The Project Gutenberg eBook of Sinclair's luck

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Sinclair's luck

A story of adventure in East Africa

Author: Percy F. Westerman

Release date: January 10, 2024 [eBook #72673]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: S.W. Partridge & Co, 1923

Credits: Produced by R.G.P.M. van Giesen, thank you Ru!


[Illustration: cover art]


The Blue Ridge Patrol
Rowland Walker

"School! School!"
Sydney Horler

Shandy of Ringmere School
Rowland Walker

The Fifth Form Detective
Rowland Walker

"Pickles" of the Lower Fifth
Rowland Walker

Trapped in Tripoli!
Tom Bevan

Sinclair's Luck!
Percy F. Westerman

Jack Rollock's Adventures
Hugh St. Leger

Cap'n Nat's Treasure
Robert Leighton

The Secret Men
Tom Bevan

The Adventures of Don Lavington
George Manville Fenn

The Terror of the Tin Mine
George Manville Fenn

4, 5 & 6 Soho Square, London, W.1

image: 02_frontispiece.jpg






image: 03_logo.jpg
{Illustration: logo}

4, 5 & 6, SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.1

Readers of the adventures in East Africa of the two heroes, Colin Sinclair and Tiny Desmond, as narrated in the pages of this book, will be greatly interested in their school life, before leaving for the Dark Continent, which is splendidly told in the story entitled "The Mystery of Stockmere School."

First published 1923
Frequently reprinted








"My last term, Tiny, old son," announced Sinclair dismally.

"What? Never!" replied "Tiny" Desmond, who, at the age of sixteen years and three months, had attained the height of six feet one inch. "Your last term at Stockmere? You're trying to pull my leg."

"Wish I were," rejoined Colin. "But it's a fact. My governor wrote to Dr. Narfield a week ago."

"Why?" inquired Desmond, linking arms with his sturdy, athletically-built chum. "Tell me all about it. Chuck it off your chest."

It was the first day of the summer term. Stockmere was in a state of commotion that is usually associated with the commencement of a new session. There were boys promoted to higher forms, boys remaining in a state of "as you were," new boys wandering about aimlessly like strangers in a strange land, fearful the while lest by word or deed they should transgress the moral and social side of their new school-fellows. There were boys seeking old chums; boys casting about for fresh ones. Housemasters and formmasters were discussing boys; the Head and the Matron were doing likewise. In short, the topic was "Boys."

"Let's get out of this crush," continued Tiny. "Lorrimer and Perkins are cackling away in our study. You know what they are. I vote we push off up on the moors. I'll ask Collier."

The housemaster, recently placed in charge of the Upper Sixth, gave the required permission.

"Very good, Desmond," he replied in answer to Tiny's request. "Back at four, mind. How's that cough of yours, by the bye? Lost it yet?"

"Nearly, sir," replied Tiny, flushing.

"H'm, about time," rejoined Mr. Collier. "All right, carry on."

The two sixth-formers touched their caps and walked away.

"Wish he wouldn't harp on that cough," murmured Desmond. "It's really nothing much; a bit of a bother first thing in the morning. Now, Colin, what's this stunt?"

Sinclair told his story simply and without hesitation. There were no secrets between the two chums. They shared their pleasures, their, for the most part trivial, troubles, their perplexities, and their worldly goods (as far as their school belongings went) whole-heartedly.

"Fact is," said Colin, "my governor has been losing a lot of money since the War, and he can't afford to keep me at Stockmere after this term. I found out quite accidentally that the pater had been pretty badly hit for some time. I ought to have left a year ago, only he kept it dark and managed to let me stay on. He was hoping for things to improve financially only they didn't. So that's that."

"Hard lines!" ejaculated Desmond sympathetically.

"That's why the governor didn't come up to the sports," resumed Sinclair. "He simply couldn't run to it. And he's sold his car and cut down a lot of things, but he's losing ground, so to speak. His pension was quite all right once upon a time, but now it goes nowhere."

"And what are you going to do?" asked Tiny.

"I hardly know," replied his chum. "Of course, my idea of going to an engineering college is off. After all's said and done, it means earning nothing until a fellow's well over twenty-one, and then he's lucky if he makes as much as a miner or a bricklayer. At any rate, I've got to do something—to earn something. In fact, I don't think I ought to have come back this term."

"Well, what are you going to do?" asked Desmond.

Colin shook his head.

"I hardly know," he replied. "Anything to help things along. I've got thirteen weeks to think over it. By that time—but, I say, Tiny, you won't say a word to any of the other fellows?" he added anxiously.

"'Course not," declared Desmond.

"Right-o!" rejoined Sinclair, then, as if he had put the matter out of his mind, he drew himself up, stretched his arms, and sniffed appreciatively at the keen, bracing mountain air.

"My word," he exclaimed, "isn't it tophole? I'll race you to the crest of Shutter Pike."

It was a distance of about four hundred yards to the summit of the hill known as Shutter Pike—a gentle gradient for two-thirds of the way, ending up with a fairly stiff ascent.

For the first fifty yards Tiny led, but gradually Colin recovered the initial advantage his companion had gained, and before the last fifty yards he had drawn up level. Then, putting his whole energy into the race, Sinclair dashed ahead and flung himself upon the grassy knoll at the summit. To his surprise, Tiny had stopped and was holding his hands against his ribs and coughing violently.

"Buck up, man!" Sinclair shouted. "I'm a bit out of training .... Why, what's the matter? Anything wrong?"

Desmond shook his head, but made no attempt to move. His companion jumped to his feet and ran down the slope.

"Did you fall?" he asked anxiously, for the bluish-grey pallor on his chum's face rather took him aback.

"No," spluttered Tiny. "Stitch, or something ... nothing much."

He sat down abruptly, endeavouring to stifle the fit of coughing. At length he succeeded.

"You're not up to the mark, that's evident," said Colin. "What have you been doing these hols? You're right out of condition. You'll have to train, my festive."

"I will," replied Desmond. "I've been slacking a bit, but I'll soon get into form. I say, it's close on four. Let's get a move on."

Hardly a word was exchanged as the pair made their way schoolwards.

"Don't say anything to Collier," said Tiny, as they passed the lodge gates. "About this little cough of mine, I mean."

"'Course not," declared Colin. "Why should I?"

Tea over, Desmond and Sinclair went to the rooms they shared with Lorrimer and "Polly" Perkins. Here everything was in a state of disorder. The furniture had only just been removed from their last term's den; their boxes and trunks, half unpacked, were piled upon the table and chairs, while an assortment of bats, tennis rackets, fishing rods, nets, and other articles inseparable with schoolboys filled every available corner of the room.

"You're a nice pair!" exclaimed Lorrimer. "Mooching off and leaving Polly and me to square things up."

"And a fine square up you've made of it," replied Tiny. "Hullo, what's this? My razor! Polly, you are the absolute limit."

Perkins received the intelligence with as good grace as possible when discovered in the act of using another fellow's razor for the purpose of cutting rope.

"Sorry, old man," he replied apologetically. "But what do you do with your razor, by the bye? Half a mo', Tiny, before you start scrapping. The Head's been looking out for you."

"Honest?" inquired Desmond.

"Honest," assented Polly.

At Stockmere that word was sufficient. No fellow ever doubted the genuineness of an assertion thus expressed. Desmond picked up his cap and made his way to Dr. Narfield's study.

The summons did not surprise him. Coupled with the fact that he was one of the head boys, and that this was the first day of a new term, it was not unusual for a youth in Desmond's position to be called to the Head's study.

Dr. Narfield was standing with his back to the empty fireplace in a characteristic attitude, his mortar-board on the back of his head and his hands clasped under the tails of his gown:

"You sent for me, sir?"

"Yes, Desmond," replied the Head, looking at the lad over the top of his spectacles. "I thought, Desmond, that you, a head boy, would be above a senseless practical joke."

He paused. Tiny regarded the doctor dumfoundedly. And then that irritating cough made itself known again.

Dr. Narfield waited until the fit was over.

"Perhaps, Desmond," he resumed, "you will kindly explain why this was found in your handbag?"

He pointed to a large dish on a side table. On it, writhing gently, was an eel, about ten inches in length.

"That—er—pet," continued the Head, "nearly frightened the housekeeper into hysterics when she opened your bag. You are, of course, aware that pets are permitted at Stockmere, but there are limits in the choice of a selection. Now, Desmond, please explain."

Desmond hesitated. The affair wanted some explanation, but he wasn't at all sure that his elucidation was a correct one.

"I can't exactly explain, sir," he replied. "I didn't put it into my bag, and I certainly didn't intend to frighten Mrs. Symonds or anybody."

"Then how did it get into your bag?" asked the Head patiently. Previous experiences had taught him the advisability of a patient hearing and not to judge by circumstantial evidence. He knew perfectly well the best way to detect a guilty culprit was to let him tell his story without comment until he had made the fatal error of condemning himself.

"It was like this, sir," explained Desmond. "The train was crowded, and I rode in the guard's van. In the van, amongst other things, was a large box labelled 'Eels—Perishable.' It had a small crack in it, and very soon I saw an eel's tail appear. Then somehow other tails found their way through and the box began to open."

Dr. Narfield nodded. He knew from personal experience that eels have frequently been known to force open heavy boxes in which they are packed for transit.

"Go on, Desmond," he said gravely. Tiny, finding that the Head did not ridicule his tale, plunged into his narrative without further hesitation.

"I told the guard," he continued, "but he was busy writing in a book, and told me it wasn't his business. It wasn't mine, so I just watched. And before we got to Little Porton the eels had forced open the box and were wriggling all over the place—hundreds of them, sir. The guard got the wind up then—I mean, sir, he was in a bit of a funk. I didn't exactly care for it myself, although it was a topping rag to watch. So we both sat on some luggage and kept our feet up, although at every station the guard had to get out. And a crowd of eels got out, too. There were dozens of them left on every platform, and by the time we got to Colbury Monkton the van was almost empty. I must have left my bag unfastened—in fact, I remember closing it when I got out—so I suppose one of them wriggled in."

The Head smiled.

"That explanation is quite satisfactory, Desmond," he remarked. "You may go."



At dinner that evening, a rather informal meal, at which the Head and the housemasters discuss the wholly absorbing topic of boys, Dr. Narfield related his interview with Desmond.

"By the way," he continued, addressing Mr. Collier, who sat next to him, "have you noticed anything peculiar about Desmond?"

"He hasn't seemed quite up to the mark for some time," replied Mr. Collier. "A rather troublesome cough——"

"Precisely," interrupted the Head. "That was the fact to which I was going to refer. He's a big fellow obviously outgrowing his strength. I don't like that cough. It's strange his people didn't notice it. Some parents never do. However, Collier, without frightening the lad, send him over to the sanatorium to-morrow morning and get Dr. Anderson to run over him. I believe I mentioned that Sinclair was leaving this term?"

"Yes, indeed," replied the sixth form housemaster. "And I'm very sorry to hear it. We'll miss him in the next inter-school sports."

Dr. Narfield sighed. Even years of experience of this sort of thing—of promising pupils leaving just as they were doing sterling work for the good and honour of the school—had not made him indifferent to the continual changes that are inevitable.

"And just as he was showing promise of gaining his Matric," he added gloomily. "Case of financial difficulties, I am informed. It's a strange England nowadays, Collier. All ups and downs, and goodness only knows what things are coming to. Yes, I'm sorry for Sinclair."

*  *  *  *  *

"Now hold your breath ... count ten ... say, 'Ah.'"

Dr. Anderson tapped Desmond with his stethoscope.

"Again .... Cough."

Tiny Desmond tried to cough, but without success. That irritating cough of his had a nasty habit of asserting itself at very inconvenient times, but now, when the doctor wanted him to cough, he simply couldn't.

"All right, Desmond. Get your clothes on. I'll make you up a little medicine. For the present I must keep you here."

"In the sanny, doctor!" exclaimed the astonished Tiny. "Why, sir, is there anything very much wrong with me?"

The doctor smiled.

"You want to go into dock for a slight overhaul and refit, Desmond," he replied. "Nothing much, but if neglected, your cough will develop into something serious. You've been maintaining a full head of steam in a boiler with defective tubes. Those tubes haven't blown out yet, but they might. You understand what I mean? Very well, then. It's merely a matter of going slow, taking reasonable precautions, and undergoing a sort of treatment, and we'll soon have you fit again."

Tiny Desmond nodded gravely. He was not deceived by the kindly doctor's words. What he imagined was wrong with him for some time past—he had tried over and over again to treat it lightly—was no illusion. It was lung trouble.

*  *  *  *  *

"I ran over young Desmond this morning, Dr. Narfield," reported Dr. Anderson. "It's no use mincing matters, although I tried, ineffectually, I fear, to bluff the lad. One lung is badly affected; the other shows signs of pulmonary weakness. The best thing to be done is to send that youngster abroad—to a warm, dry climate. It will mean you losing a promising pupil, but that's an assured thing in any case. If he does go abroad there's a thundering good chance that he will make a complete recovery. If he doesn't—well——"

Dr. Anderson turned his thumbs down. There was no mistaking the significance of the act.

"I'll write to his parents at once," declared the Head. "I don't suppose for one moment they have noticed Desmond's condition. Parents rarely do; they trust implicitly to the school physician. Fortunately, Anderson, we've found out in time, I trust. By the bye, it might be a dispensation of Providence; how would East Africa suit him?"

"Quite all right in the uplands of the interior," replied Dr. Anderson. "The coast and the forest regions—no. Why do you ask?"

"Because not half an hour ago I received a letter from my brother Herbert," explained the Head. "You know he left there to take up an official appointment in Ceylon. His papers were cancelled for some reason, and instead he was given a post as mining engineer at Kilembonga, which is, I believe, about a hundred miles north-west of Tabora. He asks if I know of a couple of Stockmere boys about to leave school who would be willing to act as his assistants. Curiously enough, he mentioned Desmond and Sinclair."

"The very thing!" ejaculated Dr. Anderson. "You were telling me about young Sinclair—a hard case. I feel sorry for that lad."

The outcome of the conversation resulted in Colin Sinclair and Tiny Desmond being called to the Head's study. Briefly Dr. Narfield outlined his brother's request.

"It is a healthy life," he continued, "and there are excellent prospects of qualifying for a well-paid profession. If you two fellows would like to go, I will write to your respective parents, and if they are agreeable there's no reason why you shouldn't be in what was recently German East Africa in less than a couple of months. But I suppose you want time to consider matters?"

Tiny looked at Colin, and Colin looked at Tiny. It was a case of spontaneous mutual telepathy.

"No need for that, sir," declared Tiny, "we're on it—I mean, sir, we are only too delighted."

"Rather, sir!" agreed Sinclair heartily. Then, suddenly remembering, he added: "But I'm afraid, sir, the cost would be ... I don't mind mentioning it before Desmond, because he knows. I've told him about things at home. I'm afraid my people couldn't afford the expense of a journey to Africa."

"That is a detail that can be gone into later," observed Dr. Narfield mildly. "The question is, are you anxious to go?"

"Yes, sir," replied Colin simply.

"Very well," rejoined the Head. "That's all for the present. You may go."

And with these somewhat ambiguous words ringing in their ears, the two chums hurried out to discuss between themselves the portentous event that loomed large on their mental horizon.

For his part, Dr. Narfield was as enthusiastic as the two lads over the proposal. He had no doubt but that Desmond's people would willingly give the required permission, especially in view of the fact that the climate was in every way suited to effect Desmond's complete recovery.

Sinclair's case was different. Although the Head was not aware by the tone of Colin's father's letter of the extreme financial straits in which Mr. Sinclair found himself, he was able to form a fairly accurate opinion of the situation.

Had Mr. Desmond and Mr. Sinclair had the opportunity of comparing notes, they would have seen an important difference in the text of the Head's letter. In that to Colin's father Dr. Narfield concluded with the bold announcement that "Your son's passage will be paid." Nicholas Narfield believed in doing good turns by stealth.

And so, three days later, Tiny Desmond and Colin Sinclair were informed that they were to hold themselves in readiness to sail on S.S. Huldebras for Cape Town, en route to the wilds of East Africa.



Next morning Colin Sinclair bade farewell to Stockmere School. It cannot be said that he did so reluctantly. His mind was so full of the tremendous adventure which confronted him that he hardly realised he was passing another landmark in his career.

He had parted with his school-fellows amid unanimous good wishes and envious regrets. Mr. Collier, his housemaster, gave him some sound advice, which, seemingly falling upon deaf ears, served a useful purpose before many months had passed. He also handed the lad a small box wrapped up in brown paper—a gift that Colin afterwards found to be a tabloid medicine chest.

The Head was moved to the verge of tears during his farewell interview, at which Colin wondered. There seemed a vast difference between the austere pedagogue and the frail, sympathetic man—yet they were one and the same.

"And, Colin," he concluded, "I want you to accept and use this little gift. You will find it more of a protection than a rifle."

Sinclair took the proffered parcel with undisguised curiosity. By the feel of it it was like a large revolver, which, he thought, was a strange choice on the part of the learned Dr. Narfield. But when the wrappings were removed a plated article that looked like a motor-pump and carburetter was displayed.

"It's a filter," explained the Head. "Impure water is, as you know, one of the greatest sources of disease in tropical countries. So always filter your drinking water, Colin, and if it is possible, boil it as well. One cannot be too careful in that respect. I remember as a young man—eheu, fugaces—when I was engaged in a scientific expedition in South America how a lack of pure water hampered our work and endangered the health of the whole party. Well, good-bye, Colin, and God-speed."

Ten minutes later Colin was bowling along towards Colbury Monkton in a taxi. Then, and only then, did the thought strike him that he was leaving Stockmere for good. He might see the school again—he hoped he would as an Old Boy—but there was a chance that he might not.

For the next six weeks—days that moved with leaden feet—Colin's parents, brothers and sisters, cousins and aunts, busied themselves with the preparations for the lad's departure. In spite of Dr. Narfield's generosity in secretly providing the passage money, the already seriously strained financial resources of the family were severely taxed.

An outfit—a heavy expense even in pre-war days—had to be procured. This, cut down as efficiency would permit, made quite a hole in fifty pounds. Nothing superfluous was ordered since Mr. Sinclair "knew the ropes" and strenuously resisted the blandishments of the outfitter to purchase "necessaries" which more than likely would never be required.

At length the day prior to the sailing of the S.S. Huldebras arrived. Colin, accompanied by his father, went up to London, where at an hotel Tiny Desmond joined them.

Tiny had brought all the family with him—apparently because he had no option in the matter. His outfit, too, was mountainous. Each of his three trunks was larger than Colin's modest two metal-bound boxes. His worldly goods were greatly superior to his chum's, but Colin had something that Desmond, with all the wealth of his family to back him, did not possess—good health.

"Simply had to bring all this stuff along, Colin," he explained apologetically. "We'll share and share alike on this stunt. I've a couple of fine .303 sporting rifles given me. Wish I could have shown you, but they're packed. One's yours. Wonder who'll bag the first lion? There are hundreds of them around Kilembonga, I'm told."

Desmond was excited, but even a casual observer could see that the lad was far from well. His treatment under Dr. Anderson—he did not leave Stockmere for a month after Colin's departure—had merely arrested the progress of the malady. As the doctor had said, nothing less than a prolonged stay in a warm, dry climate would effect a cure.

At nine o'clock on the following morning the two chums went on board. It was a bewildering sort of morning. They were shown their respective berths by the busy steward, and, of course, Colin's father and Tiny's swarm of relatives had to see their cabins. Since there were hundreds of passengers and their friends all doing the same sort of thing, there was little privacy and no opportunity for a quiet farewell.

An hour later a bell rang and an order was given for all visitors to leave the ship.

"Good-bye, my boy, and the best of luck," exclaimed Mr. Sinclair, gripping his son's hand. The last farewells were exchanged, the gangways clattered on the quay-side, and, bullied and cajoled by a pair of fussy tugs, the Huldebras glided into the broad estuary of the Thames.

Fainter and fainter dwindled the shouts from the wharf, until the dense crowd of people vanished in the light mist that overhung the river.

Then, under the impulse of her powerful engines, the good ship gathered way and was fairly on her voyage.

"It seems too good to be true," exclaimed Tiny. "I hope I shan't wake up and find it's all a dream."



The two chums berthed in separate cabins. On account of Desmond's weak lungs he was compelled by the company's rules to sleep in a part of the ship set apart for persons suffering from pulmonary complaints.

Consequently Colin had to have another cabin-mate, since every available berth had been booked weeks before the Huldebras was due to sail.

When Colin went below to see to his cabin trunk, he found his future "opposite number" engaged upon the same errand—a tall, heavily-built bearded man of about forty years of age.

"Don't apologise," said the man. "You have as much right here as I have. We're cabin-mates, are we not? What is your name?"

Colin told him.

"Mine's Van der Wyck," volunteered the other. "Heard that name before?"

"It's Dutch, isn't it?" asked Colin.

The bearded man laughed, displaying a double row of large white teeth.

"Was once," he replied. "I'm an Afrikander; do you know what that is? Well, a Boer, if you like! See that?"

He turned up his coat-sleeve, revealing a bluish mark on his bronzed skin.

"That's a bullet wound," he continued. "I got that twenty years ago at Paardeberg, fighting against the British. See that?"

Van der Wyck lifted one leg, and, pulling up the trouser-leg a few inches, revealed the fact that he wore an artificial foot.

"Got that in 1916 fighting for the British in German East Africa," he explained proudly. "Bit of a scrap close to a place called Kilembonga. Don't suppose you've ever heard of the place."

"I have," declared Colin. "That's where I'm going."

"Allemachtag!" exclaimed the Afrikander. "I hope you will enjoy the place better than I did. But, then, Fritz with a rifle is no longer there. What are you going to Kilembonga for—ivory? There are plenty of elephants, and lions, too."

"No, mining," replied Colin, "or, rather, mining engineering."

Van der Wyck looked at his youthful cabin-companion with a quizzical air.

"You would do better in the Witwatersrand," he observed, and without offering any explanation, he busied himself with the contents of his trunk.

For the next three days Colin kept to his bunk. His high hopes of becoming a good sailor were rudely dashed, not exactly to the ground, but somewhere else of a less solid nature. In nautical parlance, he was "mustering his bag," or, in plain language, he was horribly seasick.

All the way down Channel and across the Bay the Huldebras was followed by a strong nor'-easterly wind, that made the ship roll far worse than if she had encountered a head wind.

Colin had some slight satisfaction in the knowledge that he was not the only passenger out of action with mal-de-mer. The steward, who brought and took away twelve untasted meals, informed him that only half-a-dozen of the second-class were up and about.

On the morning of the fourth day Colin dressed and went on deck. He still felt far from well, but he was able to eat breakfast. There was no sign of Tiny Desmond, and it was not until late that afternoon that that very woe-begone-looking youth staggered out of his cabin.

But before the Huldebras sighted Las Palmas Colin had recovered his normal spirits, while Desmond looked better than he had done for weeks past. The rest of the passengers, too, were finding their sea-legs, and taking an interest in deck games.

In spite of the difference of ages, the two chums got on splendidly with Van der Wyck. Apart from the fact that he knew the district to which they were bound, he was a "thundering good sort." He retained the quiet, unassuming manner of a veldt farmer, combined with the experience gained by travelling in other portions of the Empire to which he was proud to belong.

Like many of his veldt friends and neighbours, he had been an ardent supporter of President Kruger, but the generous concessions accorded the conquered Boers had speedily been vindicated. Except for a minority, the Afrikanders were genuinely loyal to the British Government.

"There is a very remarkable tribe living in the district around Kilembonga," remarked Van der Wyck one evening, as the Afrikander and the two chums were standing on a secluded portion of the promenade deck, watching the sun set. The Huldebras was now approaching the Tropics, steaming at seventeen knots through a perfectly calm sea. From below came the strains of the ship's band discoursing the music of the latest London comedy.

"Savages?" queried Tiny.

"Yes," replied Van der Wyck. "Savages with qualities that a good many white men lack. The Makoh'lenga, as they call themselves, are big fellows—the average height is six feet two—of a mixed stock. Report has it that a Zulu impi, which had incurred the wrath of King Dingaan, fled northwards more than eighty years ago and 'ate up' almost every tribe they encountered until they struck the Arab races inhabiting the region between Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria Nyanza. Apparently Arab and Zulu blood fused, and the Makoh'lengas were the result.

"Then the Huns got possession of the territory lately known as German East, but they were unable to exercise any authority over the Makoh'lengas. Even the Askaris—the German native levies—failed to subdue them; and, as you probably may know, the Askaris under Hun officers made admirable soldiers.

"Several expeditions into the Makoh'lenga territory resulted in disaster, till at length the Askaris, also influenced by superstitious fears, point blank refused to fight the powerfully-built natives. So the German sub-Governor, von Spreewald, ordered a cordon to be placed round the Makoh'lenga country and tried to starve the tribe into submission."

"And did he succeed?" asked Colin.

"He succeeded in making a rod for his own back," replied Van der Wyck. "The Makoh'lengas are self-supporting. They grow enough maize and rear enough cattle to be independent of outsiders for food. So the blockade failed, but von Spreewald by his action created a menace to the German rule in East Africa. When the War broke out the Makoh'lengas were actively pro-British. Yet as far as I know only one white man ever set foot in the Secret City of Makoh'lenga."

"Did you ever meet him?" asked Desmond.

"Yes," replied Van der Wyck, as he deliberately filled his large Boer pipe. "And so did you."

"I did!" exclaimed Tiny.

"Yes, a fellow called Piet Van der Wyck," replied the owner of that name gravely.

"By Jove!" ejaculated Colin excitedly. "And what was the place like? How did you manage to get there?"

"Sort of accident," explained Van der Wyck. "You know what a swastika is? Well, years ago, when I was about eighteen or nineteen, I went with a friend, Cornelius Hoog, to Jo'burg for a holiday. Amongst other irresponsible things we did we went to a tattooist's, and the man tattooed a swastika on my arm. Here it is as plain as the day it was done. In '16 I was with Deventer's column operating in the region of Tabora. There I happened to do what you English call a 'good turn' to an induna, or chief. It was quite a trivial thing as far as I was concerned, and at the time I thought nothing of it.

"As a matter of fact, I didn't know the fellow was an induna. Three days later I was out on patrol and we got into a nasty corner—six of us cut off by a couple of hundred Askaris. They got me just as I was getting into my saddle—a soft-nosed bullet through the ankle. What happened after that I have no recollection. None of my comrades returned. Their bodies were found the next day. Read this."

Van der Wyck produced a pocket-book filled with folded papers, many of them torn and faded. Holding the pocket-book in the rays of an electric lamp, for darkness had now fallen over the surface of the tranquil sea, he drew out a scrap of newspaper. On it was printed the names of five men killed in action; below were the words: "Missing, believed killed: P. v. d. Wyck."

"When I recovered consciousness I found myself lying in a kloof. I suppose I had somehow got into the saddle, and my horse had got through and galloped miles. To this day I do not know how I contrived to get away. But I was in a bad state—my ankle pulverised and my horse gone.

"There I lay for three days and three nights, tormented by the sun by day and scared by prowling animals by night. Several times I lost consciousness, and once an assvogal—you'd call it a vulture—sat on my chest and began pecking at my eyes.

"At last I was found by a party of Makoh'lengas. One of them was the induna I had befriended. They were going to carry me back to the laager. If they had I should have doubtless died on the way, for our detachment had moved eighty miles to the south-east.

"Then the induna—Umkomasi was his name—noticed the swastika tattooed on my arm. That was a sort of passport, for the Makoh'lenga have a very similar symbol that is supposed to possess magical properties. In my case it qualified me for admission into the Secret City of Makoh'lenga. I was there eleven weeks. They couldn't save my foot; but they prevented me from having bloodpoisoning and pulled me through a bout of black-water fever. You see, I can speak Zulu, and the Makoh'lenga tongue is a sort of Zulu dialect."

"And what sort of place is Makoh'lenga?" asked Tiny.

Van der Wyck was on the point of answering the question when he leant against the rail and stretched his leg to full length.

"Sort of cramp in my artificial foot," he explained apologetically. "You may think that's an absurd thing to say, but it's a fact. Sometimes I feel sensations just as if my foot were still there. Once, I remember——"

A rending of wood, a stifled exclamation, and a warning shout from Tiny Desmond, and then a heavy splash. A portion of the rail had given way under the pressure of the Afrikander's bulk. Unable to recover his balance, Van der Wyck had fallen overboard.

Colin knew that the man was unable to swim. He rushed to the side and looked down to the phosphorescent water, then with Tiny's shout of "Man overboard!" ringing in his ears, Colin hurled a lifebuoy over, and, regardless of the consequences, almost immediately took a header into the sea.

The Huldebras was doing between sixteen and seventeen knots, which meant that she was forging through the water at the rate of nine yards a second. Consequently Sinclair was hurled obliquely against the surface with terrific force.

Well-nigh winded and swallowing a liberal quantity of the Atlantic, he came to the surface without any rational idea of how he had got "in the ditch." He realised that he was overboard, and that the Huldebras seemed miles away. The blaze of light from her scuttles and portholes was receding rapidly. Something floating on the adjacent water in the ship's wake a good fifty yards away and clearly visible in the starlight attracted his attention. It was the white-painted lifebuoy he had hurled overboard.

Instinct prompted him to strike out for it, and as he swam laboriously—for his limbs, owing to the force with which he had struck the water, seemed almost devoid of action—his reasoning powers began to resume their normal functions.

He remembered Van der Wyck falling overboard. Where was he? To Colin it seemed as if hours had elapsed since he dived, although actually less than a couple of minutes had passed.

Swimming stolidly, Sinclair gained the lifebuoy. It was with a sense of thankfulness that he gripped the rounded, canvas-painted surface. He even suffered the rebuff of a sharp blow on the head as the lifebuoy dipped and capsized under the one-sided weight of the swimmer. Then with more caution, Colin rested one hand lightly on the buoy, and looked for the unfortunate Van der Wyck.

He knew in which direction to look. The Afrikander, if he still remained afloat, must be somewhere in the phosphorescent trail known as the ship's wake.

His quick eyes detected something floating about a hundred yards away, a round black object rising and falling in the undulations caused by the 16,000 tons steamer cutting through the sea at full speed.

Colin, pushing the buoy before him, swam towards the spot where he imagined Van der Wyck to be floating. Before he had covered half the distance he knew that his surmise was correct. It was his cabin-mate.

"Hold up!" he shouted, his voice sounding painfully feeble in the solitude of the night. "I'm coming to you."

Nearer and nearer Colin swam, pushing the buoy in front of him. Van der Wyck was floating perfectly motionless with his arms behind his head. Although he was unable to swim, he possessed sufficient confidence to lie on his back, keep his arms well submerged, and breathe regularly and deeply.

Nevertheless, he was unfeignedly glad to be able to grasp the buoy, but his surprise was unrestrained when he recognised Colin Sinclair. "How on earth——" he began, then, struck by the absurdity of the question, he added: "Did you fall overboard too?"

"Sort of," replied Colin. "Luckily the sea's warm. Wonder how long they'll take to pick us up. Hello, where's the ship now?"

There was no reply from his companion.

Colin repeated the question, conscious for the first time of their joint peril. The Huldebras was no longer in sight.



For some moments neither spoke. At length Van der Wyck broke the silence.

"They couldn't stop her all at once," he observed. "She might have gone five miles or more before the engineers got the order to stop. She'll be back again, never you fear."

A swirl of phosphorescent water close to the buoy turned Colin's thoughts in another direction.

"Are there sharks about?" he asked.

"Don't fancy so," replied the Afrikander. "If there are, we'll have to kick and splash. Look here, what did you get into this mess for?"

"I jumped ... on the spur of the moment."

"Sorry you did, eh?"

"No," replied Colin. "I knew you couldn't swim."

"That's a fact," admitted the other bitterly. "A man hasn't much chance to learn to swim on the veldt. See anything coming?"

"White light," replied Colin laconically. "Yes, and red ... and green," added the Afrikander. "It's a ship. Can't be the Huldebras; she was chock-full of lights."

"How can we attract her attention?" asked Sinclair. "We're right in her track."

"Don't know so much about that," declared Van de Wyck. "Her starboard light's disappeared. She's altering her course. But I'll have a try for it, anyway. I haven't broken the company's regulations concerning firearms for nothing."

Hanging on to the buoy with one hand, Van der Wyck produced a revolver from his hip pocket. Holding it well above his head to allow the water to drain from the barrel, he added:

"I don't think it'll burst, but keep your face turned away. Thank goodness I have waterproof cartridges."

A streak of reddish flame, followed by a deafening; report, stabbed the starlit night. For some moments the flash blinded the pair.

"She's still holding on," declared Colin. "Don't know, though. It looks as if she's altering her course again."

"I'll try another shot," decided Van der Wyck. "Fortunately I've about a dozen cartridges besides five in the pistol."

image: 04-shots.jpg

He fired two shots in quick succession, then handed the still smoking weapon to his companion.

"Keep it out of the water a bit," he said. "My hand's getting rather numb .... She's broadside on to us, I'm afraid. Surely she heard those reports. How long have we been here—an hour?"

Colin could give no definite information on the subject. He was feeling exhausted himself. In spite of the warmness of the water his limbs were stiff and cold. But gamely he held the revolver above the water, while Van der Wyck chafed his own benumbed limbs.

"Time to fire again," he observed. "Hand me the pistol."

Colin, from the opposite side of the buoy, handed him the revolver. He felt Van der Wyck's fingers close over the butt, then he heard a muttered exclamation of annoyance. The revolver, slipping from the Afrikander's nerveless fingers, was sinking rapidly, rapidly through three miles of water to the bed of the Atlantic.

"That's about the limit," he remarked dejectedly. "They'll never find us in the darkness, I'm afraid."

*  *  *  *  *

The moment Tiny Desmond realised that his chum had leapt overboard he ran for'ard. His shouts of "Man overboard!" had been heard by a few passengers only, and they were helpless in the matter. The noise of the band had drowned his voice, and the warning was unheard by any of the ship's officers and crew.

Desmond knew his way about the ship by this time. Unhesitatingly, he made straight for the bridge. Charging through crowds of astonished and indignant passengers on the promenade deck, he swarmed up the ladder to the bridge-deck and thence to that forbidden ground, the bridge.

"Two people overboard!" he gasped breathlessly, and then a fit of coughing cut short his excited explanation.

Fortunately the third officer, who happened to be on duty at the time, was a man of resource. Ordering the quartermaster to "port sixteen," or, in other words, to turn the vessel until her head pointed in the opposite direction to her previous course, he promptly rang for half-speed ahead.

By this time the Huldebras was more than seven miles from the scene of the accident. All that could be done was to man one of the boats and stand by until the ship, guided by her wake, approached within reasonable distance of the spot where Van der Wyck had made such a close acquaintance with the Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile one of the boats had been swung out, manned and lowered until she was suspended by the falls within a few feet of the surface, ready to slip at the word of command, while in order to prevent the men's eyesight being baffled by the glare, all lights visible from without were switched off, with the exception of the regulation steaming lights.

Tiny, a prey to the deepest forebodings, remained on the bridge, gripping the rails and peering through the semi-darkness. No one paid the slightest attention to him. In the excitement the fact that he was now a trespasser on the bridge passed unnoticed.

The engine-room telegraph bell clanged again. The Huldebras was nearing the spot where it was supposed the lost man had fallen overboard; for with the exception of Desmond no one on board knew that there were two human beings in dire peril.

Suddenly a flash leapt up through the darkness, followed by a hollow report. Mystified, the third officer sprang to the binnacle and took a hurried compass-bearing. Somehow he connected that flash with the man in the water, but he was completely puzzled as to how the signal of distress had been made.

"Did you see that light?" he shouted in stentorian tones to the coxswain of the boat.

"Ay, ay, sir," was the reply.

"Nor-a-half-east it bears," continued the third officer. "I'm taking way off the ship now. Stand by to slip. Less noise there!" he added angrily, addressing his remarks to the now excited throng of passengers.

The alteration of speed had been enough to bring the whole of the saloon and second-class passengers on deck, and the startling information that there was a man overboard raised a storm of eager and for the most part purposeless questions.

The determined voice of one in authority quelled the babel. The third officer's anger was justifiable. It was impossible to issue orders clearly—orders on which success of the evolution depended—with scores of people talking excitedly.

A hush fell upon the throng of passengers. To many of them it was an entirely new experience being dragooned by a mere youngster in a brass-bound uniform, whose stinging commands were punctuated with the picturesque and forcible language of the sea.

The silence was broken by two more reports.

"Slip!" yelled the coxswain.

The patent falls were disengaged. The boat smacked the gently heaving swell with a noise like a pistol-shot.

"Give way! For all you're worth!"

The coxswain's exhortation was a mere figure of speech, for the rowers were straining every muscle and sinew as they urged the boat through the water. Her progress was marked by a double scintillation of phosphorescence as the blades dipped. A wake of blue-grey luminosity showed her course even after the boat itself was a mere blur in the starlit night.

Save for the groan of the rowlocks, the creaking of the stout ash oars and stretchers, the laboured breathing of the rowers, and the splash of water from the boat's sharp stem, hardly a sound broke the silence. The coxswain, holding the tiller with one hand, shaded his eyes with the other as he scanned the expanse of sea.

"Why doesn't the silly josser fire again?" he soliloquised. "'Tis looking for a needle in a bloomin' haystack. Lay on your oars!" he added aloud.

The men obeyed. The boat, still carrying way, slipped through the water with a gurgling sound.

"Hear anything?" asked the coxswain of the crew in general.

He was obviously perplexed. According to his own estimation the boat must have overrun the spot from whence those three flashes came.

"There he is; on our port bow!" shouted the bowman.

"Sure thing," agreed the coxswain. "Give way, lads ... way 'nough. In bow ... Bless me if there ain't two of 'em in the bloomin' ditch."

Ten seconds later Colin Sinclair, limp and barely conscious, was hauled over the bows and passed aft like a sack of flour, to collapse inertly upon the stern-sheet gratings. Van der Wyck followed, muttering his thanks, although in a state of exhaustion.

"May as well hike that buoy on board, Tubby," observed the coxswain dispassionately. "Now, lads, let her rip. It's my middle watch, worse luck."



"Got 'em, sir. There were two of 'em. All fast, sir!"

"Hoist away!"

Amid ringing and unrestrained cheers from the passengers of the Huldebras the boat and its occupants were whisked up to the davits. Willing hands helped the two rescued men to the deck, where they were at once taken in charge by the ship's doctor.

Once more the twin screws lashed the water, and, gathering way, the Huldebras resumed her interrupted voyage. The passengers went below, and in a very short space of time the forty-minutes wonder was to the majority of them merely an incident.

By noon on the day following, Colin and Van der Wyck were out and about. The former had quite a difficulty to avoid being lionised by the rest of the passengers, for, greatly to his annoyance, Tiny Desmond had related the circumstances under which Colin had leapt overboard.

The Afrikander got off lightly in that respect. He was merely an object of curiosity, and even the newly-repaired rail failed to scotch a rumour that he had deliberately thrown himself into the sea.

He said little about the mishap beyond thanking Colin for saving his life. He quite realised that if the lad had not brought the lifebuoy to within his grasp things would have gone badly with him. But what appeared to trouble him was the fact that he had lost his revolver, and also the mechanism of his artificial foot had been damaged by the salt water.

Although he continued to talk with Colin and Desmond, he never attempted to renew his interrupted account of the wonders of the Secret City of the Makoh'lenga. When Tiny broached the subject he adroitly switched the conversation off into another channel, and Desmond had the good sense to take the hint.

Beyond a mild excitement caused by the report that a first-class passenger had been robbed of a pocket-book containing £500 and a quantity of jewellery, nothing out of the ordinary occurred during the rest of the voyage to Cape Town.

The outlines of the famous Table Mountain were already showing above the horizon, and the end of the voyage in sight when Van der Wyck turned abruptly to his cabin-mate.

Colin and the Afrikander were engaged in packing their cabin-trunks when the latter asked:

"How are you going upcountry?"

"We're taking a boat to Dar-es-Salaam," replied Sinclair, "and then train to Tabora."

"H'm—might almost as well go up from here by train—through Mafeking and Bulawayo to Kambove, and then by steamer across Tanganyika. Don't know, though; perhaps you'd better carry on. We might have kept together as far as Mafeking. But we may run across one another again. If you want to write, Box 445B Mafeking will find me." Colin made a note in his pocket-book of the address.

"And look here," continued Van der Wyck, pushing his portmanteau aside and looking straight at his companion. "Look here, forget all I told you about Makoh'lenga—if you can. It's not exactly—— well, healthy. No white man ever did himself any good by trying to probe the secrets of the place. I'm sorry I ever mentioned the place or the people to you."

The Afrikander's almost fierce earnestness took Colin aback. Naturally the lad wished for an explanation, but none was forthcoming. Van der Wyck resumed his packing with almost feverish energy, never saying a word until, with a vicious tug, he secured the buckle of the last strap.

"Yes," he reiterated, apparently regardless of the fact that he had not spoken for quite ten minutes. "I'm sorry I ever mentioned the place. However, what's said cannot be unsaid. I owe you something, Sinclair, for hiking me out of the ditch——"

"No, indeed," interrupted Colin in protest. "You thanked me. That was quite enough."

"It's my call," declared Van der Wyck. "You were a good chum. I'd have thought twice before jumping overboard on a dark night—or in the daytime," he added grimly, "since I can't swim. So I want you to take this as a souvenir."

He tossed Colin a small bag of discoloured wash-leather secured by a thin strip of cowhide.

"It won't bite you," he added with a laugh as Colin handled the bag without making any attempt to examine its contents. "Open it and see what's inside."

Sinclair did as he was asked, and drew out a curiously shaped piece of metal of crude native workmanship bearing a decided resemblance to a swastika. It was of gold inlaid with copper. The face was inscribed with rough representations of animals of a kind unknown to biology, while on the reverse side was an inscription in uncial characters. At the top of one of the four arms a hole had been drilled, or rather punched, for the edges were rough to the touch.

"Why, it's gold!" exclaimed Colin. "It must be worth a tremendous lot!"

Van der Wyck nodded gravely.

"Yes, it's gold," he agreed. "African gold but I fancy there are a good many people who would give you ten times its weight in gold to possess it."

"But why give it to me?" asked Colin in bewilderment.

"'Cause I want to," replied the Afrikander. "That's reason enough. But take my advice, if you want to realise on it——"

"But I wouldn't," protested Colin.

"To realise on it," continued Van der Wyck, "don't attempt to do so while you are in Africa. Keep it. Wear it. It may do you a very good turn."

Then, as if dismissing the matter from his mind, Van der Wyck regarded his strapped portmanteau with a far-away air.

"Hang it!" he muttered to himself, yet sufficiently loud to enable Colin to hear. "Hang it! I wish I hadn't lost my revolver."



Almost the first discovery Colin Sinclair and Tiny Desmond made upon setting foot ashore at Cape Town was that the next Dar-es-Salaam boat did not sail until the following Monday week. That came as a nasty shock, since it meant hanging about in Cape Town for ten days.

Van der Wyck did not make any further suggestion that they should go by the overland route. He, however, recommended the lads to a quiet and, as things went, inexpensive hotel just off Adderley Street, the principal thoroughfare of the capital of the Federation of South Africa.

Van der Wyck lost little time in getting his young chums settled, and two hours later Colin and Tiny saw him off at the railway station.

For the next four or five days the two lads passed their time exploring in a modest way the town and its surroundings, including a strenuous climb to the summit of Table Mountain under the guidance of a Kaffir whose command of English was both voluble and ludicrous.

One evening, just before going to bed, the chums overheard a conversation between two of the guests at the hotel. One was a tall bronzed man, with large horny hands, and who was apparently an engineer on one of the Rand mines. The other was a sergeant of the Cape Mounted Police, spending his annual leave in Cape Town as a bewildering change from the quiet of Nieuwveldt.

"Hullo!" exclaimed the former, pointing to a paragraph in The Cape Argus. "There's been a hold-up between Kimberley and Vryburg."

The other man shrugged his shoulders.

"Thank goodness it's out of my district," he observed. "It won't scupper my leave. Have they caught the fellows?"

"No," was the reply. "By Jove! It was a cool bit of work; three men holding up a trainload of, for the most part, rough Afrikanders and farmers from Rhodesia. Not many details. One passenger got a bullet through his shoulder because he didn't take it lying down. The robbers got away with about a couple of thousand in hard cash, and the train was six hours late in arriving at Vryburg. Apparently the line had to be repaired."

"H'm!" ejaculated the policeman. "And the robbers: were they mounted or did they have a motor?"

"It doesn't say," replied the other. "Here's the paper. I've finished with it."

Both Desmond and Sinclair would have liked to have asked questions on the subject, but with typical British reserve they refrained. It was not until they were alone that Tiny remarked:

"Well, it was a jolly good thing we didn't go by rail or we might be stranded with empty pockets miles from anywhere. All the same, it must have been a thrilling stunt."

"Wonder if Van der Wyck was in it?" said Colin. "If he were, I shouldn't be surprised if he was the fellow who got plugged."

"Why?" asked Tiny.

"I can't explain exactly," replied his chum, "but from what I've seen of Van der Wyck he's pretty strong and determined and not likely to submit to being robbed without doing something."

Next morning at breakfast the subject of the train robbery was again broached.

"I'll swear that was Jan Groute's gang," declared the Cape Mounted policeman. "Jan's been lying low for some months, but he's the only fellow I know who'd have the cheek to bring off a thing like that. I was on his trail once. You remember that hold-up about two years ago near Beaufort West when two farmers had to stand and deliver to the tune of £500? We got hot on Jan's trail. In fact, one of our fellows hit him at three hundred yards, but he cleared off on horseback, although he was bleeding like a stuck pig. We found his horse, but he was off. I fancy he boarded a goods train and slipped off during the night."

"Does the paper give the name of the passenger who was wounded, sir?" asked Colin.

Both men looked curiously at their youthful questioner. By the use of the word "sir" they rightly put him down to be an English boy.

"Yes, sonny," replied the mining engineer. "A chap called Armitage, living up Bulawayo way. Why did you ask?"

"Because we had a friend who left here for Mafeking last Friday. We were a bit anxious, you know."

"Well, he might be a little lighter as far as his pockets are concerned," rejoined the policemen. "Jolly sight better than a plugged shoulder, and less painful."

"What was your chum's name?" inquired another of the guests, a man with shifty eyes to whom Colin and Desmond had taken a dislike.

"Van der Wyck," replied Tiny.

"Christian name?"

"Hendrik," said Desmond unblushingly.

"Wonderful!" exclaimed the other. "Hendrik Van der Wyck; I know him well. I know him well. Old chum of mine. We must celebrate this."

"Unfortunately," said Tiny coolly, "I've made a mistake—haven't I, Colin? It's not Hendrik; it's something else. I've mixed up the Christian names."

A general laugh went up at the shifty-eyed man's discomfiture. He promptly got up, pushed back his chair, and beat a retreat.

"That's the stuff to give 'em!" exclaimed the mining engineer. "You did him that time. Take my advice and give that fellow a wide berth. We get shady customers in every walk in life, and that's one of 'em."



At length the Monday fixed for the departure of the s.s. Tomboli for Dar-es-Salaam arrived.

Colin and Tiny were glad to shake off the dust of Cape Town. For one thing, they were all impatience to arrive at their Land of Promise. For another, it seemed simply astonishing how their money went, even with the strictest economy, during their ten days' enforced detention.

Already Tiny was showing decided signs of improvement in health. The sea voyage had done him a lot of good, and the air of South Africa, even though it were on the coast, helped to keep up the improvement. The fact that he had been able to ascend Table Mountain showed that. It fagged him, but even Colin felt the physical strain after about three weeks on board the Huldebras.

The Tomboli was a poor ship compared with the well-equipped Huldebras. For one thing, her speed was a bare eleven knots; her accommodation was meagre and far from comfortable. She rolled like a barrel, and in a following sea "steered like a dray"; and since, in addition to her slow speed, she was to call to land and unload cargo at Port Elizabeth, Durban, Lorenzo Marquez, and Mozambique, the time of her arrival at Dar-es-Salaam was a matter of question.

She carried twenty-three passengers, including four Portuguese officials, but amongst them was one whom Colin and Tiny were sorry to see—the shifty-eyed man from the hotel off Adderley Street.

In the passenger list his name was given as Joseph Londray, his destination Ujiji, which meant that in the circumstances Colin and Tiny would have to be in his company until they reached Tabora.

Londray showed no sign of surprise at meeting the lads on the deck of the Tomboli, and during the long and tedious voyage he made no attempt to address them. It was a case of mutual disinclination on both sides, and although they met regularly in the saloon for meals, not a word passed between the two chums and the shifty-eyed passenger.

At length, after landing and picking up passengers at various ports of call until only seven of those who left Cape Town remained on board, the Tomboli arrived at the spacious and land-locked harbour of Dar-es-Salaam—the name meaning the "Port of Tranquillity."

"This is another good step towards our journey's end," remarked Tiny, as the chums gazed upon the well-laid-out town that, thanks to German thoroughness, had taken the place of a squalid native hamlet.

But for the Kaiser's lust for world conquest by the force of arms, Dar-es-Salaam might have been under the Black Cross Ensign to-day, and bringing millions into the exchequer of the German Government. Instead, like the rest of "German East," it had passed under the control of Great Britain, and the blighting shadow of the Mailed Fist was for ever removed from the native population.

"I'm jolly glad we haven't to live here," rejoined Colin. "It's too hot and moist. Look at that chap. One could imagine him to be a slave-driver."

He pointed to a tall Arab in charge of a gang of native porters. There were very few Europeans about. Some had come down to watch the arrival of the s.s. Tomboli, and without exception they rode either in American "runabouts" or in man-propelled conveyances.

Two hours later Colin and Tiny boarded the train, which consisted of a number of narrow-gauged corridor cars drawn by an unfamiliar type of engine provided with a formidable "cow-catcher." At the far end of the same compartment Joe Londray had installed himself, and was already engaged in a game of cards with a very stout man, who was evidently of Portuguese extraction.

The other passengers were mostly Germans, who, having expressed their willingness to conform to the laws of their conquerors, were permitted to retain their homesteads. There were, however, a couple of Englishmen, who, invalided during the War, had taken to farming in Africa for the sake of their health, and were returning up-country with stores purchased at the port of Dar-es-Salaam.

For several miles the country was flat and swampy, then the miasmic marshes gave place to a densely-wooded country, through which the train climbed laboriously. Stations were few and far between, but at frequent intervals the lads caught sight of native villages wedged in between the thick masses of foliage.

Once, as the train crossed a sluggish stream, Colin called his chum's attention to what looked like a number of floating logs suddenly endowed with life. The logs were crocodiles that, alarmed by the roar of the train, were seeking shelter in the mud that formed the bed of the stream.

Just before sunset a sudden application of the brakes brought all the passengers to the platforms between the carriages. It was a sight worth seeing.

About a hundred yards in front of the engine and moving in a zig-zag fashion across the permanent way, was a huge dark brown animal that Colin rightly guessed to be a rhinoceros. Even when equipped with a cow-catcher, an engine has to exercise discretion when confronted by one of these formidable animal battering rams. No doubt the rhino was terrified, but at the same time the brute hadn't the sense to take cover, but continued to career madly along the line.

Someone on the platform of one of the foremost carriages fired at the animal, but the bullet, although it struck with a resounding thud, failed to pierce the armour-plated hide.

Other shots followed in quick succession, without any apparent effect beyond goading the rhino to fury, for suddenly it turned and charged the now stationary engine.

The impact was distinctly felt, but the animal came off second best. It rolled a full twenty feet before it brought up against a large palm tree.

There it lay savagely regarding its huge enemy as if contemplating another charge at a less substantial portion of the train, but before the rhino could put its plan into execution the driver started the engine. The hiss of the escaping steam, accompanied by the shrill blast of the whistle, was too much for the rhino's determination, and, regaining its feet, the animal charged madly into the forest. As night fell a powerful light was shown from the front of the engine, its rays illuminating the track for several yards ahead.

Although it was yet only seven o'clock the passengers began to make preparations for turning in. "Early to bed and early to rise" seemed to be the order of things in Equatorial Africa, so as to take advantage of the relatively cool period just after sunrise and to rest while the rays of the sun are strongest.

But neither Colin nor his companion felt any inclination to sleep. The novelty of rushing through a tropical forest in the darkness was too great. After days afloat, when the rhythmic vibrations of the propellers seemed to lull them into slumber, the rumble of the train as it swayed over the metal rails had the opposite effect.

The moist and clammy heat, coupled with the fact that the lights in the carriages were kept on, also tended to wakefulness.

At length—it was close on midnight—Colin was on the point of dropping into a fitful slumber when the sudden application of the brakes aroused him.

"Another rhino?" he asked himself, "or an elephant, perhaps."

The train halted with disconcerting suddenness. Some luggage pitched noisily on the floor. A passenger thrown from his bunk was expostulating in German with no one in particular and the world in general.

Then from the rear of the train came voices raised high in angry expostulation. Heavy boots grated along the corridor. The sliding door of the compartment was thrown back, and a tall, bearded man, his face partly hidden by a mask, burst abruptly upon the startled passengers. One man began shouting in a high-pitched frightened voice.

"Chuck it!" exclaimed the masked man. "Hands up!"



The stern command, backed by the silent persuasion afforded by the sinister muzzle of an automatic pistol, was promptly obeyed. Almost simultaneously twenty mosquito curtains were drawn back and twenty pairs of hands held as high as the limited space permitted.

Even the bravest of the passengers, newly roused from sleep, felt disinclined to try conclusions with that tall, broad-shouldered man who upheld his one-sided arguments with pistol.

The presence of a second robber seemed hardly necessary, yet there was another—a short, burly, masked man, who, in addition to holding a revolver, brandished a formidable "pine-apple" bomb.

"No hanky-panky," resumed the bearded bandit. "The first man that stirs gets a dose of this in double-quick time. Any sign of a general commotion, and my chum will deal with it quite effectively. Each gentleman in turn will kindly produce his purse, so the job can be done properly. Now, sir."

Colin watched the business proceed with mixed feelings. It was exciting, very, to be in an actual "hold-up"; it would be something to write home about and to regale his former school chums at Stockmere. But it was quite another matter to have to hand over his valuables, small though they were. Of course, he thought, he would have to produce the swastika, since there was no hiding-place that would escape detection.

The thought of the swastika led to that of its giver. It seemed a strange parallel that Van der Wyck should have been held up in a very similar manner—or at least circumstances pointed to it—within ten or twelve days of the present robbery. The two places were far apart, it was true.

Sinclair's thoughts were interrupted by a guttural exclamation from one of the German passengers. Possibly he thought that the robbers were Hun malcontents, who, refusing to accept the reasonable terms laid down by their conquerors, were still maintaining some sort of guerilla warfare, and that by proclaiming the fact that he was a German would secure immunity.

"A Hun, are you?" exclaimed the robber chief vehemently. "Wonder you're not ashamed to own it. I'll go through your kit pretty thoroughly, Fritz."

Presently Colin's turn came. He and Tiny had left their bunks and were standing side by side with arms upraised. By this time they were beginning to feel the strain of keeping their limbs in a cramped position.

The bearded robber halted. Colin, though reluctantly, lowered his arms and produced his purse and pocket-book. He wanted to dash his clenched fist against the aggressive, prominent chin of the fellow. He felt certain he could have floored him, but there was the other man with the bomb to be taken into consideration. Fortunately, both for himself and the other passengers, Colin's discretion was the better part of valour.

For a moment the masked man looked Colin squarely in the eyes.

"All right," he grunted, and without another word of explanation he passed both Colin and Tiny and proceeded to plunder the next passenger.

Before the chums could realise their good luck, or even form any idea of why their belongings should have been spared, a number of shots rang out in quick succession from the fore part of the train. The hitherto continuous escape of steam from the engine gave place to a series of puffs, punctuated by more revolver shots. Outwardly unperturbed, the bearded robber proceeded with his task, not even turning his head when a third member of the gang hurriedly appeared upon the scene and announced that the driver had uncoupled the engine and was steaming away as hard as he could.

"He'll bring the volunteers down from Yelibo," added the bearer of the news. "Pity we hadn't lifted a section of the line."

"There's no hurry," replied the leader. This was a favourite sentence of his. "Get on with your job and I'll do mine."

Meanwhile others of the band were busily engaged in relieving the passengers of the remaining coaches of their money and valuables; but, with less consideration than their leader, they unceremoniously bundled each "plucked pigeon" into one compartment.

At length the "hold-up" was completed. With a firm yet courteously-couched intimation that anyone attempting to leave the train for the next half hour would be suitably dealt with (the passengers would be left in the dark as to how this would be accomplished), the bandits backed out and retired silently into the bush.

"They've gone, curse them!" ejaculated a man, breaking the prolonged silence. "Here we are, bled white and stranded. When's the engine coming back for us?"

"It would be as well if we showed a light," suggested another. "It's bad enough being plundered; we don't want to be pulverised by a stray engine in the dark."

"Why didn't we plug the leader?" inquired the gentleman with the Portuguese cast of features. "We might have shot the lot if we'd acted together."

"You're a fine one to talk about shooting," exclaimed a Rhodesian farmer hotly. "You looked like falling through your trousers."

There was a general laugh at this, for during the raid the man had been trembling like an aspen leaf.

Then in the pause that ensued, the silence was broken by Joe Londray.

"What I'd like to know," he remarked hurriedly, "is why those two weren't made to bail up."

He pointed an accusing finger at Colin and Tiny.

"It's my opinion that they're in league with the robbers," he added.



The shifty-eyed passenger's words were infectious. At the mere suggestion that the two lads were accomplices, Colin and Tiny were objects of thinly-veiled hostility and suspicion.

Too astounded to say a word, they stood confronting their angry fellow-passengers, until a tanned-featured man—the man who had made the practical suggestion of showing a light on the front of the engineless train—demanded abruptly:

"What have you two to say to this?"

"It is a deliberate lie," replied Tiny.

"That's an easy thing to say," snarled Londray.

"Silence!" exclaimed the other man peremptorily. "I'm taking on this business. If you wish to know, my name is Wynyard, assistant commissioner and magistrate for Nyaruma District. Got that? Right-o!"

With the utmost self-confidence, yet without any suggestion of bombast, Wynyard took command of the situation.

"Now," he continued, addressing Desmond, "I hope you won't object to my asking you a few questions. Have you met or spoken to any of that gang before?"

"Not to my knowledge," replied Tiny, after giving the names of himself and his chum.

"Now, tell me, what were your movements during, say, the last three months?"

"We were both at school in England."

"What school?"


A faint smile appeared upon Wynyard's bronzed features.

"That's Colbury Monkton, isn't it?" he inquired.

"Oh, it was," replied Tiny, "but it was shifted about a twelvemonth ago."

"H'm, that's news," observed the inquisitor. "What's the name of the Head?"

Desmond told him.

"In fact," he added, "we are both going to join the Head's brother, Colonel Narfield, at Kilembonga."

"Really," exclaimed Wynyard in surprise. "Well, gentlemen," he added, addressing the other passengers, "I feel certain that this accusation is utterly unfounded, and I am willing to take all responsibility of being answerable for the correctness of Sinclair's and Desmond's answers. If you wish to know the reasons on which I base my assumptions, they are that I am an old boy of Stockmere. All I can suggest as to why these two gentlemen were not plundered like the rest of us was on account of their youth. Apparently the chief bandit was a bit of a sentimentalist. Palaver ended."

Colin and Tiny felt greatly relieved at escaping from what might have been an awkward predicament. They knew—especially the former—that suspicion is "like tar." It sticks, and takes drastic measures to remove it.

Whether the rest of the passengers saw eye to eye with Wynyard did not much matter. They had found a new friend under difficult conditions as strangers in a strange land, and more, there was a strong bond drawing them together—the fact that all three were Old Stockmerians.

No one thought of going to sleep. The passengers, while awaiting the return of the engine, beguiled themselves with talking.

Wynyard eagerly plied the two chums with questions concerning the old school. He had left it fifteen years ago to take up a Civil Service appointment. Dr. Narfield he knew well, but the names of the assistant masters—Collier, Bowser, Blake, and Bridger—were new to him.

"I must make Colonel Herbert Narfield's acquaintance," he observed. "From all accounts, he's a rattling good sort. I'm at Nyaruma. It's only one hundred and fifty miles from Kilembonga, and one hundred and fifty miles in this country is a very small distance, when one's nearest neighbour—not counting the natives—might be twenty or thirty miles away. So when you've a chance, look me up. I may be able to get you some shooting. We've still a few elephants and lions knocking around."

Just as the African dawn was breaking with the rapidity common to the tropics the engine returned. It was running backwards, pushing a couple of large trucks crowded with armed men and horses for the pursuit of the train bandits.

"Don't suppose we stand much chance of following their spoor," remarked one of the armed volunteers. "But we'll try our level best to collar them. You say there were ten? H'm, a big party to make themselves scarce. This is the first occasion we've had an affair like this since we downed Fritz out there at any rate, we'll make the beggars shift. It won't be healthy for them anywhere within a hundred miles of the railway."

At length the tedious, enforced wait came to an end, and the engine, puffing laboriously, resumed its stiff climb into the East African hinterland.

Although the air was still very hot, and the sun glared pitilessly upon the baked earth, Colin and Tiny, tired with excitement, slept heavily.

They did not wake until the train slowed down and came to a standstill at Tabora Station. Wynyard was no longer there; while the chums were sleeping soundly he had alighted at a place ninety miles away. Of Londray they saw no sign. He had discreetly betaken himself off to another compartment.

Colonel Narfield was waiting for them. He greeted them warm-heartedly and with unconcealed pleasure.

"We'll have grub before we start," he said, after he had superintended the efforts of four muscular blacks to carry the new arrivals' trunks and packing-cases from the train.

"Bring your suit-cases. They'll go in the car. The heavier stuff will have to go up by the bullock waggon. Well, how's everybody at Stockmere?"

The meal over, Herbert Narfield, having given final instructions to the black servants in charge of the bullock waggon, brought round the car, which, Colin noticed, was of an American make similar to those he had seen in Dar-es-Salaam.

"Hop in," said the Colonel. "Colin, you can sit alongside me; you, Desmond, in the back with McFrazer. That rifle's loaded, but the safety-catch is set."

With a gentle reminder that one has to be prepared for such slight occasions when a lion or a leopard puts in an appearance, Colonel Narfield set the car in motion.

McFrazer was the colonel's former batman, an alert soldier of the old school, who had come through the Great War with the Mons Medal and Star, the Military Medal, three wound stripes, and an inexhaustible fund of dry humour. Like most Scots, he was a born engineer, and on that account was indispensable during the numerous encounters between Colonel Narfield and the Yankee motor-car.

There was no mistaking the fact, Herbert Narfield could drive. He was somewhat inclined to be reckless, and he did not spare the engine. The latter he regarded as a mere automatic machine, that, once started, ran on "for ever" or until it "konked out." Sometimes the "konking-out" function was postponed by the well-meant action of McFrazer, who, leaning forward, would prod his master in the back and roar:

"Eh, mon; you'm daen' fine. But jist a wee bit back on the ignition. Weel, let her bide a' that."

Then, his sensitive ears confirming the fact that the engine was no longer "knocking," he would lean back and gaze vacantly at an imaginary object yards in front, between the heads of the two occupants of the front seat, until symptoms of another mechanical eruption roused him into activity.

For several miles the road was fair, as far as African roads went. It had been constructed by forced labour under Hun supervision, and as such was made thoroughly and scientifically. But presently the road deteriorated into a mere track, rutted and impeded with stones and boulders. By a series of terrific gradients it climbed into what appeared to be impassable mountain fastnesses.

Sometimes it plunged through a rock-strewn kloof, then it swung dizzily round the shoulder of a precipitous rock. Sometimes it vanished under a sea of wind-ridged sand, to reappear in the guise of the bed of a long-dried-up mountain torrent.

"We're a good way from Kilembonga yet," observed Narfield. "It's a different type of country from this. I'm rather anxious to get into more civilised parts before nightfall."

Colin tried to make a suitable reply, but his teeth were chattering like castinets owing to the terrific bumping of the car. In spite of the cushions, he was feeling bruised all over.

Rather vaguely he wondered why men drove motor-cars in East Africa. Had the differential suddenly decided to part company and lie down in the road for a rest, Colin would not have been unduly surprised. It seemed marvellous that the swaying, jolting car held together.

"It's down hill for the next five miles," continued Colonel Narfield. "Look on your left; isn't that a fine bit?"

Colin did so. The road, slightly on the down grade, was working round the edge of an immense mass of rock, that rose almost sheer from the valley, a thousand feet below. The broad terrace—it was about twenty yards wide—in which the road ran, was the only track of any size on the face of the cliff, and, being partially overhung by the mass of rock beyond it and the summit, appeared narrower than it actually was. Beyond the valley, dense with sub-tropical foliage, and already shaded from the rays of the setting sun, were range upon range of rugged mountains.

Even as Sinclair was drinking in the magnificent grandeur of the panoramic view, there was a terrific report. For the moment Colin thought that one of the occupants of the back seat had discharged a rifle; but the next instant, as the car slithered and swung round at right angles to its original direction, he realised that a tyre had burst.

Then, with the almost instantaneous working of his brain, he was conscious of something to which the matter of a burst tyre was a mere nothing, for, with the engine still working and the clutch in, the car was heading straight for the brink of the precipice.



Herbert Narfield wrenched at the steering wheel, but the still intact tyre merely slithered in the dust. Not for one moment did he lose his head. Switching off the ignition, he applied both brakes. Even then the car skidded remorselessly towards the sickening depths.

From where he sat, wide-eyed and motionless, Colin was dully aware that already the bonnet of the car appeared to cut the edge of the precipice. Momentarily he expected the front wheels to plunge over the brink, followed by the rest of the car and the occupants in a terrific dive of utter annihilation.

But seemingly by a miracle the expected catastrophe did not materialise. With a tremendous jar, that brought Colin's head in violent contact with the wind-screen, the car stopped dead.

Tiny Desmond, lying across the back of the front seat, was breathing heavily. For one thing, he was badly scared; for another, the brass-rimmed edge of the seat-back had well-nigh winded him.

Colonel Narfield was sitting perfectly quiet at the useless steering-wheel. His bronzed features were immobile, his jaw sternly set. Realising that all immediate danger was past, he was covertly watching Colin out of the corner of his eyes. He was not disappointed at his investigation. Colin, though he "had the wind up," gave no sign of being in a state of panic.

McFrazer's, "Ah, weel, will I be for puttin' on the Stepney?" broke the silence. There was a general exodus from the stranded car—and a cautious performance, too, since it was quite possible that any undue vibration might complete a protracted disaster and send the vehicle crashing into space.

"We'll man-handle her back into a safer position first, I think," decided Colonel Narfield. "Another six inches and the front wheel would have been over. Get out the rope, McFrazer."

The man went to a locker in the rear of the car and pulled out a coil of three-inch Manilla rope of at least twenty-five fathoms in length. Next he produced two treble-sheaved cast-iron blocks and a couple of crowbars.

"This is our ditching gear," explained Herbert Narfield. "I don't suppose you ever thought to see this kind of repairing kit in a car? It's most useful out here. Now, then, McFrazer, I think that boulder will do. We may not want the crowbars."

He pointed to a mass of rock, weighing perhaps a couple of tons, that had fallen and lodged against the cliff side of the track.

In ten minutes the tackle was rigged, one block being made fast by means of a strop round the boulder, the other to the chassis of the car.

"Man the rope," continued the colonel, stooping to remove two or three large stones. "All ready? Together! Here she comes."

Slowly but surely the "flake" of the tackle came home; still more slowly did the car retrace its tracks, until it was safely in the centre of the rough road.

By this time the sun was almost hidden behind the distant mountains. Already miasmic mists were rising from the valley. No longer were the dense masses of trees visible. An even pall of white vapour hid them, presenting the appearance of a vast lake.

"Now, lads, it's outspan—we camp here for the night," announced Colonel Narfield. "It would be folly to attempt to proceed. Collect all the wood you can find and pile it up in front of that hollow. I'll see to the supper, while McFrazer carries on with fitting the Stepney."

For the next twenty minutes all was activity. They were racing against time in order to make all snug before darkness set in. From underneath the seats in the car Herbert Narfield produced a big pile of blankets and some waterproof sheets. These, with the cushions, were sufficient to make up three comfortable beds, arranged in a segment of a circle, so that the sleepers' heads were towards the wall of rock and their feet towards the fire.

"Why only three?" asked Tiny.

"Because you two are excused duty tonight," explained the colonel. "McFrazer and I will keep alternate watches. If that fire dies out there'll be trouble. There are lions about, but they won't face a blaze. Supper's ready. We'll have to mark time a bit on the water, I fancy. We don't have it laid on out here, you know."

Nevertheless, it was a jolly repast, eaten in the open and in the ruddy glare of the enormous fire that cast fantastic shadows upon the wall of rock.

In the darkness a long-drawn-out roar pierced the darkness, to be answered by another and yet another. Instinctively McFrazer glanced up in the direction of his rifle, that lay propped up against a boulder.

Both Colin and Tiny recognised the sound. Lions were abroad; but when the lads were camping in the open, it seemed quite a different proposition from hearing the roar of the king of beasts from the comfort and security of a moving railway train.

"We may as well have a can of petrol handy," observed the colonel. "And the petrol-squirt, too," he added, as McFrazer hurried to the car, which was a good thirty yards from the fire. He knocked the ashes from his pipe.

"Now," he continued, "you fellows turn in. You must be tired. There's nothing to worry about except water in the morning."

Colin and Tiny turned in "all standing," wrapping themselves in blankets and drawing the macintosh sheets over them to keep off the night dews. From where they lay they saw Colonel Narfield unload his rifle, deliberately notch the nickel bullets, and replace them in the magazine.

"Good-night, old fellow," said Tiny.

"Good-night," replied his chum. Then he added, "Do you always speak the truth?"

"Always," replied Tiny, considerably puzzled. "Why do you ask?"

"Hadn't a chance to mention it before," said Colin, "but do you remember telling Wynyard that you'd never set eyes on that josser who didn't relieve us of our cash?"

"I do," declared Desmond firmly.



"Well, I'm not," said Colin slowly. "Far from it. I'm fairly certain—mind you, can't prove it—that the fellow was——"

"Who?" asked Tiny eagerly.

"Van der Wyck," was the startling reply.



"Now, now, you fellows!" interrupted Colonel Narfield's voice from the vicinity of the blazing fire, "palaver ended. Not another word, or you'll both be fat-headed in the morning."

Both lads relapsed into silence. They knew perfectly well that with Colonel Narfield an order was an order in whatever form it was expressed. For the time being, then, Colin's explanations of his surprising theory had to be shelved.

Ten minutes later both lads were sound asleep beneath the African stars. The watcher by the fire heard their regular breathing.

"Not much wrong there," he soliloquised with a smile, "if they can sleep like that."

The roaring grew louder. He threw another armful of brushwood upon the fire and carefully wiped the dewy moisture from the barrel and sights of his rifle. Then he strolled across to where McFrazer was sitting, painstakingly shredding a plug of Boer tobacco in the palm of his left hand.

"Aren't you turning in?" he asked.

"Weel, I'm thinkin' not, sir," replied the man. "Them beasties seem a bit too venturesome the nicht."

Narfield nodded gravely. In spite of his reassurances to the two lads, he was far from being easy in his mind. He recollected a story, told him only two days ago, of a lioness breaking through a ring of fire round a kraal and carrying off a full-grown sheep. Another disconcerting fact was a knowledge that, at the present rate of consumption, the pile of firewood was diminishing far too rapidly.

For two hours the two men waited and watched, while their younger companions slept. Apparently the lions had decided to maintain a safe distance. They were roaring at frequent intervals—deep, prolonged volumes of sound, and yet Colin and Tiny still slept.

Suddenly an antelope, racing like the wind, tore along the mountain path. For a brief instant the startled creature stopped and gazed at the blazing fire with consternation plainly written in its large brown eyes. Then, evidently deeming the terror behind was more formidable than that in front, it rushed madly between the flames and the brink of the precipice and vanished in the darkness.

"They'll be showing themselves in a few seconds," prophesied Colonel Narfield. "Stand by."

But ten minutes passed. An ominous silence prevailed, broken only by the deep breathing of the sleeping lads and the sharp crackle of the burning brushwood.

"It calls tae mind that bit in Melville Wood, sir," remarked McFrazer, in a lower tone than was his wont. "We whur twa companies strong, you'll remember, sir, an' we were expectin' Fritz in force come dawn. I'll no complain o' the fight; 'twas the wait as gived maist o' the lads the creepies."

Colonel Narfield nodded comprehendingly.

"When we'd a-gi'en Fritz a bellyful," continued McFrazer despondingly, "I found I'd lost ma pooch an' five francs in siller an a'. I ne'er clappit eyen on it tha' noo——"

He broke off his reminiscences and gripped his rifle. The colonel, roused to action, followed the direction of the Scotsman's glance. The tedious wait was at an end.

Silently a huge lion had approached. It was standing with its hind legs slightly bowed and its forelegs planted stiffly upon a boulder. In that position, thrown into strong relief against the blackness of the night by the fire, its bulk was enormously magnified until it resembled a ruddy, bronzed statue.

The animal was obviously troubled by the sight of the flames. The fire stood in its path. With its head thrown well back, its enormous lips bared and showing its cruel, magnificent teeth, the lion gave no sign of movement except a slow, ponderous motion of its tail.

Having apparently weighed the risks, the king of beasts came to the conclusion that it was safe to follow the spoor of the antelope between the flames and the brink of the chasm.

Throwing back his maned head still further, the lion roared. It was an intimation to his companions that they could rejoin him, for quickly two full-grown lionesses stood behind him.

The roar, shaking the solid ground, roused the sleepers in double quick time. Tiny, shaking off his blankets, rose to his feet. Dazzled by the glare and with the echoes of the terrible cry ringing in his ears, he was for a moment unable to realise his surroundings.

Quick as lightning, the lion caught sight of the roused lad. The beast was hungry, and when thoroughly famished a lion will not hesitate to attack human beings, even when protected by fire. His eyes closed ever so slightly, his nostrils quivered. These were infallible signs that the lion contemplated a spring.

Levelling his rifle, Colonel Narfield fired. He was a second or so too late. Already the lithe, ponderous mass was hurtling through the air.

The thud of the criss-cross bullet could be distinctly heard as it struck the lion in the throat. The impetus of the moving mass was retarded, but not stopped. Falling short of his intended distance, the stricken lion pitched heavily into the fire, scattering burning embers far and wide.

Then, with a roar of mingled rage and pain, the lion, with a convulsive movement, leapt from the flames. Partly blinded, the infuriated animal appeared to have no other object in view than to make for Tiny Desmond, who, still partially encumbered with his blankets, was flattening himself against the wall of rock.

Before Herbert Narfield could fire a second time, and McFrazer was unable to fire at all owing to the danger of hitting his master, the lion hurled the former aside.

The colonel staggered backwards for half-a-dozen yards and subsided ungracefully, while his rifle, flying in a different direction, fell almost at Colin Sinclair's feet.

The lion was down again, but rallying for a final spring upon the supposed cause of his wound—the luckless Tiny.

In a trice, and almost automatically, Colin seized the colonel's rifle, and, without waiting to see if there were a cartridge in the breech, pressed the trigger.

Fortunately the weapon was loaded. The bullet, fired at less than ten feet range, hit the lion just behind the left shoulder. With a yelp the lion turned to deal with its latest assailant, and fell quivering upon the ground, shot through the heart.

"Look out, sir!" shouted McFrazer, at the same time firing an apparently ineffectual shot.

The warning was a timely one, for one of the lionesses, rendered desperate by the death of her mate, was bounding rapidly towards the still prostrate man.

Yet, in her fury, the lioness was not lacking in cunning. Keeping the abandoned motor-car between her and McFrazer, she rapidly covered the distance between her and the fire, which, owing to being scattered by the lion's leap, was dying down and emitting clouds of smoke.

Colonel Narfield had already realised his danger and that of the whole party. At all costs the fire had to be made an effectual barrier. Rapidly unscrewing the cap of the petrol tin that lay within his reach, he hurled the tin into the centre of the wide circle of sizzling embers.

The result exceeded all expectations. With a hollow report, the contents of the tin exploded. Flames twenty feet in height leapt into the air. The heat was so terrific that the four men had to shield their eyes. Rivulets of flaming petrol spread in all directions. It was a barrier through which nothing endowed with life could possibly pass and survive.

The fierce flames had effectually scared both lionesses. All danger in that direction was now passed, but another peril rose to take its place. The steadily spreading petrol threatened to trap the men in the hollow in the tremendous wall of rock.

All they could do was to back as far as possible and wait. There was no chance of skirting the fire. Already the flames were licking the cliff at two points fifty yards apart.

Rather grimly Colonel Narfield realised that he had overdone things. He never thought for one moment that a mere tin of petrol would create such an inferno. It looked like a case of out of the frying-pan into the fire with a vengeance.

But already the tide of flame was receding, at least on the side nearest the four men. The terrain sloped ever so slightly in their direction, and the volatile liquid failed to flow further.

Over the blackened ground minor explosions of petrol-laden air, like the expiring gasps of a stranded fish, showed that the force of the conflagration was spent; but on the other side and in the direction of the edge of the precipice, the petrol was flowing in a sheet of dull red fire.

As if passing out of a trance, Colin dimly realised that once again a dire peril had been averted. Scorched by the heat, his eyes painfully strained, and his throat burning, he was glad to drink in copious draughts of the now comparatively cool air. And in the midst of his discomforts he felt a wave of elation. He had bagged his first lion. There lay the huge carcase, the hair singed and the skin utterly spoilt; but it was there, a victim to his borrowed rifle, nevertheless.

A loud detonation rudely interrupted his thoughts. Before he could account for the explosion McFrazer settled the point.

"Mon!" he exclaimed excitedly, "the car!"

Overtaken by the spreading flames, the motor was blazing furiously.




Another tyre, unable to withstand the fierce heat, had exploded, scattering a realistic imitation of a firework display in the form of a shower of glowing embers.

The four men watched in mute helplessness. They could do nothing. Even had they been able to cross the sea of subsiding flame that lay between them and the car the heat from the burning vehicle would have held them at bay. There were fire-extinguishers in the locker, but in present circumstances they were useless.

Mingled with the shower of burning petrol came the reek of blistering paint as tongues of fire leapt and embraced the coupé.

"Better stand clear," suggested Colonel Narfield after a while. "There are a couple of hundred rounds of ammunition in the car. By Jove! I was a thoughtless ass to chuck that petrol into the fire."

"Some of us might have been food for the lions if you hadn't," observed Colin. "Of course, it's rough luck to have to lose a good car——"

"You're right," agreed Colonel Narfield gravely. "Bring that rifle along with you, Tiny. My shoulder's a bit stiff ... nothing much. The brute's claws missed me."

Quitting their retreat that had all but been a fatal trap, the stranded travellers hastened back along the cliff path until a projecting rock offered a secure barrier from chance missiles.

They were only just in time. The ammunition, consisting of both ball and shot cartridges, was exploding like the fire of a badly-disciplined platoon. Fragments of nickel, splaying against the face of the cliff above their head and dislodging fragments of rock, were sufficient evidence to justify the display of caution on the part of Colonel Narfield and his companions.

The petrol in the back of the car had also exploded—twenty gallons that caused a flame compared to which the ignition of the two-gallon tin was a mere nightlight.

Luckily the car had been standing on ground shelving towards the cliff, and consequently the flaming spirit flowed steadily in that direction, falling in a cascade of fire into the abyss and lighting the deep valley for miles.

It was a weird scene, with a subdued orchestral accompaniment provided by the blood-curdling roars of the now thoroughly scared lionesses. Nor did the flames die out until the first blush of dawn stole over the eastern sky and the night of horror and disaster was at an end.

"We must get a move on before the sun's up," said Colonel Narfield briskly. Although suffering considerable pain from the concussion sustained when the lion hurled him to the ground he made light of his hurts. His chief concern was for the welfare of his newly-joined assistants, and realising that a merry heart goes a long way he endeavoured by precept and example to cheer up his inexperienced companions. "It's a mere forty miles to Kilembonga and fairly good going. We'll be able to find horses at Sibenga's Kraal: that's a matter of a couple of hours' trek. Now then, McFrazer, let's collect what remains of the gear."

The four smoke-grimed and dishevelled men prepared to resume their journey on foot. There was a considerable amount of baggage that had survived the fire in addition to that lost in the car. The two rifles and ammunition, tinned provisions and blankets, even when distributed between four persons, made quite a heavy load, and before long they would feel heavier still.

Of the car nothing remained but the four cylinders, a twisted crank-case, the steel chassis, and a medley of buckled pipes, wires, and rods.

"And the worst of it is," remarked Colonel Narfield, "she wasn't insured. I wrote to an agent in Nairobi only last Monday, but as I didn't know the amount of the premium there's nothing doing in that line. Now, lads, mind your step. Keep a look out for snakes. They're rather more formidable than the grass snakes you used to hunt for on the hills around Stockmere."

For the next hour progress was well maintained in spite of the rough road. It was steadily down hill, the path skirting the bold face of the mountain for nearly two miles before it descended into a grassy valley.

Presently Colin caught sight of a column of smoke rising from a collection of beehive-shaped huts.

"That's Sibenga's Kraal," announced Colonel Narfield. "The natives in this part are of Zulu stock, and in their manners and customs they don't differ much from their blood relations in Natal."

"Are they Makoh'lengas?" asked Colin.

"Makoh'lengas?" repeated Herbert Narfield, "No; but what do you know about Makoh'lenga?"

Colin told him.

"H'm," remarked his questioner. "And who, might I ask, spun you this fairy tale? Your friend Van der Wyck, eh? He must be a humorist of sorts. Let me tell you that the Makoh'lenga are almost pure-blooded Zulus. It is true that they trekked north, but the yarn about a secret city is all eye-wash. The Makoh'lenga invariably live in kraals, and since they are not allowed to fight they rear cattle. A few, I believe, work in the mines, but only a few."

Sinclair was dumfounded at the information. Already his faith in Van der Wyck had received a rude shock when he had a suspicion that Van der Wyck and the train robber were one and the same person. Nevertheless, he was reluctant to believe that the Afrikander had "sold him a dog."

Placing the rifle he was carrying in the crook of his left arm, Colin produced the swastika which he had worn round his neck since the day on which he had had it given him.

"What do you make of this, sir?" he asked.

Colonel Narfield stopped, set down his pile of blankets, and examined the barbaric-looking jewel.

"By Jove, Colin!" he exclaimed after a brief scrutiny. "Where on earth did you pick this up?"



It was Tiny Desmond who answered the question.

"Van der Wyck gave it to Colin for a sort of keepsake, sir."

"A rather valuable one," commented the colonel.

"Well, you see," pursued Tiny, "Colin saved his life. He——"

"Shut up, you ass!" whispered Colin, turning a dusky red. "Nothing of the sort, sir. I threw him a lifebelt. He had fallen overboard."

"And jumped in after it to make sure that Van der Wyck got it," continued the unabashed Tiny. "The ship was doing about seventeen knots at the time and it was night. They were in the water for about an hour before a boat picked them up."

"I'd like to make Van der Wyck's acquaintance," observed Herbert Narfield, handing back the swastika. "It would be interesting to know how he came by it. There's an inscription on it in Chaldean and, I fancy, Hebrew, and these two rough engravings represent either a winged bull or a paschal Iamb. At least, that's what I take them to be without going deeply into the matter. This trinket might possibly be three thousand years old. We'll go further into the matter later on. Meanwhile we are approaching Sibenga's Kraal."

The approach of the four white men had already been observed, and a swarm of natives—men, women, and children—poured from the huts with loud cries that were intended as a song of welcome for the illustrious guests.

At their head stalked Sibenga himself. The chief was dressed in a huntsman's discoloured scarlet coat that in better days might have graced the Quorn or the Pytchley meet, a pair of canvas trousers that at one time were white, and a pair of khaki puttees. Round his neck he wore a bicycle chain burnished until it shone like silver. From the charm was suspended a copper disc on which were roughly cut the words "Sibenga: he wants watching." His head was shaven, with the exception of a ring of hair worked up with gum until it resembled a leather headband.

His face was full, his eyes small and deep set. A scanty black beard failed to conceal the full protruding lips and flabby cheeks of the chief. His feet from the lowermost folds of the puttees were bare. In his right hand he carried a knobkerrie, while on his left arm he bore a small cowhide shield.

Yet in spite of his bizarre appearance Sibenga appeared anxious to please his white guests. True he was somewhat puzzled that the four men had arrived on foot, and that they carried loads instead of being accompanied by native porters.

Colonel Narfield wasted no time in preliminaries. He spoke Swahili fairly fluently, and although he had not been long in the country he had picked up a smattering of the Kaffir tongue that is more or less understood from Cape Town to Ujiji.

"I want to borrow four good horses," he said, after explaining who and what he was and that his kraal was at Kilembonga.

Sibenga gave an order to one of his subjects. The man, after grovelling in the dust at his lord's feet, backed away. In a few minutes he returned accompanied by three other men and four sorry-looking horses, for unlike the Zulus and Matabeli the Sibengas to a certain extent reared horses.

"What awful-looking screws," remarked Tiny.

"Yes," agreed Colonel Narfield. "Awful-looking, but they're 'salted'—that is, proof against the deadly tsetse fly. Now comes the tough business—bartering."

It was a long and tedious programme. Sibenga led off by expressing himself willing to part with the four animals in exchange for the two rifles, although he knew perfectly well that no native unless serving as a soldier under British officers is allowed to possess a breech-loader.

Next he demanded whisky, a commodity which Colonel Narfield did not have and which was also taboo as far as the natives were concerned, a heavy penalty being imposed upon anyone caught supplying the blacks with intoxicating drinks of any description.

Thwarted on these two points Sibenga became sulky, and hinted that he meant to end the palaver.

"I will give you four good blankets for the loan of the horses," said Colonel Narfield firmly. "You can send men with us to bring the animals back, and I will give them two good axes and a looking-glass as a present to you."

"No; ten blankets, four axes, a looking-glass, and a box that talks" (a gramophone or a musical box), declared Sibenga.

"Did you dare to bargain thus with the white men with yellow hair and blue eyes?" asked Colonel Norfield.

Sibenga ignored the question.

"They have gone away," he observed, and in his heart he was thankful that they had, for the Germans were not particular in their methods of dealing with the natives.

"And better men have taken their places," rejoined Narfield. "Listen, Sibenga: were your watchers-by-night asleep between sunset and sunrise? Did they see a blaze of fire upon yonder mountain?"

The chief nodded.

"I caused that fire," proceeded Colonel Narfield. "Supposing that fire came down and ate up your kraal: where would your horses be then?"

For a moment Sibenga looked awe-stricken. He had reason to fear the white man's magic.

"What do you want my horses for?" he asked.

"To get back to my kraal," replied Colonel Narfield.

"It has been reported to me," said Sibenga slowly and deliberately, "that white men can fly higher and quicker than the mountain eagles. Let me see you do it, and then I will believe. You will not want horses, O white chief that went in a cart that smokes and came back without it. Spread your wings and fly."

"The old rascal hasn't kept his eyes shut," remarked Colonel Narfield to his companions. "He saw the car going to Tabora the day before yesterday, and apparently his watchers saw the old bus burning. At any rate, since we are on foot he thinks us very small beer. We can't point a rifle at the old bounder's head, because instructions have been given that the natives are to be treated with consideration—and Sibenga evidently knows that and regards it as a form of weakness. The District Magistrate, backed up by a full company of Haussas, would put the wind up the fellow, I guess."

The situation seemed a deadlock. Since Sibenga refused to lend the animals and Colonel Narfield could not use force—even if he attempted to do so there were fifty or sixty powerful natives armed with spears and kerries to be reckoned with—it looked as if the four weary men would have to undergo the humiliation of walking away without having achieved their object of obtaining transport. Suddenly Colin thought of Van der Wyck's gift. Now occurred an opportunity of proving the truth of the Afrikander's words that the swastika was a talisman which would work wonders with the natives—on the presumption that the Makoh'lengas and Sibenga's people were of kindred race and influenced to a great extent by the same manners and customs.

"Any use, do you think, sir?" he asked when he had briefly stated his inspiration.

"Might be, anyway," replied Colonel Narfield. "Make a show of it. There's nothing like display to impress the natives."

Colin, Desmond, and McFrazer rose to the occasion. While Sinclair slowly and deliberately drew out the talisman and proffered it to Narfield on bended knee, Tiny and the old soldier stood erect with their right hands raised in salute.

Then with an equally dramatic reverence Colonel Narfield held Colin's swastika in front of the dumfounded Sibenga.

"Behold, Sibenga!" he thundered. "The Sign demands submission. Refuse and the dread penalty awaits you."

For a brief instant there was a tense silence. Then, almost simultaneously, Sibenga, his head men, his warriors, and the rest of the company threw themselves on their knees and bowed their heads in the dust.

"We see the Sign!" almost shrieked the chief. "Speak Thy will, O Great, Great One, and we obey."



Before nightfall Colin, Sinclair and Tiny Desmond were safely installed at Kilembonga. They were almost too dead-beat to take stock of their new abode that night. The reaction of their adventurous journey by train, car and on foot, ending with thirty odd miles on horseback had told heavily.

They were barely conscious of sitting down to a good square meal and of being shown into a spacious bedroom. After that everything became a blank until close on noon on the following day.

"Tiny, old son," exclaimed Colin, "we've slept the clock round."

"Might have slept the clock square, for all I know," replied Desmond, stretching his aching limbs. "Hullo! Where are we? Honest Injun, I thought we were back at Stockmere."

The two chums sat up and gazed at one another from opposite corners of a large palm-thatched room. The windows were shaded by "jalousies" or open louvres, from the almost vertical rays of the sun.

The interior of the room was simplicity itself, or, as Desmond remarked, "And everything within that cot was wondrous neat and clean." The furniture was almost entirely constructed of African teak, while to render the woodwork immune from the onslaughts of ants the legs of the beds, chairs, and wash-stands stood in shallow tin bowls of water.

"Where are our clothes, I wonder?" enquired Tiny.

"They can't have arrived yet," replied his chum. "The bullock waggon——"

"Yes, I know," interrupted Desmond. "But the things we wore yesterday. I have some idea that I left mine on that chair."

A brief search resulted in the finding of the missing garments. The clothes had been brushed, neatly folded, and placed inside two tin trunks.

Evidently the sounds made by the searchers had penetrated into another part of the house, for there was a tremendous knock on the door, followed by the entrance of Tenpenny Nail.

"Me your servant, sah," he announced, addressing Colin. "Tenpenny Nail—dat's me. Blue Fly him come one time. Gone fetchee up bath-water."

Colin regarded his new acquaintance curiously. He saw a tall, broad-shouldered man of a type totally distinct from the Kaffir.

Tenpenny Nail was a Kruman who had served in a Haussa regiment attached to the "Waifs," or West African Frontier Force. Attaining the rank of corporal, he had elected at the close of hostilities to take his discharge at Ujiji instead of returning to "The Coast." His former master, late platoon-commander, had recently sold out and returned to England, so Tenpenny Nail had taken service with Colonel Narfield at Kilembonga.

This much Tenpenny Nail related promptly, accompanying his recital with a succession of broad grins that gave his features the appearance of being almost all mouth.

In the midst of his introductory speech Tenpenny Nail was interrupted by the arrival of his colleague, Blue Fly, who so strongly resembled Colin's servant that the lad wondered if he would ever be able to distinguish one from the other.

Blue Fly was staggering under the weight of an enormous earthenware jar of water. He could have carried the weight with equanimity in the open by balancing the jar on his head; but the height of the doorway prevented him, and perforce he had to carry it in his arms.

Powerfully built from the waist upwards, Blue Fly, like most African natives, was woefully thin and weak "on his pins," and it certainly looked as if his spidery legs would give way under the weight of his burden.

"Massa Demon," he announced majestically. "Tiffin him ready in half a perishing hour."

"Right-o, Bluebottle," replied Tiny cheerfully.

Blue Fly looked both surprised and pained.

"I tell you, sah," he observed with solemn dignity. "My name is Blue Fly, sah, not Bluebottle."

"That's all right, old son," rejoined Tiny. "A mistake on both sides. My name's Desmond."

But it was a very long time before Blue Fly left off calling his new master "Demon," often at most inopportune moments.

Having bathed and dressed, Colin and Tiny found their way to the dining-room, where Colonel Narfield was awaiting them.

"Had a good night?" he inquired. "That's splendid. We won't start serious work for a couple of days. That'll give you a chance to look round, and by that time the rest of your kit ought to be here. No; we don't do much between eleven and three unless we're obliged to."

After lunch, Colonel Narfield, foregoing his customary "forty winks," showed the new arrivals round the place. The house was solidly constructed of teak with corrugated iron outside. The roof was partly thatch and partly "tin." It was not a picturesque building by any means, although the broad stoep saved it from utter ugliness. It was long and rambling, and with the exception of the right wing, was one-storeyed.

In front of the house was a wide courtyard; on the back were the stables, stores, and workshops. The whole was surrounded by a formidable-looking fence with a bank of earth on the inside and a six-feet ditch without.

The motor garage was empty for obvious reasons, but in the stable were six "salted" horses and four trek-oxen, the remainder being on their way from Tabora with the chums' luggage.

In the workshops, which were well equipped both for iron and woodwork, a dozen natives were diligently at work under the supervision of McFraser. Adjoining the shop was a spacious laboratory.

"This is where you will spend a good many of your working hours," observed Colonel Narfield. "Of course that doesn't mean that you won't get out-door work—far from it. We've got to make a complete survey of the Rubera Valley, which is almost entirely in this estate. It will have to be mapped out, photographed, and recorded before we tackle the task of mining gold. As the result of preliminary investigations, I find that the district promises to be rich in gold, both in reefs and sand."

He went on to explain how gold is collected from alluvium by means of hydraulic washings, and the various artifices used to render the operation more prolific and profitable. He explained, also, how gold is obtained from auriferous quartz, the broken ore being passed through a "stamp-battery," and the precious metal is then extracted by a chemical process.

"And what is the stockade for?" asked Tiny. "It doesn't seem high enough to keep out lions."

"A lion could leap over it," replied Colonel Narfield, "but it's hardly likely to do so, especially when there is plenty of food to be found outside. As a matter of fact this place was built under Hun supervision. It was at one time a fortified outpost."

"Against the Makoh'lenga?" asked Colin.

Herbert Narfield smiled.

"You seem to have Makoh'lenga on the brain," he remarked. "It would be interesting to know what your friend Van der Wyck actually did tell you."



For the next few weeks the chums were kept busily employed in getting accustomed to their new surroundings. Armed with remarkably accurate maps—relics of German occupation and characteristic of the military thoroughness with which the cartographers worked—they explored the rocky valley of the Rubera, a small and swiftly flowing river that maintained a full head of water even in the dry season.

They visited the neighbouring kraals, climbed the rugged mountains that separated Kilembonga from the forest-covered basin of the Upper Nile and the untrodden wastes drained by the mysterious Congo.

They shot wildebeeste for food and crocodiles and vultures because they were enemies to man. Lions and rhinoceri they did not encounter, and perhaps it was as well in the earlier stages in their careers as sportsmen.

Their belongings had arrived safely, although the ox-waggon had been delayed for three days by a thunderstorm that had converted the rough road into an impassable morass, and they now had their own rifles and a fair amount of ammunition.

The life was strenuous, adventurous in a small degree, and healthy, and within a few days of Tiny's arrival at Kilembonga the irritating cough had practically disappeared.

One morning, when Colin and Tiny were up early with the intention of riding over to a native kraal to hire additional labourers, the lads were rather surprised to find six fully armed natives squatting on the ground dust outside the entrance gate of the stockade.

The men were attired similarly to the Matabele and Zulus. Each wore a head-ring, leopard-skin kaross, and loin cloth, while round ankles and wrists they sported rings bristling with feathers. Each carried a cow-hide shield, knobkerrie, stabbing-spear, and a sheaf of throwing assegais. Upon seeing Colin and Tiny the men sprang to their feet, their leader making "konza" or salutation.

"See what they want, Tenpenny Nail," ordered Colin, who knew that the Kruman had a smattering of the local dialects.

Tenpenny Nail, who never forgot that he had been a full corporal in a crack Haussa regiment, went up to the natives in a determined and authoritative manner, and a heated interview resulted.

Presently he reported to his master that the men were from Sibenga's Kraal, and had been sent to ask for the return of the four horses lent by the chief to Colonel Narfield on the memorable journey from Tabora.

"That's knocked our early morning excursion on the head, Tiny," declared Colin. "We'll have to inform Colonel Narfield, although I know for certain the horses were returned."

"Keep 'em long time wait, Massa Sinclair," suggested Tenpenny Nail. "If you gib de word I put 'em in clink one-time sharp."

Colin knew that Colonel Narfield was still asleep and that he was recovering from a slight attack of intermittent malaria. Also the lad had been long enough in East Africa to know that one way to impress the natives was to keep them waiting.

"Tell them to stop where they are, Tenpenny Nail," he ordered. "When the Great One thinks fit he will receive Sibenga's people."

The two chums and their Kruman servants went outside the stockade. The door was secured in order to keep the light-fingered natives from pilfering. Then, having seen their horses stabled, they went into the house and knocked at the door of Colonel Narfield's room.

"Some roguery here," decided Herbert Narfield, when Colin had explained the reason for the deputation's presence without. "The horses were sent back the morning following, and Sibenga's men who came with us were given presents to take to their master. Right-o, Colin; I'll see the beggars. Tell Blue Fly and Tenpenny Nail to admit them after they've left their arms outside the gate."

Leaving Colonel Narfield to complete his toilet, the two chums gave the necessary instructions to the Krumen.

A hotly-worded encounter ensued; the deputation being reluctant to be deprived of their weapons, while Tenpenny Nail was equally emphatic that they must do so. Neither side being disposed to give in, the Kruman told them in barrack-room English to clear out and shut the gate in their faces.

Sibenga's deputation were now on the horns of a dilemma. They dare not return to their chief without having delivered his message, and the door was shut to them unless they laid aside their arms.

At last, considerably chastened, they shouted to the Haussa to open to them, and that they would leave their spears and shields on the ground outside the stockade.

"Does Sibenga dare to suggest that I am a thief and have stolen his horses?" demanded Colonel Narfield sternly.

"Are there no thieves amongst the white men?" asked the leader of the deputation, answering one question by another. "Only one moon ago a white man who has a tree for a leg stole three oxen from Elyaui Kraal."

"Then perhaps he stole Sibenga's horses," suggested Colonel Narfield. "And the men who came here with the animals; have they returned?"

"Great One, they have not," was the reply. Herbert Narfield looked grave at the information. He could only conclude that the men had bolted, taking with them the presents he had sent to Sibenga.

"The chief Sibenga ordered us to make sure," declared the spokesman pointedly, after the Colonel had expressed his surprise in words.

"So that was why you came armed? If your master does not want to lose six more men he had better not send them here with assegais and shields, for they will be instantly struck down with the white man's magic. Nevertheless, not because Sibenga says you must, but because I am willing to allow it, a search may be made here for the missing horses."

The deputation, shepherded by Tinned Salmon, Colonel Narfield's personal servant, made a tour of the outbuildings, but to their obvious disappointment, no animals that resembled the horses from Sibenga's Kraal were to be found.

Colonel Narfield, Colin, and Tiny met the natives outside his laboratory, which the latter also showed a desire to explore.

"Now, Mouth of Sibenga," said the Colonel, addressing the head of the deputation. "You see I have spoken the word. Before you depart you, too, might like a gift."

He displayed a silvered steel concave mirror set in an ornamental copper frame—a tawdry article that finds a ready sale amongst savages. The headman's features broke into a grin of childish anticipation.

"Very well," continued Colonel Narfield. "You can have it if you can take it out of this bowl of water."

So saying, he placed the mirror in water and stood aside. With every sign of eagerness the native plunged his hand into the water, only to withdraw it with a yell of pain and surprise.

"Hau! It is bewitched!" exclaimed the headman. "This is the White Man's Magic."

"What! Are you afraid?" asked the Englishman, mockingly. "Are there no followers of Sibenga who will try?"

After a considerable amount of hesitation a second native plunged his hand into the water. He withdrew his hand quicker than he had inserted it, and began running round in circles, yelling in terror.

"You call yourselves warriors?" cried Colonel Narfield scornfully. "You have hearts like chickens. Will no one else try?"

A third native began very gingerly to touch the surface of the water. Nothing happening, he summoned up courage and dipped his hand until the water was almost up to his wrist, and his finger tips were within two inches of the coveted mirror. Then he, too, gave a yell and abandoned the attempt.

"Now," continued Herbert Narfield, "you see something of the White Man's Magic. Even your greatest witch-doctors are unable to fight it. If any man comes to my kraal with evil intent he will be struck down with the same magic as three of you have felt .... Colin, you've that swastika on you, haven't you?" he added. "Bring it out and touch the water with it."

Sinclair did so. At the sight of the amulet the superstitious delegates were visibly impressed. Still more so were they when Colin unconcernedly drew the looking glass from the bowl of water and immediately replaced it.

"Now try again," invited Colonel Narfield, addressing the headman. "We have quelled the magic spirit of the water. You will be no longer in peril. Take out the gift." It was quite a long time before the native could master sufficient courage to renew the attempt. Trembling in every limb, he cautiously dipped his finger in the innocuous liquid and quickly withdrew it. Satisfying himself that so far the Great One's word was truth, he thrust in his hand and triumphantly obtained possession of the mirror.

"Hau!" he exclaimed. "The magic is eaten up. There is no longer anything to be feared. Perhaps, O Great One," he added darkly, "the magic that surrounds your kraal may likewise be dispersed. See, I place my hand in the water again. It—oh! oh! oh!"

Literally beside himself with fear, the headman took to his heels, ran across the courtyard, and disappeared through the gate of the stockade.

His panic was infectious, his companions also bolting in terror. Outside the fence they stopped only to recover their weapons, and then at a terrific pace they disappeared along the rough track leading to Sibenga's Kraal.

"Another example of 'Electricity in the Service of Man,'" remarked Herbert Narfield as he proceeded to disconnect the wires attached to the jar of water and a powerful battery. "So the old lab. at Stockmere proved a sound thing, eh, Colin? But I am afraid," he added gravely, "we haven't heard the last of Sibenga and his missing horses. We'll have to keep our weather eye lifting, or some night the old reprobate will ply his people with stiff doses of native beer and send them down to Kilembonga to do a bit of Bolshevik work."

"Fighting?" asked Tiny.

"Hardly—perhaps, though. At any rate they'll probably try to fire the buildings and stampede the cattle. Just at present they've got the wind up pretty badly."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Colin, looking along the track. "There is a weird-looking fellow coming this way. What mischief is he up to?"



The new arrival was a native, strongly resembling a Cape Kaffir. He was tall, broad shouldered, and with thin legs—a characteristic that both lads had remarked on several previous occasions.

His "costume" consisted of a battered bowler, in the hat-band of which was stuck a tuft of long feathers; a red kersey tunic, with yellow facings and no buttons; a blue loin-cloth, and an old pair of pigskin gaiters falling loosely over otherwise bare legs.

In his right hand he carried a cleft stick, in which were inserted a couple of envelopes. In his left he held a short stabbing assegai, and a canvas satchel hung across his tunic.

"The Kilembonga postboy," explained Colonel Narfield. "Not a fat mail for us this time, I'm afraid."

The native, grinning broadly, tendered the forked end of his stick to the owner of Kilembonga, saluted when the envelopes were handed over, and set off steadily for the next house—a matter of a mere thirty-five miles.

"Nothing for you, lads," remarked Colonel Narfield, scanning the two envelopes. "Letters are a bit erratic out here. We generally get the English mail on Fridays. This, apparently is a supplementary delivery. Both these, I see, bear a South African stamp."

The first was merely a business letter. The second, Colonel Narfield read through twice before handing it to the boys.

It was a letter from Van der Wyck, posted from Mafeking eight days previously. The Afrikander thanked Colonel Narfield for his kind invitation, but regretted that his farm required all his attention during the present season, and that he hoped to find an opportunity of paying a visit to East Africa after the harvest. Not a word was mentioned of Colin and Desmond.

"This wants a little explanation," observed the Colonel. "I am curious to know more about your acquaintance, Van der Wyck, and also to find out what he knows of the Makoh'lenga country. So, without mentioning the matter to you, I wrote to the address he gave you, asking him to pay a visit to Kilembonga."

"Rather a long way to come," observed Colin.

"Yes," replied the Colonel. "I hardly expected that he would accept, but these Afrikanders are fond of paying visits, especially if they have a chance of renewing their acquaintance with the country in which they fought. It would be interesting to learn how many of the South Africans are contemplating revisiting Flanders, for instance.

"I don't mind admitting that I'm changing my opinion of Van der Wyck. I honestly thought that what he told you about the Makoh'lenga was all eye-wash; but there's something about that swastika of yours, Colin, that requires a considerable amount of explanation. The natives about here seem to hold the thing in awe. Witness Sibenga and his headman; both of them were greatly impressed by it. Then, again, from what you told me, Van der Wyck tried to dissuade you from coming into contact with the Makoh'lenga. Why? Evidently he knows more about them than I do. That's not much, as far as I'm concerned, I'll admit; but if they, or, at any rate, one section of the tribe, possess some priceless secret, I'd like to fathom it.

"Directly we get a chance, lads, we'll have a little expedition into the Makoh'lenga country—taking due precautions—and see if your swastika commands as much respect as it does amongst the natives around Kilembonga."

A little later on Colin and Tiny had an opportunity of discussing the matter between themselves.

"I wonder why the Colonel did write?" remarked Colin.

"P'raps he had his suspicion," suggested Desmond. "About that train hold-up, I mean."

"If he did, he's jolly well mistaken," rejoined Sinclair. "We were a bit doubtful about it, you'll remember; but I'm dashed if I am now. It is impossible for a man to be at Mafeking and within a few miles off Tabora within twenty-four hours, unless he flew in an aeroplane. And it's a dead cert. he didn't, 'cause someone would have been sure to spot the machine—the natives especially. The news would spread all over the country in a few hours."

"How?" asked Desmond.

"Ask me another," replied his chum. "All I know is that news is communicated by the natives with marvellous rapidity. The boys here knew that Colonel Narfield's car was burned within an hour of the accident, and you know we didn't leave the spot until dawn. No, it's my firm belief that Van der Wyck is white. The fellow who didn't relieve us of our spare cash and gear was like him in a good many respects, but it couldn't possibly have been Van der Wyck."

"Did you notice he didn't send us a message or even refer to us in his letter?" asked Desmond. "That was strange, wasn't it?"

"Yes," admitted Colin. "It was. There's no getting away from that fact. Possibly he was in a hurry and clean forgot. We'll have a line from him in due course, never fear ... I say, what's that? A dust storm?"

He pointed to a dark cloud moving close to the ground at a distance of a mile or a mile and a half from the house.

"Goodness knows!" replied Tiny. "It looks weird. Here's Tenpenny Nail. Let's ask him."

The Haussa, carrying two buckets full of water, was crossing the courtyard. At a shout from the lads he put down his burden and ran up.

"What's that, Tenpenny Nail?" asked Colin, pointing to the dark cloud, which, instead of coming straight towards the house (the wind was blowing in that direction), was moving obliquely, so that it seemed likely that the phenomenon would not approach sufficiently near to admit of a personal investigation.

For perhaps fifteen seconds Tenpenny Nail looked. Then a broad grin overspread his features.

"Him locust, Massa Colin," he replied. "Me go tell Colonel one time quick."

Then, with a haste that the broad grin belied, the Haussa ran towards the house. He reappeared quickly at the heels of Colonel Narfield, who was shouting for the rest of the "boys" to turn out and look sharp about it.

Catching sight of Colin and Desmond, the Colonel called to them to rout out everyone they could find.

"Set up a barrage of fire, lads," he added. "It's our only chance. If those insects do come this way, there won't be so much as a blade of grass nor a bit of green stuff left; and we haven't too much to lose as it is."

For the next few minutes all was rush and hurry. The natives, fully alive to the seriousness of the situation, brought out bundles of straw and cane. These they steeped with paraffin and laid in a huge ring, completely enclosing, but at a safe distance from the outer fence.

By the time these precautions were made, the locusts had changed directions and, avoiding the bare, sun-baked veldt, began to bear down upon the fields comprising part of the Kilembonga Estate.

Before them, terrified by the unusual sight of a wall of insects, came deer of all sorts. Had the lads not been otherwise engaged, they could have kept the larder going for a week, because, neglecting their ordinary sense of caution, the animals dashed by within a few yards of the still busily-employed men.

The swarm of locusts appeared to increase both in breadth and height. The sky was dark with them—a living, seething rampart that left utter desolation in the vegetable world in its track.

A dozen or more fires were started at once. Twenty feet or more the flames leapt skywards, topped by dense clouds of suffocating smoke. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands and even millions of locusts failed to pass the formidable barrier, but others did, until Colin and Desmond could hardly distinguish the insects from the smoke.

The hot, smoke-laden air was stiff with locusts. They swarmed everywhere, beating against the men's faces, dying in swarms until their corpses covered the ground to a depth of five or six inches.

Desperately everyone strove to keep the invaders at bay, but the task was a superhuman one. In half a dozen places a solid phalanx of locusts penetrated the ring of fire. Reckless of the death-dealing blows the natives delivered by means of sticks and branches, the insects began their work of destruction. The green blades of the growing maize simply vanished.

At length the survivors of the swarm disappeared, leaving behind a gaunt expanse of ground piled deep with corpses. There remained a scene of desolation. The buildings were, of course, untouched, but every blade of grass, every vestige of vegetation had been devoured.

There was no rest for the weary smoke-dried men. The work of clearing up had to be commenced immediately. The dead locusts were picked up in shovelfuls and thrown into the fire. This was a precaution that, if neglected, would certainly cause a devastating disease should the dead insects putrefy.

It was nearly night before the task was completed. Colin and Desmond had learnt a practical lesson of what a plague of locusts meant. All ordinary work was at a standstill, while the destruction done by the insects had cost Colonel Narfield at least a couple of hundred pounds.

Nor did the trouble end there. Sibenga's kraal had been raided by the locusts with dire results. A witch-doctor, summoned by the chief, gave his decision as to the cause of the visitation. It was, he declared, caused by evil spirits, brought into the country by white men, and until the white men were driven out Sibenga would not prosper.

Drunk with native beer, Sibenga's followers applauded the witch doctor, and called on their chief to lead them against their nearest white neighbours. And these lived at Kilembonga.



"What's doin', old son?" inquired Tiny, a few days after the visitation of the plague of locusts.

It was a slack time. Colonel Narfield was down with one of his periodical attacks of malaria, and work, both in the laboratory and in the open air, was at a standstill. It was at the Colonel's suggestion that the two lads took a holiday.

"Let's ride over to Kana Kloof," suggested Colin. "There's bound to be some springbok about."

"Right-o," agreed his chum. "You see to the grub, and I'll saddle the horses. Tell Colonel Narfield where we're going."

Within a quarter of an hour the two chums were ready. Each was mounted on a small, wiry, and thoroughly "salted" horse, and carried a .303 sporting rifle and twenty-five cartridges.

As they rode towards the gate of the compound they encountered Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly.

"Want me, Massa Demon?" inquired the latter.

"No, thanks, Bluebottle," replied Tiny, laughing.

Sinclair also declined an offer on the part of Tenpenny Nail to accompany him. The two Haussas grinned.

"'Spects they want to push off on their own," observed Tiny. "They both looked mighty pleased with themselves when we told them they weren't required."

As a matter of fact, it was exactly the reverse. Both the Haussas wanted to go, and felt slighted at their respective masters' refusal. But since they were almost invariably grinning, it was not to be wondered at that Desmond had come to the conclusion that the Haussas were anxious to remain.

It was about twelve miles to Kana Kloof, where a "drift" or ford crosses a tributary of the Rubera River. The Kana, almost dry in the hot season and in a foaming torrent in the rainy season, flowed between steep, rocky banks, pierced here and there by gorges that enable people to cross without having to clamber down and climb the cliffs.

All the way there was not a single springbok or wilde-beeste sighted. There was spoor in plenty, but the swift-footed animals were nowhere to be seen, although the chums were going into the wind.

It was disappointing, especially as on a previous occasion, when Colonel Narfield was with them, the lads had sighted several and had succeeded in shooting a fine specimen of a gnu.

"Putrid, I call it!" exclaimed Tiny disgustedly, when, upon arriving at the Kloof, they dismounted and watered their horses. "Not a chance of even a single shot."

"This is all right!" said Colin, unbuckling his gaiters and taking off his boots. "I'm going to wade a bit. The bottom of the river's hard rock, and there are no crocodiles or hippos about. There are plenty of fish, though. Wish I'd brought a rod and line."

"Not much good bringing a rifle," said Tiny, who was still harping on the lack of sport. "Carrying unnecessary weight, that's what it is."

"Perhaps," suggested Colin, "there are lions about, and that's what has frightened the springbok. Of course, we wouldn't see them during the day. They'd be lurking in the scrub."

"We haven't seen the spoor of a lion, anyway," objected Desmond. "There must be some other reason."

They left it at that.

An hour later, after having a swim in a deep, clear pool and having had something to eat and drink, they prepared for the return journey.

"I believe there's a thunderstorm working up," remarked Colin, after about half the distance had been ridden. "Let's hurry a bit. It is no joke being caught out in the open in one of these storms."

But, unaccountably, both horses refused to increase their pace. It was not because they had been pressed. Throughout the ride the lads had ridden at quite a moderate pace, which was a mere crawl for the hardy little animals.

In fact, instead of responding to the gentle application of the spur, the animals stopped dead, refusing to move.

"What's wrong with the brutes?" inquired Tiny. "They've never jibbed at anything before."

"P'raps there's a lion in that patch of long grass," suggested Colin. "Since the horses won't go past the clump they'll jolly well have to go round it. Now, then, Brimstone."

The animals turned none too readily. For a few seconds Treacle, Tiny's mount, refused to budge. Then, seeing that the other horse was trotting ahead, Treacle broke into a mad gallop.

For a few yards Desmond gave him his head, glad to be able to get the animal to move at all. Then, finding he was greatly outpacing his chum, he managed to check Treacle's mad gallop.

By this time he had made a wide detour and was almost past the clump of tall reeds. Colin, making an easier curve, was about fifty yards behind and about twenty from the outside edge of the clump.

Suddenly Brimstone reared, nearly throwing his rider. Simultaneously something glittering in the sun flashed in front of Colin's eyes, and, sinking deeply into the ground a dozen yards away, quivered violently.

It was an assegai, one of the throwing variety. Two more followed in quick succession, one literally shaving Colin's bridle, and the other wounding the horse in the flank.

The next instant a dozen or more natives emerged from the reeds and sprang towards the astonished Colin.

They were Sibenga's warriors, naked, save for the leopard skin worn round their waists and their feathered rings on their arms and ankles. Every one had a head-ring of hard gum and tufts of ostrich feathers surmounting their close, crisp hair. One fellow, evidently the captain of the party, wore a kaross, or cloak of leopard skin. All carried ox-hide shields, kerries, and stabbing spears, besides a sheaf of throwing assegais. Maddened by the slight wound that he had received, Brimstone dashed madly forward, his rider unable to control his movements. While Tiny was endeavouring to check his horse, Colin was eager to increase the pace of his.

For an instant the natives hesitated as the maddened horse leapt forward. That instant saved Colin from being dragged from the saddle and assegaied. Even as it was, two more spears grazed his shoulders, and a knobkerrie whizzed perilously past his ear.

"Ride on for all you're worth!" shouted Colin, as he saw Desmond was reining in and unslinging his rifle. "I'm all right."

"Are you?" called Tiny in reply. "Look ahead!"

The chums were now a good hundred yards beyond the ambush, but the warriors were running swiftly in pursuit. Sinclair knew that they hadn't the slightest chance of outpacing two fairly swift horses, so why did they persist in following?

The answer was soon apparent. Desmond knew it already, for at less than a quarter of a mile ahead and stretching out in a far-flung semi-circle, were at least a hundred of Sibenga's warriors, and with them the chief himself, accompanied by the witch doctor in full regalia.

Both lads realised that they were in a desperately tight corner. Something had to be done, and that quickly. To remain where they were meant death under the keen blades of the assegais; to get away meant dashing through the cordon of armed warriors.

With the exception of their rifles, Colin and Desmond were unarmed, and a sporting magazine rifle is an awkward weapon to use while mounted. But it was infinitely better than nothing at all. Holding their rifles by the small of the butt and opening the cut-out of the magazine, the trapped chums set spurs to their horses and dashed forward to where it seemed the line was most lightly held.

Nobly Brimstone and Treacle responded to the call. It was touch-and-go. Already Sibenga's warriors, guessing the desperate white men's plan, began to bunch together to intercept them.

Holding the reins lightly with their left, and keeping their rifles obliquely across the pommel of the saddle, Colin and Desmond tore towards the bronzed line of natives. A few throwing spears flew towards them. Shields were brandished in the hope that the commotion would scare the horses.

Then both rifles spoke. It was impossible to take aim, but the moral effect told. In an instant the lads were dashing between the warriors. Colin had a momentary vision of bringing the brass-bound butt of his rifle violently against the face of a ferocious-looking fellow and feeling the latter's throwing-spear graze his ribs.

Desmond, firing with the muzzle of his rifle almost touching a broad-shouldered warrior, had only just time to raise the still-smoking weapon to guard a blow from a kerrie aimed by the man even as the bullet struck him fairly in the chest.

"We're through!" exclaimed Colin aloud, though speaking to himself; but the next instant Brimstone faltered, staggered a few yards, and then collapsed, throwing his rider at full length upon the sun-baked ground.



Hardly knowing how he did it, Colin regained his feet. His rifle lay close at hand. He picked it up and, with his face to the foe, prepared to resist to the last.

It seemed incredible to him that during the brief interval between the dash through the line of warriors and the collapse of his horse that Sinclair had covered nearly a quarter of a mile. He had lost all sense of time and distance until he found himself standing alone, with Brimstone kicking and struggling on the ground, with three assegais deeply embedded in the animal's flank.

Sibenga's warriors were approaching rapidly, yelling shouts of triumph. The nearmost was now barely a hundred and fifty yards away, while right and left the natives were converging upon the dismounted lad.

Raising his rifle, Colin fired thrice in quick succession. In his excitement he aimed wildly, and the bullets failed to find a billet other than the earth.

Again he ejected an empty cartridge and thrust home the bolt. Taking steadier aim, he pressed the trigger. A faint click was the only response. He had fired the last cartridge in the magazine and the rest of the ammunition was in a leather pouch fastened to Brimstone's saddle.

Resisting the temptation to turn and run—the swift-footed natives would have overtaken him in a very few minutes—Colin stood with his face to his foes and his feet planted firmly and his clubbed rifle held ready to make a desperate fight for life.

Sibenga's men were now so close that he could distinctly see the whites of their eyes. Realising that the lad was out of ammunition, they came on unhesitatingly. The rifle was now no better, and probably less efficacious, than their own keen-edged weapons.

The thud of a horse's hoofs diverted Colin's attention. Glancing over his shoulder he saw, to his great surprise, that Desmond had ridden back to him. He felt a wave of resentment; it seemed an absurd act on Tiny's part to barge in and face a peril from which he could have escaped. At the same time, he was grateful to his chum for his whole-hearted devotion.

Making no attempt to dismount, Tiny wheeled his horse and reined in the now-tractable animal.

"Jump up, old man!" he shouted.

Sinclair lost no time in accepting the invitation. Now that he had his face turned from the warriors he was in a "blue funk." Almost mechanically slinging his rifle across his back, he grasped Tiny's saddle and flung himself over Treacle's back.

"Right-o!" he shouted.

Desmond set spurs. The wiry animal responded nobly, while his twin burden, bending low as half a dozen assegais whizzed perilously close to them, were in no happy state of mind with the possibility of feeling sharp steel spear-heads plunging into their backs.

In a few minutes Treacle drew out of throwing range, or else the warriors thought it an unnecessary act to hurl their assegais, as they stood an excellent chance of overtaking the doubly-laden horse.

"We're doing all right!" exclaimed Tiny breathlessly. "Only about four miles more."

Colin, glancing at the bronze-coloured natives, did not feel so sure about it. Their pursuers were bunching together. Those on the extreme tips of the "horn" had already relinquished pursuit, but about thirty were covering the ground at a pace only slightly less than that of the horse. They could keep that up for miles. The question was whether Treacle could be relied upon to maintain his speed, hampered as he was by an additional rider.

Sinclair during his stand at bay, had thought of the swastika; but he had great doubts whether the highly-excited warriors would pay heed to the symbol that had so greatly impressed Sibenga himself.

It seemed hardly likely; and on that account Colin decided that an amulet was a sorry defence against the cruel, stabbing assegais. So he had declined the experiment, preferring to face his foes as bravely as he knew how, rather than to seek a doubtful mercy through the medium of a barbaric charm.

Happening to glance at his right shoulder, he was surprised to see that his shirt was torn and that the swastika was exposed. In the excitement the amulet which he wore round his neck must have slipped. In its present position it had turned the point of an assegai, the blade of the weapon inflicting a slight scratch that Colin hardly noticed until he saw the blood staining his shirt-sleeve.

For the next five minutes the relative position of pursuers and pursued underwent no appreciable change. Treacle was running splendidly and showing no sign of distress.

The two chums were congratulating themselves on the fact, when the animal began to slow down.

Very reluctantly Treacle was being vanquished. The heavy burden, the hard ground and the blazing sun, and the thundery weather all went against him; and although his spirit was equal to the task, his bodily strength was failing him.

In vain Desmond coaxed the jaded animal. His pace fell away to such an extent that both Colin and Tiny saw with considerable apprehension that the warriors were gaining rapidly.

Of the original pursuers several had fallen out, leaving about fifteen or eighteen athletic warriors to enjoy the pleasurable task of overtaking and assegaiing the two white men.

"Any ammunition handy?" asked Colin. "Mine's finished."

"Take half a dozen cartridges from my belt, old man," replied Tiny. "We'll give the beggars a run for their money. Poor old Treacle!"

With a stupendous effort the horse staggered another twenty yards; his hind legs gave way; he stopped, neighing pitifully.

Without hesitation Colin slipped to the ground. Relieved of the additional weight, Treacle started forward again, Sinclair running and holding on to Desmond's stirrup.

But this attempt to carry on was unavailing. The animal was done. It was a final spurt, and Treacle could do no more. First his front legs, and then his hind, collapsed. He rolled on his side on the hard ground, kicking in agony.

Desmond had slipped out of his saddle in time. His first act was to put the animal out of his pain, which he did by shooting him in the forehead. Then, thrusting another cartridge into the breech of his rifle, he stood shoulder to shoulder with his chum and prepared to put up a fight to a finish.

The two nearmost warriors were now but twenty paces off. Crouching behind their hide shields and thinking themselves thereby immune, they stopped and awaited the others to come up.

"Take the one on your right, Tiny," exclaimed Colin, bringing his rifle to his shoulder.

But before either lad could fire, two reports rang out almost simultaneously from a belt of scrub barely eighty yards away, and three of the natives staggered and fell face downwards.

The chums accounted for two more, and then the mysterious but friendly rifles began firing rapidly.

The pursuit was stayed. Of the men in the forefront of the chase only seven remained standing, and these took to their heels and fled towards the main body of Sibenga's warriors.

Colin and Desmond were not left long in doubt as to the identity of their rescuers, for above the reeds appeared the grinning faces of Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly.



The two Haussas excitedly greeted their respective masters. Their previous disappointment was forgotten. Absolutely devoted to Colin and Desmond, their joy at being able to render them a good turn was unbounded.

It was quite by a lucky accident that Tenpenny Nail and his companion were on the right spot and at the right time.

Almost as soon as Sinclair and Desmond had ridden away, the two Haussas agreed to go out for an afternoon's shooting. They went. They shot nothing. They felt "fed up."

Then Tenpenny Nail suggested that they should sit down and palaver. The utter scarcity of sport they accounted for by reasoning that their young masters had driven the springbok away.

Blue Fly agreed that this was the reason, and suggested that if they waited long enough "Demon" and his companion would drive the springbok in front of them as they returned. They were, he said, almost sure to come home by that path.

So the Haussas basked in the sunshine until the reports of several rifle shots stirred them into activity. Grinning at each other, they grasped their rifles as they pictured the discomfiture of their young masters when they discovered that they had obligingly driven the springbok within easy range of the Haussas' rifles.

But when Colin and Desmond appeared in view, not as hunters but as hunted, Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly acted promptly, and a rapid emptying of magazines quickly turned the tables on the advance party of Sibenga's warriors.

"No jolly well make mark time, Massa; niggah him come."

He pointed in the direction of the main body of the black raiders, who were now advancing in close formation to the support of the luckless pursuers of Colin and Tiny.

"Right-o, Tenpenny Nail," replied Sinclair. "Buck up, Tiny! It's only another mile or so."

The four promptly set out for Kilembonga, their pace considerably accelerated by the knowledge that there were between eighty or a hundred keen stabbing spears at less than a couple of miles behind them. Encumbered with their rifles and wearing heavy boots and leggings, Colin and Tiny, already pretty well done up, found those two miles a hard task. On the other hand, the two Haussas, in spite of being barefooted, hardly noticed the hard, sun-baked ground.

Long before Sinclair and Desmond arrived at the gate in the outer fence they were glad to hand their rifles over to their faithful servants.

Leaving the Haussas to turn out and arm the native employees, the two chums hurried to Colonel Narfield's room.

"Bless my soul!" ejaculated the Colonel, upon seeing the two well-nigh breathless lads. "What on earth are you doing, getting overheated on a day like this? Where have you been?"

"To Kana Kloof," replied Colin. "We were ambushed by armed natives on our way back—Sibenga's people. They are on their way here."

Colonel Narfield sprang from his bed. Although weak and shivering, he was not going to knuckle under to a dose of malaria when a horde of rebellious blacks were hammering at his gate.

Pausing only to up-end his boots and shake them—a necessary precaution in a country where poisonous centipedes abound—he drew on his foot-gear, donned a light coat and sun-helmet, then, snatching up a rifle and thrusting a packet of cartridges into his pocket, he hurried out of the house, followed by his two assistants.

Already every available man on the estate had turned out, each armed either with a magazine rifle or a double-barrelled twelve-bore gun.

Some of the natives were good shots; others could not be trusted to hit a beehive hut at twenty yards. To the latter Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly had issued shot-guns. With luck, the wide-spreading shot might hit some human target. In any case, there was the moral effect of the loud report to be taken into consideration, and that told upon savage warriors almost as much as the more deadly rifles.

By this time Sibenga had brought his followers to within two hundred yards of the gate. By the Chief's side stood the witch-doctor, a truly hideous figure in his garb of monkey skins, red ochre and blue and white chalk.

The warriors made no attempt to surround the place. Had they done so, their tactics might almost to a certainty be crowned with success, for there was not enough defenders to man the outer wall.

Instead, Sibenga's followers were massed in a triple line, each man covered by his cow-hide shield, while right in front of the centre of the foremost rank stood the Chief and the witch-doctor, the latter apparently haranguing the warriors and promising them immunity from the white man's magic.

Colonel Narfield lost no time. He was a firm believer in taking the initiative. Calling to four of the best marksmen, he ordered them to take aim at Sibenga and the witch-doctor, while he stood by ready to fire should the others miss their objective.

Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly were the two told off to bring down the witch-doctor, while the others, including the Colonel's personal servant, a Zanzibari, aimed at Sibenga's broad chest as he stood gazing at the house in which he hoped to find plenty of plunder.

The witch-doctor had finished his oration and had turned to confer with the Chief. The former raised his magic staff and shook it. Even as he did so four rifles spoke as one.

There was no need for Colonel Narfield to complete the business. The witch-doctor sprang a good four feet into the air, his hands clutching wildly. Then, uttering a blood-curdling yell, he pitched forward on his face, twitched his limbs for a second, and then lay still. Sibenga stood stock still for quite an appreciable time, then his legs gave way, and he dropped, first on his knees and then on his face.

Not only did the high-velocity bullets slay the principal men of the attacking party, but three or four warriors immediately behind Sibenga and the witch-doctor fell dead.

For a few moments the natives stood absolutely still, unable to realise what had befallen their Chief and their comrades. Then the ranks broke. Some began to give back; others, uttering terrific yells, bounded forward, crouching behind their shields as they dashed towards the gate.

It was a forlorn hope. Not a single man of Sibenga's followers got within twenty yards of the stockade. Several were shot dead; others, wounded and peppered with dust-shot, were soon limping back towards their more fortunate companions, who, showing more discretion than valour, had either remained still or had run before the desperate warriors had attempted their futile charge.

A quarter of an hour later not a single warrior capable of flight remained in sight. Eleven dead and four badly-wounded men were left lying outside the stockade in addition to Sibenga, the witch-doctor, and those who had fallen with them.

The only casualties to Colonel Narfield's party was a man wounded in the arm by a throwing-assegai, and a native porter hit on the head by a kerrie hurled by one of the attackers.

Upon examination it was found that two bullets had pierced the witch-doctor's heart, while Sibenga had been killed instantaneously by a bullet that had passed completely through his head.

Three days later Wynyard, the Assistant Commissioner of Nyaruma, arrived with a party of armed police. Sibenga's successor quickly tendered his submission. The tribe was severely admonished and made to pay a fine, including four horses, to be handed over to Colonel Narfield to recompense him for the loss of Brimstone and Treacle.

Thus the affair, which, had Sibenga been successful at the onset, would have possibly developed into a serious native rising, was promptly quashed, and a menace to the quiet and security of Kilembonga Estate was removed.

For nearly a week Mr. Wynyard remained in the district, spending his leisure hours at Colonel Narfield's house. When he returned with his small armed force, Colin and Tiny rode thirty miles on the road to Nyaruma, spending the night in a bivouac at the foot of the T'saga Mountains.

Next morning they said good-bye to the old Stockmere boy and set off on the homeward ride. This they accomplished almost without incident.

On the step of the house they found the Colonel giving directions to a workman.

"Back again, I see," he remarked cheerfully. "No adventures this time, I hope? Good! Now, look sharp and change. There's someone to see you. Guess who."

"I don't know, sir," replied Colin. "We know no one here except Wynyard."

Desmond was equally at a loss.

"Do we know him?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Colonel Narfield. "Someone who has arrived unexpectedly, although at my invitation. Now, can't you make a shot at it?"

"Not Van der Wyck?" asked both lads simultaneously.

"Yes," answered the Colonel. "He's in the stables looking after his horse. He insisted upon doing that himself. Get a move on, and be ready to welcome your pal when he returns."

Ten minutes later, Colin and Desmond, having washed and changed their dusty clothes, went across to the stables.

"Him there, sah," reported Blue Fly, with his usual broad grin.

Eagerly and delightedly the two chums threw open the door. Then they stood stock still in utter astonishment.



It was an embarrassing situation. To expect to find a friend and be confronted by an utter stranger was decidedly disconcerting. The chums found themselves wishing that they had not been so exuberant.

Instead of the tall, bearded Piet Van der Wyck, they saw a sparely-built, grey-haired and white-bearded man of between sixty and seventy, who was busily engaged in wiping down the legs of a black horse.

Perhaps, after all, Van der Wyck was somewhere in the stables, and this old man was one of his friends who had accompanied him on his long trek. Colonel Narfield had not mentioned that Van der Wyck had a companion, but that might have been an omission.

The old man desisted from his task and straightened himself laboriously. Then he looked at the two chums. Of the three he was the least concerned. In a strange place he naturally expected to meet strangers.

"Good day!" he exclaimed slowly, in English, with the accent common to the Cape Dutch when speaking any language but their own.

"Good day," replied Colin. "We rather startled you when we barged in here. We came to see Mr. Van der Wyck."

"I am Van der Wyck," replied the stranger gravely.

"Piet Van der Wyck of Mafeking?" asked Sinclair in astonishment.

"Piet Van der Wyck, of Erasmus Farm, near Mafeking," corrected the old man courteously. "I do not know you, but that is a matter that can soon be put right."

"Of course," agreed Colin heartily. He realised that there was a mistake somewhere, and he was too considerate to tell the old man bluntly that he was not the person that Colonel Narfield had invited to Kilembonga.

He introduced Tiny and himself to the old farmer, and suggested that they should help him to finish grooming the horse.

"No, no," was the decided reply. "I have ridden Zwart Hans for fifteen years, and have always attended to him myself. You are the sons of Colonel Narfield?"

Colin hastened to correct the false impression.

"Is that so?" asked the farmer with a trace of disappointment. "From the Colonel's kind letter of invitation I understood that Colin and Tiny were his children."

"You have had a long journey," remarked Tiny.

"Ah, yes; five days on the train. I rode most of the way in the horse-box so as to keep Zwart Hans company. Then there was the horrible voyage for me who had never before been in a ship; and I am sixty-nine come Christmas. True, it was on a large lake, but we were long out of sight of land until we neared Ujiji. Allemachte! And to think I have to return that way!"

"It was a long journey," agreed Sinclair.

"Yes," rejoined the old man simply, "it was. But the kind Colonel's invitation, together with the fact that I had a nephew who fell fighting the Germans and who is buried just outside Tabora, were sufficient inducements for me to undertake the trek."

"You have other relations in this country, perhaps?" asked Desmond.

The farmer shook his head.

"None," he replied. "I had sons and nephews, but they are dead. But now I have finished my task. We will return to the house."

The two chums saw that there were rocks ahead. Colonel Narfield ought to be warned that a mistake had been made somewhere, but at the same time Farmer Van der Wyck ought not to be allowed to know that he was a guest through misapprehension. It seemed impossible to find an excuse to see the Colonel alone, and yet—— Suddenly an inspiration flashed across Sinclair's mind. "Right-o!" he exclaimed cheerfully. "Come along, Tiny; we'll take Mr. Van der Wyck back to the house."

Desmond tumbled to it. In order to make things easier, they were to pretend that the old farmer was the Van der Wyck until they found an opportunity of letting Colonel Narfield know the exact position of affairs. But Colin managed to scribble a note and give it to Tenpenny Nail, with instructions to hand it to the Colonel.

But, alas! for that scheme.

Colonel Narfield, courteous and hospitable, beamed on the old farmer as he entered the house with Colin and Desmond hanging on to his arms.

"Now," he exclaimed, "you must be hungry, Mr. Van der Wyck. The boys have had a long journey, too, but not so long as yours."

"Ah, no," agreed the old man. "Mine was a long journey. And the ship! At my age! It was the first time I was on the water."

"Eh, what!" exclaimed Colonel Narfield in surprise. "I thought——"

A bang on the door saved the situation. Tenpenny Nail entered, with a grin on his face and a piece of paper screwed up in his hand.

"Pencil-talk him come, sah!" he announced.

"Who from?" asked Colonel Narfield, taking a note, for communications of that description were few and far between in and around the Kilembonga Estate.

"Me make ask Blue Fly—him tell," said the Haussa equivocally.

However, the Colonel did not press the point. His own question was a superfluous one. It would be answered when he read the note.

It was in Colin's handwriting, and read as follows:

"There is a mistake somewhere. This is not our Van der Wyck. We'll tell you when we have a chance of seeing you alone. Please don't say anything to upset the old man; he's rather a good sort.—COLIN."

"All right, Tenpenny Nail," said the Colonel. "No answer."

He gave a confirmatory glance at Sinclair and then turned to Van der Wyck.

"Hope you'll excuse me," he remarked. "There's something that demands my immediate attention. The boys will entertain you, I know."

He went out, considering that, in the circumstances, it was the best thing to do. Had he remained, he would have had to take part in the conversation, which was likely to reach an awkward stage. Until he knew how matters stood he preferred to keep out of the way.

Colin and Tiny played their part well. Keeping to general topics, they maintained a full-head of steam until the somewhat retiring old farmer began to feel quite at home, still more so when, at the conclusion of the meal, black coffee was served and a bag of Boer tobacco placed at Van der Wyck's disposal.

It was not until the evening that the chums found Colonel Narfield alone.

"You've landed yourselves in a pretty hole," he remarked with a laugh. "Saddling yourselves with the wrong man."

"It was your scheme, sir," Colin reminded him. "We knew nothing about your having invited him until a few weeks ago. It's a strange coincidence: he has the same box-office—No. 445—as the number the other Van der Wyck gave us."

"Evidently your pal knows this fellow," remarked Colonel Narfield. "For some reason he's working a double stunt. By-the-bye, did you ask our guest if he knew of a certain Jan Groute?"

"The fellow who held up the train near Vryburg?" asked Desmond.

Colonel Narfield nodded.

"We didn't," replied both lads.

"Then I would, if I were you," suggested the Colonel. "His reply may be interesting. However, I've invited Mr. Van der Wyck here, and we must do our duty as hosts and make him comfortable. You say he's a decent sort?"

"Absolutely," declared Colin.

"Right-o; carry on," added the Colonel. "I've had some good times on Boer farms, and it's up to us to show that we can be hospitable, too. We'll give him as good a holiday as we know how."



The Englishmen at Kilembonga acted up to their resolution. They gave Farmer Van der Wyck a rattling good time, and although the old man was a bit reticent at first, he soon emerged from his shell.

He would talk for hours, relating incidents and anecdotes of life in the Transvaal long before Johannesburg was in existence. He told of his experiences fighting against the British, first at Laing's Nek and Majuba, and then, almost twenty years later, at Magersfontein and Paardeberg.

Then, with the utmost simplicity, he explained how he, like thousands of his fellow-Boers, changed his allegiance, because the English knew how to keep their word.

"By-the-bye," remarked Colonel Narfield, when the old farmer was relating anecdotes concerning his neighbours, "did you ever happen to come across a man called Jan Groute?"

Farmer Van der Wyck nodded his head gravely, and continued puffing meditatively at his pipe for several seconds before he replied:

"I know of him; but I have never met him, as far as I am aware."

No more was said at the time. Colonel Narfield could form no excuse for asking for further information, and Piet Van der Wyck showed no inclination to speak further about the train bandit.

It was not until two days later that the old farmer himself broached the subject.

"You spoke of Jan Groute," he said. "He is no good. For several years the police have tried to arrest him, but without success. The nearest they did was to shoot him through the leg near Beaufort West. After that he disappeared. I heard it said that he sailed to England or America, taking with him a lot of diamonds, for, besides being a train bandit, he is an I.D.B."

"What's that, Mr. Van der Wyck?" asked Tiny.

"An illicit diamond buyer," explained Colonel Narfield—"a man who buys diamonds from natives instead of through the recognised channels. It's a serious offence in South Africa. But what happened to Jan Groute after his return?"

"Do you know him, Colonel Narfield?" inquired the old farmer pointedly. "You seem much interested."

"Because I fancy he was at work on the Tabora Railway," replied the Colonel. "Colin and Desmond were in a hold-up, and from what they told me the description somewhat points to the fact that the chief robber was Jan Groute."

"When was that?" asked Piet Van der Wyck.

Colin supplied that information.

The old man shook his head.

"It is unlikely—very," he replied. "There were reliable reports that Jan was busy near Bloemfontein for several weeks after the Vryburg hold-up. He could not be in places two thousand miles apart within a few hours."

"No," rejoined Colonel Narfield. Then, turning to Colin, he said: "Show Mynheer Van der Wyck your talisman, and see what he thinks of it."

The old farmer took the swastika and held it at arm's length. Then, unable to see the characters on it, he pulled out a magnifying-glass.

"One of the drawbacks of old age," he explained. "Although I can see things very clearly at long distances—few men on the veldt can discover a hartebeeste quicker than I—it is close work that troubles me. Ah, this is rather a rare piece of work—copper and gold. The shape is fairly common. You will find similar articles amongst all the Kaffir tribes, from the Cape right up to Mashonaland and Matabeleland. Beyond that it is not so common, although I haven't had so much to do with the natives beyond the Limpopo River, so I may be wrong. Where did you find it, Colin?"

"Someone gave it to me when the mail-boat was nearing Cape Town," replied the lad, not caring to mention that the donor bore the name of Van der Wyck. "It has proved very useful at times when dealing with the natives."

"I can understand that," agreed Piet Van der Wyck. "It is a pity it has been dented."

"Dented!" echoed Colonel Narfield. "Where?"

"Oh, that," replied Colin carelessly. "That was a sort of accident the other day."

"What accident?" demanded the Colonel.

"When Sibenga's people chased Tiny and me," explained Sinclair. "Somehow the amulet worked round over my shoulder. A nigger flung a throwing assegai, and the thing struck the swastika. Yes, it cut the skin a bit, but not much."

"You ought to have told me at once," said Colonel Narfield. "Even a slight superficial cut like that might have proved dangerous or, perhaps, fatal. Frequently these throwing-assegais are made of copper or a soft alloy, so that they bend on impact with a hard substance, and cannot be returned with interest by the person at whom they are thrown, and as you know, a wound inflicted with a copper weapon is apt to be poisonous. What is your impression of this part of the country, Van der Wyck?"

"It is totally different to the veldt," replied the farmer. "There ought to be good maize crops raised on the level ground, but the mountains .... To men like myself they appear stupendous and magnificent, but they are worthless from a farmer's point of view. Several of my countrymen have trekked here and taken up land from the Government. You have plenty of springbok, I see."

"Are you fond of shooting?" asked Tiny.

The old man's eyes glistened.

"I am not yet past that," he replied. "In my younger days, before the big game was driven northward, I have shot both lions and elephants in the Transvaal and Bechuanaland."

"We may be able to give you some big-game shooting before you go," remarked Colonel Narfield.

Before Van der Wyck could reply, there came a knock at the door and Blue Fly appeared.

"Sibenga mans, dey come make palaver one time, sah," he reported.

The former followers of the late and unlamented chief had been very docile of late. They had been taught a stiff lesson, and its results were bearing lasting fruit. Colonel Narfield had also learnt a lesson from the little affair. He realised that, when dealing with natives of East Africa, a conciliatory attitude is invariably misconstrued by the blacks as a sign of weakness.

No doubt the natives judged Englishmen by comparing them with their former German masters. The latter were harsh and tyrannical, and were held in awe by the inhabitants of the country. The Englishmen, being easy-going and generally kind-hearted, were regarded as being of inferior fibre to the Germans for that very reason.

"Tell them to wait, Blue Fly," replied Colonel Narfield. "They can stand in the sun until I am ready to see them."

On principle, the Colonel kept the deputation waiting for nearly an hour; then, telling Colin and Tiny to arm themselves, and buckling on his revolver, the owner of the Kilembonga Estate went out to receive the deputation.

Seated in cane chairs on the stoep, the three Englishmen awaited the native headmen. The latter came forward with profound humility—a great contrast to their former appearance at the gate of Kilembonga—and they took good care to leave their assegais and shields outside. One of the natives, stepping forward, announced himself as Logula.

"I know you, Logula," said Colonel Narfield. "You may speak."

"Great One!" exclaimed Logula, "we seek your help. Our kraals and our fields are in danger."

"They were," admitted Colonel Narfield, "when Sibenga came here with armed men, thinking to do great deeds. Who are the men of whom you are afraid?"

"None, lord," replied Sibenga's successor. "Not men, but beasts. Last night, before the setting of the moon, a bull elephant and two cow elephants did great mischief amongst our kraals. Five of our people were killed, and our spears are as sticks against the huge beasts. Therefore we are come, O Great One, to implore your aid. With iron tubes that smoke, surely, O Great One, you can slay them."

The owner of Kilembonga turned to his guest, who was watching the scene through the large open window.

"Would you care to have a little sport, Mynheer Van der Wyck?" he asked.

"Only too delighted," was the prompt response.



"Listen, Logula," said the Colonel. "This is my answer. At the setting of the sun we will be at your kraal. If there are twenty of your men whose hearts are not filled with water, let them be ready to drive the bull elephant and the cow elephants up to the iron tubes that smoke of the mighty hunters. I have spoken."

The deputation made obeisance and withdrew, obviously impressed by the determination and confidence of the white man to rid the district of these formidable beasts.

"May we go too, sir?" asked Colin eagerly.

Colonel Narfield hesitated.

"Yes," he replied, after deliberation; "but only on certain conditions. This is a very risky business, and you are quite inexperienced at this sort of game. I know you've both plenty of pluck, but that isn't everything. An African elephant has a brute of a temper. His Indian cousin is a lamb compared with him, and it requires a tremendous amount of nerve to aim accurately at a ponderous beast charging on you at full tilt. Usually a man has an almost irresistible tendency to cut and run for it; in which case, unless there is ample cover of a very solid nature, he is quickly overtaken and trampled underfoot. Isn't that so, Van der Wyck?"

"Ja," agreed the Afrikander solemnly; "but there, Colonel Narfield, I have an advantage. Although I am active in many ways, I cannot run. Therefore I must stand my ground. There is one good thing. It is no longer necessary to have a heavy elephant-gun. Mine, I remember, served me badly once. It missed fire, and a bull elephant was but thirty paces off. Fortunately, there was a strong tree handy; but even then the brute nearly uprooted it, and it was all I could do to hold on to a big branch without being shaken off."

"How did you escape?" asked Tiny.

"I remained where I was for four long hours," replied Van der Wyck. "Then three of my companions came to look for me. One of them broke the elephant's foreleg with a bullet in the knee. It took three more shots with a heavy elephant-gun to finish the brute."

"That was before explosive bullets came into use, I take it?" inquired Colonel Narfield.

"Yes," answered the old man, "long before; and a man could not depend upon the ammunition as he does nowadays. But, even then, it is a risky business for inexperienced men, this elephant-hunting."

"You hear that, boys?" asked Colonel Narfield. "You can come with us on conditions—that you keep at least a hundred paces behind Van der Wyck and me when we're following the spoor, and leave the shooting to us."

Colin and Desmond accepted the terms, although inwardly they jibbed, considering it hard lines to have to be content to remain passive spectators in the killing of a bull elephant. It was a case of half a loaf being better than no bread.

For the next couple of hours Colonel Narfield was engaged in overhauling his rifles and ammunition. The rifles were of .303 bore, firing an explosive bullet with a hard steel point. One of the rifles he lent to Van der Wyck, whose own gun was of a Mauser pattern and unable to take the explosive ammunition.

Colin and Tiny also took their sporting rifles, with bullets of an expanding type.

Accompanying the party were the three Haussas and a Cape Kaffir, told off to act as bearer to Van der Wyck. All were mounted on small, wiry ponies, although the actual hunt was to be performed on foot.

With several minutes to the good, Colonel Narfield's party arrived at Sibenga's Kraal, for although the chief was dead the village still went by the same name until Logula had fully established his claim to the chieftainship.

There was no lack of evidence of the destructive visits of the three elephants. Acres of maize and millet had been trampled down; the palisade surrounding the village had been uprooted in several places, leaving gaps ten or twelve yards in length; while in two instances the huts had been levelled to the ground.

Most of the inhabitants, including all the women and children, had fled for safety to the summit of a lofty crag about two miles away, but Logula had carried out Colonel Narfield's instructions and had gathered together twenty young warriors.

Of these, ten were selected to act as torch-bearers, the remainder having to be in attendance with their spears in case they were attacked. The natives were all excited, their fears being to a great extent banished when they found that the Great One and his companions had arrived with their death-dealing rifles.

Leaving the horses at the village, the Colonel's party set out. Van der Wyck and Colonel Narfield led, followed by Colin and Tiny and the inseparable Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly, while the natives flocked in the rear.

There was no difficulty in following the spoor. The ground was somewhat marshy, and in places the massive feet of the elephants had sunk inches deep in the soft soil.

One thing was evident. The animals had wandered into a sort of natural cul de sac between two ridges of precipitous rock, the bottle-neck opening into a wide track of reed-covered ground nearly five miles in length and averaging three in breadth.

At the entrance to this trap some of the natives were told to build a barrier of fire and to take good care to keep it well alight. Before the march was resumed, the hunters had the satisfaction of seeing a wall of flame blazing fiercely and completely sealing the only exit possible for the huge, ferocious beasts.

"You are sure that there is no way out at the other end?" inquired Van der Wyck.

"The natives say not," replied Colonel Narfield. "Of course, I know that telling lies is, with them, as easy as winking when it serves their purpose. But we're doing them a good turn, so it's to their advantage to speak the truth."

It wanted a good three hours to the setting of the moon, but there was sufficient light to follow the spoor—the three-toed and four-toed prints in the ground, for, unlike the Indian elephant, the African one has but three toes on his hind feet.

Presently, after the hunters had advanced about a mile, the almost indescribable trumpeting of a bull elephant disturbed the silence of the tropical night.

"Now, you fellows," exclaimed Colonel Narfield, addressing Colin and Tiny, "see that tree? You'll get a comprehensive view of the show from the lowermost branch. Up you go, and don't forget the safety-catches of your rifles. The brute's in that scrub, and I'm sending the beaters to drive him this way."

If the truth be told, the lads were not sorry to take to the tree. The stupendous trumpeting rather "gave them the breeze," and the knowledge that they were in a place of security and not confronted by the possibility of facing a huge elephant in the open was decidedly comforting.

Waving flaming torches, seven or eight natives worked round to the back of the patch of long grass surrounding a hollow. In the centre of the hollow was a shallow pool, in which the elephant was disporting himself, and consequently his enormous bulk was invisible from the spot where the Colonel and Van der Wyck had taken their stand.

Suddenly the trumpeting ceased. The elephant had scented danger.

image: 05_tendril.jpg

Until the brute made up his mind what course to pursue he remained silent, and the silence was almost as disquieting to the inexperienced youths as had been the terrific trumpeting.

In about a quarter of an hour a dense smoke rose sullenly in the moonlit air. The natives were firing the grass in order to smoke the elephant from his cover. Then arose the yells and shouts of the beaters as they advanced through the scrub, waving their torches and gesticulating like demons.

Above the uproar rose the loud bellowing of the now infuriated animal. Nearer and nearer came the sound, until above the waving grass appeared a dark grey mountain of flesh—one of the biggest bull elephants that Colonel Narfield had ever seen.

Clear of the scrub, the huge beast paused irresolutely. Then he caught sight of the Colonel standing in the open with his rifle held at the ready. It was a mute challenge, and the elephant promptly picked up the gage.

Bellowing furiously and waving his trunk in the air, the ponderous animal charged. To the watchers in the tree it seemed incredible that such a heavily-built brute could move at such a pace as it did.

They had previously imagined an elephant to be a slow-moving beast, with an average speed of five miles an hour. This one was charging at a pace equal at least to that of a trotting horse.

Colonel Narfield waited until the elephant was sixty yards away. Then slowly and deliberately raising his rifle to his shoulder, he pressed the trigger.

An involuntary cry burst from Colin's lips as his quick ear caught the sound of a faint click. The cartridge was a "dud"—a defective one.

In a trice the Colonel ejected the cartridge and replaced it with another. The elephant was now but thirty yards away. Again the striker clicked ineffectively.

Realising that his one chance lay in seeking flight—for there was not time to place a third cartridge into the breech and fire—Colonel Narfield threw aside the now useless weapon and took to his heels. Before he had covered half a dozen yards his foot caught in a trailing tendril, and he crashed heavily on the ground.



From their elevated perch Colin and Tiny had been watching the beginning of the encounter with feelings akin to awe. The elephant of their imagination had been completely dwarfed by this enormous bulk—the furious, bellowing behemoth. They clung tightly to the limb of the tree, hardly conscious that they were doing so, their whole attention being centred upon the scene below.

But when Colonel Narfield tripped and fell, the two chums were stirred to action. In an instant came the realisation that they were not spectators, but participators in the game of death.

Desmond, lowering his rifle, fired hurriedly at the huge animal. Whether he hit the elephant or not, the bullet made not the slightest apparent impression upon the brute. In his anxiety for the Colonel's safety, Tiny simply had to fire because he had a rifle in his hand, but his action was purely automatic.

On the other hand, Colin was deliberate. He, too, levelled his rifle, but, at the same time, a mental view of the most vulnerable parts of an elephant flashed across his mind. Perhaps he was two seconds later than his chum in firing, but those two seconds had not been wasted.

With the back-sight of the rifle down to zero, Colin aimed straight at the elephant's right eye. It was not an easy shot, in spite of the fact that the animal was end-on, for, as the brute charged, its enormous head was continuously and rapidly jerking up and down, while the brandished trunk added to the baffling nature of the comparatively small target.

Sinclair, holding his breath, pressed the trigger. The rifle kicked more than usual—in fact, Colin noticed it, notwithstanding the greater issue.

Almost simultaneously with the sharp crack of the rifle the bull elephant dropped. Carried on by the impetus of its rush, the enormous bulk plunged forward for another eight or ten yards and then stopped, quivering and struggling, within a couple of feet of Colonel Narfield, who had contrived to roll away from the very place where the vanquished animal had come to a standstill.

Setting the safety-catch of his rifle, Colin dropped lightly to the ground. Then, preparing to administer the coup de grâce, he advanced towards the hulking brute.

But there was no need for a second shot from his rifle. The giant bull-elephant was stone-dead.

Meanwhile Desmond had gained the ground. The two chums went to assist the Colonel, who was sitting up and regarding the dead elephant with the amazement arising from the fact that he, who had expected to be trampled to death, was alive, although not exactly kicking, while the enormous quadruped had for some inexplicable reason been stopped within an ace of success.

"Hurt, sir?" inquired Tiny.

"Ankle," replied Colonel Narfield laconically. Then he gazed first at the dead elephant and then at his rifle, lying thirty or forty yards away.

"Never let me down before," he continued, addressing his remarks to himself rather than to his companions. "Two miss-fires in succession. Wait till I write to the scoundrels who sold me that ammunition, by Jove! Where's Van der Wyck?"

"He's not back yet," replied Colin. "He went round the patch of scrub to see if the beaters had started one of the other elephants."

"Not back?" exclaimed the Colonel. "Then who, in the name of fortune, killed the brute?"

"We both fired," replied Colin.

"And brought the brute down with an ordinary .303 bullet? Incredible!" declared Colonel Narfield, emphatically. "Bear a hand, lads. I haven't broken my ankle. It's only sprained, which is a jolly sight better than being squashed to a pulp. No, don't touch the boot and legging; if you do, I won't be able to get them on again in a hurry. Prop me up against that tree and fetch my rifle, please. I'm anxious to know what's wrong with that ammunition. If you see the first cartridge I ejected, bring that along, too."

Colin went to fetch the rifle. He took particular pains to keep a respectable distance from the dead elephant. In the slanting rays of the moon it looked more tremendous than ever.

"'Spose I did shoot the brute," thought Colin; "or I wonder if Tiny's bullet did the trick? There's no telling which, as far as I can see."

He recovered the rifle, apparently undamaged, although the muzzle was choked with mud. The ejected cartridge took a considerable amount of finding, but, after a lengthy search, Sinclair discovered it under the gnarled stem of a thorn bush.

Colonel Narfield took the rifle eagerly. The fact that it had "let him down" seemed to be of far greater importance than the death of the elephant.

"Quite all right," he decided. "Then it must be the ammunition."

Holding the two miss-fires in the moonlight, the Colonel critically examined the copper caps set in the brass bases of the cartridges.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "The caps aren't even dented. Come back all I said about the ammunition."

He deftly extracted the bolt of the rifle. The end of the striker was missing. An eighth of an inch or so had been snapped off, and that fraction made all the difference between a serviceable weapon and a useless incumbrance.

"Wonder how that happened?" he remarked. "It was all right before we left home, and the rifle never left my hands. Hullo! Here's Van der Wyck."

The old farmer was approaching, escorted by three or four wildly excited natives.

"You are in luck, too, I see, Colonel Narfield," exclaimed Van der Wyck.

"If you call this luck," rejoined the Colonel, indicating his ankle, "I am. You've bagged a brute, then?"

"Two," replied the old man with justifiable pride. "It took three shots to do it. One of the natives was trampled on before I settled the second cow. But that's a splendid brute of yours! Look at the tusks!"

"It wasn't my shot," protested Colonel Narfield. "These lads brought him down just as he was on the point of trampling on me."

Van der Wyck made no audible comment. He walked across to where the bull elephant lay surrounded by a mob of natives, for unaccountably the original number had been augmented by almost every man from Sibenga's Kraal.

Presently he returned.

"I can find only one wound," he announced, "although there might be one on the animal's left side; but I can't find that out, as he is lying on that side. There is a bullet hole under the right eye caused by an explosive bullet."

"An explosive bullet!" echoed Colonel Narfield.

"Not mine," declared Tiny.

"Nor mine," added Colin ruefully.

"Let me see your ammunition, lads," suggested the Colonel.

Desmond's was the ordinary soft-nosed bullet. Colin's was the same in appearance at first sight, but a brief examination revealed the fact that it was of the explosive variety used in big-game hunting.

"Where did you get hold of this, Colin?" asked Colonel Narfield.

"From the ammunition-box just before we started," replied the lad.

"Then it's a jolly lucky thing you did so," declared Colonel Narfield. "A fluke of the highest dimension. No other form of ammunition would have dropped that brute dead in its tracks. All the same, I'd like to know how that packet got into the ordinary ammunition-chest," he added reflectively.



Without delay the task of sawing off the ivory proceeded. Of the two cow-elephants only one possessed tusks. These, by the law of the chase, fell to Van der Wyck.

Colin had scored heavily, for the bull elephant's tusks were large, heavy, and in splendid condition; but upon hearing that they were his prize he resolutely refused to accept the trophies unless the ivory were shared between the whole of the party from Kilembonga.

"We'll do the apportioning later," declared Colonel Narfield, who, propped up against a tree and smoking a cigar, was directing operations while the two Haussas set to work to saw through the valuable tusks. "No, no hurry on my account, lads. My ankle hurts a bit, naturally, but it's nothing to make a song about. I'm afraid I'll have to be carried home."

At length the return journey began. Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly rode at the head of the party with the Colonel's led horse between them, the animal having been brought from the Kraal.

Then came Herbert Narfield's personal servant carrying the spare rifles. Behind him were four stalwart natives from Sibenga's Kraal, bearing a hastily-contrived litter on which lay the injured man. Four relief bearers followed, with Van der Wyck to keep an eye on that section of the procession.

Next came more natives bearing the trophies of the hunt. That their task was an uncongenial one there was little doubt. They wanted to remain behind to participate in the feast to celebrate the slaying of the mammoth animals, a feast in which elephant flesh formed a prominent article of diet.

So, in order to keep the bearers to their work, Colin and Desmond rode at the rear of the procession, with their loaded rifles ready to fire at any savage beast that might be lurking in the scrub in order to pounce upon the defenceless bearers.

Presently the party gained the so-called road that led from Tabora to Kilembonga—the same that Colin and Tiny had traversed during their memorable, adventurous, and strenuous journey on their arrival at the estate.

For the greater part it was little better than an ox-track, with a number of stiff gradients. On either side were dense masses of trees, frequently meeting overhead and forming a dark tunnel through which the moonbeams failed to penetrate.

Once they discovered that they had to go, the natives dropped their sullen attitude. True children of nature, their moods were capable of sudden and contrasted changes, and soon they were yelling and shouting at the top of their voices, singing songs in praise of the Great One and his white brothers, who had fought and conquered the despoilers of their village.

The first streaks of dawn were showing low down on the horizon when the injured Colonel Narfield was carried through the gate of Kilembonga.

Tenpenny Nail and the Colonel's servant led the horses to the stables, while Blue Fly hurried off to give instructions to the native servants to provide a meal for the bearers. Van der Wyck, still mounted, awaited the arrival of the ivory.

"Colin and Desmond are a long way behind," he observed to the Colonel, who had refused to be taken into the house until the tusks were safely locked up and the natives fed, paid, and dismissed.

"What did they want to lag behind for?" inquired Colonel Narfield. "If that's the sort of thing they do when they are on rear guard I don't think much of it. Do you mind going to the gate and hurrying them up, Van der Wyck?"

The Afrikander lighted his pipe, grunted in assent, and touched his horse's flanks with his spurs.

Not only did he go as far as the gate, he cantered a good mile down the road; but there was neither sight nor trace of the two lads.

"Allemachte!" he exclaimed. "I hope no harm has come to them."

From the spot where he reined up he could command nearly a couple of miles of the road until the trees cut off the view. There was one intervening depression in the track, so that the old farmer proceeded until he could command a full view of the hollow. Yet no sign of Colin and Desmond rewarded his efforts.

Turning, he rode at a hard gallop back to Kilembonga.

"I could see nothing of them," he reported.

Colonel Narfield sat up.

"What!" he exclaimed anxiously. "Surely the bearers must have seen if anything happened. Blue Fly, tell Tenpenny Nail not to unsaddle the horses and to come here at once."

Tenpenny Nail obeyed the order promptly. For once the almost permanent grin was absent. He was genuinely concerned over the mysterious disappearance of the two chums.

With the utmost alacrity the tusk-bearers were brought to Colonel Narfield. Sharp interrogation resulted in throwing no light upon the affair. The natives had been shouting and singing, and they were unable to say when they last noticed the two white men riding at the tail end of the column.

In spite of the fact that his badly-sprained ankle was causing him acute pain, Colonel Narfield handled the matter with characteristic energy. The native bearers from Sibenga's Kraal were hurriedly ushered outside the gate, where Blue Fly paid them and gave them a substantial meal.

The horses were brought out. The Colonel had to be assisted into the saddle, but once there he was determined to stick it until his missing charges were found.

Van der Wyck insisted upon accompanying him, while Blue Fly shed tears when he found that he was not to join in the search, but had to remain and help McFrazer keep the natives from prowling over the estate.

It was an impossible task to find the spoor of the two lads' horses on the hard road. The strong breeze had blown clouds of dust across the track, and already the confused jumble of horses' hoof-marks and prints of the barefooted natives were almost obliterated.

Maintaining a sharp look-out on both sides of the road, the search party rode swiftly in the direction of Sibenga's Kraal until they almost reached the beginning of the dense forest.

Suddenly Van der Wyck turned to Colonel Narfield.

"Horses trotting!" he exclaimed laconically.

The Colonel could hear nothing except the clatter of the hoofs of the search party's mounts and the moan of the wind in the tall grass. But when the four men reined in their horses he could hear distinctly the trot of some approaching animals.

"Thanks be!" he ejaculated fervently. "But what on earth have these fellows been doing to get adrift like that?"

But a few seconds later his heart sank, for emerging from the deep shadows under the trees came two riderless horses which everyone recognised. They were the animals that Colin and Desmond had ridden to Sibenga's Kraal the previous evening, and on which they had commenced their incompleted journey back to Kilembonga.



Piet Van der Wyck had no difficulty in catching one of the masterless steeds while the Haussa secured the other. The animals seemed hardly distressed. They had been cantering along at an easy pace, and gave no indications of having been frightened. Bridle, saddle, and stirrups were in place; there was nothing to give a clue to what had befallen the riders.

"Perhaps," suggested Van der Wyck, "they dismounted and forgot to tether the animals."

"Hardly likely," demurred Colonel Narfield. "Although they are fairly raw hands with horses they know better than that. Desmond might, though; but Colin is too thoughtful and cautious. It may be that one of them was thrown and the other dismounted to go to his assistance. In that case the animals might stampede. We can dismiss the wild beast theory. Had a lion sprung upon the lads unawares the horses, even if they escaped, would have been terrified. Besides, there's no sign of an injury to either beast. Bring the horses along, Tenpenny Nail; they might be useful."

The search was resumed. At a slow pace the party rode under the trees, keeping a keen watch for broken undergrowth or any other sign that might lead to the unravelling of the mystery.

Once they halted, Van der Wyck and the Haussas dismounted to follow a well-defined spoor through the dense undergrowth. Here the ground was marshy, and it was easy to pick out the hoof marks of a large rhinoceros, but of human footprints not a sign was visible.

Baffled, and with their spirits falling rapidly, the searchers rode on until they came within sight of Sibenga Kraal.

The feast was still in progress when Colonel Narfield's party rode up. The villagers were gorging themselves on roasted elephant flesh washed down by copious draughts of native beer.

Those who were not torpid with excessive food and drink were strongly inclined to be quarrelsome. In their befuddled state these men were not likely to be of much use as trackers.

Very peremptorily Colonel Narfield called upon Logula to come to him. The chief had still sufficient sense to realise that the summons must be obeyed.

"Listen, Logula," said the Colonel. "When we left you after doing you great service by slaying the bull elephant and the two cow elephants there were two white men riding behind the bearers."

"Yes, Great One; that is so," agreed Logula. "One was the Little-Son-of-the-Great-One-that-wears-the-Charm."

Colonel Narfield did not attempt to deny the imputed relationship.

"The two white men are lost," he said. "There will be great reward paid to Logula, successor to Sibenga, if he or any of his people find them."

Logula eyed the Colonel curiously. "Hau!" he exclaimed. "What is amiss with the Magic of the Great One that he has to come to Logula and ask him to use his magic? Truly it is strange. And as yet no witch-doctor dwells in Sibenga's Kraal. It was by the iron-tube-that-breathes-fire-and smoke belonging to the Great One that the wise witch-doctor was slain. Having destroyed his magic by a magic greater than his, how comes it that you seek my lesser charms to aid your greater magic?"

"I do not ask the aid of your sorcerers and witch-doctors, Logula," declared Herbert Narfield. "I want your skilled trackers, although judging by the evidence of my eyes and ears they are no better than oxen stricken with rinder-pest."

Logula followed the direction of the Colonel's glance and shrugged his massive shoulders. Then he pointed with his knobkerrie at two dazed-looking natives who were squatting with their eyes staring glazedly into the fire.

Although the chief made no sound, and the two men were not looking in his direction, both roused themselves and crawled to within a yard of the spot where Logula stood.

"Go!" he commanded. "Find the spoor of the White-Man-who-wears-the-Charm."

Colonel Narfield regarded the men disdainfully. He knew the capabilities of native trackers, but these fellows looked dissipated.

Nevertheless, when the pair started off with their heads well forward and their eyes fixed upon the ground he put spurs to his horse, at the same time giving vent to a strong ejaculation as the action sent a burning, shooting pain through his injured ankle.

His companions followed. Their horses had to be urged into a steady trot to keep pace with the bronzed human sleuth-hounds, who, without looking up to see where they were going, covered the ground at a good seven or eight miles an hour.

"I don't suppose the beggars will be of the slightest use," remarked Colonel Narfield to Van der Wyck. "There's one thing, we are at present following the lads' track. With luck we may find a spoor that we missed on our outward journey."

When at length the native trackers reached the place where the forest closed in upon the road they slowed down considerably. Bending close to the ground they were continually sniffing and lolling their tongues like dogs on the scent. From time to time they stopped, went down on their hands and knees, and smelt the sun-baked, dusty track.

Proceeding thus, they plunged into the gloom of the tunnel-like archway of foliage. In places it was so dark that Narfield had difficulty in distinguishing their bronzed figures from the sombre path.

For nearly half a mile through the avenue the natives continued their way. Not a word was spoken. Only the thud of horses' hoofs and the nasal noises of the two natives broke the tense silence.

Suddenly the trackers stopped, and stood erect, back to back. For nearly half a minute they remained immovable; then, crawling in ever-widening curves, they began to circle round their halting-place until the limit of their orbit brought them into contact with the undergrowth.

Apparently these tactics failed to produce the desired effect, for they began to retrace their spiral course until they arrived at the spot whence they had started.

Still on their knees they went, smelling and sniffing. One of the fellows stood up and seized the bridle of Colonel Narfield's horse, forcing the animal back for a few yards.

"All right, Tenpenny Nail," said the rider quietly as the Haussa was on the point of administering punishment to the apparently offensive native. "I want to give him a fair trial."

Whatever spoor they had been following, it was evident that the trackers were at a loss. Again they went through the spiral movements, paying great attention to the trees and undergrowth.

Presently one of the natives approached the Colonel.

"Great One!" he exclaimed. "My snake is good to me. To me much is revealed. Neither to the right hand nor to the left, neither in front nor behind, nor under the ground has the White-Man-that-wears-the-Charm and his brother gone. They went this way."

And he pointed immediately above his head.

Colonel Narfield and his companions followed the direction of the up-pointed finger. Twenty feet above their heads the foliage grew thick and even. Somewhere in that green ceiling branches met from the massive trees on either side of the darkened road.

It was obvious that the branches were so high from the ground that they could not possibly sweep a pair of horsemen from the saddle, and the idea that Colin and Desmond had climbed any of the trees was extremely improbable.

"Rubbish! Preposterous rot!" ejaculated the Colonel angrily. "Come on, Van der Wyck, we've wasted valuable time in following the antics of a pair of intoxicated niggers. We'll return home as fast as we can. I'll send McFrazer post haste to Nyaruma and get my friend Wynyard, the District Commissioner, to send reliable native trackers. These blighters are unholy frauds."

And signing to the natives to get out of the way, the Colonel urged his horse into a hand-gallop, his companions following his example.

But his physical powers were unequal to the demand of his moral strength and resolution; for upon arriving at Kilembonga he fell forward in his saddle in a swoon. Van der Wyck was only just in time to save him from a dangerous tumble.

So far the search for the missing lads had not only been unsuccessful, but other misfortunes had descended upon this little outpost of civilisation in the wilds of East Africa.



On Piet Van der Wyck, the Colonel's guest, descended the mantle of responsibility. With the exception of the dour Scot, McFrazer, he was the only active white man on the estate, and in spite of his years he rose nobly to the occasion.

The first step was to have the injured man carried to his bed. Here the Afrikander, skilled in veldt surgery and medicine, deftly removed Colonel Narfield's boots and leggings. Already the sprained ankle had swollen badly, and once the compression of the foot gear was removed, the foot enlarged to greatly abnormal dimensions.

With the aid of embrocation and hot water Van der Wyck dressed the injury and then proceeded to restore the patient to consciousness.

Colonel Narfield's first act upon opening his eyes was to attempt to get out of bed, protesting that happen what may he was not going to lie there while his two young charges were still missing.

The old farmer firmly exercised his authority.

"You'll have to stay there for a few days," he declared. "By getting up you will not only injure yourself, but no doubt hamper the work of the searchers. I am sending McFrazer as you ordered, and until the native trackers arrive I will patrol the road with the Haussas."

The injured man saw the force of Van der Wyck's contentions. He simply had to give up, although the state of his active mind can well be imagined.

McFrazer, booted and spurred, was ready for his long ride when the Afrikander left the patient's room.

"Would you be thinking it was an aeroplane?" he asked, for he had already heard from the Haussas how far the spoor of the missing youths had been tracked.

Van der Wyck shook his head.

"Impossible," he replied. "There were trees meeting overhead."

McFrazer accepted the denial with characteristic brevity.

"Oh, ay," he replied. "Then I'm just awa'," as if a 150-mile ride were an everyday occurrence.

As a matter of fact the journey to Nyaruma took him exactly fifteen hours, for at twelve miles from Kilembonga the rough track joined a well-constructed post-road from Tabora to Ujiji, where there were relay-horses at convenient distances.

Meanwhile Van der Wyck rode over to Sibenga's Kraal and saw Logula again. Most of the natives had recovered from their feast, and several of them, with a view to a reward, offered to search for the missing white men. Selecting two trackers, Van der Wyck set them on the spoor, which to a European would be by this time utterly lost.

The natives did almost exactly what their fellow tribesmen had done the previous day, coming to a halt in precisely the same spot and declaring that the lost men had "gone up."

Van der Wyck, who spoke most of the Kaffir dialects fluently, had little difficulty in making himself understood in the tongue of Sibenga's people; but he found it impossible to get the natives to climb the trees and make further investigations. They professed ignorance of the command, shaking their heads and uttering the word "Maquishi" (finished).

So the Afrikander had to leave it at that as far as these fellows were concerned, but he determined to carry out further investigations in that direction, although he himself was too old and too inexperienced in woodcraft to be able to climb trees.

At four o'clock on the day next following two motor-cars dashed up to the gate of Kilembonga.

In the first was Wynyard, the District Commissioner, his secretary, and McFrazer. The second contained a native sergeant, two police, and two black trackers from Lilwana's country, men known for miles as the craftiest and most highly-skilled human sleuthhounds in East Africa.

Wynyard meant to do his task thoroughly. Apart from the fact that two Englishmen had disappeared, Colin and Desmond were, like himself, Stockmere Old Boys.

He had accomplished the journey in the record time of seven hours, the cars attaining a speed of nearly fifty miles an hour over the post-road, and rarely falling below twenty over the rest of the way.

McFrazer had already related all he knew of the case. During a hasty meal Wynyard elicited further information from Van der Wyck, and also had a brief but business-like interview with the invalid, Colonel Narfield.

"Right-o!" he declared, cheerfully. "We'll find them. S'pose they're not playing a practical joke, by any chance?"

"Not with serious work on hand," replied Colonel Narfield. "They were keeping an eye on the niggers carrying the ivory, and they knew the importance of that. Yet, curiously enough, the blacks didn't notice the lads' disappearance, otherwise some, if not all, of the ivory would have been missing. It wasn't."

Within forty minutes of his arrival Wynyard was on the road again. With him went Van der Wyck, none too readily, for he mistrusted mechanical cars. He would have preferred his trusty horse, but that animal had been worked hard of late, and, as time was a great consideration, the Afrikander took courage and rather nervously sat beside Wynyard in the car.

In the rear were crowded Tenpenny Nail, Blue Fly, and the native sergeant, while the second car was packed with native trackers, police, and a huge dog, partly bloodhound and partly wolfhound.

"We are nearing the place where the Sibenga Kraal trackers lost the spoor," cautioned Van der Wyck, as the leading car jolted and bumped through the dense avenue.

"Oh," ejaculated Wynyard, "is that so? But I think I'll start at the beginning. There's nothing like independent clues."

The cars pulled up outside the hut of Logula, Sibenga's successor came out to do "Konza," accompanied by almost every man, woman and child in the village.

There was a sneer on the Chief's face as he watched the preparations. He rather resented the employment of trackers from another tribe, but he said nothing and thought the more.

Meanwhile Wynyard was holding one of Colin's sun-helmets to the hound's nose. The animal, quickly picking up the scent, trotted off with his tail erect and his nose close to the ground.

Twenty yards or so behind followed the car containing the District Commissioner and Van der Wyck, with the Haussas riding on the running-board. The other car came close behind, with four of the more daring natives of Sibenga's Kraal augmenting the numbers of the already closely-packed occupants.

Van der Wyck was not in the least surprised that the hound came to a standstill at the very spot which the two pairs of trackers had already indicated as the end of the spoor. The animal, showing a decided disinclination to proceed, was led back to the second car, and the Nyaruma trackers were told to carry on the good work.

In five minutes they delivered their verdict. The missing white men had "gone up." They were positive about that, but, like the Sibenga Kraal trackers, they resolutely declined to continue their investigations in the overhanging branches of the trees.

"Dashed if I'll be done!" exclaimed Wynyard. Then turning to the native sergeant, he bade him bring a rope from the second car and make it fast to one of the branches.

Assisted by Tenpenny Nail and Blue Fly, the sergeant carried out his instructions. Thereupon Wynyard swarmed up the rope and gained the leafy branch. But there was nothing that afforded him a clue, or, if there were, he failed to detect it. The leaves and young twigs showed no sign of having been disturbed; the resinous wood bore no trace of the contact of the studded sole of a boot.

"Were they carrying rifles?" he inquired, calling down to Van der Wyck, twenty-five or thirty feet below.

"Yes," replied the old farmer. "They had when we left the kraal."

"And these haven't been found?"

"No; we found nothing."

Wynyard knotted his brow in perplexity. Presumably, Sinclair and Desmond were either carrying their rifles in their left hands or else had the weapons slung across their backs.

Assuming the native trackers' assertions to be correct, what happened to the rifles? Either they would have fallen to the ground or else they would have caught and torn away some of the foliage.

"Well, I consider this the limit—the absolute limit," declared Wynyard, as he prepared to descend.

Arriving upon terra firma, the District Commissioner consulted a map of the district. It was based upon a German survey, and, therefore, remarkably accurate, for the Hun, painstaking and methodical and convinced that he had come to stay, had triangulated and mapped out his largest colony with Teutonic thoroughness.

From it he discovered that the forest extended a good twenty miles in a north-easterly direction, and was about half that distance across its widest part. The furthermost limits extended to the base of a lofty ridge of mountains forming part of that mighty system that early nineteenth century cartographers vaguely indicated as the Mountains of the Moon.

Wynyard was still engaged in scanning the map when his attention was distracted by the sounds of shouting and yelling. Four hundred yards down the road came Logula and his warriors, all armed in characteristic fashion with spears, shields, and kerries, and rigged out in feathers, paint, and other native insignia.

"By Jove!" he ejaculated. "I hope those beggars aren't up to mischief," and he found himself wishing that he had a full company of armed police with him in place of the three or four men at his disposal.

But Logula's intentions were friendly, even though they appeared the opposite. By his side capered a tall fellow in the full panoply of a witch-doctor.

"Great Chief," began Logula, "you have failed, even as my snake told me you would. Therefore I bring you aid."

"We are in no need of the black man's magic, Logula," declared Wynyard sternly.

"You can but try," protested the Chief.

"And waste time," rejoined the District Commissioner. "Begone!"

Logula stuck to his guns.

"Hearken, Great One," he continued. "I have twenty good oxen. If my witch-doctor fails to give you the knowledge you seek, then they are yours."

Wynyard was on the point of contemptuously declining the offer when Van der Wyck interposed.

"Let him try, Mr. Wynyard," advised the old man. "Times before I have both heard and seen these wizards at work in the Transvaal and Zululand. I have no faith in their methods, but their results are sometimes very wonderful. Out of darkness we may find light."

"Very well," agreed Wynyard grumblingly, "Let the jolly old jamboree proceed."

The witch-doctor needed no second bidding. With many weird and unintelligible incantations he lighted a fire on the very spot that had so frequently been pointed out during the last three days. Then he began dancing and capering violently, at times literally treading in the midst of the flames with his bare feet.

After about ten minutes of this sort of thing he suddenly collapsed in a heap, his head resting on his knees, at the same time emitting mournful howls.

"O Talula!" exclaimed Logula, addressing the semi-conscious wizard. "Tell me, have you smelt out the White Man-who-wears-the-Sacred-Amulet?"

"I have, O Chief."

"What do you see—blood?"

"I see no blood."

"Hau!" exclaimed Logula. "The White Man-who-wears-the-Sacred-Amulet still lives."

The witch-doctor raised himself to a sitting position and pointed to the north-east.

"Warriors not of our nation. Spears in hundreds. A great hole in the earth .... I see two white men ... at present they are not spirits."

"Ask him," exclaimed Wynyard, addressing Logula, "ask him if he will be able to rescue them?"

"They might be restored to their own people," announced the witch-doctor, without waiting for the question to be put to him. "More, I cannot say, save that the Great One from Nyaruma will not succeed in the attempt .... I have it ...."

With a convulsive effort he sprang to his feet, clutched at the empty air, and uttered one word:




"Good night's work that, Tiny, old bird," remarked Colin.

"Yes, you lucky beggar," agreed his chum enviously. "Of course, it's jolly sporting of you to divide your share, and I'm grateful. At the same time, 'tisn't the same, if you can understand. S'posing, for instance, it had been my lucky shot, you'd understand then."

"It was a jolly good thing I picked up those explosive cartridges by accident," conceded Sinclair. "It was a fluke—absolutely."

"Colonel Narfield would have been snuffed out if you hadn't," said Tiny. "The ordinary .303's had no more effect than tickling a wild cat with a straw. By Jove! I am sleepy ... aren't those niggers kicking up an infernal row?"

"Let's slow down a bit and miss most of the dust and noise," suggested Colin. "We can keep an eye on the bearers just as well, if not better."

Checking their horses, the two chums allowed the bearers to draw on ahead. It was a case of distance lending enchantment to the scene, as the early sunlight glinted on the muscular, copper skins of the wildly-excited natives.

"Ugh! The flies!" exclaimed Tiny. "That one nearly jumped down my throat. 'Tain't all jam being in the rear of a procession—eh, what?"

"I'm going to have the best piece of the ivory sawn off," declared Colin, ignoring his companion's complaint and reverting to the subject of the spoils of the chase. "Then I'll send it home to my people. And a chunk for Dr. Narfield, too. Probably the head will shove it in the school museum with a notice on it, 'Shot by an Old Boy,' sort of thing. My word, I'm jolly glad I came out here, aren't you?"

"Better'n fooling round in an office, any old day," declared Tiny. "More than likely I'd have been under the turf now if I'd stopped at home."

"And now you're quite fit," remarked his chum.

"Hope so," said Desmond. "There's one thing, I've lost that rotten cough .... Hullo! We're nearly into the forest. Hadn't we better hurry along a bit. If those niggers took it into their heads to do a bunk, you'd lose your ivory for a dead cert., old son."

"Half a mo!" exclaimed Colin. "My girth's slipping a bit. Hang on, old man."

Throwing his reins to his chum, Sinclair dismounted and deftly readjusted the slack girth. Then, climbing into the saddle, he urged his horse onwards.

By this time the rear of the column was nearly three hundred yards ahead and already in the shade of the dense foliage. The bearers, probably with the idea of keeping up their courage in the gloom, redoubled their shouts.

"What a contrast!" remarked Desmond as the two lads entered the forest. "After the glare I can hardly see a yard——"

His remarks were cut short in a totally unexpected manner. From a stout branch of a tree immediately overhead two hide ropes, terminating in running nooses, were dexterously dropped over the shoulders of the astonished lads.

Before they could utter a sound—even if they had, the din made by the native bearers would have deadened it—they were jerked out of the saddles and hauled aloft.

At the sudden tightening of the noose, Colin immediately relaxed his grip of the reins and instinctively made a frantic ineffectual grab at his slung rifle. The noose, pinning his arms tightly against his sides, rendered the attempt futile.

Like a shoulder of mutton hanging from a roasting-jack, Colin found himself being hoisted upwards, spinning round and round, and more than once colliding with his companion in misfortune.

The coup had been neatly planned and dexterously executed. Strong, lithe, brown hands emerging from the leafy cover gripped the two lads, stifling their unheard shouts for aid. Other hands grasped their rifles, cutting the leather slings in order to disarm the kidnapped youths.

Then, bound hand and foot and effectually gagged, Colin and Tiny were laid at full length upon a broad branch thirty feet above the ground, with a dozen or more sinewy, active men keeping guard over the captives and others in the higher branches watching with much approval the deft work of their companions.

Then someone spoke in a tongue that neither Colin nor Tiny recognised, although by this time they had a useful smattering of the native dialects in use around Kilembonga.

There was no doubt about it—the man in charge of the kidnappers knew how to handle them. The discipline was perfect. Unlike most African natives, who can hardly ever carry out any work silently, these men maintained absolute quiet, moving with the precision and smoothness of a well-regulated machine.

Each captive was carefully lifted from branch to branch until they were at least eighty feet above the ground. During the operation the men took particular pains not to break off any of the foliage, methodically bending the twigs that hampered their progress, and not allowing any part of the captives' bodies or clothing to come in contact with the bark.

The next step was to pass the prisoners literally from hand to hand and from tree to tree, the close formation of the massive branches forming an almost continuous arboreal highway.

As fast as each native passed on his load he dropped to a lower branch and made his way to the front of the long line of bearers ready to renew his part in the endless human chain, so that at the end of an hour Colin and Desmond were at least two miles from the scene of their capture.

Here the party—captors and captives—descended to the ground. More natives were waiting with two hammock-like litters of woven grass. Into these Colin and Desmond were placed, no attempt being made to remove either their gags or their bonds.

Then at a rapid pace, but with the same orderly silence that characterised the opening stages of the operations, the natives moved off, the two litters being borne in the centre of the long double file.

At the end of a tedious journey, in which Colin calculated they had covered from ten to twelve miles, the cortège halted in an open space, bounded on three sides by the forest, and on the fourth by a cliff rising sheer to a height of two thousand feet.

The gags were then removed and the prisoners' ankles freed, although their arms were still securely bound as before. Then into a vast circle of armed warriors Colin and his chum were led, to find themselves confronted by a gigantic man holding a gleaming axe of yellow metal. By his side was a pillar of wood, somewhat resembling the mediaeval executioner's block.

"If they've brought us all this way for the purpose of cutting off our heads," thought Colin, "all I can say is they've gone to a lot of unnecessary trouble. Tiny, old man," he added aloud, "for goodness' sake don't let them see we've got the wind up. Let them see we're Englishmen."



Colin Sinclair had been curious concerning the mysterious Makoh'lenga. Now he was finding out more about them than he wished.

His captors were without exception tall and muscular and well-proportioned. Their garb consisted solely of a white loin cloth. Their bodies were "unadorned" with chalk and ochre after the fashion of the majority of African tribes, nor were there any evidences of voluntary mutilation so frequently to be met with amongst savages. The only ornaments they wore were armlets of gold just above the left elbow. Every male lenga over the age of sixteen wore one.

They were noticeably clean in their habits and persons, orderly and well-disciplined, and, in short, seemed far in advance in the principles of hygiene above even the doyen of the Kaffir races—the pure-blooded Zulu.

But even these qualifications were no excuse for present conditions. The possibility of making a touching acquaintance with the golden axe rather blunted Sinclair's interest in his new and undesirable acquaintances.

There was no denying one fact—he felt "scared stiff." It was only by a determined effort that he kept his well-schooled and steady nerves under control. Perhaps if his arms had not been so securely bound he might have precipitated matters by planting a blow with his fist between the eyes of the copper-hued giant who was watching him so covertly.

The Makoh'lenga seemed in no hurry to commence the next phase of the operations. In a two-deep circle they stood motionless as statues, each warrior grasping the haft of a seven-foot, broad-bladed spear, while on his right arm he wore a small circular shield with a convex boss.

On the inside of each shield was a small sheath holding a short double-edged knife. The weapons were plain and serviceable, no attempt being made to engrave the metalwork or to embellish the hafts with paint and feathers. Simplicity of equipment seemed to be the keynote of these mysterious men.

At length, in reply to an invitation from the chief, two warriors stepped forward and solemnly presented the trophies—the captives' rifles. These were accepted without any hesitation, the chief apparently knowing the principles of modern firearm construction; but, strangely enough, he carefully examined the stocks as if to find some inscription.

Discovering none, a shade of disappointment flitted over his features, and without a word he handed them back to the men from whom he had received them.

Although the giant was obviously a person of rank, even if he were not the supreme head of the tribe, there was a total lack of servile abasement noticeable in the case of the Zulu, Matabele, and other Kaffir tribes.

The men tendering the rifles simply saluted by bringing the right hand in a horizontal position up to the chin. This was the recognised form of salutation. Equals greeted one another by bringing the right hand only breast high.

Several times Colin bethought him of the amulet, but, his arms being bound, he was unable to produce it. Perhaps, after all, it was a trump card. On the other hand, it might fail to produce the same effect upon these mysterious men as it had once upon the obviously less intellectual natives around Kilembonga.

Presently four warriors, laying aside their spears and shields, strode forward and grasped Desmond by the arms and legs, and held him in a horizontal position. Tiny did not utter a sound, nor did he offer any resistance, but he craned his neck and looked at the executioner's block with ill-concealed dismay.

It was a moment when the rattle of a machine-gun would have been most welcome. Even a stampeding of wild elephants or a death-dealing thunderstorm would have been a pleasurable diversion, but nothing of the sort happened.

At a word from the chief, Tiny's captors searched his pockets and tore open his shirt. Every article they took—knife, cartridges, handkerchief, matches, purse, and notebook they examined and then placed in a row on to the ground. They expressed no delight at the various objects which are highly prized by savages; indeed, their looks betrayed disappointment.

The examination over, Tiny was set upon his feet and left alone. The four warriors next directed their attention towards Colin, and he, too, was placed in a horizontal position and searched.

Suddenly one of the men gave a shout of delight; it was the first sound uttered by any one during the searching process. He had discovered the swastika.

Cutting away the cord that held it, the finder reverently presented it to the chief.

The latter, displaying considerable emotion, minutely examined the gold and copper amulet, then, holding it aloft, he shouted:

"Ad idda ver h'lenga soya."

Although utterly ignorant of the language, Colin realised its import. The chief had announced to his people that the much-sought-for amulet had been found.

A roar of exultation greeted the words. Almost before the volume of sound had abated a weird-looking contrivance was carried into the centre of the ring by a dozen huge men. It resembled a gigantic ram's horn, the bell mouth rising a good ten feet from the ground. At the other end was a hollow cylinder with a disc of goat's skin stretched tightly over the outer part.

Armed with a club-shaped stick, one of the natives began banging upon the drum portion of the instrument, keeping up the performance for the space of about a minute, the beats resembling the tapping of a morse code buzzer.

The volume of sound emitted from the bell-mouthed horn was stupendous. It seemed loud enough to deafen everyone within fifty yards. Even the ground shook perceptibly under the roar of the deep-pitched instrument.

The last long-drawn reverberations died away, and utter silence fell upon the close ranks of the Makoh'lenga warriors. Then, after a lapse of nearly five minutes, came a low, bass roar from a distant source. Somewhere, far up in the rugged mountains, an alert sentinel was replying to the sonorous message of the ram's horn.

The message was short and obviously satisfactory and to the point, for the moment the sound ceased the chief issued an order.

With the alertness and methodical precision of a crack British regiment, the circle of warriors dissolved, and the men reformed into a close column. Up doubled a party of men with the two litters in which Colin and Tiny had been carried through the forest.

With his own hands the Chief unknotted the bonds that secured the lads' arms. Then he signed to them to retake possession of their scanty belongings except their rifles. The amulet was retained by the Chief, who motioned to the two chums to seat themselves in the litters.

"This is going to be a bit of a picnic, after all, Tiny, old son," remarked Colin.

"Hope so," replied Desmond. "Only isn't it a bit too early to talk about picnics and joy rides? That chap seems jolly pleased to be able to bag your amulet. Now he's got that, what does he want us for? That's what I want to know."

At a sign from the Chief, Colin and Tiny climbed into the litters. Their previous acquaintance with this mode of conveyance had been in a state of being bound hand and foot. Now their limbs were freed and they were able to sit up and look about them, while an awning had been provided to shelter them from the glare of the sun.

The chums were in the middle of a long column of men marching four abreast, the warriors keeping step but taking much longer paces than is the case with European troops. They moved almost silently, their bare feet treading lightly upon the ground. Except when a command was given, not a word was spoken.

Following the base of the line of cliffs the Makoh'lenga marched for nearly two miles until they arrived at a shallow stream running through a deep gorge. Here the warriors turned sharp to the left, in file, and began ascending the stream, which varied from ankle to knee-deep.

Although the rivulet was not less than ten feet in width the walls of the gorge, which averaged two hundred feet in height, almost met at the top, so that the inclosed space was deep in gloom. It was a weird experience to the two chums, as they watched the symmetrical lines of dark figures making their way up-stream.

At length, above the swish of the water as hundreds of feet forced their way against the steady current, came the dull roar of a waterfall. Louder and louder grew the sound, until Colin could see an apparently unbroken sheet of water falling from a height of quite a hundred and fifty feet and breaking into a cloud of foam as it came in contact with the bed of the gorge.

Into this waterfall the Makoh'lenga plunged unhesitatingly. They, evidently, did not share the dislike, amounting almost to fear, of Zulu tribes for running water, yet it puzzled Colin to know where the men went. They seemed to be swallowed up in the clouds of spray as file after file disappeared. Beyond the waterfall was solid rock, and yet the column held on without a check.

Then came Colin's turn to pass through the sheet of descending water. To a great extent the canopy overhead prevented him from a thorough soaking, although the spray invaded the open side of the litter.

It was an ordeal quickly over. For a brief instant, as the water poured unhindered upon the canopy, it seemed as if the covering would collapse under the pressure. The bearers staggered under the weight of the falling water, but quickly recovering themselves, they bore Colin inside the fall.

Here was a clear space of about three yards between the wall of rock that formed a barrier and the gulley and the curtain-like waterfall, and on the right of this space was a natural tunnel driven obliquely through the wall of the chasm.

This, then, was the secret gateway to Makoh'lenga Land.



The tunnel was of large dimensions, averaging twenty-five feet in height, and—when once clear of the gulley—fifteen feet in width, the floor was remarkably even, with a stiff gradient. In remote ages the tunnel had evidently been the outlet for an enormous quantity of water—possibly a mountain lake—but the supply had long since diminished and had found a new outlet.

Just within the entrance to the tunnel a guard of warriors was drawn up in a recess, in one corner of which a fire was burning.

As the returning Makoh'lengas passed, every tenth man was given a lighted torch, in order to illuminate the otherwise dark approach, and soon the tunnel was brilliantly lit up, while the flambeaux gave off very little smoke and emitted pleasant odours.

The bearers of the two litters were evidently anxious not to cause their passengers any further inconvenience, for the two men in front held the poles in their hands with the arms drooping to the full extent. The men behind raised their ends of the poles upon their shoulders, so that the litters were kept in practically a horizontal position.

During the passage of the tunnel the same silence on the part of the warriors was observed, the only sounds being the pattering of hundreds of bare feet upon the smooth rock and the hiss of the flaring torches.

The subterranean march occupied about five minutes, then into the blazing sunlight the long procession emerged.

Colin was frankly interested. He felt that as the threatened danger had passed away, thanks to the amulet, there was little possibility of its recurrence, especially as the lads' captors were now treating them with consideration. True, Sinclair no longer had the swastika in his possession, but whether that would influence further proceedings remained a matter for speculation.

It was a strange sight that greeted Colin's gaze as the litter came to a standstill on the Makoh'lenga terrace. Although this was by no means the summit of the mountain it was several miles in length and about one and a half in breadth.

On the side nearer the mountain were hundreds of stone and plaster-built houses with thatched roofs. Each house had large glazeless windows shaded by wide porches, while every door was open.

Subsequently Sinclair discovered that the doorways were open for the simple reason that there were no outside doors. It was a custom of the Makoh'lenga to keep "open house," the natives being so scrupulously honest that there was no necessity for anyone to bolt and bar his household goods and chattels.

Each house was surrounded by a small, highly-cultivated garden, while outside the village were common fields, both under cultivation and for grazing purposes, the grass being particularly rich and capable of supporting large herds of domestic cattle and flocks of sheep and goats, the latter bearing a strong resemblance to the Angoras.

At some distance from the houses were buildings given over to the manufacture of metal, woodwork, pottery, and cotton and worsted goods, the Makoh'lenga being skilled artisans. There were several ingenious machines used in connection with the various industries, many of these being driven by water-power.

Gold, copper, and iron were worked into manufactured goods to a large extent, but the Makoh'lenga seemed ignorant of how to produce steel or even cast-iron.

Colin soon discovered that the warriors who had escorted Tiny and himself were only a small portion of the Makoh'lenga fighting men. News of the expected arrival of the two white men had already been communicated by means of the peculiar sound-producing instrument, and every man capable of bearing arms had turned out to greet the returning members of the expedition and their captives.

The chums had the unusual experience of being carried slowly along the front of the quadruple line of warriors, yet they were treated with absolute respect, and neither by word or gesture did the Makoh'lenga do anything to offend their involuntary guests.

The inspection over, Colin and Tiny were carried to the raised mound where the Chief had taken his stand. A gong sounded a single, low-pitched note, and the Chief held up a mysterious amulet, uttering a few words which were, of course, unintelligible to the lads.

Instantly every warrior bent and laid his spear on the ground. Then every hand was raised aloft, and a full-throated chorus broke from hundreds of lips. It sounded like a paean in honour of the restoration of the sacred amulet to the Makoh'lenga.

Then, in the stillness that succeeded the roar of voices, the Chief made a sign with his golden staff. Instantly the ranks broke, and in a few minutes the place was practically deserted, every man hurrying to his own quarters, save for a few warriors in personal attendance upon the head of the remarkable and mysterious tribe.

To one of these attendants the Chief gave some instructions. The man, a magnificent specimen of humanity, although a good two inches shorter than his chief, saluted and signed to Colin and Tiny to accompany him.

Five minutes later the lads found themselves in one of the houses, where a meal of roast lamb, maize, bread, and several varieties of vegetables awaited them.

A native youth appeared with a large earthenware basin filled with water and a couple of rough cotton cloths. Without any preliminaries, this copper-coloured valet washed the chums' faces and hands, ignoring Tiny's attempt to perform his own ablutions.

Then the native youth looked puzzled. It was part of the ceremony to wash the feet of the guests, but the fact that Colin and Tiny wore laced boots and pig-skin leggings worried him as to how to proceed. Finally he seized hold of Sinclair's feet and placed them in the bowl of water and gravely washed and dried the leather foot-gear.

Desmond, seeing that his turn was coming next, took the precaution of removing his leggings and boots, but the result upset both his calculations and those of his valet. The latter, who had never before seen a human foot encased in hide, imagined that the white man was performing some act of magic. He started to his feet, upset the bowl, and with a look of amazement took to his heels and disappeared.

"That's done it," ejaculated Tiny.

"He certainly looked surprised," admitted Colin. "But I don't suppose there's any harm done. Let's start grub. It smells delicious, and I'm on the verge of starvation."

The chums set-to with avidity, for ten hours had elapsed since they had last eaten. The meal justified the appetising odour, the only drawback being that there were no knives and forks provided, and only two wooden utensils resembling small shovels. However, by the aid of their own knives Colin and Tiny made up for the deficiencies and thoroughly enjoyed the repast.

"Now," remarked Desmond, after the meal. "What's the programme?"

"Goodness knows," replied Colin. "If we could only let Colonel Narfield know we're all right I wouldn't mind a scrap. These fellows are an interesting sort; except for the preliminary canter, they've treated us jolly well; the food's good, our surroundings are clean, and the air's simply topping. I could do with a month of this."

"That's all very well," admitted Desmond, "You said we were all right; are we?"

"It certainly looks like it," said Colin. "And we are on the eve of a discovery. We've fallen in with a highly-civilised tribe. With the exception of our Mr. Van der Wyck," (Colin always termed his former cabin mate "our" Mr. Van der Wyck to distinguish him from the old farmer) "no one seems to have come in contact with them. I suppose I'm right in saying these fellows are the Makoh'lenga? What a story we'll have to tell when we get back to Kilembonga."

"If we do," interposed the pessimistic Tiny.

"Why if?" asked Sinclair. "They surely don't mean to keep us here for ever. And if they meant us harm they would have knocked us on the head and not troubled to swot up here with us."

"That's all very well," conceded Desmond. "Did you ever read about the Aztecs?"

"The original inhabitants of Mexico? Yes. Didn't Cortez conquer them with a mere handful of Spanish troops?"

"Yes; but that isn't my point," continued Tiny. "They went in for human sacrifices, and they made a point in certain cases of keeping their victims for a twelvemonth before they did them in. During that twelvemonth they fed them up in fine style, and gave them no end of a good time. I wonder if these Makoh'lenga fellows are trying on the same sort of stunt with us? We aren't out of the wood by a long chalk, old son."



For the next three weeks Colin and Desmond had little to complain of. Apart from their anxiety to communicate with their friends, they really had a rather pleasant holiday. They were well-fed, housed, and cared for, and up to a certain point allowed liberty of action.

Their greatest difficulty was their inability to understand the Makoh'lenga language. Although it resembled the Zulu dialects in the way in which the guttural "clicks" occurred, in almost every other word there was nothing else in common with the native tongues spoken in that part of the Dark Continent.

The chums did not submit to their altered conditions without making efforts to secure their freedom. Very shortly after their arrival they decided to make an attempt to escape. Waiting until it was past midnight and the whole village appeared to be wrapped in slumber, they stole softly through the doorless aperture of their quarters, and made their way towards the tunnel.

It was a moonless night, but the stars were shining brightly, although there was a mist rising from the ground.

Without molestation they drew clear of the village, crossed the open belt of ground, and gained the mouth of the oblique shaft. Here they paused and listened intently. The tunnel was in Cimmerian darkness.

No sound beyond the distant murmur of the waterfall broke the stillness. If the lads could pass the guards stationed in the rocky recess their chances of escape would be most favourable.

Cautiously, and feeling their way step by step, Colin and Desmond entered the gloomy tunnel. As a matter of precaution they had removed their boots, and carried them slung round their necks, and their bare feet made no noise as they encountered the smooth, hard rock that formed the floor of the tunnel.

With beating hearts they approached the hewn-out cavity where they had seen the guards on the occasion of their arrival. The fire no longer burned in the recess. Like the rest of the subterranean passage, the place was in darkness.

Hardly able to credit their good fortune, the chums increased their pace, and gained the narrow track between the waterfall and the end of the gorge.

image: 06_jove.jpg
{Illustration: "'WE'VE DONE IT, BY JOVE!'" [p. 231}

"We've done it, by Jove!" soliloquised Sinclair. "We're through."

These thoughts had hardly flashed across his mind when a heavy hand descended upon the shoulder of each of the lads. Turning, they found themselves in the grip of a tall, powerfully-built man, while others, springing seemingly from nowhere, barred the way to freedom.

To Colin's and Tiny's astonishment, their captor made no attempt to harm them. With an air of superior detachment, he pointed in the direction of the tunnel, and exclaimed:


The significance of the word was plain. Feeling very small, indeed, the chums turned and retraced their steps, speculating when they arrived at their quarters what would be their punishment in the morning.

Days passed, but seemingly no notice was taken of the attempt to break out. Nevertheless, the mere fact of having been caught red-handed acted as a deterrent to a further effort in that direction. Had they been kicked or beaten they would not have been daunted, but they had a wholesome dread of being ridiculed.

After a while Desmond hit upon another plan. Tearing leaves from his pocketbook, he wrote several notes to Colonel Narfield, wrapping each paper round a stone. On the outside he wrote the address, and also drew a rough sketch of the colonel as he usually appeared out of doors, and also a drawing of Kilembonga. This was with the idea of conveying the name and address to any fairly intelligent native who might pick up the little packages.

During the night the lads hurled the weighted papers far over the cliff, hoping that they might fall into the hands of anyone except a Makoh'lenga, since the territory of this mysterious tribe was bounded by the lofty wall of rock.

The following evening, after the chums had been for a walk round the village, the papers were restored to them. Every one had been picked up, neatly smoothed out and folded, and left on the table with the evening meal.

"Stumped, middle wicket!" exclaimed Tiny ruefully. "Here we are, and here we remain, as far as I can see."

"They've got us properly set," agreed Colin. "They know it, otherwise they wouldn't give so much rope. We might try heliographing."

"They'd spot that right away," demurred Tiny.

"Possibly, but they might think we were doing some sort of rite, and let us carry on," replied Sinclair. He pointed to a plate of burnished silver hanging on one of the walls. "That thing will do the trick, I fancy. We'll have a shot at it, any old way."

But the opportunity never arrived, for just as the chums were on the point of turning in they heard a din without. This was quite unusual, for the Makoh'lenga were given to act as silently as possible. It was fairly late in the evening—nearly ten o'clock—at which hour the majority of the inhabitants had retired for the night.

"What's up now, I wonder?" exclaimed Colin, making for the open doorway, with Tiny a close second.

It was now close on the time of full moon. The huge, yellow orb was within thirty degrees of its zenith, and the light was almost as strong as that of a summer's day in England.

Approaching the village was a solid mass of armed men, and every warrior in the place was turning out to meet them. At first the chums imagined that the two parties were antagonistic towards each other, but they were wrong in their surmise. The two bands fused, and in a dense mass they marched onwards, every man shouting at the top of his voice and brandishing his spear.

Arriving at the open space between the houses and the brink of the cliff, the Makoh'lenga warriors halted in four columns with perfect alignment.

In front stood four indunas, or chiefs, one of them being he who had directed the operations resulting in the capture of Colin and Tiny, while a few paces ahead of the four stood another individual, whose elaborate dress of red and white silk, with a golden breast-plate and helmet, proclaimed him to be of the very highest rank. He alone of all the Makoh'lenga departed from the custom of simplicity in costume.

Presently this gorgeous potentate addressed the now silent warriors. When he had finished his lengthy speech he was greeted with shouts of acclamation in which the word "Umkomasi" occurred frequently.

"Umkomasi!" exclaimed Colin. "Why, that was the name our Van der Wyck mentioned."

Before Desmond could offer any remark about a dozen men detached themselves from the mass of warriors, and ran towards the house where the chums were quartered.

Unceremoniously Desmond and Sinclair were seized, their arms bound behind their backs, and hurried into the presence of the Chief Umkomasi.

For a few moments the latter looked steadily at the captives, then at a sign they were led to a position midway between the four regiments. An order rang out, and as one man the armed Makoh'lenga stepped out, forming into one long column, with Umkomasi leading and the other chiefs at the head of their respective regiments, while Colin and Tiny, surrounded by their guards, were placed in the centre of the column.

At the end of a three-mile march, beyond the limits explored by the chums in their wanderings, the Makoh'lenga ascended a zigzag path that appeared to be the only means of communicating with the extensive vastness that rose from the lofty tableland in which the village was built.

Arriving at the summit, the warriors broke into a steady run, like men who were behind time in keeping an appointment.

Colin and Tiny had to run, too, in spite of being hampered by having their arms bound, but the gentle application of a couple of spear points quickly settled any disinclination on the part of the captives to increase their pace.

At length the warriors came to a halt in a vast natural amphitheatre, the ground sloping gradually from a depression nearly half a mile in diameter. Only in a comparatively small section did the enclosing bank rise steeply. Here rocks rose abruptly to a height of nearly two hundred feet, and in the centre of this cliff was a lofty cave, with an entrance so wide that the interior was visible to every man drawn up in orderly formation without.

Into the cave Umkomasi and his immediate subordinates entered, making obeisance as they did so. Then, closely guarded, Colin and Tiny were urged towards the enormous cavity.

It was a hideous scene that met their horrified eyes. The walls of the cave were of glittering quartz, with rich veins of virgin gold. That in itself would not have frozen the blood in their veins; it was the terrible object that confronted them in the centre of the cave.

Fashioned of solid gold was an enormous image of a lion, with wide-open jaws and one paw upraised, displaying formidable talons. Either by mechanical means or by some hidden human agency the paw was moving slowly yet remorselessly in the glare of a hundred torches upheld by a double row of motionless men.

Immediately underneath the paw was a block of gold with six rings set in it—three on either side, while a few paces in front of the hideous image was a raised slab of gold on which lay a cushion of white cloth.

On the cushion lay a small object, which Colin and Tiny recognised as the swastika. The amulet, instead of bringing them good luck, had landed Colin and his chum into a very tight corner, indeed!



With great ceremony Umkomasi made obeisance to the amulet, his example being followed by each of the subordinate chieftains in turn. Then, while every warrior in the amphitheatre knelt and touched the ground with his forehead, Umkomasi paid reverence to the gigantic golden idol.

The amulet, the mystic symbol of the Makoh'lenga, had been found in the profane possession of strangers. It had been recovered, and atonement had to be made to the Golden Lion, in order to quell its wrath. More than that, the two white men from whom it had been recovered had to pay the penalty for their transgressions—and the penalty was death by being torn by the descending paw of the huge metallic beast.

All this was explained by Umkomasi to the two bound captives. They did not understand what he said, and Umkomasi knew that they didn't. It was part of the ritual, and had to be carried out; but both Colin and Tiny realised that they were in imminent peril of death in a most cruel and prolonged form.

Colin remembered the words of his cabin-mate in the Cape-bound liner; how he deprecated any suggestion on the lad's part to probe the secret of the mysterious Makoh'lenga.

Sinclair had wanted to, it was true, but the present trouble was not of his seeking. If he had blundered into the Makoh'lenga country in spite of warnings, it was his look-out. But he had not; the Makoh'lenga had captured Tiny and him while they were engaged in a shooting expedition some miles from the boundaries of the Makoh'lenga territory.

Again, if Van der Wyck spoke the truth, how came it that he ventured his life amongst these disciples of refined cruelty, and contrived to escape unharmed? Had he really assisted the Chief Umkomasi and been given the amulet as a mark of gratitude? Or had the Afrikander stolen the mysterious symbol?

That was likely. It rather coincided with the supposition that Van der Wyck was a desperate adventurer who made his living by robbery. But, on the other hand, how could he penetrate into the closely-guarded fastnesses of Makoh'lenga and get away with the amulet unless with the consent of the guardians of the precious bauble?

All these thoughts ran through Colin's mind as he gazed at the grotesque, ungainly lump of gold fashioned after the king of beasts. His first thoughts of terror had passed. His senses were numbed to the horrors of his surroundings. He found himself hoping that when the supreme moment came the end would be sharp, and that he would meet it with the fortitude of his race.

Presently Colin noticed a certain liveliness on the part of Umkomasi and his supporters. They were keenly regarding a circular patch of moonlight that fell upon the floor of the cave, within a foot or so of the base of the sacrificial altar.

The beam streamed through a small aperture in the roof of the cave, and its significance in connection with the hideous rites was plain. In a few minutes—in a quarter of an hour at the most—that patch of moonlight would fall upon the golden idol.

That would be the signal for the terrible paw to fall, to crush beneath its weight the victims of the idol's vengeance.

It was not on the occasion of every full moon that these conditions occurred, otherwise Colin and his chum would have been haled to their deaths twenty-eight days previously. But that did not alter the fact that the most unpleasant time had arrived when the earth's satellite followed an orbit that took it immediately in line with the axis of the shaft through the roof of the sacrificial cave.

Then Colin found himself wondering what would happen if an eclipse darkened the moon. He had heard of an opportune eclipse proving a means of salvation to travellers in peril of their lives at the hands of savages.

But it was a forlorn hope. There was not so much as a partial darkening of the moon. Even if there were it would take at least a couple of hours to effect total obscuration, and by that time....

Umkomasi gave an order. From a recess in the cave half-a-dozen men bounded forward with ropes in their hands.

Throwing the coil over their shoulders, the six stalwart natives heaved and strained at the sacrificial stone, dragging it from under the idol. The paw of the golden lion was now motionless, poised in the air ready to descend upon the stone when it was replaced with its living victim.

These preparations made, the six men look inquiringly at Umkomasi. The Chief gave no sign. He was carefully observing the slow progress of that patch of silvery light across the floor of the cave.

Suddenly Desmond fell with a dull thud. He had fainted under the excessive strain of the last few minutes. Colin could render him no assistance. His arms, being bound, prevented him, while, in point of fact, he was beginning to feel faint and dizzy himself.

"Perhaps it's as well," he soliloquised. "Tiny won't feel anything while he's like that. Wish I were in his state, too."

Desmond's collapse had no effect upon the natives. They looked on impassively, waiting for a sign from their Chief. The disc of the moon was lapping the shoulder of the idol.

A word of command, and the double line of torch-bearers held the torches behind them, throwing the centre of the cave into deep shadows. The six attendants stiffened themselves like beasts of prey about to spring upon their victims.

Before Umkomasi could utter the fatal orders there was a commotion in the armed ranks drawn up in the arena. Angrily the Chief looked in that direction to find the reason for the unwonted noise.

Colin turned and looked also. He could hardly believe the evidence of his eyes, for limping between the columns of warriors was a tall, bearded white man with a canvas haversack on his shoulder, calling peremptorily upon the name of Umkomasi.

With an effort Sinclair moistened his dry lips and raised his voice, shouting in a cracked high-pitched tone that he hardly recognised as his own:

"Van der Wyck!"

"Right-o, sonny," replied the Afrikander, briskly. "You'll be all right; leave it to me."

Umkomasi was on the horns of a dilemma. If he did not give the fatal order almost at once the sacrifice would be too late. He also seemed anxious to order Van der Wyck to be removed, yet he obviously feared the white man.

Van der Wyck forestalled the Chief. In a voice of thunder he bade the six assistants to make themselves scarce. They obeyed with considerable alacrity.

Then deliberately walking up to where Colin stood, the Afrikander cut the rope that bound him.

"See to your friend," he said, handing Sinclair the knife. "You'll be all right, I'll promise you. Don't move until I tell you. I've a few words to say to these gentlemen, particularly to my acquaintance, Umkomasi."



Van der Wyck with a fluent command of the Makoh'lenga tongue, figuratively had Umkomasi on toast. He handled the situation briskly and decisively, giving the Chief very little opening and dismissing the latter's arguments in a manner that left him powerless.

In vain Umkomasi protested that the sacred amulet, which he admitted having given to the Afrikander, had passed into unauthorised hands; that his captives had no right to be possessed of the swastika.

He had heard from native sources that two young white men were in the country with the mystic jewel in their possession, and he had taken prompt measures to secure both it and them.

"You must release them instantly, Umkomasi," demanded Van der Wyck.

"I dare not," replied the Chief. "They are dedicated to the Golden Lion. If the Golden Lion is deprived of his sacrifices he will be angry, and dire calamity will befall my people."

"It won't," rejoined the Afrikander. "My power is greater by far than that of the Golden Lion."

"It is easy to say so," remarked Umkomasi. "The Golden Lion weighs as much as, or more than, one hundred fat oxen——"

"And by my magic I can overthrow him," asserted Van der Wyck. "Without placing so much as a finger on the Golden Lion I can hurl him from his place. Umkomasi, is it not unwise to put your trust in a false idol and risk the certain vengeance of the Great White One when by placing your trust in the White Emperor beyond the seas you and your people will live in peace and thrive exceedingly?"

"If I could but believe in what you say," began the Chief, wistfully.

"Seeing is believing, O Umkomasi," interposed Van der Wyck. "Go outside, you and your petty chiefs, your servants and your torch-bearers. Wait without and see my magic eat up the Golden Lion. And, also," he added as an afterthought, "tell those priests—the rascals who move the paw and who sit within the idol and deceive your people—tell them to clear out as they value their hides. Quickly, for I'm in a hurry."

Knowing that Umkomasi would carry out his commands, Van der Wyck turned his back upon the Chief, set his haversack on the ground, and assisted Colin to carry the still unconscious Tiny into the open-air.

Quickly the Chief and his assistants followed, while the armed ranks of the Makoh'lenga looked on in awe-struck silence.

"Remain here, Umkomasi," commanded the Afrikander. "Remain here, lest death overtake you."

With that Van der Wyck re-entered the cave, leaving the nearest Makoh'lenga a good hundred yards from the mouth of the gloomy and horrible abode of the Golden Lion.

In less than five minutes he reappeared, limping briskly to the spot where Umkomasi stood.

"Have you overthrown the Golden Lion, O Great One?" enquired the Chief. "You have brought me no proof that you have done so, neither do you look as if you had been exerting much strength."

"I have not laid a finger upon the Golden Lion, O Umkomasi," declared the Afrikander. "But I have cast my spells upon him, and lo! he will be utterly destroyed."

Taking up his stand a couple of paces in front of the puzzled chief, Van der Wyck consulted his watch, utterly unconcerned by the fact that behind him were four thousand armed warriors, any of whom, at their Chief's bidding, would have hurled his spear with unerring aim into the middle of the Afrikander's broad back.

Suddenly a tremendous flash leapt from the mouth of the cave, followed by an enormous cloud of black smoke. A loud, ear-splitting detonation rent the air. The ground trembled with the vibrations of a stupendous explosion.

When the smoke cleared away, and the bright moonbeams lighted up the scene, the cave was no longer in existence. The mountain, shaken and torn by the detonation of sixty pounds of powerful explosive, had collapsed, entirely filling up the cave and the idol with thousands of tons of granite.

"That's done it," ejaculated Van der Wyck, turning to Colin. "There goes my chance of making a fortune. But it's jolly well worth it. Come along, we'll make tracks. I'll get these fellows to carry your chum. I've a dozen 'boys' waiting at the edge of the forest."



"Now, young men," said Van der Wyck. "Having got you out of this mess, perhaps you will tell me how and why you got into it?"

It was close on mid-day. Van der Wyck had "out-spanned" on the edge of the forest. His native "boys" were either jabbering or sleeping, while the horses and oxen browsed before resuming their trek.

Colin related the series of events that led up to their capture by the Makoh'lenga, laying particular stress upon the fact that neither he nor his chum attempted to probe the secrets of the mysterious tribe.

"H'm," ejaculated the Afrikander. "That puts a different construction on things. Allemachte, when I heard you were in those fellows' clutches I thought you had neglected my advice and had started to discover things. Almost every kraal within a couple of hundred miles knew of your capture, but the natives have such a wholesome respect for Umkomasi that they dare not give information. I heard the news quite by accident from one of Sibenga's crowd, so I came on straightaway. Luckily I brought every ounce of blasting powder I possessed with me; but it rather spoiled my chances of making a bit out of Umkomasi."

"Have you been long in East Africa?" asked Colin.

"Some weeks," was the reply. "When I left you in Cape Town I meant to go to Mafeking. You see, I had a farm left me by an uncle who died while I was fighting Huns round about this very spot. But somehow I decided to let the farm go a bit, and have a look round the old familiar places before I settled to work. I had an idea of doing a bit of bartering with Umkomasi, who, I think I told you, was in my debt. And I meant to look you up at Kilembonga, so you see I hadn't forgotten you."

For some minutes Colin sat and thought. He wanted to ask Van der Wyck a question, but, somehow, he rather dreaded doing so.

"Better do it," he soliloquised, "and get it off my chest. It'll clear the air."

He still hesitated. Evidently the Afrikander read his thoughts.

"What is bothering you now?" he asked.

"I want to ask you something, and I hardly like to," said Colin. "You might be very annoyed."

"It takes a lot to make me very annoyed," rejoined Van der Wyck. "I'll let you try, anyway. Out with it."

"You don't happen to be known as Jan Groute, do you?" asked Sinclair.

Van der Wyck held his sides, threw back his head, and roared with laughter until the tears came into his eyes.

"Allemachte!" he exclaimed, when he was able to regain his speech. "You'll be calling me Ned Kelly, Claude Duval, Deadwood Dick, or even Robin Hood next. No, I've been a good many things in the last twenty-five years, but bush-ranging or train robbery isn't in my line. What made you think that?"

Colin told him.

"It is certainly strange," admitted the Afrikander. "I can give no reason why the chief bandit gave you the go-by in the train. Perhaps he took a fancy to you. And you say your boss, Colonel Narfield, wrote to me?"

"Yes," replied Desmond, "but we know the letter went to the wrong address."

"Shouldn't have got it in any case," observed Van der Wyck, "until I got back to Mafeking. That may be very soon, now; you see, it's not much use digging for gold under five hundred feet of rock. I was hoping to get a little gold from the Makoh'lenga."

"Sorry, it was our fault," said Colin.

"Not at all," declared the Afrikander. "I would not be much of a pal if I hadn't done my best to get you out of a mess. You did the same for me, you'll remember. By the by, what did you do with the swastika?"

"The Makoh'lenga collared it," said Sinclair. "It's buried underneath the rock, unless it was blown to atoms!"

"Wrong again," exclaimed the Afrikander. "You're rather off things in the guessing line just now. Here it is. I took charge of it when I fired Umkomasi and his friends out of the cave."

And once more Colin Sinclair became the possessor of the Amulet of the Makoh'lenga.

*  *  *  *  *

"Any news?" asked Farmer Van der Wyck.

Colonel Narfield shook his head.

The native postman had just departed, leaving a batch of correspondence for the owner of Kilembonga. Beyond a few letters from home, posted nine weeks earlier, there was little of interest except a note from District Commissioner Wynyard.

"No," replied the Colonel. "No news of the lads. I'm beginning to fear—here's a line from Wynyard. He's heard nothing, of course, and pooh-poohs the Makoh'lenga theory. He adds the information that Jan Groute and his gang were laid by the heels at Pondogo's Kraal, and they are all snugly under lock and key at Tabora. That's why he hasn't been able to ride over and see us recently. There are some newspapers. One of them is the Jo'burg Express. Care to have a look at it?"

The two men entered the living-room. Tenpenny Nail was engaged in laying the table for the evening meal. "Here, you," exclaimed Colonel Narfield, pointing to the table, "what's all this? I have not told you that I was having more friends to supper."

Tenpenny Nail grinned.

"All right, sah!" he replied. "Dey come one-time quick."

"Who?" demanded the Colonel.

"Massa Colin, I 'specks," answered Tenpenny Nail, quietly. "Three white mans an' heap plenty boys. You no make savee, den ask Blue Fly."

"Rot!" exclaimed Colonel Narfield, yet, curious to know how the rumour originated, he went out on to the stoep and called Blue Fly.

Evidently something was in the air, for the Haussas and the East African natives were greatly excited. All declared that Colin and Desmond were on the way to the house.

They seemed so emphatic about it that the Colonel and the old Boer went to the gate and looked down the road. Not a soul was in sight, although the track was clearly visible for at least two miles until it descended the remote sides of a hill.

None of the servants had gone in that direction, and no one had arrived with the exception of the postman, and he had not come from Sibenga's Kraal, but from an entirely opposite quarter.

"Blue Fly, you lying rascal!" exclaimed the Colonel. "You've been drinking."

"Me, no, sah," declared the Haussa emphatically. "Nyagava him tell. No lie, Nyagava."

Nyagava was an East African who worked as a blacksmith on the estate. The Colonel knew from personal observation that he had not been out of the workshops since nine o'clock that morning.

"Tell Nyagava I want him," ordered Colonel Narfield.

But Blue Fly did not move. He was gazing steadfastly down the road.

"Dey come!" he shouted.

Sure enough the top of a white canvas tilt was appearing over the crest of the hill. Then came the leaders of a span of oxen tugging at the heavy, slow-moving vehicle.

"By Jove!" ejaculated the astonished Colonel.

"Your man was right, Colonel Narfield," said the old farmer quietly, as he lowered his binoculars. "There are three white men on the front of the wagon. I can't quite distinguish their faces, but perhaps you might."

He handed his companion the glasses. The Colonel adjusted the focus.

"By all that's wonderful!" he shouted. "It is Colin and Desmond."

Limping slightly, the Colonel went to meet the long-lost ones. Piet Van der Wyck, equally overjoyed, accompanied him, while crowding behind them were dozens and dozens of the Kilembonga employees yelling, dancing, and shouting themselves hoarse.

In the van of this little crush one of the most conspicuous figures was McFrazer, who, throwing aside his usual stolidity, was dancing a Scottish reel with Tenpenny Nail as his awkward but none the less enthusiastic partner.

For the next quarter of an hour Colonel Narfield's words and actions were a trifle confused, while Colin and Tiny were simply overwhelmed with demonstrations of exuberant joy.

"Where's our Van der Wyck?" inquired Colin, at length.

He was missing. So was the old farmer. They were discovered sitting in the wagon, grasping each other's hands.

"My nephew Piet," announced Van der Wyck senior. "I thought he was killed in the war."

"And this is my Uncle Piet," exclaimed the younger Van der Wyck. "I had a letter from Mafeking, while I was serving with Deventer's Column, telling me that he had died. A double blunder. Anyway, it's all right all round now. And Uncle Piet can vouch for it that I'm not Jan Groute," he added with a chuckle.

"No need," rejoined Colonel Narfield. "We know now who Jan Groute is and where he is. But come along. Supper is ready and places laid for you three. How did I know? I didn't. For any further information ask Tenpenny Nail."

*  *  *  *  *

Six months later Colin Sinclair and Tiny Desmond embarked at Dar-es-Salaam for Cape Town, en route for England.

"It hasn't been at all a bad stunt," observed Colin, as the African shore faded in the tropical mists.

"We're taking back more than we brought," said Tiny. "It was lucky we struck that big vein before we left Kilembonga."

"Yes," admitted Colin. "Financially we've done very well, but, old man, you've found something better than gold."

"What's that?" asked Tiny.

"Health," replied his chum. "That's the thing that counts all the world over."



Transcriber's Notes:

Some punctuation errors have been corrected without note.

The 'HTML'-version shows pagenumbers, the 'plain text' version does not.
Because the pagenumbers are virtual, you can search for text-fragments as-if they are not there.
In case you want to hide the virtual numbers, open the HTML-file in a text editor and search in the <style> block for the CSS-classes [.pagenum] (for pagenumbers) and [.hyphen] (for hyphens at the end of a page). They both have an attribute [display: inherit;]. Change this to [display: none;] to make them invisible in your browser.

If you prefer to see the pagenumbers in the right margin, change under [.pagenum] the attribute [position: static;] into [position: absolute;]. That activates the next attribute: [right: 1%]. If you want the pagenumber in the left margin, change the attribute into [left: 1%]

This book contains a number of misprints.
The following misprints have been corrected:

[discursing the music]
[discoursing the music]

[He fired two in quick]
[He fired two shots in quick]
{The illustration that accompanies this text fragment, shows the correct text}

[for the brink of the precipe.]
[for the brink of the precipice.]

["'Praps there's a lion]
["P'raps there's a lion]

[A few, throwing spears, flew towards them.]
[A few throwing spears flew towards them.]

[exclaimed Colonel Darfield in]
[exclaimed Colonel Narfield in]

[robber was Jan Groute']
[robber was Jan Groute"]

[Then he pointed with his knob-kerrie]
[Then he pointed with his knobkerrie]
[knobkerrie] appears three times in the text and the former just once and is therefore corrected.

[practically a horizontial position.]
[practically a horizontal position.]

[the extensive fastness]
[the extensive vastness]

[These preparations made the six men]
[These preparations made, the six men]

Worth mentioning, but not corrected, are:

[Allemachtag] and [Allemachte]:
two forms of Afrikaanse words that probably stem from the Dutch word "Allemachtig".

[wilde-beeste] and [wildebeeste]:
also Afrikaanse words. Both forms appear only once in this book. Which one is correct is unclear, therefore both are retained.