The Leopard Woman
Stewart Edward White et al
Part 5 out of 5
is but the fortunes of war--I would have done worse to you. How long is it
that you have arrived?"
"Long enough," replied Kingozi briefly. "Oh, Cazi Moto, bring tea! I have
had your tent pitched, Doctor Winkleman; and you must bathe and change and
rest. But before you go we must understand each other. This is war time,
and you are my prisoner. You must give me your parole neither to try to
escape nor to tamper with my men, with M'tela, or any of his people. If
you feel you cannot do this I shall be compelled to hold you closely
Winkleman laughed one of his great gusty laughs.
"I give it willingly. What foolishness otherwise. What foolishness anyway,
all this. War is nonsense. It destroys. It interferes. Consider, my dear
Culbertson, here was I safely in the Congo forests, and for two, three
months I have lived there, like a native quietly; and of all the world
there is to amuse me only the fauna and the flora--which I know like my
hand. But I discover a new species--a _papilio_. But all the time I live
quiet, and I wait. And at last the people, the little forest people,
little by little they get confidence; they come to the edge of the forest,
they venture to camp, slow. Suppose I wave my hand like that--pouf! They
have run away. But I wait; and they come forth. So I camp by myself in the
forest--for I leave my safari away that it may not frighten this people.
And by and by we talk. I am beginning to learn their language. Culbertson,
I find these people speak the true click language, but also I find it true
sex-denoting language most resembling in that respect the ancient Fula!"
"Where was this? Impossible!" cried Kingozi, interested and excited.
"Ah!" roared Winkleman with satisfaction. "I thought I would your interest
catch! But it is true; and in the central Congo."
"But that would throw the prehistoric Libyan and Hamitic migrations
farther to the west than----"
"Pre-cisely!" interrupted Winkleman.
"What sort of people were they? Did they show Hamitic characteristics
particularly? or did they incline to the typical prognathous, short-
legged, stealopygous type of the Bushmen?"
But Winkleman reverted abruptly to his narrative.
"That is a long discussion to make. It will wait. But just as I get these
people where I can put them beneath my observation, so, there comes an
ober-lieutenant with foolishness in the way of guns and uniform and
_askaris_ and that nonsense; and my little people run into the forest and
are no more to be seen."
"Hard luck!" commented Kingozi feelingly.
"Is it not so? This ober-lieutenant is a fool. He knows nothing.
_Dumkopf!_ All he knows is to give me a letter from the _Kaiserliche
dumkopf_ at Dar-es-salaam. I read it. It tells me I must come here, to
this place, with speed, and get the military aid of this M'tela and so
forth with many details. It was another foolishness. I know this type of
people well. There is nothing new to be learned. They are of the usual
types. It is foolishness to come here. But it is an order, so I come, and
I do my best. But now I am a prisoner, while I might be with the little
people in the Congo. I talk much."
"I fancy we are going to have a good deal to talk about," interjected
"_Ach!_ that is true! That is what I said--that I am glad this is
Culbertson who catches me. Yes! We must talk!"
Cazi Moto glided to them.
"Bath is ready, _bwana_," said he.
Winkleman puffed out his chest and protruded his great beard.
"This war--foolishness!" he mumbled.
"Yes, we have much to talk about. Nevertheless," said Kingozi with slight
embarrassment, "it is necessary that I do my duty according to my orders.
And my orders were much like yours--to get the alliance of this M'tela.
But I have told him that you are my enemy; and he sent his men with mine
to find you; and now, as you can well comprehend, I must----"
But Winkleman's quick comprehension leaped ahead of Kingozi's speech.
"I must play the prisoner, is it not?" he cried with one of his big
laughs. "But so! Of course! That is comprehend. How could it be otherwise?
I know my native! I know what he expects. I shall be humble, the slave,
your foot upon my neck. Of course! Do you suppose I do not know?"
"That is well," said Kingozi, much relieved, "I shall tell him that you
are a man of much wisdom and great magic; and that I have saved your life
to serve me."
"So!" cried Winkleman delightedly; and departed to his tent and the
waiting bath. A few moments later he could be heard robustly splashing in
the tent. A roar summoned Cazi Moto.
"Tell your _bwana_ I want _n'dowa_--medicine--understand? Need some boric
acid," he yelled at Kingozi. "Eyes in bad shape."
Kingozi ordered Cazi Moto to take over the entire medicine chest; then
sent a messenger for M'tela, who shortly appeared.
"This enemy of mine is taken, thanks to your men, oh, King. I have him
here in the tent, well guarded."
"How shall we kill him, papa?" inquired M'tela.
"That has not yet been decided," replied Kingozi carelessly. "He must, of
course, be taken to the great King of all _Inglishee_."
M'tela looked disappointed.
"In the meantime," pursued Kingozi, "as he has much knowledge, and great
magic, I shall talk much with him, and get that magic for the benefit of
us both, oh, King. He cannot escape, for my magic is greater than his."
This M'tela well believed, for the reports industriously circulated by
Simba anent his magic bone had reached the King, and had not lost in
So when Winkleman came swashbuckling up the hill M'tela was prepared. The
blue-black beard and hearty, deep-chested carriage of the Bavarian
impressed him greatly.
"But this is a great _bwana_, papa," he said to Kingozi. "Like you and
"This is the prisoner of which I spoke to you," said Kingozi in a loud
Winkleman, a twinkle in his wide eyes, but with his countenance composed
to gravity, stepped forward, salaamed, and placed his forehead beneath
Kingozi's hand in token of submission. Thus proper relations were
established. Winkleman seated himself humbly on the sod, and kept silence,
while high converse went forward. At length M'tela departed. Winkleman
immediately plunged into the conversational gap around which, mentally, he
had been, impatiently hovering for an hour.
"But this articulation of the _saurus_" he broke out. "What of it?"
"The magic bone," chuckled Kingozi.
"Pouf! Pouf! It resembled much the _cinoliosaurus_, but that could not
"Why not?" demanded Kingozi quickly.
"It has been found only in the lias formations of the Jurassic," stated
Winkleman dogmatically, "and that type of Jurassic is not here. It is of
England, yes; of Germany, yes; of the Americas, yes. Of central Africa,
"Nevertheless----" interposed Kingozi.
"But the _cryptoclidus_--that greatly resembles the _cinoliosaurus_--
perhaps. Or even a subspecies of the _plesiosaurus_----"
"Simba," called Kingozi.
"Bring here the magic bone. The _bwana_ wishes to look at it. No; it is
all right. I myself tell you; no harm can come."
Reluctantly Simba produced the bone, now fittingly wrapped in clean
_mericani_ cloth, and still more reluctantly undid it and handed it to
Winkleman. The latter seized it and began minutely to examine it,
muttering short, disconnected sentences to himself in German.
"Now here is what I have said," he spoke aloud. "See. By this curve----"
He broke off, staring curiously into Kingozi's face. The latter sat
apparently looking out across the hills, paying no attention to the fact
that Winkleman had thrust the bone fairly under his nose. The pause that
ensued became noticeable. Kingozi stirred uneasily, turning his eyes in
the direction of the scientist.
"Glaucoma!" ejaculated Winkleman.
Kingozi smiled wearily.
"Yes. I wondered when you would find it out."
"You are all blind?"
"I can distinguish light." Kingozi straightened his back, and his voice
became incisive. "But I can still see through eyes that are faithful to
me! Make no mistakes there."
"My dear friend; have I not given my parole?" gently asked the Bavarian.
"Beg your pardon. Of course."
"It is serious. You should have a surgeon. But why have you not used the
temporary remedy? Of course you know the effect of drugs?"
"I know that atropin is ruin, right enough," said Kingozi grimly.
"But the pilocarpin----"
"Of course. I only wish I had some."
"But you have!" came Winkleman's astonished voice. "There is of it a large
Kingozi gripped the arm of his chair for a full minute. Then he spoke to
Cazi Moto in a vibrating voice.
"Bring me the chest of medicines. Now," he went on to Winkleman, when this
command had been executed, "kindly read to me the labels on all these
bottles; begin at the left. All, please."
He listened attentively while Winkleman obeyed. The pilocarpin was
present; the atropin was gone.
"You have not deceived me?" he cried sharply. "No--why should
He thought for some moments. When he raised his face it was gray.
"One of the bottles was broken. I had reason to believe it the
pilocarpin," he said quietly. "Can I trespass on your good nature to make
the proper solution for my eyes?"
"It is but a temporary expedient," warned Winkleman. "It is surgery here
demanded. I know the operation, but I cannot perform. One makes a
transverse incision above the cornea----"
"I know, I know," interrupted Kingozi. "But the pilocarpin will give me my
sight. Let us get at it."
Three hours later Kingozi stepped into the open, his vision cleared. Such
is often the marvellous--though temporary--effect of the proper remedies
in this disease. He looked about him with a thankfulness not to be
understood save by one whose sight has been thus unexpectedly restored.
Winkleman followed him full of deep sympathy.
"But I understand," he repeated over and over, "but it is like water on a
weary march, _nicht wahr_. But this is bad, very bad! You say it has been
going on for a month? And a month back! Too late. _Ach, schrecklich!_ It
is so much a pity! You have, the youth, the strength, the knowledge! You
could so far go! But you must learn the dictation; the great book, the
_magnum opus_, it is there. Cheer up, my boy! Work, much work! That is
what will cure your sick courage even if it cannot cure your sick eyes.
Now, while we have the sight--see--the bone--this curve clearly indicates
Winkleman produced the saurian bone. And for the first time Kingozi
noticed Simba hovering anxiously near. Request and blandishments had
proved of no avail in getting the magic bone from _Bwana_ Nyele.
"It is all right," Kingozi reassured him. "We but use the magic for a
little while. See; it has given me back my eyes."
"A-a-a-a!" ejaculated Simba, deeply astonished.
"We will use it but a little while longer," Kingozi concluded. "Then you
shall have it again."
"But to give this specimen to a gun bearer!" cried Winkleman in English.
"That is craziness! It is a museum piece."
"It belongs to him; and I have promised," said Kingozi.
Winkleman subsided with deep rumblings. After a moment he renewed his
Kingozi only half heard him. His mind was occupied by another, more human
problem. The discovery that the atropin and not the pilocarpin had been
destroyed agitated him profoundly; not, as might be believed, because it
enabled him at a critical time to regain the use of his sight, but because
it threw before him an insistent question. Did, or did not, Bibi-ya-chui
know? He recalled the incident in all its little details--himself in his
chair and Cazi Moto squatting before the three bottles set up before them,
carefully tracing in the sand with a stick the characters on the labels;
the Leopard Woman's sudden dash forward; the tinkle of smashed glass, and
her voice panting with excitement: "I will read your labels for you now--
the bottle you hold in your hand! It is atropin, atropin"--and her wild
Did she know, or was she guessing or bluffing?
It hurt him, hurt him inconceivably to think that she might have deceived
him thus; might have broken the wrong bottle, and then deliberately have
kept him in darkness with the very remedy at hand. That would seem the
refinement of cruelty.
But he must be fair. She was then fighting, fighting with all her power
against odds, for her sworn duty. Deceit was her natural weapon. And at
that time such deceit seemed very likely to win for her her point. No, he
could not blame her there; he could not consistently even feel hurt. The
few moments' reasoning brought him to the point where he did not feel
hurt. After a little he even admired the quickness of wit.
The instinctive depression vanished before this reasoning. He suddenly
But immediately the dark mood returned. Granted all this; how about the
last two days? Before that it might well be that her sense of duty to her
country, her firmness of spirit, her honour itself would impel her to
cling to the last hope of gaining her end. Until his influence over M'tela
was quite assured, Winkleman's arrival would probably turn the scale. She
had not prevented Kingozi's arriving before the Bavarian; but she might
hold the Englishman comparatively powerless. That was understandable.
Kingozi felt he might even love her the more for this evidence of a
faithful spirit. But the last few days! It must have become evident to her
that her cause was lost; that M'tela's friendship had been gained for the
English. If she had cared for him the least in the world would not she
have hastened to produce the pilocarpin for his relief? What could she
hope to gain by concealing it? And then the other words insisted on his
recollection, bitter words--when, first blinded, he had asked her to read
the labels on the bottle that would have given him sight. "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!" What real reason--
besides his hopes--had he for thinking she did not still hate him, or at
least remain indifferent to him? So indifferent that even after her chance
had passed she still neglected to inform him that the pilocarpin was not
destroyed after all.
Winkleman talked on and on about his saurian. Would he never stop and go
"I agree with you; you are probably right," said Kingozi at last, driven
by sheer desperation to the endorsement of he knew not what scientific
heresy. Winkleman snorted heavily in triumph, and returned the bone to a
vastly relieved Simba. Kingozi interposed in haste before the introduction
of a new topic.
"Undoubtedly you will wish to see the palace of M'tela," said he with deep
wile. "Of course you are supposed to be my prisoner, so I must send you
under guard. You might take a small present to M'tela from me. I have not
yet visited his place of course. This might be considered a preliminary to
my first visit. Does it appeal to you?"
"But yes! And I shall behave. I have given my parole. I shall be the good
"Of course. I understand that. Do you eat at noon? No? Well, good luck.
Cazi Moto, take Mali-ya-bwana and two _askari_ guns, and go with _Bwana_
Nyele to the palace of M'tela."
Scarcely had the group disappeared down the forest path when Kingozi was
at the tent door of the Leopard Woman.
"_Hodie?_" he pronounced the native word of one desiring entrance.
"Who is there?" she asked in Swahili.
A slight pause; then her voice:
He drew aside the tent flaps and entered. She was half reclining on the
cot, her back raised by pillows stuffed with sweet grass. Her silk
garment, carelessly arranged, had fallen partly open, so that the gleam of
her flesh showed tantalizingly here and there. The blood leaped to
Kingozi's forehead. She did not alter her pose. Suddenly he realized: of
course, she thought him blind!
The embarrassment met his sterner mood in a head-on collision, so that for
a moment the impulsive speech failed him. She spoke first.
"That was Winkleman, I suppose," she said. "I did not want to appear. What
"Decided?" he stammered, not knowing where to look, but unable to keep his
eyes from straying.
"Yes. Is it too late? Can he prevail with this M'tela after all?"
"He is my prisoner; he has given his parole."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, raising herself on her elbow in excitement. The
abrupt movement dropped the robe from her shoulder. "You can see!" she
cried; and huddled the garment about her in a panic. "You can see!" she
repeated amazedly. "How is that? What has happened?"
The words brought him to himself and to his need for definite knowledge.
"Winkleman read the labels on my bottles," he said sternly. "I have simply
used the pilocarpin."
"The pilocarpin! But that was destroyed!"
So unmistakably genuine was her cry of amazement that Kingozi's heart
leaped with joy. She had not known! He took a step toward the couch.
But at this moment a wild hullabaloo broke out in the camp. Men yelled and
shouted. Some one began to blow a horn. There came the sound of many
running to and fro. "Damn!" ejaculated Kingozi fervently; and ran out of
The whole camp was gathered about a number of M'tela's people, who were
all talking at once. The din was something prodigious. Kingozi pushed his
way rather angrily to the centre of disturbance.
"Here, what is this?" he demanded to know.
But a dead, astonished silence fell upon them all. They stared at him
"What is it?" repeated Kingozi impatiently.
"But _bwana!_" cried Cazi Moto. "You see!"
"That is a magic," replied Kingozi curtly. "Now what is all this _kalele_
"Bwana, these people say that messengers have come in telling of many
white men and _askaris_ marching in this direction."
"From where? But that does not matter--are they _Inglishee_ or _Duyche?_"
"These _shenzis_ do not know the difference."
"That is true. How far away are they?"
"Very near, _bwana_."
"Get my gun. Have Simba follow me. Here, you lead the way." They marched
rapidly through the forest path and past the palace of M'tela, which
Kingozi had never seen. The savage king came out, and Winkleman and his
bodyguard soon followed.
"Oh, King," said Kingozi. "Now is the time to show to me that your
friendship is true. As you know, other white men are coming, with
warriors. I do not know yet whether these are _Inglishee_, who are my
friends--and yours--or _Duyche_, who are my enemies. If they are _Duyche_
they must be attacked and killed or captured, for we are at war."
He watched M'tela carefully while he spoke, and felt satisfaction at what
"Have no fear, papa," replied M'tela easily. "I will cause the great drums
to be beaten. My warriors are as the leaves of the grass; and these are
"Nevertheless they will kill many of yours," said Kingozi with great
earnestness; "for they have guns that kill many times and at a long
distance. When your warriors hear the great noise they make, and see the
dead men, they will run." "You do not know the warriors of M'tela,"
replied the king with dignity. "Should the half of them fall, the other
half will give these to the hyenas. Yes, even if they had the thunder
itself as weapon!"
"How many are there, oh, King?" asked Kingozi, greatly relieved.
"My men report thirty-one white men and many black men."
"I go now," advised Kingozi, "to look upon these men. Give me guides, and
a messenger to send back with news of what I find."
M'tela issued the orders. A moment later Kingozi started on. Winkleman,
who had spoken no word, waved him a friendly good-bye. Before they had
reached the forest edge the great war drums began to roar.
The guides took them swiftly down the forest path and across the rolling
country with the groves. Kingozi looked at it all with curiosity and
delight. It seemed to him that never in all his wanderings had he seen so
beautiful and variegated a prospect. His blindness had overtaken him, it
must be remembered, out on the open dry veldt, between the Great and the
Little Rains. It was as though he had awakened from a sleep to find
himself in this watered, green, and wooded paradise.
At the top of a hill the guide stopped and pointed. Kingozi gathered that
through the distant cleft he indicated the strangers must come. All sat
down and waited.
[Illustration: "At the top of the hill the guide stopped and pointed.
Kingozi gathered that through the distant cleft he indicated the strangers
An hour passed. Simba uttered an exclamation. Kingozi raised his glasses.
Tiny figures on foot were debouching from the forest. They spread in all
directions, advancing in fan-formation. Evidently the scouts. Then more
tiny figures, figures on horseback. Kingozi counted them. There were, as
M'tela had said, just thirty-one; a gallant little band, but at this
distance indistinguishable. They rode out some distance. And at last the
first files of the black troops appeared. Kingozi dropped his glasses to
the end of its thong with a cheer. Drooping in the still air the colours
were nevertheless easily recognized. The flag was of England.
"_Inglishee! Inglishee!_" he repeated to M'tela's messengers, and made a
motion back toward the palace. The men departed at a lope. Kingozi and
Simba took the other direction.
They met the newcomers halfway across the long, shallow dish between the
wooded hills. On catching sight of them the mounted white men spurred
forward. A confusion of greetings stormed them.
"It's Culbertson!" "Where did _you_ rain down from?" "We've been looking
for you without end! Isn't this a lark, old man!"
In the meantime, in the personal attendants of these white men, Simba had
discovered acquaintances; among them the two messengers Kingozi had
despatched back in quest of Doctor McCloud.
Kingozi stood in the middle of the group, his heart overflowing. It was
good to see so many white faces again; it was good to see the faces of
friends; it was good to know that his labours had not been in vain, and
that the border was assured. And underneath it was a great exaltation. He
walked on air. For she had not known! The blank astonishment of her face
had proved that to him beyond a doubt. She really thought that she had
destroyed the pilocarpin; she had not deliberately held from him the light
His high spirits expressed themselves in an animation and volubility so
unlike the taciturn Culbertson that many of his acquaintances stared.
"Seems quite bucked up," commented one to another. "Must have had a deuce
of a time back here."
"What is this arm of His Majesty's Service, anyway?" Kingozi was asking in
general. "I mean the mounted and disreputable portion, not the decent
"This, my son, is the Settlers' Own Irregulars; and we've come out for to
hunt the shy and elusive German."
"Good heads scarce up this way," rejoined Kingozi. "I've caught one
specimen myself, however."
"Specimen of what?"
"German. Ever hear of Winkleman?"
"Rather! The native _fundi?_ You don't mean to say you've got him!"
[Footnote 19: Fundi--expert.]
"I've got him. He's the only specimen in these parts. But I can show you
several thousand of the best fighting men in Africa--all loyal British
"Good man!" cried a grizzled old settler. "I told 'em you'd do it!"
"But the war?" demanded Kingozi eagerly. "What of the war? Tell me? I know
One of the younger men dismounted and insisted on delivering his animal to
"Do me good to stretch my legs," said he. "And you've walked your share."
Riding in a little group of the officers Kingozi listened attentively to
an account of affairs as far as they were known. The Marne, and the
Retreat from Mons straightened him in his saddle. It was worth it; he had
done his bit! Whatever the price, it was worth it!
The account finished, Captain Walsh began questioning in his turn.
"Excellent!" he greeted Kingozi's account. "Couldn't be better! We have
reasons to believe that the water-holes on this route are mapped by the
"They are," interrupted Kingozi.
"And that the plan contemplated coming through here, gathering the tribes
as they advanced, and finally cutting in on us with a big force from the
"They'll run against a stone wall hereabouts," said Kingozi with
"Lucky for us. I've only four companies--and these settlers. We are really
only a reconnaissance."
"How did you happen to follow my route?"
"Ran against the messengers you sent back to get Doctor McCloud. They
guided us. By the way, what is it? Must have been serious. You're not a
man to run to panics. You look fit enough now."
"Eyes," explained Kingozi. His heart sank, for the failure of his
messengers to go on after McCloud took away the last small hope of saving
"Fancy it will be all right," said Captain Walsh vaguely. He was thinking,
quite properly, of ways and means and dispositions. "About this sultan,
now; what do you advise----"
They rode forward slowly through the high, aromatic grasses, discussing
earnestly every angle of policy to be assumed in regard to M'tela. At its
close all the white men were called together and given instructions. Even
the youngest and most flippant knew natives well enough to realize the
value of the structure Kingozi had built, and to listen attentively.
These alternate marches and halts had permitted the foot troops to close
up. Kingozi turned in his saddle to look at them. Fine, upstanding black
men they were, marching straight and soldierly, neat in their uniforms of
khaki, with the dull red tarboush, the blue leggings, the bare knees and
feet. They were picked troops from the Sudan, these, fighting men by
birth, whose chief tradition was that in case his colonel was killed no
man must come back to his woman short of wiping out the last of the enemy.
In spite of a long march they walked jauntily. Two mounted white men
brought up the rear.
Now they entered the cool forest trail. The sound of distant drums became
audible. Men straightened in their saddles. Captain Walsh gave crisp
orders. They entered the cleared space before M'tela's palace with colours
flying and snare drums tapping briskly.
The full force of M'tela's power seemed to have been gathered, gorgeous in
the panoply of war. The forest threw back the roar of drums, of horns, of
people chanting or shouting. Straight to the middle of the square marched
the Sudanese, wheeled smartly into line. At a command they raised their
rifles and fired a volley, the first gunfire ever heard in this ancient
The sun was setting. In a few minutes more the swift darkness would fall.
After delivering the astonishing volley the troops wheeled and under
Kingozi's guidance proceeded down the forest path to the great clearing.
It was the close of a long, hard day, but under the scrutinizing eyes of
these thousands of proud _shenzis_ the Sudanese stepped forth jauntily.
Camping places were designated. All was activity as the tents were raised.
But now rode in the two white men who had closed the rear of the column,
not only of the fighting men, but of the burden bearers as well. They were
covered with dust and apparently very glad to arrive. One of them rode
directly to the group of officers and dismounted stiffly.
"McCloud!" cried Kingozi.
"The same," replied that efficient surgeon. "And now let's see the eyes. I
have your scrawl." He stumped forward, looking keenly for what he wanted.
"Sit here in this chair. Boy!" he bawled. "_Lete taa_--bring the lantern.
And my case of knives. No, my lad, I'm not going to operate on you
instanter, but I do want my reflector. Hold the light just here. Now,
don't any of you move. Tip your head back a bit, that's a good chap." He
went methodically forward with his examination as though he were at home
in his white office. "H'm. How long this been going on? Five weeks, eh!
Been blind? Oh--why didn't you use that pilocarpin I gave you--I see."
The officers and other white men stood about in a compact and silent
group. A sudden grave realization of the situation had descended upon
them, sobering their careless or laughing countenances. No one knew
exactly what it was all about, but some had caught the word "blindness"
and repeated it to others. Some one yelled "_kalale_" savagely at the
chattering men. Almost a dead stillness fell on the clearing, so that in
the falling twilight the tree hyraxes took heart and began to utter their
demoniac screams. The darkness came down softly. Soon the group in the
centre turned to silhouettes against the light of the two lanterns held
head high on either side the patient.
Absorbedly Doctor McCloud proceeded. Kingozi sat quietly, turning his head
to either side, raising or lowering his chin as he was requested to do so.
At last McCloud straightened his back.
"It is glaucoma right enough," said he; "fairly advanced. The pilocarpin
has been a palliative. An operation is called for--iridectomy."
He paused, wiping his mirror. Nobody dared ask the question that Kingozi
himself at last propounded.
"Can you do it--have you the necessary instruments?'"
"Fine spade scalpel, small tweezers, scissors--_and_ a lot of experience.
I've got all the former."
"And the latter?"
"I've done the operation before," said McCloud dryly.
"Will it restore my sight permanently."
"If successful the job will be permanent."
"What chance of success?"
"Fair--fair," rejoined McCloud with a touch of impatience. "How can I
tell? But I'll just inform you of this, my lad, without the operation
you're stone blind for the rest of your days, and it must be done now or
not at all. So there's your Hobson's choice; and we'll get at it
comfortably in the morning."
He turned away and stopped with a frank stare of astonishment. The other
men followed his gaze, and also stared.
The Leopard Woman stood just within the circle of illumination. So intent
was she on the examination and on Kingozi that she seemed utterly
unconscious of the men standing over opposite. Her soft silk robe fell
about her body in classic folds; the single jewel on its chain fillet
blazed on her forehead; her hair fell in its braid to her hips, and her
wide, gray-green eyes were fixed on the seated man. A more startlingly
exotic figure for the wilds of Central Africa could not be imagined. The
expressions on the faces of the newcomers were varied enough, to be sure,
but all had a common groundwork of fair imbecility.
[Illustration: "So intent was the Leopard Woman on the examination that
she seemed utterly unconscious of the men standing over opposite."]
She seemed to be unaware of even their presence. When. McCloud had
pronounced his opinion, she glided forward and laid her hand on Kingozi's
"I am glad--but I am afraid," she said softly. Kingozi covered her hand
with one of his own. His eyes twinkled with quiet amusement as he looked
about him at the stricken faces of his friends. She whirled on the gaping
McCloud. "But you must have a care!" she cried at him vehemently. "You
must save his eyes. I wish it!"
McCloud, recovering himself, bowed.
"Madam," said he with a faint, amused irony. "It shall be my pleasure to
do my best in fulfilling your commands."
"It must be," she repeated; and turned to face the rest. "He is a great
man; he must be saved. All this is folly. I have fought him to my best,
for long, and I have used all means--good and bad. He conquered me as one
who--what you call--subdues a child. And he is generous, and brave, and
when the darkness comes to him he does not sit and weep. He is a great
soul, and all things must be done!"
She was superb, her head thrown back. Captain Walsh was the first to
recover from the stunned condition in which all found themselves. He
"Madam," said he, "in what you say we heartily concur. We add our urgence
to yours. You must forgive our stupidity to the surprise of your
appearance. Even yet my astonishment has not abated." He turned easily to
Kingozi: "I hope you will afford me the pleasure of naming me to madam."
Kingozi arose to his feet.
"I do not know your name," he muttered to her.
"I am the Leopard Woman," she smiled back on him enigmatically.
Kingozi paused, embarrassed as to what to do. He could not use that name
in an introduction to these men. She was looking at him mischievously.
"Captain Walsh--and gentlemen," said Kingozi suddenly, "I want the
pleasure of presenting you to--my future wife!"
Her gasp of astonishment was lost in the chorus of congratulatory cries.
It was all mysterious, profoundly astonishing. Much was to be explained.
But for the moment each man was ready to believe the evidences of his own
senses--that no matter how incongruous the fact of her presence might be,
there she was, beautiful as the night. And every man facing her had seen
the glory that shone from within when Kingozi had pronounced his
introduction. Captain Walsh was speaking.
"This is an occasion," he said, "and the King's African Rifles cannot have
it otherwise than that you become their guests. I see our camp is in
preparation. We have nothing beyond the ordinary stores, but you must all
dine with us." He paused, considering. "Say in an hour," he continued. "It
must be early, for I do not doubt we must receive his royal highness this
"You're right," said Kingozi, "and unless I miss my guess it will be an
The travel-wearied men groaned.
"No help for it," said Captain Walsh cheerfully.
They pressed forward to shake the hands of this strange couple. The
Leopard Woman carried herself with the ease and poise of one accustomed to
receiving homage. She had drawn near Kingozi again, and managed to reach
out and press his arm.
"Ye'll be married soon, I'm thinking," surmised McCloud.
"Depends," replied Kingozi, his brow darkening. "Part of it's up to you,
you know," he added briefly. "A blind man is a poor man."
"We shall be married soon--now, if there is a priest among you!" cried the
Leopard Woman vehemently, "As for poor man--pouf!" She turned to Walsh
with an engaging smile. "And you, where you came, did you pass the people
who live in the mountains back there, with a _sultani_ who dressed in
"I know," supplemented Captain Walsh, "very well."
"The _sultani_ whose place has a fortified gate."
"Really? We did not get to his village; too much of a hurry."
The Leopard Woman shot a glance at Kingozi. He saw the triumph in it, and
understood. The ivory stockade was unknown to any but themselves; still
remained there in all its wealth awaiting the first trader. And that
trader should be himself!
"Poor, indeed!" she whispered to him.
At this moment a roar of astonishment came up to them from down the slope.
All turned to see Winkleman, the forgotten Winkleman, standing at the door
of his tent. He was in pajamas, and his thick hair was tousled about.
"But how I have slept!" he cried, "and the English, they have come! Well,
well!" He came out, stretching his great arms lazily over his head. They
stiffened in surprise as he caught sight of the Leopard Woman. For a
second he stared; then dropped his arms with one of his big, gusty laughs.
"_Kolossal!_" he roared. "The Countess Miklos! I was wondering! So he has
captured you, too, has he!"
With a simple and unembarrassed gesture she laid her arm across Kingozi's
"But yes," she repeated softly. "He has captured me, too."
At the tiny fire burning before the tent reserved for the headmen of the
camp sat Simba, Cazi Moto, and Mali-ya-bwana. The bone of the _saurian_
lay before Simba, who was bragging.
"Great is the magic of this bone, which is mine. It has brought us a long
journey; it has won us the friendship of the great chief; it has revealed
to us much riches in the teeth of _tembo_, the elephant, though that must
not be spoken aside from us three; it has restored the light to _Bwana_
Kingozi, our master; it has captured for us a great _bwana_ and a rich
safari; it has brought to us _Bwana_ Bunduki and many _bwanas_ and
_askaris_; it has brought to our master a woman for his own--though to be
sure there are many women. Great is this magic; and it is mine. With it I
shall be lucky always."
[Footnote 20: The Master of the Rifle--Captain Walsh.]
"A-a-a-a!" agreed Cazi Moto and Mali-ya-bwana respectfully.
From the darkened mysterious forest the tree hyraxes, excited by the
numerous fires and the voices of so large an encampment, were wailing and
"The dead are restless tonight," said Simba, poking the fire.
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