Now Alan, and Fahni also, hoped that the pursuit was abandoned, but again Jeekie shook his big head, saying:
“Not at all, Major, I know Asiki and their little ways. While one of them alive, not dare go back to Asika without you, Major.”
“Perhaps she is with them herself,” suggested Alan, “and we might treat with her.”
“No, Major, Asika never leave Bonsa Town, that against law, and if she do so, priests make another Asika and kill her when they catch her.”
After this a council of war was held, and it was decided to camp there that night, since the position was good to meet an attack if one should be made, and the Ogula were afraid of being caught on the march with their backs towards the enemy. Alan was glad enough to hear this decision, for he was quite worn out and ready to take any risk for a few hours’ rest. At this council he learned also that the Asiki bearers carrying his gold with their Ogula guides had arrived safely among the Ogula, who had mustered in answer to their chief’s call and were advancing towards Asiki-land, though the business was one that did not please them. As for these Asiki bearers, it seemed that they had gone on into the forest with the gold, and nothing more had been heard of them.
As they were leaving the council Alan asked Jeekie if he had any tidings of his mother, who had been their first messenger.
“No, Major,” he answered gloomily, “can’t learn nothing of my ma, don’t know where she is. Ogula camp no place for old girl if they short of chop and hungry. But p’raps she never get there; I nose round and find out.”
Apparently Jeekie did “nose round” to some purpose, for just as Alan was dropping off to sleep in his bough shelter a most fearful din arose without, through which he recognized the vociferations of Jeekie. Running out of the shelter he discovered his retainer and a great Ogula whom he knew again as the headman who had been imprisoned with him and freed by the Asika to guide the bearers, rolling over and over on the ground, watched by a curious crowd. Just as he arrived Jeekie, who notwithstanding his years was a man of enormous strength, got the better of the Ogula and kneeling on his stomach, was proceeding to throttle him. Rushing at him, Alan dragged him off and asked what was the matter.
“Matter, Major!” yelled the indignant Jeekie. “My ma inside this black villain, that the matter. Dirty cannibal got digestion of one ostrich and eat her up with all his mates, all except one who not like her taste and tell me. They catch poor old lady asleep by road so stop and lunch at once when Asiki bearers not looking. Let me get at him, Major, let me get at him. If I can’t bury my ma, as all good son ought to do, I bury him, which next best thing.”
“Jeekie, Jeekie,” said Alan, “exercise a Christian spirit and let bygones be bygones. If you don’t, you will make a quarrel between us and the Ogula, and they will give us up to the Asiki. Perhaps the man did not eat your mother; I understand that he denies it, and when you remember what she was like, it seems incredible. At any rate he has a right to a trial, and I will speak to Fahni about it to-morrow.”