THE ASIKA’S MESSAGE
Dawn began to break in the forest and Alan woke in his shelter and stretched himself. He had slept soundly all the night, so soundly that the innocent Jeekie wondered much whether by any chance he also had taken a tot out of that particular whisky bottle, as indeed he had recommended him to do. People who drink whisky after long abstinence from spirits are apt to sleep long, he reflected.
Alan crept out of the shelter and gazed affectionately at the tent in which Barbara slumbered. Thank Heaven she was safe so far, as for some unknown reason, evidently the Asiki had postponed their attack. Just then a clamour arose in the air, and he perceived Jeekie striding towards him waving one arm in an excited fashion, while with the other he dragged along the captain of the porters, who appeared to be praying for mercy.
“Here pretty go, Major,” he shouted, “devil and all to pay! That my Lord, he gone and bolted. This silly fool say that three hours ago he hear something break through fence and think it only hyaena what come to steal, so take no notice. Well, that hyaena, you guess who he is. You come look, Major, you come look, and then we tie this fellow up and flog him.”
Alan ran to Aylward’s tent to find it empty.
“Look,” said Jeekie, who had followed, “see how he do business, that jolly clever hyaena,” and he pointed to a broken whisky bottle and some severed cords. “You see he manage break bottle and rub rope against cut glass till it come in two. Then he do hyaena dodge and hook it.”
Alan inspected the articles, nor did any shadow of doubt enter his mind.
“Certainly he managed very well,” he said, “especially for a London-bred man, but, Jeekie, what can have been his object?”
“Oh! who know, Major? Mind of man very strange and various thing; p’raps he no bear to see you and Miss Barbara together; p’raps he bolt coast, get ear of local magistrate before you; p’raps he sit up tree to shoot you; p’raps nasty temper make him mad. But he gone any way, and I hope he no meet Asiki, poor fellow, ’cause if so, who know? P’raps they knock him on head, or if they think him you, they make him prisoner and keep him quite long while before they let him go again.”