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Full text of "Kate Meredith, financier"

" This copyright volume is offered for sale to the public only 
through the authorized agents of the publishers, who are permitted to 
sell it only at retail and at fifty cents per copy, and with the express 
condition and reservation that it shall not, prior to August 1st, 1907, be 
resold, or offered or advertised for resale. The purchaser from them 
agrees to this condition and reservation by the acceptance of this copy. 
In case of any breach thereof, the title to this book immediately reverts 
to the publishers. Any defacement, alteration or removal of this notice 
will be prosecuted by the publishers to the full extent of the law. " 

THE AUTHORS AND NEWSPAPERS ASSOCIATION 



KATE MEREDITH, 
FINANCIER 



OF CALIF. LIBRARY, LOS ANGELES 




They explained in bold, clear tones that they were the chief 
ju-ju men of all Africa. Page 224. 



Kate Meredith 

FINANCIER 



By 

I r if^ UD\<\. H 

C. J. CUTCLIFFE HYNE 

Author of 

"Captain Kettle, K.C.B.," "McTodd," 

"The Filibuster," "Adventures of Captain Kettle,' 

"The Trials of Commander McTurk." 

Illustrated in Water-Colors by FRANK PARKER 

Copyright, 1906, by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne 



A. HAMBURGER & SONS, INC., 

SPECIAL EDITION, 

LOS ANGELES, CAL. 



NEW YORK AND LONDON 

THE AUTHORS AND NEWSPAPERS ASSOCIATION 
1906 



Copyright 7906 by C. J. Cutdiffe Hynt 
Entered at Stationers' Hall 



All rights reserved 



Composition and Electrotyplng b 

J. J. Little & Co. 

Printed and bound by the 

Plimpton Press, Norwood, Mass. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTEB PAGE 

I. A WEST COAST WELCOME 7 

II. INTRODUCES Miss LAURA SLADE 20 

III. THE KING WHO STOPPED THE ROADS .... 34 

IV. THE BEACH BY MOONLIGHT 52 

V. EVENTS AT MALLA-NULLA 61 

VI. THE COMING OF THE OKKY-MEN 72 

VII. THE INVISIBLE FIRE 89 

VIII. PRESENTS THE HEAD OF THE FIRM 109 

IX. NAVIGATION OF DOG'S-LEG CREEK 127 

X. ENVOYS IN COUNCIL 145 

XI. AGAIN PRESENTS THE HEAD OF THE FIRM . . . 159 

XII. EXHIBITS ANTISEPTICS 171 

XIII. AT THE LIVERPOOL END 185 

XIV. TIM HILL: THE JOURNEY 197 

XV. TIM HILL: THE MINE 217 

XVI. THE KING'S BOUNTY 228 

XVII. KATE SENDS A CABLEGRAM 242 

XVIII. CARTER MAKES A PURCHASE 254 

XEK. SENHOR CASCAES 272 

XX. MAJOR MEREDITH 286 

XXI. THE FEELING ON THE COAST 297 

XXII. A FISHERMAN AND HIS CATCH 304 

XXIII. THE SONG OF SPEED . 312 



LIST OF ILLUSTKATIONS 



PAGE 



These explained, in bold, clear tones that they were the chief 
ju-ju men of all Afri( a Frontispiece 

He fired on and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till the 

heated barrels of the repeaters burned Laura Slade's hands 82 

Then, as the crocodile jumped once more, he threw up the rifle 
and shot it under the left foreleg, where the protective 
plates are absent 234 

She gazed her fill on this very crude presentment of George 

Carter , . . .251 



(FACSIMILE PAGE OF MANUSCKIPT FBOM KATE MEREDITH FINANCIER) 



La- 











KATE MEREDITH, 
FINANCIER 

CHAPTEE I 

A WEST COAST WELCOME 

" MIGHTY beach to-day ! " grumbled Captain Image, and 
handed binoculars across to the purser. 

Mr. Balgarnie tossed his cigarette over the lee rail and 
tucked a sheaf of papers into his mouth so as to have two 
spare hands. Day had ten minutes before glared up over 
an oily swell-writhing sea of bottle-green; dew lay in fat 
greasy gouts on the deck planks and the skylight frames, 
foretelling in clear prophecy another spell of scalding 
West African sunshine; and a mile out from the crashing, 
bellowing surf that smoked along the beach, the S.S. 
M'poso buttocked sullenly over the swells, with engines 
rung off, and sweating firemen on the top of the fiddley, 
slewing ventilators to catch a flavor of the breeze. 

" They've seen us, sir, at the factory/' said Mr. Bal- 
garnie. " All the boys are out working cargo, and there's 
old Swizzle-Stick Smith sucking his eternal pipe and 
hustling them with a chiquot. I can catch the glint of 
his eyeglass. Wonder how long that man's been out on 
the Coast? Must be a matter of twenty years now by all 
accounts since he had his last run home. He's found the 
right kind of ju-ju to dodge fever-palaver, anyhow. They 



8 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

say he's a lazy old beach-comber as a general thing, but 
he's up bright and early this morning." 

" Wouldn't you rouse out in a hurry if you only saw a 
Christian steamboat once in three months at the oftenest? 
I told the second mate to make fast the whistle string 
to the bridge rail when he judged he was five miles off 
the old sinner's beach, and I guess Swizzle-Stick Smith 
jumped slap through his mosquito bar at the first toot. 
See those pyjamas he's wearing? He bought them at the 
forecastle shop aboard here just six months ago." 

"Blue, with a pink stripe, so they are. This is a rare 
good glass of yours, sir. Yes, I remember Chips telling 
me. Three pairs he got at nine bob a pair. Wouldn't 
pay a sixpence more. And tried to get a bottle of Eno 
thrown in as a make-weight. Phew ! but this day's going 
to be a ringtailed scorcher. Look at the mist clearing 
away from those hills at the back already." 

Captain Image stuffed a pipe and lit it. " It's a mur- 
dering bad beach to-day," he repeated. " Always is when 
there's a few tons of cargo waiting for me to get commis- 
sion on." 

The purser touched no cargo commission, and so had 
but small sympathy for cargo gathering. " I see old 
Swizzle-Stick's making his boys run down the oil casks 
into the surf. They'll never swim them through. Rather 
a pity, isn't it, sir, to stay on here and let them try? 
They're bound to get half of them stove at the very least." 

" That's his palaver. I missed calling here last round. 
There was a swell like a cliff that day; but then there 
always is a bad beach along this run of the Coast ; and so 
he should have double lot of cargo ready for me. There'll 
be oil and there'll be rubber, and I shouldn't wonder but 
what he's a few bags of kernels as well. I bet that factory 
on the beach there is just bulging with cargo. It ought 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 9 

to tally up to quite fifty tons, and I'm not going to have 
some other captain snapping up old Swizzle-Stick Smith's 
trade if I know it. Balgarnie, my lad, I'd the straight tip 
given me from O'Neill and Craven's in Liverpool when I 
was home. If we don't make it handy to call at their fac- 
tories along this Coast, the Hamburg boats will. They've 
shipped a new director or something at O'Neill and 
Craven's K. O'Neill he signs himself and that man in- 
tends to make things hum." 

" My Whiskers ! " said the Purser. " I clean forgot. 
We've a new clerk for O'Neill and Craven's here at Malla- 
Nulla. It's that red-haired young chap, Carter, in the 
second class." 

" Last three red-haired passengers I knew all pegged 
out within three months of being put ashore. Color of 
the hair seems to counteract the effects of drugs. Purser, 
I'll bet you just two cocktails Carter's planted before we're 
here again next trip." 

" It's on," said Mr. Balgarnie, " and I shall remember 
it. The young chap's made me a picture frame for my. 
room as good as you could buy in a shop, and he's built 
the Doc some barbed arrows just like those Kasai ones the 
old chief brought along from the Congo when he was on 
the Antwerp run. He's a handy young fellow." 

" That doesn't get over the red hair, Purser. You'll lose 
that cocktail. Bet you another cocktail, if you like, he 
gets spilt in the surf getting ashore." 

Mr. Balgarnie winked pleasantly. " Then we'll consider 
that last one lost already." He put his head inside the 
chart-house and called out the captain's Krooboy steward 
"Brass-Pan?" 

" Yessar." 

" We fit for two cocktail." 

" Savvy." 



10 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

"You lib for my room, you fetch, dem gin-bottle, an* 
give him to bar steward." 

" Savvy." 

" Well, what are you waiting for ? Get along, you bush- 
man, one-time . . . That's a poor boy I'm afraid 
you've got, Captain." 

" Pipe-clays shoes very neatly," said Captain Image. 
" Oh, you've brought those papers for me to sign. Well, 
come into the chart-house, Purser, and we'll get them 
through. Hope that fool of a boy will bring the cocktails 
quick. These early morning chills are dangerous unless 
you take the proper preventives." 

Meanwhile the brazen day had grown, and work pro- 
ceeded at a forced speed both on the steamer and on the 
beach. Ashore, the lonely factory bustled with evil-scented 
negroes, who strained at huge white-ended palm oil 
puncheons. On the M'poso a crew of chattering Krooboys 
busied themselves aft, and presently under the guidance 
of a profane third mate a brace of surf-boats jerked down 
towards the water, the tackles squealing like a parcel of 
angry cats as they rendered through the blocks. The boats 
spurned away into the clear sea before the steamer's rusty 
iron side crashed down onto them: the Krooboys perched 
themselves ape-like on the gunwales, paddle in hand: and 
in the stern of each straddled a noisy headman, in billy- 
cock and trousers, straining and swaying at the steering 
car. 

The headman was in charge, and the well-spiced official 
English of ship-board ceased. The speech in the boats was 
one of the barbaric tongues of savage Africa. But the work 
they got through and the skill they showed exceeded by 
far that which could have been put forth by any crew of 
white men. Indeed, in his more pious moments, Captain 
Image, in common with other mariners of his kind, firmly 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 11 

believed that God had invented certain of the West African 
Coast tribes for the sole purpose of handling the boats of 
the Liverpool oil tanks on surf-smitten beaches. 

Now, Captain Image was not in the least degree a snob, 
and he did not take even first-class passengers on their 
face value. As he would explain to intimates, he was not 
out on the Coast for his health; he very much wished to 
be able some day to retire on a competency, and grow cab- 
bages outside of Cardiff; and so he dispensed his affability 
on a nicely regulated scale. If a man could influence 
cargo in the direction of the M'poso, Captain Image was 
ready at all times to extend to him the rough red hand 
of friendship, and to supply gin cocktails and German 
champagne till conversation flowed into the desired com- 
mercial channel. He called this casting bread upon the 
waters, and could always rely on getting the prime cost 
back in commission. But he was no man to waste either 
his good liquor or his pearls of speech on a mere fifty- 
pound-a-year clerk, with a red head, who would very pos- 
sibly be dead before the M'poso's next call, and who cer- 
tainly could influence no cargo for the next two years to 
come. So from the day they left Liverpool to the day 
when the steamer's forefoot scraped at her cable off Malla- 
Nulla beach, Captain Image had not condescended to offer 
that particular second-class passenger so much as a morn- 
ing nod. 

But Captain Image was kindly enough in the West 
African way, and when he had drunk his morning cock- 
tail and gone through the Purser's papers, he came out of 
the chart-house again and produced from his pyjama 
pocket a half-filled box of pills. 

" There, my lad," he said to Carter, as he made the 
presentation, "you take one of those according to the di- 
rections on the lid, when required, and you'll have your 



12 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

health kept in a repair that will surprise you. Now, mark 
me well ; you'll be tempted with other brands of pills ; old 
Swiz I mean Mr. Smith, your boss, is a regular crank 
on drugs ; but as sure as you tip other medicines down into 
your inside, my pills will get hindered at their proper 
work, and you'll be knocked over." 

" Thanks," said Carter. " But I always understood " 

" I'm sure you did. Now there's one other thing I want 
to impress on you, my lad. Your duty is to get on, and 
the way to do that is to scratch up cargo and send it home 
by the M'poso. You see, my lad, I've got more influence 
with O'Neill and Craven than any other captain on the 
Coast (though you needn't go and stir up mischief by 
spreading that about), and if you keep yourself in my mem- 
ory by the way Malla-Nulla ships cargo by me, I'll let 
them fully understand at the home office that services like 
yours want a big raise in salary. There, don't you bother 
to thank me, my lad, and just you stow that box of pills 
where they won't get lost if you're spilt going ashore 
through that surf. It's a mighty bad beach to-day." 

" Ah, morning, Carter," said Mr. Balgarnie as he bustled 
up. " Got all your things up on deck ? It's no concern 
of mine, of course, but if there are any little odds and 
ends you want, such as socks, or Florida water, or a mos- 
quito bar, I believe Chips and the bos'n keep a sort of 
surreptitious shop somewhere in the forecastle where you 
could fill up your stores." 

"Much obliged," said the passenger, "but I think I've 
got all I want, or rather all I can afford." 

" Remembered to bring donkey-clippers for hair-cutting ? 
No? Well, just as you please. What I really wished to 
mention to you was this: when your pay comes in, you'll 
naturally want little comforts sent out from home, and 
you won't care to worry any of your friends to get them 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 13 

for you. Now don't you have any qualms about making 
use of me. Just say what you want, and I'll get it and 
bring it out." Mr. Balgarnie winked most pleasantly. 
" I'm purser here, of course, and have to back up the Com- 
pany's charges, but I can always make the rates reasonable 
to oblige a friend. There, good-by, old fellow. The boat's 
ready to take you off." 

A surf boat swung dizzily up and down at the guess- 
warp alongside and the two yellow gladstone bags on its 
floor seemed ludicrously out of place beside the savage 
paddlers. Carter was conscious that his heart worked up 
to an unpleasant activity; but he carried a serene face, 
dropped to his knees in the gangway, and began with un- 
accustomed feet to clamber down the Jacob's ladder. He 
noted without disturbance that he was daubing coal dust 
and orange-colored palm oil onto his hands and white drill 
clothes in the process; but he had a mind now which 
entirely disregarded the trivial; all his interest vas fixed 
upon the boat. 

" Don't jump too soon." 

" Take care you don't drop that new pith hat." 

" Mind, don't let the boat come up and squash you." 

" Don't flurry the man so. Put your feet in your pocket 
if you see a shark." 

A stream of advice, much of it satirical, pelted him from 
above. Looking over his shoulder, he saw beneath him the 
leaping boat and a ring of negro grins. It was these last 
that stiffened him into action. The surf-boat swooped 
up sideways, and when it seemed to him that she had 
reached the zenith of her leap, he let go the Jacob's ladder 
and sprang for her. 

It is a matter of nice judgment, this determination of 
the psychological moment for a jump; and the amateur 
has it not. As a consequence Carter's foot slid on the wet 



14 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

gnu wale; he buttocked painfully onto a thwart; and was 
saved from spinning overboard by rough and ready black 
fingers. The new pith helmet received its first crack, the 
white drill clothes were further soiled, and he was left to 
gather himself out of the slop of water on the bottom of 
the boat as best he pleased. Already the Krooboy crew 
were perched ape-like on the gunwales, and stabbing strenu- 
ously at the water with trident-headed paddles. The head- 
man straddled in the stern with the muscles standing out 
in him like nuts, as he sculled with the steering oar. 

It had all passed so quickly that the steamer had only 
accomplished one-half of a roll. The white faces that he 
had seen last beside him were now small and far away at 
the top of an enormously high iron wall, and to their shouts 
of farewell and fluttering of handkerchiefs he could not 
bring himself to return more than a curt hand-wave. It 
seemed to him that he was cut off entirely from white men 
and white man's territory, and was launched beyond release 
into West Africa with all its smells and accoutrements. 

He settled himself in the mid thwart of the surf-boat 
with the water on the floor flowing merrily in and out of 
his pipe-clayed shoes. Whatever a white man may feel, he 
always assumes coolness and indifference before the black, 
and Carter picked up the instinct of his race. 

His progress shoreward had two distinct phases. At 
one time he and the boat lay in a watery ravine with high 
sides towering above him, and no view save of sleek bottle- 
green water and cobalt sky overhead. The next moment 
he was expressed upwards on to an eminence and there be- 
fore him lay landscape and seascape of most pleasant quali- 
ties. At these last moments of exaltation, he saw a glaring 
beach set along the sea's edge, carrying white factory build- 
ings, and backed in by an orderly wall of green. 

He saw also palm-oil puncheons being brought off, and 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 15 

an interest in the work bit him immediately. Here was the 
commodity which (bar death) would for years to come be 
his chiefest intimate. Between eclipses of the rollers, he 
watched every stage of the work the great white-ended 
barrels rolled down the glaring beach, naked savages swim- 
ming them through the surf with unimaginable skill, a 
green painted surf-boat at anchor outside the breakers mak- 
ing them fast to a buoyed hawser. He saw another hawser- 
load being heaved out to the steamer's winch, with the 
great casks popping about like a string of gigantic cher- 
ries. Already on the M'poso he had seen other puncheons 
howked on board by a steam-crane which was driven by a 
one-eared Krooboy. 

He had grasped this much of his new trade when sight 
seemed to grow misty to him, and his body was chilled with 
an unpleasant perspiration. It is one thing to take one's 
regular meals on a fine-sized steamboat, whatever weather 
may befall; it is quite another to do one's voyaging in a 
leaping, lancing, dancing, wallowing surf-boat. Few men 
take their first surf -boat ride over a bad roll without being 
violently seasick, and Carter was no exception to the nor- 
mal law. 

In a hazy sort of way he noted that the paddlers had 
stopped their song and their monotonous effort, and he was 
seized with a tremendous desire to hurry them forward and 
get himself and his gladstone bags planted on the stable 
beach. Ahead of them were roaring, spouting breakers, 
which it seemed impossible for any boat to live through; 
but waiting outside their fringe was even more intolerable. 

" Oh, get on ! For Heaven's sake, get on ! " he wanted 
to shout, but almost to his astonishment pride of race kept 
him grimly silent. He had never felt before the whole debt 
that is owing to a white skin. 

The headman in the stern-sheets sculled now and again 



16 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

with his oar to keep the boat head on to the roll, and be- 
tween whiles chattered nervously. The Krooboy paddlers 
on the gunwales rested on their paddles and scratched 
themselves. Roller after roller went by, flinging the boat 
up towards heaven, sucking her back again to the sea grass 
below, with a rocking motion that was horrible beyond be- 
lief. Carter felt the color ebb from his cheeks ; he wondered 
with a grisly humor if his head was paling also. 

But at last the headman delivered himself of a shriek, 
and a galvanic activity seized the paddlers. They stabbed 
the water with their trident-shaped blades, and stabbed and 
stabbed again. The surf-boat was poised on the crest of a 
great mound of water, and they were straining every sinew 
to keep her there. But the water motion travelled more 
swiftly than the clumsy boat. She slid down the slope, 
still paddling frantically, and the following wave lifted her 
rudely by the tail. She reared dizzily almost to the vertical, 
the headman at the apex of the whole structure keeping 
his perch with an ape's dexterity. 

She just missed being upset that time, and part of the 
water which she had shipped was flung over the gunwales 
as she righted. But she floated there half swamped : labor 
with what frenzy they choose, the iron-muscled Krooboys 
could not keep her under command; and the next roller 
sent the whole company of them flying. 

There is one piece of advice constantly dinned into a 
white man's ear on the West Coast. " If in a surf -boat 
you see the boat boys jump overboard, jump yourself also 
if you do not wish to have the boat on top of you." Pro- 
foundly sound advice it is. But it has the disadvantage of 
presupposing capability for obedience, and if (as fre- 
quently happens) the passenger is dizzy and weak from 
sudden seasickness, then the leap may be neither prompt 
nor well-aimed. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 17 

As to where Carter's fault occurred, I have no certain 
information. The headman shrieked an order in his own 
barbarous tongue; the boat boys took to water on either 
side like so many black frogs; the boat spilt, flinging far 
two yellow gladstone bags and one limp passenger in soiled 
white ducks; and, look how one would into that boiling 
hell of broken water, no red head appeared. 

On the glaring beach Swizzle-Stick Smith broke off from 
his overseeing for a moment, and limped down into the 
smoke of the surf. He had a chiquot in his hand, which 
is a whip made of the most stinging part of the hippo- 
potamus, and with it he slashed venomously at every black 
form that scrambled out of the brine. 

He screamed at them in their own tongue. " Get back, 
you black swine! Get back, and fetch out my clerk. If 
you drown my clerk, I will drown you, too. My last clerk 
died a year ago, and they have got me no other out here 
since. I won't lose this one. Back, you bushmen ! " 

The chiquot had many terrors to the Krooboys, the water 
few. It was as much out of forgetfulness as anything else 
that they had not brought their passenger to shore with 
them. Besides, how were they to know that he could not 
swim as well as themselves (that is, about as well as a seal 
can swim) ? But they were not above striking a bargain 
for their services. A black head, served upon a white 
pother of creamy surf, gave tongue. 

" Oh, Smith. You give cash, suppose we fit for catch 



" You lib for beach with my clerk, and I dash you one 
whole box of gin. Hurry up now, you thieves, or a shark 
will chop him, or else he'll drown." 

Heads disappeared, and many pairs of black heels kicked 
upwards. The old man hitched together his shabby py- 
jamas, and stared industriously at the broken water through 



18 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

his eyeglass. " It's all very well for this K. O'Neill to send 
out letters that the firm is going to double its business/' 
he grumbled, " but if they don't send me men that can get 
ashore in one piece, how this factory at Malla-Nulla is 
going to buck up, I can't see. By Jove, they've got him, 
the beggars. Red-headed chap, too. Well, I might have 
saved that dash, I'm thinking. Men with red heads never 
seem to stand the climate here for long. It will be a 
nuisance if the beggar pegs out within the month, after 
I've spent a case of gin on him." 

It was a very limp and bedraggled Carter that was 
brought ashore presently by the Krooboys. He was held 
up by the heels, more Africwno, to let the Atlantic drain 
from his inside back into its proper place, but he did not 
show any sign of consciousness till he had been lifted up 
and carried to the shelter of the retail store. 

Swizzle-Stick Smith limped beside him, puffing at his 
briar. "Beggar's got an arm broken," he commented. 
" Just my luck. And K. O'Neill will expect the work to be 
done just the same. Oh" he said when the dripping 
Krooboys had put down his guest on the counter "so 
you've concluded to come to your senses again ? " 

Carter shuddered and slowly opened his eyes. A brown 
cockroach, horrible with dust, dropped from the rafter 
above onto his face. 

" I'm afraid you've had rather a rough bout of it, land- 
ing, my lad. It's a very bad beach to-day. There, don't 
move. You're all right. You'll feel a bit queer yet." 

" The boat upset " 

" It did, most thoroughly. But you're now at Malla- 
Nulla factory in West Africa, and I bid you welcome. I'm 
Mr. Smith, your commanding officer. You'd like to lie 
still for a bit, perhaps ? " 

" Yes." 

"Well, buck up, and you'll soon be all right. You 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 19 

needn't fancy you'll be a candidate for a top-hat and a 
gun-case yet." 

" For a which ? " 

The trader pointed with his pipe stem across the store to 
a wooden box full of flintlock trade guns. " That's a gun 
case. Man's usually too long to fit it comfortably, es- 
pecially if he's as well-grown as you are. So we knock out 
one end, and nail on an old top-hat. Then you can plant 
him in style." 

The patient's mouth twitched with the corner of a smile. 
" A most tidy custom," he said faintly. " But I say, could 
you do anything for my arm? Sorry to trouble you, but 
it's most abominably painful." 

" Your arm's broken, worse luck. I'll set it for you when 
I've got off this cargo." 

" I'd rather have a doctor. Will you send off to the 
M'poso for the doctor there, please ? " 

The old man laughed and polished his eyeglass on a 
sleeve of his pyjamas. My lad, you don't understand. 
You've left the steamer now, and her doctor's not the kind 
of fool to risk his own bones trying to get here with the 
beach as bad as it is to-day. I don't suppose he mistakes 
you for a millionaire. You came out in the second class, 
I suppose ? " 

" Yes." 

" Then there you are. His responsibility ended when you 
left the steamer, and ship's doctors don't come ashore on 
this Coast unless they're sure of touching a big fat fee. 
Now you must just lie quiet where you are, and bite on 
your teeth till I've some time for surgery. Trade comes 
first in West Africa." 

With which naked truth, Swizzle-Stick Smith relit his 
pipe, and went out again into the brazen sunshine, and 
presently was hustling on the factory boys at their cargo 
work with his accustomed eloquence and dexterity. 



CHAPTER II 

INTRODUCES MISS LAURA SLADE 

IF a white man in a West African factory volunteers 
details of his previous history, all hearers are quite at lib- 
erty to believe or disbelieve, as suits their whim ; but if, on 
the other hand, no word about previous record is offered, 
Coast etiquette strictly rules that none shall be asked for. 

George Carter found even upon the surface of his su- 
perior officer at Malla-Nulla factory much that was mys- 
terious. There were moments when Mr. Smith exhibited 
an unmistakable gentility; but these were rare; and they 
usually occurred when the pair of them lunched en tete-a- 
tete at 11 o'clock, and Smith had worked off his morning 
qualm, and had not commenced his afternoon refreshment. 
With a larger audience he was one part cynic and six parts 
ruffian ; he was admitted to be the most skilful compounder 
of cocktails on all that section of the West African sea- 
board; and he sampled his own brews in such quantities, 
and with such impunity, as gave the lie to all text-books on 
topical medicine. 

His head was bald, and the gray hair on his face and 
above his ears was either as short as clippers could make 
it, or else bristled with a two weeks' growth. Day and 
night he wore more or less shrunken pyjamas, from the 
neck buttonhole of which a single eyeglass dangled at the 
end of a piece of new black silk ribbon. Carter guessed his 
age as somewhere between fifty and fifty-five, and wondered 
why on earth Messrs. O'Neill and Craven kept such a dis- 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 21 

reputable old person as the head of what might have been 
a very prosperous factory. 

Indeed, theories on this very point were already lodged 
in the older man's brain. " It's this new partner, K. 
O'Neill, that I don't like the sound of," he explained to 
Carter one day. " By the way, who is he ? " 

" Don't know. As I told you I was staying with my 
father at the vicarage, and I was engaged by wire the day 
before the M'poso sailed, and only caught her by the skin 
of my teeth. There was nobody there to see me off, and on 
the boat all they could tell me was that ' K.' came into the 
business when the late head died." 

" Old Godfrey, that was " Swizzle-Stick Smith sighed 
" poor old Godfrey O'Neill ! He was one of the best fel- 
lows going in the old days, not a bit like the usual cut of 
palm-oil ruffian as we used to call the traders then. And, 
my God ! to think of my coming down to the grade of one 
of them myself." 

Again the subject cropped up when one of their rare 
mails came in. "Here's expense! " grumbled Swizzle-Stick 
Smith. "Letters landed at our Monk River factory, and 
sent on to Mulla-Nulla by special runner. K. O'Neill's or- 
ders, the Monk River agent says. In the old days you could 
always bet on the beach being too bad for the steamer to 
call twice out of three times, and you weren't pestered with 
a mail more than once in six months. That's mainly why 
I've stuck by O'Neill and Craven all these years. Now this 
new man wants our output of kernels to be doubled by this 
time next year, and hopes I'll take steps to work up the 
rubber connection. If I can't see my way to do all this, will 
I kindly give my reasons in writing, and if necessary for- 
ward same by runner to a steamer's calling point, so that 
reply may be in Liverpool within sii weeks at latest What 
do you think of that?" 



22 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Oh, I should say it was reasonable enough from the 
Liverpool point of view." 

; " Bah ! There's not much of the Coast about you." He 
tore the letters into shreds, and folded these carefully into 
pipe-lights. " Dear old Godfrey trusted me up to the hilt, 
and this new fellow's got to learn to do the same, or I shall 
resign my commission. If he understood anything about 
running the office, he might know I should do all the work 
that was good for me." 

" I'm sure you do," said Carter civilly. " I'm afraid I'm 
the slacker. You let me have such an easy time of it whilst 
my arm was getting well, that I've slid off into lazy ways. 
I must buck up, and if you'll load the work onto me, 
Mr. Smith, you'll find I can do a lot more." 

Swizzle-Stick Smith dried the perspiration from his eye 
socket, fixed his glass into a firmer hold, and stared. 
" Well," he said at last, " you are a d d fool." And there 
the talk ended. 

It was that same day that Carter had his first introduc- 
tion to Royalty. He was in the retail store "feteesh," they 
call it on the Coast weighing out baskets of palm kernels, 
measuring calabashes of orange-colored palm oil, judging 
as best he could the amount of adulterants the simple negro 
had added to increase the bulk, and apportioning the value 
in cotton cloth, powder, flintlock guns at twelve and six- 
pence apiece, and green cubical boxes of Holland gin. 
Trade proceeded solwly. The interior of the feteesh was a 
stew of heat and odors, and the white man's elaborate cal- 
culations were none of the most glib. To knock some idea 
of the fairness of these into the black man's skull was a 
work that required not only eloquence, but also athletic 
power. The simple savage who did only one day's shopping 
per annum was willing always to let the delights of it 
linger out as long as possible, and all the white man's 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 23 

hustling could not drive the business along at more than a 
snail's pace. 

By Coast custom, work for Europeans starts in those cool 
hours that know the daybreak, and switches off between 
eleven and twelve for breakfast; and thereafter siesta is 
the rule till the sun once more begins to throw a shadow. 
But on this particular day, when Swizzle-Stick Smith had 
knocked out his pipe and turned in under his mosquito 
bar, Carter sluiced a parrafin-can full of water over his red 
head by way of a final refreshment, and went down once 
more from the living rooms of the factory to the heat and 
the odors of the feteesh below. 

The sweating customers saw him come and roused up out 
of the purple shadows, and presently the game of haggle 
was once more in full swing. 

Carter had a natural gift for tongues, and was picking 
up the difficult Coast languages to the best of his ability, 
but his vocabulary was of necessity small, and a Krooboy 
stood by to translate intricate passages into idiom more 
likely to penetrate the harder skulls. The Krooboy wore 
trousers and singlet in token of his advanced civilization, 
and bore with pride the name of White-Man' s-Trouble. 

There was a glut of customers that baking afternoon. 
High-scented trade stuffs poured into the factory in pleas- 
ing abundance, and bundles of European produce were bal- 
anced upon woolly craniums for transportation through 
bush paths to that wild unknown Africa beyond the hinter- 
land. The new law of K. O'Neill allowed no lingering in 
the feteesh. Once a customer had been delivered of his 
goods, and had accepted payment, White-Man's-Trouble 
decanted him into the scalding sunshine outside, and bade 
him hasten upon his ways. K. O'Neill had stated very 
plainly, in a typewritten letter, that the leakage by theft 
was unpleasing to the directorate in Liverpool, and must 



24 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

be stopped. K. O'Neill understood that the thefts took 
place after a customer had spent all his cash on legitimate 
purchase, as then all his savage intelligence was turned to 
pilfering. Carter, as the man on the spot, recognized the 
truth of all this, and carried out the instructions to the foot 
of the letter. 

Mr. Smith warned him he would have trouble over it. 
" Ever since the first factory came down to blight this 
Coast," Smith explained, " the boys have been allowed to 
hang around the feteesh and steal what wasn't nailed down. 
They look upon it in the light of a legitimate discount, 
and it's grown up into a custom. Now in West Africa you 
may burn a forest, or blot out a nation, or start a new 
volcano, and nobody will say very much to you, but if you 
interfere with a recognized custom, you come in contact 
with the biggest kind of trouble." 

" Still," Carter pointed out, " these orders are definite." 

" And you are the kind of fool that goes on the principle 
of ' obeying orders if you break owners.' Well, go ahead 
and carry out instructions. I won't interfere with you. 
I'd rather like to see this cocksure K. O'Neill get a smack 
in the eye to cure his meddling. And for yourself, keep 
your weather eye lifting, or some indignant nigger will 
ram a foot of iron into you. It's the Okky-men I'd take 
especial care of if I were you. They've got their tails up a 
good deal more than's healthy just now. I'm told, too, 
that their head witch doctor wants his war drum redec- 
orated." Mr. Smith grinned " I don't want to be per- 
sonal, of course." 

" Oh, don't mind me. So far I rather fail to understand 
what I've got to do with the Okky City war drum." 

" You see you carry round with you something that 
would make the very best kind of heap-too-good ju-ju." 

" Still I don't understand." 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 25 

Swizzle-Stick Smith got up and stretched, and limped 
across to the door. " It's that red head of yours, my lad," 
he said over his shoulder as he went out. " Every witch 
doctor in West Africa that sees it will just itch to have it 
amongst his ornaments. I'd dye it sky-blue if I were you, 
just for safety sake." 

This of course might be Mr. Smith's delicate irony, or 
again it might be literally true. Carter had already been 
long enough in West Africa to know that very unusual 
and unpleasant things can happen there ; but that made no 
change in his determination. K. O'Neill was perfectly 
right about the matter ; this pilfering ought to be stopped ; 
and he felt convinced that White-Man' s-Trouble would help 
to see that justice was done. That particular Krooboy was 
thievish himself, certainly, but he had a short way with 
any fellow African who dared to be light-fingered. 

So during all that hot morning, and all that sweltering 
afternoon, merchant after merchant was shown out into the 
sunshine, and those who chattered and would not go will- 
ingly were assisted by the strong right arm of White-Man's- 
Trouble. 

Just upon the time when siestas generally ended, that is, 
about four o'clock, there came a burly Okky trader who 
swaggered up to the factory with five carriers in his train 
laden down with bags of rubber. 

Carter examined the evil smelling stuff, and cut open 
two or three of the larger round lumps. The gentle savage 
had put in quite thirty per cent, of sticks, and sand, and 
alien gum by way of makeweight, and was as petulant as a 
child at having this simple fraud discovered. He still 
further disliked the price that was offered; and when it 
came to making his purchases, and he found that the par- 
ticular spot-white-on-blue cotton cloth on which he had 
built up his fancy was out of stock, the remaining rags of 



26 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

his temper were frayed completely. For an unbroken ten 
minutes he cursed Carter, and Malla-Nulla factory, and an 
unknown Manchester skipper in fluent Okky, here and 
there embroidered with a few words of that slave-trader's 
Arabic, which is specially designed as a comfort for the im- 
patient, and when he had accepted a roll of blue cloth 
spotted in another pattern, and was invited to leave the 
f eteesh, he held himself to be one of the worst used Africans 
on the Dark Continent. 

Carter, who was tired and hot, signed to his henchman. 
" Here, fire that ruffian out/' he said. 

But White-ManVTrouble affected to hear a summons 
from outside. " Dat you, Smith ? Yessar, I come one- 
time," said he, and bolted out through the doorway. 

" Here you," said Carter to the big Okky-man, " you fol- 
low that Krooboy out of here. If I have to tell you a 
second time, there'll be trouble. Come, now, git." 

Carter's command of the native might be faulty, but the 
grammar of his gestures was correct enough. What, go out 
of the feteesh before he chose? The Okky-man had no 
idea of doing such a thing. He lifted his walking spear 
threateningly, and snarled. 

Simultaneously Carter put his right hand on the greasy 
counter and vaulted. He caught the upraised spear with 
his other hand before his feet had touched ground, and 
broke the blade close off by the socket ; and a short instant 
later, when he had found a footing, he carried his weight 
forward in the same leap, and drove his right against the 
negro's left carotid, just beneath the ear. The man went 
down as if he had been pole-axed. 

Carter went outside and beckoned to the Okky-man's 
carriers. " Here, you, come and carry your master out- 
doors " the men hesitated " or I'll start in to handle you 
next." They did as they were bidden. And thereupon 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 27 

Carter, with his blood now well warmed up, was left free 
to attend to another matter elsewhere. 

A noise of voices in disagreement, and the intermittent 
sounds of scuffling had made themselves heard from the 
south side of the factory buildings, and now there were 
added to these a woman's voice calling in English for some 
one to help her, and then a sharp, shrill scream of unmis- 
takable distress. 

Now, Carter was no knight-errant. He had set up the 
unknown K. O'Neill as his model, and had told himself 
daily that he intended to meddle with nothing in West 
Africa, philanthropic or otherwise, which would not directly 
tend to the advancement of George Carter ; but at the first 
moment when they were put to the test, all these academic 
resolutions broke to pieces. He picked up his feet and ran 
at speed through the sunshine, and as he went a mist 
seemed to rise up before his eyes which tinged everything 
red. 

He felt somehow as he had never felt before; strangely 
exhilarated and strangely savage; and when he arrived on 
the scene of the disturbance, he was little inclined to weigh 
the consequences of interference. There was a woman, 
white-faced and terror-stricken he could not for the life of 
him tell whether she was handsome or hideous. Negroes 
were handling her. On the ground lay a pole hammock, in 
which presumably she had arrived. In front of her was a 
fat negro, over whose head a slave held a gaudy gold and 
red umbrella, and grouped around this fat one were eight or 
ten negro soldiers, with swords slung over their shoulders, 
and long flintlock trade guns in their hands. 

The whole scene was, as I say, dished up to Carter's eyes 
in a red mist, and this thinned and thickened spasmodically 
so that sometimes he could see clearly what he was doing, 
and at other times he acted like a man bewitched. But 



28 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

presently the red cleared away altogether, and he found 
himself clutching the fat negro by a twist of the shoulder 
cloth, and threatening to split his skull with a sword re- 
cently carried by one of the man's own escort. The girl 
sat limp and white on a green case before them, clearly on 
the edge of a faint, and round them all stood negro carriers 
and Hausa soldiery, frozen to inaction by the fat man's 
danger. 

All human noises had ceased. Only the hot insect hum 
and the cool diapason of the Atlantic surf droned through 
the silence. From the dull upraised sword blade outrageous 
sunrays winked and flickered. 

Upon this impasse came Swizzle-Stick Smith from the 
bush side of the white factory buildings, polishing his eye- 
glass, and limping along at his usual pace, and no faster. 
He removed his pipe, and wagged it at them. 

" Upon my soul a most interesting picture ! Just like a 
kid's fairy tale book. Gallant young knight rescuing dis- 
tressed damosel from the clutches of wicked ogre, who in- 
cidentally happens to be the King of Okky as anyone but a 
born fool could have guessed from his state umbrella, and 
one of the firm's best customers. Kindly observe that I'm 
the good fairy who always comes in on the last page to 
put things safe. Carter, I prithee sheath thy virgin sword, 
and then for God's sake run away and drown yourself." 

He had reached the group by this time, and took up in 
his own the damp black hand of offended majesty, and 
shook it heartily. He broke out in a stream of fluent Okky, 
and gradually the potentate's wrath melted. The King still 
gesticulated violently, and apparently demanded Carter's 
red head upon a charger as a prelude to truce, but Swizzle- 
Stick Smith was an old Coaster and knew his man. 

" Champagne," Mr. Smith kept on suggesting, " bubbly 
champagne with plenty of Angostura bitters in it to make 



29 

it bite. I call attention to your Majesty's historic thirst 
Come up into the factory, old Tintacks, and we'll break 
up a case in honor of the day." 

Finally the King, who being a West African king was 
necessarily a shrewd man, decided that though vengeance 
would keep till another day, Mr. Smith's champagne might 
not; and he let himself be led back to the factory, and 
up the stair. He graciously accepted the most solid-looking 
of the long chairs in the veranda, sat in it carefully, kicked 
off his slippers, and tucked his feet beneath him. He waved 
away Mr. Smith's further speech. " Oh, Smith/' he said, 
" I fit for champagne-palaver, one-time," and loosened the 
tuck of his ample waist-cloth to give space for the expected 
cargo. " No damn use more talk-palaver now." 

Outside in the sunlight the Hausa soldiers had taken the 
cue from their master, and dissolved away unobtrusively; 
the carriers were dismissed to the Krooboys' quarters under 
the charge of White-Man's-Trouble, who, now that the 
disturbance was over, bustled up with many protestations 
of sorrow for his unavoidable absence, and Carter was left 
for further attendance on his distressed damsel. 

For the first time he found himself able to regard her 
critically; and he was somehow rather disturbed to find 
before him a girl who was undeniably beautiful. When he 
had rushed blindly in to the rescue, he had taken it for 
granted that the person he saw so vaguely through that red 
mist was an English or an American missionary woman 
in distress, and (to himself) excused his mad lust for bat- 
tle by picturing himself as the champion of the Christian 
martyr beset by pagans. 

The white missionary women of that strip of the Coast 
occasionally quartered themselves at Malla-Nulla factory 
on their journeyings, in spite of the very niggardly civility 
of Mr. Smith, and Carter had been much impressed in the 



30 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

way beneficent Nature had safeguarded them by homely 
features and unattractive mien from attack by the other 
sex. He could have taken off his hat to one of these, and 
said: 

"Most happy to have been of service to you, madam. 
Won't you come into the factory and have a cup of tea ? " 

But this slim beauty in the frilled white muslins sent 
speech further and further away from him the more that 
he looked at her. For the first time since landing in Africa 
six months before he was ashamed of mildew-stained py- 
jamas for afternoon wear, and disgusted with the yellow 
smears of palm oil which bedaubed them. He was hatefully 
aware too that he had let his razors rust in the moist Coast 
climate, and White-Man' s-Trouble's fortnightly efforts with 
the clippers had merely left his chin and head covered with 
an obscene red bristle. 

" . . . It would be ridiculous," the girl was murmur- 
ing, "merely to say ' thank you' for what you did, Mr. 
Carter. You see I know your name. News about new- 
comers soon spreads amongst the other factories on the 
Coast here. If you only knew how I dread that fearful 
King, you would understand my gratitude. You see this 
isn't the first time he's tried to carry me off." 

"I wish you'd mentioned it earlier," Carter blurted 
out, " and I'd have split his dirty skull, trade or no trade." 

She shook her head. " No, that wouldn't have done. 
There's the law to be thought of even here. Besides, he's a 
King, and could let loose, so they say, twenty thousand 
fighting men against the Coast factories, and wipe them 
out. If only I could get away to some place he couldn't 
reach ! " She shivered. " If I stay on here at my father's 
factory, I'm bound to be caught and taken to Okky City." 

Carter's brown eyes opened in sheer surprise. " You 
speak of your father's factory. Do you mean to say that 
you live here on the Coast ? " 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 31 

" At the Smooth River factory/' 

"What, Slade's place?" 

" Yes, I'm Laura Slade. Couldn't you guess ? " 

" How could I ? " Carter blurted out. " Mr. Smith told 
me that Slade's girl " And there he stopped, and could 
have bitten off his tongue for having said so much. 

She finished his sentence quietly, and, as it appeared, 
without resentment. " Mr. Smith, I suppose, described me 
as a nigger." 

Carter made no reply. His brown eyes hung upon her 
pretty face intently. 

" Mr. Smith, of course, knew my father, and my mother, 
too, for that matter, before I was born. My mother was a 
quadroon, and that makes me, you see, one-eighth African." 

"You did not arrange your pedigree any more than I 
did mine. If you hadn't told me, I should never have 
guessed you weren't a full-blooded European. And after 
all, what does it matter ? " 

" There speaks the man who has only been out on the 
Coast six months." 

" Six months or six years," said Carter stoutly, " makes 
no difference so far as I am concerned. We're neighbors, 
it appears, and I hope you will let me be one of your 
friends. Miss Slade, will you take compassion on a very 
lonely man and let him come over to Smooth River occa- 
sionally and see you ? I can't tell you how ghastly the lone- 
liness has been with only the Krooboys and Mr. er 
Swizzle-Stick Smith to talk to, though perhaps you can 
guess at it by the way I've let my outward man run to seed." 

She gave him her slim brown hand. " I take frankly 
what you offer," she said. " If you let me become your 
friend, I shall count myself fortunate ; you see, after what 
you have done for me to-day we can hardly start from the 
ordinary basis." 



32 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEB 

From there onwards their talk flowed easily. She had 
come over on a business errand for her father, and Carter 
settled that quickly and promptly. She went presently into 
the factory to rest after her long hammock ride, and Carter 
seized upon the chance to dive into his own room. There- 
from he emerged an hour later with a chin half -raw from 
recent shaving with a rusty razor, and wearing creased 
white drill clothes and a linen collar that sawed his neck 
abominably. 

" I've arranged," he said, when next he saw her, " that 
you and I dine tete-a-tete, if you don't mind, down under 
those palm trees yonder. The mosquitos don't trouble down 
there just at sunset, and my boy, White-Man's-Trouble, only 
tastes things when they're going back to the cook house. 
It's mere prejudice to say he's had his filthy paw in every 
dish before it comes to me. Oh, by the way, Mr. Smith 
and his Majesty of Okky ask you to excuse them, as they 
have still more business to discuss before they can break up 
their meeting." 

She laughed and understood him to a nicety. They 
slipped off into light easy talk as though they had known 
one another all their lives, and there was neither that nar- 
row escape from tragedy behind them, nor Africa and pos- 
sible tragedy ahead. The girl was good comrade. The man 
was hardly that. He too frankly devoured her with his 
eyes. And certainly, in her cool, frilled muslin dress, and 
her big green sun hat she was pretty enough to paint. Her 
hair was black assuredly, but her pale olive face was moulded 
in curves of the most delicious. In England, and as an 
Englishwoman, she would have been dark perhaps, though 
not noticeably so. Nine hundred and ninety-nine English 
people out of the thousand would have commented on her 
beauty only. In America well, in America, she would at 
once have been placed in that class apart. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 33 

But Carter, the recently imported Englishman, saw noth- 
ing save only her beauty and her charm, and he behaved 
towards her as the English gentleman behaves towards his 
equal. A man who had been longer in Africa would have 
had the wisdom of one who had lived in the Southern 
States, and have picked out the African blood at a glance, 
and, as is the way of men who have eaten of the tree of 
that wisdom, would have ordered his civilities accordingly. 



CHAPTER III 

THE KING WHO STOPPED THE ROADS 

MR. SMITH was unsteady neither of speech nor foot, but 
an expert could have diagnosed that he had been dining. 
The expert, however, unless he had acquired his expert- 
ness near Malla-Nulla factory, would hardly have guessed 
that Mr. Smith was the better (or worse) for at least half 
a case of German champagne, generously laced with An- 
gostura bitters. 

He limped into Carter's bedroom, put his lamp down on 
the table, sat on the chair beside the mosquito bar, and 
very carefully eased up the knees of his shrunk pyjamas. 

" I say, Mr. Assistant, wake up." 

Carter woke, and blinked at the glare of Mr. Smith's 
eyeglass. 

" Don't get up, please. I apologize for waking you, my 
dear follow, but since you turned in, you've been made a 
pawn in the great game of diplomacy. The fate of em- 
pires trembles on your nod." 

Carter roused up onto his elbow. " Don't you think the 
empires would tremble no more if we left them over till 
to-morrow morning ? " 

" It would be most undiplomatic to leave them trembling 
too long. I can tell you I have had a devilish hard time 
of it putting his Majesty to sleep. He can carry his liquor 
like a man, and he'd a most royal way of seeing I drank 
level with him. But he may wake up any minute. Put 
not your trust in the sleep of kings, Mr. Carter." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 35 

" All right, sir. I'll make a note of that. I'll brew the 
gasolene, and when the King wakes I'll stand by with soda- 
water and fusel oil, which I should think will heal the 
breach between us." 

"Don't you believe it for one instant. The King of 
Okky's a seasoned vessel with a copper tummy, and you 
could no more thaw the wickedness out of him with soda- 
water than you could bring the devil to a reformed tem- 
perature in an ice machine. You must recognize, Mr. Car- 
ter, that both the King of Okky and the devil have their 
little ways, and it's above your art to change either of 
them very much. Question is, how much allegiance do you 
think you owe to O'Neill and Craven ? " 

This was a change of front with a vengeance. But Car- 
ter took it coolly enough. " That's an interesting point, 
sir. I hadn't reckoned it up before. But I shouldn't like 
to give you an answer to so important a question about 
the firm on the spur of the moment. So by your leave, I'll 
sleep over it, and tell you in the morning." 

" Sorry, but can't allow you the time, and as you don't 
seem to grasp the fact, I must point out that the fate of 
this factory of O'Neill and Craven's at Malla-Nulla de- 
pends on the august will of the King of Okky. His Port- 
liness also threatens to stop the roads which feed our other 
factories at Monktown and Smooth River, though I don't 
think when it comes to the point he'll do that. However, 
Burgoyne and Slade must see to those themselves. After 
the way this new K. O'Neill's been treating me on paper, 
I'm not going to concern myself with the general welfare 
of all the firm's factories on this coast. But I am in charge 
of Malla-Nulla, and I'm going to preserve the trade here 
from extinction if it can be managed." 

Carter lifted the mosquito bar and got out of bed. " I'm 
afraid, sir, I must ask you to come down to my level, and 
speak rather more plainly." 



36 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

Swizzle-Stick Smith sat back resignedly in his chair, and 
dropped his eyeglass to the end of its black watered silk 
ribbon. " Dulce et decorum est pro factoria mori, though 
I don't suppose it will come to dying if you play your 
cards right." Mr. Smith closed his eyes and evidently 
imagined that he was uttering his next thought silently. 
"Keep the young beggar out of the way of Slade's girl, 
too. By Gad, I'd no idea Laura would grow up such a 
pretty child. If he'd been an ordinary clerk I wouldn't 
have minded, but the lad's a gentleman by birth, and now 
he's done the gallant rescue business as a start, he's just 
the sort of quixotic young ass to think he ought to go 
and marry the girl as a proper capping for the romance. 
And that of course would be the end of him socially." 

" I say," Carter called out loudly, " Mr. Smith, do you 
know it's four o'clock in the morning, and there are some 
dangerous chills about just now ? Don't you think you had 
better have a cigarette paper full of quinine by way of a 
night cap, and then go to bed? It will be turning-out 
time in another hour or so." 

" Matches, please. My pipe's out. Ah, thank you, Mr. 
Carter. Well, as I was saying, the King's awfully taken 
with that punkah you rigged for the mess-room, and the 
water wheel you set up in the river to run it, and when 
I showed him the native arrowheads, and the spears, and 
the execution axes you'd made to sell to the curiosity shops 
at home, he began to change his tune. By the time we'd 
got to the fifth bottle he'd given up asking for your head 
in a calabash to take home with him, and before we'd 
finished the case he'd offered you the post of Chief Com- 
missioner of Works in Okky City, with a salary in produce 
and quills of gold that'll work out to 1,000 a year." 

" That's very flattering." 

" Yes, isn't it, when you remember how he started. The 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 37 

only question is, will he keep his royal word when he's 
sober ? " 

" It's a nice point. Among other things I believe they're 
cannibals up in Okky City." 

" Oh, come now, Mr. Assistant, you mustn't malign my 
friend, the King, too much. You need have no fears on 
that score. The Okky men have never been known to eat 
anybody with a red head. The only thing you'd have to 
funk would be sacrifice with, of course, a most full and 
impressive ceremony. So I think you'll go, eh? All for 
the sake of K. O'Neill, whom you admire so much? And 
then the King won't stop the roads." 

"No," said Carter shortly. "I have no intention of 
committing suicide at present. But if I'm an embarrass- 
ment at Malla-Nulla, you may fire me, or I'll resign if 
you wish it." 

Swizzle-Stick Smith screwed his eyeglass into place and 
examined his assistant with thoughtful care. " Shouldn't 
dream of letting you go, my dear fellow. Always make a 
point of sticking by my officers. Just thought I'd let you 
know of the King's offer in case his Majesty refers to it 
to-morrow. There now, go to bed again, and don't dream 
the fighting's begun. You'll see plenty of service over this 
affair without dreaming over it on ahead." 

When Carter set out for the West Coast of Africa from 
the Upper Wharfedale Vicarage, the one article in his kit 
which he thought suitable for the Coast was a small-bore 
nickel-plated revolver, which he had picked up second hand 
in Skipton for ten and six. It had been smuggled in 
without his mother's knowledge, as there was no reason to 
add to her already great anxiety. His father had provided 
half a sovereign towards the cost, had advised him not to 
use the wretched thing except in case of necessity, but if 
need arose, to take heed that he held it straight. 



38 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

Of course on arrival he found, firstly, that the weapon 
was too small to be of effective use ; secondly, that he could 
not hit a mark six fet square at more than a twelve-yard 
rise; and, thirdly, that revolvers are not really articles of 
fashionable wear for clerks in West Coast factories, what- 
ever they may be in story-books. So the weapon lay in 
his mouldy portmanteau, and the moist Coast climate 
changed its nickel dress for a good coat of bright red rust. 

But the morning after the King of Okky's arrival, while 
that bulky potentate was still asleep in the factory, Carter 
went in, cleaned the revolver as well as he could, and 
jammed cartridges into its reluctant chambers. He carried 
it pirate-fashion for the remainder of that day inside the 
band of his trousers, to his great personal discomfort, and 
to the vast enjoyment of Mr. Smith. However, the trucu- 
lent Okky soldiers who had deliberately shaken weapons at 
him in the morning were reduced by the sight of it to a 
certain surly civility, and work in the feteesh went on 
without any open rupture. 

Mr. Smith was distinctly irritable when dawn came in 
with the morning tea, but presently, when the swizzle-stick 
began its merry swishing in the cocktail pitcher, he thawed 
into a pleasing geniality, which, by frequent application 
of the same remedy, endured throughout the day. Laura 
Slade had returned in her hammock by the beach road in 
the cool of the preceding night, and Carter's thoughts fol- 
lowed her to Smooth Kiver factory, to the detriment of his 
work down in the feteesh. He gave no mental attention 
whatever to the King of Okky who sat cross-legged in a 
long chair in the factory veranda above him, but that 
bulky potentate kept returning with a dogged persistency 
to the subject of George Carter. 

" Oh, Smith/' he kept on saying, " I savvy champagne 
palaver, n' I savvy cocktail palaver, n' I fit for chop when 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 39 

chop-time lib. But I ask you for tell me, one-time, if you 
fit for dash me dem Eed-head that savvies machine-palaver. 
If you no fit, I stop dem road, an' no more trade lib for 
Malla-Nulla." 

To which Mr. Smith, who knew his West Africa from a 
twenty-five years' study of its men and customs, would 
reply with an unruffled geniality that he was sure the King 
was far too good a heathen to try any such dirty game as 
putting ju-ju on the factory of an old friend. "You're 
pulling my leg, old Cockiwax," Mr. Smith would say. " I 
pray you cease, and you shall have the best cocktail this 
pagan Coast has seen or sniffed." 

" Oh, Smith," the King would say, " I fit," and there- 
after there would be truce till the houseboy brought the 
ingredients, and Mr. Smith with his far-famed skill com- 
pounded them, and the pink cocktails went their appointed 
journey to perform their accustomed work. After which 
the African would once more repeat his unwearied de- 
mand. 

From the rising of the King from his mat, to the hour 
of the midday meal, this demand and reply went on, and 
Swizzle-Stick Smith parried it with unruffled serenity. 
But an open rupture very nearly came at the meal time. 
As a king, the visitor was invited to sit at meat with the 
white men in their mess-room. He said little during the 
meal, but he appraised Carter's head so persistently with 
his eyes that that irritated young man, with the pride of 
race bubbling within him, would have openly resented the 
performance if he had not given a promise to Mr. Smith 
on this very point only a short half-hour before. 

Such a state of things could not last long without bring- 
ing about an open breach, and Swizzle-Stick Smith, with 
his vast experience, saw this earlier than anybody, and made 
his arrangements accordingly. 



40 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

He tried hard to write a letter, but his pen was not in 
the mood for intelligent calligraphy. So he had to fall 
back on verbal instructions and a verbal message. 

" Mr. Assistant/' he said, when at last he put down his 
knife and fork, and the houseboy handed him his pipe 
and a match, " Mr. Assistant, I intended to make you a 
bearer of dispatches, but the gout's got into my confounded 
fingers this morning, and I doubt if even Slade could read 
my writing. So we'll just have to do the thing informally. 
We must have some more of that spot-white-on-blue cloth, 
and you must post off to the Smooth River factory and 
bring it back with you. It seems to be in heavy demand 
just now, though why, I can't imagine. I've been on the 
Coast twenty-five years now, and I can no more foretell 
the run of native fashions than I could the day I landed. 
But there it is, and though I'm sure Slade won't want to 
part, you must just make him. Say we'll pay him back 
in salt. He's sure to be short of salt. I never yet knew 
Slade to indent for half as many bags of salt as his trade 
required. You needn't hurry. If you're back here in three 
days' time that will be quite soon enough. You can take 
a hammock, of course." 

" Thanks, very much, but I'd rather walk." 

" Well, just as you please. You must commandeer what 
carriers you want from Slade." 

So it came to pass that when the sun had dropped to a 
point whence it could throw a decent shadow, and the sea 
breeze mingled a bracing chill even into a temperature of 
eighty, Carter set off along the beach, with White-Man's- 
Trouble balancing a mildew-mottled Gladstone bag on his 
smartly-shaved cranium, in attendance. On one side of 
him Africa was fenced off by a wall of impenetrable green- 
ery; on the other the Atlantic bumped and roared and 
creamed along the glaring sand. On the horizon the smoke 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 41 

of a Liverpool palm oil tank called from him the usual 
Coaster's sigh. 

" Oh, Carter," said his valet when they had left the fac- 
tory buildings well out of earshot, " you plenty-much fine, 
and you no lib for steamah." 

" It was about time I tidied up. When we get back to 
the factory I'll teach you how to pipe-clay shoes." 

The Krooboy thought over this proposition for some 
minutes. Then said he : "I fit for tell you, Carter, dem 
last white man I pipe-clay shoes for, he lib for cemetery 
in two week. Savvy, Carter? Two week." 

"All right, don't get so emphatic. I wasn't doubting 
you. But I'm going to risk the cemetery all the same. 
You may start by providing me with one pair of clean 
shoes a day, and when I get the taste of cleanliness again, 
maybe I'll run to two. Savvy ? " 

" Savvy plenty," grumbled White-Man's-Trouble, and 
then presently. " You no fit for steamah palaver ? You 
no lib for home ? " 

" No, I'm not going home yet awhile." 

" But you plenty-much fine." 

" Yes," admitted Carter, " I caught sight of myself in 
mildewed pyjamas and a fortnight's beard, and was struck 
with the general filthiness of my personal appearance. 
Savvy?" 

" Savvy plenty. Oh, Carter, you lib for wife-palaver ? 
Dem plenty-much fine clothes always one of the customs 
before wife-palaver." 

The Krooboy pondered over this discovery during the 
next two miles of the march, and then said he, " Oh, Car- 
ter?" 

"Well?" 

" Dem Slade. You savvy seegar ? " 

" I suppose so. Why ? " 



42 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

"I see Smith dash dem Slade one box seegar an' he 
got what Slade said ' no fit ' for before. Oh, Carter, you 
dash dem Slade one box seegar," said White-Man's-Trouble, 
and he treated his employer to a knowing wink. 

"Whatever for?" 

"Because then, after he got dem seegar, he sell you 
Laura for half dem price he ask before." 

"You're an impertinent savage," said Carter half 
tickled, half annoyed. 

But White-Man's-Trouble stopped, put down the yellow 
Gladstone bag on the baking sand, and pointed to the 
blue parallel tribal tattoo marks between his brows. " I 
Krooboy, sar. I no bushboy, sar! I lib for educate as 
deckboy an' stan'-by-at-crane boy on steamah, sar. I no fit 
for stay with you, sar, if you call me impertinent savage." 

Carter stared. " Good heavens, man ! I didn't intend to 
hurt your feelings." 

White-Man's-Trouble waved the bleached inside of his 
paw towards his master. " Oh, Carter, you apologize. 
Palaver set." He bowed a head which was quaintly shaved 
into garden patches, replaced the Gladstone bag on its 
central bed of wool, and once more strode cheerfully ahead. 

Carter followed moodily. How had they all guessed at 
his admiration for Laura? He had thought it the most 
intimate of secrets, a delicate confidence that he had no more 
than dared breathe even to his own inner consciousness. 
But first old Smith had blurted it out, and now even 
his servant talked about it openly. He had no doubt what- 
ever that the whole thing had been fully discussed over 
the cooking fires of the native compound at Malla-Nulla 
the night before. 

Then somehow his eyes swung round to the dancing 
horizon, and the Liverpool steamer's smoke, boring up 
towards the North, easily ferried his thoughts across the 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 43 

gap which lay between that baking African beach, and the 
cool village tucked snugly in beneath the Upper Wharfedale 
moors. He tried to concentrate his mind on the roses in 
the vicarage garden. His mother liked abundance of 
blooms, and cared little about the size. The Vicar ad- 
mired big blooms and snipped off superfluous buds when 
his wife was out of the way, and during summer a gentle 
wrangle over the roses was quite one of the features of 
their quiet life. 

But the roses refused to stay in the centre of the pic- 
ture. Laura insisted on taking their place. Suppose he 
took Laura back to Wharfedale as Mrs. George Carter. 
His mother, blessed woman, might be sorry, but she would 
accept her. He was sure of that. But his father ? Almost 
the last piece of advice the Vicar had given on parting 
was: 

"Now, lad, remember always you're a white man, and 
don't get mixed up with any. woman who owns a single 
drop of blood darker than your own. If you do, you can 
never come back here, and you'll hate yourself all the rest 
of your life. Remember I held an Indian chaplaincy be- 
fore I got this living, and I know what I'm talking about." 

Carter shook a sudden fist at the steamer's smoke for 
supplying him with such a distasteful train of thought, 
and turned for light conversation to White-Man's-Trouble. 
That garrulous person was quite ready to humor him in 
the matter. 

The sea breeze died away a little after six, and they 
marched in breathless heat till the cool land breeze took 
its place, and brought them spicy odors of the inland trees. 
And always on one side of them the surf roared, and 
crashed, and creamed along the beaches. 

The sun drooped to the horizon and hurried beneath it 
in visible inches of fall. Daylight went out. The colors 



44 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

were blotted from the sky, and the stars lit up, one racing 
another to be first. The noises from the forest changed 
in correspondence. From close at hand a leopard roared 
a greeting to the darkness. 

Night was fully dressed ten minutes after the sun had 
vanished. It was after nine o'clock, and in the chill of a 
wet gray mist, that they reached O'Neill and Craven's fac- 
tory on the banks of Smooth River. 

Now nine o'clock in the lonely factories of the Coast is 
usually bed time, and Carter was a good deal surprised to 
hear the hum of a great activity pulsing out into the night ; 
and presently, when they came within eye-range, to see 
the buildings aglow with lights. But there was a further 
surprise packed and ready for him. As they came close, 
a black man leaned over the end of an upraised wall of 
palm oil puncheons, and deliberately pointed a gun squarely 
at Carter's chest. 

A good deal of discussion took place afterward as to 
what would have been the proper procedure under the 
circumstances, but that may conveniently be omitted from 
this record, which deals only with immediate history; and 
the fact is that Carter rushed the sentry, clipped him un- 
der the ear, skinned his own knuckles, and captured the 
gun. White-Man's-Trouble in the meanwhile had with 
much presence of mind thrown himself on his face to 
avoid any discharge of pot-leg from the concealed marks- 
men, and was bawling lustily for " Slade, oh Slade," to 
" Stop dem dam gun-palaver." Which noisy request pres- 
ently had its wished for result. 

Slade himself came out to meet them, and even then 
his reception was sufficiently startling. " Good God ! " he 
rapped out, "then you've escaped, too, Carter, as well as 
the Krooboy. What liars these niggers are! I imagined 
that your that parts of you were up at Okky City by now. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 45 

I supposed they've scuppered poor old Swizzle-Stick Smith 
all right, though ? Did he have a bad time of it ? Why ? " 
he said as he came nearer, and saw his caller's spruce get- 
up, " you don't look as if you'd been scrapping much. Or 
bolting very hard, either," he added as an afterthought. 

" Unless," said Carter, " you're referring to an invasion 
by the Turks, or the French, or the Men in the Moon, I 
haven't a notion what you're talking about." 

" Haven't you come from Malla-Nulla ? " 

" Left there about a quarter to four." 

" And hasn't it been sacked ? " 

" It was sitting down by the beach, looking just as white 
hot as usual, and no more, when I left." 

" What about the King of Okky, then ? " 

" He was there at Malla-Nulla, filling a very big chair 
on the veranda." 

" And there has been no raid ? I don't understand." 

" The King of Okky," said Carter patiently, " has raided 
our factory to the extent of one case of fizz, of which Mr. 
Smith says he drank half, but barring that, and about six 
gallons of other mixed drinks, I didn't see him get much 
out of us. He certainly was threatening to stop the roads 
when I left, but I think that was all gas. He only wanted 
to stick Mr. Smith for more drinks." 

" He's stopped the roads right enough." 

" Not he," said Carter cheerfully. 

The older man thought a minute and then, " Come along 
with me," he said. " I guess ocular demonstration is about 
the only thing that will convince you that there is mis- 
chief in the air, and that that crafty old devil of a king 
is at the bottom of it." He led to a factory outbuilding, 
threw open a door, and scraped a match. " Look in there." 

Carter did so, and promptly felt sick, and came out. 
But he got another light and returned resolutely to the 



46 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

inspection. "Two, four, seven. And all killed the same 
way. I say that's pretty ghastly." 

" Isn't it ? They were all fine healthy Krooboys when 
they marched out of here this morning, carrying up some 
salt bags to our sub-factory on the Okky road. There were 
some bits of feathers and a rag or two strung up alongside 
the path, and they didn't notice them, or didn't tumble to 
it that they were ju-ju. Consequently they are now what 
you see. This is the King of Okky's way of hinting that 
the road is stopped. That pot-leg must have been fired 
at not more than a two-yard range. Some of the poor 
devils are regularly blown inside out. Here, come into the 
open again." 

" Thanks, you needn't give me the details over again. 
I saw all that for myself." 

" That infernal King must have sent off his messengers 
the very moment after you had that turn-up with him 
about Laura which, by the way, is a thing that I person- 
ally shall never forget, so you can draw on me over that 
down to the last breeches button. You see Okky City is 
closer in at the back here, but it's quite five hours' march 
further from Malla-Nulla. So the treacherous old brute 
stayed where he was, tippling with Smith, in the pious 
hope of keeping you all quiet till his men could come down 
and blot you all out. How you got through is a marvel to 
me. They must have reckoned on getting you as you 
walked here along the beach or they'd never have let you 
slip away. You and your boy have certainly escaped by 
the skin of your teeth. It's a moral certainty that they've 
got old Smith." 

"I don't think so. But I shall go back and see." 

" Eubbish ! We may be able to hold out here, and per- 
haps will not be attacked at all when they find out we're 
ready for them. But it's perfectly impossible for you to 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 47 

get back along the beach to Malla-Nulla. Come up into 
the house, and we'll find you a bite of something to eat, 
and Laura shall mix you a whiskey and soda. We've a 
bit of the last steamer's ice still left, and you shall have it." 

" Thanks. I'll come up and see Miss Slade, but I shall 
start back for Malla-Nulla in half an hour from now. 
And if, as you prophesy, I don't land, well, at any rate, I 
shall have done my best to get there." 

"It's very nice of you, and all that, but do you think 
old Smith is worth it?" 

Carter laughed. " Mr. Smith's a rough handful, but he's 
a good sort, and I like him. Besides he happens to be a 
gentleman." 

" Or was one once. A lot of us on the Coast were gen- 
tlemen originally. I come of good people myself, and was 
at Eaton and Jesus, although I don't suppose you'd have 
guessed it if I hadn't told you. But you see Nature built 
me' with a cutaway chin, and I couldn't hold down a job 
at home. However, come in, and we'll scratch you up 
some chop. Here, Laura, I've brought a caller." 

" I feel this dreadful trouble is all my fault," said the 
girl as they came into the lamplit room. " If you had 
been killed, Mr. Carter, I should have looked upon myself 
as a murderess." 

"My dear Miss Slade, you really mustn't worry about 
a matter you've no concern in whatever. The whole thing's 
a 'regrettable incident' I believe that's the proper term 
that Mr. Smith told me has been brewing for years. It's 
all due to the drop in the price of palm oil on the Liver- 
pool market, which means that we white traders pay less 
for it on the Coast here, and the black traders get less, 
and so there's less for the King of Okky to squeeze out of 
them as they march through his territory from the hinter- 
land. That's what's put his fat back up. The only great 



48 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

mistake that's been made is that I didn't split the old 
brute's iniquitous skull when I had the chance. I say, do 
you mind my commenting on those flowers you've got on 
the table? I haven't seen a cut flower since I left Eng- 
land." 

He turned to his host. " You do the thing rather pala- 
tially here, Mr. Slade. Board walls and real glass in the 
windows ! We've bamboo walls at Malla-Nulla that let in 
the dust and the mosquitoes and the Krooboys' stares just as 
they occur. It felt rather like living in a bird-cage till 
one got used to it." 

" The walls are Laura's doing. You know she was at 
school in a convent in Las Palmas, and came home with all 
sorts of extravagant notions. Why, she actually insisted 
on a tablecloth for meals, and napkins. I'll trouble you, 
napkins ! And yet they still call us palm oil ruffians in 
Liverpool, and firmly believe that we live on orange-colored 
palm oil chop, which we pick out of calabashes with our 
fingers. I sent K. O'Neill a photograph of this room by 
the last mail, with the table laid for chop, and flowers as 
you see in a china bowl, in the hope he'd be impressed by 
it, and raise my screw." 

"He's quite likely to do it, too," said Carter, "if I 
understand Mr. K. right. He's always insisting in his let- 
ters to Malla-Nulla that if we make ourselves comfortable, 
and adapt ourselves to the climate, we shall be able to do 
more and better work. By the way, do you know Mr. K. 
O'Neill at all? At Malla-Nulla we only know him on 
paper." 

" I'm in the same box," Slade confessed. " Godfrey, his 
predecessor, of course I knew well enough. But this new 
chap I only know from his letters, and they're a deal too 
rousing for my easy-going tastes. Ah, here's the boy with 
a tray of chop for you. Observe the parsley ; that's Laura's 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 49 

latest triumph in Coast gardening. Boy, Mr. Carter will 
sleep in the spare bed in my room. See that there are no 
live things inside the mosquito bar/' 

" I thank you/' said Carter firmly, " but I am going to 
do as I said." 

" He wants to go back to Malla-Nulla," Slade explained 
to his daughter, " and I tell him it is suicide to think of 
such a thing. Here, you have a go at him, Laura." Slade 
always put off onto someone else anything which he found 
hard to do himself. 

But Laura Slade read a certain doggedness in Carter's 
face that told her what to say. She did not join in im- 
ploring him to stay at Smooth River when he had so ob- 
viously determined to go. But instead, her mind flew to 
some scheme that might make his passage less desperately 
risky. " I am sure father could spare you some men. 
With an escort you might get through. I wish you were 
not so plucky." 

Carter laughed. " Oh, I am frightened hard enough, 
but I should be still more frightened at what I should 
think of myself if anything happened to Mr. Smith which 
I could have prevented if I'd been there. It's very kind 
of you to offer an escort, and I'd thought of that before; 
but I'm sure I shall be able to move quicker and more 
quietly without one. But if Mr. Slade could lend me a 
gun, I'd feel a lot more comfortable with that." 

" Certainly, my boy, certainly. You shall have my Win- 
chester, and I believe I can scare up a revolver somewhere." 

" You are very good. I have a revolver already, but it's 
only useful to me as a sort of knuckleduster. I couldn't 
hit a haystack with it ten yards off. Same with the rifle ; 
I've never used one. But where I was brought up in 
Wharfedale, you see, the Governor had some glebe, and his 
income was small. We mostly lived on rabbits and a few 



50 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

grouse in the season, and so you see I learned to be pretty 
useful with a shot gun." 

Slade handed a weapon. " There you are. That's a 
double 12-bore hammer gun, and both barrels are cylinders. 
It's an early Holland and was a swell tool in its day, which 
was some time ago." 

" Thank you very much. I hope I shan't have to use it, 
but it'll feel comfortable under my arm. When you've lived 
most of your life in the country, you miss going out with 
a gun. Well, now, I'll say good-by." 

" Wait a minute till we've called up your boy. I'll shout 
from the veranda." 

" Don't, please," said Carter, remembering that on all 
previous occasions when trouble foreboded White-Man's- 
Trouble disappeared. He did not wish to call Laura's at- 
tention more than necessary to the risks of the journey. 
" I'd far rather go alone." 

" Oh, Carter," said the voice of the Krooboy from the 
darkness outside, " then you plenty-much dam fool. I say 
I lib for come with you to Malla-Nulla. You no fit to go 
by your lone." 

They looked out through the lit doorway and saw the 
yellows of White-Man's-Trouble's eyes, and the gleam of 
his teeth, which latter were eclipsed when he finished his 
speech, leaving the eyes alone to tell of his whereabouts. 

"Now, that's a real stout boy of yours, Carter," the 
trader said. " Hi you, come in. You fit for a peg ? " 

"I fit for a bottle," said White-Man's-Trouble, who 
looked nipped and gray when he stood up in the lamp- 
light. Poor fellow, he thought he was going to certain 
death with perhaps torture as an addition, but when it 
came to a pinch, and the white man led, he screwed up 
his pluck to follow. 

So at last the pair of them set off quietly into the 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 51 

shadows. Two handshakes were all the farewell, but there 
was a soft something in Laura's eyes that sent queer thrills 
down George Carter's spine. Slade himself saw them 
through the outer line of the sentries, and warned those 
enthusiasts not to fire on them should they presently re- 
turn; and a dozen yards away from those sentries, they 
melted into the warm blackness of the African night. 

Up on the veranda of the factory Laura Slade leaned 
over the rail and listened to the beating of her own heart. 
She strained her eyes and she strained her ears along the 
line of mysterious phosphorescence which marked the 
beach, but no trace or hint did she get of how it fared 
with the man she loved. Once only during that watch did 
she hear a sound which she took to be a distant gunshot, 
and then, din, din, as though two other shots followed it. 
Then the roar of the surf and the night noises of Africa 
closed in again, and for safety or hurt Carter had passed 
beyond her reach. 

" Kate will like that man," she said to herself, and then 
she shivered a little. " I wonder if Kate will take him 
away from me ? " 



CHAPTER IV 

THE BEACH BY MOONLIGHT 

WHITE-MAN'S-TROUBLE was abominably frightened dur- 
ing that night march along the beach to Malla-Nulla, and 
did not mind showing it. Indeed, the fact that he screwed 
up his determination sufficiently to make the trip at all, 
says a great deal for his admiration of Carter. 

Carter, on the other hand, though he was fully alive to 
the desperate risks that lay ahead, felt himself to be the 
white man in command, and adjusted his demeanor ac- 
cordingly. To look at him one might have thought that 
he was merely taking exercise and the evening air for the 
general good of his health. 

Had there been cover he would have taken it, but there 
was none. The beach was the only path; the bush which 
walled it on one side was impassable, and though the sea 
might have been considered an alternative route, they had 
only cotton-wood dug-outs at the Smooth River factory, 
and it would have taken at least a surf-boat to get out 
over the Smooth River bar, to say nothing of landing, when 
the time came, through the rollers which crashed always 
on Malla-Nulla beach. So he marched along where the 
sand was wet and hard, just above the cream of surf, and 
he carried the twelve-bore, hammers downwards, over his 
shoulder, with his forefinger on the trigger guard above. 
He was very grateful for those past days of rabbit shooting 
in Upper Wharfedale which had taught him to be so quick 
and deadly on a sudden mark. 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 53 

The surf on one side, and the night noises of Africa on 
the other, roared in their ears as they marched, and every 
now and again they came into a cloud of fireflies, which 
switched their tiny lamps in and out with inconceivable 
rapidity, and left them quite blinded during the intervals 
of darkness. 

So that on the whole, as Carter realized very fully, if 
the King of Okky had set men to waylay them, these 
could scarcely be incompetent enough to miss their mark. 
But he did not admit this knowledge to White-Man's- 
Trouble. When that Krooboy stated things exactly as they 
were, Carter pooh-poohed his deductions lightly enough, 
and stormed at the man because he was ignorant of the 
most approved method of pipe-claying shoes. 

An African moon floated cleanly overhead, and great 
African stars punctured the purple roof of heaven, and to 
Carter's chilled fancy he and the Krooboy were as con- 
spicuous as two actors strutting under lime light. But 
there were two things he overlooked, and these I believe 
must have been the salvation of the pair of them. The 
thick night mists were steaming out of the forest, and 
from the surf the thick white sea smoke drove in on the 
land breeze to meet them. This translucent fog, though it 
might not be very apparent to the eyes of the walkers 
themselves, would be quite enough to screen them from 
the gaze of hostile pickets who, after the manner of Afri- 
cans, were already half scared out of their dusky skins by 
the fear of ghosts. 

They had made the journey out to Smooth Eiver in five 
and a quarter hours; they completed the journey back to 
Malla-Nulla in four, which meant good travelling; and 
because a heavy march like this may not be undertaken, 
without physical payment in the stewy climate of the Coast, 
Carter felt certain premonitory symptoms which told him 



54 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

that a good thumping dose of fever would be his when 
once he slackened his efforts and gave it a chance to take 
charge. But he was not much alarmed at the circumstance. 
As he told himself coolly enough, either by the time the 
fever came on he would have rejoined Mr. Smith at Malla- 
Nulla, who in that case was perfectly capable of looking 
after him, or he would have rejoined Mr. Smith in the 
Shades Beyond, and a fever owing to his body left behind 
on earth would not matter. As it happened neither of these 
alternatives had to be bargained with. 

Malla-lSTulla factory was eaves deep in white wet mist 
when they got to it, and found it earthy-smelling and 
empty. It was unmarked by fire, unsmirched by signs of 
battle, and, strangest of all, unlooted. 

The pair of them charged up the veranda steps, Carter 
in the lead, with the twelve-bore held ready for an instant 
discharge. The Krooboy with matchet uplifted and teeth 
at the snarl looked the very picture of savage desperation 
and ferocity. They stepped into the empty mess-room and 
lit matches and a lamp. The land breeze sang through the 
bamboo walls, and Carter's home-made punkah swished 
overhead to the unseen impulse of the water wheel ; but of 
quick human life, there was not a trace. 

He had fitted up bells about the place, or rather strings 
that actuated wooden clappers which could beat on wooden 
drums. He set these all a-clang and listened. The place 
reeked of its usual mildew, and the smell nauseated him. 
They had got rid of the mildew scent at the Smooth River 
factory. But there was not a murmur of reply to his 
clamor. 

White-ManVTrouble delivered himself of wisdom. 
" Oh, Carter, I think dem Smith, an' all dem boys at- 
factory lib for die. Dis place lib for full of ghosts. I fit 
for run back for Smooth River." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 55 

"Run away, then," said Carter, who was beginning to 
examine the mess-room systematically. 

The Krooboy cowered in a chair and covered his eyes. 
" Oh, Carter, I no fit for march back alone. Dem ghosts 
plenty-too-much fond o' Kroo chop. Oh, Carter, you no 
be dam fool an' stay here. You lib back for Smooth River 
all-e-same me/' 

" My pagan friend, don't get too familiar. The next 
time I hear you calling me names, I shall break my knuckles 
up against one of the places where the worsted's been shaved 
off your skull. Observe" said Carter, and poured some 
whiskey onto the table top and set light to it " Observe 
those blue flames that crawl and nicker about, but do not 
burn the wood. In those the ghosts that have been threat- 
ening you are now being most painfully consumed. Do 
you believe it ? " 

" I fit for see 'em die," said V/hite-Man's-Trouble de- 
voutly. " Oh, Carter, you plenty-much-fine witch doctor. 
I fit for pipe-clay dem shoes, three pair a day. Oh, Carter, 
if Okky men lib for come, you burn them, too ? " 

" Certainly," said Carter, " anything to soothe your 
nerves. Though, as a matter of fact, I should demonstrate 
to them with a shotgun, not by burning methylated. Now, 
just nose around, boy, and help me to find out where Mr. 
Smith's evaporated to. They can't have eaten him, or 
some of them must have stayed behind to digest the meal ; 
and they can't have kidnapped him, or he'd have broken 
up the happy home before he condescended to go, and as 
we see it now, it's no more squalid than usual. So now, 
Trouble, produce Mr. Smith." 

" Smith ? Oh, Carter, dem Smith lib for surf boat." 

" How on earth do you know that ? " 

" Dem surf boat no lib for beach. Dem paddles no lib 
for veranda, Okky man no fit for boat boy. So Malla- 



56 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

Nulla Krooboy, dey boat boy for dem Smith in Malla-Nulla 
surf boat. Savvy ? " 

" I do clearly. But why the deuce didn't you tell me 
all this before?" 

" Because," said the Krooboy simply, " I too plenty-much 
frightened o' dem ghosts before you burn 'em." 

" I wonder," said Carter thoughtfully, " if I shall ever 
understand all the workings of the African mind." He 
went onto the veranda and peered out into the mists. A 
fleecy blanket covered the sea and blotted out the water, 
and all things of low elevation that floated thereon. In 
the distance, between him and the moon, the two black 
mastheads of an invisible steamer ploughed through the 
whiteness, but between him and it a whole fleet of canoes 
and surf boats might have been snugly tucked away from 
his sight. 

Then a sudden pang of coldness came upon him, which 
made him button up his white drill coat, and step back into 
the mess-room and huddle into a chair. 

" Fever lib," said White-Man's-Trouble looking at him 
critically. 

" I'm in for my usual two days' touch," said Carter, with 
the listlessness of the malaria already creeping over him. 

" You fit for quinine-palaver ? " 

" I suppose so." 

The Krooboy fetched the quinine bottle from Mr. Smith's 
well-filled medicine shelf. 

" I'd some pills of my own somewhere." 

" Steamah pills. Dem Gappy Image pills no dam good. 
I eat dem box myself." 

" You thieving scoundrel ! " 

" Oh, Carter, I tell you dem pills no good." He laid a 
hand on his midriff. "No fit for give you even small- 
small twist there. Oh, Carter, I save you lose your temper 
over dem pills when I eat 'em mine self." 



KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIER 57 

" I wish they'd been calomel. You'll get poisoned one 
of these days, Trouble, if you don't stop stealing. I've some 
corrosive sublimate tabloids for skin preserving stowed 
away somewhere, and if you bolt one of those, you lib for 
die one-time. Here, give me a dose of quinine." 

The Krooboy found a cigarette paper, tapped it full of 
the feathery white powder, and rolled it up. Carter put it 
on his tongue and swilled it down with whiskey and water. 
" Quick, now, get me some blankets," he chattered. " I 
shall burst if I don't sweat directly." 

White-Man's-Trouble packed him with rugs and coats, 
till in the baking atmosphere of the mess-room one won- 
dered that any skin could resist the invitation. 

But presently the wraps were flung aside, and Carter 
sat aching and burning in his clammy drill clothes, with 
his skin bone-dry, and a feel in his head as though it were 
moving in and out like a concertina. 

" That last's the quinine," he told himself ; and then, " I 
say, Trouble, you'd better think for your own neck now. 
I shall be otherwise occupied for the next thirty hours. 
You'll be well advised if you went away back to Smooth 
River. If the Okky men come here and knock me on the 
head, I really don't care. And if they'll only chop niy 
unwholesome carcass, and get indigestion from it after- 
wards, I feel I shall get a grim enjoyment from watching 
their writhings from my own comfortable (or maybe un- 
comfortable) seat on the Other Side." 

"You lib for bad fever," said White-Man's-Trouble 
thoughtfully. 

Carter clutched at the Krooboy's brawny hand and wrung 
it enthusiastically. " Hullo, Pater ! Fancy seeing you out 
here in this filthy hole ! Well, sir, it is real good of you to 
leave Wharfedale and come all this way to look me up. 
How's the Mater ? All right, eh ? And did she do you in 



58 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

the eye this year over the roses, or did you manage to 
snip off the buds ahead of her? You didn't happen to 
bring any beer with you, did you, sir ? Nice cool draught 
of Pateley ale, in your big silver tankard that you won for 
stewing Hindoo babies alive at the burning ghats ? We've 
got muggers here, too. . . . Lord, what rot I'm 
talking, and you aren't the Pater at all, but only a dashed 
good sort of an ugly nigger with a blue frying pan tat- 
tooed across the bridge of your nose. White-Man's-Trouble, 
tell me solemnly and truly. Why do noses have bridges? 
Why, for instance, not ferries? Wake up, you image, and 
give me a civil answer." 

" You lib for dam bad fever," said White-Man's-Trouble 
still more thoughtfully, " an' if you lib for die, Okky men 
catch me one-time. So I fit for make you well one-time. 
Oh, Carter, you hear, I plenty-much fine doctor." 

" You a doctor ! With peacock's feathers growing out 
behind your ears instead of whiskers ! " 

" I savvy nothing white-man's drug-palaver. But I savvy 
plenty cure fever Krooboy fashion." 

" Do you? Which of you? What rot I'm talking! But 
upon my Sam, the Pater's gone, and there are three dis- 
tinct White-Man's-Troubles standing there all in a row. 
I'll just talk to the middle one, and you others shut up. 
Now, then, sir, you say you savvy Krooboy doctor-palaver ? " 

" Savvy plenty." 

"Then, doc, I offer myself as a patient. Never mind 
sending in to Grasington for your amputating tools. Ee- 
member you are a Dales doctor, and as you've pointed out 
with offensive cheerfulness many times, you saw me into 
this hot and wicked world, and I know you jolly well hope 
to see me out. You catch the patient and we do the rest, 
as the undertakers say when they send round their cards 
about top hats and gun cases. Special quotations for fever 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 59 

patients F. 0. B., for then a couple of firebars out of the 
engine room does the trick, and saves the cost of an elab- 
orate coffin." 

" Oh, Carter, listen to me." 

"Well?" 

" I lib for Krooboy quarters for fetich ju-ju. You sit 
here. No run away. Savvy ? " 

" Be long gone ? " 

" I come back one-time/' 

" All right. Give my compliments to Miss Slade, and 
say we had a jolly walk in the moonlight and found every- 
thing all right when we got here, except that Mr. Swizzle- 
Stick whose other name I forget had eloped with the 
assistant typewriter. Say, it was rather a nuisance about 
the typewriter woman, because she was the one who made 
the jellies, jolly cool yellow jellies with just a drop of 
sherry in them that were perfectly ripping when you had 
been sick. My mother used to make jellies like that herself 
for us kids when we were sick " 

He was still rambling on when the Krooboy returned, 
and by that time the fever was burning dangerously high. 
It was not running its normal course. He had undergone 
abnormal exertion, and the resulting fever was correspond- 
ingly fierce. 

White-Man's-Trouble came in out of the warm moist 
night outside, with some liquid in a cracked teacup. The 
patient refused to know him, and so the Krooboy picked 
him up in his enormous arms and got the liquid down his 
throat by drenching him as a nurse might drench a frac- 
tious child. 

Carter coughed and spat, but the dose was down, and 
in three minutes it had started its work. In five minutes 
it had laid him out, and then White-Man's-Trouble car- 
ried him into the next room and laid him on a bed. Then, 



60 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

from a bag he produced materials and did with them what 
will not be set down here. . . . And after that he 
groped around inside the mosquito bar, killed what insects 
were lodged there, pulled down the netting, and tucked it 
accurately round the mattress. 

Then he took up his matchet again, spat in his great 
right hand to get a good grip on the hilt, lay down on the 
mat before the door and went to sleep. 

The room pinged with mosquitoes ; a leopard roared per- 
sistently from the bush at the back of the factory, and a rat 
somewhere up in the rafters gnawed at a sounding piece 
of board with irritating persistence. Moreover, of course 
there was the probability of the Okky men coming to the 
factory at any moment for that much talked-of massacre. 
But none of these things disturbed White-Man's-Trouble. 
He suddenly wished for sleep, and therefore to sleep he 
promptly resigned himself. All thoughts of anything be- 
yond that immediate desire were blotted out from his sim- 
ple brain. The patient might awake, and rave, or want 
assistance; but that did not matter. Nothing mattered 
beyond his wish there and then for sleep. 

The beautiful unreliability of his tribe was strongly 
present in White-Man's-Trouble. 



CHAPTEK V 

EVENTS AT MALLA-NULLA 

MR. SMITH had been away from his creature comforts 
for a spell of twenty hours, and most of that time had 
been spent on the thwart of a dancing surf boat in the em- 
braces of a dank sea fog. He had been divorced from food, 
stimulant and tobacco smoke for all that time the surf 
boat had been twice upset in getting off, and drowned all 
the matches and as a consequence his temper was vile, 
and his language was sulphurous. He was barely thankful 
when he came back to the beach' again and found Malla- 
Nulla factory neither burned nor looted; he was openly 
ungrateful when he found that the last of the stock of 
limes had gone mouldy, and realized for the moment a 
Coast cocktail was beyond the limitations of art. As a con- 
sequence Mr. Smith romped up and down the untidy mess- 
room in a state bordering on frenzy, and in his own especial 
polyglot reviled the unknown K. O'Neill as the fons et origo 
mali. 

In addition to the legitimate boat boys, the whole of the 
other factory boys had been crammed into the surf boat, 
and as a consequence they also were chilled, cramped, and 
bad-tempered. His own body servant was openly insolent 
when*commanded to produce dry tobacco and a pipe. And 
when on the top of all this Mr. Smith opened Carter's bed- 
room door, stumbled over the sleepy White-Man's-Trouble, 
and was promptly floored by that nervous savage and threat- 
ened with a well-filed matchet, the remaining rags of his 



62 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEE 

temper at last gave way. He sat there on the floor, a very, 
unkempt figure, and for five minutes without stopping (or 
repeating himself) said exactly what he thought. 

During four of these minutes his Assistant had been 
awake, and listening to him through the thin filter of the 
mosquito bar. 

" Perhaps I should explain, sir," said Carter, stiffly, 
when the flow of words at last ended, " that I came back 
here because I thought you were in a hole and I might be 
of use. I have not been indulging in whiskey as you sug- 
gest, but I believe I have been through a stiffish bout of 
fever." 

" Get up, man, and look at yourself in the glass." 

Carter did that, inspected a moment, and then whistled. 
" Good Lord," he said, " I don't wonder you think I had 
been on the razzle. What on earth's this white stuff painted 
round my eyesockets? I look like a clown in a circus." 

"Oh, Carter," said White-Man's-Trouble, "dem ju-ju. 
Last night you lib for fever plenty-too-much bad. I fit 
for cure you. Now you well. If you touch dem ju-ju, you 
lib for fever again, one-time." 

Carter's meddling hand dropped to his side as though 
the white stuff round his eye had stung him. He turned 
half-apologetically to Mr. Smith. "Do you think that's 
likely, sir? You know West African ways better than I 
do." 

"Beyond me. But you never can tell, and there's al- 
ways the probability of Africa springing something new 
upon one. If I were you I should let your personal ap- 
pearance slide and risk wearing that decoration for the 
day, if your boy says so. Ju-ju's a dangerous thing to 
meddle with anyway, and he calls it that. Besides your 
fever's gone, you say ? " 

" Absolutely. And I don't even feel a wreck." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 63 

" You're sure you were pretty bad last night ? " 

" I fancy I was close upon pegging out. I never had 
such a stiff bout before." 

"Well, Mr. Carter," said the old man screwing in an 
eyeglass and staring at him, " if I were you I should dash 
Trouble five bob for saving your life, and follow out the 
rest of his instructions. Ju-ju often gets there when drugs 
won't touch the spot at all, and, mark you, you're getting 
that admission from the man who knows more about drugs 
suitable for Coast ailments than anybody in West Africa. 
The only trouble about putting this into general practice, 
is, where are you going to find the proper ju-ju to meet the 
case ? But you seem to have got hold of the right boy for 
this sort of thing in Trouble. Turning to business for a 
moment, I hope you're satisfied with your exertions on 
behalf of Craven and O'Neill with his Majesty of Okky ? " 

" Well, I don't know what he's done yet, sir. Mr. Slade 
said he had wiped out Malla-Nulla factory and killed you 
and all the boys, but that seems, well, exaggerated." 

" Slade always takes the gloomy view. The King talked ; 
and I'll admit things looked ugly for a bit. You see you'd 
walked off with the Firm's artillery." 

" Good heavens, do you mean that my tin-pot ten-and- 
sixpenny revolver was the only gun about the place ? " 

" Certainly I do. You see er Mr. Carter, one occa- 
sionally er dines rather heavily here, and once after 
dining too well I saw a man shoot another whose loss he 
regretted afterwards. So as I wished to spare myself those 
regrets, I saw to it that there was nothing more deadly 
about the place than trade guns, and you wouldn't catch 
me loosing off one of those, however drunk I might be. 
I regret to say the King didn't continue to carry his liquor 
like a gentleman after you'd left; he grew quarrelsome; 
and finally I had to pull him up with some sharpness. 



64 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

Then came the ultimatum. He said I should find the 
roads stopped already the old scoundrel had been playing 
me like a trout, it seems, till everything had been got 
ready, and he told me that as a fine for your Use-majeste 
he should help himself to the contents of the factory as 
they stood." 

" But you headed him off there, sir, at any rate." 
Swizzle-Stick Smith chuckled. "Well, I haven't been 
on this Coast for twenty-five years without knowing a thing 
or two. I told the King I was rather glad to hear him 
say that because it showed that a prophecy made a year 
ago was now going to be fulfilled. He asked what it was. 
I spouted to him 

' Maecenas Atavis edite regibus 
et praesidium et dulce decus meum, 
Sunt, quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum 
Conlegisse juvat, . . / 

as the first thing that came into my head, and fine pompous 
lines they are, as you'd remember if you'd ever been to a 
public school, which you haven't." 

" I've written out all Horace twenty times over in im- 
positions and know the bulk by heart, but I can't say I 
ever got a taste for construing it." 

" Well, we won't argue out the value of a classical edu- 
cation just now. Anyway the King of Okky was impressed. 
Of course he twigged the stuff was not English, or Okky, 
or Kroo, or Arabic, or any of the tongues hereabouts. He 
asked what it was. I said it was a priest's tongue. He 
asked what the words meant. I romanced then and told 
him they prophesied that the factory would be looted by 
a King who had made himself a King the old scoundrel 
was born a slave, you'll remember, and made the throne 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 65 

vacant by killing his predecessor and that two days after- 
wards a new and very curious sort of ju-ju would be put 
on that King, who would thereupon die a new and very 
painful sort of death/' 

" Eipping ! " said Carter. 

" The meeting broke up in confusion just about then, 
because his soldiers down below began to run amuck 
among our boys, and the King heard the row and went 
for me. However, I'd my big lead tobacco box handy, and 
I wiped him over the head with that, and as the boys be- 
low were frightened, and had got our surf boat ready for 
launching, I saw that they intended to quit, whatever I 
might say, and I didn't see the force of holding the fort 
here alone. So I went to sea with them, and spent the 
evening preaching them a long sermon on the vice of 
cowardice. I hadn't much faith that the King would be 
fool enough to swallow my prophecy, but as I say, you 
can never be sure which way the African brain will twist 
And here you see's the factory untouched." 

" When Mr. K. gets a report on this, sir, I fancy you'll 
have a letter you will like." 

"Maybe. But I shan't wear myself out expecting it. 
Look here " Mr. Smith produced a letter from the breast 
pocket of his stained pyjamas " came in just after you'd 
left. Sent by canoe and special runner from our factory 
on the Monk River. Agent there says he wants to charge 
me seven pound ten for forwarding my mail. If that's 
K. O'Neill's idea of running a business economically, I 
wish he'd come out to the Coast here and find a way of 
making profits to correspond." 

Carter had a shrewd suspicion that if Mr. K. had or- 
dered an expenditure of seven pounds ten shilling sterling 
over the forwarding of a letter, it contained an idea which 
that very astute business man was sure would produce at 



66 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

least seventy pounds in the near future. But he did not 
irritate his superior by mentioning this aloucL Instead 
he asked, " Any instructions for me, sir ? " 

" Well, yes. First of all there is a direct one. K. says, 
'As Mr. Carter seems a good hand at collecting native 
curios, I should be glad if he would get me some ivory 
war horns. I want a row of them on my drawing-room 
wall/ So, young man, you had better get hold of some 
escribellos and your carving tools and set to work." 

" I don't propose," said Carter shortly, " to start faking 
curios for Mr. K. A man like that would spot them at 
once. But I'll send my model horn, and see to it he has 
some other good specimens of the real thing." 

" As you like. Well, the letter goes on to advise us that 
the next thing America and France and Great Britain 
are going to gamble over is rubber. Not collected wild 
rubber, you understand, but rubber estates where the vines 
can be planted and cultivated. K.'s evidently going in for 
Company Promoting, and as a preliminary he instructs 
me to get options of suitable territory. He's got an idea 
that an uncleared estate on the Coast here, which could 
grow rubber if it had the chance, can be bought at the 
rate of a case of gin per thousand acres; and if you've a 
fancy for untouched bush, and .a doubtful title, I daresay 
that is so." 

"But one can get a clear title, I suppose, if one takes 
the trouble?" 

Mr. Smith's pipe finally refused even to bubble, so he 
started to clean out its more obvious horrors into Carter's 
wash basin. He went on between the throes of this nice 
operation "Depends who you mean by 'one.' If you're 
hinting at yourself, I have no doubt you could manage it, 
because you're a very painstaking young man, and I'm 
sure you see yourself as a partner of K. O'Neill already. 
Isn't that so?" 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 67 

"That might do when I'm ready, sir," said Carter 
laughing, " unless I see something better in the meantime. 
But as a point of fact I wasn't setting up myself as a 
man to see through the tangle of African land transfer." 

" If you were referring to me, I shouldn't recommend 
you to bet on the result, unless the odds are big on your 
side. And mark you I've been dabbling in West African 
real estate at intervals for five-and-twenty years " he 
pointed to the crown of his bald head " that's what's 
worn my hair so thin in places. You get your eye on a 
piece of land here, you get all the local evidence you can 
rake up as to who is owner, and you pay that man and 
put up your buildings. If within the next six months 
more than three other owners don't turn up with absolutely 
flawless-looking titles, you'll be lucky. It's a case of pay 
each of them in turn, or clear out." 

" But surely there's the alternative of doing neither ? " 

" Certainly, if you can get the Government to back you 
up. and thafs the rarest thing imaginable. You see any 
land trouble of that kind, whatever the rights or wrongs 
of it may be, always means a war when the white man 
refuses either to pay or quit. The local kings and ju-ju 
men always snap at the chance. Well, we needn't argue 
this out any further. I know all the districts in at the 
back here where rubber can be grown, and I shall go off 
on a trip up country and see what I can do in the way of 
negotiations. I leave you in charge here at Malla-Nulla. 
Your particular object in life will have to be keeping down 
expenses." 

" You think there will be no trade then ? " 

" Not now the King of Okky has closed the roads," said 
Smith decisively. 

Now Swizzle-Stick Smith had a long list of failings, but 
letting his assistants eat the bread of idleness was not 



68 

among them. " Nothing like work and a moderate 
amount of drugs for keeping fever and mischief out of a 
man/' was his motto, and he saw to it that Carter re- 
mained steadily on the run. But now the roads were 
stopped, and it was only the rare merchant who straggled 
in scared, and often wounded, from that mysterious Africa 
behind, George Carter discovered that life was a very dif- 
ferent thing. Beforetime, he had found work in the 
feteesh, and round the factory generally, a trial to the 
flesh; but the idleness that took its place was infinitely 
more objectionable. 

He employed the Krooboy staff in whitewashing, in 
building, in making a caricature of a garden ; he made the 
native clerks polish up their books into a shape that would 
have satisfied even a Glasgow Chartered Accountant; and 
for himself he made Okky arrows, axes, spears, drums and 
warhorns, in such quantities that even the curiosity shops 
of Europe would have been glutted if they had all gone 
home. 

In despair he even thawed to a certain intimacy with 
the Portuguese linguister, but presently cast him off in 
disgust, and realized why on the West Coast one divides 
up the population into white men, black men, and Portu- 
guese. Of course White-Man's-Trouble was always at his 
elbow, but he hardly fulfilled the requirements of a com- 
panion. 

To be precise, after the roads were stopped, and Mr. 
Smith had departed elsewhere, the Trader-in-charge of 
Malla-Wulla factory discovered for himself what many 
millions of men have found out before, that it is not good 
for man to live alone, and though he made many ingenious 
plans for remedying the evil, all of these, save one, in- 
variably broke down on being tested. The one plan that 
was sound related to Laura Slade. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 69 

Every time that Laura's name inserted itself into the 
argument his mind would presently leap back to Upper 
Wharfedale, and he would hear afresh that warning of 
his father's about taking a wife of one's own color. And 
his father, he reminded himself, had once held an Indian 
chaplaincy, and knew what he was talking about. 

But by degrees, as this proposition was argued out again 
and again, and the loneliness of West Africa in general, 
and Malla-Nulla in particular bit deeper and deeper home, 
so did England and all that dwelt therein drift further and 
further away. He had found occasion the day after he 
had been left in sole charge of the factory to send a busi- 
ness note to Slade at Smooth River. In it he enclosed 
another to Laura, and to this latter he received a reply that 
he found charming. The affairs of the factories required 
many messages after that; and presently the pair of them 
did away with the cloak and pretence of commerce alto- 
gether, and White-Man's-Trouble was kept trotting back- 
wards and forwards across the glaring beaches, frankly as 
Cupid's messenger. Only once did Slade interfere, and 
that was when the Krooboy, presuming on his peculiar 
position, stole from the Smooth River factory some article 
of more than customary value. Slade said nothing pub* 
licly, but took the law into his own hands, and after the 
custom of the Coast banged White-Man's-Trouble lustily 
with a section of a packing case; and even then Carter 
would have known nothing about the matter had not there 
been a nail in the weapon of offence, which left its marks, 
and about which he made inquiries. 

Slade it seemed had also received from K. O'Neill sim- 
ilar instructions to those recorded above, on the matter of 
rubber estates, and with his usual indecision would deter- 
mine one day to set off personally into the bush, and the 
next day to do the necessary bargaining by correspondence. 



70 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

Finally he wrote to Carter a querulous letter saying that 
as he got no help from anybody in deciding on such an 
important subject, he was just going to stay on at Smooth 
River and twiddle his thumbs, and so Carter was not in 
the least surprised to hear from Laura within the next 
twenty hours that her father with hammock-train and es- 
cort had that day set oil for a prolonged expedition into 
the bush. 

" His last instructions," wrote Laura, " were that I was 
not to be in the least nervous; he was going to avoid the 
Okky country; and anyway he was an old Coaster, and 
knew most thoroughly how to take care of himself. And 
so, nervous I refuse to feel. But, oh ! I am so lonely here 
with no one whiter than Mr. and Mrs. da Silva to talk to. 
I somehow quite share your instinctive dislike to West Coast 
Portuguese/' 

Within ten minutes after reading that letter, Carter was 
out under a braztn glare of heat, marching along the sand 
where it was wet and hard, and nearing the straggle of 
palms which marked the banks of Smooth River, at the 
rate of four good miles to the hour. When a white man 
walks at that speed through West Africa mid-day heat, it 
is only because some question of life or death hangs upon 
the speed; though in this case Carter told himself that love 
was the same as life. He pinned his eyes on the Smooth 
River palms, which the refraction made to dance up and 
down most coquettishly, and repeated this over and over 
again, because another voice within him persisted in sneer- 
ing something about two very lonely people with nothing 
to do, who were not in love at all, but merely bored with 
idleness and their own society; and finally he got quite 
angry over the matter. He stuck out his great dogged 
chin, and presently cursed aloud. He shook his fist at 
the splendor of the tropical sun. " I do love the girl," he 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 71 

declared, " and I will marry her in spite of my father, and 
K., and everyone, if she will have me. Curse it! Why 
should I hesitate when I love her? This infernal climate 
is making me as slack and undecided as even poor old 
Slade." 

So with the surf booming ceaselessly in his ears, and 
the sea-smoke driving over him and making his white drill 
collar damp and sticky, he marched resolutely on to meet 
Fate. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE COMING OF THE OKZY-MEN 

THE attack on Smooth River factory did not take place 
without due warning. It seemed that a large caravan of 
native merchants from the hinterland had come through 
the Okky country with a fine cargo of produce since the 
King had stopped the roads. Whether they had cut new 
roads through the bush for themselves, or fought their way 
past the obstructing ju-ju, they did not explain; they ar- 
rived at the factory with kernels, a few tusks of discolored 
ivory, a few quills of water-worn gold, and a fine parcel 
of high-grade rubber, which were duly valued; they took 
cloth, six flint-lock guns, a case or two of gin, and the 
balance in pink Kola-nuts by way of payment; and with 
these on the skulls of their carriers, they marched away 
along the Beach and out of this history. 

Then presently there came down envoys from the King 
of Okky demanding with a fine inconsistency that O'Neill 
and Craven's factory should pay his Majesty the transit 
blackmail which he had been unable to collect himself. 
Carter was sent for, post-haste, from Malla-Nulla, and was 
at first minded to tell those envoys to go to a kingdom 
which repute says is even hotter than West Africa. But 
thoughts of Laura living there by herself, and a dread of 
the horrors of native war made him offer a compromise. 
" Open the roads," said he, " and we'll pay up these fellows' 
dues, though your King knows perfectly well he hasn't an 
atom of claim on this factory. It's the custom for traders 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 73 

to pay for going through a country if they can't avoid 
paying ; they never pay once they are through ; and never, 
never, never, throughout all the wicked history of Africa 
has there been a case of an English factory being fool 
enough to pay toll which its casual customers have slipped 
through without paying. But, as I say, I am ready to meet 
you in the matter. Open the roads and I'll dash you this 
amount you ask for." 

Kwaka, the head envoy, a big, fine, bold-eyed Hausa, re- 
quested that the money might be handed them there and 
then. 

"Not one sixpence," said Carter, "till the roads are 
opened." 

The Hausa was a professional soldier, and here he could 
see was going to be a chance of working at his trade. He 
gleefully delivered the King of Okky's ultimatum. If the 
tribute was not paid, the King would withdraw his permis- 
sion for O'Neill and Craven's factories to exist on the 
Coast. 

" Tell your old King," said the Englishman contemptu- 
ously, " that he may have authority over his own filthy 
mud-villages inland, but his law does not carry along the 
Coast, as he knows full well. The Coast is the white 
man's." 

Things were going exactly as Kwaka could have wished. 
The man with the red head was warming up nicely. " If 
you fight when we come down to the factory," said Kwaka, 
" I will see to it that you are crucified separately. I should 
like to take the woman who lives here into my own harem, 
but the King has bespoken her already." 

" You," said Carter sa sagely, " a Moslem, ought to know 
shame for living in the employ of pagans like Okky-men. 
If you come back here, my first shot shall be for you, and 
after you are dead I will have that done to your face with 



74 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

the white man's doctor's tools as shall forever spoil its 
beauty. So that when the Prophet takes you up into Para- 
dise, even the least of the houris will shrink from you and 
hide her eyes from all sight of you in the folds of her 
green robe. Just you stick that in your memory, Mr. 
Kwaka, and don't come boasting 'round here. Observe, I 
am a man of my hands : I can make white iron burn." 

He pulled a length of magnesium wire from his pocket 
and lit it with a match. The big Hausa stared owlishly at 
the fierce white flame. 

" That is the glare of Gehenna," said Carter, " into which 
if you come to Smooth River again you will presently 
descend, after being cast out from Paradise because of the 
reason I mentioned. You have now my permission to 
depart. And I wonder," he added to himself, " if my 
Mohammedan theology is fairly correct. Kwaka's swal- 
lowed it right enough, but if he hands it along to a mullah, 
he may find a flaw, and we shall have the whole brood of 
them down about our ears in half no-time." 

However the portent was sufficiently startling for the 
moment. Kwaka argued that a man who could make iron 
burn could doubtless (as he claimed) spoil the good looks 
of a True Believer by some other of his infernal arts, and 
therefore was a person whom it would be healthy to let 
alone. So he and his escort took themselves off into the 
forest as unobtrusively as might be. 

But with Laura, Carter took another tone. " Look here, 
my dear," he said, " you simply must, run across to the 
Canaries till things have simmered down again here. I 
don't want to alarm you, but it's quite on the cards that 
infernal old Mormon of a King may take it into his woolly 
head to be dangerous. Yo n've had one taste of his quality 
already." 

" Two/' said the girl, and shuddered, " and he's sent my 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 75 

father presents and messages since. But I can't go away 
from Smooth River, at any rate till my father comes back. 
He left me in charge, you see." 

" Which I think very improper of him. I don't believe 
in girls being mixed up in business matters, at any rate in 
West Africa, and I am sure K. O'Neill would be frightfully 
down on it what are you laughing at? Laura, tell me 
one-time what you are sniggering about in that ridiculous 
way. Oh, I see. You think I have never seen Mr. K. arid 
am talking through my hat. Well, my dear, if you had 
read fifty times over every letter that K. has written to 
Malla-Nulla factory during the last eighteen months, you 
would know that man and his likes and his dislikes, and 
his ambitions, and his cranks just about as accurately as I 
do. Anyway, I repeat, he'd hate to have you here in 
charge." 

" Just remember that I don't agree with you one bit, 
Mr. Carter." 

" Very well, Miss Slade, you can jolly well do the other 
thing. But take charge here I shall, and go to the Islands 
you must. There's a B. and A. boat due to call at Monk 
River the day but one after to-morrow. I'll send for our 
surf boat, and we'll take you there in style. Won't you 
have a ripping time -of it at Las Palmas and up in the 
Monte ! I wonder what the new hotel's like up there. And 
I say, Laura, go down to that farm at the bottom of the 
Caldera, and I bet you a new hat it takes you half an hour 
longer than my record time to get up again as far as 
Atalaya Hullo, what's the matter now ? " 

"You are making things rather hard for me. I'd go 
away from this hateful Coast if I could, but we simply 
can't afford it, and there you have the bare fact." 

" But I thought " 

" Oh, yes, of course you did, that father was a sort of 



76 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

local millionaire. Well, he isn't. He did once have private 
means, but that I think was before I was born, and only 
the reputation of them remains now. He's made big com- 
missions on the factory's trading, I know, but he's invested 
badly, and I think he's been robbed. Probably, too, I've 
been extravagant." 

" Rubbish." 

" Well, anyway, the money's gone, and the brutal truth 
is I haven't a sovereign in the world." 

"Good Lord! You ought not to have been left here 
like that. It was beastly careless of Slade." 

"He never thought of it. And if he had, he couldn't 
have done anything. His equipment of course came from 
about the factory, but as regards money, he went away 
without a pound in his pocket. There aren't shops that 
one can spend money in to be found up in the bush." 

" It's disgustingly awkward," said Carter frowning. " Of 
course every penny that I have in the world would be as 
much yours as it ever had been mine, but the fact is, my 
dear, I've paid it all away as it came. You see, in a way 
I was a sort of bad egg before I got a billet out here on 
the Coast, where, I suppose, if you come to look at it, there 
are small opportunities of roystering. Besides, with Mr. 
Smith always before one as an example of what^ not to be, 
it doesn't take very much resolution to keep straight. Any- 
way, in ancient days I ran up all the debts I could get 
tick for, and I landed in the poor old Pater for a lot more 
than a younger son's share. Well, what with selling curios 
through that old blackguard Balgarnie on the M'poso (who 
I know robs me of half the proceeds), and commission on 
our turnover at Malla-Nulla, which has increased a lot 
since I've been there (till of course this row cropped up), 
and my small bit of regular screw, altogether I've made 
a very decent income, and I've taken a bit of pride in pay- 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 77 

ing off the old debts with ten per cent, of interest added. 
I knew that extra ten per cent, would tickle some of them 
frightfully. It was just that chunk of interest that cleaned 
me out down to the bone, and I chucked it in because I 
thought one could not possibly want hard cash down on 
the Coast here. What idiots men are to let themselves run 
short of money ! However, I shall have another quarter's 
screw due in a couple of months' time and in the mean- 
while you must go to the Islands on tick." 

" You're a dear good boy, but it can't be done. I shall 
stay on here and make the best of things." 

" You will do nothing of the kind, young woman. You 
will travel on a Madeira chair in a palatial surf boat as far 
as Monk River as we just now arranged, and then I shall 
walk on board the B. and A. boat with you, and explain to 
the purser who you are, and everything will be as right as 
ninepence." 

She looked at him with full eyes. "You make things 
difficult for me." 

" Not a bit of it. I'm the man that's going to shoulder 
the difficulties." 

" Oh, you didn't know it. But if you asked a favor for 
my father's daughter from the purser of the Secondee 
she's the boat that's due you would get an unkind an- 
swer. We're in debt all round, and I'm afraid he didn't 
behave very well to either the purser or the captain of the 
Secondee. Now, please do not press me any more. I stay 
here at Smooth River factory." 

George Carter hit the table with his fist. " Th 3n I 
stay, too. The da Silvas will put me up, and if they ob- 
ject, I'll turn them out into the bush and live in their 
house alone. Malla-Nulla must look after itself." 

" What will Mr. K. say to that? " 

"He will approve. K.'s a tough nut in business mat- 
ters, but he's a man all through." 



78 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

" Is he ? " said the girl with a queer smile. " I don't 
agree with you." 

" One may not at the moment like the way he hustles 
one along in his letters/' said Carter stou ly, " but he's a 
man all through, and if he was to get to know how things 
are fixed here, and to hear I'd stuck to my own job at 
Malla-Nulla and left you in the lurch at Smooth Eiver, 
he'd fire me one-time, even if he had to get a steamer 
specially stopped to land his mail. No, K. O'Neill would 
have no use for brutes of that description in his employ. 
Now, if you'll be so very nice, my dear, as to pick up that 
swizzle-stick and make me a good grippy cocktail, when 
I've had that I'll go out and do what I can to discourage 
the Okky men if they see fit to pay a call." 

Now, his Majesty the King of Okky once boasted to a 
West African official that he could put 20,000 spearmen 
into the field, but there is no doubt that this was an over- 
estimate. Moreover many of the Okky troops carried flint- 
lock guns and matchets in place of the spear, and others 
again were bowmen, and still others wielded the Dahomey 
axe. But his Majesty was a parvenu king who had fought 
his way to the throne, and he saw to it that there was no 
inefficiency in his War Office. He made the conditions of 
service sufficiently pleasant to tempt in the fighting Mos- 
lemin from the Hausa country, and these fine soldiers of 
fortune gave the needful stiffening to his own pagan levies. 

Then, also, the King of Okky made full use of the great 
cult of Ju-ju. The average West African king is com- 
pletely under the thumb of the ju-ju men, and if he is not 
actually their nominee and puppet, he knows that if he 
runs at all counter to their wishes and policy, he will die 
some frantic death devised by the cleverest poisoners on 
earth. But King Kallee the First was not only King of 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 79 

Okky but he was also Head Ju-ju man of that mysterious 
state, or as it is sometimes written, Head Witch-doctor. 
He could, when he chose, hale a subject from his dwelling 
and pin him to the Okky City crucifixion tree for no further 
reason than his kingly will. He could also cause a piece of 
fluttering rag, or a bunch of hen's feathers to be tied above 
a subject's lintel, and that subject and all his household 
would not dare to pass the charm; nor would anyone else 
dare to have communion with them; so that in the end 
they would die of hunger and thirst and become a pesti- 
lence to the community among whom they had lived; and 
no one thought of raising the breath of objection. The 
King had put ju-ju on one of his own subjects, and that 
was all. 

Moreover the King, having set eyes on Laura Slade, 
wished to instal her in a wing of the great mud palace of 
Okky as his wife. So far, throughout life, when he had 
created a wish, fulfilment followed as a matter of course, 
be the means what they might. In his demands for Laura, 
Kallee was at times amazed at his own moderation. He 
had approached Slade (who to him was the girl's proprietor) 
just as one native gentleman might approach another, and 
inquired her price. Slade, who could not give a decisive 
answer even to such a preposterous matter as this, tempor- 
ized after his usual custom. The King naturally saw in 
this a scheme to enhance the girl's price and displayed royal 
munificence. He would pay Slade a thousand puncheons of 
palm oil and a thousand bags of rubber, and two thousand 
bags of kernels; and when Slade waived this aside and 
spoke of his daughter's reluctance for matrimony, Kallee 
spoke of the splendor in which his chief queen would live. 
Slaves in all abundance, cloth as fine as silk, ornaments of 
gold, and an American alarm clock should be hers; her 
food should be coos-cousoo of the finest, her drink should 



80 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

be Heidsieck of a vintage year exclusively. All the affairs 
of State should be exhibited for her approval, and even 
his two brass cannon should be housed in her apartments. 
The King showed himself to be the royal lover in lavish 
perfection, and Slade could not bring himself to cut short 
the offer and tell him that the whole thing was impossible. 
He temporized, and congratulated himself each time the 
matter came up on having got rid of the King without rup- 
ture of their friendly relations. 

However, the royal patience, which had never been 
strung out to such a length before, reached its breaking 
strain that day at Malla-Nulla under circumstances already 
recorded, and what the King could not obtain by this new 
diplomacy he very naturally made up his mind to get hold 
of by methods which were more native to his experience. 

Being moreover a strategist with a good deal of sound 
elementary skill, he did not give the enemy time to bring 
in reinforcements after the first news of danger. Kwaka's 
embassy was a reconnoitring expedition as much as any- 
thing, and the detail that the brazen Kwaka should be 
scared out of his seven senses by the man whose red head 
the King had already ordered for a palace ornament, was 
a small thing which stood beyond his calculation. A force 
of 500 picked men lay in bivouac a bare five miles inland 
from the factory; the ju-ju signs on the bush roads pro- 
tected these from all espionage; and when night fell, a 
ju-ju man who was the King's special envoy performed 
a ceremony which he said, and which they understood, 
granted the soldiers a special dispensation against those 
ghosts which all West African natives know haunt the 
darkness. So they advanced to the attack through the 
gloom of the steaming forest shades, those of them who 
were pagans with high spirit and fine hopes of loot, and 
those of them who were Moslemin filled with a vague fear 
which they gleamed from Kwaka's hints. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 81 

Now Carter did not fall into the usual Englishman's 
trick of despising his enemy. Indeed he had that figure of 
20,000 fighting men firmly lodged in his head, and short of 
the opportune arrival of a British gunboat, expected sooner 
or later a furious fight. But he reckoned that Kwaka would 
have to go back to Okky City with his report, and after- 
wards return from thence with an attacking force ; and he 
counted also on the African's fear of ghosts, and looked 
with confidence to no disturbance during the hours of 
darkness. 

So although he worked the sweating factory hands at 
high pressure in piling up puncheons and cases, and bales 
of cloth, and sacks of salt into a substantial breastwork, 
he went to bed himself that night and felt, as he tucked 
in the edge of the mosquito bar, that few white men on 
the Coast had ever earned better a spell of sleep. 

It was at 2 A.M. when the Okky yell and the crash of a 
volley of pot-leg woke him, and he leaped up and through 
the gauze in one jump. He ran out onto the veranda, and 
met there Laura Slade. She was dressed, and had in her 
hand the cheap Skipton revolver which he had given her, 
and towards the purchase of which his father had once 
contributed a hard-to-spare ten shillings out of the whole 
half guinea that it cost. Moonlight poured down upon them 
pure and silvery from a clear night overhead, but all the 
land below up to the level of the veranda was filled with a 
mist that was white and thick as cotton wool. In this fog 
invisible black men screamed and yelled and cursed, and 
occasionally there came to them the red glare, and the roar, 
and the raw black-powder-smoke smell of the flintlocks. 

"The beggars will rush those barricades," said Carter, 
" if I don't look out. You stay here, Laura, and put that 
pistol down. It's a beastly dangerous toy." 

"I may want it for myself." 



82 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Don't be melodramatic. Now run into the mess-room, 
there's a good girl, and get down those two Winchesters, 
and load up the magazines. I'm going down to help the 
boys." 

But even as he spoke there came a sudden hard puff 
of the land breeze that made the mist swirl and twist up 
into ghostly life, and left canals and pools of clearness. 
He darted inside, snatched up one of the rifles, and 
crammed it full of cartridges. " I wish I'd a scatter-gun," 
he said. "I used to be a nailer at rabbits and the occa- 
sional grouse at home. However, it won't do to miss here, 
although the tool is new." He threw up the weapon to 
his shoulder, and shot as a game shot shoots, with head 
erect and both eyes staring wide at a leather charm-case 
on the broad black chest which he picked as his object. 
He did not know how to squint along the barrel. Then 
he pressed home the trigger, and had the thrill of knowing 
that he had shot his first man. . . . He warmed to the 
work after that, and fired on and on with deadly speed and 
accuracy, till the heated barrels of the repeaters burned 
Laura Slade's hands as she charged the magazines beneath 
them. From somewhere in the lower part of the factory 
came White-Man's-Trouble, and when in answer to the 
fusillade, showers of pot-leg began to rustle over the ver- 
anda and scream through the roof, that valiant person 
presently dragged out bedding to form a breastwork. But 
although Carter kicked him till his foot ached the Krooboy 
would not show his own head over it sufficiently to use a 
gun for the mutual defence. He stuck to it stolidly that 
he was a " plenty-too-much bad shot," and Carter was too 
much occupied in keeping up his own fire to spare time for 
further coercion. But as he changed rifles with Laura, he 
said every poisonous thing to White-Man's-Trouble that his 
mind could invent, and that African listened, but made 
neither answer nor reply. 




He fired on and on with deadly speed and accuracy, till the 
heated barrels of the repeaters burned Laura Slade's hands. 
Page 82. 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 83 

The fight was going badly against the factory force. The 
Okky men's original surprise had been very complete, and 
they had rushed the outer line of the defences all round. 
The inner line consisted merely of the buildings; and the 
factory boys had bolted for these, and had joined the 
mulatto clerks and the Portuguese who were there already. 
The whole defence, of course, was badly managed; but then 
it must be remembered that it was devised by traders, not 
by soldiers. If it had not been for Carter's education on 
the moors and warrens of Upper Wharfedale, and his con- 
sequent deadliness with a rifle against rushes at close quar- 
ters, the factory would have been put to the storm within 
five minutes of the first attack. 

Besides, with a few exceptions, the factory boys were 
Kroos ; and these, though they are magnificent workers and 
about as amphibious as seals, are emphatically not fighting 
men. They battled manfully enough after the shock of the 
first surprise, and because no path of escape offered itself; 
and whilst there were trade guns to fire, they derived a 
fine encouragement from the noise of the black trade- 
powder explosions, and the acrid smell of smoke. But few 
of them made any attempt to reload their flintlocks a 
second time, and for cold matchet work at close quarters 
they had little appetite. So by ones, and twos, and tens, 
they began slipping off into the bush (to be hunted down 
piecemeal by the savage enemy later on) and soon only the 
clerks and the two fever-shaken Portuguese were left alive 
in the lower buildings. 

It was at this point a new engine was added to the at- 
tack. Dawn had just leaped up yellow and sickly over the 
sea, when a crash rang out that jarred the air and every 
building about the place. 

" Hear that ? " croaked Carter. " That's a cannon, and 
a brass one as you can tell by the ring. It's probably one 



84 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

of those old brass guns that the Portuguese used to cast for 
the natives two hundred years ago. One of my curiosity 
dealers promised me fifty golden sovereigns for a genuine 
specimen. If I don't spot that gun and pick off the men 
who are serving it, they'll jug us for a certainty. But 
they've got the blessed thing so jolly well hidden among the 
bush ! Well, I'm going to ease up on my own shooting and 
watch for the next flash. Get me a drink, you plucky dar- 
ling, will you, or else my throat will crack in two. Bring 
a chattie of water; that's what I want. The heat of this 
night has been about the worst I have known on the Coast." 

" It is too hot to last," said the girl. " I'm afraid even 
the water in the chattie will be as warm as tea." 

She went into the mess-room, and presently came back 
on hands and knees to keep below the showers of pot-leg 
which were persistently whistling overhead, and gave him 
the wet porous bottle, and crouched beside him under the 
breastwork as he drank. 

" Well, my sweetheart," said Carter, " if it isn't unlucky 
to drink one's best girl's health in water, here's your toast ! 
You're the finest plucked lassie in all the wide and won- 
drous earth, and now I come to think of it, I don't believe 
I ever proposed to you." 

" No, you never did. I don't see why you should." 

" Stick your head lower down. That thing that said 
' whisp-whisp ! ' was a rifle-bullet. They've got a blooming 
marksman down there, and I can't have you picked off. 
And don't talk rubbish. You know you're jolly going to 
marry me as soon as ever we can afford it, if ever we get 
out of this, which isn't likely." He clapped an arm snugly 
round her, and w-o-s-h came a load of pot-leg into the 
other side of the bedding which protected them. " Got any 
silly objections to make to that ? " 

" Have you thought over what it means, George ? You 
know I'm not white." 



KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIEE 85 

"Bosh! Anyway you're white enough for me. Let go 
the chattie. And as I said before, Here's luck. Ugh ! 
African river water, half mud, half essence of nigger from 
higher up. Moreover, as you remarked, hot as tea. Bang ! 
there goes that infernal cannon again, and Fve been gos- 
siping with you proposing, I mean and haven't seen the 
flash. Plunked a shot into one of the palm oil puncheons 
in the store below, by the sound of it. Hullo, here comes 
the wind. Now, somebody will have his hair combed." 

As though the discharge of the ancient brass gun had 
been a signal, a tornado opened upon them without warn- 
ing, and almost in its full strength in the first blast. 

One minute there was a stagnant calm, with air so hot 
and stale that it hardly seemed to refresh one to breathe it. 
The next wind travelling often at a hundred miles an hour 
bellowed and roared at them in tearing spasms of fury. 
The factory building reeled and groaned at its impact. 
Sticks, boards, corrugated roofing and empty barrels solved 
the problem of aerial flight. The close-grown trees of the 
forest that hemmed the factory in on the landward side 
were flattened earthwards as though by the pressure of some 
unseen giant hand ; yes, flattened down, and down, till one 
thought that any human beings that were beneath them 
must inevitably be crushed out of all living shape into the 
foul, soft swampy ground beneath. And in cold truth some 
of the Okky men who cowered there during the enforced 
lull of the attack did so die. 

The firing had ceased automatically on both sides, and a 
bombardment of sticks, leaves, sand and stones pelted them 
all unmercifully. It was impossible to face the wind; in- 
deed, so violent was the torrent of air, that the mere act of 
taking breath became a matter of the nicest art. 

The girl lay crouched under the huddle of bedding, buf- 
fetted into semi-unconsciousness, with Carter's arm holding 



86 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

her tight down to the floor boards of the veranda. He put 
his lips to her ear and bawled a message. She shook her 
head. Through the insane yell of the wind she could not 
hear a word. He laughed and kissed her, and then, taking 
away his protecting arm, worked his perilous way like some 
clinging, creeping thing into the inside of the dwelling. 

Even this was filled with the wind. A door, smashed 
from its hinges, clattered noisily about in one corner, as 
though it had been some uncouth mechanical toy propelled 
by clumsy clockwork. Everything movable hopped on the 
floor, or danced from the walls. And of course to this dis- 
order was added all the dishevelment which had been 
caused by the volleys of jagged cast iron fired through the 
flimsy walls by the Okky men's flintlocks. But Carter knew 
what he wanted, and sought for it with a single mind. 

Presently from amongst the debris he emerged with a 
four-gallon drum; and then he worked his way to a cup- 
board where Slade kept his store of cigarettes. Luckily it 
was full. Slade had boarded a steamer lately where his 
credit in the forecastle shop was still untarnished, and his 
plausible tongue had procured him a whole two-dozen case 
of half-hundred tins on some ingenious deferred-payment 
scheme of his own. There were twenty-two of the green 
tins left, and Carter got them all out, opened them, and 
recklessly emptied their contents onto the floor. With in- 
finite pains, and sheltering the liquid from the blast under 
his coat, he decanted the contents of the big drum into 
the tins till all were full. Then he re-lidded them, and 
jabbed a hole with his penknife in each lid. 

He rebuilt them into their own wooden case as he primed 
them, and when this was full, dragged it out through the 
doorway into the casemate of mattresses. Laura and White- 
Man's-Trouble still crouched there helplessly, and the tor- 
nado still yelled and roared and boomed. It was carrying 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 87 

water with it now, bitter salt from the sea, and whipping 
the face like hail where it impinged. 

Carter was breathless and panting by the time he had 
managed once more to drag himself under the shelter of 
the bedding; but he was keenly alive to the needs of the 
immediate future. Already he noted a diminution in the 
tornado's fury; the hustling cloud of sticks, and leaves, 
and branches, which it carried along was growing less thick, 
and although this was by far the hardest hurricane he had 
ever seen, he knew from previous acquaintance with the 
breed that it might well drop to perfect calm as suddenly 
as it had arisen. 

As a point of fact it deceived him. The wind lulled, 
and the forest trees swung upwards in unison as though 
they had been performing a trick. The air cleared, and 
Carter raised his head to try and spot the part of the bush 
where the brass gun was masked. A black man sprang 
from the undergrowth, lifted a gun, fired, and missed. 
Carter threw up the Winchester for a snapshot. 

" Got him Laura, for the Lord's sake keep down in 
shelter, or they'll pick you off to a certainty. Trouble, you 
hound, roll up those pillows and blankets underneath you 
into a hard wad, and stuff them into that gap at the corner 
there " 

"Isn't there a splendid chill after that awful heat?" the 
girl said. " Wrap up, George, or you'll have fever. Here's 
your coat." 

" Look out," Carter shouted. " Hold on all with those 
blankets. Here comes more tornado." 

Once more the wind slammed down upon them with in- 
sane fury, and once more all loose inanimate things rose 
into vigorous flight. The forest trees cowered down into the 
swamps from which they grew. Solid rods of rain split 
against the factory buildings, and sent deluges of water 



88 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

squirting through the bamboo walls as though the match- 
wood backing had not been there. The roar was like the 
continuous passing of a hundred heavy trains over a hun- 
dred iron bridges all side by side. 

Gone altogether now was the stagnant heat. The air 
was scoured clean, and it was forced into the lungs at such 
high pressure that it exhilarated one like some deliciously 
choice vintage of champagne. 

" I'm hanged if I let those beggars kill us," Carter 
bawled out during one of the lulls. " In this splendid air 
life's too gorgeous." And then bump came the wind upon 
them again. 

But the tornado had blown out the heart of its strength. 
In five more minutes the wind had dropped, the rain 
ceased, the air cleared, the sun glared out overhead and 
began to heat the tropical day, and white steam oozed up 
from all the face of creation. 

This time Carter's rifle represented the whole orchestra 
of death for the defence. The factory Krooboys' flintlocks 
spoke no more; the ill-aimed Winchesters of the snuff-and- 
butter colored da Silva and his wife were silent. The 
Portuguese and the factory clerks, and the factory porters 
had cannily crawled away into the bush. They knew noth- 
ing of what was ahead of them in those steamy shades. One 
certainty alone fluttered big in their minds, and that was 
that they were leaving massacre behind. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE INVISIBLE FIRE 

IN the factories which dot the West African seaboard 
and rivers, death is such a constant visitor that much of his 
grimness had faded. At home, in England, or America, 
or Hamburg, we shiver with apprehension whenever our 
relative who is " out on the West Coast " comes up into 
the mind ; but the relative himself takes his doses of fever 
when they fall due with a certain callous philosophy, and 
on his emergence shattered and shrunken from the attack, 
congratulates himself on not being a candidate for a gun- 
case and a top hat that time. Those who go up in the bush 
and are there engulfed, those who get drowned in the ever- 
grinding surf, those who go out by the thousand and one 
opportunities which the climate and the surroundings offer, 
slip off their human garb with an easy nonchalance; and 
those who are left pronounce some, pithy epitaph over the 
deceased, and go on with their quicker interests. 

With the native African, death is an event of even smaller 
moment still ; and in the event of a quarrel, one competitor 
will often sit down, cuddle his knees, shut his eyes, and 
there and then deliberately suspend his vital processes, 
merely to cause temporary annoyance to his rival. 

Now, the above paragraphs are somewhat of the nature of 
a footnote elevated to the text. But they are necessary at 
this point in these memoirs to explain the coolness with 
which Laura and Carter viewed the near prospect of extinc- 
tion. Neither of them of course in the least wished to die, 



90 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

but it never occurred to them to face death with anything 
beyond the usual Coast philosophy. 

" I shall stick Mr. K. for a rise in screw if we get 
through this," said Carter. 

" If I hadn't made a promise," said the girl, " I could 
tell you something about your Mr. K. that would startle 
you." 

" You're a tantalizing baggage, and I've a good mind to 
pick you up and shake it out of you. Gad ! Here they come. 
Now, I'll shoot, and you get a box of matches and light 
those bombs for White-Man's-Trouble to throw." 

" Bombs ! Do you mean the cigarette-tins ? " 

"Yes. You'd a big brazing-lamp in the factory. Re- 
member it? Well, you had. And that meant benzoline, I 
guessed. I found a drum full of it, anyway, and I've 
loaded up those tins with benzoline. It'll burn like winking 
in this sun, and the niggers'll never see the flame. Only 
thing to take care of, is not to set light to the factory. 
Now, do you understand?" 

" Yes, dear." 

" And d'you savvy, Trouble ? " 

" Savvy plenty. Oh, Carter, I burn my leg plenty-too- 
much with dem damhot lamp once on steamah. No can 
see flame when sun lib for shine. I fit for serve as stand- 
by-at-crane boy once, sar, on steamah." 

" Well, Mr. Engineer, throw straight and don't get hoist 
by your own petard. By the living Jink we're in for it 
now. Throw, Trouble, for all you're worth, right into the 
blue of them." 

The four-fifty repeater yap-yapped its messages, and the 
man who had learned to shoot quick and straight amongst 
the rabbits and grouse of Upper Wharfedale, made deadly 
practice at this bigger game. But two eight-shot Winches- 
ters are of very little more value than catapults in stopping 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 91 

the rush of two hundred fighting black pagans officered by 
Moslemin Hausas. Beforehand the fire of the Portuguese 
and the factory Krooboys had held them off, much more 
by its noise than its deadliness. The one solitary shooter 
who remained, they held in scorn; he was firing white 
powder in the Winchester, and the smallness of the noise 
and the absence of smoke encouraged them. They scorned 
to shoot at him with their flintlocks. They would rush in 
and put this man to the matchet, and save the girl alive. 
And thereafter, when they rolled the red head at King 
Kallee's feet, and made the girl stand up before him, many 
and fine presents would be given to gladden them and their 
women. 

So they gave the Okky yell, and sprang out of the bush 
into the open, and rushed across the clearing. 

But lo, presently the white man called out, " Behold, I 
put ju-ju on you blighters," and a black man who carried 
between his brows the Kroo tribal mark began throwing 
green tins which contained some liquid distilled by witcE- 
craft. And thereupon the clinging fires of hell broke out 
amongst them, and burned the skin on their bodies till they 
screamed and danced in their frenzy of pain, and the air 
was rich with the smell of their cooking. Even Kwaka, 
who led them, though he was the boldest fighting man in 
all King Kallee's armies, showed by the grayness that grew 
upon his face that he that day learned the lesson of fear. 
And when presently they broke and fled for the bush (the 
flames, be it understood, still sticking to them), it was 
Kwaka who led that disordered retreat, and held a sleeve 
of his jelab before his eyes lest the white man might bring 
further witchcraft to bear, which would make his face a 
derision for the houris in Paradise. 

" My Christian Aunt ! " said Carter up on the factory 
veranda, " but benzoline is filthy stuff to fight with. The 



92 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

place stinks like a cookshop, and I feel like a beastly Rus- 
sian anarchist. Don't throw any more tins, Trouble. 
We've saved our bacon, Laura, I do believe, but I hate 
being unsportsmanlike. It's worse than netting your neigh- 
bor's grouse moor, this. But they came up to the gun too 
quick for me to stop them alone. White-Man's-Trouble, 
if you throw another of those infernal bombs, I'll slip a 
shot into you." 

Laura was crouched in behind the mattress casemate, her 
face tucked away into the crook of an elbow, and her 
shoulders heaving with sobs. 

" Hullo, old lady, what's the row with you ? You're not 
hit ? Good God, don't tell me you're hit. What a careless 
hound I am to let you get out of cover. I could have sworn 
there wasn't a shot being fired. What a miserably incom- 
petent brute I am to get rattled and not see after you bet- 
ter." 

" Oh, George, I'm not hit. I almost wish I were. That 
would be fairer/' 

Carter stared. " What's the matter, then ? " 

She pulled herself together with an effort. " I suppose 
I must feel very much as you do about the matter, only 
more so. You see I lit the matches for each bomb Trouble 
held out to me. It was I who am really responsible " 

Carter tackled the situation with ready wit. " Now, look 
here. I'm not going to have you presuming on being my 
sweetheart. I know you'd like to have the credit of routing 
the enemy, but you're not going to have it. I want all the 
kudos I can get in that line for business purposes my- 
self. I'm going to point out in my report to Mr. K. that 
it was my brilliant genius alone that rootled out that drum 
of benzoline, and put it to a new and unpleasant use, and 
that any idea of refusing me the ten-pound a year rise in 
screw that I ask as a reward would be bang against all 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 93 

O'Neill and Craven's most cherished traditions of fairness. 
So just you remember that, Miss Slade, and don't go off 
and brag about doing one single thing that wasn't ordered 
by your superior officer in this Service (as old Swizzle- 
Stick Smith would say), and that's me." 

" You're a dear, good boy." 

" I am," said Carter cheerfully. " I'm rather surprised 
people don't see it oftener. You're the first person in 
Africa who's made the discovery so far. Now I can't have 
you eating the bread of idleness out here any longer. In- 
doors you go, and tidy up." He took her by the arm and 
led her gently to the living room. " Hasn't that breeze 
made hay of the place ? Sorry the houseboys have left this 
desirable situation without warning, and I can't lend you 
White-Man's-Trouble just now. So I want you to wade in, 
if you please, my dear, and show me what an extremely 
domesticated person the future Mrs. G-. Carter can be when 
she tries. ' We wish to make a point,' said Mr. K. in one 
of his typewritten letters, ' of having all our factories neat 
and comfortable.' " 

Laura shivered. " If I were to marry you, I wonder what 
K. would say." 

" Say nothing. We should absolutely draw the line at 
interference there, eh? But in the meanwhile there is no 
harm in following out the gentleman's advice, which is 
invariably sound, on the other points." 

"When you see Mr. K. I'm very much afraid you'll 
change your mind about me." 

Carter drew the girl to him and kissed her on the lips. 
" Don't you be jealous of K., sweetheart. Mine's only a 
business admiration in that direction." 

" At present," she persisted. " Wait till you meet." 

" When we meet, I shall say, ' Sir, this very lovely and 
desirable young person here is my wife,' and then we shall 



t4 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

go on to commercial topics. There's nothing romantic 
about the boss. If you'd studied the Epistles of K. to the 
Coasters as closely as I have, you'd know that off by heart." 

Laura still shook her head. " I love you/' she said, 
"more than anything else in life, and I can think of no 
greater happiness than to be your wife. But I would never 
marry you if I thought you could repent of it afterwards. 
You can't deny that you are wrapped up in K. You must 
see K. before you marry me, George." 

" If K. comes along before the parson, well and good, 
you shall hare your own way of it. But if a missionary 
of the right complexion (if there is such a thing down here) 
casts up at this factory, there'll be a wedding cake put on 
the festive board, Miss Slade, and you'll be the bride that'll 
cut it. Don't you try and wriggle out of your solemn 
promises with me. Hullo, what's that ? " 

" Thunder. Is the tornado coming again ? " 

"No, listen. It isn't thunder. It's people thumping 
monkey-skin drums. I've made dozens of those tuneful 
instruments for the curiosity dealers at home, so I know 
the note. Well, you get on with your dusting, there's a nice 
girl, and I'll go out and have a cigarette." 

" You are going to " 

" What, clean up the mess outside ? No, we'll leave that 
for the present. Now, don't be scared, there's a sweetheart. 
But, to tell the truth, those drums interest me. The na- 
tives signal through the bush with them, you know, in a 
sort of dot-dash-dot style; and so far their local Morse 
alphabet has been a bit beyond me. Perhaps White-Man's- 
Trouble may be able to decipher it. Now, don't you try and 
shirk that dusting one moment longer." 

He went out then onto the veranda, shutting the door be- 
hind him, and questioned the Krooboy sharply about the 
drummings. Did he understand them? 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 95 

" Savvy plenty/' said White-Man's-Trouble gloomily. 
" Dem Okky-man's drums/' 

" Well, I didn't suppose it was a Chinaman's, you patent 
idiot. You fit for understand dem tune ? " 

" Savvy plenty. Dem tune say Okky-men fit for make 
custom." 

" That means ' ceremony,' I suppose. Now, what sort 
of a ceremony will suit the occasion? Dirge of defeat by 
the ju-ju men, presumably, and then they'll crucify some 
wretched slave so that his spirit can go into the Beyond 
and arrange to have the luck changed. I wish Mr. Smith 
were here, or Slade. No, I'm hanged if I do, though. I've 
worked this thing off my own bat so far, and I'll see it onto 
the finish. Dem Okky-men make crucify palaver?" he 
asked, and translated the hard word by standing up him- 
self spread-eagled against the factory wall. 

White-Man's-Trouble nodded a dismal assent. "Then, 
by an' by they grow plenty-too-much more brave, an' they 
come back one-time an' fight some more." 

" Then you bet your woolly whiskers it won't do for us 
to sit quietly taking the air here. Ju-ju's the correct card 
to play in this country anyway." 

The Krooboy shivered. " Oh, Carter, I no fit for touch 
ju-ju." 

" Well, I am. With thought and care, I believe I should 
develop into a very good ju-ju practitioner. Besides, the 
subject fascinates me. No white men seem to know any- 
thing very definite about it, above the fact that it is beyond 
their comprehension, and it would be rather fine, if the 
unlikely happened, and one chanced to survive, to be 
known as the one authority on West African magic." 

" Oh, Carter, if you meddle with dem ju-ju palaver you 
lib for die plenty soon. If you walk in bush, tree fall on 



96 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

you; if you ride in canoe, arrow jump on you; if you chop,* 
dem chop he fill with powdered glass, and presently you 
lib for die of tear-tear-belly. Oh, Carter, you lib for Coast 
now one year ; I lib for Coast all my life ; I savvy plenty ; 
you alle-same damfool." 

"My dear Trouble, I've admitted already that I know 
meddling with ju-ju isn't altogether an insurance proposi- 
tion. Much obliged to you for the fresh warning all the 
same. But I'm afraid your constitutional nervousness 
rather clouds that massive brain of yours at times, or 
you'd see that Smooth River factory and its three occupants 
are in the devil of a fix just now. You say the Okky-men 
when they've rubbed up their courage will presently re- 
turn; and I don't dispute your reading of the omens. If 
they do come, we can't shoot them off, and that's a certain 
thing. As I'm sure Mr. Smith would say, it's a case of 
Aut ju-ju aut nullus, and to follow his rather objectionable 
knack of translating for a man who happened to have 
been at a different school to his own, that means we've 
either got to play the ju-ju card or be scuppered. White- 
Man's-Trouble, you are hereby made conjurer's confed- 
erate." 

"I no fit." 

" Am I to hurt your feelings with this piece of packing- 
case lid ? " 

" Oh, Carter, you look see. There's a nail in him 
there." 

" I know there's a nail in it. The occasion demands a 
nail, and I picked the weapon for that reason. Now, then, 
are you going to obey orders, or will you take a first-class 
licking?" 

" Oh, Carter, I fit for do what you say." 

* In West Coast English to chop is to take food. Chop is food. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 97 

" Good. You're an excellent boy when you're handled the 
right way. Now go to the feteesh and bring the biggest 
coil of that inch lead piping you can stagger under." 

Carter himself went to Slade's room and brought from 
there one of those crude carved wooden figures which the 
natives make and the traders pick up as curiosities. At 
home they are sold for stiff prices as the gods of the 
heathen ; but the negroes that make them are not idolaters, 
and what they exactly are for the present writer knoweth 
not, save only that they are not articles of worship. Lo- 
cally they come under that all-embracing term ju-ju, which 
includes so much and explains so little. 

Carter found a brace and bit an inch twist bit, which 
for a wonder was in a calabash of yellow palm oil, and so 
not rusty and he worked on these carved men till the sweat 
ran from him. Laura came out and told him that he was 
inviting an attack of fever, which was obvious, since by 
then it was high noon, and violent exertion for a white 
man with the thermometer above par always has to be paid 
for on the Coast. But he drove her back again into the 
house and out of the heat with a volley of chaff, and went 
gaspingly on with his tremendous work. 

The mouths of the figures were wide, but with knife 
and drill he splayed them wider, but was careful always 
not to distort them beyond the canons of local art; and 
in a couple of hours' time he was ready for White-Man's- 
Trouble and the heavy coils of lead piping. 

" Regard," he said, " thou assistant to the great white 
ju-ju man. We will place one of these graven images op- 
posite the entrance of each road which comes from the 
bush into this factory clearing. We'll hoist it up onto 
a green gin box, so, and give it a bit more height and dig- 
nity. And we'll add a necklace of these green cigarette 
tins, which have already advertised themselves into an ugly 



98 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

notoriety. Then, into this hole you see in the back of 
each image, we will fit an end of lead piping, and as the 
holes are tapered, the unions will make themselves good. 
Then, helper of dark schemes, we'll pay out the coil, as 
far as possible in swamp where it will sink out of sight, 
and bring all the ends into the house here. Any piping 
that shows, you must throw earth over. Savvy ? And the 
inside ends we'll splay out with this hardwood cone that 
I've made, till a man can get his mouth well into them 
and shout down the tube comfortably. I'm sure you catch 
the idea ? " 

" Oh, Carter, I plenty-too-much afraid. Presently I lib 
for die." 

" Not you. If I see any signs of your starting to fade 
away, I'll whack you into life again with a piece of board 
with two nails in it. Wherefore, feared of the uniniti- 
ated, buck up, and get a shovel, and cover that lead out 
of sight where it shows. Afterwards I'll show you the 
working of that early British contrivance, an office speak- 
ing-tube. That is, if we have time for a rehearsal, but by 
the extra big dot-dashing of those monkey-skin drums just 
now, it rather looks as if we shall have the next act of this 
play crowding down on us without much more interval." 

The burned warriors had not, it appeared, retreated very- 
far. Their spiritual advisers, the ju-ju men, had by King 
Kallee's orders been waiting not very far away down the 
several bush roads ; and when presently fugitives began to 
come trotting in through the steamy forest shades, these 
ecclesiastics rallied them, and when enough were collected, 
they commenced a "custom" for the renewal of the sol- 
dier's bravery. 

Savage superstitions, savage terrors, savage thrill at the 
raw smell of blood were all worked upon with a high 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 99 

dexterity. King Kallee had made a fine art of these in- 
citements; he had gained a throne by their practice, and 
had handed them on to chosen ministers, who practised the 
cult of ju-ju with a single eye to advancing the interests 
of their king. 

The black soldiers were wearily tired, and many of them 
carried wounds. They listened at first with a sullen torpor. 
They heard without interest that the white man's bullets 
were non-consecrate, and therefore the wounds they made 
would soon heal. They learned, with a little thrill of won- 
der, that the green tins which poured burning flame were 
not true ju-ju, since the King of Kallee's ju-ju men de- 
clared them unorthodox. And by degrees their dull nerves 
were worked up till at the proper moment sacrifice was 
made, and the screams and smells of the victim maddened 
them. Even the Hausa officers, who were Moslem, and 
therefore contemptuous disbelievers in all pagan ceremony, 
were stirred up almost equally with their men, and when 
as a final exhortation they were bidden to return once 
more to the factory, and bring the red head and the white 
girl as presents for the King, they forgot their qualms and 
their burns, and led on with a new, fierce courage. 

But whether the African be savage bushman or cultivated 
Moslem gentleman, superstition is part of the very marrow 
in his backbone. These men had felt the bullets, they had 
felt the infernal burnings of the benzoline, but they were 
wound up now to a pitch above dreading either. Orders 
were given to concentrate in the edge of the bush, as near 
to the clearing as they could get without being sighted from 
the factory, and then when all was ready the monkey-skin 
drums would beat the charge. 

The first comers peered through the outer fringe of the 
cover, and saw the clearing desolate, and the factory build- 
ings to all appearance tenantless. The dead that they had 



100 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

left in their hurried retreat still lay where they had 
dropped, and glared up glassy stares at the outrageous sun. 
But with eyes keen to pick up any hint at ju-ju charm, 
the gaze of all this vanguard fell on five little wooden 
mannikins set opposite the points where the several bush 
roads cut into the open. 

There was nothing new ahout the mannikins themselves. 
They were merely the things that their own uncles and 
their grandfathers carved for a purpose which they them- 
selves knew better than did that tricky white man with the 
red head who had doubtless put them there. But then 
each of these mannikins was perched on a pedestal made 
of one or more green gin cases, and that in itself looked 
suspicious or, in other words, smacked of ju-ju. And, 
moreover, each was garlanded with those infernal green 
cylinders which they had just been informed officially were 
in truth not orthodox ju-ju, but which they knew from their 
own painful experience could, upon occasion, vomit forth 
the most horrible flames. 

They crouched in the edge of the cover once more thor- 
oughly shaken, and it only required the final portent to 
fray their courage utterly. 

In the factory, tucked snugly out of sight in the mess- 
room, Laura Slade, Carter and White-Man's Trouble lay 
stretched out wearily upon the floor. A length of match 
boarding had been stripped away from the wall, and only 
a paling of vertical bamboos stood between them and the 
external world. 

It was the code message of the monkey-skin drums, as 
read by White-ManVTrouble, that first gave them the news 
that the Okky-men had rewound up their courage and were 
returning once more to the attack; and so they promptly 
retired out of sight. Guns and defenders would have been 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 101 

a reassuring touch to the enemy, who had seen such things 
before. But for them to find no guns, and no human be- 
ings in view, would accentuate the effect of the graven im- 
ages which gazed woodenly upon them from the green 
gin-box pedestals. 

For long enough they lay there in the sickly heat, staring 
out over the litter of the morning's battlefield, which 
danced up and down in the shimmering sunlight. The 
factory lizards came out in full numbers for their daily 
sun-baths, and most of the flies of Africa seemed to be con- 
gregated in the clearing. 

Laura caught the first note of invasion. " Do you see," 
she asked, " those two swallow-tailed butterflies flittering 
about by that big silk cotton-wood that lost his top in the 
tornado? They were feeding contentedly enough on that 
stuff like meadow-sweet, but someone or something dis- 
turbed them, and they flew up. If you notice, they dare 
not go back, so that rather hints that the someone is still 
hidden in the meadow-sweet." 

" Which said clump," observed Carter, " is just two yards 
off the graven image which commands bush road number 
three. Oh, assistant conjurer, canst thou swear ? " 

" Oh, Carter," said the Krooboy with simple dignity, " I 
no bush-boy. I speak English. I learn him on steamah. 
I work up to position of stand-by-at-crane boy before I 
lib for come ashore to work at factory. Ah, Carter, I savvy 
swear-palaver plenty-much-too-good. You fit for hear 
me?" 

" Not for one instant. I want you to make all your re- 
marks in Kroo, or preferably Okky, if you aren't too rat- 
tled to remember any of that fashionable tongue. Here, 
put your sweet lips to the tube, and just say in the thickest 
language you can think of ' Get away back to Okky City, 
you bushmen. If you hesitate, your noses shall drop off, 



102 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

and your great fat lips shall follow, and red ants shall 
spring up out of the earth to eat them whilst you wait.' 
Savvy the idea?" 

" Savvy plenty," said White-Man's-Trouble, and rattled 
venom into the tube with a savage gusto. 

The result was sufficiently surprising. Spear-heads and 
gun-barrels bristled suddenly upwards from the clump of 
meadow-sweet, as ambushed Okky-men scrambled to their 
feet. For a full two minutes they stood there listening to 
the abuse which they heard pouring from the lips of the 
wooden mannikin close beside them, with eyes goggling, 
and mouths gaping, and knees chattering, the worst scared 
blacks in all the Oil Rivers. 

For the moment they were mesmerized by fright. But 
then the two mannikins which were nearest on either side 
began cackling with uncanny laughter, and a ju-ju man 
who was with them recognized an art higher than his own, 
and allowed the superstition that was native to him to rub 
away the thin veneer of his education. " Let us begone 
from here," he moaned, " even if it be to meet the curved 
execution axe of King Kallee in Okky City. Better the 
sharp edge of that, yes, better even lingering days on the 
crucifixion tree than the neighborhood of these devils. 
Wood they are now, I do believe. But they can talk as 
no thing of wood ever could talk ; and presently they will 
come to life, and hurl at us those green tins of liquid fire 
with which they are garlanded. If there are any that wish 
to see more, let them stay. For myself I return to Okky 
City, even if it means impalement." 

The other wooden mannikins broke out into words, and 
immediately the bush around each of them rippled with 
men. Carter, whose knowledge of the native was growing, 
used every syllable of his vocabulary down two tubes alter- 
nately. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 103 

Laura, who had grown up bilingual, commenced at first 
timidly. But the desperate peril of their surroundings, the 
excitement of battle, the thrill of seeing men run, the drop 
of negro blood that colored her veins, were all circum- 
stances that presently whirled her into a resistless torrent 
of words. Never had she spoken with such a fluency; 
never had she framed such sentences. It was all in the 
Okky tongue, accurate, biting, glib, telling. Carter broke 
off from his own halting speech to listen. He could not 
speak the language yet with any" great ease, but he could 
understand almost every word. He chilled as he listened 
to her. He coughed a warning. He called sharply that 
she should stop. But that drop of negro blood held her to 
her speech. The Krooboy, thoroughly warmed up to his 
work, was yelling infamies down a tube at the other end of 
the mess-room. Laura, with eyes glinting and hands 
clinched, was growing almost beside herself with speech. 
. . . Carter gripped her arm and plucked her almost 
savagely away. 

" You had better shut up. The Okky men have gone, 
minutes ago, and I do not think you know what you are 
saying. Laura, do you hear me ? " 

She stared at him, and then spoke with a dry throat. 
" I said only what you told me. It was to save our lives. 
And you you could not understand what I said. It was 
Okky talk; you surely could not follow it. Why do you 
look at me like that ? George, what is it ? " She laughed 
rather wildly, and plucked herself away from him. " Oh, 
I see. Well, I warned you before that I was black, and 
now I suppose you believe me." 

He returned her look steadily enough. " My dear girl, 
you've gone through more than you can stand, and you've 
just worn yourself to rags. I never quite knew what hys- 
terics meant before, but I fancy that in about two minutes 



104 

more you would show me. Now the trouble's over; we've 
fixed 'em tight this time, and you needn't worry yourself 
any more. Just you go to your room and lie down and 
sleep." 

" Sleep ! You think I could sleep ? " 

" Very well," he said coolly, " then Trouble and I must 
wait till you can. But please understand, my sweetheart, 
that until you have put in a four-hours' spell of sleep, and 
can get up rested to stand a watch, neither the boy nor I 
must close an eye. So you see it's up to you to arrange 
whether we shall all have a dose of overwork or not." 

She came to him and put her slim brown hands on his 
shoulders and looked him in the face. There were black 
rings under her eyes, and her cheeks were white and drawn, 
but somehow with her delicious curves she appealed to him 
more than ever, and he let her see it in his glance. " You 
still call me by that name," she said, "you still call me 
sweetheart even after what you have seen and heard ? " 

" Of course. Don't be stupid. A man doesn't change 
towards a girl just because she happened to get a bit ex- 
cited when she was doing her best to save his life. I'm half 
sorry now I stopped you, only the myrmidons of my rival, 
his Majesty of Okky, had run away, and you really were 
rather working yourself up." He drew her to him and 
kissed her on the forehead. " And now you will go and 
turn in, won't you, like a good girl ? " 

"I'll do anything my lord wishes. But you will look 
after yourself, promise me ? " 

" Bather." 

" Let your boy get you a meal. You've not had a crumb 
all day, and you must be starving. It was horribly careless 
of me not to have thought of it before." 

" That is rather a bright idea. Had anything yourself ? 
No, I see you haven't. Well, we'll sup, Laura, before you're 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 105 

packed off to bed. It's five o'clock in the afternoon, but 
we'll call it supper. Trouble ? " 

"Oh, Carter?" 

" We fit for chop. You kill two tin, one-time'/' 

" Oh, Carter, three tin. Me one, Missy two " 

Bang went a gun, as it seemed to their jangled nerves, 
close at their elbows. They all started violently, and the 
girl clutched convulsively at Carter's sleeve. 

" Dem Okky cannon," wailed the Krooboy, and burrowed 
forthwith into the casemate of bedding. 

" Not it," said Carter. " It's all right, Laura. It's a 
steamer's mail gun. I never heard the roar of a loaded 
cannon till this morning, but once heard, you can't mistake 
it for blank cartridge." 

" Are you sure ? " 

" Absolutely. I jumped when the thing went off, but 
then I suppose we're all a bit fagged. Here, Trouble, you 
shirker, get dem chop one-time, and then find some limes. 
We shall have the steamer people ashore in ten minutes, 
and when they hear the yarn they'll want about five cock- 
tails apiece to congratulate us in. Lord! Laura, but I'd 
give a tooth and two finger nails to have Mr. K. dropping 
in on us during the next hour or so to see the fine way 
we've saved O'Neill and Craven's factory from a total loss. 
I believe he'd raise my screw with such a jump that you 
and I might get married out of hand. Let's see, what 
boat's due? I've hardly got your time-table in my head; 
one gets rusty at Malla-Nulla." 

" If s the M'poso, George. She's straight out from home. 
Just think, you may really have K. descending on you in 
half an hour's time." 

" No such luck. It will be Cappie Image-me-lad, with 
his green umbrella and his best thirst, and that hearty 
ruffian Balgarnie, who'll rob every corpse in the clearing if 



106 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

he thinks he can collect one Aggry bead and a good slave 
dagger. By Gad, I wonder if I can screw some money 
out of Balgarnie. I sent at least eighty sovereigns' worth 
of most carefully made curios home with him last time 
the M'poso tried to roll herself over off our beach at Malla- 
Nulla." 

" I think/' said the girl, " I'll just go to my room for 
a minute." 

Carter pointed the finger of derision at her. " van- 
ity," said he. " You're going to tidy your hair, and smarten 
your frock just for the sake of old Cappie Image and the 
plump Balgarnie. By the way, now that you are an en- 
gaged young woman, are you going to let those genial old 
ruffians take you on their knees and kiss you, just in the 
old sweet way ? Of course, don't mind me if you'd like it 

80." 

" Pouf ! " said Laura, " they've both known me ever since 
I was a baby, but I'll be as distant with them as you like 
if you feel jealous, sir." 

" I think I'll wash off some of the battle scars myself," 
said Carter. " One looks a bit melodramatic in this filthy, 
smeary mess. Not to mention uncomfortable. I suppose, 
by the way, somebody will turn up to pay a polite call. 
They'll judge that something's wrong when they see that 
all the factory boats and canoes have been cleared out of 
the creek." 

Even White-Man's-Trouble stole palm oil and attended 
to his toilette in honor of the expected visit, and it was 
a very gleaming and oily Krooboy in some clean (stolen) 
pyjama trousers of Slade's that showed Captain Image, and 
his passenger, and purser up the stair. 

Laura and Carter were there, spruce and smart, to re- 
ceive them, and Laura said, " Kate ! I knew you'd come," 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 107 

and ran forward and shook the passenger by the hand. 
" There, you see, George/' she said over her shoulder, 
"how accurately I can keep a secret." 

" Hullo, Carter, me lad ! " said Captain Image. " Glad 
to see you looking so fit. You're a fine advertisement for 
those pills of mine, and I'm sure you're glad now you kept 
away from old Swizzle-Stick Smith's nostrums. You seem 
to have been having a bit of a scrap round the factory here. 
However, we will hear about that, and have your tally of 
the cargo you want to ship from here and Malla-Nulla 
afterwards. But for the present I want to introduce my 
passenger and your boss, Miss O'Neill." 

Carter swallowed with a dry throat. " Mr. K. O'Neill's 
sister ? " 

" Miss Kate O'Neill, who is head of O'Neill and Craven." 

Carter blinked tired eyes, and saw a girl of three-and- 
twenty, half a head shorter than Laura Slade, dressed as 
simply, but with that something that somehow speaks of 
Europe, and money, and taste. Her eye was brown and her 
hair was the color of his own nearly. No, it was darker. 
She was holding out a hand to him a neat, plump hand 
that looked white, and firm, and cool, and capable, and 
which somehow or other he found in his own. 

" Laura calls you George, I notice," he heard her saying. 

" Yes, of course she would. We are engaged, you 
know." 

He felt his hand dropped with suddenness, and up till 
then he had never known how thoroughly objectionable a 
laugh could be when it came from the lips of Mr. Bal- 
garnie. Everything swam before him, and he lurched 
against the messroom wall. But with an effort he pulled 
himself together. " Miss Slade and I are engaged. We 
are to be married as soon as we can afford it. When you 



108 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

look round, and see how we've saved the factory from the 
Okky-men, we hope you'll raise my salary." 

"Yes, I think I can promise to do that," said Kate 
O'Neill. " I had my eyes open when I came across the 
clearing. But do you think you are wise to marry ? " 

"Ha, ha, Carter, old fellow," laughed little Captain 
Image, " got you there ! Get dollars first. Find connubial 
bliss later." 

" But," continued Miss O'Neill, " you and I and Laura 
will talk over that later when we are alone." 

Captain Image felt that he cleared away an awkward 
situation with all the savoir f aire of a shipmaster. " Well, 
Carter, me lad," said he, "we know you've had a lot of 
lessons from old Swizzle-Stick Smith, but what about a 
cocktail? My Christian Aunt, look out, Balgarnie, there's 
Laura fainting." 

Carter stared at them dully but did not try to help. 
" My God," he muttered, " to think I never guessed that 
K. could stand for Kate." 



CHAPTER VIII 

PRESENTS THE HEAD OF THE FIRM 

" I DON'T care what you say, Purser, me lad," Captain 
Image repeated, " but I call Miss O'Neill pretty." 

" Well," admitted Mr. Balgarnie, who prided himself on 
being a bit of a judge, " she may be that as well, but I still 
stick to it that her face is what I call strong." 

" I hate the word ' strong/ When a she-missionary is 
too homely looking to be anything else, she prides herself 
on wearing a strong face." 

" No, sir. ' Intense ' for lady missionary," Mr. Balgarnie 
Corrected. 

" Strong," snapped his superior officer. Captain Image 
was of Welsh extraction and disliked contradiction. 

The purser shifted his ground. " Well, at any rate, sir, 
you'll own she's mighty standoffish. I used to call good old 
Godfrey O'Neill, Godfrey, and therefore naturally I called 
his daughter Kate, and told her why. She didn't seem to 
hear me." 

" She wasn't Godfrey's daughter, anyway. Godfrey 
never married, but I believe he'd nieces. Probably Miss 
Kate is one of them. The old man must have left her 
the business. Thing that amazes me is the way she's taken 
her grip of the concern, and made it hum." 

" And kept it dark even in Liverpool that she was a 
woman. That old head clerk of hers, that people thought 
was the manager, must be a rare close-lipped one." 

" He is, blight him ! " said Captain Image with emphasis. 



110 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEB 

" I called in there two or three times after I'd got some 
of those please-buck-up letters from O'Neill and Craven, 
that I didn't care about, and the cauliflower-headed old 
humbug clean took me in. He was Mr. Crewdson, to be 
sure; no, he was not Mr. K. O'Neill; no, I couldn't see 
Mr. K. just then ; no, he couldn't make an appointment for 
me with the gentleman ; anything I wanted he would attend 
to personally. If I re-read the letters he was sure I should 
find that they were not unreasonable, but, on the other 
hand, would put me in the way of earning extra commission 
on cargo for myself. So it ended in my being civil to him, 
and he was really nothing more than a clerk. You can 
just picture to yourself, Purser, what I felt when I found 
out that I'd been civil to a clerk by mistake." 

" It was pretty hard lines, sir." 

" Of course a West African merchant's business is a rum 
contract for a young girl to catch hold of, and I don't say 
Miss Kate was wrong in keeping in the background to start 
with. In fact I'll own up straight that she was right, and 
the proof's plain in the way that firm's come back to life. 
Why, Purser, I'll bet you a bottle of Eno that O'Neill and 
Craven are doing just double the turn-over now they did 
twelve months ago." 

" You'll know best about that, sir," said Mr. Balgarnie 
with a sigh, as he remembered that only Captain Image 
touched commission on the cargo which the M'poso col- 
lected on the Coast. " But I will own up that she has got 
the knack of making all the smarter men in the firm both 
on the Coast and at Liverpool keen on her when they 
thought she was a man. ' Of course it was a bit unlikely 
that the old-timer palm-oil ruffians like Swizzle-Stick 
Smith and Owe-it-Slade would take to new ways that 
meant more work, all at once, though for that matter I'll 
bet Slade put off making up his mind for so long as to 



Ill 

whether he liked hustling or he didn't, that finally he 
dropped into the new ways without knowing it." 

" Slade's gone off up-country to find the firm a rubber 
property, Purser, me lad. Laura told me about it last 
night. She hasn't heard of him once since he pulled out 
of Smooth Eiver, and she's very anxious about him. I hope 
none of those up-country bushmen have chopped Slade. I 
should be sorry to lose that man. He owes me a matter 
of three sovereigns, and that old Holland gun of mine 
that he borrowed for half an hour eighteen months ago 
has gone up-country with him. I believe he's in the ribs 
of the fo'c'sle shop, too, for the thick end of a fiver/' 

" Four-seventeen-nine. I've given both Chips and the 
bo's'n a rare dressing down about it. They've no business 
to let anyone with Slade's reputation have as much tick as 
that. The bo's'n's new to the Coast our bo's'ns always do 
seem to die, sir but old Chips ought to know that's no 
way to run a fo'c'sle shop. They can chuck away their own. 
money as they choose, but I told them both plainly that I 
can't afford to drop my share in a sum like that." 

"Nor can I," said the other sleeping partner. "You 
can let both Chips and the bo's'n understand that unless 
I see a good round sum in hard cash as my share of profits 
when we get back to Liverpool, they don't ride in the old 
M'poso next trip. They can put their book debts where 
the monkey put the nuts. They don't pay me out with 
those. No, by Crumbs ! " 

" Miss Kate, by the way, was mighty anxious to know 
what profits there were in fo'c'sle shops. Of course I said 
I'd heard of them on other boats, but we'd never allow such 
a thing on the M'poso" 

" Urn," said Captain Image thoughtfully, " that tale's all 
right for most passengers, but I don't think I'd have risked 
it with Miss Kate. She strikes me as being a young woman 



112 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

who likes to hear one's opinion on things, but generally 
has her own information on the matter already cut and 
packed beforehand. I told her last night how sorry I was 
to see all that cargo waiting at the factory with no Kroo- 
boys to work it out of their creek to the steamboat. By 
Crumbs! Balgarnie, me lad, she'd nipped off back to the 
M'poso here, and had hired our own blessed deck passen- 
ger boys for the job before you could say 'gin.' You 
know what an independent lot they are, going home with 
money in their pockets. I bet you a box of oranges you 
couldn't name me two white men on the Coast who could 
have persuaded them. But she did it, one-time, and only 
paid regular wages, too. Dressed for dinner in the evening 
when she'd finished, just as if she was merely a tripper 
going home from the Islands, and hadn't an object in life 
outside trying to tickle the boys with her looks. I tell 
you, Miss Kate's a very remarkable young woman, Bal- 
garnie, me lad, and if she doesn't peg out here on the 
Coast, or go broke over floating a rubber swindle, or get 
married and chuck it, I shall feather my nest very nicely 
over the cargo she gets shipped." 

"I say, Captain, what's between her and Laura? They 
seem to know one another pretty intimately." 

" Met in Las Palmas when they were kiddies. Pass me 
the compasses off the chart table. My pipe's jammed. 
Thank you, me lad. Owe-it-Slade got two years' tick at 
that convent school out on the Telde road for Laura, and 
Miss Kate was running about the islands a good deal then 
with old Godfrey. Godfrey had a tomato farm out past 
Santa Brigida, and they used to have Laura up there for 
all her holidays. By Crumbs, Purser, me lad, how that 
little girl's shot up. It's a dashed pity she's a nigger." 

" D'you suppose Carter knows it ? " 

" If he doesn't I shan't tell him, and don't you ; for two 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 113 

reasons. First, there's Miss Kate to be thought of. I 
watched the way that girl eyed him, and by Crumbs, I 
tell you, me lad, I was glad he was booked. She's going to 
stay out here on the Coast for a good spell, and he'll be 
close and handy, and somehow I've got the opinion that 
red-headed chap is just the sort of man she'll marry. He's 
not a beauty, but he's a good, tough, wholesome face on 
him; he's a lot struck on her; and he's a gentleman. I 
can do with her bossing; she's a nice way of wrapping up 
her pill and ramming it home with a smile. But I'd not 
like to see a red-haired youngster I brought out here as a 
clerk eighteen months ago, head of the O'Neill and Craven 
concern and expecting me to knuckle under. I'd do it, of 
course; I'd be civil to old Harry himself, me lad, if he 
could bring cargo to the M'poso; but I'll not deny to you 
it would stick if I had to start ladling out champagne in 
this chart house to Carter, and sit and listen whilst he 
strutted out his views on the decay of British influence in 
West Africa." 

"It would be pretty tough," Mr. Balgarnie admitted. 
" But you said there was another reason you wanted him to 
marry Laura." 

" Well, I do. I like that girl. I knew her when I first 
came down the Coast as mate. I remember the first time 
I saw her as if it was yesterday. I was standing up against 
the tally desk beside number three hatch, ticking off the 
cargo list as they hove stuff up and dropped it in the surf 
boats. It was on the old Fernando Po, that beat her bot- 
tom out afterwards when Williams tried to drive her over 
Monk bar at half ebb. There was a case marked with 
double-diamond that was O'Neill and Craven's consigning 
all right, but with no name of factory. I knew old Swizzle- 
Stick Smith and Malla-Nulla well enough already, and I 
didn't know Slade, and so naturally I thought Smith 



114 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

should have it, and ordered the case back again into the 
hold. But just then up came a little nipper of about eight 
or ten years old, as self-possessed as you like, and says, 
* Are you Mr. Image ? ' ' That's me/ says I. ' What's the 
message ? ' ' Oh, no message/ says she, ' only Daddy says 
that if I can find you and stand by your heels and not 
bother I may stay aboard, but if not I'm to go ashore by 
the next boat and get on with my lessons.' Well, it didn't 
take much seeing through what was meant there." 

"No, sir/' said Mr. Balgarnie heartily. "By all ac- 
counts old Cappie Williams was the hardest case they ever 
knew even on the West Coast, and that's saying a lot. I 
only knew him for a year, and I wasn't particular in those 
days, but he was more than even I could stand." 

" He was the limit. Well, me lad, that was the first time 
I saw Laura, and she stood beside me half the day at the 
tally desk there, and thanked me for the entertainment 
when Slade sent off a boy to take her ashore. She gave me 
a kiss when she turned to go down the side well, you see, 
I've I've never quite forgotten that kiss, Balgarnie, me 
lad." 

" I know, skipper," said Mr. Balgarnie rather thickly. 
" A kid once kissed me, of her own blessed accord, too, like 
that. It sort of burnt in. I beg your pardon, sir, for in- 
terrupting." 

"Not at all, me lad. Here you, steward. Hi, Brass- 
Pan." 

A Krooboy ran up. 

"We fit for two cocktail, plenty-long ones. Well, as 
I was saying, Balgarnie, me lad, I've always had a bit of 
soft place for Laura, though I suppose she rightly is snuff 
and butter, by Crumbs you'd never guess it from her looks 
unless you went over her with a lens, and I'd just feel all 
broken up if she was to go the way that lot usujly do go. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 115 

So if this young Carter, who seems a nice clean-run sort of 
lad, will marry her with a ring, I'm going to weigh in with 
at least a best silver-plate teapot for a wedding present." 

" You can put me down for the ditto sugar and cream," 
said the purser with emotion. " It was a kiddie just like 
Laura I was fond of myself. Only only Well, Skip- 
per, I suppose a good many of us are blackguards down 
here on the Coast. Why the sulphur doesn't your boy 
bring those cocktails ? " 

But at this point Captain Image broke off the conversa- 
tion. " By Crumbs ! " said he, " here's Miss Kate." And 
then he did a thing that made Mr. Balgarnie whistle with 
sheer surprise. He went down the ladder to help his pas- 
senger on board. 

" Now, if I had done that," the Purser mused to him- 
self, " it would have meant a lot. But my Whiskers ! I 
never thought I should live to see old Cappie Image trot- 
ting down onto the front doorsteps to receive a mere female 
passenger. The Old Man must see enough solid dollars in 
that girl to buy himself that hen farm outside Cardiff he 
hopes to retire upon." 

Captain Image stood on the grating at the foot of the 
ladder and waved his panama in respectful salutation. The 
beer-colored river swirled along the steamer's rusty flank a 
foot beneath him, and the pungent smell of crushed mari- 
golds which it carried made him cough. The sun shim- 
mered exactly overhead in a sky of the most extravagant 
blue, and the greenery which fenced in the slimy mud 
banks hung in the breathless heat without so much as a 
twitter. 

Miss Kate O'Neill was seated in a Madeira chair which 
stood on the floor of a big green surf boat, and the gleam- 
ing Krooboys perched on the gunwales paddled with more 
than their usual industry. The headman, who straddled 



116 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

at the steering oar in the stern, wore a tail-coat of an ex- 
tremely sporting cut and pattern and a woven grass skull- 
cap in honor of the occasion. And all this pomp and cir- 
cumstance was uninvited. But somehow people had the 
knack of offering special service and deference to Miss 
O'Neill. 

The only other woman on the M'poso, the austere wife 
of a Benin trader, looked over the steamer's rail in gloomy 
disapproval. These were no modes for Coast wear. A bil- 
lowy grass-green muslin dress that no Krooboy laundry- 
man could wash twice without spoiling ; neat, narrow pipe- 
clayed shoes with no thickness of sole, and ridiculous heels ; 
a pale green felt hat, actually insulted by a feather in its 
band; and final absurdity of all, a parasol, a flimsy thing 
of silk, and ribbon, and effervescent chiifon, which would 
be absolutely ruined by a splash of rain, instead of the big 
sensible white cotton affair, with the dark green lining, 
which all ordinary people know is the standard wear on 
that torrid Coast. 

" Faugh," said the trader's wife, " and Captain Image 
says she's one of the smartest business women in the world 
to-day, and that fat, greedy purser would propose to her 
in the next five minutes if he thought he'd a cat's chance 
of being accepted. They think her good-looking, too, I'll 
be bound, just because she wears those unsuitable clothes, 
and has pink color in her cheeks. Well, the clothes will be 
whisps of rag by this day week and" the poor woman 
sighed here " the Coast will get the color and the plump- 
ness out of her face, and make her as lean and yellow as 
the rest of us in a month." 

" You're a good, kind man," Miss O'Neill was saying to 
a very smiling Captain Image, " and I know I did tell the 
bedroom steward to have my big trunks got up on deck; 
but, you see, I'm a woman, and therefore it's my preroga- 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 117 

tive to be able to change my mind without being openly 
abused for it. So I want you, please, to be very nice and 
let me stay on the M'poso a little longer." 

" Miss Kate, I was sure you'd find that what I said was 
true, and that Smooth River factory was no place for a 
lady like you. You see those dead niggers are fresh now, 
but when the sun gets on 'em er I mean there's no trade 
coming into this section of the Coast just now till that 
blessed old King of Okky opens the roads again, and he 
won't do that yet awhile on his own dirty account, and 
neither you nor I have got the ju-ju that will make him. 
My dear Miss, I'm just as pleased as a monkey with green 
er with a green tail to hear you're going to take the 
round trip home with me, and if my clean collars do run 
out, you must remember that we all wear pan jammers when 
we're south of the Islands and the trippers. If only I'd 
thought of shipping a jack-wash when I got my Krooboys 
at Sarry Leone. Well, one can't be prepared for every- 
thing."' 

The girl laughed. " I wouldn't strain the supply of col- 
lars for worlds.. I only want you to take me two days on 
from here and drop me at this factory again on the way 
back." 

The tint of Captain Image's vermilion face deepened to 
plum color. He scented irony, and his touchy Welsh tem- 
per bubbled up into view. " Miss," he said, " when I pull 
my anchors out of Smooth River mud in ten hours from 
now, I go out on the flood across the bar, and as you must 
know I walk in and do the civil in Water Street, Liverpool, 
before I smell the stink of these particular mud banks 
again." 

She slipped a plump firm hand on his white drill sleeve. 
" Won't you ask me into the chart house, Captain, and send 
Brass-Pan for some tea? I'm absolutely dying for tea. 



118 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

And you can have a cocktail. I've got a long story I want 
to tell you. There's cargo waiting for you, Captain, up a 
creek that opens off Smooth Eiver which you've never been 
up, and which I think will pretty well fill the M'poso with- 
out your troubling to call anywhere else." 

Captain Image's face cooled to vermilion again, and 
puckered into a smile in spite of himself. He even went 
so far as to pat the fingers that rested on his arm. " By 
Crumbs, Miss, I'd ordered them to boil up that tea when 
I saw you shoot out of the factory creek in your surf boat, 
and till you reminded me, I'd clean forgotten it. And here 
you've been standing and yarning to me on the front door 
step all the time. They'll call the M'poso a dry boat with 
a vengeance if this tale gets about. I shall be chaffed to 
death over it. Come up on top." 

Mr. Balgarnie saw them ascending the ladder, and rushed 
into the chart house and pulled down three photographs 
that had been fastened on the wall with drawing pins since 
Miss Kate O'Neill's departure. He was thumped on the 
back by his grateful skipper who caught him in the act of 
pocketing them. 

" Balgarnie, me lad," said Captain Image, " you'll have 
to keep that hard collar of yours bent for two days longer. 
You'll be pleased to hear that Miss Kate's not going t 
throw us over yet. Just you go and see the chief steward 
and the cook and ask them what they've got left in the 
refrigerator. And I want you to break the rule of the 
ship, and make all the other passengers jealous, and dine 
at my table in honor of the occasion. Come in, Miss, and 
please take the settee. You'll find this cushion soft and 
free from mildew." 

Kate smiled gratefully on them both. " What dear, good 
people you are. And I made sure you would detest me, 
Captain, when I tell you I want you to change from your 
usual routine." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 119 

Captain Image's face stiffened. 

" Even though it is to get all your holds full of cargo 
which you would never have touched if it had not been for 
a hint that just came to me an hour ago." 

" We carry mails, you know/' said Image doubtfully, 
" and there's a scheduled time for call at the various points, 
and a bad time for being late. Bad " 

" But cargo. Let me suggest to you again, cargo ? " 

" Well, Miss Kate, there's no other lady on earth I'd say 
the same to, but I'll not deny the fact to you, mind, and 
quite between ourselves that cargo interests me. And 
letting you further into what's considered one of the dead- 
est of secrets, there are times when cargo commission can 
just out-balance fines for being late with mails. You see 
I guess what you have in your mind, Miss. You want me 
to run back and take off the cargo that's waiting at Malla- 
Nulla before those Okky-men come down and raid it." 

Miss O'Neill lay back against the cushion and sipped 
composedly at her hard-boiled tea. " There," she said, " I 
knew you'd consent. There's only one little detail you've 
made a mistake about. How soon can you be off? Judg- 
ing from the music of the winches, you're working in the 
cargo here at a famous speed." 

- " The mate reported" to me just before you came on 
board that he'd have the lot shipped by five o'clock. Those 
passenger boys of ours that you've made factory boys for 
the time being were working splendidly, so Mr. Mate said. 
But what's this little mistake, Miss Kate ? I can't go right 
away back to O'Neill and Craven's factory at Monk River, 
if that's what you mean." 

" Oh, my dear Captain Image, don't think me unreason- 
able. I shouldn't dream of asking you to do such a thing 
as that. I don't even want you to go out over Smooth 
River bar for the present. But I'd better tell you just 



120 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

whaf s happened. You see all afternoon the Krooboys who 
had run away have been coming back, and some of the 
clerks have turned up, and then came Mr. and Mrs. da 
Silva. We had quite a gathering of it, and as Mr. Carter 
set them all on to digging holes and tidying things away 
as they arrived, by this time all the well, you wouldn't 
know there'd been fighting. 

" But the first to turn up at the factory after you'd left 
me there was not one of our own people, but a caller. He 
was the agent in charge of the German factory at Mokki. 
He turned up in a dug-out, and he gave us to understand 
that he was the most frightened man in Africa. He said 
his voyage down the creeks was one series of miraculous 
escapes. He said he'd come to take shelter under the 
British flag; but when he found that by an oversight we 
hadn't got such a piece of furniture about the place, and 
when he saw the holes in the walls and the roof and the 
the what there was lying about under that blazing sun 
in the clearing, he was quite of opinion that he hadn't run 
far enough." 

"The blighted Dutchman," said Captain Image con- 
temptuously. 

"Well, you see," said the head of O'Neill and Craven 
confidentially, " a chance like that suited me uncommonly 
well. To let you into a secret of our Liverpool office, I had 
reckoned on increasing the output of all our factories, and 
found I was doing it even more than I had calculated 
upon. Consequently when there was a big price bid for 
palm oil and kernels for autumn delivery, I sold heavily." 

"And now the King of Okky has put ju-ju on you, 
stopped the roads, and there you are caught short, me lad 
I beg pardon, Miss Kate, I should have said." 

" Of course it only worried me for the moment. These 
tight places are never really tight if you take the trouble 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 121 

to think out a way through to the other side. In this case 
it's shown itself to be delightfully simple. I've bought out 
the German." 

Captain Image grunted. " Then I wish you'd asked me 
for advice first. But perhaps you haven't clinched the 
deal, and can back out of it still. If you'll take the tip 
from an old Coaster like me, you have nothing to do with 
it. His old Dutch factory's only worth scrap price." 

" That's all I've given for it" 

" And when you do get the oil out of it that's stored 
there, if it hasn't been looted whilst he's been away pleasur- 
ing down the creeks in his canoe, where are you? No bet- 
ter than here. Your trade will be dead. The King of 
Okky's stopped all the roads." 

" Now, I'm just going to give you a little geographical 
surprise. Have you got a map ? " 

Captain Image indicated the drawers beneath the chart 
table. "Coast charts/ of course, which include the river 
mouths, but I should pile up the old packet in a week if I 
relied on them. I'm my own pilot for the most part, Miss 
Kate, and that's why with God's Providence and a sound 
use of drugs I've managed to work successfully on the 
coast all these years." 

" Well, if you haven't got a map of the back country 
here in your stock, I carry a very accurate one in my head, 
and if you'll give me a paper and a pencil, I'll draw out 
something that will surprise you." 

The girl leaned over the chart table and began to draw, 
and Captain Image sat back on his camp stool and nursed 
a knee and frankly admired her. He did not in the least 
believe in this Mokki venture, and had not the smallest 
intention of breaking in upon his usual routine by going 
there. But he had (so he told himself) a distinct eye for 
the beautiful and the romantic, and he found his ideals in 



122 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

these matters very considerably filled by Miss Kate O'Neill, 
her dress, and her occupations. 

"There/' she said at last, and handed him the sketch. 

Captain Image looked at it, laughed, and shook his 
head. He had all of a sailor's intolerance for the amateur 
map-drawer. Moreover, he had traded in part of the Oil 
Rivers for twenty years, and if he did not know the back 
country personally, he heard it spoken of in the factories 
and in steamer smoke-rooms as matter of intimate knowl- 
edge almost daily. 

" Well, Captain, don't just shake your head and laugh. 
Let me have your criticisms." 

" I'm not saying, of course, that it's not a very clever 
map. It is that, and the way you've put the rivers in 
would beat the knowledge of many who have been on the 
Coast for years. You've quite the knack of drawing a map, 
Miss Kate, though there's another creek here that you've 
missed, and this continuation of what we call the Dog's- 
leg channel you must have guessed at, because I never 
heard of its being navigated, and nobody knows where 
it goes to." 

" It leads to my new factory at Mokki." 

" Well, it may do, though you can take it from me there's 
no water for a steamboat that draws even eleven foot six. 
But the thing you're mainly wrong in is this part you've 
marked as the Okky country. You haven't carried it any- 
where near far enough back." 

Miss O'Neill tapped at her firm white teeth with the end 
of the pencil. " You're quoting from the Royal Geograph- 
ical Map," she suggested. 

" Well, Miss, I am," Captain Image admitted, " and I 
know it's just about as inaccurate as magazine fiction in a 
whole lot of places. But I shouldn't set myself up to buck 
against a Royal Geographical map unless I knew." 



123 

" Neither should I. But you see maps have always been 
a fad with me, and since Mr. Godfrey died, and I had the 
whole weight of O'Neill and Craven landed upon my one 
pair of shoulders whether I liked it or not, I looked upon 
maps from a ve/y different point of view. As everybody 
on the Coast knows everybody else's business, I need hardly 
point out to you that during Mr. Godfrey's latter days 
O'Neill and Craven had been allowed to run down pretty 
badly, and when I took hold, the firm was well, what 
shall I say?" 

" Dicky," suggested Captain Image kindly. " But I can 
quite understand all the hard words you'd like to let out if I 
wasn't here." 

The girl laughed. " Well, we'll put it, Captain, that the 
firm was decidedly dicky, and I've had a most interesting 
time in pulling it onto its feet. Incidentally I've given 
up drawing maps from an amateur's point of view, and 
have been drawing them with an entire eye to business in 
the future. You've no idea how interesting it is to a busi- 
ness woman, Captain, when some special information comes 
to her and she is able to go to her map and fill in a mile or 
so of river that she'd had to leave a gap for, or sketch in a 
newly-discovered trade route through what was thought to 
be hopeless swamp, or fill in part of the boundary line of 
territory that up to then had merely merged off into blank 
space." 

" My Crumbs," said Captain Image admiringly, " but 
you are a daisy, Miss Kate." 

" It was only the day before I left Liverpool that I got 
news of where the Okky territory ended. The French have 
been having some mysterious expedition in at the back there 
for purposes of their own, and the officer in command very 
unwisely caned the only other white man with him, who 
was a Zouave, and wasn't really white at all. He wanted 



124 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

revenge, so he came to me and told, and got fifty pounds, 
and said he'd never enjoyed letting off spite so much in his 
life before/' 

Captain Image smacked his knee. " Daisy isn't the word 
for you, Miss," he affirmed, " and you can tell people I 
said so, if you like. A young lady that can pull the leg of 
these beastly foreigners in that way is worth going a long 
way to meet. You oughtn't to come out here to the Coast. 
You ought to stay at home, Miss Kate, and marry a Mem- 
ber of Parliament." 

" Poof ! I wouldn't for worlds. They're all too pompous 
and too dull. They only talk, and pose for the newspapers ; 
they never really do anything constructive in the House. 
Now, I like to do things; and if ever I marry, it will be a 
man who can do things that I've tried at rather better than 
I can do them myself. But we're getting away from the 
factory at Mokki. Now, the German agent doesn't know 
it, and I didn't feel called upon to tell him, but it's quite 
possible to open up trade routes to that point that don't 
pass through the Okky country at all. So that upsets the 
old King's notion of stopping the roads at present, and in 
the future, when he gets tired of cutting off his nose to 
spite his face, and tries to set trade going again, he'll find 
the stuff is being carried round very comfortably outside 
his boundary, and that there is no more blackmail to col- 
lect. How does that strike you, Captain? Now, am I a 
crazy woman who is bound to bust up O'Neill and Craven's 
if I am left long enough to it ? " 

" I never said that," Captain Image protested violently, 
" and I'll wring that pious old Crewdson's neck next time 
I see him. That man can't carry corn. He evidently gets 
a heap too loose tongue if you offer him just a little civ- 
ility." 

" Well, I really am awfully glad you're going to be nice," 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 125 

said Miss O'Neill as she handed back her teacup with a sigh 
of relief, " and steam off up to the creeks to Mokki when 
you've finished working the cargo here." 

Captain Image stood with the empty teacup in his hand, 
revolving in his mind many things, and some of his mut- 
tered comments were profane. He carried throughout all 
the seaboard of West Africa a reputation for a hard ob- 
stinacy of which in his way he was not a little proud, as 
men can be of assets whose value is more than doubtful; 
and he arrived at the idea that this pretty young woman 
in the crisp grass green muslin was twisting him round to 
carry out her own peculiar wishes with ridiculous ease. 
" It's enough to make any man swear," declared Captain 
Image, as a final summing up of his sentiments. 

"I agree with you cordially," said Miss O'Neill, "and 
as I am sure that you must have done tremendous violence 
to your feelings in letting me have so much of my own 
way, I'll just let you swear as a reward." 

"No, I'm damned if I do, Miss Kate," said Image po- 
litely. " I shouldn't dream of forgetting what is due to a 
lady. But don't you be too sure of having your whim grati- 
fied even now. I don't see any way of getting the M'poso 
to Mokki up those bits of creeks unless we put wheels under 
her and pull her there through the bush." 

" Have you ever seen a steamer called the Frau Pobst ? " 

" I have. She's a funny old brig-rigged relic, with sawn- 
off smoke stacks and no boats." 

"No boats?" 

" Oh, she started with some in the year one when she 
was built, but as they always got washed overboard when 
she found herself in a sea-way, I guess they grew tired of 
replacing them. I believe she does carry some patent fold- 
ing concertinas tied up somewhere near her davits, but 
they're to pass the Dutch Board of Trade. They aren't for 



126 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

use. Yes, I know the old Frau Pobst. She generally wants 
two crews each voyage." 

" How's that ? " asked Kate, with a twinkle. 

" Goes so slow, the first lot die of old age." Captain 
Image smacked his lips over the pleasantry. 

" What a labor it must have been to get an old tub like 
that up to Mokki." 

" It would take her as many days as it would take me 
hours in the M'poso" said Image, and could have bitten 
out his tongue when the words escaped. But Kate O'Neill 
had got up from the settee and was shaking his hand. " I 
believe in reality, Captain, you're just as keen a business 
man as I am a business woman. Only you're shockingly 
shy about showing it. No, don't get up. I'm just going 
to run back ashore again to finish things up here. I'll be 
back by the time you've got steam. Please don't get up." 

" By Crumbs, Miss Kate, but don't you try to dictate to 
me about that. I'm going to see you off from the front 
doorsteps myself. By Crumbs, there isn't another lady in 
Africa I admire half as much." 



CHAPTER IX 

NAVIGATION OF DOG'S-LEG CEEEK 

CAPTAIN IMAGE yapped out his commands to the third 
mate and a quartermaster in the wheelhouse in tones that 
supplied many missing adjectives : 

" . . . Starboard your helm. Starboard. Hard-a- 
starboard, you bung-eyed son of perdition stop her. 
Crumbs ! but we sliced off a thumping big chunk of Africa 
there, and broke half the tumblers in the steward's pantry 
by the sound of it. I bet something big it's another case 
of going home on what's left of the double bottom, and 
Old Horny to pay in Water Street, Liverpool. Give her 
full ahead now, and steady your helm, quartermaster. My 
holy whiskers, who wouldn't sell a farm and go to sea? 
Starboard your helm, six points. There, steady on that. 
Half speed the engines." And so on over and over again 
for every hour since the sun rose to blister the swamps, and 
call forth the full volume of their earth and crushed-mari- 
gold smell. 

There is a proverb bandied about amongst the sons of 
men which states that the unknown has always its charm, 
and harassed shipmasters often wonder why it is not pub- 
licly contradicted in Norie's Epitome of Navigation. Car- 
ter either forgot or never realized this, and furthermore 
made the fatal blunder of going up onto the sacred upper 
bridge without direct invitation. 

For half an hour he had stood there silent, and unspoken 
to, listening to Captain Image's tirade against the creeks 



128 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

that led to Mokki, and then catching for a moment the 
mariner's eye, ventured on an observation. He suggested 
that at any rate Captain Image would have the amusement 
of feeling that he was an explorer; and there was the op- 
portunity the peppery Welshman really needed. 

He had not been able to say what he wished to Miss Kate 
O'Neill, for many reasons ; but here was her whipping-boy ; 
and on him Captain Image turned loose one of the most 
powerful vocabularies that has ever been carried up and 
down the West African seaboard. He neglected both quar- 
termaster and third mate and these two experts, being 
only too glad of the breathing space, kept the M'poso ac- 
curately out of the mangroves, whilst their commander 
gave an undivided attention to the very highly qualified pas- 
senger who had dared to sully the unblemished deck plants 
of the upper bridge. 

Now, under ordinary conditions, Carter would have 
recognized the circumstances, and have remembered his 
service, and swallowed the dose with a smile and a shrug. 
But things had gone woefully awry with him during the 
last score of hours. The strain of the fight, the discovery 
that the man K. O'Neill of the letters was Miss Kate in 
the flesh, the uncertain future of two Coast factories, the 
way in which everybody received his engagement to Laura 
Slade; all these things piled up on one another had set 
his usually steady nerves jangling in a way to which he 
was unaccustomed, and he felt himself forced by a rather 
insane impulse to do something startling. He had suc- 
cessive inclinations to throw up his berth altogether and 
go home; to marry Laura Slade out of hand by the kind 
assistance of Captain Image and the M'poso's log-book, 
which occurred to him as the local equivalent of Gretna 
Green ; to violently abuse Miss Kate O'Neill for being her- 
self. Finally, when the premonitory symptoms of a well- 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 129 

earned dose of fever gripped him with a stah and a shud- 
der, he had the usual malarial depression, which put the 
usual question as to whether life were really worth living. 

Over and above all these things, since the first moment 
of seeing Kate, it had heen borne in upon him that he had 
made a mistake over his engagement. He did not for a 
moment think of getting free ; he was doggedly determined 
to see it through, or in other words to marry Laura, what- 
ever the cost and result might be. But from that date 
onward he began to ask himself inconvenient questions. 
He demanded of his inner conscience a definition of that 
impalpable thing, love. He wished to be informed (from 
the same source and at the shortest notice) if he was ex- 
actly in love with Miss Slade at that particular moment, 
and when the phenomenon commenced, and how long it 
was likely to endure. And when Laura, who saw into a 
good deal more of all this than he expected, offered to re- 
lease him from his promise, he abused her for the sugges- 
tion, and protested his affection for her with such warmth 
that he feared very much after the interview that he had 
hopelessly overdone it. 

As a consequence, when Captain Image explained in a 
two-minute speech that Mr. Flame-tipped Carter was vio- 
lating the etiquette of nations in daring to pollute that 
upper bridge with his undesirable feet, without direct in- 
vitation, he rather welcomed the opportunity and retorted 
in kind. 

Now, Captain Image, as has been hinted, had made the 
most of the years he had spent sea-going in the matter of 
picking up a vocabulary; he has to this day brothers in 
Wales who are local preachers and revivalist leaders, and 
there is no doubt that he was the inheritor of some ances- 
tral strain of burning eloquence. Carter, on the other 
hand, though not as a rule a man of much speech, had not 



130 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

lived with Swizzle-Stick Smith all those long months with- 
out taking lessons in the art of vituperation, and though 
he was not conscious of it at the time, the education soaked 
in, and when the moment of stress arrived his memory 
served him faithfully. 

Miss Kate O'Neill heard the discussion and retired to 
her room below. Stewards popped their heads round door- 
ways and listened appreciatively; deck hands took cover 
round the angle of the houses and strained their ears, and 
the second engineer, who was bred on Tyneside and openly 
claimed to be a connoisseur, came out brazenly onto the 
top of the fiddley three yards from the speakers and did 
nothing to an unoffending ventilator cowl with a three- 
quarter inch spanner. 

From the present writers point of view the remarks on 
both sides had the fatal drawback that their point lay far 
more in artistic delivery than in their subject matter, and 
so to report them here verbatim would give a totally un- 
just idea of their weight and influence. But it must be 
understood that Captain Image, who never till now had 
met a foeman so worthy of his tongue, surpassed himself; 
and Carter, who now for the first time used these winged 
words in hard vicious earnest, felt all a sportsman's pride 
in seeing his verbal missiles land and rankle. 

It is hard to award the victory; and, in plain truth, 
each orator was so warmed with the effort of his own 
tongue that in another second the British blood would 
have reached fisticuff temperature, and they would have 
clinched. But luckily an interruption arrived to break the 
tension. The third mate, that terribly abused young man 
who was gaining a breathing space whilst Carter stood up 
against Captain Image's tongue, at first conned the M'poso 
up the winding channel with a sigh of relief, and was ably 
seconded by the quartermaster at the wheel, who had also 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 131 

been suffering. But by degrees their sporting instincts 
drew them from the matter immediately in hand, and made 
them interested spectators of the duel. In fact their in- 
terest absorbed them, and, well, the steamer got the small- 
est bit out of hand. 

When it was too late the third mate turned attention 
to his duties again, and had just time to give four frenzied 
orders; there was a fine jangling of the engine-room tele- 
graph; the quartermaster did frantic windmill work on 
the steering wheel, to the accompaniment of a rattling 
chorus from the wheel engines below ; but the M'poso took 
a sheer and rammed her nose firmly into the mangroves. 
And in she slid. Weight and speed made sufficient mo- 
mentum to put her into the mud and shrubbery well up 
to the forerigging, and the jar sent the^stiff-set Captain 
Image flying onto the top of the fiddley gratings. 

Carter shot up against the white painted rail of the 
upper bridge and held his balance there, and then with 
that blind instinct for interfering for the welfare of others 
which distinguishes the Anglo-Saxon, he vaulted the rail, 
picked up Captain Image and set him on his feet. 

It is perhaps typical also of the peppery Welshman that 
he forgot the enjoyable quarrel so promptly that he said, 
" Thank you, me lad," with ready cordiality before he 
turned to do full justice to the third mate, his ancestry, 
and his probable future in this world and the next. 

" By Jove," broke in Carter, " I wish I'd a gun. There's 
a monkey on the foredeck. I'd like that little beggar's 
skin. I wonder if I could catch him." 

" Don't you try, me lad," said Image. " The odds are 
that the front end of this packet's a menagerie of red 
mangrove ants that could gnaw chunks off a tin-covered 
crusader." He jammed the engine-room telegraph with, 
a vicious whirr to Full Speed Astern, and turned to the 



132 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

unfortunate third mate. "Here, you, if you think you 
know enough to tell the difference between land and water, 
lower a boat and take out a kedge astern. Wait a minute. 
Now, you're not to drop that kedge in the mud. It'll draw 
through that like pulling a hairpin out of a pot of mar- 
malade. You're to get ashore and hook it among those 
mangrove roots. Just try and get it into your intelligent 
head that I don't want that kedge to come home directly 
we put a strain on the wire. When you've done that you 
can come back and go to your room and read Shakespeare. 
I guess that's about all you blooming brass-bound Conway 
sailors are fit for, except sparking the girls and drawing 
your pay. By Crumbs ! if we hadn't Miss Kate on board, 
and for anything I know within earshot, I could just give 
you an opinion of your looks that would make you want to 
cry." 

But with the tide in the muddy river ebbing under her, 
the M'poso stuck in the dock she had made, in spite of 
reversed propeller, and winches straining on the kedge 
wire till they threatened to heave themselves bodily from 
the decks. The insect torments of Africa boarded her 
from the mangroves and bit all live things they came 
against; obscene land crabs dressed in raw and startling 
colors waddled up onto the slime of the banks as the water 
left them and blew impotent froth bubbles at the tough 
steamboat which even they could not eat. Parrots crowed 
at them from the shining green foliage of the mangroves 
alongside; slimy things gazed at them from the mud be- 
neath the arches of the wire-like roots. 

The sun crawled up into the aching blue overhead till it 
forgot how to cast a shadow, and the wet steam heat grew 
so oppressive that even Laura Slade, country-born though 
she was, felt sick with its violence. But Miss Kate 
O'Neill on the awning deck did elaborate calculations on 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 133 

fleets of paper, which she tore up and threw into the 
beer-colored river when she had entered the results in her 
pocket-book ; and down in the purser's room, Carter carved 
images on Okky calabashes for the English curiosity mar- 
ket. 

To him came Mr. Balgarnie, dripping and fuming. 
"Great whiskers! man, why did you shut the port-hole? 
You're lean; but if I stay in this atmosphere I shall peg 
out of heat apoplexy in half an hour. Here, let me open 
the port and stick out the wind scoop." 

"Wind scoop's no good; there isn't a breath. And if 
you open the port you'll be devoured. I tried it. I'm a 
Dalesman and I like a draught of air, but it's no go here. 
Eed ants, I think they are. Look at the way they've been 
eating the insides out of your domestic cockroaches. Now 
gaze on this chop bowl? Isn't it a gem? Any stay-at- 
home Englishman would spot it as genuine native work- 
manship in a moment. All done with a blunt knife ; that's 
the great tip in this sort of carving." 

"Have a drop of whiskey? You fit for dash me dem 
bowl?" 

" No, Purser, I'm not going to give away anything just 
now. I want five shillings spot cash for this specimen, 
and it's dirt cheap at that. When you've weathered it a 
bit, and given it a dressing of good yellow palm oil, it 
will fetch a golden sovereign from a Las Palmas tripper, 
easy." 

" They're a hard-up lot, the people who come to the 
Islands these days, and they're inclined to get too fam- 
iliar if you offer as a favor to sell them anything they 
may see in your room. I've chucked showing them things. 
But I might get three half-crowns for that bowl in Liver- 
pool. Of course, I don't want any commission from you, 
old fellow. I'll hand over every penny I'm paid for it." 



134 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

Carter stuck out a dogged chin. " Look here, Purser, 
it's too hot for frills, and we know one another a bit too 
well for them to go down. Potter out five bob and the 
thing's yours to make what you can of. If you don't, I've 
another customer who'll give more. I'm hard up." 

" Oh, of course, yes. You want to set up housekeeping, 
don't you ? Well, old fellow, here are the two half-crowns 
towards the mangle or the grand piano or whatever you've 
set your mind on getting first. Sorry I ragged you about 
being engaged to Laura last night at Smooth River. But, 
you fcae, I know Owe-it Slade, and I've known Laura all 
her life, and of course I was a bit surprised to be told, you 
know well, to be told that you, of all people, had made 
it up with her. But, as I say, I'm sorry I ragged you." 

" Please don't apologize on a hot day like this," Carter 
snapped. " As I don't value your opinion on a matter 
like that one jot, I naturally didn't let anything you said 
disturb my sleep. Good-afternoon. If you're going to 
occupy your room, I'll go out on deck and enjoy the in- 
fernal crushed-marigold stink of this drain from a dif- 
ferent point." 

" That young man knows he's made a fool of himself," 
commented the Purser sagely, "and he's as sore and un- 
easy as a skinned eel in a tub of sand. Well, if he wants 
to furnish a lil' log hut for his dusky Laura, so much the 
better for trade. He's the neatest trick of making native 
curios in all West Africa, and I've got all his home busi- 
ness in my hand. It's all rot about his trading with an- 
other purser ; there isn't one on the Coast that works this 
line, or I should have heard about it. If the output's in- 
creased, I shall try and work up a connection with Amer- 
ica. My Whiskers ! why not ? What's wrong with enrich- 
ing the United States with some good broad-bladed Okky 
spears, and a war horn or two just as a Hullo, yes, 
who's that? Ah, come in." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 135 

There was a knock at the Purser's door, and White- 
Man's-Trouble entered in reply to the invitation. " Oh, 
Purser," he said, " dem bug," and opened a black fist and 
showed three electric-blue butterflies in his white palm. 

The Purser took them one by one in his plump fingers 
and dropped them gingerly into an empty cardboard cig- 
arette box. "I don't think they'll be much use, boy. 
You've rubbed too much fluff off with those delicate paws 
of yours. Savvy ? " 

" I savvy I fit for dash," said the Krooboy pointedly. 

" Pooh, these are worth nothing. What do you take me 
for? A tripper, or the Bank of England? Ah, would 
you, you infernal thieving monkey ? " Mr. Balgarnie had 
turned his back and had glanced in a shaving mirror which 
hung by the port and saw White-Man's-Trouble helping 
himself to a Tauchnitz novel, which he promptly tucked 
underneath his coat. 

The Krooboy put the book down. He did not waste 
time in apologizing for the theft of something that was 
entirely useless to him. He went straight to a matter of 
far graver interest. 

" Oh, Purser, how you seen me take dem thing ? You 
no see with you eyes. You eyes lib for look out of win- 
dow." 

"Attend," said Mr. Balgarnie, and struck an attitude. 
" I am the man known to science as the Freak-who-has- 
eyes-at-the-back-of-his-head. Observe, I have my back to 
you and yet I can see that you are picking your nose with 
your strong left hand, and scratching the floor with your 
starboard toe." 

" I no fit for see you back eyes." 

" That is because they are ju-ju eyes. Oh, White-Man's- 
Trouble, I bid you fear the Powers of Darkness and steal 
no more anything that is mine. You savvy ? " 



136 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEE 

"Savvy plenty!" 

" And as a further punishment, I bid you catch me ten 
more butterflies, and take care you don't rub the feathers 
off, or they'll be no use to Miss Kate." 

" Missy Kate ! What for she want dem bug ? Dem no 
fit for chop." 

" To make ju-ju of." 

White-Man's-Trouble grinned. " Missy Kate no savvy 
ju-ju palaver. Dem Carter, he show her dem god with 
talk-pipe, an' she say, 'Well, dere no ju-ju about him/ 
Oh, Purser, I say dem god with talk-pipe plenty-too-much- 
fine ju-ju. Okky-men savvy plenty him ju-ju." 

te Your theology's a bit above my head, but I don't mind 
telling you in confidence that butterfly collecting's the 
lady's habit, just the same as let me see just the same 
as stealing things that are no use to you is yours, and 
spear making's Mr. Carter's. Savvy ? " 

" Savvy some," said the Krooboy doubtfully. " Does 
Missy sell dem bugs to steamah pursers, an' come ashore 
an' say dem dam' greedy hounds ? " 

" If you've got that idea in your aboriginal mind," said 
Mr. Balgarnie with a yawn, " don't let me crowd it with 
anything nearer the truth. You bring Miss Kate plenty 
of butterflies without the pretty rubbed off, and presently 
she dash you a new top hat with a gold band to it." 

" I no fit for take dash from Missy," said White-Man's- 
Trouble with dignity. " I bring her plenty-too-many bugs 
for nix. I fit for know my job." 

The purser stared with tired eyes. " So you honor her 
with your respectful admiration, too, do you? I wish I 
could get her knack. There, clear out with you, and put 
the door on the hook. Take your dirty hands away from 
that tooth-brush, confound you, and get out. It's my time 
for siesta." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 137. 

In the meanwhile Laura Slade had gone out on the 
bridge deck, had found a chair without a card on it, and 
had dragged it up alongside her friend. She waited pa- 
tiently till one of the long calculations had been worked 
out and the result entered up in the pocket-book, and then, 
when the figures were torn small, she jumped up and took 
the scraps of paper from the other girl's hand. 

" Please let me do something, Kate. At least I can 
throw them overboard for you/' 

Miss O'Neill laughed, and plied her palm leaf fan. " My 
dear girl, I'm most pleased to be tempted away from work. 
In school days, as you will remember, I was worse than 
you were at sums. I've had to grind at them since, but 
it's not made me love them any the more. Why can't I 
be a rich woman without working for it ? " 

" Do you want so very much to be rich ? " 

Kate turned to her friend and opened her eyes wide. 
They were brown eyes, and someone once described them as 
talkative. But people who knew her better were very con- 
scious of the fact that Miss Kate O'Neill's eyes only ex- 
pressed things when she willed that they should do so. 

"Do I want to be rich? Well, of course. One can't 
have things or do things unless one has money. And if 
I don't get money, no one will for me; or, at least, I'd 
rather they wouldn't. Of course, you have got Mr. Carter 
to work for you, Laura; but I am sure, when you put it 
into cold words, you'd like him to make money, too. You 
don't want to live all your days on the Coast here, the pair 
of you. You look forward to going home, and having a 
house and a garden, and a motor car, and a man to drive 
it. And you'd like to have good servants and nice frocks. 
Yes, especially nice frocks." 

"Like yours. Yes, I should like a nice frock like that 
one, Kate, if you won't mind my copying it." 



138 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

" What, this rag ? My dear, sweet child, with your eyes, 
and your figure, and the complexion you'd grow in Eng- 
land, you'd pay to dress far more than ever I should. Mr. 
Carter will work hard and earn a big income, just for 
the satisfaction of seeing you decently clad." 

There was a minute's silence, and then, " Why do you 
dislike my engagement so much, Kate ? " 

"Me dislike it? What rubbish. I think it's a most 
excellent thing for you, if only Mr. Carter goes on as he 
has begun." 

" Then I'll word it differently. Why do you dislike 
George so much ? " 

" Whatever gave you that idea ? Mr. Carter, considering 
the short time he has been on the Coast, has done most 
excellently for the firm, and well I'etat c'est moi. I 
know you condemn me for being abominably commercial, 
but what nearer way do you think there can be to my 
heart than through my pocket ? " 

" Your heart ! " Laura repeated, and stared large-eyed at 
the yellow river that swirled past the steamer's rusty 
flanks. An alligator, that looked very much like a half 
submerged log, drifted down with the tide, and a bird 
that rode upon him dug vigorously between the rows of his 
plates with his beak. She watched them till they passed 
away down the stream and were lost in the glare of the 
sunshine. " I wonder," she said in a half -whisper, " if 
your heart wants something which it will break my heart 
for you to get?" 

Miss Kate O'Neill got up and gave a very healthy laugh. 
" Don't mutter," she said, " and don't be ridiculous. To 
begin with, I'm not of the marrying sort; to go on with, 
your taste (as typified in Mr. Carter) and mine don't 
agree one little bit; and to wind up with, Laura dear, 
don't let's pose like a pair of school-girls. I don't know 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 139 

whether there's a slight natural antipathy between two 
red-haired people " 

"Your hair's not red in the least, Kate. It's a very 
dark auburn." 

" I should call it warmish. Anyhow, Mr. Carter's is red 
enough. And as you will drag the subject up, I must 
really point out to you that he's been hardly civil in the 
way he's avoided me. I haven't got smallpox." 

" You're his employer. When you call him I'm sure 
he's glad enough to talk to you about what you want. 
But you must see his position; he wouldn't like to risk 
a snub by coming up when you might not happen to 
want him." 

" I see. The idea that all communications should be 
conducted in a cold business footing. Am I to understand 
that Mr. Carter wished you to convey that view to me, 
Laura?" 

" You know quite well he didn't. Kate, we used to be 
friends. I wish you'd answer me honestly what I asked 
you just now." 

" Don't be tragic and ridiculous. You're half sick with 
the heat, and I really believe you want to quarrel with 
me by way of safety valve. Well, my dear, I shan't quar- 
rel with you, that's all. I hate quarrelling. I've been 
dodging the excellent Captain Image all the day, as I 
know he wants to ease off his temper on me just because 
his silly old steamer has stuck her nose on the bank and 
got left by the tide. By the way, I candidly believe the 
accident happened just because he was amusing himself 
just at that precise moment with having a turn-up with 
oh, well, we're getting onto touchy ground again. And 
here is Mr. Carter. You seem in a hurry." 

Carter came up the ladder to the bridge deck in two 
strides, and it was noteworthy that he addressed his first 



140 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

remark to his employer, and not to his fiancee. " Do you 
mind going below? There are half a dozen big Okky wai 
canoes round that point ahead there. I've been forrad 
there, and could see them quite plainly through the man- 
grove roots." 

"Have you told the Captain?" 

" No. I'll tell him next. But will you go below, or into 
one of these deck houses ? They are probably covering us 
this minute, and it's pot-leg they fire, not bullets. Pot-leg 
spreads and can make ghastly wounds." 

" I don't like running away." 

" If you could do any good staying out in the open I 
wouldn't ask you to move. Laura, will you persuade Miss 
O'Neill to go into cover, as she won't take any notice of 
me?" 

" Thank you," said Kate sharply, " but Laura need not 
interfere. I am accustomed to making up my own mind, 
Mr. Carter, without help from anyone. I am much obliged 
to you for your care, and as I can't be of any use at pres- 
ent, and as I have no insane wish to be shot, I shall cer- 
tainly go into shelter." 

" Very good," said Carter ; " then I'll go and carry the 
news to old Image. It's a lucky thing I brought along 
that Winchester of Slade's. We shall keep them off all 
right." 

It turned out that Captain Image already had tid- 
ings of the war canoes, and was red with wrath at 
the idea of any qualified black savages having the 
unmentionable impudence to make a something naval 
demonstration against a sacred Liverpool oil tank. His 
language was quite unprintable, but his disposition of 
the steamer's forces was remarkably sound. Tackles 
squeaked as a Krooboy gang hoisted the ladder which 
hung alongside. The boatswain loaded the two brass sig- 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 141 

nal guns on the bridge deck with their usual noisy charge 
of blank, and rammed a three-pound parcel of four-inch 
cut nails down the muzzle of each on the top of the powder 
bags. The carpenter replaced the gangways which are 
always unshipped when steamers are in the rivers working 
cargo. And the winches chattered as they each hove up a 
ponderous palm oil puncheon to the top of a derrick, 
which was then swung outboard so that the puncheon 
could be let go by the run, and smash any canoe made 
of hands that happened to be underneath. 

When these pious duties had been fulfilled, the crew 
lined out along each of the lower deck rails armed with 
spanners, firebars, handspikes, and in fact any other 
weapon which a modern steamer could provide, which in 
lusty hands might be called upon to break a human head. 

On the upper bridge Captain Image oversaw the only 
two mates who were not down with fever as they directed 
and assisted these operations, and when all was ready he 
laid his own hands on the siren string and let loose a 
hoarse throaty blast of defiance across the creeks and the 
steamy forest. 

"There, Carter, me lad," said he, "that's to show the 
blighters we're here and waiting. I'm glad you've brought 
that Winchester. It's the only gun in the ship since Owe- 
it Slade borrowed my Holland and forgot to bring it back. 
They tell me you're a nailing fine shot, too." 

" Couldn't hit a haystack with anything except a scatter 
gun." 

" Well," said Image dryly, " as I saw some of your pa- 
tients spread about in the clearing outside Smooth River 
Factory, I shall believe just as much of that as I choose. 
It's not my affair to mention it, of course, but I do know 
that Miss Kate was very considerably struck by the way 
you kept those niggers off, and if you hadn't been en- 
gaged to Slade's girl " 



142 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Which I am, Captain. So, therefore, it's no use going 
into useless possibilities. By the way, isn't that stern wire 
slackening ? " 

" By Crumbs, me lad, you've got a quick eye. The tide's 
coming up underneath her, and she's slipping off. Here 
you, Mr. Third Mate, ring those engines to full astern, 
and try and keep it in your head that you'd be in your 
room now if I weren't short of officers." 

With the lift of the yellow tide beneath her, the M'poso 
drew out from her muddy dock as a sword is pulled from 
its sheath, hung for a dozen minutes in mid-stream whilst 
the stern-warp and its anchor were got aboard, and then, 
gathering her boat and its crew up to davits, turned stub- 
bornly up the river. 

" I'll show these Okky blighters what trouble is," de- 
clared Captain Image, "if they try and stop me. I've 
had their old king in my chart house here with Swizzle- 
Stick Smith and the other traders a score of times, and 
if he didn't drink the ship dry, it was only because I 
wouldn't let him. And now in return for that hospitality 
he brings out his infernal war canoes. I only hope he's in 
one of them and comes alongside. I'll brain him with an 
oil puncheon if I get him in range." 

But when they opened up the reach behind the point 
where the canoes had been seen, there was no offer of 
attack. There were three craft in view, fifty paddle-power 
dugouts all of them, crammed with men and weapons, fan- 
tastic with horrible ju-ju charms ; but they hung on to the 
wire-like stems of the mangroves and remained so moored 
till the steamer drew past and began to dance them up 
and down upon its wash. A monkey-skin drum in each 
was beaten impressively by two drummers, but no weapons 
were levelled, and there was no threat of boarding. 

" Faugh ! " said Image, and spat. " Did you catch the 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 143 

smell of those beauties when we had them abeam? Talk 
of a 'bus stable struck by lightning ! " 

" They aren't there just to take in the scenery," said 
Carter thoughtfully. 

"An Okky-man is born to mischief even as the sparks 
fly upward. Look, they're casting off their shorefasts and 
getting under weigh down stream. No, by Crumbs, they're 
turning up stream after me. Well, of all the blighted 
cheek! Do you know what that means, Carter, me lad? 
They're going to follow us. They think they've got some 
ju-ju by which they can cut us off from the Coast. Ah, 
here's Miss Kate. Well, Miss, as I've you to think of as well 
as my ship, I shall turn presently and run back again for 
the bar. You see for yourself, I should think now, that it 
isn't healthy up this river, and all the cargo in Africa is 
no use to a man if he can't get it shipped when he comes 
to the beach where it's stored. If any one of the war 
canoes get in my way, I'll show you what those bushmen 
look like when they're swimming in yellow water, for as 
sure as the Lord made crocodiles, I'll ram their noisy dug- 
outs if I can. I'll teach them to thump their nasty smell- 
ing war drums at me." 

" Poof, Captain, don't you try to take me in. I should 
like to hear anyone else suggesting that you couldn't take 
the M'poso to a spot where the Frau Pobst had made regu- 
lar voyages." 

Captain Image thrust forward his head and glared. " I 
can take this packet anywhere that blessed Dutchman's 
been, Miss." 

" Of course you can. And when the Frau Pobst's cap- 
tain has shipped cargo from a spot " 

" And given up going there, Miss, because it's too dan- 
gerous." 

" Precisely. Well, as I couldn't insult you by calling 
you less than twice as brave as the German, that means 



144 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

that no little trouble that's going on between here and 
Mokki will frighten you in the very least. Is that good 
argument ? " 

" Oh, go on, Miss. Twist me round your finger. I like 
it. Besides it isn't the first time I've played a neck-or- 
nothing game. But I'm hanged if I see that it's an 
amusement for a pretty young lady like you." 

Captain Image was speaking in plain earnest, and he 
was a man who knew. Kate O'Neill was seized with a 
sudden qualm. Was she right to force on this risk ? Would 
the Okky-men attack, or could they bring off the cargo 
successfully ? Nobody but herself seemed to see a shadow 
of chance for success. And these others were all old Coast- 
ers against whom she was setting up her will. 

But when she thought of giving way and turning back 
the cost of retreat promptly leaped up and faced her in 
plain figures. O'Neill and Craven were heavily involved, 
how heavily no one knew but old white-haired Crewdson 
and herself. The Mokki oil that she had bought so cheap 
would save them. Without it there would be bankruptcy, 
and, what she dreaded even more, the contemptuous finger 
of Liverpool pointed at the woman who had taken upon 
herself a man's responsibilities and broken down beneath 
them. 

These thoughts dinned through her again and again, 
but outwardly her face smiled and her lips spoke lightly. 

" Now, it is nice of you to give me a promise like that, 
Captain." 

"Like what?" 

"To say that you'll go on till my nerves give way. 
Well, let it be so. I promise to give you news of it the 
moment I'm frightened. Look, there's an omen for you 
to read to me. The Okky-men in that first war canoe are 
all standing up and waving their spears. What does that 
mean, I wonder?" 



CHAPTEE X 

ENVOYS IN COUNCIL 

"HALLO, Meredith, I heard rumors that there was a 
white man up in this part of the bush, but I never guessed 
it was you. I did think of sending on a runner to see, but 
somehow I didn't." 

" No, you wouldn't," said the older man. " I never 
knew you make up your mind to anything unless it was 
decided for you. Now, look here, Slade, we're in lonely 
country here, and if I shoot you, you'll never be missed; 
and, by gad, shoot you I will unless you mend your mem- 
ory." ' 

" Poof ! what does it matter ? We're the only white men 
within two hundred miles, and the boys are out of earshot." 

"A black boy can hear a lot farther than you think, 
and for that matter I've known trees in West Africa to 
have ears that understand English at least that has been 
the only explanation one could Und of the way things have 
leaked out. But we'll leave all that alone. I've given you 
to understand by what name I wish to be addressed." 

"Well, you needn't be so short about it. I've always 
called you Smith down in the Coast factories. Of course 
I can't forget that I once knew you when you were " 

"Will you hold your slobbering tongue? If you can't, 
say so, and I'll stop it once and for always. I've told you 
my wish; to you or anyone else I'm Smith, or Swizzle- 
Stick Smith, which you like. I've no connection with 
anything that went before, and 'pon my soul, as you're 



146 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

the only man now alive that knows it, I believe I'd be a 
lot safer if you were out of the way." 

Slade turned his back petulantly. " Oh, do stop this 
wrangle. I'll call you Swizzle-Stick Smith to the end of 
the chapter, and forget that you were ever anything other 
than a drunken old palm-oil ruffian, if it pleases you. 
Come to my hut and chop. I shot some parrots this 
morning. They'll taste a bit like high rook, but they are 
better than tinned stuff anyway. They came over finely; 
real raketers. It was quite like the old days at home. 
This gun, by the way, is about my last link with ancestral 
splendor. Look there, a Holland. They wanted me to 
have ejectors, I remember, but I wouldn't." 

Mr. Smith 'screwed his eyeglass into his other eye and 
straightened the new black silk ribbon by which it hung. 
" No," he said grimly, " that was very wise of you, es- 
pecially as ejectors weren't invented when that gun was 
built. I wonder what sort of a tale you told Image before 
he trusted you with it?" 

"What are you driving at? What's Cappie Image to 
do with it?" 

" That's my gun. I had it well, as you've started the 
forbidden subject already I had it before the fall. Image 
saw it at Malla-Nulla one day when I was full up and 
walked off with it, and I never managed to get it back 
from him. He always said the beach was too bad to risk 
letting a surf boat bring it ashore. Well, you may keep 
the thing for the present, and I'll take a bowlful of your 
parrot stew by way of rent. This the house? You've 
managed to find yourself pretty comfortable quarters, I 
see." 

The house was a series of rooms packed round an in- 
ternal courtyard. The outer walls were of wattle, luted 
with mud thrown onto them in vigorous handfuls, and 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 147 

left to bake hard in the sun. The roof was a pile of un- 
tidy thatch, the floor of hardened mud, and in the middle 
of the courtyard was an ineffective shade-tree scorched by 
the smoke of the cooking fires. Beyond this house sprawled 
the other houses of a small West African village, with the 
usual squalor heaped between them. 

To most Europeans there would have been much to no- 
tice the cooking vessels, the calabashes, the food, the ju-ju 
charms that one met at unexpected corners, the scaveng- 
ing dogs, and the all-pervading smells. But Swizzle- 
Stick Smith's curiosity was worn by twenty years attri- 
tion, and these savage circumstances had grown native to 
him. He did not even comment on the fact that Slade 
was living entirely in local fashion, the thing was so ob- 
vious a course for his friend to follow that he took it for 
granted. He himself was a man of like tastes. Down at 
Malla-Nulla the menu had mostly smacked of Africa; 
but once he had left the Coast, Mr. Smith had travelled 
as an Okky headman travels, living mainly on kanki and 
couscousoo, and for beverage partaking of sour palm wine, 
muddy bush-water, and an allowance of trade gin sternly 
cut down to one square-faced bottle per diem. 

His only comment on the place was that Slade's mos- 
quito bar was made of a material that they had long ago 
decided was faulty, and that a certain mark of cheese- 
cloth gave better passage to the air, and was more im- 
pervious to insects. To which Slade made reply that he 
knew it, but couldn't be bothered to change, after which 
the cookboy brought in a calabash of odorous, highly- 
peppered stew, colored bright orange with palm oil and 
condiments, and set it on the floor of one of the rooms. 
Mr. Smith pocketed his pipe, dropped his eyeglass to the 
end of its black ribbon, and wiped his hands on his shabby 
pyjamas, after which simple preparations the pair of 



148 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

them sat down on the earth beside the calabash and pro- 
ceeded to eat skilfully from their fingers. 

Around them were the cases and bales of Slade's outfit, 
each done up into a " load " ready for a carrier's head. 
In the other room of the house and in the courtyard were 
the carriers,, some of them eating, some of them cleaning 
their teeth with the rubbing stick, which all Coast natives 
use incessantly in moments of leisure, some of them chat- 
ting. Most of them sat bareheaded in the staring sun- 
light; a few nestled in the purple shadows. One was 
picking a jigger out of his toe with a splinter of bam- 
boo. In a spare corner another played tom-tom on the 
bottom of an empty kerosene-tin bucket, and three stal- 
warts stood up before him monotonously dancing. 

Mr. Smith finished his meal and took out his pipe. 
" Does it run to a peg ? " he asked. 

" It does. Don't spoil my fine vintage port with to- 
bacco. You can smoke afterwards. Here, boy, we fit for 
gin.- 

" Gin lib/' said the Accra in attendance, and handed 
a square-faced bottle and a bowl. 

" Good. Now, when you see dem Smith fit for smoke, 
you bring fire, one-time. Savvy?" 

" I fit." 

Swizzle- Stick Smith moved back until his shoulders 
rested against a bale, and hitched up the knees of his 
shrunk pyjamas and stretched his arms pleasurably. 
" You travel in comfort, Slade." 

" The secret is, I don't move along too fast. I've been 
in this village a fortnight. I don't know when I shall 
make up my mind to pull out and go on." 

" Not till you've eaten it bare or are forced off some 
other way, I suppose. You're a curious envoy for a con- 
fiding employer in Liverpool to send out into the bush." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 149 

Sla.de grinned. " Old Godfrey wouldn't have done it. 
But this new K. O'Neill hasn't seen my cutaway chin. 
K.'s a hustler, but he's young, remarkably young." 

"Have you done anything in the way of getting him 
a rubber property ? " 

"Well, curiously enough I have. At least, I've bought 
him up a few square miles of country that rubber vines 
would grow on well enough if it was cleared, and planted, 
and tended, and no one put ju-ju on them." 

"Is it get-at-able?" 

"It's on some river or other. The ditch isn't marked 
on the map, but I daresay a steamer could get up if it 
was worth while. The title's as good as one could expect." 

" That means it won't be jumped so long as you pay 
fifty pounds a year to the next claimant." 

" I should say five-and-twenty will fix him," said Slade 
lazily. " You see he's headman of the next village and 
he thinks he's got some unproductive bush to sell him- 
self. I've rammed into his skull the great truth that his 
deal can't go through if he starts trying to jump his 
neighbor's land and unsteadies the market. I think those 
considerations will outweigh even his nigger's love for 
litigation " He went on to give listlessly enough a few 
more details of the transaction. 

Mr. Smith was well-versed in the ways of West African 
diplomacy, and could appreciate to a nicety all the hag- 
gling and the patience and the tedious arguments that 
had gone to build up these complicated bargains. He 
screwed in his eyeglass and looked at Slade attentively. 
" I wonder," he said, " why you always make yourself out 
to be such an infernal waster? You know you must have 
been doing some thundering good work. I couldn't have 
put that deal through, and I know my West Africa as well 
as you do or better. There's not one man in five thousand 
could have managed it. What's your trick?" 



150 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Oh, I found myself in comfortable quarters, and I 
couldn't make up my mind to move on and try more 
likely country elsewhere. So I stayed and talked rubber- 
palaver with the headman. One had to do something for 
amusement. Besides they'd a tree of alligator pears in 
the village that were exactly ripe, and it would have been 
a crime to leave them to benighted Africans. By the 
way, very rude of me not to ask before, but what have 
you done since you left the Coast ? " 

"Got into a very ugly hole," said Swizzle-Stick Smith 
shortly, " and wriggled out of it by the skin of my teeth." 

" Rubber-palaver ? " 

" No." 

" Oh, sorry for inquiring. I thought that was what you 
came up for ? " 

" So it was, and I started off from the Coast with a 
full intention of carrying out O'Neill and Craven's busi- 
ness. But I got led off on an old trail." 

"Ah," said Slade thoughtfully. "I believe I could 
guess." 

" Guessing's dangerous. But I may as well own up to 
you frankly that I've been seeing the King of Okky." 

" Well, you've a nerve. I shouldn't have cared for that 
job myself." 

" It wasn't pleasant. Okky City jars one's sense of 
decency rather badly just now. Old Kallee's been going 
it extra strong on human sacrifices, you know. His pri- 
vate crucifixion tree is a thing you don't like to think 
about." 

" Filthy old beast he is." 

"But he's the strongest man hereabouts." 

" I see. And you got onto your old game of the pre- 
Smith days and tried to get him to put the Okky country 
and his royal self under the formal protectorate of the 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 151 

British Empire? I thought you dropped all that tommy- 
rot when you got kicked I mean when you turned trader 
and became known to fame as Mr. Smith. Sink the past, 
of course, sink the past, but you started it." 

" I couldn't help going. I got news of a French ex- 
pedition in Okky City. Of course I've been damnably 
treated by the British Foreign Office in days gone by, but 
the old fires will relight sometimes. Frenchmen in Okky 
City, I'll trouble you, Slade, and of course with the usual 
accompaniment. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. So I 
couldn't resist trying my own hand with the Kallee, even 
though I hadn't anything at all up to his weight as an 
introductory dash." 

"Half a dozen cases of Heidsieck is the nearest way 
to his royal ear, though I hear that lately he's developed 
a taste for the better years of Krug." 

" That's quite true. It was a fancy touch of Burgoyne, 
our Monk Eiver man. I call that hardly legitimate busi- 
ness, you know. German champagne and angostura are 
good enough for me, and they ought to be good enough 
for a black savage like Kallee. Dash it, what right's he 
to a palate?" 

" Would he see you ? " 

" Well, of course I've known him since before he killed 
his predecessor and got the King's stool, and so he's a 
bit freer with me than he is with most people." 

Slade nodded. " And you drank together till you were 
both blind speechless ? " 

" I wasn't, anyway," said the older man shortly. " I 
kept my head and stuck to my tale. The Frenchman 
wasn't in it. He went to sleep before we whacked the 
first ten bottles, and he was laid up with a fine dose of 
fever next day; but there was no shifting Kallee. He 
doesn't care an escribello for all the might, majesty, do- 



152 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

minion and power of the British Empire. He's got ten 
small cannon up there, that, according to him, can quite 
account for Great Britain if it comes to worry him, and 
in the meanwhile the French are very kind friends. 
They've given him a gramophone, and a general's uni- 
form, and an ice-making machine, and when they bring 
him the canoe load of Winchester repeaters he's asked for, 
he'll sign a treaty of allegiance to France." 

" Arms of precision ! The Frenchman had better take 
care. If any of our Government fellows catch him at 
that game, they'll shoot him first and inquire into him 
afterwards." 

" Well, what he's going to do in the matter, I don't 
exactly know. You see, the beggar had Kallee's ear, and 
to tell you the plain truth he had me deported. Kallee 
said that if he laid hands on me again, he would have 
my skin off, and stuff it with straw, and stick it in the 
road that leads to Malla-Nulla as a warning to the next 
Englishman that came along that it would be more healthy 
to keep inside his own marches." 

Slade laughed. " I bet you footed it away." 

"What the devil else could I do? And here am I, no 
forwarder with O'Neill and Craven's job than I was the 
day I tramped out of Malla-Nulla. I did say ' Rubber ' 
to the King, and he did hear out my tale. He said it 
was good palaver, and set on a couple of hundred slaves 
there and then with matchets to clear bush and plant rub- 
ber vines to grow revenue for himself. But he sells no 
land to Englishmen, and I guess if another of the breed 
comes up yet awhile, Kallee'll plant him. By the way, 
Slade, have you been in touch with the bush telegraph ? " 

" Oh, I heard that the usual vague rows and horribles 
were going on in Okky City, but I didn't pay much atten- 
tion to that. I did hear, too, that Cappie Image and the 



153 

M'poso helped a red-headed man, who I suppose was that 
young Carter of yours, in some sort of a row at presum- 
ably Malla-Nulla. I took the trouble to go into the dates ; 
the news must have travelled here in thirty hours, and 
we're a good two hundred miles from the Coast. It is a 
bit marvellous. I wonder how the deuce the niggers do 
it. Some sort of ju-ju, I suppose, but I never met a white 
man yet who understood the trick." 

" Did you hear anything about a white woman stirring 
things up ? " 

" Certainly, I did, and concluded it was Laura. I left 
her in charge at Smooth Eiver, you know, and she's grown 
into a jolly capable girl, let me tell you, old man, when 
she cares to spread herself. What are you twiddling about 
your eyeglass for ? Why don't you say out what you mean ? 
Oh, I see. White. By gad, I'd never thought of that. 
Even a bush telegraph, which is always liable to mistake 
in detail, would never blunder into calling my little girl 
white. By gad, Smith, what a damnable thing that ' sins 
of the fathers ' law is. If I were a man that ever looked 
so much as half a day ahead, I believe I should go mad 
at the thought of what will become of Laura in the future. 
You're a tough old ruffian with no cares and you could 
never understand what that kiddie is to me." 

"No use crying over a marriage that's over. Every- 
body that knows her will do his best for Laura, and if 
any man tried hanky-panky tricks with her he'd probably 
die one of the local deaths of Africa in very quick time. 
But about this white woman. I heard about her, too. 
There was a big tom-toming far away in the bush one 
night, ten minutes after the sun went out, and my boys 
listened hard and then set up a fine chatter. It was long 
enough before I could make anything out of them, but 
at last I heard something about ' a white mammy ' that 



154 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

set me thinking. I got the idea at first that someone, 
probably the Okky-men, had been knocking a she-mission- 
ary on the head, and that made me cock up my ears. You 
know when a trader or a man in one of the services gets 
scuppered out here, the pious people at home say it's his 
own brutal fault and the poor African is quite right in 
what he does. But when it's a missionary, the Exeter Hall 
crew insist on war." 

Slade put up the usual Coaster's wish for the future of 
Exeter Hall. 

" Quite so," said Swizzle-Stick Smith. He got up and 
limped across to the doorway and stood there for a minute 
puffing pale blue smoke into the dazzle of sunshine. Then 
he came back again and once more sat on the earthen 
floor with his back against a bale. " The boys out there, 
both yours and mine, are still harping on the same sub- 
ject." 

" I didn't make out that the white woman was killed." 

"Nor did I, when I went into the matter further. I 
was only explaining what gave me the first interest in the 
subject, because if there had been a she-missionary killed, 
all the bush would know that meant war, and they would 
slaughter every white man they came across out of sheer 
light-heartedness. No, if that had happened, you would 
not have seen me here. I should have lit out for the 
Coast, one-time. But I presently found that the white 
woman had not been killed, but that she was a someone 
who seemed to puzzle my boys exceedingly. There seemed 
to be heap-too-much ju-ju about her. She did things no 
one else could tackle." 

"Sort of champion lady weight-lifter? Boy, fill Mr. 
Smith's pipe and bring him fire." 

" You know that Kroo word, Oomsha, that means Sul- 
tana or woman-above-a-headman, or something like that ? " 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 155 

" I heard a tale of an Oomsha once somewhere up So- 
koto way. She's been head wife of an Emir, and when he 
died she killed all the heirs and ran the town herself. I 
thought it meant more witch or conjurer. It's a ju-ju 
word." 

" Well, I won't quarrel with you over etymology, and 
we seem to agree enough on the definition for practical pur- 
poses. Now, my boys said that this white woman was an 
Oomsha. Did you hear that ? " 

" Not I. I tell you I thought it was Laura they were 
gassing about, and I didn't trouble myself to inquire more 
deeply." 

" Dash it," said the old man fiercely, " do rouse up and 
interest yourself in something. What the deuce has a 
white sultana got to do messing around the Coast fac- 
tories, especially O'Neill and Craven's? And let me tell 
that's what's happening." 

" Is the mythical lady setting everybody by the ears and 
preparing for a holy something ? " 

" That's the maddening part of it. They all seem to 
like her. She's stirring up everybody, she's upsetting your 
factory and mine, she's dragged the man with the red head 
in adoration to her feet and then spurned him from her, 
and she's even captured the warm and profane Cappie 
Image as one of her servitors." 

" Poof ! blarney old Image ! Now, that proves you've 
got onto a fairy tale." 

Mr. Smith thumped an emphatic fist on the hard stamped 
floor beside him. " I tell you I have not. The bush tele- 
graph never lies. You may misunderstand it, but if you 
take time and trouble, and dig deep enough, you'll always 
come to the truth of things. As sure as we are sweating 
in this bush village here, there's a white woman on the 
Coast turning all the business there upside down." 



156 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" I've got it," said Slade. K. O'Neill's tired of having 
all his bright ideas comfortably shelved by you and me, 
and so his new happy thought is to send his fascinating 
typewriter out to hand instructions over in person, and 
wait till they're put through. Your Carter and my Laura 
would be just the sort of enthusiastic young people to fall 
in with a scheme like that. But I must say the conquest 
of Image beats me. It would take a heap more than a 
hen typewriter to tame Cappie Image-me-lad." 

" Yes, I thought of all that, but there's one blessed 
thing that upsets it completely. The Oomsha is making 
headquarters at the Dutch factory at Mokki, and building 
a fort there. Now, play on that." 

"Weather too hot," said Slade. "Whe-ew! I wish 
the breeze would come." 

" Dash it, man, think ! A white woman building a fort 
up at Mokki." 

" Sounds buccaneerish, or I'll tell you what, German." 
Slade sat up with a sudden spurt of unaccustomed energy 
and ran the perspiration off his face with a forefinger. 
"By gad! I didn't think of that, but picture the joys of 
having a beastly German in at the back of us, with a 
Government subsidy, and a price-cutting apparatus all 
complete." 

" Yes," said Swizzle-Stick Smith grimly, " and also pic- 
ture to yourself the eminently British Captain Image 
yielding to the soft blandishments of a German Frau. 
He'd as soon think of making himself amiable to a go- 
rilla. No, that theory's wrong. The thing stumps me, 
and I'm sure if it's too big for me, it's outside your 
size." 

" Quite so," said Slade, who had dropped back into his 
normal slackness after the spurt of energy. Then he 
screwed up his eyes tightly as the hot air was split with 
a succession of piercing yells and screeches. 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 157 

"Good Lord, what's that?" the old man called out. 

" Some poor brute of a farmer-, who's been working on 
his cassava ground, being pulled down by a leopard. 
There, don't get up; you can't do anything. Don't you 
hear he's quiet now, which means ' palaver set' as far as 
the farmer is concerned. That will make the rest of his 
agricultural neighbors careful for the next twenty-four 
hours, and go to their work in pairs, and take their spears. 
At the end of twenty-four hours their massive memories 
will fail them and they'll stroll out alone just as the 
spirit moves them, and someone else will be chopped. 
Those squeals used to make one feel rather sick at first, 
and one was apt to get excited and rush out with a gun. 
But it never did any good. Spotted Dick always prefers 
to dine in privacy and drags his mutton back into the 
bush. I can imagine," Slade added with a faint laugh, 
"that an energetic man who was a bit of a sportsman 
would find this place pretty exasperating. Thanks to 
these careless animals of villagers ground-baiting the 
creatures to the extent they have done, there's the best 
stocked leopard-cover in Africa round here, but you sim- 
ply can't get them up to the gun. I've tried sitting up 
for them over a kill, I've tried stalking, and always got 
nothing. I risked a drive one day and the leopard chopped 
a couple of beaters. It would be exasperating to an en- 
ergetic man, but thank goodness I'm not that, and so I've 
simply taken things as they came." 

" H'm," said Smith thoughtfully. " When we walked in 
here I noticed I limped on one side and you limped on the 
other. We sort of jabbed at one another, in and out. Now, 
limping is a new accomplishment for you. Have you been 
interviewing a leopard personally?" 

Slade's sallow face flushed a little. "Well, you see, a 
son of the headman here took it into his silly head to get 



158 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

in a leopard's way one day, and I knew the old chap was 
awfully fond of the lad. So I just retrieved him, and we 
both got a bit clawed in the process. But it was purely a 
matter of business for K. O'Neill. The old goat of a 
headman wouldn't listen to any suggestion for buying 
rubber lands before. Dash it all, Smith, I am slack, I 
know, but I do try and put in a bit of work for the firm 
in return for my pay sometimes." 



CHAPTER XI 

AGAIN PRESENTS THE HEAD OF THE FIRM 

" FIRE'S the only thing we have to be frightened of for 
the present," said Carter, " and this soft, soggy wet tim- 
ber of which the fort is built wouldn't burn without a lot 
of persuasion. Still, all the same I wish I could think of 
something that would make it absolutely fireproof." 

" The ancients," said Miss O'Neill, " used to cover their 
works with raw bull's hide to ward off fire arrows. That 
wise remark comes from some school-book, but I've for- 
gotten where. Laura can quote?" 

" No," said Laura shortly. 

"Not having bulls," said Carter, "we can't have their 
hide, but I'll just let word ooze out that if the Okky-men 
attack, we'll skin those we bag and nail up their pelts " 

" Mr. Carter ! " 

" "Well, I beg your pardon for being horrible, but I tell 
you frankly that if I thought for a moment that a message 
like that would be believed, I'd send it in a moment. 
You know, Miss Head, we're in an uncommon tight place, 
and as acting commander-in-chief, I tell you flatly it will 
be a case of ' all-in ' if it comes to a scrap." 

" Oh, Missy, dem Carter mean he fit for use ju-ju be- 
sides guns," White-Man's-Trouble explained. 

" It couldn't have been put more neatly. We must call 
in even the powers of darkness, as far as they'll answer to 
a whistle, if it comes to open fighting. But in the mean- 
while, as some solemn idiot said in a text-book, ' prepared- 



160 KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIER 

ness for war is the best insurance for peace,' and I ask you 
to observe this tramway which the boys have laid down 
during the night. Trouble here was ganger, and I've only 
had to bang him for letting the guage spread in two 
places." 

" Is it to show sightseers quickly round the works ? " 
Kate asked. 

"No, madam. I shall mount on trucks those two tin- 
pot brass muzzle-loading signal guns that you bamboozled 
out of old Image, have embrasures (if that's the word for 
holes to shoot through) at all the corners, and I can rush 
those guns round to fire at all points of the compass at a 
pace that will surprise friend Kwaka, if he is in command 
of the enemy. I am pleased to say Kwaka looks for the 
supernatural when he is dealing with me, and I make a 
point of conscience in seeing that he gets it. I found 
some sheets of yellow tissue-paper in the feteesh here, all 
mottled with black mildew, and they gave me an idea. 
I cut out a leopard and pasted him together, and left a 
hole in him underneath, and fitted that with a wire car- 
rier and a cotton wool burner that will hold spirit." 

" What, a fire balloon ? " 

"Just that. With a dose of trade gin on the cotton 
wool, and a match and a little careful manipulation, we'll 
have a portent sailing up into the sky that will astonish 
the Okky-men's weak nerves in most disastrous style." 

" You are really a most ingenious person," said Miss 
O'Neill. " Isn't he, Laura ? " 

" I suppose so," said Laura. 

"It's that blessed Cascaes that's the weak spot in the 
defence. I suppose I've the usual West Coast prejudice 
against Portuguese; you know even the natives divide 
creation up into white men, black men, and Portuguese, 
and the particular specimen we've taken over here with 
the factory just bristles with bad points." 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 161 

" I think he's rather nice," said Laura. " You were 
fighting with him this morning and I hated to see it." 

" Well," said Carter, judicially, " I shouldn't define it 
as fighting exactly, but I'll admit, if you like, that I was 
kicking him. You see, Miss Head here has given most 
strict orders that not more than six strangers were ever 
to be admitted into the fort together at one time. He'd 
fourteen actually in the feteesh. Now, supposing those 
gallant fourteen suddenly produced weapons and held the 
gate whilst friends they'd ambushed outside ran across the 
clearing and rushed us, where'd we be ? " 

" Oh," said Laura, " I'm sorry I interfered if it was 
Kate's orders you were carrying out." 

" So, Miss Head, with your permission I'll run up a 
chimbeque for the fellow outside the walls." 

" Where did you get that word chimbeque from ? " Kate 
asked. " It's Fiote, not Oil Eivers talk." 

Carter's brown eyes twinkled. " I say, what a marvel 
you are to know things! I bet Laura didn't spot that. 
Why did I use the word? Well, we had a Portuguee lin- 
guister down at Malla-Nulla who had worked in the Congo, 
and he imported that and a lot more Congolese words as 
part of his baggage, and we absorbed them. Observe now. 
Trouble! I say, Trouble, come in here, and keep away 
from that sugar bowl in case you are tempted. Just stand 
there by the door. Now, tell me. You fit for savvy what 
a chimbeque is ? " 

The Krooboy's flat nose perceptibly lifted with con- 
tempt. " Dem bushman's word for hut. I fit for learn 
English on steamah. You can tell Missy I once was 
stand-by-at-crane boy on black funnel boat. I no say 
chimbeque; I say 'house."' 

" You fairly overflow with education at times. There, 
run away outside, and play again. So you see, Miss Head, 



162 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

if Cascaes runs a sort of extra feteesh away out in the 
clearing, he can't land us into much danger however care- 
less and indiscreet he may be. Of course it will entail a 
little extra labor below in handling both produce and 
trade goods, but now we've got the fort practically built, 
I've a lot more boys I can set free for the ordinary work. 
Which reminds me that I forgot to ask if this new boy 
you've got for butterfly hunter is any better than the 
last?" 

" I'm afraid he isn't much. He doesn't tear the net all 
to bits, but he's rubbed every specimen fatally before he 
pinned it into the collecting box." 

" I was afraid there was friction. I saw White-Man's- 
Trouble call up that boy and look into the collecting box 
when he thought I was safely siestaing. They had a little 
excited conversation, and then Trouble grabbed him by a 
handful of wool and lammed into him with a chiquot." 

" Ugh," said Kate, " it is very flattering to have Trou- 
ble's kind approval, but I do wish there was not such a 
local popularity for the methods of what shall I say?" 

" Primitive man. They rather grow on one. Perhaps 
I'm prejudiced in their favor, though. Even when I was 
at school I always preferred a licking to an imposition. 
By the way, you never showed me the butterflies you've 
collected here since you took them out of splints and pinned 
them in their case." 

" Then come at once and admire," said Kate, and the 
pair of them left the veranda and went into the factory's 
living room. 

Laura Slade looked after them wistfully. There was 
something between these two that she could not fathom, 
and vaguely feared. At Smooth River, and on the M'poso, 
their talk had been on the chilliest details of business, 
and only the most bare civilities passed beyond. It had 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 163 

seemed to her then that at any moment a word might 
bring a permanent rupture, and she had pleaded with each 
to accept the other in a more reasonable spirit. She was 
engaged to Carter; he kept reminding her of the tie in 
twenty different ways each day. She had lived under the 
aegis of the O'Neill and Craven firm all her life, and ex- 
aggerated its importance, and she begged Carter not to 
throw away what was his livelihood now and what would 
be hers when she married him. 

Kate, too, was her friend, and together they had been 
the closest of confidants. She had known the secret of 
the firm's " Mr. K. O'Neill " almost as long as old Crewd- 
son had known it, and she had kept that secret loyally in 
spite of the keenest temptation. 

" Kate, I even kept it from George," she had said, and 
Kate had replied, " George being Mr. Carter, I suppose ? " 

Up to the time that they left the M'poso, it seemed hope- 
less to bring them even into the most stiff agreement. 
And then the first morning she woke up at Mokki, there 
was Kate in a Madeira chair on the veranda, with George 
Carter sitting on the rail beside her, and the pair of them 
were laughing and chatting as easily as though they had 
known one another a year. 

She had never got what she thought any satisfactory 
explanation of how this relief of the tension had been 
brought about. She asked Carter, and he said he had ar- 
rived at the conclusion he had " merely been a rude ass," 
and it was time to be ashamed of himself and try ordinary 
human civility. She had attempted to sound Kate, and 
was merely congratulated on being engaged to a really 
nice man. And thereafter she had watched an intimacy 
grow between them, in which somehow or other, in spite 
of their obviously labored efforts to include her, she had no 
part. 



164 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

She turned away from the door now, and sat down in 
one of the veranda chairs which the thrifty German had 
made for himself out of a palm-oil puncheon. Behind her 
the white man and the white woman talked butterflies. 
Before her was Africa, and night. No moon had risen, a 
few of the stars were lit. Fireflies blinked in and out 
at unexpected places in the velvety blackness, uncannily 
vanishing when their spasm of light was over. The night 
breeze sang gently through the trees and gave sharpness 
to the air, and the drone of insects kept to one low insist- 
ent note like the distant murmur of the river. The fac- 
tory boys, tired with their merciless work, slept. But from 
the bush beyond the clearing there came ever and again 
a groan, or a roar, or a shriek, as often as not dimmed to 
a mere murmur by distance, to keep her aware of the 
axiom that Africa never sleeps and always carries pain. 

The land breeze blew strong and her dress was thin. 
She shivered a little and called for Carter, as he had taught 
her, to bring a wrap. He came running out with it at 
once and covered her shoulders, as she was pleased to think, 
tenderly. He even stopped and talked to her for a minute 
or so. Then he said he must go and see Miss Head's last 
case, and once more went into the living room. She 
strained her ears to listen, and she heard the butterfly 
talk begin again where it had broken off. 

They had an alarm that night that the Okky-men were 
coming. Into the blank silence of sleep there came the 
roar of a heavy charge of black trade powder as a sentry 
discharged his dew-filled flintlock. The whites, the Portu- 
guese, and the tired factory boys roused into instant wake- 
fulness. Their nerves were too nicely set to need a second 
shaking. 

Laura met Carter in pyjamas as he was in the act of 
thumping upon her bedroom door. " Oh, you have got 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 165 

up," he said. " That's good. Well, don't show a light 
whilst you dress, and keep under shelter. I must just wake 
Miss O'Neill before I go down." 

She put her arms round his neck and pulled him to her 
and kissed him violently. " You came for me first then, 
after all?" 

"You little goose, of course I did. Wives first, em- 
ployers next. Here, I must go, or the battle will be over 
before I'm down. The odds are those heroes are blazing 
away at nothing." 

They were. Each black man as he came up to the pal- 
isade poked the muzzle of his gun through a loophole, 
pulled trigger, and drew comfort from the din. Presently 
Carter came up to the breastwork, climbed to the ban- 
quette, and leaned over, and then peered long and hard 
through the night. He could see nothing. He got down, 
and with trouble found the sentry who had fired first. 
When he had thumped the man into calmness, it turned 
out that he had seen nothing also. He had " thought 
ju-ju " and then his gun " lib for shoot by himself." Or 
in plainer English, the man had dozed with his hand 
round his gun lock to keep the damp from the priming; 
he had been struck by a nightmare and had pulled the 
trigger. He had aimed at nothing. His gun muzzle had 
been upright, and he "lib for shoot dem moon." 

Cascaes, the Portuguese, came up with a Winchester 
under his arm in time to hear the end of this explanation. 
" The negro like-a some noise, eh, senhor ? " 

" What about yourself ? " asked Carter uncivilly. 
"Haven't you been joining in? I suppose you're first 
cousin to these fellows, anyway." 

Cascaes put a little finger down the muzzle of his rifle, 
wiped it round, lit a match, and showed that the finger 
was clean. 



166 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Oh, I beg pardon," said Carter. " I thought you were 
likely to share in the local revels." 

" Well," said the Portuguese thoughtfully, " I suppose 
I must count that an apology. Otherwise I should have 
shot you. Good-night, senhor." 

Carter waited till the man turned, ran in quickly, and 
plucked away his rifle. " And now," said he, " just let us 
understand one another exactly before we go any further. 
I'm standing quite all the risks from outside that I've 
any use for just at present. If there's any shooting to be 
done amongst ourselves, I prefer to do it myself. So first 
of all let's hear your trouble." 

" In the first-a place I am not negro. I am European of 
blood-a as pure as your own, an' far-a-more ancient." 

" If the apology I gave you just now doesn't cover that, 
I'll apologize some more for calling you a nigger. Further- 
more, I didn't know that you claimed to be a gentleman, 
not that gentility is any excuse for not carrying out one's 
job here on the Coast." 

" Senhor, you are handsome. And I agree with you 
that here in Africa we are all-a workmen, and must suffer 
if the work-a is not well done." 

" Well," said Carter impatiently, " is that the lot ? To 
my simple British mind your reasons for wanting to shoot 
me seem pretty thin so far. I suppose you are mad at 
my basting you this morning, but if you think the circum- 
stances out coolly, I'm sure you'll see that we've women's 
lives to think of here as well as our own, and by letting 
the niggers you were overseeing scamp their work whilst 
you were dreaming over a cigarette, you were risking the 
safety of the fort." 

" Senhor, do you know of what-a I was dreaming ? " 

" Private affairs probably, but anyway of something 
immaterial." 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 167 

" Pardon, but I must tell-a you my dreaming. It was 
of a woman's life I dreamed." 

Carter laughed shortly. " I think you had better leave 
it at that. It sticks in my mind that the three Portuguese 
ladies in this factory at Mokki are all officially protected 
by their lawful husbands, and I don't want to hear any 
embarrassing confidences." 

" And may not a Portuguese gentleman, poor-a I grant 
you,, but still of good blood, give-a his affection to a lady 
of another race ? " 

A moon had lit up in the sky above, and under it Carter's 
jaw looked of a sudden more square and grim than usual 
at least the other thought so. His tone, too, changed 
from banter to something hard. " I decline to hear an- 
other word on the matter. We will confine our dealings 
with one another entirely to details of business, if you 
please, Cascaes, and leave matters of sentiment alone. 
Here is your gun. You say you are a gentleman, and I 
believe you. That means you won't shoot me from be- 
hind, or when I'm not armed equally with yourself. If 
the necessity arrives for a turn-up on level terms, I'm your 
man. Good-night." 

And so for that night they parted, each very much mis- 
understanding the other. Once more the tired sentries 
yawned at their posts, and the Europeans of the factory 
retired to their beds, and the blacks to their sleeping mats ; 
but sleep for the rest of that hot, damp night was broken, 
and no half-hour passed without a cry from some dreamer 
which woke restless echoes from his neighbors. 

But with daylight the steady stream of merchandise, 
which the factory was beginning to attract, recommenced. 
The native traders of the hinterland had their hands full 
of the stock that had been pouring in upon them ever 
since the King of Okky had closed the roads to the old 
Coast factories with which they were accustomed to deal, 



168 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

and when the news spread, as it does spread in that mys- 
terious West Africa, that the white woman of Mokki 
bought and sold in spite of the King's teeth, they were 
only too ready to back her with their custom. The mer- 
chants of that unknown back country are some of the keen- 
est traders on earth. 

Some came in single canoes through the gloom and 
odors of uncharted muddy creeks, trusting to secrecy for 
safe passage; others joined forces, and brought armed 
flotillas of great sixty-man-power dugouts down the main 
stream; others clubbed together into caravans, so strong 
and so well-defended that even Kallee's truculent raiders 
dared not cross the Okky marches to hold them up. So 
marvellously accurate were the rumors that had spread 
up country, that few of these keen merchants came into 
Mokki without a grass basket full of spoiled specimens of 
butterfly as a " dash " to propitiate the new trading power. 

Every day the influx of merchants increased, till at last 
more came than the staff of the factory could deal with, 
and they camped outside the fort awaiting their turn to 
trade. Actually, a small native food market grew there to 
supply them. Kate had lowered the price the factory paid 
for every commodity, but still the bush merchants sold, and 
were only too glad of the chance. Times they felt were 
troublous; the shadow of the King of Okky hung over the 
steaming forests, and they wished to get what they could 
in European produce and be gone. At the Malla-Nulla, 
the Monk, or the Smooth River factories they would not 
have taken such prices; but the King of Okky had closed 
the roads to these, and for business purposes they were 
extinct. Nor would they have sold at such rates to the 
Germans when they held Mokki. Keen business man 
though he may be, the West African merchant is a crea- 
ture of whim ; the German he defines as a " bush-English- 
man," which is a term of reproach; he distrusts both him 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 169 

and his goods; and he will not trade with a German fac- 
tory on anything like the same terms he will accept from 
the Briton, even though the Briton sell him German-made 
goods. 

" We are doing such a tremendous business," said Carter 
one day at the evening meal, " that presently we shall 
strangle ourselves. We have used up all our own trade 
stuff, and we have stripped the Smooth River factory and 
Malla-Nulla, and pretty well emptied Burgoyne at Monk 
River. I don't know how finances are ? " 

" Tight," said Kate. 

" And yet we've got at the very least 8,500 in kernels, 
palm oil, and high-grade rubber lying idle here. More- 
over, we've tapped an unexpected vein of ivory. I thought 
at first that it was some small king's state reserve, some 
hoard he'd got buried, under the bed of a stream perhaps, 
which he wanted to realize on, and which would soon 
come to an end. But it's not that, it's new stuff that's 
been hunted within the last three years, and it's been di- 
verted, I really believe, from the Congo market. It's a 
splendid line for us, but it will pinch out very promptly 
if we once stop buying. I verily believe these natives can 
telegraph a piece of commercial news half-way across 
Africa in the inside of a week." 

"We are doing splendid business. 

" Of course, we've got the firm's Miss K. O'Neill here 
on the spot, and hence the prosperity; but I wish we'd 
got our Miss K. for just half a day at the Liverpool end 
to diagnose that we're starving for a steamer. The fact is, 
that greedy old scoundrel Cappie Image-me-lad looks 
upon Mokki as his special private preserve, and he doesn't 
intend to see any of the other skippers picking up Ms 
cargo commission if he can avoid it." 

" Do you blame him ? " said Kate. " I don't. But at 
the same time I'm afraid Mokki factory can't wait each 



170 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

time till Captain Image brings the M'poso on her round 
trips from Liverpool. However, I sent a canoe off this 
morning with a long cable which may ease matters." 

" You sent off a canoe ? I don't know how I shall get 
on without her crew." 

" Oh, I remembered how shorthanded you are, Mr. Man- 
ager, but I've not piled more work onto you this time. 
You recollect that tall Hausa merchant with the one eye 
who has been here for the last two days ? " 

"Yes, Rotata." 

" I gave him the cable, and an order on Mr. Burgoyne 
for 15, to be paid on delivery. Will you O.K. the ac- 
count?" 

" I guess," said Carter shortly, " that you are boss. But 
if you'd told me you wanted to send a cable, I could have 
arranged it for you." 

Kate looked at him steadily. " Why do you object to 
my working for myself, Mr. Carter ? " 

"Because I prefer to work for you. I'd work myself 
to the bone for you, if you'd let me." 

"Why should you?"* 

"Because I well, it's natural enough, isn't it? If you 
come to think of it, I am your paid employee." 

Kate still looked at him with a steady eye. " Of course 
it is Laura that you are really working for." 

Carter cleared his throat. " Of course," he said. " Well, 
if you and Laura will excuse me, I'll go into the other 
room now and post up my books." He got up and walked 
towards the mess-room door. 

Cascaes, who had been sitting at the other end of the 
table with the Portuguese and their wives, got up, and 
went towards the vacant place. But Carter turned at the 
door and called him sharply. " I'm sorry to interrupt 
further," he said, "but I want your valuable assistance, 
Mr. Cascaes. So come along with me now." 



CHAPTER XII 

EXHIBITS ANTISEPTICS 

THE night was hot, and steamy, and still. Even the 
insect hum was pitched on a drowsy note. The darkness 
seemed almost fat in its greasy heaviness. Two of the 
sweating factory boys were playing tom-tom on upturned 
kerosene cans, and a third was throwing in an erratic ob- 
ligato with two pieces of scrap iron for an instrument. 
And from the river behind a pair of crocodiles made un- 
pleasant noises with irritating persistency. Carter thought, 
too, that above the decay smell of the factory rubber store, 
the stable smell of the Krooboys, the crushed-marigold 
smell of the river, he could also catch the musky odor of 
the crocodiles, and felt vaguely sickened thereby. 

" . . . Those last-a bags of kernels I have not got-a 
weighed, senhor. I was weary, and so I go-a to change 
and shave for dinner." 

" Why don't you shave in the morning, instead of carry- 
ing a chin like a besom all through the day? I suppose, 
as usual, you were going to weigh up those kernels to- 
morrow ? " 

"You are most indulgent, senhor." 

" I am nothing of the kind. Sufficient for the day is 
the work thereof, and the man that puts it off till to- 
morrow gets out of here. Like to hand in your resigna- 
tion?" 

"No, senhor, no." 

"Then go and weigh those kernels, one-time. Then 



172 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

come back here and make up your books. D'ye think I'm 
going to have my whole machinery of commerce held up 
because you want to go and shave, and oil your head, and 
put on clean whites and a crimson belly-band and other- 
wise make yourself fetching for the benefit of Miss 
O'Neill?" 

" Miss-a O'Neill ? " said the Portuguese in surprise. " I 
do not care a banana-skin " 

" Here, don't try and fill me up," said Carter bluntly. 
"And don't put on time. Take a lamp and go out and 
weigh those kernels, and see you don't set the shed on fire, 
and when you're through, and have posted your books, 
come out and fetch me. I'm going to smoke a cigar out in 
the open." 

" The dew-a is heavy. There is fever about." 

" Take your advice to the devil." 

"Which fever," said Cascaes, "I should have added, 
if you had-a not interrupted me which fever I hope you 
will get." 

" That's all right. I like you dagos better when you 
spit venom openly. Now, you hurry up and go through 
those kernels, and see you get the weights right." 

The dew was thick on the grass in the clearing and 
stood in sleek greasy drops on all the patches of bare 
stamped earth. Moon and stars were all eclipsed. Even 
the fireflies, although the dark would have given full value 
to their manoeuvres, were absent. The unhealthy phos- 
phorence of rotting dead wood here and thr-e was the only 
illumination, except here and there a glow from a window 
in the factory. 

Carter went out through a gate of the fort and walked 
up and down with restless energy. He was wet to the 
knees with dew; the damp Canary cigar between his teeth 
had long since gone out; but he cared for no small 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 173 

things like these. He kept repeating to himself that "a 
man must play the game." " A man must play the game." 

And presently, when the tom-toms and the jangling iron 
suggested some tune to his ear, he changed this to a" jangle 
which stated " I could not love thee dear so much 
loved I not hon or more." And as the tune beat out 
into the hot steamy night, so did the words keep time to 
them with irritating repetition. 

Once he stopped and shook a fist at the invisible sky 
above. " I am going to marry Laura," he declared, " if 
she was ten times as black. I am going to marry her 
though I know my father will never speak to me again, 
and I can't take her home. I am going to marry her 
though the heaven's fall. I am going to marry her for 
one reason that can't be got over, and that is because I 
said I would. A man must play the game. But my God ! 
why did I never guess that Kate was on earth some- 
where ? " 

There was an old cotton-wood stump in the clearing, 
and he stood against it so thoughtful and still that he 
became the object of attention of bats. He hit at them 
angrily and recommenced his prowl. 

Hour after hour he tramped through the dripping grass, 
biting against fate. Cascaes, who did not work unless he 
was driven, had long since checked his tally of kernels, 
and gone to bed. The factory lamps had one by one gone 
out. The night noises of the forest that hemmed them in 
were in full swing. His thin clothes were sodden with 
the damp, and by every law of Africa he was gathering 
unto himself the seeds of disease. But still he tramped on, 
in and out amongst the huts and litter, wrestling with his 
misery. 

The thing which in the end lifted him out of this un- 
healthy pit of self-pity was commonplace enough in its 



174 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

way. As he was passing a small rude shelter of boughs 
and thatch, there came to his ears a very unmistakable 
human groan. 

It was a temporary hut run up by some trader who was 
waiting his turn to do business at the factory, and the 
groan was of that timbre which told that it was wrenched 
from a strong man by deadly pain. At another time Car- 
ter would probably have passed on. One grows callous to 
suffering in West Africa, and to interfere with a sick na- 
tive seldom brings thanks and very frequently produces 
complications. But something just then moved him to 
play the Samaritan. 

He put his head through the entrance and peered into 
the darkness. " Well/' he said, " who's here, and what's 
the matter ? " 

A voice replied in stately Hausa, " 0, Effendi, I am 
close upon death, and it is hard to die far from one's own 
lands and people." 

" Let's have a look at you," said Carter, in what he knew 
of the same tongue, eked out with Kroo and Okky. He 
scraped a damp and reluctant match. " Holy Christopher ! 
What have you been doing to your thigh ? " 

" As I marched along the road to here, a leopard sprang 
and seized me, but the men that were with me speared him, 
and so I escaped with my life. They made a litter, and 
on it carried me to this place. And here they left me in 
the hands of Allah, whilst they followed up their own 
private affairs." 

" But, man, the wound's alive. Why didn't you have it 
dressed ? " 

" It was written that the wound should be as it is." 

"Rot. You stay here another ten minutes or so till I 
get the tackle, and then I will clean it out for you." 

"Effendi, it is written that Allah sent the things that 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 175 

are in the wound, and with due submission I will not have 
them touched." 

" Hum/' said Carter, " now this requires argument. 
You savvy Constantinople ? I mean I'Stamboul ? " 

"There lives the Kaleef, the chief of the Faithful of 
Islam." 

" You've got it in once. Now, are you keeping yourself 
posted in the Sultan's that is the Kaleef's latest readings 
of the Koran ? You are not. I can see you have let your- 
self get thoroughly behind the times. What's your name ? " 

"AlibenHossein." 

"Well, Ali, I know what's the matter with you spir- 
itually. You've been thinking too much of the things of 
this life fighting, trading and so on. You've spread your 
mat and faced Mecca, and said your daily prayer in a 
formal sort of way, but you've been neglecting the moolah. 
You have been lax in your attendance at mosque, and for 
a fiver you aren't half the man at the Koran you used to 
be." 

" The Effendi is very wise." 

" I am. I can't help it." 

" He has hit upon this Believer's sin." 

" Dead on the spot. So now let's get to the point. In 
your ignorance, you believe that Allah sent all those crawl- 
ing horrors that are in your wound ? " 

" For His own wise purposes He sent them. Allah can 
do no wrong." 

" You are mixing up theological facts. Allah can do no 
wrong. But what about Sheitan ? " 

" I spit upon his name, Effendi," said Ali ben Hos- 
sein, and did it. 

" Hear now then the pronouncement of the Kaleef Ab- 
dul Hamed of I'Stamboul. The unclean things that haunt 
the wounds of the Faithful are no longer sent by Allah 



176 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

as a test of Faith. They are sent now by Sheitan as a 
torment to True Believers, and as an antidote,, the Prophet, 
through the Kaleef, has sent a liquid of his own devising, 
of which by a happy chance I have a portion in the fac- 
tory." 

" Is it green in color ? " 

" Green as the skirts of the houris of Paradise," said 
Carter, and thanked heaven for a small parcel of aniline 
dyes (^reen amongst them) which had been sent by an en- 
terprising Bradford dyeware merchant, to the order of a 
dyer in far off Kano. 

" Then," said Ali ben Hossein simply, " if you, Ef- 
fendi, can relieve me from the torments of Sheitan, from 
which I am suffering, I and my sons will remember your 
name in the fullest gratitude. Have you the holy liquid 
here?" 

" Not in my pocket, Ali ben Hossein, for I am not a 
djinn. But there is a medicine chest up at the factory, 
and within it is a bottle of crystal, blue in color, in which 
are tabloids which bear the giaour name of perchloride of 
mercury. They and the aniline green may take a bit of 
finding, but presently when I've got a solution made, and 
tinted to a True Believer's taste, I will return here and 
work upon you that cure of which I am sure that the 
Kaleef Abdul would approve if he'd a thigh as bad as 
yours, and had ever heard of an antiseptic dressing. So 
see to it that you don't slip through the gates of Paradise 
whilst I am gone. D'you understand? The houris won't 
look twice at a Hausa with a leg as worm-eaten as yours." 

Now, Carter gathered from a casual inspection by two 
damp matches that ben Hossein's thigh was pretty bad, 
but he had not made allowance for the toughness of a 
water-drinking, spare-eating Moslem. When he came back 
with a parrafin lamp, followed by White-Man's-Trouble, 



177 

who carried a bowl of warm water and other things, and 
commenced his amateur surgery, he was amazed, and he 
was sickened. Like most traders in the West Coast fac- 
tories, he had acquired through almost daily practice a 
certain deftness in cleansing and repairing wounds; but 
here in the thigh of this great muscular Hausa was a 
grid of gashes whose untended horrors went far beyond 
all his previous experience. 

The fact that the man had not bled to death, or died 
of shock at the first impact, and the further fact that he 
had withstood the attacks of all the abominable live things 
that preyed thereafter upon his open flesh, were a won- 
derful testimonial to his constitutional toughness ; and the 
detail that in spite of his fortitude he went clammy and 
limp when Carter commenced dressing the wounds, was 
only what could be expected. But it seemed that five days 
had elapsed since the man had been brought in and left, 
and during that time the other merchants outside the fort, 
with the ordinary callousness of Africans for one another, 
had neither brought him food nor reported his calamity. 
On the other hand, they had stolen his goods and gone 
their ways, otherwise non-interferent. And as a conse- 
quence the man was three parts starved when Carter found 
him and had his vitality perilously lowered. 

Carter had, perhaps, as has been stated, much of the 
West Coast trader's callousness for the native, but he cer- 
tainly had all of the surgeon's interest in a patient. After 
he had dressed the wounds he tried his best to bring 
his patient back to consciousness, and then for the first 
time only did he realize how near to the Borderland the 
man had crept. He sent White-Man's-Trouble flying this 
way and that on his errands, and with all the limited 
knowledge in his power fought Death for the Hausa's life 
till the fatal hour of dawn was well past. 



178 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

And so lie was found by Miss O'Neill at 5 A.M., white, 
shaken and black-eyed, attired in stained and sodden 
clothes, squatting in a miserable hutch that reeked of iodo- 
form, and welcoming with joy Ali ben Hossein's ungracious 
return to a world he had so nearly left. 

Miss O'Neill regarded him for awhile with a pinched 
lip, and then " I think you are perfectly disgraceful," said 
she. " At least you might have let me know what you 
were doing, so that I could have come to help part of the 
time." 

Carter blinked at her for a moment with tired brown 
eyes and then pulled himself together. " I beg your par- 
don for not doing as you wished. But I didn't know that 
you were interested in niggers, if there was no chance of 
making a dividend out of them. I rather looked upon 
this as an out-of-office-hours job; as a piece of private 
amusement of my own, in fact, and so I did not dare to 
repeat it." 

" Well," said Kate, seating herself beside the sick man, 
" perhaps I was hateful to you after supper, indeed I'll 
admit that I was. But you are being far more hateful to 
me now, and as that should tickle your vanity as a man, 
perhaps you'll be generous enough to call it quits. Trouble, 
will you kindly take Mr. Carter back to the factory and 
give him a large dose of quinine and all the hot, scalding 
tea he will drink, and then put him to bed, and see to it 
that there are no insects inside his mosquito bar." 

" I fit," said the Krooboy. " An' I got bottle of White 
man's medicine dat I pinch from dem Cappie Image. I 
give dem Carter a drink of him." 

" You will do nothing of the sort. Dem Cappie Image 
patent medicine plenty bad ju-ju for Mr. Carter. So you 
will do exactly as I ordered you. Ah, and here's Laura. 
Now, my dear, if you don't want the man to whom you're 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 179 

engaged to die before you marry him, you'd better look 
after him and his health very narrowly. There, get away 
out of this, the pair of you, and make up your silly quar- 
rel, whatever it may be." 

"But, Kate, George and I have no quarrel. Why, it 
was you " 

" If you haven't a' quarrel, my dear, invent one, if it's 
only for the amusement of making it up. I'm told it's 
one of the chief luxuries of an engagement. Now, please 
go, or you'll disturb Hossein. Hossein's the man who 
wants attention here, and I can't have you bothering about 
the place till he's better." 

Hossein was in fact the lucky man. Miss O'Neill, for 
reasons best known to herself, nursed him in person; 
Carter retained his interest as original discoverer; White- 
Man's-Trouble fussed round him because it was the popu- 
lar thing to do, and Laura was also diligent in her 
attendance on the sick room for reasons well-known to 
herself. 

But Ali ben Hossein had all a Moslem gentleman's diffi- 
dence with women, and he said little enough to either 
Laura or Kate; the Krooboy was his caste inferior, and 
he spoke to him only to give curt orders; and it was to 
Carter alone that he was communicative. 

His native tongue was Haiisa, of course, but he had 
been a trader all his life, and that in West Africa entails 
a knowledge of languages. Carter knew little enough of 
Hausa, but he was handy with Okky and sound on Kroo, 
and so when one vocabulary failed him, he passed on to 
another, and was generally understood. Thus, by very 
rapid degrees an intimacy grew between them, to as far 
an extent as the color barrier would permit. 

They talked on weapons and they talked on war; they 
talked of sport as each of them understood it; they talked 



180 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

on horse-breeding as it was practised in Kano and Sokoto, 
and also of horse-breeding as it was carried on in the 
Craven district and the Yorkshire dales. 

Carter tried without any success whatever to make Hos- 
sein understand the humor of the battle of the roses as 
it was waged between his father and mother in the York- 
shire vicarage; the Hausa in his turn gave the light side 
of a slave-hunting raid, and made Carter's flesh creep. 

They had abundant interests in common, too, in the 
romance of commerce, and discussed regretfully the decay 
of ivory and the sensational rise of rubber. Carter as the 
paid servant of O'Neill and Craven tried to hear of rub- 
ber lands which could be bought and resold to an English 
company, but Ali ben Hossein was emphatic in his refusal 
to help a white immigration onto the acres of his father- 
land. 

" Let us talk as traders, oh Effendi. Do not ask me 
to be the traitor who will make smooth the path for the 
invader. And for the present I bid you to consider this 
shortage in the supply of pink kola nuts. Now, the white 
kola nuts, which have not that dryness which is demanded 
by the palates of the Western Soudan, we can get from 
Lagos and the Coast factories in larger quantities than 
ever. But the growers declare the crop of pink nuts to be 
practically a failure this year, and therein I say they lie." 

And so on, with matter which had too technical a flavor 
to carry general interest. 

Now, the leopard had clawed Ali ben Hossein's thigh 
grievously, and the subsequent neglect of the wound had 
been abominable, but the man had been a clean liver and 
his toughness was great. In ten days he could hobble, 
and in a fortnight announced his departure. 

" I am a merchant without merchandise, Effendi, and 
must needs be back about my affairs. If I do not gather 
them into my hands again another will." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 181 

"I'd stand you tick to the extent of a dozen loads of 
goods if I had 'em," said Carter cordially, " but as you've 
seen for yourself, the factory's cleaned out. And Allah 
knows when the next steamer will drive in." 

" May your tribe increase, Effendi. I have had too much 
at your hands already. But though no money may pass 
over what you have done, yet I ask you to accept a gift, 
that is a mere token." 

It was a piece of gray stone which sprouted with rich 
brown crystals. It was shaped like a squat duck, some inch 
and a half long, and Ali ben Hossein wore it alongside 
the little leather parcel which held a verse of the Koran 
and hung by a thong from his neck. 

" Effendi, you are young, and that will bring you 
pleasure more than could be bought with ten quills of 
gold. Wear that, and your grief will fade." 

" Poof ! " said Carter, " I've no griefs." 

Ali ben Hossein waved aside the statement with a long 
slim hand, the hand of the Hausa swordsman for whose 
narrow grip Central African armorers make sword hilts 
that no grown Englishman can use. " Effendi, my sick- 
ness was of the leg. Neither my eyes nor my ears were 
touched by the leopard, and since I lay here I have both 
seen and heard. There is a woman that I have watched, 
a woman with brown hair that has in it the glint of cop- 
per. She flaunts you now, as is the way of women with 
those they love; but she is the one you desire, and pres- 
ently (having this charm) you will take her to wife. In- 
deed, she will come to your house without purchase and 
of free will." 

" You mistake," said Carter with a sigh. " It is the 
black-haired one that I am contracted to marry." 

Ben Hossein smiled. He was not to be turned from his 
idea by a small argument like that. " You may take her 



182 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

as the lesser wife, but I know who will rule your harem, 
Effendi." 

"You polygamous old scoundrel! I beg your pardon, 
ben Hossein, but you're on the wrong tack, and so please 
let us change the subject. This charm, this duck, is made 
of what we call tin-stone. Does it come from Hausa- 
land?" 

" No, Effendi. It is found nearer to here than the 
Hausa country. There is a great island of red twisted 
stone that rears itself up out of the bush, and this stone 
that the duck is made of lies amongst it. There is no 
value in the charm as a stone, but only value in its shape, 
which is that of a duck as you see, Effendi. Half the 
twisted mountain is made of that stone, and the river that 
runs along its base at times eats into it." 

" How far is it from here ? " 

" Twelve no, thirteen marches. Look, I will spread 
this sand upon the floor and draw you the roads. . . . 
But the country is evil, Effendi, and though you go there 
and spend a lifetime in search, yet will you not find 
another stone formed like a duck. To get this, my grand- 
father sent a hundred slaves who raked amongst the screes 
for a year." 

" This is tin-ore/' said Carter, " and I tell you frankly, 
ben Hossein, that there is a fortune in what you have told 
me." 

" I wish," said ben Hossein gravely, " that there were 
ten fortunes, and so I could perhaps repay one-tithe of 
what I owe to you, Effendi. May Allah be with you. I go 
now back towards my people, and if Allah will, we shall 
meet again." 

"Now, this stone and this tale must go to Kate," said 
Carter to himself, and went in towards the factory and up 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 183 

the stairs to the veranda. Kate came out of the mess room 
to meet him, and waved a cablegram. 

" I have just de-coded it/' she cried exultingly. " They 
have accepted my terms." 

" I wish you would de-code the ' they/ '' 

" The German firm that owned Mokki before we came." 

" What, the people you bought it from ? " 

She nodded. 

" But why on earth sell it back to them ? " 

"Because, my dear Mr. Carter, they are going to give 
me 9,000 for the produce we have collected, and another 
8,000 for the fort and the good-will of the business. 
How's that ? 17,000 cash against a 1,500 outlay in three 
months. That's better than staying out here in West 
Africa." 

Carter had been carrying the duck in his hand. He 
put it into his pocket. " I don't wonder you're exultant. 
I suppose no other girl on earth ever made a coup like 
that. And as for us here at the factory, that means our 
occupation's gone ? " 

" Oh, I hope you'll go back to Malla-Nulla, where you 
were, and work for us there." 

" I think not. As you're going home, and I cannot be 
of any immediate use to O'Neill and Craven, I prefer to 
leave the firm's employ if you'll let me ? " 

" We shall be really sorry to lose you. But perhaps 
you have something better in view ? " 

" To tell the truth, I have. And it strikes me if I'm to 
make a fortune, I must look out for it myself." 

" I quite agree with you," said Kate. " What was that 
you were going to show me? The thing you put in your 
pocket, I mean ? " 

" A keepsake that was given me. It's a charm, a ju-ju 
that will bring fortune to somebody, and I was going to 



184 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEE 

give it to you. But on your own recommendation I shall 
keep it for myself/' 

" You are quite right. It will be safer for us to go our 
own several ways from here." 



CHAPTEE XIII 

AT THE LIVERPOOL END 

Now, Godfrey O'Neill, deceased, was a man who at vari- 
ous times in his life had extracted from West Africa very 
considerable sums of money. He was shrewd, he was 
popular, he had the knack of resisting sickly climates, and 
he knew the possibilities of the Oil Eivers seaboard down 
to the last bag of kernels. 

According to his own account he had started life as a 
ship's purser. People who were more fond of accuracy 
mentioned that as a matter of history he had first gone 
as cabin-boy in a palm oil brig. But be that as it may, 
he had been associated with the Coast from his earliest 
days, and at the age of five-and-twenty was trading there 
on his own account. 

At first he stuck to an old trading hulk with moorings 
in the muddy Monk Eiver and battled with its swarms 
of cockroaches and got together a business ; but by degrees 
he gained the confidence of the native riparian magnates, 
and by the time he was thirty he had built on piles a fine 
set of factory buildings on the bank, had bought a treaty 
with the then King of Okky, and had built another fac- 
tory at Malla-Nulla in spite of the fact that the beach 
there was one of the most surf-smitten on the Coast. After 
that he felt that his Liverpool correspondents were getting 
more than their due share of his hard-wrung profits, and 
so he put the Coast factories under managers and came 
back to the Mersey. And thereafter, with occasions 1 visits 



186 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

to the Coast and the Islands, he made Liverpool his head- 
quarters. 

He had an office in Water Street, a warehouse near 
Huskisson Dock, and a house furnished with mid- Victorian 
solidity and ugliness out at Princes' Park. A sister, Mrs. 
Craven, whose unsatisfactory husband had conveniently 
died on the Coast, kept house for him, and as she voted 
marriage a failure, Godfrey professed himself as quite 
ready to take her verdict and was not anxious to dabble in 
dangerous experiments. 

Finally, as Godfrey O'Neill discovered, after a two years' 
trial of the style of living that suited him at Princes' Park, 
that it cost him just 900 a year, he saw very little use 
in bestirring himself to earn more. He quite admitted that 
there were other luxuries in the world that he did not in- 
dulge in. He might have kept horses, for instance; but 
he happened to dislike them. He might have had a French 
chef; only plain roast beef and plain roast mutton ap- 
pealed more to his appetite, and a plain British cook at 
20 a year produced these exactly to his taste. He might 
have had a larger house, but frankly he did not want one. 

So he went down to the office in Water Street every 
other day, and ceased to stir the business there when it 
showed any signs of averaging a more than 1,500 profit 
for any one year, not because he objected to additional 
wealth, but because he far preferred to play whist to pur- 
suing money. One may here own freely that Godfrey 
O'Neill was an active member of no less than five whist 
quartettes which met at clubs and houses, and there was 
the amusement which after long search he had discovered 
pleased him best. 

In the comfortable ugly house in Princes' Park, besides 
Godfrey and Mrs. Craven, and the two servants, there was 
a child who afterwards developed into the Kate O'Neill of 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 187 

these memoirs. Godfrey O'Neill brought her home on the 
last visit he made to West Africa. She was then aged, 
at a theoretical reckoning, three years, and she was more 
fluent in the Okky tongue than in English. She had 
never worn shoes till Godfrey bought her a pair in Las 
Palmas on the voyage home. 

" Is she white ? " Mrs. Craven had asked. 

" White, clean through," Godfrey had assured her. 

" Then who are her people ? " 

" That I shall not tell even you. Her mother is dead. 
Her father has gone under. He was a very clever man 
once, though I must say he used to be more high and 
mighty than I cared about on the rare occasions that I met 
him. But, as I say, he's gone under, hopelessly." 

" And presently," said Mrs. Craven, " when we get this 
little wild thing tamed, and clothed, and teach her to 
speak English and go to church, up will come some 
drunken reprobate to take her away again." 

" No, he won't. I've fixed that. He'll never claim her 
again. To start with he doesn't know if she's in England, 
or Canada, or Grand Canary. I even changed the name 
he called her by. I called her Kate from the day I left 
him, and had her christened by that name in Sierra Leone 
on the off chance she hadn't been christened before. And 
to go on with, he gave me his word of honor that if I 
took her away, he'd never embarrass me by inquiring for 
her again. You see, he was living as a native, and the 
child was running about with the other pickaninnies in the 
village, and I guess I made him pretty well ashamed of 
himself by what I said. The mother's dead, you know." 

" Poof," said Mrs. Craven, " he promised you, did he ? 
And what do you suppose the word of a man like that is 
worth?" (The late Craven had, it will be remembered, 
his strong failings.) 



188 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

" Ninety-nine beach combers out of a hundred will lie 
as soon as look at you/' Godfrey owned. " This one is 
the exception. He will keep his word, at any rate on this 
matter. He's just as proud as a king." 

"Between drinks," suggested the widow. 

" He's more objectionably proud drunk than sober. He 
always quotes Latin at one when he's full, and then says, 
' Ah, but you've not been to school anywhere, so you'll not 
understand that.' You needn't be frightened he'll call here, 
Jane. Just remember I'm a man with a taste for ease 
myself. If I'd thought there was the smallest chance of 
being bothered with him, I shouldn't have saddled myself 
with the kid." 

" Well," said Mrs. Craven, " as you have brought her, 
I suppose we must do the best we can for her. The aver- 
age orphanage doesn't take them till they are six, but I 
suppose if we hunt round we can find some sort of insti- 
tution which will accept three-year-olds." 

" Orphanage, h'm. You see, Jane, I was thinking we 
might keep her ourselves. I am sure we could look after 
her." 

" I object to the word ' we,' " said Mrs. Craven dryly. 

" Oh, I suppose most of the work would fall on your 
shoulders." 

" I am sure of it." 

" Come along, old lady, don't you think you can man- 
age it? Kitty isn't a bad sort of kid. Y'know, I saw a 
goodish deal of her on the steamer coming home." 

" I thought you gave her in charge of a steward ? " 

" I never told you that." 

Mrs. Craven laughed. " You see, I know your little 
ways * Steward, here's a girl for you. If you nursery- 
maid the kid nicely till we get to Liverpool, and don't let 
me see more of her than I want, and don't let her come 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 189 

in and prattle when I'm playing whist with Captain Im- 
age, there'll be another quid for you when we land. After 
that my sister will take her over, and she won't want a tip 
at all." 

" H'm," said Godfrey, " now, diamonds aren't in your 
line." 

" I wouldn't be seen with one. I'll take a brown cloth 
gown, please." 

"Shall I order it?" 

" No, you can pay the bill." 

"Right-o. Then you will take Kitty and bring her up 
here?" 

" You stupid goose," said Mrs. Craven, " I intended 
that from the moment I saw her. Cook's out buying her 
a cot this minute." 

Here then was the way that Kate first came into the 
house at Princes' Park. She arrived without a surname, 
and Godfrey, in spite of hints and plain questions, kept 
back any further pedigree. The child arranged a name 
for herself. When she had been a year in England she 
went out to a small folks' party : 

" Let me see, what's your name ? " asked the hostess, 
who had got tangled up among her many small guests. 

The child had answered " Kate O'Neill," as a matter of 
course. She had called Mrs. Craven, Aunt .Jane, and her 
brother Uncle Godfrey from the first, and after that ju- 
venile party she was introduced as "my niece, Kate 
O'Neill." 

As she grew, anything to do with West Africa and with 
business fascinated her, and curiously enough her prin- 
cipal instructor in these matters was Mrs. Craven. God- 
frey, honest man, was not going to be bothered. His re- 
partee when Kate asked him anything about the Coast 



190 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

was, " Go and invite some one to come in and let's make up 
a rubber of whist." When one day he died, and left Kate 
the O'Neill and Craven business, both she and her aunt 
supposed he had done it as an effort of humor. 

Mrs. Craven had the house and furniture at Princes' 
Park, and a comfortable annuity to keep it up on. Kate 
came into a business that had been thoroughly neglected, 
and allowed to run down till it was in a very shaky posi- 
tion, indeed, financially. 

" Sell it," said Mrs. Craven, " for what it will fetch." 

" I'd rather run it myself," said Kate. 

"Kubbish," said her aunt; "you're twenty, and the 
world's before you to enjoy. Besides, my dear, you're sure 
to marry. Sell the business." 

" If you want plain facts, aunt, I don't see why anyone 
should give sixpence for it, and if we tried to wind it up, 
it would mean bankruptcy. Some of the money's a very 
long way out." 

" Your poor Uncle Godfrey intended to leave you com- 
fortably off, I know." 

"And I'm pleased to think he died believing he had 
done so. They had the quaintest way of keeping books 
down at Water Street. Cutting notches on a tally-stick 
was nothing to some of their dodges. They hadn't struck 
a proper balance sheet for years, and both Uncle Godfrey 
and Mr. Crewdson really and honestly imagined that the 
firm was flourishing." 

" You sell," said Mrs. Craven. 

" Not I, aunt. Uncle Godfrey left me the concern be- 
lieving it to be a small fortune for me, and a fortune I'm 
going to make out of it, and not a small one, either." 

" I don't believe in business women," said Mrs. Craven 
severely. " I'd rather see a womanly woman." 

" My dear," said Kate, " you shall see the two combined 



KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIER 191 

in me presently. I'm going to make a ve-ry large and 
extensive fortune; but the moment you see anything un- 
feminine about me, I want you to tell me, and I'll sell 
out forthwith." 

Thereafter from eight o'clock A.M. to six-thirty P.M. 
for five days a week Kate sat in an inner room of the 
Water Street office, with the ancient Crewdson as a buffer 
between her and the world. She came into the place with 
a talent for figures, and a good general idea of the busi- 
ness, and she set herself first to the conversion of Mr. 
Crewdson. 

That worthy old person was entirely of opinion that 
what was good enough for poor Mr. Godfrey was quite 
good enough for anybody else, and (when pressed) said so 
with unfriendly plainness. A man, in Kate's shoes, would 
have dismissed him, and brought in younger blood. Kate 
preferred conversion. She knew that there was a great 
quarry of information on matters West African stowed 
beneath Mr. Crewdson's dull exterior, and she intended 
to dig at it. So she reduced his wages, which he quite 
agreed with her the firm could not afford, and then, un- 
asked, offered him a fine commission on the next year's 
profits. It was curious to see how soon she galvanized 
him into an opinion that these profits must certainly be 
forthcoming. 

She laid in a typewriter, burned the office quills, wrote 
the firm's letters, signed them For O'Neill and Craven, 
K. O'Neill, and before she knew it had created a personal- 
ity. Ten callers a day captains, pursers, traders, mer- 
chants wanted to shake hands with " your new head, Mr. 
K.," and went away with the idea that old Crewdson had 
suddenly developed capacity, and on the strength of it had 
stood himself a new signature. 

On Saturdays, during the summer, Miss O'Neill caught 



192 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

butterflies, and in the winter played golf. On Sunday 
morning she went to church. On Sunday afternoons and 
evenings she had something very nearly approaching a 
salon. On these latter occasions Mrs. Craven flattered 
herself that she brought success by her artistic attention 
to the commissariat. 

Now, the girl was attractive to men, and although she 
was emphatically a girl's girl, still she had as many friends 
of one sex as the other. She was good-looking, she was 
amusing, she was always well turned out, and she carried 
about with her that indescribable charm (above and be- 
yond these other matters) which always makes people 
desirous of warming up a first acquaintance into intimacy. 

To one man only had she shown any special degree of 
preference, and he was enough encouraged thereby to pro- 
pose marriage to her. 

She accepted him provisionally. 

" I am not absolutely certain that I wish to be married 
just yet/' she told him, "but I am going abroad now, 
and I will let you know definitely when I return. Those 
are not nice terms, but they are the best I can offer. I 
have always been able to give a ' yes ' or ' no ' decision 
on every other matter in life so far. But here I can't. It 
is weak of me. Perhaps it is merely womanly." 

" You are exquisite in your womanliness, as you are ex- 
quisite in everything else," he had replied. " I am grateful 
for any bone of comfort you throw me, Kitty dear." 

She was going away then to West Africa, as has been 
related above, and the man saw her off from the landing 
stage. She returned the waving of his handkerchief. 
" Now, if you had abused me for my indecision, and said 
you would either be engaged or not engaged, I believe I'd 
have married you out of hand if you'd wanted me. But 
you didn't seem able to clinch things, and so anyhow 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 193 

you're pigeon-holed for the present. I'm glad I made you 
keep our little matter secret." 

The man's name was Austin. Many times during the 
voyage south through the Bay, and down the Trades from 
the Islands, Kate told herself she ought to announce the 
fact that she was engaged. But on every occasion her 
femininity got up in arms. " Certainly not," said this 
intangible force. " Mr. Austin is a man, and if he cares 
to be a man and gossip, why let him. But a woman by 
reason of her sex is not called upon to say more than she 
needs." So Kate held her tongue, and regretted more 
and more every day that well that she should have cause 
for regrets. 

When she got back to England, a day ahead of time, 
Aunt Jane happened to be in London, but Austin had a 
wire from Point Lynas and was there on the landing stage 
to meet her. He wanted to kiss her there before the Torld, 
but she had the advantage of height, and avoided him 
skilfully and without advertisement. Their subsequent 
handshake was somewhat of a failure. 

"Hullo, Henry," said Miss O'Neill, "fancy seeing you 
here. I suppose you will try and make out you came down 
here to the landing stage on purpose to meet me? How 
abominably hot Liverpool is, and how atrociously the Mer- 
sey smells after that nice clean Smooth River. Have you 
caught me any butterflies? I've brought four cases full 
home from the Coast, and I honestly believe I've got two 
unnamed specimens. If they turn out new, I shall christen 
one after myself something O'Neillii. There's vanity for 
you! And now for the Customs House." 

"Is that all you have to say to me, Kitty? I've been 
just hungry all the time to see you again. I don't think 
a single hour of a single day has passed but what I have 
thought of you, and where you were, and what you were 
doing." 



194 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEE 

" Well, Henry, that's more than I could say. Here, 
wait till I catch that porter's eye. He's taking my cabin 
trunk to the wrong heap. About what was in my head 
between here and the Coast, I'll not say, but once out there, 
I'll tell you frankly I gave little enough thought to any- 
thing except Coast interests. The first place I went ashore 
at after Sierra Leone was our own factory at Smooth, 
and they'd had a fight there which only ended up when 
our whistle blew. The clearing between the factory build- 
ings and the forest was full of dead men. I found out 
that no fewer than 800 Okky savages had attacked the 
place, and they were all held off by one of our clerks with 
a couple of Winchesters, and a half-caste girl who loaded 
for him. It sounds like a tale out of a book, and you 
needn't believe it unless you like; I don't think I should 
believe it unless I had seen things for myself, but I did see 
the men who had been actually shot when they tried to 
rush the place, and I can guarantee the truth of the story." 

" Don't tell me there's a romance between you and your 
clerk." 

" There wasn't room for one. He was engaged to the 
heroine already, and was as consistently rude to me as he 
knew how. But I don't mind telling you he was a mag- 
nificent fellow. He was a gentleman, too, which is rather 
a rare thing to find on the Coast. But you're letting me 
do all the talk. You haven't told me about yourself. What 
have you been doing ? " 

" The usual work of a busy solicitor ; getting new clients, 
and sticking to the old ones. I can report good, steady 
success, Kitty. We can start pretty comfortably." 

A Customs searcher put his usual questions, and Kate 
smiled on him and said she had nothing to declare. He 
scrawled a chalk hieroglyphic on all her property without 
opening a single piece. " There, look, Henry, stop that 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 195 

porter. He's taking a case of mine to the wrong cab. 
Thanks, I wouldn't have lost that case for a king's ran- 
som." 

"Butterflies?" 

"No, a native war horn in ivory." 

" Oh, they're fairly common." 

" Yes, hut a friend gave me this, and I want to keep 
it. There, I think that's the lot. Good-by, Henry. You'll 
come and see me at Princes' Park when I'm settled down 
again?" 

" But, Kitty, can't I drive out with you now ? I'd so 
looked forward to driving back with you. There's plenty 
of room in the cab." 

" No," said Kate, " I'd rather you went home now, and 
thought over again what I'm like now that I've come back 
to England with a West Coast flavor. I know you'll dis- 
approve of me as a possible wife, but I do hope you'll see 
your way of keeping me on the list of your friends. No- 
body knows you ever suggested anything more, unless you 
have told them, and I don't see why they should know. 
But I'm more than ever convinced that I'm not the girl 
to make you the wife you deserve. Don't answer me now, 
there's a nice boy. Just go to the club and have a good 
dinner, and ring me up some time this evening and say 
you thoroughly agree with me." 

Mrs. Craven came back that evening from London and 
Kate told her of West Africa happenings with a fine 
wealth of detail. 

The old lady looked at her very narrowly and when she 
had finished, " Yes, my dear," said she, " and now are 
you going to tell me something that will interest me far 
more than all that ? " 

"No, Aunt, I think you have got the pith of it." 

" If you won't tell, you won't. But you must remember, 



196 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEE 

Kitty dear, I have known you and nursed you ever since 
you were a tiny child, and you can't change as you have 
done without my noticing it. Now, this Mr. Carter " 

" Yes, I did forget to tell you that he's got frightfully 
red hair." 

" You say he's engaged to Laura Slade ? " 

" Oppressively so." 

" But is he going to marry her ? " 

"How can I tell, Aunt?" 

" Who is he going to marry, Kitty dear ? " 



CHAPTER XIV 
TIN HILL: THE JOUENEY 

Now, lead-mining has been stopped in Upper Wharfe- 
dale these thirty years, but still a boy who has been 
brought up in a village there may well have some general 
knowledge of ores and the methods of getting them. The 
mining first began in those dim British days before the 
Eomans came, and it has continued on down through the 
centuries till the influx of foreign lead brought prices 
below 25 a ton, and the mines could not be worked at a 
profit. 

Eaw dumps and grass-covered dumps are traceable on 
every hand, and though the older tunnels are obliterated, 
there are still enough shafts and drifts and adits to be 
found in the gray stone hills to occupy many months' 
exploration. 

George Carter had heard of the past glories of lead 
from his earliest years, and old residents pointed to the 
ruined cottages that were filled and flourishing when the 
village held 500 people who lived by the mines, instead of 
the 200 who dwelt there now and made a lean living out 
of a little limp farming. With pockets stuffed with candle- 
ends he had splashed into the old levels and wandered for 
miles in the heart of the limestone hills and hacked with 
rusty pickheads at forgotten working faces; he had raked 
amongst the old ruined machinery beside the dumps; he 
had studied the run of the water races, and as far as a 
man with a natural engineering bent may reconstruct 



198 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

these things from memorials of the past, he had done so 
most thoroughly, and, in the old unscientific way, was as 
good a miner as any of those blue-gummed ruffians of the 
past, and that without even having seen a lead mine in 
real \vork. 

Tin-stone he had seen in a not very well-equipped school 
museum; a tin mine he knew only from an old book on 
Cornwall, which treated that country more from the pic- 
turesque point of view than the mechanical or the scien- 
tific. 

But the thing that had fired his mind one baking day at 
Malla-Nulla was a newspaper paragraph which spoke of 
the price of tin. Up till then, like the majority of the 
human race, he had not troubled his head as to whether 
tin was 5 a ton or 50. But here he saw that it had 
gone up to no less a figure than 207 10s. per ton. He 
wished he could find a tin mine, but concluding he might 
as well search that particular .part of steamy West Africa 
for great auk's eggs, went no further than framing the 
wish. 

Then came the happenings at Mokki, and Ali ben Hos- 
sein's parting gift of the little gray stone duck which had 
unmistakable brown tin crystals for its head, its wings 
and its feet, and on the top of all arrived Kate's cable- 
gram. A sweating operator had read that message from 
under sea, as it winked out in a darkened cable hut ; run- 
ners had carried the curt words along roaring beaches, 
paddlers had borne them by canoe up muddy creeks, a 
great bank in far-off Hamburg had pledged the perform- 
ance of their promise. A day later the slatternly S.S. Frau 
Pobst lurched untidily up the muddy creeks, and com- 
menced to ease the factory buildings of their overflowing 
wealth of West African produce. 

Carter itched to be off. It had come to this; he could 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 199 

not trust himself in Kate's neighborhood. Laura Slade 
saw, or fancied she saw how things were, and bravely asked 
him one day to break their engagement. 

But Carter drew her down onto the office chair beside 
him and put an arm round her and kissed her. " Now/' 
he said, " tell out frankly who it is that you like better 
than you like me ? " 

" It isn't that, George." 

" Well, as Cascaes is the only alternative, I didn't sup- 
pose it was. Come now, out with it, what's the trouble? 
I suppose you're just going to be a woman and tell me it's 
my fault? I don't agree with you. I'm the same me as 
always was red hair, large feet, and as big an appetite as 
the Coast will allow." 

She put her face against his shoulder. " It's Kate, 
George." 

" You must let me refer to her as Miss O'Neill," said 
Carter dryly. "You see, she's my employer or was 
and we're naturally not on intimate terms Well, what's 
Miss O'Neill got to do with my marrying you ? " 

" She's always been opposed to it." 

" Twaddle ! Now, look here, my dear, you've been nervy 
and upset ever since that bit of a scrap at Smooth River. 
Now, haven't you ? " 

" I suppose I have." 

" I'm sure of it. And it's not surprising. That was a 
pretty tough time for any girl to go through. Well, as 
I've told you, I've got my nose onto a fortune that's tucked 
away up in the bush, and I'm going to look for it. In 
the meanwhile, as I managed to screw sixty golden sov- 
ereigns out of that greedy old Balgarnie for curios that 
he'll sell for at least a hundred and forty, there's just that 
amount of cash to take you on a jaunt to Grand Canary 
for rose growing." 



200 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Rose growing ? " 

"To put color in your cheeks, then, you pale young 
person." 

" But I couldn't take the money from you." 

" And pray who has a greater right to take care of you, 
and prescribe what's best for you, and look after you gen- 
erally ? D'you think I want to marry a wife who isn't in 
the pink of condition ? " 

" I like to look nice for you, dear, but I couldn't take 
that money from you now of all times." 

" How do you mean ? " 

" When you are just going off on some desperate expedi- 
tion into the bush, and want every penny that can be 
scraped together." 

Carter laughed. " There you go, wanting to lead me 
into temptation. Wanting me to take money in my pocket 
to buy (presumably) kid gloves and fire-escapes in the shops 
of the bush villages, and spend my nights in local music 
halls. Fie on you that will one of these days have to turn 
into a thrifty wife! I shall avoid these temptations. I 
shall travel as unostentatiously as possible, and so ensure 
getting through. I shall take with me White-Man's- 
Trouble only, if the beggar will condescend to go and live 
on native chop, for the best of all possible reasons that it 
wouldn't be possible to take a lot of carriers. Can't you 
see, my dear, that the choice lies between a three-thousand- 
pound expedition, with carriers, and all the rest of it, and 
going quietly, and being too obviously poor to rob ? " 

" I suppose there is something in that. Father went 
quietly." 

" Of course he did, and so shall I. Some day, if things 
pan out as I hope, I may march up country at the tail 
end of a brass band, and do the thing in style ; but not to- 
morrow, thank you. So if you won't take charge of our 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 201 

superfluous 60 and decorate Grand Canary with it, I'm 
hanged if I don't dash it amongst the factory boys here, 
and have one flaring jamboree before we part company." 

" Oh, George, you are good ! " 

"Don't you fret about my goodness, old lady. I'm a 
pretty bad fellow at the bottom, only I try and keep my 
worst points out of your sight. Man has to, you know, 
with the girl he's engaged to. It's only playing the game. 
Now, you let me go, and I'll just slip across to the Frau 
and blarney her old Dutch skipper into giving you the best 
room he's got to fight the cockroaches in." 

It was on a Thursday that the Frau Pobst steamed away 
back down the muddy creeks laden with one of the richest 
cargoes that one single factory had ever collected in West 
Africa, and on that same day Carter set off into the bush. 
Kate and Laura were to brave the terrors of the steamer 
together as far as the Islands, and they found the boat 
even more unspeakable than they had imagined her from 
the outrageous descriptions of Captain Image and Mr. 
Balgarnie. 

Now, as regards the matter of that 60, Carter, to put 
the matter bluntly, had lied. With the King of Okky 
doing what he could to keep the country side in a ferment, 
to go up into the bush even with a strong party, and well 
provided, was risky. To go with empty pockets, and with 
no following, seemed very little short of suicide. 

But Carter refused to see it in this light. " I'm tough," 
he told himself, " and I've worked up a certain reputation 
for ju-ju. If I use my wits I shall get through, and be 
successful. I absolutely refuse to die here in Africa. I've 
promised to marry Laura, and, let it cost what it may, 
I'm going to do it. I must; I've promised; and, besides, 
she's absolutely no other prospect before her. But I do 



202 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

wish to goodness I'd a decent shotgun. I'm no kind of 
hand with this badly balanced Winchester." 

So, with a high courage, he addressed himself to de- 
parture, and invited White-Man's-Trouble with the prom- 
ise of goods, lands, goats, wives, guns, and the other things 
that go to make up a Krooboy competency, to accompany 
him. It was without surprise that he received a flat re- 
fusal. 

" Carter," said his servant, " I no fit for lib for 
bush. I got 'nother palaver too-much-important here at 
factory. Dem headman of factory boys say to me, ' Sar, 
you been stand-by-at-crane boy on steamah? An' I say, 
* Sar, I plenty-much-too-good educate.' And he say to 
me, ' Sar, you fit for lib here an' take dem job of second 
headman ? ' An' I say to him, ' Sar, I fit.' Carter, if 
I lib for bush with you, an' let Okky-men spear me, an* 
leopards chop me, I dam fool." 

" You're a cheerful animal. If you think you are more 
likely to get an archbishopric by staying here, by all means 
stay. Hope you'll like the Dutchmen when they come." 

White-Man's-Trouble crooked a bunch of fingers, and 
scratched his ribs. " Carter, dem Dutchman all-e-same 
bush-Englishmen ? " 

" You've got it in once. I've no doubt they're a most 
degraded lot." 

" Dem Dutchman he no have as much savvy as an Eng- 
lishman?" 

" Nowhere near. They wouldn't have chucked up the 
factory in the first instance if they had, and in the second 
no Englishman would have bought it back again at such 
an absurd figure as they were fools enough to pay Missy 
Kate." 

" Carter ? " 

"Well?" 



KATE MEEEDITH, FIFANCIEE 203 

"I fit for steal small-small sometimes from English- 
men?" 

" I can guarantee that, you scamp." 

"Then," said White-Man's-Trouble triumphantly, "I 
fit for steal plenty-much-big from Dutchman, an' he no 
savvy." 

" You'll taste abundance of chiquot, my lad." 

" The Krooboy snapped a piebald thumb and finger. " I 
take chiquot from Englishman, not from bush-English- 
man. If he flog me with chiquot, I put ju-ju 6n him " 
He picked up an empty bottle and handled it thoughtfully. 
" Ju-ju, if dem Dutchmen give me chiquot." 

" Of the powdered-glass variety in his morning sausage," 
said Carter thoughtfully. " Well, it would be no use warn- 
ing the poor devils, because, in the first place, they wouldn't 
believe me, and in the second they'd get it all the same. 
I guess these new colonizers must worry out the methods 
of dealing with the natives for themselves, as their betters 
did before them. And for myself, I fancy a knapsack will 
be the wear. Thank the Lord, I've tramped a good many 
hundred miles with one before." 

Now, Carter was strong, and he carried, moreover, a high 
courage and a fierce energy, which even the steamy atmos- 
phere of the West Coast could not damp. Malaria he had 
with a certain regular periodicity, but he was one of those 
rare men who threw off the attacks with speed, and suf- 
fered little from their after effects. He was essentially 
moderate in his habits of life, carrying a healthy hunger 
but never overeating, being neither a drunkard nor a 
teetotaller through fear of drink. Moreover, he did not 
abuse quinine, coffee, tobacco or drugs. As a consequence, 
in that much-anathematized climate he preserved a very 
level health and energy, and owned a normal mind where 
most men were either hysterical or morbid. 



204 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

He had come ashore at Malla-Nulla, when he first landed 
on that ugly beach from the M'poso, with two Gladstone 
bags. One of these had been looted by some light-fingered 
merchant of the interior. The other still remained with 
him, and had journeyed to Mokki. Its notable tint of 
yellow had long since vanished. In places it was mottled 
black with mildew, and the rest of the surface was a good 
mulatto brown. The fastenings had burst, and been re- 
placed by rope. 

He looked at it with a moment's indecision. It would 
make a vastly ugly knapsack but it represented one of 
his few remaining possessions in the world. (The 60, 
or, to be precise, the sum of 57 6s. 10d., which he had 
forced Laura to carry off, had emptied his purse to the 
dregs.) And as he could not make up his mind to desert 
the bag, he packed what things he thought essential within 
its leaky leather sides, arranged rope beckets for his shoul- 
ders, slung it on his back, tucked the Winchester aforesaid 
under his arm, and set off down the narrow forest road 
which ben Hossein had indicated, without further word of 
farewell with anybody. 

The heat of noon had just faded, but the eighteen-inch 
wide road was walled in with dense high bush, and the 
air down in that narrow cut was breathless and stagnant. 
When the road curved away from the sun and the high 
walls threw a shadow, Carter waited for a moment and 
panted ; when the sun teemed rays of molten brass directly 
down on him from overhead, he hurried ; and so moved on 
at an average gait of three miles to the hour, which is 
good travelling for West Africa. 

It is curious how the brain works in these hours of dis- 
comfort and abnormal stress. The one thing that occu- 
pied Carter's mind was a rather good specimen of Okky 
war horn. It had been of ivory, massive, well-carved, and 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 205 

with a mouthpiece of more than usual elaboration. In fact, 
it was the finest specimen he had come across, and he was 
a judge. He had purchased it from its native owner to 
copy for Mr. Balgarnie's markets. But he had seen Kate's 
eye upon it just before the Frau Probst took her away, and 
with the impulse of the moment had given it to her. She 
took it at once, and thanked him lightly enough, and he 
told himself, forgot it a moment later. A thousand times 
he called himself an ass for trying to keep in her memory. 
What was he, a factory clerk, to Miss O'Neill ? And what, 
indeed, was Miss O'Neill to him an engaged man? 

The bush rustled back at him: "Laura is well, what 
you know. Laura's got a lick of the tar brush. Laura 
is probably the identical person a certain reverend gentle- 
man in Upper Wharfedale especially warned you against. 
Laura may pass muster in Grand Canary, but she won't 
do further North. Fancy Laura in Wharfedale ! " Good 
God, in Wharfedale ! Now he came to think of it, he had 
never talked to Laura about home, and the moors, and 
the grouse, and the roses. 

He laughed noisily at his fancies, and a flock of red 
and gray parrots came on to the tree tops above and cawed 
at him. Well, after all, there were plenty of Englishmen 
who lived out of England. He might initiate a new era. 
He might be one of the first English colonists who looked 
upon West Africa as a home, not a place of exile. He 
rubbed the sweat from his face with a long forefinger and 
plodded on Why not ? He seemed to have the knack of 
health. Why should not he and Laura become powers in 
the Oil Rivers ? They might well rise to the rule of cities 
and territories. 

Then a voice brought him to earth again. Someone 
hailed him from the rear. " Carter, Carter ! " 

It was the excellent White-Man's-Trouble, who came up 



206 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

sullen, frightened and abusive. His cheek-bones were whit- 
ened with lime, in token of some ju-ju charm. He took 
over the battered Gladstone bag, and balanced it on the 
centre plot of his own elaborately shaven cranium. 

"I no fit for lib at dem factory an' know you carry 
dem load in dem dam-fool way," said the Krooboy crustily. 

They pulled up that night at a small terror-shivering 
village, and quartered themselves on the headman. He 
made no secret of his displeasure at their visit. Carter 
talked of the glories of Mokki, and the advantages of 
having a steady stream of trade pouring through one's ter- 
ritory. The headman pointed out with peevish annoyance 
that the King of Okky frowned upon Mokki in particular 
and trade in general, and that the King's displeasure was 
generally fatal to those on whom it fell, even though they 
had the happiness to live beyond his marches. But in spite 
of his gloomy reception, he set before his guests a portly 
bowl of kanki, when his women had cooked it, and himself 
ate a pawful from the calabash as a testimonial to its free- 
dom from poison. 

They spread their sleeping mats that night in the dark 
hut from which the headman's fowls had been driven 
to make room for them, and next morning Carter collected 
some wing feathers and some bits of wood, and made a 
windmill to amuse the children who swarmed about the 
compound. Presently there arrived the headman, who saw 
the toy spinning in the breeze, and annexed it. He and 
White-Man's-Trouble harangued one another with much 
noise and gesture, and then there was a bustle in the vil- 
lage, and the cooking fires burned strongly. The head- 
man's gloom had dropped from him like a discarded cloth ; 
he wore in its place an air of oily obsequiousness that 
showed he could be quite the courtier upon occasion. 

They breakfasted that morning on no mere kanki. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 207 

"Dem," said White-Man's- Trouble, pointing to the three 
great bowls, " dem hen-chop, dem monkey-chop, an' dem 
dug-chop." 

" Quack-quack dug ? " 

" No, bow-wow dug." 

" Ugh ! " said Carter, " I'll leave these rich dainties to 
you and His Nibs there. Let me have a go at the stewed 
fowl. Great Christopher! No wonder rubber's so hard 
to collect in this country when they use up so much to 
make legs for their chickens. Well, thank heaven for 
sound teeth and a tough inside ! " 

" I tell dem headman," said the Krooboy when they 
had started their day's march, "that dem windmill will 
be fine ju-ju. I say to him, 'You savvy dem fight at 
Smooth River factory?' An' he savvy plenty. All the 
bush savvy of dem fight. So I tell him me an' you, we 
keep dem Okky-men away by ourselves, an' shoot most 
of them, an' kill more by dem talking-god. So dem head- 
man savvy we plenty-big ju-ju men, an' we no fit eat kanki 
for breakfast." 

" My dear Trouble, your powers of diplomacy are only 
equalled by your personal appearance. Keep it up. If 
your eloquence can carry us through the country on the 
free hotel list it will save a lot of trouble both for us and 
for everybody else we come near. I like to think of myself 
as an adventurous knight exploring the black heart of 
Africa, but I suppose in the States they'd call us a pair 
of hoboes, and set the watch-dogs at us Gee ! Look at 
that ! " 

The rifle dropped to Carter's shoulder and cracked. A 
herd of small deer were crossing the narrow road ahead 
of them, and one of them tripped and fell, and there was 
payment for their next night's lodging. 

Thirteen days' march Ali ben Hossein had called it to 



208 

the hill where an unnamed river scoured the foot of a red- 
streaked bluff, and Carter, who was lean and strong and 
wiry, nattered himself on being able to walk as well as 
any Moslem in Hausaland. But the fact remained that 
more than three times thirteen days passed before they 
reached the place, and the perils of the way proved many 
and glaring. In some of the villages the headmen proved 
hospitable; in others they would have neither truck nor 
dealing with any callers whatever. 

The country was full of war and unrest, and there was 
no doubt that it was desperately poor. The cassava grounds 
were unplanted, the millet was unsown, the banana gardens 
were wantonly slashed and ruined. The small bush farmer 
is a creature of nerves, and he stands adversity badly. Put 
him under a strong over-lord, and he will serve gladly and 
efficiently. Leave him to himself, and when things go 
awry with him for too many weeks together he is apt to 
* suddenly give up the struggle, and sit down with chin on 
his knees, and quietly starve to death. One cannot reckon 
far upon the moods of a man who is ridiculously unen- 
thusiastic over his own life or his neighbors'. 

But at one place they marched in upon red war. 

The village lay amongst its farm lands in a break of the 
forest, and the gaps between the houses had been filled 
with thorns. Shots came from it at intervals, and were 
answered by the shots of invisible marksmen who lay 
within the edge of the forest. The sun glared high over- 
head in a fleckless sky. The air was salt with the smoke 
of the crude trade powder. 

White-Man's-Trouble counselled retreat. 

" Yes, that's all right," said Carter irritably. " N"o one 
wants to ram his head into a scrap less than I do. But 
where the deuce can we go to? There's been no single 
branch to this road we've come along, and the bush on each 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 209 

side is about the thickest in Africa. Nothing short of a 
regiment of men with matchets would make a path through 
it anywhere. Going back to that last village means getting 
skewered. All the way along I've been wondering how 
on earth we got out of it without having at least ten spears 
rammed into each of us." 

" Carter, I no fit to go get mixed in dem fight 
palaver." 

" You're so beastly unoriginal. Why go on repeating 
the same thing ? I'd like further to point out that we've 
not had a bite to eat for twenty-four hours, and I person- 
ally can't go on living on my own fat without inconven- 
ience, as you seem to do." 

" No savvy." 

" Well, to translate, I say I plenty-much fit for chop." 

White-Man's-Trouble rubbed the waistband of his trou- 
sers tenderly. " Me, too," he admitted. 

" Then, as there is only starvation and other unpleasant 
things behind, I'm going ahead to prospect. Gee ! There's 
somebody on this side with a rifle. And, by Christopher, 
there's another rifle in the village shooting back ! " 

The flintlock trade guns roared out at intervals, and 
every now and again there came the sharp bark of smoke- 
less powder, and its clean whop-whop of a bullet from a 
modern rifle. By careful watching Carter decided that 
there was only one rifle on each side, and he further made 
out that one was bombarding the other to the exclusion 
of all lesser interests. 

Now when a man has hunger gnawing at the inside of 
his ribs, and knows, moreover, that any movement in re- 
treat will be fatal, it does not take much to spur him on 
to an advance. So Carter went cautiously ahead, keeping 
well under the fringe of the cover, and White-Man's- 
Trouble, who was copiously afraid, and who muttered evil 



1810 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

things under his breath in Kroo, hung on to the remains 
of the Gladstone bag and crouched along at his heels. 

Carter took a step at a time, and was cautious always 
not to rustle a leaf or tread on a dead branch. So he 
pushed his way ahead, and when the Krooboy, with less 
dexterity, blundered and made the shadow of a noise, he 
turned upon him with such a look of ferocity that it awed 
even so cross-grained a person as White-Man' s-Trouble. A 
dozen times Carter nearly walked on to the heels of one 
or other of the attacking force, and as often drew off un- 
noticed; and at last he made his way to the place where 
he had located the rifle fire, and was closing in on it from 
behind, when of a sudden he was confronted with a rifle 
muzzle which suddenly spirted up from the middle of a 
clump of bush. 

It swung up till it covered the left side of his chest, 
and hung steady there for an appreciable number of sec- 
onds, and then a very well-known voice said, " Well, Mr. 
Carter, I congratulate you on keeping your nerve in spite 
of the climate." 

"Gee!" said Carter under his breath. "That's old 
Swizzle-Stick Smith." 

"I beg your pardon?" 

" I said I'm sure that's Mr. Smith." 

A bald head, garnished with an eyeglass, shaggy gray 
hair and a shaggy beard, came forth. " May I ask what 
you are doing here? Thrown up your commission by any 
chance ? " 

" Exactly that." 

" On your own ? " 

" Well, sir, starvation's my master at present." 

" Oh, I beg pardon. Go into the mess and order what 
you'll have. Or look here, I've shot my man, so I'm free 
for the moment, and I'll come with you. Whiskey we're 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 211 

out of, but I can recommend gin and soda. We looted a 
sparklet machine, by the way, from the Frenchman/' 

They worked cautiously back from the firing line, and 
came upon a mean lean-to of boughs and thatch which Mr. 
Smith referred to as "my headquarters." As the mess- 
sergeant happened to be away, Mr. Smith kindly produced 
from under the eaves a damp slab of translucent cassava 
bread, which was obviously all the place contained in the 
way of food, and extracting a square-faced bottle from a 
green box of trade gin, poured out half a calabash t full, 
added muddy water from a chattie, and offered it to his 
guest. 

" Come to think of it, that's more healthy for you than 
soda, Mr. Carter. So you're not up here on O'Neill and 
Craven's service, you tell me ? " 

" No ; handed in my papers, sir. I'm passing through 
here on urgent private affairs/' 

Mr. Smith put a hand inside his shabby pyjama coat 
and produced a piece of new black-watered silk ribbon, 
on the end of which was an eyeglass. He screwed this in 
place, and stared at his guest. 

" Ah, then in that case, Mr. Carter, I shall have to hear 
more of your projects before I can give you permission 
to pass through my territory." 

Carter stiffened. " Your territory ? Oh, I remember. 
You've been buying up rubber lands, of course, for the 
firm." 

" As a point of fact, I have not been worrying about the 
firm very lately. When I said 'my territory,' I meant 
exactly that, neither more nor less. Later I may turn it 
over to British protection. But recently it was no man's 
land, and as that infernal blackguard, the King of Okky, 
was after it, I seized it for myself." 

" Hear, hear," said Carter. " As the King of Okky was 



212 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

once indecently keen on adding my head to his private 
collection, I can never be really fond of that man, some- 
how." 

" Confound your head, sir ! That had nothing to do 
with it. I didn't quarrel with the man for following out 
his ordinary African methods. I'm going for him for let- 
ting in the French." 

Carter was clearly puzzled. "What on earth have the 
French to do with it?" 

" Exactly what they had to do with all the British West 
African colonies. We hold a seaboard, and when the men 
on the spot try to consolidate an influence in the hinter- 
land, our Foreign Office promptly truckles to the Anti- 
British party at home and tells them to drop it. The 
Anti-British party says, ' Oh no, we mustn't make a sphere 
of influence there. The Germans want it, or the French 
have set their minds on it, or why shouldn't poor dear 
Portugal have a chance there? But whatever you do, 
don't give it to nasty, greedy Great Britain.' And unless 
the hand of the Foreign Office is absolutely forced, they 
always do as the Anti-Britishers ask. You see the Anti- 
British party is noisy and hysterical, and always shrieking 
that it can command countless votes." Mr. Smith limped 
across the hut and sat on a green case and emphasized 
his further remarks with a powder-stained forefinger. 

" Well/' he said, " it's an old game with me, and after 
all the official kicks I've had I ought to have dropped it 
years ago. But somehow I couldn't resist the temptation. 
The King of Okky is our man by geography and agreement. 
I have made representations to the F. 0., till I am sick 
of putting pen to paper, that he ought to be recognized 
and patted on the back. They don't even take the trouble 
to reply, much less carry out the suggestions. Therefore 
the French, who have taken hold of the hinterland, have 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 213 

done the obvious. They sent down a sort of fourth-rate 
tin-pot sous-officier, and told him that if he fixed up things 
all right for France they'd give him a commission and a 
500 francs gratuity ; and as he'd absolutely no competitors, 
he naturally did the trick." 

" What a beastly shame ! " Carter blurted out, and then 
felt surprised at himself. It was about the first time in 
his life that the Englishman that was within him had ever 
peeped out upon the surface. 

" I know what the man's expedition cost practically 
nothing. I saw the presents he gave old Kallee 50 
would have covered them. And for that, and a mouthful 
of empty words, he gets half a million square miles of 
territory, and trade of a present value of 100,000, and a 
potential value of 750,000, at a low estimate. Well, Mr. 
Carter, I'm braver than our F. 0. I'm going to buck 
against the Anti-British party, and I'm going to see that 
we keep in our own hands what rightly belongs to us. I 
shall be called a pirate, but that doesn't disturb me. I lost 
all the reputation I had to lose at this same game years 
ago. I was doing my duty here then in West Africa. A 
smug little beast of a newspaper man got up in the House 
of Commons and demanded my dismissal. He would never 
have been heard of if he hadn't been consistently Anti- 
British on every occasion when the country was in dis- 
agreement with anyone else. But it was his dirty line, 
and it brought him a certain disgraceful notoriety, which 
was what he was after. He could command votes, or said 
he could, and the Government believed him. They didn't 
care particularly for England ; their one interest was keep- 
ing their party in office; and as 1 was a nuisance, I had 
to go. It wasn't a case of being actually broke, you must 
understand, Mr. Carter, but they made things so awkward 
that I had to send in my papers all the same. They tried 



214 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

the same game with Rhodes, and Curzon, and Milner, the 
dirty little curs. They hate a man who tries to uphold 
Great Britain's dignity or give her another acre of terri- 
tory. 

" But here now, thank the Lord, I personally am un- 
official, and I'm doing exactly what I know to be best with- 
out fear or favor of anybody." 

" How far does your territory extend, sir ? " 

" As far as I can make it," said Mr. Smith dryly. 

"Are you going to let it be developed by the white 
man?" 

" Assuredly." 

" Then," said Carter, " we shan't clash, and I'm sure you 
will give me my passports. I don't know whether the 
place I am making for is in your territory or the next 
king's, but I'm going there purely for purposes of develop- 
ment. I tell you frankly, I haven't a bit of ambition at 
present beyond making a pile. If ever I find myself a rich 
man I may take a hand in the thankless game you are 
on at here. But that's in the future. In the meanwhile, 
if the question is not indiscreet, might one ask if it was 
a Frenchman you were having that rifle duel with just 
now?" 

" The Frenchman's down with fever. I was exchanging 
shots with a soldier of fortune who is, I believe, an old 
acquaintance of yours. Kwaka his name is." 

" Great Christopher ! what a small place West Africa is. 
Old Kallee sent Kwaka down to borrow my head for his 
collection, and after the way I bamboozled that man I 
shouldn't have been surprised if he'd been struck off the 
Okky army list. Did you er make a clean job of him? " 

" Winged only, I think. He kept very well to cover." 

" You weie both blazing away for long enough." 

"Well," chuckled Mr. Smith, "I'm afraid he hardly 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 215 

had a fair chance at me. You see, I'd a boy with a trade 
gun lying under a log a dozen yards to my right, and I'd 
a string from my foot to his trigger. "When I loosed off 
the Winchester I pulled the other gun too, and Kwaka shot 
for the smoke every time, and made very good practice of 
it. That log would be worth mining for lead." 

"When you take the place what shall you do with the 
Frenchman ? " 

" Just the same that he would do with me," said the 
old man grimly. "Now suppose we change the subject. 
The bush telegraphs have been persistently talking about 
a white woman who's been upsetting the face of Africa, 
especially about our factories. Heard anything of her ? " 

Carter laughed shortly. " Of course I've heard. In 
fact, she's why I'm here. She's Miss Kate O'Neill." 

The old man dropped his eyeglass to the end of its rib- 
bon, fumbled for it till he caught it again, and three times 
tried to screw it in place before he got it fixed. " Kate 
O'Neill, you say? She'd be about twenty no, twenty- 
three years old ? " 

" I'm a bad judge, but I daresay she'd be about that. 
Why, do you know her, sir ? " 

Mr. Smith straightened himself with an obvious effort. 
" As I have not been to England for five-and-twenty years, 
is it likely ? You said she was English, I think ? " 

" As a point of fact, I did not, though presumably she 
is English. She was not the late Godfrey O'Neill's real 
relative. She was adopted, so I heard. But he left her 
the business for all that, and she's making it hum. She's 
marvellously able. But of course you have seen for your- 
self more of her efforts than I have, sir." 

" I have seen them ? " 

Carter laughed. " I'm afraid you made the same mis- 
take that everybody else made, from Slade and old Image. 



216 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

She is the K. O'Neill of the kindly-buck-up-and-get-it-done 
letters. She is the Mr. K. that you chaffed n e about at 
Malla-Nulla for admiring so much as a business man." 

" My God ! " said Swizzle-Stick Smith, and sat back 
limply against the wall of the hut, and then " My God ! " 
he said again. 

Carter hesitated, and then, " Did you," he ventured, 
" know Miss Kate's own people before the late Godfrey 
took her over ? " 

Mr. Smith, with an obvious effort, pulled himself to- 
gether. " I did, Mr. Carter. Her mother she she died. 
Her father went under. He had a pretty trying time of 
il, first, but when^the pinch came he went under most 
thoroughly. Godfrey O'Neill, good fellow that he was, 
took the child then, and so she got her chance, and, 
thank heaven, she's used it." 

Carter looked at the old man narrowly. " And is the 
father alive now ? " 

But by this time Mr. Smith was his old cool, profane 
self again. " How the devil should I know ? Do you 
think I keep track of all the failures in Africa? You 
seem very interested in this young woman yourself. May 
I ask if you've any aspirations in that direction ? " 

" If you mean have I any wish to marry her, I can 
answer that best by telling you that I'm engaged to marry 
Laura Slade." 

"Ah, I see. Well, Mr. Carter, we will drop the sub- 
ject, which is a painful one to me for many reasons. Let 
us get on to your personal schemes. In what way can I 
forward them?" 



CHAPTEE XV 
TIN HILL: THE MINE 

X 

TIN HILL, when they got to it, carried riches that lay 
in full view of the sky. The mountain of country rock 
which held the veins reared up out of the dark green bush, 
red-streaked and barren, and the last day's march towards 
it lay through a heavy growth of rubber vines. Even the 
Krooboy could not help noticing these. 

" Carter," he said, " rubber lib for here. Dem Missy 
Kate she say rubber-palaver beat oil-palaver, an' kernels, 
an' gum, all-e-same cocked hat." 

" She didn't. Those are my words of wisdom you've got 
hold of. Still I admit the sentiments are Miss O'Neill's. 
But the main thing is, Trouble, that rubber takes capital 
and labor to handle, and this firm's short of both at the 
moment. We'll leave rubber to Miss O'Neill for the 
present." 

" Carter, dem Missy Kate, she no fit for love you 
now?" 

" She no fit," said Carter, with a sigh, " because you 
savvy I fit for do wife-palaver with dem Miss Laura." 

The last marches of Ali ben Hoosein's road had been 
little travelled during these latter months of political up- 
heaval, and this meant that the ever-growing bush had en- 
croached, and passage was difficult. Moreover, food was 
painfully scarce. Swizzle-Stick Smith, out of his scanty 
store, had given them what he could, but this was soon 
eaten, and once more they had been forced to fall back on 



218 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

that marvellous thing, the kola nut. But though nibbling 
kola puts off the desire for a meal, and makes one able to 
endure prolonged strains, it does not fill gaps in the inside. 

Both Carter and the Krooboy were very gaunt, and tat- 
tered, and savage-looking when at last they arrived at the 
rock and the river; but the omens seemed to change from 
that moment. 

To begin with, Carter had a snap-shot at a gazelle and 
brought it down. They lit a fire where they were, ate, and 
felt the blessedness of being full for the first time for a 
fortnight. Then, whilst hunting for a site for a hut, they 
came across a clump of plantains, wild certainly, and 
coarse, but filling enough to men who had long outgrown 
any niceties of palate. And at the farther side of the 
plantains, what appeared to be a mere cubical mound of 
greenery disclosed itself upon inspection to be a house. 

" Ghosts," whimpered White-Man's-Trouble, and shrank 
back. 

" I hope so," said Carter. " They'd give us local news, 
anyway, and might be amusing to talk to. But I never 
met ghosts outside a story-book, and I'm afraid there'll 
be none here. I wonder who lived on this spot? Stone 
house, with limed walls three feet six thick, and a flat ce- 
ment roof. Inside area phew! it smells musty twenty 
feet by twelve. No, by Christopher ! there's another room 
on beyond. Storeroom that oh, beg pardon, Mr. Snake. 
My mistake. Good-afternoon ! " 

He shot out into the open again by the doorway, and 
several snakes who resided in the farther room made exit 
by the window. 

" When in doubt as to the authorship of any West Afri- 
can monument, one always puts it down to the early Portu- 
guese," Carter mused, " and we'll leave it at that for the 
present. Original occupants have been gone any time these 



KATE MEREDITH^ FINANCIER 219 

last two hundred years. Well, if we strip off these vines 
and creepers from the outside, and light fires inside to 
sweeten the air a bit, we shall have the most palatial 
quarters. The question now is whether there is a mine 
and whether it is worth working." 

But that last point very quickly answered itself. Three 
great veins of tin-stone sliced vertically into the mother 
rock. Two of them were forty feet wide, the third was 
sixty. The face ran up at a steep angle, and a great beer- 
colored river swilled away at its foot, and undermined it, 
and with the help of the sun, kept chattering screes always 
cascading down the slope. 

" This isn't a mine," Carter shouted exultantly, " it's a 
quarry! Bring a steamer up alongside here, and every 
man that works could shovel two hundred sovereigns' worth 
of ore into her from these dumps each hour without so 
much as putting a pick in. Why, the outcrops are scarcely 
leached at all. When we've worked twenty yards or so into 
the veins I'll rig a temperley transporter and guy it to 
these rocks above, and run the stuff straight from where 
it grew into a steamer's holds. Great Christopher! Kate 
had better look out: I'm not going to let her be the only 
millionaire on earth." 

" Dem stones with yellow glass on him worth money ? " 
asked White-Man's-Trouble. 

" Heaps." 

"In Liverpool?" 

"Well, say Swansea or Cardiff; practically the same 
thing." 

" No worth money here ? " 

" I'd sell you a ton for a fill of tobacco." 

" How you get it to coast ? You no fit to pay carriers." 

" By water, my pagan friend. We make steamah lib 
for here." 



220 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Steamah no fit," said the Krooboy, and spat con- 
temptuously into the yellow stream. " Dem cappies no 
savvy way here. Dem ribber no savvy way to Coast." 

" That's a bit beyond my linguistic powers. You must 
translate some more." 

" Dem ribber," the Krooboy explained patiently, " no fit 
for run to dem sea." 

" Then where the deuce does it run to ? Does a Ju-ju 
drink it?" 

" Ju-ju no fit for touch dem ribber," said White-Man's- 
Trouble, taking the question literally. " But dem ribber 
run into dem squidge-squidge, an' lib for die ! " 

"Runs into a swamp and gets lost! My great Chris- 
topher, the odds are you're right. But why in the name 
of thunder didn't you tell me that before ? " 

" I no savvy," said the Krooboy simply, " where you 
come. Carter, I come after you from Mokki because I 
think you no fit for carry dem bag." 

Carter swung round and picked up White-Man's- 
Trouble's hand and shook it heartily. " You've got a very 
white inside to you," he said. 

But the African was not flattered. He pulled away his 
limp hand as soon as it was set free, and rubbed his abdo- 
men nervously. " Carter, I no fit for white inside. I 
no ju-ju boy. I dam common Krooboy." 

Thence onwards there was impressed on Carter's mind 
these three great facts One: He had found a mine of 
immense potential value. Two: He could never turn his 
minerals into cash unless he could find a water channel 
down to the Coast. And three : If he couldn't discover that 
channel himself no one else would, at any rate for his 
benefit. 

He thought these matters over during one torrid night, 
and resolved to devote the next day to exploration. He 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 221 

had had .predecessors on the place, house building predeces- 
sors who had left a series of rust-streaks which he trans- 
lated into mining tools. Presumably they were Europeans. 
How did they propose to deal with this ore? Smelt it on 
the spot, or bag it and get it to the Coast? 

If they were West African Portuguese of the olden time, 
he was fully aware that they would be using slave labor for 
everything, and he tried to figure out if it was possible, 
even with slave porters, to carry concentrates down to the 
Coast and leave a sufficient margin for profit. Even with 
the most liberal estimates he could not make it so, taking 
into account the slow-sailing ships, the crude smelting 
methods, and the lower prices of the old days. Remained 
then the passage of the creek and river channels, and if 
these old Portuguese had found a waterway, why, then, so 
could he. 

So next day he set out to hunt for a quay, or any other 
traces of shipping ore, or perhaps some evidences of boat- 
building, and he pressed his way through vine and bush, 
and over crag and scree, till the scorching heat had drained 
his lean body of moisture, and his knees zigzagged beneath 
him through sheer weakness and weariness. 

Then he made a discovery, and sat down, and for the 
moment felt faint and discouraged. 

He had nearly walked in onto the top of a native village. 

He had been going down-wind, or the smoke of their 
fires would have warned him earlier. As it was, the bark 
of a scavenger dog gave him the first hint of the village's 
nearness, or he would have descended onto its roofs. It 
lay beneath a small bluff, and its houses so assimilated 
with the rest of the forest that even close at hand it was 
hard to pick out the human dwellings. 

It was the hour of heat, when only Englishmen and dogs 
(according to the old libel) are wont to be abroad, and the 



222 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

village slept. Even the dogs found the heat too great for 
wakefulness, so that only the Englishman carried an open 
eye. But the smell of the place advertised it as a village 
of fishers, and a closer scrutiny showed the harvest of the 
river, gutted, and strung up upon the stripped boughs of 
trees to dry in the outrageous sun-heat. There are always 
markets for these dried river fish throughout all West 
Africa. 

Carter backed into thicker cover, and waited till the 
sun began once more to cast a shadow, and the village 
woke. First the dogs opened their eyes and began their 
endless scavengers' prowl. Then the children came out to 
play in the dust. Next the women roused to do the village 
work. And last of all, the men emerged from the clumps 
of bush, which one had to accept as huts, spear-armed all 
of them, and sat in the patches of purple shade, and over- 
saw all, to approve and direct. 

"You lazy hounds," said the Englishman to himself, 
"I should like to set you to shoveling ore all day, and 
signing checks all night for your women's bonnet bills. 
But then," he reminded himself with a sigh, " there are 
some women these days who insist on working themselves, 
however hard you may press your services." 

He reported his find to White-Man's-Trouble on his re- 
turn to the old Portuguese house that evening, and that 
worthy was seized with his usual tremors. " Carter," 
said he, " dem bushmen that live by fish-palaver fit for be 
worst kind of bushmen. They come here one day soon, 
an' they throw spear till we lib for die, an' they chop us 
afterwards. You savvy ? " said the Krooboy, with a whim- 
per and a shudder " chop us after ? " 

" Don't try and work up my feelings over the post-mor- 
tem, because you can't do it. Once dead, what happens 
to my vile corpse doesn't interest me. But I don't intend 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 223 

to peg out yet, especially at the hands of a pack of ignorant 
cannibals like these. Observe, Trouble. You have* seen 
me practise ju-ju already ? " 

"I fit" 

" And you have been my assistant in the black art ? " 

The Krooboy shuddered, but he said sturdily enough, 
"I fit." 

" Well and good. Then to-morrow we will weave infer- 
nal charms over this pleasing spot, till no mere black man, 
be he cannibal or be he simple fisherman, will dare to press 
his sacrilegious toes upon it." 

A stream of water poured over one part of the cliffs, 
that Carter designed hereafter for a power-plant to handle 
his ores. But in the meanwhile he turned it to a more 
immediate use. He cut wide bamboos, and fitting them 
into one another, formed a great pipe which would receive 
water and air together. With stones, and clay, and grasses 
he built a box to receive the air and water, and made a 
cunningly devised trap through which the water could 
escape, but not the air. Then with more bamboos he built 
him organ pipes and set the mouths of these in the box, 
so that the air should drive through them and blow a dis- 
mal note. And next, with further ingenuity he fashioned 
a commutating valve, also worked automatically by the 
water, which for a time would shut off the water, and then 
set it going again to thrill the air with the notes boo-paa- 
burnm, in ascending scale, and a minute later to reply 
bumm-paa-boo. 

It was all extremely simple when one knew how it was 
done, and extremely startling to walk in upon from the 
depths of a primeval African forest, and the fishers of the 
village, when the sounds first broke in upon their nervous 
ears, threw themselves down upon the dust, and waited 
for the end of the world, which they felt sure was at hand. 



224 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

To them then appeared a white man who was clothed 
from head to foot with garlands of dark green leaves of 
the rubber vine, and had on his head hair which was of the 
sacred color of red. He was followed by a Krooboy bear- 
ing the blue tribal mark between his brows, and having a 
sheaf of feathers stuck above his right ear, where the or- 
dinary tooth-cleaning stick should have been carried. 
These explained in bold, clear tones that they were the 
chief ju-ju men of all Africa, and that the portent which 
was even then boo-paa-bumm-ing behind them was sent by 
powers unseen to herald their coming. But they did not 
represent the evil, the harmful ju-ju. If only they were 
treated with the profound respect which was their due they 
would be a beneficent influence, with a special protective 
eye to that village of fishers. The catch should increase, 
the markets widen, and peace should hem in the roads 
through which the villagers travelled. 

" But each morning we must have an offering of fresh- 
caught fish," White-Man's-Trouble proclaimed, "together 
with the wood necessary for their cooking. ( Carter, I no 
fit for gather cook-wood when I ju-ju man," he explained 
to his companion.) 

The scheme took ; there was no doubt about that. Never 
were villagers so pleased at securing the supernatural pro- 
tection, which all Africans desire, at so meagre a cost. 
Men, women and children, they got up from the dust, and 
they slobbered over the Krooboy's toes, and over the re- 
mains of Carter's canvas shoes, and to show their willing- 
ness, the men went down to the marigold-smelling river 
then and there to procure the wherewithal to make their 
initial offering. 

White-Man's-Trouble scratched himself thoughtfully 
and looked over those that were left. " Carter," he 
said, " I no fit for cook dem food when I ju-ju man. We 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 225 

take with us two-three, all-e-same slaves, to be house-boy 
an' do dem wqrk." 

" No/' said Carter shortly, " we shall do nothing of the 
kind." 

The Krooboy stared. "Why you no fit?" 

"I know what you're after, and I've got my reasons, 
though you wouldn't appreciate them. However, I sup- 
pose I must invent something that will appeal to you. If 
dem bushmen lib for house with us they soon see we no 
real ju-ju men, an' they tell their friends. Then their 
friends come up some dark night and chop us. Savvy?" 

"0 Carter," said White-Man's-Trouble, "you plenty- 
great man ! " 

Now there are two ways of working a mine. One is to 
sell it to a limited company which in return for certain 
concessions kindly puts up the necessary capital for de- 
velopment ; the other way is to find the capital out of one's 
own private resources, and annex all the resultant profits. 

But Carter had a poor opinion of the size of his own 
share if the first of these methods were carried out. To 
begin with, he knew nothing of company promoting. He 
would have to employ an expert, who would want the lion's 
share of the plunder; and indeed he quite realized that a 
tin mine up an unknown river in the territory of no man's 
land would take a powerful lot of selling even to that 
gullible body of mining-share purchasers of the British 
public. The more he thought over the limited company 
idea, the less chance of profits did he see in it for him- 
self. And he wanted those profits badly. He had not 
risked life and health to study African scenery and cus- 
toms. 

On the other hand, he was at the moment absolutely 
penniless. If he did discover a waterway down to the 
coast or rather when he had discovered that waterway, 



226 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

for he was fully determined to do it how much forwarder 
would he be? What steamer could he charter? None. 
By no means could he get one without giving up a large 
slice of his precious mine to the man who ran the risk. 
He did not blame them. He put himself in the traders' 
places. If he were running a down-river factory, and had 
a launch, and some tattered red-headed fellow came down 
out of the back of beyond with a wild tale about a tin 
mine, and asked for the loan of the launch, and promised 
to pay when a cargo was brought down, and sent to a 
smelter in England and realized upon, what would he 
say to such a preposterous offer ? Why, he would laugh at 
it. The proposition was not one that any business man 
would entertain. 

No, he must get some capital, and buy that launch. 
And then came the question of where was the capital to 
come from. 

His father ? Well, he was engaged to Laura, and he did 
not feel like going near his father. 

Slade? Smith? Neither of them had a penny. 

O'Neill and Craven? That meant Kate. He started 
as if he had been stung at the idea of going to Kate and 
asking her for money. Kate was successful, and she could 
loan it easily. Granted, and if she had been successful 
so would he be, and without her help. He shook an angry 
fist at Africa. " Curse you, if you've given her a fortune 
you've got to give me one too, or I'll take it in spite of 
you!" 

He had a touch of fever that night, and White-Man's- 
Trouble plied him with decoctions of herbs of such appall- 
ing nastiness that (in his own phrase) he decided to get 
well quickly, merely to avoid the drugs. But it was a fancy 
built of that fever which put him on the path of success. 

He imagined that the shades of the old Portuguese, who 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 227 

had built the strong stone house in those far-off days, came 
in that night to visit him. They were miners, too, or metal 
workers, he could not make out which, and they strutted 
about in long patched cotton stockings which reached to 
mid-thigh, and a combination garment of thick cloth that 
covered all the rest of them. Even in that stifling room, 
and in that baking climate, they wore metal helmets and 
metal body armor, and Carter wondered how they could go 
abroad into the sunshine and not be cooked alive in their 
shells. 

But he did not content himself for long with this idle 
observation. There was a method even in his fevered 
dreaming. He put the question: Did they get their stuff 
down to the Coast on the heads of carriers? The ghosts 
laughed at the idea of such a thing. " Why should we go 
against our nature ? We Portuguese in the days when we 
lived, who speak to you now we were seamen and river- 
men always. So we built great flat boats and swam our 
goods down the rivers." 

" Christopher ! " said the Englishman, " there's just the 
tip I've been waiting for. A sort of raft. By Gee ! I'm 
going to shake hands with you for bringing the news." 

But in that hospitable attempt he was stopped by the 
burly White-Man's-Trouble, who sat on his chest, till he 
promised to lie still again. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE KING'S BOUNTY 

A FUETHER brilliant idea came to Carter next morning 
that after all he and White-Man's-Trouble had been rais- 
ing difficulties about the river's navigation that were quite 
unnecessary. There was a village of natives close at their 
door who were river-farers. What was more likely than 
that there were many men there who could pilot a canoe 
through a chain of creeks till at last they heard the great 
Atlantic surf roaring on a river bar ? 

White-Man's-Trouble shook his head when he heard the 
suggestion. " Dem bushmen savvy nothing," said he con- 
temptuously. 

Upon experiment it proved that he was right. The vil- 
lagers had acquired the habit of fishing on the reaches 
which ran two miles up stream and two miles down; they 
had adopted the customs of their forefathers; no one of 
them had ever paddled beyond these limits. They were 
an incurious people. 

Their canoes were small, and narrow, and unwieldy. 
They were dug out from cotton-wood trees with fire, and 
dubbed into vague shape with native adzes, and through 
sheer idleness and incapacity the builders had rarely se- 
lected straight timber. Even expert polers and paddlers 
could not propel those miserable craft in a straight course. 
One thing only were these fishers good at, and that was 
baling. But in this they had abundant practice, for all 
the canoes were sun-cracked, and leaked like baskets. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 229 

" I wish," said Carter, " for a great raft that will carry 
twelve tons of the shiny stones which fall from the moun- 
tain." 

They did not know what a raft was, neither did they 
appreciate the size of a ton, but Carter demonstrated to 
them, and White-Man's-Trouble kept them from forget- 
ting. The Krooboy had found a chiquot, and, from hav- 
ing felt chiquots across all parts of his own person many 
a time, was well qualified to wield such a baton of au- 
thority. Carter picked out suitable cotton woods, and the 
Krooboy apportioned out the cutters, and stayed beside 
them till their work was done. 

They handspiked the logs down to the water, again 
having to be instructed in this most elementary piece of 
mechanics, laid cross-pieces at right angles, and lashed all 
tightly together with lianes. Then when they had built 
up the interstices between the logs with large pieces of tin- 
stone, they carried down the smaller ore in baskets till the 
logs were sunk to three-quarters draught. 

Next they built a house on the raft and covered it with 
thatch, and in part of the house they piled a great store 
of dried fish as provision for the voyage. And all the 
while the ju-ju organ behind them boomed out at intervals 
its dismal boo-paa-bumm, bumm-paa-boo. 

Now although Carter had been a trader long enough to 
get very African notions of the negro and his ways, still 
he had an Englishman's natural bias against forced labor. 
White-Man's-Trouble, who did not see the desirability of 
working if others would do it for him, openly suggested 
pressing what hands were required for navigation. But 
Carter said no. He had no money to pay them with on 
arrival, and the lower castes of Africans do not understand 
the delights of having outstanding accounts with the white 
man for labor performed. The Krooboy and he must 



230 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

struggle down the creeks and find the channel themselves. 

White-Man's-Trouble sniffed and scratched himself, and 
said they would see. And presently when the time came 
for departure the usual African surprise descended upon 
them surely enough. Seven naked savages from the fishers' 
village squatted on the raft and refused to budge. Their 
arguments were simple. Carter was a great ju-ju man. 
They knew he was great, because since he came the boo- 
baos-bumni noises had been incessant. Moreover, these were 
beneficent noises, since whilst they filled the air no one 
had died in the village from leopard, crocodile, or alien 
spear. They therefore adopted him as their master. 

" Oh, but look here," said Carter, " I can't do this. It 
means I should be a slave-holder, neither more nor less. 
Besides, with you seven great lumps sitting there, the raft's 
awash. If I take you I shall have to jettison some of my 
tin-stone." 

But they had no further arguments. They sat placid. 
They had lived in cousinship with fear all their squalid 
lives, and here at last had arrived the strong man who 
could certainly protect them if he would. And they in- 
tended he should. 

Carter thought for a minute, and then, " I won't have 
it," said he. " Trouble, drive them ashore." 

White-Man's-Trouble spoke,* and nothing happened. He 
laced into their bare backs with his chiquot, but still they 
did not budge. One of them, who seemed to be spokes- 
man, merely talked to him quietly. 

The Krooboy explained. "Dem bushmen very unedu- 
cate. Dey say if you no take 'em dey lib for die. Dem 
big black fellow there wid one ear, he say if you no take 
him, he walk into dem ribber an' be crocodile chop." 

"They'll do it, too, confound them," Carter assured 
himself vexedly. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 231 

And so it came to pass, as he could not very well con- 
demn the enterprising seven to death for that is what 
leaving them amounted to he was forced to take them 
with him, and very idle, inefficient boatmen they proved. 
They knew nothing of the river, once the two miles of 
their fishing had been passed; they had no idea of the 
obvious set of currents, no eyes for the plainest shoal. If 
they were left to themselves for a dozen minutes they 
would run the raft into the bush, and as likely as not get 
on board a cargo of red ants that seemed to have white- 
hot teeth when they started to bite. They gorged upon 
the scanty store of dried fish if they were not watched, 
and never caught more unless they were incessantly goaded. 
When the reeking yellow river was more than usually full 
of crocodiles they would dangle their legs over the side; 
and when the raft was drifting past a village which was 
most probably hostile, they would break into song. They 
always felt that the great white ju-ju man, under whose 
protection they had elected to place themselves, was com- 
petent to shelter them if he so desired. And if he willed 
otherwise, and they died, well, that did not greatly concern 
them. They were very exasperating animals, and Carter 
about three times a day much wished that the handling 
of them could be transferred to some of those kind-hearted 
people at home who always insist that the negro of the 
West Africa hinterland is a man and a brother. 

They had a small dugout canoe in tow, and greatly they 
needed it. After twice running the big raft down streams 
that ended in impassable morass, and having tediously to 
tow and punt her back against the current, they always 
hereafter sent the lighter craft ahead on voyages of dis- 
covery. Or to be more accurate, Carter had to go in her 
with one of the fishers as assistant. The excellent White- 
Man's-Trouble had limits to his intelligence, and there 



232 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

was no driving into him that water which would carry a 
canoe that drew three inches of water was too shallow for 
a heavy raft that drew three feet. 

The Winchester rifle and the remains of the Gladstone 
bag seemed the only two things that linked them now with 
civilization. They lived in the African manner upon 
African food; the intricate branching of the creeks was 
charted in matchet-scratches upon the smoothed surface of 
a log of wood ; even English speech was discarded in favor 
of the native tongue. 

Carter had shaved till the steamy atmosphere of the 
bush had turned his razors into mere sticks of rust; and 
with the growth of his red stubble of beard, all respect for 
his outward man had vanished. He caught sight of him- 
self one evening in a pool of black water. " Well," he 
commented, " I always thought that Swizzle-Stick Smith 
was a filthy old ruffian, but at his worst he looks a prince 
to me now. That I suppose is where gray has the pull 
over ginger." 

But it was the rescue of the King of Okky which really 
gave the turn to the whole of Carter's fortune. They had 
got the raft into a regular cul-de-sac of reeds and water- 
lilies, and she lay there stuck on a shoal in the face of a 
falling river. Creeks radiated all around them like the 
spokes of some gigantic wheel. The place was alive with 
crocodiles and flies. Not very far away an intertribal bat- 
tle advertised itself by an ugly mutter of firing. 

"An' chop no lib," said White-Man's-Trouble, by way 
of winding up the sum of their difficulties. 

" Well, find some," Carter snapped. " Make spears, and 
stab the fish up out of the mud if you can't catch them 
with nets or hooks. Only see that there's a meal ready 
for me when I get back, or I'll lam into you with that 
chiquot you're so fond of using." 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEE 233 

He went off then in the warped dugout, with the one- 
eared man as bow pole, laboriously hunting for a passage 
into some main stream. The river beneath them gave up 
fat bubbles of evil odors ; the banks of slime on either side 
reeked under the sun blaze. A dozen times Carter thought 
he saw open water ahead, and pushed on, and a dozen times 
found himself embayed. And always he had to jot down 
compass notes with a nail on the well-scored gunwale of 
the canoe, so as to keep in touch with the raft, and be ready 
against that forthcoming time when he would have to pilot 
a steam launch up to Tin Hill. For though he barely ex- 
pected to escape with life out of this horrible labyrinth of 
creeks and waterways, be it always understood he intended 
to return and demand from the country a fortune, if so 
be he ever got down again to the seaboard. 

At last, however, he swung out into what was obviously 
a main channel, and was on the point of turning back to 
fetch the raft, when his eye was held by something that 
moved sluggishly in mid-stream. 

It lay up towards the sun, and was hard to make out 
because of the dazzle of radiance. 

" Can you see what that is ? " he asked his bow man 
in the native. 

"It is just a man on a branch," said that savage, with 
cheerful indifference. " Presently the crocodiles will chop 
him. Shall we go back now, Effendi, to the raft ? " 

"No, my callous friend. We'll investigate the person 
in the tree first. Full speed ahead ! " 

The clumsy dugout lurched and twisted down the broad 
marigold-smelling river, and as there was a strong current 
under her, she soon drew the obstruction into clearer view. 

It wae a tree clearly enough, swept down by some flood 
and stranded here in mid-channel to form one of the 
myriad snags with which West African rivers abound. In 



234 

it was a black man who hung by his hands from the upper 
branches, and was perpetually pulling up his toes like some 
ridiculous jumping-jack. He was a very fat man, and his 
movements were getting more feeble even as they watched 
him. But it was not till they got close alongside that they 
saw the impelling motive of these gymnastics. 

A twelve-foot crocodile was in attendance beneath the 
tree, and every now and again it swam up with a great 
swirl and shot its grisly jaws out of the water, and snapped 
noisily at the fat man's toes. 

Carter lifted his Winchester and waited for a chance, 
but of a sudden his bow man turned to him with a face 
that was gray with fear. " That man," he said, " is the 
King of Okky, and if you save him, presently we shall 
both die/' 

" I had already recognized the gentleman, and I fancy 
he's far more my enemy than yours, but I'm going to pull 
him out of this mess for all that, and give him a good level 
start again on dry land." 

Then as the crocodile jumped once more, he threw up 
his rifle and shot it under the left foreleg, where the pro- 
tective plates are absent. 

The brute jumped, and writhed, and swam away amid 
cascades of golden spray, and as the bullet was soft-nosed 
and expanding there would probably be, before many more 
hours were over, one less pest in Africa. But Carter did 
not worry his head about that. He paddled the dugout 
to the tree and called to the King. 

His Majesty of Okky was fat, and though once he had 
been a giant in strength, in these latter jears of kingship 
he had grown soft and flabby. He did all his journeyings 
in hammock and canoe, and had slaves who saved him the 
smallest scrap of exercise ; and, moreover, he ate and drank 
to vast excess. So that when the immediate strain was 




Then, as the crocodile jumped once more, he threw up his 
rifle and shot it under the left foreleg, where the protective 
plates are absent. Page 234. 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 235 

over it can be understood how he hung in the upper 
branches of that tree too limp and exhausted even to lower 
himself into the canoe. Carter had to climb onto the 
branch, and bear a hand before he could get down. 

The dugout sank perilously beneath his weight, but the 
King was no amateur, and balanced cannily. Moreover, 
presently he panted himself into articulate speech. " I fit 
for gin," said the King of Okky. 

" I bet you are," Carter agreed. " But unfortunately 
the bar on this packet's closed for want of supplies just 
at the moment. Try a sup of the local ditch-water out 
of the baler." 

The King did so, and made a face. " I have not drunk 
water since I became a King," said he. " Carter, do not 
turn up stream. I have men at a village down yonder." 

" I don't doubt it. But having saved your skin, King, 
I've my own to think of now." 

The King's great body began to shake with laughter. 

" Stop that," said Carter sharply, " or you'll burst the 
gunwales out." 

" Carter," said Kallee, speaking in Okky, " listen. It 
is only by my favor that you have lived so long. We are 
both ju-ju men, and between such it is useless to make 
pretence. But I can tell you all you did since you left 
Mokki, and met Smith, and went to the cliff whereof ben 
Hossein told you, and saw the stones which carry the 
brown glass which you covet so much. I can tell you of 
your machine which says boo-paa-bumm, and of the way 
you came down these creeks on a raft, and how you labored 
prodigiously in the blind channels. I had arranged to let 
you get so far. To-morrow, when you came abreast of my 
villages, canoes would have come out " Here the King 
screwed round his fat neck and eyed Carter over his shoul- 
der " Carter, do you think it strange that I should have 
wanted a head such as yours ? " 



236 KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIER 

"You would not tell me this now if you still wanted 
that head." 

One could not deny that somehow the man had a certain 
regal dignity about him. " Carter/' he said, " if T have 
a King's lusts, I have all of a King's gratitude. I was 
travelling down this river. My canoe was overturned by 
a snag, and it and the paddlers were swept away down 
stream, and if the crocodiles have not dealt with the men 
I will give them their due presently. For myself, I climbed 
into that tree as you saw, and could not have endured 
longer. What account was open between us we will wipe 
from the tally. I owe you for my life now, and I will 
repay." 

" Are my Krooboy and the fishers included in the 
treaty ? " 

The King shrugged his great shoulders. " I could give 
you a better servant than White-Man's-Trouble, and better 
paddlers than those fishermen. But if they please you, 
they shall remain alive and well treated. Paddle now 
quickly down stream to the village, Carter, and we will 
drink Krug champagne till a goat is slain and chop pre- 
pared." 

The Tillage, when they came to it, was not a pleasant 
sight. It had been rebellious, and the King of Okky had 
been instilling discipline with a strong hand. Further- 
more, two of his canoemen had escaped from the river and 
reported that the King was drowned. They were also 
attended to in a way that prevented their ever erring again 
in this world. The King dispensed champagne, and ar- 
ranged great matters of life and death with a massive 
impartiality. And between whiles he found abundant 
time to talk with his guest, now using Coast English for 
the sake of greater privacy. His knowledge of what had 
been going on was at times almost uncanny. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 237 

" Carter/' he said, " dem Laura, she lib for Teach- 
v,palaver house in Las Palmas." 

" She left for Las Palmas in the Frau Pobst certainly. 
But I don't know where she is staying." 

" Teach-palaver house," said the King placidly, " by 
Telde." 

" She was at school once at a convent on the Telde road." 

" She lib for there now." 

" I say, King, how the deuce do you know that ? " 

" Savvy plenty funny things," said the King, and turned 
to do justice on another culprit who was brought before 
him for trial. 

The royal menage was simple. They dined off a cous- 
cousoo and a bowl of stewed goat, such as any well-to-do 
native farmer might have set on the floor before him for 
his meal, and thereafter they sat on mats of elaborate straw- 
work upon the hard earthj and the King consumed at a 
moderate computation one ounce of snuff before he was 
inclined for further talk. 

Then, " Carter," said he, " what for dis stone pa- 
laver?" 

" When that stone is taken to my country they heat it in 
a furnace with other things, and a white metal runs out." 
x " Okky-man no fit for make him ? " 

" No, the job's too complicated." 

" Dem stone worth lot o' money, or you no fit for carry 
small-small load all dem way to coast. And a whole hill 
of dem stone lib far up ribber. So dem hill worth plenty- 
much lot o' money." 

"There goes my pile," thought Carter bitterly. "The 
greedy old ruffian's going to hook it for himself." 

The King went on. " Dem Kate, she fit for be O'Neill 
and Craven now?" 

" I suppose you may say she is." 



238 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" Smith an' Slade all-e-same work-boy for O'Neill and 
Craven?" 

" If you like to put it that way." 

" Good. And you," went on this well-informed mon- 
arch, wagging a fat forefinger, "you want marry Kate, 
same's I wanted to marry Laura, an' she no fit for have 
you, same's Laura no fit for have me dem time?" 

Carter dropped his chin onto his knees and said noth- 
ing. The King went on, " Carter, you fit for save my 
life dis day. If you no come wid dem canoe, I lib for be 
crocodile chop this minute. So I do not take your red 
I do not make you lib for die as I say dis morning, but I 
fit for make you glad. Dem Dutchmen hold dem factory 
now at Mokki ? " 

"They do." 

" Then I send my war-boys in at back an' stop roads. 
But I take ju-ju off roads to dem O'Neill and Craven fac- 
tories at Smooth, an' Monk, and Malla-Nulla." 

" That's very good of you, I'm sure." 

" Then dem Kate she love you much when she find dem 
factory once more do trade." 

" I'm afraid, King, it would take a lot more than that 
to make Kate feel attached to me. You see, I'm no longer 
in O'Neill and Craven's service. I chucked it when she 
sold Mokki, and I've been on my own ever since." 

The King's eyes gave the ghost of a twinkle. " Den I 
no fit for open dem roads. So I make you dash another 
way. I send you for Coast in big canoe of sixty paddles." 

" With White-Man's-Trouble ? " 

"Wid your boy, an' your cargo. I send you in three 
days' time six more canoes of sixty paddles, full of dem 
stone you wish. I dash you dem hill of stone where you 
set up dem dam ju-ju boo-paa-bumm. I tell dem men who 
lib for ribber banks that you be free for come an' go on all 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 239 

my country while I lib for King; an' if any man he hurt 
you, I take dem man an' I nail him by hands an' feet to a 
tree!" 

Carter looked up. " Do you mean that ? " 

The King took snuff. " When I say to a man you lib 
for die, he die. When I say 'I let you lib/ then he lib. 
When I say to a man, ' I make you dash/ he get dem dash, 
even though I have to send my war-boys to take it from 
somebody other to give it him. Carter, I lib for be real 
King." 

" You mean you've given me a fortune in return for the 
small thing I did for you ? " 

"My life," said the King dryly, "he seem small thing 
to you. But to me" he patted his rotundity "to me 
dem life be plenty big." 

Three days Carter abode in the village, and kept to the 
inside of his hut to avoid the sights of the place, which 
to a European eye are unpleasant when an African King 
is visiting his displeasure upon unruly subjects. He was 
ministered unto by White-Man's-Trouble, who paid him 
much unaccustomed deference, and forebore to steal the 
smallest thing. And at nights he sat with the King, who 
had an educated palate in champagne, and drank vintage 
wine at the rate of one case in four days. 

" When I lib back for Okky City," the King said once, 
" you fit for come and see me there now ? " 

" Certainly, King, if you'll name a date when you haven't 
got a custom on." 

King Kallee looked thoughtfully at his guest. "Dem 
English no fit for like dem custom-palaver ? " 

" They don't, one little bit." 

"For why?" 

" Gets on their nerves." 

"Dem English King, he send his war-boys if I make 
dem custom-palaver more ? " 



240 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" It's the common topic of conversation down the Coast 
as to when England will send an expedition to cut you up." 

" Because I stop dem roads an' spoil trade to factories ? " 

" Pooh, King ! You know precious little about the Brit- 
ish Government. You may spoil all the trade in Africa if 
you like, you may even cut up half a dozen factory agents 
or so, and the British Government won't care a little hang. 
But if you will go on in your simple way crucifying slaves, 
and carving up your own subjects, why, then, it's only a 
question of time before they'll pull you off your perch and 
send you into an inexpensive exile in St. Helena." 

" Dem Swizzle-Stick Smith he say same thing." 

" It's so obvious." 

"But he want me to let him hand dem Okky country 
over to England, so I say I pull his skin off if I catch 
him again. What you want for yo'self ? " 

" Do you mean what do I stand to make out of the deal ? 
Well, not much beyond the satisfaction of keeping your 
crucifixion tree in a more sanitary state. With the mining 
right you have given me, I shall be a rich man." 

"But if dem English took Okky country?" 

"Why, they'd tax the mine, and they'd clap on regu- 
lations, till they made a very fine hole in the profits." 

" Say dem again." 

Carter explained more fully, and then for awhile the 
King of Okky sat and stook snuff in silence. 

Then, "0 Carter," he asked, "dem King of England 
he got so many war-boys as me ? " 

Carter nodded. 

" And dey no have trade guns ? All Winchesters ? " 

"I don't know what the present regulation pump-gun 
is called, but we'll say it's like the Winchester, only plenty- 
too-much better." 

Again the King thought in silence, and the hot night 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIEE 241 

rustled and sighed around them. The moonlight was 
strong enough to show even the fibre of the fine state 
mats on which they sat. But at last he motioned away 
the slave who carried his snuff-mull, and touched Carter's 
knee with an emphatic finger. 

" I believe you speak for true about dem custom. Three 
days ago you no care if I lib or die ? " 

" I may as well be frank, and say I should have pre- 
ferred you dead." 

The King gave the ghost of a grin. " There are many 
like that. But now ? " 

" Now I prefer you alive and King of Okky." 

"Dat is what I thought, an' so I believe you say true 
when you tell me what you say about dem customs. I do 
not see why Okky customs should make dem English king 
fit for send his war-boys. But I no fit for want 'em." 

" So you fit for stop dem customs ? " 

" I fit," said the King, and by that decision gave respite, 
it has been calculated, to at least eight thousand of his 
subjects each year who had gone the red paths prescribed 
by ju-ju. 

They drew up a memorandum on the subject there and 
then, in the form of a letter from the King of Okky to 
him of Great Britain. Carter suggested the British For- 
eign Secretary, but Kallee would not hear of it. He as a 
King, he said, was the equal of any other King. So on a 
sheet of damp, mildewed note-paper the message was writ- 
ten, and signed by the King in an Arabic scrawl. 

And next day it travelled down to the Coast in state in- 
side the battered remains of a once-yellow gladstone bag. 



CHAPTER XVII 

KATE SENDS A CABLEGRAM 

Now to give Carter full due, his weaning of the King 
of Okky from the habit of human sacrifice had been 
brought about more by accident than design. By a further 
working of the law of chance, the circumstance brought 
him out of modest obscurity into a very strong notoriety 
in a little less than six short months. 

"A private trader," so ran the gist of the newspaper 
leaders, "has brought to pass a thing which Government 
authorities, both civil and military, not to mention mis- 
sionaries and miscellaneous philanthropists, have been try- 
ing for ineffectually ever since the British rule was set up 
in West Africa. Throughout all our possessions on that 
sickly Coast the natives have been addicted to human sac- 
rifice; and when instances of this from time to time leak 
out, civilization is on each occasion chilled with a fresh 
douche of horror. The West African Kingdom of Okky, 
though little known for other qualities, has acquired a cer- 
tain detestable celebrity for these red orgies. . . . Mr. 
Carter, though he was brought up in his father's vicarage 
in Wharfedale, has not been noted heretofore for any spe- 
cial benevolence in dealing with native questions. Those 
who know him describe him as essentially a strong man. 
. . . In fact, Mr. Carter, in his modesty, most em- 
phatically disclaims any such high motives, and avers that 
he took his now celebrated journey into the bush merely 
for his own business purposes, and nothing beyond. On 



243 

this subject we prefer to hold our own opinions. Explorers 
of his rare type the almost unknown type that does not 
advertise carry with them a modesty that delights in be- 
littling its own triumphs. But even Mr. Carter's modesty 
cannot explain away certain cold facts. The King of Okky 
till recently had a most black reputation for human sac- 
rifice. Many Europeans have gone up to his horrible city 
to expostulate. Some he has sent back; some have not 
been heard of again since they left the Coast, and one can 
only shudder and guess at their fates; but none have ef- 
fected any change. The ' Customs/ as these orgies of 
slaughter are named locally, still endured : indeed, evidence 
clearly showed that they were increasing under the pres- 
ent reign of King Kallee both in frequency and importance. 
Nothing, it was said by those on the spot, but a British 
army, and a great outlay in life and treasure, could bring 1 
these horrors of the hinterland to a close. Mr. Carter, 
however, thought otherwise. He went up country prac- 
tically unattended. He bearded the king in his own fetich 
grove, and he achieved what experts called the impossible. 
He has induced King Kallee to abandon human sacrifice 
now and for always. 

" As will be seen by the two interviews which appear 
in our news columns, the information on these points did 
not come from Mr. Carter himself. Mr. Carter is that 
man so rare to find in these pushing days, a man who does 
not care one jot for anything the press can do towards his. 
own self-advancement, a man, moreover, who does not mind 
saying so in strong, rude Anglo-Saxon. But fortunately 
we have another mine of information more easily tapped. 
The sensational rise into a new prosperity of the old West 
African firm of O'lSTeill and Craven has been one of the 
features of the year's finance, and it is now an open secret 
that the sole partner and manager of the ( firm ' is a 



244 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

young, attractive, and unmarried lady. This Miss Kate 
O'Neill has so far evaded the interviewer, but on the Okky 
topic she has volunteered the fullest information. It is 
to her that we are indebted for our description of Mr. Car- 
ter and his great achievement." 

On such lines ran the leaders in most of the great news- 
papers, though, of course, they varied in their facts and 
their point of view. They all paid graceful compliments 
to the pretty girl who had appeared of late with such suc- 
cess in the field of larger finance. One paper alone had 
the impudence to refer in cold print to a matter that the 
other newspaper men smiled over quietly in the privacy 
of their offices. 

" We wish," wrote this sentimental journalist, " that we 
could indicate a romance that would finish up this episode 
fittingly. But truth compels us to record that Miss O'Neill, 
along with the rest of the biographical matter which she 
so kindly supplied, mentioned the detail of Mr. Carter's 
engagement to a Miss Laura Slade, who at present resides 
in Grand Canary. We understand that a marriage will 
shortly take place." 

As it happened, this journal was the one of Mrs. Crav- 
en's daily reading. She indicated the paragraph with a 
prim forefinger, and called her niece to read it. 

"Did you say that, Kate, or is it one of the fellow's 
impudent inventions?" 

" Oh, I told him that with the rest just to well, to 
quiet him. He seemed to think I was very interested in 
Mr. Carter." 

" And I suppose suggested you were in love with him ? " 

"Well, he didn't put it exactly like that," said Kate 
thoughtfully. "He was a very dashing young man, and 
rather gave me the idea that he wanted to see if the coast 
was clear for himself." 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 245 

"I see. And so you told him about the engagement 
between Mr. Carter and Laura, just to encourage him ? " 

" I suppose so. He really was very amusing and push- 
ing. He wanted me to go out to lunch with him there 
and then." 

" Kate, are you going to let Mr. Carter marry Laura ? " 

" My dear Aunt Jane, what an extraordinary question ! 
What possible influence can I have over either of them? 
I offered them both a wedding present, and asked them 
each what they would like. Could I go further than 
that?" 

" And each of them," suggested the old lady, " said 
' there was time enough for that,' or they'd ' let you know 
when the wedding day was fixed,' or put you off, somehow, 
like that." 

" Look here, Aunt, what are you driving at ? " 

" I am looking." 

" Well, speak, you irritating old person." 

" My dear, I am waiting for you to look back at me. 
You have carefully avoided meeting my eye ever since I 
showed you the paper." 

Kate looked up, and Mrs. Craven read something in the 
girl's face that made her sigh. " You will go your own 
way, I know, Kitty dear. You are very capable, and very 
clever, and that has naturally made you very self-reliant. 
You have shown yourself so wonderfully successful over 
your business matters that I shouldn't dream of advising 
you there. But do you ever bring up into mind that there 
is something more in life than mere financial success ? " 

"Of cour?3 I do, Aunt. But I suppose I am different 
from the other girls. They look forward to their domestic 
pleasures. I have made myself other interests." 

The old lady shook her head decisively. "You are not 
at all abnormal in that way. You are the most entirely 



246 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEE 

human person I ever saw. And to prove it, I'll just in- 
stance to you the way you've fallen in love with George 
Carter." 

" I refuse to admit it." 
"Even to me, Kitty?" 

"Even to myself. I like the man, and there it must 
end. He is engaged elsewhere, and if you call me human, 
you must allow me pride. I run after no man, nor do I 
lure any man away from another girl who has been my 
friend, whatever my inclinations may be. And now, if you 
please, we will drop that subject and talk of rubber. Our 
third company was subscribed once and a half times over 
by lunch time to-day, and we've closed the lists. How's 
that for a real solid triumph ? " 

Mrs. Craven lay back in her chair and methodically 
folded the paper. " Do the profits on that bring up your 
score to the million you arrived at ? " 

" Oh no, no. But they will help it along very nicely." 
" When you get a million will you stop ? " 
"When I get my million, which, mark you, Aunt, is 
more than any girl of my age has ever done, why, then, 
I shall start to make my second. It's a most fascinating 
amusement." 

" But it doesn't make you happy. You are no better for 
it. You can't spend it." 

" My dear Aunt, where have your eyes been ? Haven't 
you seen my clothes since I came back from the Coast? 
Why, I never knew what it was to dress before. I'm seri- 
ously thinking I shall have to start a maid to look after 
me." 

" My dear, you've a knack of carrying clothes." 
" That I learned from you, you extremely smart person." 
"Well, you got the knack somewhere, and you always 
were nicely turned out. Now I know your wardrobe as 



KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIEK 247 

well as you do yourself, and, let me see" Mrs. Craven 
took a pencil from her chatelaine, and made calculations 
on the edge of a newspaper " Since you came back 
to England you've not spent, at a liberal estimate, 
above two hundred and twenty-seven pounds ten on your 
own adornment." 

Kate laughed. " I give in to you, Aunt. I quite be- 
lieve you know my wardrobe better than I do myself. Well, 
perhaps I shall buy pearls, then. I never had one, but I 
believe I'm prepared to adore a necklace of big, smooth, 
delicately graded pearls, with shimmery skins, and a fat, 
pear-shaped black pearl drop to dangle below it. Yes, 
that's the real reason I'm making money, Aunt to buy 
and wear great ropes of pearls. Or, who knows, I may 
have a fancy for a peer. Now, with a million, I'm told 
one can buy for marrying purposes a really fine specimen 
of pee*." 

" There are moments," said Mrs. Craven sharply, " when 
I'm very sorry you're grown up." 

Kate went across and sat on the arm of the old lady's 
chair. " Do you want to smack me and put me to bed ? " 

" I've done it many a time when you've been in this 
mood." 

" Can you see the black dog on my shoulder ? " 

"Larger than ever. Kate, you should try and control 
yourself." 

" Oh, be just, Aunt. I didn't lie down on the floor and 
kick or do anything like that." 

" No, thanks to me you can keep your temper under 
more decent control now. Now, don't you kiss me, and 
think I'm a silly old woman, and try to get round me that 
way I know exactly how you're feeling. Oh, you'd lead 
any man a dance who married you." 

"I'm certain I should," said Kate cheerfully, "unless 



248 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

he was the right one. But, Auntie dear, don't you think 
it would be safer not to press me to marry anyone at all? 
I give you my word for it that there's no one marriageable 
I want to marry. And if you leave me alone with my 
other amusement, that keeps me out of worse mischief." 

At the Prince's Park house in the old days there had 
been a room known as the Master's study. It had no books 
in it whatever, because the excellent Godfrey disliked books. 
It had a writing-desk certainly, but never even an inkpot 
on it to indicate use. There was just a card-table and 
some early Victorian furniture of hard, uncompromising 
ugliness. In short, it was not the Master's study at all, 
but it emphatically was his card-room. 

It remained in its original state till Kate's return from 
the Coast, and then she begged it from her Aunt, who gave 
it gladly. 

" I want a place where I can type a letter," Kate had 
said, " and have a copying press, without going down to 
Water Street. They begin to stare at me down there, and 
I hate it. No one objects to a girl being in business if she 
is merely a clerk, but if she gets hold of big successes, well, 
the men aren't nice about it. If I find it answers, I may 
lay on a secretary." 

So she emptied the room and furnished it afresh, and 
Mrs. Craven's heart warmed as she saw the girl's natural 
craving for a home express itself in chairs and pictures, 
in pretty wall hangings and dainty carpets, in graceful 
flower-bowls, and all those little touches of domesticity 
which are the mysterious outcome of sex. There was, it 
turned out, a small box-room alongside, which was never 
used, and which could be linked up by a door knocked 
through the wall. This could be the secretary's room, and 
hold the letter files, and the copying press, and the type- 
writer, and all the other crude machinery of commerce; 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 249 

and so " Miss Kate's room/' as it came to be called, fulfilled 
in appearance little enough of its original intention of 
office. 

One can hardly associate walls panelled in rose-pink 
brocade with the much-abused art of company promotion. 
But Kate sat in that pretty room, and thought out there 
all those tremendous schemes, which brought her such bril- 
liant success. She felt she had retired from the firing line ; 
she schemed and planned in secure cover outside the battle ; 
and when any idea eluded her for too long she went out 
and drove her motor car, or played golf, till the idea ar- 
rived. In the season she sometimes went away on butterfly- 
hunting trips. At the same time she had great ideas of 
buying an estate where she could have a private golf course 
of her own. She had grown so strangely sensitive to stares 
these days, and, people said, unsociable. Her engagement 
to Mr. Austin had been broken off long ago, and to tell 
the truth Austin was well enough pleased to be rid of her. 
Africa, he felt, had eliminated from her all the points which 
beforetime had caught his admiration. And then again 
she was so enormously rich one could not, he told himself, 
marry a woman with such an unwieldy amount of riches. 
At least he could not. Nor did he intend that the future 
Mrs. Austin, if ever there was one, should have more prac- 
tice in high finance than was necessary to manage her own 
accounts and the household weekly bills. 

In fact, it was over this question that he flattered himself 
had come their split. She had given him, to be sure, a 
pretty broad hint that day on the landing stage, but the 
actual rupture of their engagement had not come till a 
week later, and Kate was clever enough to make Mr. Austin 
think that the idea was his and his alone. Still they had 
parted on excellent terms, and any service, professional or 
otherwise, that Austin could render her in the future was 



250 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIES 

one that lie should look forward to, as he promised, most 
keenly. 

" Though you cannot see your way to be my husband," 
she had said to him lightly, "you will still upon occasion 
act as my solicitor ? " 

"Let's call it ' friend/ Kate," he had answered, and 
they parted on that. 

But that day, after Aunt Jane had showed her the Car- 
ter leader in the paper, Kate went to her room, and some- 
how her thoughts went back to Henry Austin. She tried 
to analyze why she had ever got engaged to him. As far 
as she could define it, a sort of empty space, a partial 
vacuum, had come into her life, and Austin appeared, and 
in a tentative way seemed to fill it. Now that he was gone, 
the 'vacuum returned. It did not exactly ache, but it 
caused a vague discomfort that annoyed her, and when she 
demanded a cure, something within her kept repeating, 
" Carter, Carter, Carter ! " 

She resented this clamor. She told herself that she was 
a strong woman. She refused to have her hand forced. 
She declined to allow an ex-employe of her own to be 
forced into her life as its only complement. And still that 
inner something, with irritating persistency, kept repeat- 
ing, " Carter, Carter," and then got unpleasantly familiar, 
and began to murmur : " George." 

She stood it for an hour, stood for that time persistent, 
inward voices urging her, with never a falter, to one narrow 
course, and then she got up from her great cushioned chair 
and went to an old Sheraton bureau. Only one narrow 
drawer in it was locked, and she carried the key of that 
amongst the charms on her watch-bangle. She opened the 
drawer and took from it a photograph. 

It was only a steamer group, crudely taken by an ama- 
teur on a kodak film, a very imperfect thing at its best, 




She gazed her fill on this very crude presentment of George 
Carter. Page 251. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 251 

and mottled now by the persistent West African mildew. 
A piece of brown paper with a hole in it was in the same 
drawer, a mask so cut that it blocked out all of the group 
except one individual. She fitted this into place and gazed 
her fill on this very crude presentment of George Carter. 

Well, at any rate he was not a handsome man. But 
there was something about even this indifferent photograph 
that gave her a great thrill. It touched some inward chord 
that no other power on earth could set into vibration, and 
she was discomforted thereby. 

The gong went for dinner. She ignored it. A servant 
came presently she had added to the number of servants 
at the Prince's Park house and Mrs. Craven accepted the 
alteration passively and the servant most respectfully 
stated that dinner would be served in ten minutes, and was 
not Miss Kate going up to dress ? But Miss Kate was busy 
and would have a cup of tea and a sandwich. 

Mrs. Craven below got the news, smiled grimly, and ate 
an extremely good dinner. She felt a fine satisfaction in 
having set to work exactly the right influences which would 
bring that ridiculous Kitty to her senses. 

But upstairs, in the prettiest room in Liverpool, Kate 
wrestled with Fate. She pictured the man that the mask 
singled out of the group: Red hair, a dogged jaw, ill-cut 
clothes, and, upon occasion, a man who used the language 
more fitted to an underpaid stevedore. She had overheard 
Carter discoursing to the factory at large that night of the 
false alarm at Mokki, when he chided the Portuguese and 
the factory boys in phrases learned from Swizzle-Stick 
Smith. Was this the man she had ever fancied for a hus- 
band ? No, a thousand times no. 

She locked the group and the mask once more into its 
drawer, and went back to her cushions and a novel. There 
was still another great rubber company on the brink of 



252 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

flotation. This time the pugilistic Mr. Smith had pro- 
cured for her the grant of the land, and had assured her 
that the King of Okky, thanks to his recent improvement 
in morals, would see that the title remained unchallenged. 
The proposition was, she honestly believed, commercially 
sound, but the risk lay in the British Public. Were they 
loaded up with rubber stock ? That was the point to decide. 
So far she had not had a share of her companies under- 
written, in spite of abundant and pressing offers. But here 
was an awkward question to decide : Should she insure this 
issue, or should she risk having it not taken up, and invite 
a fiasco? 

She tried with cold logic to reason out the arguments 
for and against, and to strike a balance between them. 
But for once her brain refused to act. Even the novel, 
which she read and did not absorb, did not offer her the 
necessary hint. It was an old trick of hers, this reading 
of a dozen chapters of weak fiction, to get an inspiration, 
and so far it had never failed her. She was an omnivorous 
novel reader. She went through quite two-thirds of the 
fiction brought out annually by British publishers, and 
could never, next morning, have passed the easiest exami- 
nation in a novel she had read the night before. But all 
her clever business ideas were evolved when she was read- 
ing these paltry books. 

At last she could endure the vague things that oppressed 
her no longer. She dropped the book on the floor. And 
then she got up and went into the secretary's narrow room 
next door. She found cable forms and sat at a table. 
Then she wrote glibly enough this message. 

" Burgoyne, Monk Ewer, West Africa. Forward this 
to Cascaes MokTci special runner want you act our agent 
Las Palmas 2,400 commence cable acceptance or refusal, 
O'Neill/' 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 253 

She counted up the words, laid down her pencil, and 
laughed. " At any rate," she said, " that will give one a 
chance. And George was fool enough to think that Mr. 
Cascaes was running after me. Oh, I have no patience 
with men who can't see further through the fog than that/' 



CHAPTEE XVIII 

CARTER MAKES A PURCHASE 

IT was Captain Image returning red and wrathful from 
an unsuccessful cargo foray amongst the southern and 
eastern factories that Carter met the day after his arrival 
at the Coast. The mariner had heard of the deal at Mokki, 
and felt personally affronted that a nest of cargo which 
he had already looked upon as his own should have been 
handed over once more to the Germans. 

" So you're on the beach, are you," said he, looking 
Carter up and down with vast disapproval. " I must say 
you look it. I've seen old Swizzle-Stick Smith come down 
after a jaunt in the bush and I thought he couldn't be 
beat for general shagginess and rags. But you give him 
points. What did Miss Kate bounce you for?" 

"I believe I resigned." 

" Same thing. And now you've come to ask me to take 
you home as a distressed British subject, I suppose. Well, 
Carter-me-lad, a deck passage is your whack according 
to consular understanding, but you've sat in my chart 
house and you've sent me cargo, and so I'm going to put 
my hand in my own breeches pocket and take you home 
in the second class. And I tell you what: Chips and the 
bo's'n have got a shop in the foc's'le that I'm not sup- 
posed to know about, and if you care to go in there and 
get enough rig out to see you home, I'll foot the bill." 

" You're very good " 

" I know I am. It puts me about five weeks further off 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 255 

that hen farm outside Cardiff that I want to retire onto, 
being good like this. There, run away out of this chart 
house, me-lad, and tell the chief steward to give you a 
square blow-out of white-man's chop one-time. I'm sure 
you need it. I never saw a man with so much of the lard 
stewed off him." 

Carter laughed. " Will you let me slip a word in ? I've 
cargo for you." 

"What! You!" 

" I'm afraid you won't hook much commission out of 
it, Cappie, as you'll have to take it at ballast rates." 

" Catch me." 

"But there'll be about seventy tons of it as far as I 
can reckon." 

"My Christian Aunt! do you tell me, Carter-me-lad, 
that you've scratched up seventy tons of cargo? Here, sit 
down. No, sit down. Don't talk. I'm not going to have 
you going away and calling the M'poso a dry ship." 

Captain Image had no tariff rate for tin ore, but he 
invented one with great readiness, and then knocked off 
ten per cent, by way of encouraging a new industry. 
" Now, where is this mine of yours ? " he asked genially. 
" Tell me, and I warrant I'll find you an easier way to 
bring your produce than paddling it in dugouts." 

" Up the river." 

" Well, let's look at your charts, me-lad." 

Carter shook his head. 

"Why, how's that? Haven't you made one?" 

" Oh, I've made one right enough, but it's inside my 
skull and out of public view." 

" H'm," said Image. " Don't want any competitors, eh, 
Carter-me-lad ? " 

" Why should I ? " 

" Well, drink up, and let me fill your glass. Here, have 
another squirt of bitters." 



256 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" No, thanks, Cappie, no more. I drank enough cham- 
pagne with the King of Okky to last me months. I've got 
a lot of big business ahead of me and 1 want a clear head. 
Now, if you take this consignment of tin ore home for 
me, and rob me as little as you can help over freight, 
what's next? Swansea and a smelter, I suppose?" 

" They're a bit Welsh down in Swansea," said Captain 
Image, who came from Cardiff himself. " They'll do with 
a trifle of looking after. What you want's a smart agent." 

" The thing I want first and soonest is cash. Now, look 
here, Cappie, you know Swansea, and you're fond, by the 
Coast account, of a bit of commission. Well, here's a nice 
lump of it on offer. -If you'll get some smelter firm to 
buy this parcel of ore on assay, and pay cash for it, I'll 
give you five per cent, on what you raise." 

" It's a deal. You couldn't have come to a better man, 
Carter-me-lad. I'll open you an account at the Bank of 
West Africa " 

" And get the whole balance cabled out here ? " 

"I was going to suggest that," said Captain Image, 
doubtfully, " if you hadn't rushed me so. But you won't 
want the lot. Now, with fifty pounds or so " 

" I want every sixpence. Man, do you think I'm going 
to nibble at my cake now it's been given me? Kallee's 
straight, I firmly believe. But what's his life worth ? " 

Captain Image shook his head. "Very heavy drinker 
even for a darky, and of course he hasn't a white man's 
advantages in knowing the use of drugs." 

"Besides, there are the usual risks of kings and of 
Africa. He's put down the local anarchist. He cooked 
the only two who tried to assassinate him, and took a day 
about it over slow fire, and that discouraged the breed in 
Okky. But still there are risks. So that altogether he's 
not a good life, and if he was to go out, it's quite on the 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 257 

cards his heirs, successors, and assigns might not recognize 
my title/' 

" You're right, me-lad. What you've got to do is to rip 
the guts out of that mine at the biggest pace possible, and 
I'll bring in the M'poso round here to load every time I 
come along the Coast." 

Carter nearly laughed. He knew the capacity of his 
mine quarry, it was, rather and the hold space of the 
little M'poso. Tin was wavering about just under 176 
per ton just then; he had reckoned that he could produce 
for 10 a ton; and the more profit he could get, the more 
pleased he would be. But he was not afraid of bringing 
down the price; he had plenty of margin for a cut. His 
only fear was that the river road might be stopped before 
he had made his fortune. And he intended to empty the 
veins of Tin Hill at the highest speed that all the strained 
resources of Africa were capable of, and if necessary to 
keep three steamers the size of the little M'poso ferrying 
his riches across to the markets. But he did not let out 
any word of this to Image. If the locality and the enor- 
mous wealth of this mine were to leak out, nothing could 
prevent a rush. At the existing moment he was penniless, 
and in any great influx of capital and men must inevitably 
be swamped. Secrecy was essentially his game for the 
present. 

So he accepted Captain Image's proposal in the spirit 
in which it was made, and then put forward feelers for a 
steam launch. Was there such a thing already on the 
Coast that one could pick up cheap just then? 

Captain Image lit a thoughtful pipe. " I don't know 
of any little steamboat that you could buy just now out here, 
cheap or dear. There are one or two in Sarry Leone, cer- 
tainly, but they are all either too big for your job or too 
tender to bring round the Coast." 



258 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

"I'm a bit of mechanic, you know. I wouldn't mind 
nursing engines. My boy, White-Man's-Trouble, too, 
would make, according to his own account, a pretty de- 
cent second engineer." 

" Oh, I know him. Used to be stand-by-at-crane boy on 
the Secondee, and stole everything that wasn't nailed down. 
But you'd never get one of those Sarry Leone wrecks round 
here without being drowned in the process. I tell you 
what, though. D'ye know anything about motor cars, me 
lad?" 

"Why?" asked Carter, who had never handled one in 
his life. 

"Because at Dutton and Maidson's factory at Copper 
River they've got an old wreck of an oil launch, if she 
hasn't rotted and sunk at moorings, that you could have 
cheap." 

"Everything cheap is dear to me just now. I haven't 
a penny in my pocket. But what do you mean by cheap ? " 

" Well, she certainly wasn't out in the river the last three 
times I called, but I did hear they'd hauled her up a creek. 
But if she hasn't sunk at moorings, and the ants haven't 
walked off with her, I should think you could get the bits 
that rust couldn't eat for three ten-pound notes." 

"Does she burn gasolene?" 

"No, ordinary canned paraffin. I know that was sup- 
posed to be the great point about her when she was brought 
out. Only trouble was, she didn't seem to be an amateurs' 
boat at all, and after the first week or so there wasn't a 
soul in the factory that could get her to steam at all. So 
they tied her up to a buoy and did their business in the 
old dugouts and the surf boats as formerly." 

" I wonder if the old chief has got an emery wheel down 
in your engine room?" 

Captain Image stared at this change of subject, and ran 



259 

a finger round inside his collar to shift the perspiration. 
" What do you want an emery wheel for ? Sharpen your 
wits on ? " 

" No, my razor. If I go and try and buy a motor launch 
with this red wool on my chin, they'll take me for the 
wild man down from the back of beyond and stick up the 
price." 

" Quite right. You've a very sound business mind, 
Carter-me-lad. You can, I believe, get a very sound thing 
in razors for a shilling at that fo'c'sle shop if Chips is still 
keeping one, and whilst I was buying I should get a bottle 
or two of Eno, if I were you. Capital thing to keep your 
liver down to gauge." 

" I want to get all these things," said Carter emphati- 
cally. " I daresay, indeed, I should like to buy up prac- 
tically the whole of Chips' remaining stock, partly for my 
own use and partly to take up country. But the fact still 
remains unaltered that until I can get an advance against 
bills of lading, I am without a copper in my pocket. I 
suppose that greedy hound Balgarnie is the man to see 
about finance, though." 

" He is a greedy hound, Carter-me-lad, between you and 
me. Let me fill up your glass. No, don't put your hand 
across it. Well, I'll finish the bottle if you won't. You're 
open, just as a matter of form, to giving a lien on that 
cargo you're shipping ? Just as a matter of form, of course, 
in case you peg out before things can be squared up?" 

" Certainly, and I'm willing to give five per cent, per 
month for the accommodation." 

" Oh, come now, me-lad, ten per cent.'s the usual. But 
I don't want to be stiff with an old friend like you, so 
we'll call it seven and a half." Captain Image went to the 
drawer under the chart table and unlocked it. " Come, 
now, say what you want. Anywhere up to fifty pounds." 



260 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

" I couldn't possibly do with less than a hundred," said 
Carter definitely, and with that they began openly to 
wrangle. But it turned out that Captain Image, even with 
the help of his financial partner, Mr. Balgarnie, could only 
raise seventy-four sovereigns, and with that the other had 
to be content. He gave his bond, and stood at the head 
of the M'poso's ladder ready to go back to his boat. But 
Captain Image with genuine hospitality dragged him 
back. 

" I'm not going to let you go like this, me lad. I've 
one turkey left in the refrigerator, and if you peg out after- 
wards up those beastly rivers, I'd always like to think I'd 
stood you one good dinner when the chance came in my 
way. Come now, Carter-me-lad ; turkey-chop? There's 
not another skipper on the Coast that would make you 
an offer like that." 

Carter laughed and gave in, and turned towards the 
flesh-pots. He did not like turkey. Once in Upper 
Wharfedale his father had come home from Skipton with 
thirty turkey poults, which the family reared with very 
vast care, and thereafter had to eat. Turkey once per 
annum is a luxury; twice cloys; but thirty times, when 
legs follow breast, and wings are succeeded by side-bones, 
would weary any man living. But by custom in West 
Africa, turkey from a steamer's refrigerator is the height 
of luxury, and Carter recognized the hospitable motive. 

Captain Image, when mellowed by food and wine that 
night, talked of Miss Kate O'Neill, and Carter behind an 
elaborate indifference listened with a hungry interest. She 
was floating rubber companies it appeared with enormous 
success. She had very nearly been engaged to a law-sharp 
named Austin, but had got out of it in time. She was re- 
ported in Liverpool to be struck on some palm oil clerk 
on the Coast, but Captain Image proclaimed that to be 
rot, and what did Carter-me-lad think? 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 261 

"Well, of course, there was Cascaes," said Carter judi- 
cially, "but I don't see there was anyone else. All the 
rest of the men she met out here were either married or 
engaged/ 5 

But George Carter whistled cheerfully to the stars as 
his boat-boys paddled him up through the steaming man- 
groves to his abiding place that night, and Mr. Balgarnie 
and Captain Image nudged one another delightedly as they 
listened to his music. 

Button and Maidson's launch, that ought to have served 
the factory in Copper River, turned out upon inspection 
to be even worse than Captain Image had forecasted, and 
the agent in charge was most enthusiastic in accepting 
the two five-pound notes that were offered for her. And 
thereafter for Carter and White-Man's-Trouble began a 
period of savage toil. 

The white man was a mechanic born, but he had never 
seen an oil engine in his life, knew nothing of clutch, 
water-jackets, or reversing gear, and had to make his first 
acquaintanceship with a carburetor. The men at the fac- 
tory were frankly ignorant of the launch's mechanism; 
said so indeed before they sold her. 

"But I know we have got a plan-thing of the works 
stowed away somewhere/' the agent stated. " Can you 
understand a machine from seeing a drawing?" 

" Rather," said Carter. 

"Well, we'll find it/' said the agent, and they wasted 
two days in turning over every scrap of paper the factory 
contained, but the blue prints refused to discover them- 
selves. 

"Let you off your bargain if you like," said the agent 
ruefully, when the place had been searched through with- 
out success. 

" Not a bit," said Carter. " Lend me a couple of boys 



262 KATE MEBEDITH, FINANCIER 

and I'll take those engines down and learn 'em for my- 
self." 

Now, to anyone who does not know the hot, steamy 
climate of a West African river from personal experience, 
the manner in which unguarded ironwork can decay would 
sound beyond the borderland of fact. A nut left long 
enough on a bolt in that moist stew of heat does not al- 
ways rust fast. As often as not, when one takes hold of it 
with a spanner, the whole thing crumbles away into oxide. 

The forty-five-foot launch, when Carter first took her 
over, lay half water-logged in the middle of a slimy creek. 
She was an open boat with her engines housed under a 
wooden hutch aft, which had been further reinforced by 
some rotten tarpaulin. She had no in-board reversing 
gear, but was fitted with a feathering propeller, which 
if all went well would drive her astern. 

As she lay there she was a perfect picture of what could 
be done by neglect and ignorant handling, and there was 
not another man then resident under that enervating West 
African climate who would have thought her worthy of 
salvage. But Carter had got just that dogged drop in him 
that brings men out to the front, and he proceeded to clean 
up the launch's meagre tools and her spares, to borrow 
what others he could from the factory, and then to attack 
the engines. It was here that the prodigiousness of his 
job first displayed itself. The brasswork was sound enough 
even West Africa could not eat into that but every- 
thing iron was spongy with rust, and he had to set up a 
forge, and weld and shape afresh, out of any scrap he could 
find about the factory, each part as he destroyed it. 

There was no such thing as a lathe about the place; 
there were not even taps and dies. He had to punch slots 
through his bolts and tighten them up with forged and 
filed wedges. For the out-board work on the feathering 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 263 

propeller he put the launch on the bank and worked up 
to his armpits in the stinking slime, fitting, drilling, and 
rivetting with his imperfect tools. 

The labor and the exposure very naturally brought its 
reward in a sharp dose of fever, but White-Man's-Trouble 
attended to that after the manner of the heathen, and he 
emerged from it little the worse, and bore with composure 
the derision of the other Europeans at the factory when 
they saw his whitened eyesockets. 

The engines were not ornamental when he had finished 
with them, and they were cumbered with a hundred make- 
shifts; but when he gave the whole a final inspection, he 
told himself that no vital part had escaped a satisfactory 
repair. By a merciful chance there was tube ignition, and 
after a good deal of manipulation he got the burners to 
light. Then when the bunsens roared and the tubes glowed 
hot in their cage, he and the Krooboys ground at the start- 
ing handle and turned the engines till the sweat ran from 
them in rivulets. In England Carter had heard without 
understanding that internal combustion liked their " right 
mixture." He was thoroughly practised in finding the 
right mixture for that elderly oil engine before it coughed 
itself into any continuous activity. 

The heavy oil for lubricating that had originally been 
sent out, Messrs. Button and Maidson's agent still had in 
stock because, as he explained, he had found no possible 
means of disposing of it, and the ordinary commercial 
square tins of paraffin were part of the wares they always 
held in quantity. So Carter was able to buy fuel, in all 
abundance, for his voyage. Food *also he laid in, and a 
great roll of canvas, and then turned to his host to say 
good-bye. 

" Wait a bit, man/' said the agent, " and we'll build you 
a cabin out of that canvas that will keep at least the thick 



264 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

of the dew off you at nights. There are sockets along the 
gunwales for awning stanchions that will carry bamboo 
side-poles capitally, and we can lash duplicate roof-plates 
across and rig you a double-roofed tent in style." 

"Very much obliged/' said Carter, "but I won't wait 
for that now. I intend to do it as we go up river. You'll 
notice I have shipped a big bundle of bamboos for the 
woodwork. Good-bye." 

" You seem in the devil of a hurry." 

" I am. Good-bye. Now then, Trouble, shove over that 
reversing lever to make the boat go ahead. Confound you, 
that's astern, you bushman. There, that's better. Good- 
bye all." 

" Good-bye, and good luck," said the agent, and he told 
his subordinates at supper that night that another good, 
keen man had gone off to disappear in Africa. 

But Carter was developing into one of those tough, tact- 
ful fellows that people call lucky because they always seem 
to succeed in whatever they set a hand to. When the flood 
tide was under her, the launch coughed her way up the 
great beer-colored river at a rate that sometimes touched 
ten knots to the hour. She added her own scents of half- 
burned paraffin and scorched lubricating oil to the crushed- 
marigold odor of the water, and disgusted all the croco- 
diles who pushed up their ugly snouts to see what came 
between the wind and their nobility. On the ebb she still 
hauled up past the mangroves at a good steady two miles 
every hour. 

The engine, with rational treatment, seemed a very de- 
cent sort of machine, though the feathering propeller, even 
till its final days, was always liable to moods of uncer- 
tainty, and after twenty-four hours of sending the launch 
ahead, would without any warning suddenly begin to pull 
her astern. Still these erratic moods always yielded to 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 265 

treatment, and, considering that she had been bought with- 
out a rag of reputation, Carter was always full of surprise 
at prolonged spells of good behavior. 

He did not go up direct as he had come down in the 
King of Okky's sixty man-power war canoe. He pros- 
pected the labyrinth of waterways for other channels, and 
charted them out with infinite care. He intended to take 
every possible precaution for preserving the secrecy of his 
mine. Even if he was followed, and he took it for granted 
that on some future voyage he presently would be followed, 
he wanted to be able to puzzle pursuit. 

At a point agreed upon he put into a village which 
sprawled along the bank, and presented the King's man- 
date, and demanded canoes. The villagers gave them with- 
out enthusiasm and without demur. He took these in tow, 
great cotton-wood dugouts that would hold a hundred men 
apiece, and hauled them after him, winding through great 
tree-hedged waterways where twilight reigned half the day, 
and then coming out between vast park-like savannas where 
the sun scorched them unchecked and grazing deer tempted 
the rifle. 

When he arrived at Tin Hill again, the King's finger 
had left a visible mark. Great heaps of picked ore lay 
along the waterside ready for loading the flotilla. " Good 
man, Kallee ! " said the Englishman appreciatively. " I'll 
dash you a new state umbrella for that." 

The water-bellows organ that he had set up at the foot 
of the waterfall bellowed out its boo-paa-bumm, and against 
each of the great bamboo pipes there fluttered a bunch of 
red-dyed feathers to show that that other ju-ju man, his 
majesty of Okky, countersigned the warning not to unduly 
trespass. 

Cargo after cargo Carter rushed down to the Coast, and 



266 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

dumped on land he had hired behind a factory. Ever and 
again he sent a tidy parcel of ore to a smelter in England 
and in due time had more money put to his credit at the 
Bank of West Africa. But he did not try any expensive 
tricks with the home tin market just then. He had got 
out a new launch, a more solid affair this time, driven by a 
sixty horse-power gasolene engine that had low-tension 
magneto ignition, and so many other improvements on ite 
predecessor, that White-Man's-Trouble, who had it in 
charge, tied a dried monkey's paw to the compression cock 
on each cylinder head, as an extra special protective ju-ju. 

He carried a cook and an oil-stove galley, and at last 
even bought two tin plates and a knife and fork to assist 
his meals. He felt it was pandering to luxury, but he 
did it all the same. When he made that purchase he won- 
dered how he would behave in a woman's society after so 
long living as a savage. As an after-thought he told him- 
self that Laura was the woman he had in his mind, and 
hoped he would not shock her with his crudities. By way 
of carrying out good intentions to the full, he sat down 
there and then and wrote to her, and marvelled to find 
how little he had to say. 

Then one day he came across Slade. 

A canoe drew in alongside as he was towing down river 
with his tenth cargo, and brought off a note which said 
that there was a white man ashore who had run out of 
everything and would be eternally grateful for any Eu- 
ropean food that could be spared, and would gladly give 
him I.O.U. for same, as he was out of hard cash at the 
moment of writing, and had mislaid his check-book. 

Carter had his misgivings, but sent off a goodly parcel 
of food and tobacco, and continued his way down stream. 
But the channel was new to him he had a suspicion of 
being watched on his ordinary route and he ran on a 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 267 

sandbar on an ebbing tide, and the heavily laden dugouts 
were soon perched high and dry. So White-Man's-Trouble 
switched off his magneto and stopped the engines, and 
Carter put a hand under the gauze net to greet his pro- 
spective father-in-law. 

Slade looked curiously at both the launch and her tow. 
" You've been getting hold of a gold mine of sorts, I hear. 
By the way, as you've arranged to start work as my son- 
in-law, I suppose I ought to get more familiar and call 
you Henry, or whatever it is." 

" George, as a matter of fact." 

" I believe you're right. George is what Laura did say. 
My mistake. Where is your gold mine ? " 

" It's tin. And it's up the rivers." 

" Oh, keep it dark, my dear fellow, if you like. Not that 
it makes the smallest odds as far as I am concerned. You'd 
never catch me sweating after a mine. Besides, as a point 
of fact, I'm doing pretty well at my present job. Getting 
rubber properties, you know, for the mysterious Kate." 

"Miss O'Neill." 

" Oh, certainly, Miss O'Neill, if you prefer it, though I 
don't see why you need be a prig with me." 

" My late employer, you know." 

" Ah, of course. And you admired her more than a lit- 
tle, so I gathered from Laura's letters, though she care- 
fully refrained from saying so." 

Carter pulled himself through the mosquito bar and hit 
the edge of the bunk. " Now, look here, Slade, I've known 
you ever since I've been on the Coast, but this is the first 
time we've met on the new footing. I don't want to quar- 
rel with my prospective father-in-law, but, by Christopher, 
if you don't leave Miss O'Neill out of the tale as far as 
I'm concerned, there's going to be a row. Kindly remem- 
ber I'm engaged to Laura, and intend to marry her 
whether you like it or whether you don't." 



268 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 

Slade laughed. " Nice filial sort of statement, that ; but 
don't mind me. If you suit Laura's taste, I'll swallow 
you, too. I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that I'm 
making a goodish thing of it myself just now. Kate I 
beg your pardon Miss O'Neill pays me my regular screw, 
and in addition gives me a nice sum down on every prop- 
erty I've bought for her, and a tidy block of shares when 
there's a company floated. I shall be able to give you and 
Laura a decent wedding present in script. By the way, 
is she at Smooth River ? " 

" No, Grand Canary." 

Slade stiffened. " How's that ? " 

"Africa wasn't safe for her. You ought to be dam' 
well ashamed of yourself for leaving her here. You knew 
the danger from old Kallee a big sight better than she did. 
And you left her without a cent to get away with and not 
an ounce of credit." 

" Then," said Slade stiffly, " do I understand that she's 
gone to the islands at your expense ? " 

"You can understand what you please," said Carter 
truculently. 

" Are you married to her ? " 

"I am not at present. I shall be as soon as it suits 
Laura's convenience and my own." 

"You will kindly understand that I resent your inter- 
ference with my finances and my daughter's." 

" You may resent," said the prospective son-in-law, " till 
you're black in the face, and I shan't lose sleep over it." 

Bang went something outside, and Slade started. " Good 
Lord," he said, " there's somebody firing at us. Sit down, 
man, on the floor." 

" Nothing of the kind," said Carter testily. " My boy 
Trouble has got the engines going to try to work us off 
this bank, and with his usual cleverness he has contrived a 



269 

back fire, that's all. There you can smell it. Now, I 
don't think you are a quarrelsome man as a general 
thing?" 

" Not I. Too much trouble to quarrel with people." 

" Well, I'll just ask you to give Laura and myself your 
benediction, and leave the rest to us." 

Slade let off his limp laugh. " If a wedding present of 
such dubious value will please you, I'm most pleased to 
give it. Especially as I see you're inclined to stick to my 
little girl. To tell the truth, I'd heard you were after 
somebody else and it made me rather mad. You know how 
rumors float about in the bush." 

Carter's lips tightened. "Who's the other person, 
please ? " 

" Oh, just my present employer and your late one. 
But I've no doubt it's all a mistake." 

" If you'll apply to her, I've no doubt she'll endorse that 
sentiment most thoroughly. I don't think Miss O'NeilFs 
a person to throw herself away on one of her own ex- 
servants." 

Slade chuckled. " If you put it that way, I'm sure she 
isn't. By the way, do you know who she is ? " 

" What do you mean ? " 

" Well, I suppose you've discovered by this time that the 
late Godfrey O'Neill was a bachelor, and Kate's no relation 
to him at all. He and his sister Jane, who married a hope- 
less blackguard called Craven, adopted her between them 
and brought her up. I've never fagged myself to find out 
how she was bred, but you're one of these energetic fellows 
that like to dig into pedigrees, and I thought probably 
you'd know." 

" I don't know, and I shan't inquire." 

" All right, don't get excited about it, neither shall I. 
D'ye know I think if you could soften that genial man- 



270 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

ner without straining yourself, it would be an improve- 
ment. I'm led to believe that fathers-in-law expect a 
civility and even at times a certain mild amount of 
deference." 

" Did you defer to your father-in-law ? " asked Carter 
brutally. 

The tone was insulting and the meaning plain, and 
ninety-nine men out of a hundred in a similar place would 
have resented it fiercely. But Slade merely yawned. His 
sallow face neither twitched nor changed its tint. He got 
up and stretched himself lazily. " So that's the trouble, 
is it ? Well, you didn't ask me to consult you when I chose 
a wife, and I didn't ask you to fall in love with my 
daughter." He turned his head and eyed Carter thought- 
fully " You are in love with her, I suppose ? " 

" Can you suggest any other possible reason why I should 
ask her to marry me ? " 

"Well, I can hardly imagine you did it for the honor 
of an alliance with me. I suppose if I were an energetic 
man I should try and worry out what it is you're so sore 
about. It must be something beyond the detail that Laura's 
got a touch of color in her, because of course you knew 
that from the first moment you met her. But I guess the 
something else will show itself in its own good time. In 
the meanwhile if you'll give me an account of what you 
advanced to Laura for this Grand Canary trip, I'll give 
you an I.O.U. for it. I don't care to be indebted to any- 
one for things like that." 

" I'll perhaps send in the bill when I hear there's a 
possibility of getting cash payment," said Carter dryly. 

And then for the first time Slade lost his temper, and 
he cursed his future son-in-law with all an old Coaster's 
point and fluency. Every man has his tender point, and 
here was Owe-it Slade's. Throughout all his life he had 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 271 

never paid a bill if he could help it, and he had accepted 
the consequent remarks of injured parties with an easy 
philosophy. But it seemed he owned a nice discrimina- 
tion ; some items were " debts of honor/' and these he 
had always sooner or later contrived to settle. And the 
account which he decided he owed Carter for Laura's main- 
tenance in Grand Canary he set down as one which no 
gentleman could leave unpaid without besmirching his 
gentility. 



CHAPTEK XIX 

SENHOE CASCAES 

Now, as the servant of O'Neill and Craven, Carter had 
done his work well and indeed enthusiastically, and after 
he had left the firm's employ he had neither competed 
with them in business nor done them harm in any way 
whatever. It is true that at his memorable interview with 
the King of Okky with a little persuasion he could have 
got that grateful monarch to take off the embargo which 
he had laid on the factories at Monk, Malla-Nulla, and 
Smooth River, though the fact that he did not put forward 
pressure on this point could hardly have reached the ear 
of Miss O'Neill. Indeed it is to be doubted if she ever 
knew that any reference to her name or affairs cropped up 
at all. 

But be that as it may, she certainly from the date of 
sending her cable to Cascaes began to interest herself in 
opposing Carter's schemes. 

The first he knew of it was a typewritten letter from 
Liverpool on the firm's note-paper beginning " Dear sir," 
and ending " O'Neill & Craven, per K. O'Neill." In arid 
business sentences it understood he had " a tin-mining 
proposition up Smooth River," it pointed out that "our 
firm for many years has had very far-reaching interests in 
this neighborhood," and it suggested that O'Neill and 
Craven should buy the mine " to prevent any clash of in- 
terests." 



273 

Carter replied to this curtly enough that Tin Hill was 
not in the market, and took the next boat home to Liver- 
pool. He had picked up a distressed merchant skipper 
named Kettle, and put him in charge of the motor boat, 
and the canoes, and the mining work generally, and though 
in their short interview he decided that Kettle was the 
most tactless man in Africa, he believed him to be honest, 
and instinctively knew him to be capable. 

" One thing I must ask," he said at the end of their 
talk, " and that is that you do not try any proselytizing up 
here. Your creed, I have no doubt, is very excellent at 
home, but out here where they are either Moslemin or 
nothing it will only stir up disputes, and that I won't 
have. Is that quite agreed ? " 

" I have learned, sir," said the sailor, " to obey orders 
to the letter even though I know them to be against an 
owner's best interests." 

"Um," said Carter, and stared at him thoughtfully. 
" Well, Captain, I think it would be safest if you went on 
those lines. You will find your chief engineer, who carries 
the name of White-Man's-Trouble, beautifully unreliable 
in most things, but he understands the launch's engines 
wonderfully, and I like him. I'd take it as a favor if 
you'd deal with him as lightly as possible." 

" I'll bear your words in mind, sir, though, as a man 
who has handled everything colored that serves afloat, I'd 
like to point out that pampering spoils them." 

" The only other point to remember is that I've made 
my name up these rivers mainly by being known as a ju-ju 
man sort of wizard, in fact. You'll have no difficulty, I 
suppose, in following up that line now I've given you the 
hint?" 

" You'll pardon me, sir> but if that's made an essential, 
I must chuck up the job, sorely in need of employment as 



274 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

I am at the moment. I have my conscience to consider. 
And besides as a liar I am the poorest kind of failure." 

" Pooh, man, it's only a little, acting that's required." 

" Mr. Carter," said the sailor still more stiffly, " you see 
in me a man who's sunk very low, but I've never descended 
yet to working as a theatrical. According to our Persua- 
sion, we hold that play acting is one degree less wicked 
than bigamy, and indeed often leads to it." 

"Well," said Carter, "that mail-boat sails in half an 
hour's time, and I've got to go by her. I've been building 
on you, Captain, as the most trustworthy man now knock- 
ing about in West Africa." 

" I'm all that, sir." 

" So I shall have to respect your scruples and give you 
the billet." 

" You shall never regret it for one minute, sir. You'll 
find the address of Mrs. Kettle on this slip of paper, and if 
you'll post three-quarters of my wages to her as they fall 
due, I'd take it as a favor. I've been out of well, I 
won't pester you with domestic matters, sir, but the fact 
is I'm afraid she must be in very poor circumstances just 
at the moment." 

" She shall have a check posted the day after I land in 
Liverpool. I give you my word for that." 

" I thank you, Mr. Carter. Now, if you wanted another 
officer, there's a Mr. McTodd, an engineer who's just now 
at Akassa, that I could get." 

" Thanky, Captain, but not for me." 

" I believe I could persuade him to take a low wage." 

" Not for me, Captain. I know McTodd. He's far too 
thirsty and far too cantankerous. You'd find him a ugly 
handful." 

"Me! By James, sir, I can handle that swine in a 
way that would surprise you. He's had a bad up-bringing ; 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 275 

he belongs to the Free Kirk; but after I've had the ma- 
nipulation of Mr. McTodd for a week, I can make him as 
mild as Norwegian Swiss milk/' 

" Well, we'll say ' not for the present,' at any rate. With 
the organization I've got together, and the backing from 
the King of Okky that I've told you about, you'll be able 
to haul down all the available ore if you follow out my 
instructions, and when it comes to bonus, Captain, if you've 
been successful, you'll find me a generous paymaster. I 
don't toil for nothing myself. I work about ten times as 
hard as my neighbors, and draw in about seventeen times 
as much pay. I like a man who has got the same ambi- 
tions." 

The little sailor sighed. " I've always done ten times 
the normal whack of work, sir, but somehow I've missed 
fingering the dibs. I tell you flat, fourteen pounds a 
month has been good for me, and month in and month 
out I've not averaged ten." 

" Then, if that's the case," said Carter briskly, " just 
here should come the turn in your fortunes. Shake hands, 
Captain. Good-bye to you, good health and good luck. 
Here's my surf boat. The steamer's heaving short." 

" Good-bye, sir," said Kettle, " I'm sure you'll remember 
to send that check." 

The mail-boat called as usual at Las Palmas and was 
boarded on arrival by the usual batch of invalids and 
Liverpool trippers for the run home. Carter landed as 
soon as the port doctor gave clearance papers, rowed to the 
mole and chartered a tartana, between whose shafts there 
drooped a mouse-colored mule. In it he bumped over the 
badly laid tram lines from the Isleta to the city, and then 
left the city by the Telde road. 

Las Palmas is the meeting place of all West Africa, and 



276 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

if one is there long enough, one expects to meet sooner or 
later every man who has business or other interests on the 
Coast. Carter waved his hand to a Hausa constabulary 
officer in the gateway of the Catalina, and to a Lagos 
branch boat skipper who was standing on the steps of the 
Elder Dempster office. Coming down from the telegraph 
station he saw one of the Germans who had been frightened 
out of Mokki, and under a cafe awning by the dry river 
bed no less a personage than Burgoyne of Monk River 
waved a hospitable hand and invited him to try a glass of 
Bass. 

But further on, where the Telde road leaves the city, he 
saw a man whose walk he knew, and instinctively leaned 
out from the tartana's awning to show himself, and to 
wave a greeting. The man was Cascaes. But the Senhor 
Cascaes stared him coolly in the face, and cut him dead. 

The tartana rattled on, and Carter nodded after the 
Portuguese thoughtfully. " You have always hated me 
pretty tenderly," he mused. " I wonder why. I've ham- 
mered you a dozen times, but it's only been in the ordinary 
way of business, and what any half-baked Portuguese has 
got to expect. You surely can't be up against me for 
that." 

Laura was not living in the convent, but lodged in the 
house of a banana farmer just beyond. Carter found her 
in the garden. She was sitting on the end of a bench over- 
hung with great lavender clots of wistaria at one end and 
shaded by a purple mass of bougainvillea at the other. 
He noted with a queer thrill that there was something 
cold in the outward form of her greeting. 

She returned his kiss accurately enough, but without 
enthusiasm. Still, from the moment she saw him, the light 
came into her eyes that he had grown to know so well. 
The two things did not seem somehow or other to tally. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 277 

Carter sat himself on the bench and took a good hold on 
his nerves. Then he slid an arm round her waist and 
drew her to him. " Well/' he said, " out with it. What's 
the trouble?" 

She dropped her head on his shoulder contentedly enough. 
" Oh, the usual. When you're away from me, dear, I never 
feel quite certain if I ought to marry you." 

" Now, that's awkward, isn't it ? But as I have been 
up country colloguing with your other suitor, old Kallee, 
you couldn't very well have been with me there." 

" I wish you hadn't gone." 

" How delightfully unreasonable ! We'd nothing to boil 
the pot on before, and now we've plenty, and neither of us 
is a bit the worse. What's broke since I've been away ? " 

" The world, I think," said Laura miserably. 

" Then I hope I'm the sticking plaster that will mend 
it. Now, I want to hear all about Las Palmas, and what 
you have been doing. I see most of West Africa's here. 
Great Christopher ! but it is fine to smell even the outside 
edge of civilization once more. My mother used to get 
tired of Wharfedale occasionally ah, well, but that 
wouldn't interest you." 

" No, you always cut yourself short when you begin to 
talk about your people." 

" Do I ? Well, what's sauce for the gander's sauce for 
the goose and you're the goose. Did you ever speak to me 
about your folk ? Not one word, unless I dragged it out. 
Look here, Laura, are you trying to wrangle? Because if 
so, and if it's my fault, just say what's the crime, and 
give me my licking and get it over. I've got a clear con- 
science, and I'll be as penitent as you please." 

" My dear, you've been perfect." 

" Oh, I say," said Carter, " not too sudden. That sort 
of thing brings on heart attacks." 



278 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

" I know your temptations, and you've been an honorable 
gentleman all through." 

" I wish," said Carter whimsically, " you could persuade 
other people to look at me in that light. A missionary on 
the steamer yesterday called me a gin-selling ruffian be- 
cause I happened to be sitting in his deck chair; one of 
the Protectorate officials a week ago accused me of being 
a smuggling gun-runner, because I've been up country and 
happened to get on with the native local headmen instead 
of scrapping with them, and Miss K. O'Neill, of our mu- 
tual acquaintance, has given me to understand that if I 
don't quit poaching on what she's pleased to call O'Neill 
and Craven's territory, she'll run me out 01 business. To 
give her her due I gather she proposes to pay me something 
to clear out." 

" And you're going to take it from her ? " 

" Don't say ' her ' so tragically. I'm not going to take 
anything from her, or from anyone else. I've got a mine, 
and it's a nailing good mine, and I'm going to run it by 
my lone or bust. It isn't a thing you could sell to a com- 
pany, and besides it isn't one of those mines one would 
care to sell. It's too good for that. It's just a fortune for 
two people, and one of them is presently going to sign 
herself Laura Carter." 

" George, you're quite the best man on earth." 

" I doubt it myself at times. By the way, who should 
I see down in Las Palmas just now but Cascaes. He did 
me the honor of ignoring my existence. It wasn't the un- 
shaved Coast Cascaes either; he'd got a clean blue chin, 
and the rest of him was dressed fit to kill. Now, what is 
the mysterious Cascaes doing here?" 

"He's O'Neill and Craven's agent for Grand Canary. 
I thought you'd heard." 

" No, it's news to me. It's news, moreover, that they 
had any business here that required an agent." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 279 

" They haven't." 

" Hum," said Carter. " Miss O'Neill doesn't pay a sal- 
ary without getting value for it. Now this is one of her 
deep-laid schemes." 

Laura looked at him queerly. "Yes," she said, "this 
is one of Kate's deep-laid schemes, George. I wonder if 
you can see through it." 

The sun above them scorched high, and the cool white 
buildings of the banana farmer threw the shortest of 
purple shadows. The fresh breath of the trade rustled 
the ferns and the palm leaves of the garden, and stirred 
the great masses of the bougainvillea into rhythmical 
movement. " It's grand to be in a place like this after 
a spell on the Coast," said Carter. 

" Do you prefer it to England ? " Laura asked pointedly. 

Carter held down a sigh. " I believe I do," he said 
steadily. " Come, now, old lady, what do you say ? Shall 
we buy a property here in Grand Canary, and settle down, 
and grow the finest flower garden in the island ? " 

" But roses are your favorite flower and they don't do 
well here in the South." 

" Oh, it's roses that my father cares for, at least he and 
the mater together run the roses at home. But I think 
my taste runs more to bougainvillea, say and great trees 
of scarlet geranium with stalks as thick as one's leg, and 
palms, and tree ferns. Besides, a garden means irrigation 
here, and I've never had a real water-works scheme of my 
own to play with since I was a kid and worked out a most 
wonderful system by the old smelt mill at home. Yes, we 
should have great times gardening out here." 

They had never said so in words, but both of them knew 
that George Carter would never take Laura back to Eng- 
land when once he had married her, and the girl through 
all her fierce tropical love for him recognized what this 



280 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 

self-denial must cost and valued it to the full. But pres- 
ently she brought him back to the matter they had been 
talking of before. 

" Can't you see why Kate sent Senhor Cascaes here, 
George ? " 

" I haven't given him another thought. Besides, al- 
though Miss O'Neill is seeing fit to interfere with me, I 
don't intend to meddle with her." 

" I think you ought to defend what's your own." 

" Certainly I shall. Can anyone accuse me of not doing 
so? But I don't see why you keep harping on Cascaes. 
The man is an open admirer of Miss O'Neill's, and I 
suppose she's tickled thereby. Anyway that's the only 
reason I can see why she should have provided him with 
a job." 

" Do you mean to say j r ou think it is Kate the Senhor 
Cascaes is running after ? " 

" Certainly I do. Who else was there at Mokki ? " 

" Do you think I've so few attractions then ? " 

" But, my good girl, you're engaged to me, and he knew 
it all along. There was no secret about our engagement. 
Everybody about the factory knew of it." 

" And because a girl is engaged, or even married, do you 
think that's any bar to another man admiring her ? " 

Carter whistled. " I've been a blind ass, and I must 
say I did refuse to listen to the highfalutin' nonsense 
Cascaes wanted to pour into my sympathetic ear. How 
often have you seen him here in Grand Canary ? " 

" He has called every day." 

" That's not answering my question." 

" George, dear, give me credit for loyalty. He told me 
one day when you were building that fort at Mokki that 
he liked me, and that if the Okky-men came he would die 
cheerfully before any harm should come to me; and I told 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 281 

him that he had no right to say such things to a girl who 
was engaged to you." 

"Why wasn't I told of this?" 

"Because he said to me he had nearly shot you once, 
and I was afraid that if there was any trouble, dear, you 
might be hurt." 

" You could have trusted me," said Carter dryly, " to 
keep my end up with a dago like that. Besides, if you'd 
given me the tip, I could have seen to it that I had the 
drop on him first." 

Laura shivered. " You are rather mediasval. I don't 
want to be fought for." 

" Still, I gather from what you say that you've been 
seeing the fellow here?" 

" Never when I could help it. Each day I've refused to 
see him when he came to the house. But he has waited 
for me whei. I went out into the country, and once he was 
here in the garden, sitting on this very seat, when I came 
out after lunch." 

" Does he always tell the same old tale ? " 

" He says always he wants to marry me." 

" I thought you said you refused to listen to him ? " 

" George, don't be unreasonable. I've told him over 
and over again it's no use ; I've gone away every time we've 
met; but it seems to be the one occupation of his life." 

" Except for running after you, I can imagine he does 
have plenty of time on his hands out here." 

" Don't you think, George, he was sent to the island to 
have nothing to do except that?" 

" Sent here who by ? By Miss O'Neill, do you mean ? 
Great Christopher ! Laura, what morbid idea will you 
have in your head next? I don't flatter myself that out- 
side business Miss O'Neill cares whether I'm alive or dead, 
and as for you, well, the pair of you may be friendly 



282 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

enough when you were kids, but you seemed to have out- 
grown any past civilities last time I saw you together on 
the Coast. Don't you go and run away with any wild cat 
notions about Miss O'lSTeill. She's got one amusement in 
the world, and that's business, and if she's sent Cascaes 
here to Las Palmas, you can bet your best frock the only 
job he's got in view so far as she's concerned is dividend 
hunting. Apropos of which, I nearly forgot. Here's 
something to practise your autograph in." 

" Why, it's a check-book." 

" Clever girl. Guessed it in once. I just opened a 
credit for you down at the bank in Las Palmas for 500 
to be going on with. That's for chocolate, and hairpins, 
and a mantillina, and the latest thing in Spanish slippers. 
I say, Laura, you must get a pair of those tan ones, with 
the laces tied in a bow just down over the toe. And if 
you don't go through the lot whilst I'm a\ ay squaring 
mine matters up in England, I shall take you solemnly 
round the shops when I come back here, and buy you a 
trousseau of all the ugliest and most unbecoming garments 
they have in stock." 

"You are good to me, dear. But I can never spend 
all that." 

" If you've any balance you find unwieldy, buy Cascaes 
a smile with it, if you can find one that will fit. No, seri- 
ously, old lady, you will be marrying a rich man, although 
you did not know it when you took him, and you may as 
well get used to spending. It's no use for us preparing to 
save." 

" No use preparing to save," poor Laura repeated mis- 
erably to herself. " There will be no no one except our- 
selves to look forward to." But she said nothing of this 
aloud. She just thanked him, and snuggled in to his 
shoulder and patted his sleeve. 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 283 

Far away over the corner of the isle a steamer hooted 
in the harbor of the Isleta, and the sound came to them 
dimly through the foliage plants. Carter looked at his 
watch. " Hullo, I must go, or the criminal who drives 
my tartana will flog that poor beast of a mule to death 
in his effort to catch the boat. So now, Miss Slade, just 
please give me a sample of your best good-bye." 

Twilight does not linger in the summer months, even so 
far north as Grand Canary. The sun was balanced in 
lurid splendor on the rocky backbone of the isle as Carter 
said his last words of farewell, making the dead volcanoes 
look as though at a whim they could spring once more 
into scarlet life. It was dark when he got on the road, 
and the evening chill rode in on the Trade. The mouse- 
colored tartana mule sneezed as he pressed his galled 
shoulders into the collar. 

Carter wedged himself in a corner of the carriage and 
resolutely looked on life with a reckless gayety. After all, 
what was this ache called Love? To the devil with it! 
Hereafter he would eat, and drink, and work, especially 
work, and well, Laura was a good sort, and he intended 
to play the game, and please her. He had given his word 
to Laura, he forgot exactly why, but he had given it, and 
that was enough. For good or evil he was one of those 
dogged Englishmen who keep to a promise that had once 
been given. 

Then with an equal doggedness he thrust all these things 
from his mind, and resolutely clamped down his thoughts 
to Tin Hill and the details of its working. No news had 
reached him of the importance which the freakish British 
public had placed upon his little arrangement about that 
detail of the human sacrifices. He saw himself merely as 
an unknown business man who in the near future would 
be able to sway a thing which at present he knew nothing 



284 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

about, and that was the tin market. The idea uncon- 
sciously fascinated him. He had no enmity against the 
present producers of tin, did not know indeed who they 
were, but he smiled grimly as he thought of the way in 
which presently he would govern them. It was the lust for 
power, which is latent in so many men, leaping up into 
life. 

The brilliant stars shone down on him from overhead, 
and the cool Trade carried to him salt odors of the sea, 
but they got from him no attention. His mind was jour- 
neying away in the African bush, on spouting river-bars, 
in offices, on metal exchanges. . . . 

He was roused from these dreams with much sudden- 
ness. In his up country journeying in Africa he had de- 
veloped that animal instinct for the nearness of danger 
which is present in us all, but in nine hundred and ninety- 
nine men out of the thousand becomes atrophied for want 
of use. In the river villages the natives had given him 
a name which means Man-with-eyes-at-the-back-of-his- 
head. 

It was this slightly abnormal sense that sprang into 
quick activity, and Carter made so sudden a stoop that his 
face smacked against the shabby cushions on the opposite 
side of the tartana. But simultaneously he turned and 
clutched through the night, and seized a wrist, and held it 
with all his iron force. A moment later he found with 
his other hand that the wrist was connected with a long 
bright-bladed knife, so he twisted it savagely till that 
weapon fell onto the dirty carpet on the floor. And all 
the time, be it well understood, no sounds had been ut- 
tered, and the mouse-colored mule jogged steadily on with 
the tartana through the dust and the night. 

Then Carter began to haul in on the wrist, and the man 
to whom it was attached came over into the body of the 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 285 

vehicle, bumping his knees shrewdly against the wheel- 
spokes en route. 

"Ah, Cascaes, that's you, is it? And I thought once 
you claimed to be a gentleman, and agreed not to go at 
me from behind? Well, I'm afraid there's only one kind 
of medicine that will suit you, and that's the band one 
gives to dogs that turn treacherous. Have you got any 
suggestions to make ? " 

The Portuguese held his tongue. 

" Eeady to take your gruel, are you ? Well, I propose to 
give you a full dose. Hi there, driver, pull up. Wake, 
you sleepy head! What is it? Why, I've picked up a 
passenger whilst you've been nodding, and now we want to 
get down for a minute. Here, give me your whip." 

Carter's arm was lusty and his temper raw. Moreover, 
the whip, being the property of a Las Palmas tartana 
driver, was made for effective use. 

" I may not cure you," said Carter between thumps, 
"of a taste for cold-blooded assassination, but I'm going 
to make the wearing of a coat and breeches an annoyance 
to you for the next three weeks at any rate." After which 
statement, as the whip broke, he flung the patient into the 
aloe hedge at the side of the road, got back into the tartana 
and told the driver to hurry on to the Isleta, or they'd 
miss the boat. 



CHAPTEE XX 

MAJOR MEREDITH 

" THE Liverpool Post" said Mrs. Craven, " allows itself 
to hint gently that you've been rather persecuting Mr. Car- 
ter, Kate. Now, I don't call the Post a sensational paper, 
nor is it given to introducing personal matters, as a rule." 

" I wish it would mind its own business and leave mine 
alone," said Kate crossly. 

" ' The oppression of nations or individuals,' " read Mrs. 
Craven, " e may begin by being a matter of merely domes- 
tic importance, but when it assumes sufficient dimensions 
it forces itself into public notice.' " 

" Do they couple my name with that ? " 

" They leave you to do that yourself," said the old lady 
dryly. 

" Well, I don't mind. They may say what they like. 
I'm entirely within my rights." 

" The Post admits that. Here, I'll read you what it 
says, my dear. ' Mr. George Carter, whose name has been 
so prominently before the public of late in connection with 
his splendid efforts in winning over the King of Okky to 
the side of humanity, has himself been the victim of some 
very high-handed oppression. He has discovered a most 
valuable vein of tin in a part of the back country where 
no European explorer had ever trod before, and with toil 
and care, and in fact with genius, had brought cargo after 
cargo of the valuable ore down mysterious African creeks 
and rivers to a spot where the ocean steamers could con- 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 287 

veniently ship it. To be precise, he hired from Messrs. 
Edmondson's small factory on the Smooth River a piece 
of waste-cleared ground, dumped his ore on that as he 
towed it tediously down those unknown creeks in a string 
of dugouts, and there let it accumulate so as not to flood 
the markets, and cause ruin to the tin industries in Eng- 
land' Shall I go on?" 

" Please do, Aunt." 

" ' But presently an interviewer arrived in the shape of 
a well-known firm of West African merchants and finan- 
ciers, who hought out Messrs. Edmondson's interest in 
their Smooth River factory, found that Mr. Carter had 
no lease, and gave him notice to quit within forty-eight 
hours. As an alternative to removal they demand an 
annual rent which amounts to more than fifteen per cent, 
of the value of the ore stacked there. In other words, 
they are endeavoring, in a manner that almost smacks of 
piracy, to force themselves into partnership with him/ ' ; 

" Sneak," said Miss O'Neill, " to go and tittle-tattle to 
the papers like that." 

Mrs. Craven looked at the girl over her spectacles, and 
then said she, " Wait a minute till I read you a little more. 
' We should add that what gives these proceedings a more 
unpleasant flavor than would appear at first sight is the 
fact Mr. Carter is unable to defend himself. He had left 
West Africa when action was first taken, and it has been 
discovered that he was still in ignorance of what had oc- 
curred when his steamer called at Las Palmas. The whole 
thing will be sprung upon him with a shock of unpleasant 
surprise when he lands in Liverpool to-morrow.' ' ; 

" Ah," said Kate. 

Mrs. Craven folded the paper, stood up, and walked 
towards the door. " As usual, my dear, you have carried 
out your plan very perfectly." 



288 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

"What plan?" asked Kate incautiously. 

" Of treating Mr. Carter so badly," said Mrs. Craven, 
turning the handle, " that presently when he hits you back 
you will be able to bring yourself to hate him. But then 
you are always successful, Kitty dear, in everything you 
set your hand to tryingly successful sometimes," Mrs. 
Craven added, and went out, and shut the door softly be- 
hind her. 

Kate nodded at the door. " Aunt Jane," she said 
viciously, " there are moments when you are a perfect cat. 
But I will make him detest me for all that, and then I can 
truly and comfortably hate him. It's all very well their 
calling him a martyr. Why should everybody's feelings 
be consulted except mine ? " 

All the same, Kate bowed in a certain degree to public 
sentiment. One thinks also that she had not toughened 
herself sufficiently to meet Carter face to face. Anyway, 
she discovered that urgent affairs called her to London, 
and whirled off Aunt Jane to her flat that very night. 
She left Crewdson to fight the invader when he landed 
in Liverpool, and gave the old man definite instructions in 
writing that he was not to budge an inch from the firm's 
rights. " Show Mr. Carter this letter," she ordered, " if 
there is the least occasion for it." 

But it seemed that West Africa pursued her. The tele- 
phone rang as soon as she got to the flat. 

"That London? That Miss Head? This is Liverpool, 
Crewdson. London't just been calling you up. Will you 
ring Four-owe-seven-three Pad. What's that ? No. Four- 
naught-seven-three Pad. Yes, that's it. Good-night, 
Miss." 

Kate had more than half a mind to let 4,073 Pad alone. 
She was tired, and somehow in spite of all her successes 
she was a good deal dispirited. The British public had 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 289 

bought no less than four great rubber companies that she 
had offered them ; the shares were all at a premium ; every- 
body was pleased ; and she had transferred her own profits 
safely into land and trustee securities. Since her first 
burst of success, money had simply rolled in on her, and 
already it had ceased to give her amusement. Success lay 
sour in her mouth. She asked Fortune for just one thing 
more. Because she was a woman she could not go and get 
it for herself. She told herself that it was only a con- 
vention that held her back but she shuddered and chilled 
all over at the thought of breaking that convention. 

She sat in a deep soft chair, twisting her long gloves 
into a hard string, and staring into the glow of the fire, 
and then with a " Faugh " at her own weakness, she threw 
the gloves onto the fender, and walked across to a telephone 
that stood on a side-table. 

" Four-owe-seven-three Pad, please. No, Forty-seventy- 
three Paddington. Yes. Hullo? Hullo? Is that Four- 
nought-seven-three? This is Miss O'Neill. Liverpool rang 
up to say you wanted to speak to me. Who is that, 
please ?" 

" No one you know," came in the small clear voice of the 
telephone. " One of those sort of people who writes let- 
ters to the papers above some such signature as 'Well- 
Wisher/ " 

" If you don't give me your name/' said Kate sharply, 
" I shall ring off." 

" I don't think you will when I tell you I'm going to 
give you some news about your father." 

" My father unfortunately is dead. You've got hold of 
the wrong Miss O'Neill." 

The telephone laughed. " Not a bit of it, it's the lady 
who is known generally as Kate O'Neill I'm speaking with, 
but whose real name is Katherine Meredith." 



290 SATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 

Now Kate knew that Mrs. Craven was only " Aunt Jane " 
by courtesy and adoption, and had naturally wondered 
many times over who her real people might have been. 
She had always been a very practical young woman, and 
had not worried herself unduly over the matter; but still 
being human, she had her share of curiosity, and though 
the subject had always been strictly taboo at the house in 
Princes' Park, still that did not hinder her from discussing 
it with her own thoughts. And now, " Katherine Mere- 
dith!" 

" I think you had better tell me who you are/' she said 
to the telephone. 

"I prefer anonymity. Do you know Day-Pearce?" 

rt No. Yes, perhaps I do, if you mean Sir Edward Day- 
Pearce, the West African man. I don't know him per- 
sonally." 

"All the better/' rasped the telephone. "Anyway, he 
is lecturing to-night in a non-Conformist temple in West- 
bourne Grove the Athenaeum, they call it. Begins at 
eight. He's certain to say something about Meredith. I 
should try to go if I were you." 

" I shouldn't dream " Kate began, when whizz west 
the bell, and she was cut off. She rang again, got the in- 
quiry office, found that 4,073 was a hairdresser's shop, 
once more got 4,073, spoke to the proprietor, learned that 
the telephone had been hired for an hour by a gentleman 
who had some business to transact. No, the gentleman 
had just gone. No, they didn't know who he was: never 
seen him before Miss O'Neill's ring off had a touch of 
temper in it. 

She went back to the deep soft chair and tried to bring 
her thoughts once more to the subject that had been in 
hand before the interruptions came. She was a business 
woman, and had trained herself to concentrate the whole 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIEK 291 

of her mind on any matter she chose. But somehow those 
two little words " My father " kept cropping up ; and pres- 
ently she began trying to picture what her mother was 
like. She went to the telephone and called up a theatre 
agency. She had to say three times over " Athenaeum - 
Westbourne Grove" before the young man at the other 
end grasped the name, and she was rewarded by hearing 
him laugh as he said he had no seats for Sir Edward Day- 
Pearce's lecture that evening. 

" Where can I get one ? " she demanded. 

" At the door, madam/' was the polite response. " I 
believe the prices of entrance are threepence, sixpence, and 
one shilling, unless you happen to be a subscriber." 

Supposing the whole thing were a hoax to draw her 
there, and by some means to make her look ridiculous? 
It was quite likely. She was a successful woman, and had 
already learned that one of the prices of success is the spit- 
ting of spite and envy. But difficulties did not often stay 
long in the path of Miss Kate O'Neill. She picked up a 
telephone directory, turned the pages, found a number, 
called it up, and made certain arrangements. Thereafter 
she dressed, dined, and took Mrs. Craven to laugh over 
the new piece at the Gaiety. 

But poor Kate found even the Gaiety dull that night. 
There was a man on the stage with a red head. He was 
not in the least like Carter either in looks, speech, or man- 
ner, but well, it must have been the hair which persisted 
in calling up that unpleasant train of thought which kept 
her vaguely irritated throughout all the evening. 

There was a bundle of type script waiting for her when 
she got back to the flat, which happened to be the verbatim 
report of Sir Edward Day-Pearce's lecture which she had 
arranged that two stenographers should go and take down 
for her, but she did not choose to open this before the keen 



292 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

eyes of Aunt Jane. Instead she waited till that astute old 
lady should see fit to go to bed, and watched her eat sand- 
wiches, drink a tumbler of soda-water lightly laced with 
whiskey, and listened to a resume of all the other plays 
that had filled the Gaiety boards since the house was 
opened. At the end of which Kate had the final satisfac- 
tion of being laughed at. 

" You've been itching to be rid of me ever since we got 
back, my dear, and as a general thing you don't in the least 
mind saying when you want to be alone. I wonder what's 
in those mysterious papers you're so anxious I shouldn't 
ask about. Good-night, Kitty dear." 

" Good-night, Aunt Jane/' said Kate, and opened the 
package. 

The lecture was unexciting. It was the dull record of 
a dull but capable man, who knew his work thoroughly, 
did it accurately, and in the telling of it left out all the 
points that were in the least picturesque or interesting. 
Sir Edward had spent half a lifetime in Colonial ad- 
ministration, and the only times he rose into anything 
approaching eloquence was when he had to tell of some 
colonial interest that was ruthlessly sacrificed by some ig- 
norant official at home for the sake of a vote or a fad. 
Four several instances he gave of this, and these stood 
out warmly against the gray background of the rest of the 
speech. 

But to Kate, who knew her West Africa by heart, it was 
all dull enough reading till he came to almost the last 
paragraph. 

" It is by a peculiar irony," the type report read " that 
an agreement should recently have been come to by which 
the /notorious King of Okky promises to discontinue his 
practice of human sacrifice. It is six-and-twenty years 
since I first went out to West Africa, and my immediate 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEK 293 

superior then was Major Meredith. He was a man of 
the highest ideals, and we all thought of tremendous capa- 
bilities. He saw what was wanted on the spot, and carried 
out his theories with small enough regard for ignorant 
criticism at home. By the exercise of tremendous personal 
influence, and at a fearful risk, he made his way to Okky 
City itself, saw its unspeakable horrors, and made a treaty 
with the then king. In return for certain concessions the 
king was to come under British protection, and of course 
give up objectionable practices. Well, I don't know 
whether there are any of the Anti-British party here, but 
I daresay most of you will think that the addition of a 
quarter of a million of square miles of rich country to the 
empire was no mean gift. Ladies and gentlemen, you lit- 
tle know what the Government was then. ' Perish West 
Africa ' was one of their many creeds, and with Exeter " 
[here the reporter had written the word "Disturbance," 
and evidently missed the next few sentences] " I don't 
care whether you like it or whether you are decently 
ashamed, the thing's true. They refused to ratify the 
treaty, and my poor chief was censured for exceeding in- 
structions. Well, the backers of the high-minded poten- 
tate, as I believe they called themselves, got their way, 
and I wish they were not too ignorant to realize what their 
mean little action caused in human lives. Putting the 
human sacrifice in Okky City at the very low estimate of 
eight thousand a year, in five-and-twenty years that brings 
the figure up to two hundred thousand black men and 
women whose blood lies at the door of those unctuous hypo- 
crites who made it their business to break Major Meredith 
because he was an Imperialist." 

Again the reporter put in the word " Disturbance," but 
he apparently managed to catch the next sentence. " Aye, 
you may yap," the old administrator went on, " and I 



294 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

dare say from the snug looks of some of you you're own 
sons of the men who did it, and I hope you feel the weight 
of their bloodguiltiness. Two hundred thousand lives, 
gentlemen, and all thrown away to pander to the fads of 
some ignorant theorists who had never been beyond the 
shores of England. If Major Meredith could have held 
out against the clamor, I believe that he would have been 
a man to stand beside Clive, and Rhodes, and Hastings, in 
the work he would have done for the Empire ; but as it was 
he left the service in disgust, and drifted away into the 
savage depths of that Africa he knew so well, and had so 
vainly tried to help. His wife went with him, and, so I 
heard, bore him a daughter before she died. A rumor 
reached me that some trader brought the child to England 
and adopted her, but poor Meredith well, he has disap- 
peared from the record. . . ." 

The lecture closed, a few paragraphs farther on, again 
with " Disturbance." 

Kate folded the sheets and put them on the table. She 
was somehow conscious of a queer thrill of elation. One 
of the discomforts that an adopted child who does not 
know her history must always carry through life, is the 
feeling of having been bred of parents that were probably 
discreditable. She had vague memories of her babyhood. 
There was a village of thatched houses and shade trees. 
She had clear recollection of one day playing in the dust 
with the village dogs and the other babies black babies, 
they were when a huge spotted beast sprang amongst 
them, roared, and for a moment stood over her, the white 
baby. At intervals she had dreamed of that beast ever 
since. From maturer knowledge she knew it must have 
been a leopard, and leopards do not grow beyond a certain 
normal size. But in dreamland that leopard was always 
enormous. . She could never remember whether 



KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIER 295 

in the dusty village street under the heat and the sunshine 
it had done damage, or whether the pariah dogs had fright- 
ened it away. 

Try how she would, she could remember no mother. 
The women of the village were all black, and she lived, 
so faint memory said, first with one and then with an- 
other. She had no clear recollection of any of them. . . . 
And, indeed, there might have been many villages, because 
there were hammock journeys, with a pet monkey riding 
on the pole, and walls of thick green bush on either hand 
that held dangers. . . . She still had a scar just be- 
low the nail on the first finger of her right hand where 
the monkey bit her one day when she teased it. 

But plainest of all these dim pictures of the memory 
was one of a white man who at rare intervals came into 
the scene and took her on his knee. He had iron-gray 
hair and beard which were shaggy and matted, and he 
always had a pipe between his lips and a glittering eye- 
glass on a black watered-silk ribbon for her to play with. 
Furthermore, he always brought some present when he 
came to see her, and gave another present also, if he was 
pleased, to the black women with whom she lived. It was 
he who hung round her neck the Aggry bead that she still 
had locked away in the bottom tray of her jewel case. 

She remembered this man with a vague kindness. But 
if Godfrey O'Neill cut her off from him with such com- 
pleteness it must have been for some profoundly good 
reason. Uncle Godfrey had been far from squeamish. 
Uncle Godfrey in his lazy way stuck to friends when every- 
body else voted them far outside the pale. And therefore, 
she had argued, the iron-gray haired man with the eyeglass 
must have done something peculiarly disgraceful. 

That he was her father she was entirely sure. Occasion- 
ally she had tried to argue with herself that she was little 



296 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

more than a babe when she saw him last, and was no judge, 
and that possibly the iron-gray man was her father's 
friend. But something stronger than mere human reason 
always rose up in arms against such a suggestion. 

Sir Edward's halting lecture had roused up one recol- 
lection in her head that heretofore had persistently eluded 
her. A thousand times in those dreams of Africa, and the 
hot villages, and the pet monkey with its red seed neck- 
lace, and all the other old dim scenes, she had on the tip 
of her memory the name of the iron-gray man with the 
eyeglass, and a thousand times she had missed catching it 
by the smallest hair. In a flash it came back he was 
Meredith. 

Was he alive still? She could not tell; but that she 
would find out now. For once she adjudged old Godfrey 
O'Neill to be wrong. She was not going to let the discreet 
veil remain any longer over a man who, whatever his 
subsequent career had been, at any rate was a martyr once, 
and her father. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE FEELING ON THE COAST 

9 

" WELL, Carter-me-lad," said Captain Image, coming 
into the room, " they tell me you're the most unpopular 
man in Liverpool. They want to give you dinners, and 
put your photo in the papers, and hear you make a speech, 
and you won't have anything to do with anybody. What's 
broke ? Tin troubling you ? " 

" Oh ! tin's all right. But I've got a constitutional dis- 
like to marching along at the tail of a brass band, that'c 
all. Besides I feel an awful humbug when all these silly 
stay-at-home people insist on believing that the one and 
only reason I went up country was to chop down old Kal- 
lee's private crucifixion tree. Have a cigar ? " 

" Not me in here, me lad. I came home from the Isl- 
ands with the old M'poso full of passengers, and I've 
smoked myself half sick on cigars. I'll suck at a pipe. By 
the way, I've got a message for you from Kallee. The old 
sinner came on board himself when we were lying off Ed- 
mondson's factory trying to get your ore, and nearly drank 
the ship dry before I could get quit of him. Owe-it Slade's 
been palming off I.O.U.'s on him. He'd got quite a sheaf 
of them. He says when you marry Laura he'll give them 
to you as a wedding present, or words to that effect. But 
in the meanwhile if he can catch Slade he's just going to 
chop his head off to prevent him putting any more paper 
into circulation." 

"Well?" ' 



298 KATE MEKEDITH, FINANCIEE 

" Well, you see, me lad, Slade owes our fo'c'sle shop a 
matter of four pounds odd which we can't collect, and he's 
got a Holland gun of mine that I shouldn't really like to 
lose. Besides, come to thinking of it, I suppose Laura's 
fond of him anyway. Couldn't you do something for 
him ? " 

Carter stared. "Has he left O'Neill and Craven's, 
then ? " 

Captain Image stopped down the tobacco in his pipe 
with a horny forefinger. " Why, no, and you'll have to 
pay to get him away." 

" But what mortal use is he to me ? " 

Captain Image's pipe worked hard and he spoke in jerks. 
"Kubber palaver. Owe-it Slade's the smartest man at 
dem rubber palaver on the Coast." 

" Pooh ! That slackster ! " 

" That's where you're making the usual mistake. Slade's 
got his faults. He wastes his money, he never pays his 
bills, he sponges for all eternity, and he makes out he was 
born lazy. But don't you believe him. Who got Miss 
Kate all these rubber properties that she's floated off into 
such whacking big companies ? " 

" Miss Kate O'Neill." 

"No more than you did, me lad. It was just Owe-it 
Slade. And to think," Captain Image added with a sigh, 
" I always put that man down as a borrowing waster, and 
never even hustled him to collect cargo for me. Why, if 
I'd known then what I know now, I could have bought 
rubber lands through him, for a half surf boat full of gin, 
that I might have sold to a company myself, and dined 
off turkey in my own house ashore every day for all the rest 
of my natural life. Why, my Christian Aunt! I might 
even have married, if I'd worked him properly." 

Captain Image dabbed with his forefinger on Carter's 






KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 299 

coat sleeve and left a print of tobacco ash. " You buy 
up Owe-it Slade, me lad, and not only is your fortune 
made, but well," he added rather lamely, " you buy him 
up and just remember I told you to." 

" But what were you going to say ? " 

" Well," said Image desperately, " I didn't intend to 
tell you, but all up and down the Coast, and in the hotels 
in Las Palmas, and even in the bars and offices here, the 
boys don't like the way Miss Kate is playing it on you. 
It's all right for a girl to take to business, if she's built 
that way, but she ought to play the game. Of course the 
general idea is, me lad, that you and she started sweet- 
hearting and had a turn-up, but of course I'm in the 
know, and I've called 'em dam' liars every time they've 
started that tale, and told 'em about Laura and how you 
were fixed up long before Miss Kate came down onto the 
Coast. Why, Carter-me-lad, I've backed up my words 
with bets to that extent that if you were to marry the lady 
now by any kind of accident, I should stand to lose what 
with one fiver and another, a matter of two hundred and 
fifty pounds." 

Carter laughed. " That puts it finally out of the region 
of possibility, doesn't it? I can't let you lose a pile like 
that. But all the same I'm not going to interfere with 
Miss O'Neill. If Slade's useful to her, let her keep him. 
I'm much obliged to a lot of officious idiots for sympa- 
thizing with me, but really they're moving on a lot too 
fast. It will be quite time for other people to be sorry 
for me when I start in to be sorry for myself. Besides, I 
thought you, at any rate, were a strong admirer of Miss 
O'Neill's?" 

" I am," said Captain Image patiently. He always flat- 
tered himself that he left the more eloquent parts of his 
speech at Sierra Leone on each trip north, and picked 



300 KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIER 

them up again there next voyage for vigorous use on the 
Coast. It was his pride that he conformed most suitably 
to Liverpool's sedate atmosphere. " I admire Miss Kate 
as a lady more than anyone I know, and if she were 
only twenty years older, and I could afford it, I wouldn't 
mind going in for her myself. But it's her business ideas, 
as she showed them over that factory of Edmondson's, 
that I can't stand. The wa) r she stuck up the rent on you, 
me lad, is the limit. Why, if that sort of thing went on, 
nobody would be safe. It's Oil-Trust morals. I'm Welsh 
myself, but I do draw the line somewhere." 

" What, Welsh ? " said Carter politely. " I should never 
have guessed it." 

" I am," said Captain Image with sturdy truth, " and 
many times, look you, I am proud of it. Which reminds 
me that little red-bearded Kettle that you employed to run 
your launch and the mine is Welsh also. I don't want to 
go against a fellow-countryman who's down on his luck, 
but I saw him with my own eyes give old Kallee an illus- 
trated methody tract on bigamy when he was on the 
M'poso, and if His Portliness finds anyone kind enough 
to translate it for him, there'll be the devil to pay. Kal- 
lee's black, but he's a king, and he's not the kind to let 
any man tamper with his domestic happiness. Now about 
Slade " 

" We'll drop Slade. He's Miss O'Neill's man. If Miss 
O'Neill chooses to amuse herself by gunning for me, that's 
her concern. But I don't shoot back." 

Captain Image shook his head sadly. " Well, me lad, if 
you won't lift a hand to help yourself, I don't see there's 
anything more to be said." He put his pipe in his pocket, 
stood up and prepared to go. " Oh, by the way, did anyone 
tell you about old Swizzle-Stick Smith ? " 

"Not dead, is he?" 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 301 

" Lord bless you, .no, me lad. Very much the reverse. 
Look here, what was your idea of that man ? " 

"In what way?" 

" What was he before he became the disreputable old 
palm oil ruffian you first knew at Malla-Nulla ? " 

" Oh, I suppose he was less disreputable once. He'd let 
himself drift, that's all. One does get into frightfully- 
slack ways in those lonely factories." 

" Did he strike you as the usual type of man a factory 
agent's made of ? " 

" Why, no." 

" Gentleman, wasn't he, or had been once ? Always used 
to hitch up the knees of his pyjamas when he sat down; 
spoke well; knew Latin; could swear round any man on 
the Coast when he was that side out; and had a pleasant 
way of making you feel you were dirt when the mood took 
him that way ? " 

Carter laughed. "He had some characteristic little 
ways." 

" Ever strike you he'd been a soldier once ? " 

" I suppose it did." 

" Well, me lad, when I was tied up by that Edmondson 
factory, a boat swung up to my ladder and a military 
party stepped out. Quite the swell, I can tell you: nobby 
white helmet, hair cut with scissors, smart gray mustache, 
gray imperial bristling underneath it, clean-shaved chin, 
whit 3 drill coat with concertina pockets, white drill pants 
with a crease down the shin, latest thing in pipe-clayed 
shoes. If it hadn't -been for the old trick with the eye- 
glass and the black ribbon, I take my dick I shouldn't 
have known him. 

"'Hullo Swizzle-Stick Smith,' said I, 'you are a 
howler. Whose kit have you been robbing ? ' 

" ' Captain Image,' says he, ' allow me ar to present 



302 

to you Mr. Smith, a new acquaintance. It is not ar 
my wish to be mistaken for any of your discreditable ar 
pot companions of the past.' That to me, and on my 
own deck, me lad. What do you think of that ? " 

" I bet you boiled." 

Captain Image scratched his head vexedly. " The rum 
part of it is, I didn't. Somehow I took the man at his 
own valuation. There didn't seem anything else left to 
do. He went into my chart house, and sat there as solid 
as if he'd been the governor of a colony with six letters 
after his name. Just drank one cocktail and took three 
swallows at it, I'll trouble you, and actually left a second 
to stand by itself on the tray. When I handed him the 
tobacco tin to see if he'd got that frowsy old pipe in his 
pocket, I'm hanged if he didn't pull out a book of cigar- 
ette papers and roll himself a smoke with those. Well, me 
lad, when I remembered Swizzle-Stick Smith's opinion of 
cigarettes, you might have knocked me down with a tea- 
spoon." 

"He scared me out of cigarette smoking at Malla- 
Nulla," said Carter. " He was pretty emphatic over the 
weak-kneed crowd (as he called them) who only smoked 
cigarettes. But why all this revolution in Mr. Smith's 
habits? Did he give any reason for it?" 

"That's the amazing thing, he didn't at least not a 
proper reason. He just let me see that the new Mr. S nith 
I got to calling him Major, by the way was no relation 
to the Swizzle-Stick Smith that was, and then went back 
over the side to his boat." 

" I suppose," said Carter thoughtfully, " he wanted the 
reformation to be advertised." 

" Well, you don't think I'd keep a choice bit like that to 
myself," said Captain Image. "Naturally I spread the 
news, though I certainly didn't tell all the Coast, as I've 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEB 303 

told you, the way that the late Swizzle-Stick Smith made 
me feel second man in my own chart house. But that man 
doesn't need any advertising; the most genial drunk 
wouldn't take liberties with him, and you'd fall into call- 
ing him Major yourself if you sat with him for ten min- 
utes. My Christian Aunt! just think what a filthy old 
palm oil ruffian he used to be." 

" Did he give any reason for pulling up ? " 

" Oh, I asked him that. Managed to slip it in, you 
know. And he answered as dry as you please, ' Urgent 
private affairs, Captain Image,' and then tagged on some 
Latin, which, as he remarked would be the case, I didn't 
understand. You know, me lad," said the sailor thought- 
fully, "he's a gentleman right through, but I shouldn't 
think that even in his palmy days he was a man who would 
have got on particularly well with the people. A bit su- 
perior, I should call it, with those who hadn't been birched 
in the same public school where he was birched." 

" I suppose," said Carter, " this is another instance of 
Miss O'Neill's influence." 

" As to that," said Image, " I can't say, me lad ; but this 
I can tell you, the Major's what he calls ' sent in his 
papers ' to O'Neill and Craven's." 

" The deuce he has. What on earth for ? " 

" Can't tell you. Old Crewdson gave me the news. I 
said to him I didn't suppose the loss of Swizzle-Stick 
Smith, even now that he had changed himself into Major 
Smith, would make their firm put up the shutters. But 
Crewdson wouldn't take it as a joke. He told me Miss 
Kate was very sorry indeed to lose him, and had herself 
written to ask him to come and see her here in England. 
Now, me lad, what's her game in that ? " 

" I didn't know," said Carter resolutely, " and I don't 
want to know. As I tell you, I flatly refuse to interfere 
in any of Miss O'Neill's affairs." 



CHAPTEE XXII 

A FISHEKMAN AND HIS CATCH 

THE fisherman was discontented. 

The reasons for his discontent were not plain to the eye. 
There had been as good a fly water as anyone could want ; 
there had heen enough breeze to ruffle the surface, enough 
cloud to prevent glare; he had picked just the right flie 
from his book to suit the river, and the fish rose freely to 
them. He was carrying home as fine a dish of trout as 
any man could wish for, and had scrupulously thrown back 
everything under ten and a half inches. But even these 
things did not please him. He sucked hard at his cold 
pipe, and bit at fate as he tramped on inn-wards through 
the gathering dusk. 

He came to a cross-roads once, and abused the Welsh 
authorities for not putting up a sign-post for his guid- 
ance. The district was new to him; indeed he had come 
there for that reason : he wanted to be alone for these last 
days in England. He had fished his way up stream all 
day, and instead of following the water windings back 
again, was making his return journey by road. And here, 
it appeared, were three roads to choose from. But he was 
a man of resource. He depicted mentally a map of the 
country, found the newly risen North star, and got his 
bearings, and then trudged on again with confidence among 
towering mountains. 

It was night now, moonless, chill, and dark, and the 
mountains hung on either side like great walls of black- 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 305 

ness. The road was white and faintly visible. But for all 
that he had presently to pull up sharply to avoid an ob- 
struction. " Hullo/' he said, " a motor car." And then 
aloud, " Anybody here ? " 

A grumbling voice answered him from the ditch. " Yes, 
I'm the driver, and I'm here bathing my confounded 
wrist." 

"Had a smash? Can I help? What is it? Bone 
broken ? " 

" No, only a bad sprain " the man peered at Carter 
through the dusk and added " sir." 

" Your car seems to be standing up all right on her 
four wheels. How did you get pitched out ? " 

" Oh, it wasn't that sort of an accident. She was mis- 
firing badly, and then she stopped. When I tried to start 
her again, she back-fired on me and I thought my arm 
had gone. It's the jet in the carburetter that's choked, I 
believe, but I can't take the thing down with one hand." 

" I could," Carter thought, and remembered certain epi- 
sodes with his own first motor boat in Africa. But he did 
not mention this aloud. " Owner gone for help ? " he 
asked. 

" Yes, sir. But there's none round here. At least there's 
no such thing as a mechanic within twenty miles. A hay- 
motor and a tow to the nearest barn is the best one can 
expect." 

"Wh -re's your tool kit?" 

"But do you understand motors, sir?" the man asked 
doubtfully. 

" I had to. Just unship a light, and hold it with your 
sound hand so that I can see what I'm about. That's the 
ticket. You're sure it's the carburetter ? Tried your spark 
and all four plugs ? " 

"Yes, sir, both the magneto and high tension. That's 



306 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

all right. She's getting no gas; that's the trouble. It's 
the gasolene feed that's choked somewhere. I saw the fel- 
low that filled us up this morning pour in from a red-rusty 
tin before I could stop him, and it'll be a flake of oxide 
from that jammed in the carburetter nozzle. If you could 
take it down for us, sir, I'm sure it would be a very great 
favor." 

" Wait a bit. Before we begin to pull the car to pieces, 
suppose we just make sure of one or two other things. 
Got a stick or anything to sound your gasolene tank with ? " 

" Oh, that's all right. We haven't run sixty miles since 
I put in eight gallons/' 

But Carter straightened out a length of copper wire, un- 
screwed the cap, and sounded the tank. He pulled out the 
wire and examined it at the lamp. He wiped it carefully 
and tried a second time. 

" Moses ! " said the driver, " dry as a bone. Now, who's 
been playing pranks here? Must have been some of that 
nasty Welsh crowd that was hanging round whilst we was 
having lunch." 

"Why, there's the union underneath the tank half un- 
screwed. That would account for the leak, anyway. Here, 
hold the lamp. Not too close. Yes, and the vibration has 
cracked the feed pipe. There's a gap I can get my finger 
nail into. Now, first of all, have you got any spare gaso- 
lene?" 

" Yes, sir. Two tins." 

" Good. Then it's worth while mending this feed pipe. 
I suppose you haven't a soldering iron ? " 

"Afraid not, sir. There's rubber solution " 

" Which gasolene melts. Here, let's go through your 
stock. Ah, here's a tube of seccotine. Now I'll show you 
a conjuring trick. If we give the crack three coats of that, 
and let each dry well before the next is put on Good 
Lord! Kate!" 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 307 

Miss O'Neill came up out of the darkness and bowed. 
u It's really very good of you, Mr. Carter, to trouble over 
my car." 

" I didn't know it was yours. I didn't know you were 
in this neighborhood. In fact I did not know where you 
were." 

Kate shrugged her shoulders. "Didn't some sapient 
person once record that coincidences were the commonest 
things in life ? A minute ago I didn't know whether you 
were in England, or West Africa, or Grand Canary; and 
you didn't know or care whether I was alive or dead; and 
here we meet in the dark on an unnamed roadside in 
Wales. It's just one of those ordinary, every-day, impos- 
sible coincidences, which the vogue of motor cars is mak- 
ing a little more common than usual. I'm glad you're let- 
ting business f 'Uerences sink for the moment." 

" I didn't ' low it was your car." 

" Or you'c have bitten off your hand sooner than have 
touched it ? " 

He laughed rather dryly. " I'm afraid I should have 
yielded to the temptation of meddling. You see, internal 
combustion engines are rather a fad -of mine." 

"Excellent reason. How long is this ingenious repair 
going to take ? " 

" H'm ; three coats of seccotine have to allow each 
twenty minutes to dry call it an hour. After that I 
think if we couple up the union, and put in the spare 
gasolene your man says he's got, you should go sailing off 
without a hitch. By the way, I didn't know you mo- 
tored." 

" I'm full of unpleasant surprises." 

" Yes, Cascaes, for instance." 

" Well, why shouldn't I open up an O'Neill and Craven 
agency in Las Palmas, pray ? " 



808 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

"No reason whatever. I wasn't referring to Cascaes' 
business abilities." 

"Wagner," said Miss O'Neill to her man, "there's a 
farm about a mile down this road where they'll bandage 
up your wrist, and make you some sort of a sling. Don't 
be away longer than you can help. Mr. Carter and I will 
look after the car till you get back." 

" Thank you'm," said the driver, and marched off into 
the night. They stared after him till the sound of his 
footfalls on the hard road died away, and then said Miss 
O'Neill, " Why doesn't Mr. Cascaes answer when I cable ? " 

" You can hardly expect me to overlook the work of 
your Las Palmas agency." 

" Don't quibble. Do you know why he is silent ? " 

" I can make a guess." 

" Well, go on." 

" He's probably too busy picking aloe thorns out of his 
carcass to find time for writing cables." 

" Oh, so you threw him into an aloe hedge, did you ? 
What did Laura say to that ? " 

" Well, as she knew nothing about it, she naturally did 
not comment." 

"I see ; and did Mr. Cascaes object ? " 

" Not obtrusively. He took the best licking I ever gave 
to man or dog without a whimper, and when I tossed him 
amongst those aloe hooks, he lay there just as he fell." 

"Ah," said Kate, and drew a long breath. 

" Keen on motoring ? " Carter asked after a pause. 

"I am, yes." 

" I'm taking a light four-cylinder back to the Islands 
with me." 

" Let me see, I promised you a wedding present, didn't 
I ? Let me know when it's for, and what you'll have. By 
the way, talking of coincidences, I was motoring in the 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 309 

Yorkshire dales a week or so ago, and coining down out 
of Wensleydale into Wharfedale, we dropped down over a 
perfectly terrific piece of road that cost me a back tire. 
Well, unluckily we'd used up the only other spare cover 
on the car already, so the only thing left was to go slowly 
on the rim on into the village below and wire for another. 

" Such a dear old village it was, of gray stone houses, 
tucked away under the gray limestone hills, with all the 
gardens as bright with flowers as you find them in a story- 
book. The parson saw us when we came in from skating 
down that awful hill, and when he saw me afterwards 
strolling round looking at the flowers, he very nicely asked 
me to go in and look at his roses. A splendid old man 
he was, and such gorgeous roses. He likes big blooms, 
and he snips off the superfluous buds on the sly, and Mrs. 
Parson likes lots of blooms to cut at and to give away, 
and she's always on the watch after him to see he doesn't 
steal those buds. I met her, too, and they took me in and 
gave me tea. 

" They'd some Okky war horns on the wall of their draw- 
ing-room, and I told them I'd a very fine one on mine, 
and so naturally we got to talking ' Coast.' They've a 
son out there or to be more accurate, they had, because 
he seems to be in England now and they're a good deal 
troubled about him. He keeps on making excuses instead 
of going to see them. Mrs. Parson, who by the way is a 
perfect dear, said they were afraid he had done something 
foolish and was shy about coming home " 

"Well?" said Carter. 

" Oh, I'm pretty certain the prodigal would have no 
trouble with her." 

"But the Parson? He said nothing about providing 
veal, I suppose?" 

" He did not. To be precise he confined his conversation 



310 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

to roses, and the dale, and a very charming old gentleman 
he was." . 

" As you may guess," said Carter savagely, " I don't 
thank you for going to inspect my people like that." 

" I don't recollect," said Miss O'Neill with much sweet- 
ness, " ever asking you to thank me. By accident I stum- 
ble across some delightful people; I have the opportunity 
of enjoying their society, and for the sake of seeing more 
of them I lived in the village for three whole days. They've 
asked me to go and stay with them next summer, and I'm 
going. I don't see how that can annoy you, as you've 
given up going near them." 

" I think that crack in the gasolene pipe will stand an- 
other coat of seccotine now," said Carter, and moved the 
lamp and knelt once more in the dusty road. 

" It seems a pity," said Miss O'Neill musingly. 

" I don't see what business it is of yours anyway," Car- 
ter snapped. 

" Oh, but surely it's my car that you're so kindly work- 
ing at. And I do think it's a pity you should have all that 
trouble with that nasty, smelling, sticky seccotine, when it 
will all have to be scratched off to-morrow, and the hole 
soldered up." 

Carter laughed in spite of his rage. " You didn't mean 
that in the least, but I'll own up you drew me smartly 
enough. It is a pity I mean the other thing I love the 
dale, and I'm about as fond as a man can be of my people. 
But when you're in love with a girl, and you've promised 
to marry her, well, other things have to slide." 

"Ah, love," said Kate thoughtfully. "I wonder what 
being in love is really like? I must try it some day as 
an experience. It seems to alter one's obligations. I 
should like you to hear my friend the Parson on obliga- 
tions." 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEE 311 

" I can tell you his creed in the matter as he taught it 
to me as far back as I can remember. The rule, according 
to him, is: First, keep your word; second, go on keeping 
it; third, don't let any other considerations whatever in- 
terfere with your keeping it." 

" Spartan, simple, admirable," said Kate, and then 
could have bitten out her tongue for sending the words 
past her lips. She took Carter's hand impulsively enough, 
and, " I beg your pardon for that," she said. " I may 
think you're a fool, but I know you are also the most hon- 
orable man alive." 



CHAPTER XXIII 

THE SONG OF SPEED 

FOR a business woman, Kate took singularly small in- 
terest in her letters that morning, and Mrs. Craven from 
behind the coffee-pot looked at her rather wistfully. They 
were staying in the Lakes, and were supposed to be motor- 
ing. But though the old lady was vigorous enough, and 
was only too pleased to bustle about from place to place, 
Kate was listless, and always had an excuse when change 
was suggested. As a reason, she said she had been over- 
working herself, and wanted to sit still and do nothing; 
but she did not believe this herself nor did Mrs. Craven 
believe it. Moreover, Kate knew that Mrs. Craven dis- 
believed. 

She was a very healthy young woman as a general thing, 
but that morning she ate a thoroughly bad breakfast, and 
crumbled a slice of toast beside her plate to give a general 
idea of performance. Then she threw her napkin on the 
table, and again went through the envelopes. There was 
one from the Liverpool office. She opened it, and drew out 
half a dozen typewritten sheets. But the distaste for busi- 
ness was big in her, and she was putting these down with 
the rest when a name caught her eye. 

Cascaes. 

She read the sentence surrounding it. " Our Mr. Cas- 
caes cables that he this morning married a Miss Laura 
Slade, and on her insistence hereby tenders us his resigna- 
tion." 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 313 

Kate snapped the papers together, looked at her brace- 
let watch and stood up briskly. 

" Aunt Jane, I am sorry, but a very important matter 
has turned up which drags me off to Liverpool for the 
day." 

Mrs. Craven was a wise woman and could read signs. 
Moreover, she had known Kate from three years old, up- 
wards. " My dear," she said, " I'm rejoiced at your news. 
Go and make it up with him." 

Kate blushed and laughed. " It isn't that at all, aunt. 
Or only partly. But I must go." 

" There's no train now till mid-day." 

" I shall motor down to Carnforth and cut off the 10.38 
there." 

" If you don't break your neck in the process, you'll 
land in gaol for excessive speed," said the old lady ; " and," 
she added dryly, " I'm sure you'd prefer even one of those 
alternatives to staying sensibly here with me, and waiting 
for a train in the decent course of things. There, run along, 
Kitty, and get your things on, and I'll go and incite 
Wagner." 

Miss O'Neill went upstairs to her bedroom two steps at 
a time, and for the moment was minded to drag on any 
outer clothes that would cover her. But then a thought 
came to her, and she smiled, and took out from its box a 
Paris hat that she had never worn before. She pinned this 
into place with infinite care, covered it and her auburn 
hair with a capacious motor veil, and hung another veil, 
which had in it a protective window of talc, over her pretty 
face. And then she put on a great motor coat. She was 
very much guarded from the dust and the weather exter- 
nally, but inside the ugly chrysalis was as spruce a Kitty 
O'Neill as any man could have sighed after. 

Wagner, as usual when he was wanted, had " just gone 



314 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

out " for something. But Kate had an enthusiast's knowl- 
edge of her that year's forty-horse car. She saw that both 
electric and magneto ignitions were switched off, and then 
she turned on her gasolene, flooded the carburetter, and 
applied herself to the starting handle. There was a high 
compression in the engine, but she was strong, and just 
then she was goaded by something which made her put out 
just a fraction more (she thought) than the full of her 
strength. She filled the cylinders with gas. Then she 
threw in the switch to all the insulators, and the engine 
started most obediently. She stepped into the driving seat, 
collected her wraps, threw out the clutch, dropped in the 
first speed, and let the clutch slide home. 

The car drew out, as if it had been pulled by a rope, 
and Kate flung a last hand wave to Mrs. Craven. Then 
she got on to the direct drive of the third speed, and checked 
her throttle to keep down the pace till she was out of the 
traffic. 

" Six-and-twenty miles to Carnforth," she reckoned, 
" and the train goes through there in just sixty-one min- 
utes from now. Well, I should average thirty-five miles 
an hour for the run, and that will leave me nice time to 
find someone to take charge of the car, and buy a ticket 
to Liverpool for myself." 

They pulled out of the village, and Kate pushed up her 
spark and throttle levers notch by notch. The purr of the 
motor increased in shrillness. She drove often herself, but 
seldom at high speeds, and just now, when she got into 
the long empty stretches of straight, out of sheer exhilara- 
tion she let out the great car till it was wheeling along at 
a good forty miles to the hour. It swayed rather danger- 
ously, but she had no nerves to be ruffled by a trifle like 
that. The motor was giving out its high note of exultant 
speed, and she was thrilled with the power she rode. 



KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 315 

Woods and rocks flew by, mile after mile of fencing shot 
astern, but still the great car sang along its way, now 
bumping over a grip, now slackening a trifle on a rise. 
The rhythm of the engines sounded in her ears like a poem, 
and she tended to their needs with a real affection; the 
pelt of the air exhilarated her. 

And then came the downfall. A whistle shrieked out 
from behind her, another whistle shrilled in front, and a 
pol ceman sprang from the hedge. Kate was in no mood 
for stopping. She tried to dodge round the man. With 
ignorant courage he leaped across the road to stop her. 
She threw out her clutch and desperately set her brakes. 
The great car lurched, slid, sidled, and all but overturned. 
The policeman, by a marvellous mixture of skill, presence 
of mind, and luck on Kate's part, was not killed. But he 
stood scorching his hand on a very warm radiator, and 
Kate sat white-faced at the wheel, taming down her in- 
sulted engines. 

After that there was no hurry. She pleaded a life and 
death engagement, but the majesty of the law was ruffled, 
and saw to it that all things were done with dignity and in 
order. 

Kate was charged with driving to the danger of the 
public. The road was entirely deserted just there, and 
there was no public, but she admitted the crime, gave name 
and number, and humbly asked to go. But not a bit of it. 
The Law wanted to see her driving license, which of course 
she had not got, and then out came note-books and pencils. 
The criminal lost her temper, and so the Law was delib- 
erately slow. . . . 

Kate reached Carnforth station just three minutes after 
the express had left, and was half-minded there and then 
to give up the chase. Carter would sail in the Secondee at 
the appointed hour, and when he got to Las Palmas and 



316 KATE MEREDITH, FINANCIER 

heard the news he would return to her by the next boat 
She was sure enough of that. But no, she could not let 
him go. It might be (terrific thing) unmaidenly of her to 
thrust herself and her news in his way, but she could not 
help it. Besides, a fear cramped her when she thought of 
Cascaes. She had heard to her horror of the knife that 
Cascaes had wielded so undeftly in the dark along the 
Telde road, although indeed Carter had made no mention 
of it, and she dreaded what might happen should the cwo 
men come together a second time. 

She looked at the time-table; there was no train that 
would help her. If she wanted to get to Liverpool before 
the Secondee sailed, it must be by car. So once more she 
sat herself in the seat of government. . . . 

The road held through Lancaster to Preston, and out- 
side towns and villages she crashed along often at a fifty- 
mile gait in her fear at being too late. And then came the 
black cotton towns of Lancashire with their slatternly 
women and shrill-voiced children scrambling over the 
streets. She had to slow to a crawl through these, and 
even then the tires skated dangerously over the greasy 
streets. But speed triumphed over time and distance in 
the end. She swung at a rattling gait into a Liverpool 
suburb, and for the third time had her number taken by an 
indignant policeman, and thereafter slowed to a dignified 
crawl. She glanced at her watch. With care now, and if 
no mishap blocked her progress, she would be on the land- 
ing stage before the mail-boat threw off her ropes. 

Luck and good nerve aided her bravely now. She 
wormed her way rapidly through the increasing traffic of 
the Liverpool streets, and came to the landing stage en- 
trance. 

She patted her car and gave it a word of gratitude. A 
cabman took charge, and with him also she left motor 



KATE MEEEDITH, FINANCIEK 317 

veils, coat and gloves;, and walked down onto the landing 
stage fully conscious of neat hair, a perfect frock, and the 
Paris hat. Carter was standing gloomily at the bookstall, 
with a chin that looked more dogged and hair that was 
redder than ever. 

"Ah," she said lightly, "fancy meeting you here. 
Weren't you going by last week's boat ? " 

" No," he said heavily, " this." 

" Have you paid for your passage ? " 

" Yes, of course. Why?" 

" Because I'm afraid you will waste it." 

He shook his head. 

" You had no cable from Las Palmas during the last 
two days?" 

" No. Have you ? What are you driving at ? " There 
was something so pathetic in his brown eyes that she had 
not the heart to drag out her explanation any further. 
She pulled a letter from her pocket, marked a place with 
her thumb and showed it to him. 

He put a heavy hand down on the bookstall and stirred 
the papers into little heaps. " My God ! Laura married. 
Married ! Let me think what this means ! " 

A very indignant bookstall keeper began to make re- 
marks, but Kate said, " Thank you. Those are the ones 
I want. Please tie them up for me. Here's a sovereign." 
And then she put a hand on Carter's arm and led him out- 
side the crowd. 

"Well," she said, "have you decided yet if you are 
entirely broken-hearted ? " 

He thought a minute, and then said he, " I think my 
people will be glad when they hear." 

Kate blushed rosy pink. " They are both very fond of 
me," she observed. 

"That," said Carter, "is what I was thinking about. 



318 

Kitty, darling, there isn't a girl in all Africa, Europe, or 
America, who has been loved as dearly as I've loved you. 
But I couldn't marry you, could I, till the way was cleared. 
Now, could I ? here, let's get out of this crowd, and hire 
a cab, and drive to the North Pole, or somewhere we can 
be alone to talk all this out. It's wonderful." 

" But what about your baggage ? " 

" Oh, bother the baggage. White-Man's-Trouble has it 
somewhere, and he'll jump overboard if he finds I'm not 
on the ship. There's no shaking off that boy, Kitty dear, 
so I'm afraid you'll have to take him along with me when 
you cease to be Kitty O'Neill." 

" George, do you know I've got a great secret for you. 
I'm not Kitty O'Neill at all. I'm Kitty Meredith." 

" As a point of fact I gathered that from your father. 
From what old Cappie Image told me, ' Major Smith,' as 
he calls him, will be home in time to give you away on 
your wedding day. But I shouldn't trouble to call yourself 
Kate Meredith, if I were you, sweetheart. When you do 
practise a new signature let it be Kitty Carter." 

Kate blushed again most divinely. " As the deepest of 
secrets, let me tell you that I can write it quite well al- 
ready, though I have been desperately afraid I should 
never have the luck to use it." 



THE END 



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