possessed a Bible called for a good deal of more or less
" Who'll ask for the loan of it ? " inquired Ferris.
Not a man answered, and he spoke again.
" I would an' chance it, but its useless. He hates
me worse than poison, 'cause I'm the only Englishman
aboard. He's been a damned beast to me since I sailed.
I reckon you'd get it. Bell, if any on us could."
Bell, the carpenter already mentioned, was considered
to be the captain's favourite ā a position he denied.
This man scratched his head and grumbled, and did not
take kindly to the enterprise. The general sense of the
meeting went against him, however, and he prepared to
"Tell the skipper it's for the nigger forward as is
goin' to be hung. He can't refuse sky-piloting even to
a nigger in that fix," concluded Ferris.
" He will," said the cook of the Flying Fish.
" Mark my words ; he'll tell Bell to go to hell."
Pretty soon Bell returned baffled.
" He says he ain't disposed to lend the Word of God
to a blackguard black man. And he also says we're
to sheer off from Neil for the future. If he sees a
hand alongside him again, the cap'n says that hand will
hear from him direct," explained the carpenter.
" There's a blasted swine ! " burst out Dick.
" It shows how a man may have a Bible, and yet
never behave so as to let other folks guess it," com-
They were lost in speculation as to how the skipper
ever came to possess a Bible at all. Then the men
THE SKIPPER'S BIBLE 87
separated, and Ferris went away. His muddy brains
were on fire with the wickedness of the skipper. He
had a rooted conviction that the Bible would make all
the difference to Black Neil's position, if not in this
world, at anyrate in the next ; he was firmly convinced,
therefore, that Providence had placed this Bible on board
for the negro's especial benefit. No matter had ever
stirred his faculties so deeply ; he could not get the
subject out of his head, and the more he reflected upon
it, the stronger grew his determination to secure the
book for Neil at all costs. None took the skipper's
refusal to heart as he did ; indeed, their first indigna-
tion blunted, his comrades laughed at him for being in
such anxiety about so trifling a business. But Dick
would not regard the subject as trifling ; it appeared to
him that tremendous issues were involved. He was new
to intercourse with the negroes, and their interests and
welfare seemed perfectly serious concerns to him. He
debated with himself through long moonlit watches, and
his thoughts kept him awake in his bunk. Personally
he had never pretended to religion ; but the sight of a
sinner ā friendless and comfortless on the brink of the
grave ā the spectacle of a fellow-man separated by a
few days only from death ā woke strange forces in the
heart of Dick Ferris and set his mental machinery
working more briskly than ever it had worked before.
He knew what a " call " meant, because a friend of his
had once received a "call," and joined the Salvation
Army upon the strength of it. And now an over-
whelming impression grew strong and stronger within
him, which notion finally dominated the man and pointed
Black Neil, Dick told himself, must have the skipper's
88 THE FOLK AFIELD
Bible ; and Providence had evidently marked him out
as a means by which the soul-saving book should reach
its destination. Eternal life for a perishing creature
lurked in his captain's cabin : the mate of the Flying
Fish determined to secure it. If physical force became
necessary, then he would fight. The fact that such a
course was mutiny and would be punished as such, did
not particularly appeal to him ; indeed, the consequences
of his pending action failed to weigh with him until too
late. "After all," he reflected, "the man's a reason-
able being. Like enough he'll hand over the book and
make no splutter. If he don't ā well, he's been spoilin'
for a smack at me these two voyages ; now he shall have
it. Sure enough, it's a queer twist to get in the brain-
pan of a sea-farin' man, all over a blessed nigger too,
that nobody takes no count on ; but there it is, red
hot, and can't be smothered."
That night Dick knocked at the captain's door, was
told to come in, and entered to find a very unexpected
picture. The skipper lay upon his bunk smoking, and
actually reading his Bible !
" What do you want ^ " he asked shortly, glancing
The other, from sheer amazement, clean forgot the
elaborate remarks with which he had come prepared.
He stood silent, irresolute, open-mouthed, gazing upon
this wonder before him.
" What do you want, you gaping fool .'' " inquired
Mr Greenleaf once more.
Then Dick found his tongue.
" That, guv'ner," he answered, pointing to the open
His captain laughed, and then swore.
THE SKIPPER S BIBLE 89
" This ship's grown mighty religious of late, seems
to me. You're the second's come on the same wild-
goose chase. What the fury's the matter with you }"
" 'Tain't for myself. I don't want no Bibles,"
answered Ferris. " It's like this 'ere : that cove that's
goin' to be hanged at Kingston's gettin' blamed low
and down in the mouth. He's off his feed and takin'
on pitiful ā 'cause why ? 'Cause he ain't got no sky-
piloting. You've got a Bible, and he can read, so he
says ; therefore, I reckoned to ask you to lend it out to
him. I'll go bail he won't do no harm to it."
" Oh, you reckoned that, did you } Well, / reckon
you'd best mind your own bloody business in future,
and not waste no more time fooling round that black
sweep. I don't lend no Bible of mine to him or any-
one. Ain't I reading it myself .-' Get out of this
sharp. And I'll say more than that if any one of you
come around again."
He went on reading, but Ferris stood his ground,
and twisted his hat about in his hands.
" Why don't you clear } Ain't the skipper's own
cabin private from you devils ? "
" Well, it's like this 'ere," answered Dick very
slowly. " Sometimes a man finds he ain't 'is own boss
no more. I ain't. I feels a kind o' call sayin' how
Black Neil must have that Bible o' yourn. You see,
blacks is now calculated to have souls, same as whites ;
and his soul's in a proper darned fix, owin' to it's havin'
no religion whatsoever. That book 'ud make a power-
ful sight of difference ā just all the difference between
aloft and below maybe. So I asks of you respectful to
lend it to Black Neil."
" I'll see him damned first ! "
90 THE FOLK AFIELD
"Then I guess I'll take it, skipper."
The two men looked at one another silently, and
Ferris licked his great hands and rubbed them together
in preparation. For a moment the only sound in the
cabin was the rasping of his rough palms. Then
Greenleaf spoke :
" Go right ahead then ; take it, or try to. I've
wanted to see what you were worth with your British
gas and bounce. Go right ahead. I'll thrash you here,
and then have you flogged on deck, and then ā "
" Best arrange that later, boss."
There was not much room in the captain's cabin
for two big men to settle a quarrel by force of arms.
With such a confined area the battle promised to be
short and decisive ; and so it proved.
Dick grabbed the Bible, and Greenleaf hit him in
the face ; whereupon Dick dropped the book and
turned his attention to his superior officer. Both men
were soon struggling upon the floor, first one upper-
most, then the other. The American was tall and very
active ; but Dick's bulk and weight told in that narrow
ring. He propped him again and again ; for the
skipper could not escape. Greenleaf dropped frequently
to avoid punishment, and Dick always waited for him to
rise. Both got well warmed and freely sprinkled with
blood. But Ferris was the straighter hitter, and
Greenleaf's right eye soon had the shutters up. Then,
as they rose from a fall, with Dick under, the skipper,
aware that he had more than met his match in such
close quarters, lifted his hand over his head and snatched
a revolver which hung upon the cabin wall. He was
quick, but hardly quicker than the other. Ferris dashed
in, and, with all his weight behind the blow, hit Mr
THE SKIPPER'S BIBLE 91
Greenleaf full and fair upon the forehead as he fired.
One man went down in a limp, senseless heap in
the corner of his cabin, the other felt a stab of
pain in his shoulder, and then saw a sudden stream
of blood trickling down his arm into his hand. He
picked up the Bible, and staggered out into the alley-
A crowd had there collected upon sound of the
shot, and Dick pushed through them, explaining as
he went :
" He've hit me somewheres in the shoulder, an' I've
killed him. Best go in an' get him on his bunk an' do
Then, leaving a dotted line of red splashes on the
deck, he went forward with his prize, and handed the
Bible to Black Neil. The negro clasped the book with
rejoicings, and was little concerned to know what had
" Read, boy, read like hell ! " said Dick. " Stick to
it ; there's a chance yet if you only hold on like grim
death. I've knocked him silly, but he may come
round. It's the skipper's own. He don't understand
no blessed Bibles, else he'd a' fought fair an' not fired
on me. But he pretty nigh missed, whereas I didn't.
You just buckle to it, an' read for all you're worth,
I've 'eard tell the second half is reckoned to be the
best ; and if Greenleaf's dead, you can keep the bally
book till we get to port,"
Then Ferris went to the galley to see after himself
and secure the cook's aid.
Fortunately for Dick, his shoulder had sustained but
trifling injuries. The skipper's bullet did little more
than touch him, inflicting in its progress a superficial
92 THE FOLK AFIELD
wound. While the cook washed his injury and bound
it up, Ferris asked after Mr Greenleaf.
" How's the old man ? " he said.
" Bad, seemingly. There's nothing broke as I can
find, and he's breathing pretty free, but he ain't come
to his senses yet. Reckon you've dented in his skull
somewhere. That's death, mind you."
" Guess there'll be another to go along with Neil at
Kingston, then," said Ferris.
Then the hours fled by, and the entire ship's
company grew more and more anxious to learn how
their captain prospered. Sailors are not Job's com-
forters at best, and Dick heard enough before the dawn
of the next day to depress him considerably.
" You was right in a sense, having a ' call,' like, to
do it," explained Bell, who had a nice command of
language and a luminous way of putting problems ;
"but the Law don't take no heed of a 'call.' What
you've done is to mutiny, and steal the skipper's
property, and maybe murder him. Time will show.
If he dies, it is murder ; if he lives, it's merely assault
with intent to murder, and you'll get penal servitude
** All for a nigger too," grumbled the cook.
" For his soul," said Dick apologetically. " I don't
care nothing much for Neil, but his soul was in the
scale, in a manner of speakin'. Now he's sucking at
the Book like a child at its mother's bosom ; so who
knows if he mayn't just wriggle into the right place by
the skin of his teeth .ā * "
" Why are you so blamed sure niggers have any
souls .-^ " inquired John Droop, " Whar you gwine to
draw any line betwixt us and them if they have souls .? "
THE SKIPPER'S BIBLE 93
" Don't you be too cocksure, my beauty, anyhow,"
answered the mate. " If a drunken, dirty-hearted,
mean, lopsided lout like you've got a working soul ā
then, I guess, there's a chance for everybody and every
colour, monkeys included."
" When men like Richard Ferris takes to preachin'
aboard the Flying Fish, after knocking in the skull bones
of the skipper, then it's werry gratifyin' and werry
conwincing, no doubt," retorted John,
But the skipper was not dead. He recovered con-
sciousness about two hours after the battle ; and it
happened that the cook was with him at the time.
" The fus' thing he says, mighty faint in his throat,
is, ' Whar'd I hit Ferris .'' ' Then I says, ' You scratched
his shoulder, sir, that's all' Then he grunted and put
his hand to his head, and says, ' I know whar he hit
me.' After that he told me to make the cabin dark
and clear out ; but I stuck on, knowing as how he
should have food, and I made him bite and drink a bit,
owing to him being too feeble to refuse. But he swore
forcible and various. I reckon he's turned the
The cook was right, for within two days the skipper
had his chair brought up on deck, and presently ap-
peared himself with a face every colour of the rainbow.
He sat and smoked, saying no word to anybody. Then
a strange thing occurred, for Mr Greenleaf suddenly
arose, walked stiffly and lamely across the ship and dis-
appeared behind the partition which hid Black Neil.
The negro, absorbed in his book, heard and heeded
nothing. He conned the Bible at morning, noon and
night. Already he had wen consolation from the
94 THE FOLK AFIELD
" How are you going on, nig ? " asked Greenleat
" Berry nice, massa," answered Black Neil. Then
he looked up and saw who was speaking, and trembled
as he clung to the Bible.
" Lebe de precious Word, sar. I'se getting straight
wid de Lord fast now. De word get me into hebben if
you lebe him a little more. Dey hang me up and I no
care nufifin', 'cause I'se gwine to de golden shore. So
lebe de precious Word along wid me, massa."
" Goin' to the golden shore by way of the ā wal, I
guess many better'n you been hung. I'll leave it on
one condition. If ever you makes that port, you must
put in a word for this ship. Just a remark in a gen'ral
sort of way ā needn't mention no names ā only let on
how the Flying Fish ain't all she might be. Carn't do
no harm. I didn't lend that book kinder easy, but now
you've got it, you can keep your fins on it till we get to
Kingston. And here's a bit o' lead pencil. Just mark
a notion here and theer as seems sort o' best to you."
Mr Greenleaf flung down a stump of pencil, and
went off without further speech. He had heard and
believed a superstition that the dying or doomed have
strange powers of inspiration extended to them, and he
suspected that his Bible would greatly benefit from
attention at Black Neil's hands. His mind had been
busy during recent hours, and his reflection had brought
him to a somewhat unexpected conclusion.
The men talked over this mystery of their skipper's
" He's nursin' it, mate, to keep it biling-hot for you
in port," said Bell to Dick Ferris.
" Not a shade of doubt ; he's lyin' low and lettin' it
THE SKIPPER'S BIBLE 95
just fester in him. He's breakin' his heart to flog you
afore all hands, only he knows he ain't got strength to
do you justice yet," declared the cook.
The grand mystery kept all brains busy, and the
great question none could answer. Why had not
Greenleaf put Ferris in irons .-*
Upon the following day the skipper resumed his
duties, and soon afterwards the Flying Fish sailed into
Kingston Harbour. Nothing out of the common
occurred at that port. There were rumours and whis-
perings, but Joseph Greenleaf took no official or definite
move in the matter of his mate. Work went on as
usual ; the vessel was unloaded and filled again ; Black
Neil went joyfully to gaol, upon learning that every
benefit of clergy there awaited him during the few re-
maining days of his existence.
" 'Twould break the poor fool's heart if he had a
respite now," said Bell. " He's just spoiling for his
dance in the air."
About a week afterwards, at dawn of a golden
morning, the Flying Fish sailed again, and, as she
slipped away to sea, Dick stood for a moment at the
stern, in the little house where Neil had lived, and
looked out at the shining town and a black speck that
fluttered from a flagstaff. Then he found he was not
" What you starin' at .? " asked somebody stand-
ing by him. It was the captain who spoke, and these
were the first words which had passed between him and
his mate, save upon ship matters, since their struggle.
" I'm a-lookin' at that black flag over the prison,
cap'n. They've strung him up to-day. He's gone ā
poor devil ! "
96 THE FOLK AFIELD
" We had some difference, if I remember, touching
that nigger ? " said Greenleaf coolly.
"We had. It's like this 'ere : I'm awful sorry I
smashed you up so bad, but you didn't ought to have
shoot, though I takes it right down manly of you to
'ave kept your mouth shut, an' I humbly thanks you."
" Best thing to do when you've made a all-fired fool
" It weren't no ordinary case like. I felt ' called,'
and stronger than a cargo of lions. Sky-piloting was
the only useful thing for a man in his fix ; so I had to
go for it,"
" He said how if he gets aloft 'twill be through that
Bible of mine. So I reckoned, seeing there's room for
improvement on this ship in a few particulars, to make
a bargain with him. If he gets there, I gave him the
tip to put in a word for the Flying Fish, not mentioning
no names, but just free an' general. Smart ā eh .-ā¢ "
"Terrible smart, sure enough."
"And ā and ā you and me'd better shake, I reckon.
Then tell the boys to pull this shanty down again. It's
done its work."
IN THE KING'S CHAMBER
THE first wonder of the world lay under spring
sunlight, and along its terrific terraces, torn
bare by five thousand years of time and man, hot air
glimmered, and lizards, with mystery in their golden
eyes, here squatted motionless, here vanished, to re-
appear in unexpected places. Aloft upon the eastern
slope of Cheops's Pyramid sat two men, dwarfed by
their position into the semblance of gaudy birds.
Behind them rolled the Libyan Desert ; beneath them
crouched the Sphinx, dwindled to a hare in her form ;
beyond, again, like a cluster of old bee-hives and
cabbage-stumps, stood the mud walls and grey thatches of
Kaffra under date-palms ; while across green leagues of
valley, where waters wound ; where flowering mustard
scattered little lakes of flame through the lucerne ; and
darker foliage of acacia indicated the roadway, Nile
twinkled his shining silver and Cairo rose in pomp of a
thousand minarets and domes, like a mirage of pearl
gleaming against the azure and gold of Egyptian
Ismail Kolali, Sheik of the Gizeh Pyramids, rarely
of late years had clambered to his present lofty station.
His duties lay at the foot of the giant, and there he
controlled his guides, took toll of travellers, made
98 THE FOLK AFIELD
money and thanked Allah that a ceaseless stream of
infidel gold poured daily into the deep pockets of the
faithful. But seeking a meeting-place beyond human
ears, he had ascended the northern angle of the Pyramid
and now sat aloft at a spot where weary climbers are
wont to rest a while, to bathe hot hands and faces and
listen to the chatter of their guides.
The Sheik reclined with his henna-stained nails in
his beard and his dim eyes upon the village below, over
which he also ruled. His outer robe was of the colour
of the desert, where long years without a footfall have
turned the face of the tawny sand to grey ; beneath it
shone a garment of fierce red, while his green turban
marked Ismail of the chosen who had seen Mecca.
Beside him, clad in white, with a crimson fez on his
curly hair, sat Omar Othman, the famous guide, the man
with muscles of steel, who could reach the summit of
Chafra's Pyramid and return half a minute quicker than
any of his fleet fellows. His brown eye was bright, his
head clear, his horny feet surer than a mountain goat's.
Born in the shadow of the Pyramids, Omar's life had
passed within sight of them ; and from the ebony
darkness of the royal tombs to its shattered summit, he
knew the monster of Cheops in all its cryptic ways, as
none knew it but the bats, the jinn and the spirits of
Rumour asserted that from the recesses of the
Queen's Chamber there ran a passage where none but a
serpent might pass ; and those who loved not the
quick-footed Omar declared that he had sold himself to
Iblis, and, in guise of the desert snake, was permitted
to penetrate a treasure-house hidden, according to
tradition, at the roots of the Pyramid. " As a snake he
IN THE KING'S CHAMBER 99
goes and so returns," said Hassan Othman, Omar's
own brother and worst enemy. " The treasures of the
Great Dead One are not for him, yet such his lust after
gold that he has sacrificed Paradise for the sight of
But Sheik Ismail, as became a man of broad mind,
who had been to Mecca and knew the value of money,
slighted such fables and blamed those who spoke them
as men jealous and, therefore, prejudiced. In Omar he
saw much to admire, for the guide's good temper and
ability made him a favourite with visitors and won rich
store of backsheesh. In fact, Omar was far too good
a Moslem and man of business to make so poor a
bargain with Iblis as that attributed to him ; and when,
therefore, the young guide, who had thus far enjoyed
but one wife, began to desire a second. Sheik Ismail
was well pleased that his youngest daughter, Fatima,
should be the object of Omar's hope,
" Ripe for marriage she is, in truth," said the old
man, with his eyes on the little dwelling below that
held her. " No houri of the High Heaven excels my
child in form, or music of voice, or bounty of bosom.
It is most true also that her eye shines like the evening
star at your approach, and grows dim when you leave
her, even as the star pales at night's departure. And
" Fear not for the greatness of my gifts, my father."
" It is not that. You have enough. My mind
runs on Rehana, daughter of the Syrian, your wife."
" What matters this to Rehana > "
" Her words come to my ears. She is not devout
in the faith."
" There is a blight upon her mind. Rehana was
100 THE FOLK AFIELD
brought up, as so many of the Syrian girls, by white-
faced women from the Occident in their Christian
" I know it ; and the poison sucked up while yet
her mind was milk is not yet purged away."
Many Syrian maidens learn to read and write, to
cast figures and use the needle in these mission homes.
They are also instructed in the creed of their teachers.
But fathers and brothers take them quickly away when
they are wife-old ā at twelve years of age or thereabout ;
and then they go into marriage, and soon forget the
legends of any other faith than that of their people."
" Rehana has put the unbelievers' lies away," de-
clared Sheik Ismail. " She speaks evil words and thinks
too much. Consider, if cows and camels should think I
These Christians set the woman on a throne ; we know
her place is a footstool."
" Rehana utters follies ; I heed them not."
" But another woman might do so ; and thus you
go home from your daily labours to hell. It is fitting
Omar, that one of your substance should wed further.
You cannot longer live with dignity before Allah and
the people as the husband of one barren woman, and
she ill-favoured and advanced in years. Yet I would
not that Fatima went to a home of strife and of evil-
Omar Othman laughed, and his white teeth gleamed.
" That is to say, I am less than master in my own
dwelling ! Rehana is spoiled ; there are many things
another woman will teach her to forget."
" She has spoken with Fatima, and, as I hear them
repeated to me, her words are those of one wholly mad.
She speaks of spiritual love ; of communion between
IN THE KING'S CHAMBER 101
man and woman that rests not on sense or sex, and is
eternal ; of joys hereafter, greater than Mohammed
" She is mad in part. This is the poison you spoke
of ā the poison of those dogs who put the Carpenter
before Mohammed. It is time she knew me better ;
and she shall."
" Such vain imaginings must be starved out of her
brain or beaten out of her body with stripes."
" My father, who should understand women if you
do not ? Listen : With a boy's foolish passion I
promised her, when first I took her, that no other
woman should share our life, that I would be even as
the Christians in this and marry not again, though Time
brought me a Khedive's wealth. All men laughed at
the folly of my hot youth ; and I laughed back, seeing
not in the shrivelled limbs, the wrinkled brows, and the
babes at flat breasts that women grow old so quickly.
But is this foolishness to be remembered against me
now .'' "
" She will remember it with the jealousy of a
deserted tigress. Therefore I fear."
" Does Fatima fear, too } "
" Not so. Yesterday at eventide, returning from