The Leopard Woman
Stewart Edward White et al
Part 3 out of 5
Still, it would be a very sweet relation in a lonely life--a women of this
quality, this desirability, this understanding, able to travel the
wilderness of Africa, eager for the life, young, beautiful, tingling with
vitality. In spite of himself Kingozi played with the thought. The fever
was in his brain, the magic of the tropic moon was flooding his soul.
Some warning instinct brought him back to the world about him. His steps
had taken him down the canon trail. He stood at the edge of the open
Facing him and not twenty yards distant stood a lion.
The sight cleared Kingozi's brain of all its vapours. For the first time
he realized clearly what he had done. He, a man whose continued existence
in this dangerous country had depended on his unfailing readiness, his
ever-present alertness and presence of mind, had committed two of the
cardinal sins. In savage Africa no man must at any time stir a foot into
the veldt or jungle unarmed; in savage Africa no man must go at night
fifty feet from a fire without a torch or lantern.
By day a lion is usually harmless unless annoyed. Game herds manifest no
alarm at his presence, merely opening through their ranks a lane for his
indifferent passing. But at night he asserts his dominion.
Kingozi realized his deadly peril. The beast bulked huge and black--a wild
lion is a third larger than his menagerie relative--looking as big as a
zebra against the moonlight. His eyes glowed steadily as he contemplated
this interloper in his domain. After a moment he sank prone, extending his
head. The next move, Kingozi knew, would be the flail-like thrash of the
long tail, followed immediately by the rush.
Nothing was to be done. The immediate surroundings were bare of trees, and
in any case the lightning charge of the beast would have caught his victim
unless the branches had happened to be fairly overhead.
The glowing eyes lowered. A rasping gurgling began deep in the animal's
throat, rising and falling in tone with the inhaling and exhaling of the
breath. This increased in volume. It became terrifying. The long tail
stiffened, whacked first to one side, then to the other. The moment was at
Kingozi stood erect, his hands clenched, every muscle taut. All his senses
were sharpened. He heard the voices of the veldt, near and far, and all
the little sounds that were underneath them. His vision seemed to pierce
the darkness of the shadows, so that he made out the details of the lion's
mane, and even the muscles stiffening beneath the skin.
And then at the last moment a kongoni, panic stricken, running blind, its
nose up, broke through the thin bush to the left and dashed across the
trail directly between the man and the lion.
African animals are subject to these strange, blind panics, especially at
night. The individual so affected appears to lose all sense of its
surroundings. It has been known actually to bump into and knock down men
in plain and open sight. What had so terrified the kongoni it would be
impossible to say. Perhaps a stray breeze had wafted the scent of this
very lion; perhaps some other unseen danger actually threatened, or
perhaps the poor beast merely awakened from the horror of a too vivid
The diversion occurred at the moment of the lion's greatest tension. His
body was poised for the attack, as a bow is bent to drive forth the arrow.
Probably without conscious thought on his part, instinctively, he changed
his objective. The huge body sprang; but instead of the man the kongoni
was struck down!
Kingozi stooped low and ran hard to the left. When at a safe distance he
straightened his back, and set his footsteps rapidly campward.
The incident had thoroughly awakened him. His brain was working clearly
now, and under forced draught. The magic of moonlight had lost its power.
Habits of years reasserted themselves. His usual iron common sense
regained its ascendency; though, strangely enough, there persisted in his
mind a mystic feeling for the symbolism of this missed danger.
"Settles it!" he said, in his usual fashion of talking aloud. "I'm on a
job, and I must do it. Came near being a messy ass!"
He saw plainly enough that a mission such as his had no place in it for
women--even such women as Bibi-ya-chui. She must go back--or stay here--
didn't matter much which. The call of duty sounded very clear. By the time
he had reached the level of the upper plateau his mind was fully made up.
As far as he was concerned the Leopard Woman had definitely lost all
chance of going alone.
The frosted moonlight still lay across the world. It meant nothing but
illumination to Kingozi. By its light he discerned a paper lying against a
bush; and since paper of any sort is scarce, he picked it up.
At camp he lighted his lantern and spread out his find on the table. It
proved to be a map.
A glance proved to Kingozi that it was not his property. He remembered a
sudden wind squall early in the afternoon. Evidently it had swept the
Leopard Woman's table.
The map was in manuscript, very well drawn, and the text was German. From
long habit Kingozi glanced first at the scale of miles, then raised his
eyes to determine what country was represented. After a moment he arose,
took his lantern into his tent, and there spread his find on his cot.
For it was a map of this very locality!
Kingozi examined it with great attention, finally getting out for
comparison his own sketch maps. The German map was a more finished
product; otherwise they were practically the same. Kingozi searched for
and found records of the various waters along his back track. Each was
annotated in ink in a language strange to him--probably Hungarian, he
reflected. At the dry _donga_ where he had overtaken and rescued the
Leopard Woman's water-starved safari he found the legend _wasser_ also.
"Explorations for this map made after the rains," he concluded.
Here the Leopard Woman had written the German word _nein!_ underscored
So far Kingozi's sketches and the German map were the same. But the German
map furnished all details for some distance in advance. This village was
indicated, and the mountains, and plains beyond. The three practical
routes were plotted by means of red lines. These lines converged at the
far side of the ranges, united in one, and proceeded out across the
plains. Kingozi counted days' journeys by the indicated water-holes up to
eleven. Then the map ceased; but an arrow at the end of the red line was
explained by a compass bearing, and the name M'tela. And, as far as
Kingozi could see, the sole purport of the whole affair was not topography
but a route to the country of M'tela!
Here was a facer! As far as any one knew, the country he had just
traversed was unexplored. Yet here was a good detailed map of just that
route. Furthermore, a copy was in the hands of this woman who claimed she
was out for sport merely, and had no knowledge of the country. Yes--she
had made just that statement. Of course she might be out merely for
adventure, just as she said. If she were of prominence and influence, she
might easily enough have obtained a copy of a private map. But then why
did she pretend ignorance? She seemed never to have heard of the name of
M'tela; yet this map's sole reason for being was that it indicated at
least the beginning of a route to M'tela's country.
Could she be on the same errand as himself?
That sounded fantastic. Kingozi reviewed the circumstances. M'tela was a
formidable myth, gradually taking shape as a reality. He was reported as a
mighty chief of distant borders. Tales of ten thousand spears drifted back
to official attention. Allowing the usual discount, M'tela still loomed as
a powerful figure. Nobody had paid very much attention to him until this
time, but now his distant border had become important. Through it a new
road from the north was projected. The following year the route was to be
explored. The friendship of M'tela and his umpty-thousand spears became
important. His hostility could cause endless trouble and delay. Kingozi's
present job was to lay the foundations for this friendship.
"You have a free hand, Culbertson," the very high official had said to
him. "We are not going to suggest or advise. Choose your own men; take as
many or as few as you please. Take your own time and your own methods. But
get the results."
"I appreciate your confidence, sir," Kingozi had replied.
"You and that man Winkleman are the best hands on earth with natives, and
we know it. Requisition what you want."
This woman was a Hungarian: she possessed a German official map. Could she
be on official business? It did not seem likely. Women are not much good
at that sort of thing in Africa. What official business could she be on?
The same as his own? That seemed still more unlikely; but if so, why
should they not work together? Germany and England had an equal stake in
the opening of this new route. An amical Boundary Commission had just
completed a satisfactory survey between the German and British East
African Protectorates. But she had lied to him, and she had acted lies of
apparent ignorance! Why that?
Having examined the subject from all sides, and having discovered it as
yet incapable of solution, Kingozi, characteristically, decided to go
slow. If she were on the same mission as himself, that fact would develop
in due time, and then they could work together. If she were still on some
mission, but a mission other than his own, that fact, too, would in due
time develop. If she were merely travelling in idle curiosity--well, she
ought not to lie!
For Kingozi had changed his mind. No longer was he determined that she
must turn back at this point. Now he was equally determined that she must
"I'll keep an eye on you, young woman," said he. "You pretend to be very
eager to go on with me. We'll see! But now you'll find it difficult to
quit this game. You may get more of it than you bargained for. If you are
really out just for sport and curiosity, I'm sorry for you. But you
He copied the map roughly; then returned it to the spot under the bushes
where he had found it.
Next morning he announced to the Leopard Woman his changed decision. He
was self-contained and direct. She smiled secretly to herself. She thought
she understood both the change of decision and the brusqueness. One was
the magic of the tropic moon; the other was the shy, half-ashamed reaction
of the strong man whose emotions have controlled him. The proof--that she
was going with him.
She was wrong!
OVER THE RANGES
When the day came for departure the Leopard Woman was indisposed, and
could not travel. At the end of that period eight bags of _potio_
disappeared. They had to be replaced. Kingozi occupied the time on the
details of his preparations. Then three men deserted, and all loads had to
be redistributed. At last they were off.
A horde of savages accompanied them at first. These dropped off one by one
until there remained only the guides appointed. The trail led steeply
upward. It soon shook free of the thorn tangle and debouched on grassy
rolling shoulders from which a wide, maplike view could be seen of the
country through which they had passed. Shortly they skirted a deep deft
canon in which sang a brook; and at its head came to a forest. The trees
were tall, their cover dense; long, ropelike vines hung in festoons. It
was very still. A colobus barked somewhere in the tops; the small green
monkeys swung from limb to limb, or scampered along the rope vines,
chattering. Silent, gaudy birds swooped across dusky spaces. The dripping
of water reached the ear; the smell of dampness the nostrils.
This was as far as they went the first day. The climb had been severe; and
at the end of three and a half hours the woman announced that she was done
up. Nothing remained but to make camp. This was done, therefore; and all
the afternoon Kingozi lay flat on the cot he had caused to be brought into
the open air, and blew smoke upward, and stared at the maze of limbs in
the forest roof. The Leopard Woman kept her tent; but he did not offer to
disturb her. He was thinking.
Next day they marched for hours through the forest, and at last came out
on more rolling grass shoulders. Evidently this side of the mountains was
not abrupt, but slanted off in a gentle slope to unknown distances. There
the game began to reappear; and Kingozi dropped two hartebeeste for the
safari. Here Cazi Moto came up in great perturbation to announce that two
of the _memsahib's_ porters were missing. The little headman did not
understand how it happened, as he had zealously brought up the rear.
Unless, of course, it was a case of desertion.
Kingozi looked thoughtful, then ordered camp to be pitched. Accompanied by
Simba, Mali-ya-bwana, and three _askaris_ he took the back track. At the
end of an hour and a half of brisk walking he met the two missing porters.
Their explanation was voluble. They had fallen out for a few moments, and
when they had resumed their loads, the safari was ahead. Then they had
hastened, but the road had divided. They had taken the wrong fork.
"Show me where the road divided," ordered Kingozi.
The loads were deposited by the side of the trail, and the delinquents,
with every appearance of confidence, led the way back another hour's march
to a veritable fork. Kingozi examined the earth for tracks.
"Could you not see that the safari had gone this way and not that way?" he
"Yes, _bwana_," they said together; "we saw it after a little. That is why
we came back."
Kingozi grunted, but said nothing. The nine men retraced their steps. Both
porters were on a broad grin, laughing and talking in subdued tones to the
_askaris_. The _bwana_ strode on rapidly ahead. They followed at a little
dogtrot, carrying their loads easily.
At camp Kingozi ordered them to place the loads in place beneath the
"Simba," said he in a casual voice, "these men get _kiboko_."
"Yes, _bwana_. How many?"
The bystanders gasped, and the shining countenances of the culprits turned
a sickly gray. Fifty lashes is a maximum punishment, inflicted only for
the gravest crimes. More cannot be administered without fear of grave
consequences. The offence of straggling is generally considered not
serious. Even Simba was not certain he had heard aright.
"How many, _bwana_?" he asked again.
"Fifty," repeated Kingozi tonelessly, and turned his blank, baleful glare
in their direction.
The punishment was administered. When it was finished the porters, shaking
like leaves, blankets drawn over their bleeding flanks, were brought to
face the white man seated in his chair.
"_Bassi_," he pronounced. The word went out into a dead silence, so that
it was heard to the farthest confines of the hushed camp. "Let no man
hereafter miss the trail."
He arose and entered his tent. Cazi Moto was there, unfolding the canvas
bath tub, laying out the clean clothes. He looked up from his occupation,
his wizened face contorted in a shrewd smile.
"No more will we make camp when the sun is only a few hours high," he
Kingozi looked at him.
"You and I have handled many safaris, Cazi Moto," he replied.
Delays from these causes ceased, but other delays supervened. Never were
the reasons for them attributable to accident; but they were more numerous
than ordinarily. Kingozi said nothing.
All the day's march he walked fifty yards ahead of the long procession.
The Leopard Woman walked part of the time; part of the time she rode a
donkey procured from the _sultani_. The two necessarily held little
converse during the day. At camp Kingozi had many tasks--camp to arrange,
meat to procure, sick to doctor, guides to interrogate. Only at the
evening meal, which now they shared, did he and his travelling companion
resume their intimacies.
The relation had developed into a curious one. For one thing, it was more
expansive. They discussed many subjects of what might be called general
interest, talking interestedly on books, world politics, colonial
policies, even the larger problems of life. In these discussions they
explored each other's intelligence, came to a mental approachment, a cold,
clear respect for each other's capacity and experience. Never did they
approach the personal. At no time in their acquaintance had they talked so
unrestrainedly, so freely, with so much genuine pleasure; at no time did
they touch so little the mysteries of personality.
If the Leopard Woman felt this, or wondered at the cloaked withdrawal, she
gave no sign. Apparently she was all candour. She seemed to throw herself
frankly and with pleasure into this relationship of the head, to have
forgotten the possibilities so richly though so momentarily disclosed by
the magic of the moon. She lounged in her canvas chair, twisting her lithe
body within her silks; she smoked her cigarettes; the jewel of changing
lights glowed on her forehead; she talked in her modulated voice and
quaint, precise English. The man's pulses remained calm. His eyes did not
miss the beauty of her form, as frankly defined beneath the silk as the
forms of the naked _bibis_ of the village; nor the alluring paleness of
her face in contrast to the red lips; nor the drowning passion of her wide
eyes. But they did not reach his senses. Were the insulation of his plain
duty--which to Kingozi meant quite sincerely his whole excuse for
existence in this puzzling life--were this to be withdrawn--he never even
contemplated the thought. Reminders from that night of the moon prevented
him from doing so.
After this fashion they came to the grass plains of the uplands. Here
ensued more delays. These did not spring from delinquencies in the safari:
the exemplary punishment assured that. But things broke, and things were
forgotten, and things had to be done differently. The guides, procured
with difficulty from the little hunting peoples of the plain, disappeared
at the end of the second day. They professed themselves afraid of Chake,
the Nubian. The latter vehemently denied having spoken a word to them.
Day's marches were shortened because the woman could not stand long ones.
Kingozi found it a great bother to travel with a woman.
Nevertheless, he made no attempts to separate the safaris. He had been
watching closely. These difficulties, the delays, breakages, and
abbreviations of day's journeys had, nine times out of ten, their origin
in the camp of the Leopard Woman. In ordinary circumstances he would have
put this down to inferior organization. But there was the mysterious,
unmentioned map, whose accuracy, by the way, he found exact. Gradually he
came to the conclusion that the delays were not entirely accidental. The
conclusion became a conviction that the Leopard Woman was making as much
of a drag and as big a nuisance of herself as possible.
She wanted to become such a burden that Kingozi would go on without her.
Again, why? At the village she had vehemently refused to go back, and had
pleaded to join forces with Kingozi. This puzzled him for some time. Then
he saw. Of course she did not want to turn back. If, as he surmised, she
had some errand with M'tela, like his own, she would not want to turn
back, but she would like a plausible excuse to separate from him once the
ranges of mountains were crossed. Why did she not drop off then on the
excuse, say, of the wonderful new hunting grounds? That would be simple.
Kingozi concluded that she wished the initiative to come from him. And the
more convinced he was that she wanted to get rid of him, the more firmly
he resolved that she must remain.
But it did make for slow travel.
What of it? There was no haste. There was plenty of game, the days passed
pleasantly, the evenings were delightful. A moonbeam flashed in his brain
showing him vistas----He firmly shut the window!
Certainly if Bibi-ya-chui harboured any active desire to drive Kingozi
into leaving her to her own devices, she concealed it well. Occasionally
in the evening, when he stared into the distance, she twisted herself to
look at him. Then her eyes widened, no one could have told with what
emotion. In her fixed stare could have been many things--or nothing. Did
she desire this man, as she had seemed to the night of the full moon, and
did she but bide her time, knowing this was not the moment? Did she desire
this man, and hate him because he had touched her only to turn away? Did
the very simplicity and directness of his nature baffle her? Did she hate
him for his mastering of circumstances but not herself? Any or all of
these emotions might have lain beneath the smoulder in her eyes. One thing
Kingozi would not have seen, had he turned his head suddenly enough, and
that was indifference. But he continued to stare out into the veldt, and
she continued to stare at him; while around them the chatter of men, the
wail of hyenas, the thunder of lions, the shrill, thin cries of night
birds, and the mighty brooding silence that took no account of them all
attended the African night.
THE SHARPENING OF THE SPEAR
Thus passed six weeks. By the end of this time the combined safaris had
progressed out into the unknown country about a normal three weeks'
journey. The rest was delay.
They had ventured out into the plain as into an enchanted sea. The
mountains had dropped below the horizon behind them; none had as yet
arisen before. The veldt ran in long, low undulations, so that always they
walked up or down gentle slopes. It was as though a ground swell had set
in toward distant, invisible shores. Here the short grass was still green
from the rains. Water lay in pools at the bottom of _dongas_. By this good
fortune travel was independent of the permanent water, and hence safe and
easy. Game was everywhere. Not for a single hour in all that six weeks
were they out of sight of it. Scattered over the sward like deer in a pack
the beasts grazed placidly in twos or threes, or in great bands. Without
haste, almost imperceptibly, they drew aside to allow the safari to pass,
and closed in again behind it. Thus the travellers were always the centre
of a little moving oasis of clear space five hundred yards in diameter.
Occasionally some unusual and unexpected crease in the earth or density of
brush in the _dongas_ brought them in surprise fairly atop an unsuspecting
herd. Then ensued a wild stampede. This communicated itself visually to
all the animals in sight. They moved off swiftly. And then still other
remote beasts, unaware of the cause of disturbance, quite out of sight of
the safari, but signalled by twinkle of stripe or flash of rump, also took
flight. So that far over the veldt, at last, the game hordes shifted
uneasily until the impulse died.
In this country were many lions. Most of the requisites of a lion were
here present--abundant game, water, the cover of the low brush in the
_dongas_. Only lacked a few rocky kopje fastnesses to make it ideal; but
that lack could be, and was, overlooked. The members of the safari often
saw the great beasts sunning themselves atop ant hills; walking with
dignity across the open country; sitting on their haunches to stare with
great yellow eyes at these strangers passing by. Here they had never been
annoyed or hunted; so here they had not become as strictly nocturnal as
nearer settlement. In all their magnificence they stalked abroad, lords of
the veldt. Kingozi's finger itched for the trigger. There is no more
exciting sport than that of lion shooting afoot. It is a case of kill or
be killed; for a lion, once the issue is joined, never gives up. He fights
literally to the death; and when he is so crippled that he can no longer
keep his feet, he drags himself forward, and dies facing his opponent
dauntlessly. No other beast furnishes the same danger, the same thrill.
His mere appearance stirs the most sluggish spirit.
"_Simba! Simba! Simba!_" the exclamation ran back the line of the safari,
the sibilant hissed excitedly. Kingozi's heart bounded, and his knuckles
whitened as he gripped his rifle.
"_Bwana hapana piga?_" Simba implored. "Is not _bwana_ going to shoot?"
But Kingozi shook his head. The temptation was strong, but he resisted it.
He refrained from shooting at the lions for exactly the same reason that
he had insulated himself against the Leopard Woman's charms.
In all this wide country were no settled habitations. Your African native
requires hills or forests; he will not dwell on open plains at any great
distance from his natural protection. A few people there were, hunters and
nomads, living on wild honey and game. They were solitaries and lived
where night found them, a little race, shyer than the game. For days and
days they flanked the safari before venturing to approach. Then one would
appear a hundred yards away and open shouted negotiations with the
porters. Perhaps after a few hours he would venture into camp. Invariably
Kingozi interrogated these people. They stood before him palpitating like
birds, poised, tense for flight. He asked them of water, of people, of
routes. By means of kind treatment and little presents he tried to gain
their confidence. Sometimes thus he induced them to talk freely, but never
did he succeed in persuading them to guide him. The mere fact of
interrogation rendered them uneasy. Probably they could not themselves
have understood that uneasiness; but invariably at nightfall they
disappeared. They made fire by the rubbing of sticks, shot poisoned arrows
From them Kingozi gained little but chatter. They knew accurately every
permanent water, to be sure. This information, in view of the abundance of
rain pools, was not at present valuable; nevertheless Kingozi questioned
them minutely, and made many marks on the map he was preparing. Always he
mentioned M'tela. At first he introduced the name at any time in the
course of the interview; but soon he found that this dried up all
information. So then he reserved that subject for the last. They were
afraid of the very syllables. They spoke them under their breaths, with
side glances. M'tela was a great lord; a lord of terror, to be feared.
At first the information was most vague. M'tela was over yonder--a long
distance--who knows how far? He possessed more or less mythical
characteristics, ranging from a height of forty or fifty feet down to the
mere possession of a charm by which he could kill at a distance. Then, as
the journey went on, the vagueness began to define. M'tela took form as a
big man with a voice like the lion at night. His surroundings began to be
described. He lived in the edge of a forest; his people were many; he had
forty wives, and the like. Still it was far, very far. Kingozi concluded
that none of these people had in person visited the Kabilagani, but were
talking at second hand.
And finally direct information came to him--in the form of fear. M'tela
was a great lord, a lord of many spears, his hand was heavy, he took what
he desired, his warriors were fierce and cruel and could not be gainsaid.
Told under the breath, with furtive glances to right and to left. And not
far: a three days' journey. Kingozi translated this into terms of safari
travel and made it about eight days. And, indeed, though no mountains as
yet raised their peaks above the horizon, fleets of clouds setting sail
from the distant ranges winged their way joyously down a growing wind.
The Leopard Woman fell ill and kept her tent. Kingozi waited two days,
then sought her out. His patience over delay was about gone. The headaches
to which physical exhaustions always made him subject had annoyed him
greatly of late, had rendered him irritable. His eyes bothered him--a
reflex from his run-down condition, he thought, combined with a slight
inflammation due to the glare of sun or yellowing grass. Boracic acid
helped very little. The halo he had noticed around the light that evening
when they had first arrived at the _sultani's_ village returned. He saw it
about every campfire, every lantern flame, even around the, brightest of
the stars. Altogether he approached the interview in a strongly impatient
The Leopard Woman lay abed beneath silken sheets. This was the first time
Kingozi had ever seen sheets of any kind on any kind of a safari. In
reality the Leopard Woman was an enticing, luring vision, but Kingozi,
through the lenses of his mood, saw only the silkiness and "sheetiness" of
those covers. He began to comprehend the numerous tin boxes.
"I'm going to leave you here and push on," he began abruptly. "You will be
all right with the men I shall leave you. When you feel able to do so,
follow on. I'll leave a plain trail."
She objected feebly; but immediately, seeing that this would not touch his
mood, she asked him the reason of his haste.
"I'll tell you," he replied, "about a week distant is a chief named
M'tela. Did you ever hear of him?"
"M'tela?" she repeated the name thoughtfully. "No--but I don't know much
about native tribes."
Remembering her map Kingozi's lips compressed under his beard. What
earthly object could she have in lying?--unless her errand was as secret
as his own.
"Well, he is described as being very powerful. And of course he will hear
of us. It is well to make friends with him before he has had a chance to
think us over too long. I'll just go on and see him."
"When will you start?" she asked, conceding the point without discussion.
"To-morrow morning. I shall make the distance in about five days,
probably: you should be able to do so in eight or ten. How are you feeling
"Better. I wondered would you ask."
He picked up her wrist.
"Pulse seems steady. Any fever?"
"A little early and late."
"Well, keep on with the hydrochlorate. You'll pull out in a day or so."
But the Leopard Woman pulled out in a second or so after Kingozi's
departure. As soon as he was safe away, she threw back the covers and
swung to the edge of the cot. At her call Chake, the Nubian, appeared. To
him she immediately began to give emphatic directions, repeating some of
them over and over vehemently. He bent his fuzzy head listening, his
yellow eyeballs showing, his fang-like teeth exposed in a grin of
comprehension. When she had finished he nodded, said a few words in his
own tongue, and glided from the tent.
At his own camp he stooped and picked up a weapon. This was a spear, and
belonged to him personally. He had brought it all the way from Nubia. It
differed from any of the native spears of East Africa both in form and in
weight. Its blade was broad and shaped like a leaf; its haft was of wood;
and its heel was shod with only the briefest length of iron. Chake kept
this spear in a high state of polish, so that its metal shone like silver.
He lifted it, poised it, made as though to throw it, to thrust with it.
Then with a sigh of renunciation he laid it aside. From behind one of the
porters' tents he took another spear, one typical of this country that had
been traded for only a day or two before. This Chake considered clumsy and
unnecessarily heavy. Nevertheless he bore it out into the long grass where
he squatted in concealment; and, producing a stone, began painstakingly to
sharpen the point and edges. As the slow labour went on he seemed to work
himself gradually to a pitch of excitement. A little crooning song began
to rise and fall, to flow and ebb. His eyes flashed, his back bent to a
tense crouch. Every few moments he dashed the spear against an imaginary
shield, poised it, thrust with it strongly, the chant rising. Then
abruptly his voice fell, his muscles relaxed, he resumed the rythmical
whetting with the stone.
All afternoon he squatted, passing the stone over the steel; polishing
long after the point and edges were as sharp as they could be made. When
the sun grew large at the world's edge he threw himself flat on his belly
and wormed his way to a position a few yards from Kingozi's tent. There he
left the spear. When he had gained a spot a hundred yards away, he arose
to his feet and walked quietly into camp. A moment later he was sitting on
his heels before his fire, eating his evening meal.
That night Kingozi was restless and could not sleep. His vision had been
blurring badly during the day, and now his eyeballs ached as though they
had been seared. After his solitary evening meal he wandered about
restlessly, gripping his pipe strongly between his teeth. Shortly after
dark he entered his tent with the idea of turning in early; but the pain
drove him out again. He remained only long enough to substitute his
mosquito boots for his day boots. The Nubian, lying in the long grass
beside the newly sharpened spear, settled himself to wait.
Kingozi's figure lost itself among the men of the camp. The strong, clean
wind that blew every day from distant ranges, was falling with the night.
A breath of coolness came with it. Chake shivered and wished he had
brought his blanket. The time was very long; but back of Chake were
generations of men who had lain patiently in wait. He gripped the haft of
the heavy spear.
Black night descended in earnest. The little fires were dying down. Still
Kingozi, tortured by his headache, wandered about. Upward of two hours
passed. Then at last the crouching Nubian saw dimly the silhouette of the
white man returning, caught in the glimmer of coals the colour of the
khaki coat he wore. The moment was at hand. Chake arose to his knees, his
spear in his right hand. As soon as his victim should lie down on the cot,
it was his intention to thrust him through the canvas. It must be
remembered that the cot was placed close to the wall, and that the body of
the sleeper was defined against it.
But unexpectedly the wearer of the khaki coat passed the tent door and
proceeded to the rear where he reached upward to the rear guy rope where
hung a towel, or some such matter. This brought him to within four feet of
the kneeling Nubian, the broad of his back exposed, both arms upraised.
Without hesitation Chake drove the spear into his back. The sharp long
blade slipped through the flesh as easily as a hot knife into butter. The
murdered man choked once and pitched forward headlong on his face. Chake,
leaving the weapon, glided swiftly away.
Once well beyond the chance of a fire glimmer he arose to his feet and
quickly regained his own camp. This was exactly on the opposite side of
the circle. The four men with whom he shared his tiny cotton tent,
_askaris_ all as beseemed his dignity, were sound asleep. He squatted on
his heels, pushed together the embers of his fire, staring into the coals.
His ugly face was as though carved from ebony. Only his wild savage eyes
glowed and flashed with a brooding lambent flame; and his wide nostrils
slowly expanded and contracted as though with some inner heaving emotion.
Thus he sat for perhaps ten minutes. Then on the opposite side of the
circle a commotion began. Some one cried out, figures ran to and fro,
commands were given, brands were snatched from dying fires, torches were
lit. Elsewhere, all about camp, sleepers were sitting up, were asking one
another what was the matter. The _askaris_ in Chake's tent grumbled, and
turned over, and asked what it was all about. Chake shook his mop of hair,
staring into the fire.
From the Leopard Woman's tent came a sharp summons. The Nubian arose and
stalked boldly across the open space. At the closed tent he scratched his
fingernail respectfully against the canvas.
"_Karibu, karibu!_" summoned his mistress impatiently. He slipped between
the flaps and stood inside.
The Leopard Woman was seated upright in her cot. On the tin box near the
head of the bed burned a candle in a mica lantern. By its dim light her
face looked paler than ever, and deep black circles seemed to have defined
themselves under her eyes. The Nubian and the white woman stared at each
other for a moment.
"It is done?" she asked finally, in a hoarse whisper.
"It is done, _memsahib_," he replied calmly.
For another pause she stared at him, her eyes widening. "You have done
well. _Bassi!_" she enunciated at last.
The tent flaps still quivered behind the Nubian's exit, when she threw
herself face downward on the cot. Her body shook with convulsive dry sobs.
After a moment she twisted on her side. Both hands clutched her throat, as
though she strangled for air. Her eyes were round and rolling. It was as
if some mighty pent force were struggling for release. Suddenly the
release came. She began to weep, the tears streaming down her face.
Shortly she commenced to mutter little short disjointed phrases in her own
language. She wrung her hands.
"I had to do it!" she gasped in German. "I had to do it! It was the only
way! Tell me it was the only way!" she seemed to appeal to some one
invisible. And then she resumed her lament in the Hungarian.
But all at once something dried this emotion as the sear of a flame would
dry water over which it passed. The tears ceased, her eyes flashed, she
jerked her body upright, listening. The commotion of pursuit and
investigation was sweeping past her tent.
Distinctly she heard the voice of Kingozi giving commands.
An instant later Chake darted into the tent and fell to the ground. His
face was the sickly gray of a negro in terror, his eyes rolled in his
head, his teeth chattered, his every muscle trembled.
"_Memsahib! Memsahib!_" he gasped.
Her eyes were blazing with an anger the more fierce in that some of it was
"Fool!" she spat at him.
"I killed him, _memsahib!_ I drove the _shenzi_ spear through his back! I
left him lying there! He is a god! He has come back from the dead!"
"Fool!" she repeated, and swung her feet to the floor. "Stay here! Do not
go out!" she commanded, when she had assumed her mosquito boots. She
slipped out between the tent flaps.
Torches were everywhere flickering about. She stopped one of the men as he
"A _shenzi_ has killed Mavrouki with a spear," the man answered her
She stood for some time watching the torches. Then she saw Kingozi himself
take his place by the pile of loads.
"Fall in!" he commanded sharply.
She returned to her tent.
"Here!" she addressed the crouching Nubian. "It is as I said. You have
been a fool. You have killed a porter by mistake. Now the _bwana_ has
ordered to _fall in_. He wishes to see if any are missing. Go take your
place, and answer to your name."
"Oh, _memsahib!_ Oh, _memsahib!_" the man was groaning.
"Go, I say!" she cried. "And hold up your head. If this is suspected of
you, you will surely die."
Kingozi called the roll by the light of a replenished fire.
As each man was named, he was required to step forward to undergo
Most were uneasy, many were excited. Kingozi passed them rapidly in
review. But when Chake came forward, he paused in the machine-like
regularity of his inspection.
"Hullo, my bold buccaneer," said he in English, "what ails you?"
The Leopard Woman had drawn near. Kingozi glanced at her over his
"I know these Fuzzy-Wuzzies pretty well," he remarked. "This man has the
blood look in his eye."
"He's been sick all day," she ventured.
"Sick, eh? Have you had him about you all evening?"
The Leopard Woman hesitated the least appreciable portion of a second.
"No," she answered, "he was sick; I let him sleep in his own camp."
She withdrew a pace, almost as though washing her hands of the affair.
Kingozi whirled and levelled his forefinger at the Nubian.
"Why did you use a _shenzi_ spear?" he demanded.
Over Chake's face had come the blank, lifeless expression of the obstinate
savage. Kingozi recognized it, and knew that further interrogation was a
matter of much time and patience. His eyes and head ached cruelly.
"Very well," he answered the Nubian's unspoken opposition. "You'll keep.
Simba, get me the hand irons and the leg irons. Guard this man. To-morrow
we will look into it." He turned away without waiting to see his commands
carried out. "I've got a beastly headache," he remarked to Bibi-ya-chui.
"This affair--this whole affair--will keep. Cazi Moto, I want two men with
guns--my men--to stand by my tent, one in front, one in the rear."
The Leopard Woman watched his drooping, wearied form making its way to his
tent. He walked shuffling, almost stumbling. The habitual masking stare of
her eyes changed. Something softer, almost yearning, crept into them. When
the tent flaps had fallen behind him she threw both arms aloft in a
splendid tragic gesture, careless of the staring men. Her face was
convulsed by strong emotion. She turned and fled to her own tent, where
she threw herself face down on her cot.
"It must be done! It must be done!" she groaned to her pillow.
Kingozi retired again to his cot; but for a long time he could not get to
sleep. Little things annoyed him. A fever owl in a thorn tree somewhere
nearby called over and over again monotonously, hurriedly, without pause,
without a break in rhythm. Kingozi knew that the bird would thus continue
all night long, and he tried to adjust his mind to the fact, but failed.
It seemed beyond human comprehension that any living creature could keep
up steadily so breathless a performance. Some of the men were chatting in
low voices. Ordinarily he would not have heard them at all; now they
annoyed him. He stood it as long as he could, then shouted "_Kalele!_" at
them in so fierce a tone that the human silence was dead and immediate.
But this made prominent other lesser noises. Kingozi's headache was worse.
He tossed and turned, but at last fell into a half-waking stupor.
He was brought to full consciousness by the entrance of Cazi Moto. He
opened his eyes. It was still night--a very black night, evidently, for
not a ray of light entered the tent.
"What time is it, Cazi Moto?" he asked.
"Five o'clock, _bwana_."
It was time to rise if a march was to be undertaken. Kingozi waited a
"Why do you not light the candle?" he demanded.
"The candle is lighted, _bwana_" replied Cazi Moto, with a slight tone of
Kingozi reached his outspread hand across to his tin box. His fingers
encountered a flame, and were slightly scorched. He lay back and closed
"The men have struck their tents?" he asked Cazi Moto after a moment.
"Yes, _bwana_, all is prepared."
Then there must be a dozen little fires, and the tent must be filled with
flickering reflections. Kingozi lay for some time, thinking. He could hear
Cazi Moto moving about, arranging clothes and equipment. When by the
sounds Kingozi knew that the task was finished and Cazi Moto about to
depart, he spoke.
"We shall not make safari to-day," he said. Cazi Moto stopped.
"We shall not make safari to-day."
Cazi Moto's mind adjusted itself to this new decision. Then, without
comment, he glided out to reverse all his arrangements.
Left alone Kingozi lay on his back and bent his will power to getting
control of the situation.
He was blind.
At first the mere thought sent so numbing a chill through all his
faculties that he needed the utmost of his fortitude to prevent an
insensate and aimless panic. Gradually he gained control of this.
Then he groped for the candle. By experiment he found that at a distance
of a foot or so the illumination registered. Then there was no paralysis
of the nerve itself. Desperately he marshalled his unruly thoughts,
striving to look back into the remote past of his student days. Fragments
of knowledge came to him, but nothing on which to build a theory of what
"It's mechanical; it's mechanical," he muttered over and over to himself,
but could not seem to progress beyond this point. All he could conclude
was that it was _not_ ophthalmia or trachoma. He had seen a good deal of
these two plagues of Egypt, and their symptoms were absent here. He
concentrated until his mind was weary, and his will slipped. At last in
despair he relaxed and in an unconscious gesture rubbed his eyes with his
forefingers and thumbs. The contact brought him to with a jerk.
The eyeballs, instead of feeling soft and velvety under the lids, were as
hard as marbles.
The shock of this phenomenon rang a bell in his memory. A distinct picture
came to him of his classroom and old Doctor Stokes. He could fairly hear
the slow, impressive voice.
"There is one symptom," the past was saying to him, "one symptom, young
gentlemen, that is not always present; but when present establishes the
diagnosis beyond any doubt. I refer to a peculiar hardening of the eyeball
"Glaucoma!" cried Kingozi aloud.
His thoughts, like hounds on a trail, raced off after this new scent.
Desperately he tried to recollect. In snatches he captured knowledge. Of
its accuracy he was sometimes in doubt; but little by little that doubt
grew less. To change the figure, the latent images of his past science
developed slowly, like the images on a photographic plate.
Glaucoma--a hardening, an enlarging of the pupil, a change in the shape
and consistency of the iris--yes, he had it fairly well. Treatment? Let's
see--an operation on the iris, delicate. That was it. Impossible, of
course. But there was something else, a temporary expedient, until the
surgeon could be reached--an undue expansion of the pupil----
"Why," shouted Kingozi aloud, sitting up in bed. "Pilocarpin, of course!"
What luck! He fervently blessed the shortage of phenacetin that had forced
him to take pilocarpin as a sweating substitute for fever.
"Cazi Moto!" he called. Then, as the headman hurried up: "Get me the box
of medicines, quick!"
He waited until he heard the little man reenter the tent.
"Place it here," he commanded. "Now go."
He groped for the case, opened it----
The bottles it contained were all of the same shape. He remembered that
the pilocarpin was at the right-hand end--or was it the left? Hastily he
uncorked the left-hand bottle, and was immediately reassured. It contained
tablets. The right-hand bottle, on the contrary, held the typical small
crystals. But a doubt assailed him. At the same end of the case were the
receptacles also of the atropin and the morphia. He remembered the Leopard
Woman's remarking how much alike they all were. Kingozi seemed to see
plainly in his mind's eye the precise arrangement, to visualize even the
exact appearance of the labels on the bottles--first the morphia, next to
it the pilocarpin, and last the atropin. But while he contemplated this
mental image, it shifted. The pilocarpin and atropin changed places. And
this latter recollection seemed as distinct to him as the first had been.
He fingered the three bottles, his brows bent. And across his mental
travail floated another thought that brought him up all standing.
Pilocarpin and atropin had exactly the opposite effect.
"Here, this won't do!" he said aloud. "If I get the wrong stuff in my eyes
it will destroy them permanently."
He raised his voice for Cazi Moto.
"When Bibi-ya-chui is awake," he told the headman, "I want to see her.
Tell her to come."
THE LEOPARD WOMAN CHANGES HER SPOTS
Kingozi washed, dressed, had his breakfast, and sat quietly in his chair.
In the open he found that he had a dim consciousness of light, but that
was all. There was no pain.
After a while Cazi Moto came to report that the Leopard Woman was out and
about. Kingozi's message had been delivered.
"She says you shall come to her tent," concluded Cazi Moto. Kingozi
considered. To insist that she should come to him might lead to a
downright refusal, unless he sent her word of his condition. This he did
not wish to do. His recollections of the classroom were now distinct. He
knew that the pilocarpin would restore his vision within a few hours; and
while the alleviation would be temporary, it might last some months, or
until he could get the proper surgical aid. Therefore it would be as well
not to let the men know anything was even temporarily the matter.
"Take my chair," he ordered Cazi Moto. Then when the latter started off,
he followed, touching lightly the folded seat. As he felt the shade of the
tree under which the Leopard Woman's tent had been pitched, he chanced a
"good morning." Her reply gave him her direction, and he seated himself
"I am stupid this morning," he said. "Had a bad night. I wanted you to do
something for me--read a label, as a matter of fact--and it never occurred
to me that I might bring the label to you. Cazi Moto, go get my box of
"I do not quite understand," replied the Leopard Woman. "What is it you
would have me do?"
"Read a label--on a bottle."
"Why is it you do not read it yourself?"
"My eyes do not focus well this morning."
"I see," she said slowly. "And you would have me indicate for you the
remedy. That is it?"
"Yes, that is it. I've stupidly forgotten which the bottle is I want."
He heard her moving slightly here and there. He strained his ears to
understand what she was about.
"You are blind!" she cried suddenly.
"Temporarily--until I get my remedy. How did you know?"
"The look of you; and just this moment I thrust suddenly at your face."
Cazi Moto arrived with the medicine chest which he placed at his master's
feet, and opened. Kingozi extracted the three bottles.
"The table is directly in front of you," came the Leopard Woman's voice.
He reached out, and after a moment deposited the vials on the table.
"It's one of these," he said, "but I don't know which. Just read them for
"This remedy will cure you?"
"It will give me my sight. I have what is known as glaucoma. It is an
undue expansion of the pupil. This remedy contracts it again. The only
real cure is an operation."
A silence ensued.
"Well?" asked Kingozi at length.
"It interests me," came her voice. "Suppose you had not this remedy?"
"I should remain blind," replied Kingozi simply.
"Until you obtained the remedy?"
"Probably for always. One must not let glaucoma run or it becomes chronic.
It's God's own luck that I have this stuff with me--it's the pilocarpin I
told you of. The other stuff--atropin--would blind me for sure!"
He thrust forward the three bottles.
"Here," he urged.
"If you had not the remedy--this what-you-call--pilocarpin, what would you
do?" An edge of eagerness had crept into her tones.
"Do?" said Kingozi, a little impatiently. "I'd streak it for a surgeon. I
have no desire to lose my sight."
"I shall not read your labels," she decided. Her voice now was low and
"What!" cried Kingozi.
He could hear the rustle of her clothes as she leaned forward.
"Listen," she said. "Why should I do this for you? You have treated me as
a man treats his dog, his horse, his servant, his child--not as a man
treats a woman. Do you think because I have been the meek one, the quiet
one, that I have not cared?"
"But this--my sight----"
"Your sight is safe. You tell me so yourself. Go back to your surgeon. And
if you suffer inconvenience on the way--or pain--or humiliation--or anger
--why that is what you have made me suffer."
"You! You have treated me with scorn, with contempt, like a little child,
as though I did not exist! You have--what-you-call--ridden over--
overridden what I propose, what I try to do. You and your lordly way! You
are not a man--you are a fish of cold blood; a statue of iron! You have
nothing but the head! You 'know nothing whatever about vegetables'--nor
women! Bah! Shall I read your labels and give you your sight? Ah, no! ah,
Kingozi was stunned. Idly his hand slid forward across the table. It
encountered and closed upon her wrist. Instantly she struggled to be free,
whereupon mechanically he tightened his clasp. She made a desperate effort
to do something. His other hand sought hers. It grasped one of the three
bottles, and even as he determined this fact, she tried again to hurl it
to the ground. Frustrated, she relaxed her grip, and he released her.
He could hear the fling of her body as she stood upright; could catch the
indrawing of her breath.
"Read them for yourself!" was her parting shot as she withdrew.
Kingozi sat very still for a long time. Then he arose abruptly and
commanded Cazi Moto to return with him to his own camp. There he caused
his chair to be placed in the shade.
"Cazi Moto," said he, "listen well. You are my other hands; now you must
be something else. I am sick in the eyes; I can see nothing. In one of
these bottles is the medicine that will cure me, and in one of them is the
medicine that will make me blind forever. I do not know which it is; and I
cannot read the _barua_ because I cannot see it. And Bibi-ya-chui cannot
read it. So you must be my eyes. Take a stick, and make on the ground
marks exactly like those on the _barua_. Make them deep, so that I may
feel them with my hands."
[Illustration: "'Cazi Moto, take a stick and make on the ground marks
exactly like those on the _barua_. Make them deep, so that I may feel them
with my hands'"]
Cazi Moto sharpened a stick, smoothed out a piece of earth, and squatted
The Central African native is untrained either to express himself or to
see pictorially. We have been so trained since the building blocks of our
infancy, so that a photograph of a scene is to us an exact replica of that
scene in miniature. As a matter of fact, it is only an arbitrary and
conventional arrangement of black and white. A raw native sees nothing
more than that even in a portrait of him self.
So Cazi Moto went at this task absolutely unequipped both of brain and of
hand. In addition the label was rather difficult. The printed body of it
contained the firm name of the chemists and their address; the drug itself
was written, Kingozi remembered with exasperation, in his own not very
"Dashed fool!" he told himself aloud in his usual habit. "Deserve what
you've got. Ought to have segregated the drugs--ought to have printed the
labels--no use thinking of that now."
Cazi Moto worked painstakingly, his shrewd and wizened face puckered in
absorption. He accomplished a legible _Borroughs & Wellcome_ after many
trials. Then he proceeded with the script. It seemed impossible to make a
start; he did not even begin at the beginning, but was inclined to view
the work as an entity and to begin drawing it at the top of the middle.
Kingozi corrected that. At last the white man's fingers made out
distinctly a capital M. He erased it with a sweep of the hand.
"That part of the _barua_ again," he ordered.
After a time Cazi Moto repeated the feat.
This was quicker.
Kingozi dropped that bottle into his side pocket with a sigh of relief.
"Evidently the morphine," he said. "We'll try it again later to be sure.
Wish I didn't scribble such a rotten hand. My capital As and Ps are
He had a new idea. For fifteen minutes he tried to get from Cazi Moto at
first the number of letters on each label; and later, when the flowing
script proved this impractical, an idea of the relative lengths of the
words. Neither method was certain enough; another argument for printing
your labels, thought Kingozi.
"We'll get it, old sportsman!" he cried aloud in English. "We'll try for
the first letter."
He bent forward, but the lesson went no further.
For an hour the Leopard Woman had been watching, curious as to what these
two were doing so quietly in the shade of the tree. At last she evidently
made up her mind she must find out. Quietly she drew near them unnoticed,
so that at last she was standing only a few feet to one side. There she
witnessed the final triumph as to the morphine, and heard Kingozi's last
confident speech. As he leaned forward to place another bottle for Cazi
Moto to copy from, she gathered her forces, rushed forward between them,
snatched the vial, and dashed it violently against a rock, where it
naturally broke into innumerable pieces. Cazi Moto stared up at her,
astounded into immobility. Kingozi, without a trace of emotion, leaned
back in his chair.
"I think I am losing my wits," he remarked. "I have been criminally stupid
through this whole affair. I might have foreseen something of the kind."
She stood there panting excitedly, her hands clinched at her sides.
"I will read your label for you now--the bottle you hold in your hand! It
is atropin--atropin--" She laughed wildly.
"I thank you, madam," he said ironically.
"Now you must go back!"
"Yes. Now I must go back. I thank you."
"You may well thank me. I have saved your life!" she cried hysterically,
and was gone.
Kingozi did not examine the meaning of this; indeed, it hardly registered
at all as it was to him evidently the product of excitement.
He forgot even the scandalized Cazi Moto squatting at his feet. For a long
time he stared sightlessly straight ahead. He could not explain this
woman. The whole outburst, the complete about-face in what had been their
apparent relations, overwhelmed him. He had had no idea of the slow
damming back of resentments; in fact, he really had no idea that there
were causes for resentment at all! He had done the direct, obvious,
efficient thing in a number of instances when naturally her powers or
abilities were inadequate. Characteristically, he forgot utterly the night
of the full moon!
First of all, it was evident that he must turn back if he was to save his
eyesight. As he remembered glaucoma, it ought to be surgically treated
within two months, at most.
The second point was whether he could turn back. His mission was a simple
one. Would it wait? He could not see why not. He had been sent to gain the
friendship and active alliance of M'tela and his spears; and had been
given _carte blanche_ in the matters of equipment, methods, and time.
Inside a year or so the International Boundary Commission would be running
boundary lines through that country. Until then the Kabilagani could very
well go on as they probably had gone on for the last five hundred years.
Very well; as far as his job was concerned, he could go back; as far as
his eyes were concerned, he must go back.
Remained the problem of Bibi-ya-chui.
Why was she in the country? For the same purpose as himself? It seemed
unlikely; she appeared to have slight qualifications for such a task.
Indeed, in the candour of his own inner communings Kingozi acknowledged
that he and the German, Winkleman, alone could be held really fitted for
that sort of negotiation. But if she were? Why did she not say so? Their
object would be the same. It was as much to Germany's interest to pacify,
to make friendly this hinterland before the advent of the Boundary
Commission. All this was a puzzle. But there was the indubitable secret
map, and the indubitable concealment of purpose; and--to Kingozi's mind--
the indubitable attempt to make travelling so tedious that he would split
safaris and permit her to go alone.
This led to another conclusion. He could not see the reason for it all,
but one thing was clear: she must not even now be allowed to take her own
course. Whatever she was up to, she did not intend to let him know about
it; ergo it was something inimical to him, either personally or
officially. Probably personally, Kingozi thought with a grim smile. He was
no fool about women when his mind was sufficiently disengaged from other
things; and now he remembered the inhibited promise of the tropic moon.
Still he could take no chances. He could turn back; he must turn back; and
as a corollary the Leopard Woman must turn back with him!
He remembered Cazi Moto squatting, undoubtedly horrified to the core.
"Cazi Moto, are you there?"
"Where has the _memsahib_ gone?"
"Into her tent, _bwana_."
"Listen well to me. She has destroyed the medicine. Now we must go back to
where _Bwana_ Marefu can come to fix my eyes. We shall go with all the men
as far as the people of the _sultani_. There we will leave many porters
and many loads. With a few men we will go to Bwana Marefu. When he has
fixed my eyes, then we will come back. I will fix a _barua_ for _Bwana_.
This must be sent on ahead of us so he can come to meet us. Pick two good
men for messengers. Is all that understood?"
"Tell me, then, what is to be done?"
Cazi Moto repeated the gist of what had been said. Kingozi nodded.
"That is it."
"_Bwana?_" Cazi Moto hesitated.
"That woman. Shall she be _kibokoed_ or killed?"
Kingozi caught back a chuckle.
"No," he said gravely. "That will wait for later. But see that she is
watched; do not permit her to talk to her men; take all her guns and
pistols, and bring them to me."
"And this Chake?"
"Of course." Kingozi had really forgotten the man in the concentrations of
the past few hours. "Let him be brought before me an hour before sundown."
He found himself all at once overcome with sleep. Hardly was he able to
stagger to his cot before he fell into a deep, refreshing slumber.
At the appointed hour Cazi Moto scratched on his tent door. Kingozi arose
and walked confidently into the opening. Cazi Moto deftly indicated the
location of the chair. Kingozi sat down.
Although he could not see, he visualized the scene well enough.
Immediately in front of him, and ten feet away, stood the manacled Nubian,
with an armed man at either elbow. Behind them, in turn, were grouped
silently all the combined safaris. At his own elbows stood Cazi Moto and
He allowed an impressive wait to ensue. Then abruptly he began his
interrogation. He had been thinking over the circumstances, off and on,
since last night, and had determined on his line. Ordinarily he would have
called for witnesses of various sorts, but this would have been not at all
for the purpose of piling up evidence against the accused. That is the
civilized fashion; and is superfluous among savages. Kingozi's witnesses
would have been called solely for the purpose of furnishing information to
himself. He needed only one piece of information here, and that only one
witness could furnish him--the man before him.
"Why did you kill Mavrouki?" he demanded.
"I did not kill Mavrouki, _bwana_."
"That is a lie," rejoined Kingozi calmly.
Chake became voluble.
"All night I sat by my fire cooking _potio_ and meat," he protested. "This
the _askaris_ will tell you. And my spear lay in the tent with the
_askaris_," he went on at great length, repeating these two points,
babbling, protesting, pleading. Kingozi listened to him in dead silence
until he had quite run down.
"Listen," said he impressively, "all these words are lies. This is what
happened: from one of the _shenzis_ you traded a spear, or a spear was
given you. Your own spear you left in the tent. All day you sat in the
grass and sharpened the _shenzi_ spear." This was a wild guess, based on
probabilities, but by the uneasy stir in the throng Kingozi knew he had
scored. "Then at night you waited, and you speared Mavrouki with the
_shenzi_ spear, and you left it in his back, for you said to yourself,
'men will think a _shenzi_ has done this thing.' Then you went quietly to
your fire, and cooked _potio_, and your own spear was all the time where
the _askaris_ were lying."
Kingozi paused. He knew without Cazi Moto's whispered assurance that every
shot had told. It was a simple bit of deduction, but to these simpler
minds it seemed miraculous.
"Why did you wish to kill me?" he demanded.
The Nubian, taken completely by surprise, began to chatter with fright.
"I did not wish to kill you, _bwana_. I wished to kill Mavrouki."
"That is a lie," said Kingozi equably. "Why should you wait for Mavrouki
near my tent? Was Mavrouki my gun bearer, or even my cook, that he should
come to my tent? Mavrouki was a porter, and if you wished to kill Mavrouki
you would wait by the porters' camp."
He said these words slowly, without emphasis, in almost a detached manner.
By the murmur he knew that this amazing reasoning had, as usual, struck
the men with deep astonishment. The African native is a simple creature.
He waited a full minute.
"Mavrouki wore a khaki coat. He and I were the only people of all the
safari who had khaki coats. That is why in the darkness you mistook
Mavrouki for me. That is why you killed Mavrouki."
He said this in a firm voice, as though making an indisputable statement.
The buzz of low-voiced comment increased. This time he did not pause.
"Why did you wish to kill me?" he repeated.
But again he sensed the fact that Chake had taken refuge in the dull
stupidity that is an acknowledgment of defeat. He knew that he would get
no more replies. After waiting a few moments he went on. His voice had
become weighty with authority and measured with doom.
"You will not tell. Let it be so. And now listen; and you other safari men
listen also. Because you have wished to kill me, you shall have two
hundred lashes with the _kiboko_; and then you shall be hanged."
A moment of horror was followed by a low murmur of comment. Not a man
there but realized that the unfortunate Nubian would never live to be
hanged. A punishment of twenty-five is as much as the most stoical can
stand in silence; fifty as much as can be absorbed without permanent
injury; seventy-five an extreme resorted to on a very few desperately rare
occasions. Beyond that no experience taught the result. Kingozi's sentence
was equivalent to death by torture.
He leaned forward in his chair, listening intently. He heard his victim's
gasp, the mutter of the crowd. They passed him by. Then he sank back, a
half smile on his lips. He had caught the rustle of silks, the indignant
breathing of a woman. He knew that Bibi-ya-chui stood before him.
"But this is atrocious!" she cried. "This cannot go on!"
"It shall go on," he replied steadily. "Why not?"
"He is my man. I forbid it!"
"He is my man to punish when he attempts my life."
"I shall prevent this--this--oh, this outrage!"
"How?" he asked calmly.
She turned to the men and began to talk to them in Swahili, repeating
emphatically what she had just said to Kingozi in English, uttering her
commands. They were received in a dead silence.
"You have heard the _memsahib_ speak, you men of the _memsahib's_ safari,"
remarked Kingozi; then: "You, Jack, whom I made chief of _askaris_, you
"What does the _bwana_ say of this?" came Jack's deep voice after a
"You have heard."
"What the _bwana_ says is law."
"Does any man of you think differently? Speak!"
No voice answered. Kingozi turned to where, he knew, the Leopard Woman
He heard only a choked sob of rage and impotence. After waiting a minute
"Do my command. Let three men, in turn, give the _kiboko_. You, Simba, see
that they strike hard."
A faint clink of manacles indicated that the guards had laid hands on
"Wait!" cried the Leopard Woman in a strangled voice.
Kingozi raised his hand.
"You--you brute!" she cried. "You shall not do this! Chake is not to
blame! It is I--I, who speak. I did this. I ordered him to kill you. I
alone should be punished!"
He drew a deep breath.
"I thought so," he said softly; then in Swahili: "These are my orders. Let
this man be well guarded. Let him be treated well, and given _potio_ and
meat. He shall be punished later. And now," he turned to Bibi-ya-chui in
English again, "let us drop the excitement and the hysterics. Let us sit
down calmly and discuss the matter. Perhaps you are now ready to tell me
why you have lied to me; why you have concealed your possession of a
secret map and other information; why you have deliberately delayed my
march; and, above all, why you have refused to aid my blindness and have
attempted to kill me."
But she did not immediately answer this. She was on fire with a new
"This is another of your--what you call--traps!" she cried. "You never
intended to kill this man with the _kiboko!_ You intended to make me
speak--as I did!"
"That's as may be," he rejoined. "At least I should have tried how far he
would have been faithful to you before telling what he knew--if you had
"He is faithful--to the death," she asseverated with passion.
"I am inclined to believe you are right. But that is neither here nor
there. I am waiting answers to my questions."
"And you shall wait," she took him up superbly. "I shall not answer!"
He shrugged his shoulders wearily.
"That is your affair. I must confess that I am curious to know, however,
why you did not shoot me. You have a pistol."
"Your men took that pistol."
"But not until late this morning. You had plenty of chance."
"I could not," she said, her voice taking on a curious intonation; "there
was no need."
"You mean since I went blind there was no need," he interjected quickly.
She hesitated whether to reply. Then:
"Yes, that is it," she assented.
Kingozi leaned forward, gripping the arms of his chair.
"I must tell you that my blindness is not going to help you in the way you
believe," he said.
"What do I believe?" The animation of curiosity crept into her voice.
"For one thing, you believe I am no ivory hunter; and you know perfectly
why I am in this country."
"Do you not?"
"Why is it, tell me."
She pondered this, then made up her mind
"I do not know why not. The time for fencing is over. I know perfectly
that you are sent by your government to make treaty with M'tela. And I
know," she added with the graciousness of one who has got back to sure
ground, "that no one could do it better; and no one as well."
"Except Winkleman," said Kingozi simply.
"As you say, the time for fencing is over," pursued Kingozi. "That is
true. And it is true also that you are not merely travelling for pleasure.
You are yourself on a mission. You are Hungarian, but you are in the
employ of the German Government."
She laughed musically.
"_Bravo!_" she cried. "That is true. But go on--how do you make the
"Your maps, your--pardon me--equivocations, and a few other matters of the
sort. Now it is perfectly evident that you are trying to forestall me in
"Point number two," she agreed mockingly.
"I am free to confess I do not know why; and at present I do not care.
That's why I tell you. You are so anxious to forestall me--for this
unknown reason--that when smaller things fail----"
"You are of an interest--what smaller things?"
"Various wiles--some of them feminine. Delays, for example. Do you suppose
I believed for a moment those delays were not inspired? That is why my
punishments were so severe--and other wiles," he concluded vaguely.
She did not press the point.
"When smaller things failed," he repeated, "you would have resorted even
to murder. Your necessity must have been great."
"Believe me--it was!" she answered.
He brought up short at the unexpected feeling that vibrated in her voice.
His face expressed a faint surprise, and he returned to his subject with
"And when my eyes failed me, and you could have given me my sight by the
mere reading of a label, you refused; you condemned me to the darkness.
And, further, when I had a chance to learn my remedy for myself, you
destroyed it. I wonder whether that cost you anything, too?"
He sat apparently staring out into the distance, his sightless eyes wide
with the peculiar blank pathos of the blind. The Leopard Woman's own eyes
were suffused with tears!
"I remember now something you said when you broke the bottle of
pilocarpin," he said slowly. "I did not notice it at the time; now it
comes to me. 'I have saved your life,' you said. I get the meaning of that
now. You would have killed me rather than not have forestalled me; but the
blindness saved you that necessity. You know, I am a little glad to learn
that you did not _want_ to kill me."
"Want!" she cried. "How could I want?"
"You told me enough times just what you thought of me."
Her crest reared, but drooped again.
"No women likes to be treated so. And if you had your eyes, so I would
hate you again!"
"I don't know why you want to prevent me from reaching M'tela, nor why you
want to reach him first, nor why in its wisdom your government sent you at
all. I'd like to know, just as a matter of curiosity. But it doesn't
really matter, because it does not affect the essential situation in the
"You are going to M'tela just the same?" she inquired anxiously.
"Bless you, no. I have no desire to go blind. It's the beastliest
affliction can come to an active man. And glaucoma is a tricky thing. I'd
like to get to McCloud tomorrow. But still you are not going to get to
M'tela before me."
"I am sorry; but you will have to go with me."
"You have the force," she acknowledged after a moment. Somewhat surprised
at her lack of protest--or was it resignation to the inevitable?--Kingozi
checked himself. After a moment he went on.
"Somehow," he mused, "in spite of your amiable activities, I have a
certain confidence in you. It would be much more comfortable for both of
us if you would give me your word not to try to escape, or to go back, or
to leave my camp, or cause your men to leave my camp, or anything like
"Would you trust my word?"
"If you would give it solemnly--yes."
"But to do what I wished to do--as you say just now yourself--I am ready
to use all means--even to killing. Why do you not think I would also
break, my word to do my ends?"
"I think you would not."
"But do you think I would, what you call--consider your trust in me more
great than my government's trust in me?"
"No. I do not think that either."
"I do not think you will give your word to me unless you mean to keep it.
If you do give it, I am willing to rely upon it."
The Leopard Woman moved impulsively to his side.
"Very well. I give it," she said with a choke.
"That you go with my safari, without subterfuge, without sending word
anywhere--in other words, a fair start afresh!"
"Just that," she replied.
"That is your word of honour?"
"My word of honour."
"Give me your hand on it."
She laid her palm in his. His hand closed over hers, gripping it tightly.
Her eyes were swimming, her breast heaved. Slowly she swayed toward him,
leaned over him. Her lips touched his. Suddenly she was seized hungrily.
She abandoned herself to the kiss.
But after a moment she tore herself away from him, panting.
"This must not be!" she cried tragically. "I know not what I do! This is
not good! I am a woman of honour!"
Kingozi, his blind face alight, held out his arms to her.
"Your honour is safe with me," he said.
But he had mistaken her meaning. Step by step she recoiled from him until
she stood at the distance of some paces, her hands pressed against her
cheeks, her eyes fixed on him with a strange mixture of tenderness, pity,
"What is it?" he begged, getting uncertainly to his feet. "Where are you?"
But she did not answer him. After a moment she slipped away.
The return trip began promptly the following morning, and progressed
uninterruptedly for two weeks. One by one they picked up the water-holes
found on the journey out.
A few details had to be adjusted to compensate for Kingozi's lack of eyes.
The matter of meat supplies, for example.
"Good luck I gave some attention to your shooting, old sportsman," he
remarked to Simba in English, then in Swahili: "Here are five cartridges.
Go get me a zebra and a kongoni."
Simba was no shot, but Kingozi knew he would stalk, with infinite patience
and skill, fairly atop his quarry before letting off one of the precious
In the matter of rhinoceros and similar dangers, they simply took a
Kingozi marched at the end of a stick held by Simba. He gave his whole
energies to getting over the day's difficulties of all sorts. His
relations with the Leopard Woman swung back. Perhaps vaguely, in the back
of his mind, he looked forward to the interpretation of that
unpremeditated kiss; but just now a mixed feeling of responsibility and
delicacy prevented his going forward from the point attained. During the
march they walked apart most of the time. The weariness of forced travel
abridged their evenings.
Chake walked guarded, and slept in chains.
Whenever the location of water-holes permitted, the safari made long
jumps. The two messengers sent out with a scrawled letter to Doctor
McCloud--whom they knew as Bwana Marefu--were of course far ahead. With
any luck Kingozi hoped to meet the surgeon not far from the mountains
where dwelt the _sultani_ of the ivory stockade.
Thus the march went through a fortnight. The close of the fourteenth day
found them camped near water in a _donga_. The dim blue of mountains had
raised itself above the horizon ahead. This rejoiced the men. They were
running low of _potio_, and they knew that from the _sultani's_ subjects
in these mountains a further supply could be had. As a consequence, an
unwonted _kalele_ was smiting the air. Each man chatted to his next-door
neighbour at the top of his lungs, laughing loudly, squealing with
delight. Kingozi sat enjoying it. He had been so long in Africa that this
happy rumpus always pleased him. Suddenly it fell to silence. He cocked
his ear, trying to understand the reason.
Across the open veldt two figures had been descried. They were coming
toward the camp at a slow dogtrot; and as they approached it could be seen
that save for a turban apiece they were stark naked; and save for a spear
and a water gourd apiece they were without equipment. One held something
straight upright before him, as medieval priests carried a cross. The
turbans were formed from their blankets; mid-blade of each spear was wound
with a strip of red cloth; the object one carried was a letter held in the
cleft of a stick.
By these tokens the safari men knew the strangers to be messengers.
The mail service of Central Africa is slow but very certain. You give your
letter to two reliable men and inform them that it is for _Bwana_ So-and-
so. Sooner or later _Bwana_ So-and-so will get that letter. He is found by
a process of elimination. In the bazaars the messengers inquire whether he
has gone north, south, east, or west. Some native is certain to have known
some of his men. So your messengers start west. Their progress
thenceforward is a series of village visits. The gossip of the country
directs them. Gradually, but with increasing certainty, their course
defines itself, until at last--months later--they come trotting into camp.
These two jogged in broadly agrin. Cazi Moto and Simba led them at once to
"These men bring a _barua_ for you, _bwana_," said Cazi Moto.
Kingozi took the split wand with the letter thrust crosswise in the cleft.
"Who sent them?" he asked.
"The _Bwana_ M'Kubwa, _bwana_."
[10: _Bwana M'Kubwa_--the great lord, i.e., the chief officer of any
"Have they no message?"
"They say no message, _bwana_."
"Take them and give them food, and see that they have a place in one of
"And send Bibi-ya-chui to me."
The Leopard Woman sent word that she was bathing, but would come shortly.
Kingozi sat fingering the letter, which he could not read. It was long and
thick. He could feel the embossed frank of the Government Office. The
situation was puzzling. It might contain secret orders, in which case it
would be inadvisable to allow the Leopard Woman a sight of its contents.
But Kingozi shook off this thought. At about the time he felt the cool
shadow of the earth rise across his face as the sun slipped below the
horizon, he became aware also by the faint perfume that the Leopard Woman
"I am in a fix," he said abruptly. "Runners have just come in with this
letter. It is official, and may be secret. I am morally certain you ought
not to know its contents; but I don't see how I am to know them unless you
do. Will you read it to me, and will you give me your word not to use its
contents for your own or your government's purposes?"
"I cannot promise that."
"Well," he amended after a moment, "you will stick to the terms of your
other promise--that you will not attempt to leave my safari or send
messages until we arrive."
"The fresh, even start," she supplied. "That promise is given."
He handed her the envelope.
A crackle of paper, then a long wait.
"I shall not read you this," she said finally in a strangled, suppressed
"Why not?" he demanded sharply.
"It contains things I would not have you know."
He felt the paper thrust into his hands, reached for her wrists, and
pinioned them. For once his self-control had broken. His face was suffused
with blood and dark with anger.
But his speech was cut short by an uproar from the camp. Cries, shrieks,
shouts, yells, and the sound of running to and fro steadily increased in
volume. It was a riot.
In vain Kingozi called for Cazi Moto and Simba. Finally he grasped his
_kiboko_ and started in the direction of the disturbance. The Leopard
Woman sprang to his side, and guided him. He laid about him blindly with
the _kiboko_, and in time succeeded in getting some semblance of order.
"Cazi Moto! Simba!" he shouted angrily.
"Bwana?" "Sah?" two panting voices answered.
"What is this?"
They both began to speak at once.
"You, Cazi Moto," commanded Kingozi.
"These men are liars," began Cazi Moto.
"These men who brought the _barua_. They tell lies, bad lies, and we beat
them for it."
"Since when have you beaten liars? And since when have I ceased to deal
punishment? And since when has it been permitted that such a _kalele_ be
raised in my camp?" pronounced Kingozi coldly. "For attending to such
things you are my man; and Simba is my man; and Mali-ya-bwana is my man;
and Jack is my man. Because you have done these things I fine you six
rupees each one."
"Yes, _bwana_," said Cazi Moto submissively.
"These other men--what manner of 'lie' do they tell? Bring them here."
The messengers were produced.
"What is it you tell that my men beat you for telling lies? They must be
bad lies, for it is not the custom of men to beat men for telling lies."
"We tell no lies, _bwana_" said one of the messengers earnestly. "We tell
"What is it you tell?"
"We said what has happened: that across the Serengetti came white men from
the country of Taveta, and that these white men were many, and had many
_askaris_ with them, and our white men from Nairobi met them, and fought
so that those from Taveta were driven back and some were killed. And down
the N'Gouramani River many of our white men with _Mahindi_ fought with
strange white men on a hill below Ol Sambu, but were driven off. And many
_Mahindi_ are coming in to Mombasa, all with guns, and all the _askaris_
are brought into Nairobi. And we told these safari men that the white men
were making war on the white men, so they cried out at this, and beat us."
[Footnote 11: Mahindi--East Indians.]
Kingozi had listened attentively.
"Well, Cazi Moto?" he demanded.
"But this is a lie; a bad lie," said Cazi Moto, "to say that white men
make war on white men!"
"Nevertheless it is true," rejoined Kingozi quietly. "These other white
men are the _Duyches_, and they make war."
[Footnote 12: Duyches--Germans.]
He turned and walked back to his camp unassisted. He groped for his chair
and sat down. His hand encountered the letter.
"You do not need to read this to me now," he told the Leopard Woman
quietly. "I know what it tells." He thought a moment. "It is clear to me
now. You knew, this war was to be declared."
She did not reply.
"You know about _when_ this war was to be declared," he pursued his
thought. "Yes, it fits."
Her silence continued.
"You should have killed me," he thought aloud. "That alone could have
accomplished your mission properly. You might have known I would make you
go back, too. Or perhaps you thought you could command your own men in
spite of me?"
"Perhaps," she said unexpectedly.
He raised his voice:
The chastened headman came running.
"To-morrow," Kingozi told him, "the men go on half _potio_. There will be
plenty of meat but only half _potio_."
"And if any man grumbles, or if any man objects even one word to what I do
or where I go, bring him to me at once. Understand?"
"What is it you intend to do now?" asked the Leopard Woman curiously.
"Go back, of course."
"But you cannot do that! You have not considered; you have not thought."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"But it means blindness; blindness for always!"
"I know my duty."
"But to be blind, to be blind always; never to see the sun, the wide
veldt, the beasts, and the birds! Never to read a book, to see a man's
face, a woman's form; to sit always in darkness waiting--you cannot do
He winced at her words but did not reply. Her hands fluttered to his
"Please do not do this foolishness," she pleaded softly; "it is not worth
it! See, I have given my word! If you had thought I would go ahead of you
to M'tela, all that danger is past. A fresh start, you said it yourself.
Do you think I would deceive you?"
She was hovering very close to him; he could feel her breath on his cheek.
Firmly but gently he took her two wrists and thrust her away from him.
"Listen, my dear," he said gently, "this is a time for clear thinking. My
country is at war with Germany; and my whole duty is to her. You are an
"My country, too, is at war," she said unexpectedly.
"Ah, you knew that would happen, too," he said after a startled pause. "I
know only this: that if in times of peace it was important to my
government that M'tela's friendship be gained, it is ten times as
important in time of war. I must go back and do my best."
"But why?" she interjected eagerly. "This savage tribe--it is in the
remote hinterland; it knows nothing of the white man or the white man's
quarrels. What difference can it make?"
"That is not my affair. For one thing, he is on the border."
"But what difference of that? The border means nothing. The fate of their
colonies will be fought in Europe, not here. What happens to this country
depends on who wins there below."
"Can you state positively of your own knowledge that no invasion or
movement of German troops is planned across M'tela's country? On your
sacred word of honour?" propounded Kingozi suddenly.
"On my word of honour," she repeated slowly, "no such movement."
"Do you know what you are talking about?"
She was silent.
"It doesn't sound reasonable--an invasion from that quarter--what could
they gain either on that side or on this?" Kingozi ruminated. A sudden
thought struck him. "And that there is no reason whatever, from my point
of view as a loyal British subject, against my going out at this time? On
"Oh!" she cried distressedly, "you ask such questions! How can I
He stopped her with grave finality.
"That is sufficient. I go back."
She did not attempt to combat him.
"I have done my duty, too," she said dully. "Mine is not the Viennese
conscience. My parole; I must take that back. From to-morrow I take it
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