An idea occurred to Alan, who had small faith in Jeekie’s “ma” as a messenger.
“The Ogula prisoners could show them,” he said; “at any rate as far as the forest, and after that they could find out. May they not go, Asika?”
“If you will,” she answered carelessly. “Let them be ready to start to-morrow at the dawn, all except their chief, Fahni, who must stop here as a hostage. I do not trust those Ogula, who more than once have threatened to make war upon us,” she added, then turned and bade the priests bring in the bearers to receive their instructions.
Presently they came, picked men all of them, under the command of an Asiki captain, and with them the Ogula, whom she summoned also.
“Go where the white lord sends you,” she said in an indifferent voice, “carrying with you these packages. I do not know where it is, but these man-eaters will show you some of the way, and if you fail in the business but live to come back again, you shall be sacrificed to Bonsa at the next feast; if you run away then your wives and children will be sacrificed. Food shall be given you for your journey, and gold to buy more when it is gone. Now, Vernoon, tell them what they have to do.”
So Alan, or rather Jeekie, told them, and these directions were so long and minute, that before they were finished the Asika grew tired of listening and went away, saying as she passed the captain of the company:
“Remember my words, man, succeed or die, but of your land and its secrets say nothing.”
“I hear,” answered the captain, prostrating himself.
That night Alan summoned the Ogula and spoke to them through Jeekie in their own language. At first they declared that they would not leave their chief, preferring to stay and die with him.
“Not so,” said Fahni; “go, my children, that I may live. Go and gather the tribe, all the thousands of them who are men and can fight, and bring them up to attack Asiki-land, to rescue me if I still live, or to avenge me if I am dead. As for these bearers, do them no harm, but send them on to the coast with the white man’s goods.”
So in the end the Ogula said that they would go, and when Alan woke up on the following morning, he was informed that they and the Asiki porters had already departed upon their journey. Then he dismissed the matter from his mind, for to tell the truth he never expected to hear of them any more.
ALAN FALLS ILL
After the departure of the messengers a deep melancholy fell upon Alan, who was sure that he had now no further hope of communicating with the outside world. Bitterly did he reproach himself for his folly in having ever journeyed to this hateful place in order to secure—what? About L100,000 worth of gold which of course he never could secure, as it would certainly vanish or be stolen on its way to the coast. For this gold he had become involved in a dreadful complication which must cost him much misery, and sooner or later life itself, since he could not marry that beautiful savage Asika, and if he refused her she would certainly kill him in her outraged pride and fury.