THE PIPES OF DEATH
The Ordinary Man's Story
“Sapper” H. C. McNEILE
ON A CERTAIN day in the year of grace 1921, there came into being a Special and Very Select Club. There was no
entrance fee and no subscription which is where it differed from All Other Clubs.
Its membership was limited to five: the Actor, the Barrister, the Doctor, the Ordinary Man and the Writer. Each in his own particular trade had achieved what the World calls fame except the Ordinary Man, who was only Ordinary. The only rule of the Club was, that on certain nights to be mutually agreed on, the member whose turn it was should give to the remaining members an Exceedingly Good Dinner, after which he should tell them a Story connected with his own Trade, that should be of sufficient interest to keep them awake.
And the only penalty of the Club was that if the Story was not of sufficient interest to keep the audience awake, the Offending Member should pay the sum of Ten Pounds to a Deserving Charity.
No rule was deemed necessary as to the quality of the Dinner: the Members elected themselves with discretion.
And, the Barrister having told his story, it came to the turn of the Ordinary Man. . .
“ A NY of you know Burma?” asked the Tx Ordinary Man, putting out-his hand for the tobacco jar.
“I’ve been there,” grunted the Soldier. “Shooting. Years ago.
West of the Irawadi from Rangoon.”
“It’s years since I was there too,” said the Ordinary Man. “More than a score. And if I wasn't so damned fat and lazy I’d like to go back for a visit. Only a visit, mind you. I’ve got to the time of life when I find that London is quite good enough for my needs. But the story which I propose to inflict on you fellows tonight concerns Burma: and delving into the past to get the details right has brought the fascination of the place back to me.
“I was about thirty-five at the time—and my benevolent Aunt Jane had not then expired and endowed me with all her worldly goods. I was working for a City firm who had considerable interests out there—chiefly teak with a strong side line in rubies. At that time, as you may know, the ruby mine? in the Mandalay area were sacond to none; and it was principally to give my employers a report on the many clashing interests in those mines that I went back to England after a few months in the country. And it was in their office that I met a youngster, who had just joined the firm and who, it turned out, was going out to Burma on the same boat as myself. Jack Manderby was his name, and I suppose he must have been ten or eleven years younger than I. He was coming to my district and somewhat naturally I was a bit curious to see what sort of a fellow he was. White men were not so plentiful out there, that one could view the presence of a rotter with equanimity.
“Not that there was ever much fear of that with Jack. I took to him
from the very first moment; and after we’d lunched together a couple of times my first impression was strengthened. He was a real good fellow—extraordinarily good-look-
as the least degree a prig. I gave him some hints for his kit, and fixed up with the P. & O. people that if sharing was necessary, he and I should foregather in the same cabin. Then I went out of London to stay with some people until tl e boat sailed.
“Fortunately she wasn’t crowded—wrong time of the year—so" we each had a cabin to ourselves. I am nota very good sailor personally, and'two is a positive multitude on such occasions. I don’t know which is the worst—for your stable companion to join you in your agony or for him to come in robustly cheerful, and commiserate with you. And on that occasion we ran into a good south westerly gale the instant we were clear of the Isle of Wight, which necessitated a period of seclusion on my part.
N FACT my first appearance in public was at Gibraltar. We were stopping only an hour or two and passengers were not allowed on shore, but as usual the ship was surrounded by dozens of Scoops in their bum-boats. And the first person I saw as I came on deck was Jack Manderby. He was leaning over the side bargaining with some infernal robber below, and next to him was a girl. In the intervals of haggling he turned to her, and they both laughed; and, as I stood for a few moments watching them, it struck me that Master Jack had made good use of the four days since we left England. Then I strolled over and joined
“ ‘Hullo, old man,’ he cried with a twinkle in his eyes. ‘Is the r mour correct that you’ve been engaged in research work below, and had given orders not to be disturbed?’
“ ‘Your vulgar jests leave meunmoved,’ I answered with dignity. ‘At any rate I appear to have arrived in time to save you being robbed. That man is a thief. T and the son of a thief, and all his children are thieves.’
“Jack laughed; then he swung round to the girl.
“ ‘By the way you haven’t met Mr. Walton, have you? This is Miss Felsted, old boy, who is going out to Rangoon.’ “We shook hands, and no more was said at the time. But one thing was definitely certain. Whatever the girl was going to Rangoon for, the gain was Rangoon’s. She was an absolute ‘fizzer’ - looked you straight in the face with the bluest of eyes that seemed to haveapermanentsmilelurkinginthem. And then suddenly I noticed her left hand. On the third finger was a diamond ring. It couldn’t be Jack she was engaged to, and I wondered idly who the lucky man was. Because he was lucky—infernally lucky.
“I think,” continued the Ordinary Man pulling thoughtfully at his pipe, “that I first began to scent complications at Malta. We landed there for a few hours, and the idea
was that Miss Felsted, Jack and I should explore Valetta. Now I don’t quite know how, but we got separated. I spent a pleasant two hours with a naval pal in the Union Club, while Jack and the girl apparently went up by the narrow gauge railway to Citta Vecchia in the centre of the island. And since no one in the full possession of their senses would go on th it ine for fun—I wondered. I wondered still mo-e when they came back to the ship. Jack was far too open and above board to be very skilful at hiding his feelings. And something had happened that day.
“Of course it was no concern of mine. Jack’s affairs were entirely his own; so were the girl’s. But a ship is a dangerous place sometimes: it affords unequalled and unending opportunities for, what in those days were known as flirtations, and today I believe are described as ‘pashes.’
And to get monkeying round with another fellow’s fiancée—w ell, it leads to complicati ons generally.
However, as I said, it was no concern of mine, until it suddenly became so the evening before we reaehed Port Said.
“T WAS talking A to Jack on deck just before turning In. We were strolling up and down—the sea like a mill pond, and almos dazzling with its phosphorescence.
“ Ts Miss Felsted going out to get married?’ I asked him casually.
“ ‘Yes,’ he answered abruptly.
She’s engaged to a man ailed Mor-
“ ‘Morrison,’ I repeated, stopping and staring at him. ‘Not Rupert Morrison?’
“ ‘Yes. Rupert is his name. Do you know him?’
“I’d pulled myself together by this time, and we resumed our stroll.
“ ‘I know Rupert Morrison quite well,’ I answered. ‘As distance goes in that country, Jack, he’s a near neighbour of ours;’ and I heard him catch his breath a little quickly.
“ ‘What sort of a fellow is he?’ asked Jack quietly, and then he went on, saving me the trouble of a reply. ‘She hasn’t seen him for four years. They got engaged before he left England and now she’s going out to marry him.’
“ T see,’ I murmured non-committally, and shortly afterwards I made my excuse and lef him. Undoubtedly there were complications ahead, and when those complications are amatory it behooves the outsider to tread with extreme wariness.
“I didn’t tum in at once when I got to my cabin; I wanted to try and get things sorted out and in my mind. The first point, which was as obvious as the electric light over the bunk, was that if Jack Manderby was not in love with Molly Felsted he was as near to it as made no odds. The second and far more important point was one on which I was in the dark; was the girl in love with him? If so it simplified matters considerably; but if not—if she was only playing the fool—there was going to be trouble when we got to Burma. And the trouble would take the form of Rupert Morrison. For the more I thought of it the more amazed did I become that such a girl could ever have become engaged to such a man.
“Of course four years is a long time—especially when they are passed in comparative solitude. I had no idea what sort of fellow Morrison had been when first he arrived in the country, but I had a very shrewd idea what manner of man he was now. Perhaps it had been the loneliness—loneliness takes some men worse than others— but whatever the cause, Morrison after four years in Burma was no fit mate for such a girl as Molly Felsted. A brooding, sullen man, given to fierce fits of almost animal rage; a heavy drinker of the type never drunk; and—”
THE Ordinary Man paused and shrugged his shoulA ders. “Well, it’s unfair to mention the last, point. After all most of us did that without thinking; but the actual arrival of an English girl—a wife—who was to step, blindly ignorant, into her predecessor’s shoes, so to speak, made one pause to think. Anyway that was neither here nor there. What frightened me was the prospect of the girl marrying the Morri on of her imagination and discovering, too late, the Morrison of reality. When that happened, with Jack Manderby not five miles away,
the fat was going to be in the fire with a vengeance. However, sufficient unto the day seemed the only possible philosophy—and at that I made up my mind to leave it.
“It was after Colombo hat matters came to a head. We left the P. & O. there, and got onto another boat going direct to Rangoon. The weather was glorious—hot as blazes by day, and just right at night. And it was after dinner one evening a couple of days before we were due in, that quite inadvertently I butted into the pair of them in a secluded spot on deck. His arms were round her and they both sounded a bit incoherent. Of course there was no good pretending I hadn’t seen—they both looked up at me, I could only mutter my apology and withdraw, as they say in the novelettes. But I determined, even at the risk of being told to go to Hell, to have a word with young Jack that night.
“ ‘Look here, old man,’ I said to him a bit later, ‘you’ve got a perfect right to request me to mind my own damned business, but I’m going to risk that. I saw you two to-night, kissing to beat the band—confound it all, there wasn’t a dog’s earthly of not seeing you—and what I want to know is where Morrison comes in—or if he’s gone out.’
“He looked at me a bit shamefacedly: then he lit a cigar-
“ ‘Hugh,’ he said, w th a twisted sort of smile, T just worship the ground that girl walks on.’
“ ‘Maybe you do, Jack,’ answered. ‘But the point is what are her feelings in the matter.’
“He didn’t answer, and after a while I went on.
‘This show is not my palaver,’ I said, ordering two whiskey pegs from the bar-tender. ‘It’s nothing to do with me except that you and I are going to share the same bungalow, which is within easy calling distance of Morrison’s. Now Morrison is a funny-tempered fellow—but apart from that altogether—the situation seems strained to me. If she breaks off her engagement wit," him and marries you, well and good. But if she isn’t going to do that, if she
still-intends to mary Morrison—well then, old man although I hold no brief for him, you’re not playing the game. I’m no sky pilot—but do one thing or the other. Things are apt to happen you know, Jack, when one’s at the back of beyond and a fellow gets playing around-with another fellow’s wife; things which might make an English court of justice sit un and scratch its head.”
“He heard me out in silence. Then he nodded his head. “ T know it must seem to you that I wasn’t playing the game,’ he said quietly. ‘But believe me it’s not for want of
asking on my part that Molly won’t marry me. And 1 believe that she’s as fond of me—almost,—as I am of
“ ‘Then why the devil,’ I began, but he stopped me with a weary little gesture of his hand.
“ ‘She feels that she’s bound to him i i honor,’ he went on. ‘I’ve told her that there can’t be much question of honor if she doesn’t love him any more—but she seems to think that as he has waited four years for her, she can’t break her bargain. And she’s very fond of him: if it hadn’t been f or fate chucking us together she would never have thought of not marrying him. Tonight we both forgot ourselves, I suppose; it won’t occur again.’
“He sat back staring'out of the port hole. The smoking room was empty, and I fairly let myself go.
“ ‘You damned idiot,’ I exploded ‘do you imagine I’ve been delivering a homily on the sins of kissing another man’s fianceé? What I want to get into your fat head is this; you’re going to a place where the only white woman you’ll see from year’s end to year’s end is that girl—if she marries Morrison. You can prattle about honor, and forgetting yourselves, and not letting it occur again—and it’s worth the value of that used match! Sooner or later it will occur again—and it won’t stop at kissing next time. And then Morrison will kill you—or you’ll kill him, and there will be the devil to pay. For Heaven’s sake, look the thing square in the face. Either marry the girl—or cut her right out of your life. And you can only do that by cabling the firm—or I’ll cable them for you from Rangoon—asking to be posted to another district. I shall be damnedsorry, but I’d far sooner lose you, than sit on the edge of a young volcano.’
“ T LEFT him to chew over what I’d said and went to bed, A feeling infernally sorry for both of them. Personally I thought the girl, far from acting honorably, was doing the very reverse; however, on those sorts of matters everyone must decide for themselves. But the one fact over which there was no doubt whatever in my mind, was that if Morrison married Molly Felsted, then Jack Manderby would have to be removed as far as geographically possible from temptation. And whether he liked it or not I had absolutely determined before turning in that night to cable the firm and fix it up.
“My remarks apparently had some effect, because the next day Jack button-holed me on deck.
“ ‘I’ve told Molly what you said last night, old man, and we’ve been talking it over. Morrison is meeting her apparently at Rangoon, and she has agreed to tell him what has happened. And when he knows how the land lies, it’s bound to be all right. Of course I’m sorry for him,
poor devil, but......’ and he went babbling on in a way
common to those in love. I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention. I was thinking of Morrison and wondering whether Jack’s optimism was justified. Apart from his moroseness and drinking, there were other stories about
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the man—stories which one heard whispered with a shrug of the shoulders—stories which are not good to hear about a white man. I’d never paid any heed to them before—after all the fellow was nothing to do with me. But now—they came back to me—those rumors of strange things, which only the ignorant sceptic pretends to scorn: strange things done in secret with native priests and holy men; strange things it is not well for the white man to dabble in. And someone had it that Rupert Morrison did more than dabble.”
The Ordinary Man paused and drained the glass at his elbow.
“He met the boat at Rangoon,” he continued after a while, “and came on board. Evidently the girl wasted no time in telling him what had occurred, because it was barely ten minutes before I saw him coming towards Jack and myself. There was a smouldering look in his eyes, but outwardly he seemed quite calm. He gave me a curt nod, then he addressed himself exclusively to Jack.
“ ‘Miss Felsted has just made a somewhat unexpected announcement to me,’ he remarked.
“Jack bowed gravely. T am more than sorry, Mr. Morrison,’he said, ‘if it should appear to you that I have acted in any way caddishly.’ He paused a little constrainedly and I moved away. The presence of a third person at such an interview helps nobody. But once or twice I glanced at them during the next quarter of an hour and it seemed to me that though he was trying to mask it, the look of smouldering fury in Morrison’s eyes was growing more pronounced. From their attitude it struck me that Jack was protesting against some course of action on which the other was insisting, and I turned out to be right.
“ ‘Morrison has made the following proposal,’ he said irritably to me, when their conversation had finished. ‘That Molly should be left here in Rangoon, with the English chaplain and his wife—’ apparently he’d fixed that already—‘and that we—he and I—should both go upcountry for a month or six weeks. Neither of us to see her during that time, and at the end of it she to be free to choose. As he pointed out, I suppose quite rightly, he had been engaged to her for more than four years, and it was rather rough on him to upset everything for what might only prove a passing fancy, induced by being thrown together on board ship. Of course I pointed out to him that this was no question of a passing fancy—but he insisted.’
“ ‘And you agreed?’ I asked.
“ ‘Whatelse could I do?’ he cried. ‘Heaven knows I didn’t want to—its such awful rot and waste of time. But I suppose it is rather rough luck on the poor devil, and if it makes it any easier for him to have the agony prolonged a few weeks, it’s up to me to give him that satisfaction.’
TLT E WENT off to talk to the girl, leaving me smoking a cigarette thoughtfully. For try as I would, I could not rid my mind of the suspicion that there was something behind this suggestion of Morrison’s—something sinister. Fortunately Jack would be under my eye— in my bungalow; but even so, I felt uneasy. Morrison had been too quiet for safety, bearing in mind what manner of man he
“We landed shortly after, and I went round to the club. I didn’t see Morrison —he seemed to have disappeared shortly after his interview with Jack; but he had given the girl full directions as to how to get to the chaplain’s house. Jack took her there and I’d arranged with him that he should come round after and join me.
“The first man I ran into was McAndrew—a leather-faced Scotchman from up my part of the country—who was down in Rangoon on business.
“ ‘Seen the bridegroom?’ he grunted as soon as he saw me.
“ ‘Travelled out with the bride,’ I said briefly, not over-anxious to discuss the matter.
“ ‘And what sort of a lassie is she?’ he asked curiously.
“ ‘Perfectly charming,’ I answered, ringing the bell for a waiter.
“ ‘Is that so?’ he said slowly and our eyes met. ‘Mon’, he added still more slowly, ‘it should not be: it should not be. Puir lassie: puir lassie.’
“And then Jack Manderby came in,
and I introduced him to McAndrew and two or three other fellows. I’d arranged to go up country that evening—train to Mandalay, and ride from there the following morning—and, Jack, of course, was coming with me He had said goodbye to the girl; he wasn’t going to see her again before he went up country and we spent the latter part of the afternoon pottering round Rangoon. And it was as we were strolling down one of the native bazaars that he suddenly caught my arm.
“ ‘Look—there’s Morrison,’ he exclaimed. T distinctly saw his face peering out of that shop.’
“I looked in the direction he was pointing. It was an ordinary native shop where one could buy ornaments and musical instruments and trash like that—but of Morrison I could see no sign.
“ T don’t see him,’ I said, ‘and anyway there is no reason why he shouldn’t be in the shop if he wants to.’
“ ‘But he suddenly vanished,’ persisted Jack, ‘as if he didn’t want to be seen.’ He walked on with me slowly. T don’t like that man, Hugh: I hate the swine.
And it’s not because of Molly either.’
“He shut up at that and I did not pursue the topic. It struck me that we would have quite enough of Morrison in the next few weeks.”
'T'HE Ordinary Man paused and lit 4 a cigarette. Then he smiled a little grimly. “I don’t know what I expected,” he continued thoughtfully, “I certainly never said a word to Jack as to my vague suspicions. But all the time during the first fortnight while he was settling down into the job I had the feeling that there was danger in the air. And then when nothing happened my misgivings began to go. After all, I said to myself ¿what could happen anyway; and perhaps I had misjudged Rupert Morrison. On the two or three occasions that we met him he seemed perfectly normal; and though somewhat naturally he was not over effusive to Jack that was hardly to be wondered at. '“And then one morning Jack came to breakfast looking as if he hadn’t slept very well. I glanced at him curiously but made no allusion to his appearance.
“ ‘Did you hear that music all through the night,’ he said irritably, half-way through the meal. ‘Some damned native playing a pipe or something just outside my window.’
“ ‘Why didn't you shout at him to stop?’ I asked.
“ T did. And I got up and looked.’ He took a gulp of tea; then he looked at me as if he was puzzled—
“ ‘There was no one there that I could see. Only something black that moved over the compound about the size of a kitten.’
“ ‘He was probably just inside the jungle beyond the clearing,’ I said. ‘Heave half a brick at him if you hear it again.’
“We said no more and I dismissed the matter from my mind. I was on the opposite side of the bungalow, and it would take more than a native playing on a pipe to keep me awake. But the following night the same thing happened—and the next, and the next.
“ ‘What sort of a noise is it?’ I asked him. ‘Surely to Heaven you’re sufficiently young and healthy not to be awakened by a bally fellow whistling.’
“ ‘It isn’t that that wakes me, Hugh,’ he answered slowly. T wake before it starts. Each night about the same time I suddenly find myself wide awake—listening. Sometimes it’s ten minutes before it starts—sometimes almost at once; but it always comes. A faint sweet whistle— three or four notes, going on and on and on—until I think I’ll go mad. It seems to be calling me.’
“ ‘But why the devil don’t you go and see what it is?’ I cried peevishly.
“ ‘Because—’ and he stared at me, with a shame-faced look in his eyes, ‘because I daren’t.’
“ ‘Rot!’ I said angrily. ‘Look here, young fellow, nerves are bad things anywhere—here they’re damned bad. You pull yourself together.’
“He flushed all over his face, and shut up like an'oyster, which made me rather sorry I’d spoken so sharply. But one does hear funny noises in the jungle, and it doesn’t do to become fanciful.
A ND then one evening McAndrew came over to dinner. It was during the meal that I mentioned Jack’s nocturnal serenade!, expecting that Mac would treat it as lightly as I did.
“ ‘Seven times you’ve heard him, Jack, haven’t you,’ I said, ‘and always the same tune.’
“ ‘Always the same tune,’ he answered quietly.
“ ‘Can you whistle it now?’ asked McAndrew, laying down his knife and fork and staring at Jack.
“ ‘Easily,’ said Jack. ‘It goes like this— —’ and he whistled about six notes. ‘On and on it goes—never varying.... Why, McAndrew—what the devil is the matter?’
“I glanced at McAndrew in amazement: then out of the corner of my eye I saw the native servant who was shivering like a jelly.
“ ‘Man—are you'sure?’ said Mac, and his face was white.
“ ‘Of course I’m sure,’ answered Jack quietly. ‘Why?’
“ ‘That tune you whistled—is not good for a white man to hear.’ The Scotchman seemed strangely uneasy. ‘And ye’ve heard it seven nights. Do you not know it, Walton?’
“ T do not,’ I said grimly. ‘What’s the mystery?’
“But McAndrew 'was shaking his head dourly, and for a while he did not answer.
“ ‘Mind ye,’ he said at length. ‘I’m not saying there’s anything in it at all; but 1 would not care to hear that whistled outside my window. I heard it once— years ago—when I was away up in the Arakan Mountains. Soft and sweet, it was—rising and falling in the night air, and going on ceaselessly. Way up above me was a monastery, one into which no white man has ever been. And the noise was coming from there. I had to go; my servants wouldn’t stop. And when I asked them why, they told me that the priests were calling for' a sacrifice. If they stopped they told me it might be one'of us. That no one could tell how death would come, or to whom—but come it must—when the Pipes of Death were heard. And the tune you whistled, Manderby, was the tune the Pipes of Death were playing.’
“ ‘But that’s all bunkum, Mac,’ I said angrily. ‘We’re not in the Arakans here.’
“ ‘Maybe,’ helanswered doggedly. ‘But I’m a Highlander and—I would not care to hear that tune.’
“I could see Jack was impressed; as a matter of fact I was myself—more than I cared to admit. Sounds rot here, I know, but out there with the dim-lit tropical forest around one it was different. And things do’happen, which one finds it hard to‘explain by the cold light of reason.
“McAndrew was'stopping'with us that night. Jack, with'the stubbornness of the young, had flatly refused to change his room, and turned in early while Mac and I sat up talking. And it was 'not 'till we went to bed ourselves that I again'alluded to the whistle.
“ ‘You don’t really think it meant anything, Mac, do you?’ I asked him, and he shrugged his shoulders.
“ ‘Maybe it is just a native who ’has heard it,’ he said guardedly, and further than that he refused to commit himself.
“I 'suppose it was about two o’clock when I was awakened by a hand being thrust through my mosquito curtains. -
“ ‘Walton, come at once!’ It was McAndrew’s voice and it was shaking. ‘There’s devil’s work going on, I tell you—devil’s
“I was up in a flash, and together we crept along the passage towards Jack’s room. Almost instinctively I’d picked up a gun, and I held it ready as we paused by the door.
‘Do you hear it?’ whispered Mac a little fearfully, and I nodded. Sweet and clear the notes rose and fell—on and on and on in the same cadence. Sometimes the whistler seemed to be far away, at others almost in the room.
‘It’s the tune,’ muttered McAndrew, as'we tiptoed towards the bed. ‘The Pipes of Death. Are ye awake, boy?’
“And then he gave a little cry and'gripped my arm.
‘In Heaven’s name,’ he whispered, ‘what’s'that on’the'pillow beside his head?’
UOR a while in the dim light I couldn’t make it out. There was something big and black and motionless on the white pillow, and I crept nearer to see what it was. And then suddenly my heart seemed to stand still. I saw two beady, unwinking
eyes staring at Jack’s face close by; I saw Jack’s eyes wide open, and sick with terror staring at the thing which shared his bed. And still the music went on outside.
j, “ ‘What is it?’ I muttered through dry
‘Give me your gun, man,’ whispered McAndrew hoarsely. ‘If the pipes stop— the boy’s doomed.’
“Slowly he raised the gun an inch at a time, pushing the muzzle forward with infinite care towards the malignant glowing eyes, until at last the gun was almost touching its head. And at that'moment the music died away and stopped altogether. I had a momentary glimpse of two black feelers shooting out'towards Jack’s face— then came the crack of the gun. And with a little sob Jack rolled out of bed and lay on the floor half fainting, while the black mass on the pillow writhed and writhed and then grew still.
“We struck a light andstared in silence at what was left of the Thing.
“It was Jack who spoke first.
“ ‘I woke,’ he said unsteadily, ‘to feel something crawling over me on the bed. Outside, that infernal whistling was goingon,andatlast I made out what was— what was.... My God!’ he cried thickly, ‘what was it, Mac—what was it?’
“ ‘Steady, boy’, said McAndrew. ‘It’s dead now, anyway. But it was touch and go. I’ve seen ’em bigger than that up in the Arakans. It’s a blood-sucking poisonous spider; they grow as big as cats. They’re sacred to some of the sects.... There was one great brute I saw once— twice the size of that one on the bed. They kept it in a gold cage, and there were skeletons of children in the cage with it.. The priest, used to play to it—that same tune; and then when he stopped came the end—of the sacrifice.”
“ ‘But,’ began Jack, only to break off and stare fearfully into the darkness. For suddenly out of the jungle, had come one dreadful, piercing cry—and then silence. Only the ordinary night sounds went on as usual—but from the man who had screamed there was a silence more terrifying than any noise.
“ ‘What was that?” he muttered—and McAndrew shook his head.
“ ‘We’ll find out tomorrow,’ he said.
‘There are strange things abroad to-night.’ “We sat the darkness out—the three °f us—round a bottle of whiskey, and we discussed it in every detail.
‘That thing I saw the first night I heard the whistling,’ said Jack thoughtfully, ‘must have been one of those brutes. It looked like a great shadow scuttling over the compound.’
‘They’ve been trying to get you for a week, Manderby,’ said the Scotchman. ‘To-night they damned near succeeded.’
“ ‘But why,’ cried Jack. ‘I've never done ’em any harm.’
“McAndrew shrugged his shoulders.
“ ‘Don’t ask me that,’ he answered. ‘Their ways are not our ways. Maybe something had occurred with one of the tribal gods that demanded the blood of a newly-arrived Englishman. And if that’s so the sooner you quit the better.’
“ ‘Has that brute been in my room every night?’ said the boy with a shudder.
“ ‘Every night,’ answered McAndrew gravely. ‘Probably two of them—They hunt them in pairs. They starve ’em and then— when the music stops—they feed.’ He thoughtful'y poured himself out some more whiskey. ‘There are a good many strange things up in the hills,’ he was staring through the open window as he spoke, ‘which the white man knows nothing about. And it is as well for him not to try and find out.’
A ND then at last came the dawn, ■TA. and we went out to investigate. It was Jack who found him—twenty yards from the edge of the compound in a little clearing in the jungle. It was the body of a man, and the face was puffed and horrible—but not too puffed to be recognisable. It was as we approached that something black—about the size of a big kitten—moved away from the neek of the body and shambled sluggishly into the undergrowth. And for a long while we stood staring in horror-struck silence. It was McAndrew who spoke at last.
“ ‘You’re safe, boy,’ he said slowly. ‘It was not the priests at all. Just murder— —plain murder.’
“And with that he took his handkerchief and covered the dreadful, staring eyes of Rupert Morrison.”