Fresh from the government press, they announced, in English on one
half and neat, round Burmese on the other, that five thousand rupees
were offered for the capture, dead or alive, of one Boh Lu-Bain,
convicted of dacoity, with murder, robbery under arms, arson, and an
appalling list of subsidiary crimes.
The windproof acetylene camp lantern threw sharp, angular shadows
across the hard-grain mahogany of the sergeant's face as it suddenly
cracked into a grim smile.
"Huh! Looks like a pretty durn safe offer---seein' things is as they
is," he grunted to himself aloud, after the manner of white men who
spend much time in the far corners of the earth, with only natives to
talk to. "Mister Boh is some slick conundrum."
His lips pressed slowly together again, and he caressed his wooden
block of a chin in perplexed introspection. As he turned the case over
in his mind and swore impatiently at the queerness of its attendant
circumstances, another link was suddenly added to the chain of
uncanniness. From out of the dense, black jungles that ringed the
clearing there sounded a wild, quavering cry, so long-drawn and so
pitiful that the subdued clamor from the other tents of the little
camp stopped short as though cut off with a knife.
Before the long wail had ceased to vibrate through the still, hot air,
in some miraculous manner a rifle had appeared in Sergeant McGrath's
hands and he stood outside of his tent, stepping with instinctive
caution away from the thin shaft of light which cut far out across the
blackness from the tent flap. He listened in the intense silence which
had fallen. Then---
"Hussein Jemadar!" he called.
A tall, uniformed figure appeared out of the darkness and saluted.
"Take two men and see what that cry was about."
The jemadar saluted again and disappeared; and McGrath stood peering
like a nighthawk into the blacker shadows across the clearing.
Presently an altercation was apparent among the men's tents. It waxed
fiercer; and shortly the jemadar loomed up again.
"Huzoor, the men are mutinous. They insist that it is the Nat devil
who shrieks as he rends some unfortunate, and their knees are limp
"Fathers of many fools!" barked the sergeant. "This is no time to make
monkey-chatter. There is need of speed. I'll attend to the men later--
when I come back. Make lights and double the sentry. Swift, now!"
For an instant he was a darker blot under the shadow of the trees, and
then he merged into the blackness. The native jemadar had to marvel
for the hundredth time at the speed and silence with which his
superior melted into the undergrowth; and then he went to carry out
his order and to acquaint the men who were afraid of nats of the
greater hell which would presently occur to them when the sahib