Read CHAPTER V - A FRONTIER AND A CODE of Bones Being Further Adventures in Mr. Commissioner Sanders' Country , free online book, by Edgar Wallace, on

To understand this story you must know that at one point of Ochori borderline, the German, French, and Belgian territories shoot three narrow tongues that form, roughly, the segments of a half-circle.  Whether the German tongue is split in the middle by N’glili River, so that it forms a flattened broad arrow, with the central prong the river is a moot point.  We, in Downing Street, claim that the lower angle of this arrow is wholly ours, and that all the flat basin of the Field of Blood (as they call it) is entitled to receive the shadow which a flapping Union Jack may cast.

If Downing Street were to send that frantic code-wire to “Polonius” to Hamilton in these days he could not obey the instructions, for reasons which I will give.  As a matter of fact the code has now been changed, Lieutenant Tibbetts being mainly responsible for the alteration.

Hamilton, in his severest mood, wrote a letter to Bones, and it is worth reproducing.

That Bones was living a dozen yards from Captain Hamilton, and that they shared a common mess-table, adds rather than distracts from the seriousness of the correspondence.  The letter ran: 

                “The Residency,
                    “September 24th.

     “From Officer commanding Houssas detachment Headquarters, to
     Officer commanding “B” company of Houssas.

     “Sir, ­

“I have the honour to direct your attention to that paragraph of King’s regulations which directs that an officer’s sole attention should be concentrated upon executing the lawful commands of his superior.

“I have had occasion recently to correct a certain tendency on your part to employing War Department property and the servants of the Crown for your own special use.  I need hardly point out to you that such conduct on your part is subversive to discipline and directly contrary to the spirit and letter of regulations.  More especially would I urge the impropriety of utilizing government telegraph lines for the purpose of securing information regarding your gambling transactions.  Matters have now reached a very serious crisis, and I feel sure that you will see the necessity for refraining from these breaches of discipline.

          “I have the honour to be, sir,
               “Your obedient servant,
                    “P.  G. Hamilton, ‘Captain.’”

When two white men, the only specimen of their race and class within a radius of hundreds of miles, are living together in an isolated post, they either hate or tolerate one another.  The exception must always be found in two men of a similar service having similar objects to gain, and infused with a common spirit of endeavour.

Fortunately neither Lieutenant Tibbetts nor his superior were long enough associated to get upon one another’s nerves.

Lieutenant Tibbetts received this letter while he was shaving, and came across the parade ground outrageously attired in his pyjamas and his helmet.  Clambering up the wooden stairs, his slippers flap-flapping across the broad verandah, he burst into the chief’s bedroom, interrupting a stern and frigid Captain Hamilton in the midst of his early morning coffee and roll.

“Look here, old sport,” said Bones, indignantly waving a frothy shaving brush at the other, “what the dooce is all this about?”

He displayed a crumpled letter.

“Lieutenant Tibbetts,” said Hamilton of the Houssas severely, “have you no sense of decency?”

“Sense of decency, my dear old thing!” repeated Bones.  “I am simply full of it.  That is why I have come.”

A terrible sight was Bones at that early hour with the open pyjama jacket showing his scraggy neck, with his fish mouth drooping dismally, his round, staring eyes and his hair rumpled up, one frantic tuft at the back standing up in isolation.

Hamilton stared at him, and it was the stern stare of a disciplinarian.  But Bones was not to be put out of countenance by so small a thing as an icy glance.

“There is no sense in getting peevish with me, old Ham,” he said, squatting down on the nearest chair; “this is what I call a stupid, officious, unnecessary letter.  Why this haughtiness?  Why these crushing inferences?  Why this unkindness to poor old Bones?”

“The fact of it is, Bones,” said Hamilton, accepting the situation, “you are spending too much of your time in the telegraph station.”

Bones got up slowly.

“Captain Hamilton, sir!” he said reproachfully, “after all I have done for you.”

“Beyond selling me one of your beastly sweepstake tickets for five shillings,” said Hamilton, unpleasantly; “a ticket which I dare say you have taken jolly good care will not win a prize, I fail to see in what manner you have helped me.  Now, Bones, you will have to pay more attention to your work.  There is no sense in slacking; we will have Sanders back here before we know where we are, and when he starts nosing round there will be a lot of trouble.  Besides, you are shirking.”

“Me!” gasped Bones, outraged.  “Me ­shirking?  You forget yourself, sir!”

Even Bones could not be dignified with a lather brush in one hand and a half-shaven cheek, testifying to the hastiness of his departure from his quarters.

“I only wish to say, sir,” said Bones, “that during the period I have had the honour to serve under your command I have settled possibly more palavers of a distressingly ominous character than the average Commissioner is called upon to settle in the course of a year.”

“As you have created most of the palavers yourself,” said Hamilton unkindly, “I do not deny this.  In other words, you have got yourself into more tangles, and you’ve had to crawl out more often.”

“It is useless appealing to your better nature, sir,” said Bones.

He saluted with the hand that held the lather brush, turned about like an automaton, tripped over the mat, recovered himself with an effort, and preserving what dignity a man can preserve in pink-striped pyjamas and a sun helmet, stalked majestically back to his quarters.  Half-way across he remembered something and came doubling back, clattering into Hamilton’s room unceremoniously.

“There is one thing I forgot to say,” he said, “about those sweepstake tickets.  If I happen to be killed on any future expedition that you may send me, you will understand that the whole of my moveable property is yours, absolutely.  And I may add, sir,” he said at the doorway with one hand on the lintel ready to execute a strategic flank movement out of range, “that with this legacy I offer you my forgiveness for the perfectly beastly time you have given me.  Good morning, sir.”

There was a commanding officer’s parade of Houssas at noon.  It was not until he stalked across the square and clicked his heels together as he reported the full strength of his company present that Hamilton saw his subordinate again.

The parade over, Bones went huffily to his quarters.

He was hurt.  To be told he had been shirking his duty touched a very tender and sensitive spot of his.

In preparation for the movement which he had expected to make he had kept his company on the move for a fortnight.  For fourteen terrible days in all kinds of weather, he had worked like a native in the forest; with sham fights and blank cartridge attacks upon imaginary positions, with scaling of stockades and building of bridges ­all work at which his soul revolted ­to be told at the end he had shirked his work!

Certainly he had come down to headquarters more often perhaps than was necessary, but then he was properly interested in the draw of a continental sweepstake which might, with any kind of luck, place him in the possession of a considerable fortune.  Hamilton was amiable at lunch, even communicative at dinner, and for him rather serious.

For if the truth be told he was desperately worried.  The cause was, as it had often been with Sanders, that French-German-Belgian territory which adjoins the Ochori country.  All the bad characters, not only the French of the Belgian Congo, but of the badly-governed German lands ­all the tax resisters, the murderers, and the criminals of every kind, but the lawless contingents of every nation, formed a floating nomadic population in the tree-covered hills which lay beyond the country governed by Bosambo.

Of late there had been a larger break-away than usual.  A strong force of rebellious natives was reported to be within a day’s march of the Ochori boundary.  This much Hamilton knew.  But he had known of such occurrences before; not once, but a score of times had alarming news come from the French border.

He had indeed made many futile trips into the heart of the Ochori country.

Forced marches through little known territory, and long and tiring waits for the invader that never came, had dulled his senses of apprehension.  He had to take a chance.  The Administrator’s office would warn him from time to time, and ask him conventionally to make his arrangements to meet all contingencies and Sanders would as conventionally reply that the condition of affairs on the Ochori border was engaging his most earnest attention.

“What is the use of worrying about it now?” asked Bones at dinner.

Hamilton shook his head.

“There was a certain magic in old Sanders’ name,” he said.

Bones’ lips pursed.

“My dear old chap,” he said, “there is a bit of magic in mine.”

“I have not noticed it,” said Hamilton.

“I am getting awfully popular as a matter of fact,” said Bones complacently.  “The last time I was up the river, Bosambo came ten miles down stream to meet me and spend the day.”

“Did you lose anything?” asked Hamilton ungraciously.

Bones thought.

“Now you come to mention it,” he said slowly, “I did lose quite a lot of things, but dear old Bosambo wouldn’t play a dirty trick on a pal.  I know Bosambo.”

“If there is one thing more evident than another,” said Hamilton, “it is that you do not know Bosambo.”

Hamilton was wakened at three in the next morning by the telegraph operator.  It was a “clear the line” message, coded from headquarters, and half awake he went into Sanders’ study and put it into plain English.

“Hope you are watching the Ochori border,” it ran, “representations from French Government to the effect that a crossing is imminent.”

He pulled his mosquito boots on over his pyjamas, struggled into a coat and crossed to Lieutenant Tibbetts’ quarters.

Bones occupied a big hut at the end of the Houssa lines, and Hamilton woke him by the simple expedient of flashing his electric hand lamp in his face.

“I have had a telegram,” he said, and Bones leapt out of bed wide awake in an instant.

“I knew jolly well I would draw a horse,” he said exultantly.  “I had a dream ­”

“Be serious, you feather-minded devil.”

With that Hamilton handed him the telegram.

Bones read it carefully, and interpreted any meanings into its construction which it could not possibly bear.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“There is only one thing to do,” said Hamilton.  “We shall have to take all the men we can possibly muster, and go north at daybreak.”

“Spoken like a jolly old Hannibal,” said Bones heartily, and smacked his superior on the back.  A shrill bugle call aroused the sleeping lines, and Hamilton went back to his quarters to make preparations for the journey.  In the first grey light of dawn he flew three pigeons to Bosambo, and the message they carried about their red legs was brief.

“Take your fighting regiments to the edge of Frenchi land; presently I will come with my soldiers and support you.  Let no foreigner pass on your life and on your head.”

When the rising sun tipped the tops of the palms with gold, and the wild world was filled with the sound of the birds, the Zaïre, her decks alive with soldiers, began her long journey northward.

Just before the boat left, Hamilton received a further message from the Administrator.  It was in plain English, some evidence of Sir Robert Sanleigh’s haste.

     “Confidential:  This matter on the Ochori border extremely delicate. 
     Complete adequate arrangements to keep in touch with me.”

For one moment Hamilton conceived the idea of leaving Bones behind to deal with the telegram and come along.  A little thought, however, convinced him of the futility of this method.  For one thing he would want every bit of assistance he could get, and although Bones had his disadvantages he was an excellent soldier, and a loyal and gallant comrade.

It might be necessary for Hamilton to divide up his forces; in which case he could hardly dispense with Lieutenant Tibbetts, and he explained unnecessarily to Bones: 

“I think you are much better under my eye where I can see what you’re doing.”

“Sir,” said Bones very seriously, “it is not what I do, it is what I think.  If you could only see my brain at work ­”

“Ha, ha!” said Hamilton rudely.

For at least three days relations were strained between the two officers.  Bones was a man who admitted at regular intervals that he was unduly sensitive.  He had explained this disadvantage to Hamilton at various times, but the Houssa stolidly refused to remember the fact.

Most of the way up the river Hamilton attended to his business navigation ­he knew the stream very well ­whilst Bones, in a cabin which had been rigged up for him in the after part of the ship, played Patience, and by a systematic course of cheating himself was able to accomplish marvels.  They found the Ochori city deserted save for a strong guard, for Bosambo had marched the day previous; sending a war call through the country.

He had started with a thousand spears, and his force was growing in snowball fashion as he progressed through the land.  The great road which Notiki, the northern chief, had started by way of punishment was beginning to take shape.  Bosambo had moved with incredible swiftness.

Too swift, indeed, for a certain Angolian-Congo robber who had headed a villainous pilgrimage to a land which, as he had predicted, flowed with milk and honey; was guarded by timorous men and mainly populated by slim and beautiful maidens.  The Blue Books on this migration gave this man’s name as Kisini, but he was in fact an Angolian named Bizaro ­a composite name which smacks suspiciously of Portuguese influence.

Many times had the unruly people and the lawless bands which occupied the forest beyond the Ochori threatened to cross into British territory.  But the dangers of the unknown, the awful stories of a certain white lord who was swift to avenge and monstrously inquisitive had held them.  Year after year there had grown up tribes within tribes, tiny armed camps that had only this in common, that they were outside the laws from which they had fled, and that somewhere to the southward and the eastward were strong forces flying the tricolour of France or the yellow star of the Belgian Congo, ready to belch fire at them, if they so much as showed their flat noses.

It would have needed a Napoleon to have combined all the conflicting forces, to have lulled all the mutual suspicions, and to have moulded these incompatible particles into a whole; but, Bizaro, like many another vain and ambitious man, had sought by means of a great palaver to produce a feeling of security sufficiently soothing to the nerves and susceptibilities of all elements, to create something like a nationality of these scattered remnants of the nations.

And though he failed, he did succeed in bringing together four or five of the camps, and it was this news carried to the French Governor by spies, transmitted to Downing Street, and flashed back again to the Coast, which set Hamilton and his Houssas moving; which brought a regiment of the King’s African Rifles to the Coast ready to reinforce the earlier expedition, and which (more to the point) had put Bosambo’s war drums rumbling from one end of the Ochori to the other.

Bizaro, mustering his force, came gaily through the sun-splashed aisles of the forest, his face streaked hideously with camwood, his big elephant spear twirled between his fingers, and behind him straggled his cosmopolitan force.

There were men from the Congo and the French Congo; men from German lands; from Angola; wanderers from far-off Barotseland, who had drifted on to the Congo by the swift and yellow Kasai.  There were hunters from the forests of far-off Bongindanga where the okapi roams.  For each man’s presence in that force there was good and sinister reason, for these were no mere tax-evaders, poor, starved wretches fleeing from the rule which Bula Matadi imposed.  There was a blood price on almost every head, and in a dozen prisons at Boma, at Brazaville, and Equatorville, and as far south as St. Paul de Loduda, there were leg-irons which had at some time or other fitted their scarred ankles.

Now there are four distinct physical features which mark the border line between the border land and the foreign territory.  Mainly the line is a purely imaginary one, not traceable save by the most delicate instruments ­a line which runs through a tangle of forest.

But the most noticeable crossing place is N’glili.

Here a little river, easily fordable, and not more than a dozen spear lengths across flows from one wood into another.  Between the two woods is a clear space of thick grass and shrub.  In the spring of the year the banks of the stream are white with arum-lilies, and the field beyond, at a later period, is red with wild anemone.

The dour fugitives on the other side of the stream have a legend that those who safely cross the “Field of Blood” ­so they call the anemone-sprinkled land beyond ­without so much as crushing a flower may claim sanctuary under the British flag.

So that when Bizaro sighted the stream, and the two tall trees that flanked the ford, from afar off and said:  “To-day we will walk between the flowers,” he was signifying the definite character of his plans.

“Master,” said one of the more timid of his muster, when they had halted for a rest in sight of the promised land, “what shall we do when we come to these strange places?”

“We shall defeat all manner of men,” said Bizaro optimistically.  “Afterwards they shall come and sue for peace, and they shall give us a wide land where we may build us huts and sow our corn.  And they also will give us women, and we shall settle in comfort, and I will be chief over you.  And, growing with the moons, in time I shall make you a great nation.”

They might have crossed the stream that evening and committed themselves irrevocably to their invasion.  Bizaro was a criminal, and a lazy man, and he decided to sleep where he was ­an act fatal to the smooth performance of his enterprise, for when in the early hours of the morning he marched his horde to the N’glili river he found two thousand spears lining the opposite bank, and they were under a chief who was at once insolent and unmoved by argument.

“O chief,” said Bosambo pleasantly, “you do not cross my beautiful flowers to-day.”

“Lord,” said Bizaro humbly, “we are poor men who desire a new land.”

“That you shall have,” said Bosambo grimly, “for I have sent my warriors to dig big holes wherein you may take your rest in this land you desire.”

An unhappy Bizaro carried his six hundred spears slowly back to the land from whence he had come and found on return to the mixed tribes that he had unconsciously achieved a miracle.  For the news of armed men by the N’glili river carried terror to these evil men ­they found themselves between two enemies and chose the force which they feared least.

On the fourth day following his interview with Bosambo, Bizaro led five thousand desperate men to the ford and there was a sanguinary battle which lasted for the greater part of the morning and was repeated at sundown.

Hamilton brought his Houssas up in the nick of time, when one wing of Bosambo’s force was being thrust back and when Bizaro’s desperate adventurers had gained the Ochori bank.  Hamilton came through the clearing, and formed his men rapidly.

Sword in hand, in advance of the glittering bayonets, Bones raced across the red field, and after one brief and glorious melee the invader was driven back, and a dropping fire from the left, as the Houssas shot steadily at the flying enemy, completed the disaster to Bizaro’s force.

“That settles that!” said Hamilton.

He had pitched his camp on the scene of his exploit, the bivouac fires of the Houssas gleamed redly amongst the anémones.

“Did you see me in action?” asked Bones, a little self-consciously.

“No, I didn’t notice anything particularly striking about the fight in your side of the world,” said Hamilton.

“I suppose you did not see me bowl over a big Congo chap?” asked Bones, carelessly, as he opened a tin of preserved tongue.  “Two at once I bowled over,” he repeated.

“What do you expect me to do?” asked Hamilton unpleasantly.  “Get up and cheer, or recommend you for the Victoria Cross or something?”

Bones carefully speared a section of tongue from the open tin before he replied.

“I had not thought about the Victoria Cross, to tell you the truth,” he admitted; “but if you feel that you ought to recommend me for something or other for conspicuous courage in the face of the enemy, do not let your friendship stand in the way.”

“I will not,” said Hamilton.

There was a little pause, then without raising his eyes from the task in hand which was at that precise moment the covering of a biscuit with a large and generous layer of marmalade, Bones went on.

“I practically saved the life of one of Bosambo’s headmen.  He was on the ground and three fellows were jabbing at him.  The moment they saw me they dropped their spears and fled.”

“I expect it was your funny nose that did the trick,” said Hamilton unimpressed.

“I stood there,” Bones went on loftily ignoring the gratuitous insult, “waiting for anything that might turn up; exposed, dear old fellow, to every death-dealing missile, but calmly directing, if you will allow me to say so, the tide of battle.  It was,” he added modestly, “one of the bravest deeds I ever saw.”

He waited, but Hamilton had his mouth full of tongue sandwich.

“If you mention me in dispatches,” Bones went on suggestively.

“Don’t worry ­I shan’t,” said Hamilton.

“But if you did,” persisted Lieutenant Tibbetts, poising his sticky biscuit, “I can only say ­”

“The marmalade is running down your sleeve,” said Hamilton; “shut up, Bones, like a good chap.”

Bones sighed.

“The fact of it is, Hamilton,” he was frank enough to say, “I have been serving so far without hope of reward and scornful of honour, but now I have reached the age and the position in life where I feel I am entitled to some slight recognition to solace my declining years.”

“How long have you been in the army?” asked Hamilton, curiously.

“Eighteen months,” replied Bones; “nineteen months next week, and it’s a jolly long time, I can tell you, sir.”

Leaving his dissatisfied subordinate, Hamilton made the round of the camp.  The red field, as he called it, was in reality a low-lying meadow, which rose steeply to the bank of the river on the one side and more steeply ­since it first sloped downward in that direction ­to the Ochori forest, two miles away.  He made this discovery with a little feeling of alarm.  He knew something of native tactics, and though his scouts had reported that the enemy was effectually routed, and that the nearest body was five miles away, he put a strong advance picquet on the other side of the river, and threw a wide cordon of sentries about the camp.  Especially he apportioned Abiboo, his own sergeant, the task of watching the little river which flowed swiftly between its orderly banks past the sunken camp.  For two days Abiboo watched and found nothing to report.

Not so the spies who were keeping watch upon the moving remnants of Bizaro’s army.

They came with the news that the main body had mysteriously disappeared.  To add to Hamilton’s anxiety he received a message by way of headquarters and the Ochori city from the Administrator.

“Be prepared at the first urgent message from myself to fall back on the Ochori city.  German Government claim that whole of country for two miles north of river N’glili is their territory.  Most delicate situation.  International complications feared.  Rely on your discretion, but move swiftly if you receive orders.”

“Leave this to me,” said Bones when Hamilton read the message out; “did I ever tell you, sir, that I was intended for the diplomatic service ­”

The truth about the Ochori border has never been thoroughly exposed.  If you get into your mind the fact that the Imperialists of four nations were dreaming dreams of a trans-African railway which was to tap the resources of the interior, and if you remember that each patriotic dreamer conceived a different kind of railway according to his nationality and that they only agreed upon one point, namely, that the line must point contiguous with the Ochori border, you may understand dimly some reason for the frantic claim that that little belt of territory, two miles wide, was part of the domain of each and every one of the contestants.

When the news was flashed to Europe that a party of British Houssas were holding the banks of the N’glili river, and had inflicted a loss upon a force of criminals, the approval which civilization should rightly have bestowed upon Captain Hamilton and his heroic lieutenant was tempered largely by the question as to whether Captain Hamilton and his Houssas had any right whatever to be upon “the red field.”  And in consequence the telegraph lines between Berlin and Paris and Paris and London and London and Brussels were kept fairly busy with passionate statements of claims couched in the stilted terminology of diplomacy.

England could not recede from the position she had taken.  This she said in French and in German, and in her own perfidious tongue.  She stated this uncompromisingly, but at the same time sent secret orders to withdraw the force that was the bone of contention.  This order she soon countermanded.  A certain speech delivered by a too voluble Belgian minister was responsible for the stiffening of her back, and His Excellency the Administrator of the territory received official instructions in the middle of the night:  “Tell Hamilton to stay where he is and hold border against all comers.”

This message was re-transmitted.

Now there is in existence in the British Colonial Service, and in all branches which affect the agents and the servants of the Colonial Office, an emergency code which is based upon certain characters in Shakespearean plays.

I say “there is”; perhaps it would be better and more to the point if I said “there was,” since the code has been considerably amended.

Thus, be he sub-inspector or commissioner, or chief of local native police who receives the word “Ophelia,” he knows without consulting any book that “Ophelia” means “unrest of natives reported in your district, please report”; or if it be “Polonius” it signifies to him ­and this he knows without confirming his knowledge ­that he must move steadily forward.  Or if it be “Banquo” he reads into it, “Hold your position till further orders.”  And “Banquo” was the word that the Administrator telegraphed.

Sergeant Abiboo had sat by the flowing N’glili river without noticing any slackening of its strength or challenging of its depth.

There was reason for this.

Bizaro, who was in the forest ten miles to the westward, and working moreover upon a piece of native strategy which natives the world over had found successful, saw that it was unnecessary to dam the river and divert the stream.

Nature had assisted him to a marvellous degree.  He had followed the stream through the forest until he reached a place where it was a quarter of a mile wide, so wide and so newly spread that the water reached half-way up the trunks of the sodden and dying trees.

Moreover, there was a bank through which a hundred men might cut a breach in a day or so, even though they went about their work most leisurely, being constitutionally averse to manual labour.

Bizaro was no engineer, but he had all the forest man’s instincts of water-levels.  There was a clear run down to the meadows beyond that, as he said, he “smelt.”

“We will drown these dogs,” he said to his headman, “and afterwards we will walk into the country and take it for our own.”

Hamilton had been alive to the danger of such an attack.  He saw by certain indications of the soil that this great shallow valley had been inundated more than once, though probably many years had passed since the last overflow of water.  Yet he could not move from where he had planted himself without risking the displeasure of his chief and without also risking very serious consequences in other directions.

Bosambo, frankly bored, was all for retiring his men to the comforts of the Ochori city.

“Lord, why do we sit here?” he asked, “looking at this little stream which has no fish and at this great ugly country, when I have my beautiful city for your lordship’s reception, and dancing folk and great feasts?”

“A doocid sensible idea,” murmured Bones.

“I wait for a book,” answered Hamilton shortly.  “If you wish to go, you may take your soldiers and leave me.”

“Lord,” said Bosambo, “you put shame on me,” and he looked his reproach.

“I am really surprised at you, Hamilton,” murmured Bones.

“Keep your infernal comments to yourself,” snapped his superior.  “I tell you I must wait for my instructions.”

He was a silent man for the rest of the evening, and had settled himself down in his canvas chair to doze away the night, when a travel-stained messenger came from the Ochori and he brought a telegram of one word.

Hamilton looked at it, he looked too with a frown at the figures that preceded it.

“And what you mean,” he muttered, “the Lord knows!”

The word, however, was sufficiently explicit.  A bugle call brought the Houssas into line and the tapping of Bosambo’s drums assembled his warriors.

Within half an hour of the receipt of the message Hamilton’s force was on the move.

They crossed the great stretch of meadow in the darkness and were climbing up towards the forest when a noise like thunder broke upon their ears.

Such a roaring, crashing, hissing of sound came nearer and nearer, increasing in volume every second.  The sky was clear, and one swift glance told Hamilton that it was not a storm he had to fear.  And then it came upon him, and he realized what this commotion meant.

“Run!” he cried, and with one accord naked warriors and uniformed Houssas fled through the darkness to the higher ground.  The water came rushing about Hamilton’s ankles, one man slipped back again into the flood and was hauled out again by Bones, exclaiming loudly his own act lest it should have escaped the attention of his superior, and the party reached safety without the loss of a man.

“Just in time,” said Hamilton grimly.  “I wonder if the Administrator knew this was going to happen?”

They came to the Ochori by easy marches, and Hamilton wrote a long wire to headquarters sending it on ahead by a swift messenger.

It was a dispatch which cleared away many difficulties, for the disputed territory was for everlasting under water, and where the “red field” had blazed brilliantly was a calm stretch of river two miles wide filled with strange silent brown objects that floated and bobbed to the movement of the tide.  These were the men who in their folly had loosened the waters and died of their rashness.  Most notable of these was Bizaro.

There was a shock waiting for Hamilton when he reached the Ochori city.  The wire from the Administrator was kindly enough and sufficiently approving to satisfy even an exigent Bones.  “But,” it ran, “why did you retire in face of stringent orders to remain?  I wired you ‘Banquo.’”

Hamilton afterwards learnt that the messenger carrying this important dispatch had passed his party in their retirement through the forest.

“Banquo,” quoted Hamilton in amazement.  “I received absolute instructions to retire.”

“Hard cheese,” said Bones, sympathetically.  “His dear old Excellency wants a good talking to; but are you sure, dear old chap, that you haven’t made a mistake.”

“Here it is,” he said, “but I must confess that I don’t understand the numbers.”

He handed it to Bones.  It read: 

“Mercutio 17178.”

Bones looked at it a moment, then gasped.  He reached out his hand solemnly and grasped that of the astounded Hamilton.

“Dear old fellow,” he said in a broken voice, “Congratulate me, I have drawn a runner!”

“A runner?”

“A runner, dear old sport,” chortled Bones, “in the Cambridgeshire!  You see I’ve got a ticket number seventeen, seventeen eight in my pocket, dear old friend!  If Mercutio wins,” he repeated solemnly, “I will stand you the finest dinner that can be secured this side of Romano’s.”