“She say,” explained Jeekie between his chattering teeth, “that all rest these Johnnies very poor crew, natives and that lot except one who worship false Prophet and cut throat of Asika of that time, because she infidel and he teach her better; also eat his dinner out of Little Bonsa and chuck her into water. Very wild man, that Arab, but priests catch him at last and fill him with hot gold before Little Bonsa because he no care a damn for ghosts. So he die saying Hip, hip, hurrah! for houri and green field of Prophet and to hell with Asika and Bonsa, Big and Little! Now he sit up there and at night time worst ghost of all the crowd, always come to finish off Mungana. That all she say, and quite enough too. Come on quick, she want you and no like wait.”
By now the Asika had passed almost round the hall, and was standing opposite to an empty niche beyond and above which there were perhaps a score of bodies gold-plated in the usual fashion.
“That is your place, Vernoon,” she said gently, contemplating him with her soft and heavy eyes, “for it was prepared for the white man with whom Little Bonsa fled away, and since then, as you see, there have been many Munganas, some of whom belong to me; indeed, that one,” and she touched a corpse on which the gold looked very fresh, “only left me last year. But we always knew that Little Bonsa would bring you back again, and so you see, we have kept your place empty.”
“Indeed,” remarked Alan, “that is very kind of you,” and feeling that he would faint if he stayed longer in this horrible and haunted vault, he pushed past her with little ceremony and walked out through the gates into the passage beyond.
THE GOLD HOUSE
“How you like Asiki-land, Major?” asked Jeekie, who had followed him and was now leaning against a wall fanning himself feebly with his great hand. “Funny place, isn’t it, Major? I tell you so before you come, but you no believe me.”
“Very funny,” answered Alan, “so funny that I want to get out.”
“Ah! Major, that what eel say in trap where he go after lob-worm, but he only get out into frying pan after cook skin him alive-o. Ah! here come cook—I mean Asika. She only stop shut up those stiff ’uns, who all love lob-worm one day. Very pretty woman, Asika, but thank God she not set cap at me, who like to be buried in open like Christian man.”
“If you don’t stop it, Jeekie,” replied Alan in a concentrated rage, “I’ll see that you are buried just where you are.”
“No offence, Major, no offence, my heart full and bubble up. I wonder what Miss Barbara say if she see you mooing and cooing with dark-eyed girl in gold snake skin?”
Just then the Asika arrived and by way of excuse for his flight, Alan remarked to her that the treasure-hall was hot.
“I did not notice it,” she answered, “but he who is called my husband, Mungana, says the same. The Mungana is guardian of the dead,” she explained, “and when he is required so to do, he sleeps in the Place of the Treasure and gathers wisdom from the spirits of those Munganas who were before him.”