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   Chapter 2 FOUR

The Ivory Trail By Talbot Mundy Characters: 41231

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


THE NJO HAPA SONG

Delights-ah, Ten are the dear delights (and the Book

forbids them, one by one)-

The broad old roads of a thousand loves-back turned to the

Law-the lawless fun-

Old Arts for new-old hours reborn-and who shall mourn

when the sands have run?

I was old when they told the Syren Tales

(All ears were open then!)

And the harps were afire with plucked desire

For the white ash oars again-

For oars and sail, and the open sea,

High prow against pure blue,

The good sea spray on eye and lip,

The thrumming hemp, the rise and dip,

The plunge and the roll of a driven ship

As the old course boils anew!

Sweetly I call, the captains come. The home ties draw at

hearts in vain.

Potent the spell of Africa! Who East and South the course

has ta'en

By Guardafui to Zanzibar may go, but he, shall come again.

Courtney proved better than his word. Our Big Game Licenses arrived after breakfast, and permits for five hundred rounds of rifle ammunition each. In an envelope in addition was Fred's check with the collector's compliments and the request that we kindly call and pay for the licenses. In other words we now had absolution.

We called, and were received as fellow men, such was the genius of Courtney's friendship. A railway man looked in. The collector's dim office became awake with jokes and laughter.

"Going up today?" he asked. "I'll see you get berths on the train."

We little realized at the moment the extent of that consideration; but understanding dawned fifteen minutes before high noon when we strolled to the station behind a string of porters carrying our luggage. Courtney was there to see us off, and he looked worried.

"I'm wondering whether you'll ever get your luggage through," he said with a sort of feminine solicitude. It was strange to hear the hero of one's school-days, mighty hunter and fearless leader of forlorn campaigns, actually troubled about whether we could catch our train. But so the man was, gentle always and considerate of everybody but himself.

There was law in this new land, at all events along the railway line. Not even handbags or rifles could pass by the barrier until weighed and paid for. Crammed in the vestibule in front of us were fifty people fretfully marshalling in line their strings of porters lest any later comer get by ahead of them; foremost, with his breast against the ticket window, was Georges Coutlass. Things seemed not to be proceeding as he wished.

There was one babu behind the window-a mild, unhappy-looking Punjabi, or Dekkani Mussulman. There was another at the scales, who knew almost no English: his duty was to weigh-do sums-write the result on a slip, and then justify his arithmetic to office babu and passenger, before any sort of progress could be made. The fact that all passengers shouted at him to hurry or be reported to big superiors complicated the process enormously; and the equally discordant fact that no passenger-and especially not Georges Coutlass-desired or intended to pay one anna more than he could avoid by hook, crook, or argument, made the game amusing to the casual looker-on, but hastened nothing (except tempers). The temperature within the vestibule was 112' by the official thermometer.

"You pair of black murderers!" yelled Coutlass as we took our place in line. "You bloody robbers! You pickpockets! You train-thieves! Go out and dig your graves! I will make an end of you!"

"You should not use abusive language" the babu retorted mildly, stopping to speak, and then again to wipe his spectacles, and his forehead, and his hands, and to glance at the clock, and to mutter what may or may not have been a prayer.

Coutlass exploded.

"Shouldn't, eh? Who the hell are you to tell me what I shouldn't do?

Sell me a ticket, you black plunderer, d'you hear! Look! Listen!"

He snatched a piece of paper from the babu's hand and turned to face the impatient crowd.

"This hell-cat-" (the unhappy babu looked less like a hell-cat than any vision of the animal I ever imagined) "wants to make out that seventy-one times seven annas and three pice is forty-nine rupees, eleven annae! Oh, you charlatan! You mountebank! You black-blooded robber! You miscreant! Cut your throat, I order you!"

The babu expostulated, stammered, quailed. Coutlass drew in his breath for the gods of Greece alone knew what heights of fury next. But interruption entered.

"There, that's enough of you! Get to the back of the line!"

The man who had promised us berths came abruptly through the barrier, and unlike the babu did not appear afraid of any one. The Greek let out his gathered breath with a bark of fury, like a seal coming up to breathe. Taking that for a symptom of opposition the newcomer, very cool in snow-white uniform and helmet, seized Coutlass by the neck and hustled him, arguing like a boiler under pressure, through the crowd. The Greek was three inches taller, and six or eight inches bigger round the chest, but too astonished to fight back, and perhaps, too, aware of the neighborhood of old da Gama's fort, where more than one Greek was pining for the grape and olive fields of Hellas. With a final shove the railway official thrust him well out into the road.

"If you miss the train, serve you right!" he said. "Babus are willing servants, to be treated gently!"

Then he saw us.

"You're late! Where's your luggage? These your porters? All right-put you on your honor. Go on through. Save time. Have your stuff weighed, and settle the bill at Nairobi. All of it, mind! Babu, let these people through!"

Followed by Courtney, who seemed to have right of way wherever it suited him to wander, we filed through the gate, crossed the blazing hot platform, and boarded a compartment labeled "Reserved." The railway man nodded and left us, to hurry and help sell tickets.

It was an Indian type railway carriage be left us in, a contraption not ill-suited to Africa-nor yet so comfortable as to diminish the sensation of travel toward new frontiers.

Each car was divided into two compartments, entirely separate and entered from opposite ends; facing ours was the rear end of a second-class car, into which we could look if the doors were open and we lay feet-foremost on the berths. The berths were arranged lengthwise, two each side, and one above the other.

It was what they called a mixed train, mixed that is of freight and passengers-third-class in front, second next, then first, and a dozen little iron freight cars of two kinds in front. In those days there were neither tunnels nor bridges on that railway, and there was a single seat on the roof at each end of first- and second-class compartments reached by a ladder, for any passenger enamored of the view. Even the third-class compartments (and they were otherwise as deliberately bare and comfortless as wood and iron could make them) had lattice-work shades over the upper half of the windows.

For the babu's encouragement, and to increase the panic of the ticketless, the engineer was blowing the whistle at short intervals. Passengers, released in quicker order now that a white official was lending the two babus a hand, began coming through the barrier in sudden spurts, baggage in either hand and followed hot-foot by natives with their heavier stuff. They took headers into the train, and the porters generally came back grinning.

"I see through the whistling stunt," Will announced. "My, but that fellow on the engine has faith; or else the system's down real fine in these parts! He won't be back for a week. Those woolly-headed porters are going to save up his commission and hand it to him when he brings the down-train in! The game's good: he whistles-passenger runs-can't make change-pays two, three, four, ten times what the job's worth-and the porters divvy up with the engineer. But good lord, the porters must be honest!"

Presently a pale white man in khaki with a red beard entered our compartment, and Courtney had to make room for him on the seat. He apologized with less conviction of real regret than I ever remember noticing, although the pouches under his eyes gave him a rather world-weary look.

"Not another first-class berth on the train-every last one engaged. Might be worse. Might have had to ride with Indians. Curse of this country, Indians are. I'd rid the land of 'em double-quick if government 'ud pay me a rupee a head-an' I'd provide cartridges! But government likes 'em! Ugh! Ever travel in one compartment with a dozen of 'em? Sleep in a tent with a score of 'em? Share blankets with a couple of 'em on a cold night? No? You be glad I'm not an Indian. One's enough!"

We made room for his belongings, and leaned from the window all on one seat together. The time to start arrived and passed; hot passengers continued spurting for the train at intervals-all sorts of passengers-English, Mauritius-French, Arab, Goanese, German, Swahili, Indian, Biluchi, one Japanese, two Chinamen, half-breeds, quarter-breeds of all the hues from ivory to dull red, guinea-yellow, and bleached out black; but the second-class compartment facing our door remained empty. There was a name on the card in the little metal reservation frame, and every passenger who could read English glanced at it, but nobody came to claim it even when the engine's extra shrill screaming and at last the ringing of a bell warned Courtney that time was really up, and he got out on the platform.

"Good-by," he said through the window. "I've done what I could to bring you luck. Don't be tempted to engage the first servants who apply to you at Nairobi. If you wait there a week I'll send my Kazimoto to you; he's a very good gun-bearer. He'll be out of a job when I'm gone. I shall give him his fare to Nairobi. Engage him if you want a dependable boy, but remember the rule about dogs: a good one has one master! I don't mean Kazimoto is a dog-far from it. I mean, treat him as reasonably as you would a dog, and he'll serve you well. He's a first-class Nyamwezi, from German East. Oh, and one more scrap of advice-":

He came close to the window, but at that moment the engine gave a final scream and really started. Passengers yelled farewells. The engine's apoplectic coughs divided the din into spasms, and there came a great bellowing from the ticket office. He could not speak softly and be heard at all. Louder he had to speak, and then louder, ending almost with a shout.

"The best way to Elgon is by way of Kisumu and Mumias, whatever anybody else may tell you. And if you find the stuff, or any of it," (he was running beside the train now)-"be in no hurry to advertise the fact! Go and make terms first with government-then-after you've made terms-tell 'em you've found it! Find the stuff-make terms-then produce what you've found! Get my meaning? Good-by, all. Good luck!"

We left him behind then, wiping the sweat from his wrinkled, freckled forehead, gazing after us as if we had all been lifelong friends of his. He made no distinction between us and Fred, but was equally anxious to serve us all.

"If that man isn't white, who is?" demanded Will, and then there was new interest.

We had left the ticket office far behind, but the train was moving slowly and there was still a good length of platform before our car would be clear of the station altogether. We heard a roar like a bull's from behind, and a dozen men-white, black and yellow-came careering down the platform carrying guns, baggage, bedding, and all the paraphernalia that travelers in Africa affect.

First in the van was Georges Coutlass, showing a fine turn of speed but tripping on a bed-sheet at every other step, with his uncased rifle in one hand, his hat in the other, an empty bandolier over one shoulder and a bag slung by a strap swinging out behind him. He made a leap for the second-class compartment in front of us, and landed on all fours on the platform. We opened the door of our compartment to watch him better.

Once on the platform he threw his rifle into the compartment and braced himself to catch the things his stampeding followers hurled after him-caught them deftly and tossed them in, yelling instructions in Greek, Kiswahili, Arabic, English, and two or three other languages. It may be that the engineer looked back and saw what was happening (or perhaps the guard signaled with the cord that passed through eyeholes the whole length of the train) for though we did not slow down we gained no speed until all his belongings had been hurled, and caught, and flung inside. Then came his traveling companions-caught by one hand and dragged on their knees up the steps. They were heavy men, but he snatched all three in like a boy pulling chestnuts from the fire.

The first was a Greek-evil-looking, and without the spirit that in the case of Coutlass made a stranger prone to over-look shortcomings-dressed in khaki, with rifle and empty bandolier. Next, chin, elbow, hand and knee up the steps came a fat, tough-looking Goanese, dressed anyhow at all in pink-colored dirty shirt, dark pants, and a helmet, also with rifle and empty bandolier. I judged he weighed about two hundred and eighty pounds, but Coutlass yanked him in like a fish coming overside. Last came a man who might be Arab, or part-Arab, part-Swahili, whom I did not recognize at first, fat, black, dressed in the white cotton garments and red fez of the more or less well-to-do native, and voluble with rare profanity.

"Johnson!" shouted Fred with almost the joy of greeting an old acquaintance.

It was Hassan, sure enough, short-winded and afraid, but more afraid of being left behind than of the manhandling. Coutlass took hold of his outstretched arm, hoisted him, cracked his shins for him against the top step, and hurled him rump-over-shoulders into the compartment, where the other Greek and the Goanese grabbed him by the arms and legs and hove him to an upper berth, on which he lay gasping like a fish out of water and moaning miserably. Their compartment was a mess of luggage, blankets, odds-and-ends, and angry men. Coutlass found a whisky bottle out of the confusion, and swallowed the stuff neat while the other Greek and the Goanese waited their turn greedily. There was nothing much in that compartment to make a man like Hassan feel at home.

"Those Greeks," said our red-bearded traveling companion as we shut the door again, "are only one degree better than Indians-a shade less depraved perhaps-a sight more dangerous. I sure do hate a Punjabi, but I don't love Greeks! The natives call 'em bwana masikini to their faces-that means Mister Mean White y'know. They're a lawless lot, the Greeks you'll run across in these parts. My advice is, shoot first! Walk behind 'em! If they ain't armed, hoof 'em till they cut an' run! Greeks are no good!"

We introduced ourselves. He told us his name was Brown.

"There's three Browns in this country: Hell-fire Brown of Elementaita, Joseph Henry Brown of Gilgil, and Brown of Lumbwa. Brown of Lumbwa's me. Don't believe a word either of the other two Browns tell you! Yes, we're all settlers. Country good to settle in? Depends what you call good. If you like lots of room, an' hunting, natives to wait an' your own house on your own square mile-comfortable climate-no conventions-nor no ten commandments, why, it's pretty hard to beat. But if you want to wear a white shirt, and be moral, and get rich, it's rotten! You've a chance to make money if you're not over law-abiding, for there's elephants. But if you're moral, and obey the laws, you haven't but one chance, an' she's a slim one."

"Well," said Fred, genially, "tell us about the only one. We're men to whom the ten commandments are-"

"You look it!" Brown interrupted. "Well, what's the odds? You'll never find it, and anyhow, everybody knows it's Tippoo Tib's ivory. I mean to have a crack at spotting it myself, soon as I get my farm fenced an' one or two other matters attended to. Gov'ment offers ten per cent. to whoever leads 'em to it, but they can't believe any one's as soft as that surely! They'll be lucky if they get ten per cent. of it themselves! Man alive, but they say there's a whale of a hoard of it! Hundreds o' tons of ivory, all waiting to be found, and fossicked out, an' took! Say-if I was some o' those Greeks for instance, tell you what I'd do: I'd off to Zanzibar, an' kidnap Tippoo Tib. The old card's still living. I'd apply a red-hot poker to his silver-side an' the under-parts o' his tripe-casings. He'd tell me where the stuff is quicker'n winking! Supposin' I was a Greek without morals or no compunctions or nothin', that's what I'd do! I don't hold with allowin' any man to play dog in the manger with all that plunder!"

"Have you a notion where the stuff might be?" Fred wondered guilelessly.

"Ah! That 'ud be tellin'!"

We had crossed the water that divides Mombasa from the mainland. Behind us lay the prettiest and safest harbor on all that thousand-league-long coast; before us was the narrow territory that still paid revenue and owed nominal allegiance to the Sultan of Zanzibar, although really like the rest of those parts under British rule. We were bowling along beside plantations of cocoanut, peanut, plantain and pineapple, with here and there a thicket of strange trees to show what the aboriginal jungle had once looked like. When we stopped at wayside stations the heat increased insufferably, until we entered the great red desert that divides the coast-land from the hills, and after that all seemed death and dust, and haziness, and hell.

At first we passed occasional baobabs, with trunks fifteen or twenty feet thick and offshoots covering a quarter of an acre. Then the trees thinned out to the sparse and shriveled all-but-dead things that struggle for existence on the border-lines between man's land and desolation. At last we drew down the smoked panes over the window to escape the glare and sight of the depressing desolation.

The sun beat down on the iron roof. The heat beat up from the tracks. Red dust polluted the drinking water in the little upright tank. Dust filled eyes, nostrils, hair. Dust caked and grew stiff in the sweat that streamed down us. Yet we stopped once at a station, and humans lived there and a man got off the train. A lone lean babu and his leaner, more miserable native crew came out and eyed the train like vultures waiting for a beast to die. But we did not die, and the train passed on into illimitable dusty redness, leaving them to watch the hot rails ribbon out behind our grumbling caboose.

There began to be carousing in the second-class compartment next ahead of us. Our own Brown of Lumbwa produced a stone crock of Irish whisky from a basket, imbibed copiously, offered us in turn the glistening neck, looked relieved at our refusal, and grew voluble.

"Hear them Greeks an' that Goa. You'd think they were gentlemen o' breeding to hear 'em carryin' on! Truth is we've no government worth a moment's consid'ration, an' everybody knows it, Greeks included! You men lookin' for farms? Take your time! Once you get a farm, an' get your house built, an' stock bought, an' stuff planted-once you've got your capital invested so to speak, they've got you! Till then you're free! Till then they'll maybe treat you with consideration! Till then you leave the country when you like an' kiss yourselves good-by to them an' Africa. Till then they've got no hold! The courts can fine you, maybe, but can they make you pay? It's none so easy if you're half awake! But take me: Suppose I break a reggylation. What happens? They know where to find me-how much I've got-where it is-an' if I don't pay the fine, they come an' collar my cattle an' sticks! D'you notice any Greeks applyin' for farms? Not no crowds of 'em you don't! I don't know one single Greek who has a farm in all East Africa! Any Goas? Not a bit of it! Any Indians? Not one! So when a few extry elephants get shot, I get the blame-down at Lumbwa, where there ain't no elephants; an' the Greeks, Goas, Arabs an' Indians get fat on the swag! It's easy to keep track of a white man; the natives all know him, an' his name, an' where he lives, an' report everything he does to the nearest gov'ment officer. But Greeks an' Goas an' Indians an' Arabs ain't white, so the natives make no mention of 'em. They do the lootin'; we settlers get the blame; an' the whole perishing country's going to blazes as fast as a lump of ice melting in hell-but not so fast as I'd like to see it go. Have so

me o' this whisky, won't you?"

I was scarcely listening to him, but he seemed to get drunk just "so far and no further," and Fred found him worth attention. It happened that Fred, Will and I were all thinking of the same thing. Will put a hand to his neck and stroked the little scar the Arab knife had made in Zanzibar.

"What sort of a country's this for women?" Fred demanded.

"Which women?" Brown asked in sort of mild amazement.

"White women?"

"Rotten! Leastwise, there aren't any. Yes, there's three. Two officials' wives, an' Pioneer Jane French. Heard o' her? Walked from South Africa, Jane did-hoofed it along o' French, bossed his boys, drove the cattle, shot the meat, ran the whole shootin' match, an' runs him, too, when he's sober an' she's drunk. When they're both drunk everybody ducks. She's scarcely a woman, she's sort of three-men-rolled-into-one. Give her a horsewhip ae she'll manage the unruliest crowd o' savages ever you or she set eyes on! Countin' her as one, an' the two officials wives, an' her on this train, there's four!"

Our eyes met. I awoke to sudden interest that startled our informant and made him curious in turn.

"On this train?"

"On this train. Didn't you see her? She was watching you chaps through the window slits like the Queen o' Sheba keepin' tabs on Solomon. Say, what's she doing in this country anyhow? I made a try to get a seat in her carriage, but she ordered me out like Aunt Jemima puttin' out the cat the last thing. She's got a maid in with her, but the maid ain't white-Jew-Syrian-Levantine-Dago-some such breed. She's in this compartment next behind."

Our eyes met again. Fred laughed, and Will leaned forward to whisper to me: "She heard what Courtney said to us about the way to Mount Elgon!"

"D'you know her name?" asked Brown.

"No!" we all three lied together with one voice.

"I do! I seen it on the reservation card. Lady Isobel Saffren Waldon!

Pretty high-soundin' patronymic, what? Lady Isobel Saffren Waldon!"

He repeated the name over and over, crescendo, with growing fervor.

"What's a woman with a title doin' d'you suppose? The title's no fake.

She's got the blood all right, all right! You ought to ha' heard her

shoo me out! Lummy! A nestin' hen giving the office to a snake

weren't in it to her an' me! Good looker, too! What's she doin' in

East Africa?"

We made no shift to answer.

"The officials' wives," he went on, "are keen after Tippoo's ivory, but, bein' obliged to stay in the station except when their husbands go on safari, an' then only go where their husbands go, they've no show to speak of. Pioneer Jane's nuts on it, an' she's dangerous. Jane's as likely to find the stuff as any one. She's independent-go where she blooming well pleases-game as a lioness-looks like one, too, only a lioness is kind o' softer an' not so quick in the uptake. My money's on Jane for a place. But d'you suppose this Lady Saffren Whatshername's another one? Them Greeks ahead of us I'm sure of; all the Greeks in Africa are huntin' for nothin' else. But what about the dame?"

"Going to join her husband, perhaps," suggested Fred to put him off.

"There's no man o' that name in British East or Uganda. I know 'em all-every one."

"Father-brother-uncle-nephew-oh, perhaps she's just traveling," said Fred.

"Just traveling my eye! Titled ladies don't come 'just traveling' in these parts-not by a sight, they don't-not alone!"

He helped himself to more whisky, but had reached the stage where it had no further visible effect on him.

"Anyhow," he said, wiping the neck of the jar with his hand, "if she kids herself she'll be let go where she pleases-why, she kids herself! It takes Pioneer Jane to trespass where writs don't run! Jane goes where her husband don't dare follow. The officials don't say a word. Y'see there's no jail where they could stow a white woman and observe the decencies. So she goes over the borderline whenever she sees fit. The king's writ runs maybe for thirty miles north o' this railway. Once over that they can't catch you. But unless you're a black man, or Pioneer Jane, the natives tip the gov'ment off an' gov'ment rounds you up afore you get two-thirds the way. They'll take less than half a chance with her ladyship or I'm a Dutchman. Why! How would it look to have to bring her back between two native policemen? She'll not be allowed five miles outside Nairobi township!"

He up-ended his whisky again, consumed about a pint of it, and settled down to sleep. We took him by the legs and arms and threw him on the upper berth to stew in the cabined heat under the roof.

"It's good Monty's not with us," said Fred. He sat down and laughed at our surprise that he should state such heresy. "Monty mustn't break laws, but who cares if we do?"

"Laws?" said Will disgustedly. "I don't care who makes, or breaks the laws of this land! Let's beat it! Let's join Monty in London and make plans for some other trip. Everybody's after this ivory. We haven't a look-in. Even if we knew where to look for it we'd be followed. Let's take the next train back from Nairobi, and the next boat for Europe!"

Fred rubbed his hands delightedly, and stroked his beard into the neat point it refuses to keep for long at a time in very hot weather.

"Let's stay in Nairobi" he said, "at least until Courtney sends that boy he promised us. We can put in the time asking questions, and then-"

"What then?" grumbled Will.

"There may be truth in what Brown of Lumbwa says about a dead-line."

"Dead-line?"

"Beyond which the king's writ doesn't run."

"Betcherlife there's truth in it!" Brown mumbled from the upper berth.

Will exploded silently, going through the motions of reeling off all the bad language he knew-not an insignificant performance.

"He's really asleep now," I said, standing on the lower berth and lifting the man's eyelid to make sure.

"Who cares?" said Will. "He's heard. We've given the game away. The woman heard Courtney shout about how to reach Mount Elgon. So did this sharp. Now he hears Fred talk about dead-lines and the king's writ and breaking laws! The game's up! Me for the down-train and a steamer!"

We smoked in silence, rendered more depressing by the deepening gloom outside. With the evening it grew no cooler. What little wind there was followed the train, so that we traveled in stagnation. Utter darkness brought no respite, but the fascination of flitting shadows and the ever-new mystery of African night. The train drew up at last in a station in the shadow of great overleaning mountains, and the heat shut down on us like hairy coverings. We seemed to breathe through thicknesses of cloth, and the very trees that cast black shadow on the platform ends were stifling for lack of air.

"One hour for dinner!" called the guard, walking limply along the train.

"Just an hour for dinner! Dinner waiting!"

He was not at all a usual-looking guard. He was dressed in riding breeches and puttee leggings, and wore a worn-out horsey air as if in protest against the obligation to work in a black man's land. In countries where the half-breed and the black man live for and almost monopolize government employment few white men take kindly to braid and brass buttons. That fellow's contempt for his job was equaled only by the babu station master's scorn of him and his own for the station master. Yet both men did their jobs efficiently.

"Only an hour for dinner, gents-train starts on time!"

"Guard!" called a female voice we all three recognized-"Guard! Come here at once, I want you!"

We left Brown of Lumbwa snoring a good imitation of the Battle of Waterloo on the upper berth, and filed out to the dimly-lighted platform. A space in the center was roofed with corrugated iron and under that the yellow lamplight cast a maze of moving shadows as the passengers swarmed toward the dining-room. The smell of greasy cooking blended with the reek of axle and lamp oil. At the platform's forward end shadowy figures were throwing cord-wood into the tender, and the thump-thump-thump of that sounded like impatience; everything else suggested lethargy.

"Guard!" called the voice again. "Come here, guard!"

He stopped in passing to close our windows and lock our compartment door against railway thieves.

"There's a man asleep in there," I said.

"The 'eat 'll sober 'im!" he grinned, slamming the last window down. "What'll you bet 'er 'ighness don't want me to fetch dinner to 'er? She was in the train in Mombasa two hours afore startin' time, an' the things she ordered me to do 'ud have made a 'alf-breed think 'e was demeaning of 'imself! I 'aven't seen the color of 'er money yet. If she wants dinner she gets out and walks or 'er maid fetches it-you watch!"

Coutlass, the other Greek and the Goanese staggered out beside us on to the platform, drunk enough not to know whether Hassan was with them or not. He came out and stood beside them in a sort of alert defensive attitude.

"Guard!" called the voice again. "Where is the man?"

We followed the last of the crowd through the screened doors, and took seats at a table marked "First Class Only!" There were four men there ahead of us, two government officials disinclined to talk; a missionary in a gray flannel shirt, suffering from fever and too suspicious to say good evening; and a man in charge of that section of the line, who checked the station master's accounts and counted money in a tray between mouthfuls. Between us and the second-class tables was a wooden screen on short legs, and beyond that arose babel. Second-class is democratic always, and talks with its mouth full. In addition to our privilege of paying more for exactly the same food, we enjoyed exclusiveness, a dirty table-cloth, and the extra smell from the kitchen door. (The table-cloth was dirty because the barefoot Goanese waiters invariably stubbed their feet against a break in the floor and spilt soup exactly in the same place.)

We had scarcely taken our seats when Coutlass swaggered in, closely followed by his gang. Inside the door he turned on Hassan.

"Black men eat outside!" he snarled, and shoved him out again backward.

Then he came over to us and stood leering at the framed sign, "First

Class Only," avoiding our eyes, but plainly at war with us.

"Gassharamminy!" he growled. "You think you're popes or something! You three would want a special private piece of earth to spit on!" He raised his voice to a sort of scream. "I proclaim one class only!"

At that he lifted his foot about level with his chest and kicked the screen over. The crash brought everybody to his feet except the two officials and the railway man. They continued eating, and the railway man continued counting copper coins as if life depended on that alone.

"Sit down all!" yelled Coutlass. "You will eat with better appetite now that you can behold the blushes of these virgins!" Then he swaggered over to the long table, thrust the other Greek and the Goanese into chairs on either side of him, and yelled for food. It was the first time we had been referred to publicly as virgins, and I think we all three felt the strain.

The Goanese manager-a wizened old black man with perfectly white hair-came running from the kitchen in a state of near-collapse, the sweat streaming off him and his hands trembling.

"What shall I do?" he asked, almost upsetting the railway man's tray of money. "That man is crazy! He came in once before and broke the dishes! Twice he has come in here and eaten and refused to pay! What shall I do?"

"Nothing," said the railway man. "Go on serving dinner. Serve him too."

The manager hurried out again and the running to and fro resumed. Then in came the guard.

"First-class for two on trays!" he shouted.

The railway man beckoned to him and he winked as he passed by us.

"When you've seen to that, and had your own meal, I want you," said the railway man.

"Thought you said the lady's maid would have to come and fetch the food?" I said maliciously as the guard passed my chair a second time.

"So I did. But if you know how to refuse her, just teach me! I told her flat to have the maid fetch it. She let on they're both too frightened to cross the platform in the dark! Never saw anything like 'em! Tears! An' dignified! When I climbed down they was too afraid next to be left alone. Swore train-thieves 'ud murder 'em! I had to leave 'em my key to lock 'emselves in with until I come back with the grub! What d'you think of that?"

But our soup came, and one could not think and eat that stuff simultaneously. The railway man looked up for a moment, saw my face, and explained in a moment of expansiveness that meat would not keep in that climate but was "perfectly good" when cooked.

"Besides," he added, "you'll get nothing more until you reach Nairobi tomorrow noon!"

That turned out to be not quite true, but as an argument it worked. We swallowed, like the lined-up merchant seamen taking lime-juice under the skipper's eye.

The guard grew impatient and went into the kitchen, but had scarcely got through the door when a scream came from the direction of the train that brought him back on the run. No black woman ever screams in just that way, and in a land of black and worse-than-black men imagination leaps at a white woman's call for help.

There was a stampede for the door by every one except the Greeks and Goanese and the railway man. (He had to guard the money.) We poured through the screen doors, the guard fighting to burst between us, and, because with a self-preserving instinct that I have never thought quite creditable to the human race, everybody ran toward his own compartment, it happened that we three and the two officials and the guard came first on the scene of trouble.

Brown of Lumbwa was still drunk-affectionate, it seemed, by that time.

"You've no call to be 'fraid of me, li'l sweetheart!" The door was open. Within the compartment all was dark, but every sound emerged. There came a stifled scream.

"Li'l stoopid! What d'you come in for, if you're 'fraid o' poor ole

Brown? I won't hurt you."

The guard passed between us and went up the step. He listened, looked, disappeared through the open door, and there came a sound of struggling.

"Whassis?" shouted Brown. "An interloper? No you don't! This is my li'l sweetheart! She came in to see me-didn't you, Matilda Ann?"

The woman apparently broke free. The guard yelled for help. Fred and one of the government officials were nearest and as they entered they passed the woman coming out. I recognized Lady Saffren Waldon's Syrian maid, with the big railway key in her fist that the guard had left with her. By that time there was a considerable crowd about our car, unable to see much because it stood in the way of the station lamp-light. She slipped through-to the right-not toward Lady Isobel's compartment, and I lost sight of her behind some men. I ran after her, but she was gone among the shadows, and although I hunted up and down and in and out I could find her nowhere.

When I returned to our car Brown of Lumbwa was out on the platform with his hair all tousled and a wild eye. The guard was wiping a bloody nose and everybody was inventing an account of what nobody had seen.

"Scrag him!" advised some expert on etiquette.

"What the hell right has anybody got," demanded Brown with querulous ferocity, "to interfere between me and a lady? Eh? Whose compartment was she in? Me in hers or her in mine? Eh? Me. I'm sleeping. Hasn't a gent a right to sleep? Next thing I know she's fingerin' my whiskers. How should I know she's not balmy on red beards an' makin' love to me? What right's she got in my compartment anyhow? Who let her in? Who asked her? What if I did frighten her? What then?"

"Who was she?" demanded the official. "Had anybody seen her before?"

"The maid attending the lady in the next compartment," said I.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Very well. Guard! See who is in there!"

The guard wiped blood from his nose and obeyed orders. We clustered round the steps to hear.

"'Ow many's in here?" he demanded.

There was no answer. He tried the door and it opened 'readily.

"'Scuse me, but is there two of you? I can't see in the dark."

"Oh, is that our dinner?" said Lady Saffren Waldon's Voice.

"No ma'am, not the dinner yet."

"Why not, pray?"

"There's folks accusin' your maid o' enterin' the next compartment an'-an'-"

"Nonsense! My maid is here! You kept us so long waiting for dinner we were both asleep! Ah! There's light at last, thank heaven!"

Two native porters running along the roofs were dropping lamps into the holes appointed for them, and the train that had been a block of darkness hewn out of the night was now a monster, many-eyed.

"They're both in there, so 'elp me!" the guard reported, retreating backward through the door and leering at us.

There remained nobody, except the still indignant Brown of Lumbwa to levy charges, and the crowd remembered its dinner (not that anything could be expected to grow cold in that temperature).

"The train will start on time!" announced the babu station master, and everybody hurried to the dining-room. Brown came with us, bewildered.

"How did it happen?" he demanded. "When did we get here? Why wasn't I called for dinner? How did she get in? Where did she go to?"

"Oh, come and eat curried cow, it's lovely!" answered Will.

Fred overtook us at the door, and whispered:

"Our things have been gone through, but I can't find that anything's missing."

Within the dining-room was new ground for discontent. The British race and its offshoots wash, but disbelieve with almost unanimity in water as a drink. Every guest at either table had left at his place a partly emptied glass of beer, or brandy and soda, or whisky. Each looked for the glass on his return, and found it empty.

"Those Greeks!" exclaimed the Goanese manager, with a fearful air, and shoulders shrugged to disclaim his own responsibility.

Coutlass and the other Greek were sitting at a table with a gorged look, glancing neither to the right nor left, yet not eating. I looked at the railway official, who had not left his seat. It struck me he was laughing silently, but he did not look up. The crowd, after the manner of all crowds, stormed at the Goanese manager.

"What can I do? What shall I do?" wailed the unhappy little man.

"They are bigger than I! They were greedy! They took!"

All those charges were evidently true, and stated mildly. Coutlass rose to his feet.

"Gassharamminy!" he thundered, and his stomach stuck out over the table it was so full of various drinks. "Why should we not take? Who isn't thirsty in this hell of a place? Who leaves good drink deserves to lose it!"

"What shall I do?" wailed the Goanese manager.

"Take the orders for drinks again," said the railway man, glancing up from his figures. "Bring the account to me."

The waiters ran to fill orders, and a babel of abuse at the second table was hurled at Coutlass and his friends; but they did not leave the table because there was another course to come, and, as the manager had said, they were greedy. Then in came the guard, his face a blood-and-smudgy picture of discontent.

"Say!" he yelled. "Ain't I goin' to get those two first-classes on trays?" He came and stood by us. "Did you ever 'ear the likes of it? They swear neither of 'em was out of the compartment. They call me a liar for askin' for my key back! They swear I never gave it to 'em, 'an they never asked for it, an' their door was never locked, nor nothin'!"

He passed on to the railway man.

"I'll have to borry your key, sir. Mine's lost. Can't open doors until I get one from somewhere."

The railway man passed him his key with a bored expression and no remark.

"Don't forget that I want you presently," he ordered. "Be quick and get your own dinner."

"I'm in love with this ivory hunt!" Fred whispered to us across the table. "If she's sure our pockets are worth going through, I'm sure there's something to look for!"

"Are you sure the maid went through our things?" asked Will.

"Quite. I left my shooting jacket hanging on a hook. Everything was emptied out of the pockets on to the berth."

"I think I'll make you a confession presently," said I, with a look at

Will that just then he did not understand.

"Never confess before dessert and coffee!" advised Fred. "It spoils the appetite."

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