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The Ivory Trail   By: (1879-1940)

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By Talbot Mundy

Author of King of the Khyber Rifles The Winds of the World Hira Singh etc.

Chapter One


Green, ah greener than emeralds are, tree tops beckon the dhows to land, White, oh whiter than diamonds are, blue waves burst on the amber sand, And nothing is fairer than Zanzibar from the Isles o' the West to the Marquesand.

I was old when the world was wild with youth (All love was lawless then!) Since 'Venture's birth from ends of earth I ha' called the sons of men, And their women have wept the ages out In travail sore to know What lure of opiate art can leach Along bare seas from reef to beach Until from port and river reach The fever'd captains go.

Red, oh redder than red lips are, my flowers nod in the blazing noon, Blue, oh bluer than maidens' eyes, are the breasts o' my waves in the young monsoon, And there are cloves to smell, and musk, and lemon trees, and cinnamon.

The words "Njo hapa" in the Kiswahili tongue are the equivalent of "come hither!"

Estimates of ease and affluence vary with the point of view. While his older brother lived, Monty had continued in his element, a cavalry officer, his combined income and pay ample for all that the Bombay side of India might require of an English gentleman. They say that a finer polo player, a steadier shot on foot at a tiger, or a bolder squadron leader never lived.

But to Monty's infinite disgust his brother died childless. It is divulging no secret that the income that passed with the title varied between five and seven thousand pounds a year, according as coal was high, and tenants prosperous or not a mere miserable pittance, of course, for the Earl of Montdidier and Kirkudbrightshire; so that all his ventures, and therefore ours, had one avowed end shekels enough to lift the mortgages from his estates.

Five generations of soldiers had blazed the Montdidier fame on battle grounds, to a nation's (and why not the whole earth's) benefit, without replenishing the family funds, and Monty (himself a confirmed and convinced bachelor) was minded when his own time should come to pass the title along to the next in line together with sufficient funds to support its dignity.

To us even to Yerkes, familiar with United States merchant kings he seemed with his thirty thousand dollars a year already a gilded Croesus. He had ample to travel on, and finance prospecting trips. We never lacked for working capital, but the quest (and, including Yerkes, we were as keen as he) led us into strange places.

So behold him a privy councilor of England if you please lounging in the lazaretto of Zanzibar, clothed only in slippers, underwear and a long blue dressing gown. We three others were dressed the same, and because it smacked of official restraint we objected noisily; but Monty did not seem to mind much. He was rather bored, but unresentful.

A French steamer had put us ashore in quarantine, with the grim word cholera against us, and although our tale of suffering and Monty's rank, insured us a friendly reception, the port health authorities elected to be strict and we were given a nice long lazy time in which to cool our heels and order new clothes. (Guns, kit, tents, and all but what we stood in had gone to the bottom with the German cholera ship from whose life boat the French had rescued us.)

"Keeping us all this time in this place, is sheer tyranny!" grumbled Yerkes. "If any one wants my opinion, they're afraid we'd talk if they let us out more afraid of offending Germans than they are of cholera! Besides any fool could know by now we're not sick!"

"There might be something in that," admitted Monty.

"I'd send for the U. S. Consul and sing the song out loud, but for you!" Yerkes added... Continue reading book >>

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