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

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

“No,” said Laura shortly.

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

“Mr. Carter!”

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

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

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

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

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

“What, a fire balloon?”

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

“You are really a most ingenious person,” said Miss O’Neill. “Isn’t
he, Laura?”

“I suppose so,” said Laura.

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

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

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

“Oh,” said Laura, “I’m sorry I interfered if it was Kate’s orders you
were carrying out.”

“So, Miss Head, with your permission I’ll run up a chimbeque for the
fellow outside the walls.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She had never got what she thought any satisfactory explanation of how
this relief of the tension had been brought about. She asked Carter,
and he said he had arrived at the conclusion he had “merely been a rude
ass,” and it was time to be ashamed of himself and try ordinary human
civility. She had attempted to sound Kate, and was merely
congratulated on being engaged to a really nice man. And thereafter
she had watched an intimacy grow between them, in which somehow or
other, in spite of their obviously labored efforts to include her, she
had no part.

She turned away from the door now, and sat down in one of the veranda
chairs which the thrifty German had made for himself out of a palm-oil
puncheon. Behind her the white man and the white woman talked
butterflies. Before her was Africa, and night. No moon had risen, a
few of the stars were lit. Fireflies blinked in and out at unexpected
places in the velvety blackness, uncannily vanishing when their spasm
of light was over. The night breeze sang gently through the trees and
gave sharpness to the air, and the drone of insects kept to one low
insistent note like the distant murmur of the river. The factory boys,
tired with their merciless work, slept. But from the bush beyond the
clearing there came ever and again a groan, or a roar, or a shriek, as
often as not dimmed to a mere murmur by distance, to keep her aware of
the axiom that Africa never sleeps and always carries pain.

The land breeze blew strong and her dress was thin. She shivered a
little and called for Carter, as he had taught her, to bring a wrap.
He came running out with it at once and covered her shoulders, as she
was pleased to think, tenderly. He even stopped and talked to her for
a minute or so. Then he said he must go and see Miss Head’s last case,
and once more went into the living room. She strained her ears to
listen, and she heard the butterfly talk begin again where it had
broken off.

They had an alarm that night that the Okky-men were coming. Into the
blank silence of sleep there came the roar of a heavy charge of black
trade powder as a sentry discharged his dew-filled flintlock. The
whites, the Portuguese, and the tired factory boys roused into instant
wakefulness. Their nerves were too nicely set to need a second shaking.

Laura met Carter in pyjamas as he was in the act of thumping upon her
bedroom door. “Oh, you have got up,” he said. “That’s good. Well,
don’t show a light whilst you dress, and keep under shelter. I must
just wake Miss O’Neill before I go down.”

She put her arms round his neck and pulled him to her and kissed him
violently. “You came for me first then, after all?”

“You little goose, of course I did. Wives first, employers next.
Here, I must go, or the battle will be over before I’m down. The odds
are those heroes are blazing away at nothing.”

They were. Each black man as he came up to the palisade poked the
muzzle of his gun through a loophole, pulled trigger, and drew comfort
from the din. Presently Carter came up to the breastwork, climbed to
the banquette, and leaned over, and then peered long and hard through
the night. He could see nothing. He got down, and with trouble found
the sentry who had fired first. When he had thumped the man into
calmness, it turned out that he had seen nothing also. He had “thought
ju-ju” and then his gun “lib for shoot by himself.” Or in plainer
English, the man had dozed with his hand round his gun lock to keep the
damp from the priming; he had been struck by a nightmare and had pulled
the trigger. He had aimed at nothing. His gun muzzle had been
upright, and he “lib for shoot dem moon.”

Cascaes, the Portuguese, came up with a Winchester under his arm in
time to hear the end of this explanation. “The negro like-a some
noise, eh, senhor?”

“What about yourself?” asked Carter uncivilly. “Haven’t you been
joining in? I suppose you’re first cousin to these fellows, anyway.”

Cascaes put a little finger down the muzzle of his rifle, wiped it
round, lit a match, and showed that the finger was clean.

“Oh, I beg pardon,” said Carter. “I thought you were likely to share
in the local revels.”

“Well,” said the Portuguese thoughtfully, “I suppose I must count that
an apology. Otherwise I should have shot you. Good-night, senhor.”

Carter waited till the man turned, ran in quickly, and plucked away his
rifle. “And now,” said he, “just let us understand one another exactly
before we go any further. I’m standing quite all the risks from
outside that I’ve any use for just at present. If there’s any shooting
to be done amongst ourselves, I prefer to do it myself. So first of
all let’s hear your trouble.”

“In the first-a place I am not negro. I am European of blood-a as pure
as your own, an’ far-a-more ancient.”

“If the apology I gave you just now doesn’t cover that, I’ll apologize
some more for calling you a nigger. Furthermore, I didn’t know that
you claimed to be a gentleman, not that gentility is any excuse for not
carrying out one’s job here on the Coast.”

“Senhor, you are handsome. And I agree with you that here in Africa we
are all-a workmen, and must suffer if the work-a is not well done.”

“Well,” said Carter impatiently, “is that the lot? To my simple
British mind your reasons for wanting to shoot me seem pretty thin so
far. I suppose you are mad at my basting you this morning, but if you
think the circumstances out coolly, I’m sure you’ll see that we’ve
women’s lives to think of here as well as our own, and by letting the
niggers you were overseeing scamp their work whilst you were dreaming
over a cigarette, you were risking the safety of the fort.”

“Senhor, do you know of what-a I was dreaming?”

“Private affairs probably, but anyway of something immaterial.”

“Pardon, but I must tell-a you my dreaming. It was of a woman’s life I

Carter laughed shortly. “I think you had better leave it at that. It
sticks in my mind that the three Portuguese ladies in this factory at
Mokki are all officially protected by their lawful husbands, and I
don’t want to hear any embarrassing confidences.”

“And may not a Portuguese gentleman, poor-a I grant you, but still of
good blood, give-a his affection to a lady of another race?”

A moon had lit up in the sky above, and under it Cartels jaw looked of
a sudden more square and grim than usual–at least the other thought
so. His tone, too, changed from banter to something hard. “I decline
to hear another word on the matter. We will confine our dealings with
one another entirely to details of business, if you please, Cascaes,
and leave matters of sentiment alone. Here is your gun. You say you
are a gentleman, and I believe you. That means you won’t shoot me from
behind, or when I’m not armed equally with yourself. If the necessity
arrives for a turn-up on level terms, I’m your man. Good-night.”

And so for that night they parted, each very much misunderstanding the
other. Once more the tired sentries yawned at their posts, and the
Europeans of the factory retired to their beds, and the blacks to their
sleeping mats; but sleep for the rest of that hot, damp night was
broken, and no half-hour passed without a cry from some dreamer which
woke restless echoes from his neighbors.

But with daylight the steady stream of merchandise, which the factory
was beginning to attract, recommenced. The native traders of the
hinterland had their hands full of the stock that had been pouring in
upon them ever since the King of Okky had closed the roads to the old
Coast factories with which they were accustomed to deal, and when the
news spread, as it does spread in that mysterious West Africa, that the
white woman of Mokki bought and sold in spite of the King’s teeth, they
were only too ready to back her with their custom. The merchants of
that unknown back country are some of the keenest traders on earth.

Some came in single canoes through the gloom and odors of uncharted
muddy creeks, trusting to secrecy for safe passage; others joined
forces, and brought armed flotillas of great sixty-man-power dugouts
down the main stream; others clubbed together into caravans, so strong
and so well-defended that even Kallee’s truculent raiders dared not
cross the Okky marches to hold them up. So marvellously accurate were
the rumors that had spread up country, that few of these keen merchants
came into Mokki without a grass basket full of spoiled specimens of
butterfly as a “dash” to propitiate the new trading power.

Every day the influx of merchants increased, till at last more came
than the staff of the factory could deal with, and they camped outside
the fort awaiting their turn to trade. Actually, a small native food
market grew there to supply them. Kate had lowered the price the
factory paid for every commodity, but still the bush merchants sold,
and were only too glad of the chance. Times they felt were troublous;
the shadow of the King of Okky hung over the steaming forests, and they
wished to get what they could in European produce and be gone. At the
Malla-Nulla, the Monk, or the Smooth River factories they would not
have taken such prices; but the King of Okky had closed the roads to
these, and for business purposes they were extinct. Nor would they
have sold at such rates to the Germans when they held Mokki. Keen
business man though he may be, the West African merchant is a creature
of whim; the German he defines as a “bush-Englishman,” which is a term
of reproach; he distrusts both him and his goods; and he will not trade
with a German factory on anything like the same terms he will accept
from the Briton, even though the Briton sell him German-made goods.

“We are doing such a tremendous business,” said Carter one day at the
evening meal, “that presently we shall strangle ourselves. We have
used up all our own trade stuff, and we have stripped the Smooth River
factory and Malla-Nulla, and pretty well emptied Burgoyne at Monk
River. I don’t know how finances are?”

“Tight,” said Kate.

“And yet we’ve got at the very least £8,500 in kernels, palm oil, and
high-grade rubber lying idle here. Moreover, we’ve tapped an
unexpected vein of ivory. I thought at first that it was some small
king’s state reserve, some hoard he’d got buried, under the bed of a
stream perhaps, which he wanted to realize on, and which would soon
come to an end. But it’s not that, it’s new stuff that’s been hunted
within the last three years, and it’s been diverted, I really believe,
from the Congo market. It’s a splendid line for us, but it will pinch
out very promptly if we once stop buying. I verily believe these
natives can telegraph a piece of commercial news half-way across Africa
in the inside of a week.”

“We are doing splendid business.

“Of course, we’ve got the firm’s Miss K. O’Neill here on the spot, and
hence the prosperity; but I wish we’d got our Miss K. for just half a
day at the Liverpool end to diagnose that we’re starving for a steamer.
The fact is, that greedy old scoundrel Cappie Image-me-lad looks upon
Mokki as his special private preserve, and he doesn’t intend to see any
of the other skippers picking up his cargo commission if he can avoid

“Do you blame him?” said Kate. “I don’t. But at the same time I’m
afraid Mokki factory can’t wait each time till Captain Image brings the
_M’poso_ on her round trips from Liverpool. However, I sent a canoe
off this morning with a long cable which may ease matters.”

“You sent off a canoe? I don’t know how I shall get on without her

“Oh, I remembered how shorthanded you are, Mr. Manager, but I’ve not
piled more work onto you this time. You recollect that tall Haûsa
merchant with the one eye who has been here for the last two days?”

“Yes, Rotata.”

“I gave him the cable, and an order on Mr. Burgoyne for £15, to be paid
on delivery. Will you O.K. the account?”

“I guess,” said Carter shortly, “that you are boss. But if you’d told
me you wanted to send a cable, I could have arranged it for you.”

Kate looked at him steadily. “Why do you object to my working for
myself, Mr. Carter?”

“Because I prefer to work for you. I’d work myself to the bone for
you, if you’d let me.”

“Why should you?”

“Because I–well, it’s natural enough, isn’t it? If you come to think
of it, I am your paid employee.”

Kate still looked at him with a steady eye. “Of course it is Laura
that you are really working for.”

Carter cleared his throat. “Of course,” he said. “Well, if you and
Laura will excuse me, I’ll go into the other room now and post up my
books.” He got up and walked towards the mess-room door.

Cascaes, who had been sitting at the other end of the table with the
Portuguese and their wives, got up, and went towards the vacant place.
But Carter turned at the door and called him sharply. “I’m sorry to
interrupt further,” he said, “but I want your valuable assistance, Mr.
Cascaes. So come along with me now.”

The night was hot, and steamy, and still. Even the insect hum was
pitched on a drowsy note. The darkness seemed almost fat in its greasy
heaviness. Two of the sweating factory boys were playing tom-tom on
upturned kerosene cans, and a third was throwing in an erratic obligato
with two pieces of scrap iron for an instrument. And from the river
behind a pair of crocodiles made unpleasant noises with irritating
persistency. Carter thought, too, that above the decay smell of the
factory rubber store, the stable smell of the Krooboys, the
crushed-marigold smell of the river, he could also catch the musky odor
of the crocodiles, and felt vaguely sickened thereby.

“… Those last-a bags of kernels I have not got-a weighed, senhor. I
was weary, and so I go-a to change and shave for dinner.”

“Why don’t you shave in the morning, instead of carrying a chin like a
besom all through the day? I suppose, as usual, you were going to
weigh up those kernels to-morrow?”

“You are most indulgent, senhor.”

“I am nothing of the kind. Sufficient for the day is the work thereof,
and the man that puts it off till to-morrow gets out of here. Like to
hand in your resignation?”

“No, senhor, no.”

“Then go and weigh those kernels, one-time. Then come back here and
make up your books. D’ye think I’m going to have my whole machinery of
commerce held up because you want to go and shave, and oil your head,
and put on clean whites and a crimson belly-band and otherwise make
yourself fetching for the benefit of Miss O’Neill?”

“Miss-a O’Neill?” said the Portuguese in surprise. “I do not care a

“Here, don’t try and fill me up,” said Carter bluntly. “And don’t put
on time. Take a lamp and go out and weigh those kernels, and see you
don’t set the shed on fire, and when you’re through, and have posted
your books, come out and fetch me. I’m going to smoke a cigar out in
the open.”

“The dew-a is heavy. There is fever about.”

“Take your advice to the devil.”

“Which fever,” said Cascaes, “I should have added, if you had-a not
interrupted me–which fever I hope you will get.”

“That’s all right. I like you dagos better when you spit venom openly.
Now, you hurry up and go through those kernels, and see you get the
weights right.”

The dew was thick on the grass in the clearing and stood in sleek
greasy drops on all the patches of bare stamped earth. Moon and stars
were all eclipsed. Even the fireflies, although the dark would have
given full value to their manoeuvres, were absent. The unhealthy
phosphorence of rotting dead wood here and there was the only
illumination, except here and there a glow from a window in the factory.

Carter went out through a gate of the fort and walked up and down with
restless energy. He was wet to the knees with dew; the damp Canary
cigar between his teeth had long since gone out; but he cared for no
small things like these. He kept repeating to himself that “a man must
play the game.” “A man must play the game.”

And presently, when the tom-toms and the jangling iron suggested some
tune to his ear, he changed this to a jangle which stated “I could–not
love–thee dear–so much–loved I–not hon–or more.” And as the tune
beat out into the hot steamy night, so did the words keep time to them
with irritating repetition.

Once he stopped and shook a fist at the invisible sky above. “I am
going to marry Laura,” he declared, “if she was ten times as black. I
am going to marry her though I know my father will never speak to me
again, and I can’t take her home. I am going to marry her though the
heaven’s fall. I am going to marry her for one reason that can’t be
got over, and that is because I said I would. A man must play the
game. But my God! why did I never guess that Kate was on earth

There was an old cotton-wood stump in the clearing, and he stood
against it so thoughtful and still that he became the object of
attention of bats. He hit at them angrily and recommenced his prowl.

Hour after hour he tramped through the dripping grass, biting against
fate. Cascaes, who did not work unless he was driven, had long since
checked his tally of kernels, and gone to bed. The factory lamps had
one by one gone out. The night noises of the forest that hemmed them
in were in full swing. His thin clothes were sodden with the damp, and
by every law of Africa he was gathering unto himself the seeds of
disease. But still he tramped on, in and out amongst the huts and
litter, wrestling with his misery.

The thing which in the end lifted him out of this unhealthy pit of
self-pity was commonplace enough in its way. As he was passing a small
rude shelter of boughs and thatch, there came to his ears a very
unmistakable human groan.

It was a temporary hut run up by some trader who was waiting his turn
to do business at the factory, and the groan was of that timbre which
told that it was wrenched from a strong man by deadly pain. At another
time Carter would probably have passed on. One grows callous to
suffering in West Africa, and to interfere with a sick native seldom
brings thanks and very frequently produces complications. But
something just then moved him to play the Samaritan.

He put his head through the entrance and peered into the darkness.
“Well,” he said, “who’s here, and what’s the matter?”

A voice replied in stately Haûsa, “O, Effendi, I am close upon death,
and it is hard to die far from one’s own lands and people.”

“Let’s have a look at you,” said Carter, in what he knew of the same
tongue, eked out with Kroo and Okky. He scraped a damp and reluctant
match. “Holy Christopher! What have you been doing to your thigh?”

“As I marched along the road to here, a leopard sprang and seized me,
but the men that were with me speared him, and so I escaped with my
life. They made a litter, and on it carried me to this place. And
here they left me in the hands of Allah, whilst they followed up their
own private affairs.”

“But, man, the wound’s alive. Why didn’t you have it dressed?”

“It was written that the wound should be as it is.”

“Rot. You stay here another ten minutes or so till I get the tackle,
and then I will clean it out for you.”

“Effendi, it is written that Allah sent the things that are in the
wound, and with due submission I will not have them touched.”

“Hum,” said Carter, “now this requires argument. You savvy
Constantinople? I mean I’Stamboul?”

“There lives the Kaleef, the chief of the Faithful of Islam.”

“You’ve got it in once. Now, are you keeping yourself posted in the
Sultan’s–that is the Kaleef’s latest readings of the Koran? You are
not. I can see you have let yourself get thoroughly behind the times.
What’s your name?”

“Ali ben Hossein.”

“Well, Ali, I know what’s the matter with you spiritually. You’ve been
thinking too much of the things of this life–fighting, trading and so
on. You’ve spread your mat and faced Mecca, and said your daily prayer
in a formal sort of way, but you’ve been neglecting the moolah. You
have been lax in your attendance at mosque, and for a fiver you aren’t
half the man at the Koran you used to be.”

“The Effendi is very wise.”

“I am. I can’t help it.”

“He has hit upon this Believer’s sin.”

“Dead on the spot. So now let’s get to the point. In your ignorance,
you believe that Allah sent all those crawling horrors that are in your

“For His own wise purposes He sent them. Allah can do no wrong.”

“You are mixing up theological facts. Allah can do no wrong. But what
about Sheitan?”

“I spit upon his name, O Effendi,” said Ali ben Hossein, and did it.

“Hear now then the pronouncement of the Kaleef Abdul Hamed of
I’Stamboul. The unclean things that haunt the wounds of the Faithful
are no longer sent by Allah as a test of Faith. They are sent now by
Sheitan as a torment to True Believers, and as an antidote, the
Prophet, through the Kaleef, has sent a liquid of his own devising, of
which by a happy chance I have a portion in the factory.”

“Is it green in color?”

“Green as the skirts of the houris of Paradise,” said Carter, and
thanked heaven for a small parcel of aniline dyes (green amongst them)
which had been sent by an enterprising Bradford dyeware merchant, to
the order of a dyer in far off Kano.

“Then,” said Ali ben Hossein simply, “if you, O Effendi, can relieve me
from the torments of Sheitan, from which I am suffering, I and my sons
will remember your name in the fullest gratitude. Have you the holy
liquid here?”

“Not in my pocket, O Ali ben Hossein, for I am not a djinn. But there
is a medicine chest up at the factory, and within it is a bottle of
crystal, blue in color, in which are tabloids which bear the giaour
name of perchloride of mercury. They and the aniline green may take a
bit of finding, but presently when I’ve got a solution made, and tinted
to a True Believer’s taste, I will return here and work upon you that
cure of which I am sure that the Kaleef Abdul would approve if he’d a
thigh as bad as yours, and had ever heard of an antiseptic dressing.
So see to it that you don’t slip through the gates of Paradise whilst I
am gone. D’you understand? The houris won’t look twice at a Haûsa
with a leg as worm-eaten as yours.”

Now, Carter gathered from a casual inspection by two damp matches that
ben Hossein’s thigh was pretty bad, but he had not made allowance for
the toughness of a water-drinking, spare-eating Moslem. When he came
back with a parrafin lamp, followed by White-Man’s-Trouble, who carried
a bowl of warm water and other things, and commenced his amateur
surgery, he was amazed, and he was sickened. Like most traders in the
West Coast factories, he had acquired through almost daily practice a
certain deftness in cleansing and repairing wounds; but here in the
thigh of this great muscular Haûsa was a grid of gashes whose untended
horrors went far beyond all his previous experience.

The fact that the man had not bled to death, or died of shock at the
first impact, and the further fact that he had withstood the attacks of
all the abominable live things that preyed thereafter upon his open
flesh, were a wonderful testimonial to his constitutional toughness;
and the detail that in spite of his fortitude he went clammy and limp
when Carter commenced dressing the wounds, was only what could be
expected. But it seemed that five days had elapsed since the man had
been brought in and left, and during that time the other merchants
outside the fort, with the ordinary callousness of Africans for one
another, had neither brought him food nor reported his calamity. On
the other hand, they had stolen his goods and gone their ways,
otherwise non-interferent. And as a consequence the man was three
parts starved when Carter found him and had his vitality perilously

Carter had, perhaps, as has been stated, much of the West Coast
trader’s callousness for the native, but he certainly had all of the
surgeon’s interest in a patient. After he had dressed the wounds he
tried his best to bring his patient back to consciousness, and then for
the first time only did he realize how near to the Borderland the man
had crept. He sent White-Man’s-Trouble flying this way and that on his
errands, and with all the limited knowledge in his power fought Death
for the Haûsa’s life till the fatal hour of dawn was well past.

And so he was found by Miss O’Neill at 5 A.M., white, shaken and
black-eyed, attired in stained and sodden clothes, squatting in a
miserable hutch that reeked of iodoform, and welcoming with joy Ali ben
Hossein’s ungracious return to a world he had so nearly left.

Miss O’Neill regarded him for awhile with a pinched lip, and then “I
think you are perfectly disgraceful,” said she. “At least you might
have let me know what you were doing, so that I could have come to help
part of the time.”

Carter blinked at her for a moment with tired brown eyes and then
pulled himself together. “I beg your pardon for not doing as you
wished. But I didn’t know that you were interested in niggers, if
there was no chance of making a dividend out of them. I rather looked
upon this as an out-of-office-hours job; as a piece of private
amusement of my own, in fact, and so I did not dare to repeat it.”

“Well,” said Kate, seating herself beside the sick man, “perhaps I was
hateful to you after supper, indeed I’ll admit that I was. But you are
being far more hateful to me now, and as that should tickle your vanity
as a man, perhaps you’ll be generous enough to call it quits. Trouble,
will you kindly take Mr. Carter back to the factory and give him a
large dose of quinine and all the hot, scalding tea he will drink, and
then put him to bed, and see to it that there are no insects inside his
mosquito bar.”

“I fit,” said the Krooboy. “An’ I got bottle of White man’s medicine
dat I pinch from dem Cappie Image. I give dem Carter a drink of him.”

“You will do nothing of the sort. Dem Cappie Image patent medicine
plenty bad ju-ju for Mr. Carter. So you will do exactly as I ordered
you. Ah, and here’s Laura. Now, my dear, if you don’t want the man to
whom you’re engaged to die before you marry him, you’d better look
after him and his health very narrowly. There, get away out of this,
the pair of you, and make up your silly quarrel, whatever it may be.”

“But, Kate, George and I have no quarrel. Why, it was you—-”

“If you haven’t a quarrel, my dear, invent one, if it’s only for the
amusement of making it up. I’m told it’s one of the chief luxuries of
an engagement. Now, please go, or you’ll disturb Hossein. Hossein’s
the man who wants attention here, and I can’t have you bothering about
the place till he’s better.”

Hossein was in fact the lucky man. Miss O’Neill, for reasons best
known to herself, nursed him in person; Carter retained his interest as
original discoverer; White-Man’s-Trouble fussed round him because it
was the popular thing to do, and Laura was also diligent in her
attendance on the sick room for reasons well-known to herself.

But Ali ben Hossein had all a Moslem gentleman’s diffidence with women,
and he said little enough to either Laura or Kate; the Krooboy was his
caste inferior, and he spoke to him only to give curt orders; and it
was to Carter alone that he was communicative.

His native tongue was Haûsa, of course, but he had been a trader all
his life, and that in West Africa entails a knowledge of languages.
Carter knew little enough of Haûsa, but he was handy with Okky and
sound on Kroo, and so when one vocabulary failed him, he passed on to
another, and was generally understood. Thus, by very rapid degrees an
intimacy grew between them, to as far an extent as the color barrier
would permit.

They talked on weapons and they talked on war; they talked of sport as
each of them understood it; they talked on horse-breeding as it was
practised in Kano and Sokoto, and also of horse-breeding as it was
carried on in the Craven district and the Yorkshire dales.

Carter tried without any success whatever to make Hossein understand
the humor of the battle of the roses as it was waged between his father
and mother in the Yorkshire vicarage; the Haûsa in his turn gave the
light side of a slave-hunting raid, and made Carter’s flesh creep.

They had abundant interests in common, too, in the romance of commerce,
and discussed regretfully the decay of ivory and the sensational rise
of rubber. Carter as the paid servant of O’Neill and Craven tried to
hear of rubber lands which could be bought and resold to an English
company, but Ali ben Hossein was emphatic in his refusal to help a
white immigration onto the acres of his fatherland.

“Let us talk as traders, oh Effendi. Do not ask me to be the traitor
who will make smooth the path for the invader. And for the present I
bid you to consider this shortage in the supply of pink kola nuts.
Now, the white kola nuts, which have not that dryness which is demanded
by the palates of the Western Soudan, we can get from Lagos and the
Coast factories in larger quantities than ever. But the growers
declare the crop of pink nuts to be practically a failure this year,
and therein I say they lie.”

And so on, with matter which had too technical a flavor to carry
general interest.

Now, the leopard had clawed Ali ben Hossein’s thigh grievously, and the
subsequent neglect of the wound had been abominable, but the man had
been a clean liver and his toughness was great. In ten days he could
hobble, and in a fortnight announced his departure.

“I am a merchant without merchandise, Effendi, and must needs be back
about my affairs. If I do not gather them into my hands again another

“I’d stand you tick to the extent of a dozen loads of goods if I had
’em,” said Carter cordially, “but as you’ve seen for yourself, the
factory’s cleaned out. And Allah knows when the next steamer will
drive in.”

“May your tribe increase, Effendi. I have had too much at your hands
already. But though no money may pass over what you have done, yet I
ask you to accept a gift, that is a mere token.”

It was a piece of gray stone which sprouted with rich brown crystals.
It was shaped like a squat duck, some inch and a half long, and Ali ben
Hossein wore it alongside the little leather parcel which held a verse
of the Koran and hung by a thong from his neck.

“O Effendi, you are young, and that will bring you pleasure more than
could be bought with ten quills of gold. Wear that, and your grief
will fade.”

“Poof!” said Carter, “I’ve no griefs.”

Ali ben Hossein waved aside the statement with a long slim hand, the
hand of the Haûsa swordsman for whose narrow grip Central African
armorers make sword hilts that no grown Englishman can use. “O
Effendi, my sickness was of the leg. Neither my eyes nor my ears were
touched by the leopard, and since I lay here I have both seen and
heard. There is a woman that I have watched, a woman with brown hair
that has in it the glint of copper. She flaunts you now, as is the way
of women with those they love; but she is the one you desire, and
presently (having this charm) you will take her to wife. Indeed, she
will come to your house without purchase and of free will.”

“You mistake,” said Carter with a sigh. “It is the black-haired one
that I am contracted to marry.”

Ben Hossein smiled. He was not to be turned from his idea by a small
argument like that. “You may take her as the lesser wife, but I know
who will rule your harem, Effendi.”

“You polygamous old scoundrel! I beg your pardon, ben Hossein, but
you’re on the wrong tack, and so please let us change the subject.
This charm, this duck, is made of what we call tin-stone. Does it come
from Haûsaland?”

“No, Effendi. It is found nearer to here than the Haûsa country.
There is a great island of red twisted stone that rears itself up out
of the bush, and this stone that the duck is made of lies amongst it.
There is no value in the charm as a stone, but only value in its shape,
which is that of a duck as you see, Effendi. Half the twisted mountain
is made of that stone, and the river that runs along its base at times
eats into it.”

“How far is it from here?”

“Twelve–no, thirteen marches. Look, I will spread this sand upon the
floor and draw you the roads…. But the country is evil, Effendi, and
though you go there and spend a lifetime in search, yet will you not
find another stone formed like a duck. To get this, my grandfather
sent a hundred slaves who raked amongst the screes for a year.”

“This is tin-ore,” said Carter, “and I tell you frankly, ben Hossein,
that there is a fortune in what you have told me.”

“I wish,” said ben Hossein gravely, “that there were ten fortunes, and
so I could perhaps repay one-tithe of what I owe to you, Effendi. May
Allah be with you. I go now back towards my people, and if Allah will,
we shall meet again.”

“Now, this stone and this tale must go to Kate,” said Carter to
himself, and went in towards the factory and up the stairs to the
veranda. Kate came out of the mess room to meet him, and waved a

“I have just de-coded it,” she cried exultingly. “They have accepted
my terms.”

“I wish you would de-code the ‘they.'”

“The German firm that owned Mokki before we came.”

“What, the people you bought it from?”

She nodded.

“But why on earth sell it back to them?”

“Because, my dear Mr. Carter, they are going to give me £9,000 for the
produce we have collected, and another £8,000 for the fort and the
good-will of the business. How’s that? £17,000 cash against a £1,500
outlay in three months. That’s better than staying out here in West

Carter had been carrying the duck in his hand. He put it into his
pocket. “I don’t wonder you’re exultant. I suppose no other girl on
earth ever made a coup like that. And as for us here at the factory,
that means our occupation’s gone?”

“Oh, I hope you’ll go back to Malla-Nulla, where you were, and work for
us there.”

“I think not. As you’re going home, and I cannot be of any immediate
use to O’Neill and Craven, I prefer to leave the firm’s employ if
you’ll let me?”

“We shall be really sorry to lose you. But perhaps you have something
better in view?”

“To tell the truth, I have. And it strikes me if I’m to make a
fortune, I must look out for it myself.”

“I quite agree with you,” said Kate. “What was that you were going to
show me? The thing you put in your pocket, I mean?”

“A keepsake that was given me. It’s a charm, a ju-ju that will bring
fortune to somebody, and I was going to give it to you. But on your
own recommendation I shall keep it for myself.”

“You are quite right. It will be safer for us to go our own several
ways from here.”

Now, Godfrey O’Neill, deceased, was a man who at various times in his
life had extracted from West Africa very considerable sums of money.
He was shrewd, he was popular, he had the knack of resisting sickly
climates, and he knew the possibilities of the Oil Rivers seaboard down
to the last bag of kernels.

According to his own account he had started life as a ship’s purser.
People who were more fond of accuracy mentioned that as a matter of
history he had first gone as cabin-boy in a palm oil brig. But be that
as it may, he had been associated with the Coast from his earliest
days, and at the age of five-and-twenty was trading there on his own

At first he stuck to an old trading hulk with moorings in the muddy
Monk River and battled with its swarms of cockroaches and got together
a business; but by degrees he gained the confidence of the native
riparian magnates, and by the time he was thirty he had built on piles
a fine set of factory buildings on the bank, had bought a treaty with
the then King of Okky, and had built another factory at Malla-Nulla in
spite of the fact that the beach there was one of the most surf-smitten
on the Coast. After that he felt that his Liverpool correspondents
were getting more than their due share of his hard-wrung profits, and
so he put the Coast factories under managers and came back to the
Mersey. And thereafter, with occasional visits to the Coast and the
Islands, he made Liverpool his headquarters.

He had an office in Water Street, a warehouse near Huskisson Dock, and
a house furnished with mid-Victorian solidity and ugliness out at
Princes’ Park. A sister, Mrs. Craven, whose unsatisfactory husband had
conveniently died on the Coast, kept house for him, and as she voted
marriage a failure, Godfrey professed himself as quite ready to take
her verdict and was not anxious to dabble in dangerous experiments.

Finally, as Godfrey O’Neill discovered, after a two years’ trial of the
style of living that suited him at Princes’ Park, that it cost him just
£900 a year, he saw very little use in bestirring himself to earn more.
He quite admitted that there were other luxuries in the world that he
did not indulge in. He might have kept horses, for instance; but he
happened to dislike them. He might have had a French chef; only plain
roast beef and plain roast mutton appealed more to his appetite, and a
plain British cook at £20 a year produced these exactly to his taste.
He might have had a larger house, but frankly he did not want one.

So he went down to the office in Water Street every other day, and
ceased to stir the business there when it showed any signs of averaging
a more than £1,500 profit for any one year, not because he objected to
additional wealth, but because he far preferred to play whist to
pursuing money. One may here own freely that Godfrey O’Neill was an
active member of no less than five whist quartettes which met at clubs
and houses, and there was the amusement which after long search he had
discovered pleased him best.

In the comfortable ugly house in Princes’ Park, besides Godfrey and
Mrs. Craven, and the two servants, there was a child who afterwards
developed into the Kate O’Neill of these memoirs. Godfrey O’Neill
brought her home on the last visit he made to West Africa. She was
then aged, at a theoretical reckoning, three years, and she was more
fluent in the Okky tongue than in English. She had never worn shoes
till Godfrey bought her a pair in Las Palmas on the voyage home.

“Is she white?” Mrs. Craven had asked.

“White, clean through,” Godfrey had assured her.

“Then who are her people?”

“That I shall not tell even you. Her mother is dead. Her father has
gone under. He was a very clever man once, though I must say he used
to be more high and mighty than I cared about on the rare occasions
that I met him. But, as I say, he’s gone under, hopelessly.”

“And presently,” said Mrs. Craven, “when we get this little wild thing
tamed, and clothed, and teach her to speak English and go to church, up
will come some drunken reprobate to take her away again.”

“No, he won’t. I’ve fixed that. He’ll never claim her again. To
start with he doesn’t know if she’s in England, or Canada, or Grand
Canary. I even changed the name he called her by. I called her Kate
from the day I left him, and had her christened by that name in Sierra
Leone on the off chance she hadn’t been christened before. And to go
on with, he gave me his word of honor that if I took her away, he’d
never embarrass me by inquiring for her again. You see, he was living
as a native, and the child was running about with the other
pickaninnies in the village, and I guess I made him pretty well ashamed
of himself by what I said. The mother’s dead, you know.”

“Poof,” said Mrs. Craven, “he promised you, did he? And what do you
suppose the word of a man like that is worth?” (The late Craven had,
it will be remembered, his strong failings.)

“Ninety-nine beach combers out of a hundred will lie as soon as look at
you,” Godfrey owned. “This one is the exception. He will keep his
word, at any rate on this matter. He’s just as proud as a king.”

“Between drinks,” suggested the widow.

“He’s more objectionably proud drunk than sober. He always quotes
Latin at one when he’s full, and then says, ‘Ah, but you’ve not been to
school anywhere, so you’ll not understand that.’ You needn’t be
frightened he’ll call here, Jane. Just remember I’m a man with a taste
for ease myself. If I’d thought there was the smallest chance of being
bothered with him, I shouldn’t have saddled myself with the kid.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Craven, “as you have brought her, I suppose we must
do the best we can for her. The average orphanage doesn’t take them
till they are six, but I suppose if we hunt round we can find some sort
of institution which will accept three-year-olds.”

“Orphanage, h’m. You see, Jane, I was thinking we might keep her
ourselves. I am sure we could look after her.”

“I object to the word ‘we,'” said Mrs. Craven dryly.

“Oh, I suppose most of the work would fall on your shoulders.”

“I am sure of it.”

“Come along, old lady, don’t you think you can manage it? Kitty isn’t
a bad sort of kid. Y’know, I saw a goodish deal of her on the steamer
coming home.”

“I thought you gave her in charge of a steward?”

“I never told you that.”

Mrs. Craven laughed. “You see, I know your little ways–‘Steward,
here’s a girl for you. If you nursery-maid the kid nicely till we get
to Liverpool, and don’t let me see more of her than I want, and don’t
let her come in and prattle when I’m playing whist with Captain Image,
there’ll be another quid for you when we land. After that my sister
will take her over, and she won’t want a tip at all.'”

“H’m,” said Godfrey, “now, diamonds aren’t in your line.”

“I wouldn’t be seen with one. I’ll take a brown cloth gown, please.”

“Shall I order it?”

“No, you can pay the bill.”

“Right-o. Then you will take Kitty and bring her up here?”

“You stupid goose,” said Mrs. Craven, “I intended that from the moment
I saw her. Cook’s out buying her a cot this minute.”

* * * * *

Here then was the way that Kate first came into the house at Princes’
Park. She arrived without a surname, and Godfrey, in spite of hints
and plain questions, kept back any further pedigree. The child
arranged a name for herself. When she had been a year in England she
went out to a small folks’ party:

“Let me see, what’s your name?” asked the hostess, who had got tangled
up among her many small guests.

The child had answered “Kate O’Neill,” as a matter of course. She had
called Mrs. Craven, Aunt Jane, and her brother Uncle Godfrey from the
first, and after that juvenile party she was introduced as “my niece,
Kate O’Neill.”

As she grew, anything to do with West Africa and with business
fascinated her, and curiously enough her principal instructor in these
matters was Mrs. Craven. Godfrey, honest man, was not going to be
bothered. His repartee when Kate asked him anything about the Coast
was, “Go and invite some one to come in and let’s make up a rubber of
whist.” When one day he died, and left Kate the O’Neill and Craven
business, both she and her aunt supposed he had done it as an effort of

Mrs. Craven had the house and furniture at Princes’ Park, and a
comfortable annuity to keep it up on. Kate came into a business that
had been thoroughly neglected, and allowed to run down till it was in a
very shaky position, indeed, financially.

“Sell it,” said Mrs. Craven, “for what it will fetch.”

“I’d rather run it myself,” said Kate.

“Rubbish,” said her aunt; “you’re twenty, and the world’s before you to
enjoy. Besides, my dear, you’re sure to marry. Sell the business.”

“If you want plain facts, aunt, I don’t see why anyone should give
sixpence for it, and if we tried to wind it up, it would mean
bankruptcy. Some of the money’s a very long way out.”

“Your poor Uncle Godfrey intended to leave you comfortably off, I know.”

“And I’m pleased to think he died believing he had done so. They had
the quaintest way of keeping books down at Water Street. Cutting
notches on a tally-stick was nothing to some of their dodges. They
hadn’t struck a proper balance sheet for years, and both Uncle Godfrey
and Mr. Crewdson really and honestly imagined that the firm was

“You sell,” said Mrs. Craven.

“Not I, aunt. Uncle Godfrey left me the concern believing it to be a
small fortune for me, and a fortune I’m going to make out of it, and
not a small one, either.”

“I don’t believe in business women,” said Mrs. Craven severely. “I’d
rather see a womanly woman.”

“My dear,” said Kate, “you shall see the two combined in me presently.
I’m going to make a ve-ry large and extensive fortune; but the moment
you see anything unfeminine about me, I want you to tell me, and I’ll
sell out forthwith.”

Thereafter from eight o’clock A.M. to six-thirty P.M. for five days a
week Kate sat in an inner room of the Water Street office, with the
ancient Crewdson as a buffer between her and the world. She came into
the place with a talent for figures, and a good general idea of the
business, and she set herself first to the conversion of Mr. Crewdson.

That worthy old person was entirely of opinion that what was good
enough for poor Mr. Godfrey was quite good enough for anybody else, and
(when pressed) said so with unfriendly plainness. A man, in Kate’s
shoes, would have dismissed him, and brought in younger blood. Kate
preferred conversion. She knew that there was a great quarry of
information on matters West African stowed beneath Mr. Crewdson’s dull
exterior, and she intended to dig at it. So she reduced his wages,
which he quite agreed with her the firm could not afford, and then,
unasked, offered him a fine commission on the next year’s profits. It
was curious to see how soon she galvanized him into an opinion that
these profits must certainly be forthcoming.

She laid in a typewriter, burned the office quills, wrote the firm’s
letters, signed them _For O’Neill and Craven, K. O’Neill_, and before
she knew it had created a personality. Ten callers a day–captains,
pursers, traders, merchants–wanted to shake hands with “your new head,
Mr. K.,” and went away with the idea that old Crewdson had suddenly
developed capacity, and on the strength of it had stood himself a new

On Saturdays, during the summer, Miss O’Neill caught butterflies, and
in the winter played golf. On Sunday morning she went to church. On
Sunday afternoons and evenings she had something very nearly
approaching a salon. On these latter occasions Mrs. Craven flattered
herself that she brought success by her artistic attention to the

Now, the girl was attractive to men, and although she was emphatically
a girl’s girl, still she had as many friends of one sex as the other.
She was good-looking, she was amusing, she was always well turned out,
and she carried about with her that indescribable charm (above and
beyond these other matters) which always makes people desirous of
warming up a first acquaintance into intimacy.

To one man only had she shown any special degree of preference, and he
was enough encouraged thereby to propose marriage to her.

She accepted him–provisionally.

“I am not absolutely certain that I wish to be married just yet,” she
told him, “but I am going abroad now, and I will let you know
definitely when I return. Those are not nice terms, but they are the
best I can offer. I have always been able to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’
decision on every other matter in life so far. But here I can’t. It
is weak of me. Perhaps it is merely womanly.”

“You are exquisite in your womanliness, as you are exquisite in
everything else,” he had replied. “I am grateful for any bone of
comfort you throw me, Kitty dear.”

She was going away then to West Africa, as has been related above, and
the man saw her off from the landing stage. She returned the waving of
his handkerchief. “Now, if you had abused me for my indecision, and
said you would either be engaged or not engaged, I believe I’d have
married you out of hand if you’d wanted me. But you didn’t seem able
to clinch things, and so anyhow you’re pigeon-holed for the present.
I’m glad I made you keep our little matter secret.”

The man’s name was Austin. Many times during the voyage south through
the Bay, and down the Trades from the Islands, Kate told herself she
ought to announce the fact that she was engaged. But on every occasion
her femininity got up in arms. “Certainly not,” said this intangible
force. “Mr. Austin is a man, and if he cares to be a man and gossip,
why let him. But a woman by reason of her sex is not called upon to
say more than she needs.” So Kate held her tongue, and regretted more
and more every day that–well–that she should have cause for regrets.

When she got back to England, a day ahead of time, Aunt Jane happened
to be in London, but Austin had a wire from Point Lynas and was there
on the landing stage to meet her. He wanted to kiss her there before
the world, but she had the advantage of height, and avoided him
skilfully and without advertisement. Their subsequent handshake was
somewhat of a failure.

“Hullo, Henry,” said Miss O’Neill, “fancy seeing you here. I suppose
you will try and make out you came down here to the landing stage on
purpose to meet me? How abominably hot Liverpool is, and how
atrociously the Mersey smells after that nice clean Smooth River. Have
you caught me any butterflies? I’ve brought four cases full home from
the Coast, and I honestly believe I’ve got two unnamed specimens. If
they turn out new, I shall christen one after myself–something
O’Neillii. There’s vanity for you! And now for the Customs House.”

“Is that all you have to say to me, Kitty? I’ve been just hungry all
the time to see you again. I don’t think a single hour of a single day
has passed but what I have thought of you, and where you were, and what
you were doing.”

“Well, Henry, that’s more than I could say. Here, wait till I catch
that porter’s eye. He’s taking my cabin trunk to the wrong heap.
About what was in my head between here and the Coast, I’ll not say, but
once out there, I’ll tell you frankly I gave little enough thought to
anything except Coast interests. The first place I went ashore at
after Sierra Leone was our own factory at Smooth, and they’d had a
fight there which only ended up when our whistle blew. The clearing
between the factory buildings and the forest was full of dead men. I
found out that no fewer than 800 Okky savages had attacked the place,
and they were all held off by one of our clerks with a couple of
Winchesters, and a half-caste girl who loaded for him. It sounds like
a tale out of a book, and you needn’t believe it unless you like; I
don’t think I should believe it unless I had seen things for myself,
but I did see the men who had been actually shot when they tried to
rush the place, and I can guarantee the truth of the story.”

“Don’t tell me there’s a romance between you and your clerk.”

“There wasn’t room for one. He was engaged to the heroine already, and
was as consistently rude to me as he knew how. But I don’t mind
telling you he was a magnificent fellow. He was a gentleman, too,
which is rather a rare thing to find on the Coast. But you’re letting
me do all the talk. You haven’t told me about yourself. What have you
been doing?”

“The usual work of a busy solicitor; getting new clients, and sticking
to the old ones. I can report good, steady success, Kitty. We can
start pretty comfortably.”

A Customs searcher put his usual questions, and Kate smiled on him and
said she had nothing to declare. He scrawled a chalk hieroglyphic on
all her property without opening a single piece. “There, look, Henry,
stop that porter. He’s taking a case of mine to the wrong cab.
Thanks, I wouldn’t have lost that case for a king’s ransom.”


“No, a native war horn in ivory.”

“Oh, they’re fairly common.”

“Yes, but a friend gave me this, and I want to keep it. There, I think
that’s the lot. Good-by, Henry. You’ll come and see me at Princes’
Park when I’m settled down again?”

“But, Kitty, can’t I drive out with you now? I’d so looked forward to
driving back with you. There’s plenty of room in the cab.”

“No,” said Kate, “I’d rather you went home now, and thought over again
what I’m like now that I’ve come back to England with a West Coast
flavor. I know you’ll disapprove of me as a possible wife, but I do
hope you’ll see your way of keeping me on the list of your friends.
Nobody knows you ever suggested anything more, unless you have told
them, and I don’t see why they should know. But I’m more than ever
convinced that I’m not the girl to make you the wife you deserve.
Don’t answer me now, there’s a nice boy. Just go to the club and have
a good dinner, and ring me up some time this evening and say you
thoroughly agree with me.”

Mrs. Craven came back that evening from London and Kate told her of
West Africa happenings with a fine wealth of detail.

The old lady looked at her very narrowly and when she had finished,
“Yes, my dear,” said she, “and now are you going to tell me something
that will interest me far more than all that?”

“No, Aunt, I think you have got the pith of it.”

“If you won’t tell, you won’t. But you must remember, Kitty dear, I
have known you and nursed you ever since you were a tiny child, and you
can’t change–as you have done–without my noticing it. Now, this Mr.

“Yes, I did forget to tell you that he’s got frightfully red hair.”

“You say he’s engaged to Laura Slade?”

“Oppressively so.”

“But is he going to marry her?”

“How can I tell, Aunt?”

“Who is he going to marry, Kitty dear?”