Read CHAPTER IX - THE GREEN CROCODILE of Bones Being Further Adventures in Mr. Commissioner Sanders' Country , free online book, by Edgar Wallace, on

Cala cala, as they say, seven brothers lived near the creek of the Green One.  It was not called the creek of the Green One in those far-off days, for the monstrous thing had no existence.

And the seven brothers had seven wives who were sisters, and it would appear from the legend that these seven wives were unfaithful to their husbands, and upon a certain night in the full of the moon, the brothers returning from an expedition into the forest, discovered the extent of their infamy, and they tied the sisters together, the wrists of one to the ankles of the other, and they led them to the stream, and no sooner had they disappeared beneath the black waters than there was almighty splashing and bubbling of water, and there came crawling from the place where the unfaithful wives had sunk so terrible a monster that the seven brothers fled in fear.

This was the Green One, with his long ugly snout, cold, vicious eyes, and his great clawed feet.  Some say that these women had been changed by magic into the Crocodile of the Pool, and many people believe this and speak of the Green One in the plural.

Certain it is, that this terrible crocodile lived through the ages ­none hunting her, she was left in indisputable possession of the flat sand-bank wherein to lay her eggs, and ranged the sandy shore of the creek undisturbed.

She was regarded with awe; sacrifices, living and dead, were offered to her from time to time, and sometimes a cripple or two was knocked on the head and left by the water’s edge for her pleasure.  She was indeed a veritable scavenger of crime for the neighbouring villages about, and earned some sort of respect, for, as the saying went: 

“Sandi does not speak the language of the Green One.”

Sometimes M’zooba would go afield, leaving the quietude of the creek and the pool, which was her own territory, for the more adventurous life of the river, and here one day she lay, the whole of her body submerged and only her wicked eyes within an eighth of an inch of the water’s surface, when a timorous young roebuck came picking a cautious way through the forest across the open plantations to the water’s edge.  He stopped from time to time apprehensively, trembling in every limb at the slightest sound, looking this way and that, then taking a few more steps and again searching the cruel world for danger before he reached the water’s edge.

Then, after a final look round, he lowered his soft muzzle to the cool waters.  Swift as lightning the Green One flashed her long snout out of the water, and gripped the tender head of the buck.  Ruthlessly she pulled, dragging the struggling deer after her till first its neck and then its shoulders, then finally the last frantic waving stump of its white tail went under the dark waters.

Out in midstream a white little boat was moving steadily up the river and on the awning-shaded bridge an indignant young man witnessed the tragedy.  The Green One had her larder under a large shelving rock half a dozen feet beneath the water.  Into this cavity her long hard nose flung her dead victim, and her four powerful hands covered the entrance to the water cave with sand and rock.  More than satisfied with her morning’s work, the Green One came to the surface of the water to bask in the glowing warmth of the morning sunlight.

She took a survey upon the world, made up of low-lying shores and a hot blue sky.  She saw a river, broad and oily, and a strange white object which she had seen often before smoking towards her.

And that was the last thing she ever saw; for Bones, on the bridge of the Zaïre, squinted along the sights of his Express and pressed the trigger.  Struck in the head by an explosive bullet, the Green One went out in a flurry of stormy water.

“Thus perish all rotten old crocodiles,” said Bones, immensely pleased with himself, and he placed the rifle on the rack.

“What the devil are you shooting at, so early in the morning?” asked Hamilton.

He came out in his pyjamas, sun helmet on his head, pliant mosquito boots reaching to his knees.

“A crocodile, sir,” said Bones.

“Why waste good ammunition on crocodiles?” asked Hamilton; “was it something exceptional?”

“A tremendous chap, sir,” said the enthusiastic Bones, “some fifty feet long, and as green as ­”

“As green!” repeated Hamilton quickly, “where are we?”

He looked with a swift glance along the shore for landmarks.

“I hope to goodness you have not shot old M’zooba,” he said.

“I don’t know your friend by name,” said Bones, “but why shouldn’t I shoot him?”

“Because, you silly ass,” said Hamilton, “she is a sort of sacred crocodile.”

“She was never so sacred as she is now, sir, for: 

“She’s flapping her wings in the crocodile heaven,” said Bones, flippantly; “for I’m one of those dead shots ­once I draw a bead on an animal ­”

“Get out a canoe and set the woodmen to dive for the Green One,” said Hamilton to his orderly, for a shot crocodile invariably sinks to the bottom and can only be recovered by diving.

They brought it to the surface, and Hamilton groaned.

“It is M’zooba,” he said in resigned exasperation.  “Oh, Bones, what an ass you are!”

Bones said nothing, but walked to the stern of the ship and lowered the blue ensign to half-mast ­a piece of impertinence which Hamilton did not discover till a long time afterwards.

Now whatever might be the desire or wish of Hamilton, and however much he might on ordinary occasions depend upon the loyalty of his warders and his men, in this matter of the green crocodile he was entirely at their mercy, for he could not call them together asking them to speak no death of the Green One without magnifying the importance of Lieutenant Tibbetts’ rash act.  The only attitude he could adopt was to treat the Green One and her untimely end as something which was in the day’s work neither to be lamented nor acclaimed, and when, at the first village, a doleful deputation, comprising a worried chief and a sulky witch doctor, called upon him to bemoan the tragedy, he treated the matter with great joviality.

“For what is a crocodile more or less in this river?” he asked.

“Lord, this was no crocodile,” said the witch doctor, “but a very reverend ghost, and it has been our Ju-ju for many years, bringing us good crops and fair weather for our goodness, and has eaten up all the devils and sickness which came to our villages.  Now it is gone nothing but ill fortune can come to us.”

“Bugobo,” said Hamilton, “you talk like a foolish one, for how may a crocodile who does not leave the water, and moreover is evil and old, a stealer of women and children and dangerous to your goats, how can this thing bring good fortune to any people?”

“How can the river run, lord?” replied the man, “and yet it does.”

Hamilton thought for a moment.

“Now I tell you this, and you shall say to all people who ask you, that by my magic I will bring another green one to this stream, greater and larger than the one who has gone, and she shall be ju-ju for all men.”

“And now,” he said to Bones, when the deputation had left, “it is up to you to go out and find a nice, respectable crocodile to take the place of the lady you have so light-heartedly destroyed.”

Bones gasped.

“Dear old feller,” he said feebly, “the habits and customs of fauna of this land are entirely beyond me.  I will fetch you a crocodile, sir, with the greatest of pleasure, although as far as I know there is nothing laid down in the King’s regulations of the warrants for pay and promotion defining the catching of crocodiles as part of an officer’s duty.”

Hamilton made no further move towards replacing the lost Spirit of the Pool until he learnt that his offer had been taken very seriously, and that the coming of the great new Green One to the pool, was a subject of discussion up and down the river.

Now here is a fact which official records go to substantiate.  Although the “Reports of the Territories” take no cognizance of ghosts and spirits and other occult influence, dealing rather with such mundane facts as the condition of crops and the discipline of the races, yet the reports of that particular year in this one district made gloomy reading both for Hamilton and for the Administrator in his far-off stone house.

Though the crops throughout the whole of the country were good that Hamilton was apprehensive about the consequences ­for men fight better with a full larder behind them ­yet in this immediate neighbourhood of the pool, within its sphere of influence, so to speak, the crops failed miserably, and the fish which haunt the shallow stream beneath the big stream near the channel took it into their silly heads to migrate to other distant waters.  Here, then, was the consequence of Bones’ murder demonstrated to a most alarming extent.  There was a blight in the potatoes; the maize crop, for some unaccountable reason, was a meagre one; there were three unexpected cases of sleeping sickness followed by madness in an interior village, and, crowning disaster of all, one of those sudden storms which sweep across the river came upon the village, and lightning struck the huts.

“My son,” said Hamilton, when they brought the news to him, “you have got to go out and find a green crocodile, quick.”

So Bones went up the river with the naphtha launch, leaving to Hamilton the delicate task of finding a natural explanation for all the horrors which had come upon the unfortunate people.

Green crocodiles are rare even on the great river which had half a million other kinds of crocodiles to its credit, for green is both a sign of age, and by common report indicative of cannibalistic tendencies.

In whatever veneration the Green One of the Pool might be held, such respect did not extend to other parts of the river, where the green ones were sought out and slain in their early youth.  Bones spent an exciting seven days chasing, lassoing and, at tunes in self-defence, shooting at great reptiles without getting any nearer to the object of his search.

“Ahmet,” said he, in despair, “it seems that there are no green crocodiles on this river.”

“Lord, there are very few,” admitted the man; “for the people kill green crocodiles owing to their evil influence.”

At every village there was news for Bones which lightened his heart.  Some one had seen such a monster, it lived in a pool or lorded some creek, generally only get-at-able in a canoe; and here Bones, with his Houssas, would wait smoking furiously, with baited lines cunningly laid from thick underbrush or some tethered goat, bleating invitingly on the banks.  But never once did the hunter catch so much as a glimpse of green.  There were yellow crocodiles, grey crocodiles, crocodiles the colour of the sand, or the dark brown bed of the river, but nothing which by any stretch of imagination could be called green.

And urgent messages came to Bones.  The Zaïre itself, in charge of Abiboo, came steaming up carrying a letter filled with unnecessary abuse, for Hamilton was getting rattled by the extraordinary manifestations which he received every day of the potency of this slain monster.  Bones sent the sergeant back in the launch with an insubordinate message, and commandeered the Zaïre with her superior accommodation for himself.

“There is only one thing to do,” he said, “and that is to consult jolly old Bosambo.”

So he put the head of the Zaïre to the Ochori country, and on the second day arrived at the city.

“Lord,” said Bosambo, loftily, “crocodiles I have by thousands.”

“Green ones?” asked Bones anxiously.

“Lord, of every colour,” said Bosambo, “blue or green or red, even golden crocodiles have I in my splendid river.  But they will cost great money because they are very cunning, and my hunters of crocodiles are independent men who do not care to work.”

Bones dried up the flood of eloquence quickly.

“O Bosambo,” said he, “there is no money for this palaver, but a green crocodile I must have because the evil people of the Lower Isisi say I have put a spell on their land because I slew the Green One, M’zooba, also this crocodile must I have before the moon is due.  My Lord M’ilitani has sent me many powerful messages to this effect.”

This was another matter, and Bosambo looked dubious.

“Lord,” said he, “what manner of green was this crocodile, for I never saw it?”

Bones looked round.

Neither the green of the trees he saw, nor the green of the grass underfoot, nor the green of the elephant grass growing strongly on the river’s edge, nor the tender green of the high trees above, nor the tender green of the young Isisi palms; and yet the exact shade of green it was necessary to secure.  He ransacked all his books, turned over all his possessions and Hamilton’s too, in an endeavour to match the crocodile.  There was a suit of pyjamas of Hamilton’s which had a stripe very near, but not quite.

“O Ahmet,” said Bones at last in desperation, “go to the storeman, and let him bring all the paints he has so that I may show Bosambo a certain colour.”

They found the exact shade at last on a ten-pound tin of Aspinall enamels, and Bosambo thought long.

“Lord,” said he, “I think I know where I may find just such a crocodile as you want.”

Late that night Bones met Bosambo before his hut in a long and earnest palaver, and an hour before dawn he went out with Bosambo and his huntsmen, and was pulled to a certain creek in the Ochori land which is notorious for the size and strength of its crocodiles.

No doubt but Hamilton had a serious task before him, for although the grievance which he had to allay was limited to the restricted area over which the spirit of M’zooba brooded, yet the people of the crocodile had many sympathizers who resented as bitterly as the affected parties this interference with what Downing Street called “local religious customs.”

A wholly unauthorized palaver was held in the forest which was attended by delegations from the Akasava and the N’gombi, and spies brought the news to Hamilton that the little witch doctors were going through the villages carrying stories of desolation which had come as the result of M’zooba’s death.

The palaver Hamilton dispensed with some brusqueness.  Twenty soldiers and a machine gun were uninvited guests to the gathering, and the meeting retired in disorder.  Two of the witch doctors Hamilton’s men caught.  One he flogged with all the village looking on, and the other he sent to the Village of Irons for twelve months.

And all the time he spoke of the newer green one which was coming, which his magic would invoke, and which would surely appear “tied by one leg” to a stake near the pool, for all men to see.

He founded a sect of new-green-one worshippers (quite unwittingly).  It needed only the corporeal presence of his novel deity to wipe out the feelings of distrust which violence had not wholly dispelled.

Day after day passed, but no word came from Bones, and Captain Hamilton cursed his subordinate, his subordinate’s relations, and all the cruelty of fate which brought Bones into his command.  Then, unexpectantly, the truant arrived, arrived proud and triumphant in the early morning before Hamilton was awake.  He sneaked into the village so quietly that even the Houssa sentry who dozed across the threshold of Hamilton’s hut was not aware of his return; and silently, with fiercely whispered injunctions, so that the surprise should be all the more complete, Bones landed his unruly cargo, its feet chained, his great muzzle lassoed and bound with raw hide, its powerful and damaging tail firmly fixed between two planks of wood (a special idea for which Bones was responsible).  Then Lieutenant Tibbetts went to the hut of his chief and woke him.

“So here you are, are you?” said Hamilton.

“I am here,” said Bones with trembling pride, so that Hamilton knew his subordinate had been successful; “according to your instructions, sir, I have captured the green crocodile.  He is of monstrous size, and vastly superior to your partly-worn lady friend.  Also,” he said, “as per your instructions, conveyed to me in your letter dated the twenty-third instant, I have fastened same by right leg in the vicinity of the pool; at least,” he corrected carefully, “he was fastened, but owing to certain technical difficulties he slipped cable, so to speak, and is wallowing in his native element.”

“You are not rotting, Bones, are you?” asked Hamilton, busy with his toilet.

“Perfectly true and sound, sir, I never rot,” said Bones stiffly; “give me a job of work to do, give me a task, put me upon my metal, sir, and with the assistance of jolly old Bosambo ­”

“Is Bosambo in this?”

Bones hesitated.

“He assisted me very considerably, sir,” he said; “but, so to speak, the main idea was mine.”

The chief’s drum summoned the villages to the palaver house, but the news had already filtered through the little township, and a crowd had gathered waiting eagerly to hear the message which Hamilton had to give them.

“O people,” he said, addressing them from the hill of palaver, “all I have promised you I have performed.  Behold now in the pool ­and you shall come with me to see this wonder ­is one greater than M’zooba, a vast and splendid spirit which shall protect your crops and be as M’zooba was, and better than was M’zooba.  All this I have done for you.”

“Lord Tibbetti has done for you,” prompted Bones, in a hoarse whisper.

“All this have I done for you,” repeated Hamilton firmly, “because I love you.”

He led the way through the broad, straggling plantation to the great pool which begins in a narrow creek leading from the river and ends in a sprawl of water to the east of the village.

The whole countryside stood about watching the still water, but nothing happened.

“Can’t you whistle him and make him come up or something?” asked Hamilton.

“Sir,” said an indignant Bones, “I am no crocodile tamer; willing as I am to oblige you, and clever as I am with parlour tricks, I have not yet succeeded in inducing a crocodile to come to heel after a week’s acquaintance.”

But native people are very patient.

They stood or squatted, watching the unmoved surface of the water for half an hour, and then suddenly there was a stir and a little gasp of pleasurable apprehension ran through the assembly.

Then slowly the new one came up.  He made for a sand-bank, which showed above the water in the centre of the pool; first his snout, then his long body emerged from the water, and Hamilton gasped.

“Good heavens, Bones!” he said in a startled whisper, and his astonishment was echoed from a thousand throats.

And well might he be amazed at the spectacle which the complacent Bones had secured for him.

For this great reptile was more than green, he was a green so vivid that it put the colours of the forest to shame.  A bright, glittering green and along the centre of his broad back one zig-zag splash of orange.

“Phew,” whistled Hamilton, “this is something like.”

The roar of approval from the people was unmistakable.  The crocodile turned his evil head and for a moment, as it seemed to Bones, his eyes glinted viciously in the direction of the young and enterprising officer.  And Bones admitted after to a feeling of panic.

Then with a malignant “woof!” like the hoarse, growling bark of a dog, magnified a hundred times, he slid back into the water, a great living streak of vivid green and disappeared to the cool retreat at the bottom of the pool.

“You have done splendidly, Bones, splendidly!” said Hamilton, and clapped him on the back; “really you are a most enterprising devil.”

“Not at all, sir,” said Bones.

He ate his dinner on the Zaïre, answering with monosyllables the questions which Hamilton put to him regarding the quest and the place of the origin of this wonderful beast.  It was after dinner when they were smoking their cigars in the gloom as the Zaïre was steaming across its way to the shore where a wooding offered an excuse for a night’s stay, and Bones gave voice to his thoughts.

And curiously enough his conversation did not deal directly or indirectly with his discovery.

“When was this boat decorated last, sir?” he asked.

“About six months before Sanders left,” replied Hamilton in surprise; “just why do you ask?”

“Nothing, sir,” said Bones, and whistled light-heartedly.  Then he returned to the subject.

“I only asked you because I thought the enamel work in the cabin and all that sort of thing has worn very well.”

“Yes, it is good wearing stuff,” said Hamilton.

“That green paint in the bathroom is rather chic, isn’t it?  Is that good wearing stuff?”

“The enamel?” smiled Hamilton.  “Yes, I believe that is very good wearing.  I am not a whale on domestic matters, Bones, but I should imagine that it would last for another year without showing any sign of wear.”

“Is it waterproof at all?” asked Bones, after another pause.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean would it wash off if a lot of water were applied to it?”

“No, I should not imagine it would,” said Hamilton, “what makes you ask?”

“Oh, nothing!” said Bones carelessly and whistled, looking up to the stars that were peeping from the sky; and the inside of Lieutenant Tibbetts was one large expansive grin.