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"BONES"

being

Further Adventures in
Mr. Commissioner Sanders' Country

BY

EDGAR WALLACE

Author of "Sanders of the River," etc.

WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
LONDON AND MELBOURNE




To

Isabel Thorn

WHO WAS LARGELY RESPONSIBLE

FOR BRINGING SANDERS

INTO BEING

This Book is Dedicated




CONTENTS


CHAP. PAGE

PROLOGUE--SANDERS, C.M.G 7

I HAMILTON OF THE HOUSSAS 52

II THE DISCIPLINARIANS 71

III THE LOST N'BOSINI 88

IV THE FETISH STICK 108

V A FRONTIER AND A CODE 123

VI THE SOUL OF THE NATIVE WOMAN 148

VII THE STRANGER WHO WALKED BY NIGHT 164

VIII A RIGHT OF WAY 180

IX THE GREEN CROCODILE 193

X HENRY HAMILTON BONES 209

XI BONES AT M'FA 225

XII THE MAN WHO DID NOT SLEEP 240




"BONES"

PROLOGUE

SANDERS--C.M.G.


I

You will never know from the perusal of the Blue Book the true
inwardness of the happenings in the Ochori country in the spring of the
year of Wish. Nor all the facts associated with the disappearance of the
Rt. Hon. Joseph Blowter, Secretary of State for the Colonies.

We know (though this is not in the Blue Books) that Bosambo called
together all his petty chiefs and his headmen, from one end of the
country to the other, and assembled them squatting expectantly at the
foot of the little hillock, where sat Bosambo in his robes of office
(unauthorized but no less magnificent), their upturned faces charged
with pride and confidence, eloquent of the hold this sometime Liberian
convict had upon the wayward and fearful folk of the Ochori.

Now no man may call a palaver of all small chiefs unless he notifies the
government of his intention, for the government is jealous of
self-appointed parliaments, for when men meet together in public
conference, however innocent may be its first cause, talk invariably
drifts to war, just as when they assemble and talk in private it drifts
womanward.

And since a million and odd square miles of territory may only be
governed by a handful of ragged soldiers so long as there is no
concerted action against authority, extemporized and spontaneous
palavers are severely discouraged.

But Bosambo was too cheery and optimistic a man to doubt that his action
would incur the censorship of his lord, and, moreover, he was so filled
with his own high plans and so warm and generous at heart at the thought
of the benefits he might be conferring upon his patron that the
illegality of the meeting did not occur to him, or if it occurred was
dismissed as too preposterous for consideration.

And so there had come by the forest paths, by canoe, from fishing
villages, from far-off agricultural lands near by the great mountains,
from timber cuttings in the lower forest, higher chiefs and little
chiefs, headmen and lesser headmen, till they made a respectable crowd,
too vast for the comfort of the Ochori elders who must needs provide
them with food and lodgings.

"Noble chiefs of the Ochori," began Bosambo, and Notiki nudged his
neighbour with a sharp elbow, for Notiki was an old man of forty-three,
and thin.

"Our lord desires us to give him something," he said.

He was a bitter man this Notiki, a relative of former chiefs of the
Ochori, and now no more than over-head of four villages.

"Wa!" said his neighbour, with his shining face turned to Bosambo.

Notiki grunted but said no more.

"I have assembled you here," said Bosambo, "because I love to see you,
and because it is good that I should meet those who are in authority
under me to administer the laws which the King my master has set for
your guidance."

Word for word it was a paraphrase of an address which Sanders himself
had delivered three months ago. His audience may have forgotten the
fact, but Notiki at least recognized the plagiarism and said "Oh, ho!"
under his breath and made a scornful noise.

"Now I must go from you," said Bosambo.

There was a little chorus of dismay, but Notiki's voice did not swell
the volume.

"The King has called me to the coast, and for the space of two moons I
shall be as dead to you, though my fetish will watch you and my spirit
will walk these streets every night with big ears to listen to evil
talk, and great big eyes to see the hearts of men. Yea, from this city
to the very end of my dominions over to Kalala." His accusing eyes fixed
Notiki, and the thin man wriggled uncomfortably.

"This man is a devil," he muttered under his breath, "he hears and sees
all things."

"And if you ask me why I go," Bosambo went on, "I tell you this:
swearing you all to secrecy that this word shall not go beyond your
huts" (there were some two thousand people present to share the
mystery), "my lord Sandi has great need of me. For who of us is so wise
that he can look into the heart and understand the sorrow-call which
goes from brother to brother and from blood to blood. I say no more save
my lord desires me, and since I am the King of the Ochori, a nation
great amongst all nations, must I go down to the coast like a dog or
like the headman of a fisher-village?"

He paused dramatically, and there was a faint--a very faint--murmur
which he might interpret as an expression of his people's wish that he
should travel in a state bordering upon magnificence.

Faint indeed was that murmur, because there was a hint of taxation in
the business, a promise of levies to be extracted from an unwilling
peasantry; a suggestion of lazy men leaving the comfortable shade of
their huts to hurry perspiring in the forest that gum and rubber and
similar offerings should be laid at the complacent feet of their
overlord.

Bosambo heard the murmur and marked its horrid lack of heartiness and
was in no sense put out of countenance.

"As you say," said he approvingly, "it is proper that I should journey
to my lord and to the strange people beyond the coast--to the land where
even slaves wear trousers--carrying with me most wonderful presents that
the name of the Ochori shall be as thunder upon the waters and even
great kings shall speak in pride of you," he paused again.

Now it was a dead silence which greeted his peroration. Notably
unenthusiastic was this gathering, twiddling its toes and blandly
avoiding his eye. Two moons before he had extracted something more than
his tribute--a tribute which was the prerogative of government.

Yet then, as Notiki said under his breath, or openly, or by innuendo as
the sentiment of his company demanded, four and twenty canoes laden with
the fruits of taxation had come to the Ochori city, and five only of
those partly filled had paddled down to headquarters to carry the Ochori
tribute to the overlord of the land.

"I will bring back with me new things," said Bosambo enticingly;
"strange devil boxes, large magics which will entrance you, things that
no common man has seen, such as I and Sandi alone know in all this land.
Go now, I tell thee, to your people in this country, telling them all
that I have spoken to you, and when the moon is in a certain quarter
they will come in joy bearing presents in both hands, and these ye shall
bring to me."

"But, lord!" it was the bold Notiki who stood in protest, "what shall
happen to such of us headmen who come without gifts in our hands for
your lordship, saying 'Our people are stubborn and will give nothing'?"

"Who knows?" was all the satisfaction he got from Bosambo, with the
additional significant hint, "I shall not blame you, knowing that it is
not because of your fault but because your people do not love you, and
because they desire another chief over them. The palaver is finished."

Finished it was, so far as Bosambo was concerned. He called a council of
his headmen that night in his hut.

Bosambo made his preparations at leisure. There was much to avoid before
he took his temporary farewell of the tribe. Not the least to be counted
amongst those things to be done was the extraction, to its uttermost
possibility, of the levy which he had quite improperly instituted.

And of the things to avoid, none was more urgent or called for greater
thought than the necessity for so timing his movements that he did not
come upon Sanders or drift within the range of his visible and audible
influence.

Here fortune may have been with Bosambo, but it is more likely that he
had carefully thought out every detail of his scheme. Sanders at the
moment was collecting hut tax along the Kisai river and there was also,
as Bosambo well knew, a murder trial of great complexity waiting for his
decision at Ikan. A headman was suspected of murdering his chief wife,
and the only evidence against him was that of the under wives to whom
she displayed much hauteur and arrogance.

The people of the Ochori might be shocked at the exorbitant demands
which their lord put upon them, but they were too wise to deny him his
wishes. There had been a time in the history of the Ochori when demands
were far heavier, and made with great insolence by a people who bore the
reputation of being immensely fearful. It had come to be a by-word of
the people when they discussed their lord with greater freedom than he
could have wished, the tyranny of Bosambo was better than the tyranny of
Akasava.

Amongst the Ochori chiefs, greater and lesser, only one was conspicuous
by his failure to carry proper offerings to his lord. When all the gifts
were laid on sheets of native cloth in the great space before Bosambo's
hut, Notiki's sheet was missing and with good reason as he sent his son
to explain.

"Lord," said this youth, lank and wild, "my father has collected for you
many beautiful things, such as gum and rubber and the teeth of
elephants.



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