Chapter XXIII. The Council of War

That evening Kingozi called to him Cazi Moto, Simba, and Mali-ya-bwana. He commanded them to build a little fire, and when the light from the leaping flames had penetrated his dull vision, he told them to sit down before him. Thus they knew that a serious council was intended. They squatted on their heels below the white man in his chair, and looked up at him with bright, devoted eyes.

"Listen," he said. "The matter is this: the Inglishee are at war with the Duyche. Over from the Congo comes a Duyche known as Bwana Nyele.[14] It is his business to reach this shenzi king, M'tela, and persuade M'tela to fight on the side of the Duyche. It is our business to reach M'tela and persuade him to fight on the side of the Inglishee. Is that understood?"

[Footnote 14: Bwana Nyele--the master with the mane, i.e., beard or hair.]

"It is understood, bwana" said they.

"But this Duyche, Bwana Nyele, is only one week's march from M'tela; and he undoubtedly has many gifts for M'tela and the Kabilagani. And we are many days' safari distant, and I am blind and cannot hurry." he three uttered little clucks of sympathy and interest.

"But for all that we may win. You three men are my eyes and my right hand. I have a plan, and this is what you must do: Cazi Moto must stay with me to be headman of safari, and to be my eyes when we come to M'tela's land. You Simba, and you Mali-ya-bwana, must go with six of the best men to where Bwana Nyele is marching. These two strange shenzis will guide you. Then when you are near the safari of Bwana Nyele you must arrange so that these shenzis can have no talk with any of the safari of Bwana Nyele. That is understood?"

"Yes, bwana," said Simba. "Do we kill these shenzis?"

"No, do not kill them. Tie them fast."

"Yes, bwana, and then?"

"This is the most difficult. You must get hold of Bwana Nyele, and you must tie him fast also, and keep him from his safari. He is a m'zungu[15], yes--but he is a Duyche, and my enemy, and these things are right, because I command it."

[Footnote 15: M'zungu--white man.]

"Yes, bwana."

"Then you must keep Bwana Nyele and these two shenzis close in camp, hidden where their safari cannot find them. And after two weeks you must send two men to M'tela's to find me, and to tell me where you are hidden. Now is all that understood? You, Simba, tell me what you are to do."

"Mali-ya-bwana, myself, six men and these shenzis travel to where the safari of Bwana Nyele marches. When we are near that safari we tie up the two shenzis. Then we get Bwana Nyele and tie him up in a secret camp. Then after two weeks we send two men to tell the bwana where we are. But, bwana, how do we get Bwana Nyele?"

"That I will tell you soon. One thing you forgot: you must reach the Duyche before he gets into M'tela's country. This means travel night and day--fast travel. Can this be done?"

"We shall pick good men, bwana, runners of the Wakamba. We shall do our best."

"Good. Each man four days' potio, and what biltong he can use. Simba, take my small rifle and fifty cartridges. Take some snuff, beads, and wire--only a little--to trade for potio if you meet with other people. Understood?"

"Yes, bwana."

"Cazi Moto," he directed, "bring me the small box of wood from my sandoko."

He slid the cover off this box when it was delivered into his hands, fumbled a moment, and held up an object.

"What is this?" he asked.

"It is a bone, bwana."

"Yes, it is a bone; but it is more. It is a magic. With this you will take Bwana Nyele."

He could sense the stir of interest in the three men before him.

"Listen carefully. This is what you must do. When you have come near to this safari, you must follow it until it has put down its loads and is just about to make camp. Not a rest period on the road; not after camp is made--just at the moment when the men begin to untie the loads, when they begin to pitch the tents. That is the magic time. Understand?"

"Yes, bwana," they chorused breathlessly.

"Simba must be ready. He must take off his clothes, and he must oil his body and paint it, and put on the ornaments of a shenzi of this country. For that purpose he must take with him the necklace, the armlets, anklets, and belt that I traded for with the shenzis, and which Cazi Moto will get from my tent. Do you know the style of painting of these shenzis of the plains, Simba?"

"Yes, bwana."

"It is important that you make yourself a shenzi. This magic is a bad magic otherwise. Then at the moment I have named, Simba as a shenzi will take this magic bone and hold it out to Bwana Nyele saying nothing. Bwana Nyele will say words, perhaps in Swahili which Simba will understand; perhaps in some other language which he will not understand. Simba must point thus; and then must start in that direction. Bwana Nyele will follow a few steps. Then Simba will say: 'Many more, bwana, over there only a little distance.'" Kingozi uttered this last sentence in atrocious Swahili. "You must say it in just that way, like a shenzi. Say it."

Simba repeated the words and accent.

"Yes, that is it. Then say nothing more, no matter what he asks; and do not let him touch the magic bone. Point. He will follow you; and when he has followed out of sight of the safari you will all seize him and tie him fast. The rest is as I have commanded."

"How does bwana know how these things will happen thus?" breathed Simba in awestricken tones.

"It is a magic," replied Kingozi gravely.

Over and over he drilled them until the details were thoroughly understood. Then he dismissed them and leaned back with a sigh. The plan was simple, but ought to work. At the moment of making camp Winkleman would be less apt than at any other time to take with him an escort-- especially if his interest or cupidity were aroused--for every one would be exceedingly busy. And no fear about the interest and cupidity! The "magic" bone Kingozi had confided to Simba was a fragment of a Pleistocene fossil. Kingozi himself valued it highly, but he hoped and expected to get it back. It made excellent bait, which no scientist could resist. Of course there might be a second white man with Winkleman, but from the reported size of the latter's safari he thought not. All in all, Kingozi had great reliance in his magic.

At the end of fifteen minutes Simba came to report.

"All is ready, bwana," he said, "and we start now. But if bwana could let me take a lantern, which I have in my hand, we could travel also at night."

The lantern, as Kingozi well knew, was not for the purpose of casting light in the path, but as some slight measure of protection against lions.

"Let me have it," he ordered. It was passed into his hands, and proved to be one of the two oil lanterns kept for emergencies.

But Kingozi sent the headman for one of the candle lanterns in everyday use, and a half-dozen short candles.

"These are better," he said; "and qua heri, Simba. If you do these things well, large backsheeshi for you all."

"Qua heri, bwana" said Simba, and was gone.