Prester John HTML version

5. Mr Wardlaw Has A Premonition
A week later the building job was finished, I locked the door of the new store,
pocketed the key, and we set out for home. Sikitola was entrusted with the
general care of it, and I knew him well enough to be sure that he would keep his
people from doing mischief. I left my empty wagons to follow at their leisure and
rode on, with the result that I arrived at Blaauwildebeestefontein two days before
I was looked for.
I stabled my horse, and went round to the back to see Colin. (I had left him at
home in case of fights with native dogs, for he was an ill beast in a crowd.) I
found him well and hearty, for Zeeta had been looking after him. Then some
whim seized me to enter the store through my bedroom window. It was open,
and I crawled softly in to find the room fresh and clean from Zeeta's care. The
door was ajar, and, hearing voices, I peeped into the shop.
Japp was sitting on the counter talking in a low voice to a big native - the same
'Mwanga whom I had bundled out unceremoniously. I noticed that the outer door
giving on the road was shut, a most unusual thing in the afternoon. Japp had
some small objects in his hand, and the two were evidently arguing about a price.
I had no intention at first of eavesdropping, and was just about to push the door
open, when something in Japp's face arrested me. He was up to no good, and I
thought it my business to wait.
The low tones went on for a little, both men talking in Kaffir, and then Japp lifted
up one of the little objects between finger and thumb. It was a small roundish
stone about the size of a bean, but even in that half light there was a dull lustre in
At that I shoved the door open and went in. Both men started as if they had been
shot. Japp went as white as his mottled face permitted. 'What the -' he gasped,
and he dropped the thing he was holding.
I picked it up, and laid it on the counter. 'So,' I said, 'diamonds, Mr Japp. You
have found the pipe I was looking for. I congratulate you.'
My words gave the old ruffian his cue. 'Yes, yes,' he said, 'I have, or rather my
friend 'Mwanga has. He has just been telling me about it.'
The Kaffir looked miserably uncomfortable. He shifted from one leg to the other,
casting longing glances at the closed door.
'I tink I go,' he said. 'Afterwards we will speak more.'
I told him I thought he had better go, and opened the door for him. Then I bolted
it again, and turned to Mr Japp.
'So that's your game,' I said. 'I thought there was something funny about you, but
I didn't know it was I.D.B. you were up to.'
He looked as if he could kill me. For five minutes he cursed me with a perfection
of phrase which I had thought beyond him. It was no I.D.B., he declared, but a
pipe which 'Mwanga had discovered. 'In this kind of country?' I said, quoting his
own words. 'Why, you might as well expect to find ocean pearls as diamonds. But
scrape in the spruit if you like; you'll maybe find some garnets.'