ASK THE NAME OF THE LION
COPYRIGHT 1962 BY RALPH ALLEN
ALBERT TSHIBANGU, a Congolese army sergeant who calls himself The I non, is leading a posse of drunken soldiers in pursuit of five people: RICHARD GRANT, a Canadian doctor; MARY KELVIN, a Canadian nurse; JACQUES CHARTRAND, a Belgian rancher; RAMÓN SIERRA, a UN official; and FELICIEN SONGOLO, a minister in the Congolese government. During the chase, The Lion has declared himself president of the independent state of Mgonga, murdered one soldier in a rage, and appointed another his premier. But ASTRID MAHAMBA, Chartrand’s native mistress, has delayed The Lion long enough to allow the fugitives to reach the Ubangi River. Across fifty yards of water, Songolo is dickering futilely with one of two tough old fisherwomen who refuse to ferry the party across the Ubangi to safety. Sierra has slipped along the river bank and into the water; he intends to overpower the women and take their boat.
SIERRA HAD NEVER NEEDED an analyst to tell him that he was at least a borderline manicdepressive. The manic, fortunately, was at its apogee now. As he moved quietly upstream through the strip of trees, keeping out of sight of both the river and the road as best he could, he reviewed his plan with confidence.
He was a good swimmer. For a man of forty-seven he was in excellent shape physically. As for the exertions and the heat of the morning. he had decided some hours earlier that the reckoning of their cost would simply have to be postponed. In Spain and later in Normandy and Korea he had often had to practise a form of hypnosis on his body and drive it to theoretically impossible lengths of endurance.
His mood was almost boisterous. Though he did not contemplate failure, there would be compensations even in that. The one thing that troubled him was the indignity he was about to inflict on the shrill old hag in the pirogue and on her companion. In another day and setting she might have been one of the hellcats of Guadalajara or Madrid defying Franco’s imported Moors and the German Condor Legion and the equally detested Black Flames from Italy.
This Congolese crone could not be expected to understand that there were certain political and moral differences in the situation here;
what she clearly did understand and had a right to understand was that this was her pirogue, this was her river, and there were some people who belonged there and some who did not. If she prevailed there would be a certain natural justice in it.
But justice or not, he had an overwhelming desire to live and an equal desire to rescue the four people who had been given into his trust. He would try not to harm the two old women, although he knew without Songolo's telling him that the toil-hardened women of the Congo, even the old ones, could be as tough and sinewy as the toughest vine root; he might not be able to dictate the rules or limits of their struggle.
1 he last thing he did before he slipped into the brown water was open his small sharp knife and put it crosswise between his teeth. The first time he had carried a knife this way, more than half a lifetime ago on the river Ebro, his sense ol the ridiculous had almost overcome him. But now, being much older and a little less vain, he found it less painful to think of his resemblance to a third-rate cinema hero.
Warm and soupy though ii was, the water was almost invigorating after the burning steamy air. His lungs were better than he had realized. He had to come up for fresh breath only three CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
times before he was beyond and to the rear of the pirogue and about two hundred yards upstream. The river flowed very slowly in the shelter of a bend in the bank, and he stroked barely enough to keep afloat and held his legs anti body well beneath the surface. In the distance he could hear Songolo wheedling and orating across the water and the old woman goading and promising and yielding and rejecting, mixing lewd invitations with fearful judgments, a fishwife become a sudden queen. The role had her so much under its spell that he told himself only a chance, unlikely crocodile or a warning shout from the warriors hidden beyond the bank could prevent his reaching her pirogue undetected.
He moved out a little further and tried to gauge the exact drift of the slight current. Then he turned on his back, partly floating and partly treading water, moving his hands just enough to keep his nose and mouth above the surface. He steered by the sound of the old woman’s shrilling voice. When he turned carefully to his side he was not twenty feet from the big canoe’s black and weathered hull. He drifted slowly down to its middle, where he could try to swing himself aboard exactly halfway between the women. He rested silently, a foot away from the hull and beneath its shelter, gathering his strength and making his last calculations. There was no chance of swamping the heavy craft, even if he had wanted to. But he might be able to rock it sufficiently to throw either or both the women momentarily off balance. If he pulled down hard with his two hands and kicked up hard against the water with his right leg he might for an instant reduce the amount of freeboard from almost three feet to two or even less and throw his left leg aboard in the first co-ordinated movement. It was an interesting problem in muscular dynamics and a difficult physical feat. In his original calculations, even before he traded knives with Chartrand, he had been fully aware that if he failed on the first attempt the women would beat him off and drown him easily with their poles.
For a moment there was no sound either from the pirogue or from the bank. Everything was so totally still that it seemed impossible the women would not hear some unaccustomed rippling in the water or some hint of his breathing and turn to investigate. But then Songolo’s voice came bawling across the strip of water again. The only knowledge Sierra had of the tribal dialect they were using was where it had lent to or borrowed from Lingala. But Songolo's tone and the sinful cackle of laughter with which the old woman responded made the burden of his message all too clear. He had obviously just made a more indecent suggestion to her than any of hers to him. A manly but tragic thing for one such as Songolo to have had to do, Sierra had a split second in which to reflect. It would have meant nothing for him, the Spaniard, or for Chartrand, the Belgian, or even for the young Canadian doctor to meet this outrageous harridan at her own outrageous level. But for her fellow Congolese, emancipated, evolved, educated, and civilized, within a short hard twenty years—for such a one as this the
descent to and the acknowledgment of their essential kinship, the admission that he still could talk her language in her foulest idiom must have a Dantelike horror, an intimation of permanent reversion and inevitable defeat.
If only his own life had been at stake, Sierra somehow doubted that the aggressively fastidious, hypersensitive, jealously African and selfconsciously “European” Songolo would have made the sacrifice. Sierra’s earlier reactions to the man from Cambridge had included impatience, anger, pity, and bare tolerance. Now, listening to Songolo’s heroic exercise in selfdebasement, he felt admiration—mixed faintly with amusement to be sure—but genuine admiration none the less.
“Aiee! Aiee! Aiee!” The old woman’s cackle was full of wicked mirth. At the third convulsion Sierra thrust himself upward in the water, grasped the top edge of the pirogue with his two hands, pulled down, kicked with one leg, threw the other over the thwart, and was two thirds aboard before the two startled women could turn around.
But once they began to move they moved with incredible speed and decision. It was not a reaction, but a reflex. Sierra had surprised many enemies and had learned that, once you got right upon them, there was always, even in the instant of recognition, another instant of paralysis and shock when the habit of reason got in the way of instinct. To this precious instant he already owed at least three of his several lives: one courtesy of a fellow Spaniard, one courtesy of a Moor, one courtesy of a Chinese sentry near the Yalu.
But the second’s delay had been bred out of these jungle women at least five hundred years ago, by leopards, by lions, by pythons, by hostile tribes, and Arab slavers. Both were on top of him before he could get to his knees. The older woman took two prodigious hops on her almost toeless feet and flew for his eyes with one two-fingered hand and at his groin with the other. The younger struck him a great blow across the shoulder with her canoe pole and leaped forward to fall on his back, clawing at his neck. The knife had flown unnoticed from between his teeth to lie half a dozen feet away near the far side of the deck. Before their first furious onslaught he flattened himself on the concave log floor, protecting the two most vulnerable points of attack. Still lying flat, he made a swift grab for the claw at his eyes, caught the older woman’s thin but wiry arm and bent her whole body away from him. As he lifted his head a little, the other woman, much heavier and more muscular, made a swift lunge for his throat with her sharp, filed teeth. She struck with the dark speed of an animal, but he saw the shadow in time to hurl his neck an inch or two to one side. Her teeth drew blood on the fleshy part, but did not find a hold. He released the older woman momentarily and grasped the more dangerous one by one arm, just above the elbow. When the older one flew at him again he encouraged her to jab for his tightly closed eyes and thus retrieved his grip on her arm with his free hand and bent her away from him once more.
They were now in a state of grotesque stale-
mate. Each woman had her two legs entwined with Sierra’s, pinning him face down on the floor of the canoe. He in turn held each of them face down and firmly secured by the near arm.
Sierra was bleeding from several scratches and the one shallow tooth-bite and his shoulder hurt where the pole had struck him, but the adrenaline was still serving him faithfully and he detected no signs of tiring. The sickly smell of the older woman’s decaying body was the greatest of his physical hardships as they lay locked and wary, all three panting and prone on the blister-hot deck. There were more urgent things to consider than physical hardship. He was conscious that the canoe was moving, slowly but steadily, in the sluggish current. He could not allow it to drift far beyond the resting place of his companions. Even less could he allow it to drift to the bank downstream where it would surely be met by the fellow-tribesmen of their hostage, the chief.
It was momentarily safe to lift and turn his head without risking the loss of his eyes. He perceived a new danger. The younger and stronger of the women had at last seen the knife lying open a few feet away, barely out of reach of her free hand. And though, because of Sierra’s hold on her other arm, she could not use her free hand on him, she could use it to reach for the knife. She needed only to gain another foot or less. If she succeeded, Sierra would become even more their prisoner, even as he would have to make them more his. Their logical course from then on would be to lie locked and immobile, no one daring to make a move, until events caught up with them.
He tried to bend the stronger woman’s pinioned arm up and back toward her shoulder blade and thus break it. But she was much too strong and he had insufficient leverage; he needed a lower grip, below her elbow. But he was certain that if he tried to slide his hand gradually down her sweat-greased arm she would be able to break his grip as he attempted to traverse the elbow. Well then, a sporting gamble. She could have a chance at the knife and he would have a chance at a better hold.
He released her upper arm and immediately clutched at her slippery forearm. She threw herself forward and touched the knife. Her arm almost escaped him altogether, but his strong wiry fingers had it again. He snapped it back around her and up to her shoulder blades in a motion as swift and compact as the kick of a piston. The arm cracked like splitting kindling wood. He spun her around, leaped to his feet, thrust a bare heel against the prostrate older woman’s jaw, then grabbed the younger by the other arm and broke it too in a repetition of the first ruthlessly economical motion. She sank moaning to the deck. Sierra pulled the older woman to her feet, reached down, picked up the knife, and put it to her breast.
“Pick up the pole, mother.” He spoke the order quietly and without fuss, as though there was not the slightest doubt that it would be obeyed at once.
“Yes, yes. Willingly.” She stared dumfounded at her crippled CONTINUED OVER PAGE
friend. The older woman was crushed by the sudden collapse of all her glory, still scarcely able to believe her career as a queen could have ended so suddenly and cruelly.
“Yes, I will pick up the pole,” she said, half in a trance. “1 will pick up the pole. Gladly. Yes.”
They had not drifted so far as he had feared, not more than two hundred yards. He could pick out their figures clearly between the water line and the line of trees behind. Mary sitting upright on the stretcher. Grant standing behind the old chief, and Chartrand and Songolo preparing to remove their clothing and swim out to help bring the pirogue in. Sierra shouted and waved to them to remain where they were. The canoe was still in shallow enough water for the old woman to reach bottom with her pole. Disappointment was not new to her and now that this latest of life’s rebuffs was firmly settled she accepted it cheerfully enough. They made good time.
When they were within easy hearing range Sierra, still paddling amidships with the knife at his side, began calling instructions to the bank.
“We’ll push off right away.” he called. “Chartrand, you will please help Miss Kelvin in as soon as I land and put her in the bow. Monsieur Songolo, will you please come up beside me and take another paddle. Grant and the chief will embark last and stand in the stern with the chief as plainly visible to the shore as possible. If the army should materialize while we’re still within range, everyone get down as low as possible, but keep paddling.”
When he sprang ashore to steady the canoe for the embarkation they could not, in spite of the need for haste, refrain from greeting him. Mary gazed in rapt silence; there was no word for the marveling in her weary, brown, fugitive eyes. “Mon Dieu, monsieur,“ Chartrand said in total homage. Songolo touched his arm and Grant said simply, so simply that the defect of stiffness was not noticed. “You are a great man. Monsieur Sierra.” Sierra wiped away a little blood with the back of his hand and grinned with unaffected pleasure.
SOUND HAD CARRIUD FAR in the open savanna. But here, in the slight depression made by the shallow valley, with the intervening strip of jungle, the jeeps were almost upon them before they heard the grinding motors. Then with a crash of shots and a tumult of wrenched-up vines and crunching reeds and a chorus of jubilant shouts. Sergeant Albert Tshibangu and Privates Alphonse Mpolo. Remy Okito, Grégoire Ilunga and Emile Kwange were upon them. Chartrand had eased Mary past the old woman and was starting to help her to the far end of the pirogue. None of the others had begun to embark.
Sierra called over his shoulder. “You might as well get out again.” He brushed a trickle of blood from his eyes and looked to the border of the trees thirty feet away, where the sergeant and his soldiers had stopped to form a wavering line. In the dappled sunlight their guns made queer, spastic designs in mid-air, circles and arcs and parabolas and slow exclamation points. All the soldiers except the sergeant were very unsteady on their feet. The sergeant had his back braced against a tree and his feet planted wide apart. His equilibrium was relatively good and there was murder in his happy eyes.
Grant moved a few steps and helped support Mary on her good leg. Sierra and Songolo were a little apart, looking steadily ahead at Sergeant Tshibangu and his weaving retinue.
“Who is the boss here?” the sergeant asked loudly, narrowing and focusing his eyes.
“I am.” Sierra had stared down many a dangerous Congolese before, but he had never had to do it barefooted, with blood streaking his naked body and the other man almost totally beyond the reach of reason. He set his strong mouth a little more firmly, lifted his jaw a little higher, and prepared to move across the clearing.
Songolo held him back. “No!” he said. Songolo’s hand on his arm was cold and trembling and his mellifluous Cambridge voice was choked and muffled as though it came through some soft heavy cloth. “No!” he repeated. He half cleared his throat in an effort to say something further. It was not really necessary, for what was on his mind could not be mistaken.
“Stay out of the way!” Sierra said harshly. “I’ve handled it so far.”
“No!” .Songolo’s very inarticulateness deepened his clammy eloquence and strengthened the cold grip of his hand.
“Let the boss come forward!” the sergeant shouted.
“One moment if you please, monsieur.” Sierra’s polite reply sent forth a brief ripple of calm. Songolo retained his grip.
“Don’t be a damned fool.” Sierra said less harshly. “You haven’t got a chance
with them. The way they are no African would have a chance.”
“That is why—” Songolo could not get his voice above a whisper, nor could he complete the sentence.
“In spite of everything”—the Spaniard’s tone was low but unruffled; he might have been making a sotto voce remark during a concert, careful not to disturb those in the nearby seats — “they’re still a little afraid of us Helges. If I can get through to him, if I can get through the liquor and the dope, I can still handle him.”
“You have believed—-thought it—fro i the start,” Songolo whispered sadly.
“That we—that I—oh, hell”—the words limped and hobbled and leaned on each other like the last stragglers of a fatal retreat—“that we can’t stand up to you without drink or dope. That I am—without— honor. That I am—without courage—and without—without capacity.”
“You have shown me your courage,” Sierra reassured him in the same low concert-audience voice.
“Then you must let me—let me—deal with them. I am an official of their government—I am their countryman—it is—it is my duty—it is my right—it is—” Songolo’s hand was still cold and trembling, but still it detained Sierra.
A shot from the sergeant’s gun roared
Continued on page 36
above their heads. “Let the boss come forward!” the sergeant roared behind the echo. “If he has anything to say let him say it at once.”
“God go with you, my friend,” Sierra said in all tenderness and pity.
As Songolo approached his countrymen his thin shoulders lifted a little. Although the sergeant was a much heavier man, the difference in their height was not great and Songolo looked directly into his scowling, heavy face.
“You know who I am.” Songolo tried to make it a statement rather than a question. He spoke with a slight tremor and his words still seemed to be coming forced and faintly through a gag. But for a badly frightened man with five gun muzzles executing geometric figures directly in front of his chest and belly, his self-possession was remarkable.
"You know who I am,” he repeated. “You have seen my papers only yesterday at the airport at Ngubdja. You have seen my papers signed by His Excellency the President himself.”
“Your papers were forged!” the sergeant spat at him. "Does the president send his high officers abroad struggling with their own baggage? Does he send them without warning? Does he send them without escort? Does he send them without arms? Does he send them riding with goats and clerks and sick women?”
“I was in haste. There is an outbreak of sleeping sickness nearby—you have heard of the outbreak of sickness—the president ordered me—asked me—asked the man from Once and I—” Sorigolo’s momentary calm had begun to desert him and he was becoming weakly excited again.
"For God’s sake!” Sierra called across the clearing to him. “Don’t defen ' yourself! Attack! Attack!”
“Even if what you say is true”—perceiving the other man’s growing uncertainty. the sergeant raised his voice and looked around to assure himself of the admiring regard of his men—“even if what you say is true, the man you call president is no longer president here.”
“I do not understand,” Songolo whispered.
“He does not understand.” The sergeant turned to share the revelation with his men. “The great man from Leo does not understand. The great men from Leo seldom understand. What is your tribe, great man from Leo?”
“I am of the Bakongo tribe.”
“Ah. a great man of the great Bakongo tribe from the great city of Leo!” Alphonse Mpolo. Remy Okito. Grégoire Ilunga, and Emile Kwange howled with laughter. "Well, perhaps you can understand this. We have a new president here, a president of our own. Perhaps our president will make an alliance with President Gizenga of Orientale or President Tshombe of Katanga or President Kalonji of Kasai. Your president what’s-his-name means nothing here. O great man of the great Bakongo from the great city of Leo.”
There was another appreciative burst of laughter from the sergeant’s four subordinates. Remy Okito seized the opportunity to take a long swig from the canteen. "Long live the president of Mgonga!” he cried.
"You have attacked one of our sentries!” The sergeant had been enjoying himself so much that the temperature of his blood had dropped and he had almost lost track of his purpose. It was necessary to recover his rage. “You have committed treason,” he accused.
"We did not harm him.”
The sergeant, striving still for the return of his anger, struck Songolo twice with his fist, and then pulled him erect as he was about to sink to the ground.
“That old chief there. What of him? We
have met men from his village. We have met his hunters. They are here behind us now in the trees and they have told us all. Why did you seize this Gombe chief and take him from his tribe?
“Why, great man of the Bakongo, did you take the Gombe chief from his people?”
“It is well known,” Songolo said, “that the Bakongo and the Gombe are friends. We have not harmed the chief. We took him away because—because it could not be avoided.” Songolo lowered his head and allowed a mouthful of blood and a fragment of broken tooth to dribble down his chin. “It could not be avoided.”
“For God’s sake!” Sierra implored him again from across the clearing. “Stop apologizing. Accuse him of something. Threaten him with something!”
But Songolo was sealed in a Kafkalike vacuum cell, where the only other presence was the looming sergeant and no sound could penetrate from the outer world. The sergeant went on stoking his rage while his friends encouraged him with chuckles and little cries of admiration and anger.
“You like well the Belgians, great man of the Bakongo from the great city of Leo?”
“I have accepted help from the Belgians only in order to help our own people.” It was a simple sentence, proffered i.i a low and reasonable voice, and even as he spoke it Songolo realized its lack of relevance or effect. If only there had been time to discuss the matter properly with the Spaniard. to explain properly and exhaustively that it was not just snobbishness or ambition and certainly not a desire to change his skin. He did not like to take his leave of the Spaniard while the Spaniard held a wrong impression.
Where was the Spaniard now? He had gone to find the pirogue. No—more than that—he had found the pirogue and they were all on the way to the other side of the river, all but him. In the heat and the crashing of reeds and vines and bullets and shouts the Spaniard and all else had melted away, leaving him here alone with his own blood upon his face and guns glaring all around. Where was the village now, where his father and his bent mother, where the glowing fire in the compound and all the children ringed around it to hear the nighttime stories? There seemed to be nothing left at all.
“Sale espion!" The sergeant took a step forward, seized his carbine by the barrel, and struck Songolo to the ground.
It was a very heavy blow and at first Songolo did not think he would trouble to get up. But it spun him around and on his way to the earth he saw. tossing in a billowing yellow glare, the faces of the Spaniard and, a little apart, the doctor, the nurse, and the Belgian. Which was the hallucination, their desertion of him or their continued presence, he w-as not certain. He pushed himself to one knee and then, weakly, to his feet.
“There were three white men with me and a w'hite w'oman,” he gasped into the stone executioner’s mask. “They are all good Beiges not even real Beiges except the one and he’s not Flemish no not Flemish the bad ones are all Flemish but there are no Flemish here any bad that has been done tonight done today was done by me not them if you find them send them away in peace they have done much good for the Congo much much good—”
“I sentence you to death!”
“—much much good—”
“Shoot him, Grégoire and Fmile,” the sergeant commanded.
“—you must send them back you must take them back they have done much much—”
Even at such short range the aim of
Grégoire Iliinga and Emile Kwangc was ! faulty. It took a dozen shots, including | four for good measure, before they could ( be satisfied.
At the sergeant's signal they pointed ( their weapons now at the four white ! people.
Sierra strode across the clearing. It was | only a few paces, but the Spaniard made | each one a kind of parade, slow and j measured and solemn. His face was crust| ed with his dried blood and he was still j! unclothed except for his scarlet underwear | shorts. He was not a big man, much shorter | than Songolo and less bulky than the serI géant, but his muscles were clean and hard | under his brown skin and his gaze held firm upon the sergeant’s, wasting not the | slightest fragment of his attention on any | of the live cocked guns, lie might have j been Achilles striding fully armed and | fully armored before the besieged anil luck| less walls of I toy. He had thrown away | the knife.
He stopped a few feet away. ' I arrest | you in the name of the United Nations!” , he said imperiously, in french.
The sergeant blinked.
“I arrest you for the murder of Edición Songolo of Leopoldville. Minister of Health in the Congolese Republican Government. I also arrest you for threatening homicide against Jacques Charlrand ol Ngubdja, rancher; against Mary Kelvin of ( añada, nurse of the ( anadian Red Cross; against Richard Grant of Canada, doctor of the Canadian Red Cross and against Ramón Sierra of New York, senior representative in the Province of Equateur of the United Nations Organization in the Congo. Ramón Sierra.” he added, “is me.
I am Ramón Sierra."
Sierra held the sergeant's perplexed and startled eyes, but made no attempt to draw closer. He could feel the uneasy stirring of the other four soldiers, all waiting for their signal, but he continued to stare straight at the man directly before him.
“You have comprehended what I said?” he asked. “Do you comprehend the French?"
“1 comprehend very w'eli the French.” The sergeant was a little haughty, a little sullen, and. for the moment, thrown quite i off balance.
"Then you will have no trouble in com; prehending what I shall tell you now'. Put I down your gun, turn your back to me, j and raise your hands. Instruct your com| rades to do the same.”
With an effort the sergeant tore his eyes j away for a reassuring glance at his 1 gun. But Sierra's swift words drew him f back.
“Put down your gun.”
“You are a spy." the sergeant said dogj gedly. but it was plain the remark was j mainly for his own comfort and reassurj anee.
"If you do not obey me at once.” Sierra | said, "von mav find it difficult to obtain ! clemency.
“Clemency.” the sergeant asked suspic| iouslv. “What is clemency?”
“Prison instead of death!” Sierra said. | Achilles calling a fearful ultimatum to j the trembling towers.
“You are not from OIICC!" the sergeant ¡ assured himself, but it was still more an | expression of shaken hope than of convieI lion. “You are a spy like that other one. I And if you are from Once it is not your 1 right to take away our guns. Once took | away our guns before and was made to ! give them back." The sergeant waited for f some encouragement, but his r..en were 1 distressingly quiet. Again his rage had deI serted him and again he sought to recover | it. "You are all spies and saboteurs and enemies of the Congo.” he tried again, but | the words were limp and tepid, without J sinew or heat.
1 have five hundred men at Coq." Sierra told him coldly. “1 have two hundred men at Libenge. 1 have twelve machine guns at Boende. I have a full battalion of Gurkhas armed with their Gurkha pangas at Lisala. The Gurkha panga is a qiecial panga from India: it is said to be far more terrible than any African panga. If m\ companions and I are not delivered safely to the airport at Ngubdja within six hours all these troops will begin to march at once."
"That cannot be." the sergeant said uneasily.
"It can be and is," Sierra went on bluffing. "1 left messages behind. What is more — " he added on the spur of inspiration, "this man you have slain was a high officer of the Congolese Republic. You mocked him as a great man from Leo. Unfortunately for you. you were right. Do you think the other great men from Leo will leave him forgotten here for the hyena and the vulture?”
“They would not know who to seek." the sergeant said anxiously. "They do not even know my name. You do not even know my name."
"They all know your name!” Chartrand's voice, prompting instantly from the far side of the clearing, borrowed some of Sierra's resonant omniscience. "Your name is Albert Tshibangu."
The sergeant’s face fell and the muzzle of his gun drooped momentarily.
“No." he protested. "My name is Nkosi."
"Your name." Chartrand said, “is Albert Tshibangu. You once worked on my ranch and that is why 1 know your name is Albert Tshibangu. Your name is already known to the Once commanders in Coq. Libenge. Boende, and Lisala. It will soon be known to all the commanders of the Congolese army, in every corner of Equateur. in all of Orientale, in Kivu and Katanga. in Leopoldville itself, in Kasai. Already you have no refuge, no hope but the hope of clemency. Surrender to the man from Once. Albert Tshibangu."
"No." The sergeant appealed mutely to his silent men once more. "My name is Nkosi."
"Well, Nkosi" Sierra said with solemn wrath. "Get those guns on the ground or your roar will not reach tomorrow's sunrise."
The sergeant turned again to his men. but their confidence had been shaken more severely than his own. Emile Kwange. who also had a little French, offered a suggestion. "Let us hear more about this clemency, sergeant.”
"Nkosi!" Alphonse Mpolo hissed loyally.
"Let us hear more about the clemency. Nkosi." Emile Kwange corrected himself.
"It can do no harm to listen for a moment, Nkosi." Grégoire Ilunga added.
“Perhaps you are right." the sergeant granted. "We must give all a proper hearing."
Sierra said nothing. A trickle of blood ran from his forehead across one eyelid. He made no attempt to brush it away, but kept his eyes riveted on the last traces of the sergeant's disintegrating scowl.
"What do you propose?" the sergeant asked nervously.
"I can propose nothing until you put down your guns.”
The sergeant pondered a moment. "Very well.” he said in his most commanding tone. “We will put down our guns, but only while we confer with you. We will not turn our backs, however.”
Sierra pretended to think.
“You drive a hard bargain. Nkosi." he said doubtfully.
"It is my duty.” the sergeant said. “I have the honor and safety of my men to consider.”
“To apply for clemency it is usually necessary to submit completely to arrest.”
‘‘Nkosi does not submit.” the sergeant ventured.
"Then,” Sierra said with what passed for reluctant admiration, "I shall have to yield to you on the point of giving your guns to me.”
The sergeant turned to his followers again, beaming in triumph. "It is agreed then. Nkosi," Sierra said. “Put your guns on the ground and we shall discuss as man to man whether it may be possible to spare your lives.”
In that instant, with the last remnants of the sergeant’s will dissolving, with the muzzle of his gun already lowered. Sierra heard a warning shout from Chartrand. "God damn it.” he thought angrily, "he'll smash the whole thing!” Any sign of movement or flinching on his part now and the spell would be gone. He did not move a muscle.
He heard Chartrand shout again, but still he remained as still as a statue, waiting for the sergeant to lower his gun all the way to the ground. And then, in a sudden blaze and roar his head exploded like a shrapnel burst in the black of night.
He felt the hot earth against his mouth, put his hands on the ground, and lifted his head and shook it slowly from side to side. The first deep roaring in his ears was reinforced by a shrill, horrifying familiar
screeching. Towering above him like a tattered gray-black skeleton was the old woman of the pirogue, raising her pole to strike him another blow. She was shrieking in wild, malevolent ecstasy and dancing around him on the toelcss stumps of her feet. She brought the pole hurtling down toward his head. He warded it off with one flung arm. but the blow flattened him once more. The old woman was now flinging obscenities at them all. at Sierra and the soldiers alike.
“Have no fear, you stinking jackal!” she squalled at the sergeant. “Go and hide among the dung heaps! 1 will save you!”
Sierra floundered to one knee and grabbed the pole away from her. She tottered backward, her black knoo-ended legs jabbing stiffly at the ground like upside-down blackthorn walking sticks.
He began to pull himself erect: it was a slow business, for one shoulder was broken and his left arm would not move and orange petals were lashing furiously to escape from some black cavern between his temples. He searched again for the sergeant’s eyes, seeking instinctively to reassert his authority and recreate his aura of power and menace. But the sergeant had raised the muzzle of his gu.n again and tts Sierra lifted his head that was as far as he got and as much as he saw.
He fell across the body of Felicien Songolo. His good arm came to rest across Songolo's thin, still shoulders.
Now THAT IT WAS DONK. the brief misgivings of Emile Kwango and Grégoire ilunga were at tin end. “O Sergeant.” Emile cried devotedly, "that is better than to confer.”
"His name is truly Nkosi!" Alphonse Mpolo’s shout of jubilation brought a sharp glance from the sergeant. "His name was always Nkosi," Mpolo elaborated has-
tily. “Now it is Nkosi even more than ever.”
Alphonse Mpolo called into the trees behind them. "Come and hail the lion!” he cried. "Come, warriors, and hail the lion!”
The trees parted and. one by one, a dozen bowmen and spearmen glided into the clearing. They went straight across to where the old chief stood apart, not quite certain what to do. "You are well, O father?” one of the younger warriors asked him.
"1 am well,” he replied, somewhat aloofly.
"There are still the other three,” Alphonse Mpolo reminded the sergeant. "Shall we dispose of them no’?”
"Wait,” the sergeant said. "1 must think.” "Silence!” Mpolo commanded the chattering warriors.
"No," the sergeant said after a while, "we will not dispose of them as yet.”
The old chief had been listening. "Give me the men,” he pleaded. "Keep the woman for yourself. Nkosi. But give me the men for my village."
The sergeant reflected.
"Give me at least one of the men. There will be a great celebration in my village tonight because of the escape of the chief. But what is a celebration without a captive? In the old days it demanded at least three. And I have seen as many as ten. Ah. but you are from a village, you are of us also. This you know already. Nkosi. Give me one captive for my village.”
"It is to be regretted.” the sergeant decreed at length. "But I cannot. I may need them for hostages. It may be that the spy from Once was not lying altogether. T here may be hostile soldiers coming soon. If they should come you will be better not to have had a captive. I will be better for having them, the more the better."
The chief shrugged in disappointment and led his warriors away through the trees.
When Songolo had first .gone forward to face the ring of guns alone, Grant had turned Mary away. Her back was still toward the sergeant when he strode across and spoke to Chartrand.
"So you know my name?” he said.
"Yes. Do you not remember working on my ranch?”
"I work for no Be lye. What is my name?”
The sergeant struck him backhanded across the mouth.
"My name is Nkosi. Say it! Say it now!” “All right.” Chartrand said wearily. “Your name is Nkosi."
The sergeant pointed to the opposite side of the clearing. "Do you know her?” he asked. Chartrand gave a start of relief and pleasure at the sight of Astrid Mahamba, standing shyly at the border of the trees dressed only in the shadows but apparently unhurt.
"I know her,” Chartrand said.
"Too well, monsieur," the sergeant said portentously.
“She has told me everything.” the sergeant said. "Everything. You forced her to accompany you. Do you deny it?”
“Of what use to deny?”
“You know there are penalties now?” The sergeant struck Chartrand again across the mouth. "You know you can no longer take our women at your will?"
"Yes.” Chartrand said diffidently.
The sergeant thrust the muzzle of his gun against Chartrand’s chest.
“Have you anything to say before I shoot you?”
“Would you not like some of this magical clemency your friend was speaking
of?” the sergeant asked sarcastically.
“If you wish to give it to me 1 will accept it.”
“But you will not ask for it?”
“No. 1 will not ask for it.”
“Did you overhear the request of the chief just now? Did you hear him ask to have you for his prisoner? Did you hear him ask to have you for his village, for the celebration in his village?”
“You have lived long in the Congo?” “Very long.”
“Then you know about the nature of
the celebrations. It is not too late for me to reconsider the request of the chief. His village is only a few kilometers away.” Chartrand shrugged again.
The sergeant turned away in disgust. “Perhaps before the day is over you too will reconsider. Put the white woman on the stretcher. You take one front end. Tell the other Beige to take the end beside you. My men will attend to the other two. Emile! Remy! Here! Alphonse, you and Grégoire fall in behind.”
"jXko.sl.1'' If there was irony in Chartrand’s voice it was too slight to be detected.
“You have something to say now? Something perhaps to request?”
“Yes. Only I am a Beige. You know the other two are from the hospital. I wish to remind you that they are not true Beiges. They are from a far-off country called Canada. They have taken nothing from the Congo and they want nothing from the Congo. They have come here only to heal the sick. And the doctor did not molest the Gombe girl.”
“They have given a refuge to spies. They have conspired with the enemies of the people.”
“Silence!” the sergeant shouted. “Put the woman on the stretcher.”
As they moved off into the pathway to the road, the sergeant summoned Astrid Mahamba with his hand and she fell in beside him. She turned her head to exchange a glance with Chartrand, but caught the sergeant frowning at her. She gave the sergeant a timid smile and went on beside him with her eyes straight ahead.
The sergeant stopped in a moment to let the litter pass, and then fell in beside his chief adviser and confidant, Alphonse Mpolo. Their brief conversation was not in Lingala or Ngombe. but in a mixture of Sudanese dialects. They spoke at a normal conversational level, obviously not expecting to be understood by anyone but each other and not caring greatly if they were.
Grant’s bad ankle had gone almost numb and he was faring a little belter with it. There seemed to be no prohibition against their talking between each other and after the sergeant had hurried past again to join Astrid Mahamba at the head of the procession, he asked Chartrand in English. “Did you get any of that?”
Chartrand turned his head toward the litter with a quizzical expression on his dark stubbed face. Mary was lying still with her arms cradling her eyes and pressing against her ears. She might have been unconscious or she might have been trying to convince herself that she was unconscious.
“Nothing she hears will make it any worse or any better for her.” Elven he. Grant perceived, was being driven into some kind of shell by the horror of the night and morning; he might have been delivering a professional opinion and nothing more. Well, at least it was more useful than pity and not much of that remained anyway. What had been left over from the night lay with the African and the Spaniard, adorning their open dusty bier as foolishly as an undertaker’s flowers.
“Why,” he spoke aloud, but the question was meant only for himself, “couldn't one of us have grabbed the old woman from the canoe before she reached him?”
“I’ve been asking myself the same thing.” Chartrand had taken only one small sip of their now vanished supply of water during the long night and morning and his tongue was growing thick and abrasive against the roof of his mouth. But the urge to talk had come upon him again. “Inertia, perhaps,” he speculated. “Fatigue, stupidity, shock, the instinct to survive, an oldfashioned lack of valor. I wonder too, but I don’t blame myself, nor should you. It could have done no good. One move by either of us in their direction and all their guns would have gone off in all directions and the tribesmen would have been upon us too.”
“Don’t you think you’d better tell me what the soldiers were talking about?” Grant panted.
“1 was sorry to discover,” Chartrand went on in his almost flawless English, “that he didn’t like me. Or. just as accurately I suppose, I didn’t like him. Everybody out here is so damnably jealous of his rights and—what do you say, prerogatives and prejudices?—the UN, the Beige, the évolué, everybody from the hungriest cannibal to the fattest politician. I resented Sierra’s being here and he resented my being here. Songolo either had to go on being a nationalist or write himself off and write the glorious Independence off as either obsolete or a hoax. So he was obliged at least to pretend to resent Sierra as well as me. Well, God go with them. They’ve both paid their full share of I'aclciition and paid it without haggling.”
“What were the soldiers talking about?” Grant persisted.
“Still,” Chartrand went on, “they did
know what they were for and what they were against, at least in some vague and general way. There are some who have lacked even that consolation. Take, for example. the living anachronism, the good Beige. In the times of the Belgians, a good Beige in the eyes of the Belgians was by definition a bad Beige in the eyes of the Congolese and vice versa. A good Beige in Belgian terms kept the Africans in their place—off the sidewalks and out of the schools and that sort of thing. Left their women alone except when they could be had alone and in greatest secrecy.
“But conversely a good Beige in the eyes of the Africans was a bad Beige in the eyes of the Belgians. To encourage the barest and most distant thought of equality was to encourage revolt. It was very complicated until the matter was solved by declaring all Beiges to be all bad. from all points of view. We are anathema to the United Nations. We are anathema to the Congolese, all of. those except the handful who stayed behind to lead them in their tribal ars. It is an interesting and instructive experience, monsieur, to see oneself changed overnight from a demigod to an untouchable.”
“For Christ’s sake man! What did they
“Alt right.” Chartrand said. “If you see any chance at all to break aw'ay, take it. It will have to be writhin the next half hour.”
Grant limped to the inside of his pole, changing his grip on the move.
"All they’ve decided,” Chartrand said, “is to finish it without witnesses. They’re getting scared now that the drinks are running low. It’s their notion that if they can finish us quietly and get rid of the evidence they can say. if they’re caught, that they’ve got us holed up alive somewhere in the jungle.”
Chartrand did not speak again for almost half a minute. When he did it was with a strange calm. “If by some miracle one of us could get away it would at least confuse them for a while. It might help her and it could not possibly do her any harm.”
“Have you any ideas?” Grant said slowly-
“F.ven if it looks no better than a thousand to one”—Chartrand urged again— “take it. I intend to do the same. If one of us is at liberty they’ll think twice about what to do with the other two.”
They had been on the road for two or three minutes and now they were beside fhe two ANC jeeps. The sergeant directed (he two white men to help Mary into the front seat of the first of them. Then, with the help of his carbine, he nudged them to one of the facing rear seats. The soldier he called Grégoire got in behind the wheel and the one he called Alphonse sat on the seat opposite the two men with his gun cocked and aimed across the narrow aisle at a point halfway between their chests.
The sergeant and the other two soldiers mounted the second jeep. The two vehicles turned around and moved slowly up the road, with the sergeant driving the one behind.
Grant was still absorbing, none too successfully. the shock of the killings. Mixed with his shock there was a wave of genuine sorrow. Not altogether selfless sorrow, however, for with it went a great sense of his own deprivation. When they left the hospital, he remembered, he had been assuring himself that his involvement was only accidental, temporary, and superficial. He was merely being prudent, largely on Mary’s behalf. He had half expected to be back in the wards by now. In this passionate but weary !and. he had learned, human rage erupted and subsided as
suddenly as the cymbal clashes of dawn and dark. It spent itself as swiftly as all things spent themselves here, sometimes as swiftly as a life; one moment a raging fever, the next a sigh of total exhaustion and abandonment.
By now he might have been in his dark and steamy little office, writing a stiffish report to Toronto, w'ith a carbon copy to Geneva, about the continuing shortage of medical supplies and now' this fresh example of the total lack of security.
"Needless to say." he would have written, "I intend to finish my own tour of
duty. But unless the hospital can be guaranteed at least some minimal protection against the vagaries of the tribal population and the undisciplined Congolese National Army, I shall have to insist that my female nurse. Miss Mary Kelvin, return to Leopoldville at once.”
Even when the unusual durability of this new nightmare had first begun to be apparent. he had fallen unconsciously into the role of a concerned onlooker rather than a direct participant. For him and his nurse this queer violent and essentially insane country—and above all their own
entanglement with it—ended at the edges of the hospital compound. Up to the last he had expected the intruders to come to their senses and go away, as they had done before, and allow him to return and carry on his work.
Allow the others, the UN man. the government man and the Belgian, to go back anti carry on their work too, of course, and it he could be of any help in arranging this, ordinary humanity would compel him to do everything he could. But they were men of politics, of business, and to a degree of war. and their affairs had noth-
ing to do with his affairs, which were the affairs of medicine. And come whatever violence, in whatever mad unbridled forms, he and Mary would still be granted their immunity under the Red Cross. The Croix Rouge was far older, even in the villages deep in the bush, than all these new conflicts and confusions. It was above and apart from them all, and even in madness or in drink, the natives could not for long mistake or forget the nature of its errands.
Grant realized now that, without consciously meaning to, he had been coasting on Sierra’s courage and ingenuity—doing so. moreover, with the thought half-buried in the back of his mind that if Sierra failed there was a special private escape-hatch still open to him and Mary. In mourning Sierra — and less profoundly, Songolo — was he mourning the loss of a great and indomitable man or the loss of a bodyguard? 'The answer would have to be postponed. He was in charge of his own fate now, he and he alone, and he made a less reassuring bodyguard than the Spaniard had made. A thousand to one would be good odds to take, Chartrand had said.
The sergeant kept less than fifty yards behind, with Astrid Mahamba—the last tribute and apology Grant could offer her was the courtesy of her full name-—upright on the other front scat. The two remaining soldiers were tense and eager on the two rear seats, their guns across their knees and their eyes gleaming with anticipation.
By God. he thought, they are just down from the trees. What an incredible joke they’ve played on all us do-gooders and come-to-Christers and eggheads and mission-banders and bleeding hearts and Godsees-the-little-sparrow-fallcrs!
And let’s not have that bleeding-heart apology about old King Leo and the Yankee blackbirders. 1 never cut off anybody’s hands, not even on an operating table. Mary never cut off any hands. F.vcn this
half-crazy Belgian never cut off any hands. None of us ever ran a slave ship out of the river mouth into New Orleans. We’ve I all tried a little bit to repair the sins of the 1 past, sins not our own, and here’s how our grateful black brothers reply.
The black brothers have just killed : Sierra, a good, brave man, for trying to lend his services to the brotherhood. They’ve killed Songolo, another good, brave man for trying to rise above their : chapter of the brotherhood and lift the chapter with him. Of the six of us who left the town last night the only one who’ll get back is Astrid Mahamba and that’s only because of the happy coincidence that she is both black and a desirable possession.
1 wonder if they’ll find Mary a desirable , possession too? It won’t matter in the long run because she’s white and too dangerous a witness to allow to stay alive.
They had not passed a village for three or four miles. He would have to make his move very soon or never.
The river side of the road was at his back. He did not dare turn to look at it lest the movement set off a reflex in the trigger finger of the nervous soldier sitting opposite him and Chartrand. But he guessed there would still be a strip of reeds and a narrow roadside ditch between them and the river. He peered ahead for the crossroad he knew could not be more than a kilometer or so away.
"The second we’re past the crossroad.” he said softly to Chartrand. “I’m going to kick this black bastard’s gun upward. You grab it and I’ll go for the driver.”
For a moment he seemed to be at the eye of a mirage of which he himself was a part. The sun was straight above, an enemy bomb-sight dead on its target. Over one shoulder he could see the road ahead, quivering torpidly like a mortally wounded brown snake. The jeep behind floated weightlessly on land half-turned to liquid.
He turned his head a safe sixty degrees.
watching still for the crossroad. His mind had settled on it as a crucial place, a punctuation point just because it was the one road they had traveled before, the road that led back. The convoy was traveling very slowly, as though even the vehicles were taking some inanimate pleasure in the deed ahead, and when Grant first saw the wider clearing at the top of the crossroad there were still a few seconds to think.
A few seconds to think and a few seconds to live. He pressed his toes against his disert boots to make sure the sudden access of weakness had not paralyzed his legs. For now his ankle did not matter. It was his legs, it was the first lunging kick at the gun barrel three feet from his chest that must decide whether he would die fighting or be slaughtered like a dumb animal.
He felt Chartrand stiffen beside him. He drew a quick, long breath.
Then, in a bewildering instant of fission, the whole mirage exploded. The jeep slammed to a hait. The carbine that had been staring at him and Chartrand for the last half hour clattered abruptly to the floor of the jeep. The soldier who had held it threw his arms above his head so swiftly and violently that they cracked against the cmvas canopy like the snap of a bull whip.
Almost before he had finished his furious braking the driver leaped into the roadside, his hands up too. his startled redwhite eyes full of dismay and disbelief. From behind, in the vicinity of the second jeep, there was one short burst of Sten gun fire, mixed with a tumult of cries and oaths above which rose a single commanding bellow. “Stand fast everywhere! Silence everywhere!” Then utter stillness all around.
It happened with such speed—not. strictly speaking, in sequence but all at once— that only now did Grant exhale the last of the long deep-diver’s breath he had taken before it began.
The first thing he saw clearly was a picket fence of African soldiers in the Casque Bleu of the United Nations. Some were kneeling at the edge of the trees between the road and the river and some were standing with their legs spread wide apart and diagonally, for balance and ready movement. All had submachine guns pointed straight at one or other of the two jeeps.
His eyes swept down the menacing line again. At one side of the jeep behind, the soldier he had heard them call Remy lay face down in the roadway, his carbine clutched at the end of one outstretched arm. Behind the jeep, ringed by half a dozen Casques Bleus, the sergeant and the other Congolese soldier stood with their arms held high while another Casque Bleu went over their web equipment and through their pockets. Astrid Mahamba was leaning against the hood of the jeep, doing something with her hair.
Grant freed a trembling but fully conscious Mary from an entanglement of clutch pedals and gear levers. Just as they were about to dismount, a blue beret thrust itself into the entrance beside them.
It was supported by a pair of blue eyes, a bad case of sunburn and a sweeping bleached mustache that could only have belonged to an English officer between the ranks of lieutenant and full colonel.
“Dr. Grant I presume?” the presence beneath the beret boomed. “Haw! Got you there, what? Only defense against a bad joke is to tell it yourself before the other blighter can; Been practising this one since dawn. How-do-you-do Miss Kelvin. You all right? No need to be baffled. We had your nominal roll in apple-pie order at four o’clock this morning. That’s one thing about good old Onee. The minute it gets eight feet away from the Royate it gets
lost or beaten up. But on paper work it’s right up there with the chaps at Whitehall.”
He got into the vacant driver's seat and piloted their jeep toward the crossroad. "I'm Major Michael Chesterton, late Coldstream Guards, now Fourth Nigerians. Those were my boys you saw back on the other road.”
Without interrupting himself he signaled to the driver awaiting them beside a Land Rover at the crossroad.
“Sandwiches in a jiffy. Just ham and cheese, I'm afraid.” The major’s monologue rumbled agreeably on. “Shouldn’t be
too flattered if I were you. Haw! It was those other two poor blokes we were really sent to get. Chap you really owe our timely and dramatic et cetera to is that nurse fellow back at the hospital. Junius or Jules. Good man. The minute you took off and these Congo blighters after you this Junius or Jules bustled down to the airport and got the Beige dispatcher to get a signal through to Coq and on to Leo. It was you that your Junius or Jules was worried about, but the dispatcher fortunately knew which side was up and when the signal got back to Leo it read something like.
'Felicien Songolo, Ramón Sierra and three European civilians in imminent danger capture and death by ANC detachment at Ngubdja. Party believed fleeing toward Ubangi River and French Congo but little chance survival without immediate help.’ ”
Grant broke in at last. "We couldn't have some water., could we?” he asked weakly.
"Of course, of course, how stupid of me.” the major apologized. The driver appeared with a clay jug and a single tin cup. "Just one round for now.” the major said, as he handed the first cupful to Mary.
“As 1 was saying, if it had only been Mr. Sierra and three white civilians the Congo government would probably have made the appropriate noises, but if precedent means anything nothing much would have happened. Ant) if it had only been Songolo and three white civilians the UN would have started firing off protests e-'ery hour on the hour and getting nowhere. But with one each of their biggest brass in the same bag the Leo government and the UN for once saw dead eye to eye and. even more miraculously, got going in step. I understand Songolo wasn't too popular with the
president—a bit too popular with certain other people. But casual homicide seems suddenly to have become non-u out here. All liquidations of important persons are supposed to go through channels. Can’t have just anybody chopping up the cabinet ministers; gives murder a bad name anti plays the very devil with the system of political patronage. Haw!”
The major proffered a pocket flask of brandy. There were no takers.
He took a sip himself and went on. “Your nurse-chap’s message reached Leo at twenty-thirty-seven hours last night. There were
frantic meetings and alarums on the instant; never heard of anything moving so fast this side of Gib. I got my marching orders at o-one-o (thank God it was one of my nondrinking nights). By o-two-o the UN had whacked up two DC-3s. By o-three-o we were airborne. And at oseven-three-seven our wheels were down at Ngubdja. I know what happened to Sierra and Songolo, by the way. One of our patrols was there five minutes after you left. Miracles of wireless. That’s why we w'ere so sure of meeting you here. Never get taken in by that rot about the
tom-toms. Wireless beats it every time.” “No questions then? Oh. one of my own. What about the dusky little maiden? Can’t seem to fit her into the picture. She one of theirs or one of ours?”
To spare Chartrand whatever embarrassment might have been involved in answering the question himself, Grant said: “One of ours. If she hadn’t been, your time would have been wasted.”
“Good,” the major said. “I’ll need the details later for the sextuplícate chaps at the Royale. Junius or Jules back at the hospital said there was a Congo gel with you when you went exploring. Wondered what had become of her. There was no mention of her in the briefing they gave me at Leo.”
“There wouldn’t have been,” Chartrand interjected. “They naturally wouldn’t think her worth counting.”
Astrid came down the road, shy iq her nakedness for the first time. Chartrand went to meet her. “You go ahead,” he said to the Nigerian soldier escorting her. I hey were just beyond earshot of the other jeep. In full view of the major and the major’s driver Chartrand kissed her on the forehead. “You are a good girl, Astrid Cleopatra Lolita Mahamba.”
“Yes,” she admitted demurely.
“You are a brave girl, Astrid.”
“It is too bad I am without clothing.” He peeled oil his long khaki bush shirt and put it around her. She gave a small happy chuckle, thrust her hands deep into the two lower pockets, and made a half pirouette. “See how it becomes me!” she cried. She smiled in mock boastfulness. “Now it is I who am monsieur le chef, monsieur le boss, monsieur le roi de tousles Belges.”
“They molested you, no doubt?” Chartrand’s tone was grave and honestly solicitous and to his faint surprise rather jealous. “Yes.”
“You are injured?”
She frowned slightly, not certain whether to take the question as an insult or a compliment. “No, I do not think so.” "Then,” he consoled her, “we shall forget it.”
“Yes, we shall forget it.”
“It shall be as though it had never happened.”
“It shall be,” she agreed dreamily, “as though it had never happened.”
GRANT, MARY, CHARTRAND, AND ASTRID rode
back to the town in the Land Rover with the major and his driver.
Only Chartrand seemed unable to share the balm of exhaustion and release. He let his head rest against the back of the seat and stared stonily at the roof of the car trying to reflect on what, if anything, the last twenty hours had meant in the life of Jacques Chartrand, rancher, of Ngubdja. District of Ubangi, Province of Equateur. Republic of the Congo. And. just as painfully, what it had meant in the life of Jacques Chartrand, late of Tournai, Province of Hainaut, Kingdom of Belgium. Nothing, less than nothing; worse than nothing.
For each of the others—even for Astrid, he sensed — some transition had taken place. Each of them had reached or perceived some kind of an ending. Sierra and Songolo had gone through the last doorway and knew at last what lay beyond.
1 he doctor and the nurse had been turned back at the threshold, but the trail they would now retrace was firmly blazed. They had another world to return to. another life to resume, a place of decent and respectful burial for these raw, stark, brutal memories.
For him there were no blaze marks pointing the way back, no Iresh signposts pointing the way ahead. His heart, his fortune, his youth, his very life were irretriev-
ably committed to this land. He could not leave it—leave for what? His father-inlaw had a barely solvent little restaurant just off the Boulevard du Nord and might find employment for a fifty-year-old waiter. He pursued this line of dismal speculation no further. Since the Independence he had been reviling as cowards and quitters all his old neighbors who had fled to the safety of the old country; they would be as delighted to see him and remind him as would be his prim and righteous, bloodless wife.
No. he could not leave and yet only a blind man could fail to see how nearly impossible it had become to stay. He had failed as a god and failed as a devil and his life stretched out like a dark tunnel, twisting endlessly, but without either an entrance or an exit.
She might have heard him cry out, for Astrid Mahamba. drowsing at his side, stirred a little and whispered, "Mbote."
The hot afternoon was in its last throes. Soon the sun dropped out of sight like a bronze millstone and the headlights carved an eerie channel through the darkness. In the faint reflection from the dash light the African girl looked at Chartrand’s face. There had been no sign of age on it before; as the lives and lifetimes of her people went he would have been accounted young in appearance, but very old in years. Now. with the troubles newly behind and — who could be certain? — the others waiting newly ahead, his youth and confidence seemed suddenly to have departed. "Mbote," she murmured, but he did not hear.
Her eyes moved to the jeep a few yards ahead, where Sergeant Albert Tshibangu sat handcuffed in the back seat beneath the Sten gun of a Nigerian infantryman. She could see only the shape and general aspect of his head, which was bent and brooding. Without volition her mind filled with a traditional death lament. Albert, Albert, ok ende tnalanut, bisu tokolanda, yo na nsinui. Albert, Albert, go ahead, it is well. We w'ill follow you later. Liwa ezali mpo na biso banso. Death is to be for all of us.
Ah, a cruel man. A cruel Gombe man. A cruel Gombe man who cared nothing for a woman but to grasp her with his mighty arms and have his way with her anti then cast her aside or not, whichever he chose. A foolish cruel man. cruel and foolish enough to shoot down a great chief from Leopoldville and a great chief from Once all in the passing of a few swift moments. Foolish enough to set himself above the white protector of Astrid Cleopatra Lolita Mahamba, above Monsieur le chef, monsieur le boss, monsieur le roi de tous les Belges. To set himself above Monsieur le Docteur of the very Croix Rouge and have his woman too, if so it pleased him. Okende tnalanut, bustt tokolanda yo na nsima.
The others, the white ones, were not cruel and foolish. They did not throw you to the ground; they whispered and touched you eagerly but gently and gave you money. They did not shoot or spear their enemies or cut them up with knives and cries of joy and thanksgiving; they talked softly with them and gave them presents.
Ah well, it w'ould not always be so confusing. Tonight she would rest and tomorrow night she would be in the Huropean block of the town again, safe in the Hotel Prince Baudouin and it would be the same as before. A few white men would be playing cards, noisily, on the terrace. Ti e gramophone inside the little bar and dining room would be playing French chacha-cha even more noisily. Inside the front door the same colored posters would tell of the same motion pictures to be seen across the road: Houdini avec Janet Leigh; Tant Qu'il y Aura des Hommes avec Burt
Lancaster, Montgomery Clift. Frank Sinatra et Donna Reed. The paddle-bladed electric fan would still labor against the still night air. The Philco refrigerator w'ould groan in spasms, never resting, never winning. On the wall above, an American cowgirl on a palomino horse would guard the days of the year and bid all good Congolese to buy McQuay LeakProof Piston Rings.
She would sit beside Monsieur Chartrand for a while to bring him luck. If she succeeded he would buy her a Campari or a Cinzano and. if she succeeded very w'ell.
perhaps a Vat 69. She thought again about the cruel sergeant, w'ho had struck Monsieur Chartrand with his fist and made him say “Nkosi!" and could have killed him had he wished, killed him as an insect is killed. She thought about the overpowering. wicked sergeant, who had taken her not with whispers and an arm about her neck, but with a wild cry and a hand of steel upon her throat.
She turned once more to the slumped Belgian. "Mbote," she said again in her softest voice, trying to rekindle her affection and faint awe of him. But her mind
would not expel the cruel Gombe sergeant.
It was wholly dark w'hen they reached Chartrand’s ranch. Astrid accepted his hand and w'ent part of the way to the house with him. But first she asked the major. “Will you wait a moment, monsieur. if you please?"
She stopped the rancher under one of the palm trees in the front yard.
“I shall not remain,’’ she said.
“I thought as much.’’ His voice was full of sadness, but without surprise. Then he added, impulsively but hopelessly. “Ast-
rid, do you understand why it was never possible for me to say ‘Je t'aime'?”
“It would not have been suitable.” There was no mockery or bitterness in her voice, only an echo of her own sorrow.
“Did he,” he asked, looking toward the jeep that held the manacled sergeant, “did he say 'Je t'aime'?”
“That is not our way,” she said. “If it had been our way he would have.”
“But it's our way and I didn’t. Astrid, you’re not very understanding after all.” “I fear not. But I must go on.” “Where?” he asked.
“I shall go back to his village.”
“You will never see him again.” "Perhaps not. I shall go back to his village and wait until there is some last news.”
“There will be no news. If there is it will be bad.”
"I heard the talk of clemency.”
“There will be no clemency. It was talk.”
“I must wait,” she said.
“But where will you live?”
“Why,” she said, showing surprise at his questions for the first time, “I will live with his other wives.”
“His other wives?”
“Yes. He made me his wife also. I must go and await him with his other wives.”
Chartrand put his hand against her for the last time. “Then ait 'voir Astrid.”
“An 'voir.” She repeated the farewell more tenderly in Lingaia, in the memory and hope of better times. “Otikala malam a.”
”Kenda malamu.” Chartrand walked to the door of his darkened home.
AT THE HOSPITAL Jules, the head nurse, greeted them with tears of happiness and relief. His nerves had suffered as badly as anyone’s. The major found the brandy again and the cook produced some leftover moambe and a fresh pineapple. Mary awakened overbright and too animated. After she had eaten and taken two more pills the two elderly nuns from maternity came and helped her back to bed.
“I’m off for now too,” the major boomed in his train-announcer’s voice. “My sergeant has the men billeted in the schoolhouse. I’m going to collapse for the night at the hotel. Don’t fret, can’t fly tonight anyway. Long trip tomorrow though, and we’ll have to stop a couple of hours at Coq. So if we’re to make Leo by night we should be mobile tennish.”
The major left the heel of the bottle behind and Grant invited Jules to his room for a nightcap. He had never had much real contact with Jules, and now discovering himself so heavily in debt to him he felt singularly awkward. A day before Jules had been one of the appurtenances —not to put too fine an edge upon it, one of the afflictions -— of a place crammed and dank and reeking with things that didn’t quite work. Sentiment and gratitude could never release Jules from the dismal truths of his dismal life. He was the best of the native nurses, but he was not a very good one. He was badly trained, he had only the vaguest understanding of the importance of hygiene, he was perfectly capable, in moments of emergency and strain, of falling back on the dogma of the witch doctors. Where, though, did his native, bred-in ignorance and superstition leave off? When could he plead nothing worse than old-fashioned Western-style slowness and incompetence?
They both unbent with the brandy. Jules’ French was no w'orse than Grant’s, so there was no insuperable barrier to communication, or rather to its pretense. “That was a great thing.” Grant said, hating his pomposity, but not knowing how to do
it better. “It was the sort of thing my people give medals for and build monuments to.”
Jules said, “You are leaving then, for certain?”
“For certain, Jules,” Grant said. “I can do nothing of any good here. Your people are not ready for us. Perhaps we are not ready for them.”
“It is possible,” Jules said.
Grant changed the subject. “How are things in the wards?”
"Not very well,” Jules said. “Since you have gone we have had five deaths. But fourteen new patients. So we aie still a little more than full.”
“Are any of them making any progress?” Grant asked, mostly in polite curiosity.
“Some of the wounds are starting to heal themselves. I hoped the planes that came in would bring some drugs and ether and oxygen but they had no time to lose. Monsieur le Docteur?”
"A very bad thing occurred last night, in the middle of the night, when you were away.” Jules’ worry plainly eclipsed the usual clinical worries.
“A man fell from a palm ti'ee. He fell on his machete. He broke his hip and his
leg and his arm and he was badly cut up inside. The four other nurses held him down while I tried to put casts on the breaks. I think I got the arm set, but the hip and the leg were too much for me. I did not have the skill. And I could do nothing for the bleeding inside. The man would not stop screaming. The administrator could not understand why I did not make him be quiet. When I said I had no drugs or ether, the administrator ordered me to put a gag on him. But his moaning through the gag had a more awful sound than before. The other patients began to wail and cry with him. And the people in the compounds gathered outside the wards too. 'They are torturing him!' his wives outside began to cry. 'The white doctor has gone and now the black doctor is making bad magic.’ This is what they cried and soon all were crying and shouting, inside the hospital as well as outside. In a few more minutes there would have been panic and then a great riot. I hurried to the administrator once more. Fie was more frightened than I was. 'Quiet this man,’ he ordered me. 'But how?’ I asked. 'Quiet him,’ he ordered again. So, Monsieur le Docteur,” Jules hesitated over the final declaration, “I quieted him.”
“You did right. Jules,” Grant said. “You did exactly what I'd have done.”
“Oh yes, monsieur,” Jules said. "But you are already a doctor. What of me? If this becomes known can I ever become a doctor?”
“Do you really want to be a doctor, Jules?” Grant asked.
“I have been here in the hospital for three years.” Jules said with unexpected impatience and determination. “Dr. Beau-
bien, who was in charge avant, used to teach me in the free hours of his evenings.” If any direct reproach was meant Grant could not be sure of it. but his antiseptic, impersonal, indifferent, ungenerous attitude to this shining young man suddenly became one of the great shames of his life.
“Dr. Beaubien used to speak of having me sent to study at Lovanium,” Jules went on wistfully. "And then I would go on to Loir/ain, in Belgium. But of course Dr. Beaubien left after the Independence and I have not heard from him since.”
"How old are you, Jules?” Grant asked him.
“With us it is seldom known exactly. Probably twenty-one or twenty-two.” “Perhaps there is still time.”
"Perhaps,” Jules said tonelessly. "Shall I sec you again in the morning?”
"But certainly. Good night. Jules.” Grant slept soundly for the first half of the night. But the keening of a night bird woke him just after midnight and until dawn he tossed in a phantasmagoria, half of dreams and half of memories. Inevitably the knowing men in the Memling Palace who had warned him what to expect: “Baboons you know. Call me Blimp. Call me Faubus. Baboons just the same.” A fragment of a childhood song:
I vent to the animal fair,
The birds and the beasts were there.
The big baboon by the light of the moon
Was combing his auburn hair . . .
Sierra and Songolo pitting their hopeless courage against the windmill. Perhaps Chartrand too in his own. sad, halfmad way. So many windmills to ride against here, so many faltering Rosinantes to carry so many Quixotes to such pathetic, ludicrous, and inevitable defeat. The big baboon by the light of the moon
Was combing his auburn hair.
The monkey he got drunk And fell on the elephant's trunk.
The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees
And that was the end of the monk . . . In the morning, as he finished his packing. Jules knocked at the door and thrust an ivory carving at him. It was fully a foot in height and a foot and a half in length. It had tw'o figures, a massive hunter in loin cloth and tribal headdress, standing erect and dauntless, facing a leopard just about to spring. The effect was massive, majestic, overwhelming. The human figure, w'ith its short spear poised for the combat, was unlike any living Congolese he had ever seen; it bore no relation to the weak, diseased, braggartly, and half-starved tribesmen he had known and yet it was as relevant to their condition and their dreams as is the hidden god that dwells in every man.
"My father made it,” Jules said.
"But Jules, I cannot take it. He must have worked on it for years.”
"No. Three months only. When I first told him of you, monsieur, he said, ‘Good. 1 will make him a carving. Give it to him when he leaves so that there will always be good memories.’ ”
“Damn it. Jules. I haven’t done anything.”
“My father thinks you have,” Jules said doggedly. “Take it.”
The cook had carried Mary’s luggage to the patio and Major Chesterton was waiting in the Land Rover. An impossible pallor had come over his sunburned face. “How do'you say ‘Ouch!’ in Lingala?” he moaned through the window.
Mary looked well rested, trim, and cheerful and on the verge of commonplace prettiness in a cream linen suit and natural-straw hat. Grant went to her and put an arm around her back. It seemed as
normal and clearly indicated as shaking hands with an old friend. “You look like a million.”
“You talk like Sudbury. Thanks.”
“All aboard?” the major moaned.
Grant helped Mary into the rear seat. “I’m not going.” he told the major.
“Not? Did you say not?”
"Not. I’ve changed my mind.”
"But look old boy. If there’s any question of authority for leaving or orders for leaving or any of that, it w;as all taken for granted. My instructions from UN were to rescue Sierra, Songolo. Grant, and Miss
Kelvin and return them immediately to Leopoldville.”
"I have no orders,” Grant said. “I’ve decided to stay.”
“Well,” the major said. “Takes all kinds. God bless.”
Mary leaned out the rear window'. He went to say goodby. “1 know it’s no use asking if you’ll let me stay too,” she said. “But when 1 get back to Leo can 1 apply to come here again?”
He thought a moment, looking down at the ridiculously heroic ivory figure he still held in his hand. "If you still feel like it
and if your medical check is O.K. and if things have settled uown here—yes. I’d like you to come back if you want to.”
"Well then, good-by for now.” “Good-by for now.”
“Cheers,” the major said.
When the Land Rover turned the corner toward the airport. Grant picked up his flight bag and started back inside.
“Come on, Jules,” he said. “Let’s go down and see what’s doing in the wards.”★
Ask The Name Of The Lion will be published in book form June I by Doubleday.