Captain Arcoll helped himself to a drink. 'You can guess what that story was, Mr Crawfurd. At full moon when the black cock was blooded, the Reverend John forgot his Christianity. He was back four centuries among the Mazimba sweeping down on the Zambesi. He told them, and they believed him, that he was the Umkulunkulu, the incarnated spirit of Prester John. He told them that he was there to lead the African race to conquest and empire. Ay, and he told them more: for he has, or says he has, the Great Snake itself, the necklet of Prester John.'
Neither of us spoke; we were too occupied with fitting this news into our chain of knowledge.
Captain Arcoll went on. 'Now that I knew his purpose, I set myself to find out his preparations. It was not long before I found a mighty organization at work from the Zambesi to the Cape. The great tribes were up to their necks in the conspiracy, and all manner of little sects had been taken in. I have sat at tribal councils and been sworn a blood brother, and I have used the secret password to get knowledge in odd places. It was a dangerous game, and, as I have said, I had my adventures, but I came safe out of it - with my knowledge.
'The first thing I found out was that there was a great deal of wealth somewhere among the tribes. Much of it was in diamonds, which the labourers stole from the mines and the chiefs impounded. Nearly every tribe had its secret chest, and our friend Laputa had the use of them all. Of course the difficulty was changing the diamonds into coin, and he had to start I.D.B. on a big scale. Your pal, Henriques, was the chief agent for this, but he had others at Mozambique and Johannesburg, ay, and in London, whom I have on my list. With the money, guns and ammunition were bought, and it seems that a pretty flourishing trade has been going on for some time. They came in mostly overland through Portuguese territory, though there have been cases of consignments to Johannesburg houses, the contents of which did not correspond with the invoice. You ask what the Governments were doing to let this go on. Yes, and you may well ask. They were all asleep. They never dreamed of danger from the natives, and in any case it was difficult to police the Portuguese side. Laputa knew our weakness, and he staked everything on it.
'my first scheme was to lay Laputa by the heels; but no Government would act on my information. The man was strongly buttressed by public support at home, and South Africa has burned her fingers before this with arbitrary arrests. Then I tried to fasten I.D.B. on him, but I could not get my proofs till too late. I nearly had him in Durban, but he got away; and he never gave me a second chance. For five months he and Henriques have been lying low, because their scheme was getting very ripe. I have been following them through Zululand and Gazaland, and I have discovered that the train is ready, and only wants the match. For a month I have never been more than five hours behind him on the trail; and if he has laid his train, I have laid mine also.'
Arcoll's whimsical, humorous face had hardened into grimness, and in his eyes there was the light of a fierce purpose. The sight of him comforted me, in spite of his tale.
'But what can he hope to do?' I asked. 'Though he roused every Kaffir in South Africa he would be beaten. You say he is an educated man. He must know he has no chance in the long run.'
'I said he was an educated man, but he is also a Kaffir. He can see the first stage of a thing, and maybe the second, but no more. That is the native mind. If it was not like that our chance would be the worse.'
- They were approaching the river, and there was a fog to-night!
- she went thither speedily, and entered gay of seeming.
- Therewith she rose up slowly, Birdalone helping her, and
- waters, and the lake so deep beneath her, and the wind
- her arms, and laughed shrilly, insanely. Then she turned
- was not fully done, and said to herself that she would
- that I am gay because of the summer season, and chiefly
- her head this way and that to the dear and dainty flowers,
- mist seemed to float above the water. This mist had a familiar
- but had no might to cry out. The witch hauled her up by
- Till on a sudden, as she lay looking up toward the far-away
- she hindereth thee from faring in this wood, and that is
- said that his boys were resting and gaining strength after
- back and slay thee, or make thee live in misery of torment;
- And indeed she was so light-hearted that she had so escaped
- therein. Said the witch-wife: Didst thou see aught else?
- was the especial pride and joy of My Dear and Meriem. The
- forsooth, thou art in love with thy looks, though thou
- way up into the oakland whereas she had met Habundia, and
- thee not so oft, and but seldom cruelly. Moreover, I have
- in water. He just managed to get in under the sluice gate
- At last, (and belike it was no long while) the witch-wife
- had said to her, that it was by water she must flee, and
- on each other; but if thou have occasion for me, and wouldst
- her arms, and laughed shrilly, insanely. Then she turned
- overhung by huge ancient alders, gnarled, riven, mossy,
- gladden whom thou wilt, and whom thou wilt mayst sadden;
- So she went down to the water-side, and when she was standing
- that she might honestly give him the answer that he demanded.
- asked her of many matters concerning the house, and the
- There she let herself softly down into the water and thrust
- and therewith they kissed and embraced each other, and
- the gunpowder was wanted for making a noise on their saint
- a little, and swayed her body gently, as a willow-bough
- the hair, and dragged her head back so that her throat
- Child, I answer thee that the time is coming when thou
- Was it, though, the ever beautiful blossoms of hollyhocks
- way, such as thou hast never dreamed of. Yet the anguish
- and not seldom none at all; and even therewith came these
- she could see it not at all, nor her limbs nor any other
- and he pulled up short, for, instinctively, he knew that
- I must speak a word to thee, which thy new shape would
- By this she was come back to the sandy bight, and the sun
- into the meadow, and, withal, the whole body of the wood
- one of our party was unable anywhere to purchase either
- it back, and stood before the witch more dead than alive.
- nought but good, and which she loved; and she unbound her
- places betwixt us and the eyots where lie many and great
- of three-halfpence, two fowls, one of which, the Indian
- Now so much did this new matter take up all her mind, that