Gone Native


Gone Native


Gone Native



HE SAT cross-legged and gazed out the doorway at the brilliant sunlight drenching the little Ivory Coast village. Just beyond the threshold squatted the motionless figure of a girl whose naked body glowed like black satin. Over her head he could see the golden cones of the peaked huts of grass; behind them was the glossy green of the banana groves.

Beyond that towered the abrupt cliff of the jungle.

A strange world was there. League after endless league of steaming heat. The forest dim and dark, cut with swords of silvery-green light. A place of furtive life, where leaves hung still and heavy as though forged of metal and the (laming orchids swung from lofty branches. A place wrapped in languor so that even the howling monkeys were still, moving quietly as though in awe. A world at once repellent and overwhelmingly fascinating. In its shadow, time -w'hite man’s time died. Two years were an eternity.

Boyne’s gaze returned slowly to the girl. He considered the top of lier bent head, then allowed his eyes to see the ebon j)erfection of her body. A little shiver passed over him and his throat was tight and painful.

He could not visualize this black-skinned creature as his wife. Never. It was an impossible, a revolting conception.

For he knew that Claire Ashe was the only woman who could ever be true wife to him.

There was no doubt at all about that. But the certainty had come three years too late. He was worse than a fool, for so much can happen in three years. In three years Claire could have thrust him out of her mind and married another man, have children . . . His mouth was, suddenly, a bitter line.

If that had come to pass it was no one’s fault but his own. A man who had acted as he had, deserved no better fate.

Bbvne’s mind rolled back the years until the six most terrible months of his life were clear and vivid before him.

HE HAD BEEN engaged to Claire then;

they were to marry within the year. As sometimes happens with highly-strung, sensitive people, they quarrelled violently one night over some trifle. He scarcely remembered now what it had been. A man, he fancied, some swine whose attentions to Claire he had jealously resented. Her quick temper flared at the tone he used. Hot words passed between them. Claire had told him some truths that stung like a scorpion. Boyne wanted to hurt her for them, wanted to hurt her damnably. Far back in his mind was the assurance that he wanted nothing of the sort, but he smothered the thought under layers of anger and raged out of the house.

Striding through the dark streets, he had come suddenly upon a friend of his. They w'ent together into a pub and had a drink, had several drinks. Boyne grew maudlinly determined to make Claire pay for the way she had treated him. The friend listened and sympathized. He suggested that they lay the matter before a clever acquaintance of his. Boyne must have been very drunk, for he agreed.

The friend proved to be a woman; one Mona Sissons, an attractive young widow who had run through the money left by her recent husband and was now hard-pressed by innumerable bill collectors. She knew' of David Boyne as an eligible bachelor of means. She made a point of knowing such things. And he had come to her that night like a heaven-sent opportunity.

Boyne sighed at the recollection. She had caught him on

the rebound, in a state of unreasoning anger and semiintoxication in which his mind had room for nothing but the desire to hurt Claire. Mona had taken advantage of the circumstances and had manoeuvred him into writing his fiancée and breaking off the engagement.

Hot shame burned him as he thought of that letter. It had been a cruel, cutting, caddish, utterly inexcusable document. He deserved to be horsewhipped for it.

And when it was mailed and the hot surge of cruelty that inspired it was at a height, Mona had suggested to him that they elope together. It had seemed a splendid idea, a final slap in the face for Claire. They caught the last boat train and were married next day in Paris.

In six months Boyne realized that all his life was bitter dregs. He had smashed his life and Claire’s. Claire was remote as the moon, unapproachable as heaven. He had thrown away his honor and hope of happiness for marriage w'ith a selfish, extravagant, empty husk of a woman. He had got no more than his just deserts. But he could stand it no longer. He put his affairs into the hands of his solicitor, and one night he packed a bag and walked out of the life he had always known. He learned, months later, that Mona had divorced him and married again.

For a year Boyne wandered aimlessly about the world, until he came at last to this little Ivory Coast village and settled into its backwash of life. Here he thought he might attain forgetfulness and a clear perspective of life. He could at least make some atonement for his cruel folly.

He wrote a letter to Claire, telling her everything. There had been no answer, and hope died still-bom.

HE CAME OUT of his reverie as a man emerges from a plunge into a dark pool. He leaned forward and slipped a hand under the black girl’s chin, raising her face. There was something wistful and puppylike in the mute appeal of the eyes which met his. He shivered again. It was the very devil that this had to happen just when things were going so smoothly. Old M’ravoki, the chief, was his good friend and all the tribe met him with easy friendship. True, there had been occasional brushes with the witch doctor, but these had long since been ironed out—or so Boyne had thought. Now he wondered. Elephants and witch doctors, a proverb said, never forget. And this development looked suspiciously like the work of someone who had the ear of the chief.

“Wamba,” he said, “your father wishes you to be my woman; to cement his friendship and mine.” He paused for her nod of assent. “Though he knows I desire no wife.” Stark terror shot into her eyes. She flung herself prostrate in the dust and clutched his ankles. Her voice was a childish imploring wail.

"Bwana." she cried, “do not refuse. They will beat me. And the whole village will laugh and call me ‘the girl the bwana refused.’ All my life I shall be called that. I had rather die. Keep me, bwana. and 1 will be a good wife. I will work for you, bear your children, cook your food, do all that a wife can do. Bid me come, bwana!"

Boyne propped chin on hand and considered. Wamba was no more than a child. Home in England, a girl her age would be running wild, scarcely aware of boys. Yet here in Africa the whole structure of fourteen-year-old Wamba’s life depended on whether a white man would accept the gift of her body.

Ilis own life might depend on it. too. lie grimaced as that thought came. Wamba’s father was the chief. 1 o refuse his daughter would be an insult. He would brood on it. and the witch doctor would drip poisoned words in his ear. Boyne would no longer be called friend. He would live precariously, might cease to live at all.

After all. why shouldn’t he take her? Other white men lived with native women. Mamapalaver, it was politely called. And he had renounced his own world, cut all his ties and gone beyond the pale. Such few whites as passed through the village treated him with cutting contempt. Renegade, they called him. a disgrace to his race. They believed everything of him. Why not have the game as well as the name?

He ran his hand over the warm ebon flesh. A shudder of

revulsion racked him. He felt physically sick. No. he could not do it. could never do it. Deep down among the very roots of his life was something which made it ini|x»ssible. Pride in his purity of race, it might lx-, or scorn of mongrels, the horror in which a highly-bred people holds admixture with inferior blood, something.

And there was the loyalty he had sworn to Claire. True, she was only a memory now. a lighted candle burning clearly in a holy place, but that loyalty existed. Even though lie no longer had any existence for her and her mind had shut him out.

I le owed Claire that at least, even though he was unfit to face her again and would never dare tell her of the swelling greatness of his love. He had hurt her too cruelly for forgiveness. But he would remain faithful to her memory.

And that made this mating with Wamba an impossibility. Which meant trouble unless he could devise some way out.

His mind churned out ideas. It would be liest to leave the village; to leave it secretly and by night. That would save face for Wamba and her father. The tribe would blame some wild beast or demon; they would never suspect the real reason.

Yes, that was the way out. Bo yne spoke.

“Wamba.” he said. “It is an honor of which I am not worthy. But go you to M’ravoki and say that his will is my will. At tomorrow’s sunset you and I shall wed. That is all.”

There was a dazed, shining, joyous look on Wamba’s face, and her eyes worshipped him. She stood motionless an instant, then turned and ran swiftly along the sun-baked street. His eyes shadowed and troubled. Boyne watched her go.

At the far end of the village, two runners appeared with springing strides. Their oiled bodies gleamed in the hot light. To the chief’s hut they sped, making no reply to shouted questions. They passed into the cavernous gloom. Men gathered about the door, waiting, listening.

Then a low wail rose on the shimmering air. Quivering and poignant, charged with primitive fear, it vibrated across the still afternoon. In the hut. a drum began a slow throbbing.

BOYNE WENT into his own hut. This was the beginning of one of those mysterious agitations which he had seen before like ripples on the still JXXJI of the trilx’s life. He had never been admitted to their mystery. The drums would throb from sundown to sundown, and there would lxju-ju and wild dancing. Hysteria would grip the village.

He shrugged. It could not have come at a better time. For a night and a day the white man would be forgotten. And when at last they came for him he would be miles distant in the jungle. Nor would any have noted his departure. He began to ixick his few possessions.

When he came to the door again, the sunlight was slanting across the jungle. The drum was stilled: the village was deathly still. No living thing moved on all the street. He wondered what it might [xirtend. Never had he seen a ju-ju whose preliminaries were quite similar. This was, somehow, ominous.

His ears strained through the silence. A faint thread of sound had obtruded itself, swelling as the minutes jxissed. It resolved into a steady, rhythmic beat and the rude chant of voices.

“That.” he muttered, "means a safari." He scowled. “Hope it’s someone who knows his Africa and has sense enough not to poke his fool nose into what doesn’t concern him. I don’t want any delays now.”

The beat of sticks on loads and voices chanting ceased as though a switch had been pulled. The porters of the safari had got wind of something. The long procession wound out of the jungle and came to a halt on the rising ground behind the banana grove. Boyne caught a glimpse of two khakiclad figures, then night sw-wped over the world. The wild chorus of the jungle burst like a shell. Fires were bom on the hillside.

The drum resumed its low throbbing. Another joined it andanother. Fires leaped up and cleaved the darkness with blades of raw light. Oiled, naked bodies passed furtively through the patchwork of light and shadow’. The painted, bedizened form of the w’itch doctor stalked among them. “I say.”

Boyne whirled as a hand slapped his naked shoulder. He stared incredulously at a burly, red-faced man. The latter’s hot. dark eyes widened as they swept over him.

“Hood lord, you you’re a white man!”

Boyne nodded and stared at the other. Comprehension and swift anger crossed the stranger’s face. Contempt edged his voice.

“I’ve heard of you. of course. The renegade. The man who’s gone native. But I didn’t realize that I’d touch at your kennel.”

Boyne’s mouth went thin.

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“What would you say if I knocked you down?”

"Fd shoot you like a dog.”

“Your life wouldn’t be worth sixpence. Better change your tone.”

The other man’s eyes sparkled with malice.

"It is the tone I reserve for natives and dogs and rotters.”

Hot anger swept over Boyne, but he held himself in check.

"I think,” he said, "you’d best forget mea moment and consider your position here. It’s not too healthy. Do you know your Africa?”

"Well, I’ve written several books on the subject. I’m generally considered a bit of an authority. I ought to know it."

"Hm. In that case you know what natives are like w hen there’s ju-ju.”

The other’s florid color drained away.

“Is there some of that deviltry here? They told ine back at the coast that it had been stamped out. I’ve got my wife with me. We’re going through to the Congo,

hunting elephant mostly. It’s her first trip and 1 don’t want any trouble with the natives. Are you sure of what you are saying?”

Boyne waved a hand.

"All this means ju-ju. Things aren’t normal. 'The usual deputation hasn’t come to your camp, has it? Well, then.”

The other man struggled to regain his lost poise.

"I’ll thank you — ” he began.

"Remember.” Boyne cut in, “another insult and I’ll smash you.”

They faced each other with half-raised fists. The wild thrumming of the drums lilted and lifted, sent a tide of dark emotion surging through their veins. The night was black and hot, oppressive. Somewhere in the darkness a leopard coughed rendingly.

Past the lifted spears of a fire a figure came at a stumbling run. Boyne’s mouth went dry as sand as he stared at the head of tightly curling red-gold hair. An overwhelming impulse to run pounced upon him. For he knew the woman, knew her well. She was a part of his past life.

FAY LANDER her name was when he had known her. She must have married since he had left London. They had moved in the same set there, and he knew' her as one of those w'omen w'ho delight in peddling scandal and malicious gossip, who never hesitate to invent such details as will make their latest tidbit the more spicy. If she recognized him through his beard she w-ould have a story indeed. His hands went cold at the thought.

He watched her as she caught her husband’s arm. Her voice was faintly strident, incongruous.

“Carl.” she cried. “It’s awful. You’ve got to stop it.”

“Stop what. Fay?”

“This terrible thing. They're going to kill a girl simply because her twin sister was mauled to death by a leopard this morning. Your gunbearer told me. He talked some nonsense about a ghost.”

“The devil they are!” Carl whirled on Boyne. “I suppose you know' all about this, probably have a hand in it.”

“No,” Boyne answered rather mechanically. “No, I didn't know.”

A ghost, he was thinking. Going to kill a girl. He knew vaguely of such a superstition. What was it? Twins. When one twin died the other must die as well because twins were so close that their two lives were one life. That was the belief the natives held. The dead twin w7as a ghost, the living twin became a ghost, too, and must be killed and sent to her proper w'orld lest she do great harm on earth. That w'as what this ju-ju was about.

But the only twin girls in the village were M’ravoki’s daughters. Wamba had been w ith him all afternoon. It must be her sister who had been killed. Then Wamba w'as to die. But would the law' be rigidly adhered to. now that the white man had promised to add caste to the tribe by marrying Wamba? He suspected that it would. Superstition was very powerful among these natives. They would take it for granted that Boyne would no longer be willing to marry the girl. No man had ever dared to mate wñth a ghost girl. Even a w'hite bwana would not dare that. Like themselves, he would see in the girl only a person to fear and dispose of as quickly as possible. Well, that was a way out for him. he thought, half-ashamed, and became conscious of a voice close beside him.

. .a renegade. Fay. A white man gone native. Living like a pig.”

He looked up. Fay had come close and was regarding him intently. She laughed suddenly; a hard, discordant sound.

“Carl.” she said, “you’ve heard me speak of David Boyne, the man who mysteriously dropped out of sight about three years ago. Well, here he is. David, let me introduce my husband. Major Carl Garnet.”

The major frowmed perplexedly.

“Boyne? Boyne! You mean that swine you told me about ; the one who jilted Claire Ashe for that Sissons woman? Good lord, Fay. you’re not serious!”

“But I am. It’s David Boyne right enough. I must tell Claire all about this when I get home.” 11er eyes glittered with a malicious triumph and her voice was soft, poisonous.

“I’ve written her.” Boyne said defensively. “She knows all this.”

“All. You're sure. David? There isn't a black w ife—and a few slengah babies you’ve forgotten to mention? But I’m sure there are.”

“Fay!” her husband said sharply.

“It’s all right, old dear. David doesn’t mind a bit. He knows me.”

“Well. I don’t like it. Besides. I want to hear more about this native girl. We must stop it. of course.”

“I’m warning you. Garnet.” said Boyne, “not to meddle or you’ll land in bad trouble. Things aren't normal when there’s ju-ju going on.”

The major sneered.

“That.” he remarked, "is exactly what I exacted you to say. Don’t want your sport interfered with, eh? Well. I know a white man’s duty and I intend to stop this deviltry Come. Fay.”

They strode away into the gloom. Boyne heard a faint note of mocking laughter come

floating back. The rumble of the drums' swelled exultingly. Naked feet pounded the baked earth as the dance began.

He stared bitterly into the weird night. Garnet was a pompous fool with an inflexible mind and an exaggerated sense of his white man’s burden. He was headed straight for trouble. There could be no unobtrusive disappearance for David Boyne now'. He would have to stand by and try to clear up the mess the man was sure to precipitate. Ironic that a renegade white should have a sense of duty. But he couldn’t just walk off and leave a white man and a white woman to be murdered.

He turned into his hut and threw himself on the straw' mat. Presently the monotonous beat of the drums sent slumber to his tortured mind.

BOY NE AWOKE with the feeling that some untoward thing had occurred. For a long time he lay motionless, trying to analyze the sensation. Enlightenment, came in a vivid flash.

The drums had stopped !

He was on his feet in an instant. The silence was dull, ominous, pregnant with danger. Had Garnet . . . Two quick strides brought Boyne to the door. He stared at the deserted street already sweltering in the sun. He stared at the chief’s hut. In the dust before the door were thrust two scarlethafted spears. Their blades glinted in the light.

Icy sweat drenched his hands. Scarlet spears, a sign of war! Utter stillness. No children playing in the street, no lazy hum of voices. Nothing but cold, deadly stillness. He could guess what had happened.

He walked deliberately down the street between the golden-thatched huts. The sun shone hot on his bare skin, lie could feel unseen eyes upon him. Beyond the village were the green-flyed tents of Garnet’s camp. He passed between the crimson spears. In the hut w'as thick gloom and the warm smell of humanity. Eyes gleamed in the shadows.

“Oh. M’ravoki.” he said, and halted on the threshold.

“Enter. Bwana Boyne.” the chief called after a moment.

His eyes grew' used to the dimness as he threaded his w:ay to where the chief sat on a grass mat. The men saluted one another. “■S our wish?” the native asked.

"The ju-ju has been interrupted. Might 1 know t he reason ?”

“The accursed red-faced devil has stolen the ghost girl.”

From his place beside the chief the witch doctor spat the words, and fear prodded Boyne with a chill finger. This was bad. It meant killing. How could Garnet ever have been such a fool?

“Peace.” M’ravoki exclaimed. Then to Boyne: “He speaks truth.”

“And you will ...”

“Kill.” the chief said quietly.

Boyne made a gesture of appeal.

“It means war with the w'hite soldier^, many deaths, flame and destruction.”

“I know that, Bwana Boyne. But it must be.”

For a long moment Boyne was silent. I IK decision was of the hardest. There were just two courses open to him.

He could stand aside and do nothing.

That would mean death for Major Gamel and his wife, for Wamba. But it w'ould solve his own problem. A marriage w it It the chief's daughter would be out of the question, and before the soldiers came with reprisals he could be far away. And Claire would never hear the malicious, hurtful lies Fay was sure to tell about him. Yet to take this course meant buying his freedom at the price of many lives. White lives, black lives. W as he worth that?

The other course would preserve all those lives, but at the price of the sacrifice of himself and of fresh hurt for Claire.

His mind recoiled from such a decision. No man was ever meant to hold God’s own power of life and death. I íe could not weigh these things justly in the balance.

And then, like a breath of coolness flow ing down from the dawn-lit hills, came the

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thought of what Claire would have him do. There was no doubt any more. His mind grew crystal clear. He spoke.

"Yesterday, M’ravoki, you offered Wamba to me. It was a great honor and l accepted. Now she is become a ghost girl and must die. That is not well. See now: The ju-ju of the ghost girl says that if a man be found brave enough to take the living twin to wife and shoulder her blame, she may live. Is it not so? Then, M’ravoki, l hold you to your promise.”

A MOM ENT of dead stillness, then the low hiss of incredulous voices. Such a thing had never been known in all the legends of the tribe. This white bwana was without fear. His medicine must be very jx)werful that he dare flout all the {»wereof the spirit world.

"Bwana Boyne. Bwana Boyne, you would do this for me?" M’ravoki’s voice trembled. The other man nodded.

"I did not want her to die,” the old chief w'hispered. "It is very hard to lose one’s children. And I love Wamba. But 1 saw no hope. None. No man of ours would dare to do this thing. 1 did not think that you would dare. You are risking your very soul." His voice grew stronger. "1 will make you a rich man, honor you, cherish you ”

"One boon I ask. M’ravoki, and one alone.” Boyne spoke quietly. “The lives of the white man and his woman.”

"Impossible!” the witch doctor shrieked and leaped to his feet. "They have committed sacrilege. They must die.”

"Be still."

M’ravoki gestured and the witch doctor sank back, muttering. Knitting his brows the chief regarded Boyne intently.

"You desire this? It is not a trick?”

Boyne shook his head.

"No. 1 speak the truth. It is best to let the whites go, M’ravoki. War and death and ruin will come to your people if they are slain.”

"They will give up Wamba to you?” "Yes.” Boyne’s voice was grim.

"Be it so, then. My men are mustered for war. The whites are helpless, their porters ‘led. But if they give up the girl, then may hey depart in peace I have spoken.” “Thank you. M’ravoki,” Boyne said and ■ode from the hut.

The camp, when he reached it, was ueserted. Loads lay in confusion, fires had burned to dead ashes. Garnet met him at the door of his tent. His face was grey, and he wore a revolver and carried a rifle in his arm.

"What d’you want, Boyne?” he snapped. "The girl.”

"You shan’t have her.”

“You’re a fool. Garnet.” Boyne said slowly. "You’ve committed sacrilege and these people mean to kill you for it. That’s why your porters deserted. You’re helpless, man. Do you think your rifle can stop a rush of maddened savages? You're in a mess and, whether you like it or not, I’m the one man who can save your life. Give me the girl and I’ll see that she’s not harmed. And I’ll have your porters back in an hour.”

The tent-flap twitched aside and Fay stumbled out. Her face was a mask of fear; pale eyes circled with black. Her voice was high and shrill.

"Here.” she cried and dragged Wamba forward. "Take her and get out.”

“Fay!” her husband exploded.

Like a striking snake she turned on him. "You fool,” she screamed. "D’you think I’m going to be killed by a lot of filthy niggers? What do I care for duty, for a thousand nigger wenches’ lives. It’s my life that counts. Understand that. You may want a heroic death, but I don’t, see? I don’t! Take your little trollop, David Boyne, and go to the devil with her. And be very sure that Claire Ashe will hear all about this.”

His face a mottled purple. Major Garnet failed to speak. Boyne beckoned Wamba to his side and turned back down the hill. No command to halt reached him and he smiled twistedly.

HE FELT unutterably weary, drained of vitality. He had done his duty. But to do it he had sacrificed all hope. He had saved three lives. Irony. What w'as Fay Garnet’s life worth? An idle, malicious woman like that. And her pompous fool of a husband. And a slip of a native girl. The world would never miss any of the three.

He came to his hut and W amba squatted in the dust of the threshold. 11er shadow was no blacker than her body. Wearily he sank on his straw mat.

An hour passed, two, three. Blacker hours he had never known. In them his mind sought some avenue of escape from this repellent union. He could not refuse the girl outright. Not now, after he had passed his word. If he did, she would be slain. But neither could he take her to wife. His every fibre rebelled against such a course. It was literally impossible. His brain could surely devise some means of avoiding it.

But his brain was like an engine with slipping cogs, it spun futilely and would not go whither he sought to drive it. No plan came. There was only a ghastly, frozen numbness.

By sundown Major Garnet’s camp had disappeared and the village had resumed its normal life. A circle of black forms squatted before the chief’s hut. Somehow these familiar scenes were strange and alien to his gaze. With Wamba, he walked slowly to the grouped natives.

Over and over he revolved the one idea he had been able to conceive; an idea that had burst like a thunderbolt and brought a strange peace with it. Perhaps another lastminute inspiration would come. But if it did not 'well, there wras this way out. The ceremony would take place. And then when he had taken Wamba’s fate upon himself, when she was quite safe, then there was his revolver. One little movement of a linger and his problem would be solved. That was his last resort.

"I come. M’ravoki, to ask your daughter for my woman, promising to take all her guilt upon my shoulders and mine alone.” The steadiness of his voice startled him. It rang clear as a bell.

"Take her, Bwana Boyne.”

The voice of fate, of doom. The end of everything.

And still his mind was frozen like clear ice. There was no new plan. Nothing. The ceremony was beginning. The witch doctor was on his feet, brandishing his carved staff , solemnly dancing. Boyne's hand caressed his revolver. He was icy calm.

The grouped natives were still as sculp-

tured figures of basalt. Their eyes shone white. A tiny drum thudded with a monotonous beat. The chanting was a thin, reedy sound.

The witch doctor danced. He came to Boyne and Wamba. His staff reached out at them. Boyne’s knuckles went white with pressure as his fingers clenched on the revolver butt.

Then the witch doctor w'ent suddenly rigid. Froze. His eyes rolled in his painted face. Boyne stared. His gaze leaped past the man.

Every native there bore the same tense expression. A look of strained listening. Awe and dawning fear shone in their eyes.

HIS OWN duller ears heard the sound last of all. A strange murmur stealing into the air. Distant, but coming near and nearer. A low' humming note. Black faces w'ere raised in terror. The hum grew to a shattering roar. Then a great, silverwinged shape flashed out from above the frowning cliff of jungle. It circled the clearing. A flash of light, and some object came hurtling down with vivid ribbons whipping.

Boyne laughed hysterically. An airplane. Claire’s world showering blessings on his wedding. The silver shape turned and dwindled into the distance. The roar of the engine became a tiny thread of sound, was lost. Awed black faces were ashen with pallor. Their first plane, of course. It had terrified them. What did they believe it to be? A god, a demon, anything. A faint hope began to climb the trellis of Boyne’s nerves.

He ran to where the flashing object had fallen to earth and picked it up. It was a nickled cylinder with long trailers of ribbon. He took the cylinder in his hands and twisted it. It opened and from the cavity fell two rolls of paper. Slowly he ojxmed one of them. He read:

“Messrs. Braille and Doughty, flying from Tangier to Akkra, beg that the finder of this will notify the proper authorities of their position and time of passing.”

The other roll. His heart hammered thick and quick as he saw that it was addressed to him. He knew every curve and stroke of the writing. His hands trembled so that he could scarcely open the envelope. He read:

"Dear David:

Don’t you think you have done penance enough. You cannot atone for an injury by hiding yourself in the wilderness. Besides I know you, know' you well, and 1 understand about your marriage. We were both of us to blame lor that. What fools lovers can sometimes be. But what 1 do not understand is wh\ you ran away. An injured child

comes to its mother, a lover to his love. You need not have been afraid to face me.

On receiving your letter I made enquiries and have discovered the exact village in which you are living, and I am asking Major Doughty to deliver this w-hen he flies over it. I myself am taking the next ship to Bingerville where I intend to live until —Well, I think you will understand.

And, oh, David dear, I am so tired of being alone and waiting, waiting . . .


IT WAS the most incredible thing that had I ever happened to him. That Claire should have forgiven him, that she should have written that letter. Boyne’s mind could scarcely grasp the magnitude of it. She wanted him, was waiting for him. Like ice in boiling water, the paralysis thawed from his mind and he saw hope all radiant before him.

He could see the finger of Fate so plainly in evidence. If Garnet had not come and interfered with the ju-ju he would by now be miles distant in the jungle. He would have missed this word from Claire, might never have received it. Happiness had hung on a thin hair.

“What is it, Bwana Boyne?” M’ravoki’s voice broke in on his exultation and he stared at the old chief like a man newly wakened from a dream.

But his brain was running like a welloiled machine. In a fraction of a second he had seen what he must do. He had conceived a plan, smoothed and polished it, perfected its last detail.

"The silver bird. O M’ravoki,” he said, “is the messenger of the white man’s god. Its message is for you.”

The paper crackled in his fingers. His glance dwelt for an instant on black Wamba, passed her and roved the quiet village. He began to extemporize.

"To M’ravoki, chief of the Singaas: It is my will that the white man who for two years has dw'elt in the shelter of thy village shall return to his own land where I have need of him. 1 have learned also that on this day he plans to take for wife, Wamba, thy daughter. This high honor may not be his,

0 M’ravoki, for Bwana Boyne must not live with a woman of any race save his own. Such is my will. Yet let not the girl be thought at fault; rather shall she be treated as the widow of a great warrior who has shouldered her guilt and then gone down into the great darkness. As such, let all thy people honor her. These things. M’ravoki, I, the god of the white man, command.”

There was a long, tense silence. Boyne’s eyes flickered from face to black face. Had he succeeded? He thought so. Natives are a queer, superstitious folk. A god or a demon is very real to them.

And, presently, M’ravoki sighed and a smile creased his gnarled features.

"1 had hoped to call you son, Bwana Boyne,” he said gently. “But I see now that such a thing may not be. I obey the command of your god. You may go w'hen and whither you will. But I am sorry.”

"I. too. am full of sorrow, M’ravoki. But who can gainsay the command of his god?

1 start at once for the sea.”

"A canoe will be made ready,” said the chief. "And food and gifts. An escort shall march with you to the river. It is farewell.” David Boyne drew a deep breath. Exultation surged chokingly into his throat. The thing w'as done. There was only the trip to the coast now. A few score miles of silent river. Then the sea and Bingerville—and Claire. Claire!

Nothing else in all the world mattered. With bared feet and head proudly erect, he would come to her as a pilgrim comes at last to a shrine toward which he has been aspiring through long years of purifying labors.

He would claim his reward—and get it.