automatically on both sides, and a bombardment of
sticks, leaves, sand and stones pelted them all unmercifully.  It was
impossible to face the wind; indeed, so violent was the torrent of air,
that the mere act of taking breath became a matter of the nicest art.

The girl lay crouched under the huddle of bedding, buffetted into
semi-unconsciousness, with Carter's arm holding her tight down to the
floor boards of the veranda.  He put his lips to her ear and bawled a
message.  She shook her head.  Through the insane yell of the wind she
could not hear a word.  He laughed and kissed her, and then, taking
away his protecting arm, worked his perilous way like some clinging,
creeping thing into the inside of the dwelling.

Even this was filled with the wind.  A door, smashed from its hinges,
clattered noisily about in one corner, as though it had been some
uncouth mechanical toy propelled by clumsy clockwork.  Everything
movable hopped on the floor, or danced from the walls.  And of course
to this disorder was added all the dishevelment which had been caused
by the volleys of jagged cast iron fired through the flimsy walls by
the Okky men's flintlocks.  But Carter knew what he wanted, and sought
for it with a single mind.

Presently from amongst the _débris_ he emerged with a four-gallon drum;
and then he worked his way to a cupboard where Slade kept his store of
cigarettes.  Luckily it was full.  Slade had boarded a steamer lately
where his credit in the forecastle shop was still untarnished, and his
plausible tongue had procured him a whole two-dozen case of
half-hundred tins on some ingenious deferred-payment scheme of his own.
There were twenty-two of the green tins left, and Carter got them all
out, opened them, and recklessly emptied their contents onto the floor.
With infinite pains, and sheltering the liquid from the blast under his
coat, he decanted the contents of the big drum into the tins till all
were full.  Then he re-lidded them, and jabbed a hole with his penknife
in each lid.

He rebuilt them into their own wooden case as he primed them, and when
this was full, dragged it out through the doorway into the casemate of
mattresses.  Laura and White-Man's-Trouble still crouched there
helplessly, and the tornado still yelled and roared and boomed.  It was
carrying water with it now, bitter salt from the sea, and whipping the
face like hail where it impinged.

Carter was breathless and panting by the time he had managed once more
to drag himself under the shelter of the bedding; but he was keenly
alive to the needs of the immediate future.  Already he noted a
diminution in the tornado's fury; the hustling cloud of sticks, and
leaves, and branches, which it carried along was growing less thick,
and although this was by far the hardest hurricane he had ever seen, he
knew from previous acquaintance with the breed that it might well drop
to perfect calm as suddenly as it had arisen.

As a point of fact it deceived him.  The wind lulled, and the forest
trees swung upwards in unison as though they had been performing a
trick.  The air cleared, and Carter raised his head to try and spot the
part of the bush where the brass gun was masked.  A black man sprang
from the undergrowth, lifted a gun, fired, and missed.  Carter threw up
the Winchester for a snapshot.

"Got him--Laura, for the Lord's sake keep down in shelter, or they'll
pick you off to a certainty.  Trouble, you hound, roll up those pillows
and blankets underneath you into a hard wad, and stuff them into that
gap at the corner there----"

"Isn't there a splendid chill after that awful heat?" the girl said.
"Wrap up, George, or you'll have fever.  Here's your coat."

"Look out," Carter shouted.  "Hold on all with those blankets.  Here
comes more tornado."

Once more the wind slammed down upon them with insane fury, and once
more all loose inanimate things rose into vigorous flight.  The forest
trees cowered down into the swamps from which they grew.  Solid rods of
rain split against the factory buildings, and sent deluges of water
squirting through the bamboo walls as though the matchwood backing had
not been there.  The roar was like the continuous passing of a hundred
heavy trains over a hundred iron bridges all side by side.

Gone altogether now was the stagnant heat.  The air was scoured clean,
and it was forced into the lungs at such high pressure that it
exhilarated one like some deliciously choice vintage of champagne.

"I'm hanged if I let those beggars kill us," Carter bawled out during
one of the lulls.  "In this splendid air life's too gorgeous."  And
then bump came the wind upon them again.

But the tornado had blown out the heart of its strength.  In five more
minutes the wind had dropped, the rain ceased, the air cleared, the sun
glared out overhead and began to heat the tropical day, and white steam
oozed up from all the face of creation.

This time Carter's rifle represented the whole orchestra of death for
the defence.  The factory Krooboys' flintlocks spoke no more; the
ill-aimed Winchesters of the snuff-and-butter colored da Silva and his
wife were silent.  The Portuguese and the factory clerks, and the
factory porters had cannily crawled away into the bush.  They knew
nothing of what was ahead of them in those steamy shades.  One
certainty alone fluttered big in their minds, and that was that they
were leaving massacre behind.



CHAPTER VII

THE INVISIBLE FIRE

In the factories which dot the West African seaboard and rivers, death
is such a constant visitor that much of his grimness had faded.  At
home, in England, or America, or Hamburg, we shiver with apprehension
whenever our relative who is "out on the West Coast" comes up into the
mind; but the relative himself takes his doses of fever when they fall
due with a certain callous philosophy, and on his emergence shattered
and shrunken from the attack, congratulates himself on not being a
candidate for a gun-case and a top hat that time.  Those who go up in
the bush and are there engulfed, those who get drowned in the
ever-grinding surf, those who go out by the thousand and one
opportunities which the climate and the surroundings offer, slip off
their human garb with an easy nonchalance; and those who are left
pronounce some pithy epitaph over the deceased, and go on with their
quicker interests.

With the native African, death is an event of even smaller moment
still; and in the event of a quarrel, one competitor will often sit
down, cuddle his knees, shut his eyes, and there and then deliberately
suspend his vital processes, merely to cause temporary annoyance to his
rival.

Now, the above paragraphs are somewhat of the nature of a footnote
elevated to the text.  But they are necessary at this point in these
memoirs to explain the coolness with which Laura and Carter viewed the
near prospect of extinction.  Neither of them of course in the least
wished to die, but it never occurred to them to face death with
anything beyond the usual Coast philosophy.

"I shall stick Mr. K. for a rise in screw if we get through this," said
Carter.

"If I hadn't made a promise," said the girl, "I could tell you
something about your Mr. K. that would startle you."

"You're a tantalizing baggage, and I've a good mind to pick you up and
shake it out of you.  Gad!  Here they come.  Now, I'll shoot, and you
get a box of matches and light those bombs for White-Man's-Trouble to
throw."

"Bombs!  Do you mean the cigarette-tins?"

"Yes.  You'd a big brazing-lamp in the factory.  Remember it?  Well,
you had.  And that meant benzoline, I guessed.  I found a drum full of
it, anyway, and I've loaded up those tins with benzoline.  It'll burn
like winking in this sun, and the niggers'll never see the flame.  Only
thing to take care of, is not to set light to the factory.  Now, do you
understand?"

"Yes, dear."

"And d'you savvy, Trouble?"

"Savvy plenty.  Oh, Carter, I burn my leg plenty-too-much with dem
damhot lamp once on steamah.  No can see flame when sun lib for shine.
I fit for serve as stand-by-at-crane boy once, sar, on steamah."

"Well, Mr. Engineer, throw straight and don't get hoist by your own
petard.  By the living Jink we're in for it now.  Throw, Trouble, for
all you're worth, right into the blue of them."

The four-fifty repeater yap-yapped its messages, and the man who had
learned to shoot quick and straight amongst the rabbits and grouse of
Upper Wharfedale, made deadly practice at this bigger game.  But two
eight-shot Winchesters are of very little more value than catapults in
stopping the rush of two hundred fighting black pagans officered by
Moslemin Haûsas.  Beforehand the fire of the Portuguese and the factory
Krooboys had held them off, much more by its noise than its deadliness.
The one solitary shooter who remained, they held in scorn; he was
firing white powder in the Winchester, and the smallness of the noise
and the absence of smoke encouraged them.  They scorned to shoot at him
with their flintlocks.  They would rush in and put this man to the
matchet, and save the girl alive.  And thereafter, when they rolled the
red head at King Kallee's feet, and made the girl stand up before him,
many and fine presents would be given to gladden them and their women.

So they gave the Okky yell, and sprang out of the bush into the open,
and rushed across the clearing.

But lo, presently the white man called out, "Behold, I put ju-ju on you
blighters," and a black man who carried between his brows the Kroo
tribal mark began throwing green tins which contained some liquid
distilled by witchcraft.  And thereupon the clinging fires of hell
broke out amongst them, and burned the skin on their bodies till they
screamed and danced in their frenzy of pain, and the air was rich with
the smell of their cooking.  Even Kwaka, who led them, though he was
the boldest fighting man in all King Kallee's armies, showed by the
grayness that grew upon his face that he that day learned the lesson of
fear.  And when presently they broke and fled for the bush (the flames,
be it understood, still sticking to them), it was Kwaka who led that
disordered retreat, and held a sleeve of his jelab before his eyes lest
the white man might bring further witchcraft to bear, which would make
his face a derision for the houris in Paradise.

"My Christian Aunt!" said Carter up on the factory veranda, "but
benzoline is filthy stuff to fight with.  The place stinks like a
cookshop, and I feel like a beastly Russian anarchist.  Don't throw any
more tins, Trouble.  We've saved our bacon, Laura, I do believe, but I
hate being unsportsmanlike.  It's worse than netting your neighbor's
grouse moor, this.  But they came up to the gun too quick for me to
stop them alone.  White-Man's-Trouble, if you throw another of those
infernal bombs, I'll slip a shot into you."

Laura was crouched in behind the mattress casemate, her face tucked
away into the crook of an elbow, and her shoulders heaving with sobs.

"Hullo, old lady, what's the row with you?  You're not hit?  Good God,
don't tell me you're hit.  What a careless hound I am to let you get
out of cover.  I could have sworn there wasn't a shot being fired.
What a miserably incompetent brute I am to get rattled and not see
after you better."

"Oh, George, I'm not hit.  I almost wish I were.  That would be fairer."

Carter stared.  "What's the matter, then?"

She pulled herself together with an effort.  "I suppose I must feel
very much as you do about the matter, only more so.  You see I lit the
matches for each bomb Trouble held out to me.  It was I who am really
responsible----"

Carter tackled the situation with ready wit.  "Now, look here.  I'm not
going to have you presuming on being my sweetheart.  I know you'd like
to have the credit of routing the enemy, but you're not going to have
it.  I want all the kudos I can get in that line for business purposes
myself.  I'm going to point out in my report to Mr. K. that it was my
brilliant genius alone that rootled out that drum of benzoline, and put
it to a new and unpleasant use, and that any idea of refusing me the
ten-pound a year rise in screw that I ask as a reward would be bang
against all O'Neill and Craven's most cherished traditions of fairness.
So just you remember that, Miss Slade, and don't go off and brag about
doing one single thing that wasn't ordered by your superior officer in
this Service (as old Swizzle-Stick Smith would say), and that's me."

"You're a dear, good boy."

"I am," said Carter cheerfully.  "I'm rather surprised people don't see
it oftener.  You're the first person in Africa who's made the discovery
so far.  Now I can't have you eating the bread of idleness out here any
longer.  Indoors you go, and tidy up."  He took her by the arm and led
her gently to the living room.  "Hasn't that breeze made hay of the
place?  Sorry the houseboys have left this desirable situation without
warning, and I can't lend you White-Man's-Trouble just now.  So I want
you to wade in, if you please, my dear, and show me what an extremely
domesticated person the future Mrs. G. Carter can be when she tries.
'We wish to make a point,' said Mr. K. in one of his typewritten
letters, 'of having all our factories neat and comfortable.'"

Laura shivered.  "If I were to marry you, I wonder what K. would say."

"Say nothing.  We should absolutely draw the line at interference
there, eh?  But in the meanwhile there is no harm in following out the
gentleman's advice, which is invariably sound, on the other points."

"When you see Mr. K. I'm very much afraid you'll change your mind about
me."

Carter drew the girl to him and kissed her on the lips.  "Don't you be
jealous of K., sweetheart.  Mine's only a business admiration in that
direction."

"At present," she persisted.  "Wait till you meet."

"When we meet, I shall say, 'Sir, this very lovely and desirable young
person here is my wife,' and then we shall go on to commercial topics.
There's nothing romantic about the boss.  If you'd studied the Epistles
of K. to the Coasters as closely as I have, you'd know that off by
heart."

Laura still shook her head.  "I love you," she said, "more than
anything else in life, and I can think of no greater happiness than to
be your wife.  But I would never marry you if I thought you could
repent of it afterwards.  You can't deny that you are wrapped up in K.
You must see K. before you marry me, George."

"If K. comes along before the parson, well and good, you shall have
your own way of it.  But if a missionary of the right complexion (if
there is such a thing down here) casts up at this factory, there'll be
a wedding cake put on the festive board, Miss Slade, and you'll be the
bride that'll cut it.  Don't you try and wriggle out of your solemn
promises with me.  Hullo, what's that?"

"Thunder.  Is the tornado coming again?"

"No, listen.  It isn't thunder.  It's people thumping monkey-skin
drums.  I've made dozens of those tuneful instruments for the curiosity
dealers at home, so I know the note.  Well, you get on with your
dusting, there's a nice girl, and I'll go out and have a cigarette."

"You are going--to----"

"What, clean up the mess outside?  No, we'll leave that for the
present.  Now, don't be scared, there's a sweetheart.  But, to tell the
truth, those drums interest me.  The natives signal through the bush
with them, you know, in a sort of dot-dash-dot style; and so far their
local Morse alphabet has been a bit beyond me.  Perhaps
White-Man's-Trouble may be able to decipher it.  Now, don't you try and
shirk that dusting one moment longer."

He went out then onto the veranda, shutting the door behind him, and
questioned the Krooboy sharply about the drummings.  Did he understand
them?

"Savvy plenty," said White-Man's-Trouble gloomily.  "Dem Okky-man's
drums."

"Well, I didn't suppose it was a Chinaman's, you patent idiot.  You fit
for understand dem tune?"

"Savvy plenty.  Dem tune say Okky-men fit for make custom."

"That means 'ceremony,' I suppose.  Now, what sort of a ceremony will
suit the occasion?  Dirge of defeat by the ju-ju men, presumably, and
then they'll crucify some wretched slave so that his spirit can go into
the Beyond and arrange to have the luck changed.  I wish Mr. Smith were
here, or Slade.  No, I'm hanged if I do, though.  I've worked this
thing off my own bat so far, and I'll see it onto the finish.  Dem
Okky-men make crucify palaver?" he asked, and translated the hard word
by standing up himself spread-eagled against the factory wall.

White-Man's-Trouble nodded a dismal assent.  "Then, by an' by they grow
plenty-too-much more brave, an' they come back one-time an' fight some
more."

"Then you bet your woolly whiskers it won't do for us to sit quietly
taking the air here.  Ju-ju's the correct card to play in this country
anyway."

The Krooboy shivered.  "Oh, Carter, I no fit for touch ju-ju."

"Well, I am.  With thought and care, I believe I should develop into a
very good ju-ju practitioner.  Besides, the subject fascinates me.  No
white men seem to know anything very definite about it, above the fact
that it is beyond their comprehension, and it would be rather fine, if
the unlikely happened, and one chanced to survive, to be known as the
one authority on West African magic."

"Oh, Carter, if you meddle with dem ju-ju palaver you lib for die
plenty soon.  If you walk in bush, tree fall on you; if you ride in
canoe, arrow jump on you; if you chop,[*] dem chop he fill with
powdered glass, and presently you lib for die of tear-tear-belly.  Oh,
Carter, you lib for Coast now one year; I lib for Coast all my life; I
savvy plenty; you alle-same damfool."


[*] In West Coast English to chop is to take food.  Chop is food.


"My dear Trouble, I've admitted already that I know meddling with ju-ju
isn't altogether an insurance proposition.  Much obliged to you for the
fresh warning all the same.  But I'm afraid your constitutional
nervousness rather clouds that massive brain of yours at times, or
you'd see that Smooth River factory and its three occupants are in the
devil of a fix just now.  You say the Okky-men when they've rubbed up
their courage will presently return; and I don't dispute your reading
of the omens.  If they do come, we can't shoot them off, and that's a
certain thing.  As I'm sure Mr. Smith would say, it's a case of _Aut
ju-ju aut nullus_, and to follow his rather objectionable knack of
translating for a man who happened to have been at a different school
to his own, that means we've either got to play the ju-ju card or be
scuppered.  White-Man's-Trouble, you are hereby made conjurer's
confederate."

"I no fit."

"Am I to hurt your feelings with this piece of packing-case lid?"

"Oh, Carter, you look see.  There's a nail in him there."

"I know there's a nail in it.  The occasion demands a nail, and I
picked the weapon for that reason.  Now, then, are you going to obey
orders, or will you take a first-class licking?"

"Oh, Carter, I fit for do what you say."

"Good.  You're an excellent boy when you're handled the right way.  Now
go to the feteesh and bring the biggest coil of that inch lead piping
you can stagger under."

Carter himself went to Slade's room and brought from there one of those
crude carved wooden figures which the natives make and the traders pick
up as curiosities.  At home they are sold for stiff prices as the gods
of the heathen; but the negroes that make them are not idolaters, and
what they exactly are for the present writer knoweth not, save only
that they are not articles of worship.  Locally they come under that
all-embracing term ju-ju, which includes so much and explains so little.

Carter found a brace and bit--an inch twist bit, which for a wonder was
in a calabash of yellow palm oil, and so not rusty--and he worked on
these carved men till the sweat ran from him.  Laura came out and told
him that he was inviting an attack of fever, which was obvious, since
by then it was high noon, and violent exertion for a white man with the
thermometer above par always has to be paid for on the Coast.  But he
drove her back again into the house and out of the heat with a volley
of chaff, and went gaspingly on with his tremendous work.

The mouths of the figures were wide, but with knife and drill he
splayed them wider, but was careful always not to distort them beyond
the canons of local art; and in a couple of hours' time he was ready
for White-Man's-Trouble and the heavy coils of lead piping.

"Regard," he said, "O thou assistant to the great white ju-ju man.  We
will place one of these graven images opposite the entrance of each
road which comes from the bush into this factory clearing.  We'll hoist
it up onto a green gin box, so, and give it a bit more height and
dignity.  And we'll add a necklace of these green cigarette tins, which
have already advertised themselves into an ugly notoriety.  Then, into
this hole you see in the back of each image, we will fit an end of lead
piping, and as the holes are tapered, the unions will make themselves
good.  Then, O helper of dark schemes, we'll pay out the coil, as far
as possible in swamp where it will sink out of sight, and bring all the
ends into the house here.  Any piping that shows, you must throw earth
over.  Savvy?  And the inside ends we'll splay out with this hardwood
cone that I've made, till a man can get his mouth well into them and
shout down the tube comfortably.  I'm sure you catch the idea?"

"Oh, Carter, I plenty-too-much afraid.  Presently I lib for die."

"Not you.  If I see any signs of your starting to fade away, I'll whack
you into life again with a piece of board with two nails in it.
Wherefore, O feared of the uninitiated, buck up, and get a shovel, and
cover that lead out of sight where it shows.  Afterwards I'll show you
the working of that early British contrivance, an office speaking-tube.
That is, if we have time for a rehearsal, but by the extra big
dot-dashing of those monkey-skin drums just now, it rather looks as if
we shall have the next act of this play crowding down on us without
much more interval."


The burned warriors had not, it appeared, retreated very far.  Their
spiritual advisers, the ju-ju men, had by King Kallee's orders been
waiting not very far away down the several bush roads; and when
presently fugitives began to come trotting in through the steamy forest
shades, these ecclesiastics rallied them, and when enough were
collected, they commenced a "custom" for the renewal of the soldier's
bravery.

Savage superstitions, savage terrors, savage thrill at the raw smell of
blood were all worked upon with a high dexterity.  King Kallee had made
a fine art of these incitements; he had gained a throne by their
practice, and had handed them on to chosen ministers, who practised the
cult of ju-ju with a single eye to advancing the interests of their
king.

The black soldiers were wearily tired, and many of them carried wounds.
They listened at first with a sullen torpor.  They heard without
interest that the white man's bullets were non-consecrate, and
therefore the wounds they made would soon heal.  They learned, with a
little thrill of wonder, that the green tins which poured burning flame
were not true ju-ju, since the King of Kallee's ju-ju men declared them
unorthodox.  And by degrees their dull nerves were worked up till at
the proper moment sacrifice was made, and the screams and smells of the
victim maddened them.  Even the Haûsa officers, who were Moslem, and
therefore contemptuous disbelievers in all pagan ceremony, were stirred
up almost equally with their men, and when as a final exhortation they
were bidden to return once more to the factory, and bring the red head
and the white girl as presents for the King, they forgot their qualms
and their burns, and led on with a new, fierce courage.

But whether the African be savage bushman or cultivated Moslem
gentleman, superstition is part of the very marrow in his backbone.
These men had felt the bullets, they had felt the infernal burnings of
the benzoline, but they were wound up now to a pitch above dreading
either.  Orders were given to concentrate in the edge of the bush, as
near to the clearing as they could get without being sighted from the
factory, and then when all was ready the monkey-skin drums would beat
the charge.

The first comers peered through the outer fringe of the cover, and saw
the clearing desolate, and the factory buildings to all appearance
tenantless.  The dead that they had left in their hurried retreat still
lay where they had dropped, and glared up glassy stares at the
outrageous sun.  But with eyes keen to pick up any hint at ju-ju charm,
the gaze of all this vanguard fell on five little wooden mannikins set
opposite the points where the several bush roads cut into the open.

There was nothing new about the mannikins themselves.  They were merely
the things that their own uncles and their grandfathers carved for a
purpose which they themselves knew better than did that tricky white
man with the red head who had doubtless put them there.  But then each
of these mannikins was perched on a pedestal made of one or more green
gin cases, and that in itself looked suspicious--or, in other words,
smacked of ju-ju.  And, moreover, each was garlanded with those
infernal green cylinders which they had just been informed officially
were in truth not orthodox ju-ju, but which they knew from their own
painful experience could, upon occasion, vomit forth the most horrible
flames.

They crouched in the edge of the cover once more thoroughly shaken, and
it only required the final portent to fray their courage utterly.


In the factory, tucked snugly out of sight in the mess-room, Laura
Slade, Carter and White-Man's Trouble lay stretched out wearily upon
the floor.  A length of match boarding had been stripped away from the
wall, and only a paling of vertical bamboos stood between them and the
external world.

It was the code message of the monkey-skin drums, as read by
White-Man's-Trouble, that first gave them the news that the Okky-men
had rewound up their courage and were returning once more to the
attack; and so they promptly retired out of sight.  Guns and defenders
would have been a reassuring touch to the enemy, who had seen such
things before.  But for them to find no guns, and no human beings in
view, would accentuate the effect of the graven images which gazed
woodenly upon them from the green gin-box pedestals.

For long enough they lay there in the sickly heat, staring out over the
litter of the morning's battlefield, which danced up and down in the
shimmering sunlight.  The factory lizards came out in full numbers for
their daily sun-baths, and most of the flies of Africa seemed to be
congregated in the clearing.

Laura caught the first note of invasion.  "Do you see," she asked,
"those two swallow-tailed butterflies flittering about by that big silk
cotton-wood that lost his top in the tornado?  They were feeding
contentedly enough on that stuff like meadow-sweet, but someone or
something disturbed them, and they flew up.  If you notice, they dare
not go back, so that rather hints that the someone is still hidden in
the meadow-sweet."

"Which said clump," observed Carter, "is just two yards off the graven
image which commands bush road number three.  Oh, assistant conjurer,
canst thou swear?"

"Oh, Carter," said the Krooboy with simple dignity, "I no bush-boy.  I
speak English.  I learn him on steamah.  I work up to position of
stand-by-at-crane boy before I lib for come ashore to work at factory.
Ah, Carter, I savvy swear-palaver plenty-much-too-good.  You fit for
hear me?"

"Not for one instant.  I want you to make all your remarks in Kroo, or
preferably Okky, if you aren't too rattled to remember any of that
fashionable tongue.  Here, put your sweet lips to the tube, and just
say in the thickest language you can think of 'Get away back to Okky
City, you bushmen.  If you hesitate, your noses shall drop off, and
your great fat lips shall follow, and red ants shall spring up out of
the earth to eat them whilst you wait.'  Savvy the idea?"

"Savvy plenty," said White-Man's-Trouble, and rattled venom into the
tube with a savage gusto.

The result was sufficiently surprising.  Spear-heads and gun-barrels
bristled suddenly upwards from the clump of meadow-sweet, as ambushed
Okky-men scrambled to their feet.  For a full two minutes they stood
there listening to the abuse which they heard pouring from the lips of
the wooden mannikin close beside them, with eyes goggling, and mouths
gaping, and knees chattering, the worst scared blacks in all the Oil
Rivers.

For the moment they were mesmerized by fright.  But then the two
mannikins which were nearest on either side began cackling with uncanny
laughter, and a ju-ju man who was with them recognized an art higher
than his own, and allowed the superstition that was native to him to
rub away the thin veneer of his education.  "Let us begone from here,"
he moaned, "even if it be to meet the curved execution axe of King
Kallee in Okky City.  Better the sharp edge of that, yes, better even
lingering days on the crucifixion tree than the neighborhood of these
devils.  Wood they are now, I do believe.  But they can talk as no
thing of wood ever could talk; and presently they will come to life,
and hurl at us those green tins of liquid fire with which they are
garlanded.  If there are any that wish to see more, let them stay.  For
myself I return to Okky City, even if it means impalement."

The other wooden mannikins broke out into words, and immediately the
bush around each of them rippled with men.  Carter, whose knowledge of
the native was growing, used every syllable of his vocabulary down two
tubes alternately.

Laura, who had grown up bilingual, commenced at first timidly.  But the
desperate peril of their surroundings, the excitement of battle, the
thrill of seeing men run, the drop of negro blood that colored her
veins, were all circumstances that presently whirled her into a
resistless torrent of words.  Never had she spoken with such a fluency;
never had she framed such sentences.  It was all in the Okky tongue,
accurate, biting, glib, telling.  Carter broke off from his own halting
speech to listen.  He could not speak the language yet with any great
ease, but he could understand almost every word.  He chilled as he
listened to her.  He coughed a warning.  He called sharply that she
should stop.  But that drop of negro blood held her to her speech.  The
Krooboy, thoroughly warmed up to his work, was yelling infamies down a
tube at the other end of the mess-room.  Laura, with eyes glinting and
hands clinched, was growing almost beside herself with speech....
Carter gripped her arm and plucked her almost savagely away.

"You had better shut up.  The Okky men have gone, minutes ago, and I do
not think you know what you are saying.  Laura, do you hear me?"

She stared at him, and then spoke with a dry throat.  "I said only what
you told me.  It was to save our lives.  And you--you could not
understand what I said.  It was Okky talk; you surely could not follow
it.  Why do you look at me like that?  George, what is it?"  She
laughed rather wildly, and plucked herself away from him.  "Oh, I see.
Well, I warned you before that I was black, and now I suppose you
believe me."

He returned her look steadily enough.  "My dear girl, you've gone
through more than you can stand, and you've just worn yourself to rags.
I never quite knew what hysterics meant before, but I fancy that in
about two minutes more you would show me.  Now the trouble's over;
we've fixed 'em tight this time, and you needn't worry yourself any
more.  Just you go to your room and lie down and sleep."

"Sleep!  You think I could sleep?"

"Very well," he said coolly, "then Trouble and I must wait till you
can.  But please understand, my sweetheart, that until you have put in
a four-hours' spell of sleep, and can get up rested to stand a watch,
neither the boy nor I must close an eye.  So you see it's up to you to
arrange whether we shall all have a dose of overwork or not."

She came to him and put her slim brown hands on his shoulders and
looked him in the face.  There were black rings under her eyes, and her
cheeks were white and drawn, but somehow with her delicious curves she
appealed to him more than ever, and he let her see it in his glance.
"You still call me by that name," she said, "you still call me
sweetheart even after what you have seen and heard?"

"Of course.  Don't be stupid.  A man doesn't change towards a girl just
because she happened to get a bit excited when she was doing her best
to save his life.  I'm half sorry now I stopped you, only the myrmidons
of my rival, his Majesty of Okky, had run away, and you really were
rather working yourself up."  He drew her to him and kissed her on the
forehead.  "And now you will go and turn in, won't you, like a good
girl?"

"I'll do anything my lord wishes.  But you will look after yourself,
promise me?"

"Rather."

"Let your boy get you a meal.  You've not had a crumb all day, and you
must be starving.  It was horribly careless of me not to have thought
of it before."

"That is rather a bright idea.  Had anything yourself?  No, I see you
haven't.  Well, we'll sup, Laura, before you're packed off to bed.
It's five o'clock in the afternoon, but we'll call it supper.  Trouble?"

"Oh, Carter?"

"We fit for chop.  You kill two tin, one-time."

"Oh, Carter, three tin.  Me one, Missy two----"

_Bang_ went a gun, as it seemed to their jangled nerves, close at their
elbows.  They all started violently, and the girl clutched convulsively
at Carter's sleeve.

"Dem Okky cannon," wailed the Krooboy, and burrowed forthwith into the
casemate of bedding.

"Not it," said Carter.  "It's all right, Laura.  It's a steamer's mail
gun.  I never heard the roar of a loaded cannon till this morning, but
once heard, you can't mistake it for blank cartridge."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely.  I jumped when the thing went off, but then I suppose
we're all a bit fagged.  Here, Trouble, you shirker, get dem chop
one-time, and then find some limes.  We shall have the steamer people
ashore in ten minutes, and when they hear the yarn they'll want about
five cocktails apiece to congratulate us in.  Lord!  Laura, but I'd
give a tooth and two finger nails to have Mr. K. dropping in on us
during the next hour or so to see the fine way we've saved O'Neill and
Craven's factory from a total loss.  I believe he'd raise my screw with
such a jump that you and I might get married out of hand.  Let's see,
what boat's due?  I've hardly got your time-table in my head; one gets
rusty at Malla-Nulla."

"It's the _M'poso_, George.  She's straight out from home.  Just think,
you may really have K. descending on you in half an hour's time."

"No such luck.  It will be Cappie Image-me-lad, with his green umbrella
and his best thirst, and that hearty ruffian Balgarnie, who'll rob
every corpse in the clearing if he thinks he can collect one Aggry bead
and a good slave dagger.  By Gad, I wonder if I can screw some money
out of Balgarnie.  I sent at least eighty sovereigns' worth of most
carefully made curios home with him last time the _M'poso_ tried to
roll herself over off our beach at Malla-Nulla."

"I think," said the girl, "I'll just go to my room for a minute."

Carter pointed the finger of derision at her.  "O vanity," said he.
"You're going to tidy your hair, and smarten your frock just for the
sake of old Cappie Image and the plump Balgarnie.  By the way, now that
you are an engaged young woman, are you going to let those genial old
ruffians take you on their knees and kiss you, just in the old sweet
way?  Of course, don't mind me if you'd like it so."

"Pouf!" said Laura, "they've both known me ever since I was a baby, but
I'll be as distant with them as you like if you feel jealous, sir."

"I think I'll wash off some of the battle scars myself," said Carter.
"One looks a bit melodramatic in this filthy, smeary mess.  Not to
mention uncomfortable.  I suppose, by the way, somebody will turn up to
pay a polite call.  They'll judge that something's wrong when they see
that all the factory boats and canoes have been cleared out of the
creek."


Even White-Man's-Trouble stole palm oil and attended to his toilette in
honor of the expected visit, and it was a very gleaming and oily
Krooboy in some clean (stolen) pyjama trousers of Slade's that showed
Captain Image, and his passenger, and purser up the stair.

Laura and Carter were there, spruce and smart, to receive them, and
Laura said, "Kate!  I knew you'd come," and ran forward and shook the
passenger by the hand.  "There, you see, George," she said over her
shoulder, "how accurately I can keep a secret."

"Hullo, Carter, me lad!" said Captain Image.  "Glad to see you looking
so fit.  You're a fine advertisement for those pills of mine, and I'm
sure you're glad now you kept away from old Swizzle-Stick Smith's
nostrums.  You seem to have been having a bit of a scrap round the
factory here.  However, we will hear about that, and have your tally of
the cargo you want to ship from here and Malla-Nulla afterwards.  But
for the present I want to introduce my passenger and your boss, Miss
O'Neill."

Carter swallowed with a dry throat.  "Mr. K. O'Neill's sister?"

"Miss Kate O'Neill, who is head of O'Neill and Craven."

Carter blinked tired eyes, and saw a girl of three-and-twenty, half a
head shorter than Laura Slade, dressed as simply, but with that
something that somehow speaks of Europe, and money, and taste.  Her eye
was brown and her hair was the color of his own--nearly.  No, it was
darker.  She was holding out a hand to him--a neat, plump hand that
looked white, and firm, and cool, and capable, and which somehow or
other he found in his own.

"Laura calls you George, I notice," he heard her saying.

"Yes, of course she would.  We are engaged, you know."

He felt his hand dropped with suddenness, and up till then he had never
known how thoroughly objectionable a laugh could be when it came from
the lips of Mr. Balgarnie.  Everything swam before him, and he lurched
against the messroom wall.  But with an effort he pulled himself
together.  "Miss Slade and I are engaged.  We are to be married as soon
as we can afford it.  When you look round, and see how we've saved the
factory from the Okky-men, we hope you'll raise my salary."

"Yes, I think I can promise to do that," said Kate O'Neill.  "I had my
eyes open when I came across the clearing.  But do you think you are
wise to marry?"

"Ha, ha, Carter, old fellow," laughed little Captain Image, "got you
there!  Get dollars first.  Find connubial bliss later."

"But," continued Miss O'Neill, "you and I and Laura will talk over that
later when we are alone."

Captain Image felt that he cleared away an awkward situation with all
the savoir faire of a shipmaster.  "Well, Carter, me lad," said he, "we
know you've had a lot of lessons from old Swizzle-Stick Smith, but what
about a cocktail?  My Christian Aunt, look out, Balgarnie, there's
Laura fainting."

Carter stared at them dully but did not try to help.  "My God," he
muttered, "to think I never guessed that K. could stand for Kate."



CHAPTER VIII

PRESENTS THE HEAD OF THE FIRM

"I don't care what you say, Purser, me lad," Captain Image repeated,
"but I call Miss O'Neill pretty."

"Well," admitted Mr. Balgarnie, who prided himself on being a bit of a
judge, "she may be that as well, but I still stick to it that her face
is what I call strong."

"I hate the word 'strong.'  When a she-missionary is too homely looking
to be anything else, she prides herself on wearing a strong face."

"No, sir.  'Intense' for lady missionary," Mr. Balgarnie corrected.

"Strong," snapped his superior officer.  Captain Image was of Welsh
extraction and disliked contradiction.

The purser shifted his ground.  "Well, at any rate, sir, you'll own
she's mighty standoffish.  I used to call good old Godfrey O'Neill,
Godfrey, and therefore naturally I called his daughter Kate, and told
her why.  She didn't seem to hear me."

"She wasn't Godfrey's daughter, anyway.  Godfrey never married, but I
believe he'd nieces.  Probably Miss Kate is one of them.  The old man
must have left her the business.  Thing that amazes me is the way she's
taken her grip of the concern, and made it hum."

"And kept it dark even in Liverpool that she was a woman.  That old
head clerk of hers, that people thought was the manager, must be a rare
close-lipped one."

"He is, blight him!" said Captain Image with emphasis.  "I called in
there two or three times after I'd got some of those please-buck-up
letters from O'Neill and Craven, that I didn't care about, and the
cauliflower-headed old humbug clean took me in.  He was Mr. Crewdson,
to be sure; no, he was not Mr. K. O'Neill; no, I couldn't see Mr. K.
just then; no, he couldn't make an appointment for me with the
gentleman; anything I wanted he would attend to personally.  If I
re-read the letters he was sure I should find that they were not
unreasonable, but, on the other hand, would put me in the way of
earning extra commission on cargo for myself.  So it ended in my being
civil to him, and he was really nothing more than a clerk.  You can
just picture to yourself, Purser, what I felt when I found out that I'd
been civil to a clerk by mistake."

"It was pretty hard lines, sir."

"Of course a West African merchant's business is a rum contract for a
young girl to catch hold of, and I don't say Miss Kate was wrong in
keeping in the background to start with.  In fact I'll own up straight
that she was right, and the proof's plain in the way that firm's come
back to life.  Why, Purser, I'll bet you a bottle of Eno that O'Neill
and Craven are doing just double the turn-over now they did twelve
months ago."

"You'll know best about that, sir," said Mr. Balgarnie with a sigh, as
he remembered that only Captain Image touched commission on the cargo
which the _M'poso_ collected on the Coast.  "But I will own up that she
has got the knack of making all the smarter men in the firm both on the
Coast and at Liverpool keen on her when they thought she was a man.  Of
course it was a bit unlikely that the old-timer palm-oil ruffians like
Swizzle-Stick Smith and Owe-it-Slade would take to new ways that meant
more work, all at once, though for that matter I'll bet Slade put off
making up his mind for so long as to whether he liked hustling or he
didn't, that finally he dropped into the new ways without knowing it."

"Slade's gone off up-country to find the firm a rubber property,
Purser, me lad.  Laura told me about it last night.  She hasn't heard
of him once since he pulled out of Smooth River, and she's very anxious
about him.  I hope none of those up-country bushmen have chopped Slade.
I should be sorry to lose that man.  He owes me a matter of three
sovereigns, and that old Holland gun of mine that he borrowed for half
an hour eighteen months ago has gone up-country with him.  I believe
he's in the ribs of the fo'c'sle shop, too, for the thick end of a
fiver."

"Four-seventeen-nine.  I've given both Chips and the bo's'n a rare
dressing down about it.  They've no business to let anyone with Slade's
reputation have as much tick as that.  The bo's'n's new to the
Coast--our bo's'ns always do seem to die, sir--but old Chips ought to
know that's no way to run a fo'c'sle shop.  They can chuck away their
own money as they choose, but I told them both plainly that I can't
afford to drop my share in a sum like that."

"Nor can I," said the other sleeping partner.  "You can let both Chips
and the bo's'n understand that unless I see a good round sum in hard
cash as my share of profits when we get back to Liverpool, they don't
ride in the old _M'poso_ next trip.  They can put their book debts
where the monkey put the nuts.  They don't pay me out with those.  No,
by Crumbs!"

"Miss Kate, by the way, was mighty anxious to know what profits there
were in fo'c'sle shops.  Of course I said I'd heard of them on other
boats, but we'd never allow such a thing on the _M'poso_."

"Um," said Captain Image thoughtfully, "that tale's all right for most
passengers, but I don't think I'd have risked it with Miss Kate.  She
strikes me as being a young woman who likes to hear one's opinion on
things, but generally has her own information on the matter already cut
and packed beforehand.  I told her last night how sorry I was to see
all that cargo waiting at the factory with no Krooboys to work it out
of their creek to the steamboat.  By Crumbs!  Balgarnie, me lad, she'd
nipped off back to the _M'poso_ here, and had hired our own blessed
deck passenger boys for the job before you could say 'gin.'  You know
what an independent lot they are, going home with money in their
pockets.  I bet you a box of oranges you couldn't name me two white men
on the Coast who could have persuaded them.  But she did it, one-time,
and only paid regular wages, too.  Dressed for dinner in the evening
when she'd finished, just as if she was merely a tripper going home
from the Islands, and hadn't an object in life outside trying to tickle
the boys with her looks.  I tell you, Miss Kate's a very remarkable
young woman, Balgarnie, me lad, and if she doesn't peg out here on the
Coast, or go broke over floating a rubber swindle, or get married and
chuck it, I shall feather my nest very nicely over the cargo she gets
shipped."

"I say, Captain, what's between her and Laura?  They seem to know one
another pretty intimately."

"Met in Las Palmas when they were kiddies.  Pass me the compasses off
the chart table.  My pipe's jammed.  Thank you, me lad.  Owe-it-Slade
got two years' tick at that convent school out on the Telde road for
Laura, and Miss Kate was running about the islands a good deal then
with old Godfrey.  Godfrey had a tomato farm out past Santa Brigida,
and they used to have Laura up there for all her holidays.  By Crumbs,
Purser, me lad, how that little girl's shot up.  It's a dashed pity
she's a nigger."

"D'you suppose Carter knows it?"

"If he doesn't I shan't tell him, and don't you; for two reasons.
First, there's Miss Kate to be thought of.  I watched the way that girl
eyed him, and by Crumbs, I tell you, me lad, I was glad he was booked.
She's going to stay out here on the Coast for a good spell, and he'll
be close and handy, and somehow I've got the opinion that red-headed
chap is just the sort of man she'll marry.  He's not a beauty, but he's
a good, tough, wholesome face on him; he's a lot struck on her; and
he's a gentleman.  I can do with her bossing; she's a nice way of
wrapping up her pill and ramming it home with a smile.  But I'd not
like to see a red-haired youngster I brought out here as a clerk
eighteen months ago, head of the O'Neill and Craven concern and
expecting me to knuckle under.  I'd do it, of course; I'd be civil to
old Harry himself, me lad, if he could bring cargo to the _M'poso_; but
I'll not deny to you it would stick if I had to start ladling out
champagne in this chart house to Carter, and sit and listen whilst he
strutted out his views on the decay of British influence in West
Africa."

"It would be pretty tough," Mr. Balgarnie admitted.  "But you said
there was another reason you wanted him to marry Laura."

"Well, I do.  I like that girl.  I knew her when I first came down the
Coast as mate.  I remember the first time I saw her as if it was
yesterday.  I was standing up against the tally desk beside number
three hatch, ticking off the cargo list as they hove stuff up and
dropped it in the surf boats.  It was on the old _Fernando Po_, that
beat her bottom out afterwards when Williams tried to drive her over
Monk bar at half ebb.  There was a case marked with double-diamond that
was O'Neill and Craven's consigning all right, but with no name of
factory.  I knew old Swizzle-Stick Smith and Malla-Nulla well enough
already, and I didn't know Slade, and so naturally I thought Smith
should have it, and ordered the case back again into the hold.  But
just then up came a little nipper of about eight or ten years old, as
self-possessed as you like, and says, 'Are you Mr. Image?'  'That's
me,' says I.  'What's the message?'  'Oh, no message,' says she, 'only
Daddy says that if I can find you and stand by your heels and not
bother I may stay aboard, but if not I'm to go ashore by the next boat
and get on with my lessons.'  Well, it didn't take much seeing through
what was meant there."

"No, sir," said Mr. Balgarnie heartily.  "By all accounts old Cappie
Williams was the hardest case they ever knew even on the West Coast,
and that's saying a lot.  I only knew him for a year, and I wasn't
particular in those days, but he was more than even I could stand."

"He was the limit.  Well, me lad, that was the first time I saw Laura,
and she stood beside me half the day at the tally desk there, and
thanked me for the entertainment when Slade sent off a boy to take her
ashore.  She gave me a kiss when she turned to go down the side--well,
you see, I've--I've never quite forgotten that kiss, Balgarnie, me lad."

"I know, skipper," said Mr. Balgarnie rather thickly.  "A kid once
kissed me, of her own blessed accord, too, like that.  It sort of burnt
in.  I beg your pardon, sir, for interrupting."

"Not at all, me lad.  Here you, steward.  Hi, Brass-Pan."

A Krooboy ran up.

"We fit for two cocktail, plenty-long ones.  Well, as I was saying,
Balgarnie, me lad, I've always had a bit of soft place for Laura,
though I suppose she rightly is snuff and butter, by Crumbs you'd never
guess it from her looks unless you went over her with a lens, and I'd
just feel all broken up if she was to go the way that lot usually do
go.  So if this young Carter, who seems a nice clean-run sort of lad,
will marry her with a ring, I'm going to weigh in with at least a best
silver-plate teapot for a wedding present."

"You can put me down for the ditto sugar and cream," said the purser
with emotion.  "It was a kiddie just like Laura I was fond of myself.
Only--only--  Well, Skipper, I suppose a good many of us are
blackguards down here on the Coast.  Why the sulphur doesn't your boy
bring those cocktails?"

But at this point Captain Image broke off the conversation.  "By
Crumbs!" said he, "here's Miss Kate."  And then he did a thing that
made Mr. Balgarnie whistle with sheer surprise.  He went down the
ladder to help his passenger on board.

"Now, if I had done that," the Purser mused to himself, "it would have
meant a lot.  But my Whiskers!  I never thought I should live to see
old Cappie Image trotting down onto the front doorsteps to receive a
mere female passenger.  The Old Man must see enough solid dollars in
that girl to buy himself that hen farm outside Cardiff he hopes to
retire upon."

Captain Image stood on the grating at the foot of the ladder and waved
his panama in respectful salutation.  The beer-colored river swirled
along the steamer's rusty flank a foot beneath him, and the pungent
smell of crushed marigolds which it carried made him cough.  The sun
shimmered exactly overhead in a sky of the most extravagant blue, and
the greenery which fenced in the slimy mud banks hung in the breathless
heat without so much as a twitter.

Miss Kate O'Neill was seated in a Madeira chair which stood on the
floor of a big green surf boat, and the gleaming Krooboys perched on
the gunwales paddled with more than their usual industry.  The headman,
who straddled at the steering oar in the stern, wore a tail-coat of an
extremely sporting cut and pattern and a woven grass skullcap in honor
of the occasion.  And all this pomp and circumstance was uninvited.
But somehow people had the knack of offering special service and
deference to Miss O'Neill.

The only other woman on the _M'poso_, the austere wife of a Benin
trader, looked over the steamer's rail in gloomy disapproval.  These
were no modes for Coast wear.  A billowy grass-green muslin dress that
no Krooboy laundry-man could wash twice without spoiling; neat, narrow
pipe-clayed shoes with no thickness of sole, and ridiculous heels; a
pale green felt hat, actually insulted by a feather in its band; and
final absurdity of all, a parasol, a flimsy thing of silk, and ribbon,
and effervescent chiffon, which would be absolutely ruined by a splash
of rain, instead of the big sensible white cotton affair, with the dark
green lining, which all ordinary people know is the standard wear on
that torrid Coast.

"Faugh," said the trader's wife, "and Captain Image says she's one of
the smartest business women in the world to-day, and that fat, greedy
purser would propose to her in the next five minutes if he thought he'd
a cat's chance of being accepted.  They think her good-looking, too,
I'll be bound, just because she wears those unsuitable clothes, and has
pink color in her cheeks.  Well, the clothes will be whisps of rag by
this day week and"--the poor woman sighed here--"the Coast will get the
color and the plumpness out of her face, and make her as lean and
yellow as the rest of us in a month."

"You're a good, kind man," Miss O'Neill was saying to a very smiling
Captain Image, "and I know I did tell the bedroom steward to have my
big trunks got up on deck; but, you see, I'm a woman, and therefore
it's my prerogative to be able to change my mind without being openly
abused for it.  So I want you, please, to be very nice and let me stay
on the _M'poso_ a little longer."

"Miss Kate, I was sure you'd find that what I said was true, and that
Smooth River factory was no place for a lady like you.  You see those
dead niggers are fresh now, but when the sun gets on 'em--er--I mean
there's no trade coming into this section of the Coast just now till
that blessed old King of Okky opens the roads again, and he won't do
that yet awhile on his own dirty account, and neither you nor I have
got the ju-ju that will make him.  My dear Miss, I'm just as pleased as
a monkey with green--er--with a green tail to hear you're going to take
the round trip home with me, and if my clean collars do run out, you
must remember that we all wear panjammers when we're south of the
Islands and the trippers.  If only I'd thought of shipping a jack-wash
when I got my Krooboys at Sarry Leone.  Well, one can't be prepared for
everything."

The girl laughed.  "I wouldn't strain the supply of collars for worlds.
I only want you to take me two days on from here and drop me at this
factory again on the way back."

The tint of Captain Image's vermilion face deepened to plum color.  He
scented irony, and his touchy Welsh temper bubbled up into view.
"Miss," he said, "when I pull my anchors out of Smooth River mud in ten
hours from now, I go out on the flood across the bar, and as you must
know I walk in and do the civil in Water Street, Liverpool, before I
smell the stink of these particular mud banks again."

She slipped a plump firm hand on his white drill sleeve.  "Won't you
ask me into the chart house, Captain, and send Brass-Pan for some tea?
I'm absolutely dying for tea.  And you can have a cocktail.  I've got a
long story I want to tell you.  There's cargo waiting for you, Captain,
up a creek that opens off Smooth River which you've never been up, and
which I think will pretty well fill the _M'poso_ without your troubling
to call anywhere else."

Captain Image's face cooled to vermilion again, and puckered into a
smile in spite of himself.  He even went so far as to pat the fingers
that rested on his arm.  "By Crumbs, Miss, I'd ordered them to boil up
that tea when I saw you shoot out of the factory creek in your surf
boat, and till you reminded me, I'd clean forgotten it.  And here
you've been standing and yarning to me on the front door step all the
time.  They'll call the _M'poso_ a dry boat with a vengeance if this
tale gets about.  I shall be chaffed to death over it.  Come up on top."

Mr. Balgarnie saw them ascending the ladder, and rushed into the chart
house and pulled down three photographs that had been fastened on the
wall with drawing pins since Miss Kate O'Neill's departure.  He was
thumped on the back by his grateful skipper who caught him in the act
of pocketing them.

"Balgarnie, me lad," said Captain Image, "you'll have to keep that hard
collar of yours bent for two days longer.  You'll be pleased to hear
that Miss Kate's not going to throw us over yet.  Just you go and see
the chief steward and the cook and ask them what they've got left in
the refrigerator.  And I want you to break the rule of the ship, and
make all the other passengers jealous, and dine at my table in honor of
the occasion.  Come in, Miss, and please take the settee.  You'll find
this cushion soft and free from mildew."

Kate smiled gratefully on them both.  "What dear, good people you are.
And I made sure you would detest me, Captain, when I tell you I want
you to change from your usual routine."

Captain Image's face stiffened.

"Even though it is to get all your holds full of cargo which you would
never have touched if it had not been for a hint that just came to me
an hour ago."

"We carry mails, you know," said Image doubtfully, "and there's a
scheduled time for call at the various points, and a bad time for being
late.  Bad----"

"But cargo.  Let me suggest to you again, cargo?"

"Well, Miss Kate, there's no other lady on earth I'd say the same to,
but I'll not deny the fact--to you, mind, and quite between
ourselves--that cargo interests me.  And letting you further into
what's considered one of the deadest of secrets, there are times when
cargo commission can just out-balance fines for being late with mails.
You see I guess what you have in your mind, Miss.  You want me to run
back and take off the cargo that's waiting at Malla-Nulla before those
Okky-men come down and raid it."

Miss O'Neill lay back against the cushion and sipped composedly at her
hard-boiled tea.  "There," she said, "I knew you'd consent.  There's
only one little detail you've made a mistake about.  How soon can you
be off?  Judging from the music of the winches, you're working in the
cargo here at a famous speed."

"The mate reported to me just before you came on board that he'd have
the lot shipped by five o'clock.  Those passenger boys of ours that
you've made factory boys for the time being were working splendidly, so
Mr. Mate said.  But what's this little mistake, Miss Kate?  I can't go
right away back to O'Neill and Craven's factory at Monk River, if
that's what you mean."

"Oh, my dear Captain Image, don't think me unreasonable.  I shouldn't
dream of asking you to do such a thing as that.  I don't even want you
to go out over Smooth River bar for the present.  But I'd better tell
you just what's happened.  You see all afternoon the Krooboys who had
run away have been coming back, and some of the clerks have turned up,
and then came Mr. and Mrs. da Silva.  We had quite a gathering of it,
and as Mr. Carter set them all on to digging holes and tidying things
away as they arrived, by this time all the--well, you wouldn't know
there'd been fighting.

"But the first to turn up at the factory after you'd left me there was
not one of our own people, but a caller.  He was the agent in charge of
the German factory at Mokki.  He turned up in a dug-out, and he gave us
to understand that he was the most frightened man in Africa.  He said
his voyage down the creeks was one series of miraculous escapes.  He
said he'd come to take shelter under the British flag; but when he
found that by an oversight we hadn't got such a piece of furniture
about the place, and when he saw the holes in the walls and the roof
and the--the--what there was lying about under that blazing sun in the
clearing, he was quite of opinion that he hadn't run far enough."

"The blighted Dutchman," said Captain Image contemptuously.

"Well, you see," said the head of O'Neill and Craven confidentially, "a
chance like that suited me uncommonly well.  To let you into a secret
of our Liverpool office, I had reckoned on increasing the output of all
our factories, and found I was doing it even more than I had calculated
upon.  Consequently when there was a big price bid for palm oil and
kernels for autumn delivery, I sold heavily."

"And now the King of Okky has put ju-ju on you, stopped the roads, and
there you are caught short, me lad--I beg pardon, Miss Kate, I should
have said."

"Of course it only worried me for the moment.  These tight places are
never really tight if you take the trouble to think out a way through
to the other side.  In this case it's shown itself to be delightfully
simple.  I've bought out the German."

Captain Image grunted.  "Then I wish you'd asked me for advice first.
But perhaps you haven't clinched the deal, and can back out of it
still.  If you'll take the tip from an old Coaster like me, you have
nothing to do with it.  His old Dutch factory's only worth scrap price."

"That's all I've given for it."

"And when you do get the oil out of it that's stored there, if it
hasn't been looted whilst he's been away pleasuring down the creeks in
his canoe, where are you?  No better than here.  Your trade will be
dead.  The King of Okky's stopped all the roads."

"Now, I'm just going to give you a little geographical surprise.  Have
you got a map?"

Captain Image indicated the drawers beneath the chart table.  "Coast
charts, of course, which include the river mouths, but I should pile up
the old packet in a week if I relied on them.  I'm my own pilot for the
most part, Miss Kate, and that's why with God's Providence and a sound
use of drugs I've managed to work successfully on the coast all these
years."

"Well, if you haven't got a map of the back country here in your stock,
I carry a very accurate one in my head, and if you'll give me a paper
and a pencil, I'll draw out something that will surprise you."

The girl leaned over the chart table and began to draw, and Captain
Image sat back on his camp stool and nursed a knee and frankly admired
her.  He did not in the least believe in this Mokki venture, and had
not the smallest intention of breaking in upon his usual routine by
going there.  But he had (so he told himself) a distinct eye for the
beautiful and the romantic, and he found his ideals in these matters
very considerably filled by Miss Kate O'Neill, her dress, and her
occupations.

"There," she said at last, and handed him the sketch.

Captain Image looked at it, laughed, and shook his head.  He had all of
a sailor's intolerance for the amateur map-drawer.  Moreover, he had
traded in part of the Oil Rivers for twenty years, and if he did not
know the back country personally, he heard it spoken of in the
factories and in steamer smoke-rooms as matter of intimate knowledge
almost daily.

"Well, Captain, don't just shake your head and laugh.  Let me have your
criticisms."

"I'm not saying, of course, that it's not a very clever map.  It is
that, and the way you've put the rivers in would beat the knowledge of
many who have been on the Coast for years.  You've quite the knack of
drawing a map, Miss Kate, though there's another creek here that you've
missed, and this continuation of what we call the Dog's-leg channel you
must have guessed at, because I never heard of its being navigated, and
nobody knows where it goes to."

"It leads to my new factory at Mokki."

"Well, it may do, though you can take it from me there's no water for a
steamboat that draws even eleven foot six.  But the thing you're mainly
wrong in is this part you've marked as the Okky country.  You haven't
carried it anywhere near far enough back."

Miss O'Neill tapped at her firm white teeth with the end of the pencil.
"You're quoting from the Royal Geographical Map," she suggested.

"Well, Miss, I am," Captain Image admitted, "and I know it's just about
as inaccurate as magazine fiction in a whole lot of places.  But I
shouldn't set myself up to buck against a Royal Geographical map unless
I knew."

"Neither should I.  But you see maps have always been a fad with me,
and since Mr. Godfrey died, and I had the whole weight of O'Neill and
Craven landed upon my one pair of shoulders whether I liked it or not,
I looked upon maps from a very different point of view.  As everybody
on the Coast knows everybody else's business, I need hardly point out
to you that during Mr. Godfrey's latter days O'Neill and Craven had
been allowed to run down pretty badly, and when I took hold, the firm
was--well, what shall I say?"

"Dicky," suggested Captain Image kindly.  "But I can quite understand
all the hard words you'd like to let out if I wasn't here."

The girl laughed.  "Well, we'll put it, Captain, that the firm was
decidedly dicky, and I've had a most interesting time in pulling it
onto its feet.  Incidentally I've given up drawing maps from an
amateur's point of view, and have been drawing them with an entire eye
to business in the future.  You've no idea how interesting it is to a
business woman, Captain, when some special information comes to her and
she is able to go to her map and fill in a mile or so of river that
she'd had to leave a gap for, or sketch in a newly-discovered trade
route through what was thought to be hopeless swamp, or fill in part of
the boundary line of territory that up to then had merely merged off
into blank space."

"My Crumbs," said Captain Image admiringly, "but you are a daisy, Miss
Kate."

"It was only the day before I left Liverpool that I got news of where
the Okky territory ended.  The French have been having some mysterious
expedition in at the back there for purposes of their own, and the
officer in command very unwisely caned the only other white man with
him, who was a Zouave, and wasn't really white at all.  He wanted
revenge, so he came to me and told, and got fifty pounds, and said he'd
never enjoyed letting off spite so much in his life before."

Captain Image smacked his knee.  "Daisy isn't the word for you, Miss,"
he affirmed, "and you can tell people I said so, if you like.  A young
lady that can pull the leg of these beastly foreigners in that way is
worth going a long way to meet.  You oughtn't to come out here to the
Coast.  You ought to stay at home, Miss Kate, and marry a Member of
Parliament."

"Poof!  I wouldn't for worlds.  They're all too pompous and too dull.
They only talk, and pose for the newspapers; they never really do
anything constructive in the House.  Now, I like to do things; and if
ever I marry, it will be a man who can do things that I've tried at
rather better than I can do them myself.  But we're getting away from
the factory at Mokki.  Now, the German agent doesn't know it, and I
didn't feel called upon to tell him, but it's quite possible to open up
trade routes to that point that don't pass through the Okky country at
all.  So that upsets the old King's notion of stopping the roads at
present, and in the future, when he gets tired of cutting off his nose
to spite his face, and tries to set trade going again, he'll find the
stuff is being carried round very comfortably outside his boundary, and
that there is no more blackmail to collect.  How does that strike you,
Captain?  Now, am I a crazy woman who is bound to bust up O'Neill and
Craven's if I am left long enough to it?"

"I never said that," Captain Image protested violently, "and I'll wring
that pious old Crewdson's neck next time I see him.  That man can't
carry corn.  He evidently gets a heap too loose tongue if you offer him
just a little civility."

"Well, I really am awfully glad you're going to be nice," said Miss
O'Neill as she handed back her teacup with a sigh of relief, "and steam
off up to the creeks to Mokki when you've finished working the cargo
here."

Captain Image stood with the empty teacup in his hand, revolving in his
mind many things, and some of his muttered comments were profane.  He
carried throughout all the seaboard of West Africa a reputation for a
hard obstinacy of which in his way he was not a little proud, as men
can be of assets whose value is more than doubtful; and he arrived at
the idea that this pretty young woman in the crisp grass green muslin
was twisting him round to carry out her own peculiar wishes with
ridiculous ease.  "It's enough to make any man swear," declared Captain
Image, as a final summing up of his sentiments.

"I agree with you cordially," said Miss O'Neill, "and as I am sure that
you must have done tremendous violence to your feelings in letting me
have so much of my own way, I'll just let you swear as a reward."

"No, I'm damned if I do, Miss Kate," said Image politely.  "I shouldn't
dream of forgetting what is due to a lady.  But don't you be too sure
of having your whim gratified even now.  I don't see any way of getting
the _M'poso_ to Mokki up those bits of creeks unless we put wheels
under her and pull her there through the bush."

"Have you ever seen a steamer called the _Frau Pobst_?"

"I have.  She's a funny old brig-rigged relic, with sawn-off smoke
stacks and no boats."

"No boats?"

"Oh, she started with some in the year one when she was built, but as
they always got washed overboard when she found herself in a sea-way, I
guess they grew tired of replacing them.  I believe she does carry some
patent folding concertinas tied up somewhere near her davits, but
they're to pass the Dutch Board of Trade.  They aren't for use.  Yes, I
know the old _Frau Pobst_.  She generally wants two crews each voyage."

"How's that?" asked Kate, with a twinkle.

"Goes so slow, the first lot die of old age."  Captain Image smacked
his lips over the pleasantry.

"What a labor it must have been to get an old tub like that up to
Mokki."

"It would take her as many days as it would take me hours in the
_M'poso_," said Image, and could have bitten out his tongue when the
words escaped.  But Kate O'Neill had got up from the settee and was
shaking his hand.  "I believe in reality, Captain, you're just as keen
a business man as I am a business woman.  Only you're shockingly shy
about showing it.  No, don't get up.  I'm just going to run back ashore
again to finish things up here.  I'll be back by the time you've got
steam.  Please don't get up."

"By Crumbs, Miss Kate, but don't you try to dictate to me about that.
I'm going to see you off from the front doorsteps myself.  By Crumbs,
there isn't another lady in Africa I admire half as much."



CHAPTER IX

NAVIGATION OF DOG'S-LEG CREEK

Captain Image yapped out his commands to the third mate and a
quartermaster in the wheelhouse in tones that supplied many missing
adjectives:

"... Starboard your helm.  Starboard.  Hard-a-starboard, you bung-eyed
son of perdition--stop her.  Crumbs! but we sliced off a thumping big
chunk of Africa there, and broke half the tumblers in the steward's
pantry by the sound of it.  I bet something big it's another case of
going home on what's left of the double bottom, and Old Horny to pay in
Water Street, Liverpool.  Give her full ahead now, and steady your
helm, quartermaster.  My holy whiskers, who wouldn't sell a farm and go
to sea?  Starboard your helm, six points.  There, steady on that.  Half
speed the engines."  And so on over and over again for every hour since
the sun rose to blister the swamps, and call forth the full volume of
their earth and crushed-marigold smell.

There is a proverb bandied about amongst the sons of men which states
that the unknown has always its charm, and harassed shipmasters often
wonder why it is not publicly contradicted in Norie's Epitome of
Navigation.  Carter either forgot or never realized this, and
furthermore made the fatal blunder of going up onto the sacred upper
bridge without direct invitation.

For half an hour he had stood there silent, and unspoken to, listening
to Captain Image's tirade against the creeks that led to Mokki, and
then catching for a moment the mariner's eye, ventured on an
observation.  He suggested that at any rate Captain Image would have
the amusement of feeling that he was an explorer; and there was the
opportunity the peppery Welshman really needed.

He had not been able to say what he wished to Miss Kate O'Neill, for
many reasons; but here was her whipping-boy; and on him Captain Image
turned loose one of the most powerful vocabularies that has ever been
carried up and down the West African seaboard.  He neglected both
quartermaster and third mate--and these two experts, being only too
glad of the breathing space, kept the _M'poso_ accurately out of the
mangroves, whilst their commander gave an undivided attention to the
very highly qualified passenger who had dared to sully the unblemished
deck plants of the upper bridge.

Now, under ordinary conditions, Carter would have recognized the
circumstances, and have remembered his service, and swallowed the dose
with a smile and a shrug.  But things had gone woefully awry with him
during the last score of hours.  The strain of the fight, the discovery
that the man K. O'Neill of the letters was Miss Kate in the flesh, the
uncertain future of two Coast factories, the way in which everybody
received his engagement to Laura Slade; all these things piled up on
one another had set his usually steady nerves jangling in a way to
which he was unaccustomed, and he felt himself forced by a rather
insane impulse to do something startling.  He had successive
inclinations to throw up his berth altogether and go home; to marry
Laura Slade out of hand by the kind assistance of Captain Image and the
_M'poso's_ log-book, which occurred to him as the local equivalent of
Gretna Green; to violently abuse Miss Kate O'Neill for being herself.
Finally, when the premonitory symptoms of a well-earned dose of fever
gripped him with a stab and a shudder, he had the usual malarial
depression, which put the usual question as to whether life were really
worth living.

Over and above all these things, since the first moment of seeing Kate,
it had been borne in upon him that he had made a mistake over his
engagement.  He did not for a moment think of getting free; he was
doggedly determined to see it through, or in other words to marry
Laura, whatever the cost and result might be.  But from that date
onward he began to ask himself inconvenient questions.  He demanded of
his inner conscience a definition of that impalpable thing, love.  He
wished to be informed (from the same source and at the shortest notice)
if he was exactly in love with Miss Slade at that particular moment,
and when the phenomenon commenced, and how long it was likely to
endure.  And when Laura, who saw into a good deal more of all this than
he expected, offered to release him from his promise, he abused her for
the suggestion, and protested his affection for her with such warmth
that he feared very much after the interview that he had hopelessly
overdone it.

As a consequence, when Captain Image explained in a two-minute speech
that Mr. Flame-tipped Carter was violating the etiquette of nations in
daring to pollute that upper bridge with his undesirable feet, without
direct invitation, he rather welcomed the opportunity and retorted in
kind.

Now, Captain Image, as has been hinted, had made the most of the years
he had spent sea-going in the matter of picking up a vocabulary; he has
to this day brothers in Wales who are local preachers and revivalist
leaders, and there is no doubt that he was the inheritor of some
ancestral strain of burning eloquence.  Carter, on the other hand,
though not as a rule a man of much speech, had not lived with
Swizzle-Stick Smith all those long months without taking lessons in the
art of vituperation, and though he was not conscious of it at the time,
the education soaked in, and when the moment of stress arrived his
memory served him faithfully.

Miss Kate O'Neill heard the discussion and retired to her room below.
Stewards popped their heads round doorways and listened appreciatively;
deck hands took cover round the angle of the houses and strained their
ears, and the second engineer, who was bred on Tyneside and openly
claimed to be a connoisseur, came out brazenly onto the top of the
fiddley three yards from the speakers and did nothing to an unoffending
ventilator cowl with a three-quarter inch spanner.

From the present writer's point of view the remarks on both sides had
the fatal drawback that their point lay far more in artistic delivery
than in their subject matter, and so to report them here verbatim would
give a totally unjust idea of their weight and influence.  But it must
be understood that Captain Image, who never till now had met a foeman
so worthy of his tongue, surpassed himself; and Carter, who now for the
first time used these winged words in hard vicious earnest, felt all a
sportsman's pride in seeing his verbal missiles land and rankle.

It is hard to award the victory; and, in plain truth, each orator was
so warmed with the effort of his own tongue that in another second the
British blood would have reached fisticuff temperature, and they would
have clinched.  But luckily an interruption arrived to break the
tension.  The third mate, that terribly abused young man who was
gaining a breathing space whilst Carter stood up against Captain
Image's tongue, at first conned the _M'poso_ up the winding channel
with a sigh of relief, and was ably seconded by the quartermaster at
the wheel, who had also been suffering.  But by degrees their sporting
instincts drew them from the matter immediately in hand, and made them
interested spectators of the duel.  In fact their interest absorbed
them, and, well, the steamer got the smallest bit out of hand.

When it was too late the third mate turned attention to his duties
again, and had just time to give four frenzied orders; there was a fine
jangling of the engine-room telegraph; the quartermaster did frantic
windmill work on the steering wheel, to the accompaniment of a rattling
chorus from the wheel engines below; but the _M'poso_ took a sheer and
rammed her nose firmly into the mangroves.  And in she slid.  Weight
and speed made sufficient momentum to put her into the mud and
shrubbery well up to the forerigging, and the jar sent the stiff-set
Captain Image flying onto the top of the fiddley gratings.

Carter shot up against the white painted rail of the upper bridge and
held his balance there, and then with that blind instinct for
interfering for the welfare of others which distinguishes the
Anglo-Saxon, he vaulted the rail, picked up Captain Image and set him
on his feet.

It is perhaps typical also of the peppery Welshman that he forgot the
enjoyable quarrel so promptly that he said, "Thank you, me lad," with
ready cordiality before he turned to do full justice to the third mate,
his ancestry, and his probable future in this world and the next.

"By Jove," broke in Carter, "I wish I'd a gun.  There's a monkey on the
foredeck.  I'd like that little beggar's skin.  I wonder if I could
catch him."

"Don't you try, me lad," said Image.  "The odds are that the front end
of this packet's a menagerie of red mangrove ants that could gnaw
chunks off a tin-covered crusader."  He jammed the engine-room
telegraph with a vicious whirr to Full Speed Astern, and turned to the
unfortunate third mate.  "Here, you, if you think you know enough to
tell the difference between land and water, lower a boat and take out a
kedge astern.  Wait a minute.  Now, you're not to drop that kedge in
the mud.  It'll draw through that like pulling a hairpin out of a pot
of marmalade.  You're to get ashore and hook it among those mangrove
roots.  Just try and get it into your intelligent head that I don't
want that kedge to come home directly we put a strain on the wire.
When you've done that you can come back and go to your room and read
Shakespeare.  I guess that's about all you blooming brass-bound Conway
sailors are fit for, except sparking the girls and drawing your pay.
By Crumbs! if we hadn't Miss Kate on board, and for anything I know
within earshot, I could just give you an opinion of your looks that
would make you want to cry."

But with the tide in the muddy river ebbing under her, the _M'poso_
stuck in the dock she had made, in spite of reversed propeller, and
winches straining on the kedge wire till they threatened to heave
themselves bodily from the decks.  The insect torments of Africa
boarded her from the mangroves and bit all live things they came
against; obscene land crabs dressed in raw and startling colors waddled
up onto the slime of the banks as the water left them and blew impotent
froth bubbles at the tough steamboat which even they could not eat.
Parrots crowed at them from the shining green foliage of the mangroves
alongside; slimy things gazed at them from the mud beneath the arches
of the wire-like roots.

The sun crawled up into the aching blue overhead till it forgot how to
cast a shadow, and the wet steam heat grew so oppressive that even
Laura Slade, country-born though she was, felt sick with its violence.
But Miss Kate O'Neill on the awning deck did elaborate calculations on
sheets of paper, which she tore up and threw into the beer-colored
river when she had entered the results in her pocket-book; and down in
the purser's room, Carter carved images on Okky calabashes for the
English curiosity market.

To him came Mr. Balgarnie, dripping and fuming.  "Great whiskers! man,
why did you shut the port-hole?  You're lean; but if I stay in this
atmosphere I shall peg out of heat apoplexy in half an hour.  Here, let
me open the port and stick out the wind scoop."

"Wind scoop's no good; there isn't a breath.  And if you open the port
you'll be devoured.  I tried it.  I'm a Dalesman and I like a draught
of air, but it's no go here.  Red ants, I think they are.  Look at the
way they've been eating the insides out of your domestic cockroaches.
Now gaze on this chop bowl?  Isn't it a gem?  Any stay-at-home
Englishman would spot it as genuine native workmanship in a moment.
All done with a blunt knife; that's the great tip in this sort of
carving."

"Have a drop of whiskey?  You fit for dash me dem bowl?"

"No, Purser, I'm not going to give away anything just now.  I want five
shillings spot cash for this specimen, and it's dirt cheap at that.
When you've weathered it a bit, and given it a dressing of good yellow
palm oil, it will fetch a golden sovereign from a Las Palmas tripper,
easy."

"They're a hard-up lot, the people who come to the Islands these days,
and they're inclined to get too familiar if you offer as a favor to
sell them anything they may see in your room.  I've chucked showing
them things.  But I might get three half-crowns for that bowl in
Liverpool.  Of course, I don't want any commission from you, old
fellow.  I'll hand over every penny I'm paid for it."

Carter stuck out a dogged chin.  "Look here, Purser, it's too hot for
frills, and we know one another a bit too well for them to go down.
Potter out five bob and the thing's yours to make what you can of.  If
you don't, I've another customer who'll give more.  I'm hard up."

"Oh, of course, yes.  You want to set up housekeeping, don't you?
Well, old fellow, here are the two half-crowns towards the mangle or
the grand piano or whatever you've set your mind on getting first.
Sorry I ragged you about being engaged to Laura last night at Smooth
River.  But, you see, I know Owe-it Slade, and I've known Laura all her
life, and of course I was a bit surprised to be told, you know--well,
to be told that you, of all people, had made it up with her.  But, as I
say, I'm sorry I ragged you."

"Please don't apologize on a hot day like this," Carter snapped.  "As I
don't value your opinion on a matter like that one jot, I naturally
didn't let anything you said disturb my sleep.  Good-afternoon.  If
you're going to occupy your room, I'll go out on deck and enjoy the
infernal crushed-marigold stink of this drain from a different point."

"That young man knows he's made a fool of himself," commented the
Purser sagely, "and he's as sore and uneasy as a skinned eel in a tub
of sand.  Well, if he wants to furnish a lil' log hut for his dusky
Laura, so much the better for trade.  He's the neatest trick of making
native curios in all West Africa, and I've got all his home business in
my hand.  It's all rot about his trading with another purser; there
isn't one on the Coast that works this line, or I should have heard
about it.  If the output's increased, I shall try and work up a
connection with America.  My Whiskers! why not?  What's wrong with
enriching the United States with some good broad-bladed Okky spears,
and a war horn or two just as a--  Hullo, yes, who's that?  Ah, come
in."

There was a knock at the Purser's door, and White-Man's-Trouble entered
in reply to the invitation.  "Oh, Purser," he said, "dem bug," and
opened a black fist and showed three electric-blue butterflies in his
white palm.

The Purser took them one by one in his plump fingers and dropped them
gingerly into an empty cardboard cigarette box.  "I don't think they'll
be much use, boy.  You've rubbed too much fluff off with those delicate
paws of yours.  Savvy?"

"I savvy I fit for dash," said the Krooboy pointedly.

"Pooh, these are worth nothing.  What do you take me for?  A tripper,
or the Bank of England?  Ah, would you, you infernal thieving monkey?"
Mr. Balgarnie had turned his back and had glanced in a shaving mirror
which hung by the port and saw White-Man's-Trouble helping himself to a
Tauchnitz novel, which he promptly tucked underneath his coat.

The Krooboy put the book down.  He did not waste time in apologizing
for the theft of something that was entirely useless to him.  He went
straight to a matter of far graver interest.

"Oh, Purser, how you seen me take dem thing?  You no see with you eyes.
You eyes lib for look out of window."

"Attend," said Mr. Balgarnie, and struck an attitude.  "I am the man
known to science as the Freak-who-has-eyes-at-the-back-of-his-head.
Observe, I have my back to you and yet I can see that you are picking
your nose with your strong left hand, and scratching the floor with
your starboard toe."

"I no fit for see you back eyes."

"That is because they are ju-ju eyes.  Oh, White-Man's-Trouble, I bid
you fear the Powers of Darkness and steal no more anything that is
mine.  You savvy?"

"Savvy plenty!"

"And as a further punishment, I bid you catch me ten more butterflies,
and take care you don't rub the feathers off, or they'll be no use to
Miss Kate."

"Missy Kate!  What for she want dem bug?  Dem no fit for chop."

"To make ju-ju of."

White-Man's-Trouble grinned.  "Missy Kate no savvy ju-ju palaver.  Dem
Carter, he show her dem god with talk-pipe, an' she say, 'Well, dere no
ju-ju about him.'  Oh, Purser, I say dem god with talk-pipe
plenty-too-much-fine ju-ju.  Okky-men savvy plenty him ju-ju."

"Your theology's a bit above my head, but I don't mind telling you in
confidence that butterfly collecting's the lady's habit, just the same
as--let me see--just the same as stealing things that are no use to you
is yours, and spear making's Mr. Carter's.  Savvy?"

"Savvy some," said the Krooboy doubtfully.  "Does Missy sell dem bugs
to steamah pursers, an' come ashore an' say dem dam' greedy hounds?"

"If you've got that idea in your aboriginal mind," said Mr. Balgarnie
with a yawn, "don't let me crowd it with anything nearer the truth.
You bring Miss Kate plenty of butterflies without the pretty rubbed
off, and presently she dash you a new top hat with a gold band to it."

"I no fit for take dash from Missy," said White-Man's-Trouble with
dignity.  "I bring her plenty-too-many bugs for nix.  I fit for know my
job."

The purser stared with tired eyes.  "So you honor her with your
respectful admiration, too, do you?  I wish I could get her knack.
There, clear out with you, and put the door on the hook.  Take your
dirty hands away from that tooth-brush, confound you, and get out.
It's my time for siesta."

In the meanwhile Laura Slade had gone out on the bridge deck, had found
a chair without a card on it, and had dragged it up alongside her
friend.  She waited patiently till one of the long calculations had
been worked out and the result entered up in the pocket-book, and then,
when the figures were torn small, she jumped up and took the scraps of
paper from the other girl's hand.

"Please let me do something, Kate.  At least I can throw them overboard
for you."

Miss O'Neill laughed, and plied her palm leaf fan.  "My dear girl, I'm
most pleased to be tempted away from work.  In school days, as you will
remember, I was worse than you were at sums.  I've had to grind at them
since, but it's not made me love them any the more.  Why can't I be a
rich woman without working for it?"

"Do you want so very much to be rich?"

Kate turned to her friend and opened her eyes wide.  They were brown
eyes, and someone once described them as talkative.  But people who
knew her better were very conscious of the fact that Miss Kate
O'Neill's eyes only expressed things when she willed that they should
do so.

"Do I want to be rich?  Well, of course.  One can't have things or do
things unless one has money.  And if I don't get money, no one will for
me; or, at least, I'd rather they wouldn't.  Of course, you have got
Mr. Carter to work for you, Laura; but I am sure, when you put it into
cold words, you'd like him to make money, too.  You don't want to live
all your days on the Coast here, the pair of you.  You look forward to
going home, and having a house and a garden, and a motor car, and a man
to drive it.  And you'd like to have good servants and nice frocks.
Yes, especially nice frocks."

"Like yours.  Yes, I should like a nice frock like that one, Kate, if
you won't mind my copying it."

"What, this rag?  My dear, sweet child, with your eyes, and your
figure, and the complexion you'd grow in England, you'd pay to dress
far more than ever I should.  Mr. Carter will work hard and earn a big
income, just for the satisfaction of seeing you decently clad."

There was a minute's silence, and then, "Why do you dislike my
engagement so much, Kate?"

"Me dislike it?  What rubbish.  I think it's a most excellent thing for
you, if only Mr. Carter goes on as he has begun."

"Then I'll word it differently.  Why do you dislike George so much?"

"Whatever gave you that idea?  Mr. Carter, considering the short time
he has been on the Coast, has done most excellently for the firm,
and--well--_l'état c'est moi_.  I know you condemn me for being
abominably commercial, but what nearer way do you think there can be to
my heart than through my pocket?"

"Your heart!" Laura repeated, and stared large-eyed at the yellow river
that swirled past the steamer's rusty flanks.  An alligator, that
looked very much like a half submerged log, drifted down with the tide,
and a bird that rode upon him dug vigorously between the rows of his
plates with his beak.  She watched them till they passed away down the
stream and were lost in the glare of the sunshine.  "I wonder," she
said in a half-whisper, "if your heart wants something which it will
break my heart for you to get?"

Miss Kate O'Neill got up and gave a very healthy laugh.  "Don't
mutter," she said, "and don't be ridiculous.  To begin with, I'm not of
the marrying sort; to go on with, your taste (as typified in Mr.
Carter) and mine don't agree one little bit; and to wind up with, Laura
dear, don't let's pose like a pair of school-girls.  I don't know
whether there's a slight natural antipathy between two red-haired
people----"

"Your hair's not red in the least, Kate.  It's a very dark auburn."

"I should call it warmish.  Anyhow, Mr. Carter's is red enough.  And as
you will drag the subject up, I must really point out to you that he's
been hardly civil in the way he's avoided me.  I haven't got smallpox."

"You're his employer.  When you call him I'm sure he's glad enough to
talk to you about what you want.  But you must see his position; he
wouldn't like to risk a snub by coming up when you might not happen to
want him."

"I see.  The idea that all communications should be conducted in a cold
business footing.  Am I to understand that Mr. Carter wished you to
convey that view to me, Laura?"

"You know quite well he didn't.  Kate, we used to be friends.  I wish
you'd answer me honestly what I asked you just now."

"Don't be tragic and ridiculous.  You're half sick with the heat, and I
really believe you want to quarrel with me by way of safety valve.
Well, my dear, I shan't quarrel with you, that's all.  I hate
quarrelling.  I've been dodging the excellent Captain Image all the
day, as I know he wants to ease off his temper on me just because his
silly old steamer has stuck her nose on the bank and got left by the
tide.  By the way, I candidly believe the accident happened just
because he was amusing himself just at that precise moment with having
a turn-up with--oh, well, we're getting onto touchy ground again.
And--here is Mr. Carter.  You seem in a hurry."

Carter came up the ladder to the bridge deck in two strides, and it was
noteworthy that he addressed his first remark to his employer, and not
to his fiancée.  "Do you mind going below?  There are half a dozen big
Okky war canoes round that point ahead there.  I've been forrad there,
and could see them quite plainly through the mangrove roots."

"Have you told the Captain?"

"No.  I'll tell him next.  But will you go below, or into one of these
deck houses?  They are probably covering us this minute, and it's
pot-leg they fire, not bullets.  Pot-leg spreads and can make ghastly
wounds."

"I don't like running away."

"If you could do any good staying out in the open I wouldn't ask you to
move.  Laura, will you persuade Miss O'Neill to go into cover, as she
won't take any notice of me?"

"Thank you," said Kate sharply, "but Laura need not interfere.  I am
accustomed to making up my own mind, Mr. Carter, without help from
anyone.  I am much obliged to you for your care, and as I can't be of
any use at present, and as I have no insane wish to be shot, I shall
certainly go into shelter."

"Very good," said Carter; "then I'll go and carry the news to old
Image.  It's a lucky thing I brought along that Winchester of Slade's.
We shall keep them off all right."

It turned out that Captain Image already had tidings of the war canoes,
and was red with wrath at the idea of any qualified black savages
having the unmentionable impudence to make a something naval
demonstration against a sacred Liverpool oil tank.  His language was
quite unprintable, but his disposition of the steamer's forces was
remarkably sound.  Tackles squeaked as a Krooboy gang hoisted the
ladder which hung alongside.  The boatswain loaded the two brass signal
guns on the bridge deck with their usual noisy charge of blank, and
rammed a three-pound parcel of four-inch cut nails down the muzzle of
each on the top of the powder bags.  The carpenter replaced the
gangways which are always unshipped when steamers are in the rivers
working cargo.  And the winches chattered as they each hove up a
ponderous palm oil puncheon to the top of a derrick, which was then
swung outboard so that the puncheon could be let go by the run, and
smash any canoe made of hands that happened to be underneath.

When these pious duties had been fulfilled, the crew lined out along
each of the lower deck rails armed with spanners, firebars, handspikes,
and in fact any other weapon which a modern steamer could provide,
which in lusty hands might be called upon to break a human head.

On the upper bridge Captain Image oversaw the only two mates who were
not down with fever as they directed and assisted these operations, and
when all was ready he laid his own hands on the siren string and let
loose a hoarse throaty blast of defiance across the creeks and the
steamy forest.

"There, Carter, me lad," said he, "that's to show the blighters we're
here and waiting.  I'm glad you've brought that Winchester.  It's the
only gun in the ship since Owe-it Slade borrowed my Holland and forgot
to bring it back.  They tell me you're a nailing fine shot, too."

"Couldn't hit a haystack with anything except a scatter gun."

"Well," said Image dryly, "as I saw some of your patients spread about
in the clearing outside Smooth River Factory, I shall believe just as
much of that as I choose.  It's not my affair to mention it, of course,
but I do know that Miss Kate was very considerably struck by the way
you kept those niggers off, and if you hadn't been engaged to Slade's
girl----"

"Which I am, Captain.  So, therefore, it's no use going into useless
possibilities.  By the way, isn't that stern wire slackening?"

"By Crumbs, me lad, you've got a quick eye.  The tide's coming up
underneath her, and she's slipping off.  Here you, Mr. Third Mate, ring
those engines to full astern, and try and keep it in your head that
you'd be in your room now if I weren't short of officers."

With the lift of the yellow tide beneath her, the _M'poso_ drew out
from her muddy dock as a sword is pulled from its sheath, hung for a
dozen minutes in mid-stream whilst the stern-warp and its anchor were
got aboard, and then, gathering her boat and its crew up to davits,
turned stubbornly up the river.

"I'll show these Okky blighters what trouble is," declared Captain
Image, "if they try and stop me.  I've had their old king in my chart
house here with Swizzle-Stick Smith and the other traders a score of
times, and if he didn't drink the ship dry, it was only because I
wouldn't let him.  And now in return for that hospitality he brings out
his infernal war canoes.  I only hope he's in one of them and comes
alongside.  I'll brain him with an oil puncheon if I get him in range."

But when they opened up the reach behind the point where the canoes had
been seen, there was no offer of attack.  There were three craft in
view, fifty paddle-power dugouts all of them, crammed with men and
weapons, fantastic with horrible ju-ju charms; but they hung on to the
wire-like stems of the mangroves and remained so moored till the
steamer drew past and began to dance them up and down upon its wash.  A
monkey-skin drum in each was beaten impressively by two drummers, but
no weapons were levelled, and there was no threat of boarding.

"Faugh!" said Image, and spat.  "Did you catch the smell of those
beauties when we had them abeam?  Talk of a 'bus stable struck by
lightning!"

"They aren't there just to take in the scenery," said Carter
thoughtfully.

"An Okky-man is born to mischief even as the sparks fly upward.  Look,
they're casting off their shorefasts and getting under weigh down
stream.  No, by Crumbs, they're turning up stream after me.  Well, of
all the blighted cheek!  Do you know what that means, Carter, me lad?
They're going to follow us.  They think they've got some ju-ju by which
they can cut us off from the Coast.  Ah, here's Miss Kate.  Well, Miss,
as I've you to think of as well as my ship, I shall turn presently and
run back again for the bar.  You see for yourself, I should think now,
that it isn't healthy up this river, and all the cargo in Africa is no
use to a man if he can't get it shipped when he comes to the beach
where it's stored.  If any one of the war canoes get in my way, I'll
show you what those bushmen look like when they're swimming in yellow
water, for as sure as the Lord made crocodiles, I'll ram their noisy
dugouts if I can.  I'll teach them to thump their nasty smelling war
drums at me."

"Poof, Captain, don't you try to take me in.  I should like to hear
anyone else suggesting that you couldn't take the _M'poso_ to a spot
where the _Frau Pobst_ had made regular voyages."

Captain Image thrust forward his head and glared.  "I can take this
packet anywhere that blessed Dutchman's been, Miss."

"Of course you can.  And when the _Frau Pobst's_ captain has shipped
cargo from a spot----"

"And given up going there, Miss, because it's too dangerous."

"Precisely.  Well, as I couldn't insult you by calling you less than
twice as brave as the German, that means that no little trouble that's
going on between here and Mokki will frighten you in the very least.
Is that good argument?"

"Oh, go on, Miss.  Twist me round your finger.  I like it.  Besides it
isn't the first time I've played a neck-or-nothing game.  But I'm
hanged if I see that it's an amusement for a pretty young lady like
you."

Captain Image was speaking in plain earnest, and he was a man who knew.
Kate O'Neill was seized with a sudden qualm.  Was she right to force on
this risk?  Would the Okky-men attack, or could they bring off the
cargo successfully?  Nobody but herself seemed to see a shadow of
chance for success.  And these others were all old Coasters against
whom she was setting up her will.

But when she thought of giving way and turning back the cost of retreat
promptly leaped up and faced her in plain figures.  O'Neill and Craven
were heavily involved, how heavily no one knew but old white-haired
Crewdson and herself.  The Mokki oil that she had bought so cheap would
save them.  Without it there would be bankruptcy, and, what she dreaded
even more, the contemptuous finger of Liverpool pointed at the woman
who had taken upon herself a man's responsibilities and broken down
beneath them.

These thoughts dinned through her again and again, but outwardly her
face smiled and her lips spoke lightly.

"Now, it is nice of you to give me a promise like that, Captain."

"Lake what?"

"To say that you'll go on till my nerves give way.  Well, let it be so.
I promise to give you news of it the moment I'm frightened.  Look,
there's an omen for you to read to me.  The Okky-men in that first war
canoe are all standing up and waving their spears.  What does that
mean, I wonder?"



CHAPTER X

ENVOYS IN COUNCIL

"Hallo, Meredith, I heard rumors that there was a white man up in this
part of the bush, but I never guessed it was you.  I did think of
sending on a runner to see, but somehow I didn't."

"No, you wouldn't," said the older man.  "I never knew you make up your
mind to anything unless it was decided for you.  Now, look here, Slade,
we're in lonely country here, and if I shoot you, you'll never be
missed; and, by gad, shoot you I will unless you mend your memory."

"Poof! what does it matter?  We're the only white men within two
hundred miles, and the boys are out of earshot."

"A black boy can hear a lot farther than you think, and for that matter
I've known trees in West Africa to have ears that understand
English--at least that has been the only explanation one could find of
the way things have leaked out.  But we'll leave all that alone.  I've
given you to understand by what name I wish to be addressed."

"Well, you needn't be so short about it.  I've always called you Smith
down in the Coast factories.  Of course I can't forget that I once knew
you when you were----"

"Will you hold your slobbering tongue?  If you can't, say so, and I'll
stop it once and for always.  I've told you my wish; to you or anyone
else I'm Smith, or Swizzle-Stick Smith, which you like.  I've no
connection with anything that went before, and 'pon my soul, as you're
the only man now alive that knows it, I believe I'd be a lot safer if
you were out of the way."

Slade turned his back petulantly.  "Oh, do stop this wrangle.  I'll
call you Swizzle-Stick Smith to the end of the chapter, and forget that
you were ever anything other than a drunken old palm-oil ruffian, if it
pleases you.  Come to my hut and chop.  I shot some parrots this
morning.  They'll taste a bit like high rook, but they are better than
tinned stuff anyway.  They came over finely; real raketers.  It was
quite like the old days at home.  This gun, by the way, is about my
last link with ancestral splendor.  Look there, a Holland.  They wanted
me to have ejectors, I remember, but I wouldn't."

Mr. Smith screwed his eyeglass into his other eye and straightened the
new black silk ribbon by which it hung.  "No," he said grimly, "that
was very wise of you, especially as ejectors weren't invented when that
gun was built.  I wonder what sort of a tale you told Image before he
trusted you with it?"

"What are you driving at?  What's Cappie Image to do with it?"

"That's my gun.  I had it--well, as you've started the forbidden
subject already--I had it before the fall.  Image saw it at Malla-Nulla
one day when I was full up and walked off with it, and I never managed
to get it back from him.  He always said the beach was too bad to risk
letting a surf boat bring it ashore.  Well, you may keep the thing for
the present, and I'll take a bowlful of your parrot stew by way of
rent.  This the house?  You've managed to find yourself pretty
comfortable quarters, I see."

The house was a series of rooms packed round an internal courtyard.
The outer walls were of wattle, luted with mud thrown onto them in
vigorous handfuls, and left to bake hard in the sun.  The roof was a
pile of untidy thatch, the floor of hardened mud, and in the middle of
the courtyard was an ineffective shade-tree scorched by the smoke of
the cooking fires.  Beyond this house sprawled the other houses of a
small West African village, with the usual squalor heaped between them.

To most Europeans there would have been much to notice--the cooking
vessels, the calabashes, the food, the ju-ju charms that one met at
unexpected corners, the scavenging dogs, and the all-pervading smells.
But Swizzle-Stick Smith's curiosity was worn by twenty years attrition,
and these savage circumstances had grown native to him.  He did not
even comment on the fact that Slade was living entirely in local
fashion, the thing was so obvious a course for his friend to follow
that he took it for granted.  He himself was a man of like tastes.
Down at Malla-Nulla the menu had mostly smacked of Africa; but once he
had left the Coast, Mr. Smith had travelled as an Okky headman travels,
living mainly on kanki and couscousoo, and for beverage partaking of
sour palm wine, muddy bush-water, and an allowance of trade gin sternly
cut down to one square-faced bottle per diem.

His only comment on the place was that Slade's mosquito bar was made of
a material that they had long ago decided was faulty, and that a
certain mark of cheesecloth gave better passage to the air, and was
more impervious to insects.  To which Slade made reply that he knew it,
but couldn't be bothered to change, after which the cookboy brought in
a calabash of odorous, highly-peppered stew, colored bright orange with
palm oil and condiments, and set it on the floor of one of the rooms.
Mr. Smith pocketed his pipe, dropped his eyeglass to the end of its
black ribbon, and wiped his hands on his shabby pyjamas, after which
simple preparations the pair of them sat down on the earth beside the
calabash and proceeded to eat skilfully from their fingers.

Around them were the cases and bales of Slade's outfit, each done up
into a "load" ready for a carrier's head.  In the other room of the
house and in the courtyard were the carriers, some of them eating, some
of them cleaning their teeth with the rubbing stick, which all Coast
natives use incessantly in moments of leisure, some of them chatting.
Most of them sat bareheaded in the staring sunlight; a few nestled in
the purple shadows.  One was picking a jigger out of his toe with a
splinter of bamboo.  In a spare corner another played tom-tom on the
bottom of an empty kerosene-tin bucket, and three stalwarts stood up
before him monotonously dancing.

Mr. Smith finished his meal and took out his pipe.  "Does it run to a
peg?" he asked.

"It does.  Don't spoil my fine vintage port with tobacco.  You can
smoke afterwards.  Here, boy, we fit for gin."

"Gin lib," said the Accra in attendance, and handed a square-faced
bottle and a bowl.

"Good.  Now, when you see dem Smith fit for smoke, you bring fire,
one-time.  Savvy?"

"I fit."

Swizzle-Stick Smith moved back until his shoulders rested against a
bale, and hitched up the knees of his shrunk pyjamas and stretched his
arms pleasurably.  "You travel in comfort, Slade."

"The secret is, I don't move along too fast.  I've been in this village
a fortnight.  I don't know when I shall make up my mind to pull out and
go on."

"Not till you've eaten it bare or are forced off some other way, I
suppose.  You're a curious envoy for a confiding employer in Liverpool
to send out into the bush."

Slade grinned.  "Old Godfrey wouldn't have done it.  But this new K.
O'Neill hasn't seen my cutaway chin.  K.'s a hustler, but he's young,
remarkably young."

"Have you done anything in the way of getting him a rubber property?"

"Well, curiously enough I have.  At least, I've bought him up a few
square miles of country that rubber vines would grow on well enough if
it was cleared, and planted, and tended, and no one put ju-ju on them."

"Is it get-at-able?"

"It's on some river or other.  The ditch isn't marked on the map, but I
daresay a steamer could get up if it was worth while.  The title's as
good as one could expect."

"That means it won't be jumped so long as you pay fifty pounds a year
to the next claimant."

"I should say five-and-twenty will fix him," said Slade lazily.  "You
see he's headman of the next village and he thinks he's got some
unproductive bush to sell himself.  I've rammed into his skull the
great truth that his deal can't go through if he starts trying to jump
his neighbor's land and unsteadies the market.  I think those
considerations will outweigh even his nigger's love for litigation--"
He went on to give listlessly enough a few more details of the
transaction.

Mr. Smith was well-versed in the ways of West African diplomacy, and
could appreciate to a nicety all the haggling and the patience and the
tedious arguments that had gone to build up these complicated bargains.
He screwed in his eyeglass and looked at Slade attentively.  "I
wonder," he said, "why you always make yourself out to be such an
infernal waster?  You know you must have been doing some thundering
good work.  I couldn't have put that deal through, and I know my West
Africa as well as you do or better.  There's not one man in five
thousand could have managed it.  What's your trick?"

"Oh, I found myself in comfortable quarters, and I couldn't make up my
mind to move on and try more likely country elsewhere.  So I stayed and
talked rubber-palaver with the headman.  One had to do something for
amusement.  Besides they'd a tree of alligator pears in the village
that were exactly ripe, and it would have been a crime to leave them to
benighted Africans.  By the way, very rude of me not to ask before, but
what have you done since you left the Coast?"

"Got into a very ugly hole," said Swizzle-Stick Smith shortly, "and
wriggled out of it by the skin of my teeth."

"Rubber-palaver?"

"No."

"Oh, sorry for inquiring.  I thought that was what you came up for?"

"So it was, and I started off from the Coast with a full intention of
carrying out O'Neill and Craven's business.  But I got led off on an
old trail."

"Ah," said Slade thoughtfully.  "I believe I could guess."

"Guessing's dangerous.  But I may as well own up to you frankly that
I've been seeing the King of Okky."

"Well, you've a nerve.  I shouldn't have cared for that job myself."

"It wasn't pleasant.  Okky City jars one's sense of decency rather
badly just now.  Old Kallee's been going it extra strong on human
sacrifices, you know.  His private crucifixion tree is a thing you
don't like to think about."

"Filthy old beast he is."

"But he's the strongest man hereabouts."

"I see.  And you got onto your old game of the pre-Smith days and tried
to get him to put the Okky country and his royal self under the formal
protectorate of the British Empire?  I thought you dropped all that
tommyrot when you got kicked--I mean when you turned trader and became
known to fame as Mr. Smith.  Sink the past, of course, sink the past,
but you started it."

"I couldn't help going.  I got news of a French expedition in Okky
City.  Of course I've been damnably treated by the British Foreign
Office in days gone by, but the old fires will relight sometimes.
Frenchmen in Okky City, I'll trouble you, Slade, and of course with the
usual accompaniment.  _Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes_.  So I couldn't
resist trying my own hand with the Kallee, even though I hadn't
anything at all up to his weight as an introductory dash."

"Half a dozen cases of Heidsieck is the nearest way to his royal ear,
though I hear that lately he's developed a taste for the better years
of Krug."

"That's quite true.  It was a fancy touch of Burgoyne, our Monk River
man.  I call that hardly legitimate business, you know.  German
champagne and angostura are good enough for me, and they ought to be
good enough for a black savage like Kallee.  Dash it, what right's he
to a palate?"

"Would he see you?"

"Well, of course I've known him since before he killed his predecessor
and got the King's stool, and so he's a bit freer with me than he is
with most people."

Slade nodded.  "And you drank together till you were both blind
speechless?"

"I wasn't, anyway," said the older man shortly.  "I kept my head and
stuck to my tale.  The Frenchman wasn't in it.  He went to sleep before
we whacked the first ten bottles, and he was laid up with a fine dose
of fever next day; but there was no shifting Kallee.  He doesn't care
an escribello for all the might, majesty, dominion and power of the
British Empire.  He's got ten small cannon up there, that, according to
him, can quite account for Great Britain if it comes to worry him, and
in the meanwhile the French are very kind friends.  They've given him a
gramophone, and a general's uniform, and an ice-making machine, and
when they bring him the canoe load of Winchester repeaters he's asked
for, he'll sign a treaty of allegiance to France."

"Arms of precision!  The Frenchman had better take care.  If any of our
Government fellows catch him at that game, they'll shoot him first and
inquire into him afterwards."

"Well, what he's going to do in the matter, I don't exactly know.  You
see, the beggar had Kallee's ear, and to tell you the plain truth he
had me deported.  Kallee said that if he laid hands on me again, he
would have my skin off, and stuff it with straw, and stick it in the
road that leads to Malla-Nulla as a warning to the next Englishman that
came along that it would be more healthy to keep inside his own
marches."

Slade laughed.  "I bet you footed it away."

"What the devil else could I do?  And here am I, no forwarder with
O'Neill and Craven's job than I was the day I tramped out of
Malla-Nulla.  I did say 'Rubber' to the King, and he did hear out my
tale.  He said it was good palaver, and set on a couple of hundred
slaves there and then with matchets to clear bush and plant rubber
vines to grow revenue for himself.  But he sells no land to Englishmen,
and I guess if another of the breed comes up yet awhile, Kallee'll
plant him.  By the way, Slade, have you been in touch with the bush
telegraph?"

"Oh, I heard that the usual vague rows and horribles were going on in
Okky City, but I didn't pay much attention to that.  I did hear, too,
that Cappie Image and the _M'poso_ helped a red-headed man, who I
suppose was that young Carter of yours, in some sort of a row at
presumably Malla-Nulla.  I took the trouble to go into the dates; the
news must have travelled here in thirty hours, and we're a good two
hundred miles from the Coast.  It is a bit marvellous.  I wonder how
the deuce the niggers do it.  Some sort of ju-ju, I suppose, but I
never met a white man yet who understood the trick."

"Did you hear anything about a white woman stirring things up?"

"Certainly, I did, and concluded it was Laura.  I left her in charge at
Smooth River, you know, and she's grown into a jolly capable girl, let
me tell you, old man, when she cares to spread herself.  What are you
twiddling about your eyeglass for?  Why don't you say out what you
mean?  Oh, I see.  White.  By gad, I'd never thought of that.  Even a
bush telegraph, which is always liable to mistake in detail, would
never blunder into calling my little girl white.  By gad, Smith, what a
damnable thing that 'sins of the fathers' law is.  If I were a man that
ever looked so much as half a day ahead, I believe I should go mad at
the thought of what will become of Laura in the future.  You're a tough
old ruffian with no cares and you could never understand what that
kiddie is to me."

"No use crying over a marriage that's over.  Everybody that knows her
will do his best for Laura, and if any man tried hanky-panky tricks
with her he'd probably die one of the local deaths of Africa in very
quick time.  But about this white woman.  I heard about her, too.
There was a big tom-toming far away in the bush one night, ten minutes
after the sun went out, and my boys listened hard and then set up a
fine chatter.  It was long enough before I could make anything out of
them, but at last I heard something about 'a white mammy' that set me
thinking.  I got the idea at first that someone, probably the Okky-men,
had been knocking a she-missionary on the head, and that made me cock
up my ears.  You know when a trader or a man in one of the services
gets scuppered out here, the pious people at home say it's his own
brutal fault and the poor African is quite right in what he does.  But
when it's a missionary, the Exeter Hall crew insist on war."

Slade put up the usual Coaster's wish for the future of Exeter Hall.

"Quite so," said Swizzle-Stick Smith.  He got up and limped across to
the doorway and stood there for a minute puffing pale blue smoke into
the dazzle of sunshine.  Then he came back again and once more sat on
the earthen floor with his back against a bale.  "The boys out there,
both yours and mine, are still harping on the same subject."

"I didn't make out that the white woman was killed."

"Nor did I, when I went into the matter further.  I was only explaining
what gave me the first interest in the subject, because if there had
been a she-missionary killed, all the bush would know that meant war,
and they would slaughter every white man they came across out of sheer
light-heartedness.  No, if that had happened, you would not have seen
me here.  I should have lit out for the Coast, one-time.  But I
presently found that the white woman had not been killed, but that she
was a someone who seemed to puzzle my boys exceedingly.  There seemed
to be heap-too-much ju-ju about her.  She did things no one else could
tackle."

"Sort of champion lady weight-lifter?  Boy, fill Mr. Smith's pipe and
bring him fire."

"You know that Kroo word, Oomsha, that means Sultana or
woman-above-a-headman, or something like that?"

"I heard a tale of an Oomsha once somewhere up Sokoto way.  She's been
head wife of an Emir, and when he died she killed all the heirs and ran
the town herself.  I thought it meant more witch or conjurer.  It's a
ju-ju word."

"Well, I won't quarrel with you over etymology, and we seem to agree
enough on the definition for practical purposes.  Now, my boys said
that this white woman was an Oomsha.  Did you hear that?"

"Not I.  I tell you I thought it was Laura they were gassing about, and
I didn't trouble myself to inquire more deeply."

"Dash it," said the old man fiercely, "do rouse up and interest
yourself in something.  What the deuce has a white sultana got to do
messing around the Coast factories, especially O'Neill and Craven's?
And let me tell that's what's happening."

"Is the mythical lady setting everybody by the ears and preparing for a
holy something?"

"That's the maddening part of it.  They all seem to like her.  She's
stirring up everybody, she's upsetting your factory and mine, she's
dragged the man with the red head in adoration to her feet and then
spurned him from her, and she's even captured the warm and profane
Cappie Image as one of her servitors."

"Poof! blarney old Image!  Now, that proves you've got onto a fairy
tale."

Mr. Smith thumped an emphatic fist on the hard stamped floor beside
him.  "I tell you I have not.  The bush telegraph never lies.  You may
misunderstand it, but if you take time and trouble, and dig deep
enough, you'll always come to the truth of things.  As sure as we are
sweating in this bush village here, there's a white woman on the Coast
turning all the business there upside down."

"I've got it," said Slade.  "K. O'Neill's tired of having all his
bright ideas comfortably shelved by you and me, and so his new happy
thought is to send his fascinating typewriter out to hand instructions
over in person, and wait till they're put through.  Your Carter and my
Laura would be just the sort of enthusiastic young people to fall in
with a scheme like that.  But I must say the conquest of Image beats
me.  It would take a heap more than a hen typewriter to tame Cappie
Image-me-lad."

"Yes, I thought of all that, but there's one blessed thing that upsets
it completely.  The Oomsha is making headquarters at the Dutch factory
at Mokki, and building a fort there.  Now, play on that."

"Weather too hot," said Slade.  "Whe-ew!  I wish the breeze would come."

"Dash it, man, think!  A white woman building a fort up at Mokki."

"Sounds buccaneerish, or I'll tell you what, German."  Slade sat up
with a sudden spurt of unaccustomed energy and ran the perspiration off
his face with a forefinger.  "By gad!  I didn't think of that, but
picture the joys of having a beastly German in at the back of us, with
a Government subsidy, and a price-cutting apparatus all complete."

"Yes," said Swizzle-Stick Smith grimly, "and also picture to yourself
the eminently British Captain Image yielding to the soft blandishments
of a German Frau.  He'd as soon think of making himself amiable to a
gorilla.  No, that theory's wrong.  The thing stumps me, and I'm sure
if it's too big for me, it's outside your size."

"Quite so," said Slade, who had dropped back into his normal slackness
after the spurt of energy.  Then he screwed up his eyes tightly as the
hot air was split with a succession of piercing yells and screeches.

"Good Lord, what's that?" the old man called out.

"Some poor brute of a farmer, who's been working on his cassava ground,
being pulled down by a leopard.  There, don't get up; you can't do
anything.  Don't you hear he's quiet now, which means 'palaver set' as
far as the farmer is concerned.  That will make the rest of his
agricultural neighbors careful for the next twenty-four hours, and go
to their work in pairs, and take their spears.  At the end of
twenty-four hours their massive memories will fail them and they'll
stroll out alone just as the spirit moves them, and someone else will
be chopped.  Those squeals used to make one feel rather sick at first,
and one was apt to get excited and rush out with a gun.  But it never
did any good.  Spotted Dick always prefers to dine in privacy and drags
his mutton back into the bush.  I can imagine," Slade added with a
faint laugh, "that an energetic man who was a bit of a sportsman would
find this place pretty exasperating.  Thanks to these careless animals
of villagers ground-baiting the creatures to the extent they have done,
there's the best stocked leopard-cover in Africa round here, but you
simply can't get them up to the gun.  I've tried sitting up for them
over a kill, I've tried stalking, and always got nothing.  I risked a
drive one day and the leopard chopped a couple of beaters.  It would be
exasperating to an energetic man, but thank goodness I'm not that, and
so I've simply taken things as they came."

"H'm," said Smith thoughtfully.  "When we walked in here I noticed I
limped on one side and you limped on the other.  We sort of jabbed at
one another, in and out.  Now, limping is a new accomplishment for you.
Have you been interviewing a leopard personally?'"'

Slade's sallow face flushed a little.  "Well, you see, a son of the
headman here took it into his silly head to get in a leopard's way one
day, and I knew the old chap was awfully fond of the lad.  So I just
retrieved him, and we both got a bit clawed in the process.  But it was
purely a matter of business for K. O'Neill.  The old goat of a headman
wouldn't listen to any suggestion for buying rubber lands before.  Dash
it all, Smith, I am slack, I know, but I do try and put in a bit of
work for the firm in return for my pay sometimes."



CHAPTER XI

AGAIN PRESENTS THE HEAD OF THE FIRM

"Fire's the only thing we have to be frightened of for the present,"
said Carter, "and this soft, soggy wet timber of which the fort is
built wouldn't burn without a lot of persuasion.  Still, all the same I
wish I could think of something that would make it absolutely
fireproof."

"The ancients," said Miss O'Neill, "used to cover their works with raw
bull's hide to ward off fire arrows.  That wise remark comes from some
school-book, but I've forgotten where.  Laura can quote?"

"No," said Laura shortly.

"Not having bulls," said Carter, "we can't have their hide, but I'll
just let word ooze out that if the Okky-men attack, we'll skin those we
bag and nail up their pelts----"

"Mr. Carter!"

"Well, I beg your pardon for being horrible, but I tell you frankly
that if I thought for a moment that a message like that would be
believed, I'd send it in a moment.  You know, Miss Head, we're in an
uncommon tight place, and as acting commander-in-chief, I tell you
flatly it will be a case of 'all-in' if it comes to a scrap."

"Oh, Missy, dem Carter mean he fit for use ju-ju besides guns,"
White-Man's-Trouble explained.

"It couldn't have been put more neatly.  We must call in even the
powers of darkness, as far as they'll answer to a whistle, if it comes
to open fighting.  But in the meanwhile, as some solemn idiot said in a
text-book, 'preparedness for war is the best insurance for peace,' and
I ask you to observe this tramway which the boys have laid down during
the night.  Trouble here was ganger, and I've only had to bang him for
letting the gauge spread in two places."

"Is it to show sightseers quickly round the works?" Kate asked.

"No, madam.  I shall mount on trucks those two tinpot brass
muzzle-loading signal guns that you bamboozled out of old Image, have
embrasures (if that's the word for holes to shoot through) at all the
corners, and I can rush those guns round to fire at all points of the
compass at a pace that will surprise friend Kwaka, if he is in command
of the enemy.  I am pleased to say Kwaka looks for the supernatural
when he is dealing with me, and I make a point of conscience in seeing
that he gets it.  I found some sheets of yellow tissue-paper in the
feteesh here, all mottled with black mildew, and they gave me an idea.
I cut out a leopard and pasted him together, and left a hole in him
underneath, and fitted that with a wire carrier and a cotton wool
burner that will hold spirit."

"What, a fire balloon?"

"Just that.  With a dose of trade gin on the cotton wool, and a match
and a little careful manipulation, we'll have a portent sailing up into
the sky that will astonish the Okky-men's weak nerves in most
disastrous style."

"You are really a most ingenious person," said Miss O'Neill.  "Isn't
he, Laura?"

"I suppose so," said Laura.

"It's that blessed Cascaes that's the weak spot in the defence.  I
suppose I've the usual West Coast prejudice against Portuguese; you
know even the natives divide creation up into white men, black men, and
Portuguese, and the particular specimen we've taken over here with the
factory just bristles with bad points."

"I think he's rather nice," said Laura.  "You were fighting with him
this morning and I hated to see it."

"Well," said Carter, judicially, "I shouldn't define it as fighting
exactly, but I'll admit, if you like, that I was kicking him.  You see,
Miss Head here has given most strict orders that not more than six
strangers were ever to be admitted into the fort together at one time.
He'd fourteen actually in the feteesh.  Now, supposing those gallant
fourteen suddenly produced weapons and held the gate whilst friends
they'd ambushed outside ran across the clearing and rushed us, where'd
we be?"

"Oh," said Laura, "I'm sorry I interfered if it was Kate's orders you
were carrying out."

"So, Miss Head, with your permission I'll run up a chimbeque for the
fellow outside the walls."

"Where did you get that word chimbeque from?" Kate asked.  "It's Fiote,
not Oil Rivers talk."

Carter's brown eyes twinkled.  "I say, what a marvel you are to know
things!  I bet Laura didn't spot that.  Why did I use the word?  Well,
we had a Portuguee linguister down at Malla-Nulla who had worked in the
Congo, and he imported that and a lot more Congolese words as part of
his baggage, and we absorbed them.  Observe now.  Trouble!  I say,
Trouble, come in here, and keep away from that sugar bowl in case you
are tempted.  Just stand there by the door.  Now, tell me.  You fit for
savvy what a chimbeque is?"

The Krooboy's flat nose perceptibly lifted with contempt.  "Dem
bushman's word for hut.  I fit for learn English on steamah.  You can
tell Missy I once was stand-by-at-crane boy on black funnel boat.  I no
say chimbeque; I say 'house.'"

"You fairly overflow with education at times.  There, run away outside,
and play again.  So you see, Miss Head, if Cascaes runs a sort of extra
feteesh away out in the clearing, he can't land us into much danger
however careless and indiscreet he may be.  Of course it will entail a
little extra labor below in handling both produce and trade goods, but
now we've got the fort practically built, I've a lot more boys I can
set free for the ordinary work.  Which reminds me that I forgot to ask
if this new boy you've got for butterfly hunter is any better than the
last?"

"I'm afraid he isn't much.  He doesn't tear the net all to bits, but
he's rubbed every specimen fatally before he pinned it into the
collecting box."

"I was afraid there was friction.  I saw White-Man's-Trouble call up
that boy and look into the collecting box when he thought I was safely
siestaing.  They had a little excited conversation, and then Trouble
grabbed him by a handful of wool and lammed into him with a chiquot."

"Ugh," said Kate, "it is very flattering to have Trouble's kind
approval, but I do wish there was not such a local popularity for the
methods of--what shall I say?"

"Primitive man.  They rather grow on one.  Perhaps I'm prejudiced in
their favor, though.  Even when I was at school I always preferred a
licking to an imposition.  By the way, you never showed me the
butterflies you've collected here since you took them out of splints
and pinned them in their case."

"Then come at once and admire," said Kate, and the pair of them left
the veranda and went into the factory's living room.

Laura Slade looked after them wistfully.  There was something between
these two that she could not fathom, and vaguely feared.  At Smooth
River, and on the _M'poso_, their talk had been on the chilliest
details of business, and only the most bare civilities passed beyond.
It had seemed to her then that at any moment a word might bring a
permanent rupture, and she had pleaded with each to accept the other in
a more reasonable spirit.  She was engaged to Carter; he kept reminding
her of the tie in twenty different ways each day.  She had lived under
the ægis of the O'Neill and Craven firm all her life, and exaggerated
its importance, and she begged Carter not to throw away what was his
livelihood now and what would be hers when she married him.

Kate, too, was her friend, and together they had been the closest of
confidants.  She had known the secret of the firm's "Mr. K. O'Neill"
almost as long as old Crewdson had known it, and she had kept that
secret loyally in spite of the keenest temptation.

"Kate, I even kept it from George," she had said, and Kate had replied,
"George being Mr. Carter, I suppose?"

Up to the time that they left the _M'poso_, it seemed hopeless to bring
them even into the most stiff agreement.  And then the first morning
she woke up at Mokki, there was Kate in a Madeira chair on the veranda,
with George Carter sitting on the rail beside her, and the pair of them
were laughing and chatting as easily as though they had known one
another a year.

She had never got what she thought any satisfactory explanation of how
this relief of the tension had been brought about.  She asked Carter,
and he said he had arrived at the conclusion he had "merely been a rude
ass," and it was time to be ashamed of himself and try ordinary human
civility.  She had attempted to sound Kate, and was merely
congratulated on being engaged to a really nice man.  And thereafter
she had watched an intimacy grow between them, in which somehow or
other, in spite of their obviously labored efforts to include her, she
had no part.

She turned away from the door now, and sat down in one of the veranda
chairs which the thrifty German had made for himself out of a palm-oil
puncheon.  Behind her the white man and the white woman talked
butterflies.  Before her was Africa, and night.  No moon had risen, a
few of the stars were lit.  Fireflies blinked in and out at unexpected
places in the velvety blackness, uncannily vanishing when their spasm
of light was over.  The night breeze sang gently through the trees and
gave sharpness to the air, and the drone of insects kept to one low
insistent note like the distant murmur of the river.  The factory boys,
tired with their merciless work, slept.  But from the bush beyond the
clearing there came ever and again a groan, or a roar, or a shriek, as
often as not dimmed to a mere murmur by distance, to keep her aware of
the axiom that Africa never sleeps and always carries pain.

The land breeze blew strong and her dress was thin.  She shivered a
little and called for Carter, as he had taught her, to bring a wrap.
He came running out with it at once and covered her shoulders, as she
was pleased to think, tenderly.  He even stopped and talked to her for
a minute or so.  Then he said he must go and see Miss Head's last case,
and once more went into the living room.  She strained her ears to
listen, and she heard the butterfly talk begin again where it had
broken off.

They had an alarm that night that the Okky-men were coming.  Into the
blank silence of sleep there came the roar of a heavy charge of black
trade powder as a sentry discharged his dew-filled flintlock.  The
whites, the Portuguese, and the tired factory boys roused into instant
wakefulness.  Their nerves were too nicely set to need a second shaking.

Laura met Carter in pyjamas as he was in the act of thumping upon her
bedroom door.  "Oh, you have got up," he said.  "That's good.  Well,
don't show a light whilst you dress, and keep under shelter.  I must
just wake Miss O'Neill before I go down."

She put her arms round his neck and pulled him to her and kissed him
violently.  "You came for me first then, after all?"

"You little goose, of course I did.  Wives first, employers next.
Here, I must go, or the battle will be over before I'm down.  The odds
are those heroes are blazing away at nothing."

They were.  Each black man as he came up to the palisade poked the
muzzle of his gun through a loophole, pulled trigger, and drew comfort
from the din.  Presently Carter came up to the breastwork, climbed to
the banquette, and leaned over, and then peered long and hard through
the night.  He could see nothing.  He got down, and with trouble found
the sentry who had fired first.  When he had thumped the man into
calmness, it turned out that he had seen nothing also.  He had "thought
ju-ju" and then his gun "lib for shoot by himself."  Or in plainer
English, the man had dozed with his hand round his gun lock to keep the
damp from the priming; he had been struck by a nightmare and had pulled
the trigger.  He had aimed at nothing.  His gun muzzle had been
upright, and he "lib for shoot dem moon."

Cascaes, the Portuguese, came up with a Winchester under his arm in
time to hear the end of this explanation.  "The negro like-a some
noise, eh, senhor?"

"What about yourself?" asked Carter uncivilly.  "Haven't you been
joining in?  I suppose you're first cousin to these fellows, anyway."

Cascaes put a little finger down the muzzle of his rifle, wiped it
round, lit a match, and showed that the finger was clean.

"Oh, I beg pardon," said Carter.  "I thought you were likely to share
in the local revels."

"Well," said the Portuguese thoughtfully, "I suppose I must count that
an apology.  Otherwise I should have shot you.  Good-night, senhor."

Carter waited till the man turned, ran in quickly, and plucked away his
rifle.  "And now," said he, "just let us understand one another exactly
before we go any further.  I'm standing quite all the risks from
outside that I've any use for just at present.  If there's any shooting
to be done amongst ourselves, I prefer to do it myself.  So first of
all let's hear your trouble."

"In the first-a place I am not negro.  I am European of blood-a as pure
as your own, an' far-a-more ancient."

"If the apology I gave you just now doesn't cover that, I'll apologize
some more for calling you a nigger.  Furthermore, I didn't know that
you claimed to be a gentleman, not that gentility is any excuse for not
carrying out one's job here on the Coast."

"Senhor, you are handsome.  And I agree with you that here in Africa we
are all-a workmen, and must suffer if the work-a is not well done."

"Well," said Carter impatiently, "is that the lot?  To my simple
British mind your reasons for wanting to shoot me seem pretty thin so
far.  I suppose you are mad at my basting you this morning, but if you
think the circumstances out coolly, I'm sure you'll see that we've
women's lives to think of here as well as our own, and by letting the
niggers you were overseeing scamp their work whilst you were dreaming
over a cigarette, you were risking the safety of the fort."

"Senhor, do you know of what-a I was dreaming?"

"Private affairs probably, but anyway of something immaterial."

"Pardon, but I must tell-a you my dreaming.  It was of a woman's life I
dreamed."

Carter laughed shortly.  "I think you had better leave it at that.  It
sticks in my mind that the three Portuguese ladies in this factory at
Mokki are all officially protected by their lawful husbands, and I
don't want to hear any embarrassing confidences."

"And may not a Portuguese gentleman, poor-a I grant you, but still of
good blood, give-a his affection to a lady of another race?"

A moon had lit up in the sky above, and under it Cartels jaw looked of
a sudden more square and grim than usual--at least the other thought
so.  His tone, too, changed from banter to something hard.  "I decline
to hear another word on the matter.  We will confine our dealings with
one another entirely to details of business, if you please, Cascaes,
and leave matters of sentiment alone.  Here is your gun.  You say you
are a gentleman, and I believe you.  That means you won't shoot me from
behind, or when I'm not armed equally with yourself.  If the necessity
arrives for a turn-up on level terms, I'm your man.  Good-night."

And so for that night they parted, each very much misunderstanding the
other.  Once more the tired sentries yawned at their posts, and the
Europeans of the factory retired to their beds, and the blacks to their
sleeping mats; but sleep for the rest of that hot, damp night was
broken, and no half-hour passed without a cry from some dreamer which
woke restless echoes from his neighbors.

But with daylight the steady stream of merchandise, which the factory
was beginning to attract, recommenced.  The native traders of the
hinterland had their hands full of the stock that had been pouring in
upon them ever since the King of Okky had closed the roads to the old
Coast factories with which they were accustomed to deal, and when the
news spread, as it does spread in that mysterious West Africa, that the
white woman of Mokki bought and sold in spite of the King's teeth, they
were only too ready to back her with their custom.  The merchants of
that unknown back country are some of the keenest traders on earth.

Some came in single canoes through the gloom and odors of uncharted
muddy creeks, trusting to secrecy for safe passage; others joined
forces, and brought armed flotillas of great sixty-man-power dugouts
down the main stream; others clubbed together into caravans, so strong
and so well-defended that even Kallee's truculent raiders dared not
cross the Okky marches to hold them up.  So marvellously accurate were
the rumors that had spread up country, that few of these keen merchants
came into Mokki without a grass basket full of spoiled specimens of
butterfly as a "dash" to propitiate the new trading power.

Every day the influx of merchants increased, till at last more came
than the staff of the factory could deal with, and they camped outside
the fort awaiting their turn to trade.  Actually, a small native food
market grew there to supply them.  Kate had lowered the price the
factory paid for every commodity, but still the bush merchants sold,
and were only too glad of the chance.  Times they felt were troublous;
the shadow of the King of Okky hung over the steaming forests, and they
wished to get what they could in European produce and be gone.  At the
Malla-Nulla, the Monk, or the Smooth River factories they would not
have taken such prices; but the King of Okky had closed the roads to
these, and for business purposes they were extinct.  Nor would they
have sold at such rates to the Germans when they held Mokki.  Keen
business man though he may be, the West African merchant is a creature
of whim; the German he defines as a "bush-Englishman," which is a term
of reproach; he distrusts both him and his goods; and he will not trade
with a German factory on anything like the same terms he will accept
from the Briton, even though the Briton sell him German-made goods.

"We are doing such a tremendous business," said Carter one day at the
evening meal, "that presently we shall strangle ourselves.  We have
used up all our own trade stuff, and we have stripped the Smooth River
factory and Malla-Nulla, and pretty well emptied Burgoyne at Monk
River.  I don't know how finances are?"

"Tight," said Kate.

"And yet we've got at the very least £8,500 in kernels, palm oil, and
high-grade rubber lying idle here.  Moreover, we've tapped an
unexpected vein of ivory.  I thought at first that it was some small
king's state reserve, some hoard he'd got buried, under the bed of a
stream perhaps, which he wanted to realize on, and which would soon
come to an end.  But it's not that, it's new stuff that's been hunted
within the last three years, and it's been diverted, I really believe,
from the Congo market.  It's a splendid line for us, but it will pinch
out very promptly if we once stop buying.  I verily believe these
natives can telegraph a piece of commercial news half-way across Africa
in the inside of a week."

"We are doing splendid business.

"Of course, we've got the firm's Miss K. O'Neill here on the spot, and
hence the prosperity; but I wish we'd got our Miss K. for just half a
day at the Liverpool end to diagnose that we're starving for a steamer.
The fact is, that greedy old scoundrel Cappie Image-me-lad looks upon
Mokki as his special private preserve, and he doesn't intend to see any
of the other skippers picking up his cargo commission if he can avoid
it."

"Do you blame him?" said Kate.  "I don't.  But at the same time I'm
afraid Mokki factory can't wait each time till Captain Image brings the
_M'poso_ on her round trips from Liverpool.  However, I sent a canoe
off this morning with a long cable which may ease matters."

"You sent off a canoe?  I don't know how I shall get on without her
crew."

"Oh, I remembered how shorthanded you are, Mr. Manager, but I've not
piled more work onto you this time.  You recollect that tall Haûsa
merchant with the one eye who has been here for the last two days?"

"Yes, Rotata."

"I gave him the cable, and an order on Mr. Burgoyne for £15, to be paid
on delivery.  Will you O.K. the account?"

"I guess," said Carter shortly, "that you are boss.  But if you'd told
me you wanted to send a cable, I could have arranged it for you."

Kate looked at him steadily.  "Why do you object to my working for
myself, Mr. Carter?"

"Because I prefer to work for you.  I'd work myself to the bone for
you, if you'd let me."

"Why should you?"

"Because I--well, it's natural enough, isn't it?  If you come to think
of it, I am your paid employee."

Kate still looked at him with a steady eye.  "Of course it is Laura
that you are really working for."

Carter cleared his throat.  "Of course," he said.  "Well, if you and
Laura will excuse me, I'll go into the other room now and post up my
books."  He got up and walked towards the mess-room door.

Cascaes, who had been sitting at the other end of the table with the
Portuguese and their wives, got up, and went towards the vacant place.
But Carter turned at the door and called him sharply.  "I'm sorry to
interrupt further," he said, "but I want your valuable assistance, Mr.
Cascaes.  So come along with me now."



CHAPTER XII

EXHIBITS ANTISEPTICS

The night was hot, and steamy, and still.  Even the insect hum was
pitched on a drowsy note.  The darkness seemed almost fat in its greasy
heaviness.  Two of the sweating factory boys were playing tom-tom on
upturned kerosene cans, and a third was throwing in an erratic obligato
with two pieces of scrap iron for an instrument.  And from the river
behind a pair of crocodiles made unpleasant noises with irritating
persistency.  Carter thought, too, that above the decay smell of the
factory rubber store, the stable smell of the Krooboys, the
crushed-marigold smell of the river, he could also catch the musky odor
of the crocodiles, and felt vaguely sickened thereby.

"... Those last-a bags of kernels I have not got-a weighed, senhor.  I
was weary, and so I go-a to change and shave for dinner."

"Why don't you shave in the morning, instead of carrying a chin like a
besom all through the day?  I suppose, as usual, you were going to
weigh up those kernels to-morrow?"

"You are most indulgent, senhor."

"I am nothing of the kind.  Sufficient for the day is the work thereof,
and the man that puts it off till to-morrow gets out of here.  Like to
hand in your resignation?"

"No, senhor, no."

"Then go and weigh those kernels, one-time.  Then come back here and
make up your books.  D'ye think I'm going to have my whole machinery of
commerce held up because you want to go and shave, and oil your head,
and put on clean whites and a crimson belly-band and otherwise make
yourself fetching for the benefit of Miss O'Neill?"

"Miss-a O'Neill?" said the Portuguese in surprise.  "I do not care a
banana-skin----"

"Here, don't try and fill me up," said Carter bluntly.  "And don't put
on time.  Take a lamp and go out and weigh those kernels, and see you
don't set the shed on fire, and when you're through, and have posted
your books, come out and fetch me.  I'm going to smoke a cigar out in
the open."

"The dew-a is heavy.  There is fever about."

"Take your advice to the devil."

"Which fever," said Cascaes, "I should have added, if you had-a not
interrupted me--which fever I hope you will get."

"That's all right.  I like you dagos better when you spit venom openly.
Now, you hurry up and go through those kernels, and see you get the
weights right."

The dew was thick on the grass in the clearing and stood in sleek
greasy drops on all the patches of bare stamped earth.  Moon and stars
were all eclipsed.  Even the fireflies, although the dark would have
given full value to their manoeuvres, were absent.  The unhealthy
phosphorence of rotting dead wood here and there was the only
illumination, except here and there a glow from a window in the factory.

Carter went out through a gate of the fort and walked up and down with
restless energy.  He was wet to the knees with dew; the damp Canary
cigar between his teeth had long since gone out; but he cared for no
small things like these.  He kept repeating to himself that "a man must
play the game."  "A man must play the game."

And presently, when the tom-toms and the jangling iron suggested some
tune to his ear, he changed this to a jangle which stated "I could--not
love--thee dear--so much--loved I--not hon--or more."  And as the tune
beat out into the hot steamy night, so did the words keep time to them
with irritating repetition.

Once he stopped and shook a fist at the invisible sky above.  "I am
going to marry Laura," he declared, "if she was ten times as black.  I
am going to marry her though I know my father will never speak to me
again, and I can't take her home.  I am going to marry her though the
heaven's fall.  I am going to marry her for one reason that can't be
got over, and that is because I said I would.  A man must play the
game.  But my God! why did I never guess that Kate was on earth
somewhere?"

There was an old cotton-wood stump in the clearing, and he stood
against it so thoughtful and still that he became the object of
attention of bats.  He hit at them angrily and recommenced his prowl.

Hour after hour he tramped through the dripping grass, biting against
fate.  Cascaes, who did not work unless he was driven, had long since
checked his tally of kernels, and gone to bed.  The factory lamps had
one by one gone out.  The night noises of the forest that hemmed them
in were in full swing.  His thin clothes were sodden with the damp, and
by every law of Africa he was gathering unto himself the seeds of
disease.  But still he tramped on, in and out amongst the huts and
litter, wrestling with his misery.

The thing which in the end lifted him out of this unhealthy pit of
self-pity was commonplace enough in its way.  As he was passing a small
rude shelter of boughs and thatch, there came to his ears a very
unmistakable human groan.

It was a temporary hut run up by some trader who was waiting his turn
to do business at the factory, and the groan was of that timbre which
told that it was wrenched from a strong man by deadly pain.  At another
time Carter would probably have passed on.  One grows callous to
suffering in West Africa, and to interfere with a sick native seldom
brings thanks and very frequently produces complications.  But
something just then moved him to play the Samaritan.

He put his head through the entrance and peered into the darkness.
"Well," he said, "who's here, and what's the matter?"

A voice replied in stately Haûsa, "O, Effendi, I am close upon death,
and it is hard to die far from one's own lands and people."

"Let's have a look at you," said Carter, in what he knew of the same
tongue, eked out with Kroo and Okky.  He scraped a damp and reluctant
match.  "Holy Christopher!  What have you been doing to your thigh?"

"As I marched along the road to here, a leopard sprang and seized me,
but the men that were with me speared him, and so I escaped with my
life.  They made a litter, and on it carried me to this place.  And
here they left me in the hands of Allah, whilst they followed up their
own private affairs."

"But, man, the wound's alive.  Why didn't you have it dressed?"

"It was written that the wound should be as it is."

"Rot.  You stay here another ten minutes or so till I get the tackle,
and then I will clean it out for you."

"Effendi, it is written that Allah sent the things that are in the
wound, and with due submission I will not have them touched."

"Hum," said Carter, "now this requires argument.  You savvy
Constantinople?  I mean I'Stamboul?"

"There lives the Kaleef, the chief of the Faithful of Islam."

"You've got it in once.  Now, are you keeping yourself posted in the
Sultan's--that is the Kaleef's latest readings of the Koran?  You are
not.  I can see you have let yourself get thoroughly behind the times.
What's your name?"

"Ali ben Hossein."

"Well, Ali, I know what's the matter with you spiritually.  You've been
thinking too much of the things of this life--fighting, trading and so
on.  You've spread your mat and faced Mecca, and said your daily prayer
in a formal sort of way, but you've been neglecting the moolah.  You
have been lax in your attendance at mosque, and for a fiver you aren't
half the man at the Koran you used to be."

"The Effendi is very wise."

"I am.  I can't help it."

"He has hit upon this Believer's sin."

"Dead on the spot.  So now let's get to the point.  In your ignorance,
you believe that Allah sent all those crawling horrors that are in your
wound?"

"For His own wise purposes He sent them.  Allah can do no wrong."

"You are mixing up theological facts.  Allah can do no wrong.  But what
about Sheitan?"

"I spit upon his name, O Effendi," said Ali ben Hossein, and did it.

"Hear now then the pronouncement of the Kaleef Abdul Hamed of
I'Stamboul.  The unclean things that haunt the wounds of the Faithful
are no longer sent by Allah as a test of Faith.  They are sent now by
Sheitan as a torment to True Believers, and as an antidote, the
Prophet, through the Kaleef, has sent a liquid of his own devising, of
which by a happy chance I have a portion in the factory."

"Is it green in color?"

"Green as the skirts of the houris of Paradise," said Carter, and
thanked heaven for a small parcel of aniline dyes (green amongst them)
which had been sent by an enterprising Bradford dyeware merchant, to
the order of a dyer in far off Kano.

"Then," said Ali ben Hossein simply, "if you, O Effendi, can relieve me
from the torments of Sheitan, from which I am suffering, I and my sons
will remember your name in the fullest gratitude.  Have you the holy
liquid here?"

"Not in my pocket, O Ali ben Hossein, for I am not a djinn.  But there
is a medicine chest up at the factory, and within it is a bottle of
crystal, blue in color, in which are tabloids which bear the giaour
name of perchloride of mercury.  They and the aniline green may take a
bit of finding, but presently when I've got a solution made, and tinted
to a True Believer's taste, I will return here and work upon you that
cure of which I am sure that the Kaleef Abdul would approve if he'd a
thigh as bad as yours, and had ever heard of an antiseptic dressing.
So see to it that you don't slip through the gates of Paradise whilst I
am gone.  D'you understand?  The houris won't look twice at a Haûsa
with a leg as worm-eaten as yours."

Now, Carter gathered from a casual inspection by two damp matches that
ben Hossein's thigh was pretty bad, but he had not made allowance for
the toughness of a water-drinking, spare-eating Moslem.  When he came
back with a parrafin lamp, followed by White-Man's-Trouble, who carried
a bowl of warm water and other things, and commenced his amateur
surgery, he was amazed, and he was sickened.  Like most traders in the
West Coast factories, he had acquired through almost daily practice a
certain deftness in cleansing and repairing wounds; but here in the
thigh of this great muscular Haûsa was a grid of gashes whose untended
horrors went far beyond all his previous experience.

The fact that the man had not bled to death, or died of shock at the
first impact, and the further fact that he had withstood the attacks of
all the abominable live things that preyed thereafter upon his open
flesh, were a wonderful testimonial to his constitutional toughness;
and the detail that in spite of his fortitude he went clammy and limp
when Carter commenced dressing the wounds, was only what could be
expected.  But it seemed that five days had elapsed since the man had
been brought in and left, and during that time the other merchants
outside the fort, with the ordinary callousness of Africans for one
another, had neither brought him food nor reported his calamity.  On
the other hand, they had stolen his goods and gone their ways,
otherwise non-interferent.  And as a consequence the man was three
parts starved when Carter found him and had his vitality perilously
lowered.

Carter had, perhaps, as has been stated, much of the West Coast
trader's callousness for the native, but he certainly had all of the
surgeon's interest in a patient.  After he had dressed the wounds he
tried his best to bring his patient back to consciousness, and then for
the first time only did he realize how near to the Borderland the man
had crept.  He sent White-Man's-Trouble flying this way and that on his
errands, and with all the limited knowledge in his power fought Death
for the Haûsa's life till the fatal hour of dawn was well past.

And so he was found by Miss O'Neill at 5 A.M., white, shaken and
black-eyed, attired in stained and sodden clothes, squatting in a
miserable hutch that reeked of iodoform, and welcoming with joy Ali ben
Hossein's ungracious return to a world he had so nearly left.

Miss O'Neill regarded him for awhile with a pinched lip, and then "I
think you are perfectly disgraceful," said she.  "At least you might
have let me know what you were doing, so that I could have come to help
part of the time."

Carter blinked at her for a moment with tired brown eyes and then
pulled himself together.  "I beg your pardon for not doing as you
wished.  But I didn't know that you were interested in niggers, if
there was no chance of making a dividend out of them.  I rather looked
upon this as an out-of-office-hours job; as a piece of private
amusement of my own, in fact, and so I did not dare to repeat it."

"Well," said Kate, seating herself beside the sick man, "perhaps I was
hateful to you after supper, indeed I'll admit that I was.  But you are
being far more hateful to me now, and as that should tickle your vanity
as a man, perhaps you'll be generous enough to call it quits.  Trouble,
will you kindly take Mr. Carter back to the factory and give him a
large dose of quinine and all the hot, scalding tea he will drink, and
then put him to bed, and see to it that there are no insects inside his
mosquito bar."

"I fit," said the Krooboy.  "An' I got bottle of White man's medicine
dat I pinch from dem Cappie Image.  I give dem Carter a drink of him."

"You will do nothing of the sort.  Dem Cappie Image patent medicine
plenty bad ju-ju for Mr. Carter.  So you will do exactly as I ordered
you.  Ah, and here's Laura.  Now, my dear, if you don't want the man to
whom you're engaged to die before you marry him, you'd better look
after him and his health very narrowly.  There, get away out of this,
the pair of you, and make up your silly quarrel, whatever it may be."

"But, Kate, George and I have no quarrel.  Why, it was you----"

"If you haven't a quarrel, my dear, invent one, if it's only for the
amusement of making it up.  I'm told it's one of the chief luxuries of
an engagement.  Now, please go, or you'll disturb Hossein.  Hossein's
the man who wants attention here, and I can't have you bothering about
the place till he's better."

Hossein was in fact the lucky man.  Miss O'Neill, for reasons best
known to herself, nursed him in person; Carter retained his interest as
original discoverer; White-Man's-Trouble fussed round him because it
was the popular thing to do, and Laura was also diligent in her
attendance on the sick room for reasons well-known to herself.

But Ali ben Hossein had all a Moslem gentleman's diffidence with women,
and he said little enough to either Laura or Kate; the Krooboy was his
caste inferior, and he spoke to him only to give curt orders; and it
was to Carter alone that he was communicative.

His native tongue was Haûsa, of course, but he had been a trader all
his life, and that in West Africa entails a knowledge of languages.
Carter knew little enough of Haûsa, but he was handy with Okky and
sound on Kroo, and so when one vocabulary failed him, he passed on to
another, and was generally understood.  Thus, by very rapid degrees an
intimacy grew between them, to as far an extent as the color barrier
would permit.

They talked on weapons and they talked on war; they talked of sport as
each of them understood it; they talked on horse-breeding as it was
practised in Kano and Sokoto, and also of horse-breeding as it was
carried on in the Craven district and the Yorkshire dales.

Carter tried without any success whatever to make Hossein understand
the humor of the battle of the roses as it was waged between his father
and mother in the Yorkshire vicarage; the Haûsa in his turn gave the
light side of a slave-hunting raid, and made Carter's flesh creep.

They had abundant interests in common, too, in the romance of commerce,
and discussed regretfully the decay of ivory and the sensational rise
of rubber.  Carter as the paid servant of O'Neill and Craven tried to
hear of rubber lands which could be bought and resold to an English
company, but Ali ben Hossein was emphatic in his refusal to help a
white immigration onto the acres of his fatherland.

"Let us talk as traders, oh Effendi.  Do not ask me to be the traitor
who will make smooth the path for the invader.  And for the present I
bid you to consider this shortage in the supply of pink kola nuts.
Now, the white kola nuts, which have not that dryness which is demanded
by the palates of the Western Soudan, we can get from Lagos and the
Coast factories in larger quantities than ever.  But the growers
declare the crop of pink nuts to be practically a failure this year,
and therein I say they lie."

And so on, with matter which had too technical a flavor to carry
general interest.

Now, the leopard had clawed Ali ben Hossein's thigh grievously, and the
subsequent neglect of the wound had been abominable, but the man had
been a clean liver and his toughness was great.  In ten days he could
hobble, and in a fortnight announced his departure.

"I am a merchant without merchandise, Effendi, and must needs be back
about my affairs.  If I do not gather them into my hands again another
will."

"I'd stand you tick to the extent of a dozen loads of goods if I had
'em," said Carter cordially, "but as you've seen for yourself, the
factory's cleaned out.  And Allah knows when the next steamer will
drive in."

"May your tribe increase, Effendi.  I have had too much at your hands
already.  But though no money may pass over what you have done, yet I
ask you to accept a gift, that is a mere token."

It was a piece of gray stone which sprouted with rich brown crystals.
It was shaped like a squat duck, some inch and a half long, and Ali ben
Hossein wore it alongside the little leather parcel which held a verse
of the Koran and hung by a thong from his neck.

"O Effendi, you are young, and that will bring you pleasure more than
could be bought with ten quills of gold.  Wear that, and your grief
will fade."

"Poof!" said Carter, "I've no griefs."

Ali ben Hossein waved aside the statement with a long slim hand, the
hand of the Haûsa swordsman for whose narrow grip Central African
armorers make sword hilts that no grown Englishman can use.  "O
Effendi, my sickness was of the leg.  Neither my eyes nor my ears were
touched by the leopard, and since I lay here I have both seen and
heard.  There is a woman that I have watched, a woman with brown hair
that has in it the glint of copper.  She flaunts you now, as is the way
of women with those they love; but she is the one you desire, and
presently (having this charm) you will take her to wife.  Indeed, she
will come to your house without purchase and of free will."

"You mistake," said Carter with a sigh.  "It is the black-haired one
that I am contracted to marry."

Ben Hossein smiled.  He was not to be turned from his idea by a small
argument like that.  "You may take her as the lesser wife, but I know
who will rule your harem, Effendi."

"You polygamous old scoundrel!  I beg your pardon, ben Hossein, but
you're on the wrong tack, and so please let us change the subject.
This charm, this duck, is made of what we call tin-stone.  Does it come
from Haûsaland?"

"No, Effendi.  It is found nearer to here than the Haûsa country.
There is a great island of red twisted stone that rears itself up out
of the bush, and this stone that the duck is made of lies amongst it.
There is no value in the charm as a stone, but only value in its shape,
which is that of a duck as you see, Effendi.  Half the twisted mountain
is made of that stone, and the river that runs along its base at times
eats into it."

"How far is it from here?"

"Twelve--no, thirteen marches.  Look, I will spread this sand upon the
floor and draw you the roads....  But the country is evil, Effendi, and
though you go there and spend a lifetime in search, yet will you not
find another stone formed like a duck.  To get this, my grandfather
sent a hundred slaves who raked amongst the screes for a year."

"This is tin-ore," said Carter, "and I tell you frankly, ben Hossein,
that there is a fortune in what you have told me."

"I wish," said ben Hossein gravely, "that there were ten fortunes, and
so I could perhaps repay one-tithe of what I owe to you, Effendi.  May
Allah be with you.  I go now back towards my people, and if Allah will,
we shall meet again."

"Now, this stone and this tale must go to Kate," said Carter to
himself, and went in towards the factory and up the stairs to the
veranda.  Kate came out of the mess room to meet him, and waved a
cablegram.

"I have just de-coded it," she cried exultingly.  "They have accepted
my terms."

"I wish you would de-code the 'they.'"

"The German firm that owned Mokki before we came."

"What, the people you bought it from?"

She nodded.

"But why on earth sell it back to them?"

"Because, my dear Mr. Carter, they are going to give me £9,000 for the
produce we have collected, and another £8,000 for the fort and the
good-will of the business.  How's that?  £17,000 cash against a £1,500
outlay in three months.  That's better than staying out here in West
Africa."

Carter had been carrying the duck in his hand.  He put it into his
pocket.  "I don't wonder you're exultant.  I suppose no other girl on
earth ever made a coup like that.  And as for us here at the factory,
that means our occupation's gone?"

"Oh, I hope you'll go back to Malla-Nulla, where you were, and work for
us there."

"I think not.  As you're going home, and I cannot be of any immediate
use to O'Neill and Craven, I prefer to leave the firm's employ if
you'll let me?"

"We shall be really sorry to lose you.  But perhaps you have something
better in view?"

"To tell the truth, I have.  And it strikes me if I'm to make a
fortune, I must look out for it myself."

"I quite agree with you," said Kate.  "What was that you were going to
show me?  The thing you put in your pocket, I mean?"

"A keepsake that was given me.  It's a charm, a ju-ju that will bring
fortune to somebody, and I was going to give it to you.  But on your
own recommendation I shall keep it for myself."

"You are quite right.  It will be safer for us to go our own several
ways from here."



CHAPTER XIII

AT THE LIVERPOOL END

Now, Godfrey O'Neill, deceased, was a man who at various times in his
life had extracted from West Africa very considerable sums of money.
He was shrewd, he was popular, he had the knack of resisting sickly
climates, and he knew the possibilities of the Oil Rivers seaboard down
to the last bag of kernels.

According to his own account he had started life as a ship's purser.
People who were more fond of accuracy mentioned that as a matter of
history he had first gone as cabin-boy in a palm oil brig.  But be that
as it may, he had been associated with the Coast from his earliest
days, and at the age of five-and-twenty was trading there on his own
account.

At first he stuck to an old trading hulk with moorings in the muddy
Monk River and battled with its swarms of cockroaches and got together
a business; but by degrees he gained the confidence of the native
riparian magnates, and by the time he was thirty he had built on piles
a fine set of factory buildings on the bank, had bought a treaty with
the then King of Okky, and had built another factory at Malla-Nulla in
spite of the fact that the beach there was one of the most surf-smitten
on the Coast.  After that he felt that his Liverpool correspondents
were getting more than their due share of his hard-wrung profits, and
so he put the Coast factories under managers and came back to the
Mersey.  And thereafter, with occasional visits to the Coast and the
Islands, he made Liverpool his headquarters.

He had an office in Water Street, a warehouse near Huskisson Dock, and
a house furnished with mid-Victorian solidity and ugliness out at
Princes' Park.  A sister, Mrs. Craven, whose unsatisfactory husband had
conveniently died on the Coast, kept house for him, and as she voted
marriage a failure, Godfrey professed himself as quite ready to take
her verdict and was not anxious to dabble in dangerous experiments.

Finally, as Godfrey O'Neill discovered, after a two years' trial of the
style of living that suited him at Princes' Park, that it cost him just
£900 a year, he saw very little use in bestirring himself to earn more.
He quite admitted that there were other luxuries in the world that he
did not indulge in.  He might have kept horses, for instance; but he
happened to dislike them.  He might have had a French chef; only plain
roast beef and plain roast mutton appealed more to his appetite, and a
plain British cook at £20 a year produced these exactly to his taste.
He might have had a larger house, but frankly he did not want one.

So he went down to the office in Water Street every other day, and
ceased to stir the business there when it showed any signs of averaging
a more than £1,500 profit for any one year, not because he objected to
additional wealth, but because he far preferred to play whist to
pursuing money.  One may here own freely that Godfrey O'Neill was an
active member of no less than five whist quartettes which met at clubs
and houses, and there was the amusement which after long search he had
discovered pleased him best.

In the comfortable ugly house in Princes' Park, besides Godfrey and
Mrs. Craven, and the two servants, there was a child who afterwards
developed into the Kate O'Neill of these memoirs.  Godfrey O'Neill
brought her home on the last visit he made to West Africa.  She was
then aged, at a theoretical reckoning, three years, and she was more
fluent in the Okky tongue than in English.  She had never worn shoes
till Godfrey bought her a pair in Las Palmas on the voyage home.

"Is she white?" Mrs. Craven had asked.

"White, clean through," Godfrey had assured her.

"Then who are her people?"

"That I shall not tell even you.  Her mother is dead.  Her father has
gone under.  He was a very clever man once, though I must say he used
to be more high and mighty than I cared about on the rare occasions
that I met him.  But, as I say, he's gone under, hopelessly."

"And presently," said Mrs. Craven, "when we get this little wild thing
tamed, and clothed, and teach her to speak English and go to church, up
will come some drunken reprobate to take her away again."

"No, he won't.  I've fixed that.  He'll never claim her again.  To
start with he doesn't know if she's in England, or Canada, or Grand
Canary.  I even changed the name he called her by.  I called her Kate
from the day I left him, and had her christened by that name in Sierra
Leone on the off chance she hadn't been christened before.  And to go
on with, he gave me his word of honor that if I took her away, he'd
never embarrass me by inquiring for her again.  You see, he was living
as a native, and the child was running about with the other
pickaninnies in the village, and I guess I made him pretty well ashamed
of himself by what I said.  The mother's dead, you know."

"Poof," said Mrs. Craven, "he promised you, did he?  And what do you
suppose the word of a man like that is worth?"  (The late Craven had,
it will be remembered, his strong failings.)

"Ninety-nine beach combers out of a hundred will lie as soon as look at
you," Godfrey owned.  "This one is the exception.  He will keep his
word, at any rate on this matter.  He's just as proud as a king."

"Between drinks," suggested the widow.

"He's more objectionably proud drunk than sober.  He always quotes
Latin at one when he's full, and then says, 'Ah, but you've not been to
school anywhere, so you'll not understand that.'  You needn't be
frightened he'll call here, Jane.  Just remember I'm a man with a taste
for ease myself.  If I'd thought there was the smallest chance of being
bothered with him, I shouldn't have saddled myself with the kid."

"Well," said Mrs. Craven, "as you have brought her, I suppose we must
do the best we can for her.  The average orphanage doesn't take them
till they are six, but I suppose if we hunt round we can find some sort
of institution which will accept three-year-olds."

"Orphanage, h'm.  You see, Jane, I was thinking we might keep her
ourselves.  I am sure we could look after her."

"I object to the word 'we,'" said Mrs. Craven dryly.

"Oh, I suppose most of the work would fall on your shoulders."

"I am sure of it."

"Come along, old lady, don't you think you can manage it?  Kitty isn't
a bad sort of kid.  Y'know, I saw a goodish deal of her on the steamer
coming home."

"I thought you gave her in charge of a steward?"

"I never told you that."

Mrs. Craven laughed.  "You see, I know your little ways--'Steward,
here's a girl for you.  If you nursery-maid the kid nicely till we get
to Liverpool, and don't let me see more of her than I want, and don't
let her come in and prattle when I'm playing whist with Captain Image,
there'll be another quid for you when we land.  After that my sister
will take her over, and she won't want a tip at all.'"

"H'm," said Godfrey, "now, diamonds aren't in your line."

"I wouldn't be seen with one.  I'll take a brown cloth gown, please."

"Shall I order it?"

"No, you can pay the bill."

"Right-o.  Then you will take Kitty and bring her up here?"

"You stupid goose," said Mrs. Craven, "I intended that from the moment
I saw her.  Cook's out buying her a cot this minute."

      *      *      *      *      *

Here then was the way that Kate first came into the house at Princes'
Park.  She arrived without a surname, and Godfrey, in spite of hints
and plain questions, kept back any further pedigree.  The child
arranged a name for herself.  When she had been a year in England she
went out to a small folks' party:

"Let me see, what's your name?" asked the hostess, who had got tangled
up among her many small guests.

The child had answered "Kate O'Neill," as a matter of course.  She had
called Mrs. Craven, Aunt Jane, and her brother Uncle Godfrey from the
first, and after that juvenile party she was introduced as "my niece,
Kate O'Neill."

As she grew, anything to do with West Africa and with business
fascinated her, and curiously enough her principal instructor in these
matters was Mrs. Craven.  Godfrey, honest man, was not going to be
bothered.  His repartee when Kate asked him anything about the Coast
was, "Go and invite some one to come in and let's make up a rubber of
whist."  When one day he died, and left Kate the O'Neill and Craven
business, both she and her aunt supposed he had done it as an effort of
humor.

Mrs. Craven had the house and furniture at Princes' Park, and a
comfortable annuity to keep it up on.  Kate came into a business that
had been thoroughly neglected, and allowed to run down till it was in a
very shaky position, indeed, financially.

"Sell it," said Mrs. Craven, "for what it will fetch."

"I'd rather run it myself," said Kate.

"Rubbish," said her aunt; "you're twenty, and the world's before you to
enjoy.  Besides, my dear, you're sure to marry.  Sell the business."

"If you want plain facts, aunt, I don't see why anyone should give
sixpence for it, and if we tried to wind it up, it would mean
bankruptcy.  Some of the money's a very long way out."

"Your poor Uncle Godfrey intended to leave you comfortably off, I know."

"And I'm pleased to think he died believing he had done so.  They had
the quaintest way of keeping books down at Water Street.  Cutting
notches on a tally-stick was nothing to some of their dodges.  They
hadn't struck a proper balance sheet for years, and both Uncle Godfrey
and Mr. Crewdson really and honestly imagined that the firm was
flourishing."

"You sell," said Mrs. Craven.

"Not I, aunt.  Uncle Godfrey left me the concern believing it to be a
small fortune for me, and a fortune I'm going to make out of it, and
not a small one, either."

"I don't believe in business women," said Mrs. Craven severely.  "I'd
rather see a womanly woman."

"My dear," said Kate, "you shall see the two combined in me presently.
I'm going to make a ve-ry large and extensive fortune; but the moment
you see anything unfeminine about me, I want you to tell me, and I'll
sell out forthwith."

Thereafter from eight o'clock A.M. to six-thirty P.M. for five days a
week Kate sat in an inner room of the Water Street office, with the
ancient Crewdson as a buffer between her and the world.  She came into
the place with a talent for figures, and a good general idea of the
business, and she set herself first to the conversion of Mr. Crewdson.

That worthy old person was entirely of opinion that what was good
enough for poor Mr. Godfrey was quite good enough for anybody else, and
(when pressed) said so with unfriendly plainness.  A man, in Kate's
shoes, would have dismissed him, and brought in younger blood.  Kate
preferred conversion.  She knew that there was a great quarry of
information on matters West African stowed beneath Mr. Crewdson's dull
exterior, and she intended to dig at it.  So she reduced his wages,
which he quite agreed with her the firm could not afford, and then,
unasked, offered him a fine commission on the next year's profits.  It
was curious to see how soon she galvanized him into an opinion that
these profits must certainly be forthcoming.

She laid in a typewriter, burned the office quills, wrote the firm's
letters, signed them _For O'Neill and Craven, K. O'Neill_, and before
she knew it had created a personality.  Ten callers a day--captains,
pursers, traders, merchants--wanted to shake hands with "your new head,
Mr. K.," and went away with the idea that old Crewdson had suddenly
developed capacity, and on the strength of it had stood himself a new
signature.

On Saturdays, during the summer, Miss O'Neill caught butterflies, and
in the winter played golf.  On Sunday morning she went to church.  On
Sunday afternoons and evenings she had something very nearly
approaching a salon.  On these latter occasions Mrs. Craven flattered
herself that she brought success by her artistic attention to the
commissariat.

Now, the girl was attractive to men, and although she was emphatically
a girl's girl, still she had as many friends of one sex as the other.
She was good-looking, she was amusing, she was always well turned out,
and she carried about with her that indescribable charm (above and
beyond these other matters) which always makes people desirous of
warming up a first acquaintance into intimacy.

To one man only had she shown any special degree of preference, and he
was enough encouraged thereby to propose marriage to her.

She accepted him--provisionally.

"I am not absolutely certain that I wish to be married just yet," she
told him, "but I am going abroad now, and I will let you know
definitely when I return.  Those are not nice terms, but they are the
best I can offer.  I have always been able to give a 'yes' or 'no'
decision on every other matter in life so far.  But here I can't.  It
is weak of me.  Perhaps it is merely womanly."

"You are exquisite in your womanliness, as you are exquisite in
everything else," he had replied.  "I am grateful for any bone of
comfort you throw me, Kitty dear."

She was going away then to West Africa, as has been related above, and
the man saw her off from the landing stage.  She returned the waving of
his handkerchief.  "Now, if you had abused me for my indecision, and
said you would either be engaged or not engaged, I believe I'd have
married you out of hand if you'd wanted me.  But you didn't seem able
to clinch things, and so anyhow you're pigeon-holed for the present.
I'm glad I made you keep our little matter secret."

The man's name was Austin.  Many times during the voyage south through
the Bay, and down the Trades from the Islands, Kate told herself she
ought to announce the fact that she was engaged.  But on every occasion
her femininity got up in arms.  "Certainly not," said this intangible
force.  "Mr. Austin is a man, and if he cares to be a man and gossip,
why let him.  But a woman by reason of her sex is not called upon to
say more than she needs."  So Kate held her tongue, and regretted more
and more every day that--well--that she should have cause for regrets.

When she got back to England, a day ahead of time, Aunt Jane happened
to be in London, but Austin had a wire from Point Lynas and was there
on the landing stage to meet her.  He wanted to kiss her there before
the world, but she had the advantage of height, and avoided him
skilfully and without advertisement.  Their subsequent handshake was
somewhat of a failure.

"Hullo, Henry," said Miss O'Neill, "fancy seeing you here.  I suppose
you will try and make out you came down here to the landing stage on
purpose to meet me?  How abominably hot Liverpool is, and how
atrociously the Mersey smells after that nice clean Smooth River.  Have
you caught me any butterflies?  I've brought four cases full home from
the Coast, and I honestly believe I've got two unnamed specimens.  If
they turn out new, I shall christen one after myself--something
O'Neillii.  There's vanity for you!  And now for the Customs House."

"Is that all you have to say to me, Kitty?  I've been just hungry all
the time to see you again.  I don't think a single hour of a single day
has passed but what I have thought of you, and where you were, and what
you were doing."

"Well, Henry, that's more than I could say.  Here, wait till I catch
that porter's eye.  He's taking my cabin trunk to the wrong heap.
About what was in my head between here and the Coast, I'll not say, but
once out there, I'll tell you frankly I gave little enough thought to
anything except Coast interests.  The first place I went ashore at
after Sierra Leone was our own factory at Smooth, and they'd had a
fight there which only ended up when our whistle blew.  The clearing
between the factory buildings and the forest was full of dead men.  I
found out that no fewer than 800 Okky savages had attacked the place,
and they were all held off by one of our clerks with a couple of
Winchesters, and a half-caste girl who loaded for him.  It sounds like
a tale out of a book, and you needn't believe it unless you like; I
don't think I should believe it unless I had seen things for myself,
but I did see the men who had been actually shot when they tried to
rush the place, and I can guarantee the truth of the story."

"Don't tell me there's a romance between you and your clerk."

"There wasn't room for one.  He was engaged to the heroine already, and
was as consistently rude to me as he knew how.  But I don't mind
telling you he was a magnificent fellow.  He was a gentleman, too,
which is rather a rare thing to find on the Coast.  But you're letting
me do all the talk.  You haven't told me about yourself.  What have you
been doing?"

"The usual work of a busy solicitor; getting new clients, and sticking
to the old ones.  I can report good, steady success, Kitty.  We can
start pretty comfortably."

A Customs searcher put his usual questions, and Kate smiled on him and
said she had nothing to declare.  He scrawled a chalk hieroglyphic on
all her property without opening a single piece.  "There, look, Henry,
stop that porter.  He's taking a case of mine to the wrong cab.
Thanks, I wouldn't have lost that case for a king's ransom."

"Butterflies?"

"No, a native war horn in ivory."

"Oh, they're fairly common."

"Yes, but a friend gave me this, and I want to keep it.  There, I think
that's the lot.  Good-by, Henry.  You'll come and see me at Princes'
Park when I'm settled down again?"

"But, Kitty, can't I drive out with you now?  I'd so looked forward to
driving back with you.  There's plenty of room in the cab."

"No," said Kate, "I'd rather you went home now, and thought over again
what I'm like now that I've come back to England with a West Coast
flavor.  I know you'll disapprove of me as a possible wife, but I do
hope you'll see your way of keeping me on the list of your friends.
Nobody knows you ever suggested anything more, unless you have told
them, and I don't see why they should know.  But I'm more than ever
convinced that I'm not the girl to make you the wife you deserve.
Don't answer me now, there's a nice boy.  Just go to the club and have
a good dinner, and ring me up some time this evening and say you
thoroughly agree with me."

Mrs. Craven came back that evening from London and Kate told her of
West Africa happenings with a fine wealth of detail.

The old lady looked at her very narrowly and when she had finished,
"Yes, my dear," said she, "and now are you going to tell me something
that will interest me far more than all that?"

"No, Aunt, I think you have got the pith of it."

"If you won't tell, you won't.  But you must remember, Kitty dear, I
have known you and nursed you ever since you were a tiny child, and you
can't change--as you have done--without my noticing it.  Now, this Mr.
Carter----"

"Yes, I did forget to tell you that he's got frightfully red hair."

"You say he's engaged to Laura Slade?"

"Oppressively so."

"But is he going to marry her?"

"How can I tell, Aunt?"

"Who is he going to marry, Kitty dear?"



CHAPTER XIV

TIN HILL: THE JOURNEY

Now, lead-mining has been stopped in Upper Wharfedale these thirty
years, but still a boy who has been brought up in a village there may
well have some general knowledge of ores and the methods of getting
them.  The mining first began in those dim British days before the
Romans came, and it has continued on down through the centuries till
the influx of foreign lead brought prices below £25 a ton, and the
mines could not be worked at a profit.

Raw dumps and grass-covered dumps are traceable on every hand, and
though the older tunnels are obliterated, there are still enough shafts
and drifts and adits to be found in the gray stone hills to occupy many
months' exploration.

George Carter had heard of the past glories of lead from his earliest
years, and old residents pointed to the ruined cottages that were
filled and flourishing when the village held 500 people who lived by
the mines, instead of the 200 who dwelt there now and made a lean
living out of a little limp farming.  With pockets stuffed with
candle-ends he had splashed into the old levels and wandered for miles
in the heart of the limestone hills and hacked with rusty pickheads at
forgotten working faces; he had raked amongst the old ruined machinery
beside the dumps; he had studied the run of the water races, and as far
as a man with a natural engineering bent may reconstruct these things
from memorials of the past, he had done so most thoroughly, and, in the
old unscientific way, was as good a miner as any of those blue-gummed
ruffians of the past, and that without even having seen a lead mine in
real work.

Tin-stone he had seen in a not very well-equipped school museum; a tin
mine he knew only from an old book on Cornwall, which treated that
country more from the picturesque point of view than the mechanical or
the scientific.

But the thing that had fired his mind one baking day at Malla-Nulla was
a newspaper paragraph which spoke of the price of tin.  Up till then,
like the majority of the human race, he had not troubled his head as to
whether tin was £5 a ton or £50.  But here he saw that it had gone up
to no less a figure than £207 10s. per ton.  He wished he could find a
tin mine, but concluding he might as well search that particular part
of steamy West Africa for great auk's eggs, went no further than
framing the wish.

Then came the happenings at Mokki, and Ali ben Hossein's parting gift
of the little gray stone duck which had unmistakable brown tin crystals
for its head, its wings and its feet, and on the top of all arrived
Kate's cablegram.  A sweating operator had read that message from under
sea, as it winked out in a darkened cable hut; runners had carried the
curt words along roaring beaches, paddlers had borne them by canoe up
muddy creeks, a great bank in far-off Hamburg had pledged the
performance of their promise.  A day later the slatternly S.S. _Frau
Pobst_ lurched untidily up the muddy creeks, and commenced to ease the
factory buildings of their overflowing wealth of West African produce.

Carter itched to be off.  It had come to this; he could not trust
himself in Kate's neighborhood.  Laura Slade saw, or fancied she saw
how things were, and bravely asked him one day to break their
engagement.

But Carter drew her down onto the office chair beside him and put an
arm round her and kissed her.  "Now," he said, "tell out frankly who it
is that you like better than you like me?"

"It isn't that, George."

"Well, as Cascaes is the only alternative, I didn't suppose it was.
Come now, out with it, what's the trouble?  I suppose you're just going
to be a woman and tell me it's my fault?  I don't agree with you.  I'm
the same me as always was--red hair, large feet, and as big an appetite
as the Coast will allow."

She put her face against his shoulder.  "It's Kate, George."

"You must let me refer to her as Miss O'Neill," said Carter dryly.
"You see, she's my employer--or was--and we're naturally not on
intimate terms--  Well, what's Miss O'Neill got to do with my marrying
you?"

"She's always been opposed to it."

"Twaddle!  Now, look here, my dear, you've been nervy and upset ever
since that bit of a scrap at Smooth River.  Now, haven't you?"

"I suppose I have."

"I'm sure of it.  And it's not surprising.  That was a pretty tough
time for any girl to go through.  Well, as I've told you, I've got my
nose onto a fortune that's tucked away up in the bush, and I'm going to
look for it.  In the meanwhile, as I managed to screw sixty golden
sovereigns out of that greedy old Balgarnie for curios that he'll sell
for at least a hundred and forty, there's just that amount of cash to
take you on a jaunt to Grand Canary for rose growing."

"Rose growing?"

"To put color in your cheeks, then, you pale young person."

"But I couldn't take the money from you."

"And pray who has a greater right to take care of you, and prescribe
what's best for you, and look after you generally?  D'you think I want
to marry a wife who isn't in the pink of condition?"

"I like to look nice for you, dear, but I couldn't take that money from
you now of all times."

"How do you mean?"

"When you are just going off on some desperate expedition into the
bush, and want every penny that can be scraped together."

Carter laughed.  "There you go, wanting to lead me into temptation.
Wanting me to take money in my pocket to buy (presumably) kid gloves
and fire-escapes in the shops of the bush villages, and spend my nights
in local music halls.  Fie on you that will one of these days have to
turn into a thrifty wife!  I shall avoid these temptations.  I shall
travel as unostentatiously as possible, and so ensure getting through.
I shall take with me White-Man's-Trouble only, if the beggar will
condescend to go and live on native chop, for the best of all possible
reasons that it wouldn't be possible to take a lot of carriers.  Can't
you see, my dear, that the choice lies between a three-thousand-pound
expedition, with carriers, and all the rest of it, and going quietly,
and being too obviously poor to rob?"

"I suppose there is something in that.  Father went quietly."

"Of course he did, and so shall I.  Some day, if things pan out as I
hope, I may march up country at the tail end of a brass band, and do
the thing in style; but not to-morrow, thank you.  So if you won't take
charge of our superfluous £60 and decorate Grand Canary with it, I'm
hanged if I don't dash it amongst the factory boys here, and have one
flaring jamboree before we part company."

"Oh, George, you are good!"

"Don't you fret about my goodness, old lady.  I'm a pretty bad fellow
at the bottom, only I try and keep my worst points out of your sight.
Man has to, you know, with the girl he's engaged to.  It's only playing
the game.  Now, you let me go, and I'll just slip across to the _Frau_
and blarney her old Dutch skipper into giving you the best room he's
got to fight the cockroaches in."

It was on a Thursday that the _Frau Pobst_ steamed away back down the
muddy creeks laden with one of the richest cargoes that one single
factory had ever collected in West Africa, and on that same day Carter
set off into the bush.  Kate and Laura were to brave the terrors of the
steamer together as far as the Islands, and they found the boat even
more unspeakable than they had imagined her from the outrageous
descriptions of Captain Image and Mr. Balgarnie.

      *      *      *      *      *

Now, as regards the matter of that £60, Carter, to put the matter
bluntly, had lied.  With the King of Okky doing what he could to keep
the country side in a ferment, to go up into the bush even with a
strong party, and well provided, was risky.  To go with empty pockets,
and with no following, seemed very little short of suicide.

But Carter refused to see it in this light.  "I'm tough," he told
himself, "and I've worked up a certain reputation for ju-ju.  If I use
my wits I shall get through, and be successful.  I absolutely refuse to
die here in Africa.  I've promised to marry Laura, and, let it cost
what it may, I'm going to do it.  I must; I've promised; and, besides,
she's absolutely no other prospect before her.  But I do wish to
goodness I'd a decent shotgun.  I'm no kind of hand with this badly
balanced Winchester."

So, with a high courage, he addressed himself to departure, and invited
White-Man's-Trouble with the promise of goods, lands, goats, wives,
guns, and the other things that go to make up a Krooboy competency, to
accompany him.  It was without surprise that he received a flat refusal.

"O Carter," said his servant, "I no fit for lib for bush.  I got
'nother palaver too-much-important here at factory.  Dem headman of
factory boys say to me, 'Sar, you been stand-by-at-crane boy on
steamah?  An' I say, 'Sar, I plenty-much-too-good educate.'  And he say
to me, 'Sar, you fit for lib here an' take dem job of second headman?'
An' I say to him, 'Sar, I fit.'  O Carter, if I lib for bush with you,
an' let Okky-men spear me, an' leopards chop me, I dam fool."

"You're a cheerful animal.  If you think you are more likely to get an
archbishopric by staying here, by all means stay.  Hope you'll like the
Dutchmen when they come."

White-Man's-Trouble crooked a bunch of fingers, and scratched his ribs.
"O Carter, dem Dutchman all-e-same bush-Englishmen?"

"You've got it in once.  I've no doubt they're a most degraded lot."

"Dem Dutchman he no have as much savvy as an Englishman?"

"Nowhere near.  They wouldn't have chucked up the factory in the first
instance if they had, and in the second no Englishman would have bought
it back again at such an absurd figure as they were fools enough to pay
Missy Kate."

"O Carter?"

"Well?"

"I fit for steal small-small sometimes from Englishmen?"

"I can guarantee that, you scamp."

"Then," said White-Man's-Trouble triumphantly, "I fit for steal
plenty-much-big from Dutchman, an' he no savvy."

"You'll taste abundance of chiquot, my lad."

The Krooboy snapped a piebald thumb and finger.  "I take chiquot from
Englishman, not from bush-Englishman.  If he flog me with chiquot, I
put ju-ju on him--"  He picked up an empty bottle and handled it
thoughtfully.  "Ju-ju, if dem Dutchmen give me chiquot."

"Of the powdered-glass variety in his morning sausage," said Carter
thoughtfully.  "Well, it would be no use warning the poor devils,
because, in the first place, they wouldn't believe me, and in the
second they'd get it all the same.  I guess these new colonizers must
worry out the methods of dealing with the natives for themselves, as
their betters did before them.  And for myself, I fancy a knapsack will
be the wear.  Thank the Lord, I've tramped a good many hundred miles
with one before."

      *      *      *      *      *

Now, Carter was strong, and he carried, moreover, a high courage and a
fierce energy, which even the steamy atmosphere of the West Coast could
not damp.  Malaria he had with a certain regular periodicity, but he
was one of those rare men who threw off the attacks with speed, and
suffered little from their after effects.  He was essentially moderate
in his habits of life, carrying a healthy hunger but never overeating,
being neither a drunkard nor a teetotaller through fear of drink.
Moreover, he did not abuse quinine, coffee, tobacco or drugs.  As a
consequence, in that much-anathematized climate he preserved a very
level health and energy, and owned a normal mind where most men were
either hysterical or morbid.

He had come ashore at Malla-Nulla, when he first landed on that ugly
beach from the _M'poso_, with two Gladstone bags.  One of these had
been looted by some light-fingered merchant of the interior.  The other
still remained with him, and had journeyed to Mokki.  Its notable tint
of yellow had long since vanished.  In places it was mottled black with
mildew, and the rest of the surface was a good mulatto brown.  The
fastenings had burst, and been replaced by rope.

He looked at it with a moment's indecision.  It would make a vastly
ugly knapsack--but--it represented one of his few remaining possessions
in the world.  (The £60, or, to be precise, the sum of £57 6s. 10d.,
which he had forced Laura to carry off, had emptied his purse to the
dregs.)  And as he could not make up his mind to desert the bag, he
packed what things he thought essential within its leaky leather sides,
arranged rope beckets for his shoulders, slung it on his back, tucked
the Winchester aforesaid under his arm, and set off down the narrow
forest road which ben Hossein had indicated, without further word of
farewell with anybody.

The heat of noon had just faded, but the eighteen-inch wide road was
walled in with dense high bush, and the air down in that narrow cut was
breathless and stagnant.  When the road curved away from the sun and
the high walls threw a shadow, Carter waited for a moment and panted;
when the sun teemed rays of molten brass directly down on him from
overhead, he hurried; and so moved on at an average gait of three miles
to the hour, which is good travelling for West Africa.

It is curious how the brain works in these hours of discomfort and
abnormal stress.  The one thing that occupied Carter's mind was a
rather good specimen of Okky war horn.  It had been of ivory, massive,
well-carved, and with a mouthpiece of more than usual elaboration.  In
fact, it was the finest specimen he had come across, and he was a
judge.  He had purchased it from its native owner to copy for Mr.
Balgarnie's markets.  But he had seen Kate's eye upon it just before
the _Frau Pobst_ took her away, and with the impulse of the moment had
given it to her.  She took it at once, and thanked him lightly enough,
and he told himself, forgot it a moment later.  A thousand times he
called himself an ass for trying to keep in her memory.  What was he, a
factory clerk, to Miss O'Neill?  And what, indeed, was Miss O'Neill to
him--an engaged man?

The bush rustled back at him: "Laura is--well, what you know.  Laura's
got a lick of the tar brush.  Laura is probably the identical person a
certain reverend gentleman in Upper Wharfedale especially warned you
against.  Laura may pass muster in Grand Canary, but she won't do
further North.  Fancy Laura in Wharfedale!"  Good God, in Wharfedale!
Now he came to think of it, he had never talked to Laura about home,
and the moors, and the grouse, and the roses.

He laughed noisily at his fancies, and a flock of red and gray parrots
came on to the tree tops above and cawed at him.  Well, after all,
there were plenty of Englishmen who lived out of England.  He might
initiate a new era.  He might be one of the first English colonists who
looked upon West Africa as a home, not a place of exile.  He rubbed the
sweat from his face with a long forefinger and plodded on--  Why not?
He seemed to have the knack of health.  Why should not he and Laura
become powers in the Oil Rivers?  They might well rise to the rule of
cities and territories.

Then a voice brought him to earth again.  Someone hailed him from the
rear.  "Carter, O Carter!"

It was the excellent White-Man's-Trouble, who came up sullen,
frightened and abusive.  His cheek-bones were whitened with lime, in
token of some ju-ju charm.  He took over the battered Gladstone bag,
and balanced it on the centre plot of his own elaborately shaven
cranium.

"I no fit for lib at dem factory an' know you carry dem load in dem
dam-fool way," said the Krooboy crustily.

They pulled up that night at a small terror-shivering village, and
quartered themselves on the headman.  He made no secret of his
displeasure at their visit.  Carter talked of the glories of Mokki, and
the advantages of having a steady stream of trade pouring through one's
territory.  The headman pointed out with peevish annoyance that the
King of Okky frowned upon Mokki in particular and trade in general, and
that the King's displeasure was generally fatal to those on whom it
fell, even though they had the happiness to live beyond his marches.
But in spite of his gloomy reception, he set before his guests a portly
bowl of kanki, when his women had cooked it, and himself ate a pawful
from the calabash as a testimonial to its freedom from poison.

They spread their sleeping mats that night in the dark hut from which
the headman's fowls had been driven to make room for them, and next
morning Carter collected some wing feathers and some bits of wood, and
made a windmill to amuse the children who swarmed about the compound.
Presently there arrived the headman, who saw the toy spinning in the
breeze, and annexed it.  He and White-Man's-Trouble harangued one
another with much noise and gesture, and then there was a bustle in the
village, and the cooking fires burned strongly.  The headman's gloom
had dropped from him like a discarded cloth; he wore in its place an
air of oily obsequiousness that showed he could be quite the courtier
upon occasion.

They breakfasted that morning on no mere kanki.

"Dem," said White-Man's-Trouble, pointing to the three great bowls,
"dem hen-chop, dem monkey-chop, an' dem dug-chop."

"Quack-quack dug?"

"No, bow-wow dug."

"Ugh!" said Carter, "I'll leave these rich dainties to you and His Nibs
there.  Let me have a go at the stewed fowl.  Great Christopher!  No
wonder rubber's so hard to collect in this country when they use up so
much to make legs for their chickens.  Well, thank heaven for sound
teeth and a tough inside!"

"I tell dem headman," said the Krooboy when they had started their
day's march, "that dem windmill will be fine ju-ju.  I say to him, 'You
savvy dem fight at Smooth River factory?'  An' he savvy plenty.  All
the bush savvy of dem fight.  So I tell him me an' you, we keep dem
Okky-men away by ourselves, an' shoot most of them, an' kill more by
dem talking-god.  So dem headman savvy we plenty-big ju-ju men, an' we
no fit eat kanki for breakfast."

"My dear Trouble, your powers of diplomacy are only equalled by your
personal appearance.  Keep it up.  If your eloquence can carry us
through the country on the free hotel list it will save a lot of
trouble both for us and for everybody else we come near.  I like to
think of myself as an adventurous knight exploring the black heart of
Africa, but I suppose in the States they'd call us a pair of hoboes,
and set the watch-dogs at us--  Gee!  Look at that!"

The rifle dropped to Carter's shoulder and cracked.  A herd of small
deer were crossing the narrow road ahead of them, and one of them
tripped and fell, and there was payment for their next night's lodging.

Thirteen days' march Ali ben Hossein had called it to the hill where an
unnamed river scoured the foot of a red-streaked bluff, and Carter, who
was lean and strong and wiry, flattered himself on being able to walk
as well as any Moslem in Haûsaland.  But the fact remained that more
than three times thirteen days passed before they reached the place,
and the perils of the way proved many and glaring.  In some of the
villages the headmen proved hospitable; in others they would have
neither truck nor dealing with any callers whatever.

The country was full of war and unrest, and there was no doubt that it
was desperately poor.  The cassava grounds were unplanted, the millet
was unsown, the banana gardens were wantonly slashed and ruined.  The
small bush farmer is a creature of nerves, and he stands adversity
badly.  Put him under a strong over-lord, and he will serve gladly and
efficiently.  Leave him to himself, and when things go awry with him
for too many weeks together he is apt to suddenly give up the struggle,
and sit down with chin on his knees, and quietly starve to death.  One
cannot reckon far upon the moods of a man who is ridiculously
unenthusiastic over his own life or his neighbors'.

But at one place they marched in upon red war.

The village lay amongst its farm lands in a break of the forest, and
the gaps between the houses had been filled with thorns.  Shots came
from it at intervals, and were answered by the shots of invisible
marksmen who lay within the edge of the forest.  The sun glared high
overhead in a fleckless sky.  The air was salt with the smoke of the
crude trade powder.

White-Man's-Trouble counselled retreat.

"Yes, that's all right," said Carter irritably.  "No one wants to ram
his head into a scrap less than I do.  But where the deuce can we go
to?  There's been no single branch to this road we've come along, and
the bush on each side is about the thickest in Africa.  Nothing short
of a regiment of men with matchets would make a path through it
anywhere.  Going back to that last village means getting skewered.  All
the way along I've been wondering how on earth we got out of it without
having at least ten spears rammed into each of us."

"O Carter, I no fit to go get mixed in dem fight palaver."

"You're so beastly unoriginal.  Why go on repeating the same thing?
I'd like further to point out that we've not had a bite to eat for
twenty-four hours, and I personally can't go on living on my own fat
without inconvenience, as you seem to do."

"No savvy."

"Well, to translate, I say I plenty-much fit for chop."

White-Man's-Trouble rubbed the waistband of his trousers tenderly.
"Me, too," he admitted.

"Then, as there is only starvation and other unpleasant things behind,
I'm going ahead to prospect.  Gee!  There's somebody on this side with
a rifle.  And, by Christopher, there's another rifle in the village
shooting back!"

The flintlock trade guns roared out at intervals, and every now and
again there came the sharp bark of smokeless powder, and its clean
whop-whop of a bullet from a modern rifle.  By careful watching Carter
decided that there was only one rifle on each side, and he further made
out that one was bombarding the other to the exclusion of all lesser
interests.

Now when a man has hunger gnawing at the inside of his ribs, and knows,
moreover, that any movement in retreat will be fatal, it does not take
much to spur him on to an advance.  So Carter went cautiously ahead,
keeping well under the fringe of the cover, and White-Man's-Trouble,
who was copiously afraid, and who muttered evil things under his breath
in Kroo, hung on to the remains of the Gladstone bag and crouched along
at his heels.

Carter took a step at a time, and was cautious always not to rustle a
leaf or tread on a dead branch.  So he pushed his way ahead, and when
the Krooboy, with less dexterity, blundered and made the shadow of a
noise, he turned upon him with such a look of ferocity that it awed
even so cross-grained a person as White-Man's-Trouble.  A dozen times
Carter nearly walked on to the heels of one or other of the attacking
force, and as often drew off unnoticed; and at last he made his way to
the place where he had located the rifle fire, and was closing in on it
from behind, when of a sudden he was confronted with a rifle muzzle
which suddenly spirted up from the middle of a clump of bush.

It swung up till it covered the left side of his chest, and hung steady
there for an appreciable number of seconds, and then a very well-known
voice said, "Well, Mr. Carter, I congratulate you on keeping your nerve
in spite of the climate."

"Gee!" said Carter under his breath.  "That's old Swizzle-Stick Smith."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said I'm sure that's Mr. Smith."

A bald head, garnished with an eyeglass, shaggy gray hair and a shaggy
beard, came forth.  "May I ask what you are doing here?  Thrown up your
commission by any chance?"

"Exactly that."

"On your own?"

"Well, sir, starvation's my master at present."

"Oh, I beg pardon.  Go into the mess and order what you'll have.  Or
look here, I've shot my man, so I'm free for the moment, and I'll come
with you.  Whiskey we're out of, but I can recommend gin and soda.  We
looted a sparklet machine, by the way, from the Frenchman."

They worked cautiously back from the firing line, and came upon a mean
lean-to of boughs and thatch which Mr. Smith referred to as "my
headquarters."  As the mess-sergeant happened to be away, Mr. Smith
kindly produced from under the eaves a damp slab of translucent cassava
bread, which was obviously all the place contained in the way of food,
and extracting a square-faced bottle from a green box of trade gin,
poured out half a calabash full, added muddy water from a chattie, and
offered it to his guest.

"Come to think of it, that's more healthy for you than soda, Mr.
Carter.  So you're not up here on O'Neill and Craven's service, you
tell me?"

"No; handed in my papers, sir.  I'm passing through here on urgent
private affairs."

Mr. Smith put a hand inside his shabby pyjama coat and produced a piece
of new black-watered silk ribbon, on the end of which was an eyeglass.
He screwed this in place, and stared at his guest.

"Ah, then in that case, Mr. Carter, I shall have to hear more of your
projects before I can give you permission to pass through my territory."

Carter stiffened.  "Your territory?  Oh, I remember.  You've been
buying up rubber lands, of course, for the firm."

"As a point of fact, I have not been worrying about the firm very
lately.  When I said 'my territory,' I meant exactly that, neither more
nor less.  Later I may turn it over to British protection.  But
recently it was no man's land, and as that infernal blackguard, the
King of Okky, was after it, I seized it for myself."

"Hear, hear," said Carter.  "As the King of Okky was once indecently
keen on adding my head to his private collection, I can never be really
fond of that man, somehow."

"Confound your head, sir!  That had nothing to do with it.  I didn't
quarrel with the man for following out his ordinary African methods.
I'm going for him for letting in the French."

Carter was clearly puzzled.  "What on earth have the French to do with
it?"

"Exactly what they had to do with all the British West African
colonies.  We hold a seaboard, and when the men on the spot try to
consolidate an influence in the hinterland, our Foreign Office promptly
truckles to the Anti-British party at home and tells them to drop it.
The Anti-British party says, 'Oh no, we mustn't make a sphere of
influence there.  The Germans want it, or the French have set their
minds on it, or why shouldn't poor dear Portugal have a chance there?
But whatever you do, don't give it to nasty, greedy Great Britain.'
And unless the hand of the Foreign Office is absolutely forced, they
always do as the Anti-Britishers ask.  You see the Anti-British party
is noisy and hysterical, and always shrieking that it can command
countless votes."  Mr. Smith limped across the hut and sat on a green
case and emphasized his further remarks with a powder-stained
forefinger.

"Well," he said, "it's an old game with me, and after all the official
kicks I've had I ought to have dropped it years ago.  But somehow I
couldn't resist the temptation.  The King of Okky is our man by
geography and agreement.  I have made representations to the F.O., till
I am sick of putting pen to paper, that he ought to be recognized and
patted on the back.  They don't even take the trouble to reply, much
less carry out the suggestions.  Therefore the French, who have taken
hold of the hinterland, have done the obvious.  They sent down a sort
of fourth-rate tin-pot sous-officier, and told him that if he fixed up
things all right for France they'd give him a commission and a 500
francs gratuity; and as he'd absolutely no competitors, he naturally
did the trick."

"What a beastly shame!" Carter blurted out, and then felt surprised at
himself.  It was about the first time in his life that the Englishman
that was within him had ever peeped out upon the surface.

"I know what the man's expedition cost--practically nothing.  I saw the
presents he gave old Kallee--£50 would have covered them.  And for
that, and a mouthful of empty words, he gets half a million square
miles of territory, and trade of a present value of £100,000, and a
potential value of £750,000, at a low estimate.  Well, Mr. Carter, I'm
braver than our F.O.  I'm going to buck against the Anti-British party,
and I'm going to see that we keep in our own hands what rightly belongs
to us.  I shall be called a pirate, but that doesn't disturb me.  I
lost all the reputation I had to lose at this same game years ago.  I
was doing my duty here then in West Africa.  A smug little beast of a
newspaper man got up in the House of Commons and demanded my dismissal.
He would never have been heard of if he hadn't been consistently
Anti-British on every occasion when the country was in disagreement
with anyone else.  But it was his dirty line, and it brought him a
certain disgraceful notoriety, which was what he was after.  He could
command votes, or said he could, and the Government believed him.  They
didn't care particularly for England; their one interest was keeping
their party in office; and as I was a nuisance, I had to go.  It wasn't
a case of being actually broke, you must understand, Mr. Carter, but
they made things so awkward that I had to send in my papers all the
same.  They tried the same game with Rhodes, and Curzon, and Milner,
the dirty little curs.  They hate a man who tries to uphold Great
Britain's dignity or give her another acre of territory.

"But here now, thank the Lord, I personally am unofficial, and I'm
doing exactly what I know to be best without fear or favor of anybody."

"How far does your territory extend, sir?"

"As far as I can make it," said Mr. Smith dryly.

"Are you going to let it be developed by the white man?"

"Assuredly."

"Then," said Carter, "we shan't clash, and I'm sure you will give me my
passports.  I don't know whether the place I am making for is in your
territory or the next king's, but I'm going there purely for purposes
of development.  I tell you frankly, I haven't a bit of ambition at
present beyond making a pile.  If ever I find myself a rich man I may
take a hand in the thankless game you are on at here.  But that's in
the future.  In the meanwhile, if the question is not indiscreet, might
one ask if it was a Frenchman you were having that rifle duel with just
now?"

"The Frenchman's down with fever.  I was exchanging shots with a
soldier of fortune who is, I believe, an old acquaintance of yours.
Kwaka his name is."

"Great Christopher! what a small place West Africa is.  Old Kallee sent
Kwaka down to borrow my head for his collection, and after the way I
bamboozled that man I shouldn't have been surprised if he'd been struck
off the Okky army list.  Did you--er--make a clean job of him?"

"Winged only, I think.  He kept very well to cover."

"You were both blazing away for long enough."

"Well," chuckled Mr. Smith, "I'm afraid he hardly had a fair chance at
me.  You see, I'd a boy with a trade gun lying under a log a dozen
yards to my right, and I'd a string from my foot to his trigger.  When
I loosed off the Winchester I pulled the other gun too, and Kwaka shot
for the smoke every time, and made very good practice of it.  That log
would be worth mining for lead."

"When you take the place what shall you do with the Frenchman?"

"Just the same that he would do with me," said the old man grimly.
"Now suppose we change the subject.  The bush telegraphs have been
persistently talking about a white woman who's been upsetting the face
of Africa, especially about our factories.  Heard anything of her?"

Carter laughed shortly.  "Of course I've heard.  In fact, she's why I'm
here.  She's Miss Kate O'Neill."

The old man dropped his eyeglass to the end of its ribbon, fumbled for
it till he caught it again, and three times tried to screw it in place
before he got it fixed.  "Kate O'Neill, you say?  She'd be about
twenty--no, twenty-three years old?"

"I'm a bad judge, but I daresay she'd be about that.  Why, do you know
her, sir?"

Mr. Smith straightened himself with an obvious effort.  "As I have not
been to England for five-and-twenty years, is it likely?  You said she
was English, I think?"

"As a point of fact, I did not, though presumably she is English.  She
was not the late Godfrey O'Neill's real relative.  She was adopted, so
I heard.  But he left her the business for all that, and she's making
it hum.  She's marvellously able.  But of course you have seen for
yourself more of her efforts than I have, sir."

"I have seen them?"

Carter laughed.  "I'm afraid you made the same mistake that everybody
else made, from Slade and old Image.  She is the K. O'Neill of the
kindly-buck-up-and-get-it-done letters.  She is the Mr. K. that you
chaffed me about at Malla-Nulla for admiring so much as a business man."

"My God!" said Swizzle-Stick Smith, and sat back limply against the
wall of the hut, and then "My God!" he said again.

Carter hesitated, and then, "Did you," he ventured, "know Miss Kate's
own people before the late Godfrey took her over?"

Mr. Smith, with an obvious effort, pulled himself together.  "I did,
Mr. Carter.  Her mother--she--she died.  Her father went under.  He had
a pretty trying time of it first, but when the pinch came he went under
most thoroughly.  Godfrey O'Neill, good fellow that he was, took the
child then, and so she got her chance, and, thank heaven, she's used
it."

Carter looked at the old man narrowly.  "And is the father alive now?"

But by this time Mr. Smith was his old cool, profane self again.  "How
the devil should I know?  Do you think I keep track of all the failures
in Africa?  You seem very interested in this young woman yourself.  May
I ask if you've any aspirations in that direction?"

"If you mean have I any wish to marry her, I can answer that best by
telling you that I'm engaged to marry Laura Slade."

"Ah, I see.  Well, Mr. Carter, we will drop the subject, which is a
painful one to me for many reasons.  Let us get on to your personal
schemes.  In what way can I forward them?"



CHAPTER XV

TIN HILL: THE MINE

Tin Hill, when they got to it, carried riches that lay in full view of
the sky.  The mountain of country rock which held the veins reared up
out of the dark green bush, red-streaked and barren, and the last day's
march towards it lay through a heavy growth of rubber vines.  Even the
Krooboy could not help noticing these.

"O Carter," he said, "rubber lib for here.  Dem Missy Kate she say
rubber-palaver beat oil-palaver, an' kernels, an' gum, all-e-same
cocked hat."

"She didn't.  Those are my words of wisdom you've got hold of.  Still I
admit the sentiments are Miss O'Neill's.  But the main thing is,
Trouble, that rubber takes capital and labor to handle, and this firm's
short of both at the moment.  We'll leave rubber to Miss O'Neill for
the present."

"O Carter, dem Missy Kate, she no fit for love you now?"

"She no fit," said Carter, with a sigh, "because you savvy I fit for do
wife-palaver with dem Miss Laura."

The last marches of Ali ben Hoosein's road had been little travelled
during these latter months of political upheaval, and this meant that
the ever-growing bush had encroached, and passage was difficult.
Moreover, food was painfully scarce.  Swizzle-Stick Smith, out of his
scanty store, had given them what he could, but this was soon eaten,
and once more they had been forced to fall back on that marvellous
thing, the kola nut.  But though nibbling kola puts off the desire for
a meal, and makes one able to endure prolonged strains, it does not
fill gaps in the inside.

Both Carter and the Krooboy were very gaunt, and tattered, and
savage-looking when at last they arrived at the rock and the river; but
the omens seemed to change from that moment.

To begin with, Carter had a snap-shot at a gazelle and brought it down.
They lit a fire where they were, ate, and felt the blessedness of being
full for the first time for a fortnight.  Then, whilst hunting for a
site for a hut, they came across a clump of plantains, wild certainly,
and coarse, but filling enough to men who had long outgrown any
niceties of palate.  And at the farther side of the plantains, what
appeared to be a mere cubical mound of greenery disclosed itself upon
inspection to be a house.

"Ghosts," whimpered White-Man's-Trouble, and shrank back.

"I hope so," said Carter.  "They'd give us local news, anyway, and
might be amusing to talk to.  But I never met ghosts outside a
story-book, and I'm afraid there'll be none here.  I wonder who lived
on this spot?  Stone house, with limed walls three feet six thick, and
a flat cement roof.  Inside area--phew! it smells musty--twenty feet by
twelve.  No, by Christopher! there's another room on beyond.  Storeroom
that--oh, beg pardon, Mr. Snake.  My mistake.  Good-afternoon!"

He shot out into the open again by the doorway, and several snakes who
resided in the farther room made exit by the window.

"When in doubt as to the authorship of any West African monument, one
always puts it down to the early Portuguese," Carter mused, "and we'll
leave it at that for the present.  Original occupants have been gone
any time these last two hundred years.  Well, if we strip off these
vines and creepers from the outside, and light fires inside to sweeten
the air a bit, we shall have the most palatial quarters.  The question
now is whether there is a mine and whether it is worth working."

But that last point very quickly answered itself.  Three great veins of
tin-stone sliced vertically into the mother rock.  Two of them were
forty feet wide, the third was sixty.  The face ran up at a steep
angle, and a great beer-colored river swilled away at its foot, and
undermined it, and with the help of the sun, kept chattering screes
always cascading down the slope.

"This isn't a mine," Carter shouted exultantly, "it's a quarry!  Bring
a steamer up alongside here, and every man that works could shovel two
hundred sovereigns' worth of ore into her from these dumps each hour
without so much as putting a pick in.  Why, the outcrops are scarcely
leached at all.  When we've worked twenty yards or so into the veins
I'll rig a temperley transporter and guy it to these rocks above, and
run the stuff straight from where it grew into a steamer's holds.
Great Christopher!  Kate had better look out: I'm not going to let her
be the only millionaire on earth."

"Dem stones with yellow glass on him worth money?" asked
White-Man's-Trouble.

"Heaps."

"In Liverpool?"

"Well, say Swansea or Cardiff; practically the same thing."

"No worth money here?"

"I'd sell you a ton for a fill of tobacco."

"How you get it to coast?  You no fit to pay carriers."

"By water, my pagan friend.  We make steamah lib for here."

"Steamah no fit," said the Krooboy, and spat contemptuously into the
yellow stream.  "Dem cappies no savvy way here.  Dem ribber no savvy
way to Coast."

"That's a bit beyond my linguistic powers.  You must translate some
more."

"Dem ribber," the Krooboy explained patiently, "no fit for run to dem
sea."

"Then where the deuce does it run to?  Does a Ju-ju drink it?"

"Ju-ju no fit for touch dem ribber," said White-Man's-Trouble, taking
the question literally.  "But dem ribber run into dem squidge-squidge,
an' lib for die!"

"Runs into a swamp and gets lost!  My great Christopher, the odds are
you're right.  But why in the name of thunder didn't you tell me that
before?"

"I no savvy," said the Krooboy simply, "where you come.  O Carter, I
come after you from Mokki because I think you no fit for carry dem bag."

Carter swung round and picked up White-Man's-Trouble's hand and shook
it heartily.  "You've got a very white inside to you," he said.

But the African was not flattered.  He pulled away his limp hand as
soon as it was set free, and rubbed his abdomen nervously.  "O Carter,
I no fit for white inside.  I no ju-ju boy.  I dam common Krooboy."

Thence onwards there was impressed on Carter's mind these three great
facts--One: He had found a mine of immense potential value.  Two: He
could never turn his minerals into cash unless he could find a water
channel down to the Coast.  And three: If he couldn't discover that
channel himself no one else would, at any rate for his benefit.

He thought these matters over during one torrid night, and resolved to
devote the next day to exploration.  He had had predecessors on the
place, house building predecessors who had left a series of
rust-streaks which he translated into mining tools.  Presumably they
were Europeans.  How did they propose to deal with this ore?  Smelt it
on the spot, or bag it and get it to the Coast?

If they were West African Portuguese of the olden time, he was fully
aware that they would be using slave labor for everything, and he tried
to figure out if it was possible, even with slave porters, to carry
concentrates down to the Coast and leave a sufficient margin for
profit.  Even with the most liberal estimates he could not make it so,
taking into account the slow-sailing ships, the crude smelting methods,
and the lower prices of the old days.  Remained then the passage of the
creek and river channels, and if these old Portuguese had found a
waterway, why, then, so could he.

So next day he set out to hunt for a quay, or any other traces of
shipping ore, or perhaps some evidences of boat-building, and he
pressed his way through vine and bush, and over crag and scree, till
the scorching heat had drained his lean body of moisture, and his knees
zigzagged beneath him through sheer weakness and weariness.

Then he made a discovery, and sat down, and for the moment felt faint
and discouraged.

He had nearly walked in onto the top of a native village.

He had been going down-wind, or the smoke of their fires would have
warned him earlier.  As it was, the bark of a scavenger dog gave him
the first hint of the village's nearness, or he would have descended
onto its roofs.  It lay beneath a small bluff, and its houses so
assimilated with the rest of the forest that even close at hand it was
hard to pick out the human dwellings.

It was the hour of heat, when only Englishmen and dogs (according to
the old libel) are wont to be abroad, and the village slept.  Even the
dogs found the heat too great for wakefulness, so that only the
Englishman carried an open eye.  But the smell of the place advertised
it as a village of fishers, and a closer scrutiny showed the harvest of
the river, gutted, and strung up upon the stripped boughs of trees to
dry in the outrageous sun-heat.  There are always markets for these
dried river fish throughout all West Africa.

Carter backed into thicker cover, and waited till the sun began once
more to cast a shadow, and the village woke.  First the dogs opened
their eyes and began their endless scavengers' prowl.  Then the
children came out to play in the dust.  Next the women roused to do the
village work.  And last of all, the men emerged from the clumps of
bush, which one had to accept as huts, spear-armed all of them, and sat
in the patches of purple shade, and oversaw all, to approve and direct.

"You lazy hounds," said the Englishman to himself, "I should like to
set you to shoveling ore all day, and signing checks all night for your
women's bonnet bills.  But then," he reminded himself with a sigh,
"there are some women these days who insist on working themselves,
however hard you may press your services."

He reported his find to White-Man's-Trouble on his return to the old
Portuguese house that evening, and that worthy was seized with his
usual tremors.  "O Carter," said he, "dem bushmen that live by
fish-palaver fit for be worst kind of bushmen.  They come here one day
soon, an' they throw spear till we lib for die, an' they chop us
afterwards.  You savvy?" said the Krooboy, with a whimper and a
shudder--"chop us after?"

"Don't try and work up my feelings over the post-mortem, because you
can't do it.  Once dead, what happens to my vile corpse doesn't
interest me.  But I don't intend to peg out yet, especially at the
hands of a pack of ignorant cannibals like these.  Observe, Trouble.
You have seen me practise ju-ju already?"

"I fit."

"And you have been my assistant in the black art?"

The Krooboy shuddered, but he said sturdily enough, "I fit."

"Well and good.  Then to-morrow we will weave infernal charms over this
pleasing spot, till no mere black man, be he cannibal or be he simple
fisherman, will dare to press his sacrilegious toes upon it."

A stream of water poured over one part of the cliffs, that Carter
designed hereafter for a power-plant to handle his ores.  But in the
meanwhile he turned it to a more immediate use.  He cut wide bamboos,
and fitting them into one another, formed a great pipe which would
receive water and air together.  With stones, and clay, and grasses he
built a box to receive the air and water, and made a cunningly devised
trap through which the water could escape, but not the air.  Then with
more bamboos he built him organ pipes and set the mouths of these in
the box, so that the air should drive through them and blow a dismal
note.  And next, with further ingenuity he fashioned a commutating
valve, also worked automatically by the water, which for a time would
shut off the water, and then set it going again to thrill the air with
the notes boo-paa-bumm, in ascending scale, and a minute later to reply
bumm-paa-boo.

It was all extremely simple when one knew how it was done, and
extremely startling to walk in upon from the depths of a primeval
African forest, and the fishers of the village, when the sounds first
broke in upon their nervous ears, threw themselves down upon the dust,
and waited for the end of the world, which they felt sure was at hand.

To them then appeared a white man who was clothed from head to foot
with garlands of dark green leaves of the rubber vine, and had on his
head hair which was of the sacred color of red.  He was followed by a
Krooboy bearing the blue tribal mark between his brows, and having a
sheaf of feathers stuck above his right ear, where the ordinary
tooth-cleaning stick should have been carried.  These explained in
bold, clear tones that they were the chief ju-ju men of all Africa, and
that the portent which was even then _boo-paa-bumm-ing_ behind them was
sent by powers unseen to herald their coming.  But they did not
represent the evil, the harmful ju-ju.  If only they were treated with
the profound respect which was their due they would be a beneficent
influence, with a special protective eye to that village of fishers.
The catch should increase, the markets widen, and peace should hem in
the roads through which the villagers travelled.

"But each morning we must have an offering of fresh-caught fish,"
White-Man's-Trouble proclaimed, "together with the wood necessary for
their cooking.  (O Carter, I no fit for gather cook-wood when I ju-ju
man," he explained to his companion.)

The scheme took; there was no doubt about that.  Never were villagers
so pleased at securing the supernatural protection, which all Africans
desire, at so meagre a cost.  Men, women and children, they got up from
the dust, and they slobbered over the Krooboy's toes, and over the
remains of Carter's canvas shoes, and to show their willingness, the
men went down to the marigold-smelling river then and there to procure
the wherewithal to make their initial offering.

White-Man's-Trouble scratched himself thoughtfully and looked over
those that were left.  "O Carter," he said, "I no fit for cook dem food
when I ju-ju man.  We take with us two-three, all-e-same slaves, to be
house-boy an' do dem work."

"No," said Carter shortly, "we shall do nothing of the kind."

The Krooboy stared.  "Why you no fit?"

"I know what you're after, and I've got my reasons, though you wouldn't
appreciate them.  However, I suppose I must invent something that will
appeal to you.  If dem bushmen lib for house with us they soon see we
no real ju-ju men, an' they tell their friends.  Then their friends
come up some dark night and chop us.  Savvy?"

"O Carter," said White-Man's-Trouble, "you plenty-great man!"

Now there are two ways of working a mine.  One is to sell it to a
limited company which in return for certain concessions kindly puts up
the necessary capital for development; the other way is to find the
capital out of one's own private resources, and annex all the resultant
profits.

But Carter had a poor opinion of the size of his own share if the first
of these methods were carried out.  To begin with, he knew nothing of
company promoting.  He would have to employ an expert, who would want
the lion's share of the plunder; and indeed he quite realized that a
tin mine up an unknown river in the territory of no man's land would
take a powerful lot of selling even to that gullible body of
mining-share purchasers of the British public.  The more he thought
over the limited company idea, the less chance of profits did he see in
it for himself.  And he wanted those profits badly.  He had not risked
life and health to study African scenery and customs.

On the other hand, he was at the moment absolutely penniless.  If he
did discover a waterway down to the coast--or rather when he had
discovered that waterway, for he was fully determined to do it--how
much forwarder would he be?  What steamer could he charter?  None.  By
no means could he get one without giving up a large slice of his
precious mine to the man who ran the risk.  He did not blame them.  He
put himself in the traders' places.  If he were running a down-river
factory, and had a launch, and some tattered red-headed fellow came
down out of the back of beyond with a wild tale about a tin mine, and
asked for the loan of the launch, and promised to pay when a cargo was
brought down, and sent to a smelter in England and realized upon, what
would he say to such a preposterous offer?  Why, he would laugh at it.
The proposition was not one that any business man would entertain.

No, he must get some capital, and buy that launch.  And then came the
question of where was the capital to come from.

His father?  Well, he was engaged to Laura, and he did not feel like
going near his father.

Slade?--Smith?  Neither of them had a penny.

O'Neill and Craven?  That meant Kate.  He started as if he had been
stung at the idea of going to Kate and asking her for money.  Kate was
successful, and she could loan it easily.  Granted, and if she had been
successful so would he be, and without her help.  He shook an angry
fist at Africa.  "Curse you, if you've given her a fortune you've got
to give me one too, or I'll take it in spite of you!"

He had a touch of fever that night, and White-Man's-Trouble plied him
with decoctions of herbs of such appalling nastiness that (in his own
phrase) he decided to get well quickly, merely to avoid the drugs.  But
it was a fancy built of that fever which put him on the path of success.

He imagined that the shades of the old Portuguese, who had built the
strong stone house in those far-off days, came in that night to visit
him.  They were miners, too, or metal workers, he could not make out
which, and they strutted about in long patched cotton stockings which
reached to mid-thigh, and a combination garment of thick cloth that
covered all the rest of them.  Even in that stifling room, and in that
baking climate, they wore metal helmets and metal body armor, and
Carter wondered how they could go abroad into the sunshine and not be
cooked alive in their shells.

But he did not content himself for long with this idle observation.
There was a method even in his fevered dreaming.  He put the question:
Did they get their stuff down to the Coast on the heads of carriers?
The ghosts laughed at the idea of such a thing.  "Why should we go
against our nature?  We Portuguese--in the days when we lived, who
speak to you now--we were seamen and rivermen always.  So we built
great flat boats and swam our goods down the rivers."

"Christopher!" said the Englishman, "there's just the tip I've been
waiting for.  A sort of raft.  By Gee!  I'm going to shake hands with
you for bringing the news."

But in that hospitable attempt he was stopped by the burly
White-Man's-Trouble, who sat on his chest, till he promised to lie
still again.



CHAPTER XVI

THE KING'S BOUNTY

A further brilliant idea came to Carter next morning that after all he
and White-Man's-Trouble had been raising difficulties about the river's
navigation that were quite unnecessary.  There was a village of natives
close at their door who were river-farers.  What was more likely than
that there were many men there who could pilot a canoe through a chain
of creeks till at last they heard the great Atlantic surf roaring on a
river bar?

White-Man's-Trouble shook his head when he heard the suggestion.  "Dem
bushmen savvy nothing," said he contemptuously.

Upon experiment it proved that he was right.  The villagers had
acquired the habit of fishing on the reaches which ran two miles up
stream and two miles down; they had adopted the customs of their
forefathers; no one of them had ever paddled beyond these limits.  They
were an incurious people.

Their canoes were small, and narrow, and unwieldy.  They were dug out
from cotton-wood trees with fire, and dubbed into vague shape with
native adzes, and through sheer idleness and incapacity the builders
had rarely selected straight timber.  Even expert polers and paddlers
could not propel those miserable craft in a straight course.  One thing
only were these fishers good at, and that was baling.  But in this they
had abundant practice, for all the canoes were sun-cracked, and leaked
like baskets.

"I wish," said Carter, "for a great raft that will carry twelve tons of
the shiny stones which fall from the mountain."

They did not know what a raft was, neither did they appreciate the size
of a ton, but Carter demonstrated to them, and White-Man's-Trouble kept
them from forgetting.  The Krooboy had found a chiquot, and, from
having felt chiquots across all parts of his own person many a time,
was well qualified to wield such a baton of authority.  Carter picked
out suitable cotton woods, and the Krooboy apportioned out the cutters,
and stayed beside them till their work was done.

They handspiked the logs down to the water, again having to be
instructed in this most elementary piece of mechanics, laid
cross-pieces at right angles, and lashed all tightly together with
lianes.  Then when they had built up the interstices between the logs
with large pieces of tin-stone, they carried down the smaller ore in
baskets till the logs were sunk to three-quarters draught.

Next they built a house on the raft and covered it with thatch, and in
part of the house they piled a great store of dried fish as provision
for the voyage.  And all the while the ju-ju organ behind them boomed
out at intervals its dismal boo-paa-bumm, bumm-paa-boo.

Now although Carter had been a trader long enough to get very African
notions of the negro and his ways, still he had an Englishman's natural
bias against forced labor.  White-Man's-Trouble, who did not see the
desirability of working if others would do it for him, openly suggested
pressing what hands were required for navigation.  But Carter said no.
He had no money to pay them with on arrival, and the lower castes of
Africans do not understand the delights of having outstanding accounts
with the white man for labor performed.  The Krooboy and he must
struggle down the creeks and find the channel themselves.

White-Man's-Trouble sniffed and scratched himself, and said they would
see.  And presently when the time came for departure the usual African
surprise descended upon them surely enough.  Seven naked savages from
the fishers' village squatted on the raft and refused to budge.  Their
arguments were simple.  Carter was a great ju-ju man.  They knew he was
great, because since he came the _boo-baa-bumm_ noises had been
incessant.  Moreover, these were beneficent noises, since whilst they
filled the air no one had died in the village from leopard, crocodile,
or alien spear.  They therefore adopted him as their master.

"Oh, but look here," said Carter, "I can't do this.  It means I should
be a slave-holder, neither more nor less.  Besides, with you seven
great lumps sitting there, the raft's awash.  If I take you I shall
have to jettison some of my tin-stone."

But they had no further arguments.  They sat placid.  They had lived in
cousinship with fear all their squalid lives, and here at last had
arrived the strong man who could certainly protect them if he would.
And they intended he should.

Carter thought for a minute, and then, "I won't have it," said he.
"Trouble, drive them ashore."

White-Man's-Trouble spoke, and nothing happened.  He laced into their
bare backs with his chiquot, but still they did not budge.  One of
them, who seemed to be spokesman, merely talked to him quietly.

The Krooboy explained.  "Dem bushmen very uneducate.  Dey say if you no
take 'em dey lib for die.  Dem big black fellow there wid one ear, he
say if you no take him, he walk into dem ribber an' be crocodile chop."

"They'll do it, too, confound them," Carter assured himself vexedly.

And so it came to pass, as he could not very well condemn the
enterprising seven to death--for that is what leaving them amounted
to--he was forced to take them with him, and very idle, inefficient
boatmen they proved.  They knew nothing of the river, once the two
miles of their fishing had been passed; they had no idea of the obvious
set of currents, no eyes for the plainest shoal.  If they were left to
themselves for a dozen minutes they would run the raft into the bush,
and as likely as not get on board a cargo of red ants that seemed to
have white-hot teeth when they started to bite.  They gorged upon the
scanty store of dried fish if they were not watched, and never caught
more unless they were incessantly goaded.  When the reeking yellow
river was more than usually full of crocodiles they would dangle their
legs over the side; and when the raft was drifting past a village which
was most probably hostile, they would break into song.  They always
felt that the great white ju-ju man, under whose protection they had
elected to place themselves, was competent to shelter them if he so
desired.  And if he willed otherwise, and they died, well, that did not
greatly concern them.  They were very exasperating animals, and Carter
about three times a day much wished that the handling of them could be
transferred to some of those kind-hearted people at home who always
insist that the negro of the West Africa hinterland is a man and a
brother.

They had a small dugout canoe in tow, and greatly they needed it.
After twice running the big raft down streams that ended in impassable
morass, and having tediously to tow and punt her back against the
current, they always hereafter sent the lighter craft ahead on voyages
of discovery.  Or to be more accurate, Carter had to go in her with one
of the fishers as assistant.  The excellent White-Man's-Trouble had
limits to his intelligence, and there was no driving into him that
water which would carry a canoe that drew three inches of water was too
shallow for a heavy raft that drew three feet.

The Winchester rifle and the remains of the Gladstone bag seemed the
only two things that linked them now with civilization.  They lived in
the African manner upon African food; the intricate branching of the
creeks was charted in matchet-scratches upon the smoothed surface of a
log of wood; even English speech was discarded in favor of the native
tongue.

Carter had shaved till the steamy atmosphere of the bush had turned his
razors into mere sticks of rust; and with the growth of his red stubble
of beard, all respect for his outward man had vanished.  He caught
sight of himself one evening in a pool of black water.  "Well," he
commented, "I always thought that Swizzle-Stick Smith was a filthy old
ruffian, but at his worst he looks a prince to me now.  That I suppose
is where gray has the pull over ginger."

But it was the rescue of the King of Okky which really gave the turn to
the whole of Carter's fortune.  They had got the raft into a regular
cul-de-sac of reeds and water-lilies, and she lay there stuck on a
shoal in the face of a falling river.  Creeks radiated all around them
like the spokes of some gigantic wheel.  The place was alive with
crocodiles and flies.  Not very far away an intertribal battle
advertised itself by an ugly mutter of firing.

"An' chop no lib," said White-Man's-Trouble, by way of winding up the
sum of their difficulties.

"Well, find some," Carter snapped.  "Make spears, and stab the fish up
out of the mud if you can't catch them with nets or hooks.  Only see
that there's a meal ready for me when I get back, or I'll lam into you
with that chiquot you're so fond of using."

He went off then in the warped dugout, with the one-eared man as bow
pole, laboriously hunting for a passage into some main stream.  The
river beneath them gave up fat bubbles of evil odors; the banks of
slime on either side reeked under the sun blaze.  A dozen times Carter
thought he saw open water ahead, and pushed on, and a dozen times found
himself embayed.  And always he had to jot down compass notes with a
nail on the well-scored gunwale of the canoe, so as to keep in touch
with the raft, and be ready against that forthcoming time when he would
have to pilot a steam launch up to Tin Hill.  For though he barely
expected to escape with life out of this horrible labyrinth of creeks
and waterways, be it always understood he intended to return and demand
from the country a fortune, if so be he ever got down again to the
seaboard.

At last, however, he swung out into what was obviously a main channel,
and was on the point of turning back to fetch the raft, when his eye
was held by something that moved sluggishly in mid-stream.

It lay up towards the sun, and was hard to make out because of the
dazzle of radiance.

"Can you see what that is?" he asked his bow man in the native.

"It is just a man on a branch," said that savage, with cheerful
indifference.  "Presently the crocodiles will chop him.  Shall we go
back now, Effendi, to the raft?"

"No, my callous friend.  We'll investigate the person in the tree
first.  Full speed ahead!"

The clumsy dugout lurched and twisted down the broad marigold-smelling
river, and as there was a strong current under her, she soon drew the
obstruction into clearer view.

It was a tree clearly enough, swept down by some flood and stranded
here in mid-channel to form one of the myriad snags with which West
African rivers abound.  In it was a black man who hung by his hands
from the upper branches, and was perpetually pulling up his toes like
some ridiculous jumping-jack.  He was a very fat man, and his movements
were getting more feeble even as they watched him.  But it was not till
they got close alongside that they saw the impelling motive of these
gymnastics.

A twelve-foot crocodile was in attendance beneath the tree, and every
now and again it swam up with a great swirl and shot its grisly jaws
out of the water, and snapped noisily at the fat man's toes.

Carter lifted his Winchester and waited for a chance, but of a sudden
his bow man turned to him with a face that was gray with fear.  "That
man," he said, "is the King of Okky, and if you save him, presently we
shall both die."

"I had already recognized the gentleman, and I fancy he's far more my
enemy than yours, but I'm going to pull him out of this mess for all
that, and give him a good level start again on dry land."

Then as the crocodile jumped once more, he threw up his rifle and shot
it under the left foreleg, where the protective plates are absent.

[Illustration: Then, as the crocodile jumped once more, he threw up his
rifle and shot it under the left foreleg, where the protective plates
are absent.]

The brute jumped, and writhed, and swam away amid cascades of golden
spray, and as the bullet was soft-nosed and expanding there would
probably be, before many more hours were over, one less pest in Africa.
But Carter did not worry his head about that.  He paddled the dugout to
the tree and called to the King.

His Majesty of Okky was fat, and though once he had been a giant in
strength, in these latter years of kingship he had grown soft and
flabby.  He did all his journeyings in hammock and canoe, and had
slaves who saved him the smallest scrap of exercise; and, moreover, he
ate and drank to vast excess.  So that when the immediate strain was
over it can be understood how he hung in the upper branches of that
tree too limp and exhausted even to lower himself into the canoe.
Carter had to climb onto the branch, and bear a hand before he could
get down.

The dugout sank perilously beneath his weight, but the King was no
amateur, and balanced cannily.  Moreover, presently he panted himself
into articulate speech.  "I fit for gin," said the King of Okky.

"I bet you are," Carter agreed.  "But unfortunately the bar on this
packet's closed for want of supplies just at the moment.  Try a sup of
the local ditch-water out of the baler."

The King did so, and made a face.  "I have not drunk water since I
became a King," said he.  "O Carter, do not turn up stream.  I have men
at a village down yonder."

"I don't doubt it.  But having saved your skin, King, I've my own to
think of now."

The King's great body began to shake with laughter.

"Stop that," said Carter sharply, "or you'll burst the gunwales out."

"O Carter," said Kallee, speaking in Okky, "listen.  It is only by my
favor that you have lived so long.  We are both ju-ju men, and between
such it is useless to make pretence.  But I can tell you all you did
since you left Mokki, and met Smith, and went to the cliff whereof ben
Hossein told you, and saw the stones which carry the brown glass which
you covet so much.  I can tell you of your machine which says
boo-paa-bumm, and of the way you came down these creeks on a raft, and
how you labored prodigiously in the blind channels.  I had arranged to
let you get so far.  To-morrow, when you came abreast of my villages,
canoes would have come out--"  Here the King screwed round his fat neck
and eyed Carter over his shoulder--"O Carter, do you think it strange
that I should have wanted a head such as yours?"

"You would not tell me this now if you still wanted that head."

One could not deny that somehow the man had a certain regal dignity
about him.  "O Carter," he said, "if I have a King's lusts, I have all
of a King's gratitude.  I was travelling down this river.  My canoe was
overturned by a snag, and it and the paddlers were swept away down
stream, and if the crocodiles have not dealt with the men I will give
them their due presently.  For myself, I climbed into that tree as you
saw, and could not have endured longer.  What account was open between
us we will wipe from the tally.  I owe you for my life now, and I will
repay."

"Are my Krooboy and the fishers included in the treaty?"

The King shrugged his great shoulders.  "I could give you a better
servant than White-Man's-Trouble, and better paddlers than those
fishermen.  But if they please you, they shall remain alive and well
treated.  Paddle now quickly down stream to the village, O Carter, and
we will drink Krug champagne till a goat is slain and chop prepared."

The village, when they came to it, was not a pleasant sight.  It had
been rebellious, and the King of Okky had been instilling discipline
with a strong hand.  Furthermore, two of his canoemen had escaped from
the river and reported that the King was drowned.  They were also
attended to in a way that prevented their ever erring again in this
world.  The King dispensed champagne, and arranged great matters of
life and death with a massive impartiality.  And between whiles he
found abundant time to talk with his guest, now using Coast English for
the sake of greater privacy.  His knowledge of what had been going on
was at times almost uncanny.

"O Carter," he said, "dem Laura, she lib for Teach-palaver house in Las
Palmas."

"She left for Las Palmas in the _Frau Pobst_ certainly.  But I don't
know where she is staying."

"Teach-palaver house," said the King placidly, "by Telde."

"She was at school once at a convent on the Telde road."

"She lib for there now."

"I say, King, how the deuce do you know that?"

"Savvy plenty funny things," said the King, and turned to do justice on
another culprit who was brought before him for trial.

The royal _ménage_ was simple.  They dined off a couscousoo and a bowl
of stewed goat, such as any well-to-do native farmer might have set on
the floor before him for his meal, and thereafter they sat on mats of
elaborate straw-work upon the hard earth, and the King consumed at a
moderate computation one ounce of snuff before he was inclined for
further talk.

Then, "O Carter," said he, "what for dis stone palaver?"

"When that stone is taken to my country they heat it in a furnace with
other things, and a white metal runs out."

"Okky-man no fit for make him?"

"No, the job's too complicated."

"Dem stone worth lot o' money, or you no fit for carry small-small load
all dem way to coast.  And a whole hill of dem stone lib far up ribber.
So dem hill worth plenty-much lot o' money."

"There goes my pile," thought Carter bitterly.  "The greedy old
ruffian's going to hook it for himself."

The King went on.  "Dem Kate, she fit for be O'Neill and Craven now?"

"I suppose you may say she is."

"Smith an' Slade all-e-same work-boy for O'Neill and Craven?"

"If you like to put it that way."

"Good.  And you," went on this well-informed monarch, wagging a fat
forefinger, "you want marry Kate, same's I wanted to marry Laura, an'
she no fit for have you, same's Laura no fit for have me dem time?"

Carter dropped his chin onto his knees and said nothing.  The King went
on, "O Carter, you fit for save my life dis day.  If you no come wid
dem canoe, I lib for be crocodile chop this minute.  So I do not take
your red--I do not make you lib for die as I say dis morning, but I fit
for make you glad.  Dem Dutchmen hold dem factory now at Mokki?"

"They do."

"Then I send my war-boys in at back an' stop roads.  But I take ju-ju
off roads to dem O'Neill and Craven factories at Smooth, an' Monk, and
Malla-Nulla."

"That's very good of you, I'm sure."

"Then dem Kate she love you much when she find dem factory once more do
trade."

"I'm afraid, King, it would take a lot more than that to make Kate feel
attached to me.  You see, I'm no longer in O'Neill and Craven's
service.  I chucked it when she sold Mokki, and I've been on my own
ever since."

The King's eyes gave the ghost of a twinkle.  "Den I no fit for open
dem roads.  So I make you dash another way.  I send you for Coast in
big canoe of sixty paddles."

"With White-Man's-Trouble?"

"Wid your boy, an' your cargo.  I send you in three days' time six more
canoes of sixty paddles, full of dem stone you wish.  I dash you dem
hill of stone where you set up dem dam ju-ju boo-paa-bumm.  I tell dem
men who lib for ribber banks that you be free for come an' go on all my
country while I lib for King; an' if any man he hurt you, I take dem
man an' I nail him by hands an' feet to a tree!"

Carter looked up.  "Do you mean that?"

The King took snuff.  "When I say to a man you lib for die, he die.
When I say 'I let you lib,' then he lib.  When I say to a man, 'I make
you dash,' he get dem dash, even though I have to send my war-boys to
take it from somebody other to give it him.  O Carter, I lib for be
real King."

"You mean you've given me a fortune in return for the small thing I did
for you?"

"My life," said the King dryly, "he seem small thing to you.  But to
me"--he patted his rotundity--"to me dem life be plenty big."

Three days Carter abode in the village, and kept to the inside of his
hut to avoid the sights of the place, which to a European eye are
unpleasant when an African King is visiting his displeasure upon unruly
subjects.  He was ministered unto by White-Man's-Trouble, who paid him
much unaccustomed deference, and forebore to steal the smallest thing.
And at nights he sat with the King, who had an educated palate in
champagne, and drank vintage wine at the rate of one case in four days.

"When I lib back for Okky City," the King said once, "you fit for come
and see me there now?"

"Certainly, King, if you'll name a date when you haven't got a custom
on."

King Kallee looked thoughtfully at his guest.  "Dem English no fit for
like dem custom-palaver?"

"They don't, one little bit."

"For why?"

"Gets on their nerves."

"Dem English King, he send his war-boys if I make dem custom-palaver
more?"

"It's the common topic of conversation down the Coast as to when
England will send an expedition to cut you up."

"Because I stop dem roads an' spoil trade to factories?"

"Pooh, King!  You know precious little about the British Government.
You may spoil all the trade in Africa if you like, you may even cut up
half a dozen factory agents or so, and the British Government won't
care a little hang.  But if you will go on in your simple way
crucifying slaves, and carving up your own subjects, why, then, it's
only a question of time before they'll pull you off your perch and send
you into an inexpensive exile in St. Helena."

"Dem Swizzle-Stick Smith he say same thing."

"It's so obvious."

"But he want me to let him hand dem Okky country over to England, so I
say I pull his skin off if I catch him again.  What you want for
yo'self?"

"Do you mean what do I stand to make out of the deal?  Well, not much
beyond the satisfaction of keeping your crucifixion tree in a more
sanitary state.  With the mining right you have given me, I shall be a
rich man."

"But if dem English took Okky country?"

"Why, they'd tax the mine, and they'd clap on regulations, till they
made a very fine hole in the profits."

"Say dem again."

Carter explained more fully, and then for awhile the King of Okky sat
and took snuff in silence.

Then, "O Carter," he asked, "dem King of England he got so many
war-boys as me?"

Carter nodded.

"And dey no have trade guns?  All Winchesters?"

"I don't know what the present regulation pump-gun is called, but we'll
say it's like the Winchester, only plenty-too-much better."

Again the King thought in silence, and the hot night rustled and sighed
around them.  The moonlight was strong enough to show even the fibre of
the fine state mats on which they sat.  But at last he motioned away
the slave who carried his snuff-mull, and touched Carter's knee with an
emphatic finger.

"I believe you speak for true about dem custom.  Three days ago you no
care if I lib or die?"

"I may as well be frank, and say I should have preferred you dead."

The King gave the ghost of a grin.  "There are many like that.  But
now?"

"Now I prefer you alive and King of Okky."

"Dat is what I thought, an' so I believe you say true when you tell me
what you say about dem customs.  I do not see why Okky customs should
make dem English king fit for send his war-boys.  But I no fit for want
'em."

"So you fit for stop dem customs?"

"I fit," said the King, and by that decision gave respite, it has been
calculated, to at least eight thousand of his subjects each year who
had gone the red paths prescribed by ju-ju.

They drew up a memorandum on the subject there and then, in the form of
a letter from the King of Okky to him of Great Britain.  Carter
suggested the British Foreign Secretary, but Kallee would not hear of
it.  He as a King, he said, was the equal of any other King.  So on a
sheet of damp, mildewed note-paper the message was written, and signed
by the King in an Arabic scrawl.

And next day it travelled down to the Coast in state inside the
battered remains of a once-yellow gladstone bag.



CHAPTER XVII

KATE SENDS A CABLEGRAM

Now to give Carter full due, his weaning of the King of Okky from the
habit of human sacrifice had been brought about more by accident than
design.  By a further working of the law of chance, the circumstance
brought him out of modest obscurity into a very strong notoriety in a
little less than six short months.

"A private trader," so ran the gist of the newspaper leaders, "has
brought to pass a thing which Government authorities, both civil and
military, not to mention missionaries and miscellaneous
philanthropists, have been trying for ineffectually ever since the
British rule was set up in West Africa.  Throughout all our possessions
on that sickly Coast the natives have been addicted to human sacrifice;
and when instances of this from time to time leak out, civilization is
on each occasion chilled with a fresh douche of horror.  The West
African Kingdom of Okky, though little known for other qualities, has
acquired a certain detestable celebrity for these red orgies....  Mr.
Carter, though he was brought up in his father's vicarage in
Wharfedale, has not been noted heretofore for any special benevolence
in dealing with native questions.  Those who know him describe him as
essentially a strong man....  In fact, Mr. Carter, in his modesty, most
emphatically disclaims any such high motives, and avers that he took
his now celebrated journey into the bush merely for his own business
purposes, and nothing beyond.  On this subject we prefer to hold our
own opinions.  Explorers of his rare type--the almost unknown type that
does not advertise--carry with them a modesty that delights in
belittling its own triumphs.  But even Mr. Carter's modesty cannot
explain away certain cold facts.  The King of Okky till recently had a
most black reputation for human sacrifice.  Many Europeans have gone up
to his horrible city to expostulate.  Some he has sent back; some have
not been heard of again since they left the Coast, and one can only
shudder and guess at their fates; but none have effected any change.
The 'Customs,' as these orgies of slaughter are named locally, still
endured: indeed, evidence clearly showed that they were increasing
under the present reign of King Kallee both in frequency and
importance.  Nothing, it was said by those on the spot, but a British
army, and a great outlay in life and treasure, could bring these
horrors of the hinterland to a close.  Mr. Carter, however, thought
otherwise.  He went up country practically unattended.  He bearded the
king in his own fetich grove, and he achieved what experts called the
impossible.  He has induced King Kallee to abandon human sacrifice now
and for always.

"As will be seen by the two interviews which appear in our news
columns, the information on these points did not come from Mr. Carter
himself.  Mr. Carter is that man so rare to find in these pushing days,
a man who does not care one jot for anything the press can do towards
his own self-advancement, a man, moreover, who does not mind saying so
in strong, rude Anglo-Saxon.  But fortunately we have another mine of
information more easily tapped.  The sensational rise into a new
prosperity of the old West African firm of O'Neill and Craven has been
one of the features of the year's finance, and it is now an open secret
that the sole partner and manager of the 'firm' is a young, attractive,
and unmarried lady.  This Miss Kate O'Neill has so far evaded the
interviewer, but on the Okky topic she has volunteered the fullest
information.  It is to her that we are indebted for our description of
Mr. Carter and his great achievement."

On such lines ran the leaders in most of the great newspapers, though,
of course, they varied in their facts and their point of view.  They
all paid graceful compliments to the pretty girl who had appeared of
late with such success in the field of larger finance.  One paper alone
had the impudence to refer in cold print to a matter that the other
newspaper men smiled over quietly in the privacy of their offices.

"We wish," wrote this sentimental journalist, "that we could indicate a
romance that would finish up this episode fittingly.  But truth compels
us to record that Miss O'Neill, along with the rest of the biographical
matter which she so kindly supplied, mentioned the detail of Mr.
Carter's engagement to a Miss Laura Slade, who at present resides in
Grand Canary.  We understand that a marriage will shortly take place."

As it happened, this journal was the one of Mrs. Craven's daily
reading.  She indicated the paragraph with a prim forefinger, and
called her niece to read it.

"Did you say that, Kate, or is it one of the fellow's impudent
inventions?"

"Oh, I told him that with the rest just to--well, to quiet him.  He
seemed to think I was very interested in Mr. Carter."

"And I suppose suggested you were in love with him?"

"Well, he didn't put it exactly like that," said Kate thoughtfully.
"He was a very dashing young man, and rather gave me the idea that he
wanted to see if the coast was clear for himself."

"I see.  And so you told him about the engagement between Mr. Carter
and Laura, just to encourage him?"

"I suppose so.  He really was very amusing and pushing.  He wanted me
to go out to lunch with him there and then."

"Kate, are you going to let Mr. Carter marry Laura?"

"My dear Aunt Jane, what an extraordinary question!  What possible
influence can I have over either of them?  I offered them both a
wedding present, and asked them each what they would like.  Could I go
further than that?"

"And each of them," suggested the old lady, "said 'there was time
enough for that,' or they'd 'let you know when the wedding day was
fixed,' or put you off, somehow, like that."

"Look here, Aunt, what are you driving at?"

"I am looking."

"Well, speak, you irritating old person."

"My dear, I am waiting for you to look back at me.  You have carefully
avoided meeting my eye ever since I showed you the paper."

Kate looked up, and Mrs. Craven read something in the girl's face that
made her sigh.  "You will go your own way, I know, Kitty dear.  You are
very capable, and very clever, and that has naturally made you very
self-reliant.  You have shown yourself so wonderfully successful over
your business matters that I shouldn't dream of advising you there.
But do you ever bring up into mind that there is something more in life
than mere financial success?"

"Of course I do, Aunt.  But I suppose I am different from the other
girls.  They look forward to their domestic pleasures.  I have made
myself other interests."

The old lady shook her head decisively.  "You are not at all abnormal
in that way.  You are the most entirely human person I ever saw.  And
to prove it, I'll just instance to you the way you've fallen in love
with George Carter."

"I refuse to admit it."

"Even to me, Kitty?"

"Even to myself.  I like the man, and there it must end.  He is engaged
elsewhere, and if you call me human, you must allow me pride.  I run
after no man, nor do I lure any man away from another girl who has been
my friend, whatever my inclinations may be.  And now, if you please, we
will drop that subject and talk of rubber.  Our third company was
subscribed once and a half times over by lunch time to-day, and we've
closed the lists.  How's that for a real solid triumph?"

Mrs. Craven lay back in her chair and methodically folded the paper.
"Do the profits on that bring up your score to the million you arrived
at?"

"Oh no, no.  But they will help it along very nicely."

"When you get a million will you stop?"

"When I get my million, which, mark you, Aunt, is more than any girl of
my age has ever done, why, then, I shall start to make my second.  It's
a most fascinating amusement."

"But it doesn't make you happy.  You are no better for it.  You can't
spend it."

"My dear Aunt, where have your eyes been?  Haven't you seen my clothes
since I came back from the Coast?  Why, I never knew what it was to
dress before.  I'm seriously thinking I shall have to start a maid to
look after me."

"My dear, you've a knack of carrying clothes."

"That I learned from you, you extremely smart person."

"Well, you got the knack somewhere, and you always were nicely turned
out.  Now I know your wardrobe as well as you do yourself, and, let me
see"--Mrs. Craven took a pencil from her chatelaine, and made
calculations on the edge of a newspaper--"Since you came back to
England you've not spent, at a liberal estimate, above two hundred and
twenty-seven pounds ten on your own adornment."

Kate laughed.  "I give in to you, Aunt.  I quite believe you know my
wardrobe better than I do myself.  Well, perhaps I shall buy pearls,
then.  I never had one, but I believe I'm prepared to adore a necklace
of big, smooth, delicately graded pearls, with shimmery skins, and a
fat, pear-shaped black pearl drop to dangle below it.  Yes, that's the
real reason I'm making money, Aunt--to buy and wear great ropes of
pearls.  Or, who knows, I may have a fancy for a peer.  Now, with a
million, I'm told one can buy for marrying purposes a really fine
specimen of peer."

"There are moments," said Mrs. Craven sharply, "when I'm very sorry
you're grown up."

Kate went across and sat on the arm of the old lady's chair.  "Do you
want to smack me and put me to bed?"

"I've done it many a time when you've been in this mood."

"Can you see the black dog on my shoulder?"

"Larger than ever.  Kate, you should try and control yourself."

"Oh, be just, Aunt.  I didn't lie down on the floor and kick or do
anything like that."

"No, thanks to me you can keep your temper under more decent control
now.  Now, don't you kiss me, and think I'm a silly old woman, and try
to get round me that way--I know exactly how you're feeling.  Oh, you'd
lead any man a dance who married you."

"I'm certain I should," said Kate cheerfully, "unless he was the right
one.  But, Auntie dear, don't you think it would be safer not to press
me to marry anyone at all?  I give you my word for it that there's no
one marriageable I want to marry.  And if you leave me alone with my
other amusement, that keeps me out of worse mischief."

At the Prince's Park house in the old days there had been a room known
as the Master's study.  It had no books in it whatever, because the
excellent Godfrey disliked books.  It had a writing-desk certainly, but
never even an inkpot on it to indicate use.  There was just a
card-table and some early Victorian furniture of hard, uncompromising
ugliness.  In short, it was not the Master's study at all, but it
emphatically was his card-room.

It remained in its original state till Kate's return from the Coast,
and then she begged it from her Aunt, who gave it gladly.

"I want a place where I can type a letter," Kate had said, "and have a
copying press, without going down to Water Street.  They begin to stare
at me down there, and I hate it.  No one objects to a girl being in
business if she is merely a clerk, but if she gets hold of big
successes, well, the men aren't nice about it.  If I find it answers, I
may lay on a secretary."

So she emptied the room and furnished it afresh, and Mrs. Craven's
heart warmed as she saw the girl's natural craving for a home express
itself in chairs and pictures, in pretty wall hangings and dainty
carpets, in graceful flower-bowls, and all those little touches of
domesticity which are the mysterious outcome of sex.  There was, it
turned out, a small box-room alongside, which was never used, and which
could be linked up by a door knocked through the wall.  This could be
the secretary's room, and hold the letter files, and the copying press,
and the typewriter, and all the other crude machinery of commerce; and
so "Miss Kate's room," as it came to be called, fulfilled in appearance
little enough of its original intention of office.

One can hardly associate walls panelled in rose-pink brocade with the
much-abused art of company promotion.  But Kate sat in that pretty
room, and thought out there all those tremendous schemes, which brought
her such brilliant success.  She felt she had retired from the firing
line; she schemed and planned in secure cover outside the battle; and
when any idea eluded her for too long she went out and drove her motor
car, or played golf, till the idea arrived.  In the season she
sometimes went away on butterfly-hunting trips.  At the same time she
had great ideas of buying an estate where she could have a private golf
course of her own.  She had grown so strangely sensitive to stares
these days, and, people said, unsociable.  Her engagement to Mr. Austin
had been broken off long ago, and to tell the truth Austin was well
enough pleased to be rid of her.  Africa, he felt, had eliminated from
her all the points which beforetime had caught his admiration.  And
then again she was so enormously rich one could not, he told himself,
marry a woman with such an unwieldy amount of riches.  At least he
could not.  Nor did he intend that the future Mrs. Austin, if ever
there was one, should have more practice in high finance than was
necessary to manage her own accounts and the household weekly bills.

In fact, it was over this question that he flattered himself had come
their split.  She had given him, to be sure, a pretty broad hint that
day on the landing stage, but the actual rupture of their engagement
had not come till a week later, and Kate was clever enough to make Mr.
Austin think that the idea was his and his alone.  Still they had
parted on excellent terms, and any service, professional or otherwise,
that Austin could render her in the future was one that he should look
forward to, as he promised, most keenly.

"Though you cannot see your way to be my husband," she had said to him
lightly, "you will still upon occasion act as my solicitor?"

"Let's call it 'friend,' Kate," he had answered, and they parted on
that.

But that day, after Aunt Jane had showed her the Carter leader in the
paper, Kate went to her room, and somehow her thoughts went back to
Henry Austin.  She tried to analyze why she had ever got engaged to
him.  As far as she could define it, a sort of empty space, a partial
vacuum, had come into her life, and Austin appeared, and in a tentative
way seemed to fill it.  Now that he was gone, the vacuum returned.  It
did not exactly ache, but it caused a vague discomfort that annoyed
her, and when she demanded a cure, something within her kept repeating,
"Carter, Carter, Carter!"

She resented this clamor.  She told herself that she was a strong
woman.  She refused to have her hand forced.  She declined to allow an
ex-employe of her own to be forced into her life as its only
complement.  And still that inner something, with irritating
persistency, kept repeating, "Carter, Carter," and then got
unpleasantly familiar, and began to murmur: "George."

She stood it for an hour, stood for that time persistent, inward voices
urging her, with never a falter, to one narrow course, and then she got
up from her great cushioned chair and went to an old Sheraton bureau.
Only one narrow drawer in it was locked, and she carried the key of
that amongst the charms on her watch-bangle.  She opened the drawer and
took from it a photograph.

It was only a steamer group, crudely taken by an amateur on a kodak
film, a very imperfect thing at its best, and mottled now by the
persistent West African mildew.  A piece of brown paper with a hole in
it was in the same drawer, a mask so cut that it blocked out all of the
group except one individual.  She fitted this into place and gazed her
fill on this very crude presentment of George Carter.

[Illustration: She gazed her fill on this very crude presentment of
George Carter.]

Well, at any rate he was not a handsome man.  But there was something
about even this indifferent photograph that gave her a great thrill.
It touched some inward chord that no other power on earth could set
into vibration, and she was discomforted thereby.

The gong went for dinner.  She ignored it.  A servant came
presently--she had added to the number of servants at the Prince's Park
house and Mrs. Craven accepted the alteration passively--and the
servant most respectfully stated that dinner would be served in ten
minutes, and was not Miss Kate going up to dress?  But Miss Kate was
busy and would have a cup of tea and a sandwich.

Mrs. Craven below got the news, smiled grimly, and ate an extremely
good dinner.  She felt a fine satisfaction in having set to work
exactly the right influences which would bring that ridiculous Kitty to
her senses.

But upstairs, in the prettiest room in Liverpool, Kate wrestled with
Fate.  She pictured the man that the mask singled out of the group: Red
hair, a dogged jaw, ill-cut clothes, and, upon occasion, a man who used
the language more fitted to an underpaid stevedore.  She had overheard
Carter discoursing to the factory at large that night of the false
alarm at Mokki, when he chided the Portuguese and the factory boys in
phrases learned from Swizzle-Stick Smith.  Was this the man she had
ever fancied for a husband?  No, a thousand times no.

She locked the group and the mask once more into its drawer, and went
back to her cushions and a novel.  There was still another great rubber
company on the brink of flotation.  This time the pugilistic Mr. Smith
had procured for her the grant of the land, and had assured her that
the King of Okky, thanks to his recent improvement in morals, would see
that the title remained unchallenged.  The proposition was, she
honestly believed, commercially sound, but the risk lay in the British
Public.  Were they loaded up with rubber stock?  That was the point to
decide.  So far she had not had a share of her companies underwritten,
in spite of abundant and pressing offers.  But here was an awkward
question to decide: Should she insure this issue, or should she risk
having it not taken up, and invite a fiasco?

She tried with cold logic to reason out the arguments for and against,
and to strike a balance between them.  But for once her brain refused
to act.  Even the novel, which she read and did not absorb, did not
offer her the necessary hint.  It was an old trick of hers, this
reading of a dozen chapters of weak fiction, to get an inspiration, and
so far it had never failed her.  She was an omnivorous novel reader.
She went through quite two-thirds of the fiction brought out annually
by British publishers, and could never, next morning, have passed the
easiest examination in a novel she had read the night before.  But all
her clever business ideas were evolved when she was reading these
paltry books.

At last she could endure the vague things that oppressed her no longer.
She dropped the book on the floor.  And then she got up and went into
the secretary's narrow room next door.  She found cable forms and sat
at a table.  Then she wrote glibly enough this message.

"_Burgoyne, Monk River, West Africa, Forward this to Cascaes Mokki
special runner want you act our agent Las Palmas_ 2,400 _commence cable
acceptance or refusal, O'Neill._"

She counted up the words, laid down her pencil, and laughed.  "At any
rate," she said, "that will give one a chance.  And George was fool
enough to think that Mr. Cascaes was running after me.  Oh, I have no
patience with men who can't see further through the fog than that."



CHAPTER XVIII

CARTER MAKES A PURCHASE

It was Captain Image returning red and wrathful from an unsuccessful
cargo foray amongst the southern and eastern factories that Carter met
the day after his arrival at the Coast.  The mariner had heard of the
deal at Mokki, and felt personally affronted that a nest of cargo which
he had already looked upon as his own should have been handed over once
more to the Germans.

"So you're on the beach, are you," said he, looking Carter up and down
with vast disapproval.  "I must say you look it.  I've seen old
Swizzle-Stick Smith come down after a jaunt in the bush and I thought
he couldn't be beat for general shagginess and rags.  But you give him
points.  What did Miss Kate bounce you for?"

"I believe I resigned."

"Same thing.  And now you've come to ask me to take you home as a
distressed British subject, I suppose.  Well, Carter-me-lad, a deck
passage is your whack according to consular understanding, but you've
sat in my chart house and you've sent me cargo, and so I'm going to put
my hand in my own breeches pocket and take you home in the second
class.  And I tell you what: Chips and the bo's'n have got a shop in
the foc's'le that I'm not supposed to know about, and if you care to go
in there and get enough rig out to see you home, I'll foot the bill."

"You're very good----"

"I know I am.  It puts me about five weeks further off that hen farm
outside Cardiff that I want to retire onto, being good like this.
There, run away out of this chart house, me-lad, and tell the chief
steward to give you a square blow-out of white-man's chop one-time.
I'm sure you need it.  I never saw a man with so much of the lard
stewed off him."

Carter laughed.  "Will you let me slip a word in?  I've cargo for you."

"What!  You!"

"I'm afraid you won't hook much commission out of it, Cappie, as you'll
have to take it at ballast rates."

"Catch me."

"But there'll be about seventy tons of it as far as I can reckon."

"My Christian Aunt! do you tell me, Carter-me-lad, that you've
scratched up seventy tons of cargo?  Here, sit down.  No, sit down.
Don't talk.  I'm not going to have you going away and calling the
_M'poso_ a dry ship."

Captain Image had no tariff rate for tin ore, but he invented one with
great readiness, and then knocked off ten per cent. by way of
encouraging a new industry.  "Now, where is this mine of yours?" he
asked genially.  "Tell me, and I warrant I'll find you an easier way to
bring your produce than paddling it in dugouts."

"Up the river."

"Well, let's look at your charts, me-lad."

Carter shook his head.

"Why, how's that?  Haven't you made one?"

"Oh, I've made one right enough, but it's inside my skull and out of
public view."

"H'm," said Image.  "Don't want any competitors, eh, Carter-me-lad?"

"Why should I?"

"Well, drink up, and let me fill your glass.  Here, have another squirt
of bitters."

"No, thanks, Cappie, no more.  I drank enough champagne with the King
of Okky to last me months.  I've got a lot of big business ahead of me
and I want a clear head.  Now, if you take this consignment of tin ore
home for me, and rob me as little as you can help over freight, what's
next?  Swansea and a smelter, I suppose?"

"They're a bit Welsh down in Swansea," said Captain Image, who came
from Cardiff himself.  "They'll do with a trifle of looking after.
What you want's a smart agent."

"The thing I want first and soonest is cash.  Now, look here, Cappie,
you know Swansea, and you're fond, by the Coast account, of a bit of
commission.  Well, here's a nice lump of it on offer.  If you'll get
some smelter firm to buy this parcel of ore on assay, and pay cash for
it, I'll give you five per cent. on what you raise."

"It's a deal.  You couldn't have come to a better man, Carter-me-lad.
I'll open you an account at the Bank of West Africa----"

"And get the whole balance cabled out here?"

"I was going to suggest that," said Captain Image, doubtfully, "if you
hadn't rushed me so.  But you won't want the lot.  Now, with fifty
pounds or so----"

"I want every sixpence.  Man, do you think I'm going to nibble at my
cake now it's been given me?  Kallee's straight, I firmly believe.  But
what's his life worth?"

Captain Image shook his head.  "Very heavy drinker even for a darky,
and of course he hasn't a white man's advantages in knowing the use of
drugs."

"Besides, there are the usual risks of kings and of Africa.  He's put
down the local anarchist.  He cooked the only two who tried to
assassinate him, and took a day about it over slow fire, and that
discouraged the breed in Okky.  But still there are risks.  So that
altogether he's not a good life, and if he was to go out, it's quite on
the cards his heirs, successors, and assigns might not recognize my
title."

"You're right, me-lad.  What you've got to do is to rip the guts out of
that mine at the biggest pace possible, and I'll bring in the _M'poso_
round here to load every time I come along the Coast."

Carter nearly laughed.  He knew the capacity of his mine--quarry, it
was, rather--and the hold space of the little _M'poso_.  Tin was
wavering about just under £176 per ton just then; he had reckoned that
he could produce for £10 a ton; and the more profit he could get, the
more pleased he would be.  But he was not afraid of bringing down the
price; he had plenty of margin for a cut.  His only fear was that the
river road might be stopped before he had made his fortune.  And he
intended to empty the veins of Tin Hill at the highest speed that all
the strained resources of Africa were capable of, and if necessary to
keep three steamers the size of the little _M'poso_ ferrying his riches
across to the markets.  But he did not let out any word of this to
Image.  If the locality and the enormous wealth of this mine were to
leak out, nothing could prevent a rush.  At the existing moment he was
penniless, and in any great influx of capital and men must inevitably
be swamped.  Secrecy was essentially his game for the present.

So he accepted Captain Image's proposal in the spirit in which it was
made, and then put forward feelers for a steam launch.  Was there such
a thing already on the Coast that one could pick up cheap just then?

Captain Image lit a thoughtful pipe.  "I don't know of any little
steamboat that you could buy just now out here, cheap or dear.  There
are one or two in Sarry Leone, certainly, but they are all either too
big for your job or too tender to bring round the Coast."

"I'm a bit of mechanic, you know.  I wouldn't mind nursing engines.  My
boy, White-Man's-Trouble, too, would make, according to his own
account, a pretty decent second engineer."

"Oh, I know him.  Used to be stand-by-at-crane boy on the _Secondee_,
and stole everything that wasn't nailed down.  But you'd never get one
of those Sarry Leone wrecks round here without being drowned in the
process.  I tell you what, though.  D'ye know anything about motor
cars, me lad?"

"Why?" asked Carter, who had never handled one in his life.

"Because at Dutton and Maidson's factory at Copper River they've got an
old wreck of an oil launch, if she hasn't rotted and sunk at moorings,
that you could have cheap."

"Everything cheap is dear to me just now.  I haven't a penny in my
pocket.  But what do you mean by cheap?"

"Well, she certainly wasn't out in the river the last three times I
called, but I did hear they'd hauled her up a creek.  But if she hasn't
sunk at moorings, and the ants haven't walked off with her, I should
think you could get the bits that rust couldn't eat for three ten-pound
notes."

"Does she burn gasolene?"

"No, ordinary canned paraffin.  I know that was supposed to be the
great point about her when she was brought out.  Only trouble was, she
didn't seem to be an amateurs' boat at all, and after the first week or
so there wasn't a soul in the factory that could get her to steam at
all.  So they tied her up to a buoy and did their business in the old
dugouts and the surf boats as formerly."

"I wonder if the old chief has got an emery wheel down in your engine
room?"

Captain Image stared at this change of subject, and ran a finger round
inside his collar to shift the perspiration.  "What do you want an
emery wheel for?  Sharpen your wits on?"

"No, my razor.  If I go and try and buy a motor launch with this red
wool on my chin, they'll take me for the wild man down from the back of
beyond and stick up the price."

"Quite right.  You've a very sound business mind, Carter-me-lad.  You
can, I believe, get a very sound thing in razors for a shilling at that
fo'c'sle shop if Chips is still keeping one, and whilst I was buying I
should get a bottle or two of Eno, if I were you.  Capital thing to
keep your liver down to gauge."

"I want to get all these things," said Carter emphatically.  "I
daresay, indeed, I should like to buy up practically the whole of
Chips' remaining stock, partly for my own use and partly to take up
country.  But the fact still remains unaltered that until I can get an
advance against bills of lading, I am without a copper in my pocket.  I
suppose that greedy hound Balgarnie is the man to see about finance,
though."

"He is a greedy hound, Carter-me-lad, between you and me.  Let me fill
up your glass.  No, don't put your hand across it.  Well, I'll finish
the bottle if you won't.  You're open, just as a matter of form, to
giving a lien on that cargo you're shipping?  Just as a matter of form,
of course, in case you peg out before things can be squared up?"

"Certainly, and I'm willing to give five per cent. per month for the
accommodation."

"Oh, come now, me-lad, ten per cent.'s the usual.  But I don't want to
be stiff with an old friend like you, so we'll call it seven and a
half."  Captain Image went to the drawer under the chart table and
unlocked it.  "Come, now, say what you want.  Anywhere up to fifty
pounds."

"I couldn't possibly do with less than a hundred," said Carter
definitely, and with that they began openly to wrangle.  But it turned
out that Captain Image, even with the help of his financial partner,
Mr. Balgarnie, could only raise seventy-four sovereigns, and with that
the other had to be content.  He gave his bond, and stood at the head
of the _M'poso's_ ladder ready to go back to his boat.  But Captain
Image with genuine hospitality dragged him back.

"I'm not going to let you go like this, me lad.  I've one turkey left
in the refrigerator, and if you peg out afterwards up those beastly
rivers, I'd always like to think I'd stood you one good dinner when the
chance came in my way.  Come now, Carter-me-lad; turkey-chop?  There's
not another skipper on the Coast that would make you an offer like
that."

Carter laughed and gave in, and turned towards the flesh-pots.  He did
not like turkey.  Once in Upper Wharfedale his father had come home
from Skipton with thirty turkey poults, which the family reared with
very vast care, and thereafter had to eat.  Turkey once per annum is a
luxury; twice cloys; but thirty times, when legs follow breast, and
wings are succeeded by side-bones, would weary any man living.  But by
custom in West Africa, turkey from a steamer's refrigerator is the
height of luxury, and Carter recognized the hospitable motive.

Captain Image, when mellowed by food and wine that night, talked of
Miss Kate O'Neill, and Carter behind an elaborate indifference listened
with a hungry interest.  She was floating rubber companies it appeared
with enormous success.  She had very nearly been engaged to a law-sharp
named Austin, but had got out of it in time.  She was reported in
Liverpool to be struck on some palm oil clerk on the Coast, but Captain
Image proclaimed that to be rot, and what did Carter-me-lad think?

"Well, of course, there was Cascaes," said Carter judicially, "but I
don't see there was anyone else.  All the rest of the men she met out
here were either married or engaged."

But George Carter whistled cheerfully to the stars as his boat-boys
paddled him up through the steaming mangroves to his abiding place that
night, and Mr. Balgarnie and Captain Image nudged one another
delightedly as they listened to his music.

Button and Maidson's launch, that ought to have served the factory in
Copper River, turned out upon inspection to be even worse than Captain
Image had forecasted, and the agent in charge was most enthusiastic in
accepting the two five-pound notes that were offered for her.  And
thereafter for Carter and White-Man's-Trouble began a period of savage
toil.

The white man was a mechanic born, but he had never seen an oil engine
in his life, knew nothing of clutch, water-jackets, or reversing gear,
and had to make his first acquaintanceship with a carburetor.  The men
at the factory were frankly ignorant of the launch's mechanism; said so
indeed before they sold her.

"But I know we have got a plan-thing of the works stowed away
somewhere," the agent stated.  "Can you understand a machine from
seeing a drawing?"

"Rather," said Carter.

"Well, we'll find it," said the agent, and they wasted two days in
turning over every scrap of paper the factory contained, but the blue
prints refused to discover themselves.

"Let you off your bargain if you like," said the agent ruefully, when
the place had been searched through without success.

"Not a bit," said Carter.  "Lend me a couple of boys and I'll take
those engines down and learn 'em for myself."

Now, to anyone who does not know the hot, steamy climate of a West
African river from personal experience, the manner in which unguarded
ironwork can decay would sound beyond the borderland of fact.  A nut
left long enough on a bolt in that moist stew of heat does not always
rust fast.  As often as not, when one takes hold of it with a spanner,
the whole thing crumbles away into oxide.

The forty-five-foot launch, when Carter first took her over, lay half
water-logged in the middle of a slimy creek.  She was an open boat with
her engines housed under a wooden hutch aft, which had been further
reinforced by some rotten tarpaulin.  She had no in-board reversing
gear, but was fitted with a feathering propeller, which if all went
well would drive her astern.

As she lay there she was a perfect picture of what could be done by
neglect and ignorant handling, and there was not another man then
resident under that enervating West African climate who would have
thought her worthy of salvage.  But Carter had got just that dogged
drop in him that brings men out to the front, and he proceeded to clean
up the launch's meagre tools and her spares, to borrow what others he
could from the factory, and then to attack the engines.  It was here
that the prodigiousness of his job first displayed itself.  The
brasswork was sound enough--even West Africa could not eat into
that--but everything iron was spongy with rust, and he had to set up a
forge, and weld and shape afresh, out of any scrap he could find about
the factory, each part as he destroyed it.

There was no such thing as a lathe about the place; there were not even
taps and dies.  He had to punch slots through his bolts and tighten
them up with forged and filed wedges.  For the out-board work on the
feathering propeller he put the launch on the bank and worked up to his
armpits in the stinking slime, fitting, drilling, and rivetting with
his imperfect tools.

The labor and the exposure very naturally brought its reward in a sharp
dose of fever, but White-Man's-Trouble attended to that after the
manner of the heathen, and he emerged from it little the worse, and
bore with composure the derision of the other Europeans at the factory
when they saw his whitened eyesockets.

The engines were not ornamental when he had finished with them, and
they were cumbered with a hundred make-shifts; but when he gave the
whole a final inspection, he told himself that no vital part had
escaped a satisfactory repair.  By a merciful chance there was tube
ignition, and after a good deal of manipulation he got the burners to
light.  Then when the bunsens roared and the tubes glowed hot in their
cage, he and the Krooboys ground at the starting handle and turned the
engines till the sweat ran from them in rivulets.  In England Carter
had heard without understanding that internal combustion liked their
"right mixture."  He was thoroughly practised in finding the right
mixture for that elderly oil engine before it coughed itself into any
continuous activity.

The heavy oil for lubricating that had originally been sent out,
Messrs. Dutton and Maidson's agent still had in stock because, as he
explained, he had found no possible means of disposing of it, and the
ordinary commercial square tins of paraffin were part of the wares they
always held in quantity.  So Carter was able to buy fuel, in all
abundance, for his voyage.  Food also he laid in, and a great roll of
canvas, and then turned to his host to say good-bye.

"Wait a bit, man," said the agent, "and we'll build you a cabin out of
that canvas that will keep at least the thick of the dew off you at
nights.  There are sockets along the gunwales for awning stanchions
that will carry bamboo side-poles capitally, and we can lash duplicate
roof-plates across and rig you a double-roofed tent in style."

"Very much obliged," said Carter, "but I won't wait for that now.  I
intend to do it as we go up river.  You'll notice I have shipped a big
bundle of bamboos for the woodwork.  Good-bye."

"You seem in the devil of a hurry."

"I am.  Good-bye.  Now then, Trouble, shove over that reversing lever
to make the boat go ahead.  Confound you, that's astern, you bushman.
There, that's better.  Good-bye all."

"Good-bye, and good luck," said the agent, and he told his subordinates
at supper that night that another good, keen man had gone off to
disappear in Africa.

But Carter was developing into one of those tough, tactful fellows that
people call lucky because they always seem to succeed in whatever they
set a hand to.  When the flood tide was under her, the launch coughed
her way up the great beer-colored river at a rate that sometimes
touched ten knots to the hour.  She added her own scents of half-burned
paraffin and scorched lubricating oil to the crushed-marigold odor of
the water, and disgusted all the crocodiles who pushed up their ugly
snouts to see what came between the wind and their nobility.  On the
ebb she still hauled up past the mangroves at a good steady two miles
every hour.

The engine, with rational treatment, seemed a very decent sort of
machine, though the feathering propeller, even till its final days, was
always liable to moods of uncertainty, and after twenty-four hours of
sending the launch ahead, would without any warning suddenly begin to
pull her astern.  Still these erratic moods always yielded to
treatment, and, considering that she had been bought without a rag of
reputation, Carter was always full of surprise at prolonged spells of
good behavior.

He did not go up direct as he had come down in the King of Okky's sixty
man-power war canoe.  He prospected the labyrinth of waterways for
other channels, and charted them out with infinite care.  He intended
to take every possible precaution for preserving the secrecy of his
mine.  Even if he was followed, and he took it for granted that on some
future voyage he presently would be followed, he wanted to be able to
puzzle pursuit.

At a point agreed upon he put into a village which sprawled along the
bank, and presented the King's mandate, and demanded canoes.  The
villagers gave them without enthusiasm and without demur.  He took
these in tow, great cotton-wood dugouts that would hold a hundred men
apiece, and hauled them after him, winding through great tree-hedged
waterways where twilight reigned half the day, and then coming out
between vast park-like savannas where the sun scorched them unchecked
and grazing deer tempted the rifle.

When he arrived at Tin Hill again, the King's finger had left a visible
mark.  Great heaps of picked ore lay along the waterside ready for
loading the flotilla.  "Good man, Kallee!" said the Englishman
appreciatively.  "I'll dash you a new state umbrella for that."

The water-bellows organ that he had set up at the foot of the waterfall
bellowed out its _boo-paa-bumm_, and against each of the great bamboo
pipes there fluttered a bunch of red-dyed feathers to show that that
other ju-ju man, his majesty of Okky, countersigned the warning not to
unduly trespass.

      *      *      *      *      *

Cargo after cargo Carter rushed down to the Coast, and dumped on land
he had hired behind a factory.  Ever and again he sent a tidy parcel of
ore to a smelter in England and in due time had more money put to his
credit at the Bank of West Africa.  But he did not try any expensive
tricks with the home tin market just then.  He had got out a new
launch, a more solid affair this time, driven by a sixty horse-power
gasolene engine that had low-tension magneto ignition, and so many
other improvements on its predecessor, that White-Man's-Trouble, who
had it in charge, tied a dried monkey's paw to the compression cock on
each cylinder head, as an extra special protective ju-ju.

He carried a cook and an oil-stove galley, and at last even bought two
tin plates and a knife and fork to assist his meals.  He felt it was
pandering to luxury, but he did it all the same.  When he made that
purchase he wondered how he would behave in a woman's society after so
long living as a savage.  As an after-thought he told himself that
Laura was the woman he had in his mind, and hoped he would not shock
her with his crudities.  By way of carrying out good intentions to the
full, he sat down there and then and wrote to her, and marvelled to
find how little he had to say.

Then one day he came across Slade.

A canoe drew in alongside as he was towing down river with his tenth
cargo, and brought off a note which said that there was a white man
ashore who had run out of everything and would be eternally grateful
for any European food that could be spared, and would gladly give him
I.O.U. for same, as he was out of hard cash at the moment of writing,
and had mislaid his check-book.

Carter had his misgivings, but sent off a goodly parcel of food and
tobacco, and continued his way down stream.  But the channel was new to
him--he had a suspicion of being watched on his ordinary route--and he
ran on a sandbar on an ebbing tide, and the heavily laden dugouts were
soon perched high and dry.  So White-Man's-Trouble switched off his
magneto and stopped the engines, and Carter put a hand under the gauze
net to greet his prospective father-in-law.

Slade looked curiously at both the launch and her tow.  "You've been
getting hold of a gold mine of sorts, I hear.  By the way, as you've
arranged to start work as my son-in-law, I suppose I ought to get more
familiar and call you Henry, or whatever it is."

"George, as a matter of fact."

"I believe you're right.  George is what Laura did say.  My mistake.
Where is your gold mine?"

"It's tin.  And it's up the rivers."

"Oh, keep it dark, my dear fellow, if you like.  Not that it makes the
smallest odds as far as I am concerned.  You'd never catch me sweating
after a mine.  Besides, as a point of fact, I'm doing pretty well at my
present job.  Getting rubber properties, you know, for the mysterious
Kate."

"Miss O'Neill."

"Oh, certainly, Miss O'Neill, if you prefer it, though I don't see why
you need be a prig with me."

"My late employer, you know."

"Ah, of course.  And you admired her more than a little, so I gathered
from Laura's letters, though she carefully refrained from saying so."

Carter pulled himself through the mosquito bar and hit the edge of the
bunk.  "Now, look here, Slade, I've known you ever since I've been on
the Coast, but this is the first time we've met on the new footing.  I
don't want to quarrel with my prospective father-in-law, but, by
Christopher, if you don't leave Miss O'Neill out of the tale as far as
I'm concerned, there's going to be a row.  Kindly remember I'm engaged
to Laura, and intend to marry her whether you like it or whether you
don't."

Slade laughed.  "Nice filial sort of statement, that; but don't mind
me.  If you suit Laura's taste, I'll swallow you, too.  I'm sure you'll
be pleased to hear that I'm making a goodish thing of it myself just
now.  Kate--I beg your pardon--Miss O'Neill pays me my regular screw,
and in addition gives me a nice sum down on every property I've bought
for her, and a tidy block of shares when there's a company floated.  I
shall be able to give you and Laura a decent wedding present--in
script.  By the way, is she at Smooth River?"

"No, Grand Canary."

Slade stiffened.  "How's that?"

"Africa wasn't safe for her.  You ought to be dam' well ashamed of
yourself for leaving her here.  You knew the danger from old Kallee a
big sight better than she did.  And you left her without a cent to get
away with and not an ounce of credit."

"Then," said Slade stiffly, "do I understand that she's gone to the
islands at your expense?"

"You can understand what you please," said Carter truculently.

"Are you married to her?"

"I am not at present.  I shall be as soon as it suits Laura's
convenience and my own."

"You will kindly understand that I resent your interference with my
finances and my daughter's."

"You may resent," said the prospective son-in-law, "till you're black
in the face, and I shan't lose sleep over it."

Bang went something outside, and Slade started.  "Good Lord," he said,
"there's somebody firing at us.  Sit down, man, on the floor."

"Nothing of the kind," said Carter testily.  "My boy Trouble has got
the engines going to try to work us off this bank, and with his usual
cleverness he has contrived a back fire, that's all.  There--you can
smell it.  Now, I don't think you are a quarrelsome man as a general
thing?"

"Not I.  Too much trouble to quarrel with people."

"Well, I'll just ask you to give Laura and myself your benediction, and
leave the rest to us."

Slade let off his limp laugh.  "If a wedding present of such dubious
value will please you, I'm most pleased to give it.  Especially as I
see you're inclined to stick to my little girl.  To tell the truth, I'd
heard you were after somebody else and it made me rather mad.  You know
how rumors float about in the bush."

Carter's lips tightened.  "Who's the other person, please?"

"Oh, just my present employer--and your late one.  But I've no doubt
it's all a mistake."

"If you'll apply to her, I've no doubt she'll endorse that sentiment
most thoroughly.  I don't think Miss O'Neill's a person to throw
herself away on one of her own ex-servants."

Slade chuckled.  "If you put it that way, I'm sure she isn't.  By the
way, do you know who she is?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I suppose you've discovered by this time that the late Godfrey
O'Neill was a bachelor, and Kate's no relation to him at all.  He and
his sister Jane, who married a hopeless blackguard called Craven,
adopted her between them and brought her up.  I've never fagged myself
to find out how she was bred, but you're one of these energetic fellows
that like to dig into pedigrees, and I thought probably you'd know."

"I don't know, and I shan't inquire."

"All right, don't get excited about it, neither shall I.  D'ye know I
think if you could soften that genial manner without straining
yourself, it would be an improvement.  I'm led to believe that
fathers-in-law expect a civility and even at times a certain mild
amount of deference."

"Did you defer to your father-in-law?" asked Carter brutally.

The tone was insulting and the meaning plain, and ninety-nine men out
of a hundred in a similar place would have resented it fiercely.  But
Slade merely yawned.  His sallow face neither twitched nor changed its
tint.  He got up and stretched himself lazily.  "So that's the trouble,
is it?  Well, you didn't ask me to consult you when I chose a wife, and
I didn't ask you to fall in love with my daughter."  He turned his head
and eyed Carter thoughtfully--"You are in love with her, I suppose?"

"Can you suggest any other possible reason why I should ask her to
marry me?"

"Well, I can hardly imagine you did it for the honor of an alliance
with me.  I suppose if I were an energetic man I should try and worry
out what it is you're so sore about.  It must be something beyond the
detail that Laura's got a touch of color in her, because of course you
knew that from the first moment you met her.  But I guess the something
else will show itself in its own good time.  In the meanwhile if you'll
give me an account of what you advanced to Laura for this Grand Canary
trip, I'll give you an I.O.U. for it.  I don't care to be indebted to
anyone for things like that."

"I'll perhaps send in the bill when I hear there's a possibility of
getting cash payment," said Carter dryly.

And then for the first time Slade lost his temper, and he cursed his
future son-in-law with all an old Coaster's point and fluency.  Every
man has his tender point, and here was Owe-it Slade's.  Throughout all
his life he had never paid a bill if he could help it, and he had
accepted the consequent remarks of injured parties with an easy
philosophy.  But it seemed he owned a nice discrimination; some items
were "debts of honor," and these he had always sooner or later
contrived to settle.  And the account which he decided he owed Carter
for Laura's maintenance in Grand Canary he set down as one which no
gentleman could leave unpaid without besmirching his gentility.



CHAPTER XIX

SENHOR CASCAES

Now, as the servant of O'Neill and Craven, Carter had done his work
well and indeed enthusiastically, and after he had left the firm's
employ he had neither competed with them in business nor done them harm
in any way whatever.  It is true that at his memorable interview with
the King of Okky with a little persuasion he could have got that
grateful monarch to take off the embargo which he had laid on the
factories at Monk, Malla-Nulla, and Smooth River, though the fact that
he did not put forward pressure on this point could hardly have reached
the ear of Miss O'Neill.  Indeed it is to be doubted if she ever knew
that any reference to her name or affairs cropped up at all.

But be that as it may, she certainly from the date of sending her cable
to Cascaes began to interest herself in opposing Carter's schemes.

The first he knew of it was a typewritten letter from Liverpool on the
firm's note-paper beginning "Dear sir," and ending "O'Neill & Craven,
per K. O'Neill."  In arid business sentences it understood he had "a
tin-mining proposition up Smooth River," it pointed out that "our firm
for many years has had very far-reaching interests in this
neighborhood," and it suggested that O'Neill and Craven should buy the
mine "to prevent any clash of interests."

Carter replied to this curtly enough that Tin Hill was not in the
market, and took the next boat home to Liverpool.  He had picked up a
distressed merchant skipper named Kettle, and put him in charge of the
motor boat, and the canoes, and the mining work generally, and though
in their short interview he decided that Kettle was the most tactless
man in Africa, he believed him to be honest, and instinctively knew him
to be capable.

"One thing I must ask," he said at the end of their talk, "and that is
that you do not try any proselytizing up here.  Your creed, I have no
doubt, is very excellent at home, but out here where they are either
Moslemin or nothing it will only stir up disputes, and that I won't
have.  Is that quite agreed?"

"I have learned, sir," said the sailor, "to obey orders to the letter
even though I know them to be against an owner's best interests."

"Um," said Carter, and stared at him thoughtfully.  "Well, Captain, I
think it would be safest if you went on those lines.  You will find
your chief engineer, who carries the name of White-Man's-Trouble,
beautifully unreliable in most things, but he understands the launch's
engines wonderfully, and I like him.  I'd take it as a favor if you'd
deal with him as lightly as possible."

"I'll bear your words in mind, sir, though, as a man who has handled
everything colored that serves afloat, I'd like to point out that
pampering spoils them."

"The only other point to remember is that I've made my name up these
rivers mainly by being known as a ju-ju man--sort of wizard, in fact.
You'll have no difficulty, I suppose, in following up that line now
I've given you the hint?"

"You'll pardon me, sir, but if that's made an essential, I must chuck
up the job, sorely in need of employment as I am at the moment.  I have
my conscience to consider.  And besides as a liar I am the poorest kind
of failure."

"Pooh, man, it's only a little acting that's required."

"Mr. Carter," said the sailor still more stiffly, "you see in me a man
who's sunk very low, but I've never descended yet to working as a
theatrical.  According to our Persuasion, we hold that play acting is
one degree less wicked than bigamy, and indeed often leads to it."

"Well," said Carter, "that mail-boat sails in half an hour's time, and
I've got to go by her.  I've been building on you, Captain, as the most
trustworthy man now knocking about in West Africa."

"I'm all that, sir."

"So I shall have to respect your scruples and give you the billet."

"You shall never regret it for one minute, sir.  You'll find the
address of Mrs. Kettle on this slip of paper, and if you'll post
three-quarters of my wages to her as they fall due, I'd take it as a
favor.  I've been out of--well, I won't pester you with domestic
matters, sir, but the fact is I'm afraid she must be in very poor
circumstances just at the moment."

"She shall have a check posted the day after I land in Liverpool.  I
give you my word for that."

"I thank you, Mr. Carter.  Now, if you wanted another officer, there's
a Mr. McTodd, an engineer who's just now at Akassa, that I could get."

"Thanky, Captain, but not for me."

"I believe I could persuade him to take a low wage."

"Not for me, Captain.  I know McTodd.  He's far too thirsty and far too
cantankerous.  You'd find him a ugly handful."

"Me!  By James, sir, I can handle that swine in a way that would
surprise you.  He's had a bad up-bringing; he belongs to the Free Kirk;
but after I've had the manipulation of Mr. McTodd for a week, I can
make him as mild as Norwegian Swiss milk."

"Well, we'll say 'not for the present,' at any rate.  With the
organization I've got together, and the backing from the King of Okky
that I've told you about, you'll be able to haul down all the available
ore if you follow out my instructions, and when it comes to bonus,
Captain, if you've been successful, you'll find me a generous
paymaster.  I don't toil for nothing myself.  I work about ten times as
hard as my neighbors, and draw in about seventeen times as much pay.  I
like a man who has got the same ambitions."

The little sailor sighed.  "I've always done ten times the normal whack
of work, sir, but somehow I've missed fingering the dibs.  I tell you
flat, fourteen pounds a month has been good for me, and month in and
month out I've not averaged ten."

"Then, if that's the case," said Carter briskly, "just here should come
the turn in your fortunes.  Shake hands, Captain.  Good-bye to you,
good health and good luck.  Here's my surf boat.  The steamer's heaving
short."

"Good-bye, sir," said Kettle, "I'm sure you'll remember to send that
check."

      *      *      *      *      *

The mail-boat called as usual at Las Palmas and was boarded on arrival
by the usual batch of invalids and Liverpool trippers for the run home.
Carter landed as soon as the port doctor gave clearance papers, rowed
to the mole and chartered a tartana, between whose shafts there drooped
a mouse-colored mule.  In it he bumped over the badly laid tram lines
from the Isleta to the city, and then left the city by the Telde road.

Las Palmas is the meeting place of all West Africa, and if one is there
long enough, one expects to meet sooner or later every man who has
business or other interests on the Coast.  Carter waved his hand to a
Haûsa constabulary officer in the gateway of the Catalina, and to a
Lagos branch boat skipper who was standing on the steps of the Elder
Dempster office.  Coming down from the telegraph station he saw one of
the Germans who had been frightened out of Mokki, and under a café
awning by the dry river bed no less a personage than Burgoyne of Monk
River waved a hospitable hand and invited him to try a glass of Bass.

But further on, where the Telde road leaves the city, he saw a man
whose walk he knew, and instinctively leaned out from the tartana's
awning to show himself, and to wave a greeting.  The man was Cascaes.
But the Senhor Cascaes stared him coolly in the face, and--cut him dead.

The tartana rattled on, and Carter nodded after the Portuguese
thoughtfully.  "You have always hated me pretty tenderly," he mused.
"I wonder why.  I've hammered you a dozen times, but it's only been in
the ordinary way of business, and what any half-baked Portuguese has
got to expect.  You surely can't be up against me for that."

Laura was not living in the convent, but lodged in the house of a
banana farmer just beyond.  Carter found her in the garden.  She was
sitting on the end of a bench overhung with great lavender clots of
wistaria at one end and shaded by a purple mass of bougainvillea at the
other.  He noted with a queer thrill that there was something cold in
the outward form of her greeting.

She returned his kiss accurately enough, but without enthusiasm.
Still, from the moment she saw him, the light came into her eyes that
he had grown to know so well.  The two things did not seem somehow or
other to tally.  Carter sat himself on the bench and took a good hold
on his nerves.  Then he slid an arm round her waist and drew her to
him.  "Well," he said, "out with it.  What's the trouble?"

She dropped her head on his shoulder contentedly enough.  "Oh, the
usual.  When you're away from me, dear, I never feel quite certain if I
ought to marry you."

"Now, that's awkward, isn't it?  But as I have been up country
colloguing with your other suitor, old Kallee, you couldn't very well
have been with me there."

"I wish you hadn't gone."

"How delightfully unreasonable!  We'd nothing to boil the pot on
before, and now we've plenty, and neither of us is a bit the worse.
What's broke since I've been away?"

"The world, I think," said Laura miserably.

"Then I hope I'm the sticking plaster that will mend it.  Now, I want
to hear all about Las Palmas, and what you have been doing.  I see most
of West Africa's here.  Great Christopher! but it is fine to smell even
the outside edge of civilization once more.  My mother used to get
tired of Wharfedale occasionally--ah, well, but that wouldn't interest
you."

"No, you always cut yourself short when you begin to talk about your
people."

"Do I?  Well, what's sauce for the gander's sauce for the goose and
you're the goose.  Did you ever speak to me about your folk?  Not one
word, unless I dragged it out.  Look here, Laura, are you trying to
wrangle?  Because if so, and if it's my fault, just say what's the
crime, and give me my licking and get it over.  I've got a clear
conscience, and I'll be as penitent as you please."

"My dear, you've been perfect."

"Oh, I say," said Carter, "not too sudden.  That sort of thing brings
on heart attacks."

"I know your temptations, and you've been an honorable gentleman all
through."

"I wish," said Carter whimsically, "you could persuade other people to
look at me in that light.  A missionary on the steamer yesterday called
me a gin-selling ruffian because I happened to be sitting in his deck
chair; one of the Protectorate officials a week ago accused me of being
a smuggling gun-runner, because I've been up country and happened to
get on with the native local headmen instead of scrapping with them,
and Miss K. O'Neill, of our mutual acquaintance, has given me to
understand that if I don't quit poaching on what she's pleased to call
O'Neill and Craven's territory, she'll run me out of business.  To give
her her due I gather she proposes to pay me something to clear out."

"And you're going to take it from her?"

"Don't say 'her' so tragically.  I'm not going to take anything from
her, or from anyone else.  I've got a mine, and it's a nailing good
mine, and I'm going to run it by my lone or bust.  It isn't a thing you
could sell to a company, and besides it isn't one of those mines one
would care to sell.  It's too good for that.  It's just a fortune for
two people, and one of them is presently going to sign herself Laura
Carter."

"George, you're quite the best man on earth."

"I doubt it myself at times.  By the way, who should I see down in Las
Palmas just now but Cascaes.  He did me the honor of ignoring my
existence.  It wasn't the unshaved Coast Cascaes either; he'd got a
clean blue chin, and the rest of him was dressed fit to kill.  Now,
what is the mysterious Cascaes doing here?"

"He's O'Neill and Craven's agent for Grand Canary.  I thought you'd
heard."

"No, it's news to me.  It's news, moreover, that they had any business
here that required an agent."

"They haven't."

"Hum," said Carter.  "Miss O'Neill doesn't pay a salary without getting
value for it.  Now this is one of her deep-laid schemes."

Laura looked at him queerly.  "Yes," she said, "this is one of Kate's
deep-laid schemes, George.  I wonder if you can see through it."

The sun above them scorched high, and the cool white buildings of the
banana farmer threw the shortest of purple shadows.  The fresh breath
of the trade rustled the ferns and the palm leaves of the garden, and
stirred the great masses of the bougainvillea into rhythmical movement.
"It's grand to be in a place like this after a spell on the Coast,"
said Carter.

"Do you prefer it to England?" Laura asked pointedly.

Carter held down a sigh.  "I believe I do," he said steadily.  "Come,
now, old lady, what do you say?  Shall we buy a property here in Grand
Canary, and settle down, and grow the finest flower garden in the
island?"

"But roses are your favorite flower and they don't do well here in the
South."

"Oh, it's roses that my father cares for, at least he and the mater
together run the roses at home.  But I think my taste runs more to
bougainvillea, say--and great trees of scarlet geranium with stalks as
thick as one's leg, and palms, and tree ferns.  Besides, a garden means
irrigation here, and I've never had a real water-works scheme of my own
to play with since I was a kid and worked out a most wonderful system
by the old smelt mill at home.  Yes, we should have great times
gardening out here."

They had never said so in words, but both of them knew that George
Carter would never take Laura back to England when once he had married
her, and the girl through all her fierce tropical love for him
recognized what this self-denial must cost and valued it to the full.
But presently she brought him back to the matter they had been talking
of before.

"Can't you see why Kate sent Senhor Cascaes here, George?"

"I haven't given him another thought.  Besides, although Miss O'Neill
is seeing fit to interfere with me, I don't intend to meddle with her."

"I think you ought to defend what's your own."

"Certainly I shall.  Can anyone accuse me of not doing so?  But I don't
see why you keep harping on Cascaes.  The man is an open admirer of
Miss O'Neill's, and I suppose she's tickled thereby.  Anyway that's the
only reason I can see why she should have provided him with a job."

"Do you mean to say you think it is Kate the Senhor Cascaes is running
after?"

"Certainly I do.  Who else was there at Mokki?"

"Do you think I've so few attractions then?"

"But, my good girl, you're engaged to me, and he knew it all along.
There was no secret about our engagement.  Everybody about the factory
knew of it."

"And because a girl is engaged, or even married, do you think that's
any bar to another man admiring her?"

Carter whistled.  "I've been a blind ass, and I must say I did refuse
to listen to the highfalutin' nonsense Cascaes wanted to pour into my
sympathetic ear.  How often have you seen him here in Grand Canary?"

"He has called every day."

"That's not answering my question."

"George, dear, give me credit for loyalty.  He told me one day when you
were building that fort at Mokki that he liked me, and that if the
Okky-men came he would die cheerfully before any harm should come to
me; and I told him that he had no right to say such things to a girl
who was engaged to you."

"Why wasn't I told of this?"

"Because he said to me he had nearly shot you once, and I was afraid
that if there was any trouble, dear, you might be hurt."

"You could have trusted me," said Carter dryly, "to keep my end up with
a dago like that.  Besides, if you'd given me the tip, I could have
seen to it that I had the drop on him first."

Laura shivered.  "You are rather mediæval.  I don't want to be fought
for."

"Still, I gather from what you say that you've been seeing the fellow
here?"

"Never when I could help it.  Each day I've refused to see him when he
came to the house.  But he has waited for me when I went out into the
country, and once he was here in the garden, sitting on this very seat,
when I came out after lunch."

"Does he always tell the same old tale?"

"He says always he wants to marry me."

"I thought you said you refused to listen to him?"

"George, don't be unreasonable.  I've told him over and over again it's
no use; I've gone away every time we've met; but it seems to be the one
occupation of his life."

"Except for running after you, I can imagine he does have plenty of
time on his hands out here."

"Don't you think, George, he was sent to the island to have nothing to
do except that?"

"Sent here who by?  By Miss O'Neill, do you mean?  Great Christopher!
Laura, what morbid idea will you have in your head next?  I don't
flatter myself that outside business Miss O'Neill cares whether I'm
alive or dead, and as for you, well, the pair of you may be friendly
enough when you were kids, but you seemed to have outgrown any past
civilities last time I saw you together on the Coast.  Don't you go and
run away with any wild cat notions about Miss O'Neill.  She's got one
amusement in the world, and that's business, and if she's sent Cascaes
here to Las Palmas, you can bet your best frock the only job he's got
in view so far as she's concerned is dividend hunting.  Apropos of
which, I nearly forgot.  Here's something to practise your autograph
in."

"Why, it's a check-book."

"Clever girl.  Guessed it in once.  I just opened a credit for you down
at the bank in Las Palmas for £500 to be going on with.  That's for
chocolate, and hairpins, and a mantillina, and the latest thing in
Spanish slippers.  I say, Laura, you must get a pair of those tan ones,
with the laces tied in a bow just down over the toe.  And if you don't
go through the lot whilst I'm away squaring mine matters up in England,
I shall take you solemnly round the shops when I come back here, and
buy you a trousseau of all the ugliest and most unbecoming garments
they have in stock."

"You are good to me, dear.  But I can never spend all that."

"If you've any balance you find unwieldy, buy Cascaes a smile with it,
if you can find one that will fit.  No, seriously, old lady, you will
be marrying a rich man, although you did not know it when you took him,
and you may as well get used to spending.  It's no use for us preparing
to save."

"No use preparing to save," poor Laura repeated miserably to herself.
"There will be no--no one except ourselves to look forward to."  But
she said nothing of this aloud.  She just thanked him, and snuggled in
to his shoulder and patted his sleeve.

Far away over the corner of the isle a steamer hooted in the harbor of
the Isleta, and the sound came to them dimly through the foliage
plants.  Carter looked at his watch.  "Hullo, I must go, or the
criminal who drives my tartana will flog that poor beast of a mule to
death in his effort to catch the boat.  So now, Miss Slade, just please
give me a sample of your best good-bye."

Twilight does not linger in the summer months, even so far north as
Grand Canary.  The sun was balanced in lurid splendor on the rocky
backbone of the isle as Carter said his last words of farewell, making
the dead volcanoes look as though at a whim they could spring once more
into scarlet life.  It was dark when he got on the road, and the
evening chill rode in on the Trade.  The mouse-colored tartana mule
sneezed as he pressed his galled shoulders into the collar.

Carter wedged himself in a corner of the carriage and resolutely looked
on life with a reckless gayety.  After all, what was this ache called
Love?  To the devil with it!  Hereafter he would eat, and drink, and
work, especially work, and--well, Laura was a good sort, and he
intended to play the game, and please her.  He had given his word to
Laura, he forgot exactly why, but he had given it, and that was enough.
For good or evil he was one of those dogged Englishmen who keep to a
promise that had once been given.

Then with an equal doggedness he thrust all these things from his mind,
and resolutely clamped down his thoughts to Tin Hill and the details of
its working.  No news had reached him of the importance which the
freakish British public had placed upon his little arrangement about
that detail of the human sacrifices.  He saw himself merely as an
unknown business man who in the near future would be able to sway a
thing which at present he knew nothing about, and that was the tin
market.  The idea unconsciously fascinated him.  He had no enmity
against the present producers of tin, did not know indeed who they
were, but he smiled grimly as he thought of the way in which presently
he would govern them.  It was the lust for power, which is latent in so
many men, leaping up into life.

The brilliant stars shone down on him from overhead, and the cool Trade
carried to him salt odors of the sea, but they got from him no
attention.  His mind was journeying away in the African bush, on
spouting river-bars, in offices, on metal exchanges....

He was roused from these dreams with much suddenness.  In his up
country journeying in Africa he had developed that animal instinct for
the nearness of danger which is present in us all, but in nine hundred
and ninety-nine men out of the thousand becomes atrophied for want of
use.  In the river villages the natives had given him a name which
means Man-with-eyes-at-the-back-of-his-head.

It was this slightly abnormal sense that sprang into quick activity,
and Carter made so sudden a stoop that his face smacked against the
shabby cushions on the opposite side of the tartana.  But
simultaneously he turned and clutched through the night, and seized a
wrist, and held it with all his iron force.  A moment later he found
with his other hand that the wrist was connected with a long
bright-bladed knife, so he twisted it savagely till that weapon fell
onto the dirty carpet on the floor.  And all the time, be it well
understood, no sounds had been uttered, and the mouse-colored mule
jogged steadily on with the tartana through the dust and the night.

Then Carter began to haul in on the wrist, and the man to whom it was
attached came over into the body of the vehicle, bumping his knees
shrewdly against the wheel-spokes en route.

"Ah, Cascaes, that's you, is it?  And I thought once you claimed to be
a gentleman, and agreed not to go at me from behind?  Well, I'm afraid
there's only one kind of medicine that will suit you, and that's the
kind one gives to dogs that turn treacherous.  Have you got any
suggestions to make?"

The Portuguese held his tongue.

"Ready to take your gruel, are you?  Well, I propose to give you a full
dose.  Hi there, driver, pull up.  Wake, you sleepy head!  What is it?
Why, I've picked up a passenger whilst you've been nodding, and now we
want to get down for a minute.  Here, give me your whip."

      *      *      *      *      *

Carter's arm was lusty and his temper raw.  Moreover, the whip, being
the property of a Las Palmas tartana driver, was made for effective use.

"I may not cure you," said Carter between thumps, "of a taste for
cold-blooded assassination, but I'm going to make the wearing of a coat
and breeches an annoyance to you for the next three weeks at any rate."
After which statement, as the whip broke, he flung the patient into the
aloe hedge at the side of the road, got back into the tartana and told
the driver to hurry on to the Isleta, or they'd miss the boat.



CHAPTER XX

MAJOR MEREDITH

"The _Liverpool Post_," said Mrs. Craven, "allows itself to hint gently
that you've been rather persecuting Mr. Carter, Kate.  Now, I don't
call the _Post_ a sensational paper, nor is it given to introducing
personal matters, as a rule."

"I wish it would mind its own business and leave mine alone," said Kate
crossly.

"'The oppression of nations or individuals,'" read Mrs. Craven, "'may
begin by being a matter of merely domestic importance, but when it
assumes sufficient dimensions it forces itself into public notice.'"

"Do they couple my name with that?"

"They leave you to do that yourself," said the old lady dryly.

"Well, I don't mind.  They may say what they like.  I'm entirely within
my rights."

"The _Post_ admits that.  Here, I'll read you what it says, my dear.
'Mr. George Carter, whose name has been so prominently before the
public of late in connection with his splendid efforts in winning over
the King of Okky to the side of humanity, has himself been the victim
of some very high-handed oppression.  He has discovered a most valuable
vein of tin in a part of the back country where no European explorer
had ever trod before, and with toil and care, and in fact with genius,
had brought cargo after cargo of the valuable ore down mysterious
African creeks and rivers to a spot where the ocean steamers could
conveniently ship it.  To be precise, he hired from Messrs. Edmondson's
small factory on the Smooth River a piece of waste-cleared ground,
dumped his ore on that as he towed it tediously down those unknown
creeks in a string of dugouts, and there let it accumulate so as not to
flood the markets, and cause ruin to the tin industries in England--'
Shall I go on?"

"Please do, Aunt."

"'But presently an interviewer arrived in the shape of a well-known
firm of West African merchants and financiers, who bought out Messrs.
Edmondson's interest in their Smooth River factory, found that Mr.
Carter had no lease, and gave him notice to quit within forty-eight
hours.  As an alternative to removal they demand an annual rent which
amounts to more than fifteen per cent. of the value of the ore stacked
there.  In other words, they are endeavoring, in a manner that almost
smacks of piracy, to force themselves into partnership with him.'"

"Sneak," said Miss O'Neill, "to go and tittle-tattle to the papers like
that."

Mrs. Craven looked at the girl over her spectacles, and then said she,
"Wait a minute till I read you a little more.  'We should add that what
gives these proceedings a more unpleasant flavor than would appear at
first sight is the fact Mr. Carter is unable to defend himself.  He had
left West Africa when action was first taken, and it has been
discovered that he was still in ignorance of what had occurred when his
steamer called at Las Palmas.  The whole thing will be sprung upon him
with a shock of unpleasant surprise when he lands in Liverpool
to-morrow."

"Ah," said Kate.

Mrs. Craven folded the paper, stood up, and walked towards the door.
"As usual, my dear, you have carried out your plan very perfectly."

"What plan?" asked Kate incautiously.

"Of treating Mr. Carter so badly," said Mrs. Craven, turning the
handle, "that presently when he hits you back you will be able to bring
yourself to hate him.  But then you are always successful, Kitty dear,
in everything you set your hand to--tryingly successful sometimes,"
Mrs. Craven added, and went out, and shut the door softly behind her.

Kate nodded at the door.  "Aunt Jane," she said viciously, "there are
moments when you are a perfect cat.  But I will make him detest me for
all that, and then I can truly and comfortably hate him.  It's all very
well their calling him a martyr.  Why should everybody's feelings be
consulted except mine?"

All the same, Kate bowed in a certain degree to public sentiment.  One
thinks also that she had not toughened herself sufficiently to meet
Carter face to face.  Anyway, she discovered that urgent affairs called
her to London, and whirled off Aunt Jane to her flat that very night.
She left Crewdson to fight the invader when he landed in Liverpool, and
gave the old man definite instructions in writing that he was not to
budge an inch from the firm's rights.  "Show Mr. Carter this letter,"
she ordered, "if there is the least occasion for it."

But it seemed that West Africa pursued her.  The telephone rang as soon
as she got to the flat.

"That London?  That Miss Head?  This is Liverpool, Crewdson.  London's
just been calling you up.  Will you ring Four-owe-seven-three Pad.
What's that?  No.  Four-naught-seven-three Pad.  Yes, that's it.
Good-night, Miss."

Kate had more than half a mind to let 4,073 Pad alone.  She was tired,
and somehow in spite of all her successes she was a good deal
dispirited.  The British public had bought no less than four great
rubber companies that she had offered them; the shares were all at a
premium; everybody was pleased; and she had transferred her own profits
safely into land and trustee securities.  Since her first burst of
success, money had simply rolled in on her, and already it had ceased
to give her amusement.  Success lay sour in her mouth.  She asked
Fortune for just one thing more.  Because she was a woman she could not
go and get it for herself.  She told herself that it was only a
convention that held her back--but she shuddered and chilled all over
at the thought of breaking that convention.

She sat in a deep soft chair, twisting her long gloves into a hard
string, and staring into the glow of the fire, and then with a "Faugh"
at her own weakness, she threw the gloves onto the fender, and walked
across to a telephone that stood on a side-table.

"Four-owe-seven-three Pad, please.  No, Forty-seventy-three Paddington.
Yes.  Hullo?  Hullo?  Is that Four-nought-seven-three?  This is Miss
O'Neill.  Liverpool rang up to say you wanted to speak to me.  Who is
that, please?"

"No one you know," came in the small clear voice of the telephone.
"One of those sort of people who writes letters to the papers above
some such signature as 'Well-Wisher.'"

"If you don't give me your name," said Kate sharply, "I shall ring off."

"I don't think you will when I tell you I'm going to give you some news
about your father."

"My father unfortunately is dead.  You've got hold of the wrong Miss
O'Neill."

The telephone laughed.  "Not a bit of it, it's the lady who is known
generally as Kate O'Neill I'm speaking with, but whose real name is
Katherine Meredith."

Now Kate knew that Mrs. Craven was only "Aunt Jane" by courtesy and
adoption, and had naturally wondered many times over who her real
people might have been.  She had always been a very practical young
woman, and had not worried herself unduly over the matter; but still
being human, she had her share of curiosity, and though the subject had
always been strictly taboo at the house in Princes' Park, still that
did not hinder her from discussing it with her own thoughts.  And now,
"Katherine Meredith!"

"I think you had better tell me who you are," she said to the telephone.

"I prefer anonymity.  Do you know Day-Pearce?"

"No.  Yes, perhaps I do, if you mean Sir Edward Day-Pearce, the West
African man.  I don't know him personally."

"All the better," rasped the telephone.  "Anyway, he is lecturing
to-night in a non-Conformist temple in Westbourne Grove--the Athenæum,
they call it.  Begins at eight.  He's certain to say something about
Meredith.  I should try to go if I were you."

"I shouldn't dream--" Kate began, when whizz went the bell, and she was
cut off.  She rang again, got the inquiry office, found that 4,073 was
a hairdresser's shop, once more got 4,073, spoke to the proprietor,
learned that the telephone had been hired for an hour by a gentleman
who had some business to transact.  No, the gentleman had just gone.
No, they didn't know who he was: never seen him before--Miss O'Neill's
ring off had a touch of temper in it.

She went back to the deep soft chair and tried to bring her thoughts
once more to the subject that had been in hand before the interruptions
came.  She was a business woman, and had trained herself to concentrate
the whole of her mind on any matter she chose.  But somehow those two
little words "My father" kept cropping up; and presently she began
trying to picture what her mother was like.  She went to the telephone
and called up a theatre agency.  She had to say three times over
"Athenæum--Westbourne Grove" before the young man at the other end
grasped the name, and she was rewarded by hearing him laugh as he said
he had no seats for Sir Edward Day-Pearce's lecture that evening.

"Where can I get one?" she demanded.

"At the door, madam," was the polite response.  "I believe the prices
of entrance are threepence, sixpence, and one shilling, unless you
happen to be a subscriber."

Supposing the whole thing were a hoax to draw her there, and by some
means to make her look ridiculous?  It was quite likely.  She was a
successful woman, and had already learned that one of the prices of
success is the spitting of spite and envy.  But difficulties did not
often stay long in the path of Miss Kate O'Neill.  She picked up a
telephone directory, turned the pages, found a number, called it up,
and made certain arrangements.  Thereafter she dressed, dined, and took
Mrs. Craven to laugh over the new piece at the Gaiety.

But poor Kate found even the Gaiety dull that night.  There was a man
on the stage with a red head.  He was not in the least like Carter
either in looks, speech, or manner, but--well, it must have been the
hair which persisted in calling up that unpleasant train of thought
which kept her vaguely irritated throughout all the evening.

There was a bundle of type script waiting for her when she got back to
the flat, which happened to be the verbatim report of Sir Edward
Day-Pearce's lecture which she had arranged that two stenographers
should go and take down for her, but she did not choose to open this
before the keen eyes of Aunt Jane.  Instead she waited till that astute
old lady should see fit to go to bed, and watched her eat sandwiches,
drink a tumbler of soda-water lightly laced with whiskey, and listened
to a résumé of all the other plays that had filled the Gaiety boards
since the house was opened.  At the end of which Kate had the final
satisfaction of being laughed at.

"You've been itching to be rid of me ever since we got back, my dear,
and as a general thing you don't in the least mind saying when you want
to be alone.  I wonder what's in those mysterious papers you're so
anxious I shouldn't ask about.  Good-night, Kitty dear."

"Good-night, Aunt Jane," said Kate, and opened the package.

The lecture was unexciting.  It was the dull record of a dull but
capable man, who knew his work thoroughly, did it accurately, and in
the telling of it left out all the points that were in the least
picturesque or interesting.  Sir Edward had spent half a lifetime in
Colonial administration, and the only times he rose into anything
approaching eloquence was when he had to tell of some colonial interest
that was ruthlessly sacrificed by some ignorant official at home for
the sake of a vote or a fad.  Four several instances he gave of this,
and these stood out warmly against the gray background of the rest of
the speech.

But to Kate, who knew her West Africa by heart, it was all dull enough
reading till he came to almost the last paragraph.

"It is by a peculiar irony," the type report read, "that an agreement
should recently have been come to by which the notorious King of Okky
promises to discontinue his practice of human sacrifice.  It is
six-and-twenty years since I first went out to West Africa, and my
immediate superior then was Major Meredith.  He was a man of the
highest ideals, and we all thought of tremendous capabilities.  He saw
what was wanted on the spot, and carried out his theories with small
enough regard for ignorant criticism at home.  By the exercise of
tremendous personal influence, and at a fearful risk, he made his way
to Okky City itself, saw its unspeakable horrors, and made a treaty
with the then king.  In return for certain concessions the king was to
come under British protection, and of course give up objectionable
practices.  Well, I don't know whether there are any of the
Anti-British party here, but I daresay most of you will think that the
addition of a quarter of a million of square miles of rich country to
the empire was no mean gift.  Ladies and gentlemen, you little know
what the Government was then.  'Perish West Africa' was one of their
many creeds, and with Exeter--" [here the reporter had written the word
"Disturbance," and evidently missed the next few sentences]--"I don't
care whether you like it or whether you are decently ashamed, the
thing's true.  They refused to ratify the treaty, and my poor chief was
censured for exceeding instructions.  Well, the backers of the
high-minded potentate, as I believe they called themselves, got their
way, and I wish they were not too ignorant to realize what their mean
little action caused in human lives.  Putting the human sacrifice in
Okky City at the very low estimate of eight thousand a year, in
five-and-twenty years that brings the figure up to two hundred thousand
black men and women whose blood lies at the door of those unctuous
hypocrites who made it their business to break Major Meredith because
he was an Imperialist."

Again the reporter put in the word "Disturbance," but he apparently
managed to catch the next sentence.  "Aye, you may yap," the old
administrator went on, "and I dare say from the snug looks of some of
you you're own sons of the men who did it, and I hope you feel the
weight of their bloodguiltiness.  Two hundred thousand lives,
gentlemen, and all thrown away to pander to the fads of some ignorant
theorists who had never been beyond the shores of England.  If Major
Meredith could have held out against the clamor, I believe that he
would have been a man to stand beside Clive, and Rhodes, and Hastings,
in the work he would have done for the Empire; but as it was he left
the service in disgust, and drifted away into the savage depths of that
Africa he knew so well, and had so vainly tried to help.  His wife went
with him, and, so I heard, bore him a daughter before she died.  A
rumor reached me that some trader brought the child to England and
adopted her, but poor Meredith--well, he has disappeared from the
record...."

The lecture closed, a few paragraphs farther on, again with
"Disturbance."

Kate folded the sheets and put them on the table.  She was somehow
conscious of a queer thrill of elation.  One of the discomforts that an
adopted child who does not know her history must always carry through
life, is the feeling of having been bred of parents that were probably
discreditable.  She had vague memories of her babyhood.  There was a
village of thatched houses and shade trees.  She had clear recollection
of one day playing in the dust with the village dogs and the other
babies--black babies, they were--when a huge spotted beast sprang
amongst them, roared, and for a moment stood over her, the white baby.
At intervals she had dreamed of that beast ever since.  From maturer
knowledge she knew it must have been a leopard, and leopards do not
grow beyond a certain normal size.  But in dreamland that leopard was
always enormous....  She could never remember whether in the dusty
village street under the heat and the sunshine it had done damage, or
whether the pariah dogs had frightened it away.

Try how she would, she could remember no mother.  The women of the
village were all black, and she lived, so faint memory said, first with
one and then with another.  She had no clear recollection of any of
them....  And, indeed, there might have been many villages, because
there were hammock journeys, with a pet monkey riding on the pole, and
walls of thick green bush on either hand that held dangers....  She
still had a scar just below the nail on the first finger of her right
hand where the monkey bit her one day when she teased it.

But plainest of all these dim pictures of the memory was one of a white
man who at rare intervals came into the scene and took her on his knee.
He had iron-gray hair and beard which were shaggy and matted, and he
always had a pipe between his lips and a glittering eye-glass on a
black watered-silk ribbon for her to play with.  Furthermore, he always
brought some present when he came to see her, and gave another present
also, if he was pleased, to the black women with whom she lived.  It
was he who hung round her neck the Aggry bead that she still had locked
away in the bottom tray of her jewel case.

She remembered this man with a vague kindness.  But if Godfrey O'Neill
cut her off from him with such completeness it must have been for some
profoundly good reason.  Uncle Godfrey had been far from squeamish.
Uncle Godfrey in his lazy way stuck to friends when everybody else
voted them far outside the pale.  And therefore, she had argued, the
iron-gray haired man with the eyeglass must have done something
peculiarly disgraceful.

That he was her father she was entirely sure.  Occasionally she had
tried to argue with herself that she was little more than a babe when
she saw him last, and was no judge, and that possibly the iron-gray man
was her father's friend.  But something stronger than mere human reason
always rose up in arms against such a suggestion.

Sir Edward's halting lecture had roused up one recollection in her head
that heretofore had persistently eluded her.  A thousand times in those
dreams of Africa, and the hot villages, and the pet monkey with its red
seed necklace, and all the other old dim scenes, she had on the tip of
her memory the name of the iron-gray man with the eyeglass, and a
thousand times she had missed catching it by the smallest hair.  In a
flash it came back--he was Meredith.

Was he alive still?  She could not tell; but that she would find out
now.  For once she adjudged old Godfrey O'Neill to be wrong.  She was
not going to let the discreet veil remain any longer over a man who,
whatever his subsequent career had been, at any rate was a martyr once,
and her father.



CHAPTER XXI

THE FEELING ON THE COAST

"Well, Carter-me-lad," said Captain Image, coming into the room, "they
tell me you're the most unpopular man in Liverpool.  They want to give
you dinners, and put your photo in the papers, and hear you make a
speech, and you won't have anything to do with anybody.  What's broke?
Tin troubling you?"

"Oh! tin's all right.  But I've got a constitutional dislike to
marching along at the tail of a brass band, that's all.  Besides I feel
an awful humbug when all these silly stay-at-home people insist on
believing that the one and only reason I went up country was to chop
down old Kallee's private crucifixion tree.  Have a cigar?"

"Not me in here, me lad.  I came home from the Islands with the old
_M'poso_ full of passengers, and I've smoked myself half sick on
cigars.  I'll suck at a pipe.  By the way, I've got a message for you
from Kallee.  The old sinner came on board himself when we were lying
off Edmondson's factory trying to get your ore, and nearly drank the
ship dry before I could get quit of him.  Owe-it Slade's been palming
off I.O.U.'s on him.  He'd got quite a sheaf of them.  He says when you
marry Laura he'll give them to you as a wedding present, or words to
that effect.  But in the meanwhile if he can catch Slade he's just
going to chop his head off to prevent him putting any more paper into
circulation."

"Well?"

"Well, you see, me lad, Slade owes our fo'c'sle shop a matter of four
pounds odd which we can't collect, and he's got a Holland gun of mine
that I shouldn't really like to lose.  Besides, come to thinking of it,
I suppose Laura's fond of him anyway.  Couldn't you do something for
him?"

Carter stared.  "Has he left O'Neill and Craven's, then?"

Captain Image stopped down the tobacco in his pipe with a horny
forefinger.  "Why, no, and you'll have to pay to get him away."

"But what mortal use is he to me?"

Captain Image's pipe worked hard and he spoke in jerks.  "Rubber
palaver.  Owe-it Slade's the smartest man at dem rubber palaver on the
Coast."

"Pooh!  That slackster!"

"That's where you're making the usual mistake.  Slade's got his faults.
He wastes his money, he never pays his bills, he sponges for all
eternity, and he makes out he was born lazy.  But don't you believe
him.  Who got Miss Kate all these rubber properties that she's floated
off into such whacking big companies?"

"Miss Kate O'Neill."

"No more than you did, me lad.  It was just Owe-it Slade.  And to
think," Captain Image added with a sigh, "I always put that man down as
a borrowing waster, and never even hustled him to collect cargo for me.
Why, if I'd known then what I know now, I could have bought rubber
lands through him, for a half surf boat full of gin, that I might have
sold to a company myself, and dined off turkey in my own house ashore
every day for all the rest of my natural life.  Why, my Christian Aunt!
I might even have married, if I'd worked him properly."

Captain Image dabbed with his forefinger on Carter's coat sleeve and
left a print of tobacco ash.  "You buy up Owe-it Slade, me lad, and not
only is your fortune made, but--well," he added rather lamely, "you buy
him up and just remember I told you to."

"But--what were you going to say?"

"Well," said Image desperately, "I didn't intend to tell you, but all
up and down the Coast, and in the hotels in Las Palmas, and even in the
bars and offices here, the boys don't like the way Miss Kate is playing
it on you.  It's all right for a girl to take to business, if she's
built that way, but she ought to play the game.  Of course the general
idea is, me lad, that you and she started sweet-hearting and had a
turn-up, but of course I'm in the know, and I've called 'em dam' liars
every time they've started that tale, and told 'em about Laura and how
you were fixed up long before Miss Kate came down onto the Coast.  Why,
Carter-me-lad, I've backed up my words with bets to that extent that if
you were to marry the lady now by any kind of accident, I should stand
to lose what with one fiver and another, a matter of two hundred and
fifty pounds."

Carter laughed.  "That puts it finally out of the region of
possibility, doesn't it?  I can't let you lose a pile like that.  But
all the same I'm not going to interfere with Miss O'Neill.  If Slade's
useful to her, let her keep him.  I'm much obliged to a lot of
officious idiots for sympathizing with me, but really they're moving on
a lot too fast.  It will be quite time for other people to be sorry for
me when I start in to be sorry for myself.  Besides, I thought you, at
any rate, were a strong admirer of Miss O'Neill's?"

"I am," said Captain Image patiently.  He always flattered himself that
he left the more eloquent parts of his speech at Sierra Leone on each
trip north, and picked them up again there next voyage for vigorous use
on the Coast.  It was his pride that he conformed most suitably to
Liverpool's sedate atmosphere.  "I admire Miss Kate as a lady more than
anyone I know, and if she were only twenty years older, and I could
afford it, I wouldn't mind going in for her myself.  But it's her
business ideas, as she showed them over that factory of Edmondson's,
that I can't stand.  The way she stuck up the rent on you, me lad, is
the limit.  Why, if that sort of thing went on, nobody would be safe.
It's Oil-Trust morals.  I'm Welsh myself, but I do draw the line
somewhere."

"What, Welsh?" said Carter politely.  "I should never have guessed it."

"I am," said Captain Image with sturdy truth, "and many times, look
you, I am proud of it.  Which reminds me that little red-bearded Kettle
that you employed to run your launch and the mine is Welsh also.  I
don't want to go against a fellow-countryman who's down on his luck,
but I saw him with my own eyes give old Kallee an illustrated methody
tract on bigamy when he was on the _M'poso_, and if His Portliness
finds anyone kind enough to translate it for him, there'll be the devil
to pay.  Kallee's black, but he's a king, and he's not the kind to let
any man tamper with his domestic happiness.  Now about Slade----"

"We'll drop Slade.  He's Miss O'Neill's man.  If Miss O'Neill chooses
to amuse herself by gunning for me, that's her concern.  But I don't
shoot back."

Captain Image shook his head sadly.  "Well, me lad, if you won't lift a
hand to help yourself, I don't see there's anything more to be said."
He put his pipe in his pocket, stood up and prepared to go.  "Oh, by
the way, did anyone tell you about old Swizzle-Stick Smith?"

"Not dead, is he?"

"Lord bless you, no, me lad.  Very much the reverse.  Look here, what
was your idea of that man?"

"In what way?"

"What was he before he became the disreputable old palm oil ruffian you
first knew at Malla-Nulla?"

"Oh, I suppose he was less disreputable once.  He'd let himself drift,
that's all.  One does get into frightfully slack ways in those lonely
factories."

"Did he strike you as the usual type of man a factory agent's made of?"

"Why, no."

"Gentleman, wasn't he, or had been once?  Always used to hitch up the
knees of his pyjamas when he sat down; spoke well; knew Latin; could
swear round any man on the Coast when he was that side out; and had a
pleasant way of making you feel you were dirt when the mood took him
that way?"

Carter laughed.  "He had some characteristic little ways."

"Ever strike you he'd been a soldier once?"

"I suppose it did."

"Well, me lad, when I was tied up by that Edmondson factory, a boat
swung up to my ladder and a military party stepped out.  Quite the
swell, I can tell you: nobby white helmet, hair cut with scissors,
smart gray mustache, gray imperial bristling underneath it,
clean-shaved chin, white drill coat with concertina pockets, white
drill pants with a crease down the shin, latest thing in pipe-clayed
shoes.  If it hadn't been for the old trick with the eye-glass and the
black ribbon, I take my dick I shouldn't have known him.

"'Hullo Swizzle-Stick Smith,' said I, 'you are a howler.  Whose kit
have you been robbing?'

"'Captain Image,' says he, 'allow me--ar--to present to you Mr. Smith,
a new acquaintance.  It is not--ar--my wish to be mistaken for any of
your discreditable--ar--pot companions of the past.'  That to me, and
on my own deck, me lad.  What do you think of that?"

"I bet you boiled."

Captain Image scratched his head vexedly.  "The rum part of it is, I
didn't.  Somehow I took the man at his own valuation.  There didn't
seem anything else left to do.  He went into my chart house, and sat
there as solid as if he'd been the governor of a colony with six
letters after his name.  Just drank one cocktail and took three
swallows at it, I'll trouble you, and actually left a second to stand
by itself on the tray.  When I handed him the tobacco tin to see if
he'd got that frowsy old pipe in his pocket, I'm hanged if he didn't
pull out a book of cigarette papers and roll himself a smoke with
those.  Well, me lad, when I remembered Swizzle-Stick Smith's opinion
of cigarettes, you might have knocked me down with a teaspoon."

"He scared me out of cigarette smoking at Malla-Nulla," said Carter.
"He was pretty emphatic over the weak-kneed crowd (as he called them)
who only smoked cigarettes.  But why all this revolution in Mr. Smith's
habits?  Did he give any reason for it?"

"That's the amazing thing, he didn't--at least not a proper reason.  He
just let me see that the new Mr. Smith--I got to calling him Major, by
the way--was no relation to the Swizzle-Stick Smith that was, and then
went back over the side to his boat."

"I suppose," said Carter thoughtfully, "he wanted the reformation to be
advertised."

"Well, you don't think I'd keep a choice bit like that to myself," said
Captain Image.  "Naturally I spread the news, though I certainly didn't
tell all the Coast, as I've told you, the way that the late
Swizzle-Stick Smith made me feel second man in my own chart house.  But
that man doesn't need any advertising; the most genial drunk wouldn't
take liberties with him, and you'd fall into calling him Major yourself
if you sat with him for ten minutes.  My Christian Aunt! just think
what a filthy old palm oil ruffian he used to be."

"Did he give any reason for pulling up?"

"Oh, I asked him that.  Managed to slip it in, you know.  And he
answered as dry as you please, 'Urgent private affairs, Captain Image,'
and then tagged on some Latin, which, as he remarked would be the case,
I didn't understand.  You know, me lad," said the sailor thoughtfully,
"he's a gentleman right through, but I shouldn't think that even in his
palmy days he was a man who would have got on particularly well with
the people.  A bit superior, I should call it, with those who hadn't
been birched in the same public school where he was birched."

"I suppose," said Carter, "this is another instance of Miss O'Neill's
influence."

"As to that," said Image, "I can't say, me lad; but this I can tell
you, the Major's what he calls 'sent in his papers' to O'Neill and
Craven's."

"The deuce he has.  What on earth for?"

"Can't tell you.  Old Crewdson gave me the news.  I said to him I
didn't suppose the loss of Swizzle-Stick Smith, even now that he had
changed himself into Major Smith, would make their firm put up the
shutters.  But Crewdson wouldn't take it as a joke.  He told me Miss
Kate was very sorry indeed to lose him, and had herself written to ask
him to come and see her here in England.  Now, me lad, what's her game
in that?"

"I didn't know," said Carter resolutely, "and I don't want to know.  As
I tell you, I flatly refuse to interfere in any of Miss O'Neill's
affairs."



CHAPTER XXII

A FISHERMAN AND HIS CATCH

The fisherman was discontented.

The reasons for his discontent were not plain to the eye.  There had
been as good a fly water as anyone could want; there had been enough
breeze to ruffle the surface, enough cloud to prevent glare; he had
picked just the right flies from his book to suit the river, and the
fish rose freely to them.  He was carrying home as fine a dish of trout
as any man could wish for, and had scrupulously thrown back everything
under ten and a half inches.  But even these things did not please him.
He sucked hard at his cold pipe, and bit at fate as he tramped on
inn-wards through the gathering dusk.

He came to a cross-roads once, and abused the Welsh authorities for not
putting up a sign-post for his guidance.  The district was new to him;
indeed he had come there for that reason: he wanted to be alone for
these last days in England.  He had fished his way up stream all day,
and instead of following the water windings back again, was making his
return journey by road.  And here, it appeared, were three roads to
choose from.  But he was a man of resource.  He depicted mentally a map
of the country, found the newly risen North star, and got his bearings,
and then trudged on again with confidence among towering mountains.

It was night now, moonless, chill, and dark, and the mountains hung on
either side like great walls of blackness.  The road was white and
faintly visible.  But for all that he had presently to pull up sharply
to avoid an obstruction.  "Hullo," he said, "a motor car."  And then
aloud, "Anybody here?"

A grumbling voice answered him from the ditch.  "Yes, I'm the driver,
and I'm here bathing my confounded wrist."

"Had a smash?  Can I help?  What is it?  Bone broken?"

"No, only a bad sprain"--the man peered at Carter through the dusk and
added "sir."

"Your car seems to be standing up all right on her four wheels.  How
did you get pitched out?"

"Oh, it wasn't that sort of an accident.  She was misfiring badly, and
then she stopped.  When I tried to start her again, she back-fired on
me and I thought my arm had gone.  It's the jet in the carburetter
that's choked, I believe, but I can't take the thing down with one
hand."

"I could," Carter thought, and remembered certain episodes with his own
first motor boat in Africa.  But he did not mention this aloud.  "Owner
gone for help?" he asked.

"Yes, sir.  But there's none round here.  At least there's no such
thing as a mechanic within twenty miles.  A hay-motor and a tow to the
nearest barn is the best one can expect."

"Where's your tool kit?"

"But do you understand motors, sir?" the man asked doubtfully.

"I had to.  Just unship a light, and hold it with your sound hand so
that I can see what I'm about.  That's the ticket.  You're sure it's
the carburetter?  Tried your spark and all four plugs?"

"Yes, sir, both the magneto and high tension.  That's all right.  She's
getting no gas; that's the trouble.  It's the gasolene feed that's
choked somewhere.  I saw the fellow that filled us up this morning pour
in from a red-rusty tin before I could stop him, and it'll be a flake
of oxide from that jammed in the carburetter nozzle.  If you could take
it down for us, sir, I'm sure it would be a very great favor."

"Wait a bit.  Before we begin to pull the car to pieces, suppose we
just make sure of one or two other things.  Got a stick or anything to
sound your gasolene tank with?"

"Oh, that's all right.  We haven't run sixty miles since I put in eight
gallons."

But Carter straightened out a length of copper wire, unscrewed the cap,
and sounded the tank.  He pulled out the wire and examined it at the
lamp.  He wiped it carefully and tried a second time.

"Moses!" said the driver, "dry as a bone.  Now, who's been playing
pranks here?  Must have been some of that nasty Welsh crowd that was
hanging round whilst we was having lunch."

"Why, there's the union underneath the tank half unscrewed.  That would
account for the leak, anyway.  Here, hold the lamp.  Not too close.
Yes, and the vibration has cracked the feed pipe.  There's a gap I can
get my finger nail into.  Now, first of all, have you got any spare
gasolene?"

"Yes, sir.  Two tins."

"Good.  Then it's worth while mending this feed pipe.  I suppose you
haven't a soldering iron?"

"Afraid not, sir.  There's rubber solution----"

"Which gasolene melts.  Here, let's go through your stock.  Ah, here's
a tube of seccotine.  Now I'll show you a conjuring trick.  If we give
the crack three coats of that, and let each dry well before the next is
put on--Good Lord!  Kate!"

Miss O'Neill came up out of the darkness and bowed.  "It's really very
good of you, Mr. Carter, to trouble over my car."

"I didn't know it was yours.  I didn't know you were in this
neighborhood.  In fact I did not know where you were."

Kate shrugged her shoulders.  "Didn't some sapient person once record
that coincidences were the commonest things in life?  A minute ago I
didn't know whether you were in England, or West Africa, or Grand
Canary; and you didn't know or care whether I was alive or dead; and
here we meet in the dark on an unnamed roadside in Wales.  It's just
one of those ordinary, every-day, impossible coincidences, which the
vogue of motor cars is making a little more common than usual.  I'm
glad you're letting business differences sink for the moment."

"I didn't know it was your car."

"Or you'd have bitten off your hand sooner than have touched it?"

He laughed rather dryly.  "I'm afraid I should have yielded to the
temptation of meddling.  You see, internal combustion engines are
rather a fad of mine."

"Excellent reason.  How long is this ingenious repair going to take?"

"H'm; three coats of seccotine--have to allow each twenty minutes to
dry--call it an hour.  After that I think if we couple up the union,
and put in the spare gasolene your man says he's got, you should go
sailing off without a hitch.  By the way, I didn't know you motored."

"I'm full of unpleasant surprises."

"Yes, Cascaes, for instance."

"Well, why shouldn't I open up an O'Neill and Craven agency in Las
Palmas, pray?"

"No reason whatever.  I wasn't referring to Cascaes' business
abilities."

"Wagner," said Miss O'Neill to her man, "there's a farm about a mile
down this road where they'll bandage up your wrist, and make you some
sort of a sling.  Don't be away longer than you can help.  Mr. Carter
and I will look after the car till you get back."

"Thank you'm," said the driver, and marched off into the night.  They
stared after him till the sound of his footfalls on the hard road died
away, and then said Miss O'Neill, "Why doesn't Mr. Cascaes answer when
I cable?"

"You can hardly expect me to overlook the work of your Las Palm as
agency."

"Don't quibble.  Do you know why he is silent?"

"I can make a guess."

"Well, go on."

"He's probably too busy picking aloe thorns out of his carcass to find
time for writing cables."

"Oh, so you threw him into an aloe hedge, did you?  What did Laura say
to that?"

"Well, as she knew nothing about it, she naturally did not comment."

"I see; and did Mr. Cascaes object?"

"Not obtrusively.  He took the best licking I ever gave to man or dog
without a whimper, and when I tossed him amongst those aloe hooks, he
lay there just as he fell."

"Ah," said Kate, and drew a long breath.

"Keen on motoring?" Carter asked after a pause.

"I am, yes."

"I'm taking a light four-cylinder back to the Islands with me."

"Let me see, I promised you a wedding present, didn't I?  Let me know
when it's for, and what you'll have.  By the way, talking of
coincidences, I was motoring in the Yorkshire dales a week or so ago,
and coming down out of Wensleydale into Wharfedale, we dropped down
over a perfectly terrific piece of road that cost me a back tire.
Well, unluckily we'd used up the only other spare cover on the car
already, so the only thing left was to go slowly on the rim on into the
village below and wire for another.

"Such a dear old village it was, of gray stone houses, tucked away
under the gray limestone hills, with all the gardens as bright with
flowers as you find them in a story-book.  The parson saw us when we
came in from skating down that awful hill, and when he saw me
afterwards strolling round looking at the flowers, he very nicely asked
me to go in and look at his roses.  A splendid old man he was, and such
gorgeous roses.  He likes big blooms, and he snips off the superfluous
buds on the sly, and Mrs. Parson likes lots of blooms to cut at and to
give away, and she's always on the watch after him to see he doesn't
steal those buds.  I met her, too, and they took me in and gave me tea.

"They'd some Okky war horns on the wall of their draw-ing-room, and I
told them I'd a very fine one on mine, and so naturally we got to
talking 'Coast.'  They've a son out there--or to be more accurate, they
had, because he seems to be in England now--and they're a good deal
troubled about him.  He keeps on making excuses instead of going to see
them.  Mrs. Parson, who by the way is a perfect dear, said they were
afraid he had done something foolish and was shy about coming home----"

"Well?" said Carter.

"Oh, I'm pretty certain the prodigal would have no trouble with her."

"But the Parson?  He said nothing about providing veal, I suppose?"

"He did not.  To be precise he confined his conversation to roses, and
the dale, and a very charming old gentleman he was."

"As you may guess," said Carter savagely, "I don't thank you for going
to inspect my people like that."

"I don't recollect," said Miss O'Neill with much sweetness, "ever
asking you to thank me.  By accident I stumble across some delightful
people; I have the opportunity of enjoying their society, and for the
sake of seeing more of them I lived in the village for three whole
days.  They've asked me to go and stay with them next summer, and I'm
going.  I don't see how that can annoy you, as you've given up going
near them."

"I think that crack in the gasolene pipe will stand another coat of
seccotine now," said Carter, and moved the lamp and knelt once more in
the dusty road.

"It seems a pity," said Miss O'Neill musingly.

"I don't see what business it is of yours anyway," Carter snapped.

"Oh, but surely it's my car that you're so kindly working at.  And I do
think it's a pity you should have all that trouble with that nasty,
smelling, sticky seccotine, when it will all have to be scratched off
to-morrow, and the hole soldered up."

Carter laughed in spite of his rage.  "You didn't mean that in the
least, but I'll own up you drew me smartly enough.  It is a pity--I
mean the other thing--I love the dale, and I'm about as fond as a man
can be of my people.  But when you're in love with a girl, and you've
promised to marry her, well, other things have to slide."

"Ah, love," said Kate thoughtfully.  "I wonder what being in love is
really like?  I must try it some day as an experience.  It seems to
alter one's obligations.  I should like you to hear my friend the
Parson on obligations."

"I can tell you his creed in the matter as he taught it to me as far
back as I can remember.  The rule, according to him, is: First, keep
your word; second, go on keeping it; third, don't let any other
considerations whatever interfere with your keeping it."

"Spartan, simple, admirable," said Kate, and then could have bitten out
her tongue for sending the words past her lips.  She took Carter's hand
impulsively enough, and, "I beg your pardon for that," she said.  "I
may think you're a fool, but I know you are also the most honorable man
alive."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SONG OF SPEED

For a business woman, Kate took singularly small interest in her
letters that morning, and Mrs. Craven from behind the coffee-pot looked
at her rather wistfully.  They were staying in the Lakes, and were
supposed to be motoring.  But though the old lady was vigorous enough,
and was only too pleased to bustle about from place to place, Kate was
listless, and always had an excuse when change was suggested.  As a
reason, she said she had been overworking herself, and wanted to sit
still and do nothing; but she did not believe this herself nor did Mrs.
Craven believe it.  Moreover, Kate knew that Mrs. Craven disbelieved.

She was a very healthy young woman as a general thing, but that morning
she ate a thoroughly bad breakfast, and crumbled a slice of toast
beside her plate to give a general idea of performance.  Then she threw
her napkin on the table, and again went through the envelopes.  There
was one from the Liverpool office.  She opened it, and drew out half a
dozen typewritten sheets.  But the distaste for business was big in
her, and she was putting these down with the rest when a name caught
her eye.

Cascaes.

She read the sentence surrounding it.  "Our Mr. Cascaes cables that he
this morning married a Miss Laura Slade, and on her insistence hereby
tenders us his resignation."

Kate snapped the papers together, looked at her bracelet watch and
stood up briskly.

"Aunt Jane, I am sorry, but a very important matter has turned up which
drags me off to Liverpool for the day."

Mrs. Craven was a wise woman and could read signs.  Moreover, she had
known Kate from three years old, upwards.  "My dear," she said, "I'm
rejoiced at your news.  Go and make it up with him."

Kate blushed and laughed.  "It isn't that at all, aunt.  Or only
partly.  But I must go."

"There's no train now till mid-day."

"I shall motor down to Carnforth and cut off the 10.38 there."

"If you don't break your neck in the process, you'll land in gaol for
excessive speed," said the old lady; "and," she added dryly, "I'm sure
you'd prefer even one of those alternatives to staying sensibly here
with me, and waiting for a train in the decent course of things.
There, run along, Kitty, and get your things on, and I'll go and incite
Wagner."

Miss O'Neill went upstairs to her bedroom two steps at a time, and for
the moment was minded to drag on any outer clothes that would cover
her.  But then a thought came to her, and she smiled, and took out from
its box a Paris hat that she had never worn before.  She pinned this
into place with infinite care, covered it and her auburn hair with a
capacious motor veil, and hung another veil, which had in it a
protective window of talc, over her pretty face.  And then she put on a
great motor coat.  She was very much guarded from the dust and the
weather externally, but inside the ugly chrysalis was as spruce a Kitty
O'Neill as any man could have sighed after.

Wagner, as usual when he was wanted, had "just gone out" for something.
But Kate had an enthusiast's knowledge of her that year's forty-horse
car.  She saw that both electric and magneto ignitions were switched
off, and then she turned on her gasolene, flooded the carburetter, and
applied herself to the starting handle.  There was a high compression
in the engine, but she was strong, and just then she was goaded by
something which made her put out just a fraction more (she thought)
than the full of her strength.  She filled the cylinders with gas.
Then she threw in the switch to all the insulators, and the engine
started most obediently.  She stepped into the driving seat, collected
her wraps, threw out the clutch, dropped in the first speed, and let
the clutch slide home.

The car drew out, as if it had been pulled by a rope, and Kate flung a
last hand wave to Mrs. Craven.  Then she got on to the direct drive of
the third speed, and checked her throttle to keep down the pace till
she was out of the traffic.

"Six-and-twenty miles to Carnforth," she reckoned, "and the train goes
through there in just sixty-one minutes from now.  Well, I should
average thirty-five miles an hour for the run, and that will leave me
nice time to find someone to take charge of the car, and buy a ticket
to Liverpool for myself."

They pulled out of the village, and Kate pushed up her spark and
throttle levers notch by notch.  The purr of the motor increased in
shrillness.  She drove often herself, but seldom at high speeds, and
just now, when she got into the long empty stretches of straight, out
of sheer exhilaration she let out the great car till it was wheeling
along at a good forty miles to the hour.  It swayed rather dangerously,
but she had no nerves to be ruffled by a trifle like that.  The motor
was giving out its high note of exultant speed, and she was thrilled
with the power she rode.

Woods and rocks flew by, mile after mile of fencing shot astern, but
still the great car sang along its way, now bumping over a grip, now
slackening a trifle on a rise.  The rhythm of the engines sounded in
her ears like a poem, and she tended to their needs with a real
affection; the pelt of the air exhilarated her.

And then came the downfall.  A whistle shrieked out from behind her,
another whistle shrilled in front, and a policeman sprang from the
hedge.  Kate was in no mood for stopping.  She tried to dodge round the
man.  With ignorant courage he leaped across the road to stop her.  She
threw out her clutch and desperately set her brakes.  The great car
lurched, slid, sidled, and all but overturned.  The policeman, by a
marvellous mixture of skill, presence of mind, and luck on Kate's part,
was not killed.  But he stood scorching his hand on a very warm
radiator, and Kate sat white-faced at the wheel, taming down her
insulted engines.

After that there was no hurry.  She pleaded a life and death
engagement, but the majesty of the law was ruffled, and saw to it that
all things were done with dignity and in order.

Kate was charged with driving to the danger of the public.  The road
was entirely deserted just there, and there was no public, but she
admitted the crime, gave name and number, and humbly asked to go.  But
not a bit of it.  The Law wanted to see her driving license, which of
course she had not got, and then out came note-books and pencils.  The
criminal lost her temper, and so the Law was deliberately slow....

Kate reached Carnforth station just three minutes after the express had
left, and was half-minded there and then to give up the chase.  Carter
would sail in the _Secondee_ at the appointed hour, and when he got to
Las Palmas and heard the news he would return to her by the next boat.
She was sure enough of that.  But no, she could not let him go.  It
might be (terrific thing) unmaidenly of her to thrust herself and her
news in his way, but she could not help it.  Besides, a fear cramped
her when she thought of Cascaes.  She had heard to her horror of the
knife that Cascaes had wielded so undeftly in the dark along the Telde
road, although indeed Carter had made no mention of it, and she dreaded
what might happen should the two men come together a second time.

She looked at the time-table; there was no train that would help her.
If she wanted to get to Liverpool before the _Secondee_ sailed, it must
be by car.  So once more she sat herself in the seat of government....

The road held through Lancaster to Preston, and outside towns and
villages she crashed along often at a fifty-mile gait in her fear at
being too late.  And then came the black cotton towns of Lancashire
with their slatternly women and shrill-voiced children scrambling over
the streets.  She had to slow to a crawl through these, and even then
the tires skated dangerously over the greasy streets.  But speed
triumphed over time and distance in the end.  She swung at a rattling
gait into a Liverpool suburb, and for the third time had her number
taken by an indignant policeman, and thereafter slowed to a dignified
crawl.  She glanced at her watch.  With care now, and if no mishap
blocked her progress, she would be on the landing stage before the
mail-boat threw off her ropes.

Luck and good nerve aided her bravely now.  She wormed her way rapidly
through the increasing traffic of the Liverpool streets, and came to
the landing stage entrance.

She patted her car and gave it a word of gratitude.  A cabman took
charge, and with him also she left motor veils, coat and gloves, and
walked down onto the landing stage fully conscious of neat hair, a
perfect frock, and the Paris hat.  Carter was standing gloomily at the
bookstall, with a chin that looked more dogged and hair that was redder
than ever.

"Ah," she said lightly, "fancy meeting you here.  Weren't you going by
last week's boat?"

"No," he said heavily, "this."

"Have you paid for your passage?"

"Yes, of course.  Why?"

"Because I'm afraid you will waste it."

He shook his head.

"You had no cable from Las Palmas during the last two days?"

"No.  Have you?  What are you driving at?"  There was something so
pathetic in his brown eyes that she had not the heart to drag out her
explanation any further.  She pulled a letter from her pocket, marked a
place with her thumb and showed it to him.

He put a heavy hand down on the bookstall and stirred the papers into
little heaps.  "My God!  Laura married.  Married!  Let me think what
this means!"

A very indignant bookstall keeper began to make remarks, but Kate said,
"Thank you.  Those are the ones I want.  Please tie them up for me.
Here's a sovereign."  And then she put a hand on Carter's arm and led
him outside the crowd.

"Well," she said, "have you decided yet if you are entirely
broken-hearted?"

He thought a minute, and then said he, "I think my people will be glad
when they hear."

Kate blushed rosy pink.  "They are both very fond of me," she observed.

"That," said Carter, "is what I was thinking about.  Kitty, darling,
there isn't a girl in all Africa, Europe, or America, who has been
loved as dearly as I've loved you.  But I couldn't marry you, could I,
till the way was cleared.  Now, could I?--here, let's get out of this
crowd, and hire a cab, and drive to the North Pole, or somewhere we can
be alone to talk all this out.  It's wonderful."

"But what about your baggage?"

"Oh, bother the baggage.  White-Man's-Trouble has it somewhere, and
he'll jump overboard if he finds I'm not on the ship.  There's no
shaking off that boy, Kitty dear, so I'm afraid you'll have to take him
along with me when you cease to be Kitty O'Neill."

"George, do you know I've got a great secret for you.  I'm not Kitty
O'Neill at all.  I'm Kitty Meredith."

"As a point of fact I gathered that from your father.  From what old
Cappie Image told me, 'Major Smith,' as he calls him, will be home in
time to give you away on your wedding day.  But I shouldn't trouble to
call yourself Kate Meredith, if I were you, sweetheart.  When you do
practise a new signature let it be Kitty Carter."

Kate blushed again most divinely.  "As the deepest of secrets, let me
tell you that I can write it quite well already, though I have been
desperately afraid I should never have the luck to use it."



THE END



      *      *      *      *      *



  Former Works by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne

  THE LOST CONTINENT
  PRINCE RUPERT, THE BUCCANEER
  THOMPSON'S PROGRESS
  McTODD
  ATOMS OF EMPIRE
  THE FILIBUSTERS
  A MASTER OF FORTUNE
  ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE





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