Children of the Wind - M.P. Shiel - ebook

Children of the Wind ebook

M. P. Shiel

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M.P. Shiel is a British writer of West Indian descent. He is remembered mostly for supernatural and scientific romances, published as serials, novels, and as short stories. „Children of the Wind” adventure set in South Central Africa. A lost race novel. An English scientist learns that the „White Queen” of the Wa-Ngwanyas is his own cousin and heiress to a fortune of which she is being kept in ignorance. There are tribal warfare including biological warfare, lesbianism, and vibrant plotting – a full-blooded story done in Shiel ’s fabulously refreshing style – written after a ten-year hiatus. Highly recommended!

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Liczba stron: 456

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Contents

I. ROLLS

II. ROLLS STABBED

III. ROLLS LAID LOW

IV. THE "CASTLE" LINER

V. THE VOLUNTEER

VI. A QUESTION OF TEETH

VII. DUELLO

VIII. THE SIGODHLO

IX. THE ROYAL HUT

X. "THE ELEPHANT"

XI. DZINIKULU

XII. THE QUEEN'S RETURN

XIII. THE GUEST-HOUSE

XIV. IN SUSPENSE

XV. DZINIKULU MOVES

XVI. THE RENDEZVOUS

XVII. IN THE BAOBAB

XVIII. WAR-DRUMS

XIX. BATTLE

XX. COUP D'ÉTAT

XXI. SUEELA SPEEDS

XXII. SUEELA WASHED WHITE

XXIII. SUEELA CHANGING SIDES

XXIV. COBBY'S "BANQUET"

XXV. THE ENTRÉE

XXVI. SUEELA SCHEMES

XXVII. THE CAPTURE IN THE PASS

XXVIII. SUEELA MARRIED

XXIX. SEBINGWE

XXX. IN THE CANES

XXXI. NIGHT-RIDE

XXXII. THE WAGGONS

XXXIII. THE BANKNOTES

XXXIV. CALAMITY

XXXV. CRASH

XXXVI. QUEEN SUEELA

XXXVII. BELLADONNA

XXXVIII. REINSTATEMENT

XXXIX. THE SWINGONI

XL. EN ROUTE

XLI. AFRICA

I. ROLLS

Mr. R. Warren Cobby writes in his diary (June 8th):

“Tea in the Carlton tea-room with Jeffson of the F. Office, when in walks Stead of the Bank, with a man of Greater-British type –“flash” hat, rather handsome person, black-bearded, blue-eyed, brown-baked–forty-five, fifty. Stead, on seeing me, throws up a finger, as who should say ‘the very man,’ and, coming to my table, introduced the colonial as ‘Mr. R. K. Rolls,’ adding: ‘By special request, Cobby.’

“‘Mr. Rolls knew of me,’ I remarked.

“‘That’s so, Mr. Cobby: happy to make your acquaintance,’ Rolls said, and we four had tea and talked, or three of us, for the tongue of my Rolls was still: not so the man’s eyes though, I noticed, for I think that nobody entered, went out, or moved in the place, that he did not see it–apprehensive, haunted perhaps I might say; and though one gets a general impression from his air and gait of a laggard and languid swagger, some of his motions and glances are as sharp as a panther’s–middle-sized man, straight in the legs, his blue eyes broody, sleepy–sleep of the spinning-top, perhaps–and written all over him ‘Experience.’

“He interested me–apart from my curiosity as to what the man wanted to know me for.

“‘You know Australia, I think, Mr. Rolls?’ I said to him.

“‘Oh, yes,’ he answered absently, eyeing under his brows a man who stood up some way off; adding: ‘African mainly, Mr. Cobby.’

“Stead put in: ‘Explorer, I think we may say, Mr. Rolls?’

“‘Well, not quite,’ Rolls said, twisting now quickly away to peer at someone coming in, then adding with a twinkle in his eye: ‘never mind, “explorer” is near enough.’

“Then Jeffson invited the trio of us to Jermyn Street, and thither the journey was–stupid waste of time and life! Inane people these super-clerks, and all their kind ‘about town.’ When they have forgotten Greek, there is nothing left in them, and before they forget there is nothing. Then, why associate with them? I won’t; not good enough: they waste life. Fifty of ‘em aren’t worth one Rolls, I think. Dinner with them at ‘The Troc’; then ‘The Empire,’ to show girls in tights to Rolls, who has been in England only two weeks; but Rolls said that he was accustomed to see ‘more elegant’ legs than those without any tights on. Oh, the ‘Empire’! What’s Empire to me, or I to Empire? No, I was not amused. Then, walking up Regent Street, Rolls with me, the other two ahead, says Rolls: ‘Do me the honour to dine at my expense to-morrow?’

“‘The honour’–‘at my expense.’ If he had not said ‘at my expense,’ I should no doubt have said no, but this naïf, and so true, way of putting it won me, so that I answered: ‘Since you wish, Mr. Rolls. Why do you?’

“He looked about and behind before he answered: ‘You see, I know you better than you know me. Quite five years ago I did business with you, but you’ve forgotten; seen you several times before to-day. Then I’m a bit of a thought-reader in my way–“psychometrist,” they call it here–seen enough of that out there’–throwing his hand toward the Equator: ‘I could tell you quite a lot about yourself.’

“‘Tell me something,’ I said.

“‘For one thing,’ he began, and then, quick as a wink, he span on his pins, calling out sharply to a man now close upon us: ‘Well, sir! How can I be of service to you?’

“I saw a big man in a cloak, whose collar covered his ears, he standing now with shoulders shrugged up high, his innocent palms expanded, a picture of French astonishment, and says he to Rolls: ‘Mister addresses himself to me by chance?’

“Rolls made no answer, peered into his face, looked him up and down, then said to me: ‘Come on’; on which the other laughed, with some effort, I fancied, and crossed the street, as we moved on.

“And presently Rolls remarked: ‘You see, we are of interest to others’; and when I asked him if he really believed that that man had been eavesdropping upon us, he answered: ‘I know.’

“‘What for, though?’ I asked him.

“This he did not answer, but said: ‘I was to tell you something about yourself: check me, if I go wrong. Age thirty-two. Residence, Tillington, Sussex. Living alone with a sister. Man of means–no need to swot at work. Yet you do. Hard worker, energetic, always glancing at the clock. If I didn’t know it otherwise, I could spot it from the roan red of that hair of yours, from the style it grows upward and backward in a thicket of wires that curl, or from that fresh flush of your colour, or from the style your elbows work up and down when you walk, like an engine on the jig. Stern worker. Proud of your head-piece. Proud of your Age and Continent. “Nourishing a youth sublime with the fairy-tales of Science”–quotation from a poet. Now engaged for the Government at Teddington in discovering the best camber for aeroplane-wings. Fond of flight, of rush, of getting things over and done. I know you. For wealth you care nothing––’

“‘Don’t I, though, by Jove,’ I said: ‘love wealth–any form of Energy. Wealth is stored Force, Power, that is, God, and is well named goods; is potential Energy–Power to do good to oneself and others.’

“‘Well said,’ Rolls muttered: ‘yet you have two or three rich relatives, one of them’–he flung a flying glance behind–‘an emperor of wealth–a cousin–and little you bother about him, because he’s not of the intellectual set. And you have another cousin–female cousin’–now he put his lips to my ear–‘a Queen, this one––’

“I could not help laughing out at the earnestness with which he imparted this absurdity; and I said to him: ‘No, there the “thought-reading” is miscarrying: no female cousin–certainly no queens in the family.’

“He did not answer at once, but then suddenly patted my arm, saying: ‘I may see fit to tell you more when we are better acquainted.’

“Soon after which, having arranged to meet to-morrow at the Hotel Cecil, we parted; and I walked back home by the Embankment under a black sky bright with Sirius and the three present planets.”

II. ROLLS STABBED

The next night Cobby and Rolls duly dined together; and Cobby writes of it:

“Such a care about the selection of the table! for Rolls must have one in a corner, whence to survey all the salle à manger.

“When this had been obtained, I showed him the note that had come to me by the morning’s post, on which Rolls produced spectacles, saying, as in apology: ‘I have the best of eyesight in sunlight, Mr. Cobby, but artificial light bowls me over for reading purposes.’ Then he muttered over the note ‘type-written,’ and read it half-aloud drawingly: ‘The man, R. K. Rolls, is nothing else than a common jail-bird, well-known in the Rand as an assassin, a slave-trader, a swindler and thief, a scoundrel of the deepest dye. To be connected in any shape or form with this dirty rascal spells certain disaster. Be warned in time, Cobby. A well-wisher.’

“Looking at Rolls, as he read, I saw his eyes twinkle. ‘Oh, well,’ he said, taking off the spectacles, ‘you evidently don’t reckon me up to be as black as I’m painted, or you’d not be here.’

“I told him no, that such a communication is without weight for me.

“‘Then, we need say no more about it,’ he said, and: ‘May I keep this pleasant missive?’ and, on my saying yes, put it inside his watch.

“Then I had quite a pleasant evening with him. Though not exquisite in culture outside, he exhibits considerable shrewdness of wit on things in general, a sound sense, a trained intelligence, and such a storehouse of memories and world-lore as render him really an entertaining person, his lips once unsealed. I found myself liking, admiring, him–so much, that when he expressed a wish to feel what flight is like, I immediately offered to take him into the air, he to come to-morrow to the aerodrome. It is not true that he is a rogue: I know better. Of the anonymous note he said nothing more until the dinner was over, we then smoking ‘long Toms,’ as he called them, cigar-sticks which he produced out of a tube of leopard-skin, his dress-clothes being constructed with quite a number of pockets apparently; and now he said to me: ‘I suppose you couldn’t reckon up who it was sent you that pleasant missive?’

“I said no, how could I without data? on which he, his voice dropping to secrecy: ‘That comes from a cousin of yours.’

“This had the effect of tickling me, and I said, ‘Really! You people the world with my cousins, Rolls?’

“‘I have only mentioned two all told,’ he answered–‘a male and a female.’

“‘I think I have only one cousin,’ I told him–‘a Yankee–millionaire–man named Douglas Macray––’

“‘Let’s talk low,’ he muttered; and added: ‘he is our man, sir.’

“‘Well, but,’ I said, ‘the man does not know me’; but then, remembering something, I mentioned that he knew of me, since, some years ago, I got from him an invitation to a ball, but didn’t go; on which Rolls said: ‘Aye, always giving big parties, fond of fal-lals and high jinks, especially in Paris. You’ve called him “a Yankee,” but he’s only half that, since, as you know, his mother and yours were English sisters, and he has mostly lived in France. Curious you never chanced to drop across him. I’ll introduce him now to you.”

“On this Rolls picked something from a pocket, and, holding it within his fist, brought his fist into contact with my palm, on which he left a disc of cardboard, and I saw the photograph of a man of thirty or so–bearded–something hard-headed, cynical, self-seeking (I fancied)–man of some draught and horse-power, tearing toward his own ends–or that was my impression–something flat and flabby about the upper lip, as though he lacked upper teeth...

“Rolls, taking back the photograph as clandestinely as he had handed it, said: ‘That’s Douglas Macray–that’s the gentleman. Never saw him in the flesh myself: but that’s he.’

“‘Well, what about him?’ I asked. ‘Why are you and he bad friends?’

“‘Because’–he tossed down his ‘long Tom’ with emphasis–‘I refuse to be bribed by his dirty hand; and because he drops to it why I am in England, and wants to bottle me up.’

“‘Why are you in England?’

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