“Why did you not go into the country and get it for yourself?”
“For several reasons, Allan, of which the best is that it was impossible. The Mazitu swear that if anyone sees that flower he is put to death. Indeed, when they found that I had a bloom of it, they forced me to move to the other side of the country seventy miles away. So I thought that I would wait till I met with some companions who would accompany me. Indeed, to be frank, Allan, it occurred to me that you were the sort of man who would like to interview this wonderful beast that bites off people’s fingers and frightens them to death,” and Brother John stroked his long, white beard and smiled, adding, “Odd that we should have met so soon afterwards, isn’t it?”
“Did you?” I replied, “now did you indeed? Brother John, people say all sorts of things about you, but I have come to the conclusion that there’s nothing the matter with your wits.”
Again he smiled and stroked his long, white beard.
I do not think that this conversion about the Pongo savages who were said to worship a Gorilla and a Golden Flower was renewed until we reached my house at Durban. Thither of course I took Mr. Charles Scroope, and thither also came Brother John who, as bedroom accommodation was lacking, pitched his tent in the garden.
One night we sat on the step smoking; Brother John’s only concession to human weakness was that he smoked. He drank no wine or spirits; he never ate meat unless he was obliged, but I rejoice to say that he smoked cigars, like most Americans, when he could get them.
“John,” said I, “I have been thinking over that yarn of yours and have come to one or two conclusions.”
“What may they be, Allan?”
“The first is that you were a great donkey not to get more out of the Kalubi when you had the chance.”
“Agreed, Allan, but, amongst other things, I am a doctor and the operation was uppermost in my mind.”
“The second is that I believe this Kalubi had charge of the gorilla-god, as no doubt you’ve guessed; also that it was the gorilla which bit off his finger.”
“Because I have heard of great monkeys called sokos that live in Central East Africa which are said to bite off men’s toes and fingers. I have heard too that they are very like gorillas.”
“Now you mention it, so have I, Allan. Indeed, once I saw a soko, though some way off, a huge, brown ape which stood on its hind legs and drummed upon its chest with its fists. I didn’t see it for long because I ran away.”
“The third is that this yellow orchid would be worth a great deal of money if one could dig it up and take it to England.”
“I think I told you, Allan, that I valued it at £20,000, so that conclusion of yours is not original.”