Mr. Smith had been away from his creature comforts for a spell of
twenty hours, and most of that time had been spent on the thwart of a
dancing surf boat in the embraces of a dank sea fog. He had been
divorced from food, stimulant and tobacco smoke for all that time–the
surf boat had been twice upset in getting off, and drowned all the
matches–and as a consequence his temper was vile, and his language was
sulphurous. He was barely thankful when he came back to the beach
again and found Malla-Nulla factory neither burned nor looted; he was
openly ungrateful when he found that the last of the stock of limes had
gone mouldy, and realized for the moment a Coast cocktail was beyond
the limitations of art. As a consequence Mr. Smith romped up and down
the untidy mess-room in a state bordering on frenzy, and in his own
especial polyglot reviled the unknown K. O’Neill as the _fons et origo

In addition to the legitimate boat boys, the whole of the other factory
boys had been crammed into the surf boat, and as a consequence they
also were chilled, cramped, and bad-tempered. His own body servant was
openly insolent when commanded to produce dry tobacco and a pipe. And
when on the top of all this Mr. Smith opened Carter’s bedroom door,
stumbled over the sleepy White-Man’s-Trouble, and was promptly floored
by that nervous savage and threatened with a well-filed matchet, the
remaining rags of his temper at last gave way. He sat there on the
floor, a very unkempt figure, and for five minutes without stopping (or
repeating himself) said exactly what he thought.

During four of these minutes his Assistant had been awake, and
listening to him through the thin filter of the mosquito bar.

“Perhaps I should explain, sir,” said Carter, stiffly, when the flow of
words at last ended, “that I came back here because I thought you were
in a hole and I might be of use. I have not been indulging in whiskey
as you suggest, but I believe I have been through a stiffish bout of

“Get up, man, and look at yourself in the glass.”

Carter did that, inspected a moment, and then whistled. “Good Lord,”
he said, “I don’t wonder you think I had been on the razzle. What on
earth’s this white stuff painted round my eyesockets? I look like a
clown in a circus.”

“Oh, Carter,” said White-Man’s-Trouble, “dem ju-ju. Last night you lib
for fever plenty-too-much bad. I fit for cure you. Now you well. If
you touch dem ju-ju, you lib for fever again, one-time.”

Carter’s meddling hand dropped to his side as though the white stuff
round his eye had stung him. He turned half-apologetically to Mr.
Smith. “Do you think that’s likely, sir? You know West African ways
better than I do.”

“Beyond me. But you never can tell, and there’s always the probability
of Africa springing something new upon one. If I were you I should let
your personal appearance slide and risk wearing that decoration for the
day, if your boy says so. Ju-ju’s a dangerous thing to meddle with
anyway, and he calls it that. Besides your fever’s gone, you say?”

“Absolutely. And I don’t even feel a wreck.”

“You’re sure you were pretty bad last night?”

“I fancy I was close upon pegging out. I never had such a stiff bout

“Well, Mr. Carter,” said the old man screwing in an eyeglass and
staring at him, “if I were you I should dash Trouble five bob for
saving your life, and follow out the rest of his instructions. Ju-ju
often gets there when drugs won’t touch the spot at all, and, mark you,
you’re getting that admission from the man who knows more about drugs
suitable for Coast ailments than anybody in West Africa. The only
trouble about putting this into general practice, is, where are you
going to find the proper ju-ju to meet the case? But you seem to have
got hold of the right boy for this sort of thing in Trouble. Turning
to business for a moment, I hope you’re satisfied with your exertions
on behalf of Craven and O’Neill with his Majesty of Okky?”

“Well, I don’t know what he’s done yet, sir. Mr. Slade said he had
wiped out Malla-Nulla factory and killed you and all the boys, but that
seems, well, exaggerated.”

“Slade always takes the gloomy view. The King talked; and I’ll admit
things looked ugly for a bit. You see you’d walked off with the Firm’s

“Good heavens, do you mean that my tin-pot ten-and-sixpenny revolver
was the only gun about the place?”

“Certainly I do. You see–er–Mr. Carter, one occasionally–er–dines
rather heavily here, and once after dining too well I saw a man shoot
another whose loss he regretted afterwards. So as I wished to spare
myself those regrets, I saw to it that there was nothing more deadly
about the place than trade guns, and you wouldn’t catch me loosing off
one of those, however drunk I might be. I regret to say the King
didn’t continue to carry his liquor like a gentleman after you’d left;
he grew quarrelsome; and finally I had to pull him up with some
sharpness. Then came the ultimatum. He said I should find the roads
stopped already–the old scoundrel had been playing me like a trout, it
seems, till everything had been got ready, and he told me that as a
fine for your lèse-majesté he should help himself to the contents of
the factory as they stood.”

“But you headed him off there, sir, at any rate.”

Swizzle-Stick Smith chuckled. “Well, I haven’t been on this Coast for
twenty-five years without knowing a thing or two. I told the King I
was rather glad to hear him say that because it showed that a prophecy
made a year ago was now going to be fulfilled. He asked what it was.
I spouted to him

‘Maecenas Atavis edite regibus
O et præsidium et dulce decus meum,
Sunt, quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
Conlegisse juvat, …

as the first thing that came into my head, and fine pompous lines they
are, as you’d remember if you’d ever been to a public school, which you

“I’ve written out all Horace twenty times over in impositions and know
the bulk by heart, but I can’t say I ever got a taste for construing

“Well, we won’t argue out the value of a classical education just now.
Anyway the King of Okky was impressed. Of course he twigged the stuff
was not English, or Okky, or Kroo, or Arabic, or any of the tongues
hereabouts. He asked what it was. I said it was a priest’s tongue.
He asked what the words meant. I romanced then and told him they
prophesied that the factory would be looted by a King who had made
himself a King–the old scoundrel was born a slave, you’ll remember,
and made the throne vacant by killing his predecessor–and that two
days afterwards a new and very curious sort of ju-ju would be put on
that King, who would thereupon die a new and very painful sort of

“Ripping!” said Carter.

“The meeting broke up in confusion just about then, because his
soldiers down below began to run amuck among our boys, and the King
heard the row and went for me. However, I’d my big lead tobacco box
handy, and I wiped him over the head with that, and as the boys below
were frightened, and had got our surf boat ready for launching, I saw
that they intended to quit, whatever I might say, and I didn’t see the
force of holding the fort here alone. So I went to sea with them, and
spent the evening preaching them a long sermon on the vice of
cowardice. I hadn’t much faith that the King would be fool enough to
swallow my prophecy, but as I say, you can never be sure which way the
African brain will twist. And here you see’s the factory untouched.”

“When Mr. K. gets a report on this, sir, I fancy you’ll have a letter
you will like.”

“Maybe. But I shan’t wear myself out expecting it. Look here”–Mr.
Smith produced a letter from the breast pocket of his stained
pyjamas–“came in just after you’d left. Sent by canoe and special
runner from our factory on the Monk River. Agent there says he wants
to charge me seven pound ten for forwarding my mail. If that’s K.
O’Neill’s idea of running a business economically, I wish he’d come out
to the Coast here and find a way of making profits to correspond.”

Carter had a shrewd suspicion that if Mr. K. had ordered an expenditure
of seven pounds ten shilling sterling over the forwarding of a letter,
it contained an idea which that very astute business man was sure would
produce at least seventy pounds in the near future. But he did not
irritate his superior by mentioning this aloud. Instead he asked, “Any
instructions for me, sir?”

“Well, yes. First of all there is a direct one. K. says, ‘As Mr.
Carter seems a good hand at collecting native curios, I should be glad
if he would get me some ivory war horns. I want a row of them on my
drawing-room wall.’ So, young man, you had better get hold of some
escribellos and your carving tools and set to work.”

“I don’t propose,” said Carter shortly, “to start faking curios for Mr.
K. A man like that would spot them at once. But I’ll send my model
horn, and see to it he has some other good specimens of the real thing.”

“As you like. Well, the letter goes on to advise us that the next
thing America and France and Great Britain are going to gamble over is
rubber. Not collected wild rubber, you understand, but rubber estates
where the vines can be planted and cultivated. K.’s evidently going in
for Company Promoting, and as a preliminary he instructs me to get
options of suitable territory. He’s got an idea that an uncleared
estate on the Coast here, which could grow rubber if it had the chance,
can be bought at the rate of a case of gin per thousand acres; and if
you’ve a fancy for untouched bush, and a doubtful title, I daresay that
is so.”

“But one can get a clear title, I suppose, if one takes the trouble?”

Mr. Smith’s pipe finally refused even to bubble, so he started to clean
out its more obvious horrors into Carter’s wash basin. He went on
between the throes of this nice operation–“Depends who you mean by
‘one.’ If you’re hinting at yourself, I have no doubt you could manage
it, because–you’re a very painstaking young man, and I’m sure–you see
yourself as a partner of K. O’Neill already. Isn’t that so?”

“That might do when I’m ready, sir,” said Carter laughing, “unless I
see something better in the meantime. But as a point of fact I wasn’t
setting up myself as a man to see through the tangle of African land

“If you were referring to me, I shouldn’t recommend you to bet on the
result, unless the odds are big on your side. And mark you I’ve been
dabbling in West African real estate at intervals for five-and-twenty
years”–he pointed to the crown of his bald head–“that’s what’s worn
my hair so thin in places. You get your eye on a piece of land here,
you get all the local evidence you can rake up as to who is owner, and
you pay that man and put up your buildings. If within the next six
months more than three other owners don’t turn up with absolutely
flawless-looking titles, you’ll be lucky. It’s a case of pay each of
them in turn, or clear out.”

“But surely there’s the alternative of doing neither?”

“Certainly, if you can get the Government to back you up, and that’s
the rarest thing imaginable. You see any land trouble of that kind,
whatever the rights or wrongs of it may be, always means a war when the
white man refuses either to pay or quit. The local kings and ju-ju men
always snap at the chance. Well, we needn’t argue this out any
further. I know all the districts in at the back here where rubber can
be grown, and I shall go off on a trip up country and see what I can do
in the way of negotiations. I leave you in charge here at Malla-Nulla.
Your particular object in life will have to be keeping down expenses.”

“You think there will be no trade then?”

“Not now the King of Okky has closed the roads,” said Smith decisively.

Now Swizzle-Stick Smith had a long list of failings, but letting his
assistants eat the bread of idleness was not among them. “Nothing like
work–and a moderate amount of drugs–for keeping fever and mischief
out of a man,” was his motto, and he saw to it that Carter remained
steadily on the run. But now the roads were stopped, and it was only
the rare merchant who straggled in scared, and often wounded, from that
mysterious Africa behind, George Carter discovered that life was a very
different thing. Beforetime, he had found work in the feteesh, and
round the factory generally, a trial to the flesh; but the idleness
that took its place was infinitely more objectionable.

He employed the Krooboy staff in whitewashing, in building, in making a
caricature of a garden; he made the native clerks polish up their books
into a shape that would have satisfied even a Glasgow Chartered
Accountant; and for himself he made Okky arrows, axes, spears, drums
and warhorns, in such quantities that even the curiosity shops of
Europe would have been glutted if they had all gone home.

In despair he even thawed to a certain intimacy with the Portuguese
linguister, but presently cast him off in disgust, and realized why on
the West Coast one divides up the population into white men, black men,
and Portuguese. Of course White-Man’s-Trouble was always at his elbow,
but he hardly fulfilled the requirements of a companion.

To be precise, after the roads were stopped, and Mr. Smith had departed
elsewhere, the Trader-in-charge of Malla-Nulla factory discovered for
himself what many millions of men have found out before, that it is not
good for man to live alone, and though he made many ingenious plans for
remedying the evil, all of these, save one, invariably broke down on
being tested. The one plan that was sound related to Laura Slade.

Every time that Laura’s name inserted itself into the argument his mind
would presently leap back to Upper Wharfedale, and he would hear afresh
that warning of his father’s about taking a wife of one’s own color.
And his father, he reminded himself, had once held an Indian
chaplaincy, and knew what he was talking about.

But by degrees, as this proposition was argued out again and again, and
the loneliness of West Africa in general, and Malla-Nulla in particular
bit deeper and deeper home, so did England and all that dwelt therein
drift further and further away. He had found occasion the day after he
had been left in sole charge of the factory to send a business note to
Slade at Smooth River. In it he enclosed another to Laura, and to this
latter he received a reply that he found charming. The affairs of the
factories required many messages after that; and presently the pair of
them did away with the cloak and pretence of commerce altogether, and
White-Man’s-Trouble was kept trotting backwards and forwards across the
glaring beaches, frankly as Cupid’s messenger. Only once did Slade
interfere, and that was when the Krooboy, presuming on his peculiar
position, stole from the Smooth River factory some article of more than
customary value. Slade said nothing publicly, but took the law into
his own hands, and after the custom of the Coast banged
White-Man’s-Trouble lustily with a section of a packing case; and even
then Carter would have known nothing about the matter had not there
been a nail in the weapon of offence, which left its marks, and about
which he made inquiries.

Slade it seemed had also received from K. O’Neill similar instructions
to those recorded above, on the matter of rubber estates, and with his
usual indecision would determine one day to set off personally into the
bush, and the next day to do the necessary bargaining by
correspondence. Finally he wrote to Carter a querulous letter saying
that as he got no help from anybody in deciding on such an important
subject, he was just going to stay on at Smooth River and twiddle his
thumbs, and so Carter was not in the least surprised to hear from Laura
within the next twenty hours that her father with hammock-train and
escort had that day set off for a prolonged expedition into the bush.

“His last instructions,” wrote Laura, “were that I was not to be in the
least nervous; he was going to avoid the Okky country; and anyway he
was an old Coaster, and knew most thoroughly how to take care of
himself. And so, nervous I refuse to feel. But, oh! I am so lonely
here with no one whiter than Mr. and Mrs. da Silva to talk to. I
somehow quite share your instinctive dislike to West Coast Portuguese.”

Within ten minutes after reading that letter, Carter was out under a
brazen glare of heat, marching along the sand where it was wet and
hard, and nearing the straggle of palms which marked the banks of
Smooth River, at the rate of four good miles to the hour. When a white
man walks at that speed through West Africa mid-day heat, it is only
because some question of life or death hangs upon the speed; though in
this case Carter told himself that love was the same as life. He
pinned his eyes on the Smooth River palms, which the refraction made to
dance up and down most coquettishly, and repeated this over and over
again, because another voice within him persisted in sneering something
about two very lonely people with nothing to do, who were not in love
at all, but merely bored with idleness and their own society; and
finally he got quite angry over the matter. He stuck out his great
dogged chin, and presently cursed aloud. He shook his fist at the
splendor of the tropical sun. “I do love the girl,” he declared, “and
I will marry her in spite of my father, and K., and everyone, if she
will have me. Curse it! Why should I hesitate when I love her? This
infernal climate is making me as slack and undecided as even poor old

So with the surf booming ceaselessly in his ears, and the sea-smoke
driving over him and making his white drill collar damp and sticky, he
marched resolutely on to meet Fate.

The attack on Smooth River factory did not take place without due
warning. It seemed that a large caravan of native merchants from the
hinterland had come through the Okky country with a fine cargo of
produce since the King had stopped the roads. Whether they had cut new
roads through the bush for themselves, or fought their way past the
obstructing ju-ju, they did not explain; they arrived at the factory
with kernels, a few tusks of discolored ivory, a few quills of
water-worn gold, and a fine parcel of high-grade rubber, which were
duly valued; they took cloth, six flint-lock guns, a case or two of
gin, and the balance in pink Kola-nuts by way of payment; and with
these on the skulls of their carriers, they marched away along the
Beach and out of this history.

Then presently there came down envoys from the King of Okky demanding
with a fine inconsistency that O’Neill and Craven’s factory should pay
his Majesty the transit blackmail which he had been unable to collect
himself. Carter was sent for, post-haste, from Malla-Nulla, and was at
first minded to tell those envoys to go to a kingdom which repute says
is even hotter than West Africa. But thoughts of Laura living there by
herself, and a dread of the horrors of native war made him offer a
compromise. “Open the roads,” said he, “and we’ll pay up these
fellows’ dues, though your King knows perfectly well he hasn’t an atom
of claim on this factory. It’s the custom for traders to pay for going
through a country if they can’t avoid paying; they never pay once they
are through; and never, never, never, throughout all the wicked history
of Africa has there been a case of an English factory being fool enough
to pay toll which its casual customers have slipped through without
paying. But, as I say, I am ready to meet you in the matter. Open the
roads and I’ll dash you this amount you ask for.”

Kwaka, the head envoy, a big, fine, bold-eyed Haûsa, requested that the
money might be handed them there and then.

“Not one sixpence,” said Carter, “till the roads are opened.”

The Haûsa was a professional soldier, and here he could see was going
to be a chance of working at his trade. He gleefully delivered the
King of Okky’s ultimatum. If the tribute was not paid, the King would
withdraw his permission for O’Neill and Craven’s factories to exist on
the Coast.

“Tell your old King,” said the Englishman contemptuously, “that he may
have authority over his own filthy mud-villages inland, but his law
does not carry along the Coast, as he knows full well. The Coast is
the white man’s.”

Things were going exactly as Kwaka could have wished. The man with the
red head was warming up nicely. “If you fight when we come down to the
factory,” said Kwaka, “I will see to it that you are crucified
separately. I should like to take the woman who lives here into my own
harem, but the King has bespoken her already.”

“You,” said Carter savagely, “a Moslem, ought to know shame for living
in the employ of pagans like Okky-men. If you come back here, my first
shot shall be for you, and after you are dead I will have that done to
your face with the white man’s doctor’s tools as shall forever spoil
its beauty. So that when the Prophet takes you up into Paradise, even
the least of the houris will shrink from you and hide her eyes from all
sight of you in the folds of her green robe. Just you stick that in
your memory, Mr. Kwaka, and don’t come boasting ’round here. Observe,
I am a man of my hands: I can make white iron burn.”

He pulled a length of magnesium wire from his pocket and lit it with a
match. The big Haûsa stared owlishly at the fierce white flame.

“That is the glare of Gehenna,” said Carter, “into which if you come to
Smooth River again you will presently descend, after being cast out
from Paradise because of the reason I mentioned. You have now my
permission to depart. And I wonder,” he added to himself, “if my
Mohammedan theology is fairly correct. Kwaka’s swallowed it right
enough, but if he hands it along to a mullah, he may find a flaw, and
we shall have the whole brood of them down about our ears in half

However the portent was sufficiently startling for the moment. Kwaka
argued that a man who could make iron burn could doubtless (as he
claimed) spoil the good looks of a True Believer by some other of his
infernal arts, and therefore was a person whom it would be healthy to
let alone. So he and his escort took themselves off into the forest as
unobtrusively as might be.

But with Laura, Carter took another tone. “Look here, my dear,” he
said, “you simply must run across to the Canaries till things have
simmered down again here. I don’t want to alarm you, but it’s quite on
the cards that infernal old Mormon of a King may take it into his
woolly head to be dangerous. You’ve had one taste of his quality

“Two,” said the girl, and shuddered, “and he’s sent my father presents
and messages since. But I can’t go away from Smooth River, at any rate
till my father comes back. He left me in charge, you see.”

“Which I think very improper of him. I don’t believe in girls being
mixed up in business matters, at any rate in West Africa, and I am sure
K. O’Neill would be frightfully down on it–what are you laughing at?
Laura, tell me one-time what you are sniggering about in that
ridiculous way. Oh, I see. You think I have never seen Mr. K. and am
talking through my hat. Well, my dear, if you had read fifty times
over every letter that K. has written to Malla-Nulla factory during the
last eighteen months, you would know that man and his likes and his
dislikes, and his ambitions, and his cranks just about as accurately as
I do. Anyway, I repeat, he’d hate to have you here in charge.”

“Just remember that I don’t agree with you one bit, Mr. Carter.”

“Very well, Miss Slade, you can jolly well do the other thing. But
take charge here I shall, and go to the Islands you must. There’s a B.
and A. boat due to call at Monk River the day but one after to-morrow.
I’ll send for our surf boat, and we’ll take you there in style. Won’t
you have a ripping time of it at Las Palmas and up in the Monte! I
wonder what the new hotel’s like up there. And I say, Laura, go down
to that farm at the bottom of the Caldera, and I bet you a new hat it
takes you half an hour longer than my record time to get up again as
far as Atalaya–Hullo, what’s the matter now?”

“You are making things rather hard for me. I’d go away from this
hateful Coast if I could, but we simply can’t afford it, and there you
have the bare fact.”

“But I thought—-”

“Oh, yes, of course you did, that father was a sort of local
millionaire. Well, he isn’t. He did once have private means, but that
I think was before I was born, and only the reputation of them remains
now. He’s made big commissions on the factory’s trading, I know, but
he’s invested badly, and I think he’s been robbed. Probably, too, I’ve
been extravagant.”


“Well, anyway, the money’s gone, and the brutal truth is I haven’t a
sovereign in the world.”

“Good Lord! You ought not to have been left here like that. It was
beastly careless of Slade.”

“He never thought of it. And if he had, he couldn’t have done
anything. His equipment of course came from about the factory, but as
regards money, he went away without a pound in his pocket. There
aren’t shops that one can spend money in to be found up in the bush.”

“It’s disgustingly awkward,” said Carter frowning. “Of course every
penny that I have in the world would be as much yours as it ever had
been mine, but the fact is, my dear, I’ve paid it all away as it came.
You see, in a way I was a sort of bad egg before I got a billet out
here on the Coast, where, I suppose, if you come to look at it, there
are small opportunities of roystering. Besides, with Mr. Smith always
before one as an example of what not to be, it doesn’t take very much
resolution to keep straight. Anyway, in ancient days I ran up all the
debts I could get tick for, and I landed in the poor old Pater for a
lot more than a younger son’s share. Well, what with selling curios
through that old blackguard Balgarnie on the _M’poso_ (who I know robs
me of half the proceeds), and commission on our turnover at
Malla-Nulla, which has increased a lot since I’ve been there (till of
course this row cropped up), and my small bit of regular screw,
altogether I’ve made a very decent income, and I’ve taken a bit of
pride in paying off the old debts with ten per cent. of interest added.
I knew that extra ten per cent. would tickle some of them frightfully.
It was just that chunk of interest that cleaned me out down to the
bone, and I chucked it in because I thought one could not possibly want
hard cash down on the Coast here. What idiots men are to let
themselves run short of money! However, I shall have another quarter’s
screw due in a couple of months’ time and in the meanwhile you must go
to the Islands on tick.”

“You’re a dear good boy, but it can’t be done. I shall stay on here
and make the best of things.”

“You will do nothing of the kind, young woman. You will travel on a
Madeira chair in a palatial surf boat as far as Monk River as we just
now arranged, and then I shall walk on board the B. and A. boat with
you, and explain to the purser who you are, and everything will be as
right as ninepence.”

She looked at him with full eyes. “You make things difficult for me.”

“Not a bit of it. I’m the man that’s going to shoulder the

“Oh, you didn’t know it. But if you asked a favor for my father’s
daughter from the purser of the _Secondee_–she’s the boat that’s
due–you would get an unkind answer. We’re in debt all round, and I’m
afraid he didn’t behave very well to either the purser or the captain
of the _Secondee_. Now, please do not press me any more. I stay here
at Smooth River factory.”

George Carter hit the table with his fist. “Then I stay, too. The da
Silvas will put me up, and if they object, I’ll turn them out into the
bush and live in their house alone. Malla-Nulla must look after

“What will Mr. K. say to that?”

“He will approve. K.’s a tough nut in business matters, but he’s a man
all through.”

“Is he?” said the girl with a queer smile. “I don’t agree with you.”‘

“One may not at the moment like the way he hustles one along in his
letters,” said Carter stoutly, “but he’s a man all through, and if he
was to get to know how things are fixed here, and to hear I’d stuck to
my own job at Malla-Nulla and left you in the lurch at Smooth River,
he’d fire me one-time, even if he had to get a steamer specially
stopped to land his mail. No, K. O’Neill would have no use for brutes
of that description in his employ. Now, if you’ll be so very nice, my
dear, as to pick up that swizzle-stick and make me a good grippy
cocktail, when I’ve had that I’ll go out and do what I can to
discourage the Okky men if they see fit to pay a call.”

Now, his Majesty the King of Okky once boasted to a West African
official that he could put 20,000 spearmen into the field, but there is
no doubt that this was an over-estimate. Moreover many of the Okky
troops carried flintlock guns and matchets in place of the spear, and
others again were bowmen, and still others wielded the Dahomey axe.
But his Majesty was a parvenu king who had fought his way to the
throne, and he saw to it that there was no inefficiency in his War
Office. He made the conditions of service sufficiently pleasant to
tempt in the fighting Moslemin from the Haûsa country, and these fine
soldiers of fortune gave the needful stiffening to his own pagan levies.

Then, also, the King of Okky made full use of the great cult of Ju-ju.
The average West African king is completely under the thumb of the
ju-ju men, and if he is not actually their nominee and puppet, he knows
that if he runs at all counter to their wishes and policy, he will die
some frantic death devised by the cleverest poisoners on earth. But
King Kallee the First was not only King of Okky but he was also Head
Ju-ju man of that mysterious state, or as it is sometimes written, Head
Witch-doctor. He could, when he chose, hale a subject from his
dwelling and pin him to the Okky City crucifixion tree for no further
reason than his kingly will. He could also cause a piece of fluttering
rag, or a bunch of hen’s feathers to be tied above a subject’s lintel,
and that subject and all his household would not dare to pass the
charm; nor would anyone else dare to have communion with them; so that
in the end they would die of hunger and thirst and become a pestilence
to the community among whom they had lived; and no one thought of
raising the breath of objection. The King had put ju-ju on one of his
own subjects, and that was all.

Moreover the King, having set eyes on Laura Slade, wished to instal her
in a wing of the great mud palace of Okky as his wife. So far,
throughout life, when he had created a wish, fulfilment followed as a
matter of course, be the means what they might. In his demands for
Laura, Kallee was at times amazed at his own moderation. He had
approached Slade (who to him was the girl’s proprietor) just as one
native gentleman might approach another, and inquired her price.
Slade, who could not give a decisive answer even to such a preposterous
matter as this, temporized after his usual custom. The King naturally
saw in this a scheme to enhance the girl’s price and displayed royal
munificence. He would pay Slade a thousand puncheons of palm oil and a
thousand bags of rubber, and two thousand bags of kernels; and when
Slade waved this aside and spoke of his daughter’s reluctance for
matrimony, Kallee spoke of the splendor in which his chief queen would
live. Slaves in all abundance, cloth as fine as silk, ornaments of
gold, and an American alarm clock should be hers; her food should be
coos-cousoo of the finest, her drink should be Heidsieck of a vintage
year exclusively. All the affairs of State should be exhibited for her
approval, and even his two brass cannon should be housed in her
apartments. The King showed himself to be the royal lover in lavish
perfection, and Slade could not bring himself to cut short the offer
and tell him that the whole thing was impossible. He temporized, and
congratulated himself each time the matter came up on having got rid of
the King without rupture of their friendly relations.

However, the royal patience, which had never been strung out to such a
length before, reached its breaking strain that day at Malla-Nulla
under circumstances already recorded, and what the King could not
obtain by this new diplomacy he very naturally made up his mind to get
hold of by methods which were more native to his experience.

Being moreover a strategist with a good deal of sound elementary skill,
he did not give the enemy time to bring in reinforcements after the
first news of danger. Kwaka’s embassy was a reconnoitring expedition
as much as anything, and the detail that the brazen Kwaka should be
scared out of his seven senses by the man whose red head the King had
already ordered for a palace ornament, was a small thing which stood
beyond his calculation. A force of 500 picked men lay in bivouac a
bare five miles inland from the factory; the ju-ju signs on the bush
roads protected these from all espionage; and when night fell, a ju-ju
man who was the King’s special envoy performed a ceremony which he
said, and which they understood, granted the soldiers a special
dispensation against those ghosts which all West African natives know
haunt the darkness. So they advanced to the attack through the gloom
of the steaming forest shades, those of them who were pagans with high
spirit and fine hopes of loot, and those of them who were Moslemin
filled with a vague fear which they gleaned from Kwaka’s hints.

Now Carter did not fall into the usual Englishman’s trick of despising
his enemy. Indeed he had that figure of 20,000 fighting men firmly
lodged in his head, and short of the opportune arrival of a British
gunboat, expected sooner or later a furious fight. But he reckoned
that Kwaka would have to go back to Okky City with his report, and
afterwards return from thence with an attacking force; and he counted
also on the African’s fear of ghosts, and looked with confidence to no
disturbance during the hours of darkness.

So although he worked the sweating factory hands at high pressure in
piling up puncheons and cases, and bales of cloth, and sacks of salt
into a substantial breastwork, he went to bed himself that night and
felt, as he tucked in the edge of the mosquito bar, that few white men
on the Coast had ever earned better a spell of sleep.

It was at 2 A.M. when the Okky yell and the crash of a volley of
pot-leg woke him, and he leaped up and through the gauze in one jump.
He ran out onto the veranda, and met there Laura Slade. She was
dressed, and had in her hand the cheap Skipton revolver which he had
given her, and towards the purchase of which his father had once
contributed a hard-to-spare ten shillings out of the whole half guinea
that it cost. Moonlight poured down upon them pure and silvery from a
clear night overhead, but all the land below up to the level of the
veranda was filled with a mist that was white and thick as cotton wool.
In this fog invisible black men screamed and yelled and cursed, and
occasionally there came to them the red glare, and the roar, and the
raw black-powder-smoke smell of the flintlocks.

“The beggars will rush those barricades,” said Carter, “if I don’t look
out. You stay here, Laura, and put that pistol down. It’s a beastly
dangerous toy.”

“I may want it for myself.”

“Don’t be melodramatic. Now run into the mess-room, there’s a good
girl, and get down those two Winchesters, and load up the magazines.
I’m going down to help the boys.”

But even as he spoke there came a sudden hard puff of the land breeze
that made the mist swirl and twist up into ghostly life, and left
canals and pools of clearness. He darted inside, snatched up one of
the rifles, and crammed it full of cartridges. “I wish I’d a
scatter-gun,” he said. “I used to be a nailer at rabbits and the
occasional grouse at home. However, it won’t do to miss here, although
the tool is new.” He threw up the weapon to his shoulder, and shot as
a game shot shoots, with head erect and both eyes staring wide at a
leather charm-case on the broad black chest which he picked as his
object. He did not know how to squint along the barrel. Then he
pressed home the trigger, and had the thrill of knowing that he had
shot his first man…. He warmed to the work after that, and fired on
and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till the heated barrels of the
repeaters burned Laura Slade’s hands as she charged the magazines
beneath them. From somewhere in the lower part of the factory came
White-Man’s-Trouble, and when in answer to the fusillade, showers of
pot-leg began to rustle over the veranda and scream through the roof,
that valiant person presently dragged out bedding to form a breastwork.
But although Carter kicked him till his foot ached the Krooboy would
not show his own head over it sufficiently to use a gun for the mutual
defence. He stuck to it stolidly that he was a “plenty-too-much bad
shot,” and Carter was too much occupied in keeping up his own fire to
spare time for further coercion. But as he changed rifles with Laura,
he said every poisonous thing to White-Man’s-Trouble that his mind
could invent, and that African listened, but made neither answer nor

[Illustration: He fired on and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till
the heated barrels of the repeaters burned Laura Slade’s hands.]

The fight was going badly against the factory force. The Okky men’s
original surprise had been very complete, and they had rushed the outer
line of the defences all round. The inner line consisted merely of the
buildings; and the factory boys had bolted for these, and had joined
the mulatto clerks and the Portuguese who were there already. The
whole defence, of course, was badly managed; but then it must be
remembered that it was devised by traders, not by soldiers. If it had
not been for Carter’s education on the moors and warrens of Upper
Wharfedale, and his consequent deadliness with a rifle against rushes
at close quarters, the factory would have been put to the storm within
five minutes of the first attack.

Besides, with a few exceptions, the factory boys were Kroos; and these,
though they are magnificent workers and about as amphibious as seals,
are emphatically not fighting men. They battled manfully enough after
the shock of the first surprise, and because no path of escape offered
itself; and whilst there were trade guns to fire, they derived a fine
encouragement from the noise of the black trade-powder explosions, and
the acrid smell of smoke. But few of them made any attempt to reload
their flintlocks a second time, and for cold matchet work at close
quarters they had little appetite. So by ones, and twos, and tens,
they began slipping off into the bush (to be hunted down piecemeal by
the savage enemy later on) and soon only the clerks and the two
fever-shaken Portuguese were left alive in the lower buildings.

It was at this point a new engine was added to the attack. Dawn had
just leaped up yellow and sickly over the sea, when a crash rang out
that jarred the air and every building about the place.

“Hear that?” croaked Carter. “That’s a cannon, and a brass one as you
can tell by the ring. It’s probably one of those old brass guns that
the Portuguese used to cast for the natives two hundred years ago. One
of my curiosity dealers promised me fifty golden sovereigns for a
genuine specimen. If I don’t spot that gun and pick off the men who
are serving it, they’ll jug us for a certainty. But they’ve got the
blessed thing so jolly well hidden among the bush! Well, I’m going to
ease up on my own shooting and watch for the next flash. Get me a
drink, you plucky darling, will you, or else my throat will crack in
two. Bring a chattie of water; that’s what I want. The heat of this
night has been about the worst I have known on the Coast.”

“It is too hot to last,” said the girl. “I’m afraid even the water in
the chattie will be as warm as tea.”

She went into the mess-room, and presently came back on hands and knees
to keep below the showers of pot-leg which were persistently whistling
overhead, and gave him the wet porous bottle, and crouched beside him
under the breastwork as he drank.

“Well, my sweetheart,” said Carter, “if it isn’t unlucky to drink one’s
best girl’s health in water, here’s your toast! You’re the finest
plucked lassie in all the wide and wondrous earth, and now I come to
think of it, I don’t believe I ever proposed to you.”

“No, you never did. I don’t see why you should.”

“Stick your head lower down. That thing that said ‘whisp-whisp!’ was a
rifle-bullet. They’ve got a blooming marksman down there, and I can’t
have you picked off. And don’t talk rubbish. You know you’re jolly
going to marry me as soon as ever we can afford it, if ever we get out
of this, which isn’t likely.” He clapped an arm snugly round her, and
_w-o-s-h_ came a load of pot-leg into the other side of the bedding
which protected them. “Got any silly objections to make to that?”

“Have you thought over what it means, George? You know I’m not white.”

“Bosh! Anyway you’re white enough for me. Let go the chattie. And as
I said before, Here’s luck. Ugh! African river water, half mud, half
essence of nigger from higher up. Moreover, as you remarked, hot as
tea. Bang! there goes that infernal cannon again, and I’ve been
gossiping with you–proposing, I mean–and haven’t seen the flash.
Plunked a shot into one of the palm oil puncheons in the store below,
by the sound of it. Hullo, here comes the wind. Now, somebody will
have his hair combed.”

As though the discharge of the ancient brass gun had been a signal, a
tornado opened upon them without warning, and almost in its full
strength in the first blast.

One minute there was a stagnant calm, with air so hot and stale that it
hardly seemed to refresh one to breathe it. The next wind travelling
often at a hundred miles an hour bellowed and roared at them in tearing
spasms of fury. The factory building reeled and groaned at its impact.
Sticks, boards, corrugated roofing and empty barrels solved the problem
of aerial flight. The close-grown trees of the forest that hemmed the
factory in on the landward side were flattened earthwards as though by
the pressure of some unseen giant hand; yes, flattened down, and down,
till one thought that any human beings that were beneath them must
inevitably be crushed out of all living shape into the foul, soft
swampy ground beneath. And in cold truth some of the Okky men who
cowered there during the enforced lull of the attack did so die.

The firing had ceased automatically on both sides, and a bombardment of
sticks, leaves, sand and stones pelted them all unmercifully. It was
impossible to face the wind; indeed, so violent was the torrent of air,
that the mere act of taking breath became a matter of the nicest art.

The girl lay crouched under the huddle of bedding, buffetted into
semi-unconsciousness, with Carter’s arm holding her tight down to the
floor boards of the veranda. He put his lips to her ear and bawled a
message. She shook her head. Through the insane yell of the wind she
could not hear a word. He laughed and kissed her, and then, taking
away his protecting arm, worked his perilous way like some clinging,
creeping thing into the inside of the dwelling.

Even this was filled with the wind. A door, smashed from its hinges,
clattered noisily about in one corner, as though it had been some
uncouth mechanical toy propelled by clumsy clockwork. Everything
movable hopped on the floor, or danced from the walls. And of course
to this disorder was added all the dishevelment which had been caused
by the volleys of jagged cast iron fired through the flimsy walls by
the Okky men’s flintlocks. But Carter knew what he wanted, and sought
for it with a single mind.

Presently from amongst the _débris_ he emerged with a four-gallon drum;
and then he worked his way to a cupboard where Slade kept his store of
cigarettes. Luckily it was full. Slade had boarded a steamer lately
where his credit in the forecastle shop was still untarnished, and his
plausible tongue had procured him a whole two-dozen case of
half-hundred tins on some ingenious deferred-payment scheme of his own.
There were twenty-two of the green tins left, and Carter got them all
out, opened them, and recklessly emptied their contents onto the floor.
With infinite pains, and sheltering the liquid from the blast under his
coat, he decanted the contents of the big drum into the tins till all
were full. Then he re-lidded them, and jabbed a hole with his penknife
in each lid.

He rebuilt them into their own wooden case as he primed them, and when
this was full, dragged it out through the doorway into the casemate of
mattresses. Laura and White-Man’s-Trouble still crouched there
helplessly, and the tornado still yelled and roared and boomed. It was
carrying water with it now, bitter salt from the sea, and whipping the
face like hail where it impinged.

Carter was breathless and panting by the time he had managed once more
to drag himself under the shelter of the bedding; but he was keenly
alive to the needs of the immediate future. Already he noted a
diminution in the tornado’s fury; the hustling cloud of sticks, and
leaves, and branches, which it carried along was growing less thick,
and although this was by far the hardest hurricane he had ever seen, he
knew from previous acquaintance with the breed that it might well drop
to perfect calm as suddenly as it had arisen.

As a point of fact it deceived him. The wind lulled, and the forest
trees swung upwards in unison as though they had been performing a
trick. The air cleared, and Carter raised his head to try and spot the
part of the bush where the brass gun was masked. A black man sprang
from the undergrowth, lifted a gun, fired, and missed. Carter threw up
the Winchester for a snapshot.

“Got him–Laura, for the Lord’s sake keep down in shelter, or they’ll
pick you off to a certainty. Trouble, you hound, roll up those pillows
and blankets underneath you into a hard wad, and stuff them into that
gap at the corner there—-”

“Isn’t there a splendid chill after that awful heat?” the girl said.
“Wrap up, George, or you’ll have fever. Here’s your coat.”

“Look out,” Carter shouted. “Hold on all with those blankets. Here
comes more tornado.”

Once more the wind slammed down upon them with insane fury, and once
more all loose inanimate things rose into vigorous flight. The forest
trees cowered down into the swamps from which they grew. Solid rods of
rain split against the factory buildings, and sent deluges of water
squirting through the bamboo walls as though the matchwood backing had
not been there. The roar was like the continuous passing of a hundred
heavy trains over a hundred iron bridges all side by side.

Gone altogether now was the stagnant heat. The air was scoured clean,
and it was forced into the lungs at such high pressure that it
exhilarated one like some deliciously choice vintage of champagne.

“I’m hanged if I let those beggars kill us,” Carter bawled out during
one of the lulls. “In this splendid air life’s too gorgeous.” And
then bump came the wind upon them again.

But the tornado had blown out the heart of its strength. In five more
minutes the wind had dropped, the rain ceased, the air cleared, the sun
glared out overhead and began to heat the tropical day, and white steam
oozed up from all the face of creation.

This time Carter’s rifle represented the whole orchestra of death for
the defence. The factory Krooboys’ flintlocks spoke no more; the
ill-aimed Winchesters of the snuff-and-butter colored da Silva and his
wife were silent. The Portuguese and the factory clerks, and the
factory porters had cannily crawled away into the bush. They knew
nothing of what was ahead of them in those steamy shades. One
certainty alone fluttered big in their minds, and that was that they
were leaving massacre behind.

In the factories which dot the West African seaboard and rivers, death
is such a constant visitor that much of his grimness had faded. At
home, in England, or America, or Hamburg, we shiver with apprehension
whenever our relative who is “out on the West Coast” comes up into the
mind; but the relative himself takes his doses of fever when they fall
due with a certain callous philosophy, and on his emergence shattered
and shrunken from the attack, congratulates himself on not being a
candidate for a gun-case and a top hat that time. Those who go up in
the bush and are there engulfed, those who get drowned in the
ever-grinding surf, those who go out by the thousand and one
opportunities which the climate and the surroundings offer, slip off
their human garb with an easy nonchalance; and those who are left
pronounce some pithy epitaph over the deceased, and go on with their
quicker interests.

With the native African, death is an event of even smaller moment
still; and in the event of a quarrel, one competitor will often sit
down, cuddle his knees, shut his eyes, and there and then deliberately
suspend his vital processes, merely to cause temporary annoyance to his

Now, the above paragraphs are somewhat of the nature of a footnote
elevated to the text. But they are necessary at this point in these
memoirs to explain the coolness with which Laura and Carter viewed the
near prospect of extinction. Neither of them of course in the least
wished to die, but it never occurred to them to face death with
anything beyond the usual Coast philosophy.

“I shall stick Mr. K. for a rise in screw if we get through this,” said

“If I hadn’t made a promise,” said the girl, “I could tell you
something about your Mr. K. that would startle you.”

“You’re a tantalizing baggage, and I’ve a good mind to pick you up and
shake it out of you. Gad! Here they come. Now, I’ll shoot, and you
get a box of matches and light those bombs for White-Man’s-Trouble to

“Bombs! Do you mean the cigarette-tins?”

“Yes. You’d a big brazing-lamp in the factory. Remember it? Well,
you had. And that meant benzoline, I guessed. I found a drum full of
it, anyway, and I’ve loaded up those tins with benzoline. It’ll burn
like winking in this sun, and the niggers’ll never see the flame. Only
thing to take care of, is not to set light to the factory. Now, do you

“Yes, dear.”

“And d’you savvy, Trouble?”

“Savvy plenty. Oh, Carter, I burn my leg plenty-too-much with dem
damhot lamp once on steamah. No can see flame when sun lib for shine.
I fit for serve as stand-by-at-crane boy once, sar, on steamah.”

“Well, Mr. Engineer, throw straight and don’t get hoist by your own
petard. By the living Jink we’re in for it now. Throw, Trouble, for
all you’re worth, right into the blue of them.”

The four-fifty repeater yap-yapped its messages, and the man who had
learned to shoot quick and straight amongst the rabbits and grouse of
Upper Wharfedale, made deadly practice at this bigger game. But two
eight-shot Winchesters are of very little more value than catapults in
stopping the rush of two hundred fighting black pagans officered by
Moslemin Haûsas. Beforehand the fire of the Portuguese and the factory
Krooboys had held them off, much more by its noise than its deadliness.
The one solitary shooter who remained, they held in scorn; he was
firing white powder in the Winchester, and the smallness of the noise
and the absence of smoke encouraged them. They scorned to shoot at him
with their flintlocks. They would rush in and put this man to the
matchet, and save the girl alive. And thereafter, when they rolled the
red head at King Kallee’s feet, and made the girl stand up before him,
many and fine presents would be given to gladden them and their women.

So they gave the Okky yell, and sprang out of the bush into the open,
and rushed across the clearing.

But lo, presently the white man called out, “Behold, I put ju-ju on you
blighters,” and a black man who carried between his brows the Kroo
tribal mark began throwing green tins which contained some liquid
distilled by witchcraft. And thereupon the clinging fires of hell
broke out amongst them, and burned the skin on their bodies till they
screamed and danced in their frenzy of pain, and the air was rich with
the smell of their cooking. Even Kwaka, who led them, though he was
the boldest fighting man in all King Kallee’s armies, showed by the
grayness that grew upon his face that he that day learned the lesson of
fear. And when presently they broke and fled for the bush (the flames,
be it understood, still sticking to them), it was Kwaka who led that
disordered retreat, and held a sleeve of his jelab before his eyes lest
the white man might bring further witchcraft to bear, which would make
his face a derision for the houris in Paradise.

“My Christian Aunt!” said Carter up on the factory veranda, “but
benzoline is filthy stuff to fight with. The place stinks like a
cookshop, and I feel like a beastly Russian anarchist. Don’t throw any
more tins, Trouble. We’ve saved our bacon, Laura, I do believe, but I
hate being unsportsmanlike. It’s worse than netting your neighbor’s
grouse moor, this. But they came up to the gun too quick for me to
stop them alone. White-Man’s-Trouble, if you throw another of those
infernal bombs, I’ll slip a shot into you.”

Laura was crouched in behind the mattress casemate, her face tucked
away into the crook of an elbow, and her shoulders heaving with sobs.

“Hullo, old lady, what’s the row with you? You’re not hit? Good God,
don’t tell me you’re hit. What a careless hound I am to let you get
out of cover. I could have sworn there wasn’t a shot being fired.
What a miserably incompetent brute I am to get rattled and not see
after you better.”

“Oh, George, I’m not hit. I almost wish I were. That would be fairer.”

Carter stared. “What’s the matter, then?”

She pulled herself together with an effort. “I suppose I must feel
very much as you do about the matter, only more so. You see I lit the
matches for each bomb Trouble held out to me. It was I who am really

Carter tackled the situation with ready wit. “Now, look here. I’m not
going to have you presuming on being my sweetheart. I know you’d like
to have the credit of routing the enemy, but you’re not going to have
it. I want all the kudos I can get in that line for business purposes
myself. I’m going to point out in my report to Mr. K. that it was my
brilliant genius alone that rootled out that drum of benzoline, and put
it to a new and unpleasant use, and that any idea of refusing me the
ten-pound a year rise in screw that I ask as a reward would be bang
against all O’Neill and Craven’s most cherished traditions of fairness.
So just you remember that, Miss Slade, and don’t go off and brag about
doing one single thing that wasn’t ordered by your superior officer in
this Service (as old Swizzle-Stick Smith would say), and that’s me.”

“You’re a dear, good boy.”

“I am,” said Carter cheerfully. “I’m rather surprised people don’t see
it oftener. You’re the first person in Africa who’s made the discovery
so far. Now I can’t have you eating the bread of idleness out here any
longer. Indoors you go, and tidy up.” He took her by the arm and led
her gently to the living room. “Hasn’t that breeze made hay of the
place? Sorry the houseboys have left this desirable situation without
warning, and I can’t lend you White-Man’s-Trouble just now. So I want
you to wade in, if you please, my dear, and show me what an extremely
domesticated person the future Mrs. G. Carter can be when she tries.
‘We wish to make a point,’ said Mr. K. in one of his typewritten
letters, ‘of having all our factories neat and comfortable.'”

Laura shivered. “If I were to marry you, I wonder what K. would say.”

“Say nothing. We should absolutely draw the line at interference
there, eh? But in the meanwhile there is no harm in following out the
gentleman’s advice, which is invariably sound, on the other points.”

“When you see Mr. K. I’m very much afraid you’ll change your mind about

Carter drew the girl to him and kissed her on the lips. “Don’t you be
jealous of K., sweetheart. Mine’s only a business admiration in that

“At present,” she persisted. “Wait till you meet.”

“When we meet, I shall say, ‘Sir, this very lovely and desirable young
person here is my wife,’ and then we shall go on to commercial topics.
There’s nothing romantic about the boss. If you’d studied the Epistles
of K. to the Coasters as closely as I have, you’d know that off by

Laura still shook her head. “I love you,” she said, “more than
anything else in life, and I can think of no greater happiness than to
be your wife. But I would never marry you if I thought you could
repent of it afterwards. You can’t deny that you are wrapped up in K.
You must see K. before you marry me, George.”

“If K. comes along before the parson, well and good, you shall have
your own way of it. But if a missionary of the right complexion (if
there is such a thing down here) casts up at this factory, there’ll be
a wedding cake put on the festive board, Miss Slade, and you’ll be the
bride that’ll cut it. Don’t you try and wriggle out of your solemn
promises with me. Hullo, what’s that?”

“Thunder. Is the tornado coming again?”

“No, listen. It isn’t thunder. It’s people thumping monkey-skin
drums. I’ve made dozens of those tuneful instruments for the curiosity
dealers at home, so I know the note. Well, you get on with your
dusting, there’s a nice girl, and I’ll go out and have a cigarette.”

“You are going–to—-”

“What, clean up the mess outside? No, we’ll leave that for the
present. Now, don’t be scared, there’s a sweetheart. But, to tell the
truth, those drums interest me. The natives signal through the bush
with them, you know, in a sort of dot-dash-dot style; and so far their
local Morse alphabet has been a bit beyond me. Perhaps
White-Man’s-Trouble may be able to decipher it. Now, don’t you try and
shirk that dusting one moment longer.”

He went out then onto the veranda, shutting the door behind him, and
questioned the Krooboy sharply about the drummings. Did he understand

“Savvy plenty,” said White-Man’s-Trouble gloomily. “Dem Okky-man’s

“Well, I didn’t suppose it was a Chinaman’s, you patent idiot. You fit
for understand dem tune?”

“Savvy plenty. Dem tune say Okky-men fit for make custom.”

“That means ‘ceremony,’ I suppose. Now, what sort of a ceremony will
suit the occasion? Dirge of defeat by the ju-ju men, presumably, and
then they’ll crucify some wretched slave so that his spirit can go into
the Beyond and arrange to have the luck changed. I wish Mr. Smith were
here, or Slade. No, I’m hanged if I do, though. I’ve worked this
thing off my own bat so far, and I’ll see it onto the finish. Dem
Okky-men make crucify palaver?” he asked, and translated the hard word
by standing up himself spread-eagled against the factory wall.

White-Man’s-Trouble nodded a dismal assent. “Then, by an’ by they grow
plenty-too-much more brave, an’ they come back one-time an’ fight some

“Then you bet your woolly whiskers it won’t do for us to sit quietly
taking the air here. Ju-ju’s the correct card to play in this country

The Krooboy shivered. “Oh, Carter, I no fit for touch ju-ju.”

“Well, I am. With thought and care, I believe I should develop into a
very good ju-ju practitioner. Besides, the subject fascinates me. No
white men seem to know anything very definite about it, above the fact
that it is beyond their comprehension, and it would be rather fine, if
the unlikely happened, and one chanced to survive, to be known as the
one authority on West African magic.”

“Oh, Carter, if you meddle with dem ju-ju palaver you lib for die
plenty soon. If you walk in bush, tree fall on you; if you ride in
canoe, arrow jump on you; if you chop,[*] dem chop he fill with
powdered glass, and presently you lib for die of tear-tear-belly. Oh,
Carter, you lib for Coast now one year; I lib for Coast all my life; I
savvy plenty; you alle-same damfool.”

[*] In West Coast English to chop is to take food. Chop is food.

“My dear Trouble, I’ve admitted already that I know meddling with ju-ju
isn’t altogether an insurance proposition. Much obliged to you for the
fresh warning all the same. But I’m afraid your constitutional
nervousness rather clouds that massive brain of yours at times, or
you’d see that Smooth River factory and its three occupants are in the
devil of a fix just now. You say the Okky-men when they’ve rubbed up
their courage will presently return; and I don’t dispute your reading
of the omens. If they do come, we can’t shoot them off, and that’s a
certain thing. As I’m sure Mr. Smith would say, it’s a case of _Aut
ju-ju aut nullus_, and to follow his rather objectionable knack of
translating for a man who happened to have been at a different school
to his own, that means we’ve either got to play the ju-ju card or be
scuppered. White-Man’s-Trouble, you are hereby made conjurer’s

“I no fit.”

“Am I to hurt your feelings with this piece of packing-case lid?”

“Oh, Carter, you look see. There’s a nail in him there.”

“I know there’s a nail in it. The occasion demands a nail, and I
picked the weapon for that reason. Now, then, are you going to obey
orders, or will you take a first-class licking?”

“Oh, Carter, I fit for do what you say.”

“Good. You’re an excellent boy when you’re handled the right way. Now
go to the feteesh and bring the biggest coil of that inch lead piping
you can stagger under.”

Carter himself went to Slade’s room and brought from there one of those
crude carved wooden figures which the natives make and the traders pick
up as curiosities. At home they are sold for stiff prices as the gods
of the heathen; but the negroes that make them are not idolaters, and
what they exactly are for the present writer knoweth not, save only
that they are not articles of worship. Locally they come under that
all-embracing term ju-ju, which includes so much and explains so little.

Carter found a brace and bit–an inch twist bit, which for a wonder was
in a calabash of yellow palm oil, and so not rusty–and he worked on
these carved men till the sweat ran from him. Laura came out and told
him that he was inviting an attack of fever, which was obvious, since
by then it was high noon, and violent exertion for a white man with the
thermometer above par always has to be paid for on the Coast. But he
drove her back again into the house and out of the heat with a volley
of chaff, and went gaspingly on with his tremendous work.

The mouths of the figures were wide, but with knife and drill he
splayed them wider, but was careful always not to distort them beyond
the canons of local art; and in a couple of hours’ time he was ready
for White-Man’s-Trouble and the heavy coils of lead piping.

“Regard,” he said, “O thou assistant to the great white ju-ju man. We
will place one of these graven images opposite the entrance of each
road which comes from the bush into this factory clearing. We’ll hoist
it up onto a green gin box, so, and give it a bit more height and
dignity. And we’ll add a necklace of these green cigarette tins, which
have already advertised themselves into an ugly notoriety. Then, into
this hole you see in the back of each image, we will fit an end of lead
piping, and as the holes are tapered, the unions will make themselves
good. Then, O helper of dark schemes, we’ll pay out the coil, as far
as possible in swamp where it will sink out of sight, and bring all the
ends into the house here. Any piping that shows, you must throw earth
over. Savvy? And the inside ends we’ll splay out with this hardwood
cone that I’ve made, till a man can get his mouth well into them and
shout down the tube comfortably. I’m sure you catch the idea?”

“Oh, Carter, I plenty-too-much afraid. Presently I lib for die.”

“Not you. If I see any signs of your starting to fade away, I’ll whack
you into life again with a piece of board with two nails in it.
Wherefore, O feared of the uninitiated, buck up, and get a shovel, and
cover that lead out of sight where it shows. Afterwards I’ll show you
the working of that early British contrivance, an office speaking-tube.
That is, if we have time for a rehearsal, but by the extra big
dot-dashing of those monkey-skin drums just now, it rather looks as if
we shall have the next act of this play crowding down on us without
much more interval.”

The burned warriors had not, it appeared, retreated very far. Their
spiritual advisers, the ju-ju men, had by King Kallee’s orders been
waiting not very far away down the several bush roads; and when
presently fugitives began to come trotting in through the steamy forest
shades, these ecclesiastics rallied them, and when enough were
collected, they commenced a “custom” for the renewal of the soldier’s

Savage superstitions, savage terrors, savage thrill at the raw smell of
blood were all worked upon with a high dexterity. King Kallee had made
a fine art of these incitements; he had gained a throne by their
practice, and had handed them on to chosen ministers, who practised the
cult of ju-ju with a single eye to advancing the interests of their

The black soldiers were wearily tired, and many of them carried wounds.
They listened at first with a sullen torpor. They heard without
interest that the white man’s bullets were non-consecrate, and
therefore the wounds they made would soon heal. They learned, with a
little thrill of wonder, that the green tins which poured burning flame
were not true ju-ju, since the King of Kallee’s ju-ju men declared them
unorthodox. And by degrees their dull nerves were worked up till at
the proper moment sacrifice was made, and the screams and smells of the
victim maddened them. Even the Haûsa officers, who were Moslem, and
therefore contemptuous disbelievers in all pagan ceremony, were stirred
up almost equally with their men, and when as a final exhortation they
were bidden to return once more to the factory, and bring the red head
and the white girl as presents for the King, they forgot their qualms
and their burns, and led on with a new, fierce courage.

But whether the African be savage bushman or cultivated Moslem
gentleman, superstition is part of the very marrow in his backbone.
These men had felt the bullets, they had felt the infernal burnings of
the benzoline, but they were wound up now to a pitch above dreading
either. Orders were given to concentrate in the edge of the bush, as
near to the clearing as they could get without being sighted from the
factory, and then when all was ready the monkey-skin drums would beat
the charge.

The first comers peered through the outer fringe of the cover, and saw
the clearing desolate, and the factory buildings to all appearance
tenantless. The dead that they had left in their hurried retreat still
lay where they had dropped, and glared up glassy stares at the
outrageous sun. But with eyes keen to pick up any hint at ju-ju charm,
the gaze of all this vanguard fell on five little wooden mannikins set
opposite the points where the several bush roads cut into the open.

There was nothing new about the mannikins themselves. They were merely
the things that their own uncles and their grandfathers carved for a
purpose which they themselves knew better than did that tricky white
man with the red head who had doubtless put them there. But then each
of these mannikins was perched on a pedestal made of one or more green
gin cases, and that in itself looked suspicious–or, in other words,
smacked of ju-ju. And, moreover, each was garlanded with those
infernal green cylinders which they had just been informed officially
were in truth not orthodox ju-ju, but which they knew from their own
painful experience could, upon occasion, vomit forth the most horrible

They crouched in the edge of the cover once more thoroughly shaken, and
it only required the final portent to fray their courage utterly.

In the factory, tucked snugly out of sight in the mess-room, Laura
Slade, Carter and White-Man’s Trouble lay stretched out wearily upon
the floor. A length of match boarding had been stripped away from the
wall, and only a paling of vertical bamboos stood between them and the
external world.

It was the code message of the monkey-skin drums, as read by
White-Man’s-Trouble, that first gave them the news that the Okky-men
had rewound up their courage and were returning once more to the
attack; and so they promptly retired out of sight. Guns and defenders
would have been a reassuring touch to the enemy, who had seen such
things before. But for them to find no guns, and no human beings in
view, would accentuate the effect of the graven images which gazed
woodenly upon them from the green gin-box pedestals.

For long enough they lay there in the sickly heat, staring out over the
litter of the morning’s battlefield, which danced up and down in the
shimmering sunlight. The factory lizards came out in full numbers for
their daily sun-baths, and most of the flies of Africa seemed to be
congregated in the clearing.

Laura caught the first note of invasion. “Do you see,” she asked,
“those two swallow-tailed butterflies flittering about by that big silk
cotton-wood that lost his top in the tornado? They were feeding
contentedly enough on that stuff like meadow-sweet, but someone or
something disturbed them, and they flew up. If you notice, they dare
not go back, so that rather hints that the someone is still hidden in
the meadow-sweet.”

“Which said clump,” observed Carter, “is just two yards off the graven
image which commands bush road number three. Oh, assistant conjurer,
canst thou swear?”

“Oh, Carter,” said the Krooboy with simple dignity, “I no bush-boy. I
speak English. I learn him on steamah. I work up to position of
stand-by-at-crane boy before I lib for come ashore to work at factory.
Ah, Carter, I savvy swear-palaver plenty-much-too-good. You fit for
hear me?”

“Not for one instant. I want you to make all your remarks in Kroo, or
preferably Okky, if you aren’t too rattled to remember any of that
fashionable tongue. Here, put your sweet lips to the tube, and just
say in the thickest language you can think of ‘Get away back to Okky
City, you bushmen. If you hesitate, your noses shall drop off, and
your great fat lips shall follow, and red ants shall spring up out of
the earth to eat them whilst you wait.’ Savvy the idea?”

“Savvy plenty,” said White-Man’s-Trouble, and rattled venom into the
tube with a savage gusto.

The result was sufficiently surprising. Spear-heads and gun-barrels
bristled suddenly upwards from the clump of meadow-sweet, as ambushed
Okky-men scrambled to their feet. For a full two minutes they stood
there listening to the abuse which they heard pouring from the lips of
the wooden mannikin close beside them, with eyes goggling, and mouths
gaping, and knees chattering, the worst scared blacks in all the Oil

For the moment they were mesmerized by fright. But then the two
mannikins which were nearest on either side began cackling with uncanny
laughter, and a ju-ju man who was with them recognized an art higher
than his own, and allowed the superstition that was native to him to
rub away the thin veneer of his education. “Let us begone from here,”
he moaned, “even if it be to meet the curved execution axe of King
Kallee in Okky City. Better the sharp edge of that, yes, better even
lingering days on the crucifixion tree than the neighborhood of these
devils. Wood they are now, I do believe. But they can talk as no
thing of wood ever could talk; and presently they will come to life,
and hurl at us those green tins of liquid fire with which they are
garlanded. If there are any that wish to see more, let them stay. For
myself I return to Okky City, even if it means impalement.”

The other wooden mannikins broke out into words, and immediately the
bush around each of them rippled with men. Carter, whose knowledge of
the native was growing, used every syllable of his vocabulary down two
tubes alternately.

Laura, who had grown up bilingual, commenced at first timidly. But the
desperate peril of their surroundings, the excitement of battle, the
thrill of seeing men run, the drop of negro blood that colored her
veins, were all circumstances that presently whirled her into a
resistless torrent of words. Never had she spoken with such a fluency;
never had she framed such sentences. It was all in the Okky tongue,
accurate, biting, glib, telling. Carter broke off from his own halting
speech to listen. He could not speak the language yet with any great
ease, but he could understand almost every word. He chilled as he
listened to her. He coughed a warning. He called sharply that she
should stop. But that drop of negro blood held her to her speech. The
Krooboy, thoroughly warmed up to his work, was yelling infamies down a
tube at the other end of the mess-room. Laura, with eyes glinting and
hands clinched, was growing almost beside herself with speech….
Carter gripped her arm and plucked her almost savagely away.

“You had better shut up. The Okky men have gone, minutes ago, and I do
not think you know what you are saying. Laura, do you hear me?”

She stared at him, and then spoke with a dry throat. “I said only what
you told me. It was to save our lives. And you–you could not
understand what I said. It was Okky talk; you surely could not follow
it. Why do you look at me like that? George, what is it?” She
laughed rather wildly, and plucked herself away from him. “Oh, I see.
Well, I warned you before that I was black, and now I suppose you
believe me.”

He returned her look steadily enough. “My dear girl, you’ve gone
through more than you can stand, and you’ve just worn yourself to rags.
I never quite knew what hysterics meant before, but I fancy that in
about two minutes more you would show me. Now the trouble’s over;
we’ve fixed ’em tight this time, and you needn’t worry yourself any
more. Just you go to your room and lie down and sleep.”

“Sleep! You think I could sleep?”

“Very well,” he said coolly, “then Trouble and I must wait till you
can. But please understand, my sweetheart, that until you have put in
a four-hours’ spell of sleep, and can get up rested to stand a watch,
neither the boy nor I must close an eye. So you see it’s up to you to
arrange whether we shall all have a dose of overwork or not.”

She came to him and put her slim brown hands on his shoulders and
looked him in the face. There were black rings under her eyes, and her
cheeks were white and drawn, but somehow with her delicious curves she
appealed to him more than ever, and he let her see it in his glance.
“You still call me by that name,” she said, “you still call me
sweetheart even after what you have seen and heard?”

“Of course. Don’t be stupid. A man doesn’t change towards a girl just
because she happened to get a bit excited when she was doing her best
to save his life. I’m half sorry now I stopped you, only the myrmidons
of my rival, his Majesty of Okky, had run away, and you really were
rather working yourself up.” He drew her to him and kissed her on the
forehead. “And now you will go and turn in, won’t you, like a good

“I’ll do anything my lord wishes. But you will look after yourself,
promise me?”


“Let your boy get you a meal. You’ve not had a crumb all day, and you
must be starving. It was horribly careless of me not to have thought
of it before.”

“That is rather a bright idea. Had anything yourself? No, I see you
haven’t. Well, we’ll sup, Laura, before you’re packed off to bed.
It’s five o’clock in the afternoon, but we’ll call it supper. Trouble?”

“Oh, Carter?”

“We fit for chop. You kill two tin, one-time.”

“Oh, Carter, three tin. Me one, Missy two—-”

_Bang_ went a gun, as it seemed to their jangled nerves, close at their
elbows. They all started violently, and the girl clutched convulsively
at Carter’s sleeve.

“Dem Okky cannon,” wailed the Krooboy, and burrowed forthwith into the
casemate of bedding.

“Not it,” said Carter. “It’s all right, Laura. It’s a steamer’s mail
gun. I never heard the roar of a loaded cannon till this morning, but
once heard, you can’t mistake it for blank cartridge.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. I jumped when the thing went off, but then I suppose
we’re all a bit fagged. Here, Trouble, you shirker, get dem chop
one-time, and then find some limes. We shall have the steamer people
ashore in ten minutes, and when they hear the yarn they’ll want about
five cocktails apiece to congratulate us in. Lord! Laura, but I’d
give a tooth and two finger nails to have Mr. K. dropping in on us
during the next hour or so to see the fine way we’ve saved O’Neill and
Craven’s factory from a total loss. I believe he’d raise my screw with
such a jump that you and I might get married out of hand. Let’s see,
what boat’s due? I’ve hardly got your time-table in my head; one gets
rusty at Malla-Nulla.”

“It’s the _M’poso_, George. She’s straight out from home. Just think,
you may really have K. descending on you in half an hour’s time.”

“No such luck. It will be Cappie Image-me-lad, with his green umbrella
and his best thirst, and that hearty ruffian Balgarnie, who’ll rob
every corpse in the clearing if he thinks he can collect one Aggry bead
and a good slave dagger. By Gad, I wonder if I can screw some money
out of Balgarnie. I sent at least eighty sovereigns’ worth of most
carefully made curios home with him last time the _M’poso_ tried to
roll herself over off our beach at Malla-Nulla.”

“I think,” said the girl, “I’ll just go to my room for a minute.”

Carter pointed the finger of derision at her. “O vanity,” said he.
“You’re going to tidy your hair, and smarten your frock just for the
sake of old Cappie Image and the plump Balgarnie. By the way, now that
you are an engaged young woman, are you going to let those genial old
ruffians take you on their knees and kiss you, just in the old sweet
way? Of course, don’t mind me if you’d like it so.”

“Pouf!” said Laura, “they’ve both known me ever since I was a baby, but
I’ll be as distant with them as you like if you feel jealous, sir.”

“I think I’ll wash off some of the battle scars myself,” said Carter.
“One looks a bit melodramatic in this filthy, smeary mess. Not to
mention uncomfortable. I suppose, by the way, somebody will turn up to
pay a polite call. They’ll judge that something’s wrong when they see
that all the factory boats and canoes have been cleared out of the

Even White-Man’s-Trouble stole palm oil and attended to his toilette in
honor of the expected visit, and it was a very gleaming and oily
Krooboy in some clean (stolen) pyjama trousers of Slade’s that showed
Captain Image, and his passenger, and purser up the stair.

Laura and Carter were there, spruce and smart, to receive them, and
Laura said, “Kate! I knew you’d come,” and ran forward and shook the
passenger by the hand. “There, you see, George,” she said over her
shoulder, “how accurately I can keep a secret.”

“Hullo, Carter, me lad!” said Captain Image. “Glad to see you looking
so fit. You’re a fine advertisement for those pills of mine, and I’m
sure you’re glad now you kept away from old Swizzle-Stick Smith’s
nostrums. You seem to have been having a bit of a scrap round the
factory here. However, we will hear about that, and have your tally of
the cargo you want to ship from here and Malla-Nulla afterwards. But
for the present I want to introduce my passenger and your boss, Miss

Carter swallowed with a dry throat. “Mr. K. O’Neill’s sister?”

“Miss Kate O’Neill, who is head of O’Neill and Craven.”

Carter blinked tired eyes, and saw a girl of three-and-twenty, half a
head shorter than Laura Slade, dressed as simply, but with that
something that somehow speaks of Europe, and money, and taste. Her eye
was brown and her hair was the color of his own–nearly. No, it was
darker. She was holding out a hand to him–a neat, plump hand that
looked white, and firm, and cool, and capable, and which somehow or
other he found in his own.

“Laura calls you George, I notice,” he heard her saying.

“Yes, of course she would. We are engaged, you know.”

He felt his hand dropped with suddenness, and up till then he had never
known how thoroughly objectionable a laugh could be when it came from
the lips of Mr. Balgarnie. Everything swam before him, and he lurched
against the messroom wall. But with an effort he pulled himself
together. “Miss Slade and I are engaged. We are to be married as soon
as we can afford it. When you look round, and see how we’ve saved the
factory from the Okky-men, we hope you’ll raise my salary.”

“Yes, I think I can promise to do that,” said Kate O’Neill. “I had my
eyes open when I came across the clearing. But do you think you are
wise to marry?”

“Ha, ha, Carter, old fellow,” laughed little Captain Image, “got you
there! Get dollars first. Find connubial bliss later.”

“But,” continued Miss O’Neill, “you and I and Laura will talk over that
later when we are alone.”

Captain Image felt that he cleared away an awkward situation with all
the savoir faire of a shipmaster. “Well, Carter, me lad,” said he, “we
know you’ve had a lot of lessons from old Swizzle-Stick Smith, but what
about a cocktail? My Christian Aunt, look out, Balgarnie, there’s
Laura fainting.”

Carter stared at them dully but did not try to help. “My God,” he
muttered, “to think I never guessed that K. could stand for Kate.”