According to Herbert Spencer
THE whole case, down to the very last international ramification, the end of which is not yet, hangs less by the enigma how the wicked, bluish six-gun happened to be in his pocket—an enigma which cannot be solved as Professor Lowell Cabot Day, as well as Brigadier-General Sir Hector M'Murtrie absolutely refuse to be quoted on the subject—than on the difference between Scotch and American logic, based on Spencerian formulas.
Negatively speaking, as to the six-gun, since the professor, as became a small, waspish, scholastic man, with dust-gray, bespectacled eyes, narrow shoulders, and large bumps of academic cognition, observed all laws, including that framed by Mr. Sullivan, he could not have had the revolver in his possession when he left New York and his Columbia chair of philosophy, six weeks earlier, on a trip to the African West Coast to find out there, among the primitive Gallas, if Herbert Spencer had been right in his dictum that civilization increases heterogeneity and that thus the white man departs more widely from the mammalian archetype than does the savage. He couldn't have bought the weapon aboard the Woermann Liner, where only the regular ship souvenirs were for sale; nor in Kamerun itself, since the six-gun was in his hand and belching smoke half an hour after he landed.
Remains the interval of two days between his arrival in England and his departure for Kamerun; an interval during which a Serb fanatic fired the shot that, killing an archducal Hapsburg parasite, broke the dam of Germany's heinous dream of world conquest; an interval during which Lowell Cabot Day was closeted almost continuously with Brigadier-General Sir Hector M'Murtrie, who, besides his V.C., D.S.O., C.S.I., and military C.B., boasted such splendid academic and scientific initials as M.A., Ph.D; F.R.G.S, and F.Z.S., and who, having spent years between the stench of the Kongo, and the miasmatic slime of the Niger, gave him many valuable tips about Galla ethnology, so the professor said.
But it is worth while considering that the general's late wife had been the professor's sister, that the two were intimate friends, and that the Scotsman was an expert—some Liberal M.P.'s and newspaper editors said a fanatic—on certain points of foreign politics.
Also, he had visited Germany's West African colonies and agreed with the Germans, who say themselves that their countrymen, beneath the equatorial zodiac, suffer from what they call Tropenkoller—tropical madness—beginning with mildly comical megalomania, and usually winding up with brutal, crimson murder.
Thus, the enigma how the gun came into the professor's possession might possibly be explained after all.
And as to the rest, there is the slangy testimony of Subaltern St. George Leslie, of the Second Haussa Gunners.
But that came later, and the professor was at peace with all the world as, twenty-five minutes after the slim, clipper-built Woermann Liner had snuggled into her dock, he was sitting on the “veranda of the one and only Kamerun hotel styled grandiosely “Grosses Deutsches Afrika Haus Prinz Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen,” dressed in neat but unsuitable pin-stripe worsted, drinking bottled, lukewarm seltzer-water, and dipping into the pocket-edition of Spencer's “Synthetic Philosophy,” which was his .
“Uniformity of law is a corollary from the persistence of force,” he read, when his reverie was interrupted by a tremendous, bovine Teutonic roar.
He turned, mildly curious, quite ignorant of the fact that his own particular destiny was about to open her screaming lungs of brass and blare at him; and among the people on the veranda—the usual driftwood of the African sea, the sort which European progress chucks to the limits of a duly grateful colored world, tucked into the same cargo with Bible, whisky, and disease—he saw an immense German officer, over six-foot in height, with a beak nose, a drooping Longobard mustache, a cleft chin like a motion-picture hero, and feet like an aurochs.
Lowell Cabot Day closed the book, carefully marking the passage. Though academic, book-bred, he considered it his duty to observe once in a while the living specimens and see how they fitted in with his theories. He had read about the persistence of force—and here was a breathing, roaring example. Force. Force incarnate, sprawling naked and unashamed. And he studied him, fascinated, just a little frightened, rather nervous of being observed by him.
The German was massively, resplendently drunk—and the alcohol, plus the tropics, plus the news from Europe that had come by cable a few hours earlier, had fanned his aggressive, grotesque Teuton patriotism into burning flame.
At a corner table a handful of Englishmen and Frenchmen, traders from the Kongo and the Bight of Benin who had come to Kamerun in search of bargains in orchilla-root and gum-copal, were peacefully sipping their rum-shrub. He swaggered up to them and, his right hand hitting the scabbard at his side with a steely, significant rattle, thundered out:
“Hey, there, all you foreigners—every one of you! Stand up and drink with me—damn you—drink with me!”
A twitter of excitement passed through the crowd. The Englishmen looked stiff. The Frenchmen smiled self-consciously. The Germans—they were in the majority—jested and laughed. The plum-colored, white-jacketed Kroo waiters shivered and looked unhappy.
“And here's my toast,” continued the officer, rudely snatching up a glass of rum-shrub from the table of the foreigners. “To hell with England, and France, and Belgium! For,” he lowered his voice ludicrously, as if imparting a tremendous secret, “it is going to be war! War!” He hiccuped. “And you—you weak, old, effeminate nations—you're going to be swept into the dust heap! There's going to be room for only one nation hereafter—Deutschland! Deutschland! Stand up, you foreign swine—stand up and drink to Germany, and a German victory!” And again he touched his rattling saber while his countrymen laughed and applauded.
The Kongo traders looked at one another, uncertain what to do, but quite certain that the German officer, mad drunk with alcohol, the tropics, and the latent brutality in his soul, secure in the inviolability of the “king's coat” that fitted his broad chest without a wrinkle, the length of steel by his side, and the support of his countrymen, had them in a tight corner.
“Stand up, you swine—or—” came the thick, minatory growl; and they rose, one by one, seeking each other's eyes, trying to encourage each other, too, to excuse each other with gestures and whisperings:
“It's all right, old top. The rotter is spiffed.”
“Force majeure, mon p'tit!”
“It's only meant in chaff, y'know.”
“No use rowin' about the blessed thing, what?”
They lifted their glasses, about to drink to the shameful toast; and then, as he swayed, quite suddenly the German caught sight of the professor who was staring at him fixedly.
“You, too, you little, undersized, damned prune of a Britisher! Stand up—you—” he bellowed, adding a flood of insults.
Lowell Cabot Day was meek, but logical.
“I am not an Englishman,” he said in rather a thin voice, “I am—”
“Don't contradict me, you—verdammter, rotznariger skleiner Mistfleck!” came the thundering reply, and the German stepped up close to his new victim, plucked him from the chair as he might a child, and raised an immense, purple fist about to strike him.
The professor obeyed a perfectly natural instinct; he tried to sidestep the coming blow. But his foot caught in a torn grass-mat, precipitating him forward.
He reeled against the other. His hand went up automatically, clutching for support, for something solid to hold on to.
And, not knowing, never imagining what he was doing, he gripped the German's big peak of a nose firmly with his right, tweaking it with the despair of a body which feels itself falling.
The other jumped back with a howl of rage and pain. His sword flashed free from the scabbard. The point of it danced in the tropical sun like a cresset of evil passions.
“Oh, my God!” sighed somebody in the crowd, while again the professor's thin, waspish body did a rapid bit of side-stepping.
Again his foot caught. Again he reeled. Again he clutched for support. Found none. His right hip bumped smartly against the corner of an iron table. Instinctively he put bis hand in his pocket, to rub the hurt place—and encountered the six-gun.
Long afterward, when speaking to chosen cronies of his mad African adventure, Professor Day would insist that the revolver burned his hand like red-hot metal, that he took it out, tried to throw it away.
But, whatever his intentions, suddenly the thing went off with a terrific explosion, heavy, curling, acrid smoke—then a yell and a flop—and there was the German officer before him on his knees, howling for mercy!
Of course, a moment later, the other Germans rushed up and closed in, with lifted hands and a hectic chorus of:
“The fellow's out of his head!”
“Tried to murder the colonel!”
“Off with him to jail!”
But a lean, saturnine countenance detached itself from behind a month-old Detroit News, lengthened into six-foot of lanky, Middle-Western humanity, drawled that his countryman had acted in self-defense and that—by gosh—he was the American consul, as they knew, and if anybody wanted to monkey with the buzz-saw, he personally would have to be shown a whole lot, because his ancestral grandmother was a native of Pike County, Missouri!
Which seemed to be an argument, strangely convincing, that the others had heard before, must have submitted to before. For they picked up the fallen, shaken, hysterical colonel and left the hotel while the Kongo traders clustered about the professor and shook his hand and laughed and talked.
A new king, it appeared, a red-handed warrior and mighty chief had risen in Israel; and his name was Lowell Cabot Day, professor and esquire, of Boston and New York, U.S.A.!
They buzzed around him and praised his prowess and offered cigars and cigarettes and drinks. Even the Kroo waiters grinned at him. At first they fawned a little apprehensively, it is true. But then they saw that, unlike their German lords, this new fighting man from beyond the bitter waters carried neither saber nor length of pickled rhinoceros hide; and so they gave many thanks to the special jujus which protected their home kraals and rushed gaily in and out of the bar, with brimming glasses of various and mixed liquors.
The professor was all for returning to his Herbert Spencer and his seltzer-water. But the others would not hear of it.
“Just one little snifter, old top!”
Well—and then another, what?
And at the end of a giddy, kaleidoscopic afternoon, he saw the world through a veil that was a happy nuance of rose-madder, nicked with purple, and flecked with gold.
Peter Madison, the American consul, who had disappeared in the early stages of the impromptu festivities, returned around dinner-time, looking rather white and haggard, and led the professor away under the pretext of broiled steak, baked potatoes, ripe olives, and a few more such culinary specialties by which, as he claimed, he was trying to keep up his home traditions amid the tortured, stinking extravagances of the tropics.
“Professor,” he said, turning from the hotel and toward the yellow beach that shimmered beneath an African sunset of dun and cinnamon and pale, uncut opal, “you have about two hours to get aboard. Lucky thing you haven't had time to unpack your trunks, what with revolver popping and lapping up liquor.”
“I beg your pardon,” replied Lowell Cabot Day in his most academic manner, made yet more stiltified by a more liberal libation than he had ever had since leaving Harvard. “Is my auricle at odds with my tympanum? Or are you really speaking about getting aboard—a ship, I presume?”
“You presume right,” drawled the Middle Westerner. “See that low-lying, disreputable Norwegian coast bumboat out yonder—where she dips her jack against the dying sun? Well, you get aboard her just as quick as your little legs'll let you and talk turkey to the skipper. He's shipping on the night tide, and you are going to travel right along with him. I'll see after your trunks.” And when the professor looked dumfounded, too, a little ashamed, quite positive that the unwonted alcohol was playing tricks with his hearing and understanding, he went on: “That guy you pulled your rough gun-play on was Colonel von Zitzewitz, and he's the K.O., the commanding officer of this sweating black-and-tan dump, see?”
“Yes, yes,” said the professor. “But, my dear sir, even suppose for the sake of argument that I snapped the trigger of the lethal weapon on purpose, thus releasing the bullet and causing the officer to genuflect himself before me in an unseemly and undignified manner—why, I did so in self-defense. You said so yourself.”
“Sure I did. And I'd stick to it through hell-fire and high water. In time of peace! Only—listen here—” he bent down from his 'great height and whispered raucously into the other's large, floppy ear.
Lowell Cabot Day looked up startled.
“You—you are sure?” he asked. “War?”
“Sure's my front name's Pete! Got a little private code cable from London just about fifteen minutes ago while you were engaged with that souse party. Got it ahead of the Dutch. They'll know about it by to-night. And then—if you're still here—I can still protest and threaten and make the eagle scream. But what good'll it do you after you are dead and popped into pine-boards, eh?”
“You think the colonel will—”
“I know he will! He's a bloodhound, with the accent on the blood. He'll declare martial law and frame you up and swing you from the nearest decorative bit of jungle scenery. Kick out o' here while the kickin's good, little man. Come on. We'll make a stab for that tramp boat.”
But the professor shook his head very slowly, very decisively.
“My dear sir,” he said, “I am afraid you do not quite comprehend my motives for having taken this extraordinary journey. I have come here to conduct certain philosophic—I might even say sociological—experiments with the aborigines, so as to be able either to confute or to confirm the theory advanced by Herbert Spencer that—”
“Stow it! Come along!” The consul took hold of his arm.
Again the professor shook his head. He was growing a trifle irritated as he might have back home, addressing a class-room that seemed particularly slow in comprehending a simple truth.
“Quite impossible,” he said. “Of course I am grateful for the kindly interest you take in me. But I assure you that my studies, though consubstantiated as well as constringed by the principle of force, have nothing to do with the actualities of peace or of war.”
“Your studies? Oh, my sainted grandaunt! How in Hades are you going to study—whatever you're going to study—when you're dead and your grave covered with fifty pounds of assorted rocks so that the jackals can't get at you? The ship—”
“The ship be—damned!” came Lowell Cabot Day's sudden, startlingly unacademic reply. “I am not going back. I am going ahead, into the hinterland, to study the Gallas, as I made up my mind to!” And he looked straight at the other out of his dust-gray, bespectacled eyes.
Madison stared back, into the eyes, beyond them, into the man's soul.
Then he gave a slow, crooked smile.
“You win,” he said laconically; and, after a pause, chuckling: “Say, I just wonder if you're as all-fired innocuous as you try to make believe. For—perhaps you're right! Perhaps that skunk of a Zitzewitz is going to refuse clearance papers to the tramp ship the last moment. Perhaps the interior is the only place for you. Well, God bless you for a plucky little shrimp! Come right along. I'll fix you up with a horse and an impromptu outfit andand a Congressional copy of the burial service, and I'll have a few first-class buck coons who'll travel along with you. Get a move on!”
And half an hour later, while “night dropped over the Kameruns with a sodden mantle of sable and gold, while the German colonel was holding forth to his two majors, his six captains, and a baker's dozen of lieutenants what he was going to do to that Yankee “just as soon as the war-rumor was confirmed,” Lowell Cabot Day was turning the corner of the consul's house atop a little Arab mare that was entirely covered by the large Frazer saddle the consul had brought out with him, while six picked West Coast negroes were trotting at his heels like dogs, their purple-black faces distorted in wide, toothy grins.
'“Ahee!”' said their leader, a six-foot Balolo from beyond the Yellala Falls, as he gave the bale on his head a resounding thwack with a palm cudgel in token of his strength and prowess. “Our new chief is fearless and brave. The great umlino of the Germans cowered before him like a dog. Like a dog, well beaten with thorn sticks! He is a cat in climbing, a deer in running, a snake in twisting, a hawk in pouncing, a jackal in scenting!”
“N'dio! L'kini shauri yah!” came the clicked chorus.
And early the next morning as, past a matted wilderness trail that was a sealed book to the Germans, they were camping in a clearing, with the professor sitting peacefully beneath a flowery carob-tree, his mind occupied with a philosophic theme which, had he been asked, he would have entitled simply as the mutual limitations of men's actions necessitated by their coexistence as units of society; while the rest of the porters, like happy African savages, were busying themselves with pots and pans and pipes, the Balolo went a few steps into the jungle and squatted on his hunkers.
From a mysterious hiding-place in his voluminous, flat head-dress, he drew forth a little drum covered with tightly stretched monkey-skin and began rubbing it scientifically.
Rub-rub-rub-rumbeddy-rub-rub-bannng!—the song of the drum droned up, in the Morse code of all Africa.
Rub-rumbeddy-rub!—sobbing into the hinterland with the tale of the new chief from across the bitter waters—the chief at whose feet the German umlino had cowered like a dog, well beaten with thorn sticks.
Rub-rub-bannng!—the farther drums took up the message and sent it on; while back in the port of Kamerun, a hectic German colonel was unsuccessfully trying to bully the American consul; while the cables from Europe to New York zummed with the incredible, intolerable news that the imperial Hohenzollern beast was running amuck; while sober, stern men of the free nations met in solemn conclave with their household gods falling about them in pieces; and while, in a certain Downing Street office Brigadier-General Sir Hector M'Murtrie, V.C., D.S.O., said to a black-mustached member of the Liberal Cabinet:
“Double-dash it all, sir! I told you so!”
To which the other replied:
“I know. But we must do the best we can. We must carry through. Now—about German Kamerun.”
Meanwhile, far from the beaten tracks where scattered German colonial troops were converging toward the coast to meet the expected shock of the British, the fetid hinterland was swallowing Professor Lowell Cabot Day.
A sort of path led through an impenetrable mass of bush and thorn and creepers covered with exaggerated, tortured tropical blossoms. A continuous, hot, moist wind came from beyond the frayed edge of the forest. The professor's mare had fallen and broken her neck, and so he trudged along on foot, suffering, yet uncomplaining.
For his mind was busy with sanely constructive, philosophic thoughts, and he observed steadily his Galla porters as well as the inhabitants of the occasional villages through which they passed; making copious notes for either the refutation or the proof of the Spencerian theory that species, under the influence or the absence of higher civilization, will not remain uniform.
Thus he was silent, the more so as he found it hard to understand pidgin-English of the Balolo who acted as guide, interpreter and chief adviser.
The bearers looked up to him with respect—the tale of the six-gun belching fire had not lost flavor in the frequent telling—and the respect heightened when one morning, while Lowell Cabot Day was still asleep, the Balolo gave the cook a severe beating with the courbash. No particular reason, he said, but “Master's orders.” Which was a lie.
And steadily the chant of the signal drums preceded the professor's progress.
North of Gashaka, skirting the British Niger Protectorate, the headman of a village who had heard of the new white chief's prowess—but who had heard not a word of that great conflict which was raging in Europe—came to camp to present greetings. He addressed him through the interpreter.
The latter translated:
“These, oh my master, are the words of M'pakala, the chief. 'I have placed my hand and my heart on the sill of the door of humility, the sill of the door of love, the sill of the door of respect. See! I bring thee my soul as an offering.'”
The Balolo stopped. He looked at Lowell Cabot Day, waiting for ceremonious answer. But none came. For the professor was deep in the consideration of some synthetic dogma. He was paying no attention to them.
So the Galla headman bowing from the waist with a tinkle of barbarous ornaments, with hands outstretched in sign of supplication, slowly withdrew backward, crestfallen, humbled.
And again—rub-derub-rumbeddy-bonnng!—the drums took up the tale of the new fighting man.
“Beware of him,” thumped the far drums across jungle and plain. “Beware of him. He is a great chief, proud and fearless. He speaks not with us. He sits quiet, white, haughty, his lips compressed, his eyes studying a little book of magic. He says no word. Great is he indeed. His hand is heavy and pitiless. He is a wild-cat devouring his own young!”
Thus, daily, nightly, ran the message of the drums, clear back to a far bush station, on the British side of the border, where Subaltern St. George Leslie of the Second Haussa Gunners was cursing his luck and the orders from the war office which kept him from taking part in the big European mixup—until, one night, a Haussa sergeant, familiar with the drum code, picked up a tail end of the message that came thumping out of the southeast, from across Kamerun, and spoke of it to St. George Leslie.
The latter whistled through his teeth in a decidedly schoolboyish manner.
“My word!” he said. “A big fighting man, did you say, who's rallyin' to himself the up-country chiefs? What did you say is the rotter's name?”
'“'The wildcat which devours his own young!'”'
Again the subaltern whistled.
“Gory sobriquet, what? By Jingo, I lay you long odds the blighter's a Fritz, and the first thing we know he'll be tryin' to chevy some of his schrecklichkeiten into British territory!”
And he sent a code cablegram to London, winding up with:
“Sitting tight. Awaiting developments. Have only half company of Haussas, twelve down with Blackwater fever. Send support.”
Support came, in the form of a quick-marching column, and it was led by the valiant Sir Hector M'Murtrie.
For, in the mean time, while the British and French and Belgians were battling against the invader, England had not lost sight of the other fronts, and, in its leisurely, unbusinesslike fashion, was carrying on half a dozen fair-sized campaigns in as many unhealthy climates. There was Persia. There was Gallipoli and Suez. There was Samoa, German Southwest, and German East Africa.
Finally, there was Kamerun—and Sir Hector.
Thus Lascars sweated. Babu clerks wept. English skippers cursed. The commissary burned midnight oil and counted gray hairs. Transports coaled and filled. Transports sailed and landed:
Plans were completed; and, down the Niger Coast, from Lagos, past New Calabar, past Old Calabar, past the black-white-and-red frontier posts that jeer to sea, toward stately Fernando Po, they swept: horse, foot, and the guns; home-British, Haussas, bearded Rajputs, melancholy, hook-nosed Sikhs, ruffianly Afghans, squat, furtive Madrasis; throwing a fine-meshed, steely net across that part of the Hohenzollerns' imperial dreams and catching in it a mixed, black-and-white German division—including Colonel von Zitzewitz.
And one day, while at tiffin in the Grosses Deutsches Afrika Haus Prinz Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, which had been rechristened Hotel St. Andrew and Albion, Sir Hector was worrying over his brother-in-law, the professor, who according to the American consul had “disappeared like a plucky little shrimp in the general direction of sleeping sickness, tsetse flies, and death and had doubtless kicked the bucket by this time,” a scarlet-turbaned Rajput orderly salaamed and brought a cable.
The general read it, left tiffin unfinished, startled his field officers by a string of rapid orders; and, at the head of his column, he connected with Subaltern St. George Leslie six weeks later—weeks fraught with great and wondrous happenings, to believe the rub-rubbedy-rub of the gossiping African drums.
It appeared, in the words of the subaltern, that “this particular Fritz up the hinterland ain't the sort who believes in—what's the blighter's name—you know—superman, and bally buckets of blood, and mailed fists, and the blond beast, and all that variety of asinine piffle—”
“Nietzsche?” suggested Sir Hector M'Murtrie.
“Right-o, skipper! That chap up the interior, in spite of his name—”
“What's his name?”
“I don't know. I mean what the blacks call him—'the wildcat which devours his own young'—rather gory, what? But, in spite of it, according to the drum messages, he rules by a sort of peaceful, glorified rule-of-three, five-plied and brought on a modern business basis.”
“One of those constructive, efficient Germans, eh?”
“I fancy so, skipper. And they're the most dangerous of all the square-head species. He's only been up there about three months, but the chiefs flock to him, even from our side of the line, and jolly well squat at his heels and do what he tells 'em. He has stopped tribal war and started an entirely new system of government.”
“How does he do it?” asked Sir Hector.
“Blessed if I know, sir. But the other day we caught a Kamerun Galla and put him through his paces, and he says that 'the wildcat which devours his own young' is protected by a brand-new and very powerful juju idol, named Ha-Ba Span-Sah—”
“Ha-Ba-Span-Sah?” The general shook his head. “Doesn't sound like Galla to me. Something fishy about it. Well, Leslie, I think we'd better pay the wildcat a call—in style!”
Thus marching orders; and the British column moved southeast, like a khaki-colored snake with innumerable bobbing heads. Through Adamwa they pushed, straight into the Kamerun panhandle, in the direction of yellow Wadai, throwing ahead of their advance a fan-shaped deployment of mounted scouts to guard against jungle ambush. But there was no fighting, no sniping, no poisoned arrows shot by unseen hands.
Up there in the Kamerun hinterland there was not even the echo of war, and the farther they proceeded-the more they heard about the new white chief, the peace he had brought, his wonderful system of government, and his magic and powerful juju called Ha-Ba Span-Sah—the sobbing night drums talked of nothing else.
Then, early one morning, as they reached the southeast corner of Lake Tchad, the drums thumped word that the kraal of the great white chief was near.
Redoubling their precautions, they trekked.on. But, as before, there was never a sign of resistance nor ambush. As before, the Gallas whom they encountered were harmless traders and bearers and drovers.
No—they would say when quizzed by the British intelligence officers—there was no strife. Such were the orders of “the wildcat which devours his own young,” and his great juju Ha-Ba Span-Sah—
To the north Lake Tchad offered its steaming, sapphire surface to the fiery kiss of the sun. There stretched miles of pebbly, orange beach with an occasional fantastic bush—like a Japanese water color—silhouetting the far verge above the surf and league-long spits of sand whence slender, tufted jets of palms etched the vacant azure spaces.
Northwest they turned. Then, after a sharp descent into a valley green with durra and millet and Galla-corn, beyond a sudden grove of banyan trees—old, hoary, knobbed with age and contorted by the winds of the centuries into gnarled bulks that lifted from the ground in triumphant balls of black foliage splotched with scarlet—the kraal of the great white chief burst into view like a flower; and as the advance party of the British, led by Sir Hector—M'Murtrie and with Subaltern Leslie as aide-de-camp, jingled past rows of tents and grass huts, with the blacks clicking friendly salutations, past tethered camels and shaggy ponies straining at their heel ropes, they came face to face with the great white chief himself.
He was sitting beneath a flowering cinnamon tree, dressed in well-worn, shiny, and very unsuitable pin-stripe worsted, and dipping his eager, scholastic nose into a leather-bound book.
He looked up as he heard the martial approach, put down the book, and wiped his spectacles.
“Well, well, well,” he said: and Sir Hector broke into a loud guffaw.
He turned to his subaltern.
“Leslie,” he said, “I want you to meet my brother-in-law, Professor Lowell Cabot Day—also known as 'the wildcat which devours his own young'”; and, while the 'younger officer was spluttering, he addressed the other:
“I say, Lowell, what's all this I hear about a brand-new juju idol that's s'posed to be your side-kick? Ha-Ba Span-Sah, the drums call it.”
The professor shook his head rather wearily.
“It is most discouraging, most discouraging,” he said. “I took endless trouble in acquiring the local dialect. I succeeded, too. I endeavored to the best of my ability to explain to them that civilization is a thing of systematic growth, at times influenced by phenomena of super-organic derivation; very much—I was careful to choose an example, a simile which their minds might grasp—very much like the fact of a bar of steel, suspended in the magnetic meridian and repeatedly struck, becomes magnetized, the magnetization being the result of the rearrangement of particles produced by the magnetic force of the earth when vibrations are propagated through them—”
“I beg your pardon, sir,” broke in St. George Leslie, choking with suppressed mirth, “did you tell em that in—in the Galla language?”
“I did, sir,” replied Lowell Cabot Day. “And I found it extremely difficult. The Galla language, being mostly a mixture of primitive clicks expressing primitive thoughts, is not exactly pliable.”
“Right as rain,” dryly said Sir Hector. “Go on!”
“Well, they did not understand me—at least not the philosophy, the synthetic and very sound philosophy of my theories of government. But, somehow, they approved of the government itself—a government based on the dogmas of Herbert Spencer.
“You see,” he added, just a little sheepishly, “that is what they mean by my ju-ju, my fetish. Ha-Ba Span-Sah—they pronounce it that way, and they think that this pocket-companion of mine”—gently touching the leather-bound edition of “Synthetic Philosophy”—“is the juju idol which protects me.
“My dear Hector, I am afraid they pray to it, and-at times try to placate it by certain “blood sacrifices of graminivorous and frugivorous animals of which I, being after all a Christian, disapprove most heartily. Still,” he wound up, with conscious pride and pointing at the peaceful sweep of huts, “I believe that the result—”
“Rather!” Sir Hector concurred heartily, “the result is splendid. The British government will express its thanks to you in an appropriate manner.”
And then came a thunderbolt.
“The British government?” asked Lowell Cabot Day, raising his eyebrows. “My dear Hector, what has the British government to do with this—my country—ah—my—Spencerian commonwealth?”
“You mean to say—” Sir Hector was aghast.
“Exactly!” And the professor told the other the whole of his African adventure, beginning with the revolver bullet which caused Colonel von Zitzewitz to go down on his knees, and winding up with:
“I have annexed this country!”
“But! Lowell! Germany and Great Britain are at war!”
“What is that to me?” demanded the professor, belligerently. “Of course I am pro-British and anti-German. But—I am neither British nor German. I am an American.”
“Quite so!” exclaimed his brother-in-law. “You are an American, and America is neutral—though I hope to God it won't remain neutral long. But, in the mean time, you cannot annex German territory on your own hook, my dear boy. For America and Germany are at peace. You are breaking the law of nations!”
The professor looked up, a light in his dust-gray eyes.
“Hector,” he said in his precise Harvard accent, “I have always been lawless—at heart!”
And, when Sir Hector snorted and choked, he continued:
“I am the founder, organizer, and temporary dictator of this commonwealth.”
“But! Good Lord! Lowell! Lowell Cabot Day!”
“Of course,” the professor went on, unheeding the interruption, “if America should join in the war, I, as a loyal American, shall turn this commonwealth over to the protection of the Stars and Stripes. Then your government and mine can make whatever arrangements, disposals—or”—he winked—“bargains, as they think proper. But until such time I shall hold this land in—ah—I believe that 'personal fief' is the correct historical term.”
Came a long, tense pause, during which the two brothers-in-law looked at each other as Greek is said to look at Greek, during which, furthermore, Sir Hector, though firmly entrenched in his own decision, felt the other's calm, didactic, academic determination hack at his own like a dagger.
Finally a thought came to him; an idea how to beat Lowell Cabot Day with his own, favorite weapon: the weapon of philosophic reasoning.
So he asked a gentle question:
“I say. You are a Spencerian scholar. Therefore you believe in logic, don't you?”
“Logic is next to godliness. According to Herbert Spencer it is a persistent attempt to frame natural perceptions into—”
“That 'll do, old chap,” cut in the Scotsman. “You believe in logic. That's all I want to know. Then tell me. That six-gun—you must admit—”
Just then he noticed St. George Leslie's eyes resting upon him with eager curiosity, and so he checked himself in the midst of his sentence and led his brother-in-law away.
“Yes. That six-gun—” came the latter's modulated voice, drifting through the shimmering, dancing heat—
The root, mysterious, cabalistic, occult, which had precipitated the whole trouble, including the very last international ramification the end of which is not yet!
“As to that six-gun,” drawled Subaltern St. George Leslie, weeks later, to a young captain of the Buffs, as he was recuperating from an attack of Blackwater fever in the red-plush, cigarette-flavored coziness of the Junior Army and Navy Club that overlooks the Strand, “I never heard the whole bally tale. Just bits here and there—and the whole mixed up with scraps from Herbert Spencer and appeals to philosophic reason and logic.
“Y' see, dear boy, those two old joshers, Sir Hector and the Yankee professor, were chinnin' about it all the time, fightin' like two sanguinary first-term Eton oppidans over a pot of treacle, what? That first day at tiffin; f'instance, suddenly Sir Hector turns a jolly old, passionate magenta and pops out with:
“'Dash it all, Lowell! Consider the logic of it! If it hadn't been for that revolver, you wouldn't have had to chevy out of Kamerun port like a calabus monkey with a land-crab clawing at his furry extremities!'
“'I would, too!' pipes the Yankee. 'I always intended to go into the hinterland! That's why I made the trip to the West Coast!'
“'Granted!' admits the skipper. 'But without the gun you wouldn't have accumulated that gory reputation through which you bamboozled the Galla chiefs and embezzled this—oh—Spencerian commonwealth!'
“And then the professor mumbles something about the instability of hypothetical potentialities, reenforcing it with some lengthy quotations, and saying that while the gun might have helped him, again it might not.
“Another time the skipper jaws something Scotch and choleric and guttural about, whatever might have happened if the other josher hadn't had the six-gun, the fact remained that he had had it; that thus it was the original basis for the foundation of the commonwealth. Therefore, since both believed in the blessings of Spencer and sacred logic, how, in the name of half a dozen unmentionable things, could the professor deny that he, Sir Hector, having given the original impetus, the original cause, had all the jolly old right in the world to claim the ultimate result? Namely—the Spencerian commonwealth!
“'Right-o'—or something like it—replies the professor. 'You slipped that gun among my things when I wasn't looking, after I told you that I was a man of peace and wanted nothing to do with your international complications.'
“'There's gratitude for you!' the skipper sings out. 'I warned you how the tropics affect the Germans. I told you that war was just about due, and that it wouldn't improve the temper of these Colonial Prussians a dashed bit! I slipped that gun among your clothes to save your life, and—by Jupiter!—I did save it! Why, you ungrateful little pilchard—'
“'Abuse and argument are not synonyms!' cuts in Lowell Cabot Day with a sarcastic twang, and he goes on to say, proving it, too, with several lengthy quotations, that gratitude and logic aren't synonyms either; that the personal equation hadn't a thing to do with matters of philosophic reason and synthetic evolution and all that variety of piffle.
“'I did not ask you to slip the gun into my bag,' he says. 'You did it unbeknown to me! Even against my will! By this very act you gave up, in advance, whatever benefit might accrue to me through possession of the lethal weapon! Consensus facit legem'—or some other such Latin poppycock he drawls out, and then he makes the whole thing shipshape with another long-winded quotation that leaves Sir Hector speechless and raging.
“And so every day and every day. And when I go down with Blackwater fever—by this time the professor had run up an impromptu American flag on the cinnamon tree beneath which he jawed with his Galla chiefs, and Sir Hector the Union Jack on a toddy palm the other side of the kraal—the two were still jabberin' about six-gun and reason and basic claims and logic and Herbert Spencer—”
Subaltern St. George Leslie stopped to take a sip of his brandy peg, while the captain of the Buffs looked up with bored, steel-blue eyes.
“I say, old chap,” he asked. “Who the dooce is that Herbert Spencer person?”