Patricia Hamilton, an observant young
lady, had not failed to notice that every day, at
a certain hour, Bones disappeared from view. It
was not for a long time that she sought an explanation.
“Where is Bones?” she
asked one morning, when the absence of her cavalier
was unusually protracted.
“With his baby,” said her brother.
“Please don’t be comic,
dear. Where is Bones? I thought I saw him
with the ship’s doctor.”
The mail had come in that morning,
and the captain and surgeon of the s.s. Boma Queen
had been their guests at breakfast.
Hamilton looked up from his book and removed his pipe.
“Do you mean to tell me that
Bones has kept his guilty secret all this time?”
he asked anxiously.
She sat down by his side.
“Please tell me the joke.
This isn’t the first time you have ragged Bones
about ‘the baby’; even Mr. Sanders has
She looked across at the Commissioner
with a reproving shake of her pretty head.
“Have I ragged Bones?”
asked Sanders, in surprise. “I never thought
I was capable of ragging anybody.”
“The truth is, Pat,” said
her brother, “there isn’t any rag about
the matter. Bones adopted a piccanin.”
“A baby about a month old.
Its mother died, and some old bird of a witch-doctor
was ‘chopping’ it when Bones appeared on
Patricia gave a little gurgle of delight
and clapped her hands. “Oh, please tell
me everything about it.”
“It was Sanders who told her
of Henry Hamilton Bones, his dire peril and his rescue;
it was Hamilton who embellished the story of how Bones
had given his adopted son his first bath.
“Just dropped him into a tub
and stirred him round with a mop.”
Soon after this Bones came blithely
up from the beach and across the parade-ground, his
large pipe in his mouth, his cane awhirl.
Hamilton watched him from the verandah
of the Residency, and called over his shoulder to
It had been an anxious morning for
Bones, and even Hamilton was compelled to confess
to himself that he had felt the strain, though he
had not mentioned the fact to his sister.
Outside in the roadstead the intermediate
Elder Dempster boat was waiting the return of the
doctor. Bones had been to see him off. An
important day, indeed, for Henry Hamilton Bones had
“I think it ‘took,’”
said Bones gravely, answering the other’s question.
“I must say Henry behaved like a gentleman.”
“What did Fitz say?”
(Fitzgerald, the doctor, had come
in accordance with his promise to perform the operation.)
“Fitz?” said Bones, and
his voice trembled. “Fitz is a cad!”
“He said that babies didn’t
feel pain, and there was Henry howling his young head
off. It was horrible!”
Bones wiped his streaming brow with
a large and violent bandana, and looked round cautiously.
“Not a word, Ham, to her!” he said, in
a loud whisper.
“Sorry!” said Hamilton, picking up his
pipe. “Her knows.”
“Good gad!” said Bones, in despair, and
turned to meet the girl.
“Oh, Bones!” she said reproachfully, “you
never told me!”
Bones shrugged his shoulders, opened
his mouth, dropped his pipe, blinked, spread out his
hands in deprecation, and picked up his pipe.
From which it may be gathered that he was agitated.
“Dear old Miss Hamilton,”
he said tremulously, “I should be a horrid bounder
if I denied Henry Hamilton Bones poor little
chap. If I never mentioned him, dear old sister,
it is because Ah, well, you will
He hunched his shoulders dejectedly.
“Don’t be an ass, Bones.
Why the dickens are you making a mystery of the thing?”
asked Hamilton. “I’ll certify you’re
a jolly good father to the brat.”
“Not ‘brat,’ dear
old sir,” begged Bones. “Henry is
a human being with a human heart. That boy” he
wagged his finger solemnly “knows
me the moment I go into the hut. To see him sit
up an’ say ‘Da!’ dear old sister
Hamilton,” he went on incoherently, “to
see him open his mouth with a smile, one tooth through,
an’ one you can feel with your little finger why,
it’s it’s wonderful, jolly old
Miss Hamilton! Damn it, it’s wonderful!”
“Bones!” cried the shocked girl.
“I can’t help it, madame,”
said Bones miserably. “Fitz cut his poor
little, fat little arm. Oh, Fitz is a low cad!
Cut it, my dear old Patricia, mercilessly yes,
mercilessly, brutally, an’ the precious little
blighter didn’t so much as call for the police.
Good gad, it was terrible!”
His eyes were moist, and he blew his
nose with great vigour.
“I’m sure it was awful,”
she soothed him. “May I come and see him?”
Bones raised a warning hand, and,
though the habitat of the wonderful child could not
have been less than half a mile away, lowered his voice.
“He’s asleep fitfully,
but asleep. I’ve told them to call me if
he has a turn for the worse, an’ I’m goin’
down with a gramophone after dinner, in case the old
fellow wants buckin’ up. But now he’s
asleep, thankin’ you for your great kindness
an’ sympathy, dear old miss, in the moment of
He took her hand and shook it heartily,
tried to say something, and swallowed hard, then,
turning, walked from the verandah in the direction
of his hut.
The girl was smiling, but there were tears in her
“What a boy!” she said, half to herself.
“Bones is very nice,” he said, and she
looked at him curiously.
“That is almost eloquent,” she said quietly.
“I thought it was rather bald,”
he replied. “You see, few people really
understand Bones. I thought, the first time I
saw him, that he was a fool. I was wrong.
Then I thought he was effeminate. I was wrong
again, for he has played the man whenever he was called
upon to do so. Bones is one of those rare creatures a
man with all the moral equipment of a good woman.”
Her eyes were fixed on his, and for
a moment they held. Then hers dropped quickly,
and she flushed ever so slightly.
“I think you have defined the
perfect man,” she said, turning the leaves of
The next morning she was admitted
to an audience with that paragon of paragons, Henry
He lived in the largest of the Houssa
huts at the far end of the lines, and had for attendants
two native women, for whom Bones had framed the most
stringent and regimental of orders.
The girl paused in the porch of the
hut to read the typewritten regulations which were
fastened by drawing-pins to a green baize board.
They were bi-lingual, being in English
and in coast Arabic, in which dialect Bones was something
of a master. The girl wondered why they should
be in English.
“Absolutely necessary, dear
old lady friend,” explained Bones firmly.
“You’ve no idea what a lot of anxiety I
have had. Your dear old brother God
bless him! is a topping old sport, but with
children you can’t be too careful, and Ham is
awfully thoughtless. There, I’ve said it!”
The English part of the regulations
was brief, and she read it through.
BONES (Care of).
1. Visitors are
requested to make as little noise as possible.
would you like to be
awakened from refreshing sleep! Be unselfish,
and put yourself in
2. It is absolutely
forbidden to feed the child except with
articles a list of which
may be obtained on application. Nuts and
chocolates are strictly
3. The undersigned will not be
responsible for articles broken by the child,
such as watches. If watches are used to amuse
child, they should be held by child’s ear,
when an interested expression will be observed
on child’s face. On no account should child
be allowed knowing no better to
bite watch, owing to danger from glass, minute
4. In lifting child, grasp above
waist under arms and raise slowly, taking care
that head does not fall back. Bring child close
to holder’s body, passing left arm under
child and right arm over. Child should not
be encouraged to sit up though quite able
to, being very forward for eight months owing
to strain on back. On no account should
child be thrown up in the air and caught.
5. Any further information
can be obtained at Hut 7.
“All based upon my personal
observation and experience,” said Bones triumphantly “not
a single tip from anybody.”
“I think you are really marvellous,
Bones,” said the girl, and meant it.
Henry Hamilton Bones sat upright in
a wooden cot. A fat-faced atom of brown humanity,
bald-headed and big-eyed, he sucked his thumb and stared
at the visitor, and from the visitor to Bones.
Bones he regarded with an intelligent
interest which dissolved into a fat chuckle of sheer
“Isn’t it isn’t
it simply extraordinary?” demanded Bones ecstatically.
“In all your long an’ painful experience,
dear old friend an’ co-worker, have you ever
seen anything like it? When you remember that
babies don’t open their eyes until three weeks
after they’re born ”
“Da!” said Henry Hamilton Bones.
“Da yourself, Henry!” squawked his foster-father.
“Do da!” said Henry.
The smile vanished from Bones’s face, and he
bit his lip thoughtfully.
“Do da!” he repeated. “Let
me see, what is ’do da’?”
“Do da!” roared Henry.
“Dear old Miss Hamilton,”
he said gently, “I don’t know whether Henry
wants a drink or whether he has a pain in his stomach,
but I think that we had better leave him in more experienced
He nodded fiercely to the native woman nurse and made
Outside they heard Henry’s lusty
yell, and Bones put his hand to his ear and listened
with a strained expression on his face.
Presently the tension passed.
“It was a drink,”
said Bones. “Excuse me whilst I make a note.”
He pulled out his pocket-book and wrote: “‘Do
da’ means ’child wants drink.’”
He walked back to the Residency with
her, giving her a remarkable insight into Henry’s
vocabulary. It appeared that babies have a language
of their own, which Bones boasted that he had almost
She lay awake for a very long time
that night, thinking of Bones, his simplicity and
his lovableness. She thought, too, of Sanders,
grave, aloof, and a little shy, and wondered....
She woke with a start, to hear the
voice of Bones outside the window. She felt sure
that something had happened to Henry. Then she
heard Sanders and her brother speaking, and realized
that it was not Henry they were discussing.
She looked at her watch it was three o’clock.
“I was foolish to trust that
fellow,” Sanders was saying, “and I know
that Bosambo is not to blame, because he has always
given a very wide berth to the Kulumbini people, though
they live on his border.”
She heard him speak in a strange tongue
to some unknown fourth, and guessed that a spy of
the Government had come in during the night.
“We’ll get away as quickly
as we can, Bones,” Sanders said. “We
can take our chance with the lower river in the dark;
it will be daylight before we reach the bad shoals.
You need not come, Hamilton.”
“Do you think Bones will be
able to do all you want?” Hamilton’s tone
“Pull yourself together, dear
old officer,” said Bones, raising his voice
to an insubordinate pitch.
She heard the men move from the verandah,
and fell asleep again, wondering who was the man they
spoke of and what mischief he had been brewing.
On a little tributary stream, which
is hidden by the island of bats, was the village of
Kulumbini. High elephant grass hid the poor huts
even from they who navigate a cautious way along the
centre of the narrow stream. On the shelving
beach one battered old canoe of ironwood, with its
sides broken and rusted, the indolence of its proprietor
made plain by the badly spliced panels, was all that
told the stranger that the habitations of man were
Kulumbini was a term of reproach along
the great river and amongst the people of the Akasava,
the Isisi, and the N’gombi, no less than among
that most tolerant of tribes the Ochori. They
were savage people, immensely brave, terrible in battle,
but more terrible after.
Kulumbini, the village and city of
the tribe, was no more than an outlier of a fairly
important tribe which occupied forest land stretching
back to the Ochori boundary. Their territory knew
no frontier save the frontiers of caprice and desire.
They had neither nationality nor national ambition,
and would sell their spears for a bunch of fish, as
the saying goes. Their one consuming passion and
one great wish was that they should not be overlooked,
and, so long as the tribes respected this eccentricity,
the Kulumbini distressed no man.
How this desire for isolation arose,
none know. It is certain that once upon a time
they possessed a king who so shared their views that
he never came amongst them, but lived in a forest
place which is called to this day S’furi-S’foosi,
“The trees (or glade) of the distant king.”
They had demurred at Government inspection, and Sanders,
coming up the little river on the first of his visits,
was greeted by a shower of arrows, and his landing
opposed by locked shields.
There are many ways of disposing of
opposition, not the least important of which is to
be found in two big brass-barrelled guns which have
their abiding place at each end of the Zaire’s
bridge. There is also a method known as peaceful
suasion. Sanders had compromised by going ashore
for a peace palaver with a revolver in each hand.
He had a whole fund of Bomongo stories,
most of which are unfit for printing, but which, nevertheless,
find favour amongst the primitive humorists of the
Great River. By parable and story, by nonsense
tale and romance, by drawing upon his imagination
to supply himself with facts, by invoking ju-jus,
ghosts, devils, and all the armoury of native superstition,
he had, in those far-off times, prevailed upon the
people of Kulumbini not only to allow him a peaceful
entrance to their country, but wonder of
wonders! to contribute, when the moon and
tide were in certain relative positions, which in
English means once every six months, a certain tithe
or tax, which might consist of rubber, ivory, fish,
or manioc, according to the circumstances of the people.
More than this, he stamped a solemn
treaty he wrote it in a tattered laundry-book
which had come into the chief’s possession by
some mysterious means and he hung about
the neck of Gulabala, the titular lord of these strange
people, the medal and chain of chieftainship.
Not to be outdone in courtesy, the
chief offered him the choice of all the maidens of
Kulumbini, and Sanders, to whom such offers were by
no means novel, had got out of a delicate situation
in his usual manner, having resort to witchcraft for
the purpose. For he said, with due solemnity
and hushed breath, that it had been predicted by a
celebrated witch-doctor of the lower river that the
next wife he should take to himself would die of the
sickness-mongo, and said Sanders
“My heart is too tender for
your people, O Chief, to lead one of your beautiful
daughters to death.”
“O Sandi,” replied Gulabala
hopefully, “I have many daughters, and I should
not miss one. And would it not be good service
for a woman of my house to die in your hut?”
“We see things differently,
you and I,” said Sanders, “for, according
to my religion, if any woman dies from witchcraft,
her ghost sits for ever at the foot of my bed, making
Thus Sanders had made his escape,
and had received at odd intervals the tribute of these
For years they had dwelt without interference,
for they were an unlucky people to quarrel with, and,
save for one or two trespasses on the part of Gulabala,
there was no complaint made concerning them. It
is not natural, however, for native people to prosper,
as these folks did, without there growing up a desire
to kill somebody. For does not the river saying
run: “The last measure of a full granary
is a measure of blood”?
In the dead of a night Gulabala took
three hundred spears across the frontier to the Ochori
village of Netcka, and returned at dawned with the
spears all streaky. And he brought back with him
some twenty women, who would have sung the death-song
of their men but for the fact that Gulabala and his
warriors beat them.
Gulabala slept all the day, he and
his spears, and woke to a grisly vision of consequence.
He called his people together and spoke in this wise
“Soon Sandi and his headmen
will come, and, if we are here, there will be many
folk hanged, for Sandi is a cruel man. Therefore
let us go to a far place in the forest, carrying our
treasure, and when Sandi has forgiven us, we will
A good plan but for the sad fact that
Bosambo of the Ochori was less than fifty miles away
at the dawn of that fatal day, and was marching swiftly
to avenge his losses, for not only had Gulabala taken
women, but he had taken sixty goats, and that was
The scouts which Gulabala had sent
out came back with the news that the way to sanctuary
was barred by Bosambo.
Now, of all the men that the Kulumbini
hated, they hated none more than the Chief of the
Ochori. For he alone never scrupled to overlook
them, and to dare their anger by flogging such of
them as raided his territory in search of game.
“Ko,” said Gulabala, deeply
concerned, “this Bosambo is Sandi’s dog.
Let us go back to our village and say we have been
hunting, for Bosambo will not cross into our lands
for fear of Sandi’s anger.”
They reached the village, and were
preparing to remove the last evidence of their crime one
goat looks very much like another, but women can speak when
Sanders came striding down the village street, and
Gulabala, with his curved execution knife in his hand,
stood up by the side of the woman he had slain.
“O Gulabala,” said Sanders
softly, “this is an evil thing.”
The chief looked left and right helplessly.
“Lord,” he said huskily,
“Bosambo and his people put me to shame, for
they spied on me and overlooked me. And we are
proud people, who must not be overlooked thus
it has been for all time.”
Sanders pursed his lips and stared at the man.
“I see here a fine high tree,”
he said, “so high that he who hangs from its
top branch may say that no man overlooks him.
There you shall hang, Gulabala, for your proud men
to see, before they also go to work for my King, with
chains upon their legs as long as they live.”
“Lord,” said Gulabala philosophically,
“I have lived.”
Ten minutes later he went the swift
way which bad chiefs go, and his people were unresentful
“This is the tenth time I have
had to find a new chief in this belt,” said
Sanders, pacing the deck of the Zaïre, “and
who on earth I am to put in his place I do not know.”
The lokalis of the Kulumbini
were already calling headmen to grand palaver.
In the shade of the reed-thatched lokali house,
before the hollow length of tree-trunk, the player
worked his flat drumsticks of ironwood with amazing
rapidity. The call trilled and rumbled, rising
and falling, now a patter of light musical sound,
now a low grumble.
Bosambo came by the river
route as Sanders was leaving the Zaïre
to attend the momentous council.
“How say you, Bosambo what
man of the Kulumbini folk will hold these people in
Bosambo squatted at his lord’s
feet and set his spear a-spinning.
“Lord,” he confessed,
“I know of none, for they are a strange and
hateful people. Whatever king you set above them
they will despise. Also they worship no gods
or ghosts, nor have they ju-ju or fetish. And,
if a man does not believe, how may you believe him?
Lord, this I say to you set me above the
Kulumbini, and I will change their hearts.”
But Sanders shook his head.
“That may not be, Bosambo,” he said.
The palaver was a long and weary one.
There were twelve good claimants for the vacant stool
of office, and behind the twelve there were kinsmen
From sunset to nigh on sunrise they
debated the matter, and Sanders sat patiently through
it all, awake and alert. Whether this might be
said of Bones is questionable. Bones swears that
he did not sleep, and spent the night, chin in hand,
turning over the problem in his mind.
It is certain he was awake when Sanders
gave his summing up.
“People of this land,”
said Sanders, “four fires have been burnt since
we met, and I have listened to all your words.
Now, you know how good it is that there should be
one you call chief. Yet, if I take you, M’loomo” he
turned to one sullen claimant “there
will be war. And if I take B’songi, there
will be killing. And I have come to this mind that
I will appoint a king over you who shall not dwell
with you nor overlook you.”
Two hundred pairs of eyes watched
the Commissioner’s face. He saw the gleam
of satisfaction which came at this concession to the
traditional characteristic of the tribe, and went
on, almost completely sure of his ground.
“He shall dwell far away, and
you, the twelve kinsmen of Gulabala, shall reign in
his place one at every noon shall sit in
the chief’s chair and keep the land for your
king, who shall dwell with me.”
One of the prospective regents rose.
“Lord, that is good talk, for
so did Sakalaba, the great king of our race, live
apart from us at S’furi-S’foosi, and were
we not prosperous in those days? Now tell us
what man you will set over us.”
For one moment Sanders was nonplussed.
He was rapidly reviewing the qualifications of all
the little chiefs, the headmen, and the fisher leaders
who sat under him, and none fulfilled his requirements.
In that moment of silence an agitated
voice whispered in his ear, and Bones’s lean
hand clutched his sleeve.
“Sir an’ Excellency,”
breathed Bones, all of a twitter, “don’t
think I’m takin’ advantage of my position,
but it’s the chance I’ve been lookin’
for, sir. You’d do me an awful favour you
see, sir, I’ve got his career to consider ”
“What on earth ” began
“Henry Hamilton Bones, sir,”
said Bones tremulously. “You’d set
him up for life, sir. I must think of the child,
hang it all! I know I’m a jolly old rotter
to put my spoke in ”
Sanders gently released the frenzied
grip of his lieutenant, and faced the wondering palaver.
“Know all people that this day
I give to you as king one whom you shall call M’songuri,
which means in your tongue ‘The Young and the
Wise,’ and who is called in my tongue N’risu
M’ilitani Tibbetti, and this one is a child
and well beloved by my lord Tibbetti, being to him
as a son, and by M’ilitani and by me, Sandi.”
He raised his hand in challenge.
“Wa! Whose men are you?” he cried.
The answer came in a deep-throated
growl, and the assembly leapt to its feet.
“Wa! Who rules this land?”
They locked arms and stamped first
with the right foot and then with the left, in token
of their acceptance.
“Take your king,” said
Sanders, “and build him a beautiful hut, and
his spirit shall dwell with you. This palaver
Bones was speechless all the way down
river. At irregular intervals he would grip Sanders’s
hand, but he was too full for speech.
Hamilton and his sister met the law-givers on the
“You’re back sooner than
I expected you, sir,” said Hamilton. “Did
“Like a little gentleman,” said Sanders.
“Oh, Bones,” Patricia broke in eagerly,
“Henry has cut another tooth.”
Bones’s nod was grave and even distant.
“I will go and see His Majesty,”
he said. “I presume he is in the palace?”
Hamilton stared after him.
“Surely,” he asked irritably, “Bones
isn’t sickening for measles again?”