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   Chapter 3 FIVE

The Ivory Trail By Talbot Mundy Characters: 56084

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


THE SLAVE GANGS

Our fathers praised the old accustomed things,

The privilege of chiefs, the village wall

Within whose circling dark Monumme* sings

O' nights of belly-full and ease and all

They taught us we should prize and praise

(Only of dearth and pestilence should be our fears;)

And now behind us are the green, regretted days.

The water in the desert is our tears.

Then ye, who at the waters drink

Of Freedom, oh with Pity think

On us, who face the desert brink

Your fathers entered willingly.

Our fathers mocked the might of the Unseen,

Teaching that only what we saw and felt

Was good to fight about-what aye had been,

Old-fashioned foods that their forefathers smelt,

Old stars each night illuming the old sky,

The warm rain softening ere women till the ground,

The soft winds singing, only ask not why!

And now our weeping is the desert sound.

Oh ye, who gorge the daily good,

Unquestioned heirs of all ye would,

Spare not too timidly the blood

Your fathers shed so willingly.

Our fathers taught us that the village good was best.

Later we learned the red, new tribal creed

That our place was the sun-night owned the rest

Unless their treasure profited our greed!

But now we gather nothing where our fathers sowed,

For harvest grim the vultures wait in rows

As, urged by greedier than us with gun and goad,

Yoked two by two the slave safari goes.

Oh ye, who from true judgment shrink,

Nor gentleness with courage link,

Be thoughtful when the cup ye drink

Your fathers spilled so willingly.

----- * Monumme (Kiswahili)-Lit. male-man in his prime. -----

The guard procured his trays at last, delivered them at a run, returned in a hurry and swallowed his own meal at a side-table. Then, with his mouth full, he reported for orders to the railway official, who was still checking figures. The room was beginning to grow empty. Coutlass and his Greek friend and the Goanese sat almost alone at the far end of the other table, finishing their pudding. I had not noticed until then that the guard was a singularly little man. He stood very few inches taller than the seated official. I suppose that hitherto in some way his energy had seemed to increase his inches.

"Are there handcuffs in the caboose?"

"Yes, sir."

"Fetch them."

In spite of Brown of Lumbwa's protests, who wept at the notion of having to eat alone, we were in the act of settling our bills and going. But mention of handcuffs suggesting entertainment, we lit cigars and, imagining we stayed for love of him, Brown cooed at us.

"I've the darbies in my pocket, sir!"

I thought the guard looked more undersized than ever. He would have made a fair-sized middle-weight jockey.

"Tell that Greek-Coutlass his name is-to come here."

With his tongue stuck into his cheek and a wink at us the guard obeyed.

"He says for you to go to 'ell, sir!" he reported after a moment's interview.

"Very well. Arrest him!"

"He'll need help," I interrupted. "My two friends and I-"

"Oh, dear no," said the official. "He is fully up to his work."

So we moved our chairs into position for a better view.

The guard advanced fox-terrierwise to within about six paces of

Coutlass.

"Up with both your 'ands, Thermopylea!" he snapped. "Your bloomin' reckonin's come!"

Coutlass showed tobacco-stained teeth for answer, and his friends rutched their chairs clear of the table, ready for action. Yet they were taken unawares. With a terrier's speed the guard pounced on Coutlass, seized him by the hair and collar, hurled him, chair and all, under a side-table, and was on the far side of the table kicking his prostrate victim in the ribs before either Greek or Goanese-likewise upset in the sudden onslaught-could gather themselves and interfere.

The Goanese was first on his feet. He hurled a soda-water bottle. The guard ducked and the bottle smashed into splinters on the wall. Before the sound of smashing glass had died the Goanese was down again, laid out by blows on the nose and jugular. Then again the guard kicked Coutlass, driving him back under the table from which he was trying to emerge on all fours.

The second Greek looked more dangerous. His face grew dark with rage as the lips receded from his yellow teeth. He reached toward his boot, but judged there were too many witnesses for knife work and rushed in suddenly, yelling something in Greek to Coutlass as he picked up a chair to brain the guard with. He swung the chair, but the guard met it with another one, dodged him, and tripped him as he passed. In another second it was his turn to be kicked in the ribs until he yelled for mercy. (An extra large dinner and all those assorted drinks in addition to what they had had in the train made neither man's wind good.)

No mercy was forthcoming. He was kicked, more and more violently, until the need of crawling through the door to safety dawned on his muddled wits and he made his exit from the room snake fashion. By that time Coutlass was on his feet, and he too elected to force the issue with a chair. The guard sprang at the chair as Coutlass raised it, bore it down, and drove his fist hard home into the Greek's right eye three times running.

"'Ave you 'ad enough?" he demanded, making ready for another assault.

The Goanese had recovered and staggered to his feet to interfere, but

Coutlass yielded.

"All right," he said, "why should I fight a little man? I surrender to save bloodshed!"

"Put your 'ands out, then!"

Coutlass obeyed, and was handcuffed ignominiously.

"Outside, you!"

A savage kick landed in exactly the place where the Goanese least expected and most resented it. He flew through the door as if the train had started, and then another kick jolted Coutlass.

"Forward, march! Left-right-left-right!"

With hands manacled in front and the inexorable bantam guard behind, Coutlass came and stood before the railway official, who at last condescended not to seem engrossed in his accounts.

"'Ere he is, sir!"

"I suppose you know, my man, that I have magisterial powers on this railway?" said the official.

Coutlass glowered but said nothing.

"This is not the first time you have made yourself a nuisance. You broke dishes the last time you were here."

"That is long ago," Coutlass objected. "That was on the day the place was first opened to the public. There was a celebration. Every one was drunk."

"You broke plates and refused to pay the damage!'

"Officials were drunk. I saw them!"

"The damage amounted to seventeen rupees, eight annas."

"Gassharamminy! All the crockery from Mombasa to Nairobi isn't worth that amount! I shall not pay!"

"Now there's another bill for those drinks you and your friends stole when passengers' backs were turned. I saw you do it!"

"Why didn't you object at the time?" sneered Coutlass.

"Here is the bill: twenty-seven rupees, twelve annas. Total, forty-five rupees, four annas. You may make the manager a present of the odd sum for his injured feelings, and call it an even fifty. Settle now, or wait here for the down-train and go to jail in Mombasa!"

"Wait in this place?" asked Coutlass, aghast.

"Where else? There'll be a down passenger train in a week."

"I pay!" said the Greek, with a hideous grimace.

"Take the irons off him, then."

The guard unlocked the handcuffs and Coutlass began to fumble for a money-bag.

"Give me a receipt!" he demanded, thumbing out the money.

"You are the receipt!" said the official. "An Englishman would have been sent to jail with a fine, and have paid the bill into the bargain. You're treated leniently because you can't be expected to understand decent behavior. You're expected to learn, however. Next time you will catch it hot!"

"All aboard!" called the guard cheerfully. "All aboard!"

"Tears, idle tears!" said Brown of Lumbwa, taking my arm and Fred's.

"Thass too true-too true! They'd have jailed an Englishman-me, f'rinstance. One little spree, an' they'd put me in the Fort! One li'l indishcresshion an' they'd jug me for shix months! Him they let go wi' a admonisshion! It's 'nother case o' Barabbas, an' a great shame, but you can't change the English. They're ingcorridgible! Brown o' Lumbwa's my name," he added by way of afterthought.

"Take advice and get under blankets afore you go to sleep, gents!" warned the guard. All windows were once more opened wide, and every one was panting.

"A job on this 'ere line's a circus!" he grinned. "I'm lucky if there's only one fight before Nairobi! 'Ave your blankets ready, gents! Cover yourselves afore you sleep!"

That sounded like a joke. The sweat poured from every one in streams. The hot hair cushions were intolerable. The dust gathered from the desert stirred and hung, and there was neither air to breathe nor coolness under all those overhanging mountains.

"Get under your blankets, gents!" advised the guard, passing down the train; and then the train started.

I had the upper berth opposite Brown's, where it was hottest of all because of the iron roof. Drunk though he was, I noticed that the first thing Brown did after we had hoisted him aloft was to dig among the blankets like a dog and make the best shift he could of crawling under them. With one blanket twisted about his neck and shoulders and the other tangled about his knees he remarked to the roof that his name was Brown of Lumbwa, and proceeded to sob himself to sleep. He had made the journey a dozen times, so knew what he was doing. I drew on my own blankets, and stifling, blowing out red dust, remembered a promise.

"Will!" I said. "Tell Fred what happened to us in Zanzibar while he and Monty viewed the moon!"

"We agreed not to," he answered, but it seemed to me he might arouse his own enthusiasm if he did tell.

"Who's afraid of Fred?" said I.

That settled it.

"One of you shall tell before you sleep!" Fred announced, sitting up. "Who feareth not God nor regardeth me will blench before the prospect of a sleepless night! Speak, America!"

He took out a cleaning rod from his gun-case, and proceeded to stir Will's ribs and whack his feet. In a minute there was a rough-house-panting, and bursts of laughter-cracks of the cleaning rod on Will's bare legs-the sound of hands slipping on sweaty arms-and

"Murder!" yelled Brown of Lumbwa, waking up. "Murder! Oh, mur-durrr!"

"Shut up, you fool!" I shouted at him. But he only yelled the louder.

"I knew these tears were not for nothing!" he wailed. "It was premonition! Pass me the whisky! Pass it up here! Oh, look! They're at each other's throats! Murder! Oh, mur-durrr! Pass the whisky or I'll come down and kill everybody in self-defense! Murrrrr-durrr!"

They stopped fooling because his idiotic screams could be heard all down the train.

"There," said Brown, "you see, I've saved two worthless lives! Very foolish of me! Pass the whisky! See that I save a little for the morning!"

At that he fell asleep again; and because Fred threatened to start new commotion and wake him unless Will or I confessed at once, Will took up the tale, I leaning over the edge of my berth to prompt him. Fred laughed all through the story, and finally crawled under his blanket again to lie chuckling at the underside of Brown of Lumbwa's berth.

"I don't see what we've scored by telling him," said Will to me.

"We've merely given him a peg to hang jokes on!"

But I knew that now Will had told the story he would not, for very shame, withdraw from the venture until we should have demonstrated that no Lady Saffren Waldon, nor Sultan of Zanzibar, nor Germans, nor Arabs could make us afraid. And it seemed to me that was sufficient accomplishment for one night.

The train's progress slowed and grew slower. The panting of the engine came back to us in savage blasts. We were climbing by curves and zigzags up the grim dark wall of mountains. And as we mounted inch by inch, foot by foot, the air freshened and grew cooler-not really cool yet by a very Jacob's ladder of degrees, but delectable by comparison.

There was something peacefully exhilarating in the thought of rising from the red dead level of that awful plain, littered with the bones of camels and the slaves whom men pinned into the yokes to perish or survive in twos.* As we mounted foot by foot we fell asleep. Later, as we mounted higher, we shivered under blankets. There is a spirit and a spell of Africa that grip men even in sleep. The curt engine blasts became in my dreams the panting of enormous beasts that fought. A dream-continent waged war on itself, and bled. I saw the caravans go, thousands long, the horsed and white-robed Arab in the lead-the paid, fat, insolent askaris, flattering and flogging-slaves burdened with ivory and other, naked, new ones, two in a yoke, shivering under the askari's lash, the very last dogged by vultures and hyenas, lean as they, ill-nourished on such poor picking.

------ * It was the cheerful Arab rule never to release one slave from the yoke if the other failed on the journey, on the principle that then the stronger would be more likely to care for, encourage, and drive the weaker. ------

Then I saw elephants in herds five thousand strong that screamed and stormed and crashed, flattening out villages in rage that man should interfere with them-in fear of the ruthless few armed men with rifles in their rear. Whole herds crashed pell-mell through artfully staged undergrowth into thirty-foot-deep pits, where they lingered and died of thirst, that Arabs (who sat smoking within hail until they died) might have the ivory.

And all I saw in my dream was nothing to the things I really was to see. None of the cruelty of man, none of the rage and fear of animal have vanished yet from Africa. Some of the cruelty is more refined; some of the herds are smaller; some good is making headway but Africa is unchanged on the whole. It is a land of nightmares, with lovely oases and rare knights errant; a land whose past is gloom, whose present is twilight and uncertainty, but whose future under the rule of humane men is immeasurable, unimaginable.

In my dream din followed crash and confusion until the engine's screaming at last awoke me. My blanket had fallen to the floor and I was shivering from cold. I jumped down to recover it and realized it was dawn already. We were bowling along at a fine pace past green trees and undulating veld, and I wondered why the engine should keep on screaming like a thing demented. I knelt on Fred's berth to lean from the window and look ahead. We were going round a slight curve and I could see the track ahead for miles.

Three hundred yards away a full-grown rhinoceros stood planted on the track, his flank toward us and his interest fixed on anything but trains. He was sniffing the cool morning, looking the other way.

"Wake up, you fellows!" I yelled, and Fred and Will put their heads through the window beside me just in time to see the rhino take notice of the train at last. When the engine was fifty yards from him he wheeled, took a short-sighted squint at it, sniffed, decided on war, and charged. The engineer crowded on steam.

"He's a game enough sport!" chuckled Fred.

"He's a fool!" grinned Will.

He was both, but he never flinched. He struck the cow-catcher head-on and tried to lift it sky-high. The speed and weight of the engine sent him rolling over and over off the track, and the shock of the blow came backward along the train in thunderclaps as each car felt the check. The engineer whistled him a requiem and a cheer went up from fifty heads thrust out of windows. But he was not nearly done for.

He got up, spun around like a polo pony to face the train, deliberately picked out level going, and charged again. This time he hit the car we were in, and screams from the compartment behind us gave notice that Lady Saffren Waldon's maid was awake and looking through a window too. He hit the running-board beside the car, crumpled it to matchwood, lifted the car an inch off the track, but failed to disrail us. The car fell back on the metal with a clang, and the rhino recoiled sidewise, to roll over and over again. This time the impetus sent him over the edge of a gully and we did not doubt he was dead at the bottom of it.

The guard stopped the train and came running to see what the damage amounted to.

"Any gent got his rifle handy?" he shouted. "The train's ahead o' time. There's twenty minutes for sport!"

We dived for our rifles, but Coutlass had his and was on the track ahead of us, his eye a ghastly sight from the guard's overnight attentions, his face the gruesome color of the man who has eaten and drunk too much, but his undamaged eye ablaze, and nothing whatever the matter with his enthusiasm.

"Give me a cartridge-a cartridge, somebody!" he yelled. "Gassharamminy!

He's not dead! I saw him kick as he went over the edge legs upwards!

Give me one cartridge and I'll finish him!"

By that time every male passenger was out on the track, some in night-shirts, some in shirts and pants, some with next-to-nothing at all on, but nearly all with guns. Somebody gave Coutlass a handful of cartridges that fitted his Mauser rifle and he was off in the lead like a hero leading a forlorn hope, we after him. We searched high and low but lost all trace of the rhino, and at the end of half an hour the engine's whistle called us back. There were blood and hair all over the engine-blood and hair on our car, but the rhino had been as determined in defeat as in attack, and if he died of his wounds he contrived to do it alone and in dignity.

"That leaves Coutlass with six cartridges," said I, overtaking Fred.

"Let's hope their owner asks for them back."

The owner did ask for them. He stood with his hand out by the door of the Greek's compartment.

"You didn't use those cartridges," he said.

"But I will!" sneered Coutlass. "Out of my way!"

He sprang for his door and slammed it in the man's face, and the other

Greek and the Goanese jeered through the window. I caught sight of

Hassan beside them looking gray, as unhappy black men usually do. Will

saw him too.

"The cannibal's ours," he said, "supposing we want him and play our cards kind o' careful."

The next thing to delay the train was an elephant, who walked the track ahead of us and when the engine whistled only put on speed. Hypnotized by the tracks that reached in parallel lines to the horizon, with trunk outstretched, ears up, and silly tail held horizontally he set himself the impossible task of leaving us behind. The more we cheered, the more the engine screamed, the fiercer and less dignified became his efforts; he reached a speed at times of fourteen or fifteen miles an hour, and it was not until, after many miles, he reached a culvert he dared not cross that he switched off at right angles. Realizing then at last that the train could not follow him to one side he stood and watched us pass, red-eyed, blown and angry. He had only one tusk, but that a big one, and the weight of it caused him to hold his head at a drunken-looking angle.

"Stop the train!" yelled Coutlass, brandishing his rifle as he climbed to the seat on the roof. But the guard, likewise on the roof at his end of the train, gave no signal and we speeded on. We were already in the world's greatest game reserve, where no man might shoot elephant or any other living thing.

We began to pass herds of zebra, gnu, and lesser antelope-more than a thousand zebra in one herd-ostriches in ones and twos-giraffes in scared half-dozens-rhinoceros-and here and there lone lions. Scarcely an animal troubled to look up at us, and only the giraffes ran.

Watching them, counting them, distinguishing the various breeds we three grew enormously contented, even Will Yerkes banishing depression. Obviously we were in a land of good hunting, for the strictly policed reserve had its limits beyond which undoubtedly the game would roam. The climate seemed perfect. There was a steady wind, not too cold or hot, and the rains were recent enough to make all the world look green and bounteous.

To right and left of us-to north and south that is-was wild mountain country, lonely and savage enough to arouse that unaccountable desire to go and see that lurks in the breast of younger sons and all true-blue adventurers. We got out a map and were presently tracing on it with fingers that trembled from excitement routes marked with tiny vague dots leading toward lands marked "unexplored." There were vast plateaus on which not more than two or three white men had trodden, and mountain ranges almost utterly unknown-some of them within sight of the line we traveled on. If the map was anything to go by we could reach Mount Elgon from Nairobi by any of three wild roads. Fred and I underscored the names of several places with a fountain pen.

"And say!" said Will. "Look out of the window! If we once got away into country like that, who could follow us!"

"But you can't get away!" said a. weary voice from the upper berth. "I'm Brown of Lumbwa. That's my name, gents, and I know, because I tried! Thought I was sound asleep, didn't you! Well, I weren't! Listen to me, what happens. You start off. They get wind of it. They send the police helter-skelter hot-foot after you-native police-no officer-Masai they are, an' I tell you those Masai can make their sixty miles a day when they're minded an' no bones about it either! Maybe the Masai catches you and maybe not. S'posing they do they can't do much. They've merely a letter with 'em commanding you to return at once and report at the gov'ment office. And o' course-bein' ignorant, same as me, an' hot-headed, an' eager-you treat that contumelious an' tip the Masai the office to go to hell. Which they do forthwith. They're so used to bein' told to go to hell by wishful wanderers that they scarcely trouble to wait for the words. Presently they draw a long breath an' go away again like smoke being blowed downwind. An' you proceed onward, dreamin' dreams o' gold an' frankincense an' freedom."

"Well, what next?" said I, for he made a long pause, either for reminiscence or because of headache.

"Whisky next!" he answered. "I left a little for the morning, didn't I? I almost always do. Hold the bottle up to the light-no, no, you'll spill it!-pass it here! Ah-h-h-gug-gug!"

He finished what was left and tried to hurl the empty bottle through the window, but missed and smashed it against the woodwork.

"'Sapity!" he murmured. "Means bad luck, that does! Poor ole Brown o' Lumbwa-poor ole fella'. Pick up the pieces, boys! Pick 'em up quick-might get some o' poor ole Brown's bad luck-cut yourselves or what not. Pick 'em up careful now!"

We did, and it took ten minutes, for the splinters were scattered everywhere.

"Next time you do a thing like that you shall get out an' walk!" announced Fred.

"That 'ud be only my usual luck!" he answered mournfully. "But I was tellin' how you notify the Masai police to go to hell, an' they oblige. It's the last obligin' anybody does for you. Every native's a bush telegraph-every sleepy-seemin' one of 'em! They know tracks in an' out through the scrub that ain't on maps, an' they get past you day or night wi'out you knowin' it, an' word goes on ahead o' you-precedes you as the sayin' is. You come to a village. You need milk, food, Porters maybe, an' certainly inf'mation about the trail ahead. You ask. Nobody answers. They let on not to sling your kind o' lingo. Milk-never heard o' such stuff-cows in them parts don't give milk! Food? They're starving. It isn't overeating makes their bellies big, it's wind. Porters? All the young men are lame, an' old 'uns too old, an' the middle 'uns too middle-aged-an' who ever heard of a native woman workin' anyhow. Who tills the mtama patch, then? It don't get tilled, or else the women only 'tend to it at tillin' time. Nobody works at anythin' about the time you come on the scene, for work ain't moral, pleasin' nor profitable, an' there you are! As for the trail ahead, lions an' cannibals are the two mildest kind of calamities they guarantee you'll meet."

"You don't have to believe them," I argued. "No man in his senses would start without porters of his own-"

"Who never run away, an' never, oh never go lame o' course!" said Brown.

"Porters enough and to spare," I continued. "And food for a month or two-"

"How are you going to get away right under their noses with food for a month or two?" demanded Brown. "You've got to live off the country after a certain distance. The further you go, the worse for you, for they'll sell you nothing and give you less. By and by your porters get tipped off by the natives of some village you spend a night at. You look for 'em next mornin' and where are they? Gone! There are their loads, an' no one to carry 'em! You've got to leave your loads an' return, an' the police you told so stric'ly to go to hell meet you with broad grins and lead you to the gov'ment office. There the collector, or, what's worse, the 'sistant collector, gives you a lecture on infamy an' the law of doin' as you'd be done by. You ask for your loads back, an' he laughs at you. An' that's all about it, excep' that next time you happen to want a favor done you by gov'ment you get a lecture instead! No, you can't get away, an' it's no use tryin'! If you was Greeks maybe, or Arabs, yes. Bein' English, the Indian Penal Code, which is white man's law in these parts, 'll get you sure!"

Brown of Lumbwa sighed at recollection of his wrongs, turned over, and went to sleep again. The train bowled along over high veld, cutting in half magnificent distances and stopping now and then at stations whose excuse for existence was unimaginable. We stopped at a station at last where the Hindu clerk sold tea and biscuits. The train disgorged its passengers and there was a scramble in the tiny ticket office like the rush to get through turnstiles at a football game at home, only that the crowd was more polyglot and less good-natured.

Coutlass, his Greek friend and the Goanese being old travelers on that route were out of the train first, first into the room, and first supplied with breakfast. Fred and I were nearly last. Brown of Lumbwa refused to leave his berth but lay moaning of his wrongs, and the iniquity of drink not based on whisky. I missed Will in the scramble, and although it was nearly half an hour before I got served I did not catch sight of him in all that time.

I counted eleven nations taking tea in that tiny room and there were members of yet other tribes strolling the platform, holding themselves aloof with the strange pride of the pariah the wide world over.

When Will came in he was grinning, and his ears seemed to stick out more than usual, as they do when he is pleased with himself.

"Didn't I say fat Johnson was ours if we'd play our cards right?" he demanded.

"You mean Hassan?"

"He'd had no breakfast. He'd had no supper. He had no money. The Greeks took away what little money he did have on the pretext that he might buy a return ticket and desert them. They seem to think that a day or two's starvation might make him good and amenable. I found him trying to beg a bite from a full-blooded Arab, and say! they're a loving lot. The Arab spat in his eye! I offered to buy him eats but he didn't dare come in here for fear the Greeks 'ud thrash him, so I slipped him ten rupees for himself and he's the gratefulest fat black man you ever set eyes on. You bet it takes food and lots of it to keep that belly of his in shape. There's a back door to this joint. He slipped round behind and bribed the babu to feed him on the rear step, me standing guard at the corner to keep Greeks at bay. He's back in the car now, playing possum."

"Let's trade him for Brown of Lumbwa," suggest

ed Fred genially. "Call him into our car and kick Brown out!"

"Trade nothing! I tell you the man is ours! Call him, and he'll bargain. Let him be, and the next time the Greeks ill-treat him he'll come straight to us in hope we'll show him kindness."

"Swallow your tea quickly, Solomon!" Fred advised him. "There goes the whistle!"

It was fresh tea, just that minute made for him. Will gulped down the scalding stuff and had to be thumped on the back according to Fred. With eyes filled with water he did not see what I did, and Fred was too busy guarding against counter-blows. The most public place and the very last minute always suited those two best for playing horse.

"Thought you said Johnson was asleep," said I.

"Possuming," coughed Will. "Shamming sleep to fool the Greeks."

"Possuming, no doubt," I answered, "but the Greeks are on. He has just come scurrying out of Lady Saffren Waldon's compartment. The Greeks watched him and made no comment!"

We piled into our own appointed place and sat for a while in silence.

"All right," said Will at last, lighting his pipe. "I own I felt like quitting once. I'll see it through now if there's no ivory and nothing but trouble! That dame can't thimblerig me!"

"We're supposed to know where the ivory is," grinned Fred. "Keep it up! They'll hunt us so carefully that they'll save us the trouble of watching them!"

"I'm beginning to think we do know where the ivory is," said I. "I believe it's on Mount Elgon and they mean to prevent our getting it."

"If that turns out true, we'll have to give them the slip, that's all," said Fred, and got out his concertina. Just as Monty always played chess when his brain was busy, Fred likes to think to the strains of his infernal instrument. One could not guess what he was thinking about, but the wide world knew he was perplexed, and Lady Saffren Waldon in the next compartment must have suffered.

After a while he commenced picking out the tunes of comic songs, and before long chanced on one that somebody in the front part of the train recognized and began to sing. In ten minutes after that he was playing accompaniments for a full train chorus and the scared zebra and impala bolted to right and left, pursued by Tarara-boom-de-ay, Ting-a-ling-a-ling, and other non-Homeric dirges that in those days were dying an all-too-lingering death.

It was to the tune of After the Ball that the engine dipped head-foremost into a dry watercourse, and brought the train to a jaw-jarring halt. The tune went on, and the song grew louder, for nobody was killed and the English-speaking races have a code, containing rules of conduct much more stringent than the Law of the Medes and Persians. Somebody-probably natives from a long way off, who needed fuel to cook a meal-had chopped out the hard-wood plate on which the beams of a temporary culvert rested. Time, white ants, gravity and luck had done the rest. It was a case thereafter of walk or wait.

"Didn't I tell you?" moaned Brown of Lumbwa. "Didn't I say walkin' 'ud be only just my luck?"

So we walked, and reached Nairobi a long way ahead of Coutlass and his gang, whose shoes, among other matters, pinched them; and we were comfortably quartered in the one hotel several hours before the arrival of Lady Saffren Waldon and those folk who elected to wait for the breakdown gang and the relief train.

It was a tired hotel, conducted by a tired once-missionary person, just as Nairobi itself was a tired-looking township of small parallel roofs of unpainted corrugated iron, with one main street more than a mile long and perhaps a dozen side-streets varying in length from fifty feet to half a mile.

He must have been a very tired surveyor who pitched on that site and marked it as railway headquarters on his map. He could have gone on and found within five miles two or three sightlier, healthier spots. But doubtless the day's march had been a long one, and perhaps he had fever, and was cross. At any rate, there stood Nairobi, with its "tin-town" for the railway underlings, its "tin" sheds for the repair shops, its big "tin" station buildings, and its string of pleasant-looking bungalows on the only high ground, where the government nabobs lived.

The hotel was in the middle of the main street, a square frame building with a veranda in front and its laundry hanging out behind. Nairobi being a young place, with all Africa in which to spread, town plots were large, and as a matter of fact the sensation in our corner room was of being in a wilderness-until we considered the board partition. Having marched fastest we obtained the best room and the only bath, but next-door neighbors could hear our conversation as easily as if there had been no division at all. However, as it happened, neither Coutlass and his gang nor Lady Saffren Waldon and her maid were put next to us on either side. To our right were three Poles, to our left a Jew and a German, and we carried on a whispered conversation without much risk.

She and her maid arrived last, as it was growing dusk. We had already seen what there was to see of the town. We had been to the post-office on the white man's habitual hunt, for mail that we knew was non-existent. And I had had the first adventure.

I walked away from the post-office alone, trying to puzzle out by myself the meaning of Lady Saffren Waldon's pursuit of us, and of her friendship with the Germans, and her probable connection with Georges Coutlass and his riff-raff. I had not gone far either on my stroll or with the problem-perhaps two hundred yards down a grassy track that they had told me led toward a settlement-when something, not a sound, not a smell, and certainly not sight, for I was staring at the ground, caused me to look up. My foot was raised for a forward step, but what I saw then made me set it down again.

To my right front, less than ten yards away, was a hillock about twice my own height. To my left front, about twelve yards away was another, slightly higher; and the track passed between them. On the right-hand hillock stood a male lion, full maned, his forelegs well apart and the dark tuft on the end of his tail appearing every instant to one side or the other as he switched it cat-fashion. He was staring down at me with a sort of scandalized interest; and there was nothing whatever for me to do but stare at him. I had no weapon. One spring and a jump and I was his meat. To run was cowardice as well as foolishness, the one because the other. And without pretending to be able to read a lion's thoughts I dare risk the assertion that he was puzzled what to do with me. I could very plainly see his claws coming in and out of their sheaths, and what with that, and the switching tail, and the sense of impotence I could not take my eyes off him. So I did not look at the other hillock at first.

But a sound like that a cat makes calling to her kittens, only greatly magnified, made me glance to the left in a hurry. I think that up to that moment I had not had time to be afraid, but now the goose-flesh broke out all over me, and the sensation up and down my spine was of melting helplessness.

On the left-hand hillock a lioness stood looking down with much intenser and more curious interest. She looked from me to her mate, and from her mate to me again with indecision that was no more reassuring than her low questioning growl.

I do not know why they did not spring on me. Surely no two lions ever contemplated easier quarry. No victim in the arena ever watched the weapons of death more helplessly. I suppose my hour had not come. Perhaps the lions, well used to white men who attacked on sight with long-range weapons, doubted the wisdom of experiments on something new.

The lioness growled again. Her mate purred to her with an uprising reassuring note that satisfied her and sent my heart into my boots. Then he turned, sprang down behind the hillock, and she followed. The next I saw of them they were running away like dogs, jumping low bushes and heading for jungle on the near horizon faster than I had imagined lions could travel.

That ended my desire for further exercise and solitude. I made for the hotel as fast as fear of seeming afraid would let me, and spent fifteen aggravating minutes on the veranda trying to persuade Fred Oakes that I had truly seen lions.

"Hyenas!" he said with the air of an old hunter, to which he was quite entitled, but that soothed me all the less for that.

"More likely jackals," said Will; and he was just as much as Fred entitled to an opinion.

While I was asserting the facts with increasing anger, and they were amusing themselves with a hundred-and-one ridiculous reasons for disbelieving me, Lady Saffren Waldon came. She had, as usual, attracted to herself able assistance; a settler's ox-cart brought her belongings, and she and her maid rode in hammocks borne by porters impressed from heaven knew where. It was not far from the station, but she was the type of human that can not be satisfied with meek beginnings. That type is not by any means always female, but the women are the most determined on their course, and come the biggest croppers on occasion.

She was determined now, mistress of the situation and of her plans. She left to her maid the business of quarreling about accommodations; (there was little left to choose from, and all was bare and bad); dismissed the obsequious settler and his porters with perfunctory thanks that left him no excuse for lingering, and came along the veranda straight toward us with the smile of old acquaintance, and such an air of being perfectly at ease that surprise was disarmed, and the rudeness we all three intended died stillborn.

"What do you think of the country?" she asked. "Men like it as a rule. Women detest it, and who can blame them? No comfort-no manners-no companionship-no meals fit to eat-no amusement! Have you killed anything or anybody yet? That always amuses a man!"

We rose to make room for her and I brought her a chair. There was nothing else one could do. There is almost no twilight in that part of East Africa; until dark there is scarcely a hint that the day is waning. She sat with us for twenty or thirty minutes making small talk, her maid watching us from a window above, until the sun went down with almost the suddenness of gas turned off, and in a moment we could scarcely see one another's faces.

Then came the proprietor to the door, with his best ex-missionary air of knowledge of all earth's ways, their reason and their trend.

"All in!" he called. "All inside at once! No guest is allowed after dark on the veranda! All inside! Supper presently!"

"Pah!" remarked Lady Saffren Waldon, rising. "What is it about some men that makes one's blood boil? I suppose we must go in."

She came nearer until she stood between the three of us, so close that I could see her diamond-hard eyes and hear the suppressed breathing that I suspected betrayed excitement.

"I must speak with you three men! Listen! I know this place. The rooms are unspeakable-not a bedroom that isn't a megaphone, magnifying every whisper! There is only one suitable place-the main dining-room. The proprietor leaves the oil-lamp burning in there all night. People go to bed early; they prefer to drink in their bedrooms because it costs less than treating a crowd! I shall provide a light supper, and my maid shall lay the table after everybody else is gone up-stairs. Then come down and talk with me. Its important! Be sure and come!"

She did not wait for an answer but led the way into the hotel. There was no hall. The door led straight into the dining-room, and the noisy crowd within, dragging chairs and choosing places at the two long tables, made further word with her impossible, even if she had not hurried up-stairs to her room. "What do you make of it-of her? Isn't she the limit?"

The words were scarcely out of Will's mouth when a roar that made the dishes rattle broke and echoed and rumbled in the street outside. The instant it died down another followed it-then three or four-then a dozen all at once. There came the pattering of heavy feet, like the sound of cattle coming homeward. Yet no cattle-no buffaloes ever roared that way.

"Now you know why I ordered you all inside," grinned the ex-missionary owner of the place. I divined on the instant that this was his habit, to stand by the door before supper and say just those words to the last arrivals. I had a vision of him standing by his mission door aforetime, repeating one jest, or more likely one stale euphuism night after night.

"Lions?" I asked, hating to take the bait, yet curious beyond power to resist.

"Certainly they're lions! Did you think you were dreaming? Are you glad you came in when I called you? Would you rather go out again now? Make a noise like a herd of cattle, don't they! That's because they're bold. They don't care who hears them! The day is ours. It used to be theirs, but the white man has come and broken up their empire. The night is still theirs. They're reveling in it! They're boasting of it! Every single night they come swaggering through like this just after sunset. They'll come again just before dawn, roaring the same way. You'll hear them. They'll wake you all right. No trouble in this hotel about getting guests down-stairs for early breakfast!"

"I'll get my rifle and settle the hash of one or two of them before I eat supper!" announced Will, turning away to make good his words. But the proprietor seized him by the arm.

"Don't be foolish! It has been tried too often! I never allowed such foolishness at my place. A party up-street fired from the windows. Couldn't see very well in the dark, but wounded two or three lions. What happened, eh? Why the whole pack of lions laid siege to the house! They broke into the stable and killed three horses, a donkey, and all the cows and sheep. There weren't any shutters on the house windows-nothing but glass. It wasn't long before a young lion broke a window, and in no time there were three full-grown ones into the house after him. They injured one man so severely that he died next day. They only shot two of the lions that got inside. The other two got safely away, and since that time people here have known enough not to interfere with them except by daylight! They'll do no harm to speak of unless you fire and enrage them. They'll kill the stray dogs, or any other animal they find loose; and heaven help the man they meet! But the place to be after six P.M. in Nairobi is indoors. And it's the place to stay until after sunrise! Hear them roar! Aren't they magnificent? Listen!"

The noise that twenty or thirty lions can make, deliberately bent on making it and roaring all at once, is unbelievable. They throw their heads up and glory in strength of lungs until thunders take second place and the listener knows why not the bravest, not the most dangerous of beasts has managed to impose the fable of his grandeur on men's imagination.

We were summoned to the table by the din of Georges Coutlass rising to new heights of gallantry.

"Gassharamminy!" he shouted, thumping with a scarred fist. With a poultice on his eye he looked like a swashbuckler home from the wars; and as he had not troubled to shave himself, the effect was heightened. "What sort of company sits when a titled lady enters!" He seized a big spoon and rapped on the board with it. "Blood of an onion! Rise, every one!"

Everybody rose, although there were men in the room in no mind to be told their duty by a Greek. Lady Saffren Waldon walked to a place near the head of the table with a chilling bow. As usual when night and the yellow lamplight modified merciless outlines, she looked lovely enough. But she lacked the royal gift of seeming at home with the vulgar herd. She could make men notice her-serve her, up to a certain point-and feel that she was the center of interest wherever she might choose to be; but because she was everlastingly on guard, she lacked the power to put mixed company at ease.

Only the ex-missionary at the head of the table seemed to consider himself socially qualified to entertain her. She was at no pains to conceal contempt for him.

"You honor my poor hotel!" he assured her.

"It is certainly a very poor hotel," she answered.

"Do you expect to remain long, may I ask?"

"What right have you to ask me questions? Tell that native to go away from behind my chair. My own maid will wait on me!"

Whether purposely or not, she cast such a chill upon the company that even Georges Coutlass subsided within himself, and, though he ate like a ravening animal, did not talk. Almost the only conversation was between the owner and the native servants, who waited at table abominably and were noisily reprimanded, and argued back. Each reprimand increased their inefficiency and insolence. Natives detest a fussy, noisy white man.

Bad food, indifferent cooking, and no conversation worthy of the name produced gloom that drove every one from table as soon as possible. Even the proprietor, with unsatiable curiosity exuding from him, but no spirit for forcing issues, departed to a sanctum of his own up somewhere under the roof. The boys cleared the tables. The smell of food spread itself and settled slowly. A half-breed butler served countless orders of drinks on trays, and sent them upstairs to bedrooms. Presently we three sat alone in the long bare room.

"Shall we wait for her?" I asked. "Haven't we had enough of her?"

Fred laughed. "She can scarcely cut the throats of all three of us!"

"I said we'd never hear the last of it!" said Will, with a scowl at me.

"Shall we wait for her?" I repeated.

My own vote would have been in favor of going upstairs and leaving her to her own devices. I could see that Fred was afire with curiosity, but guessed that Will would agree with me. However, the point was settled for us by the arrival of her maid, who smiled with unusual condescension and produced from a basket an assortment of drinks, nuts, cigarettes and sandwiches. She spread them on the table and went away again.

We sat and smoked for an hour after that, imagining every moment that Lady Saffren Waldon would be coming. Whenever we yawned in chorus and rose to go upstairs, a footstep seemed to herald her arrival. To have passed her on the stairs would have been too awkward to be amusing.

At last we really made up our minds to go to bed; and then she really came, appearing at the bend in the stairs just as I set my foot on the lower step, so we trooped back to our chairs by the window. She was dressed in a lacy silk negligee, and took pains this time to appear gracious.

"I waited until I felt sure we should not be disturbed," she said, smiling. "Won't you come and sit down?"

We brought our chairs to the table, she sitting at one end and we together at one side, Fred nearest her and I farthest away. She made a sign toward the wine and sandwiches, and offered us cigarettes of a sort I had never seen. Without feeling exactly like flies in a spider's web, we were nervous as schoolboys.

"What do you want with us?" asked Will at last.

She laughed and took a cigarette.

"Don't let us talk too loud. You three men are after the Tippoo Tib ivory. So is the Sultan of Zanzibar. So is the German government. So am I."

She gave the statement time to do its own work, and smoked a while in silence. The strength of her position, and our weakness, lay in there being three of us. Any one of us might let drop an ill-considered word that would commit the others. I think we all felt that, for we sat and said nothing.

"You answer her, Fred," I said at last, and Will nodded agreement.

So Fred got up and sat on the other side of the table, where we could see his face and he ours.

"You haven't answered Mr. Yerkes' question," he said. "What do you want with us, Lady Saffren Waldon?"

"I want an understanding with you. I will be plain to begin with. We all know you know where the ivory is. Lord Montdidier is not the man to connect himself with any wild goose chase. We don't pretend to know how you came by the secret or why he has gone to London, but we are sure you know it, perfectly sure, and for five or six reasons. We are willing to buy the secret from you at your own price."

"Who are 'we'?" asked Fred pointedly, helping himself to nuts.

"The German government, the Sultan of Zanzibar, and myself."

Fred smiled. "Between you you probably could pay," he remarked.

"I will tell you a few hard facts," she said, "now that the ice is broken. You will never be allowed to make full use of your own secret. You have arrived at an inopportune moment, for you and for us. Our plans have been on foot a long time. Our search has been systematic, and it is a mathematical certainty we shall find what we look for in time. We do not propose to let new arrivals on the scene spoil all our plans and disappoint us just because they happen to have information. If you go ahead you will be watched like mice whom cats are after. If you find the ivory, you will be killed before you can make the discovery known!"

"We seem up against it, don't we!" smiled Fred.

"You are! But you can save us trouble, if you will. Name your price. Tell me your secret. Go your way. If your story proves true you shall be paid by draft on London."

"Are you overlooking the idea," asked Fred, "that we might tell the secret to the British government, and be contented with our ten per cent. commission?"

"I am not. You are expressly warned against any such foolishness. In the first place, you will be killed at once if you dare. In the second place, how do you know the British government would pay you ten per cent.?"

"I've had dealings with the English!" laughed Fred.

"Bah! Do you think this is Whitehall? Do you think the officials here are proof against temptation? When I tell you that in Whitehall itself I can bribe two officials out of three, perhaps you'll understand me when I say that all these people have their price! And the price is low! Tell them where the ivory is-lead them to it-and they'll swear they found it themselves, so as to keep the commission themselves! And as for you-you three"-she sneered with the most sardonic, thin-lipped smile I ever saw-"there are lions out here, and buffalo, snakes, fevers, native uprisings-more ways of being rid of you than by choking you to death with butter!"

"Do you suppose" asked Fred, "that Lord Montdidier has no influence in

London, that he-"

"I know he had influence. I should have told you first, perhaps. Lord Montdidier was murdered on board ship. A telegram reached Mombasa yesterday at ten A.M. from up-coast saying that the body of an unknown, Englishman had been picked up at sea by an Arab dhow, with the face too badly eaten by fish to be recognizable. You may take it from me, that is Lord Montdidier's corpse."

The calm announcement was intended to surprise us, and it did, but the result surprised her.

"You she-devil!" said Will. "If you and your gang have murdered that fine fellow I'll turn the tables on you! You go up-stairs, and pray he isn't dead! Pray that corpse may prove to be some one's else! If he's dead I'll guarantee you it's the worst day's work you ever had a hand in! Go up-stairs!"

He flung away the cigarette she had given him and knocked his chair away.

"Sit down, you young fool!" she said. "Don't make all that noise!"

But Will had none of the respect for titles acquired by marriage that made most men an easy mark for her.

"Leave the room!" he ordered. "Go away from us! Just you hope that's a lie about Monty, that's all!"

"Sit down!" she repeated. "I admit I am a little previous. The story is unconfirmed yet. Sit down and be sensible! Something of the sort will happen to all of you unless you three men get religion!"

But Will began to pace the floor noisily, stopping to glare at her each time he turned.

"Is there any sense in protracting the scene?" asked Fred.

"No," she admitted. "I see you are too hot-headed to be reasoned with. But it makes little difference! Fever-animals-climate-sun-flood-accident-natives-there are excuses in plenty-explanations by the dozen! I will say good night, then-and good-by!"

"Yes, good-by!" growled Will, facing her with his back to the stairs.

"You take us for men with a price, do you?"

"All men have a price," she smiled bitterly. "Only it is no use offering flowers to pigs! We must treat pigs another way-pigs, and young fools! And fools old enough to know better!" she added with a nod toward Fred, who bowed to her in mock abasement-too politely, I thought.

Will got out of her way and she went up-stairs with the manner of an empress taking leave of subjects. Fred swept her food and wine from the table and stowed it in a corner, and we sat down at the table again.

"The whole thing's getting ridiculous." he said.

"Why don't we hunt up some official in the morning," I proposed, "and simply expose her?"

"No use," said Will. "She never followed us up here and tried that game without being sure of her pull. Besides-what kind of a tale could we tell without letting on we're after the ivory? I vote we see the game through to a finish."

"Good!" said Fred. "I agree!"

"The only clue we've got," said I, "is Courtney's advice about Mount

Elgon."

"And what Coutlass said in Zanzibar about German East," added Will.

"Tell you what," said Fred, rapping the table excitedly. "Instead of falling foul of this government by slipping over the dead-line, why not run down to German East-pretend to search for the stuff down there-and go from German East direct to Mount Elgon, giving 'em all the slip. Who's got the map?"

"It's up-stairs," I said. "I'll fetch it."

There was nothing like silence in the rooms above. Men were smoking and drinking in one another's rooms. Some doors were open to make conversation easier across the landing, and nobody was asleep. But I was surprised to see Georges Coutlass leaning against the door-post of the room he shared with the other Greek and the Goanese, obviously on guard, but against whom and on whose behalf it was difficult to guess.

"Are you off to bed?" he asked, piercing me with his unbandaged eye.

"Why don't the others go, too?"

It dawned on me what he was after.

"Take the wine if you want it," I said. "None of us will prevent you."

He went down-stairs in his stocking feet, leaving his own door wide. I glanced in. The other Greek and the Goanese were asleep. Hassan lay on the floor on a mat between their cots. He looked up at me. I did not dare speak, but I smiled at him as friendly as I knew how and made a gesture I hoped he would interpret as an invitation to come and attach himself to our party. Then I hurried on, for Coutlass was coming back with a bottle of wine in each hand.

I was five minutes in our bedroom. In a minute I knew what had happened. We had left the door locked, but the lock was a common one; probably the keys of other doors fitted it, and there was not one thing in the room placed exactly where we had left it. Everything was more or less in place, but nothing quite.

I returned empty-handed down-stairs, locking the bedroom door behind me.

"Listen, you chaps!" I said. "While we waited for that woman she and her maid went through our things again!"

"How d'you know it was she?" asked Fred.

"No mistaking the scent she uses. Where's our money?"

"Here in my pocket."

"Good. The map's gone, though!"

Will showed big teeth in the first really happy smile for several days.

"Good enough!" he said. "Let's go to bed now. I'll bet you my share of the ivory they're poring over the map with a magnifying-glass! D'you remember the various places we underscored? They'll think it's a cryptogram and fret over it all night! Come on-come to bed!"

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