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Title: Minkie
Author: Tracy, Louis
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 "Minkie" ***

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 MINKIE

 BY LOUIS TRACY

 Author of "_The Wings of the Morning_," "_The Pillar of Light_," "_The
 Captain of the Kansas_," etc.

 Toronto McLeod & Allen Publishers 1907



 COPYRIGHT, 1907 BY EDWARD J. CLODE.

 _Entered at Stationers' Hall_

 _The Plimpton Press Norwood Mass. U.S.A._



 Illustration: _Minkie_



 CONTENTS


                                                                   PAGE
          CHAPTER I
 HOW A BOGEY-MAN CAME TO DALE END                                     3

          CHAPTER II
 PRINCE JOHN'S STRANGE ALLY                                          41

          CHAPTER III
 THE WHITE MAN'S WAY                                                 73

          CHAPTER IV
 THE BLACK MAN'S WAY                                                107

          CHAPTER V
 THE UNDOING OF SCHWARTZ                                            143



 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


 "Minkie"                                                _Frontispiece_

                                                                   PAGE

 "Oh, indeed. And you are Miss Millicent, I suppose?"                 8

 Minkie took the ivory doll from her pocket and surveyed it
 seriously                                                           69

 But she stood there quite motionless                                91

 The Old Man read the typewritten letter which Schwartz gave him    114

 My first call was at a jeweller's in Piccadilly                    157



HOW A BOGEY-MAN CAME TO DALE END



CHAPTER I

HOW A BOGEY-MAN CAME TO DALE END

_Told by Bobby, the Horse_


Minkie says I ought to begin this story, because I am the biggest
and strongest. I don't see that at all, but she thinks I can't see
much, anyhow, owing to my silly habit of wearing blinkers, which is
just her irritating way of settling an argument--as if _I_ made the
harness. And she knows better, too. I have an eye stuck on each side
of my head to enable me to look nearly all round the circle; but that
clever individual, man, tries to improve on Providence by making me don
the rogue's badge. Well, it would make any horse laugh. You watch how
the clever individual came to grief when Minkie and her gang tackled
him. Yes, that is what they call us--her "gang"--although Dandy, the
fox-terrier, won't admit that Tibbie belongs to our crowd, and he
gets furious if one even mentions the Parrot. Perhaps he is prejudiced
against Tibbie--I have noticed that most dogs seldom have a good word
for a cat--but I do agree with him about that green idiot, Polly. Of
all the back-biting, screeching--Eh, what? Oh, don't worry, as I tell
Dan when he trots in to my place to look for a rat--you'll be in the
middle of a real up-to-date yarn in two buzzes of a gad-fly....

The fun started last Christmas Eve, when a small blue boy on a big red
bicycle came to our front door and tried to pull the bell out by the
roots after playing tricks with the knocker. Everybody thought it was
a parcel for herself. Dorothy sailed out of the drawing-room; Cookie
and Evangeline, our housemaid (Mam wanted to call her Mary, but she
threatened to give notice), rushed from the kitchen; even dearest Mam
dropped her sewing and wondered what the Guv'nor had sent her; but
Minkie tobogganed downstairs on a tray, and came in an easy first. Dan
was close up, as he simply hates every sort of postman; so Minkie
grabbed him with one hand and opened the door with the other.

And it was only a telegram.

When Mam opened it, she said "Good gracious!"

"What is it, mother?" inquired Dorothy.

But Minkie had read it over Mam's shoulder and it was just this:

"Schwartz arrived unexpectedly to-day. Have invited him to spend
Christmas and New Year with us. Send victoria meet 2.15. Tom."

Tom is the Old Man. His other name is Grosvenor. He isn't really old,
but Jim calls him the Old Man, or the Guv'nor, and we are all pretty
free and easy in the stable, you know.

"Good gracious!" said Mam again, "he will be here in half an hour.
Evangeline, run and tell James to drive to the station at once. Mr.
Grosvenor is bringing a friend home with him."

Now, it is to be observed, in the first place, that ladies are always
flustered by telegrams. The Old Man said nothing about "bringing"
Schwartz by the 2.15, and Mam knew quite well that he expected to be
detained at the office until the 5.30. Next, when two-legged people are
in a hurry, they put the rush on to their four-legged helpers. I was
just enjoying a nice wisp of hay when Jim banged in and rattled me into
my harness, while Mole, the gardener, who also cleans the knives and
boots, pulled the victoria out of the shed.

I was going through the gate in fine style when Minkie came flying.

"Don't stop," she said, and skipped inside.

Jim thought Mam had sent her, but Jim is always wrong when he imagines
anything about Minkie. The fact was, as she told me afterwards, she had
heard a lot of talk about this Schwartz, and she felt that it would be
good for all parties if she took his measure a few minutes ahead of
the rest of the family; so she jammed on a pirate cap and Dorothy's
fur coat, and slid across the lawn without any one's being the wiser,
except Dan, and he was sore with her on account of the escape of the
telegraph boy. He tried to take it out of Tibbie, but she nipped up a
tree, and the parrot, who was watching him head downwards through the
drawing-room window, yelled "Yah!" at him. That settled it. He came
after me and jumped up at my bit.

"Race you to the station," he said, pretending he hadn't seen Minkie.

"Right," said I; "but, to make a match of it, you ought to get Mole to
harness you to his little girl's toy pram."

This remark seemed to hurt his feelings, but I didn't know then about
the rat-tatling messenger boy. Anyhow, he met the doctor's poodle in
the village, so he joined us at the station in a good temper.

When the train arrived, it brought heaps of people. It always puzzles
me that folk should gorge more at Christmas time than any other. Every
man, woman, and child carried half-a-dozen parcels, and nearly every
parcel held something to eat. Some of the men hugged long narrow boxes,
which looked as if they contained wax candles, but which really held a
bottle of whisky. I know, because Jim....

"Mr. Grosvenor hasn't come, miss," said Jim, when the crowd thinned.

"Who said he was coming?" asked Minkie.

"Well, Evangeline thought--"

"Evangeline never thinks. The doctor has warned her against it. If ever
she tries to do anything of the kind the excitement will kill her.
No, Jim. Dad has told a Mr. Schwartz to come on by this train, and
make himself at home until he joins him later. Schwartz is German for
black. Most Germans are dumpy. But things often go by contraries. Our
green-grocer is named Brown, so Mr. Schwartz should be a tall thin man,
with straw hair and white eyebrows."

Nail my shoes, she wasn't far out of it. A humpbacked porter came along
with a couple of portmanteaux, followed by a heavy swell who was up to
specification except as to the color of his hair, which was chestnut.

"This is Mr. Grosvenor's carriage, sir," said the porter.

"Oh, indeed. And you are Miss Millicent, I suppose?" said the newcomer,
grinning at Minkie.

Illustration: "Oh, indeed. And you are Miss Millicent, I suppose?"

"Are you Mr. Schwartz?" she asked, and Dan inspected his calf, because
Minkie's tone told us she had taken a violent dislike to the visitor at
first sight.

"Yes," he smirked, being so busy looking at her that he paid no heed to
the porter, who was waiting for his tip.

"Well, if you give the porter a shilling I'll drive you to our place.
Mother is expecting you."

"Are you particular as to the exact amount?" he inquired, still
grinning. In fact, he was one of those silly men who believe that you
must laugh when you want to be amiable; so please imagine Mr. Schwartz
always guffawing--at least, not always, because he could scowl very
unpleasantly at times. Tickle my withers, we made him scowl all right
before we were through with him.

"No," said Minkie, giving the porter just one little look. "As it is
Christmas time, you might make it half a crown."

Schwartz got his hand down quick. Because he was a rich man, he thought
tuppence would be ample. He produced a florin, but Minkie spotted it.

"If you haven't another sixpence I can lend you one," she said sweetly,
and I saw Dan licking his lips when he heard her speak in that way.

"Don't trouble," said Schwartz, rather shortly, and he handed the
porter three shillings. That was another of his queer ways. He liked to
impress people, but cheaply. He wanted a girl of fourteen to realize
what a grand person he was, yet he was afraid she would spring him up
to a crown, or even half a sovereign, if he didn't make haste.

Then Minkie made room for him by her side, and Dan hopped in too.

"Is that dog yours?" he inquired.

"Yes."

"And does your father permit a beast with muddy paws to sit in his
carriage?"

"Not often," said Minkie, looking at his boots. "Dandy, you wicked imp,
get out at once."

Dan took a header into the roadway, and ran up alongside me, barking
for all he was worth.

"Tell you what, Bob," he cried, nearly choking himself with joy, "this
red-headed Jew is going to find trouble. He is sure to drop into the
stable to-morrow. I'll keep you posted in affairs inside the house,
and, when I give you the office, you'll let him have both heels in the
right place, eh?"

"I'll do my best," I coughed, and Jim wondered what was the matter, as
there are no flies about in winter-time.

Meanwhile, Minkie took Schwartz in hand, and my long ears were not
given me for amusement.

"We thought you were not coming until next week," she said, by way of
being polite.

"I finished some business in Paris sooner than I expected, and Mr.
Grosvenor was good enough to ask me to spend Christmas and New Year at
Dale End. I shall enjoy the visit immensely, I am sure. I have not had
a Christmas at home for many years."

"At home?" Minkie raised her large blue eyes so innocently. I knew
exactly how she looked, and I rattled my harness to tell her I was
listening.

"Yes; in England, I mean."

"Ah."

"Don't you call England 'home,' too?"

"Of course, but I live here."

"So do I."

"Sorry. I fancied you just said you had been in some other country for
a long time."

"Well, I'm a bit of a cosmopolitan, I admit. Do you know what a
cosmopolitan is?"

"It means anything but English."

Mr. Schwartz roared. "Gad!" he cried, "that is not so far wrong."

An old gentleman passed us in a mail phaeton, drawn by a pair of fat
cobs, your bellows-to-mend and step-short sort. They don't like me,
because I always make a point of giving them the dust in summer, so one
of them snorted, "Station hack!"

"Going to have a shave?" I asked, quite civilly, he being all of a
lather.

Minkie gave the old gentleman a smile and a bow. He was rather
surprised, which was reasonable enough, seeing that she usually sails
along without seeing anybody; but he got his hat off in good time.

"Who is that?" inquired Schwartz.

"Jack's uncle," said Minkie.

"Jack is a friend of yours, eh?"

"Um, yes, but he--perhaps I shouldn't say anything about it. Jack is
twenty-five, you see."

"Oh, is he?" Schwartz was not smiling now. It was easy to guess that
by his voice. "I suppose he is better acquainted with your sister than
with you?"

"Yes, heaps."

"What is his other name?"

"Percival Stanhope."

"Mr. John Percival Stanhope, in fact? Odd that I should not have heard
of him, if he is such a great friend of the family?"

"Dolly doesn't say much about him. He's in India, and India is such a
long way off."

"Jolly good job, too, or you would be frizzling to-day." Mr. Schwartz
was brightening up again.

"I think you are mistaken," said Minkie, quietly. "Jack says it is ever
so cold in the Punjab at Christmas-time."

"Does he write to you, then?" demanded Schwartz.

"No; that was in a letter to Dolly."

"A recent letter?"

"He was talking about Christmas two years ago. But please don't mention
him to her. We have no right to discuss her affairs, have we?"

"No, no; of course not. It was just by way of conversation, eh?"

"That is the cemetery," said Minkie, pointing to a low tree-lined wall
in the distance. "Some day, if you like, I shall take you there, and
show you his mother's grave."

"Thanks, but I am not fond of cemeteries, as a rule."

"Perhaps you would prefer to be cremated?"

"I haven't considered the matter."

"But you ought to. You are quite old, nearly forty, and I saw in a pill
advertisement the other day that forty is a dangerous age if your liver
is out of order."

"Here, young lady, not quite so fast, please. How do you know I am
forty, and why do you think I have a diseased liver?"

"It said so in the paper."

"The deuce it did."

"Yes; in one of those little spicy bits, telling you all about people,
you know. It said: 'Mr. Montague Schwartz is one of the Chosen People.'
You are Mr. Montague Schwartz, aren't you?"

"Go on, do."

"Oh, I remember every word '--one of the Chosen People--' that means
you are a Jew, doesn't it?"

"Of Jewish descent, certainly."

"Well, it went on: 'His rise has been meteoric. At twenty he quitted
the paternal fried fish shop in the Mile End Road, at thirty he was
running a saloon and other industries at Kimberley, and at forty he is
building a mansion in Mayfair.' There was a lot more, but now you see
how I knew your age."

"It is perfectly clear. There only remains the liver."

"I got that from the pill advertisement. There are several sure signs
of congestion, and you have all of them in your face and eyes. Shall I
show it to you? Those pills might cure you."

"Really, you are too kind for words. May I ask if your sister shares
your knowledge of my career and state of health?"

"Did I show her the paper, do you mean?"

"Yes."

"No, I had forgotten all about it, but if you would like her to see
it--"

"Look here, Miss Millicent, you are a sharp girl. Now, I'll
make a bargain with you. Find that paper, say no more about the
paragraph--which, I may tell you, is rank nonsense from start to
finish--and your Christmas box will be five sovereigns."

"Done," said Minkie, coolly. "And here we are at Dale End. Mile
End--Dale End. Funny, isn't it, how names run together that way
occasionally."

Before Jim led me around to the stable I heard Mam express her surprise
that Mr. Schwartz had come alone. She had expected her husband by the
same train. And she did not know Millicent had gone in the victoria.
How on earth did the child recognise Mr. Schwartz, as she had never
seen him?

"I rather fancy your younger daughter would pick me out in the Strand
if she were so minded," explained the visitor, cheerfully.

"I hope she did not bore you by her chatter," said dear, innocent Mam.
"Or perhaps she was in one of her silent moods?"

"No. We got along famously; didn't we, Millicent?"

"It was a nice drive," said Minkie, "not too cold, and the village is
quite gay."

"Well, I find the air rather chilly," said Mam. "Why are we all
standing here? Come into the drawing-room, Mr. Schwartz. Dorothy is
there, and we shall have tea brought a little earlier than usual.
Evangeline, tell James to take Mr. Schwartz's portmanteaux to the Blue
Room."

Of course, I should not have heard what happened next if Tibbie had
not looked in to see me that night. As a matter of fact, the gang does
not miss much in the way of gossip. One or other of us is always on
hand. And that parrot--though he is no friend of mine--is a terror for
picking up news. Jim hangs his cage on a tree opposite my door every
fine morning, and the things he tells me are surprising. He has hardly
a good word for anybody, but then, what a dull world it would be if we
only told the nice things about our friends. Why, we should all be dumb
soon.

Dan tried to sneak in behind Minkie, but Mam had her eye on him.

"I do believe that naughty Dandy has been in the wars again," she said.
"Millicent, did you see him fighting any other dog?"

"No, mother. He met the doctor's poodle, but there was no fight."
Minkie was always strictly accurate.

"What a wonder! Anyhow, he is muddy and wet. Ask cook to rub him over
with a damp cloth."

Tibbie, pretending to be asleep, twitched one ear as she saw Dan being
led off to the kitchen. "Gnar!" muttered Dan, who hates damp cloths,
"wait till I catch you in the garden!" Tibbie just smiled. I must say
that cats take life easily; they are given the best of everything, and
do nothing. A friend of mine, a regular old stager, who pulls near in
the Black Lion bus, tells me that Tibbie's method is the only way to
get on, and he sees a lot of different people at the inn, so he ought
to be a bit of a philosopher. "Make other people work for you," he
says. "That's the ticket; when they bring you chaff tell 'em you must
have oats, an' snap their heads off if they don't move quick enough.
Bless your hoof, they like it. You hear 'em say: 'There's blood for
you, a born aristocrat, he is,' an' they'll do any mortal thing you
want."

Well, Tibbie curled up like a hedgehog, and listened, because we
don't have many strangers at Dale End. The talk turned on Ostend--no,
it's as true as I'm standing on four legs, but the very first place
mentioned had an "end" in it--where the Old Man and Mam and Dorothy had
been in the summer. Minkie had measles, or something spotty, so she
was forbidden to travel, and we had a ripping July all to ourselves.
Eclipse wasn't in it; why, I had beer every day. They met Mr. Schwartz
at Ostend, it seems, and he took such a fancy to Dolly that he wanted
to marry her straight off. She wouldn't do that, even if Mam and the
Guv'nor were agreeable, but she had not heard from Jack for ages, and
Schwartz was really very attentive, besides being tremendously rich.
Now, we at Dale End find it difficult to pay the hay and corn bills,
so you see that a wealthy son-in-law would be what the sale catalogues
call "a desirable acquisition."

I have heard a lot of people in the village say that Dolly is so pretty
she ought to make a good match. When she did a skirt dance at the
Cottage Hospital Bazaar, the local paper spoke of her as "the beautiful
Miss Grosvenor." She pretended to be very angry about that, but Tibbie
says she bought a dozen papers and sent them to her girl friends, so
the rest of the report must have been suitable. I suppose she is all
right for a grownup. For my part, I prefer Minkie, who has a yellow
mane, and blue eyes, and freckles. She is as straight as a soldier, and
has small hands and feet, and the loveliest brown legs.... Eh, what?
Well, say stockings, then, but when I took first prize and the cup for
the best hackney in the show, everybody admired my legs; so why not
Minkie's?

Anyhow, by the time tea was served, Schwartz had further established
himself in Mam's good graces. He was a clever chap in his way, and he
could say the right thing to women occasionally, and he was wise enough
not to bother Dorothy too much, though Tibbie saw, out of the tail of
her eye, that the girl could not move from one side of the room to
the other without Schwartz's watching her approvingly. Tibbie knew by
his eyes that he was saying to himself: "She will look all right in
Brook-street."

Dan announced the postman while Dorothy was pouring out the tea, and
Minkie brought in a heap of letters, mostly Christmas cards. Minkie had
a baker's dozen to herself, and five of them were addressed to "Minkie
and her Gang"; each of the five contained pictures of a girl, a horse,
a dog, a cat, and a parrot. She soon made out by the postmark and the
handwriting who had sent every card, even though the names were not
given. One seemed to puzzle her at first, and she slipped it into her
pocket. The others were handed round, before Dorothy arranged them on
the mantel-piece with a number which had come by earlier deliveries,
and Mr. Schwartz admired them immensely.

"It is so interesting to come back to the old country and find these
pleasant customs in full swing," he said. "I have neither sent nor
received a Christmas card for years. I was telling Millicent on our way
from the station that, by chance, I have been out of England at this
season every year for ten years."

"You did not mention the exact period, Mr. Schwartz," said Minkie. "I
rather thought that ten years ago you were in Kimberley?"

"Oh, one speaks in round numbers. By the way, have you received a card
from your elderly friend--the man we met driving the pair?"

"Driving a pair. Who was that, Millie?" asked her mother.

"Mr. Stanhope, Jack's uncle."

Dorothy dropped a piece of toast, and Mam bent over her letters, but
she said quietly:

"I fear my girls will not be honored by any such attention on his part,
Mr. Schwartz. Indeed, I think he is the only enemy we possess in the
neighborhood. How did you come to describe him as a friend of yours,
Millie?"

"I didn't."

"Perhaps I was mistaken," put in Schwartz, who was beginning to hate
Minkie, yet had no wish to quarrel with her.

"I said Jack was my friend. Isn't that right, mother?"

"Oh, yes. I understand now. By the way, dearie, are you going to meet
your father? It is nearly time to start. And be careful to wrap up
well."

"The victoria will not be ready for another five minutes. I have time
to bring you that paper if you would care to see it before dinner, Mr.
Schwartz."

"Thanks. I shall be delighted--you wretched little imp," he added under
his breath, but Tibbie heard him.

Minkie brought the paper.

"That is the paragraph I told you of," said she, pointing very
daintily to something on one of the pages. I have seen her point that
way to a dead rat when she wished Jim or Mole to throw it away.

"Much obliged. And here are the five sovereigns I promised you as a
Christmas box."

"Mr. Schwartz--" broke in Mam, but he turned to her with his best
manner.

"I beg of you to allow me to do this, Mrs. Grosvenor. It is really a
harmless joke between Millicent and myself," he said.

"But five pounds--" protested Mam.

"That was in the bond. Pray let me explain. By chance, she mentioned
some very useful information which this newspaper contained; I might
not have heard of it otherwise. So I am adding a little to her
Christmas present--that is all."

"It seems a great deal of money," sighed Mam, who often wanted a fiver
and had to do without it, "but you two appear to have the matter cut
and dried, so I suppose it is all right. What are you going to do with
your fabulous wealth, Millicent?"

"Make a corner in toffee. Make every kid in Dale End pay a penny for a
ha'penny-worth. That is the proper thing, isn't it, Mr. Schwartz?"

"I don't think I can teach you much," he replied with his usual grin.

"Oh yes, you can. Read the next paragraph, the one beginning: 'The
unhappy natives of the Upper Niger.' It tells about gas-pipe guns and
coal-dust powder. Yes, mother dear, going now."

It was quite dark, of course, when I brought Minkie to the station a
second time. The weather had changed, too, from what the farmers call
"soft" to a touch of frost, which made both Jim and me pleased that my
shoes had been sharped by the blacksmith that morning.

The train was rather late, so Minkie went into the station and
interviewed a porter. He told her something which seemed to interest
her, so she asked the booking-clerk for change of a sovereign and gave
the man a shilling.

She picked out her father the instant the train drew up at the
platform. He looked worried, she told me afterwards, but that passed
when he saw her. He had the usual number of parcels which people carry
at Christmas time, and Minkie grabbed all of them, but he stopped her
with a laugh.

"We can't rush off in the orthodox way to-night, Minkie," he said. "Mr.
Schwartz's servant is on this train, and I promised to take him with us
to the house. By the way, is Dandy with you in the carriage?"

"No, father dear. Why do you ask?"

"Because this valet of Schwartz's is a black man, and Dandy might not
approve of him at first sight."

"A black man."

"Yes, polished ebony. Rather smart, too. Speaks English perfectly. He
came to me at Waterloo and said--Oh, there he is. Hi, you. Just follow
me, will you."

Minkie thought that the negro was an extraordinarily fine fellow, and
very well dressed. It was odd that Schwartz had not mentioned him,
and she wondered where he would sleep. Perhaps he curled up on a mat
outside his master's room. In that case, she must make Dan clearly
understand that she rather approved of the Ethiopian than otherwise.

His luggage appeared to be a small handbag. He almost made the mistake
of entering the carriage with Minkie and her father, but he showed his
teeth in a good-natured grin, and climbed to Jim's side on the box.
I had a look at him as he passed the near lamp, and he certainly did
startle me; I am quite sure I should have shifted him if Minkie had not
said quietly:

"All right, Bobby. Steady, old chap."

On the way home I heard Minkie trying to cheer up her father by telling
him little bits of village news, and he did his best to respond, but
both of us felt there was something wrong, as the Guv'nor is likely
enough most days.

"Mr. Schwartz has arrived, of course?" he inquired, soon after we
quitted the station. "I forgot to ask you sooner. I took it for granted
when his servant turned up and told me he had missed the earlier train."

"Yes. He came according to your telegram."

"How has he got on at home?"

"Oh, first rate. Mam and Dolly seemed quite pleased to see him."

"What do _you_ think of him, Minkie?"

"I hardly know yet, father dear. I shall tell you--let me see--on New
Year's Eve."

"You demand seven days' experience, eh? Wise child. I wish some one had
taught me at your age to wait a bit before I formed my opinions."

"One might form them quickly enough, but not express them."

"Which means that you don't like Schwartz? Well, he is not exactly my
sort, I admit, but he is wealthy, Minkie, and one must bow the knee
before the golden calf occasionally. And his repute stands high in the
city, so he might be a useful friend. We must make the best of him, eh?"

"One always does that with one's guests, of course," said Minkie, who
could feel a heavy assortment of gold and silver coins in her pocket.

Minkie jumped out when I pulled up at the front entrance. Dan was
standing on the top step and wondering what in the world was sitting
beside Jim on the box. Before he could say a word, Minkie grabbed him
and whispered in his ear. But he was very uneasy, because the black
man sprang down almost as promptly as Minkie, and nearly frightened
Evangeline into a fit when she met him in the hall. He took his hat off
in quite an elegant way.

"I am Mr. Schwartz's valet," he said. "Mr. Grosvenor was good enough to
bring me with him from London. Is my master in his room now?"

"N-no, sir," stuttered Evangeline. He gave her the queerest feeling,
she told Cookie later.

"Well, if you will kindly show me to his suite I will prepare his
clothes for dinner," went on the negro, who appeared to be more anxious
to get to work than any of our servants.

Evangeline glanced at Minkie and the Guv'nor; she was sure it must be
all right, as the negro had arrived in their company, but she dared
not go upstairs with him. Wild horses would not drag her there, she
said, though I would back myself to haul her to the top attic before
she could say "knife." "It's the Blue Room," she said. "First on the
left in that corridor," and she pointed to the side of the house where
Mr. Schwartz was lodged. The big darky went up at once. Evangeline
helped to carry in some of the parcels, and Minkie took her father's
overcoat and hat, but kept an eye on Dan, who was looking at the stairs
anxiously. Dolly came running to kiss the Old Man, and Mam appeared.

"Where is Mr. Schwartz?" asked the Guv'nor.

"Here I am," said Schwartz, appearing in the drawing-room doorway. "I
am afraid you had a cold journey from town. It was exceedingly kind of
you to send me on ahead. My only regret is that you could not come with
me."

"Business, my dear fellow. It pursues me to the last hour, even in
holiday time."

"But that is good. It argues success. Your idle man is rarely
successful."

"I fear it is possible for a busy man to score a loss occasionally. I
expect you have finished tea long since? Can you squeeze the pot, Mam?"

"It will be here in a minute, Tom," said Mam, smiling. "My husband
hates to miss his tea, Mr. Schwartz. He would drink three cups now if I
were to let him, though we dine at seven."

"By the way, that reminds me," said the Old Man, dropping into his
regular chair in the drawing-room. "I fell in with your servant at
Waterloo, Schwartz."

"My servant!" said Schwartz, blankly, and both Dan and Tibbie heard
every word, as Minkie had collected Dan again before she took her usual
perch on a hassock near her father. If the Guv'nor had said he came
across Schwartz's balloon at the Southwestern terminus our visitor
could not have put more bewilderment into his voice.

"Yes, your black valet," explained the Guv'nor.

"My black valet! I don't possess such an article. I left my man at
Brook-street, and he is a Frenchman."

Schwartz had risen to his feet. He looked strangely pale--Minkie told
me his face was a flea-bitten grey. The Guv'nor jumped up, too. So did
Minkie, and Dan, and Tibbie. You see, Mam and Dorothy knew nothing
about the gentleman who had gone to Schwartz's bedroom to arrange his
dress suit and put the studs in his shirt.

"Then who the blazes is the nigger who is in your room upstairs at this
moment?" said the Old Man, forgetting that there were ladies present.

"Nigger! My room!"

Schwartz's voice cracked. He gasped as though he had run a mile. He
glared at the Guv'nor and then glared at Minkie. Stifle me, he thought
it was some trick she had played on him. But if the head of our family
was not much good at business he was in the front row where prompt
action was needed.

"Follow me, quick!" he shouted, and made for the door. He was just a
second too late. The tall negro was coming downstairs three at a time.
He bounded across the hall and had his hand on the latch just as the
Guv'nor rushed at him. Out went the black, out went Mr. Grosvenor after
him, with Minkie and Dan a dead heat half a length behind, and Schwartz
whipping in. On the level the nigger drew away; but Dan overhauled him
at the turn near the clump of rhododendrons, and Dan never makes the
mistake of advertising his whereabouts when the matter is serious. So
he nailed the make-believe valet by the ankle, and his teeth closed on
bone and sinew without ever a sound. Down went the nigger with a crash
and a yell. It was pitch dark among the shrubs, but the Old Man groped
for him and got a knee in the small of his back, bending his head
upwards at the same time by grabbing a handful of wool. That is a good
trick. It simply paralyses the other fellow.

"I've got him," he shouted, but Schwartz just roared "Help!" at the top
of his voice, and kept to the open drive. Minkie heard Dan sawing away,
and growling a bit, now; she closed in, clutched a loose leg that was
kicking wildly, and said:

"Are you all right, dad?"

"Yes. Tell James to fetch a stable lantern and a rope."

Minkie wasn't going to leave her father nor miss any of the fun. She
sung out directions, and Jim came along at a gallop. The unfortunate
nigger was screaming that the dog was eating him, but, when they had
tied his hands behind his back, and Minkie pulled Dan off, he seemed to
be more frightened than hurt. Polly told me next day that these black
fellows are always weak below the knee joints, however gigantic they
may be otherwise.

But the previous excitement was a small affair compared with the row
which sprang up when Jim held the lantern so that Schwartz could see
the negro's face.

"Gott in himmel!" he shrieked, in a kind of frenzy, "it's Prince John."

"Yes--you thief!" said the prisoner, who seemed to regain his
self-possession and his dignity when he set eyes on Schwartz.

"Where is it? Where is it? Give it to me, or I'll tear your liver
out!" squealed the other, dancing close up to him in an extraordinary
passion, being one of those men who fly into a delirium when rage gets
the better of them.

"I have not got it," said Prince John, if that was his name. He turned
to the Guv'nor. "If you will take me back to the house, Mr. Grosvenor,"
he continued, "and keep that dog off, I will explain everything,
and trust to your sense of justice to clear me of any suspicion of
wrong-doing. That man is the thief, not me," and he actually spat at
Schwartz.

Jim said that it gave him a turn to hear a buck nigger talking like
that, but it took him and the Guv'nor all their time to keep Schwartz
from using his nails on the man's eyes. Then the two began to shout at
one another, and it appeared that all the trouble arose about a thing
called a ju-ju, which the black man said Schwartz had stolen from his
people, a tribe on the Upper Niger. Anyhow, the Guv'nor marched his
captive back to the house, and Schwartz rushed upstairs. He tore down
again, more like a lunatic than ever, as the ju-ju had gone from the
dressing-case in which he had left it.

He searched the negro, and was almost ready to cut him open in case he
had swallowed it, but the ju-ju was not in the man's possession. Then
he went out with Jim and the lantern, and hunted every inch of the
drive and shrubbery, but could find nothing, though it was easy enough
to discover the place where Dan had brought down his highness.

The odd thing was that he refused to send for the police, and the more
certain it became that the ju-ju was missing, the more jubilant grew
Prince John's face as he sat in the hall. At last, there was nothing
for it but the nigger must be set at liberty. Schwartz wanted the
Guv'nor to lock him up all night. Of course, that could not be done, as
Surrey isn't West Africa, and the Old Man had come to the conclusion
that there was not much in the dispute between them, anyhow.

So Prince John's bonds were untied, and the Guv'nor told him if he
showed his black muzzle inside our gateway again he would be locked
up. He was very polite and apologetic, especially to the ladies, and
the house party went in to dinner greatly mystified by the whole
affair. Schwartz did not say much, and his appetite was spoiled. After
dinner he had another hunt in his bedroom and among the shrubs, but
finally he gave up the search until daylight, and came in and asked for
a whisky and soda.

Meanwhile, Minkie brought Dan to the stable to see me. She came the
back way, and climbed to the hay-loft with Jim's lantern. Dan began to
look around for a rat, but she stopped him.

"Are you awake, Bobby?" she asked.

"Awake!" said I. "I should rather think I am, after such goings on in
the house."

"Well," said she, pulling a small black bag from among the hay, "if
you are a good horse, and listen carefully, I will now tell you what a
ju-ju is. Come here, Dan. If it is alive, I may want you to bite it."

Skin me and sell my hide, what do you think it was? Just a small chunk
of ivory, carved to represent a man with a monkey's head. It had a
little coat of colored beads tied where its waist was meant to be, and
its eyes were two shiny green stones. And that was all.

"Well," cried Minkie, "this _is_ a surprise. At first sight, I don't
think much of a ju-ju, but that may be only my beastly ignorance, as
the man said when he tried to boil a china egg."



PRINCE JOHN'S STRANGE ALLY



CHAPTER II

PRINCE JOHN'S STRANGE ALLY

_Told by Dandy, the Terrier_


I made a mistake once, and nipped a tramp's wooden leg. Since then, I
look before I take hold. But even a poodle could see that this thing
was old bone, though its eyes glinted like Tibbie's in the dark, and
there was a smell of grease about its beaded kilt. And, talking of
kilts, there's a bare-legged fellow who comes here every summer and
struts up and down the road, making the beastliest row with some sort
of instrument all pipes and ribbons. Wow! don't I change his tune if I
get out before anybody can catch me!

"Why, it's a baby's toy," said I, seeing that Minkie was rather taken
with it.

"Let's have a look," said a voice I hated, and Tibbie walked up
Bobby's neck, and perched between his ears.

"Hello!" cried I, in my most sarcastic snarl, "are you there? And what
is this acrobatic business? Is it a circus, or what?"

"Speak when you're spoken to," spat Tibbie. "And let me give you fair
warning that the next time you sneak any meat off my skewer I'll--"

"Oh, shut up, both of you," commanded Minkie; so I just pretended to
lick my lips, though I really care very little for the rather high
stuff that cats make such a song about. I like mine underdone.

"Have you ever before heard of a ju-ju, Bob?" went on Minkie.

"No," said Bob. He didn't shake his head, because Tibbie was there, and
she has a nasty habit of hanging on with her claws before you can say
"Rats!" Why do cats have such sharp nails, anyhow? They used to scar my
muzzle something awful before I learnt to jump on them feet first. But
they can't bite for nuts. If they could, I must admit--

"I think _I_ might tell you something about it," broke in Tibbie,
backing down Bob's mane and settling on his withers again.

"Well, go on," said Minkie, bending a bit, so as to watch Tibbie's
green eyes.

"It's a long time ago since I had the story from a blue Persian."

"Cookie has some liver in the larder." You see, Minkie knew her cat.

"Has she? I was out when the butcher came."

"Yes. It's liver and bacon for breakfast in the morning. And SOLES!"

P-r-r-r, you could feel Tibbie's fur rising.

"I'll try to remember," she said in a rather thick voice. "It seems
that we cats used to be worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. The cat
deity was named Elurus, and we were also venerated as a symbol of the
moon--"

I couldn't help it. Even Bob coughed, and then pretended to be chewing
hay. But, because I laughed, Minkie clouted my ear.

"The Romans always placed a cat at the feet of the Goddess of Liberty;
they realized that no animal resists the loss of its freedom so
furiously as a cat," continued Tibbie in her best purr. "That is why
you never see a cat wearing a collar, the badge of servitude, like a
dog."

Wow! I'll give her "servitude" next time I have a chance. "Like a dog!"
indeed.

"What has all this got to do with a ju-ju?" asked Minkie.

"I am coming to that. The Egyptians were a very wise people, obviously,
and their ways were sure to be copied by the black men who lived near
them. They thought so much of cats that whoever killed one, even
accidentally, was punished by death. This cat-headed god, Elurus, had
a human body, and his image brought luck and good fortune to those who
carried it about with them. Now, there are no cats where the black men
live, but there are plenty of monkeys, so I am just guessing."

"I see," said Minkie, quite seriously.

"Regarding that fish and liver?" cried Tibbie, trying to talk in an
off-hand way.

"I am going to interview Cookie now," was the reply.

"Hold on! Where do _I_ come in?" I simply had to interfere. The thing
was an outrage. Fancy getting fish and liver for a blue-mouldy yarn
like that.

"And me?" snorted Bob.

"You're both too fat already," said Minkie calmly, but she kicked down
another lot of hay before she blew the lantern out, and I got a snack
of steak while Tibbie was filling up on fish heads and _foie de veau_.
I lapped the best part of her milk, too, when she wasn't looking.

There was a keen frost that night, and the scent of the nigger, not
to mention some beery singers who call themselves "the waits," kept
me awake for hours. Every man has a different smell, though some folk
get mad if you tell them so, but the Upper Niger tang was new to me,
and I couldn't help thinking what a place that must be for a hunt if
even a well-washed black prince left such a _bouquet_ behind him. I
suppose you are surprised to hear a fox-terrier using French words, but
I learnt them from Mademoiselle, Minkie's governess, who went away last
month.

Next morning, at breakfast, all the talk was of Prince John and the
ju-ju. Schwartz had hunted high and low for his doll, but, considering
that it was in Minkie's pocket, he was not likely to find it. If only
he had a nose like me he would soon have been on its track. I fancied
the Guv'nor was not altogether pleased that such a rough-and-tumble
performance should have taken place at Holly Lodge on a Christmas
Eve, and Schwartz was so put out by the loss of the ju-ju that it
cast rather a gloom over the household--excepting Minkie, Tibbie and
me, of course. As for that fool of a parrot, he, or she--blessed if
I can tell one parrot from another, but this one never lays an egg,
though everyone calls him "Polly"--well, he was nearly delirious with
excitement, because Christmas time brings nuts into his cage. Once the
conversation came pretty close to our little secret.

"By the way, Millicent, that negro had a black bag in his hand when
he drove home with us last night, didn't he?" inquired the Old Man,
tackling Minkie rather suddenly.

"Oh, yes, father dear. I saw it quite plainly. Did he take it upstairs,
Evangeline?"

"I dunno, miss. He fair flummaxed me, he did, with his bowin' and
scrapin' an, lah-di-dah manners. As I said to Cook--"

"That will do, Evangeline," put in Mam. "Bring some more toast, please."

Minkie had steered the question off smartly, but the Guv'nor stuck to
his point.

"There can be no doubt the rascal brought the bag into the house. I
remember now seeing him carry it into the hall. Yet it was not in his
possession when we caught him in the garden, and it must have been
found if it were lying among the shrubs, or he had left it in the
house. By Jove! Is it possible that he had an accomplice? Really,
Schwartz, you ought to have called in the police if the matter is so
serious."

"This quarrel is between Prince John and myself," said Schwartz,
sullenly. "He may have had others to help, though it is difficult to
see how that could be, under the circumstances. But this is only the
second round of a big fight. He and I will meet again, probably on a
certain island in the Niger which we both know well. Then we shall
settle the ownership of that small god, for keeps."

"Oh!" cried Dolly, "is it an idol?"

Then Schwartz tried to pull himself together.

"No, Miss Dorothy, not an idol, but a fetish," he said, with his usual
grin. "The fact is, I fear I have led you to believe that I attach an
exaggerated value to it. It is only a bit of carved ivory, which the
natives regard as a talisman. But it had a sentimental interest for me,
much as a gambler at Monte Carlo might prize a champagne cork, or a
piece of coal, or some equally ridiculous charm which he had carried in
his pocket on the night of a big _coup_."

"Me-ow!" said Tibbie, looking up at Minkie.

"Yes, darling," said Minkie, "the dish is going out now, and I have
told cook to save you the tit-bits. Dan, come back here! Who stole
Tibbie's milk last night?"

"_Misère de Dieu!_" as mademoiselle said when she was turning over
the strawberry plants and grabbed a wasp--who split on me? Was it
Evangeline? Wait till I catch her sliding down to the front gate
to-night when her young man whistles "Annie Rooney." I'll raise the
house.

"I suppose you had some lively times occasionally in West Africa,
Schwartz?" said the Old Man cheerfully, his idea being to swing the
talk away from a topic which his guest seemed to avoid.

"Y-yes, for a few minutes every now and then. But the excitement soon
passed. For the rest, it was deadly dull, a sort of slow crescendo up
to the boiling point of fever, and a gradual diminuendo back to flabby
health again. It is no country for a white man, unless he wants his
relations to collect his life insurance."

"Yet you made money there?"

"Oh, yes. Why else should one go to such a filthy swamp?"

"Do you mean to say that the natives of a fever-laden district are
physically up to the standard of the fellow we collared last night?"

"No; he comes from the highlands, where the country is altogether
different. But the money is made at the ports and trading stations."

"Any sport?"

"Very little, the bush is too dense."

"Then why do the blacks want gas-pipe guns and coal-dust gunpowder?"
asked Minkie, who was making a jam sandwich.

"To shoot the whites," replied Schwartz. "So you see it would be bad
for our health if the traders gave them good weapons and ammunition."

"That explains it," said Minkie.

"Explains what, dear?" inquired Mam, and Schwartz squirmed a bit until
Minkie said:

"Something I read in a paper, mother. These wicked negroes pay high
prices for rifles, and of course it is best to let them believe they
are buying the genuine article."

Mam was puzzled, but the Guv'nor laughed.

"Excellent!" he cried. "I am glad to hear that one member of the family
has grasped the true principles of commercial success."

"I'm sure I don't know where Millicent gets her ideas from," sighed
Mam. "When I was her age I could no more have said such a thing than I
could have flown."

"And you certainly were never built for flying, less now than ever,"
smiled her husband. Of course, I paid little heed to all this chaff,
because I was bolting half that jam sandwich, which Minkie had dropped.
Evangeline saw what happened, and said nothing, so it will be "Whistle
and I'll come to you, my lad," to-night. But I woke up to the sounds
of battle when Mam wanted to know who was going to church. Everybody
said "I," except Schwartz, who had letters to write. You ought to have
watched his face when Minkie said quietly:

"In that case you will miss seeing Jack Stanhope, the friend of whom I
was telling you yesterday."

"Jack! Is he at home?" Dolly blurted out, and then blushed right down
her neck.

"Yes. Didn't you know?"

"How could I? If it comes to that, how do you know?"

"He sent me a Christmas picture postcard last evening, one of the new
ones, with the season's wishes and a lot of robins on one side and a
ha-penny stamp with the address and a little bit of a letter on the
other. Here it is. Shall I read it?"

"Yes," said the Guv'nor rather grimly. Outside the gang, he understood
Minkie better than anybody else, and he evidently wondered why she was
making such a dead set against Schwartz.

Minkie produced the card from the pocket which held the ju-ju. It was a
deep pocket, lengthened by herself; she often needed it to hide a young
rabbit when I had induced one to leave his home and friends, because
keepers make a beastly fuss about these small matters if they hear of
them.

"It has the West Strand postmark, 9 A.M., December 24th," said
she, "and this is what he writes: 'Dear Minkie: Just arrived from
Marseilles, ex s.s. Persia. It was enough to freeze Dan's tail off
crossing the Channel, but I am glad to be here early, as I can do a bit
of shopping (being in need of decoration) before I run down to Dale
End. I shall be strolling past the Lodge about six o'clock, and will
be delighted if you are visible. Otherwise, we shall meet at Church
to-morrow, and exchange winks if Grampus is there too. Yours ever,
Jack. P.S. I have brought you a pet mongoose.' That is all."

"Quite enough, too. May I ask who 'Grampus' is?" said her father.

"His uncle. Jack depends on him for his allowance, so he has to humor
him, but he never agreed with him about that shooting squabble, you
know."

"I know nothing about his views, and care less, and I do not wish you
to exchange either postcards or winks with him or any of his name."

"Tom," put in Mam, gently, "this is Christmas morning."

"I have not forgotten that, my dear. Nor have I forgotten this day two
years ago, when the other Stanhope ignored my proffered hand before a
dozen of our mutual acquaintances. You hear, Millicent? I have spoken."

"Yes, father dear, but it is such a pity about the mongoose. And I had
a new word I wanted to surprise Jack with. Christmas picture postcard
is such a mouthful, so I intended to call it a Chris-card. Don't you
think that rather neat?"

"I do, but it is not comparable to the neatness with which you draw a
red herring across the scent. Of course, if he sends you the mongoose,
you may keep it, and write a civil note of thanks, but we can hardly
indulge in a close friendship with the nephew when the uncle cannot
find a good word to say for us."

I was that delighted that I scraped Minkie's leg to tell her I was
underneath the table. A mongoose coming to join the family! What _is_ a
mongoose, anyhow? Has it four legs, or two? Can it fight? I must have
murmured my thoughts aloud, because the parrot gave a screech that made
Schwartz jump.

"Go and hide in the nearest rabbit burrow, little dog," he yelled. "Run
away and bury yourself with a bone. When that mongoose turns up he'll
chase you into the next parish. Oh, Christopher! Aren't we havin' a
beano? Another rum 'ot, please, miss."

I kept my temper. There is no use arguing with a parrot. You can't get
at him, and he has an amazing variety of language at command; but I
must state one small point in his favor; if you pay no heed to his
vulgarity, and cut out of his talk the silly bits which seem to please
people who wear clothes, he gives one a lot of useful information. He
will not say a word in a friendly way, same as I give even Tibbie the
nod if there's a mouse in the kitchen. The best plan is to sauce him,
or sneer at him. Then he flies into a rage and talks like a book.

So, "Polly," said I, "you shouldn't strain your voice in that fashion.
It will make your feet ache."

He knew what I meant well enough, because just then he was hanging head
downwards from his perch. He reached out and took a grip of a steel bar
in his beak, pretending he had hold of me by the neck.

"If I were you I'd whitewash my face in the hope that the mongoose
would not recognize me after the first round," he croaked.

"I believe you are afraid of the thing yourself."

"Say not so, whiskers. Kiss me, mother, kiss your darling. A
full-grown mongoose will make you the sickest dog in the British Isles.
Whoop at him, Boxer! Back to him, Bendigo! O my sainted aunt, I'll
watch that snake-catcher chuck you into the lake. Nah, then, who'll
tike odds. I'll back the fee-ald. The fee-ald a powney!"

"Evangeline," said Mam, "put the green cloth over that bird. He grows
worse daily, and I cannot make out where he learns so much cockney
slang."

Minkie kicked me under the table. She guessed I had been teasing him.
At any rate, the parrot clearly expected to witness a first-rate set-to
when the mongoose arrived. In his own mind he had already taken a
ticket for the front row of the stalls, and I meant to oblige him with
a star turn. A mongoose may be able to catch a snake, but he must not
put on airs with a dog who killed thirty rats in one minute the last
time Farmer Hodson threshed his barley stack.

I heard Schwartz telling Dolly that he had changed his mind and would
go to church, so at half-past ten they walked off to the village. It
was quite warm in the sun, but the air was nippy, so I gave Tib a run
across the lawn when I found her stalking a sparrow; then I went round
to see Bob. He was busy eating. I suppose a horse has to get through a
lot of hay before he fills up. Hay is dry stuff at the best. I like an
odd snack between meals myself, but the only chew worth considering is
something you can load in quickly before any other fellow has a chance
of grabbing it.

Anyhow, when I asked Bob what a mongoose was, he was rather short, and
said he had no time for riddles, as he had been dreaming of niggers all
night.

"Tell you what," said I, "hay makes you nervous. It must be like tea.
Cookie says--"

Then Bob gave his horse laugh.

"Cookie calls it 'tea,' does she?" he roared. "You give her my
compliments and ask her to draw some of that tea for me in a jug. Tib
knows where the barrel is."

So I trotted back to Polly.

"Look here!" I said, "tell me what a mongoose is, and I'll nick some
grapes for you."

He was singing "Hello, my baby," but he stopped.

"It's an ichneumon," he answered. That nettled me.

"Anything like a cockatoo?" I asked.

"You're a low-bred cur," he screamed, "an ignorant mongrel. You
shouldn't seek information. What you want is a ticket for the Dogs'
Home. Help! Help!"

"Why, you hook-nosed nut-cracker, what's the good of telling anybody
that a mongoose is an ichneumon? How would you like it if I said you
were a zygodactyl?"

He nearly had a fit. His language brought Evangeline from the attic:
she thought the house was on fire. The fact is, Minkie dug that word
out of the dictionary, and I've been waiting for an opportunity to hand
it on to Polly; now he has had it, fair between the eyes.

I heard afterwards that if affairs were lively at Holly Lodge it
was not all peace and goodwill to men at the parish church. Grampus
had an attack of gout--a day earlier than usual--so Jack went to
Christmas service alone. He winked twice at Minkie, but she gazed at
him steadily with the only eye he could see. Dolly was entirely taken
up with her prayer-book, so Jack took careful stock of the red-haired
man with the map of Judea in his face. But a captain of hussars who has
won the D. S. O. has no reason to be ashamed of being alive, so, when
our people came through the lych gate, there was Captain Stanhope with
his hat off, smiling quite pleasantly, and wishing them the compliments
of the season.

Of course, Mam and the Guv'nor, being gentlefolk, had to respond.
Schwartz made to walk on with Dolly, but she stopped, too, and Minkie
shook hands with Jack first of anybody.

The old man was hardly comfortable; he nudged Mam's arm, and they would
have joined Schwartz if Jack hadn't said:

"By the way, Mr. Grosvenor, I want to have a chat with you on a matter
of some importance. Can you spare me a few minutes now, or shall I call
later in the day?"

Dolly blushed, and her father saw it. He stiffened a bit, just as I do
when my hair rises.

"I am sorry, Captain Stanhope, but I fear that any exchange of
confidences between us will not only be useless but open to
misinterpretation," he said coldly.

"Let me explain that I am running dead against my uncle's wishes in
seeking this interview," protested Jack. "Believe me, I am actuated by
the best of good feeling towards you and your family, sir."

"I do credit that; but any discussion of the point must inflict
unnecessary pain."

"This is really a serious matter."

"So is everything where your uncle and I are concerned. Come on, my
dear. We cannot keep Mr. Schwartz waiting."

The Guv'nor lifted his hat and marched away. Mam said nothing, Dolly
didn't care tuppence how her skirt draped, Minkie said that if the
frost continued there would soon be thick ice, and Schwartz grinned.
Dolly thought she would like to slap Schwartz, so she joined Minkie on
the high path above the road, where the hens have to fly when I get
after them.

"I think it's too bad of father to snub Jack in that way," she said,
half sobbing.

"Dad is making a mistake," agreed Minkie. "If you take my advice you
will come with me this afternoon and find out what it is Jack wants to
say."

"How can I? Where can I see him? We can't go to the Manor House."

"I have arranged to meet Jack at half-past two near the Four Lanes."

"You have arranged!--"

"Yes. While you were squinting up to find out if your hat was at the
right tilt I was watching Jack drawing a cross and 2.30 on the gravel
with his stick. I nodded, so that is all right. Are you coming?"

Dolly was flurried. "I dunno," she murmured. "You don't understand
things, Minkie. Dad is desperately anxious that we should not offend
Mr. Schwartz, who can be either a very good friend or a dangerous
enemy. Oh, sis! What a happy world it would be if we had all the money
we want!"

"P'raps. Schwartz is rich, and he looked happy last night, didn't he?
Jack's uncle is rolling in coin, and to-day he is nursing a foot the
size of an elephant's."

"I am not thinking of myself, Minkie."

"I know that. You are trying to help Dad, and he is fretting because he
has to pay a lot of money on the 10th of January."

Dolly opened her eyes widely.

"Who told _you_?" she cried.

"Sh-s-s-sh. There's Mam calling. She wants us to look in at nurse's
cottage. What about Jack--quick!"

"I'll see," whispered Dolly.

People who play poker are a bit doubtful when they say that. If you
add the recognized fact that the woman who hesitates is lost you will
understand at once that when Minkie and I climbed over the orchard
fence at 2.15, Miss Dorothy came running after us.

"Mam has gone upstairs, and Mr. Schwartz and father are in the library,
so I will join you in your stroll," she said, trying to keep up a
pretence.

"Step out, then," said Minkie. "Jack will be waiting."

He was. He saw us coming long before we reached the cross roads, and
his first words meant war.

"Who is this fellow Schwartz?" he demanded.

"A friend of--father's," said Dorothy.

"Well, he is a rogue," said Jack. "I wanted to warn Mr. Grosvenor about
him this morning, but he wouldn't listen to me."

"Oh, was that it?" and Dorothy's nose went up in the air.

"Partly. Not all. I say, Minkie, if you take Dan into the warren you
will find a heap of rabbits. The keepers are a mile away. I told them
you were coming."

"Then Dan can go by himself. I am far more interested in Schwartz than
Dot is. Do you know anything about ju-jus?"

"By Jove, Minkie, you do come to the point. Why, that blessed nigger
prince is at the Manor now, plotting all sorts of mischief with my
uncle."

"How did he get there? I suppose you met him last night?"

"Yes. I was passing along the road when I heard Jim turn him out of
the gate, and order him not to show his black mug inside the grounds
again. I wondered what on earth a darky was doing at Dale End. Thinking
he was a Hindu, one of the natives who come to England to read up law,
I spoke to him, but as soon as we reached a lamp I saw he was a negro.
He was in awful trouble, and appeared to have been badly handled. As
soon as he discovered that I was a friend of yours--which I mean to
remain, no matter how your father and my uncle disagree--he became very
excited and appealed to me for assistance. The villagers spotted him
and began to gather, so I took him to the Manor, unfortunately."

"Why unfortunately?" demanded Minkie.

"Because some of the servants told my uncle he was there, and the old
boy made me bring him upstairs."

"Well?"

"I nearly lost my temper with both of them. It seems that Schwartz,
who was a low-down trader on the Niger, stole some sort of ju-ju, or
small fetish, belonging to the Kwantu bushmen, the most powerful tribe
in the hinterland. That was three years ago. Since then he has become
enormously wealthy, and the niggers say it is because he holds this
ju-ju, which is the luckiest thing in Africa. They, at least, have
had all sorts of plagues since they lost it, tsetse fly, smallpox,
bad rubber years, and I don't know what besides. At any rate they are
on the verge of rebellion. Their ju-ju men, or wizards, are preaching
wholesale murder of the whites. Some German traders have supplied
them with Mannlicher rifles and ammunition, and there is real danger
of a terrific mutiny. Now, I am a British officer, and I have some
experience of superstitious natives, if not of negroes, so I can quite
realize what may happen out there if the cause of disaffection is not
removed. You can hardly grasp the serious nature of the business,
Minkie, but Dorothy, being older--"

"Can appreciate it much better, of course," said Minkie. "Yet I am
beginning to see things. Did Prince John say what would happen if the
ju-ju were restored?"

"That is a very sensible question for a kid," observed Jack,
approvingly. "He vows that the whole affair will end the instant the
Kwantu ju-ju men receive back their fetish. He, and a few leading
bushmen, some of whom have been educated in England, remember, have
restrained the mutiny by a solemn undertaking to bring the god home
before the spring rains begin. They have offered Schwartz all the money
they can scrape together if he will only give it up, but he laughs at
them and defies them."

"He didn't seem to laugh last night," put in Minkie.

"Do you believe he has really lost it?"

"Oh yes. I am quite sure of that?" and she felt in her pocket
absent-mindedly.

"Well, I am at my wits' end to decide how to act. Prince John is
equally certain that Schwartz has recovered it. When Dan brought him
down, a small bag in which he had placed the ju-ju was knocked out of
his hand, and it must, therefore, be in Holly Lodge somewhere. The
negro is a determined man, and there is a look in his eyes which I have
seen in a Pathan's when--Well, no matter. If your father will not meet
me he will at least read a letter. Now, Minkie, it will soon be too
dark to find anything among the bushes--"

"Rats!" cried Minkie, so sharply that I jumped, thinking she meant it.
"You've got six months' furlough, so you'll meet Dot often enough.
Please go on. What does Prince John intend to do next?"

"He may endeavor to burgle your house. He will kill Schwartz if need
be. He will certainly kill Dan."

Oh, _in_deed! I pricked up my ears at this. What between the nigger
and the mongoose I'm in for a lively time. Nobody is going to be happy
until I am cold meat.

"But they will put him in gaol if he tries burglary?" said Minkie, who
was unmoved by the prospect of my early death.

"He says that Schwartz simply dare not face him in a court of law."

"It is our house, you know?"

Captain Stanhope sighed perplexedly. He was a man, discussing hard
things with two girls. Minkie gave me a look as much as to say "Don't
miss a word of this," and went on:

"Of course, one can't credit the absurd idea that a piece of wood, or
brass, or whatever it is, can bring good luck to anyone who possesses
it."

"Our ebony acquaintance holds so strongly to the absurdity that he
will stop short of nothing in the effort to secure it. And my old
fool of an--I beg your pardon, I mean my respected uncle, is actually
plotting with him as to ways and means. He is in favor of informing
the Government, but the Kwantu gentleman says the Colonial office will
scoff at the notion. He is right there. The officials in Whitehall
always do scoff until a certain number of white men and women are
murdered, and an army corps has to be sent to exact vengeance."

"It seems to me that the killing will begin here, probably with a white
dog--r-r-rip!" observed Minkie, stooping to dig me in the ribs.

"Mongoose!" I yelled, but she didn't appear to take any notice.

Illustration: Minkie took the ivory doll from her pocket and surveyed
it seriously.

"I wouldn't write to dad if I were you," she continued. "He would
simply take sides with Schwartz. But you can write to me, if you like,
only you must not wink, nor send postcards."

"What do you mean?"

"Dorothy will tell you. Come on, Dan, let's have a look at the warren."

When we were quite by ourselves Minkie took the ivory doll from her
pocket and surveyed it seriously.

"Ju-ju," she said, "I hope you can really accomplish these wonders,
because I'm going to do things, and there will be a fearful row if I
don't succeed."

I nearly killed twice in ten minutes, but a warren is the deuce and
all if some of the holes are not stopped and you have no ferret. When
we rejoined the others any dog could see that Dorothy had been crying.
Yet she didn't exactly look miserable, like Jim's wife looked when her
first baby died. Women are queer. Sometimes you can't tell whether they
are glad or sorry, because they weep just the same.

The girls were dressing for dinner when a man in livery came with a
wooden box and a note for "Miss Millicent Grosvenor."

Oh, wow and wag everlasting--it's the mongoose!



THE WHITE MAN'S WAY



CHAPTER III

THE WHITE MAN'S WAY

_Told by Tibbie, the Cat_


As this record of events at Dale End now enters on a phase demanding
intelligence of a somewhat high order for its recital, I take up the
tale at a point where Dan becomes incoherent. I admit I was greatly
interested myself when Minkie, without waiting for Evangeline to do up
her blouse, glissaded down the stair rail and rushed the cage into the
morning-room. I had heard of mongooses from Tommy Willoughby, who lives
in our road, as he had come across them when the Colonel commanded the
Galway Blazers at Alexandria. He says they eat crocodiles' eggs, and
are therefore held in high regard by the Egyptians, and the Egyptians,
judged by their treatment of cats, are evidently a sensible race.
Yet there are no crocodiles' eggs at Dale End, fresh ones, that is,
so I pity this poor stranger if Jim or Mole catches him dining in the
hen-house. I tried a young Dorking myself once, and Jim behaved very
unfeelingly with a whip.

Dan, of course, tore after Minkie with his mouth open, and his stump of
a tail pointing north. I crept in noiselessly, and watched proceedings
from beneath a wide and deep leather chair. I could see a thing like
a big red rat behind some wooden bars which ran down one side of a
soap box. The animal had a sharp muzzle, small paws with fairly useful
claws, and a tail that was almost the size of the remainder of its body.

"A mongoose can fight," I reasoned, "and its huge tail shows that it
can turn quickly." Dan, naturally, took no stock of these essentials.
He was nearly beside himself with excitement, and Minkie had to grab
him with one hand while she held Captain Stanhope's letter in the other.

"Do be quiet, Dan!" she cried, shaking him. "Tibbie, where are you?"

"Here," I meow'd.

"Then listen, the pair of you. Jack writes: 'Dear Minkie--I send the
mongoose. He is very tame, quite a lovable little chap. You can let him
run about the house at once if all the doors are closed. After a day or
two he can go out into the garden safely, as he will always come back
to his box if you leave it open. He is accustomed to my dogs, and there
are terriers among them, so make Dan understand that the mongoose wants
to play with him when he stands up as if he were going to box with his
fore-paws. You may have more trouble with Tib, but she will soon learn
to treat him as one of the family. For that matter, Rikki (that is his
name) can keep either of them in order if he is not taken by surprise
by reason of his friendliness with all my live stock. He will eat most
things they eat. When the frost goes, and he can hunt in the garden, he
will keep himself. Yours, Jack.' So there! Just try and behave decently
when I introduce Rikki."

Dan's growls died away in a sort of groan.

"I'll have that buck nigger stroking me and saying 'Good dog' next,"
he muttered bitterly. And then it was all I could do to keep from
smiling when I saw Minkie open the cage and take the mongoose out,
gripping Dan tightly lest his feelings should overcome him. Will you
believe it, that queer-looking beast seemed quite pleased to see Dan!
It jumped up and licked his whiskers, and tickled his ears with its
little hands, while all poor Dan could say was "Gnar-r!" and roll his
eyes wildly to see what it was doing, Minkie's fingers being like
bits of steel. At last, grief and curiosity conquered him. He sniffed
it, and Minkie let go. The parrot, from the dining-room, guessed what
was happening, and shouted "Hark to him, Boxer! Back to him, Bendigo!
At him, boy! At him!" But it was no use. May I never have another
night out if Dan and Rikki were not having a friendly wrestle on the
hearth-rug in half a minute.

The mongoose had quick eyes. When it rolled over in the game it saw
me. I must say it had some sense, too; it seemed to know that I was
not given to any dog-foolery, and it squared itself for battle. Dan,
thinking to show off, charged full tilt for my chair, so I determined
to take a rise out of him. I began to purr, walked straight up to him,
with my tail well aloft and the tip twiddling, and began to rub myself
against his ribs.

You never saw a dog so taken aback. I'm sure he thought I was crazy,
and even Minkie said softly:

"Well, I never! Is the ju-ju beginning to work already?"

Odd, isn't it? She attributed my little joke to that chunk of ivory in
her pocket. Anyhow, the mongoose took no liberties with me. When all is
said and done, Dan and I are in one camp, and every sort of rat in the
other--but I am surprised at Dan.

Now, parcels turn up so continuously at Christmas time that no one
else was aware of Rikki's arrival until he sat up and begged from
Mr. Schwartz while our visitor was drinking his soup. The parrot was
watching, and made a horrid noise at the right moment, just as Schwartz
looked down and saw a pair of fierce red eyes glaring at him. The
mongoose put on his best grin, which made matters worse. Schwartz
nearly overturned the dinner-table. I would never have credited six
feet of man with being in such a funk. Everybody was glad he expressed
his emotions in German--he himself more than the others when he calmed
down. Minkie nearly came in for a scolding, but the Guv'nor, who is
a real sport, was soon taken by Rikki's antics, and rather chaffed
Schwartz about his alarm.

"That is all very well Grosvenor," said Schwartz, "but you have not
lived where poisonous spiders, centipedes, scorpions, and all sorts of
snakes come prowling into the house. I have jumped for my life far too
often to be ashamed of a momentary forgetfulness that I was in England.
Moreover, I was not aware that Millicent was forming a menagerie."

"I hope to have a monkey soon," observed Minkie.

"I'll take jolly good care you don't," said her father. "Monkeys are
most mischievous brutes, and they disagree with every other animal near
them. By the way, has Dan seen your new pet?"

"Yes. They had quite a romp in the morning-room. You see I had to read
Jack's letter to both Tibbie and Dan before I introduced Rikki."

"I wish you wouldn't allude to Captain Stanhope as 'Jack.' It argues a
familiarity which does not exist."

"If you are speaking of the young gentleman who hailed you after
church to-day, I should say you were justified in that remark," put in
Schwartz.

That showed the man's bad taste; but it told me something more. Since
the morning, his manner towards the Guv'nor had altered. People say
I am cruel when I play with a mouse, forgetting that I must practice
every tricky twist and sidelong spring or I shall not be able to kill
mice at all. However that may be, I can recognize the trait when I
see it in others, and Schwartz looked and talked like a man who has
another man under his thumb. Although her father may speak sharply to
Minkie at times, he very strongly resents such a liberty being taken
by an outsider. Perhaps he thought Schwartz regarded the allusion
to a monkey as a personal matter. At any rate, when the parrot told
Evangeline to go and boil her head there was a laugh, and the incident
passed.

Of course, I knew Minkie far too well to believe that she meant to let
Schwartz say what he liked, but I did not expect her to drop such a
bombshell on the table as she produced after the pudding appeared.

"Talking of monkeys, Mr. Schwartz," she said when there was a pause in
the conversation, "are there many in West Africa?"

"Swarms," he replied, rather snappy, because he noticed that Minkie
gave his name the German sound, which is funnier than our English way
of saying it.

"Do they worship them?"

"No, they eat them."

"Then why should they make one of their most powerful ju-jus like a
monkey?"

I imagine that for a moment Schwartz really forgot where he was. His
eyes bulged forward, his face grew red, and big veins stood out on his
forehead.

"What--do you--know about it?" he gasped, glaring at her as though he
wanted to run round the table and wring her neck.

"Nothing," she answered meekly. "That is why I am asking you."

"But you have some motive. Such a question is impossible coming from a
child. Who told you anything of a ju-ju resembling a monkey?" Schwartz
was almost shouting now, and the Old Man gave Mam an imploring glance.
Mam tried to press Minkie's toes under the table, but Minkie just
tucked her legs beneath her chair out of harm's way, and not a soul
could catch her eye, because she and Schwartz were looking straight at
each other.

"After the affair last night I read about ju-jus and fetishism in the
Encyclopædia," she said. "That was very interesting, but I really had
in my mind what Jack--I mean Captain Stanhope--told me to-day. Prince
John assures him that if the ju-ju you took from his people is not sent
back before the spring rains there will be a rebellion in that country.
So I felt certain it must be a monkey-headed one, made of ivory, with
a little beaded skirt, as that is the most powerful ju-ju known among
the Kwantus."

I wonder Schwartz did not leap at her there and then. His eyes
positively glittered. He exercised all his powers to regain his
self-control, but his hands shook, and there was a curious tremor in
his voice.

"This information is, indeed, valuable to me," he said, dropping his
tone to the ordinary level again. "No, I beg of you, Grosvenor, let
Millicent continue. Do I gather that Captain Stanhope is in league with
the negro thief who made his way to my room last night?"

"Did I say that?" inquired Minkie, smiling at Schwartz in a way that
those who knew her dreaded.

"You implied it. Evidently your military friend enjoys Prince John's
confidence."

"Oh, if you put it that way you are right. Prince John is staying at
the Manor House and Captain Stanhope is using his influence to keep him
quiet."

"He told you that."

"And I believe him."

"Did he actually describe the ju-ju to you?"

"No."

"Then how are you able to hit off its appearance so exactly?"

"Because I'm a good guesser. Isn't that so, father dear?"

The Guv'nor didn't seem to realize that Minkie had deliberately pulled
him into the conversation. He was dreadfully upset, and he tried to
cover his confusion by tackling her on the question of disobedience.

"I told you to have nothing further to do with the Manor House people,"
he said, and his voice was very harsh and stern, "yet it is evident you
met and talked with young Stanhope to-day without my cognizance."

"Yes. I met him near the Four Lanes. You said, father dear, that we
were not to exchange postcards and winks, and that was all."

"You knew quite well that I meant you to cut the acquaintance entirely.
Millicent, what has come to you that you should disregard my wishes in
this way?"

"I am very sorry, dad. I did not think I was doing wrong. I promise
now that I shall not speak to Captain Stanhope again until you give me
permission. If I had really meant to disobey you I would hardly have
told you so openly at table. My idea was that you would like to know
all about this ju-ju which Mr. Schwartz has lost, and the queer effect
it may have in causing a West African war."

Poor Mam was nearly crying, and Dorothy's face was a study; she was
terrified lest Minkie should blurt out the fact that she, too, was at
the Four Lanes. As it happened, Minkie could not have mentioned a worse
locality. It was the Four Lanes warren which first led to the quarrel
between old Mr. Stanhope and the Guv'nor. There was a lawsuit about
the shooting rights, which ought to have gone with our estate, but Mr.
Stanhope's lawyers made out a flaw in a copyhold, whatever that may
mean, and we lost. I wonder why men invented law. If they followed our
example, and fought in the good old way, our Old Man would now own that
warren.

There might have been more unpleasant things said had not Polly yelled
suddenly:

"Fire! Murder! Per-lice! 'E dunno where 'e are!"

The mongoose had just discovered that it was the parrot who was
growling nasty remarks at Evangeline because she took the nuts from the
sideboard without giving him any. Naturally, being a newcomer, Rikki
was surprised, so he had jumped on to the window-sill to have a look
at this queer bird. Minkie was told to put the mongoose in his box, as
Evangeline declared she wouldn't touch such an awful objec', not for a
million pounds.

While Minkie was out of the room the Guv'nor tried to recover his good
humor.

"You must not pay heed to my little girl's way of expressing herself,
Schwartz," he said. "We have rather encouraged her to be outspoken, and
she has always been remarkably intelligent. Try that port. You will
find it good, a '74, the last bottle, worse luck."

"Here's to Holly Lodge and its owner, his wife and his charming
daughters. May we all be sitting here this time next year!" cried
Schwartz, lifting his glass and glancing at Dolly.

It was a pleasant enough toast in its way, but again I had that feeling
under the fur that the words meant a lot more than they expressed. Dan
naturally said he saw nothing particular in them, but you will find I
was right. I noticed, too, that Schwartz drank two glasses of the wine
in quick succession, though he had declined a liqueur the previous
evening. I mentioned this to Dan, but he only growled:

"You see a sparrow behind every bush. Schwartz is a rotter, but he is
behaving himself. Why, I have known Jim shift a quart of beer after
he had said he wasn't thirsty, just because Mam told him to get some
lemonade."

"Have _you_ ever picked a bone after turning up your nose at a dog
biscuit?" I asked.

"Yes, but there might have been cat in the biscuit."

I turned my back on him. He thinks that sort of low-down humor is
clever, and he hurries away to tell Bob how he scored off me. Of
course, he made tracks to the stable the moment dinner was ended, with
the result that he missed quite a thrilling episode.

Mam and Dorothy went to the drawing-room, but Schwartz, who was
listening intently, heard Minkie go into the morning-room, whither I
had followed her to study the mongoose at leisure. After a minute or
two, he made the excuse that he wanted to show the Guv'nor a letter
which he had left upstairs, and he came out, though I heard Poll
warbling "Kiss me and call me your darling."

He closed the door, walked across the hall to the foot of the stairs,
and tip-toe'd back to the morning-room. Minkie looked at me, and I
looked at Minkie.

"Now for it!" she whispered.

Schwartz entered. He had the glint in his eyes which I feel when I have
a young thrush within range of a spring. He never turned his head, but
kept glaring at Minkie while he fumbled with the lock till the door was
shut. Then he crept, rather than walked, towards her.

"Now, you young devil!" he hissed, "give it to me, or I'll strangle
you."

That was the right opening; I began to feel nervous, and when I say
"nervous" I don't mean "frightened," like Evangeline is when the
villain says something of the sort in the story she reads each week in
the _Society Girl's Companion_; in fact, if she begins to wash up after
finishing the instalment she is sure to smash something. No; that is
the mistake Dan always makes. Had he been in the room during the next
few minutes he would have alarmed the house by his stupid barking,
because any one could see that Schwartz meant mischief. Certainly Dan
would have bitten him first, whereas I hid under the leather chair.
_Chacun à son gout_, as mademoiselle used to say when she saw Minkie
kissing Bob's nose--my motto is "Defence, not defiance." But the
species of nervousness I experienced was shared by Minkie. It was a
kind of spiritual exaltation, a bracing of the muscles, a tuning of the
heart-strings which carries one through a desperate crisis.

For Schwartz was primed with wine, and maddened by the knowledge that
he had been tricked by a girl, a girl who was able to survey his mean
soul and appraise its miserable insufficiency. He thought to frighten
her by letting the beast in him peep forth at her. Even if she screamed
for protection, he counted on either securing the ju-ju or learning its
whereabouts before her father could come to her rescue. Then he would
explain that he was joking, while Minkie would receive scant sympathy
when it became known that she had kept mum as to her possession of an
article which he prized so greatly. Of course, he was sure she had the
ju-ju, and Minkie did not commit the error of pretending she did not
understand him.

"Even if you were able to strangle me I could not give you what I have
not got," said she, very quietly, standing straight, with her hands
behind her back. I noticed that the fingers of her right hand were
lightly resting in those of her left, with thumbs crossed, and that
showed she was not going to struggle. I was somewhat surprised, because
with those wiry hands of hers I have seen her bend a stout poker
across her knee, and she could vault astride Bob's back from the ground
by taking a twist of his mane in them. She has done that several times
since she had an argument with Dolly one day last November, when she
proved that Sir Walter Scott made young Lochinvar perform a remarkable
gymnastic feat in the lines:

     So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
     So light to the saddle before her he sprung!

It was evident that young Lochinvar's right leg must have gone clean
over the fair lady's picture hat, so _I_ think that the poet meant
"clung"; but, anyhow, what I want to convey now is that Minkie could
have landed on Schwartz's shoulders and tapped the bald spot on his
head with one of the fire-irons at one and the same instant if she had
meant to fight.

Her attitude seemed to me to be rather foolhardy. No matter what you
may say about the triumph of mind over matter I believe in having the
brute force side of the thesis ready for action if necessary. Schwartz,
however, thought she was afraid, which proves conclusively that he
was a man of limited ideas, even if he were rich as Croesus. He did
not believe her, though a gentleman should always pretend to believe
a lady, even though he knows she is telling a fib. His mouth opened
and he held his tongue between his teeth. He came nearer, carrying his
hands up like a hawk's talons. This was partly pantomime and partly
real. The pantomime was essential in Dale End; had Minkie been in the
Kwantu bush she might have seen more of the reality; but then, under
the latter conditions, she would have shown Schwartz a _savate_ kick
which I taught her, and he must have bitten off the end of his tongue
in learning it. One acquires a lot of capital dodges, I assure you,
when defending the top of a wall on a dark night.

Illustration: But she stood there quite motionless.

But she stood there, quite motionless, a slight, elegant figure in
white Surah silk, with black stockings and nice shiny shoes, on which
were a pair of her Grandmother Faulkner's paste buckles, which Mam had
just given her as a Christmas present. Her flaxen hair was tied with a
ribbon of almost the same tint, and she wore a strip of the ribbon as a
waist-belt. I wish somebody could have drawn her as she faced Schwartz,
who was well dressed, of course, but whose leering face was like the
satyr's in our garden. And he had called her a devil! Well, tastes
differ, as I have remarked previously. Being only a cat, I don't know
much about these things, but my money goes on Schwartz if there is a
prize competition for a model of old Hoof and Horns.

I have taken my time over this part of the story to enable you to
realise the suspense, the wolfish aspect, the stealthy threatening of
Schwartz's advance towards Minkie. Obviously, the mere clock ticking
was short enough.

"You lie!" he breathed again, so close that his wine-laden breath was
offensive to her. Then he grasped her arms, and began to pass his
coarse hands down her body. I am telling you the simple truth. He
actually searched her clothes, pressing them to her limbs to make sure
that his precious ju-ju was not secreted somewhere about her. I held
my breath, and I really had it in my mind to jump up at his staring
eyes, when I chanced to catch Minkie's contemptuous smile. Then I knew
that she had fooled Schwartz again, had, in fact, expected him to adopt
some such futile dodge, and had put the fetish in a secure hiding-place.

Disappointment nearly drove the man off his balance. He was so enraged
that he shook her violently.

"You _must_ give it up," he said hoarsely. "I am determined to have it,
now, this instant."

Minkie remained quite passive.

"If I call my father he will horsewhip you," she said coolly.

"Give me that ju-ju," he almost whimpered, such was his fury.

"You have satisfied yourself that I have not got it," she answered.
"Take your hands off me, or it will be bad for you. If you ever dare to
touch me again, you will never see it. If you try to behave as decently
as you know how, I may, perhaps, discuss terms."

It was ludicrous to watch his change of attitude. From a bold lion he
became a cringing jackal. He almost wept with relief at the mention of
the word "terms."

"Anything you like," he cried eagerly. "What do you want--money,
diamonds, anything?--but I must have it now."

The man was crazy, talking that way to a girl just turned fourteen. Had
she been ten years older she might have listened; twenty, and she might
have closed the deal straight off. But Minkie was young enough to be
chivalrous, and she meant to make Schwartz eat mud.

"You cannot obtain it now," she said, speaking as calmly as she does
to Mole when she wants the tennis net fixed. "You had better cool down
rapidly, because you will not see your ju-ju until New Year's Day--"

"What!" he yelled, forgetting himself and trying to grab her again.
This time Minkie adopted tactics which I fully approved of. She sprang
back and sideways, placing my chair between Schwartz and herself. Then
she seized a heavy glass encrière.

"One inch nearer and you receive this in the face," she said. "And I
never miss," she added, seeing that Schwartz halted.

Of course, I had to move quickly, too; as I passed Rikki's box I saw
him gazing out with such a puzzled expression. It did not occur to me
previously that he understands Hindustani better than English, which
is a pity, as we never before have had any real excitement like this
at Holly Lodge. It was as good as a play to see Schwartz glowering at
Minkie, and estimating the effect of a two-pound inkpot if applied to
his nose with a velocity of X miles per second. Talk about motor traps
and policemen's stop watches--he made a lightning calculation I can
assure you, and it was dead against any forward movement.

"Suppose we abandon hostilities and discuss matters reasonably," he
said, with another violent effort at self-control. "To begin with, I
can compel you to hand over my property."

"It is not your property. You stole it. It belongs to the Kwantu tribe.
If I were to act with strict honesty, I should hand it to Prince John."

Schwartz fell into the net like the silliest bunny that ever ran for a
hedge. He assumed instantly that Minkie could be bribed.

"You are too young to judge of such matters," he sneered. "Moreover, I
have only to appeal to your father--"

"You will find him in the dining-room."

Poor Schwartz! I was beginning to pity him. Even the mongoose saw the
joke, and grinned, because we hunting animals know all about bluff--we
meet with lots of it down our way. He determined that it was advisable
to deal with Minkie herself, which was precisely what she wanted. You
see, these rich men think money will buy anything.

"Why New Year's Day?" he asked anxiously, while I noticed that his
collar was limp with perspiration. "Why not to-night? I have plenty of
money in notes. And if more is needed, I would never dream of stopping
a cheque once it is written."

"I cannot give you the ju-ju before this day week," said Minkie. "I
have my reasons, and I decline to state them. Nor can I tell you my
terms until two or three days have passed. But I want £50 now for
expenses. If you have not that sum with you, I can wait until to-morrow
or the day after."

Schwartz gazed at her with amazement. He was burning to ask her a
dozen questions, but Dan came scratching and sniffing at the door, so
they might be interrupted any moment. The man dared not forego the
opportunity of clinching the bargain, yet his greed kept him back.

"Fifty pounds!--expenses!" he protested. "Why, how much do you expect
me to pay for the thing itself?"

"No matter," said Minkie. "I can easily get the money elsewhere."

He knew she meant the Manor House, and that frightened him. Dan kept
scratching away, and saying: "Let me in! What's on? Bones and cleavers,
open the door!" Schwartz produced a pocketbook, and pulled out a note.

"There!" he cried, "will that suffice?"

It was fifty pounds all right, but Minkie did not trouble to examine it.

"Yes," she said. "I can change it at the bank if necessary."

"And you promise--"

"You shall have your ju-ju on New Year's Day."

"But I insist on learning something further as to its safety. How can
you be sure Prince John--"

Just then Mam heard Dan damaging our best paint; she crossed the hall
and flung the door wide.

"This wretched dog--" she began, but stopped short on seeing Schwartz
and Minkie. Schwartz swallowed something, and grinned like a death's
head.

"This mongoose is an extraordinary creature," he said. "I have taken
quite a fancy to him...."

He rejoined the Guv'nor, as he had the letter in his pocketbook all the
time. Dolly was playing and singing "Du, du liegst mir im Herzen," so
Mam thought she had a good chance of explaining matters to Minkie.

"I hope you will be nice to Mr. Schwartz if he takes an interest in
your pets," she said. "You annoyed your father considerably during
dinner by your unwarrantable hostility to our guest. I am more than
surprised at you."

"Please forgive me, mother dear. And you might tell Dad that I have
cleared away all misunderstandings between Mr. Schwartz and myself."

"Misunderstandings, child! How can you possibly use such a word where a
gentleman is concerned of whom you have seen so little?"

"There are some people whom one gets to know very quickly. Do you
remember the burglar whom our policeman caught as he was climbing the
rectory wall? Those two had never seen each other before, yet we met
them coming down the road arm-in-arm."

Mam laughed. "You are always ready enough to turn a difficult
conversation when it suits your purpose. Why don't you show equal tact
in your remarks to Mr. Schwartz? I would not ask this, Millicent, if I
had not a special reason."

"Tell me, mummy dear. Is Mr. Schwartz going to lend Dad some money?"

"You certainly are the most amazing child!" cried Mam. "Who told you
that?"

"No one. I just imagined it; and I will tell you why. One day last week
I saw that Dad was awfully cut up about something he read in the paper.
It was about the Kwantu Mines, Limited. I know, because I picked up the
paper in order to see what was worrying Dad."

"But you shouldn't," said Mam, though her lips quivered a little. Now,
there is not a person alive who can be more affectionate than Minkie
with those whom she loves. I like being petted myself, so I know. She
put her arms round her mother and whispered:

"I hope Dad and you won't fret. I am sure everything will come right in
the end. Don't you think it is a sign of something out of the common
going to happen when this black prince comes to our house, a man from
the very place which is causing Dad so much trouble?"

While Mam searched for her handkerchief Dan muttered to me:

"A pretty game you've been having here while I was looking after
affairs outside. What has Schwartz been up to? And what good is a cat,
anyhow?"

That put my back up.

"Let me tell you that if you had been in this room during the past five
minutes you would have made a beastly fool of yourself and spoiled the
finest bit of sport we've ever had," said I.

He was so tickled with conceit that he sneezed.

"Go away and play, pussy," he sniggered. "You me-ow while I act. Why,
I've been chasing niggers all over the place."

That startled me. Bad as he is, Dan never lies.

"Chasing niggers!" I cried. "Is there more of 'em?"

"I counted no less than five," he growled, strutting about in great
style, and rather alarming the mongoose. I assure you his news so upset
me that I paid no attention to what Minkie and Mam were saying until I
heard Minkie mention Jack's name.

"I wish you could persuade Dad to see Captain Stanhope," she said. "The
merest little note would bring him here to-morrow, and there can be no
doubt he would give Dad some very useful information."

"Ah, my dear, if I had my way things would be different," sighed Mam;
then, feeling that discussion would do no good, she bustled out,
bidding Minkie turn the gas low and come to the drawing-room.

Dan was bursting to get Minkie outside and let her know about the
suspicious characters who were prowling round our house, but she
wouldn't listen to him.

"Oh, be quiet," she commanded. "I want to do a sum."

First, she took the crisp note out of her pocket and looked to see if
it was really fifty pounds.

"Let me reckon up," she said then. "I began yesterday with a crooked
sixpence. I gave the porter a shilling out of Schwartz's fiver for
telling me Jack arrived by the 4.20. So now I have fifty-four pounds,
nineteen shillings and sixpence. Good old ju-ju! Keep it going! I am
pretty strong in arithmetic, but if you maintain that rate of increase
until New Year's Day, I shall lose count. Anyhow, they'll want a
bigger bank at Dale End. Now, Dan, I'm ready. What is it?"

But, before she crossed the hall, she rescued the ju-ju from its
hiding-place at the back of the grandfathers clock.



THE BLACK MAN'S WAY



CHAPTER IV

THE BLACK MAN'S WAY

_Told by Polly, the Parrot_


You will observe that I was left in the dining-room with the Guv'nor.
Those insignificant quadrupeds, Dan and Tib, thought that I was out of
the fun. They always do think that, until they come smirking to me for
news; then they go off and backbite me behind my tail feathers. That
impudent whelp, Dan, sidled up this morning to ask me what a mongoose
was. When I was weak enough, at the mention of grapes, to tell him it
was an ichneumon, he had the cheek to call me some outlandish name
that no decent bird would dream of using. I'll make it hot for him,
see if I don't. And that yellow-eyed Tibbie, for all her dainty ways
and quiet talk, is not much better. Sometimes, when I have a bath, I
flick a few drops of water over her, and she looks at me as much as
to say: "Oh, if only I could lay a paw on you!" Yet, mark my word,
she'll be trotting in here for a chat as soon as I say a word about the
discussion between Schwartz and the Old Man.

I have been keeping an eye on the Guv'nor recently. Between you and me,
it was he who taught me all the funny bits I know. There is nothing he
enjoys more than to hear Mam exclaim: "Dear me! How in the world does
the bird learn those vulgar songs?" It's as easy as sitting on a rail.
Some Italian ragamuffins come to Dale End occasionally with a Handel
piano--eh, what? not that sort of handle; well, you know the thing I
mean--and I pick up the tunes. When the Guv'nor hears me whistling them
he sings the words, and at the next chance I get I amaze Mam with "My
Irish Molly O" or "Why do they call me the Gibson Girl?" The Guv'nor
finds out all about these things in London. Once Minkie asked him how
he did it, and he told her he learnt them from the office-boy. I wish I
knew that boy.

Now, it's a solemn fact that I have not added a line to my collection
during the past month. I know several new airs, and I have whistled
them regularly, but the Old Man remains silent. At first I imagined
that perhaps the office-boy had a swollen face, but soon I felt sure
my teacher had lost his spirits. Minkie noticed it, but I found it out
long before her. You see, we parrots are very wise birds, quick to
observe, and able to examine any new notion from all points of view; my
habit of looking at Dan upside down riles him far more than the silly
things I shout at him.

Minkie, I gathered, guessed that her father was in trouble over some
Stock Exchange business, and the mention of Kwantu by Captain Stanhope
brought back to her mind the name of the mining company whose affairs,
as discussed in a newspaper, seemed to be the cause of the worry. But
it was I, the "giddy acrobat," as Dan calls me, who hit on the real
mystery, and I made even stolid Bob wild before I told him all about it
next day.

While Schwartz was interviewing Minkie in the morning-room, the Guv'nor
sat and stared at the fire. He was smoking, but he didn't seem to
enjoy his cigar, and he had that queer look in his face which men call
despair. 'Pon my honor, I would rather be a bird than a man any day. We
feathered folk don't sigh and abandon hope when things go wrong. Why,
the commonest little sparrow in the garden would chirp his contempt if
anybody suggested to him that he should lie down and die just because
he couldn't find an insect under the first leaf he turned over. Die,
indeed! Not he! He works all the harder, and is very likely to be
rewarded by a fine fat grub under the next bush.

It was quite evident that the Guv'nor had not realized the length of
Schwartz's absence when that gentleman reappeared. He looked up, rather
miserably, and said:

"I am sorry to have troubled you in the matter, Schwartz. And I fear
you are having a poor time of it, what between the recital of my
difficulties and the unfortunate incident which took place last night."

"Last night's affair will adjust itself in a day or two," answered
Schwartz, grimly, thinking, no doubt, of the £50 note he had just
tossed to Minkie. "The really important item now is this absurd
predicament of yours, Grosvenor--"

"Don't forget that the suggestion came from you in the first instance."

"I am well aware you asked me to let you know if there was anything
good going," said Schwartz, rather stiffly. "My friends usually follow
my judgment with satisfactory results, and I was quite certain that
this Kwantu mine was a swindle, but how was I to ascertain that this
special flotation was to be made use of for a squeeze? And you are not
the only fish struggling in the net."

"Then the others have my sympathy. Yet it was a piece of lunacy on my
part to indulge in a heavy bear speculation in interests of which I
was utterly ignorant. I don't mind losing a hundred or two in a fair
gamble, and I have usually come out on the right side of the ledger,
but it was the worst sort of madness to sell a thousand shares in a
West African Company. Good heavens! What right has a man who is almost
a sleeping partner in a city warehouse to dabble in concerns like
that!"

"Let me see," said Schwartz, giving his friend a quick side look as he
took a letter from his pocket, "you sold at something over par?"

"Yes," answered the Guv'nor, still gazing at the fire.

"And they are now at 6-1/4?"

"Yes. Over £5,000 gone already, and the special settlement due on the
10th of next month."

"Can you buy at that price?"

"I suppose so. Unhappily, I am a child in these matters. I honestly
believe that my little Millicent would have avoided this trap which I
blundered into so easily."

"Um-m," said Schwartz.

"But surely your inquiries have not led you to expect the price to go
higher?" demanded the Guv'nor, growing almost white with misery.

"My dear fellow," cried the other man blandly, "when you are in
the hands of unscrupulous rascals you never know when they will be
satisfied. The thing is beautifully simple. You and others have sold a
bear. You are called on to deliver your shares, which you cannot do,
for the very good reason that the market is controlled by the people
who bought all the shares offered. You have fallen among thieves. There
is no telling what price they may force things up to before they let
go."

"Then the issue is quite plain," said the Guv'nor, rising with the air
of a man who has no more to say. "It will cripple, indeed, almost ruin
me to raise five thousand pounds. Any material advance on that amount
means bankruptcy, with goodness knows what evil results to my wife and
daughters. If there is any law in the land it should not be possible
for men to crush others in this barefaced way."

"The law cannot help you. But sit down, Grosvenor. Let us hammer this
thing out. I have tried to ascertain the identity of the promoters, and
I have failed. Here is the letter my brokers wrote me yesterday. You
see they say that the company is registered in Jersey, and the nominal
directors are mere figure-heads. The real manipulators of the stock do
not appear on the surface--"

"Surely you, who are so well acquainted with West Africa, can make a
tolerably accurate guess as to the people behind the scenes?"

"If I had the slightest grounds for naming any one I should not only
tell you, Grosvenor, but I would gladly lend my personal assistance in
arranging matters."

The Old Man read the typewritten letter which Schwartz gave him.
Of course, I did not know then what was in it, but it seemed to
substantiate Schwartz's statements.

"Amazing thing!" he murmured. "And that I should be such a fool! I
only wanted to earn an extra hundred or so, for the sake of the girls,
to give them some little luxuries which diminishing dividends hardly
permit of, and this is the result--I find myself on the very brink of
ruin. Ah, well! Let me apologize again for--"

"Have you any objection, then, to a full and frank discussion of the
matter with me?"

Illustration: The Old Man read the typewritten letter which Schwartz
gave him.

"Great Scott, no! Why do you put such a question?"

"Please sit down, then. The ladies can spare us from the drawing-room
a little longer. Dorothy is singing, and Millicent is--er--engaged
with her new pet, while Mrs. Grosvenor will not object, I am sure,
if we smoke another cigar. Now, to come to the point. I have been
thinking matters over during the day, and I have a proposition to make
which may commend itself to you. It is no secret to you that I admire
your elder daughter very much. Were I your prospective son-in-law,
Grosvenor, I would be prepared to take your liabilities on to my own
shoulders. And let me say at once that I am not bargaining with you for
Dorothy's hand. You know that I was anxious to pay her my addresses in
Ostend, and this Kwantu business was not in existence at that time. You
gave a conditional assent to my suit then. Now I am only asking you
to exercise a little judicious parental pressure on a charming girl
who hardly knows her own mind. I am sure you will not think the less
of me because I endeavor to gain my own ends whilst coming to your
assistance."

I whistled loudly in my surprise. I couldn't help it, but it seemed to
annoy Schwartz, who glared at me quite vindictively. The Guv'nor, of
course, paid no heed, being accustomed to my interruptions.

"It is awfully good of you," he said slowly, "and I admit the justice
of your contention that your wish to marry Dorothy is nothing new. But
I have always held it a fixed principle, which my wife shares with me,
that parents should neither force their children to marry for money nor
withhold their consent to marriages based on love, unless the drawbacks
are out of all reason. As I understand the position, Dorothy did not
exactly refuse you at Ostend, but simply declared that she had no wish
to leave her home for some years to come?"

"Yes. That is so."

"Then, if I go to her now, and tell her you stipulate for her hand as a
condition for extricating me from--"

"Forgive me," broke in Schwartz, with a certain prompt candor which did
him credit as an actor. "I don't ask that. I only want your permission
to approach her myself."

"But you had that six months ago."

"Yes, and I am exceedingly grateful to you. What I seek to-day is your
promise to further my request by varying your attitude from passive
approval to active support."

He was artful, that Schwartz. The Old Man wriggled a bit, but he hardly
knew what to say. He was a thoroughbred, you see, and he hated the idea
of bartering one of his girls for five thousand pounds. Yet Schwartz
was what ladies who come to tea call "a good catch," and it was quite
true that he was after Dorothy months before anybody at Holly Lodge so
much as heard the word "Kwantu." And the Guv'nor was a proud man, too.
It was Schwartz himself who had led him to believe that it would be an
easy thing to make money by selling shares in this mine, yet Minkie
told me afterwards that he seemed to be quite surprised when her father
informed him that he had taken the "tip" and sold heavily. That was
in November, when the mine was floated, and Schwartz had been absent
in Paris until the third week in December. Now, as the German was a
millionaire, and had landed a friend in a hole by his advice, it was
reasonable enough to expect him to lend a helping hand, yet there could
be no doubt he meant to take advantage of the difficulty and compel
Dorothy to marry him to save her father.

I saw the bearings of the game far more clearly than the Guv'nor. My
own opinion was that Schwartz was a regular scamp, and my experience of
scamps is fairly wide, as I hail from South America. You would hardly
credit the ups and downs of my life--no wonder I can take a man's
measure with fair accuracy. I began my education in an Indian village,
after discovering that a baited trap is not exactly what it looks like.
Then I went by train to Montevideo, and the things I learnt there would
make you weep if I told you even the half which the Spanish language
permits. A nigger fireman knifed my owner, a saloon-keeper, and was
one of a crowd which cleared out the bar before the patrol came. He
brought me to New York, and pawned me to an East-side crimp. I was
stolen from there, and hung outside a sixth-floor tenement until I was
sold to a bird-fancier in Eighth Avenue. He was a Dago, so I need say
no more about him. If Mam understood the least little bit of Italian
she wouldn't keep me in the house five minutes, but you bet I take a
rise out of those organ-grinders when they come touting for coppers.
Giovanni traded me for five dollars to a patriotic American named
O'Reilly, and he gave me a university course which ended suddenly by
his going to Sing-Sing, while I was seized, with the remainder of the
furniture, by another American citizen named Rosenbaum. During the
annual fire at his place I was rescued by a ship's steward, who liked
the way I talked. On the way to England he died from want of proper
liquid nourishment, and the crew would have kept me in the forecastle
if some old girl had not complained to the captain of the dreadful
language used by one of the men whenever she leaned over the forward
rail. How was I to know she could speak the tongues of the Sunny South?

Believe me, even after I arrived at Liverpool, my adventures would fill
a book, but I have said enough to show that I was ready to appreciate a
good home when the Guv'nor found me in Leadenhall Market, and took me
to Dale End as a present to Minkie. More than that, you never really
appreciate a good home until you have had a few bad ones, and it is in
the latter that you obtain any genuine schooling in the darker side of
human nature.

So it is obvious that I watched Schwartz with my eyes skinned. I sized
up the situation this way. Schwartz meant to press the Old Man just
a little short of breaking point, and was far more anxious to bring
about an agreement than he permitted to be seen. I was aching to give
the Guv'nor a pointer, but I couldn't, as my acquaintance with English
is peculiar, and he is not able to catch on my meaning like Minkie. If
only he had raised Schwartz before the draw, as they say in poker, his
adversary would not have been so sure of his cards. As it was, he tried
to evade the final struggle.

"After all," he said, with a brave attempt at a smile, "this is a poor
way to spend Christmas night. Suppose we adjourn to the drawing-room
now, and try to forget for a while that mines may be bottomless pits."

Schwartz was well content to leave it at that.

"May I have my letter?" he said.

The Guv'nor handed it to him, but it was not yet refolded when Minkie
burst into the room.

"Please come, dad!" she cried. "And you, too, Mr. Schwartz! Jim says
that the house is simply surrounded by black men."

Of course, Schwartz had no grit in him: his type of man never has.
He went pale, shook a bit, and leaned back against the table, and I
noticed that the letter fell from his fingers to the floor. After a
breathless question or two from the men as to what Jim meant by his
extraordinary statement, they all rushed out. I turned a couple of
summersaults, and was about to sing "Tell me, pretty maiden," when I
saw a sharp snout thrust inquiringly round the jamb of the door. It was
the mongoose.

"Welcome, little stranger," I said, but he didn't seem to grasp idioms
quickly, so I gave him the only chunk of Hindustani I possess.

"Jao! you soor-ka-butcha," I shouted. One of my sailor friends says
that is a polite way of asking after another gentleman's health, but
the mongoose looked up at me and wanted to know (in proper animalese)
why I was calling him names.

"I didn't," I said.

"But you did," he retorted.

"Well, I didn't mean to. I thought that when the first mate said that
to a lascar he meant 'Wot oh, 'ow's yer pore feet?'"

"You shouldn't use words you don't understand," said Rikki, quite sharp.

"Keep your wool on; you'll need it before the frost breaks. What's this
I hear about niggers outside? Are they after the fowls?"

"Dan says they want to kidnap Schwartz."

"Look here, young fuzzy-wuzzy, not so free with your 'Dan' and
'Schwartz.' You haven't joined the Gang until I pass you. Just try to
remember that. Nice thing! You'll be addressing me as 'Poll' next, I
suppose? Now, if you want to make yourself useful, pick up that piece
of paper on the carpet near the leg of the table, and carry it into
your cage. Mind you don't eat it. Miss Millicent may want it."

"Is that Minkie?"

"There you go again. 'Minkie,' indeed, and you not two hours in the
house!"

"Sorry."

"Well, if you behave yourself properly I'll forgive you this time.
Before you go, kindly pass those nuts from the sideboard."

"What kind of nuts are they?" said Rikki, thoughtfully.

"Brazil. They're rank poison for mongooses."

"Oh." He leaped up and gazed at the dish. "Shabàsh!" he said, cracking
one. "They're good eating."

"I'll shabàsh you," I screamed. "Help! Thieves! Hi, hi, hi! Oh, mother,
look at Dick!"

"What's the row now?" demanded Tib, trotting in from the hall.

"Tib, if you love me, chase that red-haired vagabond away from my
nuts," I implored her.

"Oh, it's always the same old song with you," she grinned. "Any one
would think you were being murdered. Rikki is really doing you a good
turn, Poll. Too many nuts are bad for you. Evangeline said so."

Ingratitood, thy name is cat! I fairly boiled over. I even called
Evangeline such things that she came running in with a stick. And, of
course, she never saw that cunning fox, Rikki. He sneaked out while she
was beating me, but he took the letter with him, and I wouldn't be the
least bit astonished if he told Minkie he had done it off his own bat.

Exactly why Minkie brought the Guv'nor and Schwartz out of the
dining-room in such a whirl I never discovered. She would have told
me in a minute if I had thought of asking her, but things happened
at such a rate during the next few days that I had plenty to do to
keep track of current events without bothering my head over ancient
history. I fancy she disturbed their conversation purposely. She knew
Schwartz was in a desperate mood, and would endeavor to force her
father to serve his ends. Mam's statement, too, backed up by Dorothy's
hints and the plain tale she had read in the newspaper, gave her an
all-round glimpse of the facts concerning Kwantus, and Dan was quite
right when he said that Minkie had invoked the ju-ju's aid in a plan
for the undoing of Schwartz. She told us what it was when we all met in
the stable on Boxing Day, but, of course, you will excuse me for not
mentioning it yet. To be candid, I daren't. We renewed the vow of the
Gang in solemn state, and Rikki was sworn in as a new member at the
same time. He was admitted thus promptly on account of his services
with regard to that letter, which was a jolly sight more important than
it sounded, and I must say he behaved rather handsomely, because he not
only gave me full credit for the suggestion that he should nab it, but
he told me privately he was sorry about those nuts.

Our vow is a jolly serious affair. We bind ourselves to be loyal to
the Gang "by hoof and claw, by beak and tooth, in air, on earth, and
in water." Each member pledges himself or herself to "sink all private
feud the instant any other member is threatened by an external enemy,
whether with two, three, or four legs." We also promise to be loyal to
our leader Minkie, and to protect and help all inmates of Holly Lodge,
and, in token of fealty and allegiance, each of us has to hold up a
foot or claw.

Dan, naturally, tried to be clever, and suggested that the words "or
itself" should be inserted after the word "herself," on the ground
that no one knew the sex of a zygodactyl; he could not meet my eye,
and pretended to snigger, but Minkie told him not to be rude. It
may surprise some people to hear that we made common cause against
three-legged adversaries, but that is easily explained. One day last
summer, while Jim was washing Bob in the yard, and Dan was routing
among some plant pots for a rat, a travelling menagerie passed our
house, and a kangaroo leaped over the garden wall and landed in the
midst of us. My cage was slung to the walnut tree, and I was so scared
that I fell from my perch. Dan, with all his faults, is certainly a
courageous beast, because he sprang at the stranger, and received a
kick that knocked him clean over the cucumber frame. Jim fell into
the pail, but Bob whisked round and gave the kangaroo a postman's
double tap on the ribs that sent him flying back to his caravan. Dan,
who was furious, alleged that the beast used his tail as a leg, and
never touched the ground with his fore-legs at all. Jim bore out his
statement, so the vow brought in the three-legged variety, to make sure.

I asked if Evangeline were included in the word "inmates," and Minkie
said it was a frivolous question. I quite agree with her. Holly Lodge
isn't a lunatic asylum.

Yet any outsider might be pardoned the mistake if he heard our
light-headed housemaid telling Cookie the things she saw when she went
to the post, just before she beat me with a cane. _I_ know that post.
It is a gate-post, and it has a young man leaning against it.

"Fust one nigger kem past, an' his eyes rolled something 'orrible,"
she said. "Then two kem from the hoppo-site direction, an' their eyes
rolled wuss nor the other's. 'Tell you wot, Lena,' Bill said to me, 'I
don't like this. I'm for 'ome,' and he left me standin' there, with all
those orful blacks prowlin' round like lions. Did you ever 'ear of such
a thing? I'm finished with Bill; I wouldn't look at him again not if he
had twenty milk-walks. I ran for my life, an' found Jim. He whistled
Dan, an' it did me good to see the way that dorg began to clear the
road, but Jim called him orf, 'cause he says a nigger has as much right
to live as any other sort of man, and those fellows were a-behavin' of
themselves. That's as may be; if there's much more of these goin's on
'ere I give my month's notice."

What do you think of that for a School Board education? If I couldn't
talk better than Evangeline I'd borrow some black-lead and set up as a
jack daw.

It seems that the Old Man and Schwartz did not come across any negroes.
Probably Dan had frightened them, if Prince John had told his friends
what sort of a Rugger tackle Dan could put up. But Minkie is sharp,
dreadful sharp. The moment I mentioned Jim's remark to Evangeline,
she fastened on to it instantly. Jim was washing the victoria in the
coach-house, and she went straight to him.

"When did you last meet Prince John?" she inquired, planting her
feet well apart, and holding her hands behind her back. She wore her
blue serge that morning, and had a beaver hat set well clear of her
forehead. As the weather was cold, though fine, she had tight-fitting
brown gaiters over her strong boots, and she looked fit for any game
that might present itself.

Jim shuffled from one foot to the other, and scratched the tip of his
ear.

"I don't exactly remember, miss," he said.

"Take time, James. There is no hurry. Just think."

"Well, it might ha' bin at the Marquis o' Granby; yesterday after tea."

"And what did he say?"

"He said it was a powerful shame a furriner should come to a British
colony an' steal a thing which a lot o' pore blacks thought more of
than anybody could imagine."

"And then he paid for another round of beer?"

"Well, miss, if you put it that way--"

"And he asked you to search for his black bag, and particularly for a
little ivory doll which was inside it?"

"Why, _you_ must ha' bin talkin' to him, too, miss!"

"No, James. I'm just guessing. What did you say to him?"

"I didn't see any harm in tellin' him that there was no sich thing
anywheres in our grounds, an' Evangeline is sure it isn't in Mr.
Schwartz's bedroom."

"Do you think it quite right, James, to go to the Marquis o' Granby and
discuss our affairs with a negro in a public bar?"

"You'll pardon me, miss, but that ain't a fair way of puttin' it. This
prince chap an' the rest of us had a rough an' tumble on Christmas
Eve, an' I slung him out of the front gate all fair an' square. It was
a perfectly nateral thing to meet 'im afterwards an' 'ave a friendly
chat over a pint."

"All right. The matter remains between you and me. But I want you to
promise that if Prince John, or any other negro, approaches you again,
and tries to get information, you will tell me everything at the first
opportunity."

"Of course, miss, I promise that. You can't think I would go agin the
people in Holly Lodge, can you?"

Applause from the stable. Even Rikki joined in with his squeak, though
he could hardly make out what Jim was saying. Nevertheless, Minkie had
not finished with our unhappy groom yet. I was glad to hear Jim getting
it. He grumbles every time he puts fresh sand in my cage.

"Did you arrange to meet him to-day?" she demanded.

"Yes, miss," he said.

"When and where?"

"Well, I said as 'ow the carriage might not be wanted after five, an' I
would walk to the other side of the green, when there would not be so
many people about."

"And what were you to tell him?"

"Well, just any gossip that was goin', especially about Mr. Schwartz."

"And how much did he promise to give you?"

Jim looked rather sheepish. His skin is the color of a brick, but I
fancy he took on a beet-root tinge.

"I believe a sovereign was mentioned, miss," he admitted.

"Here is your sovereign, James. Please oblige me by not meeting Prince
John to-night."

"Oh, I can't take it. I really can't; not from you, Miss Millicent.
Why, I could never look you in the face again."

"Take it, please. It is not my money. You know very well that I have
no sovereigns to give away. And, when you meet the prince, I want you
to tell him plainly that you must not hold any further conversation
with him. If my father knew of yesterday's talk he would be exceedingly
angry."

"I thought that already, miss. Blest if I can imagine how _you_ found
out so much."

I laughed. I was the only member of the Gang, except Minkie, who saw
how important was Evangeline's yarn to Cookie. Dan was very sore about
what he called Jim's treachery, but Bob told him not to be a fool.
"When the beer is in the wit is out," he said, and Bob ought to know,
as he soaked up gallons of it while the Guv'nor and Mam and Dorothy
were in Ostend last summer.

All that day there was electricity in the atmosphere. Tibbie said she
felt it in her fur. Everybody in the village could speak of nothing
else but the extraordinary collection of negroes who had invaded what
the guidebook calls "a peaceful retreat." At last, even the local
policeman became aware that something unusual was taking place, and he
strolled majestically up our drive to make inquiries.

The Guv'nor met him, and said Mr. Schwartz's presence accounted for the
sudden access of color to the landscape.

"My friend has large interests in West Africa," he explained, "and
the mere fact that he is staying at Dale End has drawn to this
neighborhood many natives who are at present residing in England."

"From information received," quoth Robert, "I have reason to believe,
sir, that a larceny on your premises is intended by some of these
blacks."

"Nonsense! That story has arisen owing to one of them's thrusting
himself in here on Christmas Eve."

Schwartz asked the Old Man to head off any police interference in that
way. So the law marched back to the village and took off its belt. Yet
every man, woman, and child in Dale End resembled so many full soda
syphons: the moment you touched them they spurted bubbles, and all
the gas that escaped was chat concerning our sable visitors. It soon
became known that there were three negroes staying at the Manor, and
four at the Marquis o' Granby. They had plenty of money, which they
spent freely; but there could not be the slightest doubt that they were
hostile to us at Holly Lodge, and the maids at the Marquis o' Granby
spread the story that the blacks had some awful-looking choppers among
their luggage. From the description I recognized these as machetes.

When Schwartz accompanied Dorothy to her old nurse's cottage during the
afternoon, some idiot told two negroes who were standing at the door
of the inn that the millionaire was just walking across the green with
Miss Grosvenor. The black men muttered something, rolled their eyes in
a manner that would have given Evangeline hysterics, and dogged the
couple all the way back to our place.

That started a rumor of attempted murder which set the village in an
uproar, and there was some danger of an attack on the strangers until
P. C. Banks gave his personal assurance that Mr. Grosvenor himself had
said the negroes were perfectly harmless. Altogether, Boxing Day was
lively. I began to think of old times in South America, when we had a
revolution every twenty-four hours, and I used to ask the baker each
morning, "Who is President to-day?"

But the night passed without any special incident. I had a few words
with the mongoose after dinner because I chanced to call him "Mickey"
instead of "Rikki," and Dan and Tib had a spar about some cutlet bones;
such breezes, however, are not uncommon in the best families, and, in
distinct contrast with us, harmony reigned in the drawing-room, where
Schwartz made himself agreeable to all parties, even to Minkie.

Picture to yourself, then, the terrific excitement which sprang up next
day at luncheon-time when Minkie was missing! I first heard of it from
Dan, who rushed in and yelped:

"Have you seen Minkie anywhere?"

"Yes," said I, breathlessly.

"Where?"

"Here."

"When?"

"At breakfast."

"Goose!" he hissed, and ran out again.

Of course, I was only taking a rise out of him. I had no notion that
his search was serious until I heard Mam weeping when the Guv'nor came
back after driving all round the village, and calling at every house he
could think of.

"Oh, Tom," she sobbed, crying as if her heart would break, "if any
harm has befallen our darling I shall not survive it."

"Why do you take such a gloomy view of a trivial absence from home?" he
asked, though his voice did not bear out the carelessness of his words.
"You know well enough what an extraordinary child Millicent is. We can
never tell what queer thing she may be doing."

Mam was not to be comforted in that way.

"Millicent has always asked permission if she wished to be away at meal
time, and Dandy is not with her. I would not be so frightened if the
dog had gone, too. Tom, what shall we do if she is not home before it
is dark? I shall go mad."

Dorothy was weeping also, and I heard Evangeline snivel something
about them there black villains as was up to no good, she was sure.
That was the worst thing she could have said. Mam simply refused to
remain in the house when the light failed. She was going to ask Captain
Stanhope's help, she declared. He knew a good deal about these negroes,
and she was certain he would move heaven and earth to discover Minkie's
whereabouts, because he loved the child as if she were his own sister.

The Guv'nor saw that Mam was not fit to venture out, so he persuaded
her to let him go to the Manor and see Jack. Schwartz, who was really
beside himself with anxiety, tried hard to console Mam and Dorothy
during the Guv'nor's absence, though he personally was in a fine pickle
which they knew nothing of.

He was afraid Minkie had been attacked, either on account of the ju-ju
or the money he had given her, but he simply dared not say anything
about his suspicions. At last, after an hour that had a thousand
minutes, the Guv'nor returned. Mam saw by her first glance at his face
that he brought bad news. She gave a deep sigh, and fainted clean away.

I heard Bob telling Dan something outside, but I was forced to
listen to what the Guv'nor was saying to Schwartz, while Dorothy and
Evangeline and Cookie were trying to revive Mam.

"It's a bad business, I fear," he whispered, holding on to the back
of a chair like a man who thinks he may fall. "I met Stanhope and
his uncle at the Manor, and even the older Stanhope was aghast when
I told him my errand. It was the first they had heard of Minkie's
disappearance, and Jack is now procuring the arrest of every negro in
Dale End."

"I would like to burn them alive," broke in Schwartz, and he meant it,
too, for he was on the rack.

"But that is not all," went on the Old Man hoarsely. "My poor little
girl was seen talking to one of these devils last evening, at dusk, at
the further end of the green. And to-day, the moment the Bank was open,
she changed a fifty-pound note. There can be no doubt about it. The
manager himself told me. Of course, he thought the money was mine. God
in heaven! what does it all mean, and what has become of her?"

Schwartz sat down, and bent his head. He gave it up. He didn't know
what to do. Neither did I. I was acquainted with Minkie's plan, but, so
far as I could see, it had nothing in it which was likely to keep her
away from home.

No wonder people in Dale End called that a Black Christmas. It was
nearly being a fiery one also, because others in the village shared
Schwartz's idea, and it was actually proposed that the police-station
should be burnt down and the negroes roasted inside it. Isn't there a
proverb about scratching a Russian and finding a Tartar? Well, to my
thinking, you will not find such a world of difference between Surrey
and Alabama when a black man is suspected of doing away with a white
girl.

And our Minkie, too! Oh, look here, I'm off into the Latin tongues.
I can't express my feelings in pure Anglo-Saxon. Give me a torch and
a bucket of tar; I'll find the feathers! _Saperlotte!_ What was it
Giovanni used to say?



THE UNDOING OF SCHWARTZ



CHAPTER V

THE UNDOING OF SCHWARTZ

_Told by Minkie_


I suppose it was very wrong of me to leave home without warning. Mam
says that if I had told her what I meant to do she would have been
spared all anxiety. Of course, Mam means that _now_; my own private
impression is that all sorts of objections might have occurred to her
_then_; and any interference with my plan might have upset things
altogether. However, if I tell the story in my own way, you will see I
had several good reasons for acting as I did. One of my copy-books had
a head-line: "It is a dangerous yet true axiom that the end justifies
the means," and I never understood that sentence until I read in a
paper how a clever little boy had extinguished a fire in a bedroom by
pulling a plug out of the cistern in an attic overhead. Had there been
no fire, that clever little boy would have got spanked. See?

And there was no time to be lost. Seven powerful negroes had not come
to Dale End for amusement. They meant mischief. Without going so far as
killing us all in our beds, they could easily have attacked the house
and held us up, as they say in America, until the ju-ju was found. They
were not afraid of the law; six of them were ready to go to prison
provided the seventh got clear away with their funny little god. And
what would Mam have thought then? And Evangeline? And what would Polly
have said?

Jim, too, was in league with our own maids to search everywhere for the
ju-ju. Isn't it odd that you can't trust your fellow-mortals? Dan, or
Bob, or Tib would die sooner than play the sneak; even that sarcastic
old parrot would never betray the Gang, and little Rikki, though he is
a newcomer, is with us tooth and nail. Anyhow, what between Schwartz
and the servants inside, and Prince John and his tribesman outside, I
made up my mind to act a bit sooner than I intended. Perhaps the ju-ju
egged me on also. You never can tell. The mysteries of fetish-worship
are beyond me.

Of course, _I_ kept Jim's appointment with the African Prince. It was
nearly dark when I crossed the green, and there were four negroes
standing in the road near the Manor gate. They were all much of a size,
and I thought I should not be able to recognize the man who came to
our house. But I spotted him at once. There must be something in being
born a ruler, even a savage one. Prince John was quite different to
the others in his manners and appearance. I was sorry he wore English
clothes. It would have been fine if he were stalking about in feathers
and a leopard skin, though I expect, poor fellow, he would have caught
his death of cold.

The four paid no heed to me until I stopped and said "Hello!"

That made them look at me, and Prince John said: "Have you a message
for me?"

He thought I was some girl from the village, but I quickly put him
right on that point.

"Yes," I answered. "Come here. I wish to speak to you alone."

Then he knew me, as he had heard me talking to Dad on our way from the
station in the victoria. He advanced a few steps.

"Oh," he said, "one of Mr. Grosvenor's daughters? I remember. My ankle
is still stiff where you held it. You must have strong hands, for a
child. Now, what can I do for you? Have you brought me what I seek?"

He spoke as if he were a king, not a bit like the affected drawl of our
local M.P. when he opens a bazaar, but it was necessary that I should
make him jump, so I replied, rather off-handedly:

"It all depends on the price you are willing to pay."

That fetched him like a shot. He came quite close and looked down at me
eagerly. I could see the whites of his eyes, and they reminded me of a
pollywog, but I kept a straight face.

"Do you mean to say you have found a bit of carved ivory, with a
monkey's head and a little beaded skirt? If so, girl, give it to me,
and I will reward you with a handful of gold," he cried.

"I have not got your ju-ju in my possession at this moment," I said,
speaking slowly, and watching him as intently as Dan watches the mouth
of a burrow when he hears the rabbits squeaking at the sight of a
ferret. "But I am fairly certain I can lay my hand on it, on terms."

"Terms! Anything you ask! What is your price? Take me with you now--"

"Not so fast, Prince John," said I, drawing away a foot or so--because
a negro does look rather horrid when you are too near him, although he
may only be showing animation, which, in his case, means teeth--"there
is nothing to be gained by hurry. You can't have your ju-ju to-night,
but you may have it to-morrow night, provided you are willing to pay my
father exactly half the sum you offered Mr. Schwartz."

My heart beat a trifle faster when the words were out. Jack did not
mention the amount. It might have been a few hundred pounds, or several
thousands. I imagined it was a tolerably large figure, or Schwartz
would not have been so ready to hand me fifty pounds for the mere
expenses.

Prince John did not hesitate a second.

"I agree," he cried, "yet surely Mr. Grosvenor has not sent _you_ to
arrange such an important matter with _me_!"

He might have been his own ju-ju addressing a black-beetle, or Lord
Kitchener talking to a tin soldier, but I didn't budge another inch.
What I wanted to know was the price. So I made him jump again.

"Mr. Grosvenor knows nothing whatever about it," I said. "This affair
is absolutely between you and me, and must remain so until you bring
the money to our house to-morrow evening."

"Do I understand that the ju-ju is in your hands, that no one else is
aware of the fact, and that you alone are in treaty with me for its
restoration?"

I caught the change in his voice. If I hadn't a well-trained ear I
could never distinguish the various shades of meaning in the speech
of other members of the Gang, because they really don't use words,
you know, but just sounds which tell me what they want to say. After
all, that is talking, in a sense. And his prince-ship forgot he was
in Surrey. Perhaps, like me, when I read an exciting book, he fancied
himself far away, in a land where a big yellow river gurgles through a
swamp all dark with trees, and a hundred thousand black men were ready
to do anything he commanded. Anyhow, _I_ wasn't black.

"You have stated the facts," I answered coolly.

"But isn't it somewhat daring? Are you not afraid? You are a small
English girl, and we are big, strong Africans. You are taking a great
risk, eh?"

Again he came nearer, but I stood my ground, though he could not tell
that my nails were digging into the palms of my hands.

"I am English, of course, though not so small," I said, "and I am so
perfectly well aware you are an African that I have arranged for your
ju-ju to be burnt to ashes unless I am home at six o'clock."

_Parbleu!_ as mademoiselle used to forbid me to say, though it only
means "By blue!" he altered his tune mighty sharp, or it would be more
correct to put it that he came back with a flop from the Upper Niger to
Dale End.

"It is very extraordinary," he muttered, "but I cannot bring myself to
disbelieve you. Captain Stanhope said that if you were friendly to us,
something might be done. I accept your proposal. Hand over my property
and I, in return, will hand your father five thousand pounds."

There! It was out. You know what it is like when you wade into the sea
and take your first header through a curling breaker. That is how I
felt. Something buzzed in my ears, but I was determined to keep control
over my voice.

"In notes?" I managed to say.

"Certainly. One does not carry such sums in gold. I have the money
here; I was prepared, as you are aware, to pay Mr. Schwartz twice as
much. But what guarantee have I that you will not sell the ju-ju to him
for a higher amount?"

"You have my word, and the knowledge that I came to you of my own free
will."

"Your groom told you I would be here?"

"Yes."

"Well, I trust you. What time shall I come to your house?"

"At nine o'clock."

"I warn you I am in no mood to be tricked in this matter. You see those
men there?" and he glanced over his shoulder towards the other negroes.
"They will face death cheerfully to gain our common object."

"You may rely on what I have said."

"Thank you. Yet it is amazing, quite amazing."

I thought so, too. But I wanted some information, and I had to hurry,
as it was growing late.

"Your people are Kwantus, aren't they? Have you ever heard of the
Kwantu mine?"

"Of course I have. It is in my kingdom. Schwartz owns it, the thief."

Well, I never! I did gasp a bit at that.

"Are you sure?" I was forced to say.

"Who should know better than I? It is the best mine in West Africa.
The price of the shares shows that its value is appreciated by others,
though I cannot understand how so much is known in England about it, as
it has hardly been opened up. Schwartz obtained the concession solely
because we hoped he would give us back our ju-ju."

Yet I had in my pocket a letter from some Stock Exchange people to
Schwartz himself, telling him they could not ascertain the name of the
real owner! That was the letter Rikki secured at Polly's bidding, and
hid in his cage.

Somehow, it seemed to prove that Schwartz was really the bad man
Prince John made him out to be. I did not quite grasp the meaning of
it all, though I was sure that dear old Dad was being swindled, but
with fifty-three pounds nineteen and sixpence in my pocket, and five
thousand pounds as good as paid to father, and the ju-ju safe in the
scullery copper, where Evangeline would light a fire after supper,
it would be queer if I failed to bring Schwartz to reason. Besides,
I meant to secure the assistance of an older head than mine, as this
company business rather bothered me, and I was too young to be well up
in "squeezes."

My new friend lifted his hat with a grand air when I said "Good night."
I walked away quietly, and I heard such a hubbub of strange talk when
Prince John rejoined his companions.

I met two other negroes on the road across the green. I fancied they
were watching the turning to the railway station to make sure that
Schwartz did not leave Holly Lodge without their knowledge. At any
rate, I determined to take no risks next morning, as it was more than
probable Prince John would tell his confederates of the new power
behind the ju-ju.

That night, in my locked bedroom, I examined the little idol very
carefully. It was roughly carved; the ivory was yellow with age, and
covered with tiny cracks, which looked like a net of fine hair. The
skirt was made of a sort of hemp, plaited together, with a small
colored bead between each knot. It was just a strip of beaded cloth,
which lapped over at the joint, and was held in position by a piece of
string. The beads differed from any I had ever seen, but I was almost
certain the monkey's eyes were emeralds, but not good ones, as Mam has
a nice emerald and diamond ring, so I know.

I don't mind telling you now that I was half afraid of the thing. It
seemed to be quite absurd that so many grown men should be willing to
kill each other for its ownership. One might imagine a baby crying for
it, because babies always prefer the most disreputable wooden horse
or dirtiest rag doll, but it made one's hair tingle to think of war,
and money, and good or bad fortune for goodness knows how many people,
depending on the whereabouts of this eight-inch piece of tusk. Worst
of all, I was beginning to believe in it. It seemed to squint at me in
a chummy way with its wicked little eyes. Before I so much as heard of
its existence or knew its name it brought me luck, just because it was
lying in Schwartz's portmanteau in the carriage. You will remember I
touched Schwartz for five pounds in five minutes on Christmas Eve. On
Christmas Day I got fifty out of him, and now Prince John was ready to
give me five thousand. I couldn't help wondering if it would keep up
the pace, and add another nought each day I held it.

And that made me feel rather horrid, so I stuffed it out of sight under
the bolster, and said my prayers; then the creeps passed away, and I
fell asleep.

There was a sunshiny frost when I awoke, and every tree and shrub in
the garden was decked with sparkling gems. Evangeline seemed to be
annoyed when I unlocked the door.

"Nice thing," she said, "makin' me bump me nose in that fashion!"

Dan came in with her, and I found that she had clattered along with
the hot water without looking where she was going. Of course, the door
didn't yield as usual, so her head struck the panel.

Dan and I laughed, and Evangeline rubbed her nose with a black finger.
Then we laughed some more, and Evangeline looked at herself in the
glass.

"We'll all be niggers in this house soon," she declared in a rage, and
slammed out.

"Well, what's the game to-day?" said Dan, sitting on his tail.

"Nothing more than yesterday," I answered.

"I told the parrot that, but the blessed bird is swinging on his perch
and roaring something about another revolution."

"What does he mean?"

"He's talking Spanish, I believe. The few words I could make sense of
showed that he regarded last night's general contentment as the calm
before the storm."

"Dan," said I, "you are only two years old. Polly is twenty, at the
least. If you count up you will find that he is ten times wiser than
you."

Dan looked at me suspiciously. After thinking for a minute or two and
scratching hard on the back of his head, he got me to let him out.
When I came down to breakfast I discovered him listening to Polly, who
was singing extracts from the latest musical comedies. The instant
I appeared Polly became silent. He clung to the wires sideways, and
watched me steadily, first with one eye and then with the other. Even
Tibbie sat blinking at me from the hearth-rug, and when I went round
to the stable, dear old Bob turned in his stall and stared at me
solemnly. Talk about a ju-ju, the Gang can read my very thoughts!

Illustration: My first call was at a jeweller's in Piccadilly.

Dan and Tibbie and Rikki began to follow at my heels, and it grieved
me very much to be compelled to shut them up in the coach-house. But
I had to do it. I put on my beaver hat and an astrachan jacket, went
out through the front gate, doubled down the paddock, crossed the fir
plantation, and made my way by a field path to Breckonhurst, the next
station to Dale End. I took a return ticket to London, remained in the
waiting-room until a train came in, and then popped quickly into the
nearest empty carriage. At Waterloo I sat in the train until the other
passengers had quitted the platform. After that, I took my chance of
not being recognized.

My first call was at a jeweller's in Piccadilly. I showed him the
ju-ju, and asked him what the beads were. He screwed a funny-shaped
glass into his right eye and examined them.

"They are different varieties of chalcedony," he said. "There are
agates, carnelians, cat's eyes, onyx, sards, and three kinds of flints
in this collection."

"Good gracious!" said I.

"What is it?" he asked, looking curiously at the idol.

"A jou-jou," I answered, blessing mademoiselle inwardly.

The man didn't speak French, so I told him _jou-jou_ meant "toy," and
that satisfied him. We had some more talk, and I am sure I surprised
him, but he was very civil, and took no end of trouble to discover an
address I wanted. It turned out to be a little street off Tottenham
Court Road. I drove there in a hansom, remained ten minutes, and hired
the same cab back to the West-end. The cabman wanted to charge me four
shillings, but I gave him half-a-crown and looked for his number.

"S'elp me!" he cried, "wot's things a-comin' to?" And, with that, he
whipped his poor horse into a canter, which is the nasty, vindictive
way that sort of man has of expressing his feelings.

Then I had a real slice of luck. I met Mr. Warden, my father's
solicitor, just coming out of his office. He was quite taken aback at
seeing me, especially when he found that Dad or Mam was not with me,
and my good fortune was that had I been a few seconds later I should
have missed him, as he was going to join Mrs. Warden in Brighton,
having simply run up to town for an hour to glance at his letters. I
was sorry for Mrs. Warden, but I had to keep him.

Although he was a lawyer, and a very smart one, Dad says, he did open
his eyes wide when I got fairly started with my story. I told him
everything, or nearly everything, and the only bits that puzzled him
were my references to Dan, or Bob, or Tib. As for what the parrot
said, or Rikki did, he was too polite to smile, but he kept balancing
his gold-rimmed spectacles on his nose, and pressing the tips of his
fingers together, until I thought it best not to mention the Gang any
more, because they seemed to bother him.

But, oh my, didn't he look serious when I showed him the letter from
Schwartz's brokers, and told him about the "squeeze" in Kwantus! He
asked me if I knew what paper I got my information from, and I said
"yes," so he tinkled a little bell and sent a clerk to buy a copy in
Fleet-street. I was not sure about the date, but the clerk, who was
such a nice boy, said he could search the file.

By the time I had finished, the clerk returned with the newspaper. Mr.
Warden changed his spectacles, and said "Hum" and "Ha" several times
while he was reading the paragraph. Then he put on the gold ones again,
and gazed at me.

"You are a very remarkable girl, Millicent," he said.

"I suppose my story sounds odd," I answered, "but it all happened
exactly as I have told you, and there is hardly anything that takes
place in Dale End which the Gang cannot form a reliable opinion about."

"The Gang?" he repeated.

"I beg your pardon, I meant my animal friends, but, of course, you
don't quite believe in them."

"I believe that you talk to them, and thus teach yourself to express
your views very clearly. At any rate, we can let that pass. May I see
this phenomenon of a ju-ju?"

I smiled, because I was expecting him to say that.

"If you don't mind," I explained, "I would rather show it to you in the
train this evening."

"This evening? Are we not going to Dale End at once?"

"I shall not be ready until nearly six o'clock. I have a lot of things
to do. Are you quite sure you will meet me at the station?"

He was positive, he said, but he was distressed at the notion that I
should be hours and hours alone in London, so the nice young clerk was
ordered to take care of me. I led him rather a dance, and the way I
spent Schwartz's gold seemed to give him a pain. Mr. Warden promised to
telegraph to Mam to tell her I was quite safe, and that we should both
be home about seven, but he was so astounded by my adventures that he
wrote Southend in place of Dale End, and the telegram reached us in a
letter two days later, with Mr. Warden's apologies. Do you know, I am
convinced the ju-ju had something to do with that. If Schwartz had
heard who Mr. Warden was, he might have smelt a rat. And isn't it odd,
as Bob pointed out, that Southend should come after West-end, and Dale
End, and Ostend and Mile End?

The clerk and I had lunch and tea together and he insisted on paying,
though I had ever so much more money in my pocket than he. By the time
we reached Waterloo he looked rather tired, because we took no more
cabs, and I went to lots of places I wanted to see, so I bought him a
box of cigarettes as a present, and he said he hoped I would often come
to London on business.

Mr. Warden was waiting for me, and the moment the guard set eyes on me
he came running up.

"So you're here, are you, Miss Grosvenor?" he cried. "A fine thing
you've bin and gone and done. All Dale End is inquirin' after you, an'
your pore father is nearly wild."

Mr. Warden gave him a shilling, saying it was all right. But it wasn't.
When we reached our station, and began to walk to the Lodge, as Bob
was not there to meet us, every person we met turned and followed us,
until there was quite a mob at our heels when we crossed the green. We
didn't know then that Mr. Banks, our policeman, had all the negroes,
including Prince John, locked up in his tiny police-station. Jack and
several men from the Manor were helping him to mount guard over them
until more policemen arrived, as the Dale-enders wanted to lynch the
black men, which would have been a sad job for everybody.

Our escort blocked the road in front of our gate, but they did not
venture to come inside the grounds. Dan was the first to hear the
noise, and he barked. Then he caught my step on the gravel, and Mam
will never again say that a dog can't speak, for he told her quite
plainly that I was coming.

Well, you can guess all the crying and kissing that went on, and how
Dad tried to be angry while he took me in his arms, but Mr. Warden
spoke about the telegram, and declared he would write to the _Times_
and the Postmaster General. Tib climbed up on my shoulder, and Rikki
gave my hand such a queer little lick, while Poll did several lightning
twists on the cross-bar, and whistled "Won't you come home, Bill
Bailey." I heard dear Bob neighing in the stable, and I went to kiss
his velvety nose the first minute I could spare.

Mr. Schwartz was really as delighted as anybody that I had turned up,
so he failed to notice how cool Mr. Warden was when Dad introduced
them. I had hardly got my hat and jacket off, and was hugging Mam for
the tenth time, when Dad called me into the morning-room, where he and
Schwartz and Mr. Warden were standing.

Solicitors can be very sharp if they like, and our lawyer surprised me
with the way he tackled Schwartz.

"My young friend here," he said, meaning me, "tells me she has promised
to restore to you a certain article known as a ju-ju, which you lost on
Christmas Eve."

"Yes," said Schwartz, quite calmly. You see, he was a smart man of
business, and I suppose he was not afraid of lawyers, or he would not
have been able to keep all the money he was worth.

"Well," went on Mr. Warden, "she is prepared to hand it to you in
return for your quittance of her father's obligation to find you one
thousand shares in the Kwantu Mines, Limited."

That staggered Schwartz somewhat, but he said, in a husky voice: "I
fail to understand you."

"That is a pity. I wish to avoid a scandal. If you compel candor I
shall be obliged to tell you who is the real owner of that property,
and the law of England punishes fraudulent conspiracy very heavily. The
links in the chain are quite complete; they even include our possession
of a letter to you from a certain firm of brokers stating that they had
failed to discover the genuine proprietors of the company."

"Eh?" cried Dad, looking at Schwartz, "what is this? Are you sure of
your facts, Warden?"

I once read in a paper that some man who was fighting another man "went
down and out." I didn't know what it meant, but it seemed to fit
Schwartz's case. He went limp all at once.

"Quite sure, Grosvenor," said the solicitor. "You can thank your
daughter for putting me on the track of a very discreditable and
unsavory business. I have prepared the necessary documents, Mr.
Schwartz. Will you execute them without further explanation?"

"Where is the ju-ju?" demanded Schwartz, pulling himself together, and
glaring at me with eyes like flint marbles.

"Here," said I, hauling it out of my pocket.

He took it, held it in his left hand, and signed the papers placed
before him by the lawyer. Dad signed, too, and Mr. Warden witnessed the
signatures. Not a word was spoken. Schwartz went out of the room, and
Dad rang for Evangeline to tell Jim to get the victoria ready at once.

When Schwartz drove through our gate on his way to the station the
mob cheered him. I expect he felt like being cheered. Bob told me
afterwards that he said a naughty word to our lame porter when he
wanted to carry the small bag in which the ju-ju was placed, I
suppose, because gentlemen's pockets are not like mine. Still, from
what I heard later, he must have taken it out of the bag when he was
safe in the train.

It was then nearly eight o'clock, and Dad sent Mole with a note to
Jack to say that the negroes ought to be liberated at once. Jack, who
has plenty of brains, brought his uncle with him to congratulate Dad
and Mam about me, and they stayed to dinner. Jack and Dorothy sat
together, so matters looked all right in that quarter. They did not say
a great deal. Just as in Schwartz's case, silence was eloquent. Dad
brought me once to see a play at Drury Lane, and I imagined all sorts
of terrifying things when the villain crept nearer the defenceless
heroine. If either of them spoke it was not half so thrilling. I had
just the same feeling when Mr. Warden kept waiting for Schwartz to
admit he was beaten.

Prince John rang our bell exactly at nine o'clock.

"Wah!" shrieked Evangeline when she opened the door. Then she fled. I
had to rush and grab Dan, but I smiled sweetly at my dark visitor, and
asked him to come into the morning-room. I knew that Mr. Warden and
Uncle Stanhope were telling each other that every motorist should be
sent to penal servitude on a second conviction, so I had no trouble in
beckoning Dad to join me for a minute.

He was rather surprised at meeting the negro, but he apologized quite
nicely for the Christmas Eve incident, and also for any inconvenience
which the other might have undergone owing to the action of the police.
I was wondering if Dad meant to put his hand in his pocket and produce
some money, but he told me afterwards that he felt exactly the same as
I did with regard to Prince John. The man looked every inch a king, and
I have reckoned up that he was at least seventy-four inches high.

But, before I could stop him, Dad nearly gave me away badly.

"I ought to tell you," he went on, "that, from circumstances which have
come to my knowledge, I now sympathize deeply with you in your search
for the--er--curious West African--er--god which you wish to recover,
and I must say that if my--er--daughter Millicent had consulted me--"

So Dad was just beginning to tell the Kwantu chief in his best J.P.
manner that Schwartz was again the proud possessor of the ju-ju, when I
broke in:

"One moment, father dear," I cried, "you will understand things ever so
much better when you hear what Prince John and I have to say to each
other. Have you kept your part of the bargain?" I asked the black man
quickly.

He took from his coat pocket a small bundle tied with pink tape.

"Here are fifty Bank of England notes for £100 each," he said.

"Then here is your ju-ju," I answered, diving into my skirt pocket, and
handing him the original piece of ivory, beaded kilt and all complete,
and you may now know what a trouble it was to get a fair copy of it
made for Schwartz during the few hours I had at my disposal in London.

Dad looked awfully severe, after his first gasp of amazement had passed.

"Millicent," he said, "what have you done?"

"I have served Mr. Schwartz as he tried to serve you, father dear,"
I replied. "As for Prince John, he offered the man who stole the
ju-ju ten thousand pounds if it were given back, so I saw no harm in
arranging that half the amount should be paid to you. In any case, I
always meant the poor black people to have it. It was a very great
shame for Mr. Schwartz to take from them a thing which they thought so
much of."

For a little while he could say nothing. Like me, he was watching the
black prince, who really treated that absurd--I mean that extraordinary
scrap of carved ivory, as if it were the most precious article in the
world. It might have been all one blazing diamond by the reverent way
he handled it. When he was quite sure that it was his own ju-ju--and
he did not take for granted, like Schwartz, that it was the genuine
thing until he had looked at every mark--he pressed its funny monkey
face to his lips, his forehead, and his breast. He paid not the least
heed to us or what we were saying. It was not until he had produced a
small, finely woven mat from the pocket in which he kept the notes, and
wrapped the ju-ju in it before putting it away, that he gave us any
attention.

Of course, Dad started a second time to talk as if he were at a
Conservative meeting.

"It has given me the greatest pleasure to observe that my--er--daughter
Millicent has restored to you the--er--interesting object which you
seem to value so highly, but I need hardly say that--er--the payment of
any such--er--astounding reward as five thousand pounds is utterly out
of the question."

"My people pay the money gladly," said the negro prince, dragging
himself up in the grandest way imaginable. "I tell you, too, that
your daughter's name will be honored in my country, and when I and my
friends return home we shall not fail to send her other tokens of our
regard and good will."

"We cannot accept this money," said Dad, firmly.

"It is quite essential that you should," said the other with equal
coolness. "If you refuse it now, I shall simply be compelled to send it
to you through the post. We lost our ju-ju owing to the remissness of
its guardians. We must atone for that, and the payment must be made in
treasure--or blood."

You can have no idea how he uttered those last two words. He spoke
quietly, and in a low voice, but somehow I could feel in them the
edge of one of those sharp, heavy choppers--called "machetes," Polly
says--which the maids in the Marquis o' Granby saw in the negroes'
bedrooms.

So it ended in our shaking hands with Prince John, and in Dad's
bringing the notes into the drawing-room to show them to Mam and the
others before he put them away in the silver safe. Everybody made a
tremendous fuss over me, and Poll sang "The man who broke the Bank at
Monte Carlo," but I was only too delighted that we had had such a jolly
Christmas, and were all good friends again, though it looked rather
glum at one time. They made me talk nearly all this story before I
went to bed, and I heard old Mr. Stanhope growl that if Dorothy was in
such a hurry to get married he didn't see why she shouldn't.

Dad did not tell me until long after, but he sent Mr. Schwartz his
fifty-five pounds next day, when he also bought me the loveliest bay
pony to ride. I christened him "Prince John" when I introduced him to
the gang.

And that reminds me. In the morning paper the day afterwards, I found
a most exciting paragraph. I whistled Dan, took Tibbie and Rikki under
each arm, and asked Mole to carry Poll's cage to the stable.

Bob and Prince John looked round in their stalls to see what was the
matter, and Bob said:

"What is it now? Has a North American Indian arrived in Dale End, or
what?"

"You listen," I said. "I came across this in the paper just now: 'An
extraordinary outrage was committed in the precincts of Waterloo
Station on Thursday evening--'"

"Thursday evening!" cried Tib. "Why, that's the evening Schwartz--"

"Don't interrupt," I said, and went on reading: "'Mr. Montague
Schwartz, the well-known West African millionaire, was leaving the
station in a four-wheeled cab when two gigantic negroes rushed to the
near side of the vehicle as it was descending the steep slope into
Waterloo Road, and threw it bodily over.'"

"Ha! ha!" roared Dan, but I silenced him with a look.

"'The cabman was, of course, flung headlong from his seat; Mr. Schwartz
was imprisoned inside, and ran grave risk of serious injury owing to
the plunging of the frightened horse.'"

"Silly creatures, some horses," observed Poll, and Bob didn't like it,
but I continued:

"'In the darkness and confusion no one seems to have noticed the
negroes, who made off with Mr. Schwartz's luggage, even appropriating
a leather dressing-case which was on the front seat inside, and had
fallen on top of the alarmed occupant. Mr. Schwartz, when extricated
from his dangerous position, behaved with admirable coolness. He felt
in his pockets, and declared that the rascals who had adopted this
novel and exceedingly daring method of highway robbery had only secured
some clothing and other articles which could be easily replaced. He
was naturally somewhat shaken, however. After liberally compensating
the cab-driver, Mr. Schwartz sought the escort of two policemen, when
he entered another vehicle to proceed to his house in Brook-street.
During the course of yesterday the police arrested several negroes,
but neither the cabman nor Mr. Schwartz could identify any of them,
and they were set at liberty.' I think that's rather fine; don't you?
Please don't all speak at once."

But they did, and lost their tempers because nobody could get a
hearing; Bob and Prince John stamped and rattled the chains of their
head-stalls, Dan chased Tibbie up the loft ladder, and Poll shrieked at
Rikki:

"You're a miserable, cat-whiskered _soor-ka butcha_, that's what you
are, and I mean it this time, whatever it is!"

And that is all, I think, for this time.



Transcriber's Notes:

Minor changes have been made to regularize hyphenation and correct
minor printer errors.

Illustrations have been moved below paragraphs to allow smoother
reading in this e-book. Additionally, the titles of the Illustrations
from the "List of Illustrations" have been added to the illustration
line to make it more apparent what the illustration contained.





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