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Title:      The Treasure Of The Lake (1926)
Author:     H. Rider Haggard
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Treasure Of The Lake (1926)
Author:     H. Rider Haggard





CONTENTS


PREFACE

I.  KANEKE'S TALE

II.  ALLAN'S BUSINESS INSTINCTS

III.  THE TRIAL OF KANEKE

IV.  WHITE-MOUSE

V.  THE RESCUE

VI.  KANEKE'S FRIENDS

VII.  THE JOURNEY

VIII.  THE ELEPHANT DANCE

IX.  EXPLANATIONS

X.  THE WANDERER

XI.  ARKLE'S STORY

XII.  KANEKE SWEARS AN OATH

XIII.  BEFORE THE ALTAR

XIV.  SHADOW

XV.  LAKE MONE AND THE FOREST

XVI.  KANEKE'S MESSAGE

XVII.  THE GREAT STORM

XVIII.  ALLAN RUNS AWAY

XIX.  THE BRIDAL AND THE CURSE

XX.  FAREWELL



PREFACE


By Allan Quatermain


I cannot remember that anywhere in this book I have stated what it
was that first gave me the idea of attempting to visit Mone, the
Holy Lake, and the Dabanda who live upon, or, to be precise, at
some distance from its shores.  Therefore I will do so now.

There is a certain monastery in Natal where I have been made
welcome from time to time, among whose brethren was a very learned
monk, now "gone down", as the Zulus say, who, although our faiths
were different, honoured me with his confidence upon many matters,
and I think I may add with his friendship.  Brother Ambrose, as he
was called in religion--what his real name may have been I do not
know--a Swede by birth, would have been an archaeologist, also an
anthropologist pure and simple, had he not chanced to be a saint.
As it was he managed to combine much knowledge of these sciences
with his noted and singular holiness.  For example, he was the
greatest authority upon Bushmen's paintings that I have ever met,
and knew more of the history, religions, customs, and habits of the
inhabitants of Southern, Eastern, and South-central Africa--well,
than I did myself.  Thus it came about, our tastes being so similar
on these and other subjects, that when we could not meet and talk,
often we corresponded.

One of his learned letters, which I still preserve, was written to
me many years ago from Mozambique, whither he had gone upon a
journey connected with the missionary enterprises of his order.
From it, for the sake of accuracy, I will quote some passages.

Brother Ambrose says:

"In this island I have come into touch with a man, a rescued slave
whom it was my privilege to baptize and to attend through his last
illness, during which he made many confidences to me.  Peter, as he
was called because he was received into the Church upon the feast
day of that saint, was a man of unusual appearance.  His general
cast of countenance and physique were Arab, and his native language
was a somewhat archaic dialect of Arabic.  His eyes, however, were
large and round, almost owl-like, indeed--by the way, he had a
singular faculty of seeing in the dark--and his handsome features
were remarkable for a melancholy, which I think must have been
inherited and not due to his experiences of life.

"He told me that he belonged to a small tribe dwelling in the
neighbourhood of mountains called Ruga, far beyond a great lake--I
am not sure what lake--which mountains I gathered are not far
distant from some branch of the Congo River in the remote interior.
The home of his tribe, if I understood him aright, was a large
hollow of land enclosed by cliffs.  In the centre of this hollow
lies a big sheet of water surrounded by forest which, he said, is
considered holy.  When I asked him why it was holy, he replied
because on an island in this water dwelt a priestess who is a
Shadow of God, or of the gods, a beautiful woman with many magical
powers, who utters oracles and bestows blessings on her worshippers
(which, being interpreted, means, I take it, a fetish or rather the
head servant of a fetish credited with the power of making rain and
of averting misfortunes).  About this person he told me many
legends too absurd to record, amongst others that she and her
husband, who is the chief of the tribe--for she has a husband--are
sacrificed at a certain age, when her place is taken by another
'Shadow', who is reputed to be her daughter.

"One other thing he told me which I am sure will interest you very
much; indeed, although I am very busy, I write this letter chiefly
in order to pass on the superstition, or legend, or whatever it may
be, before I forget exactly what he said.  You and I have often
discussed the mysteries of the African forms of taboo.  Well, Peter
described a variety of it that was quite new to me.  He declared
that to his tribe ALL wild game are taboo and may not be killed or
eaten by any member of the tribe, who, it seems, are largely
vegetarians, but supplement this diet with the flesh of goats and
cattle, of which they possess many herds.  Nor is this all, for he
assured me further that his people exercised great power over these
untamed beasts, living with them on the same terms of familiarity
as we do with dogs and horses and other domestic animals.  Thus he
asserted positively that they can send them away to or call them
back from any given spot, and make them do their bidding in various
other fashions, even to the extent of being able to cause them to
attack anyone they choose.

"I tried to extract from him what he believed to be the reason for
this alleged remarkable authority over the wild fauna of his
country, but all I could make out was that the priests taught some
form of the old Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis (as you
know, not uncommon in Africa, especially when tyrannical chiefs are
concerned); I mean that the souls of men, particularly of those who
had led evil lives, are reborn in the bodies of beasts, which
beasts are therefore, in a sense, their kin, and on this account
feared and venerated.

"It was extremely curious to hear these pre-Christian delusions
from the mouth of a modern African native, and I wonder very much
if his story has any faint foundation in fact.  Probably not, but,
my dear friend, if ever you get the chance in the course of your
explorations, DO try to find out.  You know that, like you, I hold
that scattered here and there through the vast expanse of Africa
are the remains of peoples who still preserve fragments of ancient
systems and religions, such as the Babylonian star-worship or that
of the gods of old Egypt."


Then the letter goes on to tell of the decease of Peter, before
Brother Ambrose could further pursue his inquiries about a carving
that he had discovered somewhere on the East Coast, which he
thought must have been executed by Bushmen in the remote past;
although there is, or was, no other evidence that they ever lived
so far north.

This incident of the strange story told to Father Ambrose by the
dying native, Peter, remained fixed in my mind, and in the end was
the real cause of the journey described in the following pages.

I should like to take this opportunity to say that on re-reading
this record, which is an expanded version of a diary I kept at the
time, I am not sure that I have succeeded in conveying an adequate
sense of the eeriness that pervaded the Dabanda people and their
country.  No wonder that added to the various humiliations which I
suffered in their land, this unearthly atmosphere, whereof dwellers
in the fetish-ridden districts of Africa have often had experience,
at last got upon my nerves to such an extent that if I had stopped
there much longer I believe I should have gone crazy.

Another thing that I wish to state is that on weighing the
evidence, whatever reasons old Kumpana and others may have given, I
am now convinced that Hans was right and that the real cause which
led them to procure the return of Kaneke to Mone-land, was that
they might execute him in punishment for his crime of sacrilege in
earlier life.  On this I believe they were determined both from
vindictiveness and because, under their iron law, while he lived it
was impossible for the mysterious "Treasure of the Lake" to take
another man to husband, as for their own secret reasons they
desired that she should do.

Lastly, it might be asked why I do not more accurately indicate the
exact geographic position of Mone-land and its holy hidden lake.  I
will face ridicule--especially as I shall never live to feel its
shafts--and make a confession.  Before I left his country, as Arkle
had done in his letter, Kumpana assured me with much quiet emphasis
that if I revealed its exact locality and explained how it could be
reached by any other white man, the results to them, also to myself
and Hans in this or later lives, would be most unpleasant.  I did
not and do not believe him; still, in view of my experience of the
uncanny powers of the Dabanda priests, I thought it wise--well, to
keep on the safe side and on this point to remain a little
indefinite.

Allan Quatermain.




CHAPTER I

KANEKE'S TALE


Now when I grow old it becomes every day more clear to me, Allan
Quatermain, that each of us is a mystery living in the midst of
mysteries, bringing these with us when we are born and taking them
away with us when we die; doubtless into a land of other and yet
deeper mysteries.  At first, while we are quite young, everything
seems very clear and simple.  There is a male individual called
Father and a female called Mother who, between them, have made us a
present to the world, or of the world to us, whichever way you like
to put it, apparently by arrangement with the kingdom of heaven; at
least that is what we are taught.  There are the sun, the moon, and
the stars above us and the solid earth beneath, there are lessons
and dinner and a time to get up and a time to go to bed--in short
there are a multitude of things, all quite obvious and commonplace,
which may be summed up in three words, the established order, in
which, by the decree of Papa and Mamma and the heavens above, we
live and move and have our being.

Then the years go by, the terrible, remorseless years that bear us
as steadily from the cradle to the grave as a creeping glacier
bears a stone.  With every one of them, after the first fifteen or
so when we become adult, or in some instances earlier if we chance
to be what is called "rather unusual", a little piece of the
curtain is rolled up or a little hole is widened in the veil, and
beneath that curtain, or through that enlarging hole, we see the
mysteries moving in the dusk beyond.  So swiftly do they come and
go, and so dark is the background, that we never discern them
clearly.  There, if time is given to us to fix them in our minds,
they appear; for a moment they are seen, then they are gone, to be
succeeded by others even yet more wondrous, or perhaps more awful.

But why go on talking of what is endless and unfathomable?  Amidst
this wondrous multitude of enigmas we poor, purblind, slow-witted
creatures must make our choice of those we wish to study.  Long ago
I made mine, one local and terrestrial, namely the land with which
I have been connected all my life--Africa--and the other universal
and spiritual, namely human nature.  What! some may ask, do you
call human nature spiritual?  The very words belie you.  What is
there spiritual about that which is human?

My friend, I answer, in my opinion, my most humble and fallible
opinion, almost everything.  More and more do I become convinced
that we are nearly all spirit, notwithstanding our gross apparent
bodies with their deeds and longings.  You have seen those coloured
globes that pedlars sell--I mean the floating things tinted to this
hue or that, that are the delight of children.  The children buy
these balls and toss them into the air, where they travel one way
or the other, blown by winds we cannot see, till in the end they
burst and of each there remains nothing but a little shrivelled
skin, a shred of substance, which they are told is made from the
gum of a tree.  Well, to my fancy that expanded skin or shred is a
good symbol of the human body, so large and obvious to the sight,
yet driven here and there by the breath of circumstance and in the
end destroyed.  But what was within it which escapes at last and is
no more seen?  To my mind the gas with which the globe was filled
represents the spirit of man, imprisoned for a while; then to all
appearance lost.

I dare say that the example is faulty; still, I use it because it
conveys something of my idea.  So, good or bad, I let it stand and
pass on to an easier theme, or at any rate one easier to handle,
namely that of the mysteries of the great continent of Africa.

Now all the world is wonderful, but surely among its countries
there is none more so than Africa; no, not even China the
unchanging, or India the ancient.  For this reason, I think: those
great lands have always been more or less known to their own
inhabitants, whereas Africa, as a whole, from the beginning was and
still remains unknown.

To this day great sections of its denizens are quite ignorant of
other sections, as much so as was mighty Egypt of the millions of
the neighbouring peoples in the time when a voyage to the Land of
Punt, which I take to have been the country that we now know as
Uganda, was looked upon as a marvellous adventure.  Again, there is
the instance of Solomon, or rather Hiram and his gold traffic with
Ophir, the dim and undefined, that doubtless was the district lying
at the back of Sofala.  But why multiply such examples, of which
there are many?  And if this is true of Africa, the Libya of the
early world, as a country, is it not still more true of its
inhabitants, divided as these are into countless races, peoples,
and tribes, each of them with its own gods or ancestral spirits,
language, customs, traditions, and mental outlook established in
the passage of innumerable ages?

So far as my small experience goes, for though many might think it
large it is still small, these are my opinions which I venture to
state as an opening to what I have always considered a very curious
history, in which it was my fortune to play some small and humble
part.  For let it be understood at once that I was by no means the
chief actor in this business.  Indeed, I was never more than an
agent, a kind of connecting wire between the parties concerned, an
insignificant bridge over which their feet travelled to certain
ends that I presume to have been appointed by Fate.  Still, I saw
much of the play and now, when the curtain has been long rung down,
by help of the diary I kept at the time and have preserved, I will
try to record such memories of it as remain to me--well, because
rightly or wrongly I think that they are worth recording.



Years ago, accompanied by my servant Hans, the old and faithful
Hottentot with whom I have experienced so many adventures, I made a
great journey to what I may almost call Central Africa, starting in
from the East Coast.  It was a hazardous adventure into which I had
been led by tales that had reached me of the enormous herds of
elephants to be found in what I suppose must now be the north of
the Belgian Congo.  Or perhaps it is still No Man's Land as it was
in those days--really, I do not know.  Nor is this wonderful,
seeing that with a single exception I believe that I was the first
white man to set foot in that particular district which lies beyond
the Lado mountains north of Jissa and of the Denbo River.

To be truthful, however, it was not only the elephants that took me
to these parts, guessing, as I did, that if I found them it might
be of little avail, since probably ivory in bulk would prove
impossible to carry.  No, it was rather the desire to look upon new
things, to discover the Unknown which is so strong a part of my
nature, that at times it half reconciles me to the prospect of
death which I, who believe that we do not go out, believe also must
be a land or a state full of all that is strange and wonderful.

I had heard from natives in the neighbourhood of the great lake
Victoria Nyanza that there was a marvellous country between two
rivers known as M'bomu and Balo, where dwelt strange tribes who
were said to dress like Arabs and to talk a sort of Arabic; also
that somewhere in this country was a holy lake, a big sheet of
water that none was allowed to approach.  Further, that in this
lake, which was called Mone (pronounced like groan), a word of
unknown meaning, was an island "where dwelt the gods", or the
spirits, for the term used was capable of either interpretation.

Now, when I heard of this Holy Lake called Mone, "where dwelt the
gods", at once my mind went back to the letter of which I have
spoken in the preface of this book, that long years before I had
received from my late friend, Brother Ambrose, telling me what he
had learned from a slave whom he had christened.

Could it be the same, I wondered, as that of which the slave had
told Brother Ambrose?  Instantly, and with much suppressed
excitement, I set to work to make further inquiries, and was
informed that a certain Kaneke, a stranger who had been a slave and
was now the chief or captain of an Arab settlement some fifty miles
away from where I met these natives, could give me information
about the lake, inasmuch as he was reported to be born of the
people who dwelt upon its borders.

Then and there I changed my plans, as indeed was convenient to me
because of the suddenly developed hostility of a chief through
whose territory I had intended to pass, and in order to seek out
this Kaneke, took a road running in another direction to that which
I had designed to travel.  Little did I guess at the time that
Kaneke was seeking ME out and that the natives who told me the
legend of the lake were, in fact, his emissaries sent to tempt me
to visit him, or that it was he who had incited the chief against
me in order to block my path.

Well, in due course I reached Kaneke-town, as it was called,
without accident, for although between me and it dwelt a very
dangerous tribe whom at first I had purposed to avoid, all at once
their chief and headman became friendly and helped me in every way
upon my journey.  Kaneke, a remarkable person whom I will describe
later, received me well, giving me a place to camp outside his
village and all the food that we required.  Also he proved
extraordinarily communicative, telling me directly that he belonged
to a tribe called Dabanda, which had its home in the wild parts
whereof I have spoken.  He added that he was the "high-born" son of
a great doctor or medicine-man, a calling which all his family had
followed for generations.  In some curious way, of which I did not
at first learn the details, while undergoing his novitiate as a
doctor or magician, this man had been seized by a rival tribe, the
Abanda, and ultimately sold as a slave to an Arab trader, one
Hassan, who brought him down to the neighbourhood of the great
lake.

Here also, according to his own story, it seemed that one night
this Kaneke succeeded in murdering Hassan.

"I crept on him in the night.  I got him by the throat.  I choked
the life out of him," he said, twitching his big hands, "and as he
died I whispered in his ear of all the cruel things he had done to
me.  He made signs to me, praying for mercy, but I went on till I
had killed him, whispering to him all the while.  When he was dead
I took his body and threw it out into the bush, having first
stripped him.  There a lion found it and bore it away, for in the
morning it was gone.  Then, Macumazahn" (that is the native name by
which I, Allan Quatermain, am known in Africa, and which had come
with me to these parts), "I played a great game, such as you might
have done, O Watcher-by-Night.  I returned to the tent of Hassan
and sat there thinking.

"I heard the lion, or lions come, for I think there was more than
one of them, as I was sure that they would come who had called them
by a charm, and guessed that they had eaten or carried away Hassan
the evil.  When all was quiet I dressed myself in the robes of
Hassan.  I found his gun, which on the journey he had taught me to
use, that I might shoot the slaves who could travel no farther for
him; his pistol also, and saw that they were loaded.  Then I sat
myself upon his stool and waited for the light.

"At the dawn one of his women crept into the tent to visit him.  I
seized her.  She stared at me, saying:

"'You are not my master.  You are not Hassan.'

"I answered, 'I am your master.  I am Hassan, whose face the
spirits have changed in the night.'

"She opened her mouth to cry out.  I said:

"'Woman, if you try to scream, I will kill you.  If you are quiet I
will take you.  Look on me.  I am young.  Hassan was old.  I am a
finer man, you will be happier with me.  Choose now.  Will you die,
or live?'

"'I will live,' she said, she who was no fool.

"'Then I am Hassan, am I not?' I asked.

"'Yes,' she said, 'you are Hassan and my lord.  I am sure of it
now.'

"For I tell you, that woman had wit, Macumazahn, and I was sorry
when, two years afterwards, she died.

"'Good,' I said.  'Now, when the servants of Hassan come you will
swear that I am he and no other, remembering that if you do not
swear you die.'

"'I will swear,' she answered.

"Presently the headman of Hassan came, a big fat fellow who was
half an Arab, to bring him his morning drink.  I took it and drank.
The light of the rising sun struck into the tent.  He saw and
started back.

"'You are not Hassan,' he said.  'You are the slave Kaneke, whom we
bought.'

"'I am Hassan,' I answered.  'Ask my wife here, whom you know, if I
am not Hassan.  Also, if I am not, where is Hassan?'

"'Yes, he is Hassan, my husband,' broke in the woman.

"'This is witchcraft!' he cried, and ran away.

"'Now he is gone to fetch the others,' I said to the woman.
'Fasten back the sides of the tent that I may see, and give me the
guns.'

"She obeyed, though then she sat exposed, and I took the double-
barrelled gun and held it ready.

"Presently, they all came, five or six Arabs, or half Arabs, and a
score or so of black soldiers.  Even the slaves came, dragging
their yokes, fifty or more of them of whom perhaps thirty were men,
all known to me, for had we not shared the yoke?  There they stood
huddled together behind the Arabs, staring.

"'Take a knife,' I whispered to the woman; 'slip out, get among the
slaves and cut the thongs of the yokes.'

"She nodded--have I not told you that girl had wits, Macumazahn?--
and slipped away.

"Cried the fat one, the captain:

"'This fellow, whom we all know for Kaneke, the slave whom we
bought, says that he is Hassan our lord.  Yes, there he sits in
Hassan's robes and says that he is Hassan.  Dog, where is Hassan?'

"'Inside this garment,' I answered.  'Listen.  I made a bargain
with Hassan, I who am a wizard.  I forgave him his sins against me,
and in return he gave me his soul while his body flew away to
Paradise.'

"'The liar!' shouted the captain.  'Kill him!' and he brandished a
spear.

"'Admit that I am Hassan or I will send you to where you will learn
that I am no liar,' I said quietly.

"In answer he lifted the spear to stab me.  Then I shot him dead.

"'Now am I Hassan?' I asked, while the rest stared at him.

"One or two who were frightened said 'Yes'.  Others stood silent,
and a big fellow began to put a cap upon his gun.  I shot him with
the other barrel, then, rising, roared in a great voice:

"'On to them, slaves, if you would be free!' for by now I saw that
the woman had cut many of the thongs.

"Those men were brave, they came of good stock.  They heard, and
leapt on to the Arabs with a shout, knocking them down with the
yokes and throttling them with their hands.  Soon it was over.
Most of them were killed, but two or three crawled before me crying
that I was certainly Hassan.

"'Very well,' I said.  'Take away these'--here I pointed to the
dead men--'and throw them into yonder ravine, and bid the women
prepare food while I make prayer according to my custom.'

"Then I took Hassan's beautiful prayer-rug, spread it and made
obeisance in the proper fashion, muttering with my lips as I had
often watched him do; after which everything went smoothly.  That
is all the story, Macumazahn."

When he had finished this tale, which, true or false, of its sort
was remarkable even in equatorial Africa, where such things happen,
or happened, by the score without anybody hearing of them, I sat
awhile considering Kaneke.

To tell the truth he was worth study.  A giant of a man in size, he
was not a negro by any means, for his features had a somewhat
Semitic cast and he was yellow-hued rather than black.  Moreover,
he had hair, not wool, wavy hair that he wore rather long.  His
eyes were so prominent, round, and lustrous that they gave an owl-
like cast to his countenance, his features well cut, although the
lips were somewhat coarse and the nose was hooked like a hawk's
beak, while his hands and feet were thin and shapely, and in
curious contrast to his great athletic frame and swelling muscles.
His age might have been anything between thirty-five and forty, and
he carried his years well, moving with the swing and vigour of
youth.

It was his face, however, that commanded my attention as a student
of character.  It was extraordinarily strong and yet dreamy, almost
mystical, indeed, when in repose, the face of a thinker, or even of
a priest.  Contemplating him I could almost believe the strange
tale he had told me, which in the case of most natives I should
have set down as an outrageous lie.  For here, without doubt, was a
man who could conceive a plot of the sort and execute it without
hesitation.  Yet he was one to whom I took a dislike from the
moment I set eyes upon him.  Instinctively, however attractive he
might be in some ways, I felt that at bottom he was dangerous and
not to be trusted.  Still, he interested me very much, as did his
story, especially that part of it in which he said that he called
the lions "by a charm".

"What happened afterwards, Kaneke?" I asked at last.

"Oh, very little, Macumazahn.  I became Hassan, though they called
me 'the Changeling'; that is all.  I did not travel on towards the
coast because I thought it safer to stop where I was, not daring to
go either forward or back.  So I gathered people about me and
founded the town in which you are.  Once some Arabs came to kill
me, but I killed them, and after that I was no more molested,
because, you see, I was looked upon as a ghost-man, one who had a
great ju-ju, one not to be touched; and all were afraid of me."

"You mean you became a witch-doctor again, Kaneke."

"Yes, Macumazahn.  Or, rather, I was that already, a diviner and a
master of spells, like my fathers before me.  So here I set up as a
sort of wise man as well as a warrior, and soon gained a great
repute, which caused all the people round about to send to me to
give them medicines and charms, or to make rain.  Thus, and with
the help of trade, I became rich and powerful as I am today."

"Then you are a happy man, Kaneke."

He rolled his big round eyes and looked at me earnestly, asking:

"Is any man happy, Macumazahn, or at least any man who thinks?  The
beasts are happy; can man be happy like the beasts who never look
to tomorrow or to the hour of death?"

"Now that you mention it, Kaneke, I do not suppose that any man is
happy, except sometimes for an hour when he forgets himself in
drink, or love, or war."

"Or when he talks with the heavens," added Kaneke, which I thought
a strange remark.  "Yes, then and in sleep he is sometimes happy
till he wakes to the sorrow of the day."

He paused a little and went on:

"If this be so with all men, how much more is it so with those who
have known the yoke and who must grow old far from their homes, as
I do?  For such there is no joy, for even their dreams are haunted.
In these they see the village where they were born and the distant
mountains and the face of their mother, and hear the voices of
their playmates and of those they loved, that now are still."

I sighed as the truth of his words came home to me.

"If you feel thus," I answered presently, "why do you not return to
your home?"

"I will tell you, Macumazahn.  There are many reasons, among them
these.  Here I rule over people who would not wish to go with me
and who, if I forced them, would run away, or perhaps poison me.
Indeed, they would not let me go because I am necessary to them,
protecting them from their enemies and from wild beasts, and giving
them rain, as I can do.  Again, the road is long and dangerous, and
maybe I should not live to come to its end.  Also, if I did, what
should I find?  I was my father's eldest son, born of his chief
wife, and to me he told the secrets of his wisdom that have come
down to us through the generations.  But I have been absent for
years and mayhap another has taken my place.  My people would not
welcome me, Macumazahn.  They might kill me, especially if they who
know all, have learned that I have betrayed my own goddess by
bending the knee to the Prophet, even though I never bent my heart.
Still, it is true that I wish to risk all and return, even if it be
to die."

Now I grew deeply interested, for always I have loved to discover
the mysteries of these strange African faiths.

"Your own goddess?" I asked.  "What goddess?"

All this time we were seated in the shade of a flat-topped, thick-
leaved tree of the banyan species, the Tree of Council it was
called, that grew upon a little knoll at a distance from Kaneke's
town.  He rose and walked all round this place, as though to make
sure that no one was near us.  Then he stared up into its branches,
where he discovered a monkey sitting.  I knew that it was there,
but he did not seem to have noticed it.  At this monkey he began to
shout out something, as though he were giving it orders, till at
last the little beast ran along the boughs of the tree, dropped to
the ground and bolted for the bush in the distance.

"Why do you hunt it away?" I asked.

"A monkey can hear and is very like a man.  Perhaps a monkey can
tell tales, Macumazahn."

I laughed, for of course I understood that this was an African way
of indicating that the matter to be discussed was most solemn and
private.  By driving away that monkey Kaneke was swearing me to the
strictest secrecy--or so I thought.

He came back and moved his stool, I noted, into such a position
that the light of the westering sun striking through the lower
boughs of the tree flickered on my face and left his in shadow.
I lit my pipe leisurely, so that for some time there was silence
between us.  The fact is I was determined that he should be the
first to speak.  It is a good rule with any native when a subject
of importance is concerned.

"You asked me of my goddess, Macumazahn."

"Did I, Kaneke?" I replied, puffing at my pipe to make it burn.
"Oh yes, I remember.  Well, who is she and where does she live?
On earth or in heaven--which is the home of goddesses?"

"Yesterday, Macumazahn, you--or perhaps it was that little yellow
man, your servant Hans--asked me if I had ever heard of a lake
called Mone which lies in the hidden land where dwell my people,
the Dabanda, beyond the Ruga-Ruga Mountains."

"I dare say.  I remember having heard of this lake, which
interested me because of legends connected with it, though I forget
what they were.  What about it?"

"Only that it is there my goddess dwells, Macumazahn."

"Indeed.  Then I suppose that she is a water-spirit."

"I cannot say, Macumazahn.  I only know that she dwells with her
women on the island in the lake, and at night, when it is very
dark, sometimes she and her companions are heard upon the water, or
passing through the forests, singing and laughing."

"Did you ever see her, Kaneke?"

He hesitated like one who seeks time to make up a plausible story,
or so I thought, then answered:

"Yes.  Once when I was young.  I had been sent to look for some
goats of ours that had strayed, and following them into the forest
which slopes down to the lake, I lost myself there.  Night came on
and I lay down to sleep under a tree, or rather to watch for the
dawn, so that with the light I might escape from that darksome,
haunted place, of which I was afraid."

"Well, and what happened?"

"So much that I cannot remember all, Macumazahn.  Spirits went by
me; I heard them in the tree-tops and above; I heard them pass
through the forest, laughing; I felt them gather about me and knew
that they were mocking me.  At length all those Wood-Dwellers went
away, leaving me as terrified as though a lion had come and eaten
out of my bowl.  The moon rose and her light pierced down through
the boughs, a shaft of it here, a shaft of it there, with breadths
of blackness between.  I shut my eyes, trying to sleep, then
hearing sounds, I opened them again.  I looked up.  There in the
heart of one of the pools of light stood a woman, a fair-skinned
woman like to one of your people, Macumazahn.  She seemed to be
young and slender, also beautiful, as I perceived when she turned
her head and the moon shone upon her face and showed her soft, dark
eyes, which were like those of a buck.  For the rest she was clad
in grey garments that glimmered like a spider's web filled with dew
at dawn.  There was a cap upon her head and from beneath it her
black hair flowed down upon her shoulders.  Oh, she was beautiful--
so beautiful . . ." and he paused.

"That what, Kaneke?" I asked curiously.

"Lord, that I committed a great crime, the greatest in the whole
world, the crime of sacrilege against her who is called the
Shadow."

"Shadow!  Whose shadow?"

"The Shadow of the Engoi, the goddess who dwells in heaven and is
shone upon by the star we worship above all other stars."  (This, I
found afterwards, was the planet Venus.)  "Or perhaps she dwells in
the star and is shone upon by the moon--I do not know.  At least,
she who lives upon the island in the lake is the shadow of the
Engoi upon earth, and that is why she is called Engoi and Shadow."

"Very interesting," I said, though I understood little of what he
said, except that it was a piece of African occultism to which as
yet I had not the key.  "But what crime did you commit?"

"Lord, I was young and my blood was hot and the beauty of this
wanderer in the forest made me mad.  Lord, I threw my arms about
her and embraced her.  Or, rather, I tried to embrace her, but
before my lips touched hers all my strength left me, my arms fell
down and I became as a man of stone, though I could still see and
hear. . . ."

"What did you see and hear, Kaneke?" I asked, for again he paused
in his story.

"I saw her lovely face grow terrible and I heard her say, 'Do you
know who I am, O man Kaneke, who are not afraid to do me violence
in my holy, secret grove where none may set his foot?'  Lord, I
tried to lie, but I could not who must answer, 'I know that you are
the Engoi; I know that your name is Shadow.  I pray you to pardon
me, O Shadow.'

"'For what you have done there is no pardon.  Still, your life is
spared, if only for a while.  Get you gone and let the Council of
the Engoi deal with you as it will.'"

"And what happened then?"

"Then, Lord, she departed, vanishing away, and I too departed,
flying through the forest terribly afraid and pursued by voices
that proclaimed my crime and threatened vengeance.  Next day the
Council seized me and passed judgment on me, driving me from the
land so that I fell into the hands of our enemies, the Abanda, who
dwell upon the slopes of the mountains, and in the end was sold as
a slave."

"And how did this Council know what you had done, Kaneke?"

"What is known to the Shadow is known to her Council, and what is
known to her Council is known to the Shadow, Lord."

Now I considered Kaneke and his story, and came to the conclusion,
a perfectly correct one, as I think, that he was lying to me.  What
his exact offence against this priestess may have been I don't know
and never learned in detail, though I believe that it was much
worse than what he described.  All that was certain is that he had
committed some sacrilegious crime of such a character that,
notwithstanding his rank, he was forced to fly out of his country
in order to save his life, and to become an exile, which he
remained.

Leaving that subject without further comment, I asked him who were
these Abanda who delivered him into slavery.

"Lord," he replied, "they are a branch of a people from whom we
separated ages ago and who live on the plains beyond the mountains.
They hate us and are jealous of us because the Engoi gives us rain
and fruitful season, whereas often they suffer from drought and
scarcity.  Therefore they wish to take the land and Lake Mone, so
that the Engoi may once more be their goddess also.  More, they are
a mighty people, whereas we are very few, for from generation to
generation our numbers dwindle."

"Then why do they not invade and defeat you, Kaneke?"

"Because they dare not, Lord; because if they set foot within the
land of Mone a curse will fall upon them, seeing that it and we who
dwell there are protected by the Stars of Heaven.  Yet always they
hope that the day will come when they can defy the curse and
conquer us, who hold them back by wisdom and not by spears.  And
now, Macumazahn, I must go to make my prayer before the people to
that prophet in whom I do not believe.  Yet come to me again when
the evening star has risen, for I have more to say to you,
Macumazahn."

I got up, then said:

"One more question before I go, Kaneke.  Is this Engoi of whom you
speak, who lives in a lake, a woman or--something more?"

"Lord, how can I answer?  Certainly she is a woman, for she is born
and dies, leaving behind her a daughter to take her place.  Also
she is something more, or so we are taught."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that the same flesh or Shadow dwells in every Engoi,
although the flesh which holds it changes from generation to
generation.  There is a legend that she is an angel who sinned and
fell from heaven."

"What is the legend and how did she sin?"

A cunning look came over the face of Kaneke as he answered:

"The priests' tale runs, Lord, that an Engoi of long ago loved a
white man and that when he was forbidden to her, she killed him to
take him to heaven with her.  Therefore she must return to the
world again and again till she finds that white man" (here he
glanced at me) "and makes amends to him for her crime.  She is
looking for him now, and the Stars declare that the time is at hand
when she will find him again."

"Do they really?" I remarked.  "Well, I hope she won't be
disappointed," I added, reflecting to myself that Kaneke was a
first-class imaginative liar, for though the idea of the sinful
spirit returning to inhabit mortal flesh is as old as the world,
his adaptation of it was ingenious.

What, I wondered, as I walked away, did that specious but false-
hearted ruffian Kaneke want to get out of me?  Whatever his object,
certainly the man could not be trusted.  According to his own
account he was a fugitive outcast who had committed murder, one
also who for his personal advantage pretended to profess a faith in
which he admitted that he had no belief, showing thereby that he
was of a traitorous and contemptible character.  So sure was I of
this, that but for one thing I would have put an end to my
acquaintance with him then and there.  He knew the way to Lake Mone
and declared that it was his country.  And I--well, I burned to
find out the truth about this holy lake and the mysterious
priestess who dwelt in the midst of its waters, she, without doubt,
of whom Brother Ambrose had written to me so many years ago.



CHAPTER II

ALLAN'S BUSINESS INSTINCTS


I went to my camp, which was situated upon the outskirts of
Kaneke's village in a deserted garden where bananas, oranges,
papaws, and other semi-tropical products fought for existence in a
neglected confusion, working out the problem of the survival of the
fittest.  Here I found Hans the Hottentot, who had been my servant
and in his own way friend from my youth up, as he was that of my
father before me.  He was seated in front of the palm-leaf shelter
watching a pot upon the fire made of mealie-cobs from which the
corn had been stripped, looking very hot and cross.

"So you have come at last, Baas," he said volubly.  "An hour ago
that coast cook-boy, Aru, went off, leaving me to watch this stew
which he said must be kept upon the simmer, neither boiling nor
going cold, or it would be spoiled.  He swore that he was going to
pray to Allah, for he is a Prophet-worshipper, Baas.  But I know
what his prophet is like, for I found him kissing her last night;
great fat girl with a mouth as wide as that plate and a bold eye
that frightens me, Baas, who have always been timid of women."

"Have you?" I said.  "Then I wish you would be timid of other
things too, gin-bottles, for instance."

"Ah, Baas, a gin-bottle, I mean one that is full, is better than a
woman, for of a gin-bottle you know the worst.  You swallow the
gin, you get drunk and it is very sad, and next morning your head
aches and you think of all the sins you ever did.  Yes, Baas, and
if the gin was at all bad, their number is endless, and their
colour so black that you feel that they can never be forgiven,
however hard your reverend father, the Predikant, may pray for you
up there.  But, Baas, as the morning goes on, especially if you
have the sense to drink a pint of milk and the luck to get it, and
the sun shines, you grow better.  Your sins roll away, you feel, or
at least I do, that the prayers of your reverend father may have
prevailed there in the Place of Fires, and that the slip is
overlooked because Life's road is so full of greasy mud, Baas, that
few can travel it without sometimes sitting down to think.  Now
with women, as the Baas knows better perhaps than anyone, the
matter is not so simple.  You can't wash HER away with a pint of
milk and a little sunshine, Baas.  She is always waiting round the
corner; yes, even if she is dead--in your mind you know, Baas."

"Be silent, Hans," I said, "and give me my supper."

"Yes, Baas; that is what I am trying to do, Baas, but something has
gone wrong after all, for the stuff is sticking to the pot and I
can't get it out even with this iron spoon.  I think that if the
Baas would not mind taking the pot and helping himself, it would be
much easier," and he thrust that blackened article towards me.

"Hans," I said, "if this place were not Mahommedan where there is
no liquor, I should think that you had been drinking."

"Baas, if you believe that Prophet-worshippers do not drink, your
head is even softer than I imagined.  It is true that they have no
gin here, at least at present, because they have finished the last
lot and cannot get any more till the traders come.  But they make a
kind of wine of their own out of palm trees which answers quite
well if you can swallow enough of it without being sick, which I am
sorry to say I can't, Baas, and therefore this afternoon I have
only had two pannikins full.  If the Baas would like to try some--"

Here I lifted the first thing that came to hand--it was a three-
legged stool--and hurled it at Hans, who slipped cleverly round the
corner of the hut, probably because he was expecting its advent.

A while later, after I had tackled the stew--which had stuck to the
pot--with unsatisfactory results, and lit my pipe, he returned to
clear up, in such a chastened frame of mind that I gathered the
palm-wine--well, let that be.

"What has the Baas been doing all the afternoon in this dull
place?" he asked humbly, watching me with a furtive eye, for there
was another stool within reach, also the pot.  "Talking to that
giant rain-maker, who looks like an owl in sunlight--I mean Kaneke--
or perhaps to one of his wives; she who is so pretty," he added,
by an after-thought.

"Yes," I said, "I have--to Kaneke, I mean, not to the wife, whom I
do not know; indeed, I never heard that he had any wives."

Then I added suddenly, for now that he had recovered from the palm-
wine I wished to surprise the truth out of his keen mind:

"What do you think of Kaneke, Hans?"

Hans twiddled his dirty hat and fixed his little yellow eyes upon
the evening sky, then he took the pot and, finding a remaining leg
of fowl, ate it reflectively, after which he produced his corn-cob
pipe and asked me for some tobacco.  This, by the way, I was glad
to see, for when Hans could smoke I knew that he was quite sober.

These preliminaries finished, he remarked.

"As to what was it that the Baas wished me to instruct him?  Oh, I
remember.  About that big village headman, Kaneke.  Well, Baas, I
have made inquiries concerning him from his wife, who says she is
jealous of him and therefore in a mood to speak the truth.  First
of all he is a great liar, Baas, though that is nothing for all
these people are liars--not like me and you, Baas, who often speak
the truth, or at least I do."

"Stop fooling, and answer my question," I said.

"Yes, Baas.  Well, I said that he was a liar, did I not?  For
instance, I dare say he has told the Baas a fine tale about how he
came to settle here, by killing the head of the slave-gang, after
which all the other slavers acknowledged him as their chief.  The
truth is that he and the other slaves murdered the lot of them
because he said he was a good Mahommedan and could not bear to see
them drinking gin against the law, which for my part I think was
clever of him.  They surprised them in their sleep, Baas, and
dragged them to the top of that cliff over the stream, where they
threw them one by one into the water, except two who had beaten
Kaneke.  These he flogged to death, which I dare say they deserved.
After this the people here, who hated the slavers because they
robbed them, made Kaneke their chief because he was such a holy man
who could not bear to see followers of the Prophet drink gin, also
because they were afraid lest he should throw them over the cliff
too.  That is why he must be so strict about his prayers, because,
you see, he must keep his fame for holiness and show that he is as
good as he wishes others to be."

Hans stopped to re-light his pipe with an ember, and I asked him
impatiently if he had any more to say.

"Yes, Baas, lots.  This Kaneke is not one man, he is two.  The
first Kaneke is a tyrant, one full of plots who would like to rule
the world, a lover of liquor too, which he drinks in secret;
fierce, cunning, cruel.  The second Kaneke is one who dreams, who
hears voices and sees things in the sky, who follows after visions,
a true witch-doctor, a man who would seek what is afar, but who,
living in this soft place, is like a lion in a cage.  His mother
must have made a mistake, and instead of bearing twins, got two
spirits into one body where they must fight together till he dies."

"I dare say.  Many men have two spirits in one body.  Is that all,
Hans?"

"Yes--that is, no, Baas.  You know this Kaneke brought you here,
don't you, Baas, and that all those troubles which we met with, so
that we could not go the road we wanted because that tribe sent to
say they would kill us if we did, were made by him so that you
might come to his village."

"I know nothing of the sort."

"Well, it was so, Baas.  The jealous woman told me all about it."

"Why?  What for?  There is no big game here that I can shoot, and I
am not rich to give him presents.  Indeed, he has asked for nothing
and feeds us without payment."

"I am not sure, Baas, but I think that he wishes you to go
somewhere with him; that the lion wants to come out of the cage and
to kill for himself, instead of living on dead meat of which he is
tired.  Has he spoken to you about that holy lake of which we have
heard, Baas?  If not, I think he will."

"Yes, Hans.  It seems that it is in his country where he was born
and that he had an adventure there in his youth, because of which
his people drove him away."

"Just so, Baas, and presently you will find that he desires to go
back to his country and have more adventures or to pay off old
scores, or both.  Do you wish to go with him, Baas?"

"Do you, Hans?"

"I think not, Baas.  This Kaneke is a spook man, and I am afraid of
spooks who always make me feel cold down the back."

Here Hans stared at the sky again, then added:

"And yet, Baas, I'd rather go to the lake or anywhere than stop in
this place where there is nothing to do and the palm-wine makes one
sick, especially as after all, a good Christian like Hans has
nothing to fear from spooks, whom he can tell to go to hell, as
your reverend father did, Baas.  Lastly, as your reverend father
used to say, too, when he stood in the box in a nightshirt, it
doesn't matter what I wish to do, or what you wish to do, since we
shall go where we must, yes, where it pleases the Great One in the
sky to send us, Baas, even if He uses Kaneke to drag us there by
the hair of the head.  And now, Baas, I must wash up those things
before it gets dark, after which I have to meet that jealous wife
of Kaneke's yonder in a quiet place, and learn a little more from
her, for as you know, Baas, Hans is always a seeker after wisdom."

"Mind that you don't find folly," I remarked sententiously.  Then
remembering my promise and noting that the evening star was showing
brightly in the quiet sky, I rose and went through the gate of the
town, for my camp was outside the fence of prickly pears which was
planted round the palisade, thinking as I walked that in his
ridiculous way Hans had spoken a great truth.  It was useless to
bother about plans, seeing that we should go where it was fated
that we should go, and nowhere else.  Doubtless man has free will,
but the path of circumstance upon which he is called to exercise it
is but narrow.

At the gate I found a white-robed man waiting to guide me to
Kaneke's abode, "to keep off the dogs and see that I did not step
upon a thorn", as he said.

So I was conducted through the village, a tidy place in its way, to
the north end, where outside the fence was that cliff with a
stream, now nearly dry, running at the bottom of it over which Hans
said Kaneke had thrown the slave-traders.

Round Kaneke's house, that was square, thatched, and built of
whitewashed clay, was a strong palisade through which the only
entrance was by a double gate, for evidently this chief was one who
took no risks.  At the inner gate my guide bowed and left me.  As
he departed it was opened by Kaneke himself, who, I noted, made it
fast behind me with a bar and some kind of primitive lock.  Then he
bowed before me in almost reverential fashion, saying:

"Enter, my lord Macumazahn, White Lord whose fame has travelled
far.  Yes, whose fame has reached me even in this dead place where
no news comes."

Now I looked at him, thinking to myself for the second time, "I do
wonder what it is you want to get out of me, my friend."  Then I
said:

"Has it indeed?  That is very strange, seeing that I am no great
one, no Queen's man who wears ribbons and bright stars, nor even
rich, but only a humble hunter who shoots and trades for his
living."

"It is not at all strange, O Macumazahn.  Do you not know that
every man of account has two values?--one his public value in the
market-place, which may be much or little; and the other his
private value, which is written in all minds that have judgment.
Nor is it strange that I should be acquainted with this second and
higher value of yours that stands apart from wealth, or honours
cried by heralds.  Have I not told you that I am one of the
fraternity of witch-doctors, and do you not know that throughout
Africa such doctors communicate with one another by curious and
secret ways?  I say that before ever you set foot upon our shores I
knew that you were coming in a ship, also much concerning you.
Amongst others a certain Zikali who dwells in the land of the
Zulus, a chief of our brotherhood, sent me a message."

"Oh, did he?" I said.  "Well, Zikali's ways are dark and strange,
so I can almost believe it.  But, friend Kaneke, is it wise to talk
thus openly here?  Doubtless you have women in your house, and
women's ears are long."

"Women," he answered.  "Do you suppose that I keep such trash about
me in my private place?  Not so.  Here my servants are men who are
sworn to me, and even these leave me at sundown, save for the guard
without my gates."

"So you are a hermit, Kaneke."

"At night I am a hermit, for then I commune with heaven.  In the
day I am as other men are, better than some and worse than others."

Now I bethought me of Hans' definition of this strange fellow whom
he described as having two natures and not for the first time
marvelled at the little Hottentot's acumen and deductive powers.

Kaneke led me across the courtyard of beaten polished earth to the
stoep or verandah of his house, which was more or less square in
shape, consisting apparently of two rooms that had doors and
windows after the Arab fashion, or rather window-places closed with
mats, for there was no glass.  On this stoep were two chairs, large
string-seated chairs of ebony with high backs, such as are
sometimes still to be found upon the East Coast.  The view from the
place was fine, for beneath at the foot of a precipice lay the
river bed, and beyond it stretched a great plain.  When I was
seated Kaneke went into the house where a lamp was burning, and
returned with a bottle of brandy, two glasses, curious old glasses,
by the way, and an earthen vessel of water.  At his invitation I
helped myself, moderately enough; then he did the same--not quite
so moderately.

"I thought that you were a Mahommedan," I said, with an affectation
of mild surprise.

"Then, Macumazahn, you have a bad memory.  Did I not tell you a few
hours ago that I am nothing of the sort.  In the daytime out yonder
I worship the Prophet.  Here at night, when I am alone, I worship,
not the Moslem crescent, but yonder star," and he pointed to Venus
now shining brightly in the sky, lifted his glass, bowed as though
to her, and drank.

"You play a risky game," I said.

"Not very," he said, shrugging his shoulders.  "There are few
zealots in this place, and I think no one who from time to time
will not drink a tot.  Moreover, am I not a witch-doctor, and
although such arts are forbidden, have they not all consulted me
and are they not afraid of me?"

"I dare say, Kaneke, but the question is, are you not also afraid
of them?"

"Yes, Macumazahn, at times I am," he answered frankly, "for even a
'heaven-herd'" (he meant a rain-maker) "has a stomach, and some of
these Great Lake people understand poisons very well, especially
the women.  You see, Macumazahn, I am a slave who has become a
master, and they do not forget it."

"What do you want with me?" I asked suddenly.

"Your help, Lord.  Although I am rich here, I wish to get out of
this place and to return to my own country."

"Well, what is there to prevent you from doing so?"

"Much, Lord, without an excuse, as I told you before sundown.
Indeed, it is impossible.  If I tried to go I should be murdered as
a traitor and a renegade.  That is the tree of Truth; ask me not to
count the leaves upon it and tell you why or how they grow."

"Good.  I see your tree and that it is large.  But what do you want
with me, Kaneke?"

"Lord, have I not told you that your repute has reached me and the
rest?  Now I add something which you will not believe, but yet is
another tree of Truth.  I am not all a cheat, Lord.  Visions come
to me, as they did to my fathers; moreover, I have looked upon the
face of Engoi, and he who has seen the Engoi partakes of her
wisdom.  Lord, in a vision, I have been warned to seek your help."

"Is that why you blocked my road by raising that Lake tribe against
me, and otherwise, Kaneke, so that I was forced to come to your
town?"

"Yes, Lord, though I do not know who betrayed me to you.  Some of
the women, perhaps, or that little yellow man of yours, who hears
in his sleep like a mere-cat--yes, even when he seems to be drunk--
and is quick as a snake at pairing-time.  Because of the vision, I
did bring you here."

"What do you want me to do?" I repeated, growing impatient.  "I am
tired of talk.  Out with it that I may hear and judge, Kaneke."

He rose from his seat, and, stepping to the edge of the verandah,
stared at the evening star as though he sought an omen.  Then he
returned and answered:

"You are a wanderer, athirst for knowledge, a seeker for new
things, Lord Macumazahn.  You have heard of the holy hidden lake
called Mone, on which no white man has looked, and desire to solve
its mysteries, and what I have told you of it has whetted your
appetite.  Without a guide you can never reach that lake.  I, who
am of the people of its guardians, alone can guide you.  Will you
take me with you on your journey?"

"Hold hard, my friend," I said.  "You are putting the tail of the
ox before the horns.  I may wish to find that place, or I may not,
but it seems that you MUST find it, I don't know why, and that you
cannot do so without me."

"It is so," he answered with something like a groan.  "I will open
the doors of my heart to you.  I must seek that lake, for those
upon whom the Shadow has fallen must follow the Shadow even though
its shape be changed; and it has come to me in a dream, thrice
repeated, that if I try to do so without your help, Lord, I shall
be killed.  Therefore, I pray you, give me that help."

Now my business instincts awoke, for though some do not think so, I
am really a very sharp business man, even hard at times, I fear.

"Look here, friend Kaneke," I said, "I came to this country because
I have heard that beyond it is a land full of elephants and other
game, and you know I am a hunter by trade.  I did not come to
search for a mysterious lake, though I should be glad enough to see
one if it lay in my path.  So the point is this: if I were to
consent to undertake a journey which according to your own account
is most dangerous and difficult, I should require to be paid for
it.  Yes, to be largely paid," and I looked at him as fiercely as I
suppose a usurer does at a minor who requires a loan.

"I understand.  Indeed, it is natural.  Listen, Lord, I have a
hundred sovereigns in English gold that I have saved up coin by
coin.  When we get to the lake they shall be yours."

I sprang from my chair.

"A hundred sovereigns!  When we get to the lake, which probably we
shall never do!  Man, I see that you wish to insult me.  Good
night, indeed good-bye, for tomorrow I leave this place," and I
lifted my foot to step off the verandah.

"Lord," he said, catching at my coat, "be not offended with your
slave.  Everything I have is yours."

"That's better," I said.  "What have you?"

"Lord, I deal in ivory, of which I have a good store buried."

"How much?"

"Lord, I think about a hundred bull-tusks, which I proposed to send
away at next new moon.  If you would accept some of them--"

"Some?" I said.  "You mean all of them, with the one hundred pounds
for immediate expenses."

He rolled his eyes and sighed, then answered:

"Well, if it must be so, so be it.  Tomorrow you shall see the
ivory."

Next he went into the house and returned presently with a canvas
bag, of which he opened the mouth to show me that it was full of
gold.

"Take this on account, Lord," he said.

Again my business instincts came to my help.  Remembering that if I
touched a single coin I should be striking a bargain, whatever the
ivory might prove to be worth, I waved the bag away.

"When I have seen the tusks, we will talk," I said; "not before.
And now good night."



Next morning a messenger arrived, again inviting me to Kaneke's
house.

I went, accompanied this time by Hans to whom I had explained the
situation, whereon that worthy gave me some excellent advice.

"Be stiff, Baas," he said; "be very stiff, and get everything you
can.  It is unfortunate that you do not sell women like these
Arabs, for this Kaneke has a nice lot of young girls whom he would
give you for the asking, were you not too good a Christian.
Listen, Baas, I have learned that you can't ask too much, for
yonder Kaneke must get out of this place, and soon, if he wants to
go on living.  I am sure of it, and without your help he is afraid
to move."

"Cease your foolish talk," I answered, though in my heart I had
come to the same conclusion.

On reaching the house, as before the gate was opened by Kaneke, who
looked rather doubtfully at Hans, but said nothing.  Within, for
the most part arranged against the fence, was the ivory.  My eyes
gleamed at the sight of it, for it was a splendid lot though in
some cases rather black with age as if it had been hidden away for
a long time, and among it were three or four tusks as large as any
that I ever shot.  Hans, who was a fine judge of ivory, went over
it piece by piece, which took a long time.  I made a calculation of
its value and from market rates then prevailing, allowing twenty-
five per cent for transport and other costs, I reckoned that it was
worth at least £700, and Hans, I found, put it somewhat higher.

Then we bargained for a long time, and in the end came to the
following agreement, which I reduced to writing: I undertook to
accompany Kaneke to his own country of the Dabanda tribe, unless,
indeed, sickness or disaster of any sort made this impossible,
after which I was to be at liberty to return or to go where I
would.  He, on his part, was to pay me the ivory as a fee, also to
deliver it free to my agent at Zanzibar, a man whom I trusted, who
was to sell it to the best advantage and to remit the proceeds to
my bank at Durban.

Further, the bag which proved to contain one hundred and three
sovereigns was handed over to me.  At this I rejoiced at the time,
though afterwards I regretted it, for what is the use of dragging
about gold in wild places where it has no value?  Kaneke undertook
also to guide me to his country, to arrange that I should be
welcome there and generally to protect me in every way in his
power.

Such, roughly, was our contract which I concluded with secret
exultation while that ivory was before my eyes.  I signed it in my
large, bold handwriting; Kaneke signed it in crabbed Arabic
characters of which he had acquired some knowledge; and Hans signed
it as a witness with a mark, or rather a blot, for in making it he
split the pen.  Thus all was finished and I went away exultant, as
I have said, promising to return in the afternoon to make
arrangements about the despatch of the ivory and as to our journey.

"Hans," I said, for there was no one else to talk to, "I did that
business very well, did I not?  Take a lesson from me and learn
always to strike when the iron is hot.  Tomorrow Kaneke might have
changed his mind and offered much less."

"Yes, Baas, very well indeed, though sometimes if the iron is too
hot the sparks blind one, Baas.  Only I think that tomorrow Kaneke
would have offered you double, for I know that he has much more
ivory buried.  If you had taken a lesson from ME, you would have
waited, Baas.  Did I not tell you that he MUST get out of this
place and would pay all he had for your help?"

"At any rate, Hans," I replied, somewhat staggered, "the pay is
good, as much as I could ask."

"That depends upon what price the Baas puts upon his life," said
Hans reflectively.  "For my part I do not see that all the tusks of
all the elephants in the world are of any use when one is dead, for
they won't even make a coffin, Baas."

"What do you mean?" I asked angrily.

"Oh, nothing, Baas, except that I believe that we shall both be
dead long before this business is finished.  Also have you thought,
Baas, that probably this ivory will never get to the coast at all?
Because you see Kaneke, who, I think, is also good at business,
will arrange for it to be stolen on the road and returned to him
later, just as you or I would have done, Baas, had we been in his
place.  However, the Baas has the hundred sovereigns which no doubt
will be very useful to eat when we are starving in some wilderness,
or as a bribe to Kaneke's fetish, whatever it may be.  Or--"

Here, unable to bear any more, I turned upon Hans with intent to do
him personal injury, whereon he bolted, grinning, leaving me to
wait upon myself at dinner.  It was not a cheerful meal, for, as I
reflected, the little wretch was probably right.  To secure very
doubtful advantages I had to let myself in for unknown difficulties
and dangers, in company with a native of whom I knew little or
nothing, except that he was an odd fish, and whose servant I had
practically become in consideration for value received.  For even
if I never saw that ivory again, or its proceeds, there were the
hundred sovereigns weighing down my pocket--and my conscience--like
a lump of lead.

Most heartily did I wish that I had never touched the business.  I
thought of sending back the gold to Kaneke by Hans, but for various
reasons dismissed the idea.  Of these the chief was that probably
it would never reach him, not because Hans was dishonest where
money was concerned, but for the reason that it would go against
what he called HIS conscience, to return anything to a person of
the sort from whom it had been extracted.  He might bury it; he
might even give it to that jealous wife from whom he acquired so
much backstair information; but Kaneke, I was sure, would never see
its colour unless I took it myself, which I was too proud to do.

Then suddenly my mood changed, transformed, perhaps, by some semi-
spiritual influence, or as is more likely, by that of a good meal,
for it is a humiliating fact that our outlook upon life and its
affairs depends largely upon our stomach.  What a rabbit of a man
was I that I should be scared from a great project by the idle
chatter and prognostications of Hans, uttered probably to exercise
his mischievous mind at my expense.  If I were, and on that account
turned my face towards the coast again, Hans, who loved adventure
even more than I do, would be the first to reproach me, not openly,
but by means of the casual arrows of his barbed wit.  Moreover, it
was useless to run away from anything, for as he himself had said
but yesterday, we must go where Fate drives us.  Well, Fate had
driven me to pocket Kaneke's sovereigns and a kind of note of hand
in ivory, so there was an end of the matter.  I would start for the
home of the Dabanda people, and for the unvisited shores of the
Lake Mone, and if I never got there, what did it matter?  All our
journeyings must end some day, be it next month, or next year, or a
decade hence.

I sent for Hans, who came looking pious and aggrieved, perhaps the
most aggravating of his many moods.

"Hans," I said, "I have made up my mind to go with Kaneke to the
Dabanda country, and if you try to prevent me any more, I shall be
angry with you and send you down to the coast with the ivory."

"Yes, Baas," he answered in a meek voice.  "The Baas could scarcely
do less, could he, after taking that fellow's money, which no doubt
he made by selling girls; that is, unless he wished to be called a
thief.  Moreover, I never tried to stop the Baas.  Why should I
when I shall be glad to go anywhere out of this place, where, to
tell the truth, that jealous little wife of Kaneke who tells me so
much, is beginning to think me too handsome and to roll her eyes
and to press her hand upon her middle whenever she sees me, which
makes me feel ill, Baas."

"You mean you make her feel ill, you little humbug," I suggested.

"No, Baas.  I wish it were so, for then I could think better of
her.  For the rest, Baas, if I pointed out the dangers of this
journey, it was not for my own self, but only because the Baas's
reverend father left him in my charge and therefore I must do my
best to guide him when I see him going astray."

At this I jumped up and Hans went on in a hurry.

"The Baas will not send me away to the coast with the ivory as he
threatened to do, will he?  He knows that in one way I am weak and
perhaps if I was separated from him, grief might cause me to drink
too much of that palm-wine and make myself ill."  Then, reading in
my face that I had no such intention, Hans took my hand, kissed it,
and departed.

At the corner of the cook-house he turned and said:

"The Baas has made his will, has he not?  So I need only remind him
that if he wishes to write any good-bye-we-shall-meet-in-heaven
letters, he had better do so at once, so that they can be sent down
to the coast with the ivory."



CHAPTER III

THE TRIAL OF KANEKE


I will pass over all the details concerning the dispatch of the
ivory on its long road to Zanzibar and our other preparations for
departure.  Suffice it to say that the stuff went off all right on
the shoulders of porters, together with a lot more, for Hans
guessed well when he said that Kaneke had plenty of other tusks
hidden away, although he declared that these belonged to someone
else.  What is more, here I will state that, strange as it may
seem, in due course the ivory reached Zanzibar in safety and was
delivered to my agent, who sold it according to instructions and,
minus his commission, remitted the proceeds, which were more than I
had expected, to my bank in Durban.  So in this matter Kaneke dealt
honestly.

What happened to the remainder of the ivory, which I presume to
have been his, I do not know, nor can it have interested him, as he
never returned to receive its price.  Nor do I know what other
goods went with that caravan which was led by Arabs, for I was
careful not to inquire.

Notwithstanding the insinuations of Hans, I saw no girl slaves, and
imagine them to have been apocryphal.  Indeed, I believe that what
Kaneke really dealt in was guns and powder.  Once a year a caravan
came up from Zanzibar laden with these and other goods, such as
cloth, calico, and beads, returning with the ivory that Kaneke had
collected in the interval.  The money which he made on these
transactions was large and kept in an English bank at Zanzibar, as
I learned in after years.  I wonder what became of it.

Well, the string of porters, headed by Arabs mounted upon donkeys,
departed and were no more seen.  We, too, prepared to depart.  Here
I should explain that my following was limited.  I had with me two
gun-bearers, skilled hunters both of them, who had been strongly
recommended to me in Zanzibar and who, having learned my repute as
a professional big-game shot, which had followed me from the South,
were very glad to enter my service.  One of these men was, it
appeared, an Abyssinian by birth with a name so unpronounceable
that I christened him Tom, though the natives called him "Little
Holes", because his face was marked with small-pox.

The other was born of a Somali woman and an Arab, or perhaps a
European father.  To tell the truth he was remarkably British in
his appearance with a round, open face and almost straight, reddish
hair, although of course--except in certain lights--his skin was
dark.  His name, he informed me proudly, speaking in excellent
English, for he had been educated at one of the first Mission
schools and served as gun-bearer to several English sportsmen, was
Jeremiah Jackson.  Who his father might have been he had no idea,
and as his mother died before he was five, she had never told him.

This man I called Jerry, because of the natural association of the
name with that of Tom, for who has not heard of Tom and Jerry, the
typical "gay dogs" of the Georgian days of whom my father used to
tell me?  Both of them were of about the same age, somewhere
between thirty and forty.  Both were Christians of a sort, for Tom
belonged to the Abyssinian section of that faith, and both were
brave and competent men.  Of the two Tom had the more dash, but
perhaps owing to a European strain of blood Jerry was the cooler
and the more dogged.  Soon I became very friendly with them, but
Hans looked upon them suspiciously, at any rate at first, I think
because he was jealous.

These gun-bearers were well paid, according to the rate of that
day; still, as they had come with me to hunt elephants and not to
make long journeys of exploration, I thought it right to explain to
them my change of plans and to give them the opportunity of
returning to the coast with the ivory if they wished.

Tom said at once that he would go on with me to the end of the
journey, whatever it might be, for he was a born adventurer with
that touch of a mystic in him which I have observed to be not
uncommon among such Abyssinians as I have met.  Jerry, more
cautious, began to talk about his wife, from whom it appeared he
was separated, and his little daughter who was at a Mission school,
which caused Hans, who was present, to make some sarcastic remark
about "family men", who, he said, should stop at home and nurse the
babies.  This caused Jerry to fire up and say that he would come
too and that Hans would see which of them wished to nurse babies
before all was done.

When the matter was settled I thanked them both and told them that
Kaneke had given me a hundred pounds in gold, a sum that, in view
of the dangers of the trip, I proposed to divide into three parts,
one for each of them and one for Hans.  Now they thanked me warmly,
only Jerry remarked that he thought it probable he would never live
to earn his third, for which he was sorry as it would have been an
endowment for his little daughter.

"You are mistaken," I said.  "I propose to give you this money now,
trusting to the honour of you both to stick to me to the end, so
that if there is anyone in whom you put sufficient faith, among
those who are going to the coast with the ivory,"--for this was
before the caravan had started--"you can send it to your friends in
his charge."  They were much astonished and, I could see, touched,
swearing, both of them, Tom who was a Protestant by God, and Jerry
by the Virgin Mary, that they would never desert me, but would see
the business through to the end, whatever it might be.  When they
had finished their protestations I turned to Hans, who all this
while had stood by twirling his hat with a superior smile upon his
ugly little face, and asked him if he did not thank me for his
share.

"No, Baas.  I am not going to take the money, so why should I thank
you for nothing?  I am not a hired man like these two hunters.  I
am the Baas's guardian appointed to look after him by his reverend
father, and when I want anything of the Baas, I take it as a
guardian has a right to do."

Then as he marched off I called after him in Dutch, which the
others did not understand:

"You are a jealous, ill-conditioned little begger, and I shall keep
your share for myself."  This I did until eventually he drew it a
long while afterwards.  I should add that besides Tom and Jerry I
had about twenty native bearers, who agreed, though very
doubtfully, to go on with me and carry the loads.

As the date fixed for our departure drew near, I observed that
Kaneke grew more and more nervous, though exactly of what he was
afraid I could not understand.  He summoned a meeting of the
headmen of his village, at which I was present, and explained that
he proposed to accompany me upon an elephant-shooting trip whence
we should return in due course.  This intimation was very ill
received, although he had added that they could elect one of their
number to act as father of the village during his absence.  They
said that the time was coming when they expected him to pray for
rain, and if he were not there to do so they would get none.

Here I should explain that the religion of these people was a
strange mixture between that of Mahomet and the superstitions of
the East Coast savages.  Indeed a man called Gaika, a truculent,
fierce-eyed fellow, not quite an Arab, for he had a dash of negroid
blood, leapt up and denounced him venomously, ostensibly because of
this proposed journey.

Kaneke, to my astonishment, remained very meek and calm, saying
that he would think the matter over and speak with them again,
after which the meeting broke up.

"What is at the back of all this?" I asked of Hans, who had been
present with me, when we were in our camp again.

"The Baas is very blind," he said.  "Does he not see that this
Gaika wishes to kill Kaneke and take his place?"

I pointed out that if it were so he ought to be glad to get rid of
him out of the town.

"Not so," answered Hans, "for they think he is really going to
gather men from other tribes where his name as a witch-doctor is
great, with whom he will return and put them all to death.  Baas,"
he added in a whisper, "they have a plan to kill Kaneke, whom they
both hate and fear, but they are not quite ready with their plan,
which is why they do not want him to go away."

"How do you know all this--through that woman?" I asked.

Hans nodded.

"Some of it, Baas.  The rest I picked up here and there when I
seemed to be asleep, or when I am asking that old fellow who is
called a Mullah to teach me the religion of Mahomet, which he
thinks I am going to adopt.  Yet, Baas, I sit in that mosque-hut of
his listening to his nonsense and telling him that my soul is
growing oh! so happy, and all the while I keep my ears open and
pick up lots of things.  For they think me very wise, Baas, and
tell me plenty which they would not trust to you."

I looked at Hans with disgust, mixed with admiration, reflecting
that without doubt he had got the hang of the business.  But I said
no more, for that place was a nest of spies.

That afternoon I had sent our porters on to a certain spot about
three miles away, together with the loads.  This I did because I
was afraid lest they should be corrupted and the goods stolen.  So
now only Hans, Tom, and Jerry remained with me in the town.

Next morning Hans brought me my coffee as usual and said in a
casual fashion:

"Baas, there is trouble.  Kaneke was seized while he was asleep
last night.  They broke into his house and tied him with ropes.  It
seems that yesterday afternoon he had a quarrel with one of them
and killed him with a blow of his fist, or with a stone that he
held in his hand, for he is strong as an ox."

I whistled and asked what was going to happen.

"They are going to try him for murder this morning, Baas, according
to their law, and they have sent to ask if you will be present at
the trial.  What shall I say, Baas?"

At first I was inclined to answer that I would have nothing to do
with the business, but on reflection I remembered that if I did so
it would be set down to fear; also that I had taken Kaneke's ivory
and gold and that it would be mean to desert him in his trouble.
So I sent an answer to say I would attend the trial with my
servants.

At the appointed hour we went accordingly, armed, all four of us,
and at the gate of the town were informed that the trial was to
take place at the Tree of Council, which, it will be remembered,
stood outside the village.  So thither we marched and on arrival
found all the population of the place, numbering perhaps three or
four hundred people, assembled around the tree but outside of its
shadow.  In that shadow sat about a dozen white-robed men, elders,
I suppose, whom I took to be the judges, some of them on the ground
and some on stools.

As we advanced through the crowd towards them they stared
doubtfully at our rifles, but in the end I was given a seat on the
right of the Court, if so it may be called, but at a little
distance, while my three retainers stood behind me.  We were not
spoken to, nor did we speak.  Presently the crowd parted, leaving
an open lane up which marched Kaneke with his hands bound behind
his back, guarded by six men armed with spears.  I noted that all
looked upon him coldly as he went by.  To judge by their faces he
had not a friend among them.

Finally he was placed in such a position that he had the judges,
who sat with their backs to the trunk of the tree, in front of him,
with myself on his right, and the audience on his left.  There he
stood quietly, a fine and striking figure notwithstanding his
bonds, taller by a head than any of that company.  Somehow he
reminded me of Samson bound and being led in to be mocked by the
Philistines, so much so that I wondered where Delilah might be.
Then I remembered Hans' tale of the jealous wife and thought that I
knew--which I didn't.  He rolled his big eyes about him, taking in
everything.  Presently they fell upon me, to whom he bowed.  Of his
judges he took no notice at all, or, for the matter of that, of the
people either.

The "Mullah man", as Hans called the priest, opened the proceedings
with some kind of prayer and many genuflexions.  Then Gaika, who
appeared to act as Attorney General and Chief Justice rolled into
one, set out the case at considerable length and with much venom.
He narrated that Kaneke was a slave belonging to some strange
people, who by murder many years before, and cunning, had acquired
authority over them.  Then he proceeded to detail all his crimes as
a ruler which, if he could be believed, were black indeed.  Among
them were cruelty, oppression, theft, robbery of women, and I know
not what besides.

These were followed by a string of offences of another class:
necromancy which was against the law of the Prophet, bewitchments,
raising of spirits, breaches of the law of Ramadan, betrayal of the
Faith by one who was its secret enemy, worship of strange gods or
devils, drinking of spirituous liquors, plottings with their
enemies against the people, midnight sacrifice of lambs and infants
to the stars, and so forth.  Lastly came the immediate charge, that
of the murder of an elder on the previous day.  For all of these
crimes Gaika declared the slave and usurper Kaneke to be worthy of
death.

Having settled his hash in this fashion, he sat down and called
upon the prisoner to plead.

Kaneke answered in a resonant voice that struck me, and I think all
present, as powerful and impressive.

"To what purpose is it that I should plead," he said, "seeing that
my chief judge and enemy has already declared me guilty of more
crimes than anyone could commit if he lived for a hundred years?
Still, letting the rest be, I will say that I am guilty of one
thing, namely of killing a man yesterday in a quarrel, in order to
prevent him from stabbing me, though it is true that I did not mean
to kill him, but only to fell him to the ground; so that it was
Allah who killed him, not I.  Now I will tell you, O people, why I
am put upon my trial here before you, I who have lifted you up from
nothingness into a state of wealth and power.

"It is that yonder Gaika may take my place as your headman.  Good.
He is welcome to my place.  Know that I weary of ruling over you
and protecting you.  What more need I say?  It is enough.  For a
long while you have plotted to kill me.  Now let me go my way, and
go you yours."

"It is not enough," shouted Gaika.  "You, O Kaneke, say that you
would accompany the white hunter, Macumazahn yonder, to shoot
elephants.  It is a lie.  You go to raise against us the tribes to
the north who have a quarrel with us from our father's time, saying
that these seized their young people and sold them as slaves.  We
know that it is your plan and it is for that reason that for years
we have never allowed you to leave our town.  Nor shall you leave
it now.  Nay, you shall stay here for ever while your spirit dwells
in hell, where wizards go."

He ceased, and from the audience rose a murmur of applause.
Whatever his good qualities might be--if he had any--evidently
Kaneke was not popular among his flock.  As the prisoner made no
answer, Gaika went on, addressing the other judges thus:

"My brothers, you have heard.  To call witnesses is needless, since
some of you saw this Kaneke murder our brother yesterday.  Is he
guilty of this and other crimes?"

"He is guilty," they answered, speaking all together.

"Then what should be his punishment?"

"Death," they answered, again speaking all together, while the
audience echoed the word "Death".

"Kaneke," shouted Gaika in triumph, "you are doomed to die.  Not
one among these hundreds asks for mercy on you; no, not even the
women.  Nor have you any children to plead for you, since
doubtless, being a magician, you slew them unborn lest they should
grow up to kill you.  Yet according to the law it is not lawful
that you should be despatched at once.  Therefore we send you back
to your own house under guard, that there you may pray to Allah and
His Prophet for forgiveness of your sins.  Tomorrow at the dawn you
shall be brought back here and beaten to death with clubs, that we
may not shed your blood.  Have you heard and do you understand?"

Then at length Kaneke spoke again.  Showing no fear, he spoke
quietly, almost indifferently, yet in so clear a voice that none
could miss a word, saying in the midst of a deep silence:

"O Gaika, son of a dog, and all the rest of you, sons and daughters
of dogs, I hear and I understand.  So tomorrow you would beat me to
death with clubs.  It may happen or it may not, but if I know I
shall not tell you.  Still, listen to the last wisdom that you
shall hear from my lips.  You are right when you say that I am a
magician.  It is so, and as such I have foreknowledge of the
future.  I call down a curse on you all.  Let Allah defend you if
he can, and will, and Mahomet make prayer for you.  This is the
curse: a great sickness shall fall on you; I think it will begin
tonight.  I think that some who are already sick are seated
yonder," and he nodded towards the crowd, "although they know it
not.  Yes, they began to be sick a minute ago, when the words of
cursing left my lips" (here there was a sensation among the
audience, every one of them staring at his neighbour).  "Most of
you will die of this sickness because after I am gone there will be
none to doctor you.  The rest will flee away.  They will scatter
like goats without a herd.  They will be taken by those whose sons
and daughters you used to steal, and become slaves and die as
slaves."

Then he turned towards me and added, "Farewell, Lord Macumazahn.
If it is fated that in flesh I cannot guide you on your journey to
the place whither you would go, yet fear not, for my spirit will
guide you and when you are come there safely, then give a message
from me to one of whom I have spoken to you, which message shall be
delivered to you, perhaps in the night hours when you are asleep.
I do not ask you to lift your gun and shoot this rogue," and he
nodded towards Gaika, "because you are but one and would be
overwhelmed with your servants.  Nay, I only ask you to hearken to
the message when it comes and to do what it bids you."

Not knowing what to say I made no answer to this peculiar appeal,
although Hans, to judge by his mumblings and fidgets, appeared to
wish me to say something.  As I still declined, with his usual
impertinence he took it upon himself to act as my spokesmen, saying
in his debased Arabic:

"The great lord, my master, bids me inform you, Kaneke, that he is
sorry you are going to be killed.  He tells me to say also that, if
you are killed and become a spook, he begs that you will keep away
from him, as spooks, especially of those who are magicians and have
been put to death for their evil deeds, are not nice company for
anyone."

When I heard this, indignation took away my breath, but before I
could speak a word Gaika addressed me fiercely, crying out:

"White Wanderer, we believe that you are in league with this evil-
doer and plot mischief against us.  Get out of our town at once,
lest you share his fate."

Now this unprovoked assault made me furious, and I answered in the
first words that came to my tongue:

"Who are you that tell lies and dare to talk to me of Fate?  Let my
fate be, fellow, and have a care for your own, which perhaps is
nearer than you think."

Little did I guess when I spoke thus, at hazard as it seemed, that
very soon doom would overtake this ruffian, and by my hand.  Are we
sometimes filled with the spirit of prophecy, I wonder?  Or do we,
perhaps, know everything on our inmost souls whence now and again
bursts a rush of buried truth?

After this the company broke up in confusion.  Kaneke was hustled
away by his guards; men who waved their spears in a threatening
fashion advanced upon us and were so insolent that at last I looked
round and lifted the rifle I carried--I remember that it was one of
the first Winchester repeaters of a sort that carried five
cartridges.  Thereon they fell back and we were allowed to regain
our huts in peace.

I did not stop there long.  Nearly all our gear had been sent
forward with the bearers; indeed, no more of it remained than the
four of us could carry ourselves, although the arrangement was that
some of Kaneke's men should do us this service on the morrow.  As
this was now out of the question we loaded ourselves, also a donkey
that I possessed, with blankets, guns, cooking-pots, ammunition,
and I know not what besides, and started, I riding on the donkey
and looking, as I have since reflected, like the White Knight in
Alice in Wonderland.

Then, keeping clear of the town, we trekked for the place where our
bearers were encamped, reaching it unmolested about an hour later.
This spot, chosen by myself, was on the lowest slope of a steep
hill covered with thorn trees, through which ran a little stream
from a spring higher up the slope.  The first thing I did was to
cut down a number of these thorns and drag them together into a
fence, making what is called a boma in that part of Africa, behind
which we could protect ourselves if necessary.  By the time that
this was done and my tent was pitched, it was late in the
afternoon.  Feeling tired, more, I think, from anxiety than
exertion, I lay down and after musing for a while upon the fate of
the unfortunate Kaneke and wishing, much as I disliked the man,
that I could save him from a doom I believed to be unjust, which
seemed impossible, I fell asleep, as I can do at any time.  In my
sleep a curious dream came to me, which after all was not
wonderful, seeing how my mind was occupied.

I dreamed that Kaneke spoke to me, though I could not see him, but
distinctly I heard, or seemed to hear, his voice saying:

"Follow the woman.  Do what the woman tells you, and you will save
me."

Twice I heard this, and then I do not know how long afterwards, I
woke up, or rather was awakened by Hans setting some food upon the
camp table near the tent.  On going out I saw that it was night,
for the full moon was just rising and already giving so clear a
light in a cloudless sky, that I could see to eat without the aid
of a lamp.

"Hans," I said presently, "what did Kaneke mean when he talked of a
great sickness that was about to smite the town?"

"The Baas observes little," answered Hans.  "Did he notice nothing
among the people of that caravan which took away the ivory?"

"Yes, I noticed that they were a dirty lot and smelt so much that I
kept clear of them."

"If the Baas had come a little closer, he would have seen that two
or three of them had pimples coming all over their faces."

"Small-pox?" I suggested.

"Yes, Baas, small-pox, for I have seen it before.  Also, they had
been mixing with the people of the town who have not had small-pox
for many years, for Kaneke kept it away by his charms, or stopped
it when it broke out.  Baas, this time he did not keep it away, and
quite a number of the townspeople, as I heard this morning, are
feeling bad, with sore throats and headaches, Baas.  Kaneke knew
all this as well as I do and that is why he talked about a
pestilence.  It is easy to prophesy when one knows, Baas."

"Is it easy to send dreams, Hans?" I asked; then before he could
answer I told him of the words I had seemed to hear in my sleep.

For a moment I caught sight of a look of astonishment upon Hans'
wrinkled and impassive countenance.  Then he answered in an
unconcerned fashion:

"I dare say, Baas, if one knows how.  Or perhaps Kaneke sent no
dream.  Perhaps the Baas heard me and the woman talking together,
for she is here and waiting to see the Baas after he has eaten."



CHAPTER IV

WHITE-MOUSE


"A woman!" I said, springing up.  "What woman?"

"Kaneke's jealous wife who likes me so much, she whom they call
White-Mouse because she is so quick and silent, I suppose.  She has
a plan to save that bull of a man, just as the dream said, or you
overheard."

"Then she must be fond of him after all, Hans."

"I suppose so, Baas.  Or perhaps she thinks she will get him back
again now, because some other woman, of whom she is jealous, has
got small-pox, of which she hopes that she will die, or become very
ugly.  At least that is her tale, Baas."

"I will see her at once," I said.

"Best eat your supper first, Baas; it is always wise to keep women
waiting a while, for that makes them think more of you."

Knowing that Hans always had a reason for what he said, even when
he seemed to be talking the most arrant nonsense, I took his
advice.

When I had finished my food he led me to a patch of bush that grew
round a pool at the foot of the slope about two hundred yards from
the camp.  We entered and presently from beneath a tree a little
woman glided out so silently that she might have been a ghost, and
stood still with the moonlight falling on her white robes.  She
threw back a hood that covered her head, revealing her face, which
was refined and in its way very pretty; also so fair for an Arab
that I thought she must have European blood in her.  She looked at
me a little while, searching my face with her dark, appealing eyes,
then suddenly threw herself on her knees, took my hand, and kissed
it.

"That will do," I said, lifting her up.  "What do you want with
me?"

"Lord," she said in Arabic, speaking in a low, impassioned voice,
"I am that slave of Kaneke whom here they call White-Mouse, though
elsewhere I have another name.  Although he has treated me badly,
for he who loves a Shadow cares for no woman, his spell is still
upon me.  Therefore I would pray you to save him if you can."

"Me!"

"Yes, Lord, you."  Then as I said nothing she went on quickly, "I
know that you white men do not work without pay, and I have nothing
to give you, except myself.  I will be a good servant to you and
Kaneke will not mind.  He has told me to go where I will."

"Don't be frightened, Baas," whispered Hans into my ear in Dutch.
"When she says you--she must mean me."

I hit him in the middle with the point of my elbow, which stopped
his breath.  Then I said:

"Set out your plan, White-Mouse, if you have one.  But please
understand that I do not want you as a servant."

"Then you can drive me away, Lord, for if you do my will, your
slave I shall be till death.  Only one thing do I ask, that you do
not give me to that little yellow monkey, or to either of your
hunters."

"How well she acts!" grunted the unconquered Hans behind me.

"The plan, the plan," I said.

"Lord, it is this: there is a path up the cliff on the crest of
which is the house of Kaneke, wherein he lies bound awaiting death
at the rising of the morrow's sun.  It is known to few; indeed only
to Kaneke and myself.  I will lead you with your two hunters and
this yellow one up that path and into Kaneke's house.  There, if it
be needful, you can deal with those who guard him--there are but
three of them, for the rest watch without the fence--and get him
away down the cliff."

"This is nonsense," I said.  "I examined that cliff when I visited
Kaneke.  There is no fence upon its edge because it overhangs in
such a fashion that without long ropes, such as we have not got,
made fast above, it cannot be climbed or descended."

"It seems to do so, Lord, but beneath its overhanging crest there
is a hole, which hole leads into a tunnel.  This tunnel ends
beneath the pavement of Kaneke's house just in front of where he
sits to watch the stars.  Do you understand, Lord?"

I nodded, for I knew that she meant the stoep where Kaneke and I
had drunk brandy and water together.

"The pavement is solid," I said.  "How does one pass through it?"

"A block of the hard floor, which is made of lime and other things
so that it is like stone, can be moved from beneath.  I have its
secret, Lord.  That is all.  Will you come with me now?  The
beginning of the gorge is not very far from this place which, as
you know, by any other road is a long way from the town.  Therefore
we need not start yet because I do not wish to reach the house
until two hours after midnight, when all men are asleep, except
those who watch the sick in the town, where a pestilence has broken
out, as Kaneke foretold, and these will take little heed if they
hear a noise."

"No, I won't," I answered firmly.  "This is a mad business.  Why
should I give my life and those of my servants to try to save
Kaneke, whom I have only known for a week or two and who may be all
that his enemies say?"

She considered the point, then answered:

"Because he alone can guide you to that hidden place whither you
wish to go."

"I don't wish to go anywhere in particular," I replied testily;
"unless it is back to Zanzibar."

Again she considered, and said:

"Because you have taken Kaneke's ivory and gold, Lord."

At this I winced a little and then replied:

"I took the ivory and gold in payment for services to be rendered
to Kaneke, if he could accompany me upon a certain journey, and he
paid, asking nothing in return if he could not do so.  Through no
fault of mine he is unable to come, and therefore the bargain is at
an end."

"That is well said, Lord, in the white man's merchant-fashion.  Now
I have another reason to which I think any man will listen.  You
should help Kaneke because I, your slave, who am a woman young and
fair, pray you to do so."

"Ah! she is clever; she knows the Baas," I heard Hans mutter
reflectively, words that hardened my heart and caused me to reply:

"Not for the sake of any woman in Africa, nor of all of them put
together, would I do what you ask, White-Mouse.  Do you take me for
a madman?"

She laughed a little in a dreary fashion and answered:

"Indeed I do not, who see that it is I who am mad.  Hearken, Lord:
like others I have heard tales of Macumazahn.  I have heard that he
is generous and great-hearted; one who never goes back upon his
word, a staff to lean on in the hour of trouble, a man who does not
refuse the prayer of those in distress; brave too, and a lover of
adventure if a good cause may be served, a great one whom it
pleases to pretend to be small.  All these things I have heard from
that yellow man, and others; yes, and from Kaneke himself, and
watching from afar, although you never knew I did so, I have judged
these stories to be true.  Now I see that I am mistaken.  This lord
Macumazahn is as are other white traders, neither better nor worse.
So it is finished.  Unaided I am not able to save Kaneke, as by my
spirit I have sworn that I would.  Therefore I pray your pardon,
Lord, who have put you to trouble, and here before your eyes will
end all, that I may go to make report of this business to those I
serve far away."

While I stared at her, wondering what she meant, also how much
truth there was in all this mysterious tale, suddenly she drew a
knife from her girdle, and tearing open her robe, lifted it above
her bared breast.  I sprang and seized her wrist.

"You must love this man very much!" I exclaimed, more, I think, to
myself than to her.

"You are mistaken, Lord," she answered, with her strange little
laugh.  "I do not love him; indeed I think I hate him who have
never found one whom I could love--as yet.  Still, for a while he
is my master, also I have sworn to hold him safe by certain oaths
that may not be broken and--I keep my word, as I must do or perish
everlastingly."

For a little while there was silence between us.  Never can I
forget the strangeness of that scene.  The patch of bush by the
edge of the pool, the little open space where the bright moonlight
fell, and standing full in that moonlight which shone upon the
whiteness of her rounded breast, this small, elfin-faced woman with
the dark eyes and curling hair, a knife in her raised right hand.

Then myself, much perplexed and agitated, rather a ridiculous
figure, as I suspect, clasping her wrist to prevent that knife from
falling; and in the background upon the edge of the shadow,
sardonic, his face alight with the age-old wisdom of the wild man
who had eaten of the tree of Knowledge, interested and yet
indifferent, hideous and yet lovable--the Hottentot, Hans.  And the
look upon that beautiful woman's face, for in its way it was
beautiful, or at any rate most attractive, the inscrutable look,
suggestive of secrets, of mysteries even--oh! I say I shall never
forget it all.

As we stood thus facing each other like people in a scene of a
play, a thought came to me, this thought--if that woman was
prepared to die because she had failed in an effort to save from
death the man whom she declared she hated (why was she prepared to
die and why did she hate him? I wondered), ought I not to try to
save her even at some personal risk to myself?  Also if I could,
ought I not to help Kaneke, whose goods I had taken?  Certainly it
was impossible to allow her to immolate herself in this fashion
before my eyes.  I might take away her knife, but if I did she
could find a second; also there were many other roads to self-
destruction by which she might travel.

"Give me that dagger," I said, "and let us talk."

She unclasped her hand and it fell to the ground.  I set my foot
upon it and loosed her.

"Listen," I went on.  "I am minded to do what you wish if I can."

"Yes, Lord, already I have read that in your face," she replied,
smiling faintly.

"But, White-Mouse," I continued, "I am not the only one concerned.
I cannot undertake this business alone.  Others must risk their
lives as well.  Hans here, for instance, and I suppose the two
hunters.  I cannot lay any commands upon them in such a matter and
I do not know if they will come of their own will."

She turned and looked at the Hottentot, a question in her eyes.
Hans fidgeted under her gaze, then he spat upon the ground and
said:

"If the Baas goes I think that the Baas will be a fool.  Still,
where the Baas goes, there I must go also, not to pull Kaneke out
of a trap, but because I promised the Baas's reverend father that I
would do so.  As for those other men I cannot say.  I think they
will answer, 'No, thank you', but if they reply, 'Oh yes', then I
believe that we should be better without them, because they are so
stupid and think so much about their souls that they would be sure
to grow frightened at the wrong time, or to make a noise and bring
us all to trouble.  In a hole such as White-Mouse talks of, two men
are better than four.  Also it would be wiser to send Tom and Jerry
on with the porters, for should we drag Kaneke out of this hole,
those Arabs will try to follow and drag him back, and the farther
off we are with the stores the safer we shall be.  Porters go
slowly, so we can catch them up, Baas."

"You hear," I said to the woman.  "What is your word?"

"This yellow one, whom I thought but a vain fool, is wise--for
once, Lord.  What has to be done I cannot do alone, for there must
be some to deal with the guards and hold the mouth of the hole
while I cut Kaneke's bonds.  Yet for this business two will serve
as well as four; indeed better, for they can get back into the
tunnel more quickly.  Therefore I say do as the yellow man says.
Order your hunters to march on with the porters and the stores as
long before the break of day as the men will move.  If you escape
with Kaneke, you can run upon their spoor and join them much faster
than will the Arabs who must go round.  Then if the Arabs overtake
you, they will be tired and you can beat them off with your guns."

"And what will you do?" I asked curiously, for I noticed that she
left herself out of the plan.

"Oh! I do not know," she answered, with another of her strange
smiles.  "Lord, have I not said that I am your slave?  Doubtless in
this fashion or in that I shall follow my master as a slave should,
or perhaps I shall go before him."

Now I remembered that she had spoken of Kaneke as her "master", and
presumed that she alluded to him, although in the hyperbole of her
people she spoke of herself as my slave.  However, I did not pursue
the subject, which at the time interested me little, who had more
important matters to consider.  Indeed, I set myself to extract
details from her which I need not enumerate, and to examine her
scheme of rescue.

When I had learned all I could, bidding the woman, White-Mouse, to
remain hidden, I went back to the camp with Hans and sent for Tom
and Jerry.  In as careless a fashion as I could, I told them that
with Hans I must return towards the town to speak with a man who
had promised to meet me secretly upon a matter of importance.  Then
I ordered them to rouse the porters two hours before dawn and to
march on with them towards a certain hill which we had all visited
together upon a little shooting-expedition I had made while we were
at Kaneke's town, to kill duiker buck and pauw, as we called
bustards, for a change of food.

Although I could see that they were troubled, Tom and Jerry said
that they would obey my instructions and, that there should be no
mistake, fetched the headman of the porters, that I might repeat
them to him, which I did.  This done, they went away to sleep, Tom
saying, as he bade me good night, that he would have preferred to
accompany me back to the town where he thought I might come into
danger.  I thanked him, remarking that I was quite safe.  So we
parted; I wondering whether I should ever see them again and what
they would do if I returned no more.  Travel back to the coast,
probably, and become rich according to their ideas by selling the
guns and goods.

Then I lay down to rest for a while, making Hans do likewise.

At the appointed time I woke from my doze, as I can always do, and
left the tent to find Hans awaiting me without and checking such
things as we must carry.  These were few--a water-bottle filled
with cold tea, a small flask of spirits, a strip or two of biltong
or dried meat in case we should need food, and a few yards of thin
cord.  For arms I took a Winchester repeater and a pocketful of
cartridges, also a revolver and a sharp butcher's knife in a
sheath.  Hans had no rifle, but carried two revolvers and a knife,
also a couple of candles and a box of matches.

Having made sure that we had collected everything and packed our
other belongings to be cared for by Tom and Jerry as arranged, we
slipped away to the patch of bush by the pool, taking with us extra
food, for we remembered that White-Mouse must be hungry.  We did
not find her at once, whereon Hans explained to me that having made
fools of us, doubtless she had run away.  While he was still
talking I saw her leaning against the trunk of a tree.  Or rather I
saw her eyes, which at first I took for those of some animal, for
she was no longer a white figure, but a black, having covered her
white robe with a thin dark garment she had brought with her in a
bundle.  I offered her the food, but she shook her head, saying:

"Nay, I eat no more"--words which frightened me a little.

Indeed, altogether there was something fateful and alarming about
this woman.  She glanced at the moon, then whispered:

"Lord, it is time to depart.  Be pleased to follow me and do not
smoke, or make fire, or talk too loud."

So off she went, gliding ahead like a shadow, while we marched
after, I with a doubting heart.  Our road ran along the bank of a
little stream, of which the spring I have spoken of seemed to be
the source, that wended its way through thin bush to the mouth of
the gorge, which here sloped up to the high lands.  Doubtless it
was this stream, once a primeval torrent, that in the course of
thousands of years dug out this cleft in the bosom of the earth.
As we went Hans murmured his reflections into my ear.

"This is a strange journey, Baas, made at night, when we ought to
be asleep.  I wonder that the Baas should have undertaken it.  I
think, although he does not know it, he would never have done so
had not White-Mouse been so pretty.  Perhaps the Baas has noted
that when a woman asks for anything of a man, generally he finds it
impossible to give it her if she be old and ugly, and quite
possible if she is young and very pretty."

"Rubbish!" I answered.  "I gave way because, if I had not, White-
Mouse would have killed herself, and for no other reason."

"Yes, but if she had been a hideous old grandmother, with a black
face wrinkled like that of the Baas, he would not have cared
whether she killed herself or not.  For who wants a slave with a
skin like the hide of a buck that has lain for three months in the
sun and rain?"

"As I have told you, I want no slave, Hans," I answered
indignantly.

"Ah! so the Baas says now, but sometimes he changes his mind.  Thus
a little while ago the Baas swore that never, never would he go up
the hole to try to save Kaneke.  And yet we are taking this long
walk with lions about and God knows what at the end of it, to do
what the Baas said could not be done.  Why, then, did he change his
mind, unless it is because that woman is such a pretty mouse with
big eyes and a queer smile and not an ugly old yellow-toothed rat?
Also, is he sure that all this story of hers is true?  For my part
I don't believe it, and even doubt whether she is Kaneke's wife as
she pretended to me."

At this moment we began to enter the gorge, and our guide turned
and laid her finger on her lips in token that we must be silent.
Of this I was very glad, for really Hans' jeers were intolerable.

Very soon we descended into the cleft itself, which proved to be a
huge donga with sheer sides quite two hundred feet high where it
was deepest.  The bottom along which the shrunken river ran was
strewn with boulders washed from the cliffs above, that made
progress slow and difficult.  Especially was this so as we
scrambled down the deeps, where often little of the moonlight
reached us, and sometimes even the sky was hidden by tropical
shrubs and tall palms and grasses which grew along the edge of the
torrent bed.

Fortunately the journey was not very long, for after about half an
hour of this break-back work White-Mouse halted.

"Here is the place," she whispered.  "Listen.  You can hear the
dogs in the town above."

It was true; I could, and the sound of those brutes howling at the
moon, as they do at night in Africa, was eerie enough in our
depressing circumstances.

"This is the place," she repeated, then after studying the sky a
while, added:  "Presently will be the time.  Meanwhile let us rest,
for we shall need all our strength."

Motioning to Hans to remain where he was, she led me to a flat
stone out of his hearing, on which I sat down, while she crouched
on the ground at my feet, native fashion, a little black ball in
the shadow with the faint light gleaming upon a white patch that I
knew to be her face.

"Lord," she said, "you go upon a dangerous business, yet I say to
you, fear nothing for yourself or the yellow man."

"Why?  I fear much."

"Lord, those who have to do with Kaneke's people, as I have from a
child, catch something of their wisdom and mind; also I too have
been taught to read the stars he worships."

"So our friend is an astrologer," thought I to myself.  That is new
to me in Africa, but aloud I said:

"Well, what wisdom have you caught or read in the stars?"

"Only that you are both safe, Lord, now and on the journey you will
make with Kaneke; yes, and for many years after."

"I am glad to hear it," I remarked somewhat sarcastically, though
in my heart I was cheered, as even the most instructed and
civilized of us are when anyone speaks words of good omen.  Also in
that darksome place at the dead of night, on the edge of a
desperate adventure, a little comfort went a long way, for when the
bread is dry some butter is better than none at all, as Hans used
to observe.

"Lord, a word more and I cease to trouble you.  Do you believe in
blessings, Lord?"

"Oh yes, White-Mouse, though I don't see any about me just now."

"You are wrong, Lord; I see them.  They are thick upon your head,
they shall be with you through life, and afterwards thousands shall
love you.  Among them is that blessing which I lay upon you."

"You are very kind, I am sure, White-Mouse.  But as you say you
hate this Kaneke I don't understand why you should bless me for
what I am trying to do."

"No, Lord, and perhaps while you live you never will.  Yet I would
have you know one thing.  I am not Kaneke's jealous wife as I made
yonder yellow one believe, or his wife at all, or any man's, any
more than my name is White-Mouse.  Lord, you go to seek a wonderful
one whom I serve, and I think that you will find her far away.
Perhaps I shall be there in her company, and in helping her you
will again help me.  Now it is time to be at our work."

Then she took my hand and kissed it.  I remember that her kiss felt
like a butterfly alighting on my flesh, and that her breath was
wonderfully sweet.  Next she beckoned to Hans, who, devoured by
curiosity, was glowering at us from a distance, and led the pair of
us a little way up the cliff which sloped at its bottom because of
debris washed up by the torrent in ancient days, or perhaps fallen
from above.  We came to some bushes, in the midst of which lay a
large boulder.  Here she halted and spoke to us in a whisper,
saying:

"On the farther side of that stone is the mouth of the cleft.  If
you look you will see that the crest of the cliff overhangs its
topmost part by many feet, so that it is impossible for it to be
ascended or descended, even with any rope the Arabs have, because
the height is too great.  As I have told you, this tunnel, or
waterway, runs to the top for the most part underground, though
here and there it is open to the sky.  After it reaches that sheer
face of the cliff which the stone lip overhangs, the passage
pierces the solid rock and is very steep.  Here two lamps are hid
which I will light with the little fire sticks that your servant
has given to me.  One lamp must be left as a guide in the descent
when you return; the other I, who go first, will carry to show you
where to set your feet.  Do you understand, Lord?"

"Yes, but what I want to know is, what happens when we reach the
top of the tunnel?"

"Lord, as I have said, at its head the hole is closed with a moving
block that seems to be part of the floor of the courtyard of
Kaneke's house.  I have its secret and can cause it to open, which
I will do after I have hidden the lamp.  Then we must creep into
the courtyard.  Kaneke, as I believe, is on the stoep of the house
with his hands tied behind him, and bound with a rope round his
middle to a post that supports the roof of the stoep.  It may be,
however, that he is in one of the rooms of the house, in which case
our task will be difficult--"

"Very difficult," I interrupted with a groan.

"My hope is," she went on, taking no heed of my words, "that those
who guard him will be asleep, or perhaps drunk, for doubtless they
will have found the white man's drink that Kaneke keeps in the
house, which they love, all of them, although it is forbidden by
their law.  Or Kaneke himself may have told them where it is and
begged them to get him some of it.  If so, I shall cut his bonds so
that he may come to the mouth of the hole and climb into it and
thus escape."

"And if they are awake and sober--as they ought to be?" I said.

"Then, Lord, you and the yellow man must play your part; it is not
for me to tell you what it is," she answered dryly.  "There will
not be many of these men set to keep one who is bound, and the most
of the guard watch outside the fence, thinking that if any rescue
is attempted, it will be from the town.  Now I have told you all,
so let us start."

Well, start we did; White-Mouse, going first, went round the
boulder and pulled aside some loose stones, revealing an orifice,
into which we crept after her, Hans nipping in before me.  For some
way we crawled in the dark up a slope of rock.  Then, as she had
said would be the case, light reached us from the sky because here
the cleft was open.  Indeed, there were two or three of these
alternating lengths of darkness and light.

After ten minutes or so of this climbing White-Mouse halted and
whispered:

"Now the real tunnel begins.  Rest a while, for it is steep."

I obeyed with gratitude.  Presently there was the sound of a match
being struck.  She had found the lamp, an earthenware affair filled
with palm-oil such as the Arabs used in those days, and lit it.
After the darkness its light seemed dazzling.  By it I saw a round
hole running upwards almost perpendicularly; it was the tunnel
which she had told us pierced the lip of solid cliff that overhung
the gorge.  To all appearance it had been made by man, though a
long while ago.  Perhaps it was a mine-shaft, hollowed by primeval
metal-workers; after all, these are common in Africa, where I have
seen many of them in Matabele Land.

At any rate, on its walls I noted gleaming specks that I took to be
ore of some sort, but of course this guess may be quite wrong.  Up
this shaft ran a kind of ladder with little landing-places at
intervals, made by niches cut in the rock to give foot- and hand-
holds.  There was a rope also that must have been fastened to
something above, which, I may add, looked to me rather rotten, as
though it had been there a long while.  My heart sank as I
contemplated it and the niches, and most heartily did I wish myself
anywhere else than in that beastly hole.  However, it was no use
showing fear; there was nothing to be done except go through with
the business, so I held my tongue, though I heard Hans praying, or
cursing, or both, in front of me.

"Forward now.  Have no fear," whispered our guide.  "Set your hands
and feet in the niches as I do; they will not break away, and the
rope is stronger than it looks."

Then she slung or strapped to her back the second lamp, which I
forgot to say she had lit also and placed in a kind of basket so
made that it could be used in this fashion without setting fire to
its bearer, thus giving us light whereby to climb, and sprang at
the face of the rock.  Up she went with an extraordinary
nimbleness, which caused me to reflect in an inconsequent fashion
that she was well named Mouse, a creature that can run up a wall.

We followed as best we could, clasping the rotten-looking rope,
which seemed to be made of twisted buffalo-hide, with our right
hands and the niches in which we must afterwards set our feet with
our left.  I think that rope was the greatest terror of this
horrible journey; though, as we were destined to prove, White-Mouse
was right when she said that it was stronger than it looked--very
strong, in truth, though this we did not know at the time.

No, not the greatest, for even worse than the rope, that is when we
had ascended a long way, was the lamp which we had left burning at
the bottom of the hole, because the spark of light it gave showed
what a terrible distance there was to fall if one made a mistake.
I only looked at it once, or at most twice; it frightened me too
much.  Another minor trouble in my case was my Winchester repeater
that was slung upon my back, of which the strap cut my shoulder and
the lock rubbed my spine.  Much did I regret that I had not
followed the example of Hans and left it behind.

We reached the first landing-place and rested.  After eyeing me
with some anxiety, for doubtless my face showed trepidation, Hans,
I imagine to divert my mind, took the chance to deliver a little
homily.

"The Baas," he said, wiping the sweat from his face with the back
of his hand, "is very fond of helping people in trouble, a bad
habit of which I hope the Baas will break himself in future.  For
see what happens to those who are such fools.  Not even to help my
own father would I come into this hole again, especially as I don't
know who he was.  However, Baas," he added more cheerfully--for
secretly agreeing with Hans, I made no reply--"if this is an old
mine-shaft as I suppose, think how much worse it must have been for
the miners to climb up it with a hundred-pound bag of ore on their
backs, than it is for us; especially as they weren't Christians,
like you and me, Baas, and didn't know that they would go to heaven
if they tumbled off, like we do.  When one is fording a bad river
safely, Baas, as we are, it is always nice to remember that lots of
other people have been drowned in it."

Will it be believed that even then and there that little beast Hans
made me laugh, or at any rate smile, especially as I knew that his
cynicism was assumed and therefore could bring no ill luck on us?
For really Hans had the warmest of hearts.

Presently, off we went again for another spell of niches and
apparently rotten rope, and in due course came safely to the second
landing-place.  Here White-Mouse bade us wait a little.

Saying that she would return presently, she went up a third flight
of niches at great speed, and reaching yet another landing-place,
did something--we could not see what.

Then she returned, and her descent was strange to see.  Taking the
rope in both hands (afterwards we discovered that it was made fast
to a point or hook of stone on the third landing-place in such
fashion that it hung well clear of the face of the rock below), she
came down it hand over--or rather under--hand, sometimes setting
her foot into one of the niches, but more often swinging quite
clear.  She was wonderful to look on; her slight figure illumined
by the lantern on her back and surrounded by darkness, appeared
more like a spirit floating in mid-air than that of a woman.
Presently she stood beside us.

"Lord," she said, when she had rested a minute, "I have been to see
whether the catch of the stone which covers the mouth of the hole
is in order.  It works well and I have loosed it.  Now at a push
this stone, that like the rest of the courtyard is faced with lime
plaster, will swing upwards, for it is hung upon a bar of iron, and
remain on edge, leaving a space large enough for any man to climb
into the courtyard by the little ladder that is set upon the
landing-place.  Be careful, however, not to touch the stone when
you have passed the opening into the courtyard, for if so much as a
finger is laid upon it, it will swing to again and make itself
fast, cutting off retreat."

"Cannot it be opened from above?" I asked anxiously.

"Yes, Lord, if one knows how, which it is impossible to explain to
you except in the courtyard itself, as perhaps I shall have no time
or chance to do.  Still, do not be afraid, for I will fix it with a
wedge so that it cannot shut unless the wedge is pulled away.  Nay,
ask no more questions, for I have not time to answer them," she
went on impatiently, as I opened my mouth to speak.  "Have I not
told you that all will be well?  Follow me with a bold heart."

Then, as though to prevent the possibility of further conversation,
she went to the edge of the resting-place and began to climb, Hans
and I scrambling after her as before.  Of this ascent I remember
little, for my mind was so fixed upon what was to happen when we
reached the top that, dreadful as it was, it made small impression
on me.  Also by now I was growing more or less used to this
steeplejack work, and since I had seen the woman hanging on to it,
gained confidence in the rope.  The end of it was that we reached
the third landing-place in safety, being now, as I reckoned, quite
two hundred feet above the spot where the actual tunnel sprang from
the cleft which sometimes went underground and sometimes was open
to the sky.



CHAPTER V

THE RESCUE


When we had recovered breath White-Mouse unfastened the lantern
from her back and showed us a stout wooden ladder with broad rungs
almost resembling steps, which ran from the edge of the resting-
place to what looked like a solid roof, but really was the bottom
of the movable stone.

"Examine it well," she said, "and note that this resting-place is
not beneath the stone, but to the right of it.  Therefore I can
leave the lamp burning here that it may be ready for use in the
descent; for if the basket is set in front of the flame the light
will not show in the courtyard above."

This she proceeded to do, and it was then that I noted how the hide
rope was fastened to a hook-shaped point of rock at the edge of the
platform, also--which I did not like--that it was somewhat frayed
by this edge, although originally that length of it had been bound
round with grass and a piece of cloth.

Now we were in semi-darkness and my spirits sank proportionately.

"What are we to do, White-Mouse?" I asked.

"This, Lord.  I will go up the ladder and push open the stone, as I
told you.  Then I will climb into the courtyard and creep to the
stoep where I am sure Kaneke lies bound, hoping that there I may be
able to cut his cords without awakening those who guard him, who, I
trust, will be asleep, or drunk, or both.  You and Hans will follow
me through the hole and stand or kneel on either side of it with
your weapons ready.  If there is trouble you will use those
weapons, Lord, and kill any who strive to prevent the escape of
Kaneke."

Now my patience was exhausted, and I asked her:

"Why should I do this thing?  Why should I take the lives of men
with whom I have no quarrel in order to rescue Kaneke, and very
probably lose my own in the attempt?"

"First, because that is what you came here to do, Lord," she
answered quietly.  "Secondly, because it is necessary that Kaneke
should be saved in order that he may guide you, which he alone can
do, to a place where you will save others, and thus serve a certain
holy one against whom he has sinned in the past."

Now I remembered the story that this Kaneke had told me about a
mysterious woman who lived on an island in a lake whom he had
affronted, and answered:

"Oh yes, I have heard of her and believe nothing of the tale."

"Doubtless you are right not to believe the tale as Kaneke told it
to you, Lord.  Learn that once he tried to work bitter wrong to
that holy one, being bewitched by her beauty; yes, to do sacrilege
to our goddess."  (I remembered that "our" afterwards, though at
the time I made no comment.)  "Being merciful, she spared him, but
because of his crime misfortune overtook him, and for years he must
dwell afar.  Now the hour has come when for certain reasons he is
bidden to return and expiate his evil deeds, and not here must his
fate find him, Lord--"

"Baas," broke in Hans, "it is no use talking to this White-Mouse,
who stuffs our brains with spiders' webs and talks nonsense.  She
wants us to save Kaneke for her own ends or those of others of whom
she is the voice, and we have said that we will try.  Now either we
must keep our word or break it and climb down this hole again, if
we can--which would be much better.  Indeed, Baas, I think we
should start--"

Here White-Mouse looked at Hans with remarkable effect, for he
stopped suddenly and began to fan himself with his hat.

"Which advice does the Lord Macumazahn desire to take?" she asked
of me in a cold and quiet voice.

"Go on," I said, nodding towards the ladder, "we follow you."

Next instant she was running up it with Hans at her heels, for as
before, he slipped in before me.  I may add that it was quite dark
on that ladder, which was very unpleasant.

Soon something above me swung back.  I felt a breath of fresh air
on my face, and looking upwards, saw a star shining in the sky, for
at that moment a cloud had passed over the moon, which star gave me
comfort, though I did not know why it should.

I reached the top of the ladder and saw that White-Mouse had
vanished and that Hans was scrambling into the courtyard.  Then he
gave me his hand and dragged me after him.  The place was quite
quiet and because of the cloud I could only see the house as a dark
mass and trace the outlines of the stoep, which I remembered very
well.  Presently I heard a faint stir upon this stoep and got my
rifle ready; Hans, on the other side of the mouth of the pit,
already had his revolver in his hand.

A while went by, perhaps a minute--it seemed an hour--and looking
upwards, to my dismay, I perceived the edge of the moon appearing
beyond the curtain of cloud.  Swiftly she emerged and flooded the
place with light, as an African moon can do.  Now I saw all.
Coming down the steps of the stoep, very slowly as though he were
cramped by his bonds, was the great form of Kaneke leaning on the
shoulder of the frail girl, as a man might upon a stick.  Pieces of
rope still hung to his arms and legs, and she had a bared knife in
her hand.  In the shadow of the stoep I made out the dim figures of
men, two I saw, but in fact there were three, who appeared to be
asleep.

As he reached the courtyard Kaneke stumbled and fell on to his
hands and knees with a crash, but recovering himself, plunged
towards us.  The men on the stoep sat up--then it was that I
counted three.  White-Mouse flung off her dark cloak and stood
there in shining white, looking like a ghost in the moonlight;
indeed, I believe her object was to personate a ghost.  If so it
was successful as far as two of the men were concerned, for they
howled aloud with terror, crying out something about Afreets.  The
third, however, who was bolder or perhaps guessed the truth, rushed
at her.  I saw the knife flash and down he went, yelling in fear
and pain.  The others vanished, I think into the house, for I heard
them shouting there.  Kaneke reached us.  The woman flitted after
him, saying:

"Into the pit!  Into the pit!  Help him, Lord!"

We did so and he scrambled down the ladder.

At this moment a terrific hubbub arose.  The guard outside the
fence were rushing through the gate, a number of them, I do not
know how many.

Hans snatched the rifle from my hand and pushed me to the edge of
the hole--I noticed that the gallant fellow did not wish to go
first this time!  I clambered down the ladder with great rapidity,
calling to Hans to follow, which he did so fast that he trod upon
my fingers.

"Where's White-Mouse?" I said.

"I don't know, Baas.  Talking with those fellows up there, I
think."

"Out of the way!" I cried.  "She can't be left.  They will kill
her!"

I climbed past him up the ladder again until I could look over the
edge of the hole.

This is what I saw and heard:  White-Mouse, the knife in her hand,
was haranguing the oncoming Arabs so fiercely that they shrank
together before her, invoking curses on them as I imagine, which
frightened them very much, and pointing now at one and now at
another with the knife.  As she called down her maledictions she
retreated slowly backwards towards the mouth of the pit, whence she
must have rushed to meet the men as they burst through the gateway,
I presume in order to give us time to get down the ladder.
Suddenly the crowd of them seemed to recover courage.  One shouted:

"It is White-Mouse, not a ghost!"  Another invoked Allah; a third
called out:  "Kill the foreign sorceress who has brought the
spotted sickness on us and snatched away the star-worshipper."

They came forward--doubtfully lifting their spears, for they did
not seem to have any firearms.

"Give me my rifle," I called to Hans, for in my hurry I forgot that
I had a pistol in my pocket, my purpose being to get on the top
step of the ladder, and thence open fire on them, so as to hold
them back till White-Mouse could join us.

"Yes, Baas," called Hans from below as he began to climb the ladder
again with the rifle in his hand, a slow job, because it cumbered
him.  I bent down as far as I could to grasp it, thus lowering my
head, although I still managed to watch what was going on in the
courtyard.

Just as my fingers touched the barrel of the Winchester, White-
Mouse hurled her knife at the first of her attackers.  Then she
turned, followed by the whole crowd of them, and ran for the pit.
One caught hold of her, but she slipped from his grasp and,
although another gripped her garment, reached the stone which stood
up edgeways some three feet above the level of the pavement of the
courtyard.

In a flash I divined her purpose.  It was not escape she sought,
indeed, now that was impossible, but to let fall the block of rock
or cement, and thus make pursuit of us also impossible.  Horror
filled me and my blood seemed to freeze, for I understood that this
meant that she would be left in the hands of her enemies.

It was too late to do anything; indeed, as the thought passed my
mind she hurled her weight against the stone (if she had ever
wedged it open, as she said she would, which I doubt, she must have
knocked away the prop with her foot).  I saw it begin to swing
downwards, and ducked instinctively, which was fortunate for me,
for otherwise it would have struck my head and killed me.  As it
was it crushed in the top of the soft hat I was wearing.  Down it
came with a clang, leaving us in the dark.

"Hans," I cried, "bring that lantern and help me to try to push up
this stone!"

He obeyed, although it took a long while, for he had to go back to
the resting-place to fetch it.  Then, standing side by side upon
the ladder, we pushed at the stone, but it would not stir a hair's
breadth.  We saw something that looked like a bolt, and worked away
at it, but utterly without result.  We did not know the trick of
the thing, if there was one.  Then I bethought me of Kaneke who all
this while was on the landing-place beneath, and sent Hans to ask
him how to raise the stone.  Presently he returned and reported
that Kaneke said that if once it had been slammed down in this
fashion, it could only be opened from above with much labour, if,
indeed, this could be done at all.

I ran down the ladder in a fury and found Kaneke seated on the
landing-place, a man bemused.

I reviled him, saying that he must come and move the stone, of
which doubtless he knew the secret, so as to enable us to try to
rescue the woman who had saved him.  He listened with a kind of
dull patience, then answered:

"Lord, you ask what cannot be done.  Believe me I would help White-
Mouse if I could, if indeed she needs help, but the catches that
loose this mass of rock are very delicate and doubtless were
destroyed by its violent closing.  Moreover by this time of a
certainty she is killed, if death can touch her, and even were it
possible to lift it, you would be killed also, for those sons of
Satan will wait there hoping that this may happen."

Still I was not satisfied, and made the man come up the ladder with
me, which he did very stiffly, threatening to shoot him if he did
not.  This, to tell the truth, at that moment I would have done
without compunction, so enraged and horrified was I at what had
happened which, perhaps unjustly, I half attributed to him.

Well, he came and explained certain things to me about the catches
whereof I forget the details, after which we pushed with all our
might, till the stave of the ladder on which we stood began to
crack, in fact; but nothing happened.  Evidently in some way the
block was jammed on its upper side, or perhaps the pin or hinges
upon which it was balanced had broken.  I do not know and it
matters nothing.

All was finished.  We were helpless.  And that poor woman--oh, that
poor woman!--what of her?

I returned to the landing-place and sat down to rest, almost
weeping.  Hans, I observed, was in much the same state, without a
gibe or an impertinence left in him.

"Baas," he said, "if we had got out of the hole too, it would have
been no better; worse, indeed, for we should have been killed as
well as White-Mouse, even if we had managed to shoot some of those
Prophet-worshipping dogs before they spotted us.  Alas, Baas, I
think that White-Mouse meant to get herself killed from the first.
Perhaps she had had enough of that man," and he nodded towards
Kaneke, who sat brooding and taking no heed, "or perhaps her job
was done and she knew it.  Or perhaps she can't be killed, as this
Kaneke seems to think."

Listening to him, I reflected that he must be right, for now I
remembered that White-Mouse had spoken several times of the escape
of Hans, Kaneke, and myself, and never of her own, though when she
did so I had not quite caught her drift.  The woman meant to die,
or knew that she would die, it did not matter which, seeing that
the end was the same.  Or she meant something else that was dark to
me.

Presently, Hans spoke again:

"Baas," he said, "this place is a good grave, but I do not want to
be buried in it, and oil in these Arab lamps does not last for
ever; they are not like those of the widow, which the old prophet
kept burning for years and years to cook meal on, as your reverend
father used to tell us.  Don't you think we had better be moving,
Baas?"

"I suppose so," I answered, "but what about Kaneke?  He seems in a
bad way."

"Oh, Baas, let him come or let him stay behind.  I don't care
which.  Now I will strap the basket with the lantern on to my back
as White-Mouse did, and go first, and you must follow me, and
Kaneke can come when he likes, or stop here and repent of his
sins."

He paused, then added (he was speaking in Dutch all this time):

"No, Baas, I have changed my mind.  Kaneke had better go first.  He
is very heavy, also stiff, and if he came last and fell on to our
heads, where should we be, Baas?  It is better that we should fall
on Kaneke rather than that Kaneke should fall on us."

Being puzzled what to do, I turned to speak to the man.  Hans, who
was fixing the basket on his back, had set down the lamp which was
to be placed in such a position that its light fell full upon
Kaneke.  By it I saw that his face had changed.  While I was
questioning him about the bolts of the stone, it had been that of a
man bemused, of one who awakes from a drunken sleep, or has been
drugged, or is in the last stage of terror and exhaustion.  Now it
was very much alive and grown almost spiritual, like to the face of
one who is rapt in prayer.  The large round eyes were turned
upwards as though they saw a vision, the lips were moving as if in
speech, yet no word came from them, and from time to time they
ceased to move, as though the ears listened for an answer.

I stared at him, then said politely in Arabic:

"Might I ask what you are doing, friend Kaneke?"

He started and a kind of veil seemed to fall over his face; I mean
that it changed again and became normal.

"Lord," he answered, "I was returning thanks for my escape."

"You take time by the nose, for you haven't escaped yet," I
replied, adding rather bitterly, "and were you returning thanks for
the great deed of another who has not escaped, of the woman who is
called White-Mouse?"

"How do you know that she has not escaped?"

"Because you yourself said that she must be dead--if she could die,
which of course she can."

"Yes, I said some such words, but now I think that she has been
speaking to me, although it may have been her spirit that was
speaking."

"Look here!" I said, exasperated.  "Who and what is, or was, White-
Mouse?  Your wife, or your daughter?"

"No, Lord, neither," he answered, with a little shiver.

"Then who?  Tell me the truth or I have done with you."

"Lord, she is a messenger from my own country who came a while ago
to command me to return thither.  It is because of her that these
Arabs hate me so much, for they think she is my familiar through
whom I work magic and bring evil upon them."

"And is she, Kaneke?"

"Baas," broke in Hans, "have you finished chatting, for the oil in
that lamp burns low and I have only two candles.  Those niches will
not be nice in the dark, Baas."

"True," I said.

Then I bid Kaneke go first, suggesting that he knew the road, with
Hans following him and I coming last.

"My legs are stiff, Lord," he said, "but my arms are recovered.  I
go."

He went; he went with the most amazing swiftness.  In a few seconds
he was over the edge of the pit and descending rapidly, hand over
hand, as it seemed to me only occasionally touching the niches with
his feet.  Not that I had much time to judge of this, for presently
he was out of sight and only by the jerking of the hide rope could
we tell that he was there at all.

"Will it break, Baas?" asked Hans doubtfully.  "That brute Kaneke
weighs a lot."

"I don't know and I don't much care," I answered.  "White-Mouse
said we should get through safely, and I am beginning to believe in
White-Mouse.  So say your prayers and start."

He obeyed, and I followed.

I will omit the details of that horrible descent.  Hans and I
reached the second platform and rested.  Unfortunately in starting
again I looked down, and far, far below saw the lamp we had left
burning at the bottom, which gave me such an idea of precipitous
death that I grew dizzy.  My strength left me and I almost fell,
especially as just then my foot slipped in one of the niches,
leaving all my weight upon my arms.  I think I should have fallen,
had not a voice, doubtless that of my subconscious self at work,
seemed to say to me:

"Remember, if you fall, you will kill Hans as well as yourself."

Then my brain cleared, I recovered control of my faculties, and
slipping down the rope a little way I found the next niche with my
left foot.  Doubtless this return was even more fearsome than the
ascent, perhaps owing to physical weariness, or perhaps because the
object of the effort was achieved and there was now nothing left to
hope for except personal safety, the thought of which is always the
father of fear.  I am not sure; all I know is that my spine crept
and my brain sickened much more than had been the case on the
upward adventure.

At length, thank God, the worst of it was over and we reached the
sloping passage or gulley, or whatever it may have been, that in
places was open to the sky.  By help of the lamps that now were
almost spent, we scrambled down this declivity with comparative
ease, and so came out of the mouth of the hole into the little
clump of bush that concealed it.

I sat down trembling like a jelly; the perspiration pouring off me,
for the heat of that place had been awful.  Hans, who although so
tough, was in little better case than myself, found the water-
bottle full of cold tea which, to save weight, we had left hidden
with everything else we could spare, including our jackets, and
passed it to me.  I drank, and the insipid stuff tasted like
nectar; then gave it to Hans, although I could gladly have
swallowed the whole bottleful.

When he had taken a pull I stopped him, remembering Kaneke, who
must also be athirst.  But where was Kaneke?  We could not see him
anywhere.  Hans opined that he had bolted into some hiding-place of
his own, and being too weary to argue or even to speculate upon the
matter, I accepted the explanation.

After this we finished the cold tea and topped it up with a nip of
brandy apiece, carefully measured in a little cup.  The flask
itself, to which the cup was screwed, I did not dare to give to
Hans, knowing that temptation would overcome him and he would empty
it to the last drop.

Much refreshed and more thankful than I can say at having escaped
the perils of that darksome climb, I put the extinguished lamps
into poor White-Mouse's basket, thinking that they might come in
useful afterwards (or perhaps I wished to keep them as a souvenir,
I don't remember which).  Then by common consent we started for the
bottom of the great gulley, proposing to trek up it back towards
the camp.  On reaching the stream we stopped to drink water--for
our thirst was still unsatisfied--and to wash the sweat from our
faces, also to cool our feet bruised by those endless niches of the
shaft.

Whilst I was thus engaged, hearing a sound, I peeped round a stone
and perceived the lost Kaneke kneeling upon the rock like a man at
prayer, and groaning.  My first thought was that he must be hurt,
perhaps in the course of his remarkably rapid descent, and my
second that he was grieving over the death of White-Mouse, or
mayhap because of his separation from his wives whom he would see
no more.  Afterwards, however, I reflected that the latter was
improbable, seeing that he was so ready to leave them.  Indeed, I
doubted whether he had really any wives, or children either.
Certainly I never saw any about the house in which he dwelt like a
hermit; there was nothing to show that these ever existed.  If they
did, I was sure that Hans would have discovered them.

However, this might be, not wishing to spy upon the man's private
sorrows, I coughed, whereon he rose and came round the rock.

"So you are here before us," I said.

"Yes, Lord," he answered, "and waiting for you.  The descent of the
shaft is easy to those who know the road."

"Indeed.  We found it difficult, also dangerous.  However, like the
woman called White-Mouse"--here he winced and bowed his head--"that
is done with.  Might I ask what your plans are now, Kaneke?"

"What they have always been, Lord.  To guide you to my people, the
Dabanda, who live in the land of the Holy Lake.  Only, Lord, I
think that we had better leave this place as quickly as we can,
seeing it is certain that, thinking we have escaped, the Arabs, my
enemies, will follow to your camp to attack you there."

"I agree," I answered.  "Let us go at once."

So off we went on our long tramp up the darksome gorge, I, to tell
the truth, full of indignation and in the worst of tempers.  At
length I could control myself no longer.

"Kaneke," I said, for he was walking at my side, Hans being a
little ahead engaged in picking our way through the gloom and
watching for possible attacks--"Kaneke, it seems that I and my
servant are suffering many things on your behalf.  This night we
have run great risks to save you from death, as has another who is
gone, and now you tell me that because of you we are to be attacked
by those who hate you.  I think it would be better if I repaid to
you what I have received, together with whatever money the ivory
you gave me may bring, and you went your way, leaving me to go
mine."

"It cannot be," he answered vehemently.  "Lord, although you do not
know it, we are bound together until all is accomplished as may be
fated.  Yes, it is decreed in the stars, and destiny binds us
together.  You think that I am ungrateful, but it is not so; my
heart is full of thankfulness towards you and I am your slave.  Ask
me no more, I pray you, for if I told you all you would not believe
me."

"Already you have told me a good deal that I do not believe," I
replied sharply, "so perhaps you had better keep your stories and
promises to yourself.  At any rate, I cannot desert you at present,
for if I did, I suppose those Arab blackguards would cut your
throat."

"Yes, Lord, and yours too.  Together we shall best them, as you
will see, but separated they will kill us both, and your servants
and porters also."

After this we went on in silence and in the end, without
molestation except from a lion, emerged from the gorge and came to
the knoll where I had camped.  We struck this beast in the open
bushy country just outside the mouth of the gorge, or rather it
struck us and followed us very persistently, which made me think
that it must have been in great want of food.  Occasionally it
growled, but for the most part slunk along not more than thirty or
forty paces to our right, taking cover in the high grass or behind
bushes.  Also twice it went ahead to clumps of thorn trees as
though to waylay us.  I think I could have shot it then, but Hans
begged me not to fire for fear of letting our whereabouts be known
to Arabs who might be searching for us.  So instead we made detours
and avoided those clumps of trees.

This seemed to irritate the lion, which for the third time crept
forward and, as I saw clearly by the light of the sinking moon,
crouched down on our path about fifty paces in front of us in such
a spot that, owing to the nature of the land, it was difficult to
circumvent it without going a long way round.

Now I thought that I must accept the challenge of this savage or
starving animal, but Hans, who was most anxious that I should not
shoot, remarked sarcastically that since the "owl-man", as he
called Kaneke, was such a wonderful wizard, perhaps he would exert
his powers and send it away.

Kaneke, who had been marching moodily along as fast as his legs,
still stiff from the bonds, would allow, paying little or no
attention to the matter of the lion, heard him and seemed to wake
up.

"Yes," he said, "if you are afraid of the beast I can do that.
Bide here, I pray you, Lord, till I call you."

Then, quite unarmed, without so much as a stick in his hand indeed,
he walked forward quietly to where the lion, a large one with a
somewhat scrubby mane, lay upon a rock between the bank of the
stream and a little cliff.  I watched him amazed, holding my rifle
ready and feeling sure that unless I could shoot it first, which
was improbable because he was in my line of fire, there would soon
be an end of Kaneke.  This, however, did not happen, for the man
trudged on and presently was so close to the lion that his body hid
it from my sight.

After this I heard a growl which degenerated into a yelp like to
that of a beast in pain.  The next thing I saw was Kaneke standing
on the rock where the lion had been, outlined very clearly against
the sky, and beckoning to us to come forward.  So we went, not
without doubt, and found Kaneke seated on the rock with his face
towards us as though to rest his legs, and as it seemed once more
lost in reverie.

"The lion has gone," he said shortly, "or rather the lions, for
there were two of them, and will return no more to trouble you.
Let us walk on, I will go first."

"He is a very good wizard, Baas," said Hans reflectively in Dutch,
as we followed.  "Or perhaps," he added, "that lion is one of his
familiars which he calls and sends away as he likes."

"Bosh!" I grunted.  "The brute bolted, that is all."

"Yes, Baas.  Still, I think that if you or I had gone forward
without a gun it would have bolted us, for as you know, when a lion
follows a man like that, its belly has been empty for days.  This
Kaneke's other name must be Daniel, Baas, who used to like to sleep
with lions."

I did not argue with Hans; indeed, I was too tired to talk, but
stumped along till presently we came to the site of the camp which
we had left early on that eventful night--days ago it seemed to be.
Here I found that my orders had been obeyed and that Tom and Jerry
had gone forward with the porters, as I judged from various
indications, such as the state of the cooking-fire, not much more
than an hour before.  Therefore there was nothing to do but follow
their trail, which was broad and easy, even in the low moonlight.

On we marched accordingly, always uphill, which made our weary
progress slow.  At length came the dawn, a hot, still dawn, and
after it the sunrise.  By its bright light we saw two things: our
porters camping at the appointed spot about half a mile away among
some rocks just above a pool of water that remained in a dry river-
bed; and behind us, perhaps two miles off, tracking our spoor up
the slope that we had travelled, a party of white-robed Arabs,
twenty of them or more.

"Now we are in for it," I said.  "Come on, Hans, there is no time
to spare."



CHAPTER VI

KANEKE'S FRIENDS


I know of no greater pick-me-up for a tired man than the sight of a
body of enemies running on his spoor with the clear and definite
object of putting an end to his mortal existence.  On this
occasion, for instance, suddenly I felt quite fresh again and
covered that half-mile which lay between us and the camp in almost
record time.  So did the other two, for the three of us arrived
there nearly neck and neck.

As we scrambled into the place I observed with joy that Tom and
Jerry had taken in the situation, for already the porters were
engaged in piling stones into a wall, or in hacking down thorn
trees and dragging their prickly boughs together so as to form a
boma.  More, those excellent men had breakfast cooking for us upon
a fire, and coffee ready.

Having given such orders as were necessary, though in truth there
was little to be done, I fell upon that breakfast and devoured it,
for we were starving.  Hot coffee and food are great stimulants,
and in ten minutes I felt a new man.  Then the four of us, namely,
Tom, Jerry, Hans, and I, took counsel together, for at the moment I
could not see Kaneke who, having bolted some meat, had gone, as I
presumed, to help with the boma-building.  It was needful, for the
position seemed fairly desperate.

By now the Arabs, who advanced slowly, were about half a mile away,
and with the aid of my glasses I saw that there were more of them
than I had thought, forty or fifty indeed, of whom quite half
carried guns of one sort or another.  I surveyed the position and
found that it was good for defence.  The camp was on the slope of a
little koppie, round-topped and thickly strewn with boulders.  To
our right at the foot of the koppie was the long, broad pool I have
mentioned.

Behind lay the river-bed half encircling the koppie, or rather a
swamp through which the river ran when it was full, which swamp was
so deep with sticky mud that advance over it would be difficult, if
not impossible.  To our left, however, was a dry vlei overgrown
with tall grass and thorn trees, through which wended the native
path that we had been following.  In front the veld over which we
had advanced, was open, but gave no cover, for here the grass had
been burned leaving the soil bare.  Therefore the Arabs could only
advance upon us from this direction, or possibly through the thick
grass and trees to our left.

But here came the rub.  With a dozen decent shots I should have
feared nothing.  We, however, had but four upon whom we could rely,
and Kaneke, who was an unknown quantity.  If these Arabs meant
business our case was hopeless, for of course no reliance could be
placed on the porters, or at any rate upon most of them, who
moreover had no guns.  In short there was nothing to be done except
trust in Providence and fight our hardest.

We got out the guns, Winchester repeaters all of them, of which I
had six with me, and opened a couple of boxes of ammunition.  The
heavy game rifles we loaded and kept in reserve, also a couple of
shot-guns charged with loopers, as we called slugs, for these are
very effective in meeting a rush.  Then I told Hans to find Kaneke,
that I might explain matters and give him a rifle.  He went and
returned presently saying that Kaneke was not working at the walls
or cutting down thorns.

"Baas," he added, "I think that skunk has run away or turned into a
snake and slid into the reeds."

"Nonsense," I answered.  "Where could he run to?  I will look for
him myself; those Arabs won't be here yet awhile."

So off I went and climbed to the top of the koppie to get a better
view.  Presently I thought I heard a sound beneath me, and looking
over the edge of the boulder, saw Kaneke standing in a little bay
of rock, waving his arms in a most peculiar fashion and talking in
a low voice as though he were carrying on a conversation with some
unseen person.

"Hi!" I said, exasperated.  "Perhaps you are not aware that those
friends of yours will be here presently and that you had better
come to help to keep them off.  Might I ask what you are doing?"

"That will be seen later, Lord," he answered quietly.  Then, with a
final wave of the hand and a nod of the head, such as a man gives
in assent, he turned and climbed up to where I was.

Not one word did he say until we reached the others, nor did I
question him.  Indeed, I thought it useless as I had made up my
mind that the fellow was mad.  Still; as he was an able-bodied man
who said that he could shoot, I gave him one of the rifles and a
supply of cartridges, and hoped for the best.

By now the Arabs had come within four hundred yards, whereon a new
trouble developed, for the porters grew frightened and threatened
to bolt.  I sent Hans to tell them that I would shoot the first man
who stirred, and when, notwithstanding this, one of them did begin
to run, I fired a shot which purposely missed him by a few inches
and flattened on a rock in front of his face.  This frightened him
so much that he fell down and lay still, which caused me to fear
that I had made a mistake and hit him through the head.  The effect
upon the others was marked, for they squatted on the ground and
began to pray to whatever gods or idols they worshipped, or to talk
about their mothers, nor did any of them attempt to stir again.

At the sound of this shot the Arabs halted, thinking that it had
been fired at them, and began to consult together.  After they had
talked for some time one man came forward waving a flag of truce
made of a white turban cloth tied to a spear.  In reply I shook a
pocket handkerchief which was far from white, whereon he walked
forward to within twenty yards of the boma.  Here I shouted to him
to stop, suspecting that he wished to spy upon us, and went out to
meet him with Hans, who would not allow me to go alone.

"What do you and your people want?" I said, in a loud voice to the
man, whom I recognized as one of the judges who had tried Kaneke.

"White Master," he answered, "we want the wizard Kaneke, whom you
have stolen away from us, and whom we have doomed to die.  Give him
to us, dead or alive, and we will let you and your people go in
peace, for against you we have no other quarrel.  If you do not, we
will kill you, every one."

"That remains to be seen," I answered boldly.  "As for the rest,
hand over to me the woman called White-Mouse and I will talk with
you."

"I cannot," he answered.

"Why not?  Have you killed her?"

"By Allah, no!" he exclaimed earnestly.  "We have not killed that
witch, though it is true we wished to do so.  Somehow in the
confusion she slipped from our hands, and we cannot find her.  We
think that she has turned into an owl and flown to Satan, her
master."

"Do you?  Well, I think that you lie.  Now tell me why you wish to
kill Kaneke after he has run away from you, leaving you to walk
your own road?"

"Because," answered the Arab in a fury, "he has left his curse upon
us, which can only be loosed with his blood.  Did you not hear him
swear to bring a plague upon us, and has not the spotted sickness
broken out in the town so that already many are ill and doubtless
will die?  Also has he not murdered our brother and bewitched us in
many other ways, and will he not utterly destroy us by bringing our
enemies upon us, as two moons ago he swore that he would do unless
we let him go?"

"So you were keeping him a prisoner?"

"Of course, White Man.  He has been a prisoner ever since he came
among us, though at times it is true that he has been seen outside
the town, and now we know how he came there."

"Why did you keep him a prisoner?"

"That in protecting himself he might protect us also by his magic,
for we knew that if he should escape he would bring destruction
upon us.  And now, will you give him up to us, or will you not?"

There was a certain insolence about the way in which the man asked
this question that put my back up at once, and I answered on the
impulse of the moment:

"I will not.  First, I will see all of you in hell.  What business
have you and your fellow half-breed Arabs to threaten to attack me,
a subject of the Queen of England, because I give shelter to a
fugitive whom you wish to murder?  And what have you done with the
woman called White-Mouse who, you say, has changed into an owl?
Produce her, lest I hold you all to account for her life.  Oh, you
think that I am weak because I have but few men with me here.  Yet
I tell you that before the sun has set, I, Macumazahn, will teach
you a lesson, if, indeed, any of you live to learn it."

The man stared at me, frightened by my bold talk.  Then, without a
word, he turned and ran back towards his people, zigzagging as he
went, doubtless because he feared that I would shoot him.  I too,
turned, and strolled unconcernedly up the slope to the boma, just
to show them that I was not afraid.

"Baas," said Hans, as we went, "as usual you are wrong.  Why do you
not surrender that big-eyed wizard who is putting us to so much
trouble?"

"Because, Hans, I should be ashamed of myself if I did, and what is
more, you would be ashamed of me."

"Yes, Baas, that is quite true.  I should never think the same of
you again.  But, Baas, when a man's throat's going to be cut, he
doesn't remember what he would think afterwards if it wasn't cut.
Well, we are all going to be killed, for what we can do against
those men I can't see, and when we meet your reverend father
presently in the Place of Fires, I shall tell him that I did my
best to keep you from coming there so soon.  And now Baas, I will
bet you that monkey-skin tobacco pouch of mine of which you are so
jealous, against a bottle of gin, to be paid when we get back to
the coast, that before the day is over I put a bullet through that
Arab villain who talked to you so insolently."

We reached the boma, where I told Tom and Jerry, also Kaneke, the
gist of what had passed.  The dashing Tom seemed not displeased at
the prospect of a fight, while Jerry the phlegmatic, shook his head
and shrugged his shoulders, after which they both retired behind a
rock for a few moments, as Hans informed me, to say their prayers
and confess their sins to each other.  Kaneke listened and made but
one remark.

"You are behaving well to me, Lord Macumazahn, and now I will
behave well to you."

"Thank you," I answered.  "I shall remind you of that if we meet on
the other side of the sun, or in that star you worship.  Now please
go to your post, shoot as straight as you can, and don't waste
cartridges."

Then, when the hunters had returned from their religious exercises,
we took our places, each in a little shelter of rocks, so arranged
that we could fire over the fence of the boma.  I was in the
middle, with Hans and Kaneke on either side of me, while Tom and
Jerry were at the ends of the line.  There we crouched, expecting a
frontal attack, but this did not develop.  After a long talk the
Arabs fired a few shots from a distance of about four hundred
yards, which either fell short or went I know not where.  Then
suddenly they began to run over the open land where, as I have
said, the veld was burned, towards the tall grass with thorn trees
growing in it that lay upon our left, evidently with the design of
outflanking us.

At the head of their scattered band was a tall man in whom, by the
aid of my glasses, I recognized the venomous and evil-tempered
Gaika, who had acted as chief-justice at Kaneke's trial, a person
who had threatened me and of whom I had conceived an intense
dislike.  Hans, whose sight was as keen as a vulture's, recognized
him also, for he said:

"There goes that hyena Gaika."

"Give me my express," I said, laying down the Winchester, and he
handed it to me cocked.

"Let no man fire!" I cried as I took it, and lifted the flap-sight
that was marked five hundred yards.  Then I stood up, set my left
elbow upon a stone, and waited my chance.

It came a few moments later, when Gaika must cross a little ridge
of ground where he was outlined against the sky.  The shot was a
long one for an express, but I knew my rifle and determined to risk
it.  I got on to him, aiming at his middle, and swung the barrel
the merest fraction in front to allow time for the bullet to
travel.  Then, drawing a long breath to steady myself, I pressed
the trigger, of which the pull was very light.

The rifle rang out and I waited anxiously, for, although the best
of shots need not have been ashamed to do so, I feared to miss,
knowing that if this happened it would be taken as an omen.  Well,
I did not miss, for two seconds later I saw Gaika plunge to the
ground, roll over and over and lie still.

"Oh!" said my people simultaneously, looking at me with admiration
and pride.  But I was not proud, except a little perhaps at my
marksmanship, for I was sorry to have to shoot this disagreeable
and to us most dangerous man, so much so that I did not fire the
other barrel of the express.

For a moment his nearest companions stopped and stared at Gaika;
then they fled on towards the high grass and reeds, leaving him on
the ground, which showed me that he must be dead.  I hoped that
they were merely taking cover and that the sudden end of Gaika
would have caused them to change their minds about attacking us,
which was why I shot him.  This, however, was not the case, for a
while later fire was opened on us from a score of places in these
reeds.  Here and there in the centre of clumps of them and behind
the trunks of thorns the Arabs had hidden themselves, singly or in
pairs, and the trouble was that we could not see one of them.  This
made it quite useless to attempt to return their fire because our
bullets would only have been wasted, and I had no ammunition to
throw away in such a fashion.  So there we must lie, doing nothing.

It was true that for the present we were not in any great danger,
because we could take shelter behind stones upon which the missiles
of the Arabs flattened themselves, if they hit at all, for the
shooting being erratic, most of them sang over us harmlessly.  The
sound of these bullets, which sometimes I think were only pebbles
coated with lead, or fragments of iron, terrified our bearers,
however, especially after one of them had been slightly wounded by
a lead splinter, or a fragment of rock.  The wretched men began to
jabber and now and again to cry out with fear, nor could all my
orders and threats keep them quiet.

At length, after this bombardment had continued for nearly two
hours, there came a climax.  Suddenly, as though at a word of
command, the bearers rose and rushed down the slope like a bunch of
startled buck.  They ran to the bank of the pool which I have
mentioned, following it eastwards towards Kaneke's town, till they
came to the bed of the river of which the pool formed a part in the
wet season, where they vanished.

Of course we could have shot some of them as they went, as Hans,
who was feeling spiteful, wanted to do, but this I would not allow,
for what was the use of trying to stop a pack of cowards who, as
likely as not, would attack us from behind if a rush came, hoped
thus to propitiate the Arabs?  What happened to those men I do not
know, for they vanished completely, nor did I ever hear of them
again.  Perhaps some of them escaped back to the coast, but being
without arms or food, this I think more than doubtful.  The poor
wretches must have wandered till they starved or were killed by
wild beasts, unless indeed they were captured and enslaved.

Now our position was very serious.  Here we were, five men and one
donkey; for I think I have said that I possessed this beast, a
particularly intelligent creature called Donna after a half-breed
Portuguese woman the rest of whose name I forget, who had sold it
to me with two others that died on the road.  Beneath us,
completely hidden, were forty or fifty determined enemies who
probably were waiting for nightfall to creep up the koppie and cut
our throats.  What could we do?

Hans, whose imagination was fertile, suggested various expedients.
His first was that we should try to fire the reeds and long grass
in which the Arabs had taken cover, which was quite impracticable,
because first we had to get there without being shot; also they
were still too green to burn and the wind was blowing the wrong
way.  His next idea was that we should follow the example of the
porters and bolt.  This, I pointed out, was foolish, for we should
only be run down and killed.  Even if we waited till dark, almost
certainly the end would be disaster; moreover we should be obliged
to leave most of our gear and ammunition behind.  Then he made a
third proposal in a mixture of Dutch and English, which was but an
old one in a new form, namely, that we should try to buy off the
Arabs by surrendering Kaneke.

"I have already told you that I will do nothing of the sort.  I
promised White-Mouse to try to save this man, and there's an end."

"Yes, Baas, I know you did.  Oh, what bad luck it is that White-
Mouse was so pretty.  If only her face had been like a squashed
pumpkin, or if she had been dirty, with creatures in her hair, we
shouldn't be looking at our last sun, Baas.  Well, no doubt soon we
shall be talking over the business with her in the Place of Fires,
where I am sure she has gone, whatever that liar of a messenger may
have said.  Now I have finished who can think of nothing more,
except to pray to your reverend father, who doubtless can help us
if he chooses, which perhaps he doesn't, because he is so anxious
to see me again."

Having delivered himself thus, Hans squatted a little more closely
beneath his stone, over which a bullet had just passed with a most
vicious whiz, and lit a pipe.

Next I tried the two hunters, only to find that they were quite
barren of ideas, for they shook their heads and went on murmuring
prayers.  There remained Kaneke, at whom I glanced in despair.
There he sat silent, with a face like a brickbat so impassive was
it, giving me the idea of a man who is listening intently for
something.  For what? I wondered.

"Kaneke," I said, "by you, or on your behalf by another whom I
think is dead, we have been led into a deep hole.  Here we are who
can be counted on the fingers of one hand, under fire from those
who hate you, but against whom we have no quarrel, except on your
account.  The porters have fled away and our enemies, whom we
cannot shoot because they are invisible in the reeds and grass of
that pan, only await darkness to attack and make an end of us.  Now
if you have any word of comfort, speak, for it is needed,
remembering that if we die, you die also."

"Comfort!" he answered in his dreamy fashion.  "Oh yes, it is at
hand.  I am waiting for it now, my Lord Macumazahn," and he went on
listening like one who has been interrupted in a serious matter by
some babbler of trivialities.

This was too much for me; my patience gave way, and I addressed
Kaneke in language which I will not record, saying amongst other
forcible things that I was sorry I had not followed Hans' advice
and abandoned him or surrendered him to the Arabs.

"You could not do that, my Lord Macumazahn," he answered mildly,
"seeing that you had promised White-Mouse to save me.  No one could
break his word to White-Mouse, could he?"

"White-Mouse!" I ejaculated.  "Where is she?  Poor woman, she is
dead, and for you, as the rest of us soon will be.  And now you
talk to me about my promises to her.  How do you know what I
promised her, you anathema'd bag of mysteries?"

"I do know, Lord," he replied, still more vaguely and gently.  Then
suddenly he added, "Hark!  I hear the comfort coming," and lifted
his hand in an impressive manner, only to drop it again in haste,
because a passing bullet had scraped the skin off his finger.

Something caught my ear and I listened.  From far away came a sound
which reminded me of that made by a pack of wild dogs hunting a
buck at night, a kind of surging, barbarous music.

"What is it?" I asked.

Kaneke, who was sucking the scraped finger, removed it from his
mouth and replied that it was "the comfort", and that if I would
look perhaps I should see.

So I did look through a crack between two stones towards the
direction from which the sound seemed to come, namely eastward
beyond the dry swamp where the veld was formed of great waves of
land spotted with a sparse growth of thorn trees, swelling
undulations like to those of the deep ocean, only on a larger
scale.  Presently, coming over the crest of one of these waves, now
seen and now lost among the thorns, appeared a vast number of men,
savage-looking fellows who wore feathers in their hair and very
little else, and carried broad, long-handled spears.

"Who the deuce are these?" I asked, but Kaneke made no answer.

There he sat behind his stone, pointing towards the reeds in which
the Arabs were hidden with his bleeding finger and muttering to
himself.

Hans who, wild with curiosity, had thrust his sticky face against
mine in order to share the view through the chink, whispered into
my ear:

"Don't disturb him, Baas.  These are his friends and he is telling
them where those Arabs are."

"How can he tell people half a mile away anything, you idiot?" I
asked.

"Oh, quite easily, Baas.  You see, he is a magician, and magicians
talk with their minds.  It is their way of sending telegrams, as
you do in Natal, Baas.  Well, things look better now.  As your
reverend father used to say, if only you wait long enough the devil
always helps you at last."

"Rot!" I ejaculated, though I agreed that things did look better,
that is, unless these black scoundrels intended to attack us and
not the Arabs.  Then I set myself to watch events with the greatest
interest.

The horde of savages, advancing at a great pace--there must have
been two or three hundred of them--made for the dry pan like bees
for their hive.  Whether Kaneke instructed them or not, evidently
their intelligence department was excellent, for they knew exactly
what they had to do.  Reaching the edge of it, they halted for a
while and ceased their weird song, I suppose to get their breath
and to form up.  Then at some signal the song began again and they
plunged into those reeds like dogs after an otter.

Up to this moment the Arabs hidden there did not seem to be aware
of their approach, I suppose because their attention was too firmly
fixed upon us, for they kept on firing at the koppie in a desultory
fashion.  Now of a sudden this firing ceased, and from the thicket
below arose yells of fear, surprise, and anger.  Next at its
further end, that which lay towards Kaneke's town, appeared the
Arabs running for all they were worth, and presently, after them,
their savage attackers.

Heavens, what a race was that!  Never have I seen men go faster
than did those Arabs across the plain with the wild pursuers at
their heels.  Some were caught and killed, but when at last they
vanished out of sight, most of them were still well ahead.  Hans
wanted to shoot at them, but I would not allow it, for what was the
use of trying to kill the poor wretches while others were fighting
our battle?  So it came about that the only shot we fired that day,
I mean in earnest, was that which I had aimed at Gaika, which was
strange when I had prepared for a desperate battle against
overwhelming odds.

All having vanished behind the irregularities of the ground, except
a few who had been caught and speared, in the silence which
followed the war-song and the shoutings, I turned to Kaneke and
asked for explanations.  He replied quite pleasantly and briefly,
that these black men were some of his "friends" whom the Arabs had
always feared he would bring upon them, which was why they kept him
prisoner and wished to kill him.

"I had no intention of doing anything of the sort, Lord," he added,
"until it became necessary in order to save our lives.  Then, of
course I asked them for help, whereon they came at once and did
what was wanted, as you have seen."

"And pray how did you ask them, Kaneke?"

"Oh, Lord, by messengers as one always asks people at a distance,
though they were so long coming I feared lest the messengers might
not have reached them."

"He lies, Baas," said Hans, in Dutch.  "It is no good trying to
pump the truth out of his heart, for you will only tire yourself
bringing up more lies."

As I agreed, I dropped the subject and inquired of Kaneke whether
his friends were coming back again.  He said he thought so and
before very long, as he had told them not to attack the town in
which dwelt many innocent women and children.

"But, Lord," he went on, with unusual emphasis, "when they do
return I think it will be well that you should not go to speak to
them.  To tell the truth, they are savage people, and being very
naked, might take a fancy to your clothes, also to your guns and
ammunition.  I will just go down to give them a word of thanks and
bring back some porters to take the place of those who have run
away, whom, by the way, I hope they have not met.  Foreseeing
something of the sort, I asked them to bring a number of suitable
men."

"Did you?" I gasped.  "You are indeed a provident person.  And now
may I ask you whether you intend to return to your town, or what
you mean to do?"

"Certainly I do not intend to return, Lord, in order to care for
people who have been so ungrateful.  Also, that spotted sickness is
most unpleasant to see.  No, Lord, I intend to accompany you to the
country of the Lake Mone."

"The Lake Mone!" I said.  "I have had enough of that lake, or
rather of the journey to it, and I have made up my mind not to go
there."

He looked at me, and under the assumed mildness of that look I read
intense determination as he answered:

"I think you will go to the Lake Mone, Lord Macumazahn."

"And I think I will not, Kaneke."

"Indeed.  In that case, Lord, I must talk to my friends when they
return, and make certain arrangements with them."

We stared at each other for what seemed quite a long time, though I
dare say it was only a few seconds.  I don't know what Kaneke read
of my mind, but what I read of his was a full intention that I
should accompany him to the Lake Mone, or be left to the tender
mercies of his "friends", at present engaged in Arab-hunting who,
it seemed, had so great a passion for European guns and garments.

Now there are times when it is well to give way, and the knowledge
of those times, to my mind, often marks the difference between a
wise man and a fool.  As we all know, wisdom and folly are
contiguous states, and the line dividing them is very thin and
crooked, which makes it difficult not to blunder across its
borders, I mean from the land of wisdom into that of folly, for the
other step is rarely taken, save by one inspired by the best of
angels.

In this instance, although I do not pretend to any exceptional
sagacity, I felt strongly that it would be well to stick on my own
side of the line and not defy the Fates as represented by that
queer person Kaneke, and his black "friends" whom he seemed to have
summoned from nowhere in particular.  After all, I was in a tight
place.  To travel back without porters, even if I escaped the
"friends" and the Arabs who now had a quarrel against me, was
almost impossible, and the same might be said of a journey in any
other direction.  It seemed, therefore, that it would be best to
continue to suffer those ills I knew of, namely the fellowship of
Kaneke on an expedition into the unknown.

"Very well," I remarked casually, after a swift weighing of these
matters and a still swifter remembrance of the prophecy of White-
Mouse that I should come safely through the business.  (Why this
should have struck me at that moment I could not say.)--"Very well,
it does not much matter to me whether I turn east or west.  So let
us go to Lake Mone, if there be such a place, though I wonder what
will be the end of that journey."

"So do I," replied Kaneke dryly.



CHAPTER VII

THE JOURNEY


Now, for sundry reasons, I am going to follow the example of a lady
of my acquaintance who makes it a rule to read two three-volume
novels a week, and skip, by which I mean that I will compress the
tale of our journey to the land of the mysterious Lake Mone into
the smallest possible compass.  If set out in full the details of
such a trek as this through country that at the time was
practically unknown to white men--it took between two and three
months--would suffice to fill a volume.  It might be an interesting
volume in its way, to a few who care for descriptions of African
races and scenery, but to the many I fear that its chapters would
present a certain sameness.  So I shall leave them untold and
practise the art of précis-writing until I come to the heart of the
story.



After the conversation of which I have spoken, we cooked and ate
food, which all of us needed badly.  Then, being very tired and
worn with many emotions, Hans and I went to sleep in the shade of
some rocks, leaving Tom and Jerry to keep watch.  About three
o'clock in the afternoon one of them woke us up, or rather woke me
up, for Hans, who could do with very little sleep, was already
astir and engaged in overhauling the rifles.  They told me that the
black men were returning.  I asked where Kaneke was, and learned
that he had gone to meet them.  Then I took my glasses and from a
point of vantage kept watch upon what happened.

The savages, impressive-looking fellows in their plume-crowned
nakedness, came streaming across the veld, some of them carrying in
their hands objects which I believe to have been the heads of
Arabs, though of this I cannot be sure because they were so far
away.  They were no longer singing or in haste but walked quietly,
with the contented air of men filled with a sense of duty done.
Appeared Kaneke marching towards them, whereon they halted and
saluted by raising their spears, thus showing me that in their
opinion he was a man of great position and dignity.  They formed a
ring round Kaneke, from the centre of which he seemed to address
them.  When this ring opened out again, which it did after a while,
I observed that a fire had been lit, how, or fed with what fuel, I
do not know, and that on it the savages were laying the objects
which I took to be the heads of Arabs.

"Kaneke is their great devil, and they are sacrificing to him,
Baas," whispered Hans.

"At any rate, on this occasion he has been a useful devil," I
answered, "or, rather, his worshippers have been useful."

A while later, when the rite, or sacrifice, or whatever it may have
been, was completed, the savages started forward again, leaving the
fire still burning on the veld, and marched almost to the foot of
the koppie, which caused me some alarm, as I thought they might be
coming to the camp.  This was not so, however, for when they were
within a few hundred yards, of a sudden they broke into a chant,
not the same which they had used when advancing, but one which had
in it a kind of note of farewell, and departing at a run past the
outer edge of the dry vlei from which they had driven the Arabs,
soon were lost to sight.  Yes, their song grew fainter and fainter,
till at length it was swallowed up in silence and the singers
vanished into the vast depths of distance whence they came.

Where did they come from and who were they?  I know not, for on
this matter Kaneke preserved a silence so impenetrable that at
length the mystery of their appearance and disappearance began, to
my mind, to take the character of an episode in a dream.  Or,
rather, it would have done so had it not been for the circumstance
that they did not all go.  On the contrary, about twenty were left,
who stood before Kaneke with folded arms and bent heads, their
spears thrust into the ground in front of them, blade upwards, by
means of the iron spikes that were fixed to the handles.  Also at
the feet of each man was a bundle wrapped round with a mat.

"Hullo!" I said.  "What do those men want?  Do they mean mischief?"

"Oh no, Baas," answered Hans.  "The Baas will remember that Kaneke
promised us some more porters, and these are the men.  Doubtless he
is a great wizard, and for aught I know, may have made them and all
the rest out of mud; like Adam and Eve, Baas.  Still, I am
beginning to think better of Kaneke, who is not just a humbug, as I
thought, but one who can do things."

Meanwhile at some sign the men picked up the bundles and slung them
over their shoulders, drew their spears from the ground and
followed Kaneke towards the camp, where we waited for them with our
rifles ready in case of accidents.

"Baas," said Hans, as they approached, "I do not think that these
men are the brothers of those who attacked the Arabs just now; I
think that they are different."

I studied them and came to the same conclusion.  To begin with, so
far as I could judge who had only seen our wild rescuers from a
distance, these were lighter in colour, brown rather than black,
indeed, also they were taller and their hair was much less woolly,
only curling up at the ends which hung down upon their shoulders.
For the rest, they were magnificently built, with large brown eyes
not unlike those of Kaneke, and well-cut features with nothing
negroid about them.  Nor, in truth, were they of Arab type who
seemed rather to belong to some race that was new to me, and yet of
very ancient and unmixed blood.

Could they, I wondered, belong to the same people as Kaneke
himself?  No; although so like him, it seemed impossible, for how
would they have got here?

Very quietly and solemnly the men approached to where I was sitting
on a stone, walking in as good a double line as the nature of the
ground would allow, as though they had been accustomed to
discipline, and laying their right hands upon their hearts, bowed
to me in a courtly fashion that was almost European; so courtly,
indeed, that I felt bound to stand up, take off my hat, and return
the bow.  To Hans they did not bow, but only regarded him with a
mild curiosity, or to the hunters either, for these they seemed to
recognize were servants.

The sight of the donkey, Donna, however, appeared to astonish them,
and when at that moment she broke into her loudest bray, intimating
that she wished to be fed, they looked downright frightened,
thinking, I suppose, that she was some strange wild beast.

Kaneke spoke a word or two to them in a tongue I did not know,
whereon they smiled as though in apology.  Then he said:

"Lord Macumazahn, you, and still more your servant Hans, have
mistrusted me, thinking either that I was mad or leading you into
some trap.  Nor do I wonder at this, seeing that much has happened
since yesterday which you must find it hard to understand.  Still,
Lord, as you will admit, all has gone well.  Those whom I summoned
to aid us have done their work and departed, to be seen of you no
more; the Arabs over whom I ruled and who went near to murdering
me, and would have murdered you because you refused to deliver me
to them, as Hans wished that you should do, have learned their
lesson and will not trouble you again.  These men"--and he pointed
to his companions--"you will find brave and trustworthy, nor will
they be a burden to you in any way; nay, rather they will bear your
burdens.  Only, I pray you, do not question them as to who they are
or whence they come, for they are under a vow of silence.  Have I
your promise?"

"Oh, certainly," I answered, adding with inward doubt, "and that of
Hans and the hunters also.  And now as I understand nothing of all
this business, which I do not consider has gone as well as you say,
seeing that White-Mouse, the woman who saved your life, although,
as she told me, she was not your wife--"

"That is true, as I have said already," interrupted Kaneke, bowing
his head in a way that struck me as almost reverential.

"--Seeing that White-Mouse," I repeated, "doubtless is dead at the
hands of those Arabs of yours who hated you, which blackens
everything, perhaps you will be so good as to tell me, Kaneke, what
is to happen next."

"Our journey, Lord," he replied, with a stare of surprise.  "What
else?  Moreover, Lord, be sure that about this journey you need not
trouble any more.  Henceforward, until we reach the land of my
people I will take command and arrange for everything.  All that
you need do is to follow where I lead and amuse yourself, resting
or stopping to shoot when you will, and giving me your orders as to
every matter of the sort, which shall be obeyed.  This you can do
without fear seeing that, as White-Mouse told you, all shall go
well with you."

Now once more I was tempted to question him as to the source of his
information about what passed between me and White-Mouse, but
refrained, remarking only that he was very good at guessing.

"Yes, Lord," he replied.  "I have always had a gift that way, as
you may have noticed when I guessed that those savages would come
to help us, and bring with them men to take the place of the
porters who have fled.  Well, I notice that you do not contradict
my guess and again I assure you that White-Mouse spoke true words."

Now for a minute I was indignant at Kaneke's impudence.  It seemed
outrageous that he, or any native African, should presume to put
me, Allan Quatermain, under his orders, to go where HE liked and to
do what HE chose.  Indeed, I was about to refuse such a position
with the greatest emphasis when suddenly it occurred to me that
there was another side to the question.

Although I had never travelled there, I had heard from friends how
people touring in the East place themselves in charge of a
dragoman, a splendid but obsequious individual who dry-nurses them
day and night, arranges, commands, feeds, masters difficulties,
wrangles with extortioners or obstructionists, and finally gently
leads his employers whither they would go and back again.  It is
true I had heard, too, that these skilled and professional persons
are rather apt to melt away in times of real danger or trouble,
leaving their masters to do the fighting, also that their bills are
invariably large.  For every system has its drawbacks and these are
chances which must be faced.

Still, this idea of being dragomanned, personally conducted like a
Cook's tourist, through untrodden parts of Africa, had charms.  It
would be such a thorough change--at any rate to me.  Then and there
I determined to accept the offer, reflecting that if the worst came
to the worst, I could always take command again.  It was obvious
that I must accompany Kaneke or run the risk of strange things
happening to me at his hands and those of his followers whom he had
collected out of nowhere.  Therefore the responsibilities of the
expedition might as well be his as mine.

So I answered mildly:

"Agreed, Kaneke.  You shall lead and I will follow.  I place myself
and my servants in your hands, trusting to you to guide us safely
and to protect us against every danger.  Though," I added in a
sterner voice, "I warn you that at the first sign of treachery I
will shoot you dead.  And now tell me, when are we to start?"

"At moonrise, I think, Lord, for then it will be cooler.  Meanwhile
you and your servants can sleep who need rest after so many
labours.  Fear nothing; I and my men will watch."

"Baas," said Hans as we went away to act upon this advice, "I never
thought you and I, who are getting old, would live to find a new
mammy, and such a one with eye and beak of an owl who, like an owl,
loves to stare at the stars and to fly at night.  However, if the
Baas does not mind, I don't."

I made no answer, though I thought to myself that Kaneke's great
sleepy eyes were really not unlike those of an owl, that mysterious
bird which in the native mind is always connected with omens and
magic.  Yes, in calling him an owl Hans showed his usual aptitude,
especially as he believed that he was the destroyer of that strange
and beautiful woman, White-Mouse.



Well, we rested, and ate on waking, and at moonrise departed upon
our journey, heading nor'-west.  Everything was prepared, even the
loads were apportioned among the new porters.  Indeed, there was
nothing left for us to do except roll up the little tent and tie
it, together with my personal belongings, on to the back of Donna,
whom Hans fed and Tom and Jerry led alternately.  We met with no
adventures.  The lion or lions, on whom, according to Hans, Kaneke
had thrown a charm, did not trouble us; we saw nothing of the Arabs
or the savages whom that strange person called his "friends".  In
short, we just walked forward where Kaneke guided as safely as
though we had been upon an English road, till we came to the place
where he said we were to halt.

Such was our first march which in the weeks that followed was
typical of scores of others.  Nothing happened to us upon that
prolonged trek; at least, nothing out of the way.  It was as though
a charm had been laid upon us, protecting us from all evils and
difficulties.  A great deal of the country through which we passed
was practically uninhabited.  I suppose that the slave-traders had
desolated it in bygone years, for often we saw ruined villages with
no one in them.  When they were inhabited, however, Kaneke would go
in advance and speak to their headman.  What he said to them I do
not know, but in the issue we always found the people friendly and
ready to supply us with such provisions as they had, generally
without payment.

One thing I noted: that they looked on me with awe.  At first I put
this down to the fact that most of them had never before seen a
real white man, but by degrees I came to the conclusion that there
was more behind, namely that for some reason or another I was
regarded as a most powerful fetish, or even as a kind of god.  Thus
they would abase themselves upon their faces before me and even
make offerings to me of whatever they had, generally grain or
fruits.

While they confined themselves to these I took no notice, but when
at one village the chief, who could talk a little Arabic, having
mixed with slave-traders in his youth, brought a white cock and
proceeded to cut its throat and sprinkle my feet with the blood, I
thought it time to draw the line.  Snatching the dead bird from his
hand, I threw it away and asked him why he had done this thing.  At
first he was too terrified to answer, imagining that his offering
was rejected because I was angry with him.

Presently, however, he fell upon his knees and mumbled something to
the effect that he was only doing me honour, as the "messenger", or
"my messenger", had commended him.  For the life of me I could not
understand what he meant, unless he alluded to Kaneke.  While I was
trying to find out, that worthy arrived and gave the chief one look
which caused him to rise and run away.

Then I cross-examined Kaneke without result, for he only shrugged
his shoulders and said that all these people were very simple and
wished to do honour to a white man.  Hans took a different view.

"How is it, Baas," he asked, "that they are always prepared to
receive us at these places and waiting with gifts?  None of those
men of the Owl's" (he often called Kaneke the "Owl") "go forward to
warn them, for I count them continually, especially at night and in
the morning, to find if one is missing.  Nor when we are travelling
through bush can they see us coming from far away.  How, then, do
they know?"

"I can't tell you."

"Then I will tell the Baas.  The owl-man sends his spirit ahead to
give them notice."  He paused, then added, "Or perhaps--"  Here he
stopped, saying that he had left his pipe on the ground, or
something of the sort, and departed.

So this mystery remained unsolved, like others.

In every way our good luck was so phenomenal that with the
superstition of a hunter, which infects all of our trade, I began
to fear that we must have some awful time ahead of us.  When we
came to rivers they were invariably fordable.  When we wanted meat,
there was always game at hand that could be shot without trouble by
Tom and Jerry--Kaneke, I observed, would never fire at any beast
even when I offered to lend him my rifle.  The weather was most
propitious, or if a bad storm came up we were under shelter.  No
one fell sick of fever or any other complaint; no one met with an
accident.  No lion troubled us, no snake bit us, and so forth.  At
last this unnatural state of affairs began to get upon our nerves,
especially upon those of Tom and Jerry, who came to me one evening
almost weeping, and declared that we were bewitched and going to
our deaths.

"Nonsense," I answered, "you ought to be glad that we have so much
good luck."

"Sugar is good," replied Tom, who loved sweet things, "but one
cannot live on nothing but sugar; it makes one sick, and I have had
bad dreams at night."

"I never expect to see my little daughter again, but if it is the
will of Heaven that cannot be helped," remarked the more phlegmatic
Jerry, adding, "Master, we do not like this Kaneke whom Hans calls
the Owl, and we wish that you would take command, as we do not know
where he is leading us."

"Nor do I, so I should be of no use as a guide.  But be at ease,
for I am making a map of the road for our return journey."

"When we return we shall need no map," said Tom in a hollow voice.
"We have heard from Hans that the lady or the witch called White-
Mouse promised safety and good fortune to him, and to you, Lord,
but it seems that about us she said nothing--"

"Look here," I broke in, exasperated, "if you two men are so
frightened for no cause that I can see, except that everything goes
well with us, you had better follow the example of the porters at
our first camp, and run away.  I will give you your rifles and as
many cartridges as you want, also the donkey Donna to carry them.
I can see no reason why you should not get back to the coast
safely, especially as you have money in your pockets."

Tom shook his head, remarking that he thought it probable that they
would be murdered before they had completed the first day's
journey.  Then Jerry, the phlegmatic, showed his real quality, or
perhaps the English blood, which I am sure ran in his veins,
manifested itself.

"Listen, Little Holes," he said to Tom.  "If we go on like this,
our master Macumazahn will learn to despise us, and we shall be the
laughing stock of the yellow man Hans, and perhaps of Kaneke and
his people also.  We undertook this journey; let us play the man
and go through with it to the end.  We can only die once, and
because we are Christians, should we also be cowards?  You have
none to mourn for you, and I have but one daughter, who has seen
little of me and who will be well looked after if I return no more.
Therefore I say let us put aside our fears, which after all are
built on water, and cease to trouble the master with them."

"That is well said," replied Tom, alias Little Holes, "and if it
were not for the accursed wizard, one of those who is spoken
against in the Holy Book, I should be quite happy.  But while he is
our guide, he who with his people, as I have seen at night, makes
incantations to the stars--"

Here Tom chanced to look up and to perceive Kaneke standing at a
distance, apparently out of hearing, with his large eyes fixed upon
us.  The effect was wonderful.  "Be careful.  Here is the wizard
himself," he whispered to Jerry, whereon they both turned and went
away.

Kaneke came up to me.

"Those hunters are afraid of something, Lord," he said quietly.
"For days past I have read it in their faces.  What is it that they
fear?"

"You," I answered bluntly--"you and the future."

"All men should hold the future in awe, Lord, so there they are
wise.  But why should they dread me?"

"Because they think you are a wizard, Kaneke."

He smiled in his slow fashion, and answered:

"As others have done and do.  If a man has more foresight or sees
deeper into hearts, or turns from women, or worships that which
most men do not worship, or is different from the rest in other
ways, then he is always called a wizard, as I am.  Lord, what your
servants need is that which will change their minds so that they
cease to think about themselves.  I have come to tell you that
tomorrow we enter into forest lands, which at this season are
haunted by vast herds of elephants that travel from different
quarters and meet here for the purposes of which we men know
nothing.  It might please you and those brave hunters of yours to
see this meeting and to shoot one or two of those elephants, for
among them are their kings, mighty bulls."

"I should like to see such a sight," I answered, "but there is
little use in shooting the beasts when one cannot carry the ivory."

"It might be buried till you return, Lord; at any rate it will give
the hunters occupation for a while."

"Very well," I answered indifferently, for to tell the truth I did
not believe in Kaneke's tale of vast herds of elephants that held a
kind of parliament in a particular forest.

Next night we camped on the outskirts of this forest of which
Kaneke had spoken.  It was a very strange place, different from any
other that I have seen.  In it grew great and solemn trees of a
species that was new to me; huge, clean-boiled trees with leafy
tops that met together and shut out the sun, so that where they
were thickest there was twilight even at midday, nor could any
undergrowth live beneath them.  But the trees did not grow
everywhere, for here and there were wide open spaces in which, for
some unknown reason, they refused to flourish.  These spaces, that
sometimes were as much as a mile across, were covered with scanty
bush and grasses.

All that night we heard elephants trumpeting around us, and when
morning came found that a great herd of them must have passed
within a quarter of a mile of our camp.  The sight of their spoor
excited the professional instincts of Tom and Jerry, who,
forgetting their gloom, prayed me to follow the herd.  I objected,
for the reason I have given, namely that if we killed any of them
it would be difficult to deal with the ivory.  Kaneke, however,
hearing our talk, declared that the porters needed rest and that he
would be very glad if it could be given to them for a day or two,
while we amused ourselves with hunting.

Then I gave way, being anxious to learn if there was any truth in
Kaneke's story about the meeting-place of elephants that was
supposed to exist in this forest.  Also I was desirous that the two
hunters should find something to do which would take their thoughts
into a more cheerful channel.  Personally, too, I felt that I
should be glad of a change from this continuous marching unmarked
by any incident.

So, after we had eaten and made our preparations, the four of us,
that is Tom, Jerry, Hans, and I, started--Kaneke would not come--
carrying large-bore rifles, a good supply of cartridges and some
food and water.  All the rest of that day we followed the spoor of
the elephants, that had not stopped to feed in the glades I have
described, as I had hoped that they would do, but appeared to be
pushing forward at a great rate towards some definite objective.
With one halt we marched on steadily in the shadow of those huge
trees, noticing that the elephant-spoor seemed to follow a kind of
road which wound in and out between their trunks or struck in a
straight line across the stretches of thin bushes and grass.

More than once I wished to return, as did Hans who, like myself saw
no use in this adventure.  Always, however, Tom and Jerry prayed to
be allowed to proceed, so on we went.  Towards sunset we lost the
spoor in a thick patch of forest.  Pushing on to find it again
while there was still light, we came suddenly to one of the open
spaces that I have mentioned which seemed to be much larger than
any other we had seen, also more bare of vegetation.  It must have
covered at least a thousand acres of ground, and perfectly flat;
indeed, I thought that at some faraway epoch it had formed the
bottom of a lake.

Near the centre of this oasis in the forest was a mound which, if I
may judge from pictures I have seen of them, resembled one of those
great tumuli that in certain parts of Europe the wild tribes of
thousands of years ago reared over the bones of their chieftains.
Or, as I afterwards discovered, more probably it was the natural
foundation of some lake-town where a tribe dwelt for safety when
all this place was under water.  At any rate there it stood, a low,
round eminence covered with a scanty growth of flowering bushes and
small trees.

Thinking that from this mound we might be able to see the
elephants, or at least which way they had gone, we marched thither,
I reflecting that at the worst it would be a better place for
camping than the gloomy and depressing forest.  Having climbed its
sloping side, we found that on the top it was flat except for a
large depression in the centre, where perhaps once had stood the
huts of its primeval inhabitants.  What was of more interest to us,
however, than the past history of the place, was that at the bottom
of this depression lay a pool of water supplied by some spring, or
by rain that had fallen recently.

Seeing this water, which we needed who had drunk all our own, I
determined that we would pass the night on the mound, although the
most careful search from its top failed to show any sign of the
elephants we had been spooring.

"Yes, Baas," said Hans, when I gave my orders, "but, all the same,
I don't like this place, Baas, and should prefer to get back to the
forest after we have drunk and filled our bottles."

I inquired why.

"I don't know, Baas.  Perhaps the spooks of those who once lived
here are all about, though we can't see them.  Or--but tell me,
Bass, why did that Owl-man, Kaneke, send us after those elephants?"

"To give Tom and Jerry something to think about, Hans."

He grinned and answered:

"Kaneke does not care whether those fellows have anything to think
about or not.  I should believe that he did it to give us the slip,
only I am sure that he does not want to go on alone.  So, Baas, it
must be to teach us some lesson and show us how powerful he is, so
powerful that he makes the Baas do what he wants, which no one has
done before."

I reflected that Hans was right.  I had not desired to come upon
this absurd hunt, yet somehow Kaneke had pushed me into it.

"I don't believe there are any elephants," went on Hans with
conviction.  "The spoor?  Oh, a magician like Kaneke can make
spoor, Baas.  Or if there seem to be elephants, then I believe that
they are really ghosts that put on that shape.  Let us go back to
the forest, Baas--if the Owl-man will give you leave."

Now I felt that the time had come for me to put my foot down, and I
did so with firmness.

"Stop talking nonsense, Hans," I said.  "I don't know what's the
matter with all you fellows.  Is your brain going soft as a rotten
coconut, like those of Tom and Jerry?  We will sleep here tonight
and return tomorrow to the camp."

"Oh, the Baas thinks he is going to sleep tonight.  Yes, he thinks
he is going to sleep," sniggered Hans.  "Well, we shall see," and
he bolted, still sniggering, before my wrath could descend upon
him.



The sun set and presently the big moon came up.  We ate of the food
we had with us; as we had nothing to cook it was needless to light
a fire, nor indeed did I wish to do so, for in such a spot a fire
was a dangerous advertisement.  So, as it seemed foolish to set a
watch in the middle of that open space, where there being no buck
there would be no lions--for lions do not hunt elephants--we just
lay down and went to sleep, as tired men should do.  I remember
thinking, as I dropped off, how extraordinarily quiet the place
was.  No beast called, no night-bird cried, nothing stirred on that
dead and windless calm.  Indeed, the silence was so oppressive that
for once I should have welcomed the familiar ping! of a mosquito,
but here there were none.

So off I went and at some time unknown, to judge by the moon it was
towards the middle of the night, was awakened by a sense of
oppression.  I dreamed that a great vampire bat was hanging over me
and sucking my toe.  Now I was lying on my face, as I often do when
camping out to avoid the risk of moon blindness, just at the edge
of that hole where, as I have told, water had collected, in such a
position that I could look down into the pool.  This water was very
still and clear and thus formed a perfect mirror.

As it happened there was something remarkable for it to reflect,
namely the head, trunk, and tusks of one of the hugest elephants I
ever saw--not Jana himself could have been much bigger!  As my
mirror showed, he was standing over me; yes, I lay between his
fore-legs, while he was engaged in sniffing at the back of my head
with the tip of his trunk which, however, never actually touched
me.

Talk of a nightmare, or of a night-elephant for the matter of that,
never did I know of one to touch it.  Of course I thought it was a
dream of a particularly vivid order arising from undigested
biltong, or something of the sort.  But that did not make it any
better, for although I had wakened the vision did not go away, as
every decent nightmare does.  Moreover, if it were a dream, what
was the hideous stabbing pain in my leg?  (Afterwards this was
explained:  Hans was trying to arouse me without calling the
elephant's attention to himself by driving into my thigh the point
of a "wait-a-bit" thorn which he used to pin up his trousers.)
Also was it possible that in a dream an elephant could blow so hard
upon the back of one's neck that it sent dust and bits of dry grass
up one's nostrils, inducing a terrible desire to sneeze?

While I was pondering the question in a perfect agony and staring
at the alarming picture in the water, the gigantic beast ceased its
investigation of my person and stepping over me with calculated
gentleness, went to where Tom and Jerry were lying at a little
distance.  Whether these worthies were awake or asleep I do not
know, for what happened terrified them so much that it produced
aphasia on this and some other points, so that they could never
tell me.  The beast sniffed, first at Tom and then at Jerry; one
sniff each was all it vouchsafed to them.  Then with its trunk it
seized, first Tom and next Jerry, and with an easy motion flung
them one after the other into the pool of water.  This done,
avoiding Hans as though it disliked his odour, it walked away over
the crest of the cup or depression in the mound, and vanished.

Instantly I sat up, boxed the ears of Hans, who was still stabbing
at me idiotically with his wait-a-bit thorn and giving me great
pain, for speak to him I dared not, and slipped down the slope to
the lip of the pool to save Tom and Jerry from drowning, if indeed
they were not already dead.  As it happened, my attentions were
needless, for the pool was quite shallow and this pair, whom the
elephant had not hurt at all, were seated on its bottom and
indulging in suppressed hysterics, their heads appearing above the
surface of the water.

A more ridiculous sight than they presented, even in the terror of
that occurrence, cannot be imagined.  In all my life I never saw
its like.  Think of two men of whom nothing was visible except the
heads, seated in the water and gibbering at each other in a dumb
paroxysm of fear.

I whispered to them to come out, also that if they made a noise I
would kill them both, whereupon somewhat reassured at my
appearance, they crawled to the bank of the pool, which proved that
none of their bones were broken, and emerged wreathed in water-
cresses.  Then leaving them to recover as best they could, followed
by Hans and carrying my heavy rifle, I crept to the edge of the
depression and peeped over.

There, as the bright moonlight showed me, not twenty yards away
stood the enormous bull upon a little promontory or platform which
projected from the side of the mound, reminding one of a rostrum
erected for the convenience of the speaker at an open-air meeting.
Yes, there it stood as though it were carved in stone.



CHAPTER VIII

THE ELEPHANT DANCE


Never shall I forget that amazing scene, bitten as it is into the
tablets of my mind by the acids of fear and wonder.  Imagine it!
The wide plain or lake bottom surrounded upon all sides by the
black ring of the forest and plunged in a silence so complete that
it seemed almost audible.  Then there, just beneath us, the
gigantic and ancient elephant--for it was ancient, as I could see
by various signs, standing motionless and in an attitude which gave
a strange impression of melancholy, such melancholy as might
possess an aged man who, revisiting the home of his youth, finds it
a desolation.

"Baas," whispered Hans, "if you shift a little more to the left
you might get him behind the ear and shoot him dead."

"I don't want to shoot him," I replied, "and if you fire I will
break your neck."

Hans, I know, thought I made this answer because my nerve was
shaken and I feared lest I should bungle the job.  But as a matter
of fact, it was nothing of the sort.  For some unexplained reason I
would as soon have committed a murder as shoot that elephant, which
had just spared my life when I lay at its mercy.

Low as we spoke, I suppose that the bull must have heard us.  At
any rate it turned its head and looked in our direction, which
caused me to fear lest I should be obliged to fire after all.  It
was not so, however, for having apparently satisfied itself that we
were harmless, once more it fell into contemplation, which must
have lasted for another two minutes.

Then suddenly it lifted its trunk and emitted a call or cry louder
and more piercing than that of any trumpet.  Thrice it repeated
this call, and for the third time as its echoes died the silence of
the night was broken by a terrifying response.  From every part of
the surrounding ring of forest rose the sound of elephants
trumpeting in unison, hundreds of elephants, or so it seemed.

"Allemagter! Baas," whispered Hans in a shaky voice, "that old
spook beast is sending for his friends to kill us.  Let us run,
Baas."

"Where to, seeing that they are all round us?" I asked faintly,
adding:  "If he wanted to kill us he could do so for himself.  Lie
still.  It is our only chance; and tell those hunters behind to
stop praying so loudly and to unload their rifles, lest they should
be tempted to fire."

Hans crept away to the edge of the pool, where the dripping Tom and
Jerry were putting up audible petitions in the extremity of their
terror.  Then watching, I saw the most marvellous sight in my
hunting experience.  As though they were the trained beasts of
India or of the ancient kings, marching in endless lines and
ordered ranks, appeared three vast herds of elephants.  From the
forest in front of us, from that to our right and that to our left,
and from aught I know from behind also, though these I could not
see, they came out into the moonlit open space, and marched towards
the mound with their regulated tread, which shook the earth.

Perhaps I saw double.  Perhaps my nerves were so shaken that I
could not estimate numbers, but I should be prepared to swear that
there were at least a thousand of them, and afterwards the others
declared that there were many more.  In each troop the bulls
marched first, the moonlight shining on their white tusks.  Then
came the cows with calves running at their side, and last of all
the half-grown beasts, sorted seemingly according to their size.

So Kaneke had not lied.  This was the meeting of the elephants
which he had prophesied we should see.  Only how in Heaven's name
did he know anything about it?  For a few moments I began to think
that he was really what Hans and the hunters believed him to be--
some kind of magician who perhaps had sent us hither that we might
be torn to pieces or trampled to death.

Then I forgot all about Kaneke in the immediate interest of that
wild and wonderous spectacle.  The herds arrived.  They arranged
themselves in a semicircle, deep, curved lines of them, in front to
the mound upon which stood the ancient bull.  For a while they were
still, then as though at a signal, they knelt down.  Yes, even the
calves knelt, with their trunks stretched out straight upon the
ground in front of them.

"They do homage to their king, Baas," whispered Hans, and so in
truth it seemed to be.

The giant bull trumpeted once, as though in acknowledgment of the
salute.  The herds rose, and there followed a marvellous
performance that might have been taken for a dream.  The bulls
massed themselves together in squadrons, as it were, and charged
past the mound from right to left, trumpeting as they charged.
After them came the regiments of the cows, and lastly those of the
partly grown beasts, all trumpeting; even the little calves set up
piercing squeals.  They re-formed, but not as they were before.
For now the bulls faced the cows and the rest.  Then began a kind
of dance, so swift and intricate that I could not follow it, a kind
of unearthly quadrille it seemed to be, in which the males sought
out the females, or it may have been the other way about, and they
caressed each other with their trunks.  Perhaps it was some kind of
ceremony of betrothal, I do not know.

It ceased as suddenly as it had begun.  The herds massed themselves
as at first, then wheeled and marched off in their three divisions
back to the forest whence they came.  Soon all were gone except the
old king-bull, who still stood silent just beneath us, majesty and
loneliness personified.

"Do you think he is going to stop here always, Baas?" whispered
Hans.  "Because if so, really it might be best to shoot him now
that the others have gone away."

"Be silent," I answered; "he may understand you."

Yes, my nerves were so upset by what I had seen that I was fool
enough to talk thus.

"Yes, Baas," assented Hans in his hoarse whisper, "I forgot that;
he may, so I didn't really mean what I seemed to say about shooting
him.  It was only a joke.  Also it might bring the others back."

At that moment, to my horror, the king-bull turned and walked
straight up to us.  I couldn't have shot him if I had wished,
because as I had made the others do, I had unloaded my rifle to
keep myself out of temptation.  Also I did not wish; I was too much
afraid.  He stood still, contemplating us, a giant of a creature
with a mild and meditative eye.  Then he lifted his trunk and I
muttered a prayer, thinking that all was over.  But no, he only
placed the tip of it against the middle of Hans, who somehow had
got to his knees, and let off one fearful scream accompanied by
such a blast of air that it blew Hans backwards down the slope on
to the recumbent forms of Tom and Jerry.

This done, the bull turned again, walked down the mound and out
across the plain, a picture of stately solitude till at last he
vanished in the dark shadow of the forest.

When he was lost to sight I went down to the pool and drank, for
the perspiration induced by terror seemed to have dried me up.
Then I looked at my three retainers, who were huddled in a heap on
the edge of the pool.

"I am dead," muttered Hans, who was lying on the other two.  "That
Satan of an elephant has blown out my inside.  It has gone; there
is nothing left but my backbone."

"No wonder, as you cursed him and wanted Macumazahn to shoot him,"
muttered Tom.  "For did not that afreet of a beast cast us into the
pool for nothing at all?"

"Whether you have a stomach or not, be pleased to cease sitting on
my face, yellow man, or I will make my teeth meet in you," gurgled
Jerry.

Thus they went on, and so ridiculous were the aspect and the talk
of the three of them, that at last I burst out laughing, which
relieved my nerves and did me good.  Then I lit my pipe, hoping
that those elephants would not see the light or smell the tobacco
down in that hole, and not caring much if they did, for I seemed to
desire a smoke more than anything on earth.

"Let us talk," I said to the others.  "What are we to do?"

"Get out of this, master, and at once," said Tom.  "That beast is
not an elephant, it is an evil spirit in the shape of one.  Yes, I
who am a Christian and have renounced all superstitions, say that
it is an evil spirit."

"Little Holes is quite right," broke in Jerry.  "If it had been an
elephant, it would have killed us, but being an evil spirit it
threw us into the water."

"Fool!" grunted Hans, rubbing his middle, "do you make an evil
spirit better than an elephant?  In truth, as the Baas knows, the
bull is neither; it is a chief or a king who once lived in this
place as a man, and now had turned into an elephant, and all those
other beasts whom you did not see, being so much afraid, were once
his people, but now also are elephants.  That is quite clear to the
Baas, and to me who am a better Christian than either of you.
Still, I agree with you that the sooner we see the last of this
haunted place, the better it will be."

Thus they wrangled on till they were tired.  When they had finished
I said:

"Here we stop till dawn breaks.  Do you three climb to the top of
this hole and keep watch.  I am tired and am going to sleep.  Wake
me if you see the elephants coming back."

So I lay down and slept, or at any rate dozed, which, as I have
said--thank Heaven!--I can do at any time after any experience.  I
am a fatalist, one who does not trouble as to what is to happen in
the future, because I know it must happen and that worry is
therefore useless.  If the elephants were going to kill me, I could
not help it; meanwhile I would get some rest.

So I slept, and dreamed that I saw this place standing in the
middle of a lake and full of people.  They were tall, dark men and
women, the latter decently dressed in garments that were dyed with
various colours.  The mound was covered with huts that were
thatched with reeds, and wooden jetties, to which canoes were tied,
ran out into the surrounding shallow water.  On the broad surface
of the lake were other canoes, each containing one or two men who
were engaged in fishing, while round this lake lay the dense
forest, as it did today.  In my dream the hollow in which now was
the pool by which I lay, was thatched over, the roof being
supported by carved posts of black wood.  They were very curious
carvings, but when I woke up I could not remember their details.

There was a meeting going on in this large public gathering place,
and a man who wore a cloak and cap made of feathers, the chief, I
take it, had risen from a chair fashioned of four tusks of ivory
with a seat of twisted rushes, and was addressing the assembly,
apparently upon some important subject, for his audience of old men
seemed to be much impressed.  He beat his breast and put some
question to them.  Then, while they debated in low tones as to
their answer, I woke up to find that it was light.

Of course this dream was all nonsense born of imaginings as to what
might have been the previous history of that place, and I paid no
attention to it.  Still, it fitted in well enough with the
surroundings, so well that had I been mystically minded, I might
have been inclined to believe that it did really portray some
incident of past history that had happened when this mound was an
island in a lake inhabited by a primeval people who dwelt there in
order to be safe from the attacks of enemies.

Hans, like myself, had been asleep, but the hunters, who were far
too frightened to think of shutting their eyes, reported that they
had neither seen nor heard any elephants.

"Then let's go off home, before they come back," I said cheerfully.

So I took a drink of water, ate a handful of watercress, which I
have always found a very sustaining herb, and away we started; glad
enough to see the last of that haunted mount, as Hans called it.
While we were on the plain we felt quite merry, at least Hans and I
did, although it was strange to look at that lonesome lake bottom
and think of the scene that had been enacted within a few hours, so
strange, indeed, that I was almost tempted to believe we had been
the victims of a vision of the night, induced by Kaneke's tale as
to the great herds of elephants which came together in this
district.

When we entered the forest, however, our mood changed, for about
this place with its endless giant trees that shut out the light of
the sun, there was an air of gloom which was most depressing.  On
we marched into the depths, following our own trail backwards, for
I had been careful to mark the trunk of a tree here and there, Red
Indian fashion, so that we might make no mistake upon our return.
To lose oneself in that forest would indeed be a dreadful fate.
When we had tramped for a good while and reached the spot where we
had missed the spoor on the previous day, I observed that Hans was
growing anxious, for he kept glancing over his shoulder.

"What is the matter?" I asked.

"If the Baas will look back the Baas will see; that is, unless I
have become drunk upon water and stream grasses," he replied in a
weak voice.

I did look back and I did see.  There, about a hundred yards
behind, standing between two tree-trunks, exactly on our spoor, was
our friend the king-elephant!

I halted, for I confess that for a moment my knees grew weak.

"Perhaps it is only a shadow--or a fancy," I said.

"Oh no, Baas.  It's him right enough.  I have felt him in the small
of my back for the last half-mile, but did not dare to look.
Still, if the Baas has any doubts, perhaps he would like to go and
see."

At this moment, Tom and Jerry, who were well ahead, came tearing up
to announce that they had caught sight of elephants to their right
and left, and that we must go back.

"Oh yes," said Hans, "you are both very brave men, as you have
always told me, so please go back," and he pointed with his finger
at the apparition behind us, that seemed to have come nearer as we
were talking, although, if so, it was once more standing still.

They saw it, and really I thought that one or both of them would
collapse in a fit, for they were horribly frightened, as indeed I
was myself.  However, I pulled myself together and spoke to them
severely, ending with an order to advance.

"Oh yes," repeated Hans who, in this extremity seemed to be moved
to a kind of grim humour.

"Advance, you brave hunters, for that is your trade, isn't it? and
please protect me, the poor little yellow man.  No, don't look at
those trees, because we are not lizards or woodpeckers and nothing
else could run up them.  And if we could, what would be the use,
seeing that those spook elephants would only wait till we came down
again.  Advance, brave hunters, who told me only the other night
that all elephants will run away from a man."

So he went on till at last I cut his drivel short.

"Come on," I said, "and keep together, for there is nothing else to
be done.  Remember that if anyone fires unless we are actually
charged, probably it will mean the death of all of us.  Now follow
me."

They obeyed; indeed they followed uncommonly close, so close that
when I halted for a moment, the barrel of the rifle of one of them,
which I observed was at full cock, poked me in the back.

Soon I became aware that we were absolutely surrounded by
elephants.  That is to say, the great bull was behind, while
unnumbered other beasts were on our right and left, though in front
I could detect none.  It was as though they were seeing us off the
premises and politely leaving a road by which we might depart as
quickly as possible.  They saw us, there was no doubt of that, for
occasionally one of them would stretch out its trunk and sniff as
we passed within twenty or thirty yards of it.  Moreover there was
another thing.  All these elephants were standing at intervals head
on to our trail, forcing us as it were to keep to a straight and
narrow road.

But each of them, when we had passed it, fell in behind the big
bull and marched after it.  Of this there could be no question, for
when we were crossing one of the open glades that I have described,
I looked back and saw an enormous number of them, hundreds there
seemed to be, stretching along in a solemn and purposeful
procession.  Yet to right and left there were more ahead.  It was
as though all the elephants in Central Africa were gathered in that
forest!

Well, it is useless to continue the description, because to do so
would only be to say the same thing over and over again.  For hours
this went on, till we got near the camp, indeed, towards which we
were travelling much faster than when we left it.  Here the forest
thinned and the glades were more frequent.  I counted them one by
one until I knew that we were close to the last of them and about a
mile from the boma, or perhaps a little more.  Just then one of the
hunters looked back and gasped out:

"Lord, the elephants are beginning to run."

I verified the statement.  It was true.  The king-bull was breaking
into a dignified trot, and all his subjects were following his
example.  Needless to say, we began to run too.

Oh, that last mile!  Seldom have I done such time since I was a boy
in the long-distance race at school, and fast as I went, the others
kept pace with me, or went faster.  We streaked across that glade
and after us thundered the elephants, the ground shaking beneath
their ponderous footfall.  They were gaining, they were quite
close, I could hear their deep breathing just behind.  There ahead
was the camp, and there, standing on a great ant-hill just in front
of it, conspicuous in his white robe, was Kaneke watching the
chase.

Suddenly the elephants seemed to catch sight of him, or perhaps
they saw the smoke from the fire.  At any rate they stopped dead,
turned, and without a sound melted away into the depths of the
forest, the king-bull going last as though he were loth to leave
us.

I staggered on to the camp, dishevelled, breathless, ridiculous in
my humiliation, as I was well aware.  For was I not supposed
throughout much of Africa to be one of the greatest elephant-
hunters of my day?--and here I appeared running away from elephants
with never a shot fired.  It is true that the audience was small, a
mysterious person called Kaneke, a very spider of a man that seemed
to have got me into his web, and a score of porters, probably his
tribesmen.  But that made the matter no better; indeed, if there
had been no one at all to see my disgrace, I should have felt
almost equally shamed.  I was furious, especially with Kaneke, whom
I suspected, I dare say unjustly, of being at the bottom of the
business.  Also I had lost my hat, and what is an Englishman
without his hat?

Kaneke descended from his ant-heap to meet me, all smiles and bows.

"I trust that your hunting has been good, Lord, for you seem to
have found plenty of elephants," he said.

"You are laughing at me," I replied.  "As you know, I have not been
hunting; I have been hunted.  Well, perhaps one day you will be
hunted and I shall laugh at you."

Then I waved him aside and went into my tent to recover breath and
composure.

Throwing myself down on the little folding canvas stretcher-bed
which, whenever it was possible, I carried with me upon my various
expeditions, I watched the arrival of the others who, after the
elephants turned, had come on more slowly.  Tom and Jerry were
almost speechless with rage.  They shook their fists at Kaneke;
indeed, if their rifles had been at hand, which was not the case
for these were dropped in their last desperate race for life (they
were recovered afterwards, unhurt, together with my hat), I think
it very likely that they would have shot him, or tried to do so.

"You have made us cowards before our master's eyes," gasped one of
them, I forget which.  Then they passed on out of my range of
vision.

Lastly Hans arrived (HE had not dropped his rifle), who squatted on
the ground and began to fan himself with his hat.

"Why is everybody so angry with me, Hans?" said Kaneke.

"I don't know," answered Hans, "but perhaps if you gave me a drop
out of that bottle which you keep under your blanket I might be
able to remember--I mean the one the Baas gave you when you had the
toothache."

Kaneke went into the shelter made of boughs where he slept, and
returning with a flask of square-face gin, poured a stiff tot of it
in to a pannikin, which he gave to Hans, who gulped it down.

"Now I am beginning to remember," said Hans, licking the edge of
the empty tin.  "They are angry with you, Kaneke, because they
think that you have played a great trick upon them who being a
wizard, have clothed a lot of spooks that serve you in the shapes
of elephants and caused them to hunt us that you might laugh."

"Yet I have done nothing of the sort, Hans," answered Kaneke
indignantly.  "Am I a god that I can make elephants?"

"Oh no, Kaneke, certainly whatever you may be you are not a god.
Nor indeed do I believe anything of this story, like those silly
hunters.  Yet for your own sake I hope that the next time you send
us out hunting, nothing of this sort will happen, because, Kaneke,
we can still shoot, and those hunters might be tempted to learn
whether a wizard's skin can turn bullets.  And now, as your
toothache has gone, I will take that gin and give it back to the
Baas, because he has not much of it, and even a wizard cannot make
good gin."

Then Hans rose and snatched the bottle out of Kaneke's hand.  I
must add that to his credit he returned it to me undiminished,
which--in Hans--was an act of great virtue.



Such was the end of that elephant-hunt, by means of which I had
hoped to relieve the tedium of that strangely uneventful journey
and to restore the moral tone of Tom and Jerry, also, to a lesser
degree, that of Hans and myself.  Certainly the first end was
achieved, for whatever may be thought of our experiences at the
meeting-place of elephants, and afterwards, they were not tedious.
But of the second as much could not be said.  Indeed, it left the
hunters thoroughly frightened, the more so because they did not
know exactly of what they were afraid.

All the circumstances of the business were unnatural.  None of us
had seen elephants behave as did those great herds, and the very
mercy that the beasts showed to us was beyond experience.

Why did not the old king-bull either run away or kill us there upon
the ground?  Why did it and the rest of them hunt us back to the
camp in that fashion, yet without doing us any actual harm?  No
wonder that these uneducated men saw magic at work and were scared.

Thrusting such nonsense from my mind, for nonsense I knew it to be,
I could not help remembering the odd coincidence that on this
prolonged adventure of our expedition, nothing seemed to
materialize.  So far it had the inconsequence of a dream.  Thus, at
the beginning of it, when we expected a desperate fight for our
lives, there was no fight, at least on our part.  Only one shot was
fired, that with which I killed the Arab Gaika, who, be it noted,
was Kaneke's particular foe, whose death he ardently desired.  In
the same way when we went out with much preparation to slay
elephants and found them in enormous numbers no shot was fired and
the beasts chased us ignominiously back to our camp.  Further,
there were more incidents of the same kind which I need not
particularize.

I was sick of the whole job and longed to escape.  Indeed, that
night I went to Kaneke and told him so, pointing out that the
hunters were off their balance and that as I could not send them
back alone I thought it would be well if he parted company with me
and my men, as I proposed to retrace my steps towards the coast.
Kaneke was much disturbed and argued with me, very politely at
first, pointing out the many dangers of such a course.  As I would
not give way, he changed his tone, and told me flatly that what I
proposed would mean the death of all four of us.

"At whose hands?  Yours, Kaneke?" I asked.

"Certainly not, Lord," he answered.  "However cruelly you break
your bargain with me, and this after taking my pay," (here he was
alluding to the cash and ivory which, like a fool, I had accepted),
"I should not be base enough to lift a hand against one who saved
my life at what he believed to be the risk of his own, although in
truth no risk was run."

"What do you mean?  How do you know that, Kaneke?"

"I mean what I say, and I do know it, Lord.  Even in that pit which
you thought so dangerous you were quite safe, as you were when the
Arabs attacked you and the elephants chased you, and as you will be
to the end of this adventure, if only you keep your promises.  For
was this not vowed to you at the beginning?"

"Yes, Kaneke, by an unhappy woman whom I see no more."

"Those who are not seen may still be present, Lord, or their
strength may remain behind them.  But if you turn back before your
mission is ended, it will depart.  Those tribes who have welcomed
you upon your outward journey will one and all fight against you on
your return, until in this way or in that you are brought to your
deaths.  Never again will you look upon the sea, Lord."

"That's pleasant!" I exclaimed, controlling my temper as best I
could.  "Listen.  You talk of my mission.  Be so good as to tell me
what it is.  The only mission that I have, or had, was to visit a
certain lake called Mone, if it exists, in order to satisfy my
curiosity and love of seeing new things.  Well, I have changed my
mind; I no longer desire to travel to the Lake Mone."

"Yet I think you must go there, Lord, as I must, for that which is
stronger than we are draws us both.  In this world, Lord, we do not
serve ourselves, we serve something else; I cannot tell what it is.
Everything we do or seem to do, good and bad together, is done to
carry out the purpose of what we cannot see.  Like that beast Donna
of yours, we travel our road, sometimes willingly, sometimes to
satisfy our appetites, sometimes driven forward with strokes.  Each
of us has his powers, which are given to him, not that he may gain
what he desires, but that he may fulfil an invisible purpose.  Thus
you have yours and I have mine.  I know that your servants and
others hold me to be a magician, and now and again you are tempted
to believe them.  Well, perhaps in a certain way I am something of
a magician, that is to say, strength works through me, though
whence that strength comes I cannot say."

"All this does not leave me much wiser, Kaneke."

"How can we who have no wisdom at all ever grow wiser, Lord?  To do
so, first we must be wise, and that will not happen to us until we
are dead.  All our lives we toil that we may grow wise--in death,
when we may learn that wisdom is nothingness, or nothingness
wisdom."

"Oh, have done!" I said in a rage.  "Your talk goes round and
round, and ends nowhere.  You are fooling me with words, but I
suppose that what you mean is, that we must go on with you."

"Yes, Lord, I mean that, amongst other things, unless indeed you
wish to stop altogether and go to seek wisdom in the stars, or
wherever she may dwell.  Safety and good fortune have been promised
to you and to the yellow man your servant, knowledge also such as
you love.  These lie in front of you, but behind lies that which
all men shun, or so I read what is written."

"Where do you read it, Kaneke?"

"Yonder," he answered, pointing to the sky that was thick with
stars, though the moon had not yet risen.

I stared at this solemn-faced, big-eyed man.  Of all that he said I
believed nothing, holding that if not merely a clever cheat, like
others of his kind, he was a self-deluder.  Yet of one thing I was
sure, that if I tried to cross his will and deserted him, his
prophecies would certainly be fulfilled, so far as we were
concerned.  Evidently this Kaneke was one who had authority among
natives.  It would be easy for him to pass a word back over the
road that we had travelled, or in any direction that we might go,
which word would mean what he foretold for us, four men only who
must be at the mercy of a mob of savages, namely--death.  On the
other hand, if we went forward, his vanity would see to it that
what he had asserted should come true, namely that we should be
safe.  Not till afterwards did I remember that only Hans and I were
included in that assertion.  Nothing was said about the two
hunters.

On the whole, after this talk I hated Kaneke more than ever.
Something told me that however plausible and smooth-tongued he
might be, at heart the man was deceitful, one, too, whose ends were
not good.



CHAPTER IX

EXPLANATIONS


Next morning early I laid all this matter before Tom and Jerry,
telling them that I had made up my mind to go forward with Kaneke
and that Hans would accompany me, as I considered on the whole that
this would be the safer course.  If, however, they wished to
return, I would give them rifles with a fair share of our
ammunition, also the donkey Donna to take the place of porters.  In
fact, only in more detail, I repeated the offer which I made before
we went out to hunt, or rather to be hunted by, elephants,
explaining that I did so because after that experience they might
have changed their mind about its acceptance.

They consulted together, then Tom the Abyssinian, who was always
the spokesman, said:

"Master, after what we went through on the mound in the midst of
the plain and in the forest with those elephants, which we believe
to have been creatures bewitched, it is true that we are much more
frightened even than we were before.  So frightened are we that
were it not for one matter, we would now do what we said we would
not do, and attempt to work our way towards the coast, even though
we must go alone."

"What matter?" I asked.

"This, Macumazahn.  We are men disgraced; not only did we show fear
and run when on duty, we did worse, we threw away our guns that we
might run more quickly, and therefore, although they have been
found and brought back by Kaneke's people, I say that we are men
disgraced."

"Oh!" I said, trying to soothe their pride.  "Hans and I ran also.
Who would not have run with all those elephants thundering after
him?  It was the only thing to do."

"Yes, Macumazahn, you ran also, and it was the only thing to do.
But, Lord, neither you nor Hans threw away your rifle against the
hunter's law--"

"No, we should never do that," I said, trying to interrupt, but he
went on rapidly:

"--So ashamed are we, Macumazahn, that I tell you, were it not that
we are Christians, both of us, we should have hung ourselves or
otherwise have put an end to our lives.  But being Christians, this
we cannot do, for then we should go to answer for that crime to a
greater Master than you are.  For this reason, Macumazahn, seeing
that we may not wipe out our shame as savages would do, we propose
to redeem our honour in another fashion.  We hold that if we go
forward with Kaneke we shall die, for we believe ourselves to be
men bewitched, yes, men doomed by that wizard, whatever may be the
fate of you, master, and of Hans.  If so, thus let it be, for we
are determined that if we must die, we will do so in some great
fashion which will cause you to forget that we are men who broke
the hunter's law and threw away our guns, with which it was our
duty to defend you, and to remember us only as two faithful
servants who knew how to give their lives to save that of their
master."

I was so astonished at this solemn speech that I began to wonder
whether Tom, in order to console himself for the slur upon his
honour, the breach of the "hunter's law", as he called it, had got
at my scanty stock of spirits.

"What do you say?" I asked, looking hard at Jerry.

"Oh, Macumazahn," answered that phlegmatic person, "I say that
Little Holes is quite right.  We two who have always had a good
name--as the writings about us told you--when trouble came have
shown ourselves to be not watch-dogs, but jackals.  Yes, we are
fellows who in the hour of danger have thrown away our rifles,
which we should have kept to the last to protect the white lord who
paid us.  Therefore we will not go back, although we believe that
we walk to our deaths, being under a curse.  No, we will go on
hoping that before the end you may learn that we are not really
jackals but stout watch-dogs; yes, if God is good to us, that we
are more, that we are bull-buffaloes, that we are lions."

"Stuff and rubbish!" I exclaimed.  "You make trees of grass stalks.
I never thought you jackals, who know you to be great-hearted.  I
dare say if I had remembered to do so when those elephants were at
my heels, I should have thrown away my own rifle that I might run
the faster.  Still, I think that on the whole you are wiser to come
on than to try to return alone, for reasons that I have told you.
If there are dangers in front of us there are worse behind,
because, although he is no wizard, as you think, Kaneke is better
as a friend than as an enemy.  So I pray you to cease from dreams
and quakings born of superstitions at which Christians should mock,
and to go on with bold hearts."  Then, as I thought we had talked
enough, I shook them both by the hand, to show that I was not angry
with them, and sent them away.

Afterwards very diplomatically I began to tell Hans something of
this conversation, hoping to learn from him of what these hunters
really were afraid.

"Oh, Baas," he broke in, "it is no use to speak to me about what
passed between you and those fellows with half your tongue and your
head turned aside"--by which he meant telling only a part of the
truth--"because I was on the other side of that bush and heard
every word."

"You are a dirty little spy," I said indignantly.

"Yes, Baas, that's it, because if one wants to know the truth, one
must sometimes be a spy.  Well, there's nothing to be said.  No
doubt Little Holes and Jerry are quite right; they are bewitched,
or at least the Owl-man while he is flitting about at night has
read their deaths written in the stars, which they know.  But they
know also that, as they have got to die, it doesn't matter whether
they go with us or by themselves.  So, if coming on will make them
depart to the place of Fires happy and singing instead of sad and
ashamed, thinking themselves lions instead of jackals, as they
said--why, Baas, let them come on and don't trouble your head any
more about them.  For my part, however much I love them, I am quite
content that it should be they who have to die, and not you and me.
So cheer up, Baas, and take things as they happen."

"Get out, you heartless little beast," I said, and Hans got out.
But all the while I knew that he was not really heartless, and,
what is more, he knew that I knew it.  Hans in his own way was, on
the outside, just a rather cynical and half-savage philosopher, but
within, a very warm-natured person.

The end of it all was that we marched on as before, and, as before,
nothing particular happened.  Kaneke, our guide, for I had not the
faintest idea where we were going, led us through every variety of
African country.  We forded rivers, or if they were too deep and
wide, were conveyed across them by friendly natives on rafts or in
canoes, for when Kaneke had spoken to their chiefs, all the natives
became most helpful.  On one occasion, it is true, as there were no
natives, or such as there were had no boats or rafts, we were
obliged to swim, which I did with trembling, being afraid of
crocodiles.  However, the crocodiles, if there were any, politely
left us alone, so that as usual we came over safely.

After passing the last of these rivers our path ran through a dense
forest for two days.  On the afternoon of the second day the forest
grew thinner and at length changed to a plain, or rather barren
land that was covered with small timber, bush-veld in short.  This
place was intensely hot, filled with game of every kind and, as we
soon discovered from numerous bites, infested with tsetse-fly which
lived upon the game.  As tsetse, except for the irritation of their
bites, are harmless to man and we had no horses or cattle, they did
not alarm us, for up to that time I shared the belief that donkeys
were immune as men and buck to their poison.  This, however, proved
not to be the case, at any rate in the case of Donna that I was
riding a good deal because the heat made walking a most laborious
business.

One day I noticed that she seemed suddenly to have grown weak and
stumbled so frequently that at length I dismounted.  Relieved of my
weight she came on well enough without being led, for the
intelligent and affectionate beast would follow me or Hans, who fed
her, like a dog.  When we camped that night she would not eat and
was seized with a fit of staggering.

At once I guessed what must be the matter.  Probably she had been
infected a long while before and the added doses of the poison in
this fly-haunted plain had brought matters to a crisis, helped by a
shower of rain, which often develops the illness.  There was
nothing to be done, for this venom has no known antidote.  So we
lay down and went to sleep as usual.  In the middle of the night I
was awakened by feeling something pushing at me.  At first I was
frightened, thinking it must be a lion or some other beast, until I
discovered that poor Donna had managed to thrust her way through
the thorn fence we had built and even into my tent, of which the
flaps were open because of the heat, and by prodding at me with her
nose, was calling attention to her state and asking my assistance.

Of course I could do nothing except lead her out of the tent and
offer her water, which she would not drink.  I tried to go away,
but whenever I moved she made piteous efforts to follow me, for the
poor thing was growing weaker every minute, till at last she
tumbled down.  I sat myself at her side and presently she rolled
over, laying her head, whether by accident or design, upon my knee
and died.

I have told of her end in some detail, because with the single
exception, that of a dog named Stump which once I owned when I was
young, it was the most touching and piteous that I have known where
an animal is concerned.  Surely if there is any other life for us
men, there must be one also for creatures which are capable of so
much affection; at least I do not think I should care for a heaven
where these were not.

When it was all over I went back to my tent and slept as best I
could, to be awakened at the first dawn by a sound of lamentation.
Rising, I peeped over the fence to discover its origin and in the
faint light saw--what do you think?--Hans, whom it pleased to seem
so callous and hard-hearted, seated on the ground blubbering--there
is no other word for it--and kissing poor Donna's nose.  Then I
went back to bed, where in due course he brought me my coffee, as
was his custom at sunrise.

"Baas," he said in a cheerful voice, "there is good news this
morning.  Those tsetse-flies have finished off Donna."

"Why is that good news?" I asked.

"Oh, Baas, because the Owl-man, Kaneke, says there are mountains
ahead of us which she could not have climbed.  He told me only the
other day that we should have to shoot her there, or leave her to
be eaten by lions, which would have been a pity.  Also she was
growing weak and really was of very little use, so I am glad that
she is dead, as now I shall be saved the trouble of feeding her."

"Yes, Hans," I answered, "I saw how glad you were when I looked
over the fence just as the light began to glint upon the spears of
Kaneke's porters."

At this Hans put down the coffee in a hurry and departed,
apparently much ashamed of himself, because, as he said after I had
told him the story, he did not like being spied upon when his
stomach was upset and made him behave like a fool.  I should add
that the hunters were depressed at this incident, not that they
cared particularly for Donna, but because they said that now our
luck had changed and that death was "a hungry lion", who, having
tasted beast's flesh, would long for that of men.

They were right.  Our luck had changed.  The decease of poor Donna
marked the end of our peaceful progress.

A few days later we came to mountains which for a long time past we
had seen in the distance, bold hills upon which at nightfall a
wonderful and mysterious blue light seemed to gather--the Ruga
Mountains, I believe they were called.  It was quite true that here
we should have been obliged to leave Donna, dead or alive, for
their ascent proved to be a most precipitous business.  Indeed, had
not Kaneke known the path, never could we have climbed them,
because of certain precipices that rose in tiers of terraces and
must be circumvented, since to scramble up the faces of them was
impossible.

However he did know it, though to call it a path is a misnomer,
because there was nothing to show that it was used by man.  For
three or four days we crept along the base of those great bare
cliffs, always at length finding some crack by which their flanks
could be turned.  So it went on, an exhausting business, and as we
mounted higher, very cold at night, for although there was no snow,
the air grew thin and piercing.

At length we reached the summit of the mountains, which I found to
be table-topped, a very common African formation.  (What caused it?
I wonder.  Were the crests shorn off by ice in some remote era of
the world's history, say, a few hundred million years ago?)  As it
was nightfall I could see no more, especially as a sort of blinding
Scotch mist, the fog called the "table-cloth" which so often hangs
about these flat-topped mountains, came up and obscured everything.

Next morning before the dawn Hans woke me up saying that Kaneke
wished to speak with me.  I went grumbling in all the clothes I
had, with a blanket on the top of them and an old otter-skin
kaross, that I used above the thin cork mattress of my portable
bedstead, thrown over that, for the cold was bitter, or seemed so,
after those hot tsetse-haunted lowlands.  I found Kaneke seated on
a stone near to the edge of the tableland.  He rose and greeted me
in his ceremonious fashion, saying:

"Lord, you should not have slept so long, for after midnight the
mist melted or was blown away, and the stars were more beautiful
and brighter than I have seen them since last I stood upon this
place a long while ago.  Indeed, so clear were they that in them I
read many things which hitherto had been hidden from me."

"Did you?" I exclaimed.  "I hope that among them you read that we
shall soon escape from this cold which is gnawing my bones."

"Yes, Lord, I can promise you that before long you will be hot
enough.  Hearken," he went on with a change of tone, "the time has
come when I must tell you something of my country and of what lies
before us.  Look!  The sun rises in the east.  The sight is fine,
is it not?"

I nodded.  It was very fine.  The rays of the morning light
revealed a vast plain lying some thousands of feet beneath us, and
far away, set apparently in the centre of this plain, other
mountains shaped like a flattened ring.  Or perhaps it was a single
mountain; at that distance I could not be sure.

"See," went on Kaneke, pointing to this mass, "yonder within that
wall of cliff is the home of my people, the Dabanda, and there too
is the holy lake, Mone.  From here the place looks small, but it is
not small.  For a whole day a swift-footed man might run and not
cross it from side to side."

"What is it?" I asked.  "A valley?"

"I think not, Lord.  I think that it is the cup of one or more of
those great mountains that once vomited out fire; a huge basin with
steep walls that cannot be climbed, and slopes within that run down
to the forest at its base, which forest surrounds the Holy Lake."

"How large is this lake, Kaneke?"

"I do not know.  Perhaps if a man could walk on water it would take
him two hours to reach the island in its centre; one hour to cross
that island and another two hours to come to the farther shore."

"That is a big piece of water, Kaneke, which means that the whole
space within the lip of the rock must be large.  Are your people
who dwell in it also large?"

"Nay, Lord.  Perhaps they can count five hundred men of an age to
bear arms; not more.  Still, they are strong because they are holy,
and for another reason."

"What other reason?"

He dropped his voice as he answered:

"Did I not tell you the story of the goddess who dwells in my
country, she whose title is Engoi the Divine, and whose name is
Shadow?"

"You told me a story of which I remember something, as I remember
also that I did not believe a word of it."

"There you are both right and wrong, Lord Macumazahn, because some
of that story was lies with which I filled your ears for my own
purposes, and some was true.  For instance, what I said about the
Engoi waiting for a white man was a lie.  It was a bait in my trap.
Lord, it was necessary that you should come with me; why, I do not
quite know, but so I was commanded."

"Who commanded you?"

"That is my secret, Lord."

Now I bethought me of the deceased White-Mouse, and did not pursue
the matter, but asked:

"What do you mean by telling me that this lie was a bait?"

"What I say, Lord.  I have learned through your servant, the yellow
man, who told it not to me but to another, that you worship all
that is beautiful, especially beautiful women, who when they see
you, so you announce, fall in love with you at once.  Now you will
understand, Lord, why I baited my trap with this story of one who
was very lovely and waited for a white man, namely because I knew
that you would believe yourself to be that man and come with me
upon that journey, being sure that she who is named Shadow would
reward you by kissing your feet and redeeming you from your sins
towards the other beautiful women, whom the yellow man says you
throw aside one after another as soon as you are tired of them."

Now when I heard this preposterous and most shameless yarn, it is
true that, cold as it was, I nearly burst with heat and rage.  If
that mischievous and romancing little Hans had been there, which he
was not, I declare that it would have gone ill with him; indeed, so
angry was I with Kaneke for repeating his calumnies, that I nearly
made a physical attack upon him.  On second thoughts, however, I
refrained--first, because he was a much larger and stronger man
than myself, and, secondly, because I wished to get at the kernel
of this mystery, for I felt that, divested of the trappings
invented by Kaneke, there remained something most unusual to be
elucidated.  So I put the brake upon my temper and answered:

"I thought that in your way you were a wise man, Kaneke, but now I
see that after all you are but a fool, who otherwise would have
known that Hans is an even bigger liar than you announce yourself
to be, and that the last thing I wish is to run after beautiful
women, or any woman, which always ends like our adventures with the
elephants, in the hunter being hunted.  But let that be.  Was any
of your story true?"

"Yes, Lord, much.  We have a goddess who is called Shadow, and who,
as we believe and not we alone, controls the gifts of heaven,
sending rain or withholding it, causing women to bear children or
making them barren, and doing many such things that bring
happiness or misery to men, though this goddess I have never seen,
except once, as I told you."

"A goddess!  Do you mean that she is immortal?"

"No, Lord, but I mean that her power is immortal, or at least that
it goes on from generation to generation.  The goddess, as I think,
when her office is fulfilled, dies or perhaps is killed."

"What office?"

"Lord, the Chief of my tribe, the Dabanda, is her head-priest.
When the goddess is of ripe age he is married to her, and in due
time becomes the father of a daughter, of which she is the mother.
Perhaps he is also the father of male children, but if so they are
never heard of, so I suppose that they are killed.  When this
daughter, the Engoi-to-be, grows up, her mother, the Engoi-that-
was, vanishes away."

"Vanishes!  How does she vanish?"

"I do not know, Lord.  Some say that she who is called Shadow is
drawn up to heaven, some that she who is also called the Lake-
dweller, or Treasure of the Lake, swims out into the lake and is
lost beneath its waters, and some that the virgins who attend her,
poison her with the scent of certain flowers that bloom upon the
island.  At least she departs, and her daughter, the new Engoi,
reigns in her place and, like her mothers before her, is married to
her high-priest, the Chief of the Dabanda."

"What!" I asked, horrified.  "Do you mean to say that this chief
marries his own daughter?"

"Oh no, Lord.  The chief never outlives the Shadow.  He knows when
she is going to fade, and he fades at the same time, or earlier."

"How does he 'fade', as you call it?"

"That is a matter for him to choose, Lord.  Generally, if he seeks
honour, in fighting our enemies the Abanda, among whom he will rush
alone until he is cut down.  Or sometimes he chooses other roads to
darkness.  At least he must walk one of them, because if he does
not he is seized and burnt alive; as the end is the same it does
not matter how it is reached."

"My word," I exclaimed, "it is strange that this goddess finds it
easy to get a husband!"

"It is not at all strange, Lord," answered Kaneke haughtily,
"seeing that to wed the Engoi is the greatest honour that can
befall any man in the world.  Moreover, he knows that when his life
here is over he will dwell with her for ever in joy in heaven.
Yes, they will be twin stars shining to all eternity.  Therefore
before the Chief marries the Shadow, he names some child he loves
to be the husband of the Shadow which shall appear.

"Thus it came about, Lord, that when I was but little, I was named
by the Chief, the half-brother of my mother, to wed the Engoi-to-
be.  But I committed the great crime.  I entered the sacred forest,
hoping to look upon the Engoi, of whose beauty I had heard, not her
whom I should wed, for as yet she did not live, but one who went
before her.  It was for this crime that misfortunes fell upon me,
as I have told you, and I was driven from the land to atone my
sins.  Now I have been called back again to become the husband of
the new Engoi, for such is my glorious destiny."

"Oh," I said, "now at last I get the hang of the thing.  Well,
every man to his taste, but after what you have told me, I am glad
that no one nominated me to marry an Engoi or Shadow, or whatever
you call her."

"Strange are the varying ways of men!  That which you, White Lord,
think of small account, we hold to be the greatest honour which can
befall one born of woman.  It is true that death lies beyond the
honour, but what of this, seeing that soon or late death must come?
It is true also that he who is named and consecrated the spouse of
the Engoi of days to come, must look upon no other woman."

Here I could not help remarking:

"But surely, Kaneke, you told me a story of a woman who helped you
to become chief of the Arabs in your town yonder, saying that you
grieved much when she died; also I think you spoke to me of your
wives who dwelt without your fence."

"Very likely, Lord, for have I not told you many things?  Also, did
I say that the child that brought the woman to her death was mine,
or show you the wives who dwelt without my fence?  Learn that I had
not, nor ever had a wife, which is one of the reasons why those
Arabs held me a magician.  What does a man want with wives who is
sealed as the husband of the Engoi, yes of the Shadow herself, if
only for a year, or even for an hour?"

"Nothing.  Of course, nothing," I answered with enthusiasm.  Then a
thought struck me, and I added, "But supposing that when at last he
sees this Engoi, he does not like her, or that she does not like
him, having met some other man whom she prefers?"

"Lord Macumazahn, you speak in ignorance, therefore I forgive you
what might otherwise be considered insult, or even blasphemy.  It
is not possible that her appointed husband should not like the
Engoi.  Even were she hideous he would adore her, seeing the soul
within.  How much more, then, will he do so, since she is always
the loveliest woman on the earth, filled with light like a star and
crowned with wisdom from above."

"Indeed!  In that case there is nothing more to be said.  Only
then, Kaneke, why do her adoring people drown or otherwise make
away with such divine beauty and wisdom as soon as her daughter
begins to grow up?"

"As regards your second question," went on Kaneke, taking no notice
of an interruption which doubtless he considered irreverent and
trivial, "still less is it possible that the Engoi should prefer
any other man to him to whom she is vowed, for the reason that she
never sees one."

"Oh," I said, "now I understand.  That accounts for everything,
including your banishment from your home.  A woman who never sees
any man except the one she must marry is of course easily pleased,
even if she is called a goddess."

"Lord Macumazahn," replied Kaneke, much offended, "I see that you
wish to make a mock of me and my faith."

"As you did of that of the Mahommedans," I suggested mildly.

"I see also," he went on, "that you think I tell you lies."

"As you have just admitted you did in the past."

He waved his hand, as though to thrust this trifle aside, and went
on;

"Yet you will learn that as to the Lady Shadow, Treasure of the
Lake, and her husband, who is called 'Shield of the Shadow', I
speak the truth.  Indeed, you should have learnt it already, for
have I not told you that amongst other powers, he who is affianced
to her whose title is Engoi, yes, even before he has married her,
has command over wild beasts and men.  What of the lion that I
turned aside on that night when you climbed the pit?  What of those
whom I called to rescue you when the Arabs came up against you?
What of the elephants which hunted you when you went out to hunt
them, and ceased when they saw me?"

"What indeed?" I echoed.  "Perhaps when you have time you will
answer your own questions.  Meanwhile I will put one more to you.
Why have you plotted and planned and so brought it about that I
should be your companion upon this very mysterious business?"

"Because it was conveyed to me that I must do so, Lord Macumazahn,
for reasons that as yet are not made clear to me.  Doubtless you
are appointed to be of service to the Engoi and therefore to me.
Also I know that there will be a great war between my people, the
Dabanda, and the Abanda, who dwell in their thousands upon the
farther side of yonder mountain and who desire--as they have always
done--that their chief should wed the Shadow and thus bring rain
and prosperity upon them, and in this war you, who are a great
general or so I have heard, and who are so skilled with a rifle as
I have seen, may be of use to me."

"I see," I said.  "As I was when I rescued you from your house and
afterwards when I shot that fellow Gaika.  Well, perhaps I may and
perhaps I mayn't, since no one knows to whom he will be of use.
Meanwhile I thank you for telling me many things, some of which may
be true.  And now I will go to breakfast, so good-bye for the
present," and I departed, aware that if I had disliked Kaneke
before, now I positively detested him.

To me the man seemed to be a mixture of a liar, a braggart, a self-
seeker, and a mystic, a most unpleasant compound, or so I thought.
Yet I had taken his money and was bound to serve him, or at any
rate to serve this wonderful Engoi, whose personal name was Shadow,
if such a woman existed.  Possibly she might be better than Kaneke;
at any rate I hoped so.



CHAPTER X

THE WANDERER


By evening that day we had reached the plain at the foot of the
mountain and advanced some little way into its desolation.  I use
this word advisedly, for when once we had got away from the
foothills where there was water, we entered most unpromising
country upon which it was evident rain fell but seldom.

The vegetation here was almost entirely of the cactus order, grey
or green prickly growths that stored up moisture within themselves.
Some of these were enormous, thick and tall as moderate-sized
trees, and, as I should judge, of great antiquity, their form
suggesting huge candelabra (for they had no proper leaves) or
straight fingers pointing up to heaven from flat bases, shaped like
to the palm of the hand.  Others again were round green lumps,
ranging from the size of a football down to that of a pin-cushion,
all of them, big or little, being covered with sharp spikes, which
made progress among them difficult and, indeed, dangerous, for the
prick of some of the species is poisonous.  These cacti, I should
add, or a large proportion of them, bore the most beautiful but
unnatural-looking flowers of every size and brilliant hue.

Another feature of this strange semi-desert area was the outcrop
here and there of columns of stone that from a distance looked like
obelisks, monoliths sometimes, but generally formed of round,
water-worn rocks resting one upon another.  How they came here I
cannot imagine; it is a matter for geologists, but I noticed that
they seemed to be composed of hard rock left, perhaps, when
millions of years ago the lava from the great extinct volcanic area
towards which we were heading, was washed away by floods.

Through this curious country we travelled for three days, coming on
the second day to a small oasis where there was a spring of water,
which I was glad to see for our bottles were empty and we had begun
to thirst.  I must add that we went at a great rate.  Two or three
of the porters, relieved of their loads, which the others added to
their own, marched ahead, quite five hundred yards ahead, which, as
Hans remarked, showed that they knew the way and were scouts sent
out to guard against surprise.  Kaneke followed, in the midst of
the remaining porters, who acted as his bodyguard.  Then came Hans
and I, the two hunters bringing up the rear.

"Now I begin to believe, Baas," said Hans to me, "that something of
all that story which Kaneke has told is true, for though they will
never say so, it is evident that these men who know the road so
well belong to his people, also that they are afraid of being
attacked.  Otherwise they would not go so fast through this
wilderness of thorns, or look so frightened."

"How do you know what tale Kaneke told me?  Were you listening
behind a stone?" I asked, but got no answer, for at that moment
Hans pricked, or pretended to prick, his foot upon a cactus, and
dropped behind to dig out the thorn.

I pass on to the evening of the third day.  We were at length
getting clear of the cactus scrub and reaching the foot of the
westernmost slope of the huge and massive mountain, which Kaneke
had told me was the shell of an extinct volcano within whose crater
dwelt his people, the Dabanda.  There was but an hour to sunset,
and though much distressed by the heat and the lack of water, we
were marching at a great rate to reach a point where Kaneke said we
should find a spring.  This he was anxious to do before dark, for
now the nights were almost moonless.  Presently as we trudged
forward, begrimed with dust and gasping from the still heat, Hans,
who was at my side, poked me in the ribs, exclaiming in Dutch:

"Kek!" (that is, "Look!")

I did look in the direction to which he pointed, and saw so strange
a sight that at first I thought I must be suffering from delusions.
There, running towards us down the slope of a low ridge of the
mountain mass where it merged into the plain, appeared a man, a
very exhausted man, who came or rather staggered forward in short
rushes, halting after every few paces as though to get his breath.
This much I could see with my eyes, but when I took my glasses,
which I always carry with me, I saw more, namely that this man was
white!  Yes, there could be no mistake, for his garments, which
seemed to have been torn from his shoulders, showed the white skin
beneath.  Moreover his beard and hair were red, or even golden, and
his height and breadth were greater than are those of most natives.

Next moment I saw something else also, for on that ridge of ground
which he had crossed, appeared a number of black spearsmen, who
evidently were hunting him.  Dropping the glasses into my pocket, I
sang out to Tom and Jerry to give me my Winchester, which one of
them carried as well as his own, the heavy rifles and ammunition
being in charge of the bearers.  In a minute it was in my hands,
with a bagful of cartridges.

"Now follow me," I said, and the four of us ran forward, passing
through the bearers.

By this time the exhausted white man was within about fifty paces
of us, while his pursuers, not more than six yards or so behind,
were beginning to throw spears at him as though they were
determined to kill him before he could reach us.  As it chanced it
was some of them who were killed, for at my word we opened fire,
and being decent shots, all four of us, down they went.  The man
arrived, unhurt, and sank to the ground, gasping out:

"My God! you are white!  Give me a rifle."

I didn't, because I hadn't one at hand, nor, indeed, was he in a
fit state to handle a gun.  Also, next minute there began a general
engagement on a small scale.

More spearsmen--tall, shapely fellows--appeared over the ridge,
thirty of forty of them perhaps.  Our bearers threw down their
loads and came into action with great vigour, uttering a war-cry of
"Engoi!--Engoi!"  We fired away with the repeating rifles.

It was all over in a few minutes, for a good many of the attackers
were down and the rest had bolted back across the ridge, while our
losses were nil, except for one man who had received a spear-cut in
the shoulder.  They had gone, pursued by the porters who, from
peaceful bearers of baggage suddenly were turned into perfect
tigers, furious fighting-men who, weary as they were, rushed into
battle like the best of Zulu veterans.  The transformation was so
marked and instantaneous that it astonished me, as it did Hans, who
said:

"Look at those fellows, Baas.  They are fighting, not strangers,
but old enemies whom they have hated from their mothers' breasts.
And look at Kaneke.  He bristles with rage like a porcupine."
(This was quite true; the man's hair and beard seemed to be
standing on end and his eyes, usually so sleepy, flashed fire.)

"Did you see him tackle that tall one whom you missed," (this was a
lie.  I never shot at the man), "the warrior who threw a knife at
you--snatching the spear from his hand and driving it through him?
I think they must be Abandas whom, as we have heard, the Dabandas
hate."

"I dare say," I answered, "but if so they are uncommonly like
Kaneke's crowd; of the same blood perhaps."

Then I bethought me of the white man, whom I had forgotten in the
excitement of the scrap, and went to look for him.  I found him
seated on the ground, having just emptied a water-bottle that Jerry
had given him.

"There is something in horoscopes, after all," he panted out, for
he had not yet recovered his breath.

"Horoscopes!  What the devil do you mean?" I asked, thinking that
he must be crazy.

"What I say," he answered.  "My father was cracked on astrology and
cast mine when I was born.  I remember that it foretold that I
should meet a white man in a desert and that he would save me from
being killed by savages."

"Did it indeed?  To change the subject, might I ask your name?"

"John Taurus Arkle," he murmured.  "Taurus from the constellation
under which I was born, or so I understand," he added with a little
smile and in the voice of one whose mind wandered; then shut his
eyes and began to faint.

Faint he did; so thoroughly that he had to be revived from my
scanty store of spirits.  While he was recovering I took stock of
the man, who evidently was off his head from exhaustion.  That he
was an Englishman of good birth was clear from that unfailing
guide, his voice and manner of speaking.  Also he was well named
John Taurus, i.e. John Bull, though perhaps if the constellation
Leo had been in the ascendant or whatever it is called when he was
born, that of Lion would have suited him even better.

To tell the truth his physical qualities partook of both a taurine
and a leonine character.  The wide breast, the strong limbs and the
massive brow were distinctly bull-like, while the yellow beard and
hair which, having been neglected, hung down on to his shoulders
like a mane, also the eyes which, when the sun shone on them,
gleamed with a sort of golden hue, as do those of lions, did
suggest something leonine.

In short, although not handsome, he was a most striking person,
like to no one else I had ever seen; aged, as I guessed, anything
between thirty and thirty-five years.  Much did I wonder how he
came to be in this strange place where, as I believe from what
Kaneke had told me, at that time I was the first white man to set
foot.

The gin did its work, and in due course John Taurus Arkle--a
strange name enough--regained his wits.  While he was still
unconscious Kaneke, looking both disturbed and fierce, the spear
with which he had killed its owner still in his hand, came up and
stared at him.

"It's all right," I said; "only a swoon.  He will recover
presently."

"Is it so, Lord?" he answered, staring at Arkle with evident
disapproval and, I thought, dislike.  "I hoped that he was dead."

"And why, pray?" I inquired shortly.

"Because this white man will bring trouble on us, as I always
feared."

"As you feared!  What do you mean?"

"Oh, only that the stars told me something about him; as I read
them, that we should find his body."

Stars, I thought to myself; more stars.  But aloud I said:

"Well, you read them wrongly--if at all, for he is alive, and
please understand that I mean to keep him so.  But what is this
talk of trouble?"

"Talk," said Kaneke, pointing with the spear to certain silent
forms that lay around.  "Is there not already trouble here?
Moreover I learned something from one of those Abanda fellows
before he died, namely that this white man had forced his way over
the mountain crest into my country of the Dabanda; that he had been
driven out into that of the Abanda; that he was forced to fly
before them who wished to kill him, as they do all strangers; that
he fled, and being very strong and swift of foot, outran them, till
at last, when he was being hunted down like a tired buck by wild
dogs, he met us, and that happened which was decreed."

"Yes," I repeated after him, "that happened which was decreed,
whether in your stars or elsewhere.  But I want to know what is to
happen next.  It appears that neither the Dabanda nor the Abanda
like this white lord, who henceforth must be our companion."

"Why must he be our companion, Macumazahn?  See, he is senseless.
One tap on the head and he so will remain for ever, who, if he
comes on with us among peoples whom he has offended--I know not
how--may cost us our lives."

In an absent-minded fashion I took the revolver from my belt and
began to examine it as though to see whether it were loaded.

"Look here, Kaneke," I said, "let us come to an understanding.  You
have just been suggesting to me that to suit some purpose of your
own I should murder, or allow you to murder, one of my own
countrymen who has been attacked by your people and other savages,
and escaped.  Perhaps you do not understand what that means to a
white man, so I am going to tell you."

Here suddenly I lifted the revolver and held it within a few inches
of his eyes.  Then I said in a quiet voice:

"Look here, my friend, in your country when you take an oath that
may not be broken, by whom do you swear?"

"By the Engoi, Lord," he answered in a startled voice.  "To break
an oath sworn by the Engoi is death, and more than death."

"Good.  Now swear to me by the Engoi that you will not harm this
white lord or cause him to be harmed."

"And if I refuse?" he asked sullenly.

"If you refuse, Kaneke, then I will give you time to change your
mind, while I count fifty between my teeth.  If, after I have
counted fifty, you still refuse, or are silent, then I will send a
bullet through your head, because, friend Kaneke, it is time to
settle which of us two is master."

"If you kill me, my people will kill you, Macumazahn."

"Oh no, they won't, Kaneke.  Have you forgotten that a certain lady
called White-Mouse, in whom I put much faith, promised me that I
should come quite safe out of this journey.  Don't trouble yourself
about that matter, for I will settle with your people after you are
dead.  Now I am going to begin to count."

So I counted, pausing at ten and at twenty.  At thirty I saw
Kaneke's fingers tighten on the handle of the spear with which he
had killed the Abanda man.

"Be pleased to drop that spear," I said, "or I shall stop
counting."

He opened his hand and it fell to the ground.

Then I counted on to forty, and pausing once more, remarked that
time was short, but that perhaps he was right to have done with it
and to take his chance of what awaited him in or beyond the stars
he worshipped, seeing that this world was full of sorrows.

I counted on to forty-five, at which number I aligned the pistol
very carefully on a spot just above Kaneke's nose.

"Forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight," I said, and began to press
upon the trigger.

Then came the collapse, for Kaneke threw himself down and in truly
Eastern fashion began to kiss the ground before my feet.  As he did
so I fired, the bullet of course passing over his head.

"Dear me!" I exclaimed, "how fortunate that you made up your mind.
This pistol is much lighter triggered than I thought or perhaps the
heat has affected the spring.  Well, do you swear?"

"Yes, Lord," he said hoarsely.  "I swear by the Engoi that I will
not harm yonder white man, or cause him to be harmed.  That was the
oath you asked, but I know that in it lies one that is wider,
namely that henceforth, instead of your serving me, I must serve
you, who have conquered me."

"That's it.  You have put it very well," I replied cheerfully.
"And now--a gift for a gift.  I am quite ready to renounce my new-
won lordship over you, and taking this white wanderer with me if he
will come, to leave you to go your own ways, while I and my
servants go mine, you promising not to follow or molest me in any
manner.  Is that your wish?"

"No, Lord," he answered sullenly.  "You must accompany me to the
Lake Mone."

"Very good, Kaneke, so be it.  Tell me how matters stand and I will
give you my orders.  But remember that if you disobey one of them
or try to trick me, or to injure this white lord, I who have only
counted forty-eight, shall count forty-nine and fifty.  It is
agreed?"

"It is agreed, Lord," he replied humbly.  "Hearken.  Yonder," and
he pointed to some rocks upon a slope not more than a few hundred
yards away, where grew trees of a different and more vigorous
character from any about us--"yonder, I say, is the spring we seek.
Lord, we must reach it at once, for our water is done, the white
man has drank the last, and very soon it will be quite dark and
impossible to travel."

"Good," I said.  "Go on with your men and prepare the camp.  I will
follow with the wanderer as soon as he can walk.  Afterwards we can
talk."

He looked at me doubtfully, wondering, I was sure, whether I had it
in my mind to give him the slip.  If so, probably he concluded that
without water and with a sick man it would not be possible for me
to do so.  At least he went to collect his people, and presently I
saw them march with the loads up to the rocks where grew the green
trees.  To make certain of his movements I sent Hans with them,
telling him to return at once and report if there was a spring and
if so whether Kaneke was preparing to camp.

To tell the truth I was by no means certain as to his intentions.
Possibly he meant to melt away in the darkness, leaving us in the
wilderness to our fate.  This would not have troubled me very much
had it not been for the fact that nearly all the ammunition and
food, also some of my rifles, were among the loads.  Otherwise,
indeed, I should have been glad to see the last of Kaneke, for I
was filled with doubts of him and of the business into which he was
dragging me.  However, I must take my chance; amongst so many risks
what was one more?

When he had gone I went to where the stranger lay behind some
stones, and to my joy found that he was coming out of his swoon,
for he had sat up and was staring about him.

"Who are you and where am I?  Oh, wasn't there a fight?  Give me
water."

"Keep quiet a little, Mr. Arkle," I said.  "I hope to have some
water presently."  (I had given Hans a bottle to fill.)  "There has
been a fight.  By God's mercy we managed to save you.  You shall
tell me about your adventures afterwards."

He nodded, fixing his attractive eyes, which reminded me of those
of a retriever, on my face.  Then, doubtless unaware that he was
speaking out loud, he said something rather rude, namely:

"Queer-looking little chap; hair like that of a half-clipped
poodle; skin like an old parchment, but tough as nails; and
straight.  Yes, I am sure, straight.  John Taurus, you are in luck.
Well, it's time."

Of course I took no notice, but went to speak to Tom and Jerry, who
were standing close by bewildered and whispering, asking them how
many cartridges they had fired in the scrap, and answering their
questions as best I could, till presently in the waning light I
caught sight of Hans returning.

"It is all right, Baas," he said.  "There's a good spring yonder,
as the Owl-man said, and he is camping by it.  Here's water."

I took the bottle and handed it to Arkle, who seized it eagerly.
Then suddenly a thought struck him and he held it out to me, saying
in his pleasant, cultivated voice:

"You too look thirsty, sir.  Drink first," words that showed me
that I had to deal with a gentleman.

To tell the truth I was dry, perished with thirst, indeed.  But not
to be outdone I made him take the first pull.  Then I drank and
gave some to Tom and Jerry.  Between us those two quarts did not go
far; still, a pint apiece was something.

"Can you walk a little?" I asked Arkle.

"Rather," he said.  "I'm a new man, and thank God those scoundrels
didn't get my boots.  But where are we going?"

"To the camp yonder first.  Afterwards to the Lake Mone if we can."

A flash of joy passed across his face.

"That will suit me very well," he said.  Then it fell, and he
added:  "You are very good to me, and it is my duty to warn you
that the journey is dangerous, and if we get there, that the place
and people are--well, not canny.  Indeed, you would be wise to turn
back, for I think that death is very fond of Lake Mone."

"I guessed as much," I said.  "Have you been there, Mr. Arkle?"

He nodded.

"Then take my advice and say nothing of your experiences to those
with whom we are going to camp, for I suppose you talk Arabic.  I
will explain why afterwards."

He nodded again, then asked:

"What is your name, sir?"

I told him.

"Allan Quatermain," he said.  "Seems familiar to me somehow.  Oh, I
remember, a man I knew--Lord Ragnall--told me about you.  Indeed,
he gave me a letter of introduction in case I went south.  But
that's gone with the rest.  Odd to have met you in this fashion,
but so is everything in this place.  Now, Mr. Quatermain, if I may
put my hand on your shoulder, for my head still swims a bit, I am
ready to walk."

"Right," I answered, "but again I beg you not to be ready to talk,
at any rate in any language but our own, for except Hans, who can
be trusted on all important matters"--and I pointed to the
Hottentot--"none of these people understand English."

"I see," he said, and we started, Arkle, who limped badly, towering
above me, for he was a very big man, and leaning on me as though I
were a stick.

We reached the camp without difficulty just as darkness fell.
While the hunters pitched my tent which, although low, was large
enough to cover two men, Arkle lay down by the stream and drank
until I begged him to stop.  Then he poured water over his head,
and thrust his arms into it to the shoulders, as though to take up
moisture like a dry sponge, after which he asked for food.
Fortunately, we had still plenty to eat--of a kind, hard cakes made
of crushed corn that we had obtained from the last natives we had
met, and sliced biltong, that is buck's flesh dried in the sun.
These he devoured ravenously, as though they were delicious, which
showed me that he was almost starved.  Then he lay down in the tent
and fell at once into a profound sleep.

For a while I sat listening to his breathing, which sounded quite
loud in the intense stillness of the place, and staring at the
stars that in the clear sky shone with wonderful brilliance.  By
their light I saw Kaneke glide past me and, taking his stand upon a
flat stone at a little distance, make strange motions with his
arms, which he held up above his head.

"The Owl-Man is talking to his star, Baas; that bright one up
there," whispered Hans at my side, pointing to the planet Venus.
"He does that every night, Baas, and it tells him what to do next
day."

"I am glad to hear it," I answered, "for I am sure I do not know
what we are to do."

"Oh, just go on, Baas," said Hans.  "If you only go on long enough
you always come out the other side," a remark which I thought
contained a deal of true philosophy, though it left the question of
what one would find on the other side quite unsolved.

After this, having arranged that Hans and the two hunters were to
keep watch alternately, which was unnecessary where Hans was
concerned, seeing that he always slept with one eye open, I lay
down in the tent, and having said a short prayer, as I am not
ashamed to confess I have always done since boyhood, or at any rate
nearly always, fell instantly into a profound slumber.

While it was still dark--although, as I could tell by the stars and
the smell of the air, the night drew towards morning, I was
awakened by Arkle creeping into the tent.

"Been to get a bathe in that spring," he said, when he found that I
was awake.  "Needed it when one hasn't washed for a week.  I feel
all right again now."

I remarked that I was glad to hear it, and that he seemed to have
had a squeak for his life.

"Yes," he added thoughtfully, "it was a very close thing.  Lucky
that I am a good runner.  I won the three-mile race two years in
succession at the Oxford and Cambridge sports.  Look here, Mr.
Quatermain, you must be wondering who I am and how I came here.
I will tell you while it's quiet, if you care to listen.

"The Arkles, though that isn't the name of the firm, for some
generations have been in a big way of business in Manchester and
London; colonial merchants they call themselves.  They deal all
over the world, with West Africa among other places.  My father,
who has been dead some years, struck out a line of his own,
however.  He was a dreamy kind of a man, a crank his relatives
called him, who studied all sorts of odd subjects, astrology among
them, as I think I told you.  Also he refused to have anything to
do with trade, and insisted upon becoming a doctor, or rather a
surgeon.  He met with great success in his profession, for
notwithstanding his fads, he was a wonderful operator.  Being well-
off he took little private practice, but worked almost entirely at
hospitals for nothing.

"When I left college, by his wish I became a doctor too, but
shortly after I qualified at Bart's my father, whose only child I
was, died.  Also my cousin, the only son of my uncle, Sir Thomas
Arkle the baronet, was killed in an accident, and my uncle begged
me to enter the business.  In the end I did so, very unwillingly,
to please my relations.  To cut the story short, I did not care for
business, and when there was so much property entailed upon me with
the baronetcy, I could not see why it was necessary that I should
remain in an office.  On the other hand my uncle did not wish me to
return to practice.

"So we compromised; I agreed to travel for some years in the
interests of the firm, specially in West Africa, where they wanted
to develop their trade, and incidentally in my own interest,
because I wanted as a physician to observe man in his primitive
state and to study his indigenous diseases.  When the tour was
finished I was to return and put up for Parliament and in due
course inherit the Arkle fortunes, which are large, and advance the
Arkle dignity, which is nothing in particular, by the judicious
purchase of a peerage, for that is what it came to.  That, more or
less, was the arrangement."

"Quite so," I said, "or as much of it as you choose to tell me,
though perhaps there is a good deal more behind which, quite
properly, you prefer to keep to yourself."

"Perfectly true, Mr. Quatermain.  By the way, as I am telling you
about myself, would you mind telling me who and what you are?"

"Not in the least.  I was born in England of a good family, and
received a decent education from my father, who was a scholar, a
gentleman, and something of a saint.  For the rest I am nobody and
nothing in particular, only a hunter with some skill at his trade,
an observer, like you, of mankind in the rough, and one cursed with
a curiosity and a desire to learn new things which, in the end,
will no doubt put a stop to all my foolishness."

"Oh no, it won't," he answered cheerfully, "that is, not until the
time appointed.  I'll cast your horoscope for you, if you like--my
father taught me the trick--and tell you when it will happen."

"No, you won't," I answered firmly.

At this moment Hans arrived with the coffee and informed me that
Kaneke was anxious that we should march at sunrise, as here we were
in danger.

Then followed anxious consultations.  Arkle had a coat, or rather a
Norfolk jacket, but no shirt; and one of my spares, a flannel
garment that had cost me fifteen shillings at Durban and had never
been used, must be provided for him.  Luckily it was over-size, so
he managed to drag it on to his great frame.  Then a hat must be
found, and so forth.  Lastly it was necessary to provide him with
one of the spare Winchester rifles and some cartridges.

Even before we were ready Kaneke arrived, not a little agitated, as
I could see, and prayed us to hasten.

"Where to, Kaneke?" I asked.

"Up the side of the mountain and over its lip, Lord, that we may
take shelter among my people the Dabanda.  For be sure that after
what happened yesterday, the Abanda will kill us if they can.  If
this white wanderer whom your servants call Red-Bull cannot march,
he must be left behind."

Here Arkle, who it seemed understood and could speak Arabic
perfectly, looked Kaneke up and down and replied that this was
unnecessary, as he believed that he could get along.

So, having swallowed some food, presently off we went, guided by
Kaneke up the steep mountain side.

"Did you call that man, Kaneke?" Arkle inquired when that worthy
was out of earshot.

"Yes," I answered; "but why do you ask?"

"Oh, only because of late I have heard a good deal of a person
named Kaneke from a native I know.  But perhaps there are two
Kanekes.  The one he spoke of was a young fellow who committed a
great crime."

Then rather abruptly he changed the subject, leaving me wondering.



CHAPTER XI

ARKLE'S STORY


At first Arkle walked rather lamely, being troubled with stiffness
and his sore heel, but soon these wore off for the time, and in the
fresh air of the morning his vigour returned to him.  Certainly he
was a splendid-looking man, I reflected, as I marched at his side,
a perfect specimen of the finest stamp of the Anglo-Saxon race.

While we went he continued his story.

"You were quite right in supposing that there were other reasons
which induced me to come to Africa besides those I mentioned.  I
will tell them to you, if you care to hear them, for I may as well
put my cards on the table.  If not, please say so, for I do not
wish to bore anybody with my affairs."

I replied that nothing would please me better, for to tell the
truth my curiosity was much excited.

"Here goes, then," he said, "though I expect that the tale won't
raise your opinion of me and my intelligence.  As I have said, I am
what is called a man with prospects or rather I was, for these seem
far enough off today, and as such, having plenty of money to spend,
I was exposed to many temptations.  Mr. Quatermain, I cannot
pretend that these were always resisted.  I will pass over my
follies, of which I am ashamed, with the remark that they were such
as are common to impetuous young men.

"In short, I lived fast, so fast that my uncle and connections--my
mother, by the way, died when I was young--being nonconformist of
that puritanical stamp which often combines piety with a continual
thirst for worldly advancement, were quite properly scandalized,
and remonstrated.  They said that I must change my mode of life,
and as a first step, get married.  This my uncle desired above all
things, for there was no other heir, and as he often used to remark
in a solemn voice, life is uncertain.

"At length I gave way and became engaged to a lady very well born
indeed and very handsome, but without means, which, as I would have
plenty, did not matter.  To be honest, I did not greatly care for
this lady, nor did she care for me, being, as I discovered
afterwards, in love with somebody else.  In fact the marriage would
have been one of mutual convenience, nothing more.  Now I am going
to make you laugh.

"Although no one knew it and I scarcely expect you to believe it,
I, a man who, as I have said, could and did plunge into dissipations,
have another side to my nature.  At times, Mr. Quatermain, I am a
dreamer and what is called a mystic.  I suppose I inherited it from
my father, at any rate there it is."

"There is nothing wonderful in that," I remarked; "the old story of
the flesh and the spirit, nothing more."

"Perhaps.  At least I put faith in queer and unprovable things, for
instance in what are called 'soul affinities', and even in the
theory that we have lived before.  Would you believe that the great
lump of British flesh and blood which you see before you developed
a 'soul affinity', if that is the right term, with someone I had
never met?"

I looked at him doubtfully, reflecting that the hardships through
which he had passed had probably touched his brain.  He read my
mind, for he went on:

"Sounds as though I were a bit cracked, doesn't it?  So I thought
myself, and should still think, were it not for the fact that I
have found this affinity in Africa."

"Where?" I asked lightly.  "At Lake Mone?"

"Yes," he replied, "at Lake Mone, where I always expected that I
should find her."

I gasped, and felt as though I should like to sit down, which,
owing to our hurry, was impossible.  Evidently the poor man was
rather mad.

"As I have begun it I had better go on with my story, taking things
as they happened," he continued in a matter-of-fact voice.  "I tell
you that in the midst of my wild and rather unedifying career I
began to be haunted by visions which came upon me at night."

"Dreams?" I suggested.

"No, always when I was awake and looking at the stars, and
generally when I was in the open air.  The first, I remember,
developed in Trafalgar Square at three in the morning after I had
been to a dance."

"The wine is not always very good at those dances, I have been
told, or if it is, sometimes one drinks too much of it," I
suggested again.

"Quite true, but as it happened this one was given by a relative of
mine who is a strict teetotaller and never allows anything
spirituous in her house.  I had to go to meet my fiancée; it was a
terrible affair.  When it was over I went for a walk and came to
Trafalgar Square, which at that hour was very quiet and lonely.
There I stood staring at the Nelson Column, or rather at the stars
above it, for it was frosty and they were beautiful that night.
Then the thing came.  I saw a desolate sheet of water lit up by the
moon, an eerie kind of a place.  Presently a form, that of a woman
draped in white, appeared gliding over the water towards me,
floating, not walking.  It reached the shore and advanced to where
I stood, and I saw that this woman was young and very beautiful,
with large, tender eyes.

"She stopped opposite to me, considering me, and a change came over
her face as though after long search she had found that which she
sought.  Looking at her, I too seemed to have found that which I
sought.  She held out her arms, she spoke to me; distinctly I heard
her words, not with my ears but through some inner sense.  What is
more, I understood one or two of them, though they were in Arabic.

"I have always had a taste for studying out-of-the-way subjects,
and it happened that in my medical reading I had become interested
in the works of some of the old Arabian physicians, and in order to
understand them had found it necessary to master something of the
language in which they were written.  This was some years before,
and I had forgotten most of what I had learned, but not everything.
So it came about that I caught the meaning of a sentence here and
there--such as these:

"'At last, O long sought.  At last upon the earth.' . . . 'Not in
dreams.' . . . 'Follow, follow.' . . . 'Far away you will find and
remember.' . . . 'Yes, there the gates will be opened, the gates of
the past and the future.'

"At this point the vision, or whatever you like to call it, came to
a prosaic end, for a policeman arrived, eyed me suspiciously, and
said:

"'Move on, young gentleman.  This ain't no place for the likes of
you on a cold night.  Go home and sleep it off.'

"I remember that I burst out laughing; the contrast was so
ridiculous.  Then because my heart was full of a strange joy, such
as is described by the old mystics who think that they have been in
communication with things Divine, I presented that policeman with
half a sovereign, wished him good night, walked away quietly to my
rooms in St. James's Place, and went to bed a changed man."

"What do you mean by 'a changed man'?" I asked.

"Oh, only that I seemed different in every way.  It was as though
something had been torn, or a veil had been lifted from my eyes, so
that now I saw all sorts of new things; at least the old things
took on new aspects.  From that moment, for example, I hated the
dissipations which had attracted me.  I acquired different and
higher objectives; I came to know, what doubtless is true, that
here in the world we are but wanderers lost in a fog which shuts
off glorious prospects, divine realities, so that we can see little
except dank weeds hanging from the rocks by which we feel our way,
and pebbles shining in the wet beneath our feet.  We make crowns of
the weeds and fight for the bright pebbles, but the weeds wither,
and the pebbles when they are dry prove to be but common slate.
The dream woman that I had seen in Trafalgar Square showed me all
this, and a great deal more.  I was changed!  I who had been a
greedy caterpillar, devouring all that I could find, in that half-
hour in Trafalgar Square became a chrysalis, and then was
transformed into a butterfly."

"Most interesting!" I exclaimed, and with sincerity, for
notwithstanding Arkle's fine words and metaphors which I found
rather difficult to follow, this story did interest me very much.
I didn't believe in the Trafalgar Square vision, but, as an
American would say, I did hitch on to that transformation which, in
our degree, most of us have experienced at one time or another,
however impermanent its results may have proved.  In some private
Trafalgar Square of their own, nearly all have met the Ideal, or
the Divine, and in its unearthly light have seen things high and
strange; have seen also how petty and how foul are the objects of
their temporal desire.

Half an hour later it is probable that they will have forgotten the
former, and be hunting the latter even more fiercely than before.
Still, they have had the vision, and those to whom such visions
came may always hope.  They have learned that there are gates in
the gross wall that is built about their souls. . . .

"Most interesting," I repeated, "but how about the lady to whom you
were engaged?  Did you tell her what you had seen and heard in
Trafalgar Square?"

"No, I didn't, at least not all of it.  The only difference was
that whereas I had merely disliked her before, afterwards I
detested her, that is, as a prospective matrimonial partner.
However, I may add at once that this engagement affair cleared
itself up in a most satisfactory fashion.  The lady's aversion to
me was even more real than mine to her.  Also she was rude enough
to believe and to tell me she believed that I was mad."

"That was pretty straight, though if you talked to her--well, as
you are doing now, not altogether surprising," I said.

"Quite straight, but I respected her for it.  Lastly, as I have
said, there was a gentleman in the case.  Now can you guess what
happened?"

"Of course.  You broke it off, that's all."

"Not a bit.  We didn't dare, for the row in both families would
have been too terrific.  No, my hated rival was impecunious like my
beloved betrothed, whereas I had a good lump of cash at call, which
my father had left me.  So I lent him £5000--it's more polite to
call it lent--and they bolted to Florida to start orange-farming.
I need not say that I proclaimed myself broken-hearted and everyone
sympathized with me to my face and laughed at me behind my back,
almost as heartily as I laughed myself behind their backs.
Meanwhile, I studied Arabic like anything, which amused me, as I am
rather quick at languages, and took long midnight walks to develop
my spiritual side."

"I say," I said doubtfully, "you are not making fun of me, are you,
Mr. Arkle?"

"Certainly not.  At least I think I am not, for those Abanda have
killed my sense of humour.  But you shall judge by the sequel.  To
cut it short, I did seem to come more and more in touch with that
lady of the lake.  Yes, in those starlit midnight hours she
appeared to talk to me more and more as my Arabic improved, and to
tell me all sorts of curious things about the past, the very
distant past, I gathered, in which we had been intimately connected
and taken part in various adventures, some of them tragic and all
in their way striking and even beautiful.  I will skip these, for
what is the use of repeating a lot of old love-affairs that
apparently took place in remote ages, only saying that in the last
of them at some indefinite date she brought about my death and her
own, that we might go to heaven together or rather to a certain
star, a crime for which, according to the visions, she is most
anxious to make amends.  That is why, still according to the
visions, she must live in the distant spot where it happened, for
as I understand, the experiment did not succeed--I mean that we
never got to that star."

"Look here," I said, "all this sounds rather like a nightmare,
doesn't it?"

Yet as the words passed my lips, I remembered Kaneke's yarn about
his goddess in the lake who was supposed to have descended from
heaven and fallen in love with a man.  Surely he said that she had
killed this man to take him back to heaven with her, which was not
allowed.  Therefore she waited in the lake until he appeared again,
after which I did not gather what was to happen.  The legend was of
a sort that is not unknown in Central and West Africa, but really
it was odd to hear another version of it from Arkle's lips.

"Very much like a nightmare," he assented cheerfully.  "Being a
doctor I came to the same conclusion, as did some of the most
eminent of my profession whom I consulted.  One of them asked me if
I had spotted the locale of these strange happenings.  I replied,
yes, somewhere near some mountains in the central parts of Africa
that were called Ruga, where, as I believed, no white man had ever
been, though I had found them marked on an old map.  'Well,' he
replied, with a twinkle in his eye, 'if I were you I should go and
look for the lady there.  At the worst you will get some good big-
game shooting, and I have noticed that people with hallucinations
never come to any harm.'

"I thought this an excellent idea, and shortly afterwards I began
to work upon my uncle to send me out to Africa to advance the trade
interests of the firm.  In the end he and the other partners
agreed; you see they sympathized with me very much on my
matrimonial fiasco and thought that a change would do me good.

"'In such a case,' said my uncle, who has a gift for platitude,
'new countries, new customs, and new faces are most helpful.'  I
sighed and shook my head, but said that I hoped so."

"How long have you been here?" I asked.

"Oh, I landed on the West Coast about three years ago.  It took me
a long while to find those confounded Ruga Mountains, and I met
with many adventures on the way.  However, at last I fetched up all
right with about half a dozen coast servants, good men all of them,
for the rest of the crowd had bolted at one time or another.  And
now I come to the interesting part of the story, if you care to
hear it."

"Of course I do.  Who wouldn't?" I answered.  "Go on."

"Well, I had heard of Lake Mone, the holy lake as it is called;
right away from the Congo and beyond it, indeed, rumours of this
place had reached me.  I have told you that I am not bad at
languages, and during my first year in Africa, while I was
attending to the business of the firm, I also studied local tongues
and customs on every possible occasion.  Thus I would get servants
who could not talk a word of English, and learn from them.  Then I
began to work my way up country and at every tribe I came to, or
rather at every village, I always made a friend of the chief witch-
doctor, for the African witch-doctors know everything that is
passing for hundreds of miles around them.  Indeed often they seem
to know more than this, how or why I can't tell."

"That's quite true," I said, thinking of Zikali, "Opener of Roads",
the great wizard of Zululand of whom I have told some tales.

"Now," went on Arkle, "I must explain that I was not certain for
what I was searching.  The visions which I had experienced in
England had shown me the desolate lake and a beautiful woman who
spoke about the past and our relations together in that past.  But
beyond saying, or conveying, that it was in Central Africa she had
never mentioned the name of the lake, or told me how to get there,
and from the moment that I sailed from Liverpool the visions, or
whatever they may have been, ceased.  In short I was left without
any guidance whatsoever.

"It was here that the witch-doctors came in.  I explained my case
to several of them, and when their mouths were opened by gifts,
also by a belief that although my skin was white I was one of their
fraternity, they became communicative.  They had heard something of
a sacred lake that was inhabited by a great fetish, they believed
this fetish was a woman; they would inquire.  That was the burden
of their song.  What is more, they DID inquire, once or twice by
means of drum messages which, as you know, the natives can send
over hundreds of miles, but generally in fashions that were dark to
me.  Also answers came, from which in the end I learned that the
lake where the great rain-doctoress dwelt was named Mone, that her
title was the Engoi, and that she was known among the people round
her as Shadow, or The Shadow.

"Following these clues, such as they were, though of course all the
while I understood that this Engoi, or Shadow, might be quite
different from her of whom I had dreamed, I worked my way slowly
eastwards and southwards, till at last I came to certain mountains
which I was told bordered the country where the Engoi lived.
Indeed, from the crest of them I was shown this great volcano, or
whatever it may be, that we are climbing now, which was declared to
be her home.  Also, I was informed that between it and me dwelt a
fierce and numerous tribe called the Abanda, whose habit it was to
kill anyone who set foot within their borders.

"It was here that the last six men who had clung to me struck.
They were good fellows, faithful and brave; I never had to do with
better.  Still, they came in a body and explained that although
they feared no man, they did fear wizards and ghosts.  The country
of the Abanda, and more especially that of the Dabanda beyond it
was, they had sure information, full of both, and the stranger who
entered there never came out alive, 'even his spirit remained
captive after he was dead'.  For these reasons they would not go
one step farther.

"I saw that it was quite useless to argue, and therefore I made a
bargain.  The village where this talk took place was inhabited by
some very friendly and peaceful agriculturists in country that the
Abanda never visited.  This was my bargain: that those men should
rest here for one year awaiting my return.  If at the end of that
time I did not appear again or send them further orders, they were
to be at liberty to divide my goods and go wherever they liked.
These goods, I should explain, are, or were, of some value, trade-
stuff of all kinds for presents or barter, rifles, ammunition,
clothes, etcetera."

"How did six men manage to carry all these things?" I asked.

"They didn't.  After most of my people deserted, by the help of the
witch-doctors and chiefs I arranged for their transport from town
to town or from tribe to tribe, letting the bearers go back and
procuring others when I moved forward.  So if I appear no more
those six coast men, old soldiers most of them, will be rich, that
is if they can get the stuff away."

"Unless they are more honest than most of their kind, I expect that
they have done that already," I said, smiling.

"Possibly.  I don't know, and to tell the truth I do not much care,
because it is improbable that we shall ever meet again.  I realized
this when I made up my mind to continue the journey to Lake Mone
alone."

"Do you mean to say that you tried to do that, Mr. Arkle?"

"Yes, and what is more, I succeeded.  No, that isn't true; I did
not go quite alone.  At the last moment, when I was about to start,
a sharp-eyed, wrinkled old fellow turned up, where from no one
seemed to know, who said that he was one of the people who lived in
the Land of the Holy Lake, whither he wished to return.  He said
that his name was Kumpana, and that he wanted no reward except my
companionship upon the journey.  That was all I could get out of
him.  Of course this sounded fishy enough, but as I was going on
anyhow, it did not matter, although my hunters and the chief of the
tribe--which, by the way was called Ruga-Ruga, I suppose after the
mountains--implored me not to trust myself to such a guide.  You
see, I knew I should arrive and therefore I wasn't anxious."

"Now I understand what faith is," I said.

"Yes, faith is everything.  We are taught that in the Bible, you
remember.  Well, I started; by the state of the moon it must be a
month ago.  I took a gun and as much ammunition as I could carry,
also a pistol, a hunting-knife, and a few other necessaries,
including an extra pair of boots, while the mysterious old fellow,
Kumpana, carried the food.  I say that he was old, for he looked
so, but I should add that he was one of the finest walkers and the
best guide that I ever knew.

"In three days, travelling down hill, we came to the country of the
Abanda, or rather to its outskirts.  They are a numerous people who
live on a great plain upon the other side of this mountain, also on
its western slope, in a number of unfortified villages, with one
central town, which is much bigger than the rest.  Their land,
consisting chiefly of decomposed lava, is extremely fertile when
there is rain, but just now it is suffering from a severe drought
which, Kumpana said, though how he knew it I can't tell you, has
endured for three years, so that they are almost starving, and
consequently in a state of great excitement.

"This drought, he said also, they attribute to the magic of the
Dabanda who live over the rim of the mountain, that is in the great
crater of the extinct volcano or group of volcanoes.  Therefore--if
they dared--they would attack these Dabanda and destroy them, in
order to occupy their country and become the subjects of their
goddess the Engoi.  But for some strange reason, which Kumpana
could not or would not explain, they do not dare."

"I have heard something of that tale--with differences," I said.
"Did you meet any of these Abanda?"

"No, not at that time, thanks to Kumpana.  But you know what they
are like, for yesterday you saw some of them.  In point of fact
they almost exactly resemble those bearers of yours, who from the
look of them might be either Abanda or Dabanda, for the two people
are doubtless of one blood and even speak the same dialect of
Arabic."

"How did you avoid them?" I asked, making no comment on this
statement.

"By lying hidden during the day and travelling at night.  As there
was no moon visible we must journey by starlight, and even that
failed sometimes when mist or cloud came up.  But it seemed to make
no difference to old Kumpana, who must know the country like a
book.  On he went up the steep mountain paths, seeing and climbing
like a cat in the dark, and leading me by a string tied to his
wrist, for we were afraid to speak except in the lowest whisper.
Once or twice we passed quite close to villages, so close that we
could see the people gathered round the fires.  Here our danger was
from the dogs, which smelt us and rushed out barking, but
fortunately their masters took no notice, thinking, I suppose, that
they smelt jackals or hyenas.

"On the third morning we came to the lip of the crater and had no
more to fear from the Abanda.  Now another danger arose, for the
pass, which was nothing but a cleft in the rock, only large enough
in places for one man to squeeze through at a time, was occupied by
Dabanda watchmen, who of course challenged us, and were much
astonished at my appearance, for I think they had never seen a
white man.  Kumpana they seemed to know (indeed, I believe that
they were waiting for him there), for they talked with him in a
friendly and deferential fashion, though I was not allowed to hear
what they said.  The end of it was that we were detained here for a
day and a night while messengers were sent to a body of priests who
are called 'The Council of the Engoi'.

"At dawn of the following day, that is twenty-four hours after our
arrival, these messengers returned, saying that we were to proceed
to the chief town upon the edge of the forest that surrounds the
lake.  So off we went, escorted by some of the Dabandas, through a
lovely country, rich beyond imagining, for there had been plenty of
rain here.  It reminded me of some of the lands that border on the
Rhine, and lower down, of those about Naples, and lower still of
the South Sea Islands.  That is until I came to the deep belt of
forest which surrounds the Holy Lake where no man may set his
foot."

"Did you see that lake?" I asked.

"Later I saw it and once or twice on the journey I caught a glimpse
of it, a black and gloomy sheet of water with an island in its
midst.  In the evening we came to a large village where the huts or
houses, some of them round and some square, were white and stood in
gardens.  I was taken to a large one of the square variety with a
courtyard outside of it, where soon I found I was a prisoner.

"After dark a man visited me.  As there was no light in the hut I
could not see his face, but he told me that he was a priest of the
Engoi.  Then, in the presence of Kumpana, he cross-examined me
sharply as to the reason of my visit, and affected surprise when I
answered him in his own tongue--Arabic.  I told him all sorts of
lies; that I wished to see his country; that I was a white merchant
and wanted to open trade; that I desired to learn the wisdom of the
Dabanda; and I know not what besides.  He replied that by rights I
should be burnt alive for sacrilege, but as a white man was
expected in the country and possibly I might be that man, the
matter must be referred to the Engoi.  Meanwhile I was to remain a
prisoner.  If I left the courtyard of the hut I should be seized
and burned.

"A prisoner I did remain accordingly.  For ten long days I sat
about in that horrible hut and high-fenced courtyard, overeating
myself, for I was supplied with plenty of excellent food, and
driven nearly frantic by doubts and anxieties.  I felt that I was
close to her whom I had come to see, and yet in a sense farther
away than I had been in London years before.  No more visitors
reached me, nothing happened.  At last I drew near to madness.  I
even thought of suicide--anything to get out of that intolerable
hut and courtyard, for I saw, or thought I saw, that I had been the
victim of delusions.

"One evening when I was at my worst, Kumpana, my old guide, who
from something the priest said was, I discovered, a person of great
importance, came to visit me for the first time for days.  He asked
me if I had a bold heart and was one who would dare much to satisfy
the desire of his heart, and if so, what was that desire.  I
replied that it was to speak with a certain holy one whom already I
had met in dreams, she who was called Shadow and dwelt in a lake.
He did not seem in the least surprised, indeed he said he knew that
this was so.  Then he added:

"'When the moon appears, walk out of the hut boldly towards the
darkness of the forest.  There you will find those who will guide
you.  Go with them to the borders of the lake, where perchance
"one" will meet you.  After that I do not know what may happen.  It
may be death--understand that it may be death.  If you fear this
adventure I will guide you back out of the country of the Dabanda,
but, then, know that never more, in dreams or otherwise, at least
during this life, will you meet her whom you seek.  Now choose.'

"'I have chosen,' I answered.  'I go into the forest.'

"'A certain holy one has judged you well.  Speak with her if you
will, yet beware that you touch her not.  Again I warn you to
beware,' he said, and bowing left me.

"At the appointed time I walked out of the door of the hut, my
rifle in my hand, for my arms had been left to me, perhaps because
my captors did not understand their use.  The gate of the fence was
open and the guards had gone.  I went through it and, following a
path, came to the edge of the forest.  Here beneath the trees the
darkness was intense and I stood still, not knowing which way to
turn.  Shadows glided up to me.  Who or what they were I could not
see, nor did they speak.  They did not touch me, so far as I could
feel, yet they seemed to push me along.  Surrounded by them I
walked forward.

"I confess that I was afraid.  It came into my mind that my
companions were not human, that they were the spirits of the
forest, or ghosts of those long dead returned to their earthly
habitations.  Their company frightened me; I spoke to them, but
there was no answer, only I thought that cold hands were laid upon
my lips as though to enjoin silence.  Whither was I going in
pursuit of a dream that had haunted me for years?  Perhaps not to
find the lovely woman of that dream, but in her place some blood-
stained African fetish, some evil-haunted symbol to which I should
be offered as a sacrifice.  My blood ran cold at the thought, and I
tell you, Mr. Quatermain, that had I known which way to go, I would
have turned and fled, for in this last trial my faith failed me.

"But it was too late, and now I must face that risk of death of
which the old messenger had warned me.

"In dead silence I went on and on through the endless trees.  My
hands brushed their trunks, I stumbled over their roots, but I
never struck them and I never fell.  I could see nothing, could
hear nothing except my own footfall.  Yes, by a pressure like to
that of wind, I was guided and sustained for hour after hour.

"At length we were out of the forest, for I saw the stars and the
faint effulgence of the hidden moon, also the gleam of water at my
feet.  My guides seemed to have left me as though their task was
done.  I was utterly alone, and the sense of that great solitude
appalled my soul.

"What was that upon the waters, just discernible, or perhaps
imagined?  No, for it glided forward as a canoe glides that drifts
in a current, since of oars I heard no sound.  It drew near, a
magic boat; a white veiled figure stepped upon the shore and stood
before me.  The veil was drawn, I saw the outline of a face, I saw
the starlight mirrored in eyes that gleamed like stars.

"'You have dared much to come, O friend of my heart,' said a sweet
voice, speaking in Arabic, 'and I have dared much to bring you here
that I might talk with you a little while.'

"'Who and what are you, lady?' I asked.

"'I am one whose soul spoke with you in your great city far away.
Ay, and afterwards until I drew you to this land to find me in the
flesh.  For I know that from of old your destiny and mine have been
intertwined, and so it must be till that end which is the real
beginning.'

"'Yes, perhaps.  Indeed, I think I feel that this is so,' I
answered.  'Yet what is your office here, you who live upon a lake
surrounded by savages?'

"'For my sins, O Friend, I must play the queen to these savages,
and be their oracle.'

"'Are you, then, divine?'

"'Are we not all divine, spirits fallen from on high to expiate our
sins and to draw upwards those against whom we have sinned?'

"'I do not know, Lady Shadow--for I suppose that you are she who in
this land is known as Shadow--since on this matter the different
faiths teach differently.  Yet it may well be so, seeing that this
world is no happy home for man, but rather a place of bondage and
of tears.  But let such questions be and tell me first--are you
woman?'

"'I am woman,' she answered very softly.

"'Then being woman, why have you called me--a man--to your side
from half across the earth?'

"'Because it was so fated, and for the sake of ancient love.'

"'And now having heard your call and come and found you in the
place of which I dreamed, what must I do to win you?'

"'Look on me,' she said, 'and having looked, say whether you still
wish to win me, and if it is between us as it was in days you have
forgotten.'

"She came a little nearer; she loosened that enveloping veil and
stood before me, perfect and entrancing.  The starlight gathered
upon her pure and lovely face; to my fancy it was as though she
herself radiated light.  She was human and yet a mystery.  She was
a woman and yet half spirit.

"'Of the past I know nothing,' I said, hiding my eyes with my hand,
'and of the present only that I desire you more than life and all
it has to give.'

"'I thank you, and I am glad,' she replied humbly.  'Yet know that
I may not be lightly won.  Great dangers threaten me and those over
whom I rule and whom I must save before I satisfy my soul--and
yours.  How are you now named in the world?'

"'John Arkle,' I answered.

"'Is it so?  Then, O Arkle, you must return over the lip of this
mountain, and there find a white man who comes to help us and my
people in the war that is at hand.  When you have found him and
that war is won, we will talk again.  Go now.  Your guides await
you.'

"'I do not wish to go,' I said.  'Let me return with you to where
you dwell.'

"She became agitated.  I saw her tremble as she answered hurriedly:

"'It is not lawful; first all must be accomplished; that is the
price.  No, lay no hand upon me, for I tell you we are watched by
those you cannot see, and if you touch me I shall find it hard to
save you.'

"I heard, but took no heed who was seized with a kind of madness,
and forgot Kumpana's warning.  I had found one whom I had sought
for years.  Was I to lose her thus, perhaps for ever?  I stretched
out my arms and swept her to my breast.  I kissed her brow.

"Then came a tumult; it was as though some frightful tempest had
broken over us.  She was wrenched away and vanished.  I was seized
and shaken as though by the hands of giants; my senses left me.

"When they returned again--it must have been long afterwards--I was
running on the mountain side, hunted by those savages whom you met
and drove away."



CHAPTER XII

KANEKE SWEARS AN OATH


Arkle's story came to an end, and I said nothing.  Luckily, he did
not appear to expect me to speak, for, glancing at him, I saw that
he was limping on like one in a dream, his eyes set upon the
mountain lip above us as though he were looking over, or rather
through it at some vision beyond, and that on his face was a faint,
fixed smile such as I have seen upon those of persons under
hypnotic influence while they go about the behests of the master of
their will.

Evidently the man was not with me.  He, or rather his mind, was
fixed upon that lake and its mysterious lady, if such a woman
lived.  Contemplating him I came to the conclusion that he was the
victim of hallucination, or to put it bluntly--mad.  For years he
had been haunted by this dream of a spiritualized maiden who was
his twin soul, a very ancient fantasy after all, and one still
believed in by thousands.

For it is interesting to imagine that somewhere, in the universe or
beyond it, is hidden a counterpart, or rather a complement, of the
other sex who exists for us alone and thinks of us alone, he or she
from whom Fate has separated us for a while and laid upon us the
need to find again in life or death.

Such a dream is always popular because it flatters our human vanity
to believe that however lonesome and unappreciated we may seem to
be, always somewhere waits that adoring and desiring mate who burns
to welcome and to hold us everlastingly.

Without doubt Arkle was subject to this common craze, only in his
case, instead of keeping it to himself, as do the more modest, he
proclaimed it aloud, as might be expected of one of his robust and
sanguine temperament, streaked as it was with veins of inherited
mysticism.  He had followed his clues, such as they were; he who
had dreamed of a lake-goddess, had heard of a holy lake supposed to
be presided over by some local and female spirit, and with
wonderful courage and resistance he had fought his way half across
Africa to the neighbourhood of this place.

Here he had fallen into the hands of a tribe hostile to those who
worshipped the water-fetish, or witch-doctoress, or rainmaker
(nearly all these African superstitions are connected with rain).
Naturally, never having seen a white man before, they seized him
and kept him prisoner.  Ultimately they determined to kill him, but
getting warning of their kind intentions, he made a run for it, and
so blundered on to us with his would-be assassins at his heels.

This, I doubted not, was the whole story, all the rest about the
visit to the lady who met him on the shores of the lake being pure
imagination, or rather dementia.  Still it was true that Kaneke
told somewhat similar tales--a puzzling fact.  Oh, how I wished to
heaven that I had never tied myself to this Kaneke by accepting his
ivory and cash!  But there it was: I had, as it were, signed the
note of hand, and must honour the bill.

As a matter of fact, at this very moment an instalment was ripe for
discharge.

We had stopped for a few minutes to rest and drink some water from
a mountain stream, and eat a few mouthfuls of food.  Just as we had
finished our hasty meal, Kaneke, who was seated on higher ground
fifty yards ahead, turned and beckoned to me to come to him.  I
went, and when I reached him, without a word he pointed to our
left.

I looked, and there, advancing along a fold of the mountain at a
considerably higher level than ourselves, just at the foot of the
precipitous crater cliff a mile and a half, or perhaps two miles
away, I caught sight of glittering specks which I knew must be the
points of spears shining in the sun.

"What is it?" I said.

"The Abanda, Lord, coming to block our road, two or three hundred
of them.  Listen, now.  There in that cliff far above us is the
only pass on this side of the mountain which runs through the cleft
to the crater.  The Abanda know that if they can reach the cliff
before us we shall be cut off and killed, every one.  But if we can
reach it before them, we shall win through in safety to my own
country, for there they will not follow us.  Now it is a race
between us as to which of us will first gain the mouth of the pass.
See, already I have sent on the bearers," and he pointed to the
line of them scrambling up the mountain-side several hundred yards
ahead of us.  "Let us follow them if you would continue to live."

By this time Arkle, Hans, and the two hunters had joined me.  A few
words sufficed to explain the situation, and off we went.  Then
ensued a struggle that I can only describe as fearsome.  We who had
marched far with little rest were tired; moreover we must climb
uphill, whereas the Abanda savages were comparatively fresh and
their path though rough lay more or less upon the flat; therefore
they could cover twice the distance in the same time.  Lastly,
Arkle, although so strong, was still stiff and footsore after his
race for life upon the yesterday, which delayed his progress.  The
bearers who, it will be remembered, had the start of us, made
wonderful time, notwithstanding their loads; doubtless too they
knew the Abanda and what would happen to them if they were
overtaken.  As we clambered up the mountain-side--heavens! how the
sun-scorched lava burned my feet--Hans gasped out:

"A lot of those fellows who were hunting the Bull-Baas, whom I wish
we had never met, got away yesterday evening, Baas, and told their
brothers, who have come to make us pay for those who didn't get
away."

"No doubt," I grunted, "and what's more, I think they will reach
the mouth of the pass--if there is one--before us."

"Yes, Baas, I think so too, for the Bull-Baas has a sore heel and
walks slowly and that cliff is still some way ahead.  But, Baas,
the ones who escaped yesterday have told these fellows about what
happened to those who didn't escape and what bullets are like.
Perhaps we can hold them back with the rifles, Baas."

"Perhaps.  At any rate we'll try.  Look how fast Kaneke is going."

"Yes, Baas, he climbs like a baboon or a rock-rabbit.  HE doesn't
mean to be caught by the Abanda, Baas, or his porters either,
whatever happens to us.  Suppose I sent a bullet after him, Baas,
before he is out of shot, aiming at his legs to make him go a bit
slower."

"No," I answered.  "Let the brute run.  We must take our chance."

At this moment Arkle, who was growing lamer, called out:

"Quatermain, get on with your servants.  I'll look after myself."

"No, you won't," I replied.  "We will sink or swim together."

Then I looked at Tom and Jerry and saw that they were alarmed, as
well they might be.  Hans saw it too, and began to fire sarcasms at
them.

"Why don't you run, you brave hunters?" he asked.  "Will you let
yourselves be beaten by the Owl-man?  If the rifles are heavy, you
might leave them behind, as you remember you did when the elephants
were after us."

Such were his rather bitter jests, for Hans would crack jokes at
Death itself.  I know that afterwards he regretted them earnestly
enough, as we often regret unkind words which it is too late to
recall.  They stung Tom to fury, for I heard him mutter:

"I'll kill you for this afterwards, yellow man," a threat at which
Hans grinned.

The more phlegmatic Jerry, however, only smiled in a sickly fashion
and made no reply.

At length we were quite close to the face of the cliff, into which
we saw the porters vanishing, showing us where the pass or cleft
began.  Unfortunately, too, the Abanda were quite close to us;
indeed, their leading spearsmen had emerged from the fold in the
mountain-side about three hundred yards away on to the open slope
of lava, and were racing to cut off Kaneke.  That active person,
however, was too quick for them, as before they came within spear-
cast of him he bolted into the cliff-face like a meer-cat into its
hole--perhaps a snake would be a better simile.

"Now we are done," I said.  "We can't get there before those brutes
and it's no use trying to run down the hill, for they would
overtake us.  So we had better stay where we are to get our breath
and make the best end we can."

"No, Baas," puffed Hans, who had been searching the scene with his
hawk-like eyes.  "Look.  The Abanda are halting.  They want to kill
us, Baas, but there is a donga between them and the hole in the
cliff.  See, one of them is beginning to climb down it."

I looked.  Although I had not observed it before, because it curved
away from us, on our left there was a donga, that is a gully or
crack, formed no doubt when the hot lava contracted ages before,
which crack the Abanda must cross to reach us.

"Push on!" I cried.  "We may beat them yet."

Forward we went, the lame Arkle resting his hand upon my shoulder.
Now at last we were near the face of the cliff and, not more than
sixty or seventy yards ahead of us, could see the crevice into
which Kaneke and his crowd had vanished.  Could we reach it?  As I
wondered an Abanda appeared on this side of the donga.  I halted,
lifted my rifle, fired, and, so blown was I, missed him.  Yes, I
missed him clean, for I saw the bullet strike the spear-blade three
feet above his head and shatter it to pieces.  This seemed to
frighten him, however, for he dropped back into the donga, and we
pressed on.

When we had all but reached the cleft in the precipice that once
had been the lip of the extinct volcano, whence I trusted, quite
vainly as it proved, that Kaneke and his people would sally forth
to help us, out of the donga appeared six or seven men who rushed
between us and the cliff face in which we hoped to refuge.

There they stood preparing to attack us with their spears.  We
opened fire on them and this time did not miss.  They went down,
but as they fell more appeared, brave and terrible-looking fellows,
furious at the death of their companions.  We fired rapidly,
forcing our way forward all the while, but I saw that the game was
almost hopeless, for every moment more of these Abanda crawled up
some narrow ladder or pathway from the bottom of the donga.

Then it was that I heard the Abyssinian hunter Tom call out:

"Run on, Macumazahn, with the lame master.  Run on.  I see how to
stop them."

Without waiting to reflect how he proposed to do this, for at such
moments one has little time to think; with Arkle leaning on my
shoulder and Hans at my side, I charged forward to the mouth of the
cleft.  Certain of the Abanda were between us and it, but with this
we managed to deal with the help of our revolvers before they could
stab us.  Thus we reached the cleft and plunged into it, for, to my
relief, no more Abanda appeared.  Once in the mouth of the place,
which was very narrow, so narrow and twisted that a few men could
have held it against a thousand, as Horatius and his two companions
held the bridge in the old Roman days, I stopped, for I heard
firing still going on outside.

"Who is shooting?" I asked, peering about me in the gloom of that
hole, and as I spoke the echoes of the last shot died away and were
followed by a savage yell of triumph.

"Little Holes and Jerry, I believe, Baas," answered Hans, wiping
his brow with his sleeve, "though I do not think they will shoot
any more.  You see, Baas, for once in their lives they behaved very
nicely.  Yes, they ran to the edge of that donga and stuffed
themselves into the mouths of the two paths by which these Abanda
are climbing up it, firing away until they were speared, thus
giving you and the Bull-Baas time to get into this hole, for of
course they did not care what happened to me who was their friend.
So I suppose that they are now dead, although perhaps they may have
been taken alive."

"Great heavens!" I exclaimed.  Then after a moment's reflection, in
spite of the remonstrances of Hans (at the moment Arkle was ahead
of us), I crept back to the mouth of the cleft and looked out,
taking the risk of being speared.

He was right.  Yonder on the lava plateau lay the bodies of Tom and
Jerry, dragged there by the Abanda, one of whom was engaged in
cutting off poor Jerry's head with a spear.

Filled with grief and fury, I put a bullet through that savage,
which caused them all to scuttle back into their donga.  Then,
before they could recover from their surprise, followed by Hans I
rushed out, seized Tom's rifle which one of them had been carrying
and let fall in his fright, and bolted back with it into the mouth
of the cleft.  That of Jerry unfortunately we could not recover.  I
suppose it was carried away.

That was the end of those two brave but ill-fated hunters who, from
the first day of our journey, had seemed to walk in the shadow of
approaching doom.  It was a very gallant end, for without doubt
they had given their lives to save us, or rather to save me.

This indeed they had done, for by blocking the two exits of the
steep-sided donga for a few minutes, they had enabled us to fight
our way through into the cleft.  Whether their courage was
spontaneous, or whether it was induced by a sense of their previous
failure when they had thrown away their guns, a trivial incident
that seemed to prey upon their minds, and by the gibes of Hans, I
do not know.  At least in this moment of trial it asserted itself,
with the result that they died and we lived.  All honour to their
memory!  One of my hopes is that in some place and time unknown I
may be able to thank them face to face.

I returned into the cleft filled with sorrow and told the others
what had happened.  Hans, to do him justice, when he saw that his
guess--it was nothing more--had come true and that Tom and Jerry
were really dead, was also much distressed.  He began to talk of
their many virtues and to rejoice that they, like himself, were
"good Christians", and therefore had nothing to fear in the "Place
of Fires", his synonym for heaven, which doubtless they were now
inhabiting.  Perhaps also his conscience smote him a little for all
the sharp things which jealousy had caused him to say about them
while they remained upon earth.

Arkle's attitude was different.

"These hunters," he said, "have died doing their duty, and
therefore are not to be pitied, for how can one make a better end?
But what of that fellow Kaneke, who ran ahead with his men and
deserted you, his companions?  I say nothing of myself, for I am a
stranger towards whom he had no obligations.  Why did he bolt?"

"I don't know," I answered wearily, "to save his skin, I suppose.
You had better ask him if we ever meet again."

"I will!" exclaimed Arkle, and as he spoke I noted that his face
was white with rage.

Soon the opportunity came.  We thought it unwise to remain so near
to the mouth of the cleft, although none of the Abanda so far had
attempted to follow us, why, I could not imagine at the time,
though it is true Kaneke had said it would be so.  Therefore I
suggested that we had better go on and find out whither the road
led.

On we went accordingly, a darksome journey at first, for little
light reached us in that deep and narrow hole.  Presently, however,
it widened and we found ourselves upon a kind of plateau bordered
by cliffs.

Here Kaneke was waiting for us seated on a rock, the bearers having
gone on; at any rate I could see nothing of them.  He stared at us
with his sombre eyes and said to me:

"Knowing that you would be safe, Lord, I entered this passage
before you and have waited for you here, where the Abanda will not
follow us."

"So I see," I said sarcastically, "but pray, how did you know that
we should be safe?"

"I knew it, Lord, because it is written in your stars, as I knew
that the two hunters would die because I saw death in their stars;
and they are dead, are they not?  As for the fate of the strange
white man," and he looked at Arkle--malevolently, I thought--"I
knew nothing, for I have not yet had time to study it in the
heavens."

Before I could answer Arkle broke in, speaking very quietly in a
low, fierce voice.

"No, you knew nothing, dog that you are, but I think that you hoped
much, for you believed that to save himself this white lord would
desert me who am lame, as you did, and that I should be speared.
Well, I can read stars better than you, and I tell you that you
will die before I shall and that what you lose I shall gain.  Do
you understand me?--you who hope to be Chief of the Dabanda and
Lord of the Lake with its Treasure, as I learned before ever I set
eyes on you."

How had he learned this? I wondered.  At the moment I could not
guess, but it was quite obvious to me, watching him, that Kaneke
understood these dark words better than I did, for their effect
upon him was remarkable.  First he turned pale, or rather a kind of
dirty white, as though with fear, a mood that was followed at once
by one of fury.  His big eyes rolled, foam appeared at the corners
of his mouth, the hair of his face seemed to bristle.

"I know you," he cried, pointing to Arkle, "and why you have come
here.  Long ago my spirit warned me concerning you and your
purpose.  You hope to rob me again, as once you robbed me in the
past, though that you have forgotten.  For this reason I bribed the
white hunter Macumazahn to accompany me here, knowing that without
his help I was doomed to perish.  But Fate has played me an evil
trick.  It was revealed to me that I should reach the land before
you and be ready to make an end of you; revealed falsely, for while
I tarried you came--you, the white thief.  Still there is time.
Never again shall you look upon the Treasure of the Lake."

As he hissed out these last words, suddenly Kaneke drew knife, a
hideous curved knife of the Somali sort, and sprang at Arkle.  He
sprang swiftly as a lion on a drinking buck, and it flashed through
my mind that all was over.  Standing at a little distance with
Hans, I could do nothing; there was no time, not even to draw a
pistol; nothing except watch the end.  It came, but in a strange
fashion.

Arkle must have been waiting and ready.  He did not move; he only
stretched out his arms.  Next instant, with his left hand he
gripped the right arm of Kaneke, which was raised for the blow, and
twisted it with such a grasp of iron that the knife fell to the
ground.  With his right he seized him by the throat and shook him
as a mongoose shakes a snake.  Then, putting out all his strength
which in truth was that of a bull, Arkle loosed Kaneke's throat,
gripped him in his arms, lifted him from his feet, and hurled him
away so that he fell to the rocky ground, striking it with his
back, and lay there senseless.

At this moment a little withered, keen-eyed man whom I had never
seen before appeared from round a corner and, running across the
open space to Arkle, whispered rapidly into his ear after the
fashion of one who gives instructions.  For quite a long time, or
so it seemed to me, he whispered thus, while now and again Arkle
nodded, showing that he understood the meaning of what he heard.
At last the old fellow uttered a warning exclamation and pointed to
Kaneke who, I saw, was recovering from his swoon.  Then he ran back
across the open space towards the corner of the cleft whence he had
appeared, and for a minute I lost sight of him in its shadow.

Arkle picked up the knife, and, springing forward, set his foot
upon the breast of Kaneke, who was trying to rise.

"Now, dog," he said, "shall I treat you as you would have treated
me?  I think it would be wisest.  Or will you swear an oath?"

"I will swear," muttered Kaneke, fixing his eyes upon the knife.

"Good.  Kneel before me."

Kaneke scrambled stiffly to his knees, and at this moment Hans
nudged me and pointed.  I looked and saw that from the corner of
the cleft where the old man had vanished on the farther side of the
open space, were advancing a number of the Dabanda, led, I think,
by some of our bearers who no doubt had summoned them.  They were
tall, big-eyed men of the same type as Kaneke and the Abanda who
had attacked us; by no means naked savages, however, as every one
of them wore a long garment, apparently of linen, for the most part
white in colour, though in some instances these robes had been dyed
blue.

"Keep your rifle ready," I said to Hans, and waited developments.

If these men had meant to attack us--which I do not think--the
strange sight before them caused them to abandon the idea, for all
their attention seemed to be concentrated upon Kaneke kneeling at
the white man's feet.

Arkle saw them also and called out in his big, booming voice:

"Welcome, Kumpana, and you, men of the Dabanda, guardians of the
Treasure of the Lake.  You come in a good hour.  Listen now, while
this Kaneke who I hear is a great one among you swears an oath of
allegiance to me, the white wanderer from beyond the seas.  Learn
that but now he tried to murder me, springing at me with this knife
to take me unaware, and that I overthrew him and spared his life.
I say listen to the oath--and do you, O Snake Kaneke, repeat in a
loud voice the words that I shall speak, so that all may hear them
and make them known to the people of the Dabanda, the guardians of
the Treasure of the Lake.  Repeat them, I say, for if you refuse,
you die."

Then he began thus, doubtless as Kumpana had taught him, and
sentence by sentence Kaneke echoed his words:

"I, Kaneke, of the people of the Dabanda, tried teacherously to
murder you, the white man from beyond the seas, but, being strong,
you overcame me and gave me my life.  Therefore I, Kaneke, bow
myself to you henceforth, as your servant.  All my rights and place
among the Dabanda I give over to you.  Where I stood, there you
stand; henceforward my blood is in your body and all that comes to
me with this blood is yours.  So I swear by the Engoi, the Shadow
that rests upon the holy lake, and if I break the oath in word or
deed, may the curse of the Engoi fall upon me."

All of this Kaneke repeated readily enough until he came to the
words "So I swear by the Engoi", at which he jibbed, and indeed
stopped dead.

"Continue," said Arkle, but he would not.

"As you will," went on Arkle, "but understand that if you refuse,
you die, as a murderer deserves to do," and, bending down, he
seized Kaneke by the hair with his left hand, preparing to cut off
his head with the curved Somali knife.

Now Kaneke, evidently in a great fright, appealed to me.

"O Lord Macumazahn," he cried, "save my life, I pray you!"

"Why should I?" I answered.  "Just now you deserted me and my
people, so that my two brave hunters are dead.  Had you with the
bearers stayed behind to fight with us, I think that they would not
have been dead--but this you can talk over with them in that land
whither you are going.  Again, you tried to murder the white lord
for reasons which I do not understand, and after you had sworn to
me that you would not harm him.  By his strength he overthrew you,
and now your life is justly forfeit to him.  Yet out of the
greatness of his heart he offers to spare you if you will swear a
certain oath to him upon a certain name.  You refuse to swear that
oath upon that name.  So what more is there to be said?"

By this time, although he had not seen them, for his back was
towards them and they remained silent, watching these proceedings
with a kind of fascinated stare, evidently Kaneke remembered that
Arkle had addressed some of the Dabanda people, who must therefore
be present.  To these he made his next appeal, calling out:

"Help me, O my brothers, you over whom I have been appointed to
rule.  Would you see me done to death by this white wanderer who
comes to our land for no good purpose?  Help me, O Guardians of the
Holy Lake and of the Shadow that rests upon the lake."

"Yes," said Arkle.  "Come forward, you Dabanda, laying down your
spears, for know that he who first lifts a spear shall be dealt
with by the Lord Macumazahn.  Come forward, I say, and judge
between me and this man."

To my astonishment those Dabanda obeyed.  They laid down their
spears, every one of them, and advanced to within a few paces of
us, led by the little withered old man with keen eyes, who moved as
lightly and silently as does a cat, the same man who had whispered
into Arkle's ear.  Arkle looked at this man and said:

"Greeting, Kumpana, my friend and guide.  I thank you for the
counsel you gave to me but now, for I know you to be wise and great
among your people and it was you who taught me all that I have
learned of them and of this Kaneke.  Judge now between me and him.
You have heard the story.  According to your custom, is not this
man's life forfeit to me whom he strove to murder?"

"It is forfeit," answered Kumpana, "unless he buys it back with the
oath which you have demanded of him."

"And if he swears that oath, must he not, under it, become my
servant and give to me his place, his power, and his rights among
the Dabanda?"

"That is so, White Lord."

"And if he swears it and breaks the oath, what then, Kumpana?"

"Then, Lord, you can loose upon him the curse of the Engoi, and it
will surely be fulfilled.  Is it not so, Dabanda?"

"It is so," they assented.

"You have heard, Kaneke; yes, out of the lips of your own people
you have learned their law.  Choose now.  Will you swear, or will
you die?"

"I swear," said Kaneke hoarsely, as the sharp knife--his own--
approached his neck.  "I swear," and slowly he repeated those words
which before he had refused to speak, transferring all his rights
and privileges to Arkle and calling down upon his own head the
curse of the Engoi if he should break the oath.  I noticed that as
he invoked this fate upon himself, the man shivered, and reflected
that after all there might be something in the curse of the Engoi,
or that he believed there was.  Indeed, sceptical as I am, I began
to feel that all this queer story had more in it than I had
hitherto imagined, and that I was coming to the heart of one of
those Central African mysteries of which most white men only learn
in the vaguest fashion, perhaps from prejudiced and unsympathetic
sources, and then often enough but by obscure hints and symbolical
fables.

The oath finished, Kaneke kissed the white man's foot, which I
suppose was part of the ceremony, and strove to rise.  But forcing
him to his knees again, Arkle addressed the little withered old man
who stood watching all.

"Tell me," he said, "who and what are you, Kumpana?"

"Lord, though I until now have hid it from you, I am the head of
the Council of the Shadow, he who rules in this land when the
Shadow has passed from the world and before she returns again."

"Are you then he who weds the Shadow, Kumpana?"

"Nay, Lord.  He who is called Shield of the Shadow dies when the
Shadow passes.  I am but a minister, an executor of decrees.  As
such I led you to this land, whence you were hunted because you
would not be obedient, but broke the law.  Mighty must be the
strength that guards you, or by now you would be dead."

"If I have erred, O Kumpana, I have paid the price of error.  Am I,
then, forgiven?"

"Lord, I think that you are forgiven, as this Kaneke, who also
erred in his youth in a worse fashion, was forgiven, or rather," he
added, correcting himself, "suffered to go unpunished."

"Who and what is Kaneke?" Arkle asked again.

"Kaneke is he who was destined to be the Shield of the Shadow when
she appears to rule for her appointed day.  For his sin against the
Engoi he was driven from the land and lived far off, where the
white lord who is called Watcher-by-Night found him.  At the proper
time he was ordered back that his fate might be fulfilled, and
returned bringing the white lord, Watcher-by-Night, with him, as
also was decreed.  The rest you know."

"Kaneke tried to murder me and bought his life by a certain oath,
selling to me his place and rights.  Shall I then be known and
named Shield of the Shadow in place of this Kaneke?"

"It would seem so, Lord," answered Kumpana, a little doubtfully as
I thought.  "But first the matter must be submitted to the Council
of the Shadow, of which I am only one.  It may be," he added after
a pause, "that the Council will call upon you to buy the Shadow at
a great price."

Then I, Allan, took up my parable, saying:

"Kumpana and men of the Dabanda, I, a white hunter, have been led,
or trapped, into a land that is full of mysteries which as yet I do
not understand.  I have rescued this white lord when he was about
to be killed.  I have brought him here, fighting my way through
warriors who seemed to be your enemies.  In so doing I have lost
two servants of mine, brave men whom I loved, who came to their
deaths by the treachery of yonder Kaneke and therefore my heart is
sore.  He deserted us, hoping that in like fashion I should desert
the other white lord who is lame, that thereby I might save my
life.  I did not desert him, and you have seen the end of that
story.  Now we are all weary, and sad because of the death of the
two hunters who sacrificed themselves for us; hungry also, needing
food and rest and sleep.  The white lord whom you name Wanderer has
made his bargain with you, a strange bargain which bewilders me.  I
would make mine, which is simpler.  If I and my servant here, the
yellow man, come on into your country, have we peace?  Do you swear
by the Engoi, who seems to be your goddess, and by the Shadow her
priestess, that no harm shall come to us and that when I desire it
in the future, I shall be helped to leave your country again, you
giving me all that I may need for my journey?  If you do not swear,
then I turn and go back whence I came, if Heaven permits me to do
so."

Kumpana spoke with some of his companions.  Then he said:

"O Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night, we swear these things to you by
the Engoi.  At least we swear that after you have finished the
service, to work which we caused you to be brought hither, then you
shall be sent hence in safety as you demand."

I reflected to myself that this promise was vague and qualified.
Yet remembering that I should certainly extract none more
favourable and being thoroughly worn out and quite unfit to face
the Abanda who probably were waiting outside, I accepted it for
what it was worth, and requested Kumpana to lead us to where we
could eat and rest in safety.



CHAPTER XIII

BEFORE THE ALTAR


By the time that we emerged from the pass, that really was nothing
but a cleft or crack zig-zagging through the lava rock of the
volcano's lips, which we did in complete safety, seeing no more of
the Abanda, it was drawing towards evening and the plain beneath us
was flooded with the light of the westering sun.  It was a very
wonderful plain, though, except for its size, of a sort not
uncommon in the immense wilds of Africa.  Looking at it stretching
away for miles and miles, it was difficult to realize that it was
nothing but the crater of some huge volcano, or group of volcanoes,
which millions of years ago had been a lake of seething fire.  Yet
undoubtedly this was the case, for all round ran the precipice of
rock that once had formed the wall of the outer crater.  Now this
wall enclosed a vast expanse of fertile land that sloped gently
down to the confines of a forest.

Nor was that all, for from this height we could see that within the
ring of forest, at the bottom of the crater-pit as it were, lay a
great sheet of water, the holy lake that was named Mone.  It looked
handsome and terrifying enough at this hour when the tall forest
trees that grew around cut off from its surface the light of the
sinking sun, such a place as might well be the home of mysteries.

At that time, however, I was too tired to study scenery or indulge
in speculations, and glad enough I felt when we were led to a kind
of rest-house, or perhaps it was a watchman's shelter, that was
hidden away in a grove of mountain palms.  This place consisted of
a thatched roof supported upon tree-trunks and enclosed with a
fence of what looked like dried bulrushes, which formed the walls
of the house.  It was clean, comfortable, and airy; moreover there
must have been a cooking-place outside, for hot food was brought to
us, of which I ate thankfully, being too exhausted to inquire its
nature or whence it came.

Only one thing did I ask of Kumpana--whether it was necessary to
set a guard.  When he assured me that we were absolutely safe, I
took him at his word and went to sleep, hoping for the best.  I
remember reflecting as my eyes closed that for some reason or
other, humble individual as I was, I seemed too valuable to these
people for them to wish to make away with me.  So having
ascertained that Kaneke was elsewhere, I just turned in and slept
like a dog that has hunted all day, and I believe that Arkle did
likewise.

When I woke the sun was high and Arkle had gone.  I asked Hans what
had become of him, saying that I feared foul play.

"Oh no, Baas," answered Hans.  "You see that Baas Red-Bull, having
conquered Kaneke, and bought his birthright from him in exchange
for not sticking him like a pig--just like the man in the Bible,
Baas--is now a great chief.  So because he is lame those Dabanda
brought a litter in which they set him and have carried him off.
He told me to tell you that he did not wake you up because you were
so tired, but that you would meet again at their head place, which
is called Dabanda-town, Baas.  Meanwhile you were to fear nothing."

"Which means that he has deserted us," I said.

"Oh no, Baas, I think not; I think he went because he was obliged,
and that we shall find him later on.  You see, Baas, the Baas Red-
Bull has become a priest and a chief, and such people are never
their own masters.  They seem to rule spirits and men, but really
these rule them and order them about as they like.  For the rest,
Kumpana stays here to guard us, and breakfast is coming, so let us
eat and be happy while we may, Baas."

The advice was good and I acted upon it at once.  After a wash at
the spring by which the rest-house was built, I ate an excellent
breakfast, a stew of kid's flesh with quails in it, I remember it
was, made memorable by the fact that after it Hans produced a skin
bag full of excellent tobacco.  On inquiry it appeared that the
Dabanda grew this herb, and what is more, smoked it in cigarettes
made of the soft sheath which covers the mealie cobs.  Also, like
the Bantu, they took it in the form of snuff.

By the way, what an interesting study would be that of the history
of tobacco in Africa.  Is it indigenous there, or was it perhaps
introduced from some other land by the Arabs, or later by the
Portuguese?  I don't know, but I remember how delighted I was to
see it upon this occasion, when ours was exhausted and the spare
supply a bearer carried in a box was discovered to have got wet in
crossing a river and to be nothing but a mass of stinking mould.
Some people inveigh against the use of tobacco, but to my mind it
is one of the best gifts that Heaven has given to man.

Just as I had lit my pipe with delight and was testing the sample,
which proved to be sweet and cool though rather strong, Kumpana
arrived and asked if I was ready to start.  I said yes, and off we
went with a guard of ten Dabandas, marching downhill in the
direction of the forest.

Now I saw that this vast crater was a wondrous and a most beautiful
place, though it is true that its climate is hot.  For the most
part it was lightly timbered with large trees, a species of
mahogany, many of them, mixed with cedars, growing in groups or
singly, and interspersed with grassy glades after the fashion of
some enormous park.  Among these trees wandered great quantities of
game; thus I saw eland, koodoo, sable-antelope of a very large
variety, and blue wildebeest, to mention a few of them, also bush-
buck of a bigger kind than I had ever found anywhere in Africa.

It seemed, however, that the elephant and the rhinoceros did not
live here; nor, strange to say, were there any lions, which perhaps
accounted for the great number of the various species of buck.  The
birds, too, were numerous and beautiful; and everywhere I noted
lovely butterflies, some of which, of a brilliant blue colour, were
of great size and flew high and as fast as swallows.  In short, so
far as its natural conditions were concerned, after the arid plains
beyond the mountains, the place was a kind of earthly paradise;
well watered, also, by little streams that came from springs and
ran down fern-clad ravines towards the lake.

As we went I talked with Kumpana, who, outwardly at any rate,
proved to be a most agreeable and candid old gentleman.  From him I
gathered much information, true or false.  Thus I learned that his
people were really star-worshippers, as were the Abanda who lived
without the mountain, and knew a good deal of crude astronomy.

It seemed that originally the Abanda and the Dabanda were one race,
but that "thousands of years ago", as he put it, they were ruled by
two brothers, twins, who quarrelled.  Then ensued a civil war, in
the course of which one brother murdered the other treacherously.
This angered the Engoi of that day, whom both of them aspired to
wed; indeed, this was the cause of their difference.  She called
down the curse of heaven upon the murderer and those who clung to
him, divorcing them from her worship and causing them to be driven
(whether by force of arms or by supernatural means, I could not
discover) out of the earthly paradise of the crater on to the
mountain slopes and plains beyond.

From that time forward, Kumpana explained, the Abanda had sought
reunion with the goddess, both because of the material benefits
they believed to be in her gift, such as rain and plenty, and for
some spiritual reason that had to do with the fate of their souls
after death.  This, however, they had never achieved, since the
curse upon them continued from age to age.  Indeed, the prophecy
was that their desire could not be fulfilled until a high priest of
the Engoi, the husband or the affianced of the Shadow, she who was
also called "the Treasure of the Lake" came to lead them back into
the land of the Dabanda and made peace between them and the Engoi
incarnate in the priestess known from generation to generation by
the name of "Shadow", who, from birth till death, dwelt on the
island in the holy Lake Mone.  Until that hour, went on Kumpana,
none of the Abanda dared to attempt to re-enter Mone-land, as the
country encircled by the crater's walls was called.

"Why not, if they are so brave and numerous?" I asked, astonished.

"Because, Lord, if they did the curse would fall upon them and they
would perish miserably, I know not how.  At least, so they believe,
as we do; and it is for this reason that from the moment you
entered the pass of the cliff yesterday, you were safe.  Had it
been otherwise the Abanda would have followed you and killed you in
the pass, for they were many and you were few.  For this reason,
too, we do not so much as guard that path and certain others."

Hearing this I reflected, first that I liked not the security.  For
what was the sum of it?  That a vast horde of savages, or semi-
savages, who believed themselves to have been driven out of a kind
of Garden of Eden by the flaming sword of a heavenly curse,
although they were much more numerous and stronger than those who
still dwelt in the Garden, and although the gates of that garden
stood open, dared not enter them because they were sure that if
they did so, the invisible sword of the curse that always hung over
them would smite and destroy them.

Still, there seemed to be truth in the story, for otherwise why
were we not followed into the unguarded cleft?  Doubtless the
Abanda were frightened of our firearms, but seeing that we were but
three men against hundreds, this was not enough to have held them
back.  No, the mighty hand which restrained them must, as Kumpana
declared, have been that of spiritual fear.

Oh, what a force is superstition; as I sometimes think, the
greatest in the whole world, or at any rate in Africa.  So mighty
is it that when I contemplate its amazing power, at times I wonder
whether in many of its developments it is not rooted deep in the
soil of unappreciated and unknown truths.

Of these reflections of mine, however, I said nothing to my
companion, because I thought it wiser to be silent.  Yet I did ask
him--if he felt at liberty to tell me and had the necessary
knowledge--what part I and Arkle, whom he called "The Wanderer",
had in all this business.

To my astonishment, instead of refusing to answer the question or
thrusting it aside as natives can, he replied quite frankly that he
did not know, or at any rate knew very little.

"The stars guide us, Lord," he said.  "We consult them, as our
fathers have done from the beginning; we read their messages and
obey their commands.  Long ago the stars told us, speaking through
the mouth of her who is named Shadow, not she who rules today, but
she who went before her and has been gathered to the heavens, that
in this year a great war would fall upon us--we do not know what
war.  More recently we were told, through the mouth of that Shadow
who has faded, to call back Kaneke from the land where he dwelt
because of his crime against her, that he might bring with him a
certain white man whose name was your name, namely Watcher-by-
Night.  This command was sent to Kaneke and he obeyed it, as he
must do or die; for if he disobeyed, the messenger was commanded to
bring death upon him, as she was commanded, if he obeyed, to
protect him from all dangers.  That is all we know of the reason of
your coming, though now I see that if you had not come the other
white lord would have been killed."

Reflecting that this tale about myself was, with variations, much
the same as that told by Kaneke, something real enough to these
people, but to me a mystery, and wondering if by any chance this
fate-dealing messenger was White-Mouse, I left the subject and
attacked one of more immediate interest, namely that of Arkle,
saying outright:

"The white lord Wanderer told me that you, Kumpana, met him beyond
the country of the Abanda and guided him into your own land.  Why
did you do this?"

Kumpana's face changed; it was as though a veil fell over his eyes
and mild, intelligent features, a veil of secrecy.

"Lord," he answered, "there are matters of which it is scarcely
lawful that I should speak, even to you who have come here to be
our friend.  I would have you understand that we Dabanda are not as
other folk.  We are a small people and an ancient who live by
wisdom, not by strength, and this wisdom comes to us from heaven.
We worship the stars, or rather the Strength beyond the stars, and
from them come spirits who teach us through the mouth of the Lake-
Dweller, Shadow, or otherwise, much that is not known even to the
wise of the earth, such as yourself, Lord.  They give us gifts of
vision also, so that at times we can see into the darkness of the
past, and even look beneath its curtain into the light of the
future that blinds the eyes of other men.

"Moreover we, or some of us, have certain powers over Nature.
Death indeed we must suffer like all who live.  Yet we know that it
is not death; that it is but a door of darkness through which we
pass to another house of flesh, a better or a worse house according
to our deserts, that is yet inhabited by the same spirit.  So, too,
we have strength over beasts" (here I bethought me of Kaneke and
the elephants), "which we can cause to obey us as though they were
our dogs.  You smile.  Then, look upon those buck," and he pointed
to a bunch of blue wildebeests, which I have always found wild and
savage creatures, that were staring at us from among some trees
about a hundred and fifty yards away.  "Now I will call them, that
you may believe."

Well, stepping a few paces to my right, call them he did, uttering
cries in a kind of sing-song voice.  The wildebeests seemed to
listen.  Then presently they moved slowly towards us, and soon were
standing within a few yards of Kumpana, as cows might do that are
waiting to be milked.  There they stood, patient and submissive,
until they caught my wind, when they snorted, whisked their tails,
put down their heads and, to my great alarm, prepared to charge me.
Just as Hans and I were about to fire to keep them off, Kumpana
said something and waved his hands, as a beast-tamer does to his
performing animals, whereon those gnus turned and gambolled off in
their well-known lumbering fashion.

"They are no wildebeests, Baas," whispered Hans to me.  "Like the
elephants, they are men wearing the shape of brutes."

"Perhaps," I answered, for I was too mystified to argue; also
Kumpana was speaking again, saying:

"Now mayhap you will believe me when I tell you that we have power
over the animals, who are as our brothers and not to be harmed by
us; so much power that we have driven those of them that can hurt
men, such as lions, from our land; yes, and evil reptiles also.
Search where you will here, Lord, you will find no snakes," a
statement which caused me to reflect that St. Patrick must have
bequeathed his mantle to the Dabanda.  "Thus, too," he went on, "we
control sicknesses, summon rain, and hold off tempests, which is
why we are reported to be a people of wizards."

"If so," I replied, "all this does not tell me why the white man
Wanderer was guided by you and why afterwards he was driven away,
as it seemed, to death."

"I guided him, Macumazahn, because I was so commanded, and because
he is appointed to play a great part in our history, as once before
he did in the past.  He was driven away because he was disobedient
and suffered folly to master him, for which causes he must be
punished and learn the taste of terror.  Ask me no more concerning
this lord, for I cannot answer you.  Yet it may happen that before
all is done you will learn the answer for yourself."

Now I proposed, in my thirst for information, to put some questions
to him concerning the wondrous woman, or sacred personage who was
said to dwell in the lake, and who, as I suspected, was an African
version of the old legend of the Water-Spirit which is to be found
in many lands.  But when I mentioned her name of Shadow, Kumpana
turned upon me with so fierce a look in his eyes, hitherto mild
enough, that I grew silent.

"Lord Macumazahn," he said, "I see that you do not believe in our
priestess, the Shadow of the Engoi whom we worship.  Though you
have never said so to me, it is written on your face.  That is to
be understood, for white men, I have heard, can be very ignorant
and scornful of faiths that are not their own.  Yet I pray you do
not make a mock of her to me, as I am sure you were about to do.  I
have answered all your other questions as best I might, but as to
her I answer none.  Nay, of her you must learn for yourself;" and
before I could reply or explain, he departed to join the guard,
leaving me alone with Hans.

"Baas," said that worthy, "you are always seeking new adventures
and strange peoples, and this time I think you have found both.
These folk are all wizards, Baas, like Kaneke, and we are caught in
their web, where I expect they will suck us dry.  I think the Baas
Red-Bull is a wizard also, for otherwise why was he not killed; and
unless he is one of their brothers, why are these Dabandas so glad
to see him?  Also, how did he learn so quickly all that oath which
he made Kaneke swear?  Then there was White-Mouse who, I am sure,
was a witch, though a very pretty one, for otherwise how could she
have deceived ME, Hans, as she did, making me believe all sorts of
things that were not true, such as that she was a jealous wife of
Kaneke who liked me for myself?  Oh, we have come into a land of
spells where the fierce wildebeests are as dogs and the passes are
held by ghosts, and I do not think we shall ever get out of it
alive, Baas, unless indeed, for their sport they turn us into
animals, like elephants and the wildebeests and hunt us hence."

Now I remembered that Tom and Jerry had talked in this fashion,
with good reason in their case; and looked at Hans doubtfully,
fearing lest he might have caught the infection.  However, this was
not so, for as is common with primitive men of mercurial nature,
suddenly his mood changed, and, grinning, he said:

"Yet, Baas, though White-Mouse did blind me for a little while,
these wizards will have to be very clever if they hope to deceive
Hans, who is such a good Christian that he can defy the devil and
who, moreover, has the reverend predicant, your father, for his
friend and guide.  Cheer up, Baas, for I think I shall bring you
through safely, if only you will be guided by me and not let that
Shadow woman make a fool of you, as White-Mouse did.  Yes, yes,
everything may still be well, and after all, perhaps those
wildebeests were just tame buck like some that the Scotchman kept
on his farm near Durban which used to come and feed out of his
hand."

"Yes," I said, "no doubt they were tame, and I don't believe in the
magic.  Still, I should like to know what has become of the Baas
Arkle."



Well, we walked on all day through that most lovely land, until
towards evening we came upon patches of cultivated ground and drew
near to the edge of the forest, where I saw that there was a town.

It was a straggling place and quite unprotected; just a number of
neat houses built of whitened clay and thatched with palm-leaves,
or in some cases, having flat roofs of lime cement, standing, each
of them, in a garden of its own on the borders of wide roads or
streets.  In short, this Dabanda town had nothing in common with
the crowded cities, if they may be so called, which exist in
Nigeria and elsewhere.  It was just a sparsely populated village,
such as may be seen by scores in certain districts of Eastern and
Central Africa.

"If this is their big kraal, these Dabanda are but a little people,
Baas," said the observant Hans.

I agreed with him.  As I had noted during our march, their crater-
land was wide and most fertile, but until we approached the town I
saw few signs of cultivation.  Here and there on the track that ran
to the pass were two or three huts surrounded by gardens.  Nor in
these outlying districts were there many domestic animals; they
were almost entirely occupied by wild game.  Near the town,
however, we did see herds of cattle of a small breed, also flocks
of long-haired goats.  Clearly the Dabanda, so far as numbers were
concerned, must have been but an insignificant tribe, relying for
their protection upon moral forces rather than those of arms, a
fact that seemed to bear out some of Kumpana's statements as to the
reason why the passes were left unfortified.

We entered the main street of the town which began nowhere in
particular, and walked down it without exciting much attention.
Occasionally a woman stared at us from the door-way of her house,
or an old man stopped his work in a garden to see who the passers-
by might be.  Also from time to time a few grave-faced children,
three or four perhaps, followed us for a little way, then stopped
and returned whence they came.  This I thought strange, for they
could never before have seen a white man, except perhaps Arkle.
But then everything about the Dabanda was strange; evidently they
were a folk apart, one of whose characteristics was a lack of
curiosity.

To tell the truth, they gave me the impression of people living in
a dream, or under a spell, human in form and mind, yet lacking some
of the human attributes; lotus-eaters who felt no need for energy
or effort, because Nature fed them and they were, or considered
themselves to be, god-guarded.  Such was my first impression of
these Dabanda, which in the main was confirmed by what I saw and
learned of them in after days.  I should add that they were all
extremely good-looking, men and women together, but very like one
another, as though from continual in-breeding; remarkable, too, for
their fine-cut features, light-coloured skin like to that of half-
castes or Persians, straight hair and large, sleepy, owl-like eyes,
of which I observed the pupils seemed to grow bigger after
nightfall, as do those of certain animals that seek their food by
night.

The long, wide street ended in an open area that for want of a
better name I will call a market-place, where the ground was
levelled and trodden hard.  At intervals round half this area stood
houses of a larger size than those that we had passed, occupied, as
I guessed rightly, by the chief men of the tribe, with their wives
and children, if they had any.  The other half of the area was
bounded by a dense forest formed of tall and solemn trees, which
forest ran down to the borders of the lake that, as I had judged
from my view of it from the higher land, lay at a distance of
several miles from the town.  In the centre of this open space
stood three curious erections; two pointed towers of rough stone,
fifty or sixty feet high perhaps, with spiral stairways winding
round them to their tops, and between these a large platform twenty
feet or so in height, that looked like the base of an uncompleted
pyramid, on which platform burned a fire.

"What are those, Baas?" asked Hans.

"Watch-towers," I answered.

"What is the good of towers whence one can see nothing except the
sky?" asked Hans again.

Then I guessed their real object.  They were observatories, and the
truncated pyramid was a great altar where priests gathered and
offered sacrifices.  Of this I had little doubt, though I wondered
what they sacrificed.

At the moment I had no time to make further observations, for just
then we reached a house where Kumpana, who had rejoined us on the
outskirts of the town, informed me I was to lodge.  Though flat-
roofed and somewhat larger than the rest, except one adjoining
which I took to be that of the chief, like the others it was
situated in a garden and had a veranda, from which a door-way led
into the building.  It consisted of one big, white-washed room,
without windows.  Such light as there was came through the open
door-way, over which a mat was hung, to be used at night, for there
was no door.  Like the passes, the houses were undefended against
attack or thieves; indeed I learned afterwards that such a crime as
theft was quite unknown in Mone-land.

In this room, to my delight, I found all our goods which had been
carried by the Dabanda porters for so many weary marches.  There
were the spare rifles, the ammunition, the medicines, the cooking-
pots, the clothes, the beads and cloth for presents--everything;
even the suspicious Hans could not discover that a single article
was missing.  While we were checking them, food that had been
prepared in a cook-hut in the garden at the back of the house, was
brought to us by a decently clothed old woman, who seemed to accept
our presence without curiosity, also earthenware jars full of water
and a tub burnt out of a block of wood in which to wash.  This we
did on the veranda, for the surrounding fence made the place quite
private, and afterwards sat ourselves upon wooden stools which we
found in the room, and ate a good meal.

By the time we had finished our food it was dark, and the old woman
appeared again carrying two lighted earthenware lamps of an elegant
boat-shaped pattern, filled with some kind of sweet-smelling
vegetable oil in which floated wicks made of pith or fibre.

As there seemed nothing else to do and no one came near us, I began
to take off my clothes in order to turn in upon one of the very
comfortable-looking wooden bedsteads that had been provided for us.
This bedstead was of the kind that is common in Eastern Africa,
having a cartel, as the Boers call it, strung with green hide and a
mattress stiffed with dried grasses that gave a scent of hay.
Already my boots were off when Kumpana appeared and said that he
had come to conduct us to a ceremony where we should see the other
white lord who was called Wanderer.  This being what I most
desired, I put them on again in a hurry and away we went.

Kumpana led us to the market- or gathering-place that I have
described.  Here we found what I suppose was the entire adult
population of the town, seated on the ground in front of the
truncated pyramid of which I have spoken, the men upon one side and
the women upon the other, as they might be in some high churches.
They were very quiet and orderly and for the most part engaged in
smoking their native cigarettes.  We were conducted along a broad
passage which was left between the men and the women, to the foot
of the pyramid and up some twenty rough steps to the platform that
proved to be quite a large place.

Here in front of a low altar, a primitive erection about twelve
feet square built of blocks of black lava, upon which altar burned
the fire that I have mentioned, stood three white-robed men facing
the fire, whom I took to be priests, for their heads were shaved
and they seemed to be engaged in prayer.  To the right of this
altar, seated on a stool and clothed in a white robe like a
Dabanda, was none other than Arkle, who, I am bound to say, so far
as the firelight revealed him to me, looked very imposing in this
costume.  Opposite to him, also clad in white and seated on a
stool, was his enemy Kaneke.  Very fierce and sullen did he appear
as he glowed at Arkle with his great, round eyes.  I noted at once
that he was guarded, probably to prevent him from making another
attack upon his rival, for behind him stood three tall men armed
with spears.

A second stool was set by that of Arkle and to this I was
conducted, Hans, who seemed rather uncomfortable and kept his hand
upon the hilt of his revolver, being directed to stand behind me.
Then Kumpana left us and took up a position facing the audience
midway between Arkle and Kaneke, with his back to the altar and the
priests.  Here he stood silent; indeed, everyone was silent, and
when I tried to whisper something to Arkle, he shook his head and
laid his finger on his lips.

Very impressive was that silence.  Never shall I forget the scene
as I saw it by the light of the young moon which changed its
quarter that day, and of the bright stars burning in the deep-blue
sky.  Not a breath of air was stirring.  To my left the great trees
of the forest stood motionless in endless rows.  To my right were
the dim grey roofs of the town, and between them the crouching
audience of robed Dabandas, looking few and small upon that wide
expanse, the glowing tips of their cigarettes marking the ordered
lines in which they sat, like men and women stricken with dumbness.
Then, within a few paces, the primeval altar upon which even the
fire seemed to be subject to the general spell, for it burned
brightly without a sound, and the three shaven priests bowing and
waving their hands, but uttering no word.

I felt like one under a charm, which was not strange; for so deep
was this quiet that when I shifted my foot, causing the nails in my
boot to grate upon the stone platform, the noise seemed quite loud,
so loud that all turned their heads and looked at me as though I
had done something outrageous and indecorous.  This went on for
quite a long time, till at length I felt an hysterical desire to
rise and make a speech, just to show that I was still alive.
Indeed, I think that very soon our strained nerves would have
caused either Hans or me to commit some indiscretion involving
sound, when suddenly the chain of silence was broken by a melodious
voice above us.

I stared to see whence it came, and for the first time observed
that on the top of each of the tall columns which rose in front of
the platform stood a white-robed figure, evidently engaged in
observing the stars.  Instantly the chanting voice on the right-
hand column was answered by a similar voice upon the left-hand
column.  Then both of them sang something in unison, something
sweet and solemn, though what it meant I could not understand, and
as they sang, pointed with wands they held upwards to the heavens.

At this signal all present seemed to come to life, as in the story
did the Sleeping Beauty and her court at the kiss of the Fairy
Prince.  The audience or congregation below us began to talk with
some eagerness, men calling across the passage to women, and vice
versa.  Evidently they were discussing the message conveyed to them
in the chant of the astrologers on the towers, telling them, I
suppose, what those astrologers had read in the stars.  In the same
way the three priests, ceasing from dumb show, broke into open
prayer, which again I could not understand, because the language
was probably archaic.  At any rate it differed so much from the
dialect of Arabic used by these people that I could only
distinguish one word, "Engoi", which was their name for the Divine.

Encouraged by this change of demeanour, I asked Arkle in English
what it all meant and what he was doing there dressed up like a
Dabanda.

"You forget, Quatermain," he answered, "that I have become a chief
or a priest, or both, by virtue of what happened yesterday between
me and the gentleman opposite.  At least, I fill these offices on
probation, for my true position is about to be settled at this
meeting.  For the rest, those men on the towers have been reading
omens in the stars, though exactly what they read I cannot tell
you.  Now I think that they are about to make prayers or offerings
to the planet Venus, which you can see blazing away up there near
the moon, after which my case will be tried."

He was right.  Having thrown something on to the fire, what it was
I could not see, the three priests turned so as to face the
congregation below and, pointing to Venus, began a hymn in which
the whole audience joined, also pointing at the planet with their
right hands.  Even the astrologers on the towers pointed with their
wands and took part in this chant, which was really very fine and
moving, a great volume of rhythmical sound.

Presently Kumpana, who now stood in front of the three priests,
acting apparently as a master of ceremonies, waved his arms,
whereon the song ceased with a crash of sound.  In the silence that
ensued he began to speak, but so rapidly that I could make out very
little of what he said.  He may have been reciting ritual, as was
suggested by the strange words and forms he used.  Or perhaps he
was repeating passages from ancient history.  At length his address
became less impetuous.  He spoke more slowly, and in language that
was easier to understand, so that I had no difficulty in discovering
that he was telling the story of what had happened between Arkle and
Kaneke in the pass; of the attempted assassination of Arkle, of the
overthrow of Kaneke, and of the oath that he had sworn to the
victor.  Finally he said:

"The stars, having been consulted by those who can read them,
declare that Kaneke, who by the choice of that chief who went
before him, was appointed to follow him as Chief of the Dabanda,
the Holy People of the Lake and the Guardian of the Treasure of the
Lake, and, after long punishment and exile, was named to be the
Lord and Shield of the Shadow, is rejected from his place and
stripped of his offices.  They declare also that the stranger, who
in this land is named Wanderer, he whom Kaneke tried to murder and
to whom he swore the oath of submission and fidelity, giving up to
him all rights and power in exchange for life, henceforward stands
where Kaneke stood.  Do you, O People of the Dabanda, to whom is
revealed the secret mystery of the stranger that for ages has been
hidden, accept the decree of the stars and depose Kaneke, setting
up in his place the white lord, his conqueror?"

"We do," answered the audience, with such singular unanimity that I
guessed all this scene to be formal and arranged.

"Kaneke," cried Kumpana, "you have heard the decrees of the stars
and of the Holy People confirming your own oath.  Do you obey?"

Now Kaneke sprang to his feet and answered in a great voice that
seemed alive with rage:

"I do not obey.  What I swore was to save my life and such oaths
are binding upon no man.  As for the decrees of the stars and of
the people of the Dabanda, these are but tricks.  I, too, am a
master of the stars, and I read their writing otherwise, while the
people are in the hands of the priests, who in their turn are in
the hands of Kumpana and the Council who plot against me.  The sin
that I sinned in my youth against the Shadow, who has passed back
to the Light which cast it, is purged by punishment.  Moreover, was
it half as great as that of this white thief, whom most justly I
would have killed, he who, as I have heard, strove to do violence
to the Treasure of the Lake, and for that cause was hunted from the
land?  But let that matter be.  Who is this foreign man that you
name Wanderer?  What does he in our country?  I know what the
magicians declare, namely that, like myself, he is one long dead
who has returned again; that he is the very king who fought with
his brother to win the Treasure of the Lake, and drove his brother
and those who clung to him over the mountain edge, where they
became exiles and the fathers of the people of the Abanda.  Yes,
that king who, being wed to the Treasure of the Lake, was so
beloved of her that when she knew death was near to her, she killed
him that he might accompany her to heaven, a crime for which heaven
brought woe upon her.

"So runs the tale, but I say that it is a lie told by the Council
of the Shadow to favour this white wanderer, who has made great
promises to them if they will give the Shadow into his keeping that
he may steal her away, leaving them to rule the land."

This statement, I noticed, seemed to disturb the audience below,
among whom, it appeared afterwards, Kaneke had many friends,
members of his family and others who desired that he should be
chief and wed the Shadow.  These stirred impatiently as the meaning
of the sacrilege came home to them and whispered to one another.

"Yes," went on Kaneke, "such is the accursed plot of the white
stranger who is named Wanderer which has been revealed to me, a
plot so wicked that the guardian spirits of the Lake and Forest
cast him from our land that he might die by the spears of the
Abanda.  Yet he did not die, because he was saved by the other
white man, the Lord Macumazahn whom I was commanded to lead to our
country, doubtless that he might play his part in the plot and be
rewarded of the thief his friend."

Here I remarked in a loud voice to Kaneke that he was a liar as
well as a traitor, for I knew nothing of any plots, but he took no
heed of me and continued:

"Therefore it was that I sought to execute justice upon this red-
bearded lord who had escaped from the Abanda.  Yet I was overcome
not by strength, but by evil magic, and swore an oath to save my
life who desired to live on that I might avenge you, the Holy
People, upon him who would rob you of your Treasure and your
Oracle."

At this point Arkle intervened in a businesslike and British
fashion.

"You dirty dog!" he said.  "You snake who spits poison at me whom
you have failed to reach with your fangs.  You traitor who deserted
the lord Watcher-by-Night and brought about the death of his
servants, because you hoped that it would mean my own death also,
and afterwards tried to stab me whom you had sworn not to harm.
You oath-breaker.  I will not reason with you as to your
falsehoods, but I am ready to fight you again, here and now and to
the death.  Yes, weary and lame as I am, I am ready to fight you
under the stars you worship, before their altar and in the presence
of your people and thus let Fate judge between us.  Answer.  Will
you fight me again?"

"I will not fight you, Red Wanderer, that I may once more be
overcome by magic and butchered," shouted Kaneke.  "Nay, I appeal
from you and from your fellow plotters to our Lady, the Voice of
the Engoi.  If I am justly judged, if I have spoken what is not
true, let her appear here and now and pass sentence on me with her
own lips.  Ay, Kumpana, chief of the Council of the Shadow, summon
the Shadow if you can, and let the people see her and hear her
voice."

Thus he spoke in tones of triumph who, as I learned afterwards,
knew well that never in their history had the Lake-dweller who was
named Shadow come from the lake to the town to judge of any matter,
and having spoken, sat himself down and waited.

Then in quiet tones Kumpana answered:

"O Kaneke, I will make prayer to the Shadow.  Perchance she may be
pleased to do as you desire, and come hither to give judgment in
this cause in the presence of her people."



CHAPTER XIV

SHADOW


"Will she come?" I whispered to Arkle.

"Yes, I think so--that is, I hope so," he replied.

Then I guessed it was arranged that on one pretext or another the
holy personage called Shadow or the Lake-Dweller, should make a
public appearance that night.  It might well be, and indeed
probably was the case, that Kaneke's appeal to the head and source
of the local law was but a happy accident which chanced to fit in
with a preconceived plan.  But, putting two and two together, that
such a plan existed seemed to me more probable.  After all there
might be something in Arkle's story, which up till now I had held
to spring from the illusions of a man who had suffered great
hardships and had been hunted almost to death.  I allude not to his
dreams of a twin-soul awaiting him in some far-off place, which
were of a character that has been heard of before in the case of
young men and women of strong imagination and romantic nature, but
to his tale of having actually met this lady on the shore of the
sacred lake, after which he remembered no more until he found
himself running for dear life from the spears of the Abanda.

According to this tale on that occasion his love-affair had made
most satisfactory progress.  The lady, it seemed, was a thorough
convert to the twin-soul theory and alleged that what he had
experienced were no myths but spiritual realities, or in other
words that for years the two of them had been in some kind of
mystical communion.  Moreover the not unnatural conclusion of the
matter was that he had embraced her.  It was true that she
protested, yet why?  Not because she was personally offended, and
much less shocked or pained; but for the reason that he was
violating the sacred law of her country and thereby exposing
himself, and possibly her also, to very terrible risks and danger,
even of death--which in fact, whether from this or some other
cause, nearly overtook him.

Well, always presuming that some such event took place, what was
more natural than that these two young people should wish to meet
again and to, so to speak, regularize their relationship?  Nothing
can be more dangerous to either party among savage or semi-savage
peoples, than that a stranger should become extremely intimate with
a sanctified lady who by the custom of ages is vowed and sealed to
the ruler of her tribe.  But if that stranger himself becomes the
ruler, the face of the problem changes.

Now it appeared that, for reasons which I could not pretend to
fathom, this was exactly what was desired by the priestess herself
and by some of her most important adherents.  Otherwise why did
Kumpana, the Prime Minister or head of the Council of the Shadow,
go to meet Arkle far away and guide him through the Abanda and into
the hidden country at great risk to himself?  And having done this
and other things, would it be surprising if he had arranged a
dramatic public appearance of that priestess, at which she was to
recognize the stranger as the man of the prophecy, as chief, too,
in place of one who had been given his life in exchange for his
abdication of that and other offices, and consequently as her
future husband?  Oh, the whole business was as clear as the tall
observation tower in front of me; such obvious manoeuvres could not
deceive a person of my acumen for a moment--or so I thought.

Now while I was reflecting thus, Kumpana had passed between the
priests and, standing with his face to the fire upon the altar, was
engaged in uttering some petition in a voice which I could not hear
because he spoke very low and his back was towards me.  Nor could
I see much of him or anything else, for the reason that the
observation tower I have just spoken of as so plainly visible,
vanished from my sight, being suddenly obscured by clouds which
appeared upon the face of the sky.  They were thick tempest clouds,
for I heard the muttering of distant thunder, and a breath of cold
wind passed through the forest with a moaning noise.  Indeed,
everything became so dark that I whispered to Arkle to look out
lest Kaneke should take advantage of the gloom to attack him.  He
made no answer; his attention was so fixed upon other matters that
he did not seem to hear me.  He leaned forward, breathing heavily
like a man under the stress of emotion, and stared at the fire upon
the altar.  I, too, stared at this fire, because in that gloom I
could see little else except figures moving dimly against the
background of the fire, which I took to be those of Kumpana and the
priests.

The heart of the distant storm rolled away over the western cliffs
of the crater, drawing the clouds after it and the half-moon
appeared again.  Its light falling direct upon the platform
revealed a single figure standing in front of the altar, the tall
figure of a woman arrayed in glittering robes, green they seemed to
be, sewn with silver.  Of her face I could only see that it was
young, and fair-skinned like to that of a white woman, for it was
shadowed by a dark veil which hung from her head, unless indeed
what I took to be a veil was the mass of her black hair flowing
over her shoulders.  Her arms were bare except for bracelets of
what looked like pearls fastened upon the wrists and above the
elbows, and on her head she wore some kind of crown or fillet which
added to her height and shone, but of what it was made I do not
know.

The whole effect of this figure seen thus in the half-light and
against a background of the altar with its flickering fire, was
strangely impressive, mystic, and beautiful; so much so that I
remember catching my breath at its first appearance.  If I had any
doubt as to who this woman might be, it was removed by the audience
on the plain who, with one voice cried:

"Engoi!  Engoi!" (a word that among them means, it seems, "Spirit"
as well as "Divinity") and prostrated themselves.

Arkle, too, muttered something about "Shadow" and half rose as
though to go to her, when an instinct warned me to catch him by the
arm, whereon he sat down again and waited.

She fixed her fine eyes upon the face of old Kumpana, who stood in
front of her but to her left, and began to speak in a very sweet
low voice, that gave the suggestion of a chant learnt by heart
rather than of ordinary talk, for in it was something dreamlike and
rather unearthly.  Indeed, it was unlike the voice and speech of
any woman that I had ever heard, except one--and she was in an
hypnotic trance.  In fact, it reminded me forcibly of what the
prophet Isaiah describes as the voice "of one that hath a familiar
spirit" speaking "low out of the dust".  Hearing it for the first
time I felt rather frightened, because it suggested to my mind that
this fair creature might be under an unholy spell, or even
something more or less than mortal.  Evidently Hans thought the
same, for he muttered into my ear:

"Keep clear of that one, Baas, or she will bewitch you worse than
White-Mouse.  She is not a maiden but a spook.  Yes, she is the
queen of the spooks."

I hit him in the face with my elbow as a sign to be silent, though
the thought did pass through my mind that there was an air about
this lady which reminded me of White-Mouse, White-Mouse grown
taller and more imposing.  To my fancy they might well have been
sisters.

Then in the midst of the deep quiet she spoke, or chanted as an
oracle might do.

"I have been called.  I come from where I dwell upon the water.  In
my secret place where I dwell with my maidens and no man may set
his foot save he who is appointed to be my lord; yes, there in the
ancient halls built by a people that is no more, the swift
messenger has brought me the message of my priests, and I have
considered of their riddle.  To it I, the Oracle inspired, give
answer in the hearing of my people that all may learn my will and
the will of That I serve:

"One," and she pointed to Kaneke with something in her hand, it
looked like a little wand or sceptre of ivory, "who sinned against
the Shadow that has faded, and was driven from the land, has
returned again to take the place that was sworn to him according to
the ancient law and to wed the Shadow that has risen from the House
of Shadows.  One," and she pointed to Arkle, "called hither by the
decree of Fate, a wanderer from far, has come to the hidden land
and suffered many things because in ignorance he broke its customs.
One," and she pointed to me, "who, like the Wanderer also called
hither by the decree of Fate, rescued him, the Wanderer, from death
at the hands of the Abanda, my enemies.  He who should be chief of
the people and Shelter of the Shadow, foully strove to murder the
white Wanderer, but was overthrown of him, and to save his life
swore an oath upon my name and upon that whereof I am the Voice,
that in return for breath he would sell his lordship and its
rights.  So he was spared and not slain, and became the servant of
the Wanderer whom he would have murdered.  Now, the message tells
me, he takes back his oath and claims the chieftainship that was
his heritage, and with it the Holy Bride.  Is the case thus, O
Priests and Ministers and People?"

"It is thus," all answered with one voice, for even Kaneke
attempted no denial.

Now she stared hard at Kumpana, as an actor might at the prompter
in the wings, then seemed to catch her cue and went on:

"I, the Voice, speak the judgment that is set within my lips.
Hearken.  It is told, ay, and written in the secret records which
are hidden yonder where I dwell, that once in a far age it chanced
that he who was appointed to be the Shield of the Shadow, sought to
slay another foully.  But this other conquered that murderer, and
in exchange for the gift of life bought from him his place and
power and the Shadow of his day herself.  Thence came a great war
and the division of the people which endures until this hour.  As
it was, so let it be.  I, the Voice, decree and declare that
Kaneke, the murderer at heart and the oath-breaker, is no longer
chief of the Dabanda and that never shall he be the Shield of the
Shadow and her spouse.  I decree and declare that his chieftainship
has passed to the Wanderer lord whom he would have slain, and that
with it passes the Shadow herself, should the Wanderer desire to
clasp her for his hour.  The Voice has spoken.  Is the decree
accepted, O Priests and Ministers and People?"

The dreamy, mysterious tones died in the silence and again in a
great volume of sound came the answer:

"It is accepted!" and a priest speaking out of the darkness added,
"Kaneke called upon the Shadow to appear and give the judgment of
the Engoi.  The judgment has been given; the Engoi has spoken by
its oracle; it is finished."

"It is not finished; it is but begun," shouted Kaneke.  "You who
have bewitched the Shadow, call down a curse upon your souls and on
her the curse of war."

Here his words came to a sudden end, for what reason I could not
see, but I think that the guards threatened him with their spears,
commanding his silence.  Nor did she who was called Shadow seem to
hear them, for once more she spoke in her cold, chirping voice like
one who repeats a lesson in her sleep.

"Come hither, O Wanderer," she said, "to do me homage, and take
from me the lordship of the Land of the Holy Lake, and if it be
your pleasure, swear yourself to me, as I will swear myself to you.
Or, do not come, if such be your will.  For know, O Wanderer, that
with this rule goes trouble and the dread of death.  Yonder man who
would have murdered you spoke truth.  War is at hand, and of that
war the end is not shown to me.  Mayhap in it you will find nothing
save doom and loss.  Choose, then."

"I have chosen," said Arkle, and rising, strove to walk to her,
only to find that his hurts had stiffened so that now he could
scarcely stand unaided.

"Help me!" he said, and a few seconds later was limping towards the
altar supporting himself upon my shoulder.  It was but a little
way, yet that journey seemed long to me, perhaps because of its
strangeness, perhaps because the concentrated interest of every
watching man and woman beat upon me with such intensity that it
hampered my physical powers.  At length we reached the altar and
the big, golden-bearded Arkle sank on to his knees before the
goddess, for so they held her.

For the first time I could see her face, though even now not too
clearly because her back was to the fire.  Certainly it was
beautiful; the fine features, the curving lips, the large eyes,
dark and tender, shining under the ivory pallor of her brows, the
masses of the black hair flowing from beneath her coronal--all were
beautiful, as were her arms and shapely, tapering hands.  Her tall
figure, too, was full of girlish grace and yet of dignity, that of
one born to command, while her shimmering robes, how fashioned or
of what stuff I know not, were such as might have been worn by the
creature of a dream and even suggested something unfamiliar to our
world.

What could this woman be, I wondered, and from what blood did she
spring?  Arab, Egyptian, Eastern?  I never learned the answer.  One
thing, however, I did learn then and there, namely that when the
shell was off her, at heart she was very human.  Her face showed it
as she bent down over this man whom in some strange fashion she had
drawn to her from half across the world.  It was not the face of
the priestess of some ancient, secret faith welcoming a worshipper,
but rather that of a woman greeting her lover won at last.  The
lips trembled, the eyes filled with happy tears, her figure
drooped; she grew languid as though with an access of passion, her
arms opened as if they would clasp him, then fell again when she
remembered that eyes were on her--oh, that this man was everything
to her I could not doubt!

With an evident effort of the will she recovered herself and began
to speak again, but in a fuller and more natural voice than she had
used when she played her part of oracle.  Indeed it was so
different that if her face had been hidden from me, I should not
have thought the speaker to be the same.

"Wilt thou serve my people and accept lordship over them, O
Wanderer?" she asked, probably in the adapted words of some ancient
ritual.

"The lordship I have bought already, and I will serve them as best
I may," he answered.

"Wilt thou do homage, O Wanderer, to me, Shadow, the Dweller in the
Lake, the Oracle, the Priestess of the Engoi?"

"I will do you homage, O Shadow," he answered, and bent his head as
though to kiss her sandalled feet or the hem of her robe.

She saw it and swiftly stretched out her arm, murmuring so low that
only he and I could hear.

"Not my foot, my hand."

He took it and pressed it to his lips.  Then with her little ivory
sceptre she touched him on the brow twice, once to accept the
homage, and next to give him all authority.  Now she spoke for a
third time, asking,

"Wilt thou swear thyself to me, that at the time appointed thou
mayest take the Shadow to thee and for thine hour protect her on
the path of Fate?"

This she said out loud so that all should hear, then before he
could answer, made a sign to him to be silent, and added in a
whisper,

"Bethink thee, O Beloved, before thou dost answer.  Thou knowest
the mystery and that our hearts have spoken together across the
empty air, as once they spoke in an age bygone.  Yet remember that
I am not of thy land and race, that I am strange and secret, full
of a wisdom that thou dost not understand, that my day is short and
that when I die it is the law that thou diest also, so that
together we may pass to another home of which thou dost not know
and in which thou mayest not believe.  Remember also that dangers
are many, and it may be that never wilt thou hold me to thy heart.
Therefore be warned ere thou tiest a cord that cannot be undone
save by the sword of death.  Dost thou understand?"

"I understand," he whispered back, "and on the chance that thou
mayest be mine if only for an hour, I, who have risked much
already, will risk the rest, I who love thee, and if need be, for
love will die."

She sighed, so deeply that her whole frame shook as though with the
joy of an intense relief, saying, still beneath her breath,

"So be it.  Now take the oath."

Then in a loud voice he said,

"I swear myself to thee, O Shadow.  Dost thou swear thyself to me?"

"I swear myself," she began, but said no more, for at that moment
Kaneke leapt upon her, swiftly as a leopard leaps upon a buck.  I
suppose that while all watched the remarkable scene I have
described, he had slipped from his guards.  What he meant to do I
am not sure, but I imagine that trusting to his great strength, he
intended to carry her off with the help of confederates among the
people.  Or perhaps it was in his mind to kill her out of jealousy
rather than see her give herself to another man.

The sequel was both swift and most amazing.  I did nothing, to my
shame be it said; I was taken too much by surprise, and before I
recovered myself that sequel was accomplished.  The priests did
nothing either, being like myself overcome with astonishment.
Arkle was on his knees and even if he understood what was passing,
being lame and stiff, could not rise from them without assistance.
Only from either side of the altar, or from behind it, white-draped
figures seemed to flit forward.  I suppose these were the virgins
of the Shadow, but really I cannot say, for their appearance was so
quick, so mysterious and so vague that in that light they might
quite well have been shades born of imagination, or even large
white-winged birds seen for a moment in the light of the fire.
Nor, whatever they were, did they take any action that I could
discern; they just came and presently were gone again.  Further, my
attention was not fixed upon these appearances which I only saw out
of the corner of my eye, as it were, but on the central figures,
the lady called Shadow, and on her assailant, the owl-eyed Kaneke.

Evidently she saw him come, for her face grew frightened and she
uttered a little cry.  Then in a twinkling her aspect changed, or
so I fancied.  She drew herself up to her full height, her face
hardened and became stern, the fear passed from it and was replaced
by a cold anger.  As the man leapt on her she stretched out her
arm, that in which she held the little sceptre and exclaimed.

"BE ACCURSED!"

The effect upon Kaneke of these words, or of her mien, or of both,
or of something that I could not see or appreciate, unless it were
the flitting white figures, was wonderful.  I have compared his
rush with that of a leopard.  Well, have you ever seen such a beast
stopped by a bullet, not a bullet that killed it dead, but one that
paralysed its nervous system with the shock of its impact, taking
all the courage out of it, causing it to stop, to tremble, and
finally to turn and flee for shelter?  If so, you will understand
what happened to Kaneke better than I can describe it in writing.

He came to a standstill, so sudden that the weight of his charge
caused him to slide forward for a foot or two upon the pavement.
Then he appeared to collapse; at least to my sight he looked
actually smaller, I suppose because his breath left him, causing
his body to shrink.  Next he uttered a low cry of fear and,
turning, fled like a flash, bounding down the steps that led to the
altar and vanishing into the gloom.

I think that some ran after him, but of this I am not sure.  If so,
perhaps it was the faint indefinite figures that I have described,
for I lost him in a kind of white mist that may of course have been
an effect caused by the robes of those who followed.

To tell the truth I did not look long, because Arkle, who was
struggling to his feet, uttered an exclamation which caused me to
turn my head and perceive that the Shadow lady was no longer there.

"Where is she?" I asked.

"I don't know," he answered.  "I think women came and took her
away, but it was all so confused I cannot swear."

Then the gathering broke up in tumult.  Kumpana and others escorted
us down the steps, Arkle still leaning on my shoulder and
expostulating, for naturally enough he wished to follow the Shadow,
which he was not allowed to do.  At the foot of the steps we were
separated, he being helped off I knew not where, while I was taken
back to the guest-house.

"We will meet tomorrow," he called after me, and I replied that I
hoped so.  Then he and his escort vanished into the darkness.



"Baas," said Hans, as I began to undress, "it is almost a pity that
those Abanda did not catch the Baas Red-Bull."

"Why?" I asked wearily.

"For two reasons, Baas.  If he had been killed he would have been
saved a great deal of trouble, who now is caught like a fly in a
spider's web.  You know the sort of spider, Baas, which bites the
fly and sends it to sleep for days or weeks, until it wants to eat
it.  The fly looks quite happy and so it is until the eating
begins, when it wakes up and kicks because it can't buzz as its
wings have been pulled off.  Well, that is what will happen to the
Red Baas.  The pretty-painted spider has got him and made him drunk
and he will be quite happy, not knowing that his wings have been
pulled off until the time comes when he wakes up to be sacrificed,
or something of that sort, Baas.  That's the first reason."

Now I bethought me that as usual there was wisdom in Hans' cynical
remarks and metaphors.  Undoubtedly Arkle was entangled in an evil
web, and what was the fate which lay before him, a white man of
good birth and education and presumably a Christian?  He was
beloved of a beautiful and mystic woman whom he in turn adored and
probably in due course would marry.

This seemed pleasant enough, and natural--if bizarre.  Could he
have taken the lady away to his own land perhaps the adventure
might even have proved successful in a matrimonial sense.  But what
were the facts?  Departure was impossible for her and for him also.
Once he was wed to her, here he must remain to the end of the
chapter.

Moreover for a bridal dower he took with her a mass of obscure and
dangerous superstitions, as to which only one thing was clear,
namely that, as I had heard her declare with her own lips, these
would involve the pair of them in certain death, possibly quite
soon, and surely at no very distant date.  Of course he might
maintain that he had been given fair warning and that the price he
must pay was not too high for what he won.  But then he was not in
a state to judge with an even mind, and as an individual of his own
race and standing with some experience of the world, I could not
agree with this view of his case.

Such were some of the thoughts that passed through my mind but of
these I said nothing to Hans, contenting myself with asking his
second reason.

"Oh, Baas, it is this," he answered.  "If the Red Baas were out of
the way, you would have been put in his place, as I dare say will
happen after all if Kaneke manages to murder him, or those priests
change their minds about him."

"Thank you," I said, "and what then?"

"Then, Baas, as happy married pair always does, you would set up
house on that island, which otherwise we shall never see, and find
out where they keep their gold and other things that are worth
money, of which I learn they have plenty hidden away on the island,
although this silly people does not use them because they are a
holy, ancient treasure, Baas, that has been there for hundreds or
thousands of years."

"And if this treasure exists and I found it, what next Hans?"

"Why, then, Baas, of course you would steal it and get away,
leaving the lady to look at the empty boxes, Baas.  Perhaps you
think it would be difficult, but Hans would manage it all for you.
Priests can always be bought, Baas, and as for oaths and the rest,"
he added, springing to a very pinnacle of immorality, "good
Christians like you and me wouldn't need to bother about THEM,
Baas, because you see they have all to do with the devil.  So we
should get away very rich and be happy to the end of our lives.
But," he went on with a sigh, "it is nothing but a nice dream,
because the Red Baas stands in our way.  Unless indeed"--here he
brightened up--"we can make a bargain with him and go shares in
everything that he gets."

I did not try to argue with Hans because his lack of moral sense,
real or assumed, was, so to speak, quite out of shot of argument.
So I only said:

"I should be glad enough to get out of this place without any
treasure, if only I could do so with a whole skin.  Did you hear
all the talk about war?"

"Oh yes, Baas.  From the beginning that owl-man Kaneke has said
that there would be war, which was why he brought you here."

"Well, Hans, if it is to be with the Abanda, I don't see what
chance these Dabanda will have, for they are but a handful."

"None, Baas, if the fight were with spears.  But they don't trust
to spears; they trust to magic of which there is plenty in this
land.  Didn't you see when the Engoi woman cursed Kaneke, how he
curled up, just as though she had kicked him in the stomach, Baas,
and ran away, although a minute before he had meant to carry her
off with the help of his friends, of whom no doubt he has plenty?
That was magic, Baas."

I shrugged my shoulders and answered:

"I think it was scare and a guilty conscience.  But I don't
understand about this Kaneke.  Why, if they don't like him, was he
ever brought away from the place where he was living?  Why did
White-Mouse insist upon our rescuing him, and a dozen other
things?"

"Oh, for lots of reasons, Baas.  While he was named as the Chief-
to-be, no one else could take his place according to their law.
That is one.  Also no one else could guide you to this country.
That is another.  Also he had to come because the Shadow Lady said
so, something to do with their fetish business, or prophecies,
Baas; you will never learn what makes the minds of spook-people
like these Dabanda turn this way or that."

"I dare say not.  What I should like to learn is whether our friend
Kaneke is alive or dead."

"Alive, I think, Baas; yes, I am almost sure that he got away by
the help of his friends in the crowd below, though I dare say that
the curses of the Shadow Queen went with him; indeed I thought I
saw them following him like white owls.  I expect we shall see and
hear plenty more of Kaneke, Baas."

As usual Hans was quite right; we did.



CHAPTER XV

LAKE MONE AND THE FOREST


After this tumultuous and exciting night I spent a very quiet time
at Dabanda-town, where for the next ten days or so nothing happened
that could be called remarkable.

Grateful enough I was to rest thus awhile, because our long journey
had tired me out and I found it delightful to enjoy repose and
leisure in a climate which although hot, was on the whole
delicious.  Still as I am an active-minded person, I took advantage
of this pause to learn all I could about the Dabanda and their
enemies, the Abanda, only to find that in the end I had really
learned very little.  Kumpana and other members of the Council came
to see me frequently and talked with great openness upon many
matters, but when I came to boil down their conversation, the
residium was small enough.

I was told that Kaneke had escaped, as they said, "by making
himself invisible", a feat in which no doubt the darkness helped
him.  Where he had gone, they were not sure.  Possibly, they said,
he had turned traitor and run away to the Abanda, though such a
crime had never been heard of in their history.  Or he might have
returned towards the country where I had met him.  Or possibly he
was dead, killed by the curse of the Engoi, though they did not
think this probable, for being himself a magician and one of the
initiated, he knew how to fashion shields which would turn aside or
delay the deadliest curses.

My inquiries upon other matters were almost equally unfruitful.  I
asked when the promised war would come and was informed that they
did not know, but that no doubt it "would happen at the time
appointed".

Nor would they tell me anything definite about the lady called
Shadow, whom I had seen upon the altar platform.  They were, they
asserted, ignorant of what caused her to be fairer-skinned and
more beautiful than other women; they only knew that for many
generations the Lake-Dweller always had been so; it was a family
gift.  They admitted that she lived upon an island in the waters of
Mone, in the company of certain virgins who dwelt with her in
ancient buildings erected by an unknown and forgotten people, but
of these buildings and the fashion of her life there they could say
nothing, as none of them had ever visited the place, upon which it
was unlawful for any man to set foot except the husband of the
Engoi after marriage, and so on.

Thus it came about that at last I abandoned inquiries, which led to
no result, for the very good reason that those whom I questioned
were determined to tell me nothing, and fell back upon my own
powers of observation, assisted by those of Hans.  Being allowed to
do so with an escort, I walked about the country, but saw nothing
worthy of note.

Here and there were little villages inhabited by a handful of
people, and round these some cultivated fields, also grazing
grounds on which were herded cattle of a small breed and goats, but
no true woolled sheep, creatures that would not thrive in so hot a
district.  The rest of the land, which was of extraordinary
richness and could have supported ten times as many people, was
given up to game of every variety except, as I have said, those
that are harmful to man, which did not exist there.

The animals were wonderfully tame; indeed one could walk among them
as Adam and Eve are reported to have done in the Garden of Eden.
Again I asked Kumpana and others how this came about and was
answered--because of the spell laid upon them, also because they
were never molested or killed for food.  I inquired why and was
informed because they were holy, taboo in short, as Father Ambrose
had heard from the slave in bygone years.  Then for the first time
I discovered that the Dabanda believed that after death the spirits
of men, or those of certain men of their race, passed into the
bodies of animals; also that sometimes this happened before birth.

It was for this reason that the beasts were not touched, since
nobody likes to put a spear through his grandmother or his future
child.

Next I referred to the elephants we had met outside their country,
over which Kaneke seemed to have control, and inquired how this
happened.  The reply was that these beasts or their progenitors had
once lived in Mone-land, whence they were driven, or "requested to
leave" as Kumpana put it, because they did so much mischief, which
accounted for the mystery.

My own view, of course, is (or, perhaps I should say, was) that the
creatures were tame because no man ever harmed them, but I quote
the story as an example of the superstitions of these star-
worshippers.  To many African tribes certain creatures are taboo,
but never before or since have I heard of one to which all game was
sacred, perchance because no other of small numbers has so rich a
food supply that it needs to be supplemented by the flesh of wild
animals.  Among the Dabanda, however, this was so.

Their fertile soil, amply watered by rain and streams, needed but
to be scratched to yield abundantly of corn and various roots and
vegetables, while their numerous flocks and herds furnished all the
milk and meat they required.  Therefore there was no necessity for
them to undertake the risk and toil of hunting, with the result
that those beasts which they never killed, in the course of time
naturally became both tame and sacred.

Having finished such investigation of the country as I was allowed
to make--all approach to the lip of the crater was, I should
explain, forbidden to me--I was seized with a great desire to
explore the forest land and to look upon the sacred waters of the
Lake Mone.

At first, when I mentioned this matter, Kumpana always turned the
subject, but ultimately on the day of full moon, he said that if I
so desired, he was ready to conduct me through the forest so that I
might look upon the lake by moonlight, adding that it was not
lawful for any man to enter this forest, much less to see the lake,
in the daytime.

Of course I jumped at the offer, and shortly after moonrise we
started, three of us, Kumpana, I, and Hans, whom at first Kumpana
wished to leave behind.  Indeed he only gave way on the point when
I refused to go without him, while Hans on his part remarked, in
infamous Arabic, that it has always been his custom to shoot anyone
who tried to separate him from his master.

Within five minutes we found ourselves in a pit of blackness.  That
forest must have been dark at noonday, and at night, even when
there was a full moon, it was like a coal-mine.  We could only get
along at all by help of some yards of the stem of a creeper of
which Kumpana held one end.  Then I grasped it at a distance of a
few feet, and lastly came Hans holding to the other end.

It may be asked how Kumpana could see his way.

The answer is--that I do not know, but he led us quite briskly
along some path that I was unable to perceive, which wound in and
out through the trunks of giant trees, and skirted some that had
fallen.  Thus we walked for some hours, only seeing a ray of light
now and then where a tree, dead and devoid of leaf, allowed it to
reach the ground.

At length this forest ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and we
stood upon the broad beach of the lake, most of which doubtless was
covered in times of heavy rain.

Oh, how desolate was that great sheet of water glimmering in the
bright moonlight, and yet how beautiful, set in its ring of forest
land.  Save for the soughing sound of wildfowl flighting far out of
sight, and the occasional croak of a frog, it was utterly silent.
Its lonesomeness was oppressive, almost terrible, for no beasts
seemed to frequent it; nor did I see or hear so much as a fish
stirring; well could I understand that a semi-savage race should
deem it to be holy and haunted.  Far away I could see the island on
which the priestess Shadow was said to dwell, and noted that it was
large, over a mile long as I judged, though how wide it may have
been of course I did not know.  What is more, I could distinguish
buildings amidst the palms which grew upon this island.

Taking my glasses, very good ones of a German make which were
fitted with a lens for use at night, I studied the place and saw at
once that these building were large, massive, and apparently
covered with sculpture.  They seemed to be constructed of limestone
or alabaster, or some other white rock such as marble, and before
them stood gateways and towers, certain of which looked as though
they were half in ruins.  In architecture and style they were
totally different from any that I knew of in Africa, not excepting
the Zimbabwe ruins.

They had, however, a distinct resemblance to the remains of the
temples of Old Egypt which at that time I had never seen except in
pictures.  There were what might be pylon gates; there were walls
covered with great carvings; there were courts with pillars in
them, for the end of one of these had fallen down or never been
completed, and with the glasses I could see the columns.

The sight thrilled me.  Was it possible that these mysterious
buildings had been erected by people from Ancient Egypt, or even by
some race that afterwards had migrated to Egypt, taking their
architecture with them?  Now that I come to think of it, the
truncated pyramid outside the town where stood the stone altar upon
which the fire burned, suggested that this might be so.

I turned to Kumpana and questioned him closely, but he could, or
would, tell me very little.  He repeated that he had never been on
the island "in the flesh" for the reasons that he had already
explained, but that he understood the buildings there to be
tremendous, of a sort indeed to defy time for thousands upon
thousands of years.  There was no record of their construction, or
of the people who had accomplished this mighty work and dwelt
there.  Not so much as a tradition survived.  Time had eaten up
their name and race, though perhaps the sculptures might tell
something to anyone who learned enough to understand them.  For the
rest from generation to generation they had always been sacred to
the Engoi and the home of her who for her day was known as Shadow,
and her virgins.

"Can I not visit them?" I asked.

I saw a sarcastic smile upon Kumpana's wrinkled old face as he
answered.

"Oh yes, Lord, if you are a very good swimmer.  Only should you
live to reach the island the women there will tear you to pieces."

Now since then I have often thought that this was rubbish, for
surely women who lived in such an unnatural state would be glad to
satisfy their curiosity by inspecting even so unfavourable a
specimen of the male sex as myself, that is, if there were any
truth at all in this tale of an African nunnery or Order of
Virgins, like those of the Sun in Old Peru or the Vestals of Rome.
At the time, however, all I thought of was the fate of the men who
intruded upon the women's mysteries in ancient Greece, which was
not one that I wished to share.

Today I am sorry that I did not show more pluck and have a try to
reach that island, but then the adventure appalled me and our lost
chances never return again.  Not that I believed the story about
the nuns, for I felt quite sure that if no one ever visited the
island, these sometimes made a trip to the lake shore, as,
according to Arkle, the Shadow herself had done.  Kumpana's tale,
however, was that their numbers were kept up by votaries who joined
them every year from the mainland, picked girls of the age of
twelve who were called "slaves of the Engoi".

While I was talking to him Hans, who had the sight of a vulture,
said in Dutch,

"Look, Baas.  The women are coming out of that big house."

Raising my glasses I saw that he was right, for a procession of
white-robed figures emerged from under a gateway and walked in
procession down to the water's edge.  Here they must have entered
boats, though, owing to the shadow of palms which grew upon the
island shore, I could not see them do so, for presently three large
canoes, each containing five or six women, appeared upon the
tranquil bosom of the lake and were paddled slowly towards us.
(Who made the canoes if no man ever visited the island?  I
wondered.)  In much excitement I asked if they were coming to see
me as I might not go to see them; but again Kumpana smiled and
shook his head.

On they glided till they were within about two hundred yards from
where we stood.  Then they halted in a line and began a sweet and
plaintive chant, of which in that great stillness the sound reached
us clearly.

"What are they doing?" I asked.  "Making an offering to the full
moon?"

"Yes, Lord," Kumpana answered, "and I think something more."

He was right.  There was "something more", for presently the women
in the central canoe bent down and lifted a white draped form which
they cast over the prow, so that it fell into the water with a
large splash and vanished there.

"Is it a funeral?" I asked again.

"No doubt, Lord.  See, they throw flowers on to the water where the
body sank."

That was his reply, but something in his tone caused uncomfortable
doubts to rise in my mind.  What if the form wrapped in those white
veils was quick--not dead?  What if this rite was not one of burial
but of sacrifice or execution?  Here I may state that afterwards
Hans swore that he saw the draped shape struggle, but as I did not,
this may have been his imagination.

Still the business was eerie and made me shiver; so much so that I
was not sorry when the women turned the canoe-heads islandwards,
and departed still singing, or even when Kumpana said it was time
for us to follow their example and go home.  To my mind there was
something weird, even unholy, about this sacred lake and island,
where rose fantastic buildings of unknown age inhabited by night-
haunting women who made offerings to the full moon, as the old
Egyptians might have done, and I believe did to Nut or Hathor,
ominous offerings shaped like a human corpse.  And if this was so
with these, the forest was even worse, as I have now to tell.

We entered its shapes guided as before by Kumpana with the help of
the creeper-stem.  Somehow it depressed me more even than it had
done upon our journey lakewards, perhaps because my nerves were
jangled by all that I have described.  At any rate, I suppose in an
instinctive endeavour to keep up my spirits, I entered into
conversation with Hans behind me, speaking perhaps rather more
loudly than was necessary as a kind of challenge to that
overpowering silence.

I need not repeat our conversation in detail, or further than to
say that it had to do with the Dabandas, their superstitions, and
their pretentions to magical powers.  Speaking in Dutch, and
sometimes in English, so that Kumpana might not understand me, I
criticized these in no measured terms, announcing my belief that
they were rubbish and that the Dabanda priests and magicians were a
set of infernal humbugs.  Hans, always argumentative, combated this
view and gave it as his opinion that the Dabanda, from Kaneke and
Kumpana down, were particular favourites of the devil.

At this point Kumpana looked back and remarked somewhat sternly
that it was well not to talk so loudly in the forest lest the
spirits who had their home there should be angered.

Then I lost my temper and expressed entire disbelief in these
spirits, asking him too well what he meant by trying to fool a
white man with talk of tree-dwelling spirits, and whether he was
referring to monkeys which we knew lived in such places and were
reported sometimes to pelt travellers through them with sticks or
nuts.

Apparently Kumpana did not appreciate the joke, for he looked back
at me (I could see him because at the moment we were wading through
a little swamp where no trees grew), with an expression on his face
that I thought threatening, and said with cold courtesy:

"I pray you to be silent, Lord Macumazahn, and above all not to
offer insults to the masters of this place."

This made me angrier than ever.  Was I, a more or less educated
Christian man, to have my mouth stopped with the mud of such
heathen mumbo-jumbo stuff?  Certainly not.  Therefore I continued
my argument with Hans, speaking more loudly than before.  Hans
replied with sarcasm which was the more irritating because it
contained a grain of truth, that the real reason I talked thus was
that I was afraid and therefore made a noise to shout down my fear,
as children do.  Then he went on with a garbled version of the
story of the Witch of Endor who, he declared, I think erroneously,
also lived in a wood, and to quote absurd remarks about witchcraft,
which he attributed to my poor old father, adding his devout hope
that he, "the reverend Predikant" as he called him, was keeping an
eye upon us at that moment.

Truly I believe that there must have been some exciting quality in
the air of that forest, exhaled perhaps by the foliage or flowers
of certain trees or creepers that grew there, for at this point a
kind of rage possessed me which caused me to rate and objurgate
Hans, begging him to be good enough not to take my father's name in
vain and put words in his mouth that he had never spoken, in order
to justify his low, savage beliefs in ghosts and magic.

Just then we came to a spot where a great tree had fallen, breaking
down others in its descent and allowing the moonlight to reach us
for a few paces.  As we went round the stump of this prostrate tree
Kumpana turned again, saying:

"I have warned you and you will not listen.  White stranger, I
shall warn you no more."

I looked at the man and it struck me that his aspect had changed.
No longer did he seem the little withered old fellow with shrewd
eyes and a wrinkled, rather kindly, if cunning, face to whom I was
accustomed.  He appeared to have grown taller and to have acquired
a fierce cast of countenance, while his eyes glowed like those of a
lion in a cave.

Remembering that moonlight plays strange tricks and that his added
height must be due to the fact that he was standing on a root of
the fallen tree, I took no heed, but continued to wrangle with Hans
like one who has had too much to drink, or is half under the
influence of laughing-gas.  Then we proceeded as before and
presently were again enveloped in the utter gloom of the forest.
Suddenly I was brought to a standstill by butting into the trunk of
a tree, while Hans behind ran the muzzle of his rifle into my back.

"Where are you going, Kumpana?" I asked indignantly, but there was
no answer.

Then to call his attention I pulled at the vine-like creeper that
served us as a rope.  It flew back and flicked me in the face; no
one was holding it!

"Hans!" I exclaimed.  "Kumpana has given us the slip."

"Yes, Baas," he answered.  "I thought something of that sort would
happen, Baas, if you would keep on spitting in the faces of the
forest spirits, of which probably he is one himself."

I reflected a while and had an idea.

"Let us get back to the place where there is light, and think
things over," I said.

"Yes, Baas," he answered.  "Lead on, Baas, for I don't know the way
and can't see our spoor in the dark."

I turned and started, with the most disastrous results.  Before we
had gone ten paces I crashed into another tree-trunk and hurt
myself considerably.  Circumventing this, presently I plunged into
a piece of swampy ground and sank over my knees in tenacious mud,
out of which Hans pulled me with difficulty.  Once more we started
with my boots full of water, but before I had taken five steps I
became entangled in some thorny creeper which pricked me horribly.
Freeing myself at length I stepped forward again, only to catch my
foot in a root and fall on my face.  Then I sat down and said
things which I prefer not to record.

"It is very difficult, Baas, to find one's way in a big wood when
it is quite dark," remarked Hans blandly.  "What does the Baas wish
to do now?"

"Stop here till it grows lighter, I suppose, if it ever does in
this infernal place," I answered.  Then I filled my pipe and
finding that I had lost my matches, probably when I fell, I asked
Hans for one.

He produced his cherished box, of which we had not too many left,
and having first filled his own pipe, struck a match and handed it
to me.  As I took it I remembered noticing how steadily the flame
burned in that utterly still air.  Then I lifted the match to my
pipe and as I did so something blew it out.

"Why did you do that?" I asked angrily of Hans.  "Are you afraid of
setting the forest on fire?"

"Yes, Baas--I mean no, Baas.  I mean I didn't blow it out, Baas.  A
monkey blew it out; I saw its ugly face," replied Hans in a voice
that suggested to me that he was frightened.

"Rubbish!" I exclaimed.  "Give me another match."

He obeyed rather unwillingly and the same thing happened, no doubt
because there was a current of air which passed between the tree-
trunks in puffs.

Well, my desire to smoke suddenly departed and I told Hans that we
must not waste any more matches in such a draughty spot.  He agreed
and set his back firmly against mine, explaining that he was cold,
a palpable lie as the heat in that stifling place was so great that
we both ran with perspiration.

"Now be still and don't talk; I am going to sleep.  You can wake me
up at dawn," I said.

Scarcely were the words out of my mouth, when distinctly I heard
laughter, of a queer sort it is true, for it was singularly
mirthless, but still eerie laughter which appeared to come first
from one quarter and then another.

"That old fool, Kumpana, is making fun of us all the time," I said.
"He shall laugh the wrong side of his mouth--if I catch him."

"Yes, Baas, only now he seems to be laughing on all sides of his
face and from everywhere at once--" Hans began, but the rest of his
remarks were lost in a peal of unholy merriment.

It came, as he said, "from everywhere at once", and seemingly even
from above our heads.

"What the deuce is it--hyenas?" I asked.

"No, Baas, it's spooks, very bad spooks.  Oh, Baas, why would you
come into this accursed forest to look at a lake where they drown
people at midnight, and then sneer at the devils of the place and
call them monkeys?  I am going to pray to your reverend father,
Baas, hoping that he will hear me in the Place of Fires.  For if he
can't help us, no one can."

I did not answer him, for when Hans was in this superstitious mood
argument was useless.  Moreover I was trying to remember a very
interesting lecture I had once heard about echoes and how these are
multiplied by natural causes.  The laughter had died away and I was
just recovering the thread of the lecture when something else
happened.  A great stone or clod of earth fell with a thud close to
me, and was followed presently by scores of similar missiles.  None
of these touched us, it is true, but they struck everywhere around
and even against the trees above our heads.

After that I really cannot recall what followed, for between
weariness, bewilderment, and exhaustion I grew confused, so that my
mind became torpid.  I remember all kinds of sounds, some of them
very loud as though trees were crashing at a distance, and some of
them small and sharp and close at hand, like the agonizing squeals
idle children can produce with a slate-pencil.  I remember a
feeling on my face which suggested that my ears and nose were being
pulled by tiny hands.

I remember, too, Hans announcing in a voice which was full of fear
that gorillas with eyes of fire were dancing round us, though if so
I never saw them.  Lastly I remember that he fired his rifle, I
suppose at one of the nightmare gorillas, or some other dream-
beast, for the sound of it reverberated through the forest as
though it had been a cannon-shot.  Also in its blinding flash I
thought I saw queer figures round us with fantastic faces.

Then I remember nothing more of all those noises and visions, which
were more appropriate to a victim of delirium tremens, than to a
strictly sober man lost in a wood, till at length I heard a gentle
voice say in Arabic:

"Rise, Macumazahn.  You have wandered from your path and the air
beneath these trees is poisonous and gives bad dreams.  I have been
sent to guide you and your servant back to Dabanda-town."

I obeyed in a great hurry and presently felt a soft hand leading me
I knew not where.  Or perhaps I should say that I thought I felt
it, for I dare say this was part of the nightmare from which
doubtless I was suffering, and seemed to be led forward, Hans
clinging to my coat-tails like a child to its mother's skirts, for
how long I cannot tell.  All I know is that just as the dawn was
breaking we found ourselves upon the edge of the forest, for there
in front of us was the truncated pyramid upon which burned the
altar fire, and beyond it the town.  Here in the shadow of the last
trees our guide departed, or seemed to depart.  I noted vaguely in
the gloom that she was a woman wrapped in white and of a graceful
figure.

"Farewell," she said with a suspicion of mockery in her voice that
somehow I thought familiar, adding:

"You are very wise, Macumazahn, yet, I pray you, grow a little
wiser, for then you will not mock at what you do not understand,
and will learn that there are powers in the world known to its
ancient peoples of which even white men have not heard."

As she spoke she stepped backwards and before I could answer her
had vanished, although still out of the darkness of that accursed
forest I could hear her musical voice repeating:

"Farewell, Macumazahn, and mock no more at the powers of the
ancient peoples."

"Baas," said Hans as we staggered into our house, "I think that
missie must have been White-Mouse come to life again."

"I don't want to know if she was White-Mouse, or Black-Mouse, or
Piebald-Mouse, or no Mouse at all.  What I want is to get out of
this accursed country," I replied savagely, as I kicked off my
boots and threw myself down upon the bed.



CHAPTER XVI

KANEKE'S MESSAGE


It may be wondered why I have said so little about Arkle, the real
hero of this story, whom Hans and the natives named Red-Bull
because of his taurine build and great strength.  The reason is
that I saw little of the man.  After the appearance of Shadow, "the
Treasure of the Lake", that night before the altar and the
disappearance of Kaneke laden with curses like the scapegoat of the
ancient Jews, he was laid up for a while in the Chief's big house
or hut with a sore heel.  Notwithstanding their alleged mastery
over diseases, this heel, which resulted from his race for life
before the Abanda and his subsequent tramp to the Lake-town, defied
all the skill and spells of the Dabanda doctors or magicians, for
they had but one word to describe the followers of both these
trades.

So I was called in and tackled the case with the help of a pot of
antiseptic ointment bought originally in some chemist's shop, and
lint that I made by picking a rag of linen to pieces.  While
visiting him for this purpose of course I talked to him, but even
then with a sense of restraint.  The truth was that already the man
was hedged round with ceremonial.  Yes, this English gentleman was,
as it were, guarded by a pack of heathen priests; white-robed
mystics who never left us alone.  Of course they could not
understand our language, but on the other hand they were
preternaturally shrewd at reading our faces and what was passing in
our minds, as I found out from remarks that they made now and
again.

Thus I always had a sense of being spied on, and so, I think, did
Arkle.  If I tried to talk to him about the lady Shadow, I saw
their large eyes fixed upon me and their ears, as it were,
stretched out towards me, till at length I came almost to believe
that after all they understood or guessed the meaning of every word
I uttered.  This did not tend to promote candid conversation,
indeed it was paralysing, and at last reduced me to prattling about
the weather or other trivial subjects.

At last I could bear no more, and taking advantage of the temporary
absence of the priest on guard, for I guessed that he had only
retired behind a mat curtain, I said outright, "Tell me, Mr. Arkle,
if you like this kind of life.  You seem to me to be a prisoner in
all except name, though they call you a chief.  Do you think such a
position right for a white man of your upbringing?"

"No, I don't, Quatermain," he answered with vigour.  "I hate the
business, but I tell you that I am a man under a spell.  I see you
smile, yet it is true.  Years ago it began with those dreams in
London.  Then I kissed, you know whom, down by that lake, and the
spell became a madness.  Lastly I swore allegiance to her and all
the rest of it that night upon the platform yonder, and the madness
became a fate.  I am bound by chains that cannot be broken, this
chieftainship is one that you can see; but there are others--and
that's the end--or the beginning."

"Do you wish to break them?" I asked.

"My reason does, but my spirit, or my heart, or whatever you choose
to call it, does not.  I must win that woman, even if it costs me
my life; if I do not I shall go mad."

"Forgive me," I answered, "but don't you think that in a way it may
cost you more than your life: that is, your honour?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I mean that like all of us you were brought up with certain
traditions and, as you have told me, in a certain faith; in short,
you are a white man.  Now a love-affair with a woman who has other
traditions and who is of another faith, or even a marriage is well
enough sometimes--as Saint Paul points out.  But this business is
bigger than that, for in practice you must adopt HER traditions and
HER faith and give the lie to your own.  Further, you don't know
what these are or where they will lead you.  Remember, she warned
you herself, for I heard her before that altar."

"No, Quatermain, I don't know, and she did warn me.  But I took the
oath all the same and I've got to keep it; moreover, I wish to keep
it, for love sanctifies everything, doesn't it?  And if ever a man
was in love, I am."

"That's an old argument," I said, "and I am not sure.  For love
means passion and passion is a blind leader of the blind."

Here my wise remarks were cut short by the re-entry of the priest,
who I was quite sure had been listening through the mat curtain and
making out all he could from the tone of our voices.  He was
accompanied by Kumpana whom I had not seen since we parted in the
forest.  Remembering the trick he had played me there, and all that
followed, the sight of this old fellow looking more bland and
amiable than usual made me indignant, especially when he asked me
how I was and if I and my servant had been taking any more walks in
the dark.

"Listen, Kumpana," I said.  "You played me an evil trick when you
left us alone the other night in that thick wood, and still worse
ones afterwards, of which I will not speak.  You should be ashamed
of yourself, Kumpana, seeing that I am a stranger whom you are
bound to help and not to desert as you did."

"I ask your pardon," he replied very courteously, "if I say that I
think it is you who should be ashamed, Lord Macumazahn, for
although I prayed you not to do so, you reviled what I hold to be
holy until I was forced to leave you to your punishment, which
might have ended worse than it did.  However, you are not at all to
blame, because the air of that forest sometimes goes to the head,
like strong drink, and takes away the judgment.  Therefore let us
forgive each other and say no more."

He spoke so courteously that I felt abashed and even humbled, for
after all he had some reason on his side; acting under influences
which I did not understand, I HAD offered insult to the spirits or
elementals, or natural forces, which he revered.  So I turned the
subject by saying that Hans and I were now rested from our journey
and should be glad to say good-bye to him as soon as possible, if
the Council of the Shadow would be so kind as to help us to leave
the country.

"You are free to go when you will, Macumazahn," he answered, "but
if you attempt to do so before the time appointed, I warn you that
it will be at great risk to yourself."

"I am not afraid of risks--!" I exclaimed, and that moment Arkle
broke in, saying:

"For God's sake don't go, Quatermain.  Stop here as long as you
can, that is, until I vanish from your sight, I mean until we are
separated, as I gather that we must be.  For when this business is
finished I have to begin a new life, but until then, don't leave me
to deal with war and trouble alone."

Anxious as I had become now that my curiosity about Lake Mone was
satisfied by an actual sight of its waters, to get clear of these
eerie people who depressed me and of the land where even the air
was so strange and unnatural that it affected the nerves and made
one behave like a drunkard, I was touched by this appeal.  I felt
that there was a struggle in the heart of Arkle between his
inherited convictions, or perhaps I should say all the impulses and
associations of a man of his race and class, and the devouring
passion which possessed him for a lovely and mystical woman, a
priestess of some faith with which it was not healthy for one of
white blood to have to do.

Perhaps if I stayed I might yet be able to save him from this
snare; or circumstances might arise which would cut its claims.
Whereas if I went his fate was sure.  One by one the barriers of
civilization and Christianity, which protected him from the inroads
of primeval instincts and engulfment in the dark superstitions
surviving from the ancient world that flourished here untouched by
time, would be broken down.  He would become in fact what already
he was in name, the chief of these star-worshipping Dabanda.  He
would dwell upon the island with their priestess, his country would
see him no more, and at last, when his part was played, there would
be some unholy scene of sacrifice, mayhap such a one, if Hans were
right, as we had been shown beneath the midnight moon on the waters
of that lonesome mere beyond the forest.

I shuddered as a vision of it rose in my mind: the drugged man,
helpless in his encircling cerements, being cast with songs and
offerings of flowers into the bottomless crater-lake, there to seek
the woman who, her day of power done, had preceded him to doom.  Or
there might be other fates yet more awful, such as madness induced
by disillusionment, despair, and the impossibility of escape, or
even by long-continued terrors like those of which we had tasted in
the forest.  Oh, the bait was rose-scented and set with jewels, but
what of the hook within, I wondered, I before whose eyes it did not
dangle.

All this and more that I do not remember passed swiftly through my
mind with the result that I was about to say that I would stop and
see the business through, when suddenly the mat which hung in the
door-way of the room was thrust aside and there entered a priest
conducting two men.  These men, whom I recognized at once as
belonging to the farming class of the Dabanda, prostrated
themselves before Arkle, showing me that he was now acknowledged as
Chief by all the people.  Then the priest, bowing, informed him
that they had a tale to tell and a message to deliver.

He bade them speak, whereon the elder of the two husbandmen said:

"Last evening towards sunset, O Chief and Father of the Dabanda, to
whom it is promised that he shall be the Shield of the holy Shadow
and father of the Shadow that is to be, I and my son here were
tracking a lost goat.  We followed this goat into the western pass
that leads through the lip of the mountain from the holy Land to
that of the Abanda on the slopes and plains beyond.

"At length we caught sight of the goat near to the farther mouth of
the cleft, and ran fast to catch it before it strayed into the
country of the Abanda, whither we might not follow.  The goat heard
us and, being wilful, leaped ahead, so that before we could reach
it, it was out of the mouth of the pass and into Abanda-land.

"Here, then, we sat on the border line, since we dared not pursue
farther, and called to the goat to return to us.  It knew our
voices and was coming, when suddenly between us and it appeared
armed men out of the bushes, and at the head of them no other than
Kaneke, he who has forfeited the chieftainship and been cursed of
the Engoi.

"'Stay still and listen,' he said, 'for if you stir we will throw
spears and kill you.'  So we stood still and he went on:

"'I, Kaneke, of the pure blood, the Chief of the Dabanda and the
Shield of the Shadow, am now Chief of the Abanda also.  Yes, I have
brought together under one rule the two peoples who were divided
long ago.  Go you therefore to Kumpana, the first of the Council of
the Shadow, and say to him that he may tell it to the Shadow, that
the Abanda perish for the want of rain, which is withheld from them
by the witchcraft of the priests and Council of the Dabanda.  Their
crops wither, their cows and goats give no milk, their springs dry
up, and their children are in want and like to die.'

"'Therefore if within six days no rain falls upon their land, I,
their chief and yours, will lead them in their thousands through
the passes of the mountain-lip, fearing no curses such as of old
have held them back, now that I, Shield to be of the Shadow, am
their captain.  We will kill any that oppose us; we will kill
Kumpana and the Council of the Shadow who guide her ill; we will
kill the priests of the Shadow who are evil wizards, practisers of
black magic; we will pass the forest, not fearing the wood-
dwellers; we will cross the lake, and I will take the Shadow and
make her mine, and thenceforward rule over the two people become
one again.  Lastly, we will kill the white thief who is named
Wanderer, and by the people Red-Bull.  Yes, we will kill him by
torture as an offering to the moon and the host of heaven, that
henceforth rain may fall without the mountain as well as within its
circle, giving plenty, so that all the people may increase and grow
fat.'

"'With him we will kill the white hunter named Macumazahn, because
now I know that I was made to buy him to come to this land, not to
give me help as I believed, but to work me evil and to set in my
place the thief Red-Bull; and the yellow man his servant we will
also kill, burying them alive or burning them upon the altar.  None
of them shall escape us, for night and day all the passes are
watched and any that set foot outside of them shall be hunted to
death for our sport, as the thief Red-Bull would have been, had he
not been saved by Macumazahn.  Now go and at this same hour on the
second day return with the answer to my message.'

"Then, Lords, Kaneke and those with him went away laughing
together, killing our goat as they went, and my son and I came here
to deliver the message."

For a while there was silence in that room.  Kumpana seemed to be
perplexed; the priests were speechless with indignation; I was
horribly frightened at the prospect of the fate promised to me, and
so was Hans who all this while had been sitting on the ground
behind me, smoking and pretending to hear nothing, for he
whispered:

"Oh, Baas, why did you ever come to this land of spooks?  Why did
you not run away after you had got Kaneke's ivory?  Now we shall be
buried alive.  Or be grilled on that altar fire--just like buck's
flesh, Baas."

"If so, it won't be Kaneke who will do the grilling, that is if
ever he comes within three hundred yards of me," I answered
savagely in Dutch.

Then I stopped short to consider Arkle in whom I noticed a curious
change.  A few minutes before he was looking troubled and unhappy,
for reasons that may be guessed.  Now he had brisked up and seemed
quite cheerful, as is the way of some Anglo-Saxons (I am not one of
them) when there is the prospect of a fight.

"When did you say I should be able to get about as usual,
Quatermain?  Was it tomorrow?"

"Yes, I think so, if you will keep a bandage on your heel," I said,
then was silent, for Kumpana was speaking to the peasants, telling
them to go away and rest until he sent for them.

When they had departed he bade the priests summon the Council of
the Shadow, which they did with marvellous rapidity, for within
five minutes they arrived in the room, six or seven old fellows.
I suppose they were hanging about outside, having scented trouble.
At any rate they appeared, bowed to Arkle and to me and sat down
upon the ground.  Kumpana repeated to them the tale of the two
peasants which did not seem to surprise them; indeed they appeared
to know it already.  Next he asked them what they thought should be
done, and they gave various replies which I scarcely understood,
because they all talked together and very fast, using terms that
were not familiar to me.  Nor in fact did Kumpana appear to pay
much attention to what they said, which gave me the idea that this
asking of their advice was more or less of a formality.  When they
had finished he turned to Arkle and with much deference inquired
his views.

"Oh, fight the beast--I mean Kaneke," answered Arkle with emphasis,
adding, "but first ask Macumazahn there; he is a wise man and has
seen many things."

So Kumpana repeated his question, inquiring of me whether I also
held that we should fight.

"Certainly not, if you can do anything else," I replied, "for you
are few and the Abanda are many.  They say that they want rain and
I have heard you declare that you, or some of you, can cause rain
to fall.  If this is true, do so.  Give the Abanda as much water as
they want and there will be no war."

This I said not because I believed that the priests or the Shadow,
or anyone else, could break the drought and bring rain from the
heavens upon the parched fields of the Abanda, but because I wanted
to hear Kumpana's views upon the suggestion.  To my surprise he
accepted it with great respect, saying that the plan was good and
worthy of consideration and that it should be submitted to the
Engoi--that is to the Lady Shadow--for her decision.

"Do you mean that she can give the Abanda rain if she chooses?"

"Certainly," he answered with an air of mild astonishment, "at any
time and in any quantity."

Then I collapsed, for what is the use of arguing with cranks or
lunatics, although of course I knew that many natives hold similar
beliefs as to the powers of their rain-makers.

Now, to my surprise Hans took up his parable.  Squatted there upon
the floor, he said in a brazen fashion:

"The Baas thinks himself wise, you all think yourselves wise, but
Hans is much wiser than any of you.  This is what you should do.
Kaneke is the post that holds up the roof of the Abanda house.
They dare to offer to fight you and to say that they will take away
your priestess who lives in the lake, because Kaneke, whom they
believe to be your real chief and high-priest with a right to the
Lake Lady, has become their captain, so they are no longer afraid
of you or of the curses of your Engoi.  Kill Kaneke and once more
they will be afraid of you, for without him they dare not invade
your land which they have always held to be holy."

"And how are we to kill Kaneke?" asked Kumpana.

"Oh, that is easy.  When those two men take your answer--unless the
Baas would rather do it himself--I will go with them and hide
behind a stone, or disguise myself as a Dabanda . . ."

Here Kumpana looked at Hans and shook his head.

". . . then when Kaneke comes to listen I will shoot him dead; that
is all and there will be no more trouble."

On hearing this cold-blooded proposition Kumpana expressed doubts
as to whether Kaneke could be disposed of in this way.  It seemed
to be his idea that a priest of the Engoi could only meet his end
in certain fashions which he did not specify, and he added that had
it been possible for him to die otherwise, Kaneke would have done
so before, especially not long ago when he had tried to seize the
Shadow, and afterwards.  However, he was prepared to consider Hans'
suggestion which did not seem to shock him in the least.

Having collected all our views Kumpana announced coolly that he
would now lay them before the Engoi and learn that celestial
potentate's will through the mouth of its earthly incarnation and
minister, the Shadow.  Of course, I thought that he meant to pay a
visit to the island in the lake and remembering the riddle of those
ancient buildings which I yearned to explore, I began to wonder if
I could not persuade him to allow me to be his companion on the
trip, though it is true that I had no liking for another midnight
journey through that forest.

But not a bit of it.  His methods were very different.  Suddenly he
commanded silence and ordered extra mats to be hung over the door-
way and window-places, so that the room became almost dark.  Then
he sat down on the floor, the two priests kneeling on either side
of him, while the Council of the Shadow, also sitting on the ground
and holding one another's hands made a circle round the three of
them.  Hans, who, scenting spooks showed a strong disposition to
bolt.  I and--as I was relieved to observe--Arkle remained outside
this circle playing the part for audience.

"By Jove," thought I to myself, for I did not dare open my lips,
"we are in for a séance."

A séance it was.  Yes, there in Central Africa a séance, or
something uncommonly like it, which once more caused me to remember
the saying of wise old Solomon, that there is no new thing under
the sun.  Doubtless for tens of thousands of years there have been
séances among almost every people of the earth, civilized and
savage, or at any rate similar gatherings having for their object
consultation with spirits or other powers of which ordinary men
know nothing.

The priests said some prayer in archaic language which I did not
understand, if indeed they understood it themselves.  I gathered,
however, that it was an invocation.  Then the circle began to sing
a low and solemn hymn, Kumpana seated in the centre keeping time to
the chant with motions of his hands and head.  By degrees these
motions grew fainter, till at last his chin sank upon his breast
and he went into a deep trance or sleep.

Then I understood.  Kumpana was what in spiritualistic parlance is
called a medium.  Doubtless, I reflected, it was because of this
gift of his which enabled him to put himself in communication, real
or fancied, with intelligences that are not of the earth and with
human beings at a distance, also to exercise clairvoyant faculties,
that he had risen to the high estate of President of the Council of
the Shadow, the real governing body of the land.  Afterwards I
found that I was quite right in this supposition, for Kumpana was
humble by birth and not a member of one of the priestly families;
yet owing to his uncanny powers he outdistanced them all and in
fact was the ruler of the Dabanda.  The chief of the tribe was but
an executive officer who acted upon the advice of the Council and
in due course became the husband of the Shadow of the day, destined
to the dreadful fate of dying with her when the Council so decreed.

As for the Shadow herself, she was nothing but an oracle, the Voice
of some dim divinity through whom the commands of that divinity
were made known to the Council, which interpreted them as it
pleased, if indeed it did not inspire them as even then I
suspected.  The priests, by comparison, played a small part in the
constitution of this State.  For it was a State in miniature, the
survival and remnant, I imagine, of what once had been a strong and
in its way highly civilized community, whose principal gods were
the moon and the planets (not the sun, so far as I could learn),
one that had owed any greatness it might possess to its religious
reputation and alleged magical powers, rather than to strength in
war.

Therefore in the end it had gone down before the fighting peoples,
as in this carnal world the spirit so often does in its struggle
with the flesh, for as someone remarked, I think it was Napoleon,
Providence is, or seems to be, on the side of the big battalions.
These priests, I should add, in addition to attending to the
religious rites and offerings before the altar, were the learned
men and doctors of the tribe.  It was they who studied the stars,
drawing horoscopes and reading omens in them, not without some
knowledge; for I have reason to believe that they could predict
eclipses with tolerable accuracy.  Also they kept records, though
whether these were in any kind of writing, or merely by means of
signs, I am sorry to say I was never able to ascertain, because on
this point their secrecy was strict.

This is all I could discover, during my brief sojourn among them,
as to the mystical religion of the Dabanda, if religion it can be
called, of which I was now witnessing one of the manifestations.

After Kumpana had sunk into his trace the chant continued for a
considerable time, growing fainter by degrees till at length it
seemed to come from very far away like distant music heard across
the sea.  At least that was the effect it produced upon me, one as
I think, of a semi-hypnotic character, for undoubtedly this hymn
had a mesmeric power.  At any rate, either owing to it or to the
gloom and closeness of that room, I fell into a kind of bodily
torpor which left my mind extremely active, as happens to us when
we dream.

In my imagination I seemed to see a shadowy Kumpana standing before
the beautiful woman upon whom I had looked on the altar platform,
and speaking to her in some great dim hall.

She listened; then stood a while with outstretched hands and
upturned eyes, like one who waits for inspiration.  At last it
came, for tremblings ran up and down her limbs, a slight convulsion
shook her face, her eyes rolled and grew wild; the pythoness was
possessed of her spirit or familiar.  Then her lips moved rapidly
as though from them were pouring a flood of words, and the fancy
faded.

Of course it was nothing but a dream induced by my surroundings and
some heavy perfume, which I forgot to say, unseen by me, evidently
the priests had sprinkled or scattered about the room.  Yet
probably this dream represented faithfully enough what took place
when the oracle was consulted, for whether such ceremonies occurred
in ancient Greece or are practised by the witch-doctors or diviners
of Africa, there is much similarity in their methods.

I woke up, Kumpana woke up, everybody woke up.  (Both Arkle and
Hans told me afterwards that, like myself, they went to sleep and
dreamed dreams.)  The old seer yawned, rubbed his eyes, stretched
himself and said quietly that he had received full directions from
the Engoi as to what was to be done to meet the danger which
threatened the Dabanda, but what those directions might be he
declined to reveal.  Then he sent for the two husbandmen and,
pointing to one of the priests, said to them:

"Return to the Western pass with this man, and tomorrow at sunset,
be at that spot where Kaneke spoke with you.  If he comes again or
sends messengers, as he will, say that his words have been
delivered to the Engoi, and that this is the answer:  'Remember
that you are accursed, O traitor Kaneke.  Take what road you will,
but learn that every one of them leads you to the grave.'  Say also
that the rain which the people of the Abanda demand shall fall upon
them in plenty, for the time of drought is done.  Let them be
content therewith and know that if any of them dare to follow
Kaneke into the land of the Holy Lake, a curse shall fall upon them
also, such a curse as has not been told of among them or their
fathers.  Add these words:  'O Kaneke, the Engoi reads your heart.
You do not seek rain to make fruitful the fields of the Abanda.
You seek the Shadow.  Kaneke, for you that Shadow has faded; for
you she is dead.  She whom you strove to bear away is dead and
there awaits you only the fate of one who has slain the Shadow.'"

This cryptic message Kumpana caused the two peasants, also the
priest who was to accompany them, to repeat twice.  When he was
sure that they had it by heart to the last word, he sent them away
without any ceremony, as though he attached no particular
importance to their mission.

Now I could no longer suppress my irritation, or rather my wrath.
I was most heartily sick of the whole affair.  I saw that there was
going to be fighting of some sort in which no doubt I should be
expected to take part, and I did not want to fight.  What had I to
do with this ancient quarrel between two long-separated sections of
a tribe, who were at loggerheads over the possession of a priestess
supposed to be gifted with powers as a rainmaker?

Moreover, the moral atmosphere of the place was unwholesome and
jarred upon me.  African customs of the more recondite sort and
ancient superstitions are very interesting, but I could have too
much of them, especially if certain, as I was, that behind their
outward harmlessness, lies hid some red heart of secret cruelty.  I
wanted to get out of the place before that cruelty became manifest,
or before something horrible happened to me--with Arkle if
possible, but if he would not come, without him.

To tell the truth I was frightened.  I suppose that my dreams in
the forest and the occurrences of this séance, if I may so call it,
had got upon my nerves, just as old Zikali used to do in the Black
Kloof.  I have always believed that there are forces round us which
our senses do not appreciate, secret doors in the natural boundary
wall of life that most of us never find, though to them some may
have the key.  But I also believe that it is most dangerous and
unwholesome to come into touch with those forces, or to peep
through those doors when they are opened by others.  Here in
Dabanda-land, however, they always stood ajar, or so I imagined,
and through them came experiences and what Hans called "spooks",
which thrust themselves upon the attention of those who did not
desire their company.  In short I wished to be gone back to a
wholesome, everyday existence and never to see or hear anything
more of Lake Mone, its priestess, or her votaries.

"Kumpana," I said, "is there to be a war between your people and
the Abanda?"

"Yes," he answered with a slow and rather creepy smile, "there is
to be war--of a sort."

"Then I want to have nothing to do with it.  Kumpana, I want to get
out of your country at once; risks or no risks, I wish to be off."

"I fear that is impossible, Lord Macumazahn," he answered.  "Have
you not heard the word of the Engoi that the drought which has
endured beyond the mountain for three years is at an end?  That
word is true; great storms are coming up through which you could
not travel.  The rain would stop you even if you escaped the spears
of the Abanda.  Moreover," he added quickly before I could express
disbelief in the arrival of these storms, and with a faint sneer,
"we have been told that the Lord Macumazahn is a very brave man,
one who loves fighting."

"Then you have been told a lie.  Also, who told you?"

"That does not matter.  We know more about you than you think,
Macumazahn.  Also we have been told that you accepted payment from
Kaneke to come to this country and not to leave it until the object
of your coming was accomplished, payment in ivory and gold; and we
believed, Lord Macumazahn, that you were a very honest man who
always fulfilled your promises, especially when your services had
been bought."

Here Arkle, to his credit, intervened sharply, saying:

"Be silent, Kumpana.  Would you insult your guest--?"

"Thank you, Arkle," I broke in in English, "but I can look after
myself.  He will only tell you that you are now the Chief of his
people and that I am your guest, not his."

Then addressing Kumpana in his own language, I went on.

"You have been misinformed.  I never pretended to great courage,
especially in wars that do not concern me.  For the rest my bargain
was to accompany Kaneke to his country, not to fight battles there,
as I could prove to you if you were able to read my language.  This
Kaneke who was to be your chief, said that he could not travel here
without me, which is true, for had it not been for me and Hans he
would never have started.  Further, had it not been for us he would
have been killed by the Abanda who were hunting the white lord who
is now your chief.  So I came, not for that reason but because he
paid me, for in such fashions I earn my living.  Yet I should not
have come for this cause alone.  I had another.  It was that I had
heard of your holy lake and a little of your people and their
customs, and being curious in such matters I desired to look upon
the one and to study the others for myself--"

"Which things you have done to your heart's content," broke in
Kumpana.

"Still," I went on not heeding him, "never shall it be said that I,
Macumazahn, took pay that I did not earn to the full.  Therefore I
will take my share in your war, doing all that is asked of me as
best I can, especially as I have a score to settle with this
Kaneke, who by his treachery brought my two servants to their
death.  Only I demand your promise and that of the Council of the
Shadow and that of the white lord who has now become your chief
against my counsel, that when this war is finished, I and my
servant shall be allowed to depart at once in peace and with such
help as you can give me."

"It is yours, Lord, we swear it by the Engoi!" exclaimed Kumpana in
a humble voice and with the air of one who is ashamed of himself.
"Pardon my words if they offended you, for know that as to your
love of fighting I have but repeated what your servant Hans told
me, and for the rest I learned it from Kaneke."

"Whom you have proved to be a traitor and a liar," I said angrily.

Then I turned to Arkle and asked him whether he also gave me his
promise that I should be allowed to go when the war was ended.

"Of course, if you wish it," he answered in English, "though I
hoped that you would stop here with us a while.  The truth is,
Quatermain, that I shall be very lonely without you," he added with
a sigh, which I thought pathetic, knowing all it meant.

"Then why do you stay here?" I asked bluntly.

"Because I must; because it is my fate; because I am under a charm
that may not be broken.  Also, Quatermain, do you not understand"
(this he said rapidly and in a low voice) "that if I were to break
my oaths, or try to--which I cannot--I should not live another
day?"

"Yes, Arkle, I understand and I am sorry," I replied, and, bowing
to them all, left the house.

"Baas," said Hans outside, "do you remember that trap of willow-
rods I made once to catch eels" (he meant barbel mudfish) "down on
the Tugela when we could get nothing else to eat?  It was a very
good trap, Baas, for when the eel had pushed its way in, the willow
rods shut up behind it, so that it could not get out again, and
afterwards we ate it.  This land is a trap like that, and the Baas
Red-Bull is the eel and the Shadow lady is the bait, and by and by
I think these spook people will cook and eat him."

I shivered at Hans' suggestive illustrations, and answered:

"Look out that they do not cook and eat us too."

"Oh no, Baas, they won't do that because they haven't found the
right bait to catch you.  Luckily there are not two Shadow-ladies,
Baas, and the trap is no good without the right bait."



CHAPTER XVII

THE GREAT STORM


That evening clouds like to those of a monsoon began to bank up
over lake-land and all the country round so far as the eye could
see.

"That Shadow-lady is a very good rain-doctoress, Baas," said Hans.
"You remember Kumpana said that she promised rain to those Abanda
who have had none for three years, or very little.  Now I think
that they are going to get plenty."

"Then perhaps they won't make war," I answered indifferently.

Certainly the weather was very peculiar.  The heat, which had been
considerable for some days before, now grew intense; I should
imagine that on this particular evening it must have risen to 108
or 110 degrees in the shade.  Moreover it was of a most oppressive
character; the air was so thick that I felt as though I were
breathing cream and I could not make the slightest effort without
bursting into profuse perspiration.

There I lay upon my bed stripped to the shirt in the best draught
that I could find, which was none at all, and gasped like a fish
out of water, praying that the storm would burst and bring
coolness.  In the lady Shadow's powers I had no faith.  I was quite
certain, however, that Kumpana and the other old men were well
acquainted with the signs of the local weather, and knew that it
was about to undergo a general break after the long drought.  Hence
the prophecy so confidently announced by the Council.  This
drought, for some reason which I cannot explain, never affected the
crater area unduly, for the Dabanda had just gathered in an
excellent harvest.

Hans, who like most Hottentots was quite indifferent to heat, went
out into the town to prospect and returned saying that the people
showed considerable alarm.  Some were looking to the roofs of their
houses, while others were driving their stock into caves and
sheltered places, or carrying home the last of the harvest in
baskets, even the children, of whom there were not many, being
pressed into this service.  The priests, too, he said, were engaged
in building a kind of palm-leaf tent over the altar on the stone
platform, presumably to prevent the rain from putting out the fire,
which it seemed had always burned there from time immemorial.

The night came, a night of dreadful heat in which I could not sleep
a wink, or do anything except swallow quantities of water mixed
with the juice of a sub-acid, plum-like fruit that grew wild in the
crater, which made an astringent and most refreshing drink.  The
dawn that followed was as dark as that of a November day in London,
but as yet there was no rain nor any lifting of the heavy silence.

After eating, or pretending to eat, I crept across to the Chief's
house, to be informed by a priest outside that I could not be
admitted, as the lord Wanderer was engaged with the Council.  I
took the hint and went home again, feeling sure that the plan was
to cut me off from Arkle over whom my influence was feared.  It
almost seemed as though Kumpana and his companions were psychological
experts, if that is the right description, who could read what was
passing in the minds of others.  Indeed, I began to believe that
although they could not understand our words when we spoke in
English in their presence, they understood the drift of them, also
that I wished to persuade him to shake off their shackles and get
out of their clutches.

Why were they so anxious to keep him here?  I wondered.  I wonder
still.  Doubtless there was some overwhelming reason which they
would not reveal.  As I do today, I inclined to the view that
mainly they were actuated by ambition.  They, a dwindling,
superstition-ridden race, desired once more to become a power in
their world.  To accomplish this they must add to their number,
which could only be done by incorporating the thousands of the
virile Abanda under the rule of a man of force and ability who
understood the arts of civilization.  This to my mind is why Arkle
was brought to Mone-land, tempted by the bait of the beautiful
woman called Shadow to whom he had been so mysteriously drawn.

That is the best explanation which I can offer; not a very
satisfactory one, I admit, because it presupposes that this lady
Shadow could impress her personality upon him from a great
distance, as he alleged that she had done, and also some knowledge
of the future on the part of her priests and advisers.  Or mayhap
these were only acting upon the dictates of some ancient prophecy
of a sort that is common enough among the more mystical of the
African peoples, although such prophecies rarely come to the
knowledge of Europeans, save in forms too obscure and tangled to be
understood by them.  The same reason, if to a less degree, made
them so anxious that I should visit their country for a while.
They wanted to pick my brains as to our system of government and
the rest, which indeed they did upon every opportunity, although I
have not recorded their questions.  They were a little, buried
folk, which its astute rulers, especially that very clever man
Kumpana, desired to build up again into a nation.  This, I believe,
was the true key to the secret of all their plottings.

When I got back I found men strengthening the roof of my house and
others digging a trench round it, connecting it with a sluice or
water-course not far away, which showed me what they expected in
the way of a storm.  I went indoors and tried to take a nap, but
could not because of curious noises that I was unable to explain
and felt too languid to investigate.

Towards sunset Kumpana came to see me.  Although I received him
somewhat coldly he was very polite.  Having inspected the
arrangements for the protection of the house, he apologized for
having sneered at me on the previous day, saying that he did it for
a reason and not because he believed that I was a coward or had
taken pay for which I did not intend to give consideration.  This
reason, he explained frankly, was that he knew I should get angry
and promise to stop with them till the end of the war, and that
having once given my word I should not break it.

I sat amazed at his cunning, which showed so deep a knowledge of
human nature and such insight into my character, but I really was
too hot to argue with him.  Then, leaving the subject quickly, he
begged me not to go out, as the storm might begin at any minute,
and also for another cause.

"You are wondering what the strange sounds you hear may mean," he
said.  "Come up to the roof of the house and I will show you."

As I have said I had heard such sounds, which I thought were like
to those of the galloping of herds of cattle, mixed with grunts and
bellowings.  When I reached the roof I saw whence they came.  On
either side of the town enormous numbers of every kind of game were
rushing towards the forest, doubtless to shelter there from the
approaching tempest.  There were elands, hartebeest, gnus, sable-
antelope, oryx, buffaloes, quaggas, and a host of smaller animals,
all possessed by fear and all galloping towards the trees.

"These beasts understand what is coming," said Kumpana, "and are
mad with terror.  They will not hurt us Dabanda because they know
us, and, as you have seen, we have power over them; but if they
smelt you, a stranger, they would toss and trample you."

I admitted that it was very probable, and stood a while staring at
this, the strangest sight, perhaps, that I have seen in all my
experience as a hunter.  Presently I turned to descend, but Kumpana
bade me wait a while if I would see something still more strange.

As he spoke I heard a sound which I could not mistake: that of an
elephant trumpeting shrilly.

"I thought you told me that all the elephants had been driven out
of Mone-land," I said, astonished.

"So I did, Lord," answered Kumpana, "but it seems that they have
come back again, flying before the great storm or earthquakes for
shelter to the country where some of them were bred generations
ago, before we sent them away."

As he spoke, emerging from a cloud of dust to the right of the town
there appeared an enormous bull elephant running rapidly, and
behind it many others.  I knew the beast at once by its size, the
grey markings on its trunk and forehead, and certain peculiarities
of its huge tusks.  It was the king-elephant with which we had
experienced so curious an adventure upon the mound in the midst of
the plain that Kaneke had called the gathering-place of elephants;
the very beast which we had seen being greeted by the countless
company of its fellows, which, too, with them, had afterwards
pursued us back to our camp.  Its appearance here was so
marvellous, so utterly unexpected even in that eerie land of
strange happenings, that really I turned quite faint.  As for Hans,
who was beside me, he sank down in a heap, muttering:

"Allemagter!  Baas, here is that ugly old devil which threw Little
Holes and Jerry into the pool and nearly blew my stomach out.  He
has come after us, Baas, and all is finished."

"Not yet," I answered as quietly as I could.  "Also perhaps he has
come after someone else."

Then I turned and watched the majestic creature rush past the town,
followed by a great number of others, between fifty and seventy, I
should say; all of them, I noted, mature bulls, for not a cow or a
half-grown beast could I see among them.

Kumpana seemed to understand my wonder at this circumstance and
without its being explained to him, for he said:

"These elephants are the bulls that were bred in this country long
years ago in our fathers' days, and have now returned to their
home.  The cows and all their progeny have gone elsewhere, and
indeed we did not need them."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked sharply, but he pretended not
to hear me, or at any rate he made no answer.

When the herd of elephants had thundered past and, following all
the other creatures, had vanished into the forest, we descended
from the roof into the house, where Kumpana began to say farewell,
cautioning me not to leave its shelter until the coming storm was
over.

"Wait a minute," I said.  "Where is the white lord, your new
Chief?"

"In his own place where he must stay, Macumazahn," he answered.

"I perceive that you wish to separate us," I said again.

"Perhaps for a while, Macumazahn, for the good of both of you.
You, for your part, wish to separate him from us which, though it
is natural enough, may not be.  The white lord has sworn himself to
the Dweller in the Lake and must abide with her and us.  Should he
try to break his oath, he would be slain; and should you tempt him
to do so, you would be slain also.  Therefore it is best that you
should remain apart till this war is accomplished."

"Is it certain that there will be a war?" I asked, "and, if so,
when?"

"Yes, Lord, I think there will be a war of men after that of heaven
is finished," and he pointed towards the sky, "for Kaneke will
surely strive to win back all that he has lost.  In that war, Lord,
you will be called upon to take your share, though perhaps it will
not be such a one as you expect.  When the time comes I will wait
upon you, and now farewell, for the great storm is at hand and I
must seek shelter while it rages."

When he had gone I talked to Hans about the arrival of the
mysterious old elephant and its herd, which upset him very much,
for he answered:

"I tell you, Baas, that these beasts are not elephants; they are
men bewitched by the Dabanda wizards, and, Baas, there is something
terrible going to happen in this accursed land."

As he spoke "something terrible" began to happen, for the dense air
was filled with a moaning sound, the exact like of which I had
never heard before, caused, I suppose, by wind that as yet we did
not feel, stirring in the tops of the trees of the vast forest.  It
was as though all the misery in the wide world had gathered and was
giving utterance to its pain and sorrows in prolonged, half-stifled
groans.

"The ghosts are flying over us, Baas," began Hans, but he did not
finish his sentence, for at that moment the solid ground began to
heave beneath our feet.  It heaved slowly in a sickening fashion
that made my vitals writhe within me and threw to the floor
articles from some rough shelves which Hans had made.

"Earthquake!  Out you go before the roof comes down!" I exclaimed
to Hans, quite unnecessary advice in his case, for he was already
through the door-way.  I followed, running across the little garden
to the open space where there was nothing to fall upon us.  Here I
was brought to a standstill, for another prolonged heave threw me
to the ground where I thought it safer to remain, praying that it
would not open and swallow me.

"Look!" said Hans at my side, pointing to one of the two column-
like towers whence the Dabanda astrologers observed the stars, or
rather at what had been the tower, for as he spoke it bowed
gracefully towards us, as did the forest trees, as though they were
making an obeisance.  Then down it fell with a crash--which,
however, we could not hear because of the moaning sound that I have
described.

The heaving ceased; that earthquake went by, and with it the
moaning, which was succeeded by an intense and awful silence.  It
was now the hour of sunset and the air seemed to be alight with a
red glow like to that of molten iron, though the sun itself could
not be seen.  This glow, in which everything appeared monstrous and
distorted, suddenly broke up into great flakes of furious colour,
which to my fancy resembled wide-winged and fantastic creatures,
such as haunted the earth in the reptile age, only infinitely
larger, flitting away into the darkness overhead.

These shapes departed on rainbow-tinted wings and the darkness
fell, a palpable thing, a mass of solid night stretching from earth
to heaven.  A minute later this inky blackness ceased to be, for it
was changed to fire.  All space was filled with lightnings, not
here and there only, but everywhere those lightnings blazed, and in
the glare of them we could see for miles and miles.  They seemed to
be striking all about us.  Thus I saw trees collapse and vanish in
clouds of dust, and a great rock that lay not far off shatter to
pieces.  By common consent we rose and ran back to the house, and
as we passed its door came the thunder.

I have listened to much thunder of the African brand during my
roving life, but over it all that of Lake Mone can claim supremacy.
Never have I heard its equal.  Some thunder cracks, like a million
rifle shots, some roars like the greatest guns, and some rolls and
mutters.  This did all three, and at once; moreover, the cliffs of
the huge crater in which the Dabanda lived caused it to echo
backwards and forwards, multiplying the volume of its sound.  The
general effect was fearsome and overwhelming; combined with that of
simultaneous and continual lightnings it crushed the mind.

Through the tumult I was aware of Hans staring at me with a
terrified countenance which the blue gleam of the flashes had
turned livid, and heard him shouting out something about Judgment
Day, a quite unnecessary reminder, as my own thoughts were already
fixed upon that event, which almost I believed to be at hand.  I do
not know for how long we endured this awful demonstration of Nature
at her worst, because I grew bewildered and could take no count of
time, but at length the turmoil lessened somewhat and the flashes
blazed at longer intervals.  Then, just as I hoped that the storm
was passing, the rain, or rather the water-spout, began.  Seldom
have I seen such rain; it fell in a sheet and with an incessant
roar for hours.

Our house had stood the shakings of the earthquake, which still
continued at intervals, because its walls were made of tree-trunks
plastered over, and therefore being non-rigid, gave to the shock.
But these had cracked the roof in two places, with the result, of
course, that the water poured into the building, so that soon we
were half flooded.  Indeed had not the cement-like mixture, as yet
not firmly set, which had been poured on to the roof that day to
strengthen it, been driven into those cracks, and closed them, I
think that we should have been washed out of the house.  But
luckily this happened and we only experienced great discomfort.
Luckily, too, our beds stood upon a kind of raised platform, so
that the water did not reach them and we were able to lie down, and
after the earth-tremors ceased, at last to sleep.

When I woke daylight, of a sort, had come and it was raining less
heavily.  Throwing a skin rug over my head, I climbed to the roof,
and beheld a scene of desolation.  All the country was more or less
under water, some of the houses of the town had been shaken down by
the earthquake or washed away, and many of the forest trees were
shattered by lightning.

The open place on which stood the stone platform was a lake, and
the shelter which had been erected to protect the fire upon the
altar was crushed or shaken flat, having as we learned afterwards,
extinguished the fire, to the great consternation of the Dabanda
people and especially of their priests.  Moreover, although there
was less rain falling within the crater-ring, over the country
beyond, as the sky there showed, it was pouring as heavily as ever.
Also new thunderstorms were in progress far away.

For three days this miserable weather continued, marked by
constantly recurring tempests beyond the borders of Mone-land, and
a few more slight shocks of earthquake.  During all this time Hans
and I scarcely left the house, nor were we visited by anyone,
except the women who waited on us and brought us food.  With great
courage these women stuck to their duty through everything, and
from them we learned that all the people were terrified, for no
such tempest was told of in their annals.

On the fourth morning old Kumpana appeared, looking as calm as
ever.  He told us that, so far as they could learn, no one had been
killed in Mone-land which, as the crops had been harvested, had
taken little harm.  Reports reached them, however, that the Abanda
who lived on the outer slopes of the mountains and plains beyond
had suffered terribly.  Some had been drowned by the torrents which
rushed down the hillsides, and some crushed in their houses that,
owing to their lack of timber, were largely built of stone, and
therefore were overthrown by the earthquake.  Also such crops as
they had, which ripened later than those in Mone-land, were
flattened and destroyed.

I remarked that all these misfortunes must have taken the heart out
of them, with the result that they would probably give up the idea
of making war, especially as they had now got all the rain they
wanted.

"Not so," answered Kumpana, "for they need food of which they know
there is plenty in our country and nowhere else.  Tomorrow, Lord,
we shall ask you to march with us to fight them."

"Where?" I inquired.

"I am not sure, Lord.  The order that we have received is that we
should march to the western pass.  Doubtless when we come to it,
other orders will reach us, telling us what we must do."

"Whose orders?" I asked, exasperated.  "Those of your new Chief?"

"No, Lord, those of the Engoi which come to us through the air."

"Oh," I exclaimed, "do they?  And does your Chief, the Wanderer,
come with us to this battle?"

"No, Lord, he stays to guard the town.  Now I must bid you farewell
as there is much to do.  Tomorrow, when it is time to march, I will
send for you."

"Well, I'm blessed!" I said as the door closed behind him.

"No, Baas," said Hans, "not blessed; another word, Baas, which your
reverend father would never let me speak.  As he used to say, Baas,
the world is full of wonders and it is nice to see as many of them
as one can before we go to the place where there is nothing but
fire, like there was here the other night when the storm burst.
This will be a very funny war, Baas, in which the orders reach the
generals through the air and they don't know what they are going to
do until they get them.  That war will be a fine thing to think
about afterwards, Baas, when we are back in Durban or in the Place
of Fires, whichever it may be."

"Stop your ugly mouth and listen," I said.  "I mean to get out of
this hole.  We are going to march to the western pass; well, I
shall run through it and desert."

"Yes, Baas, and leave the guns and everything else behind, and be
killed by the Abanda on the other side, or lose our way and starve
if we escape them.  Well, it will be soon over, Baas, and we shan't
have a long journey to make this time."

So he went on, talking sound enough sense in his silly, topsy-turvy
idioms, but I paid no more heed to him.

So sick and tired was I of the whole business that I did not care
what happened.  I would just go as the wind took me, hoping that it
would blow me out of Mone-land as soon as possible.  If it were
fated otherwise I could not help it and there was nothing more to
be said.

That day I made yet another effort to see Arkle, but when we had
tramped through the mud to the Chief's house, it was only to find
it guarded by soldiers, who politely turned us back.  Then
understanding that a wall had been built between him and me which I
could not climb, I returned and wrote up my diary.  Those pages of
smudged pencil, by help of which I indite this record, are before
me now and their language is so lurid that it is difficult to
believe they were written by a man as temperate in all things, and
especially on paper, as myself.

That night some solemn ceremony took place on the altar platform,
to which I was not asked and, I think, should not have attended if
I had been.  I believe that it had to do with the relighting of the
fire, for from our roof we saw this blaze up suddenly.  It was
witnessed by a great number of people, Arkle among them, for Hans
caught sight of him arrayed in Dabanda dress and escorted by
priests with torches.

It distressed me to think of him playing the part of a high-priest
among these uncanny other-world kind of folk, but like the rest,
there it was and could not be helped.

The religious function, for I supposed it to be religious, was
accompanied by much melancholy music and many songs, also by drum-
beating, which I had not heard before.  It went on for a long while
and ended with a torchlight procession back to the town.

After we had breakfasted next morning, Kumpana arrived, accompanied
by a guard of thirty spearmen, and remarked casually, just as
though an evening party were concerned, that if we were ready, it
was time to start to the war.  I replied in an airy fashion that,
being impatient for battle, I had been waiting for him, for I
wished to give him the impression that I was pawing the ground with
eagerness, like the warhorse in the Book of Job.

He smiled and said he was glad to hear it and that he hoped I
should remain in the same mind, adding that he knew I could run
fast from the rate at which I entered Mone-land.

I reflected to myself that this would be nothing compared with the
rate at which I should leave it, if I got the chance, but contented
myself with inquiring who would look after our possessions while we
were away.  He replied that they would be removed to a hiding-place
and well cared for; which left me wondering whether they would ever
come out of it again.

So off we went, closely surrounded by the guard, two soldiers
carrying our spare rifles, ammunition, and necessary kit.  As we
marched through the town where I saw women, but no men, repairing
the damage done to the houses and gardens by the storm, a girl
pushed through the soldiers and gave me a note.  It was from Arkle
and read:


My Dear Quatermain,

Don't misjudge me, as I fear you must.  I cannot go with you.  It
is impossible, for reasons you would scarcely understand.  Also if
I could, my foot is not well enough yet.  Whatever you see, do not
be astonished, for these Dabanda are not as other people and play
their own game, which is dark and difficult to follow.  Above all,
don't try to escape.  It would only mean your death and that of
Hans.


That was all, except his initials, and quite enough too, as I
thought.  Evidently Arkle was an eel in a trap, as Hans put it, or
a bull in a net, a better simile in his case.  Also he or some of
his confounded councillors had guessed my desire to escape, for in
this country a bird of the air seemed to carry the matter even
faster than it does in others, and he warned me against it, having
been told what the result would be.  Well, the idea must be
abandoned; from the first it was madness to think that such an
attempt could succeed.

About three miles away at a village, or what remained of it after
the storm, we met the "army", to give it Kumpana's imposing name.
It consisted of some two hundred and fifty spearmen!  I asked him
where the rest of it was and he replied, with his odd little smile,
that it did not exist, for all the other able-bodied men had been
left to defend the town and the Chief.  Then I asked him what
strength the Abanda could put into the field.  He replied that he
was not sure, but he thought from ten to twelve thousand warriors,
for they were a large people accustomed to the use of arms, and
sometimes they warred with other tribes and, always conquering,
absorbed those who were left of them.

Lastly I inquired in mild exasperation how he expected to fight ten
thousand men with two hundred and fifty.  He replied blandly that
he did not know, being himself a councillor and seer, not a
soldier, but that doubtless it would be done somehow according to
the directions he might receive; adding, I presume in a sarcastic
spirit, that my presence would be worth many regiments, because
Kaneke and the Abanda were afraid of me and my white man's wisdom
and weapons.  Then I gave up, fearing lest more of such gibes
should cause me to lose my temper and say things I might regret.

We marched on for the most of that day through the beautiful crater
country where flooded rivulets--for it had no large streams, some
of which we forded with difficulty--gave evidence of the great
tempest, as did landslides on the slopes and lightning-shattered
trees.  But not one soul did we meet, although I saw a few cattle
grazing, apparently unherded.  The land seemed to be quite
deserted, even by the game which I presumed was still hiding in the
forest, and when I asked Kumpana where the people had gone, he said
he did not know, but he supposed that they were in hiding fearing a
return of the storm.  Or perhaps, he added, as though by an after-
thought, it was the Abanda that they feared, knowing that now they
were under the command of Kaneke who might dare to enter the land.

At length in the afternoon we came to a village, to reach which we
had to march round some deep clefts that, from their fresh
appearance and great depth must, I saw, have been caused by the
recent earthquakes.  Here a few old men, and some women, also old,
were engaged in cooking large quantities of food, evidently in
preparation for our arrival.

We were now within five or six miles of the wall of cliff which
surrounded the whole crater, although we could scarcely see this
cliff, because the village lay in a hollow and for some time we had
been passing through park-like country where tall trees grew so
thickly that they cut off the view.

We ate of the food, which was excellent, and rested, because
Kumpana told us that we should remain at this place until far on
into the night, when we must march again, so as to reach the cliff
by dawn.  I asked what we were to do when we did reach it.  Again
he replied that he did not know; perhaps we should go through the
pass and attack the Abanda, or perhaps we should wait for them to
attack us, or perhaps we should retire.  Then he hurried off before
I could put more questions.

The last thing I saw as the sun set was the party of old men and
women who had cooked the food tramping off eastwards with their
bundles on their backs, which suggested that they did not mean to
return.  Then, in order that I might be fresh in the face of
emergencies, I went to sleep, and so remained till about three on
the following morning when Kumpana woke us and suggested that we
should breakfast, as the army was about to start.

Having swallowed something, presently off we went, travelling by
the light of the waning moon and the stars.  It was so dark among
those trees that had not a man led me by the hand I should not have
been able to see where to go, but the gloom did not seem to
incommode the Dabanda, a people who must have had the eyes of cats.
On we travelled, always uphill, for we were now climbing the slope
of the cliff, till at length the sky grew grey with dawn.  Then we
halted, waiting for the sun.

Presently with startling suddenness it appeared over the eastern
edge of the crater far away, its level beams striking upon the
western cliffs, although the crater itself was still shrouded in
mist and gloom.  Or rather, immediately in front of us, they struck
upon where the cliff should have been and showed us a strange and
terrible sight, which caused a gasp of astonishment to burst from
the lips of even those cold, silent men.  For behold, it was riven
from crest to foot by the shock of earthquake, and in place of the
narrow pass a few yards wide, was a vast gulf that could not have
measured less than a quarter of a mile across!

The great mass of the precipice was torn asunder and hurled, I
suppose, down the outer slopes; at any rate there was but little
debris in the cleft itself, which suggested that the earth-waves
that did the damage must have rolled from within the crater
outwards towards the plain.  Why it should have concentrated its
terrific strength and centre of disturbance upon this particular
spot I cannot say who am ignorant of the ways of earthquakes,
unless it was because here the wall of cliff was thinner and weaker
than elsewhere; also it may have been destroyed in other sections
of the gigantic ring of precipice upon which I never looked.

The result of the cataclysm, so far as the Dabanda and their
country were concerned, was obvious.  They were no longer protected
by a mighty natural wall pierced only with a few narrow clefts that
could be held by a handful of men, for there was now, as Hans
remarked, a fine open road between them and the rest of Africa, on
which an army could march in safety without breaking its ranks.
Their seclusion was gone and their secret land lay open to the
world.

Did Kumpana understand this and all it meant?  I wondered as I
gazed at his impassive face.  More, did he know what had happened
before we reached the place, and, if so, why did he come there with
his beggarly little force?  Was it with some subtle hidden object?
I cannot tell, though in view of what happened afterwards I have my
own opinion of the matter.



CHAPTER XVIII

ALLAN RUNS AWAY


"If you intended to hold the pass with these, Kumpana," I said,
pointing to the redoubtable two hundred and fifty, "now that it has
grown so wide, that cannot be done."

"No, Lord," he answered, "it is not possible by strength alone;
even charging cattle could sweep us away with their horns if there
were enough of them."

"Then what do you mean to do, Kumpana?  Return home again?"

"I cannot say, Lord.  Let us go forward and look through the gap in
the cliff, for then perhaps we shall learn what we must do.  It may
be that the Abanda, frightened by its fall, have run away, or that
they are afraid to enter lest another earthquake should come out of
Mone-land and swallow them up living."

"Perhaps," I answered, but to myself I thought that unless I were
mistaken, it would take more than this to frighten the furious and
desperate Kaneke.

Kumpana issued an order to his men who, with a kind of stolid
indifference which suggested fatalism or a knowledge that they were
protected by unseen forces, instantly marched forward towards the
new pass.

"Baas," said Hans to me, "we are not captains here, but only 'luck-
charms', so let us keep behind.  I don't like the look of that
place, Baas."

As usual there was practical wisdom in Hans' suggestion, for if
there should happen to be an ambush, or anything of the sort, I did
not see why we should be its first victims.  So, taking my chance
of again being sneered at by Kumpana, I kept well to the rear of
the little column, among the carriers indeed.

Well, there WAS an ambush, in fact a first-class specimen of that
stratagem of war.  In one of Scott's poems I remember a description
of how a highland hillside which seemed to be quite deserted,
suddenly bristled with men springing up from behind every bush and
fern-brake.  Substituting rocks, of which thousands lay about in
the newly opened pass, for bushes and bracken, the scene repeated
itself in that Central African gorge.

Indeed, unless their Engoi had developed wonderful spiritual
activity for their protection, I suppose that every Dabanda spears-
man would have been killed, had not some donkey among their enemies
made the mistake of blowing a horn before they had advanced into
the mouth of the pass, thereby giving a premature signal to attack.
At the sound of this horn the rocks became alive with Abanda
warriors who rushed to the onslaught with a savage yell.  Our
heroes gave one look, then turned and bolted in a solid mass, I
presume without waiting for orders.  Or perhaps their orders were
to bolt at this critical moment, which had been foreseen.  Really I
neither know nor care.

"Run, Baas," said Hans, wheeling round and giving me the example,
and off I went back upon our spoor.  Never a shot did I fire, or do
anything except foot it as hard as I was able.

I think I have told how Kumpana remarked at the beginning of this
expedition that he believed I was a good runner, which is, or was,
true, for in those days I was very light and wiry with an excellent
pair of lungs.  Now I determined to show him that he had not over-
estimated my powers.  In fact, for quite a long way I led the field
with Hans, who also knew how to step out when needful, immediately
at my heels.

"Baas," puffed that worthy when we had done a mile or two down the
slope, "if we did not lead these dogs to battle, at least we are
leading them out of it."

So we were, but just then some of the most active of them got ahead
of us.

Well, to cut a long story short, we ran all day, with short
intervals for repose and refreshment.  Looking back just as we
entered the more densely wooded country where we had camped the
night before, I saw that this strategical retreat was quite
necessary, for at a distance followed the Abanda army by the
hundred, or, unless my fears multiplied their number, by the
thousand.  But they could not run as we did, though once they made
a spurt and pressed us hard.  Or perhaps they feared lest they too
were being led into an ambush and therefore advanced with caution,
sending scouts ahead.  At any rate, after this rush from which we
escaped with difficulty, they fell back again, and when we reached
Dabanda-town, which we did before evening, for we returned at about
twice the rate of our outward journey, they were not in sight.

Some of the Council and a few others were waiting for us in the
town.  Evidently they knew we were coming, how I cannot say, but
there they were with watchmen set upon the altar platform.  Also
most fortunately they had prepared food and native beer for the
consumption of their retiring heroes.  Good heavens! how we fell
upon it, especially upon the drink, of which Hans swallowed so much
that at last I was obliged to knock the pot out of his hand.

Whilst we were devouring this meal, with anxious eyes fixed upon
the route we had followed, I realized the fact that except for the
few people I have mentioned, the town was quite deserted; nobody
could be seen.

"Where have they gone?" I said to Hans.

"Into the forest to join the spook-elephants, I expect, Baas," he
replied, stuffing a lump of meat into his mouth, "and that is where
we shall have to follow them."

So it was, for just then Kumpana arrived, quite calm but looking a
little the worse for wear.  Having congratulated me upon "the
strength of my legs", he remarked that we must take refuge by the
lake at once, and that as the forest was a difficult place in which
to find one's way, "we should do well to keep close to him."

"Certainly," I replied, "and I hope that this time you, Kumpana,
will keep close to us."

So we started, wearily enough, and without an opportunity being
given to us to visit our house, as I wished to do.  As we reached
the first of the trees, looking back I saw the Abanda hordes
running into the town, which was quite undefended.  They did not
stay to plunder or to burn it; they simply ran through it on our
tracks.  When they reached the stone platform, however, they
stopped, and one of them, I think it was Kaneke himself, rushed up
the steps followed by some others, and scattered the sacred fire,
extinguishing it for the second time.

Kumpana, at my side, shuddered at the sight.

"He shall pay.  Oh, certainly he shall pay!" he muttered, adding,
"Come on, you fools, come on.  The Engoi awaits you!"

Then we plunged into the thick of the forest and lost sight of
them.

This happened while it was still afternoon, some time before night-
fall, so that light of a sort befriended us until we were well into
the wood.  Just before the perennial gloom of the place, deepened
by the advance of evening, turned to darkness, we reached a spot
where few trees grew because of the swampy nature of the soil.
Here, on the shore of a shallow lake formed by flood water, Kumpana
announced that we must camp till the following morning, as so many
men ignorant of its paths could not travel through the forest
before the sun rose.

"What if the Abanda overtake us here?" I asked.

"They will not overtake us," he answered.  "They dare not enter the
trees until there is light, and then I think that only the boldest
will come, because they know this place to be holy, one forbidden
to them."

As I was too tired to inquire further about this or any other
matter, I accepted the explanation and just lay down to sleep,
hoping that Kumpana would not give us the slip for the second time.
To tell the truth I was so exhausted after racing along all day in
a hot climate, that I was ready to trust to luck, not caring much
what happened.

On the whole I rested well, which is not always the case when one
is over-weary with mental and physical exertion, and without
suffering from any of the unpleasant experiences which had
afflicted Hans and myself on our return from our visit to the lake.
Once I did wake up, however; I think it was after midnight, for the
moon, now in its last quarter, shone brightly overhead and was
reflected in the flood-water.  By its light I saw a long line of
shadowy and gigantic forms marching between the trees upon the
farther side of this water, and for a moment wondered what they
were, or whether I was dreaming.  Then I remembered the elephants
that we had seen fleeing before the storm and earth-tremblings to
refuge in this forest, where doubtless they still remained with the
other wild beasts.

After this I went to sleep again, nor did I wake until the sun was
up.  We rose and ate of food that was given to us.  Whether the
soldiers carried it with them from the town, or whether it was
brought to them during the night, I do not know, but both then and
afterwards there was plenty for us all.

Our meal finished, Kumpana gave the order to march, and off we
went, walking slowly round the stretch of flood-water which I have
mentioned into the dense woodland beyond.  While we crossed this
patch of comparatively open ground, I observed that our numbers
were now much diminished.  We had entered the forest over two
hundred and fifty strong.  Now I could not count more than five and
twenty men, the rest had vanished.

I asked Kumpana where they had gone.

"Oh," he answered, "this way and that to talk to the wild beasts,
of which the wood is full after the storm, and tell them that we
are friends whom they must not harm," a reply I thought so crazy
that I did not continue the conversation.

When I discussed the matter with Hans, however, he took another
view.

"They are spook-beasts, as I have told you before, Baas," he said,
"especially the elephants.  These wizards have command over them,
as we have seen with our eyes, and doubtless have gone to order
them out of our path, as Kumpana says.  It is as well, Baas," he
added meaningly, "seeing that we are without rifles."

"Have you not been able to find that man to whom I gave mine to
carry?" I asked, colouring.

"No, Baas.  He is not to be found; perhaps he is dead or perhaps he
has stolen it, or hidden it away.  Nor are those who carried the
spare guns to be found."

"And where is yours?" I asked sharply.

"Baas," he answered in a dejected voice, "I threw it away.  Yes,
when I thought those Abanda were going to catch us, I threw it away
that I might run the faster."

We looked at each other.

"Hans," I said, "do you remember that Tom and Jerry did this same
thing when we were hunted by the elephants, and how I told them
that this WE should never do, whereon they said that if they were
not Christians they would hang themselves for very shame?  And do
you remember that only just before they died so bravely to save us,
you taunted them about that business, bidding them throw away their
guns again if they were too heavy to carry?"

"Yes, Baas, I have been thinking of it all night."

"And yet, Hans, we have done worse than they did, for they were
only being hunted by beasts, while we fled from men, so that now
when presently we may have to fight, we have no rifles."

"I know it all, Baas, and I am so ashamed that almost I could hang
myself as Little Holes and Jerry wished to do."

"Then we ought to hang together, for what you did I did.  At least
I gave my rifle to a savage, knowing that very likely I should
never see it again, so that we shall be defenceless before the
enemy and these Dabanda will make a mock of me, the white man who
has promised to serve them."

Here Hans became so deeply affected that I saw him draw the back of
his hand over his flat little face to wipe away the tears of shame.

For a while we trudged on in silence, then he said in a broken
voice:

"Baas, it was quite right of you to give your rifle to a black man
to carry, as it is the custom of white masters to do, and if he
stole it or was killed, it cannot be helped.  But it is different
with me.  Baas, I am a yellow cur, but even curs can learn a
lesson, as I have."

"What lesson, Hans?"

"That we shouldn't judge each other, Baas, as I did when I mocked
Tom and Jerry, because you see we may always do the same things or
worse ones.  Baas, if ever we get back to Zanzibar I will give all
the money I earn upon this journey to Jerry's daughter, who is in a
school; yes, and my share of that which Kaneke gave you, and not
spend one shilling upon gin or new clothes."

"That shows a good spirit," I said, "but what should I do?"

Now all this requires a little explanation.  When writing about our
flight before the Abanda hordes, I was ashamed to tell what after
all I have been obliged to record because of this talk between Hans
and myself, and what happened afterwards.  As I have said, there
was a time during that flight when the Abanda, rushing forward,
pressed us very hard, and because of the heavy rifles and
ammunition which we carried, Hans and I were dropping behind and
likely to be speared.  Then it was that I gave my gun and
cartridges to a long-legged soldier who bore nothing except his
spear, and Hans, seeing me do so, bettered my bad example by
throwing his away, which enabled us to put on the pace and again
draw out of danger.

It may be argued that we were justified by the circumstances, and,
so far as Hans was concerned, doubtless this is true.  But I was
not justified, I, the white man to whom all these people looked up
as one braver and superior to themselves, and at whom now doubtless
they jeered as Hans had done at Tom and Jerry.  There is nothing
more to say, except that I look upon this incident as one of the
greatest humiliations of my career.  Not only to Hans did it teach
a lesson as to loose and easy criticism of others, for from it I
learned one which I shall never forget throughout my life.

For most of that day, stopping now and again at the command of
Kumpana, we marched on slowly and with caution through the forest,
of which the dense gloom did not tend to raise our spirits, that
were already low enough.  From time to time I caught sight of
elephants and other wild game, which stared at us as we went by,
but neither ran away nor attempted to attack.  It was as though
they knew these Dabanda, to whom they were taboo, to be their
friends.  Indeed, during that march I grew quite convinced that
Kumpana's story as to the mastery of his people over the beasts of
the field was true, for, as will be seen, they were savage enough
where others were concerned, whom, I suppose, they recognized to be
different by their smell.  Of course, as I have said, Hans had
another explanation, for he was, and always remained, convinced
that these animals had the spirits of men in them, which is absurd.

At length towards evening we emerged from the forest and saw the
great lake in front of us.  Also we saw that on its shores were
gathered several hundreds of the Dabanda, a sight that gladdened my
eyes, and in the midst of them Arkle himself, easy to recognize by
his great height and size and red beard, although he wore Dabanda
dress and carried a long spear.

Presently we were among them and I was shaking Arkle by the hand.

"I see that you look depressed," he said, "and I fear that you have
had a bad time."

"Very bad," I answered.  "I have run from enemies faster than ever
I ran before, and I have lost my arms, which a soldier should not
do--they were heavy to carry, you see.  Nor indeed did I want to
shoot people with whom I had no quarrel."

"I don't wonder you threw them away, Quatermain.  I did the same
when the Abanda hunted me.  I had rather live without a rifle than
stick to it and die."

"The point could be argued," I answered, "but there isn't time.
Tell me, what the devil does all this play-acting mean?  Why was I
dragged out with two hundred and fifty men to fight thousands of
Abanda, which, of course, was impossible?"

"I am not sure.  You see, Quatermain, I am only a figurehead in
this country, and figureheads are not told everything.  But if you
ask me, I believe you were sent to be a bait.  You see, Kaneke
thinks you a very great man, and it seems he had announced that if
he could capture you, or, failing this, if he could kill you, the
Abandas must win, he would get all he wanted--you know what it is--
and they would grow into a mighty people, never lacking rain or
anything else.  Also the Dabanda would become their slaves and the
power and wisdom of the Engoi would go with them ever more."

"Still I don't understand why we went out to fight," I said,
"without the ghost of a chance of winning, or doing anything except
run away."

"Because you were meant to run away, Quatermain, in order that you
might draw the Abanda after you.  Unless you had run they would not
have followed, for not even Kaneke could make them enter the Land
of the Holy Lake.  You see the ruse has succeeded, for presently
they will be here.  Don't look at me angrily, for on my honour I
had nothing to do with the business."

"I should hope not!" I exclaimed.  "For if I thought you could play
such a trick upon a white man who has done his best to help you, I
would never speak to you again.  Besides, what is the object of it
all?  Why have the Abanda been tempted to take possession of this
country, from which you will never be able to drive them out
again?"

"I cannot tell you," he answered in a low voice, "but I think in
order that their fighting men may be destroyed.  Quatermain, I
believe that something terrible awaits those unfortunate people,
but I swear to you that I do not know what it is; those priests
will not tell me."

At this moment Hans nudged me.

"Look," he said, pointing towards the edge of the forest.

I did so and perceived a great body of men, a thousand or more of
them, emerging from its shadows, drawn up in companies.  The Abanda
were upon us with Kaneke at the head of them.  Arkle saw them also,
for I heard him utter an exclamation.

"Well," I said, "we can't run away this time, so I suppose that we
must fight until we are killed.  Have you your rifle?  If so, give
it me and I will shoot that Kaneke."

"It has been taken from me," he answered, shaking his head.  "When
I protested they told me that the white man's weapons were unlawful
for me, and would not be needed."

As he spoke a number of Dabanda priests ran up and surrounded
Arkle, so that for the time I saw no more of him.  Confusion ensued
while Kumpana and other officers tried to marshal their men into a
double rank.  Hans and I found ourselves pushed into a place in the
centre of the first line.  There we stood, unarmed, except for our
revolvers and a few cartridges, which fortunately we had preserved.
Arkle, still surrounded by priests and others, was kept at the back
of the second rank in such a position and with such precautions as
to give me the idea that the business of this force was to act as a
bodyguard and safeguard him, rather than to fight the Abanda.  Yet
it seemed that fight it must, for the lake, into which retreat was
impossible, was behind it and the enemy was in front.

The Abanda marched on.  Scrutinizing their faces as they came, it
struck me that there was something the matter with these men.  Of
course they were tired, which was not strange, seeing that after
enduring the terror of the earthquake and the storm, they had
pursued us all the way from their own boundary and through the
forest.  But their aspect suggested more than weariness; terror was
written on their faces.  Why?  I wondered; since although they must
have left most of their army behind, perhaps in occupation of
Dabanda-town, they still outnumbered our force by three or four to
one.

Had they perhaps met with strange adventures in the forest, as once
Hans and I had done?  Or were they overcome by a sense of their
sacrilege in violating the forbidden land, upon whose soil for
generations none of them had set a foot, except their leader, the
renegade Kaneke, and were fearful of some supernatural vengeance?
I could not tell, but certainly they had a frightened air, very
different from that of the bold fellows whom we had met hunting
Arkle and who had tried to cut us off from the mountain pass.

Still they advanced in good order, as I supposed to attack and make
an end of us.  Yet this was not so, for at a little distance they
formed themselves into three sides of a square and halted.  Now,
while I marvelled what was going to happen (had I been in command
of the Dabanda I should have rushed at them), Kaneke emerged from
their ranks and walked to within fifty paces of us, which he was
quite safe in doing, for the Dabanda had no bows, being armed only
with long and heavy spears that could not be thrown.

"Men of the Dabanda," he cried in his big voice, "though you ran
fast, I have caught you at length, and with nothing but water
behind you, you are in my power, for I see that the white man,
Macumazahn, has lost the weapon with which he is so skilled."
(Here I was minded to see whether I could not reach him with a
pistol shot, but remembering that the quarrel was none of mine and
that I had very few cartridges, I refrained from trying.)

"Yet, men of the Dabanda," went on Kaneke, "I do not wish to kill
you among whom I was bred and who I hope will live on to be my
subjects.  I do not even wish to kill Macumazahn and his servant,
because once they saved me from murderers, and we have been
companions upon a long journey.  There is only one whom I will
kill, and that is the white thief, whom I see skulking yonder
behind your lines, who has stolen my place and heritage, and would
steal the Shadow, my appointed wife.  Therefore give him up to me
that I may make an end of him before your faces and submit
yourselves to me, who will harm no other man among you; no, not
even that cunning jackal, Kumpana."

Now Kumpana stepped forward and said clearly but quietly:

"Cease from your boastful talk, Kaneke, wizard and traitor, who
sold your birthright to save your life, you who did violence to the
Engoi before her altar, you who but yesterday scattered the holy
fire of the altar and stamped it out, you who are accursed.  Hear
me, men of the Abanda," he went on, raising his voice, "what is the
quarrel with us?  You asked for rain.  Has not rain been sent to
you in plenty?  Do not your lands run with water?  Give us this man
who has beguiled you and depart in peace--or keep him and be
destroyed.

"Has not the ancient prophecy been handed down to you by your
fathers, that the very rocks will hurl themselves upon those of
your people who dare to set foot within the forest and to look upon
the holy lake, and that the wild beasts will rend them, and that
those who escape the rocks and the beasts will be seized with
madness?  And have not the rocks already hurled themselves upon
you, killing many who dwelt beneath them?  Will you wait till all
the curse fulfils itself, or will you give up this man and depart
in peace unharmed?  Answer while you may, for by sunset it will be
too late."

Now I could see that the Abanda soldiers were much disturbed.  They
whispered one to another, and some of their captains began to
consult together.  How it would have ended I do not know, though I
doubt whether these Abanda, who seemed to me to be brave and loyal
savages, would have consented to surrender the man whom they had
chosen as their general in the attempt to possess themselves of
Dabanda-land, with its material riches and the boon of what they
believed to be an especial spiritual protection.  This matter,
however, remained undecided, for Kaneke, who doubtless feared the
worst, cried out:

"Men of the Abanda, am I not the appointed Shield of the Shadow, a
greater wizard than yonder low-born Kumpana, the son of a slave?
When the mountain heaved did I not open a roadway through it,
making the two lands one, and as for the beasts, are they not also
at my command?  If you doubt it, ask the white lord, Watcher-by-
Night, and the yellow man, his servant, to whom I showed my power
over them.  And remember that but now I have led you unharmed
through a host of elephants that fled at my word.  Ho! you white
thief"--and he pointed at Arkle with his spear--"I have an offer to
make to you.  If you are not a coward, come out and fight me man to
man, and let the conqueror take the Shadow.  Come out and fight me,
I say!  Or go tell the Shadow that he who woos her and has come
from far to win her, is but a coward with a heart whiter than his
face."

Arkle heard him; with a roar of rage he shook off the priests who
held him and charged through our lines straight at Kaneke.  To my
horror I saw as he passed me that he was quite unarmed, for either
he had dropped his spear or it had been taken from him by the
priests; yes, he was attacking the man with nothing but his naked
hands.

"Let none come between us!" he shouted as he went.

Kaneke lifted his spear to pierce him, but somehow Arkle avoided
the thrust and, rushing in, gripped its haft and snapped it like a
twig, so that the broad blade fell between them.  Then he threw his
arms round Kaneke and they wrestled.  They were mighty men, both of
them, but once that spear was gone I had little doubt of the issue.
Still, the end came sooner than I expected, for Arkle seemed to
lift Kaneke from his feet and dash him to the ground, where he lay
half stunned.  Then, before the Abanda could come to the help of
their captain, he picked him up as though he were a child, carried
him to the ranks of the Dabanda and through them, and cast him down
at the feet of the priests!



CHAPTER XIX

THE BRIDAL AND THE CURSE


The torrential rains which fell during the storm had reached the
lake by many streams, with the result that its waters had enlarged
themselves.  The old shore-line, fringed with tall reeds, where I
had stood on my first visit, was quite a hundred yards away.  Thus
the reeds, or rather the upper halves of them, now stood like a
thicket at that distance from the shore, cutting off the view from
the stretch of water that was beyond but near to them, while the
rest of the lake and the distant island were turned to a dazzle of
gold by the fierce rays of the sinking sun.

Out of these reeds, at the exact moment when Arkle cast down the
great form of Kaneke before the priests, suddenly emerged a large
canoe, or rather a barge, for its stern was square.  It was paddled
by white-robed women, quite thirty of them, I should say, seated
upon either side of the craft, which had a gangway running down its
centre.  Upon the broad poop was a curious carved seat, large
enough, I noted, to accommodate two persons, and in the centre of
this seat sat a woman whom I knew must be she who was called the
Engoi, or Shadow, a tall and beautiful young woman whose gauzy
robes glittered in the sunlight as though they were sewn with gold
and gems, which perhaps they were.  She wore a high head-dress with
wings, not unlike to those of a viking's helm, from which, half
hiding her face, flowed down a veil spangled with stars.

On came the boat, so gently that one could not hear the paddles'
dip, and as its prow touched the shore, priests sprang forward and
held it fast.  The regal-looking woman rose to her feet, while
there went up a great shout of:

"ENGOI!  ENGOI!"

Clothed, as it were, with burning light, she stood above us on the
high poop, gazing at the prostrate form of Kaneke, at the man who
had cast him there, at the tall, white-robed, large-eyed Dabanda
spearsmen, and at the Abanda warriors beyond.  Then she spoke in a
clear, flute-like voice, which in that silence could be heard by
all.

"I, the Treasure of the Lake, greet you, servants of the Engoi; I
greet you, White Lord from far away" (this was addressed to Arkle;
of me she took no notice).  "I greet you all.  Tell me, O Kumpana,
Father of my Council, what host is this that threatens you with
spears?"

"That of the Abanda, O Engoi, who, breaking the oath sworn by their
forefathers and braving the curse, have dared to enter the holy
land of Mone to slay us and to give you, the divine Shadow, to be
the wife of this dog."  Here he pointed to Kaneke, who, I noted,
had recovered his senses, for he raised himself upon his arm and
listened.

"Take him and judge him, the accursed, according to your law," she
said, "for on him I will never look again."  Then added in louder
tones that trembled with cold anger:  "Men of the Abanda, the curse
with which Kaneke is cursed, clings to you also and the mercy that
you would not take departs from you.  BEGONE TO THE BEASTS FOR
JUDGMENT AND BECOME AS BEASTS, till Heaven lifts its wrath from off
you and creep to my feet as slaves to pray pardon for your sins."

The Abanda heard.  They stared at the priestess clothed with light,
they spoke together, as I supposed making ready to attack us.  But
it was not so, for, of a sudden, panic seemed to seize them.  I saw
it pass from face to face, I saw them tremble and cover their eyes
with their hands.  Then without a word they turned and ran back to
the shelter of the forest, an army that had become a terror-
stricken mob.

They were gone, the thunder of a thousand feet died away into
silence; not one of them could be seen; they were lost among the
darksome trees.

The beautiful maiden called Shadow, whose eyes had been fixed upon
the water, lifted her head and looked at Arkle, saying softly:

"White Lord from afar, our dream is fulfilled and once more we
meet, as was foretold, and I am yours and you are mine.  Yet if you
would depart with your companion"--here for the first time she
glanced at me--"still the road lies open.  Go, then, if it pleases
you; only if you go, learn that henceforth for this life and all
that are to come we separate for ever.  Learn, too, that if you
stay, there is no power in heaven or in earth that shall part us
while time endures and the star we follow shines in the sky.
Choose, then, and have done."

Arkle stared at the ground, like to one who is lost in doubt.  Then
he lifted his eyes and met hers that were fixed upon him, till the
radiance which shone upon her face seemed to pass to his, and I
knew that she had conquered.  He turned and spoke to me, saying:

"Farewell, my friend whom I shall see no more.  I know you believe
me mad, even wicked perhaps, and so I am according to your judgment
and that of the world we know.  Yet my heart tells me that love can
do no wrong and that in my madness is the truest wisdom, for yonder
stands my destiny, she whom I was born to win, she who was lost and
is found again.  Farewell once more, and think of me at times as we
shall of you, until perchance elsewhere"--and he pointed upwards--
"we meet again, and you too understand all that I cannot speak."

He took my hand and pressed it, then very slowly stepped on to the
prow of the boat, and passing down its length between the two lines
of women who sat like statues, came to her who stood upon its poop.
As he came she opened her arms and received him in her arms, and
there they kissed before us all.  For thus was the shadow wed in
the presence of her people.

Side by side they sat themselves upon the throne-like seat.  The
priests thrust the boat out into the water, the paddlers turned its
prow towards the reeds and the island that lay beyond them, and the
sun sank.

The sun sank, the waters of the holy lake grew dark, and these
strange travellers departed into gloom.  Once more only did I see
them after they had passed through the reeds out on to the darkened
bosom of the lake.  Some cloud above caught the last rays of the
sun that had vanished behind the crater cliffs, and reflected them
in a shaft of light on to the water and the boat that floated
there, turning those it bore to shapes of glory.  Then the ray
passed and the shadows hid them.

"That's a good omen for the Red Baas and the pretty spook-lady who
has carried him off," remarked Hans reflectively, "for you see
after the sun seemed to be dead, it came to life again to wish them
luck, Baas."

"I hope so," I replied, turning my back upon that melancholy lake
and not in the best of spirits.  Arkle at least had won the lady
whom he so passionately desired, but I, who had won nothing and
nobody, felt very much alone.  My part in all this business had
been to do everybody's dirty work--that of White-Mouse, of Kaneke,
of Arkle, and of Kumpana--and to tell the truth I did not like it.
No one really enjoys the humble office of a tool which is thrown
aside when done with.



That night we camped by the lake, and I have seldom passed one that
was more disturbed.  From its solemn and mysterious depths came the
mournful cries of wildfowl and the drear sighing of the wind among
the reeds.  But these were as nothing compared with the sounds
which proceeded from the forest.  Fierce trumpeting of infuriated
elephants, bellowing of other beasts, and, worst of all, what
sounded like the screams of terrified and tortured men, which were
so loud and persistent that if I had known where he was sleeping I
would have gone to Kumpana and asked their cause.  But I did not
know and probably if I had found him he would have told me nothing.
At length, too, these noises ceased, and I got some rest.

Before sunrise, when the sky grew grey and the night mist still hid
the face of the lonesome lake, Kumpana appeared, bringing us some
food and saying that we must eat it as we marched, because it was
time to be gone.  So off we went, and entered that hateful forest
just as the sun rose.  Before I had gone three hundred paces
between the trees, I stumbled over something soft and, looking
down, to my horror discovered that it was the mutilated body of an
Abanda warrior, who from various signs I knew must have been killed
by an elephant.

"See here, Hans!" I said, pointing to the dreadful thing.

"I have seen, Baas," he answered, "and there are plenty more of
them about.  Didn't you hear those spook elephants hunting them
last night as the Dabanda wizards brought them here to do?"

"I heard something," I answered faintly, remembering as I spoke the
words of Shadow when she told the Abanda "to begone to the beasts
for judgment"!  Great God, this was the judgment!

Hans was quite right.  There were plenty more of the poor creatures
lying about, indeed I imagine that some hundreds of them must have
been killed.  What an end!  To be hunted in the darkness of night
and when caught, stamped flat or torn to pieces by these maddened
animals which probably tracked them by their scent.  If this were
the fate of his tools, what, I wondered, was that reserved for
Kaneke, who by the way, as I supposed, had been taken on ahead of
us for I saw nothing of him?

Until then I had merely disliked the Dabanda, now I hated them and
desired nothing so much as to get out of this land of cruelty and
African witchcraft.  For although I had tried to find other
explanations, such as the fact that all game was taboo to them,
what but witchcraft or some force which we white men do not
understand, could account for the dominion of these people over
wild animals?  It may be thought that the attack upon these Abanda
by the elephants was an accident resulting from their breaking into
the herd in their terrified retreat after they fled from the
presence of one whom they believed to be almost a goddess.  But
this could scarcely be so seeing that when, following on our
footsteps, the Abanda passed through the forest to the lake, the
elephants must have been all round them, for as I have said, I saw
the great beasts watching us from between the trees.

Why, then, were they not attacked upon this outward journey?  I can
only suggest one explanation.  At that time Kaneke was with them
whom the beasts knew and obeyed, as they did other leaders of his
tribe, for had he not shown his power over these very elephants
long before we entered Dabanda-land?  When the Abanda soldiers were
deprived of his protection the case was different, for then they
were fallen upon, trampled and torn to pieces as Hans and I should
have been if we had been alone.

As a matter of fact, however, we should have had nothing to fear on
this return journey, for we never saw these beasts again.  Indeed,
I heard afterwards that when they had wreaked vengeance on the
Abanda, led by the ancient bull, they marched solemnly out of the
forest and across the crater-land to the pass through which they
had appeared.  What became of them I do not know, but I suppose
that they departed back to their own haunts where we had first met
them.

After sundry halts, of which I was not told the reason, towards
evening we emerged from that awful forest, only to be confronted
with more terrors.  On the open space which surrounded the altar
platform and in the streets of the town beyond, hundreds of men of
the Abanda army were running to and fro, some with torn robes and
some stark naked, shrieking and staring about them with eyes that
were full of fear.  A mob of raving maniacs who seemed hardly
human, they foamed at the mouth, they rolled upon the ground, they
tore their hair and bit each other's flesh.

"They are all mad, Baas," said Hans, getting behind me, for as is
common with African natives, he had a great horror of the insane
and supposed them to be inspired by heaven.  "Don't touch them,
Baas, or we shall go mad too."

His exhortation was needless, for my one desire was to get as far
as possible from the hideous sight of these poor creatures.  What
could have brought them to such a pass, I marvelled, as I do today.
I can only suppose that when the survivors of the regiments which
had followed us to the lake arrived among the army that awaited
them at the town, they communicated to their brothers the terror
which had driven them crazy.

Or perhaps now that Kaneke had disappeared, the superstitions he
had kept in check broke out among them with a force so irresistible
that they lost their minds, remembering the ancient curse which was
said to overtake any of their people who set foot in the land of
Lake Mone, whence they had been driven in past ages.  I cannot
tell, but certainly they had "become as beasts", as the priestess
Shadow foretold.  It was shocking, it was terrible, and thankful
indeed was I when, on catching sight of us, with howls and
lamentations they drew together and fled away, I suppose back to
their own land.

Soon they were gone into the gathering darkness, thousands of them,
and quiet fell upon the town, which was quite unharmed.  Hans and I
made our way to our own house where we found a lamp lit and food
prepared, I presume by the women who waited upon us, who all this
while had remained faithfully at their post.  The first thing that
we saw were our lost rifles and ammunition, carefully laid upon our
beds.

"Allemagter!" exclaimed Hans, pointing first to the lamp and food
next to the rifles.  "We have met many strange peoples in our
journeys, Baas, but never any like these.  But, Baas, they are not
men and women, they are witches and wizards, every one of them,
whose master is the devil, as those Abanda will think when they get
their minds again."

Then, quite overcome, he sank on to a stool and began to devour his
meal in silence.  I, too, collapsed; no other word describes my
state, brought about by physical fatigue and mental astonishment.
At that moment I was almost inclined to agree with Hans, though now
of course I know that these events which at the time seemed so
strange were quite susceptible of a natural interpretation.  It was
not wonderful that the Abanda soldier should have been attacked in
the forest by a herd of elephants whose tempers were upset by storm
and earthquake, or that the survivors of them and their fellows
should have been crazed by the experience, added to the effect of
their inherited superstitions.

Nor was it wonderful that an ardent man like Arkle should have
succumbed to the charm of a beautiful priestess, whose personal
attractions were enhanced by the mystery with which she was
surrounded, though I admit that I do not understand the tale of his
previous telepathic intercourse with her, if it may be so
described.  Very possibly, however, this existed only in his
imagination, and the real romance began, on his part at any rate,
when he first saw her upon the borders of the lake.

Still, the cumulative effect of so many eerie happenings,
reinforced by the legends with which my ears were filled, and the
constant ceremonies and experiences of an abnormal and unwholesome
nature in which I had been forced to take a part, together with the
vanishing away of Arkle into what I understood to be a kind of
Eastern houri paradise, was crushing; at least this was its effect
upon a tired and puzzled man.

So I went to bed with an attack of fever and low spirits that kept
me there for a week, after which I took another week to recover my
strength.

During all this time very little happened, for Hans reported that
everything in the town went on as it used to do before the great
storm.  The people were cultivating their gardens; the sacred fire
was re-lit upon the altar and the priests had rebuilt their fallen
observation tower, whence they watched the stars nightly as of old.
To judge from the aspect of the people, indeed one might have
thought that nothing unusual had occurred, or at any rate that it
was quite forgotten.

Now, being filled with nervous apprehensions and extremely anxious
to escape from this country as soon as I was well enough to face
the journey, I tried several times to get into touch with Kumpana,
the only man in the place who seemed to have any real authority,
but was always told that he was absent.

At length he came, bland and smiling as ever, and apologized for
not having done so before, "For then," he added, "I, who am a
doctor, should have been able to cure you more quickly."

I replied that it did not matter, as I was now quite recovered who
never suffered from serious illness.  Then I asked him the news.

"There is little, Lord," he answered.  "From the lake we hear that
the Engoi and her husband, the Shield of the Shadow, are well and
most happy.  The Abanda, now that they have reached their own land
and found their wits again--for only about two hundred of them were
killed by the elephants--are very humble and have sent to make
their submission, promising henceforth to be our faithful servants
and to live with us as one people."

"So you have got what you want," I said.

"Yes, Lord, for now we shall become a great tribe, a nation,
indeed, as once we were hundreds of years ago, because these Abanda
are brave fighting men and their women have many children, whereas
ours bear few or none at all.  Never again will they threaten us,
but, directed by our wisdom, will do all that we command."

"Which was your object throughout, I suppose, Kumpana?"

"Yes, Lord, it was our object, which explains much that you have
never been able to understand, amongst other things, why you were
brought to Mone-land.  Without you Kaneke could not have been saved
from the Arabs, and the White Lord, Shield of the Shadow, could not
have been saved from the Abanda after his madness had caused him to
be cast out of our country, which even I was unable to prevent."

"But why did you want Kaneke back, Kumpana, seeing that at once you
took away his chieftainship and made him an outlaw?"

"Because, amongst other reasons, if he had not returned and been
driven out again, he would not have fled to the Abanda and led them
to attack us, as we wished that he should do, knowing the fate that
would overtake them.  Even then I do not think that the Abanda, who
fear the Engoi and her servants, would have followed him, had they
not seen you, the great white lord whose fame is everywhere,
running before them like a hunted jackal, which was why we took you
with us to the pass, telling you that it was to fight them."

Now controlling my wrath as best I could, for it was useless to
argue with Kumpana about this disgraceful episode of my career, I
said with sarcasm:

"So you foresaw all these things, Kumpana, and arranged accordingly?"

"Of course, Lord, for we have that gift," he replied in the mild,
protesting voice of one who humours an ignorant fool.

This amazing lie took away my breath, but again feeling it useless
to argue, I changed the subject, by asking:

"And why did you bring him who is now her husband here to marry the
Shadow, instead of giving her to Kaneke, to whom she was promised,
or to some other man of your people?"

"Because, Lord, our men are--" and he used an Arabic word which I
can only translate by the English phrase 'played out'.  "The race
has grown too ancient and too interbred.  Therefore it was
necessary that she who is now the Engoi upon earth should wed one
of a different stock who has knowledge of the arts and laws of the
great white races.  For, Lord, from this marriage will spring a
woman, the Engoi to be, who will be very great of heart.  It is
she," he went on with a ring of triumph in his voice, "who will
once more make the Dabanda mighty among the peoples of Africa, not
the lady who now rules over us, or the white wanderer who is her
spouse."

"So that is another of your prophecies, Kumpana?"

"Yes, Lord, and one which most certainly will be fulfilled," he
answered in the same triumphant tone.  Then, as though the matter
were one which he declined to discuss, he said in his ordinary
voice:

"This is the night of full moon, and there is a ceremony before the
altar which we pray you to attend.  For tomorrow doubtless you will
wish to bid us farewell as it has been arranged that you should
do."

"I am glad to hear that," I exclaimed, "but I don't want to be
present at any more of your ceremonies."

"Yet, Lord," he answered with his queer little smile, "I am sure
you will do what we wish, now, as always before."

"Which means that I must come."

"Oh, Lord, I never said so.  Still I am certain that you will come
and shall send an escort to attend upon you, that you may fear no
harm."

Then he rose and bowed himself out.

Not until he was gone did I remember that I had never asked him
what had become of Kaneke.

"Baas," said Hans, "I always thought you clever in your way, but
this Kumpana is much cleverer than you, or even than I am, because
you see in the end he always makes us do, not what we want but what
he wants, and then laughs at us about it afterwards.  We shall have
to go to that fetish business tonight, because if we won't walk, we
shall be carried there, quite nicely, of course, by the men he is
sending to protect us.  I wonder what we shall see, Baas."

"How do I know?" I snapped, for the gibes of Hans irritated me.
"Perhaps the lady Shadow and her husband will come to visit us."

"I don't think so, Baas.  I think that they are sitting holding
each other's hands and making faces at each other, and saying silly
things about the moon.  If it were six months later when they want
to hold other people's hands and to look into new faces and have
forgotten all about the moon, then they would come, Baas, but not
now.  But perhaps Kaneke will visit us, unless he is dead, which we
haven't heard, and I'd much rather see him, Baas, than two people
who keep saying 'Sweetie-Sweet' and 'there's no one else in the
world, Pretty'."

"Would you, you ugly little sinner?" I replied, and walked away.



As it happened, Hans, who could smell out the truth like any witch-
doctor, had made no mistake, for when, conducted by our promised
escort, a strong one by the way, we reached the altar platform that
night, it was to find that the centre of interest proved to be
Kaneke and no one else, and that for the second time it was our lot
to see him tried for his life.  What is more, even among that
undemonstrative people, made apathetic by the passage of many ages
of plenty, and by iron priestly rule, the event excited keen and
universal interest.

This might be seen from the fact that every creature from the town
who could walk or be carried, was gathered upon the marketplace
beneath the platform, and with them a great number of people from
the villages and farms beyond its borders.  The priests too were
present in force; the astrologers watched the heavens from their
towers and shouted out the messages of the stars; a choir hidden
behind the altar sang solemn chants at intervals; and the sacred
fire blazed like a signal beacon upon a mountain, as though to make
up for the fact that very recently it had twice been extinguished.
Indeed it was a veritable furnace.

In front of it, its fierce light playing on him, stood Kaneke,
bound and closely guarded, while on either side sat the white-robed
Council of the Shadow, whose office seemed to be that of judge or
jury, or both.  Near to them, so placed that he could be heard from
the audience below as well as by all upon the platform, stood
Kumpana, who in this drama played the part of the prosecuting
counsel.

When I arrived with Hans and had been given a seat not far from
Kumpana and facing Kaneke, the proceedings began.  I need not
detail them further than to say that they consisted of a recitation
of all his crimes, starting with a long account of the act of
sacrilege he had committed in his youth against a former Engoi,
that apparently was much worse than he had intimated to me, and had
resulted in his banishment or flight, and going on to those
offences with which I had some acquaintance.

At length the tale was finished, and Kaneke was called upon to
answer.  This he did with a certain dignity, pleading that his
judges had no jurisdiction over him, that he was their lawful chief
and could not be tried by any court.  The crimes alleged against
him he made no attempt to deny or explain, perhaps because they
were too flagrant to admit of defence.

When he had finished speaking, Kumpana said to the Council and the
priests:

"What say you?"

Whereupon they answered all together:

"We say that he is guilty!" and the people gathered in the market-
place beneath echoed the words in a roar of sounds.

Then Kumpana cried aloud to the astrologers upon their towers,
asking:

"What reward is appointed to this traitor Kaneke, the accursed of
the Engoi, for his sins against the Shadow and against the people?"

The diviners on the towers stared at the stars, making a pretence
of consulting them, then spoke together in a secret language I did
not understand.  At last one of them, he on the right, called out:

"Hear the voice of Heaven!  Let him who quenched the fire, feed the
fire."

I contemplated the leaping flames upon which the priests had just
hurled more wood, and not understanding all that these words meant,
remarked to Hans that it did not seem to want feeding.

"Oh, Baas," he replied, "why are you so stupid?  Don't you see that
they are going to burn this owl-man as an offering?  The woman in
the hut told me that it is what they always do to anyone who has
tried to lay hands upon the Shadow of the Engoi, and sometimes to
her husband also if she gets tired of him."

"Great heavens!" I exclaimed, turning quite faint.  Then, before I
could get out another word, Kaneke, who was a coward at heart, as
he had shown when he bartered his birthright to Arkle in exchange
for his life, with ashen face and bulging eyes began an impassioned
appeal to me to save him.

I did try to say something on his behalf, I forget what it was, but
at once Kumpana cut me short with the remark that there was plenty
of room for two upon that altar.  He added in explanation that in
his country under an ancient law, he who tried to save a criminal
condemned to death must share his punishment.

Hearing this, as I was helpless and could not stop there to see a
man burned alive, however great a blackguard he might be, I rose
and with the best dignity I could command, walked down the platform
steps and through the people at the foot of them, back to our
house.  As I passed him Kaneke shouted out:

"Farewell, Macumazahn, whom I met in an evil hour.  If, before you
leave this land, you see your friend, the white thief who has
stolen her that was mine, tell him that in a day to come, instead
of her lips he too shall kiss the altar flames."

Now all my pity departed, for I knew well that these cruel words
had been spoken to create baseless fears and doubts in my mind and
in that of Arkle also, should they reach him.

"Cease from lying and die like a man," I said.

If he answered me I did not hear him, for just then the priests set
up a song, a very savage song, which prevented his words from
reaching me.  At the edge of the market-place some impulse caused
me to look back, just in time to see the great shape of Kaneke
outlined against the flames into which he was being tossed whilst
the people around, who till now had remained silent, uttered a
shout of joy.

A while later Hans joined me.

"Baas," he said, "I am glad they burned that beast Kaneke."

"Why?" I asked, for I thought the remark pitiless.

"For two reasons, Baas.  First because he left Little Holes and
Jerry to be killed when we were running for the pass, being a
coward who could desert his friends; and secondly because he called
out after you that if he had won, he would have burned you and the
Red Baas and me, Hans, as well.  That is why I stopped to see the
end of him, Baas."

"Let us pack up," I said, "for tomorrow we start."

"Yes, Baas, but where to, Baas?"

"I don't know and I don't care," I answered, "so long as it is out
of this accursed country.  Why on earth they ever brought me into
it I can't understand even now."

"That you might bring Kaneke, Baas."

"But why did they want Kaneke?  They would have got on quite as
well without him."

"To burn him, Baas.  He had sinned against another Shadow who is
dead and ran away, and the priests, who never forget, brought him
back that he might be killed for his sin.  That is why White-Mouse
was sent to tempt him from home, telling him that he was to marry
the new Shadow, and that is why she was so much afraid lest he
should be killed by the Arabs and cheat the fire on the altar.  Oh,
they had thought it all out quite nicely, Baas, as Kaneke has
learned."

"Perhaps.  Well, they won't tempt ME back," I said.



CHAPTER XX

FAREWELL


Now with the execution of Kaneke in the savage fashion that I have
described, the story of my visit to the sacred lake called Mone,
and the people who dwelt there comes to an end.  Perhaps, however,
there are one or two things that I should mention.

All the day following the horrible scene upon the altar platform,
Hans and I spent in getting ready, tying up loads for the bearers
who, we were informed, would be provided on the next morning,
superintending the cooking of food to take with us, seeing to our
boots that were much the worse for wear, and so forth.  In our
spare time I tried also to think out the great problem as to the
route that we should take.  Were we to return by that which we had
followed into the Lake-country, or to strike out on a desperate
journey for the West Coast?  Upon my soul I did not know, and all
that Hans would do was to point out the difficulties and dangers of
either course.

When I lay down that night I was still quite unable to make up my
mind, and went to sleep determined to postpone further consideration
till the morrow, hoping that meanwhile some inspiration might come
to me.  As a matter of fact it did, and in a curious fashion.

About midnight I woke up and saw, by the light of the lamp which I
kept burning, the white-draped form of a woman, standing at the
foot of the bed, who appeared to be looking at me.

"What the dickens--" I began in a hurry, when she stopped me with a
motion of her hand.

Then she drew her veil aside so that I could see her face.  It was
that of White-Mouse!

Surely I could not be mistaken, although I had only seen her twice
or thrice upon a single night.  There was the same delicate shape,
the same pleading, dark eyes, the same curling hair, and the same
sweet, plaintive face so suggestive of mystery and acquaintance
with secret things.

"White-Mouse!" I murmured beneath my breath, for to tell the truth
I was half afraid to speak aloud, fearing lest what I saw before me
was a ghost, or at the best a dream.

"Yes, Lord Macumazahn; at least once I bore that name far away
among the Arabs."

"But you are dead!  They killed you there in the courtyard of
Kaneke's house."

"No, Lord, they could not kill me.  I escaped out of their hands
and returned to this country before you, making your road smooth
and easy."

"Before us!  How did you do that?"

"It is one of the secrets which I may not reveal, Lord, nor does it
matter.  Also we have met since then when you were in trouble
yonder with the 'dwellers in the forest' and one came to guide
you."

"I thought it!" I exclaimed; "but before I could make sure you were
gone, so that almost I believed you to be--not a woman but--well--
one of the dwellers in the forest."

"I knew it," she replied with a sweet little smile, "and for the
rest, even now are you sure that I am a woman?"

"No, I am not," I answered.

"Nor am I quite sure, Lord Macumazahn, but that is another of the
secrets, and it does not matter.  See, I am a messenger tonight
whatever else I may be and I have brought you a letter which you
can read when I am gone, for I think that to it there is no answer.
Or if there should be an answer, shape it in your mind and I shall
learn it there and deliver it word for word."

"Again I begin to think that you are a ghost, White-Mouse, for
women do not talk thus," I said as I took the little roll of paper
which she handed to me and laid it down upon the bed.

The truth was that at the moment I was more interested in White-
Mouse than in what might be written in the roll.

"Although some do not know it, we are all of us ghosts, are we not,
Lord Macumazahn?  Though often if the veil of flesh be gross, the
light of the ghost-lamp that shines within you cannot be seen.
Lord, my time is short and I have something to say to you.  Will it
please you to listen?"

"When you speak, what could please me better, especially in this
land, White-Mouse?"

Again there flitted across her face a quick smile so strangely
sweet that it thrilled the nerves, as do certain notes of music we
hear upon a violin.  At least for some indefinable reason I always
connect that smile of hers with such vibrating notes.

"Yet it would not please you in other lands, Lord, for there among
your own people nothing would delight you less than to hear the
voice of a ghost-woman, the dweller in a spell-bound, haunted
place.  Were it otherwise, perchance I should accompany you, as,
although you will not see me, I may do yet."

"What do you mean?" I asked rather anxiously.

"Nothing that you need fear, Lord, except that I like you well, and
both ghosts and women are pleased to be with those whom they like.
Oh, I have watched you from the first and noted how you have borne
many troubles that were not of your seeking, and read your heart
and found it worthy to be praised.  In this land, Lord, such are
not found."

"I am glad to hear it," I said, who had little admiration for the
Dabanda.  Then to change the subject which I found somewhat
personal and embarrassing, especially to a modest man who could
neither rise nor escape, I added, "Will you do something for me,
White-Mouse, and before you go?  Tell me, why I was ever brought to
your land?"

"You wished to come, Lord; and if they be real, wishes always
fulfil themselves soon or late.  Moreover, besides those you know
which Kumpana has set out to you, there are other reasons, which,
even if I might explain them, you would not understand."

"Why not?"

"Because they have to do with things which you have forgotten; yes,
with other lives that lie buried in the past, when you and I and
two great ones who dwell in the midst of Lake Mone, and Kumpana and
Kaneke knew each other, as we do today.  Man's life is a long
story, Lord, of which we read but one mad chapter at a time,
thinking that it is all the book, and not knowing what went before,
nor what shall follow after."

Now I reflected that many wise men, of all epochs, such as Plato
and others, as I have heard, were of this opinion--one that it is
not impossible though difficult to accept at any rate in the West,
whatever the East may hold.  Not wishing, however, to enter upon so
vast a subject, I merely said:

"And do YOU know, White-Mouse?"

"I know something, Lord, and I guess more.  For the Dwellers in the
Lake, whom doubtless you believe to be savages blinded by the
teachings of a false faith, yet have the wisdom of our race."

"Yes," I answered sharply, "wisdom of which I saw the fruits last
night when a man was burned living upon your altar fire."

"You are wrong, Lord.  In our wisdom of the Lake, cruelty has no
place, and with it she who rules the Lake has naught to do, though
the Dabanda be given to her for servants, and in a fashion, for
masters.  When she learned what had chanced to Kaneke and to those
whom he led astray, she wept, though she knew that these things
must come and uttered the decree of death.  Yes, we women of the
Lake renounce the world and fix our thoughts on heaven, which is
our home.  Therefore do not judge us hardly, Lord, or measure us
with the Dabanda rule.  Now I have done, who may say no more, save
this:  Have no fear upon your journey, for we know that you will
accomplish it safely and live on for many years.  Go where fortune
seems to lead you and all will succeed with you.  So farewell, Lord
Macumazahn.  Think kindly of us of the Lake, although we be women,
for as you have learned, or will learn, women, with all their
faults, are better and wiser than men, for sometimes to them is
shown the light that is hidden from the eyes of men."

Then she bent down, took my hand, kissed it, and turning lifted the
curtain of the door-way of the house and glided away into the
darkness, leaving me glad that I had found one person whom I could
like in Mone-land, one, too, who liked me!

From the bed on the other side of the room came the stifled voice
of Hans, whom all this while I had quite forgotten, saying:

"Is that the last kiss, Baas, and if so, may I put out my head?  It
is very hot here under this skin rug, where I have hidden my eyes
for so long without being able to breathe, Baas."

"Well, you haven't hidden your ears," I said, "so stop talking
rubbish and tell me what you think of White-Mouse."

"Oh, Baas," he said, sitting up, "I think that she is a spook, more
so than all the rest of them.  But I think also that she is a nice
spook, although she did deceive me yonder in the Arab town, making
me believe that she was a jealous wife of the Owl-man Kaneke, and
that she liked me much more than she did him.  Also I am happy now,
Baas, because she, who being a spook knows all about it, said that
we shall come safely to the end of our journey.  But of course you
are very unhappy because you have seen the last of one of whom you
think so much, that you have even forgotten to read the letter she
brought you, for reading letters is much duller than being kissed,
Baas."

"Bring me the lamp," I said as I loosened the string of scented
grass with which it was bound and undid the little roll.

It was of paper cut from a note-book, and, as I expected, from
Arkle.  It ran thus:


Dear Quatermain,

We know that you are going, and I send you this by a sure hand to
bid you farewell.  Do not think badly of me, Quatermain, because I
have forsaken my country and put aside all the traditions in which
I was brought up, in order to marry the priestess of a strange
faith, here in Central Africa.  Love is stronger than are the ties
of country or of tradition, and in our case it is a force which
will not be denied: a destiny indeed.  Probably you put little
faith in the stories I have told you of how I came to be drawn to
my wife, thinking them the harmless imaginations of a romantic
mind.  Therefore of them I will only say that to me they seemed
real enough and to be justified by the event, though of course here
coincidence might have played its part.  Probably, too, you set
little store by the occult powers and superstitions of this secret
and ancient people, finding for all, or most of them, a natural
explanation.

For many reasons I wish that I could share this view, but alas! I
believe those powers to be very real.  And here I want to make one
thing clear: they do not reside in the spirit of her who amongst
other titles is given that of the Engoi or rather of the Shadow of
the Engoi!  She is but the medium.  The strength lies with others,
in the present case principally with the head of the Council,
Kumpana.

Did you notice the voice with which she spoke when first you saw
her upon the altar platform, and again in the boat on the day of
our marriage, and that it was not natural?  At least to me it
seemed very different from that which she used when addressing me
directly, as a woman addresses the man she loves.  For example she
seemed to pass sentence upon the Abanda giving them into the power
of the beasts, over which undoubtedly the Dabanda have command, and
to the fate of madness, which I learn fell upon them afterwards.

Yet I assure you that she never knew she had spoken these words,
any more than she knew that the rascal, Kaneke, was doomed to be
burned alive, in short they were uttered by her under an obscure,
hypnotic influence.  Further, it seems that these mediumistic gifts
pass away in the course of years, and that is why the Dabanda
priests kill their Engoi at a certain age, and her husband with her
and choose another Shadow to fill her place.

You will say that for her and for me the prospect therefore is
terrible enough.  But I want you to understand, Quatermain, that I
have no intention of sitting still and allowing such a fate to
overtake us.  I mean to match myself against those priests and the
Council and to overthrow them--how I do not know--and to establish
in their place a pure and kindly rule.  If I find that this is not
possible, then I mean to escape from this country with my wife.  So
do not look upon us as lost, or on me as wholly a renegade and an
apostate, but rather as one who is hidden for awhile.

Meanwhile, I assure you that I am intensely happy and that the book
of an ancient wisdom which I thought lost to the world, is being
opened to my eyes.  I would that you could see this place and the
buildings on it, and the old writings it contains in a language I
have not yet learned to decipher.  But that cannot be, for any such
attempt would certainly cost you your life.  So you must go your
way while I go mine, hoping that our paths may cross again, even in
this world.

Meanwhile, I thank you for all you have done for me, and trust that
your strange experiences may bring you some reward for your work
and the dangers you have run.  God bless you, my friend, if I may
call you so, and farewell!  I beg you and Hans to talk as little as
possible about me or the Dabanda and Mone, the Holy Lake.  Above
all, do not try to return, or to send other white men to explore,
or to search me out, for such attempts would certainly end in
death.  Let me vanish away as many a white man does in Africa, and
my story with me.

Again farewell,

J. T. Arkle.

P.S.--I enclose a note addressed to the captain of the hunters whom
I left in charge of stores and equipment at a place to which you
will be guided.  He can read more or less, and it commands him to
hand these over to you absolutely, and with them a sealed box that
contains a sum in gold, which I hope you will find useful.  I
recommend you to head for the West Coast, as the hunters can guide
you on that road, at any rate for part of the way till you come
into touch with white men.

J. T. A.


Such was this strange letter, which I was most glad to receive.
For did it not give me hope that one day Arkle would escape from
this accursed country, either with or without the woman whom fate
had appointed to him as his wife?  Further, did it not explain
much, or at any rate something, of mysteries that hitherto had been
as black as night to me?  I think so.

Here I will stop this tale, for to describe all my adventures and
experiences on my way to the West Coast would take another book,
which I have neither the time nor the inclination to write.
Suffice it to say that all went well.  I was guided to Arkle's
camp, and by help of the outfit I found there, to say nothing of
the money, of which there was much, ultimately I came to the sea
and took ship back to South Africa, where I gave it out that I had
been for a long hunting-trip in Portuguese territory.

"Baas," said Hans to me one day when we had been talking over Arkle
and his great passion, "what are the 'twin hearts' of which you
talk?"

I explained as best I could, and he replied:

"Baas, you remember that Kaneke said just before they put him on
the fire, that the Red Baas would follow him there one day.  If
that is what must be paid for having a 'twin heart', I am glad I
haven't got one--unless it is for you, Baas!"

I should add that of Arkle, if this was his real name (which I
doubt), I have heard no more.  Nor until now, when after many years
I write it down, have I ever told his story.



THE END




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