A little brown fellow in the teak forest finds himself ... in the magic of a mighty name
M.R. NAPOLEON Alexander Van der Burgh experienced great difficulty in living up to his names, for not only was he very short and very fat, but he had the misfortune to be born into this world half-white, half-brown.
His mother had been a comely Siamese woman, his father an engineer who had worked in one of the numerous cargo steamers that ply between Bangkok and Singapore. But Mr. Napoleon Alexander Van der Burgh knew little about either of them, for a kindly mission had taken him as a youngster, taught him to read and write both English and Siamese, and finally obtained for him a post as clerk to a large firm of white merchants in Bangkok.
In this firm little Napoleon had now toiled for three years, and, as he clacked at his typewriter, he was happy in his way, though at times he felt decidedly lonely. The white men in the office, real white men without a shade of color, were not for his company. They worked at separate desks and the only notice they took of him was to give him numerous letters to type out. They also grinned behind his back whenever one of his numerous names was mentioned.
The Chinese and Siamese clerks, too, would have nothing to do with him. They were yellow and brown respectively, with yellow and brown likes and dislikes, and they found little to interest them in the shape of fat Napoleon. Even the Eurasians who worked as shorthandtypists ignored him, for they were Eurasians proper, born and bred from countless generations of halfcastes. Moreoever, had any of them wanted to be friendly, they would not have dared. Napoleon, with his childlike countenance and bulging cheeks and calves, was an object of merriment to all, and not for a king’s ransom would they have risked the mockery of their pals by being seen in his company.
Little Napoleon, therefore, being neither white, brown, yellow, nor real, honest Eurasian, was as much cut off from mankind as if he had lived in the depths of the jungle.
As such, he found his great comfort in the books lent him by the missionary who had brought him up. Every evening after he returned to the tiny, atap-rooied shanty rented from his Chinese landlord, he devoured these books, and in some of them he read of the doings of the two famous men after whom his Siamese mother had, at the promptings of some educated friends, thought fit to name him.
Sometimes he would gaze into the cracked mirror in his room and endeavor to trace a likeness between himself and those two great men. He quickly despaired of Alexander, but in Napoleon he fancied he saw some resemblance. The Corsican had been fat and tubby; he was fat and tubby. But—had the soldier possessed two round, brown, popping eyes and a ruddy-brown complexion? Somehow the clerk thought not. Here he would sigh, then sink himself in books of adventure till far into the night. If only he could be another Napoleon!
There were evenings when he would forsake his books and go for a stroll through the great main thoroughfare of the town. Surging crowds of Siamese, Chinese, Burmese and white folk, all laughing and chattering, would jostle by him, but though he liked the fierce glare of the shops, the throngs soon drove him back to his little shanty. They made him feel so lonely, so terribly lonely at times.
Thus passed the first three years of Napoleon’s business life, and then the unexpected happened. He had gone to the office as usual, but, as he sat down at his typewriter, unknown to him the white manager and an assistant were discussing his future in a room near by. The manager, a letter in his hand, looked worried.
"Cranbrook has written for an English-speaking clerk to be sent him at once,” said the manager to his companion. “Says the work’s too much for him to tackle alone. Well, we’ve got to spare someone from the office. You know Cranbrook. He always gets what he wants.”
The manager had reason for this remark, since Cranbrook was the firm’s representative up-country. He was a lean, hard, efficient little man in sole charge of one of the company’s teak forests leased from the Siamese Government, and his position, therefore, was one of considerable importance. In fact, Cranbrook was an individual not to be argued with.
The assistant coughed: “We can’t really spare a soul, but there’s Napoleon,” he said dubiously.
“Napoleon?” The manager smiled. “You mean Mr. Van der Burgh? H’m. He won’t be much loss to us. Send him in.”
Five minutes later, Napoleon, having heard the proposition put to him, drew himself up to his full height of five feet, four inches. Here at last was a chance to prove his manhood! A clerk in a teak forest! He pictured fights with elephants, boars, panthers and tigers.
“Sir,” said he, in his quaint, official-letter language, “I beg to inform you that I am prepared immediately to accept the offer you have made me.”
“Splendid,” breathed the manager cheerfully, "you’re just the fellow for the job.”
The following evening, Napoleon, having purchased a brand-new jungle kit, hailed a ricksha to take him to the north-bound train. Arrived at the station, he handed the ricksha-coolie the sum of one tical, which was the legal fare. The coolie, however, thought otherwise as he gazed at the ingenuous features of Napoleon.
“You give me two tical," he said sullenly.
“According to the book of regulations issued by the police authorities,” answered Napoleon in faultless Siamese, “one tical is the right and proper fare for a jinricksha coolie over a distance not exceeding two miles.”
The coolie did not understand one word, but he did understand that he’d get no more out of the little man confronting him. He spat savagely on the coin, then:
“Chee-chee,” he muttered. "Cheechee, chee-chee!”
Little Napoleon went very red He picked up his bag and hurried to the booking-office. “Chee-chee,” the mongrel insult, followed him. Natives turned and stared. Sniggers went round the station. This queer chee-chee in khaki shirt and khaki shorts, with its bare, bulging knees, its squeaking boots, and its round, red face! The onlookers smirked, then forgot him in their own affairs.
He bought a second-class ticket, then walked down the waiting train. He passed a first-class carriage in which two white men sat. They talked and laughed and quaffed iced beer. Napoleon envied them. Why couldn’t he have been born white, like they had been. He hastened his pace and came to a third-class compartment. Here natives sat, jabbering, gesticulating, all supremely happy. But the second-class, into which Napoleon eventually climbed, was empty.
The train swung out of the station, and soon night cloaked the land. Suddenly Napoleon felt lonelier than ever. In Bangkok, at least, the missionary had been his friend, but now he was going to a strange country in the heart of Upper Siam. Two days travel in the train to the northern terminus, then five days march through the jungle with guides to the forest of his new master; such was the route before him. And after that, a life in the wilds.
Napoleon shifted restlessly in his seat. The pay promised was very good, but would he prove his manhood? He glanced out of the window, to see only the night swishing past, with here and there ghostly sentinels of trees; and he shivered in spite of the heat, for the intense, detached loneliness of a train journey in the dark was enveloping him. He had no mother, no father, no friends, nothing, and presently in spite of his twentyone years, tears began to well from his eyes and roll siowly down his cheeks.
The tears were still rolling when the Siamese guard entered to inspect his ticket. The guard glanced at the ticket, punched it, then went on through a connecting door to the third-class compartment. Before the door closed the sound of laughter and voices echoed in Napoleon’s ears:
“The chee-chee. He weep.”
The train roared on through the night.
Nine days later, Napoleon, accompanied by the guides he had hired at the head of the railway, walked into the compound of the great Mr. Cranbrook. The compound had been cleared in the very centre of the teak forest, and as Napoleon glanced round it, he saw a lean figure advancing toward him. He took off his helmet and bowed.
“Mr. Cranbrook, sir. I have arrived.”
“And you’ve taken a pretty long time in doing so,” said the white man grimly. “I expected you two days ago, Mr. Van der Burgh.”
“Sir,” answered Napoleon truthfully, “I cannot march with the rapidity I should like. I get very tired.”
Cranbrook bit his lip and pointed to a small bungalow at one end of the compound. “Your bungalow, Mr. Van der Burgh. I’ve engaged a boy for you, and you’ll find him waiting there. I’ll instruct you in your duties this afternoon.”
Napoleon walked stiffly toward his new home, and Cranbrook watched the retreating figure. When it had disappeared, he, too, turned and entered a large and airy bungalow built at the opposite end of the company’s premises.
“I asked for a jungle-clerk and they’ve sent me a pudding,” he said bitterly to his wife. And in hardly polite language he described the general appearance of Mr. Napoleon Alexander Van der Burgh.
Mrs. Cranbrook sighed. She herself had, as nurse for her small daughter, a half-caste girl whom she had picked up at the northern mission. This nurse was short and fat, very much like a feminine Napoleon, and her name in full was Miss Phoebe Priscilla Smith. Miss Smith had been a lonely little creature until she had entered the service of Mrs. Cranbrook, and the latter’s kindly soul invariably went out to the lost children of mixed parentage.
“Poor Mr. Van der Burgh,” said Mrs. Cranbrook to her husband. “He must feel rather out of it up here. I’ll go and see if he wants anything.”
She walked over to Napoleon’s bungalow, and at the sound of her voice he ran down the steps and bowed as low as his girth would permit him.
"You’ll find it strange up here at first,” said Mrs. Cranbrook. “But you’ll soon settle down. Tell me. Are you fond of reading?”
But for the moment little Napoleon was incapable of replying. This gracious white lady, fair and shining, had condescended to speak to him! He goggled foolishly, and his round eyes nearly popped out of his head with wonder and dumb gratification.
She saw his bewilderment. “I’m sure you are,” she said quickly. “I’ll send Miss Smith over to you with some books. And you must learn to ride, too, now you’re up here.
There’s a quiet pony of mine you can have.
I’ll tell my ponyboy.”
She left him standing on the grass, and presently Miss Smith appeared, carrying a large bundle of books.
“I am Miss Phoebe Priscilla Smith,” she announced.
They bobbed solemnly to one another, like little animated buns; the books were passed over, and they then returned to their respective bungalows.
Mrs. Cranbrook, who had watched the interview from afar, sighed a second time.
XTAPOLEON was AN given riven one one day’s rest and then he set out on his new duties. As a start, he was ordered to tour round the forest in the immediate vicinity of the compound, and report on the numbers, sizes and quality of the teak trees encountered. The work was simple enough, but Napoleon found it very far from being simple.
The hills proved his undoing. They were steep and slippery, with the result that he slithered all over the place, and spent most of the time on his back, with his fat legs sticking up in the air, and his beautiful new puttees somewhere in the region of his neck. Then, to make matters worse, he contracted mud-sores through continual tramping in the damp, muddy earth; and finally, Cranbrook, on seeing the condition of his legs, ordered him to rest.
“He’s useless,” said Cranbrook despairingly to his wife that evening. “Inspects about ten trees a day instead of a hundred and now he’s caved in altogether. What on earth can I do with the poor little devil?”
“He could do your typing for you, dear.”
“But there’s barely enough typing to employ him an hour a day. It’s the jungle work I want him for. And I’d wanted a man who might take over some of my elephants for me after a time. Can you imagine Napoleon handling elephants!”
“I can’t,” answered his wife frankly. “Still, I know you’ll give him another chance. You won’t sack him just yet, will you?”
“These women,” grumbled the man, “they always get their way ...”
Thus it came about that for the next few weeks Napoleon clicked a typewriter in the tiny office in the centre of the compound. And as he did so, he was very much ashamed of himself. He had been meant for the jungle, and in spite of his two great names he had proved an utter failure.
After a month had passed, the fear of being dismissed haunted him, for he was beginning to love the compound, where he no longer felt the terrible loneliness of Bangkok. Although stern, the great Nr. Cranbrook was likeable, and he fairly worshipped the gracious white mistress. As for Miss Phoebe Smith of the plump hands and soft brown eyes, Napoleon was conscious of a strange thumping in the chest whenever he beheld her. Yet he invariably addressed her in his usual correct fashion, because he knew that both she and her mistress were miles and miles above him. He, Napoleon Alexander Van der Burgh, was worthless and a coward into the bargain.
His cowardice by now had been proved on numerous occasions. There was the quiet pony, for instance, on which he occasionally went for rides. He managed to stick on somehow, but he rode in mortal dread of being thrown to the ground. The elephants, too, that straightened out the stacks of teak logs in the river by the compound, scared him stiff. Sometimes he would be told by the great Mr. Cranbrook to go and inspect them. He had perforce to obey his master, but once á huge tusker had “fonked” warningly at him, and he had fled as fast as his fat legs could carry him. The coolies and mahouts had sniggered, but he himself had wept far into the night. Soon, he mused wretchedly, .thé climax would come, and he would be kicked out bag and baggage from the compound that he loved.
The climax came a week after his legs had healed. He was ordered into the jungle to report on the appearance of a female elephant which had been ailing for some months past, and unfortunately he inspected the wrong elephant—they all looked very much alike to him—with the result that when Cranbrook heard of his mistake the boss was very wrathful.
“Mr. Van der Burgh,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’ll have to go. Forgive me for speaking plainly, but you’re simply wasting the company’s money up here.”
. Napoleon knew that his death-knell had sounded. He must leave this beautiful compound; he must leave the gracious white lady and Phoebe of the plump brown hands; he must leave everything he held dear for the blaring noise of Bangkok, where the chances of reemployment were more than improbable.
He coughed: “Sir,” said he, “I do my best, but I am afraid I am not the perfect clerk. Sir, I consider you are right in your desire to terminate my contract."
Normally the white man might have relented on seeing the pathetic little figure, but Cranbrook seemed worried and preoccupied.
“Come to me tomorrow morning,” he said shortly, “and I’ll arrange about guides for you.”
Napoleon returned slowly to his bungalow, and Cranbrook walked swiftly to his.
“How is she?” he asked his wife anxiously.
“Worse, I’m afraid.”
Together they tiptoed into the bedroom. On the bed lay their daughter, watched by Miss Smith. The child’s face was flushed and her skin was hot and dry. Malaria, the fever that stalks the jungle in the rains, had her in grip. :!
“We’ll take turns to watch all night,” said Cranbrook. -The long night’ passed, and in the, morning the white man’s features were haggard.
“I’ll ride in for the. doctor,” he said. “If I leave at once, I’ll have him here before dark.” ,
“I’d rather you stay with me,” an-! s w e r e d his wife quietly. “I’d like you to be near me, juist in case ... Can’t you: send a messenger for him?”
Cranbrook did some rapid thinking. The missionary! hospital was twenty miles away, and there were two paths leading to it. One path, the longest, ran between valleys in the jungle hills, and though fairly rough,! was rideable. The other path was a good; deal shorter, but it passed through dense evergreen jungle, where the use of a1 pony would be out of the question. He decided, therefore, to send in messengers by both routes; it was no good leaving anything to chance when his child’s life was in danger, and accidents did happen sometimes in the jungle. He scribbled a hasty note to the doctor, then summoned two of his fastest and most reliable coolies. To these he gave the note, and then, after promising rewards if the doctor arrived before dark, he sent them off by the shortest route. When they had gone, he called for Napoleon.
“Now listen. I’ll give you one more chance. My child is ill and I want a doctor. If you can bring him in tonight, I’ll overlook your previous conduct.” Napoleon flung out his chest. Here was his great opportunity, not only of remaining in his beloved compound, but of helping the gracious white lady “Sir, I try my hardest.”
“Good.” Cranbrook gave the clerk explicit instructions as to how to follow the longer path to the hospital, then ordered him to take his wife’s quiet pony. Napoleon ran to the stables, his heart throbbing with excitement.
HE WAS quickly in the saddle, and soon the high green walls of the jungle enveloped him. After he had gone some four miles the path split up into several smaller paths, each of which ran in a different direction. The boss, however, had told him that this would happen, and had instructed him to take the right-hand branch of the path. Accordingly, Napoleon did not hesitate, though a keen eye would have discerned that the path he now chose was in reality a track made by wild animals. But Napoleon knew nothing of the jungle and rode rapidly on.
Soon the going became bad, but he urged his pony steadily ahead, and presently to his relief the track increased in width as it joined a man-made path that ran in from the left. He made better progress now, but by one o’clock in the afternoon, when he haltèd to eat some sandwiches and drink from his water-bottle, a frown of anxiety creased his smooth forehead. He should have arrived at the hospital by now, yet the jungle still stretched ahead with grim monotony.
He swallowed his lunch hastily and pushed on. The sun sank lower in the sky, and just when he was about to despair, the barking of dogs sounded in the distance and Napoleon’s heart leapt for joy. A village! The hospital could not be far off now.
Fifteen minutes later, when the hands of his cheap wrist-watch stood at three o’clock, he was enquiring the way to the hospital from the inhabitants of the village.
“The hospital?” echoed one, in Siamese. “I do not understand.” He looked puzzled.
“Meh,” said another, “there is no hospital here. But I know of one. It belongs to the Teaching People, and is many, many miles from here.” He pointed vaguely in the direction of the south.
Panic seized Napoleon and his chubby knees trembled. He made frantic enquiries as to the possibility of a short cut, but none apparently existed. He must, therefore, return to the point where he had taken the wrong turning, and then start all over again. Thus at some hour well after nightfall he would find himself back to within four miles of the compound he had left in the morning. Once more he had failed miserably.
“Master,” one of the villagers was speaking, “you want a doctor? I have plenty good medicine. It better than any doctor. In my stall. You follow a»e.”
In a daze Napoleon complied, and they halted in the marketplace opposite a stall containing a weird assortment of bottles, cheap cloth and tinned goods. Napoleon was handed one of the bottles, and when his senses had calmed a little, he read the label, which was printed in English and Siamese.
According to the label, the medicine in this bottle was the most marvellous medicine in the world. It cured Asiatic cholera in half-an-hour, plague in a quarter, and such trifles as malarial fever and dysentery in a bare five minutes. It cured, in fact, everything save old age, and provided one had a bottle handy, one could scarcely die of any known disease. Hope sprang suddenly in Napoleon’s breast.
“How much?” he asked quickly.
“Ten Heals for you master,” answered the would-be vendor with the air of one conferring a special favor.
The medicine was very expensive, thought Napoleon, but then such a wonderful medicine could hardly be bought for a song. He fumbled in his pockets for the money, and the man spoke again :
“You have brandy? Brandy very good for fever. Brandy very good for everything.”
Napoleon agreed, and for the sum of another ten Heals a bottle of poisonous brandy was his. This left him broke, but he did not care; nothing mattered so long as he brought back something that might save the little mistress.
To lessen the risk of breakage should he fall from the pony, the bottles were wrapped up into two separate parcels of cardboard and paper and stuffed into the side pockets of his tunic. This done, Napoleon decided that, since he would be obliged in any case to return most of the way back to the compound, he had better deliver the medicine to the boss, then start again for the hospital on the following morning, provided no one else had been sent in for the doctor meanwhile. No sooner was the decision made, than he was in the saddle once more, and the long homeward ride began.
He had gone, perhaps, ten miles, when the sudden darkness of the tropics fell like a blanket over the earth. He tried to urge the pony forward, but the little beast refused to budge another inch. He dismounted with the idea of pushing ahead on foot, but the darkness was so intense that he knew the chances of keeping to the path were hopeless. He therefore tied the reins of his tired pony to a tree, plucked it some long grass, then sank down beside it. Yet he might oversleep himself, and to avoid this he sat awake for hour after hour, hugging his precious bottles.
At dawn, regardless of the treacherous snags that beset a jungle path, he rode off furiously. He made good progress for half an hour, then paid the penalty of his daring. On rounding a bend, the pony leapt sideways to avoid a fallen treetrunk and Napoleon was heavily thrown.
He fell on to a clump of sharp, jagged, cut bamboo stems, and was knocked senseless. When he came to, he struggled to his feet and drew a shaking hand across his forehead. His right side gave hint excruciating agony, and every breath he drew shot stabbing flames of pain between his ribs. None the less, his first conscious thoughts were for the bottles.
To his dismay, in spite of its wrappings the brandy bottle in his right pocket was broken. He fished out the wreckage to find that a few ounces of the liquor still remained in the thick jagged-rimmed glass at the bottom. He then uncorked his water bottle which had been slung over his shoulder, poured out its contents and replaced them by what was left of the brandy. After that he made for his pony, which fortunately had not bolted, but was peacefully grazing on the edge of the path. As he moved toward it, the pain struck him in full force, and he gasped and staggered. He put his hand to his side, and the hand came away wet. The brandy, of course, though why should his fingers be crimson? Queer, that, he thought, on reaching the pony.
He mounted somehow, and the last fifteen miles of the ride began. Luckily for him, the tired pony was content to walk, and he found that by leaning well forward and holding one hand to his side, the pain was eased to a slight extent.
He had lost his topee, and soon the sun began to beat uncomfortably upon his head. He longed for water to quench his parched throat, but he had thrown away his own supply, and, though occasionally the pony stopped to drink from small jungle pools, he dared not drink himself. Once he had dismounted he might never be able to mount again.
There was the medicine, too, still intact in his left-hand pocket. It was a very wonderful medicine, and would undoubtedly relieve his pain which was now rapidly increasing. The brandy, also, might help, but every drop of both medicine and brandy must be for the child. He had failed once, he would not fail now. Biting his lips till they bled, he hung on to the saddle while the endless green lanes of the jungle slid past him. He lost sense of time, space, reality, and how he eventually reached the compound he never knew. The pony must have found the way of its own accord . .
Round about two o’clock in the afternoon little Cranbrook, in the act of summoning search-parties, saw a jaded pony walk through the compound gates, and a fat form slide off its back. The form came toward him, and it reeled like a drunken man.
“Mr. Cranbrook, sir,” Napoleon’s speech was thick and blurred—“beg to inform you—by most unfortunate accident—yesterday get lost—but—” here the water bottle was unslung and the medicine pulled out from one pocket, “I bring very good medicine—and brandy— sir—not much brandy left—but—” the speaker paused and swayed uncertainly on his feet.
“Ha,” said Cranbrook, as he heard the word “brandy.” The air reeked of brandy. Now he understood the reeling gait, the thickened speech, the bloodless features of Napoleon. Cranbrook’s face went hard and merciless.
“Keep your useless medicine, Mr. Van der Burgh,” he snapped. “I sent men who could be trusted for the doctor. He arrived last night, and the child is out of danger. But no thanks to you. And now get out of my sight!”
For a moment Napoleon stared at him, and in his eyes was the dumb horror of a stricken animal. Then slowly he turned on his heel.
“Sir, I go.”
But he did not go. Instead, he fell limply upon the ground and Cranbrook, as he stared at the prostrate figure, saw a strange red patch sully the lush green grass.
'TWO hours later the doctor was giving -L Cranbrook a second report on Napoleon.
“He’s conscious again,” said the doctor. “As far as I can gather he’d been tossed on to a clump of cut bamboostems. Ghastly things. They slash like knives. Think of it, man. He must have ridden about fifteen miles with two ribs broken, and a wound in his side you could put your fingers through. There’s precious few people who could have done that. Lucky you persuaded me to stay and rest here today, or . . the doctor broke off significantly.
“So he wasn’t drunk,” breathed Cranbrook.
“Drunk? He hadn’t touched a drop. It would have helped him if he had.”
“When may I see him?”
“Now, if you don’t stay long.”
Cranbrook stole into the room where Napoleon lay. The little, round face was strangely drawn, and a cold sweat bedewed the forehead above it.
“Mr. Van der Burgh,” Cranbrook’s face, too, was a trifle white. “I can’t apologize in words. Men, real men, can’t very well express their inmost feelings to one another. But all I can say is: I hope, when you’re strong enough, you’ll do me the honor of shaking my hand—and forgetting.”
Napoleon blinked. Real men? Honor the great Mr. Cranbrook by shaking his hand? What could all this mean?
“I hope, too,” continued Cranbrook, “that my wife and I will have your services up here for many a year to come.”
Napoleon’s features cleared. “Sir,” he whispered, “I am glad to hear you say that. But, sir, I am afraid I shortly die.”
Cranbrook leant over the bed. He stood poised on the balls of his feet, and his lean figure seemed to radiate tense, white-hot energy.
“Napoleon—that’s your first name, I’ve heard—think of that other Napoleon. He wouldn’t have given in so easily.”
“Sir—he very great man—not like me.”
Cranbrook snapped his fingers. “The soldier. He lived to kill. You lived to save. Man—can’t you see? You—you’re greater than him.” And he almost meant it at the moment.
“Sir, you make me very happy. I— try—live now.”
The door opened softly, and Miss Phoebe Priscilla Smith crept in. The tears shone like jewels on the burnished copper of her cheeks, but her eyes were shining softly. Cranbrook discreetly withdrew.
SIX months later, Napoleon marched into the compound in the waning light of a sunny April evening.
“Sir,” said he to Cranbrook, “I beg to inform you that the doctor states I am fit to resume my duties.”
Cranbrook flashed a quick, penetrating glance at the speaker. Napoleon was much thinner, and his air of childlike innocence had vanished. He spoke now with a quiet assurance, and his eyes held the look of a man who has fought and conquered the greatest enemy of all. Cranbrook decided to take the risk.
He beckoned to his elephant headman, to whom he talked in mysterious whispers, and presently twenty of the firm’s largest tuskers entered the compound. Cranbrook nodded to Napoleon, then led him in front of the line of elephants.
“Mr. Van der Burgh,” he said loudly in the native language, “from now on you are in charge of this elephant force.” This said, Cranbrook withdrew behind a tree, leaving little Napoleon to face the leviathans alone.
For a moment the clerk stood dazed, and a suspicious grogginess ran through his knees. But the eyes of all the mahouts were upon him, and to his horror Miss Smith, from one end of the compound, was also watching the scene. The earth, however, refused to swallow him, and he was forced to brace himself. What had the boss said about his being greater than Napoleon? So! Then he’d show that the boss had spoken aright.
A snigger arose from one of the mahouts, and Napoleon strode briskly up to him. The elephant upon which the man rode was a fierce tusker, and normally Napoleon would not have approached within yards of it. But now he went almost under its tusks, and because the beast saw that this midget had no fear, it showed no inclination to turn savage.
“You laugh,” barked Napoleon, looking up at the mahout. “Why do you laugh?” The tones were crisp and entirely foreign to him.
The mahout was aware of a strangeness in events. “I laugh at a monkey up a tree,” he lied.
“Then take care that I make thee not climb up that tree to share the joke with thy brother. And when addressing me call me master.” “Master,” the mahout salaamed respectfully.
Napoleon withdrew a few paces till he. faced the whole line of elephants. “Up, dogs!” he thundered, and at the command every mahout raised his goad.
Down came the goads, and a great roaring, screaming trumpet blared out through the quiet evening air, and sent the mynas and green parrakeets darting to their nests.
The elephants were then dismissed; but i Napoleon was not yet content, for there was other work to be done, and not until dark had fallen did he again approach his white master.
Cranbrook was seated with his wife and small daughter on the verandah of his bungalow, when to his surprise a discreet cough sounded, followed by the appearance of Napoleon leading Miss Smith by the hand.
“Sir and madam,” said Napoleon, “it is my intention to marry Miss Phoebe Priscilla Smith. We would, of course both remain in your service afterwards.” “Oh!” cried Mrs. Cranbrook, and felt for her handkerchief.
“Splendid,” said Cranbrook. “My congratulations. And now, Mr. Van der Burgh, I understand why you made your elephants salute. I suppose you were saluting Miss Smith.”
“On the contrary, sir,” answered Mr. Napoleon Alexander Van der Burgh. “I was saluting myself. For am I not greater than Napoleon?”