A few nights passed. The normal life of the Station went on, barring that my escort still slept under the house, and the tomahawk bloodhounds slunk into the plantation and gardens after dark and vanished before dawn. Then came a dark night, with the South East Trade howling against the building; and my escort, curled up in blankets on the verandah all round the house, cursed the wind to which they were exposed, and the sorcerers who caused their discomfort.
A launch, the Balmain, had come in with a mail, and the skipper-owner had dined with us, remaining till about one in the morning, when he left accompanied by two of his native crew and an escort of constabulary whom I had sent to see him safe on board. At about two, Oelrichs and I were still talking, when Toku, who was up waiting on us, said, “Paitoto is here.” Paitoto came in and was given a smoke, and then I asked:
“Are your men in the grounds on this wild night?”
“Yes; good night to catch sorcerers. We have found the concealed track by which they leave.”
“Why did you not let me know, you old scoundrel?”
“Did not want you or Boka Bada or the constabulary trampling about and letting them know we had found the bolt-hole.”
At about three, Oelrichs and I were just turning in, leaving old Paitoto still sitting smoking, when over the noise of the wind there came a horrible scream, and then silence. Out on the verandah we went, but could see or hear nothing other than the howling of the wind. Old Paitoto was rubbing his hands together and chuckling to himself; the constabulary were standing up and laughing. Oelrichs and I went to bed.
In the morning Toku woke me up. Barigi was there. He said, “The sorcerers have departed, also Paitoto and Sauwa and Ikinim and all their men. I woke Missi Oelrichs, and he gave me the key of the store. I have given Paitoto a case of tobacco, sixty pounds of ship’s biscuits, five pounds of tea and sixty pounds of sugar. He is having a tea-party in his village to-night for the men who have been chasing sorcerers.”
I went with Oelrichs into the garden, with practically every man and woman of the Station following us. Soon we discovered – in two different places – dark stains on the ground at which the ants were very busy. Then Toku took us to what had been a concealed path into the scrub, now exposed and trampled. Here again were dark stains and busy ants.
“Oelrichs,” I remarked, “the bloodhounds got the lot, four of them, two in the plantation and two as they bolted.”
“What have they done with the bodies?” asked Oelrichs.
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know; I don’t even know there are any bodies, and I have not seen a sorcerer. By the way you gave Paitoto sugar, biscuits and tea, for a tea-party he is giving.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Well,” said I, “I have a sort of idea that Paitoto’s party will be what is known in certain circles as a meat-tea.”
“Good God! You don’t mean that!”
“I do. We can’t interfere. We don’t even know that Paitoto bagged four sorcerers; there is no one reported to us as missing. In the district the police were all in barracks, or at my house, or on duty as gaol guards, or sentries. Paitoto himself was with us until dawn.”
Afterwards I gathered (but of course there was no evidence) that the scream we fancied we had heard was let out by a sorcerer, who suddenly was tomahawked through the shoulder, and was ungentlemanly enough to make a fuss before he was finished. The other three, two in flight, and the other within a few yards of the first, were killed before they knew what was happening. This of course was all mere rumour.
On this particular night, it was rumoured, the sorcerers carried very short-hafted clubs, the stone heads being of the cassowary-egg type and not the cutting disc or pineapple pattern; a club designed to kill or stun without mutilating – more a burglar’s implement than a warrior’s. In their bags, among the charms and bones, etc., were a number of sharp-edged obsidian splinters used as knives.
I remarked to Oelrichs afterwards, “I have not the slightest doubt that it was you, and you only, they were after. You are unusually big and fair, in fact a fine figure of a man; possibly your beauty, size and strength had been exaggerated to them. They wanted your head, or some other portion of your anatomy, for some foul purpose of their own, what we shall never know now. Anyhow, I don’t think you will be worried by alien sorcerers for quite a long time.”