C. S. (Cecil Scott) Forester.

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had dealt with the problem of Musini's twins.

"I expect all is well with her," said Loa, reassuringly.
"When the food comes I will send and find out."

Lanu nodded a little gloomily. He was aware that during
the period immediately following the birth of a child a
woman was peculiarly susceptible to the attacks of devils
and to the poisonings and enchantments of rivals and ene-
mies, so that she not infrequently died. Lanu did not want
Musini to die, even though he knew it was unmanly to care
a rap about the fate of a mere woman. And Loa eyed him
with actually something of apprehension. Lanu was destined
to become a god like himself — would, one of these days,
after the inconceivable but inevitable moment when Loa
went to join Nasa and his other ancestors, actually be the
principal god. It was not going to be easy to initiate Lanu
into the secrets of being superhuman, at a time when Loa
himself had the gravest doubts about his own divinity, and
of course stronger doubts still about Lanu's. Loa looked
down the street at the busy mortals going hither and yon
about their business, and told himself with a twinge of re-
gret that he was of the same flesh that they were. He was
aware of a slight inclination to think something quite dif-
ferent, to allow his recent feats to persuade him that he was,
really and truly, a being on a higher plane than theirs, but
his newfound reaction did not permit it. He had learned

[ 253 ]


the truth as a hungry slave, when he had shared a forked
stick with Nessi, when he found out that the kurbash hurt
him. Loa, when he thought about all this, was a little like
a character in fiction of whom he had never heard and never
would — Gulliver at the moment of realization that he was
of the same species as the Yahoos.

Loa knew, too, that most likely the ideas of those people
down the street regarding his divinity would be a little
changed at least. Somewhere at the back of their minds
must linger the memory that he had once been led off as a
slave. They all knew that he had fought hand to hand with
Soli. It would be a ticklish business still to claim the moon
for his sister, and to maintain that it was his summons that
brought her back each month from the embraces of the
river. It could be done — only Musini and Lanu knew that
he had not troubled to summon her once during all these
months — but it might not be easy. The people's blind ac-
ceptance of the notion of his divinity must be at an end,
along with his own. Instead of going along happily in an
unchanging and unquestioning world he would have to
evolve a policy which would make a god of him despite the
doubters. He had already taken a few steps in this direction
when, for instance, he had ordered the impalement of Ura,
and when he had given forth his Word on the subject of
Musini's twins. There would be a lifetime of it before him,
and after that a lifetime of it before Lanu.

The arrival of the women with bowls of food diverted
his untrained mind from its colossal struggles with these

[ 254 ]


"Baked plantains in oil," said Loa, peering at the contents
of a bowl.

Lanu merely smacked his lips, plunged in his hand, and
stuffed his mouth. After months of forest food it was good
to come back to town food, to the food to which he had
been accustomed all his life.

"Go, Nadini, and ask if all is well with Musini," said Loa.

Lanu watched her departing form with anxiety — the
arrival of the food had only momentarily diverted his mind
from the subject of his mother. Loa filled his own mouth;
it was pleasant to feel the good red oil trickling down his
chin, to stuff himself full, to know that there was more food
than even he could eat to be obtained merely by a shout to
Nadini and Subi. But Loa was a man who had once believed
himself to be a god, and no man who has gone through that
mental change-over can accept unquestioning the thought
of the permanence of anything. These plantains and this
tapioca tasted excellent, but Loa made himself remember
the days when he turned with loathing from bananas and
tapioca, when the thought of a continuous diet of bananas
and tapioca, however ample, had revolted him. Those days
would come again. He shot an exploratory glance at Lanu,
who at that moment was engaged in wiping out the residual
oil from a nearly empty bowl with his fingers and then
sucking them noisily. Nadini's return delayed his opening
of the subject he had in mind.

"All is well with Musini, Lord," said Nadini. "She sleeps,
and the — the children lie at her side."

Nadini showed momentary difficulty in concealing her

[ 255 ]


ingrained disgust when she had to mention the revolting
subject of twins, but Lanu's face Ht up with a broad smile
at her news.

"You may go," said Loa to Nadini, and, when she was
out of earshot, he turned back to Lanu and to the subject
he had in mind.

"Do you remember," he asked, slowly, "those fish that
we ate on the day that we took the canoe?"

He said the strange word, the word that had disappeared
utterly from the vocabulary of the town, with hesitation
and difficulty, but Lanu rolled an understanding eye at him.

'**Well do I remember them," he said. "There were others
that Musini and I ate when we were in the pen in that town.
They were good. As good as meat."

"With canoes," went on Loa, "you could get for us more
fish perhaps from the river?"

He said "you" advisedly and with slight stress, and the
form of address he used was chosen with all the nicety of
which he was capable — not the form used by a god to a
mortal, nor that used by a parent to a child, but that of
a superior person to one hardly his inferior. He wanted
Lanu to assume certain grave responsibilities because, vague
though the plans were which were forming in Loa's mind,
they were plans he did not believe himself capable of put-
ting into execution himself.

"I do not know how to catch fish or how to kill them,"
said Lanu, but he was not being merely obstructive. Loa
could see that he was receptive enough to the new idea.

"You do not," Loa agreed. "But there are men in towns

[ 256 ]


beside the river who do. Twice we have seen men catching
fish in the river."

"That is so," said Lanu. He was willing to be helpful, but
he could not grasp yet what Loa had in mind.

Loa was not sure himself, for that matter. Neither his
mind nor the vocabulary in which he thought were adapted
for logical thinking. The actual formulation of plans was
a difficult step beyond the vague aspirations which a whole
series of experiences and emotional disturbances had stirred
up within him. Theoretical thinking was something that
was almost beyond him, especially when he was thinking
about something quite foreign to his ordinary life. What
Loa really had at the back of his mind was to divert his
people's minds from domestic politics by a series of wars of
aggression, but the vocabulary at his disposal did not allow
him to phrase it as briefly as that, nor in twenty times that
number of words. He could only feel the need and grope his
way towards expressing it, both to himself and to Lanu.
Besides, he was moved by pure ambition as well, and in ad-
dition to that by a whole series of other motives, most of
them simple enough in themselves, but adding up to a com-
plexity that utterly entangled him. He wanted revenge in
general upon a world which had treated him so ill; he
wanted revenge in particular on certain individuals and
communities; and he wanted, too, to exercise himself, and
provide himself with outlets for his activity, now that he
was back in a world which could be utterly tranquil at a
time when his recent experiences had stirred him up so that
the prospect of tranquility was quite distasteful to him.

[ 257 ]


Misdoubting his own executive ability, he desired to assert
himself through the medium of Lanu.

"When we killed those men," he said, laboriously, "when
we took their canoe to cross the little river, you wanted to
keep the boat. Do you remember?"

"Yes. I remember."

"You thought you might go down the river in it."

"Yes, Lord."

"And I said that when we reached home you might have
a boat of your own."

"Indeed yes, Lord. I remember that."

"There are towns here, towns like ours, except that they
are close to the river and their people use boats and eat fish."

"Musini and I were captured by such people," said Lanu.
"You got us out of their cage. Lord."

"That is right. We could find such a town again. We have
only to go seek along the riverbank. You could go with the
men from here, and at night, when the town is asleep, you
could go into it with the men. With spears and with axes,
you could kill those people who tried to fight against you.
The others you could fasten in forked sticks, if you wished
to. Some of the women we could have as wives, to raise up
more children for us who would fight for us when they
grew up. And the men — they would know about boats.
They would know how to make boats. They would know
well how to make boats go upon the water. They would
know how to catch fish. You could make them show you
how to do these things. You could make them do these
things for you."

[ 258 ]


"Lord," said Lanu, "all this might well be done."

He said it with amazement, a new revelation opening up
before him. No physical miracle that Loa might have per-
formed could have impressed Lanu as much as this speech.
Lanu would not have been as excited if Loa had stood the
little ax on end and made it dance of its own volition. Lanu
lived in a world where one did not inquire into the causes
of things very deeply; an ax might dance, a tree might talk,
just as branches moved in the wind or a river chuckled and
gurgled. What Loa was proposing to do was something
startlingly different. It was as if he had pulled aside a series
of veils which had hitherto enclosed Lanu, revealing amaz-
ing new landscapes, all well within reach. The pang of
pleasure which Loa experienced when he saw Lanu's ad-
miring reaction to his suggestion was deeper than anything
Loa had felt before. He was thoroughly aroused now.

"The men would make many boats for us," he said. "Not
one boat, but many. Not little boats, like the one in which
we crossed the river, but big boats."

"Like the one which captured Musini and me," said Lanu.
"Boats with many men."

"Yes," went on Loa. "Many large boats, so that many
many men could go in them. All the men in this town. In
boats they could go far."

"Indeed they could," said Lanu. "I would lead them far."

"So you would. There would be no town that could stand
against us."

"We would come by the river," said Lanu. "We would
step on shore in the darkness close to the town. No one

[ 259 ]


would know we were near. We would kill them. We would
take all they had. We would drive them to the boats and
bring them back here.'*

Lanu slapped his thigh in his excitement, as the new pros-
pects revealed themselves in growing detail. Neither Lanu
nor Loa was at all aware of how much they were indebted
for these ideas to the Arab slave raiders. Every new concep-
tion — revolutionary, all of them — had its origin in their
recent experiences. The fundamental one, of attacking peo-
ple who had done them no harm, was due to the example
of the Arabs. The plan of the night surprise, even the idea
of slavery, were from the same source. There was some-
thing, perhaps, of originality in Loa's idea of sea power, of
building up a naval strength on the river as a ready means
of dominating other people, but even that really found its
beginnings in what Loa had seen on the beach at the Arab
slave depot. Intense experiences, working on simple minds
that had long stagnated, were producing violent reactions.

"You can go out soon," said Loa. **Y6u can take with
you one or two men, and you can seek along the river for
a town. You can look at it well and secretly. Then you can
come back and all the other men will be ready to go with

"And the spears and the axes?" asked Lanu.

Loa paused to consider the question of munitions of war.
There used to be some spearheads of iron in the town which
probably still existed. There must be many axes; the whole
culture of the town depended on the steel-edged ax which
could fell trees and clear the forest for the planting of

[ 260 ]


bananas and manioc. If Litti the worker in iron had not
survived the raid — and Loa could not remember seeing
him today — some of his family and trade must still be
alive. They could make spearheads and axes; Loa scowled
a little as he thought that under pressure they could make
them much faster than they had done in the old happy-go-
lucky days. Most men could make bows, and the women
could be put to work braiding bowstrings. Somebody would
have to be detailed to make a fresh supply of arrow poison.
Loa turned back to Lanu to debate another new concep-
tion, that of the mobilization of the nation for war.

It was a deeply interesting discussion; the father and son
went on with it while darkness fell, and they hardly noticed
the passage of time. Only a sharp shower of rain eventually
broke into their deliberations, and made them seek shelter
in the house Loa had appropriated to himself. It was here
that Maku addressed them, herself wet and glistening after
running up the street in the rain.

"Musini sends a message to her Lord," she announced, at
the threshold.

"What is it?"

''Musini says" — the message did not come easily from
Maku's lips — "that now she lies awake. She lies with her
children beside her, hoping that perhaps Loa her Lord would
come and visit her."

Loa could not think on the spur of the moment how to
reply to such a remarkable request, so he temporized.

"Go back to Musini," he ordered, "and say that Loa will
consider the matter."

[ 261 ]


With Maku gone, Loa turned the notion over in his
mind. It was quite inconceivable that a god should walk
the length of the street merely to visit a wife in childbed.
He might look in upon her tomorrow if, as was to be ex-
pected, business regarding the reorganization of the town
led him that way. Musini would be up and about in a cou-
ple of days at most. Meanwhile she was of no use whatever
as a wife, incapable even of laying a plantain on a grid. But
on the other hand the rain had stopped, and there were a
few minutes left before complete darkness began. He could
step outside to stretch his legs after so much squatting. A
breath of air at least — Loa had not been under a roof for
a year, and it felt strange to him. Lanu followed him when
he rose and stretched and walked outside. Loa breathed with
pleasure the sudden coolness resulting from the rain and the
disappearance of the sun. The mud was soothing under his
bare toes.

"My mother is here," said Lanu suddenly, beside him.

Inside the house it was quite dark, as was to be expected,
but Musini had heard their approach.

"That is you. Lord," she said gladly. "I hoped you would

A thin wail arose from the dark interior, to be instantly
matched by another.

"See, Lord," went on Musini's voice. "Your children
greet you. They are fine boys, worthy of their father. Lord,
it was good of you to let them live. I — I did not want them
to die. Lord — no devil was the father of either of them.
There has been no thought in my mind but for you all this

[ 262 ]


time. You knew that, Lord, and so you spared them, the
children of my old age. Lord, I am grateful."

Musini's hand, reaching out in the darkness, found Lea's
knee. She stroked his calf and pressed his ankle eagerly.

"It is nothing," said Loa, but Musini continued fever-

"Lord, you have led us home. You have killed Soli. The
people put their faces to the ground before you again. You
will always eat your fill, and many women will attend to
your wants. But none of them were with you in the forest,
to find you white ants when you were hungry. None of
them pillowed your head when the rain fell and the light-
ning flashed, or listened for the tread of the little people
with you when all the forest was full of enemies. I have
shared all this with you. Perhaps you will never pay atten-
tion again to an old woman like me, but I have had what
no woman ever had before me or will ever have again, and
that will be mine for always. Never again shall I be able to
speak to you like this, Lord, but I have said what I wanted
to say. I am grateful. Lord."

It was a tactless speech to address to a god. Loa resented,
uncomfortably, being reminded of being hungry and of
being frightened by the lightning. Whatever Musini might
say, it was Loa who owed a debt of gratitude to Musini, and
that was not a pleasant thing to think about. Besides, it was
unconventional, to say the least, for a woman to speak her
mind to any man, let alone to him. Loa could remember
the days before the raiders came when Musini evinced a
shrewish sharpness that had not conduced to his dignity —

[ 263 ]


that in fact had nearly sent her to serve his ancestors — and
the fanatical possessiveness underlying her recent speech
warned him that the same thing might happen again, easily,
if similar circumstances ever arose. He must make sure that
they did not, that Musini's position as senior wife should be
so defined in future as to give her no such opportunity.

All this his brain or his instincts, his infinite experience
of wives, told him. He shied away from his love for Musini
as a wild animal shies away from a trap, and yet he was
moved inexpressibly by that urgent whisper, by the fever-
ish touch of the woman's hand upon him. He inclined more
and more towards melting, towards making a host of rash
promises. He had to summon up all his resolution to tear
himself away, to free himself from the magic hold this old
woman, his earliest wife, had upon him. He withdrew him-
self from her reach, yet even then did not have all the moral
strength necessary to end their relationship once and for
all. Instead he temporized again.

*'Sleep well, Musini," he said, with a kindly note that he
could not keep out of his voice. "Feed your children well,
and rest in peace."

Walking back from the house he was perturbed, a little
sore and resentful. But there was one easy way in which at
least he could forget Musini, there was one specific opiate
which could at least temporarily negative the sting of his

"Nadini!" he called as he approached his house.

"Lord, I come," said Nadini.

[ 264 ]



For a thousand years at least, perhaps for many thou-
sand years, the forest and its people had lain in torpor and
peace. There had been food for all who could survive dis-
ease and cannibalism; there had been room enough for all,
there had been materials enough to satisfy every simple
need, and there had been no urge, either economic or tem-
peramental, to wander or to expand. There prevailed an
equilibrium which was long enduring even though it bore
within itself the potentialities of instability, and it was the
Arab invasions, pushing southwards from the fringes of the
Sahara, westwards from the valley of the Nile and from
the coast opposite Zanzibar, which first destroyed the equi-
librium of the life in the deep central recesses of the forest.
On the Atlantic coast, where the great rivers met the sea,
the disturbance began somewhat earlier as a result of the
activities of Europeans. Hawkins on the Guinea Coast first
bought from local chieftains the victims who otherwise
would have gone to serve the chieftain's ancestors, and sold
them at a vast profit on the other side of the Atlantic. More
and more white men arrived, seeking gold and ivory and
slaves, and willing to pay for them with commodities of
inestimable desirability like spirits and brass and gunpow-
der; and the demand raised a turmoil far inland, for where

[ 265 ]


local supplies were exhausted the local chiefs soon learned
to make expeditions into the interior in search of more.
Soon there was no more gold; the supply of ivory died away
to the annual production when the accumulated reserves of
ages were dissipated; but the forest still bred slaves, and
slaves were sought at the cost of the ruin and the depopula-
tion of the coastal belt.

But no effect was evident in the deep interior of the for-
est. The cataracts on all the rivers, where they fall from the
central plateau, the vast extent of the forest, and, above all,
the desolation of the intermediate zone, hindered for a long
time the penetration of the deep interior either by the na-
tive chiefs of the coastal fringe or their white accomplices.
The Napoleonic wars delayed the inevitable penetration,
and when they ended the diminution and eventual suppres-
sion of the slave trade delayed it yet again. Towards the
coast the strains and stresses of the slave-raiding wars had
brought about the formation of powerful kingdoms — es-
pecially in the areas whither Mohammedan influence had
penetrated from the Sahara — which subsequently had to
be destroyed by the Europeans to gain for themselves free
passage beyond them. The Hausa empire, Dahomey,
Ashanti, and innumerable other native states, rose and later
fell, built upon a foundation of barbarism cemented by
European and Moslem influences. In the same way the in-
trusion of the Arabs from the east set the central part of
the forest in a turmoil, so that war raged and no man's life
was safe in his own town; and these developments occurred
at the moment when Arab influence ebbed away as a result

[ 266 ]


of events elsewhere, leaving the central forest disturbed and
yet not further disturbed; as if the highest wave had swept
the beach and none of its successors ever reached as high.

And so Loa was able to build up his little empire undis-
turbed. Those moments of vision — blurred though the vi-
sion might be — of his first conversation with Lanu were
never succeeded by anything comparable, and yet they
proved to be all that was necessary. There can have been
few statesmen in the world who have ever carried out so
completely a scheme conceived at the beginning of their
careers. As time went on, Loa saw every step of his vague
plan carried through. He saw Lanu develop from a lively
thoughtful boy to a bloody-minded warrior. The raiding
parties that Lanu led rarely if ever came back empty-
handed. There was the first notable occasion when, having
set out on foot, he returned by water, with his men in three
big canoes paddled by prisoners. He landed on the river-
bank, naturally, at the practicable beach below the site of
the vanished town which Nasa, thirty years before, with
less vision than Loa, had utterly destroyed. Equally natu-
rally there grew up on the site in time a new little town, the
port of Loa's capital, populated largely by the captives
taken in the various raids; for Loa, partly from necessary
policy, and partly from something resembling good nature,
did not send all his prisoners to serve his ancestors.

Sometimes he was ferocious and terrible. There were days
when the ceremonial ax was hard at work, when his own
people and not merely the slaves spoke with hushed voices

[ 267 ]


in fear lest upon them should fall Loa's choice, when from
the grove which sprang up in the accursed spot at the far
end of the town there came the shrieks of men and women
in agony. But this happened only when Loa's instincts told
him it was time to assert his majesty afresh, for often pris-
oners were too valuable to be sacrificed when they could be
incorporated into his own population, as wives for his men
or as skilled workmen for his enterprises; and the children
could soon be trained into devoted soldiers and subjects.
Skilled slave labor built for him the canoe fleet that swept
the whole long reach of the river between the rapids; cap-
tives taught his men how to handle paddles; and captives,
in addition, actually manned the paddles in great part — it
did not take long to convert, by plunder and victory, the
slave of yesterday into the enthusiastic warrior of today.
Lanu, having led armies from boyhood, soon became a
skilled and then a famous warrior, and as the years went by
his much younger twin brothers began to make a name for
themselves as soldiers too, but the ultimate power was

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