Black Man's Burden by Dallas McCord Reynolds
Take up the white man's burden
Send forth the best ye breed....
* * * * *
The turmoil in Africa is only beginningand it must grow worse
before it's better. Not until the people of Africa know they
Africansnot warring tribesmenwill there be peace....
The two-vehicle caravan emerged from the sandy wastes of the erg
and approached the small encampment of Taitoq Tuareg which consisted of
seven goat leather tents. They were not unanticipated, the camp's
scouts had noted the strange pillars of high-flung dust which were set
up by the air rotors an hour earlier and for the past fifteen minutes
they had been visible to all.
Moussa-ag-Amastan, headman of the clan, awaited the newcomers at
first with a certain trepidation in spite of his warrior blood.
Although he hadn't expressed himself thus to his followers, his first
opinion had been that the unprecedented pillars were djinn come out of
the erg for no good purpose. It wasn't until they were quite close that
it could be seen the vehicles bore resemblance to those of the Rouma
which were of recent years spreading endlessly through the lands of the
Ahaggar Tuareg and beggaring those who formerly had conducted the
commerce of the Sahara.
But the vehicles traveling through the sand dunes! That had been the
last advantage of the camel. No wheeled vehicle could cross the vast
stretches of the ergs, they must stick to the hard ground, to the
They came to a halt and Moussa-ag-Amastan drew up his teguelmoust
turban-veil even closer about his eyes. He had no desire to let the
newcomers witness his shocked surprise at the fact that the desert
lorries had no wheels, floated instead without support, and now that
they were at a standstill settled gently to earth.
There was further surprise when the five who issued forth from the
two seemingly clumsy vehicles failed to be Rouma. They looked more like
the Teda to the south, and the Targui's eyes thinned beneath his
teguelmoust. Since the French had pulled out their once dreaded Camel
Corps there had been somewhat of a renaissance of violence between
However, the newcomers, though dark as Negro Bela slaves, wore
Tuareg dress, loose baggy trousers of dark indigo-blue cotton cloth, a
loose, nightgownlike white cotton shirt, and over this a gandoura
outer garment. Above all, they wore the teguelmoust though they were
shockingly lax in keeping it properly up about the mouth.
Moussa-ag-Amastan knew that he was backed by ten or more of his
clansmen, half of whom bore rifles, the rest Tuareg broadswords,
Crusader-like with their two edges, round points and flat rectangular
cross-members. Only two of the strangers seemed armed and they
negligently bore their smallish guns in the crooks of their arms. The
clan leader spoke at strength, then, but he said the traditional La
There is no evil, repeated the foremost of the newcomers. His
Tamabeq, the Berber language of the Tuareg confederations, seemed
Moussa-ag-Amastan said, What do you do in the lands of the Taitoq
The stranger, a tall, handsome man with a dominating though pleasant
personality, indicated the vehicles with a sweep of his hand. We are
Enaden, itinerant smiths. As has ever been our wont, we travel from
encampment to encampment to sell our products and to make repair upon
your metal possessions.
Enaden! The traveling smiths of the Ahaggar, and indeed of the whole
Sahara, were a despised and ragged lot at best. Few there were that
ever possessed more than a small number of camels, a sprinkling of
goats, perhaps a sheep or two. But these seemed as rich as Roumas, as
Europeans or Americans.
Moussa-ag-Amastan muttered, You jest with us at your peril,
stranger. He pointed an aged but still strong hand at the vehicles.
Enaden do not own such as these.
The newcomer shrugged. I am Omar ben Crawf and these are my
followers, Abrahim el Bakr Ma el Ainin, Keni Ballalou and
Bey-ag-Akhamouk. We come today from Tamanrasset and we are smiths, as
we can prove. As is known, there is high pay to be earned by working in
the oil fields, at the dams on the Niger, in the afforestation
projects, in the sinking of the new wells whose pumps utilize the rays
of the sun, in the developing of the great new oases. There is much
Rouma money to be made in such work and my men and I have brought these
vehicles specially built in the new factories in Dakar for desert use.
Slave work! one of Moussa-ag-Amastan's kinsmen sneered.
Omar ben Crawf shrugged in obvious amusement, but there was a warmth
and vitality in the man that quickly affected even strangers.
Perhaps, he said. But times change, as every man knows and today
there no longer need be hunger, nor illness, nor any wantif a man
will but work a fraction of each day.
Work is for slaves, Moussa-ag-Amastan barked.
The newcomer refused to argue. But all slaves have been freed, and
where in the past this meant nothing since the Bela had no place to go,
no way to live save with his owner, today it is different and any man
can go and find work on the many projects that grow everywhere. So the
slaves slip away from the Tuareg, and the Teda and Chaamba. Soon there
will be no more slaves to do the work about your encampments. And then
what, man of the desert?
We'll fight! Moussa-ag-Amastan growled. We Tuareg are warriors,
bedouin, free men. We will never be slaves.
Inshallah. If God wills it, the smith agreed politely.
Show us your wares, the old chieftain snapped. We chatter like
women. Talk can wait until the evening meal and in the men's quarters
of my tent. He approached the now parked vehicles and his followers
crowded after him. From the tents debouched women and children. The
children were completely nude, and the Tuareg women were unveiled for
such are the customs of the Ahaggar Tuareg that the men go veiled but
women do not.
* * * * *
One of the lorries was so constructed that a side could be raised in
such fashion to display a wide variety of tools, weapons, household
utensils, and textiles. Ohs and ahs punctuated the air, women being the
same in every land. Two of the smiths brought forth metal-working
equipment of strange design and set up shop to one side. A broken bolt
on an aged Lebel rifle was quickly repaired, a copper cooking pot
brazed, some harness tinkered with.
Of a sudden, Moussa-ag-Amastan said, But your women, your families,
where are they?
The one who had been introduced as Abrahim el Bakr, an open-faced
man whose constant smiling seemed to take a full ten years off what
must have been his age, explained. On the big projects, one can find
employment only if he allows his children to attend the new schools. So
our wives and children remain near Tamanrasset while the children learn
the lore of books.
Rouma schools! one of the warriors sneered.
Oh, no. There are few Roumas remaining in all the land now, the
smith said easily. Those that are left serve us in positions our
people as yet cannot hold, in construction of the dams, in the bringing
of trees to the desert, but soon, even they will be unneeded.
Our people? Moussa-ag-Amastan rumbled ungraciously. You
are smiths. The smiths have no people. You are neither Kel Rela, Tégehé
Mellet, Taitoq, nor even Teda, Chaambra, or Ouled Tidrarin.
One of the smiths said easily, In the great new construction camps,
in the new towns, with their many ways to work and become rich, the
tribes are breaking up. Tuareg works next to Teda and a Moor next to a
former Haratin serf. He added, as though unthinkingly, even as he
displayed an aluminum pan to a wide-eyed Tuareg matron, Indeed, even
the clans break up and often Tuareg marries Arab or Sudanese or Rifs
down from the north ... or even we Enaden.
The clansmen were suddenly silent, in shocked surprise.
That cannot be true! the elderly chief snapped.
Omar ben Crawf looked at him mildly. Why should my follower lie?
I do not know, but we will talk of it later, away from the women
and children who should not hear such abominations. The chief switched
subjects. But you have no flocks with you. How are we to pay for these
things, these services?
The old man's face, what little could be seen through his
teguelmoust, darkened. We have little money in the Ahaggar.
The one named Omar nodded. But we are short of meat and will buy
several goats and perhaps a lamb, a chicken, eggs. Then, too, as you
have noted, we have left our women at home. We will need the services
of cooks, some one to bring water. We will hire servants.
The other said gruffly, There are some Bela who will serve you.
The smith seemed taken aback. Verily, El Hassan has stated that the
product of the labor of the slave is accursed.
El Hassan! Who is El Hassan and why should the work of a slave be
One of the tribesmen said, I have heard of this El Hassan. Rumors
of his teachings spread through the land. He is to lead us all, Tuareg,
Arab and Sudanese, until we are all as rich as Roumas.
Omar said, It is well known that the Roumas and especially the
Americans are all rich as Emirs but none of them ever possess slaves.
The bedouin have slaves but fail to prosper. Verily, the product of the
labor of the slave is accursed.
Madness, Moussa-ag-Amastan muttered. If you do not let our slave
women do your tasks, then they will remain undone. No Tuareg woman will
* * * * *
But the headman of his clan was wrong.
The smiths remained four days in all, and the abundance of their
products was too much. What verbal battles might have taken place in
the tent of Moussa-ag-Amastan, and in those of his followers, the
smiths couldn't know, but Tuareg women are not dominated by their men.
On the second day, three Tuareg women applied for the position of
servants, at surprisingly high pay. Envy ran roughshod when they later
displayed the textiles and utensils they purchased with their wages.
Nor could the aged Tuareg chief prevent in the evening discussions
between the men, a thorough pursuing of the new ideas sweeping through
the Ahaggar. Though these strangers proclaimed themselves lowly
Enadenitinerant desert smithsthey were obviously not to be
dismissed as a caste little higher than Haratin serfs. Even the first
night they were invited to the tent of Moussa-ag-Amastan to share the
dinner of shorba soup, cous cous and the edible paste kaboosh,
made of cheese, butter and spices. It was an adequate desert meal, meat
being eaten not more than a few times a year by such as the Taitoq
Tuareg who couldn't afford to consume the animals upon which they
After mint tea, one of the younger Tarqui leaned forward. He said,
You have brought strange news, oh Enaden of wealth, and we would know
more. We of the Ahaggar hear little from outside.
Moussa-ag-Amastan scowled at his clansman, for his presumption, but
Omar answered, his voice sincere and carrying conviction. The world
moves fast, men of the desert, and the things that were verily true
even yesterday, have changed today.
To the sorrow of the Tuareg! snapped Moussa-ag-Amastan.
The other looked at him. Not always, old one. Surely in your youth
you remember when such diseases as the one the Roumas once called the
disease of Venus, ran rampant through the tribes. When trachoma, the
sickness of the eyes, was known as the scourge of the Sahara. When half
the children, not only of Bela slaves and Haratin serfs, but also of
the Surgu noble clans, died before the age of ten.
Admittedly, the magic of the Roumas cured many such ills, an older
Not their magic, their learning, the smith named El Ma el Ainin
put in. And, verily, now the schools are open to all the people.
Schools are not for such as the Bela and Haratin, the clan chief
protested. The Koran should not be taught to slaves.
El Ma el Ainin said gently, The Koran is not taught at all in the
new schools, old one. The teachings of the Prophet are still made known
to those interested, in the schools connected with the mosques, but
only the teachings of science are made in the new schools.
The teachings of the Rouma! a Tuareg protested, carefully slipping
his glass of tea beneath his teguelmoust so that he could drink without
his mouth being obscenely revealed.
Omar ben Crawf laughed. That is what we have allowed the Roumas to
have us believe for much too long, he stated. El Hassan has proven
otherwise. Much of the wisdom of science has its roots in the lands of
Asia and of Africa. The Roumas were savages in skins while the earliest
civilizations were being developed in Africa and Asia Minor. Hardly a
science now developed by the Roumas of Europe and America but had its
beginning with us. He turned to the elderly chief.
You Tuareg are of Berber background. But a few centuries ago, the
Berbers of Morocco, known as the Moors to the Rouma, leavened only with
a handful of Jews and Arabs, built up in Spain the highest civilization
in all the world of that time. We would be foolish, we of Africa, to
give credit to the Rouma for so much of what our ancestors presented to
The Tuareg were astonished. They had never heard such words.
Moussa-ag-Amastan was not appeased. You sound like a Rouma,
yourself, he said. Where have you learned of all this?
The smiths chuckled their amusement.
Abrahim el Bakr said, Verily, old one, have you ever seen a black
Omar ben Crawf, the headman of the smiths, went on. El Hassan has
proclaimed great new beliefs that spread through all North Africa, and
eventually, Inshallah, throughout the continent. Through his
great learning he has assimilated the wisdom of all the prophets, all
the wisemen of all the world, and proclaims their truths.
The Tuareg chief was becoming increasingly irritated. Such talk as
this was little short of blasphemy to his ears, but the fascination of
the discussion was beyond him to ignore. And he knew that even if he
did his young men, in particular, would only seek out the strangers on
their own and then he would not be present to mitigate their interest.
In spite of himself, now he growled, What beliefs? What truths? I know
not of this El Hassan of whom you speak.
Omar said slowly, Among them, the teachings of a great wise man
from a far land. That all men should be considered equal in the eyes of
society and should have equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of
Equal! one of the warriors ejaculated. This is not wisdom, but
nonsense. No two men are equal.
Omar waggled a finger negatively. Like so many, you fail to explore
the teaching. Obviously, no man of wisdom would contend that all men
are equally tall, or strong, or wise, or cunning, nor even fortunate.
No two men are equal in such regards. But all men should have equal
right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whatever that
might mean to him as an individual.
One of the Tuareg said slyly, And the murderer of one of your
kinsmen, should he, too, have life and liberty, in the belief of El
Obviously, the community must protect itself against those who
would destroy the life or liberty of others. The murderer of a kinsman
of mine, as well as any other man, myself included, should be subject
equally to the same law.
It was a new conception to members of a tribal society such as that
of the Ahaggar Tuareg. They stirred under both its appeal and its
negation of all they knew. A man owed alliance to his immediate family,
to his clan, his tribe, then to the Tuareg confederationin decreasing
degree. Beyond that, all were enemies, as all men knew.
One protested slowly, seeking out his words, Your El Hassan
preaches this equality, but surely the wiser man and the stronger man
will soon find his way to the top in any land, in any tribe, even in
the nations of the Rouma.
Omar shrugged. Who could contend otherwise? But each man should be
free to develop his own possibilities, be they strength of arm or of
brain. Let no man exploit another, nor suppress another's abilities. If
a Bela slave has more ability than a Surgu Tuareg noble, let him profit
to the full by his gifts.
There was a cold silence.
Omar finished gently by saying, Or so El Hassan teaches, and so
they teach in the new schools in Tamanrasset and Gao, in Timbuktu and
Reggan, in the big universities at Kano, Dakar, Bamako, Accra and
Abidian. And throughout North Africa the wave of the future flows over
It is a flood of evil, Moussa-ag-Amastan said definitely.
* * * * *
But in spite of the antagonism of the clan headman and of the older
Tuareg warriors, the stories of the smiths continued to spread. It was
not even beyond them to discuss, long and quietly, with the Bela slaves
the ideas of the mysterious El Hassan, and to talk of the plentiful
jobs, the high wages, at the dams, the new oases, and in the
Somehow the news of their presence spread, and another clan of nomad
Tuareg arrived and pitched their tents, to handle the wares of the
smiths and to bring their metal work for repair. And to listen to their
As amazing as any of the new products was the solar powered,
portable television set which charged its batteries during the daylight
hours and then flashed on its screen the images and the voices and
music of entertainers and lecturers, teachers and storytellers, for all
to see. In the beginning it had been difficult, for the eye of the
desert man is not trained to pick up a picture. He has never seen one,
and would not recognize his own photograph. But in time, it came to
The programs originated in Tamanrasset and in Salah, in Zinder and
Fort Lamy and one of the smiths revealed that the mysterious waves,
that fed the device its programs, were bounced off tiny moons which the
Rouma had rocketed up into the sky for that purpose. A magic
understandable only to marabouts and such, without doubt.
At the end of their period of stay, the smiths, to the universal
surprise of all, gave the mystery device to two sisters, kinswomen of
Moussa-ag-Amastan, who were particularly interested in the teachers and
lecturers who told of the new world aborning. The gift was made in the
full understanding that all should be allowed to listen and watch, and
it was clear that if ever the set needed repair it was to be left
untinkered with and taken to Tamanrasset or the nearest larger
settlement where it would be fixed free of charge.
There were many strange features about the smiths, as each man could
see. Among others, were their strange weapons. There had been some soft
whispered discussion among the warriors in the first two days of their
stay about relieving the strangers of their obviously desirable
possessionsafter all, they weren't kinsmen, not even Tuareg. But on
the second day, the always smiling one named Abrahim el Bakr had been
on the outskirts of the erg when a small group of gazelle were
flushed. The graceful animals took off at a prohibitive rifle range, as
usual, but Abrahim el Bakr had thrown his small, all but tiny weapon to
his shoulder and flic flic flic, with a sound no greater than
the cracking of a ground nut, had knocked over three of them before the
others had disappeared around a dune.
Obviously, the weapons of the smiths were as great as their learning
and their new instruments. It was discouraging to a raider by instinct.
Then, too, there was the strangeness of the night talks their leader
was known to have with his secret Kambu fetish which was able to
answer him in a squeaky but distinct voice in some unknown tongue,
obviously a language of the djinn. The Kambu was worn on a strap
on Omar's wrist, and each night at a given hour he was wont to withdraw
to his tent and there confer.
On the fourth night, obviously, he was given instruction by the
Kambu for in the morning, at first light, the smiths hurriedly
packed, broke camp, made their good-byes to Moussa-ag-Amastan and the
others and were off.
Moussa-ag-Amastan was glad to see them go. They were quite the most
disturbing element to upset his people in many seasons. He wondered at
the advisability of making their usual summer journey to the Tuareg
sedentary centers. He had a feeling that if the clan got near enough to
such centers as Zinder to the south, or Touggourt to the north, there
would be wholesale desertion of the Bela, and, for that matter, even of
some of his younger warriors and their wives.
However, there was no putting off indefinitely exposure to this
danger. Even in such former desert centers as Tessalit and In Salah,
the irrigation projects were of such magnitude that there was a great
labor shortage. But always, of course, as the smiths had said, if you
worked at the projects your children must needs attend the schools. And
that way lay disaster!
The five smiths took out overland in the direction of Djanet on the
border of what had once been known as Libya and famed for its cliffs
which tower over twenty-five hundred feet above the town. Their solar
powered, air cushion, hover-lorries, threw up their clouds of dust and
sand to right and left, but they made good time over the erg. A
good hovercraft driver could do much to even out a rolling landscape,
changing his altitude from a few inches here to as much as twenty-five
feet there, given, of course, enough power in his solar batteries,
although that was little problem in this area where clouds were
sometimes not seen for years on end.
This was back of the beyond, the wasteland of earth. Only the
interior of the Arabian peninsula and the Gobi could compete and, of
course, even the Gobi was beginning to be tamed under the afforestation
efforts of the teeming multitudes of China who had suffered its
disastrous storms down through the millennia.
* * * * *
Omar checked and checked again with the instrument on his wrist,
asking and answering, his voice worried.
Finally they pulled up beside a larger than usual wadi and Omar ben
Crawf stared thoughtfully out over it. The one they had named Abrahim
el Bakr stood beside him and the others slightly to the rear.
Abrahim el Bakr nodded, for once his face unsmiling. Those cats'll
come down here, he said. Nothing else would make sense, not even to
I think you're right, Omar growled. He said over his shoulder,
Bey, get the trucks out of sight, over that dune. Elmer, you and Kenny
set the gun up over there. Solid slugs, and try to avoid their cargo.
We don't want to set off a Fourth of July here. Bey, when you're
finished with the trucks, take that Tommy-Noiseless of yours and flank
them from over behind those rocks. Take a couple of clips extra, for
good luckyou won't need them, though.
How many are there supposed to be? Abrahim el Bakr asked, his
voice empty of humor now.
Eight half-trucks, two armed jeeps, or land-rovers, one or the
other. Probably about forty men, Abe.
All armed, Abe said flatly.
Um-m-m. Listen, that's them coming. Right down the wadi. Get
going men. Abe, you cover me.
Abe Bakr looked at him. Wha'd'ya mean, cover you, man? You slipped
all the way round the bend? Listen, let me plant a couple quick land
mines to stop 'em and we'll get ourselves behind these rocks and blast
those cats half way back to Cairo.
We'll warn them as per orders.
Crazy man, like you're the boss, Homer, Abe growled. But why'd I
ever leave New Jersey? He made his way to the right, to the top of the
wadi's bank and behind a clump of thorny bush. He made himself
comfortable, the light Tommy-Noiseless with its clip of two hundred .10
caliber, ultra-high velocity shells resting before him on a flat rock
outcropping. He thoughtfully flicked the selector to the explosive side
of the clip. Let Homer Crawford say what he would about not setting off
a Fourth of July, but if he needed covering in the moments to come,
he'd need it bad.
The chips were down now.
The convoy, the motors growling their protests of the hard going
even here at the gravel bottomed wadi river bed, made its way toward
them at a pace of approximately twenty kilometers per hour.
The lead jeepSkoda manufacture, Homer Crawford noted
cynicallywas some thirty meters in advance. It drew to a halt upon
seeing him and a turbaned Arab Union trooper swung a Brenn gun in his
An officer stood up in the jeep and yelled at Crawford in Arabic.
The American took a deep breath and said in the same language,
You're out of your own territory.
The officer's face went poker-expressionless. He looked at the lone
figure, dressed in the garb of the Tuareg, even to the turban-veil
which covers all but the eyes of these notorious Apaches of the Sahara.
This is no affair of yours, the lieutenant said. Who are you?
Homer Crawford said very clearly, Sahara Division, African
Development Project, Reunited Nations. You're far out of your own
territory, lieutenant. I'll have to report you, and also to demand that
you turn and go back to your origin.
The lieutenant flicked his hand, and the trooper behind the Brenn
gun sighted the weapon and tightened his trigger finger.
Crawford dropped to the ground and rolled desperately for a slight
depression that would provide cover. He could have saved himself the
resultant bruises and scratches. Before the Brenn gun spoke even once,
there was a Götterdammerung of sound and the three occupants of
the jeep, driver, lieutenant and gunner were swept from the vehicle in
a nauseating obscenity of exploding flesh, uniform cloth, blood and
To the side, Abe Bakr behind his thorn bush and rock vantage point
turned the barrel of his Tommy-Noiseless to the first of the half
tracks. Already Arab Union troopers were debouching from them, some
firing at random and at unseen targets. However, the so-called Enaden
smiths were well concealed, their weapons silenced except for the
explosion of the tiny shells upon reaching their target.
It wasn't much of a fight. The recoilless automatic rifle manned by
Elmer Allen and Kenny Ballalou swept the wadi, swept it of life, at
least, but hardly swept it clean. What few individuals were left, in
what little shelter was to be found in the dry river's bottom, were
picked off easily, if not neatly by the high velocity automatics in the
hands of Abe Bakr and Bey-ag-Akhamouk.
Afterwards, the five of them, standing at the side of the wadi,
stared down at their work.
Elmer Allen muttered a bitter four-letter obscenity. He had once
headed a pacifist group at the University in Kingston, Jamaica. Now his
teeth were bared, as they always were when he went into action. He
Of them all, Bey-ag-Ahkamouk was the least moved by the slaughter.
He grumbled, Guns, explosives, mortar, flame throwers. If there is
anything in the world my people don't need in the way of aid,
Our people, Homer Crawford said absently, his eyestaking in the
scene beneath themempty, as though unseeing. He hated the need for
killing, almost as badly as did Elmer Allen.
Bey looked at him, scowling slightly, but said nothing. There had
been mild rebuke in his leader's voice.
Well, Abe Bakr said with a tone of mock finality in his voice, as
though he was personally wiping his hands of the whole affair, how are
you going to explain all this jazz to headquarters, man?
Homer said flatly, We were attacked by this unidentified group of,
ah, gun runners, from some unknown origin. We defended ourselves, to
the best of our ability.
Elmer Allen looked at the once human mess below them. We certainly
did, he muttered, scowling.
Crazy man, Abe said, nodding his agreement to the alibi.
The others didn't bother to speak. Homer Crawford's unit was well
He said after a moment. Abe, you and Kenny get some dynamite and
plant it in this wadi wall in a few spots. We'll want to bury this
whole mess. It wouldn't do for someone to come along and blow himself
up on some of these scattered land mines, or find himself a bazooka or
something to use on his nearest blood-feud neighbor.
The young woman known as Izubahil was washing clothes in the Niger
with the rest but slightly on the outskirts of the chattering group of
women, which was fitting since she was both a comparative stranger and
as yet unselected by any man to grace his household. Which, in a way,
was passingly strange since she was comely enough. Clad as the rest
with naught but a wrap of colored cloth about her hips, her face and
figure were openly to be seen. Her complexion was not quite so dark as
most. She came from up-river, so she said, the area of the Songhoi, but
by the looks of her there was more than average Arab or Berber blood in
her veins. Her lips and nose were thinner than those of her neighbors.
Yes, it was strange that no man had taken her, though it was said
that in her shyness she repulsed any advances made by either the young
men, or their wealthier elders who could afford more than one wife. She
was a nothing-woman, really, come out of the desert alone, and without
relatives to protect her interests, but still she repulsed the advances
of those who would honor her with a place in their house, or tent.
She had come out of the desert, it was known, with her handful of
possessions done up in a packet, and had quietly and unobtrusively
taken her place in the Negro community of Gao. Little better than a
slave or Gabibi serf, she made her meager living doing small tasks for
the better-off members of the community.
But she knew her place, was dutifully shy and quiet spoken, and in
the town or in the presence of men, wore her haik and veil. Yes, it was
passing strange that she found no man. On the face of it, she was
getting no younger, surely she must be into her twenties.
Up to their knees in the waters of the Niger, out beyond the point
where the dugout canoes were pulled up to the bank, their ends resting
on the shore, they pounded their laundry. Laughing, chattering,
gossiping. Life was perhaps poor, but still life was good.
Someone pretended to see a crocodile and there was a wild scampering
for the shore. And then high laughter when the jest was revealed.
Actually, all the time they had known it a jest, since it was their
most popular onethere were seldom crocodiles this far north in the
There was a stir as two men dressed in the clothes of the Rouma
approached the river bank. It was not forbidden, but good manners
called for males to refrain from this area while the woman bathed and
washed their laundry, without veil or upper garments. These mean were
obviously shameless, and probably had come to stare. From their dress,
their faces and their bearing, they were strangers. Possibly
Senegalese, up from the area near Dakar, products of the new schools
and the new industries mushrooming there. Strange things were told of
the folk who gave up the old ways, worked on the dams and the other new
projects, sent their little ones to the schools, and submitted to the
needle pricks which seemed to compose so much of the magic medicine
being taught in the medical schools by the Rouma witchmen.
One of them spoke now in Songhoi, the lingua franca of the
vicinity. Shamelessly he spoke to them, although none were his women,
nor even his tribal kin. None looked at him.
We seek a single woman, an unwed woman, who would work for pay and
learn the new ways.
They continued their laundry, not looking up, but their chatter
She must drop the veil, the man continued clearly, and give up
the haik and wear the new clothes. But she will be well paid, and
taught to read and be kept in the best of comfort and health.
There was a low gasp from several of the younger women, but one of
the eldest looked up in distaste. Wear the clothes of the Rouma! she
said indignantly. Shameless ones!
The man's voice was testy. He himself was dressed in the clothing
worn always by the Rouma, when the Rouma had controlled the Niger bend.
He said, These are not the clothes of the Rouma, but the clothes of
civilized people everywhere.
The women's attention went back to their washing. Two or three of
The elderly woman said, There are none here who will go with you,
for whatever shameless purpose you have in your mind.
But Izubahil, the strange girl come out of the desert from the
north, spoke suddenly. I will, she said.
There was a gasp, and all looked at her in wide-eyed alarm. She
began making her way to the shore, her unfinished washing still in
The stranger said clearly, And drop the veil, discard the haik for
the new clothing, and attend the schools?
There was another gasp as Izubahil said definitely, Yes, all these
things. She looked back at the women. So that I may learn all these
The more elderly sniffed and turned their backs in scorn, but the
younger stared after her in some amazement and until she disappeared
with the two strangers into one of the buildings which had formerly
housed the French Administration officers back in the days when the
area was known as the French Sudan.
Inside, the boy strangers turned to her and the one who had spoken
at the river bank said in English, How goes it?
Heavens to Betsy, Isobel Cunningham said with a grin, get me a
drink. If I'd known majoring in anthropology was going to wind up with
my doing a strip tease with a bunch of natives in the Niger River, I
would have taken up Home Economics, like my dear old mother wanted!
They laughed with her and Jacob Armstrong, the older of the two,
went over to a sideboard and mixed her a cognac and soda. Ice? he
Brother, you said it, she told him. Where can I change out of
On you they look good, Clifford Jackson told her. He looked
surprisingly like the Joe Louis of several decades earlier.
That's enough out of you, wise guy, Isobel told him. Why doesn't
somebody dream up a role for me where I can be a rich paramount chief's
favorite wife, or something? Be loaded down with gold and jewelry, that
sort of thing.
Jake brought her the drink. Your clothes are in there, he told
her, motioning with his head to an inner room. It wouldn't do the
job, he added. What we're giving them is the old Cinderella story.
He looked at his watch. If we get under way, we can take the jet to
Kabara and go into your act there. It's been nearly six months since
Kabara and they'll be all set for the second act.
She knocked back the brandy and made her way to the other room,
saying over her shoulder, Be with you in a minute.
Not that much of a hurry, Cliff called. Take your time, gal,
there's a bath in there. You'll probably want one after a week of
living the way you've been.
Brother! she agreed.
Jake was making himself a drink. He said easily to Cliff Jackson,
That's a fine girl. I'd hate her job. We get the easy deal on this
Cliff said, You said it, Nigger. How about mixing me a drink, too?
Nigger! Jake said in mock indignation. Look who's talking. His
voice took on a burlesque of a Southern drawl. Man when the Good Lawd
was handin' out cullahs, you musta thought he said umbrellahs, and said give me a nice black one.
Cliff laughed with him and said, Where do we plant poor Isobel
Jake thought about it. I don't know. The kid's been putting in a
lot of time. I think after about a week in Kabara we ought to go on
down to Dakar and suggest she be given another assignment for a while.
Some of the girls, working out of our AFAA office don't do anything
except drive around in recent model cars, showing off the advantages of
emancipation, tossing money around like tourists, and living it up in
* * * * *
On the flight up-river to Kabara, Isobel Cunningham went through the
notes she'd taken on that town. It was also on the Niger, and the
assignment had been almost identical to the Gao one. In fact, she'd
gone through the same routine in Ségou, Ké-Macina, Mopti, Gôundam and
Bourem, above Gao, and Ansongo, Tillabéri and Niamey below. She was
stretching her luck, if you asked her. Sooner or later she was going to
run into someone who knew her from a past performance.
Well, let the future take care of the future. She looked over at
Cliff Jackson who was piloting the jet and said, What're the latest
developments? Obviously, I haven't seen a paper or heard a broadcast
for over a week.
Cliff shrugged his huge shoulders. Not much. More trouble with the
Portuguese down in the south.
Jake rumbled, There's going to be a bloodbath there before it's
Isobel said thoughtfully, There's been some hope that fundamental
changes might take place in Lisbon.
Jake grunted his skepticism. In that case the bloodbath would take
place there instead of in Africa. He added, Which is all right with
What else? Isobel said.
Continued complications in the Congo.
That's hardly news.
But things are going like clockwork in the west. Kenya, Uganda,
Tanganyika. Cliff took his right hand away from the controls long
enough to make a circle with its thumb and index finger. Like
clockwork. Fifty new fellows from the University of Chicago came in
last week to help with the rural education development and twenty or so
men from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore have wrangled a special grant for a
new medical school.
All ... Negroes?
Jake said suddenly, Tell her about the Cubans.
Isobel frowned. Cubans?
Over in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan area. They were supposedly helping
introduce modern sugar refining methods
All right, go on, Isobel said.
Cliff Jackson said slowly, Somebody shot them up. Killed several,
wounded most of the others.
The girl's eyes went round. Who ... and why?
The pilot shifted his heavy shoulders again.
Jake said, Nobody seems to know, but the weapons were modern.
Plenty modern. He twisted in his bucket seat, uncomfortably. Listen,
have you heard anything about some character named El Hassan?
Isobel turned to face him. Why, yes. The people there in Gao
mentioned him. Who is he?
That's what I'd like to know, Jake said. What did they say?
Oh, mostly supposed words of wisdom that El Hassan was alleged to
have made with. I get it that he's some, well you wouldn't call him a
nationalist since he's international in his appeal, but he's evidently
preaching union of all Africans. I get an undercurrent of
anti-Europeanism in general, but not overdone. Isobel's expressive
face went thoughtful. As a matter of fact, his program seems to
coincide largely with our own, so much so that from time to time when I
had occasion to drop a few words of propaganda into a conversation, I'd
sometimes credit it to him.
Cliff looked over at her and chuckled. That's a coincidence, he
said. I've been doing the same thing. An idea often carries more
weight with these people if it's attributed to somebody with a
Jake, the older of the three said: Well, I can't find out anything
about him. Nobody seems to know if he's an Egyptian, a Nigerian, a MOR
... or an Eskimo, for that matter.
Did you check with headquarters?
So far they have nothing on him, except for some other inquiries
from field workers.
Below them, the river was widening out to the point where it
resembled swampland more than a waterway. There were large numbers of
waterbirds, and occasional herds of hippopotami. Isobel didn't express
her thoughts, but a moment of doubt hit her. What would all this be
like when the dams were finished, the waters of this third largest of
Africa's rivers, ninth largest of the world's, under control?
She pointed. There's Kabara. The age-old river port lay below
them. Cliff slapped one of his controls with the heel of his hand and
the craft began to sink earthward.
* * * * *
They took up quarters in the new hotel which adjoined the new
elementary school, and Isobel immediately went into her routine.
Dressed and shod immaculately, her head held high in confidence, she
spent considerable time mingling with the more backward of the natives
and especially the women. Six months ago, she had given a performance
similar to that she had just finished in Gao, several hundred miles
Now she renewed old acquaintances, calling them by nameafter
checking her notes. Invariably, their eyes bugged. Their questions came
thick, came fast in the slurring Songhoi and she answered them in
detail. They came quickly under her intellectual domination. Her poise,
her obvious well being, flabbergasted them.
In all, they spent a week in the little river town, but even the
first night Isobel slumped wearily in the most comfortable chair of
their small suite's living room.
She kicked off her shoes, and wiggled weary toes.
If my mother could see me now, she complained. After giving her
all to get the apple of her eye through school, her wayward daughter
winds up living with two men in the wilds of deepest Africa. She
twisted her mouth puckishly.
Cliff grunted, poking around in a bag for the bottle of cognac he
couldn't remember where he had packed. Huh! he said. The next time
you write her you might mention the fact that both of them are
continually proposing to you and you brush it all off as a big joke.
Huh, indeed! Isobel answered him. Proposing, or propositioning?
If either of you two Romeos ever rattle the doorknob of my room at
night again, you're apt to get a bullet through it.
Jake winced. Wasn't me. Look at my gray hair, Isobel. I'm old
enough to be your daddy.
Sugar daddy, I suppose, she said mockingly.
Wasn't me either, Cliff said, criss-crossing his heart and
Huh! said Isobel again, but she was really in no mood for their
usual banter. Listen, she said, what're we accomplishing with all
Cliff had found the French brandy. He poured three stiff ones and
handed drinks to Isobel and Jake.
He knew he wasn't telling her anything, but he said, We're a
king-size rumor campaign, that's what we are. We're breaking down
institutions the sneaky way. He added reflectively. A kinder way,
though, than some.
But this ... what did you call it earlier, Jake?... this Cinderella
act I go through perpetually. What good does it do, really? I contact
only a few hundreds of people at most. And there are millions here in
There are other teams, too, Jake said mildly. Several hundreds of
us doing one thing or another.
A drop in the bucket, Isobel said, her piquant sepian face
Cliff sipped his brandy, shaking his big head even as he did so.
No, he said. It's a king-size rumor campaign and it's amazing how
effective they can be. Remember the original dirty-rumor campaigns back
in the States? Suppose two laundry firms were competing. One of them,
with a manager on the conscience-less side, would hire two or three
professional rumor spreaders. They'd go around dropping into bars,
barber shops, pool rooms. Sooner or later, they'd get a chance to drop
some line such as did you hear about them discovering that two
lepers worked at the Royal Laundry? You can imagine the barbers,
the bartenders, and such professional gossips, passing on the good
Isobel laughed, but unhappily. I don't recognize myself in the
Cliff said earnestly, Sure, only few score women in each town you
put on your act, really witness the whole thing. But think how they
pass it on. Each one of them tells the story of the miracle. A waif
comes out of the desert. Without property, without a husband or family,
without kinsfolk. Shy, dirty, unwanted. Then she's offered a good
position if she'll drop the veil, discard the haik, and attend the new
schools. So off she goeseveryone thinking to her disaster.
Hocus-pocus, six months later she returns, obviously prosperous,
obviously healthy, obviously well adjusted. Fine. The story spreads for
miles around. Nothing is so popular as the Cinderella story, and that's
the story you're putting over. It's a natural.
I hope so, Isobel said. Sometimes I think I'm helping put over a
gigantic hoax on these people. Promising something that won't be
Jake looked at her unhappily. I've thought the same thing,
sometimes, but what are you going to be with people at this stage of
Isobel dropped it. She held out her glass for more cognac. I hope
there's something decent to eat in this place. Do you realize what I've
been putting into my tummy this past week?
Isobel patted her abdomen. At least it keeps my figure in trim.
Um-m-m, Jake pretended to leer heavily.
Isobel chuckled at him in a return to good humor. Hyena, she
Hyena? Jake said.
Sure, there aren't any wolves in these parts, she explained. How
long are we going to be here?
The two men looked at each other. Cliff said, Well, we'd like to
finish out the week. Guy named Homer Crawford has been passing around
the word to hold a meeting in Timbuktu the end of this week.
Homer Crawford, some kind of sociologist from the University of
Michigan, I understand. He's connected with the Reunited Nations
African Development Project, heads one of their cloak and dagger
Jake grunted. Sociologist? I also understand that he put in a hitch
with the Marines and spent kind of a shady period of two years fighting
with the FLN in Algeria.
On what side? Cliff said interestedly.
Darn if I know.
Isobel said, Well, we have nothing to do with the Reunited
Cliff shook his large head negatively. Of course not, but Crawford
seems to think it'd be a good idea if some of us in the field would get
together and ... well, have sort of a bull session.
Jake growled, We don't have much in the way of co-operation on the
higher levels. Everybody seems to head out in all directions on their
own. It can get chaotic. Maybe in the field we could give each other a
few pointers. For one, I'd like to find out if any of the rest of these
jokers know anything about that affair with the Cubans over in the
I suppose it can't hurt, Isobel admitted. In fact, it might be
fun swapping experiences with some of these characters. Frankly,
though, the stories I've heard about the African Development teams
aren't any too palatable. They seem to be a ruthless bunch.
Jake looked down into his glass. It's a ruthless country, he
* * * * *
Dolo Anah, as he approached the ten Dogon villages of the Canton de
Sangha, was first thought to be a small bird in the sky. As he drew
nearer, it was decided, instead, that he was a larger creature of the
air, perhaps a vulture, though who had ever seen such a vulture? As he
drew nearer still, it was plain that in size he was more nearly an
ostrich than vulture, but who had ever heard of a flying ostrich, and
No! It was a man! But who in all the Dogon had ever witnessed such a
juju man? One whose flailing limbs enabled him to fly!
The ten villages of the Dogon are perched on the rim of the Falaise
de Bandiagara. The cliffs are over three hundred feet high and the
villages are similar to Mesa Verde of Colorado, and as unaccessible, as
impregnable to attack.
But hardly impregnable to arrival by helio-hopper.
When Dolo Anah landed in the tiny square of the village of Irèli,
the first instinct of Amadijuè the village witchman was to send post
haste to summon the Kanaga dancers, but then despair overwhelmed him.
Against powers such as this, what could prevail? Besides, Amadijuè had
not arrived at his position of influence and affluence through other
than his own true abilities. Secretly, he rather doubted the efficacy
of even the supposedly most potent witchcraft.
Dolo Anah unstrapped himself from the one man helio-hopper's small
bicyclelike seat, folded the two rotors back over the rest of the
craft, and then deposited the seventy-five pound vehicle in a corner,
between two adobe houses. He knew perfectly well that the local
inhabitants would die a thousand deaths of torture rather than
approach, not to speak of touching it.
Looking to neither right nor left, walking arrogantly and carrying
only a small bagundoubtedly housing his gris gris, as Amadijuè
could well imagineDolo Anah headed for the largest house. Since the
whole village was packed, bug-eyed, into the square watching him there
were no inhabitants within.
He snapped back over his shoulder, Summon all the headmen of all
the villages, and all of their eldest sons; summon all the Hogons and
all the witchmen. Immediately! I would speak with them and issue
He was a small man, clad only in a loincloth, and could well have
been a Dogon himself. Surely he was black as a Dogon, clad as a Dogon,
and he spoke the native language which is a tongue little known outside
the semi-desert land of Dogon covered with its sand, rocks, scrub bush
and baobab trees. It is not a land which sees many strangers.
The headmen gathered with trepidation. All had seen the juju man
descend from the skies. It had been with considerable relief that most
had noted that he finally sank to earth in the village of Irèli instead
of their own. But now all were summoned. Those among them who were
Kanaga dancers wore their masks and costumes, and above all their gris
gris charms, but it was a feeble gesture. Such magic as this was
unknown. To fly through the air personally!
Dolo Anah was seated to one end of the largest room of the largest
house of Irèli when they crowded in to answer his blunt summons. He was
seated cross-legged on the floor and staring at the ground before him.
The others seemed tongue-tied, both headmen and Hogons, the highly
honored elders of the Dogon people. So Amadijuè as senior witchman took
over the responsibility of addressing this mystery juju come out of the
Oh, powerful stranger, how is your health?
Good, Dolo Anah said.
How is the health of thy wife?
How is the health of thy children?
How is the health of thy mother?
How is the health of thy father?
How is the health of thy kinswomen?
How is the health of thy kinsmen?
To the traditional greeting of the Dogon, Amadijuè added hopefully,
Welcome to the villages of Sangha.
His voice registering nothing beyond the impatience which had marked
it from the beginning, Dolo Anah repeated the routine.
Men of Sangha, he snapped, how is your health?
Good, they chorused.
How is the health of thy wives?
How is the health of thy children?
How is the health of thy mothers?
How is the health of thy fathers?
How is the health of thy kinswomen?
How is the health of thy kinsmen?
I accept thy welcome, Dolo Anah bit out. And now heed me well for
I am known as Dolo Anah and I have instructions from above for the
people of the Dogon.
Sweat glistened on the faces and bodies of the assembled Dogon
headmen, their uncharacteristically silent witchmen, the Hogons and the
sons of the headmen.
Speak, oh juju come out of the sky, Amadijuè fluttered, but proud
of his ability to find speech at all when all the others were stricken
dumb with fear.
* * * * *
Dolo Anah stared down at the ground before him. The others, their
eyes fascinated as though by a cobra preparing to strike its death,
focused on the spot as well.
Dolo Anah raised a hand very slowly and very gently and a sigh went
through his audience. The dirt on the hut floor had stirred. It stirred
again and slowly, ever so slowly, up through the floor emerged a milky,
translucent ball. When it had fully emerged, Dolo Anah took it up in
his hands and stared at it for a long moment.
It came to sudden light and a startled gasp flushed over the room, a
gasp shared by even the witchmen, Amadijuè included.
Dolo Anah looked up at them. Each of you must come in turn and look
into the ball, he said.
Faltering, though all eyes were turned to him, Amadijuè led the way.
His eyes rounded, he stared, and they widened still further. For
within, mystery upon mystery, men danced in seeming celebration. It was
as though it was a funeral party but of dimensions never known before,
for there were scores of Kanaga dancers, and, yes, above all other
wonders, some of the dancers were Dogon, without doubt, but others were
Mosse and others were even Tellum!
Amadijuè turned away, shaken, and Dolo Anah spoke sharply, The
rest, one by one.
They came. The headmen, the Hogons, the witchmen and finally the
sons of the headmen, and each in turn stared into the ball and saw the
tiny men within, doing their dance of celebration, Dogon, Mosse and
When all had seen, Dolo Anah placed the ball back on the ground and
stared at it and slowly it returned to from whence it came, and Dolo
Anah gently spread dust over the spot. When the floor was as it had
been, he looked up at them, his eyes striking.
What did you see? he spoke sharply to Amadijuè.
There was a tremor in the village witchman's voice. Oh juju, come
out of the sky, I saw a great festival and Dogon danced with their
enemies the Mosse and the Tellumand, all seemed happy beyond belief.
The stranger looked piercingly at the rest. And what did you see?
Some mumbled, The same. The same, and others, terrified still,
could only nod.
That is the message I have come to give you. You will hold a great
conference with the people of the Tellum and the people of the Mosse
and there will be a great celebration and no longer will there be
Dogon, Mosse and Tellum, but all will be one. And there will be trade,
and there will be marriage between the tribes, and no longer will there
be three tribes, but only one people and no longer will the headmen and
witchmen of the tribes resist the coming of the new schools, and all
the young people will attend.
Amadijuè muttered, But, great juju come out of the sky, these are
our blood enemies. For longer than the memory of the grandfathers of
our eldest Hogon we have carried the blood feud with Tellum and Mosse.
No longer, Dolo Anah said flatly.
Amadijuè held shaking hands out in supplication, to this dominating
juju come out of the skies. But they will not heed us. Tellum and
Mosse have hated the Dogon for all time. They will wreak their
vengeance on any delegation come to make such suggestions to them.
I fly to see their headmen and witchmen immediately, Dolo Anah bit
out decisively. They will heed my message. His tone turned dangerous.
As will the headmen and witchmen of the Dogon. If any fail to obey the
message from above, their eyes will lose sight, their tongues become
dumb, and their bellies will crawl with worms.
Amadijuè's face went ashen.
At long last the headman of all the Sangha villages spoke up, his
voice trembling its fear. But the schools, oh great jujuas all the
Dogon have decided, in tribal conferencethe schools are evil for our
youth. They teach not the old ways
Dolo Anah cut him short with the chop of a commanding hand. The old
ways are fated to die. Already they die. The new ways are the ways of
Amazed at his own temerity, the head chief spoke once more. But,
since the coming of the French, we have rejected the schools.
Dolo Anah looked at him in scorn. These will not be schools of the
French. They will be the schools of Bantu, Berber, Sudanese and all the
other peoples of the land. And when your young people have attended the
schools and learned their wisdom they in turn will teach in the schools
and in all the land there will be wisdom and good life. Now I have
spoken and all of you will withdraw save only the sons of the headmen.
They withdrew, making a point each and every one not to turn their
backs to this bringer of disastrous news and leaving only the
terror-stricken young men behind them.
* * * * *
When all were gone save the dozen youngsters, Dolo Anah looked at
them contemplatively. He shrugged finally and said, pointing with his
finger, You, you and you may leave. The others will remain. The three
darted out, glad of the reprieve.
He looked at the remainder. Be unafraid, he snapped. There is no
reason to fear me. Your fathers and the Hogons and the so-called
witchmen, are fools, nothing-men. Fools and cowards, because they are
impressed by foolish tricks.
He pointed suddenly. You, there, what is your name?
The youth stuttered, Hinnan.
Very well, Hinnan. Did you see me approach by the air?
Yes ... yes ... juju man.
Don't call me a juju man. There is no such thing as juju. It is
nonsense made by the cunning to fool the stupid, as you will learn when
you attend the schools.
Hinnan took courage. But I saw you fly.
Have you never seen the great aircraft of the white men of Europe
and America go flying over? Or have none of you witnessed these craft
sitting on the ground at Mopti or Niamey. Surely some of you have
journeyed to Mopti.
Yes, but they are great craft. And you flew alone and without the
great wings and propellers of the white-man's aircraft.
Dolo Anah chuckled. My son, I flew in a helio-hopper as they are
called. They are the smallest of all aircraft, but they are not magic.
They are made in the factories of the lands of Europe and America and
after you have finished school and have found a position for yourself
in the new industries that spread through Africa, then you will be able
to purchase one quite cheaply, if you so desire. Others among you might
even learn to build them, themselves.
Hinnan and the others gasped.
Dolo Anah went on. And observe this. He dug into the ground before
him and revealed the crystal ball that had magically appeared before.
He showed to them the little elevator device beneath it which he
manipulated with a small rubber bulb which pumped air underneath.
One or two of them ventured a scornful laugh, at the obviousness of
Dolo Anah took up the ball and unscrewed the base. Inside were a
delicate arrangement of film on a continuous spool so that the scene
played over and over again, and a combination of batteries and bulbs to
project the scene on the ball's surface. He explained, in patient
detail, the workings of the supposed magic ball. Two of the boys had
seen movies on trips to Mopti, the others had heard of them.
Finally one, highly encouraged now, as were the others, said, But
why do you show us this and shame us for our foolishness?
Dolo Anah nodded encouragement at the teen-ager. I do not shame
you, my son, but your fathers and the Hogons and the so-called
witchmen. For long ages the Dogon have been led by the oldest members
of the tribe, the Hogons. This can be nonsense because in spite of your
traditions age does not necessarily bring wisdom. In fact, senility as
it is called can bring childish nonsense. A people should be governed
by the wisest and best among them, not by tradition, by often silly
beliefs handed down from one generation to another.
Hinnan, who was eldest son of the head chief, said, But why do you
tell us this, after shaming our fathers and the old men of the Dogon?
For the first time since the elders had left, Dolo Anah's eyes
gleamed as before. Because you will be the leaders of the Dogon
tomorrow, most like. And it is necessary to learn these great truths.
That you attend the schools and bring to the Dogon tomorrow what they
did not have yesterday, and do not have today.
But suppose we tell them of how you have deceived them? the other
articulate Dogon lad said.
Dolo Anah chuckled and shook his head. They will not believe you,
boy. They will be afraid to believe you. And besides, men are almost
everywhere the same. It is difficult for an older man to learn from a
younger one, especially his own son. It is vanity, but it is true. His
mouth twisted in memory. When I was a lad myself, on the beaches of an
island far from here in the Bahamas, my father beat me on more than one
occasion, indignant that I should wish to attend the white man's
schools, while he and his father before him had been fishermen. Beneath
his indignation was the fear that one day I would excel him.
You are right, Hinnan said uncomfortably, they would not believe
us. Instinctively, the son of the head chief assumed leadership of the
others. We will keep this secret between us, he said to them.
Dolo Anah came to his feet, yawned, stretched his legs and began to
pack his gadgets into the small valise he carried. Good luck, boys,
he said unthinkingly in English.
As he left the hut, he emerged into a respectfully cleared area
around the hut. Without looking left or right he approached his folded
helio-hopper, made the few adjustments that were needed to make it
air-borne, strapped himself into the tiny saddle, flicked the start
control and to the accompaniment of a gasp from the entire village of
Irèli, took off in a swoop.
In a matter of moments, he had disappeared to the north in the
direction of the Mosse villages.
The Emir Alhaji Mohammadu, the Galadima Dawakin, Kudo of Kano,
boiled furiously within as his gold plated Rolls Royce progressed
through the Saba N'Gari section of town, the quarter outside the dirt
walls of the millennium old city. He rode seated alone in the middle of
the rear seat and his single counselor sat beside the chauffeur. Before
them, a jeep load of his bodyguard, dressed in their uniforms of red
and green, cleared the way. Another jeep followed similarly laden.
They entered through one of the ancient gates and swept up the
principal street. They stopped before the recently constructed luxury
hotel in the center of town and the bodyguard leapt from the jeeps and
took positions to each side of the entry. The counselor popped out from
his side of the car and beat the chauffeur to the task of opening the
Emir Alhaji Mohammadu was a tall man and a heavy one, his white
robed figure towered some six and a half feet and his scales put him
over the three hundred mark. He was in his mid fifties and almost a
quarter century of autocratic position had marked his face with
permanent scowl. He stomped now into the western style hotel.
His counselor, Ahmadu Abdullah, had already procured the information
necessary to locate the source of the Emir's ire and now scurried
before his chief, leading the way to the suite occupied by the
mysterious strangers. He banged heavily on the door, then stepped
behind his master as it opened.
One of the strangers, clad western style, opened the door and
stepped aside courteously motioning to the large inner room. The Emir
strutted arrogantly inside and stared in high irritation at the second
and elder stranger who sat there at a heavy table. This one came to his
feet, but there was no sign of acknowledgment of the Emir's rank. It
was not too long a time before that men prostrated themselves in Alhaji
He looked at them. Though both were of dark complexion, there seemed
no manner of typing them. Certainly they were neither Hausa nor Fulani,
there being no signs of Hamitic features, but neither were they Ibo or
Yoruba from farther south. The Emir's eyes narrowed and he wondered if
these two were Nigerians at all!
He barked at them in Hausa and the older answered him in the same
language, though there seemed a certain awkwardness in its use.
Emir Alhaji Mohammadu blared, You dare summon me, Kudo of this
city? You presume
They had resumed seats behind the table and the two of them looked
at him questioningly. The older one interrupted with a gently raised
hand. Why did you come?
Still glaring, the Emir turned to the cringing Ahmadu Abdullah and
motioned curtly for the counselor to speak. Meanwhile, the ruler's eyes
went around the room, decided that the couch was the only seat that
would accommodate his bulk, and descended upon it.
Ahmadu Abdullah brought a paper from the folds of his robes. This
lying letter. This shameless attack upon the Galadima Dawakin!
The younger stranger said mildly, If the charges contained there
are incorrect, then why did you come?
The Emir rumbled dangerously, ignoring the question. What is your
purpose? I am not a patient man. There has never been need for my
The spokesman of the two, the older, leaned back in his chair and
said carefully, We have come to demand your resignation and
A vein beat suddenly and wildly at the gigantic Emir's temple and
for a full minute the potentate was speechless with outrage.
Ahmadu Abdullah said quickly, Fantastic! Ridiculous! The Galadima
Dawakin is lawful ruler and religious potentate of three million
devoted followers. You are lying strangers come to cause dissention
among the people of Kano and
The spokesman for the newcomers took up a sheaf of papers from the
table and said, his voice emotionless, The reason you came here at our
request is because the charges made in that letter you bear are valid
ones. For a quarter century, you, Alhaji Mohammadu, have milked your
people to your own profit. You have lived like a god on the wealth you
have extracted from them. You have gone far, far beyond the legal and
even traditional demands you have on the local population. Funds
supposedly to be devoted to education, sanitation, roads, hospitals and
a multitude of other developments that would improve this whole
benighted area, have gone into your private pocket. In short, you have
been a cancer on your people for the better part of your life.
All lies! roared the Kudo.
The other shook his head. No. We have carefully gathered proof. We
can submit evidence to back every charge we have made. Above all, we
can prove the existence of large sums of money you have smuggled out of
the country to Switzerland, London and New York to create a reserve for
yourself in case of emergency. Needless to say, these funds, too, were
originally meant for the betterment of the area.
The Emir's eyes were narrow with hate. Who are you? Whom do you
What difference does it make? This is of no importance.
You represent my son, Alhaji Fodio! This is what comes of his
studies in England and America. This is what comes of his leaving Kano
and spending long years in Lagos among those unbeliever communists in
The younger stranger chuckled easily. That is about the last tag I
would hang on your son's associates, he said in English.
But the older stranger was nodding. It is true that we hope your
son will take over the Emirate. He represents progress. Frankly, his
plans are to end the office as soon as the people are educated to the
point where they can accept such change.
End the office! the Emir snarled. For a thousand years my
* * * * *
The spokesman of the strangers shook his head wearily. Your
ancestors conquered this area less than two centuries ago in a jehad
led by Othman Dan. Since then, you Fulani have feudalistically
dominated the Hausa, but that is coming to an end.
The Emir had come to his feet again, in his rage, and now he towered
over the table behind which the two sat as though about to physically
attack them. You speak as fools, he raged.
Are you so stupid as to believe that these matters you have brought
up are understandable to my people? Have you ever seen my people? He
sneered in a caricature of humor. My people in their grass and bush
huts? With not one man in a whole village who can add sums higher than
those he can work out on his fingers? With not one man who can read the
English tongue, nor any other? Would you explain to these the matters
of transferring gold to the Zürich banks? Would you explain to these
what is involved in accepting dash from road contractors and from
politicians in Lagos?
He sneered at them again. And do you realize that I am church as
well as state? That I represent their God to my people? Do you think
they would take your word against mine, their Kudo?
In talking, he had brought a certain calm back to himself. Now he
felt reassured at his own words. He wound it up. You are fools to
believe my people could understand such matters.
Then actually, you don't deny them?
Why should I bother? the Emir chuckled heavily.
That you have taken for personal use the large sums granted this
area from a score of sources for roads, hospitals, schools, sanitation,
Of course I don't deny it. This is my land. I am the Kudo, the
Emir, the Galadima Dawakin. Whatever I choose to do in Kano and to all
my people is right because I wish it. Schools? I don't want them
corrupting my people. Hospitals for these Hausa serfs? Nonsense! Roads?
They are bad for they allow the people to get about too easily and that
leads to their exchanging ideas and schemes and leads to their
corruption. Have I appropriated all such sums for my own use? Yes! I
admit it. Yes! But you cannot prove it to such as my people, you who
represent my son. So be-gone from Kano. If you are here tomorrow, you
will be arrested by the same men of my bodyguard who even now seek my
son, Alhaji Fodio. When he is captured, it will be of interest to
revive some of the methods of execution of my ancestors.
The Emir turned on his heel to stalk from the room but the older of
the two murmured, One moment, please.
Alhaji Mohammadu paused, his face dark in scowl again.
The spokesman said agreeably, It is true that your people, and
particularly your Hausa serfs, have no understanding of international
finance nor of national corruption methods such as the taking of
dash. However, they are susceptible to other proof. The other man
raised his voice. John!
From an inner room came another stranger, making their total number
three. He was grinning and in one hand held a contraption which boasted
a conglomeration of lenses, switches, microphones, wires and triggers.
Got it perfectly, he said. You'd think it had all been rehearsed.
While the Emir and his counselor stared in amazement, the spokesman
of the strangers said, How long before you can project?
The other young man left the room and returned with what was
obviously a movie projector. He set it up at one end of the table,
pointed at a white wall, and plugged it in to a convenient outlet.
Before the Emir had managed to control himself beyond the point of
saying any more than, What is all this? the cameraman had brought a
magazine of film from his instrument and inserted it in the projector.
The photographer said conversationally, to the hulking potentate,
You'd be amazed at the advances in cinema these past few years. Film
speed, immediate development, portable sound equipment. You'd be
Someone flicked out the greater part of the room's light. The
projector buzzed and on the wall was thrown a re-enactment of
everything that had been said and done in the room for the past ten
When it was over, the lights went on again.
The spokesman said conversationally, I assume that if this film
were shown throughout the villages, even your Hausa serfs would be
convinced that throughout your reign you have systematically robbed
Emir Alhaji Mohammadu, the Galadima Dawakin, Kudo of Kano, his face
in shock, turned and stumbled from the room.
* * * * *
The gymkhana, or fantasia as it is called in nearby Morocco, was
under full swing before Abd-el-Kader and the camel-and horse-mounted
warriors of his Ouled Touameur clan came dashing in, rifles held high
and with great firing into the air. The Ouled Touameur were the noblest
clan of the Ouled Allouch tribe of the Berazga division of the Chaambra
nomad confederationthe noblest and the least disciplined. There were
whispered rumors going about the conference as to the identity of the
mysterious raiders who were preying upon the new oases, the oil and
road building camps and the endless other new projects springing up,
all but magically, throughout the northwestern Sahara.
The gymkhana was in full swing with racing and feasting, and
storytellers and conjurers, jugglers and marabouts. And in the air was
the acrid distinctive odor of kif, for though Mohammed forbade
alcohol to the faithful he had naught to say about the uses of
cannabis sativa and what is a great festival without the smoking of
kif and the eating of majoun?
The tribes of the Chaambra were widely represented, Berazga and
Mouadhi, Bou Rouba and Ouled Fredj, and there was even a heavy
sprinkling of the sedentary Zenatas come down from the towns of
Metlili, El Oued and El Goléo. Then, of course, were the Haratin serfs,
of mixed Arab-Negro blood, and the Negroes themselves, until recently
openly called slaves, but nowamusinglynamed servants.
The Chaambra were meeting for a great ceremonial gymkhanas, but
also, as was widely known, for a djemaa el kebar council of
elders and chiefs, for there were many problems throughout the Western
Erg and the areas of Mzab and Bourara. Nor was it secret only to the
inner councils that the meeting had been called by Abd-el-Kader, of
Shorfu blood, direct descendent of the Prophet through his daughter
Fatima, and symbol to the young warriors of Chaambra spirit.
Of all the Ouled Touameur clan Abd-el-Kader alone refrained from
discharging his gun into the air as they dashed into the inner circle
of khaima tents which centered the gymkhana and provided council
chambers, dining hall and sleeping quarters for the tribal and clan
heads. Instead, and with head arrogantly high, he slipped from his
stallion tossing the reins to a nearby Zenata and strode briskly to the
largest of the tents and disappeared inside.
Bismillah! but Adb-el-Kader was a figure of a man! From his
turban, white as the snows of the Atlas, to his yellow leather boots,
he wore the traditional clothing of the Chaambra and wore them with
pride. Not for Abd-el-Kader the new clothing from the Rouma cities to
the north, nor even the new manufactures from Dakar, Accra, Lagos and
the other mushrooming centers to the south.
His weapons alone paid homage to the new ways. And each fighting man
within eyesight noted that it was not a rifle slung over the shoulder
of Abd-el-Kader but a sub-machine gun. Bismillah! This could not have
been so back in the days when the French Camel Corps ruled the land
with its hand of iron.
The djemaa el kebar was already in session, seated in a great circle
on the rug and provided with glasses of mint tea and some with water
pipes. They looked up at the entrance of the warrior clan chieftain.
* * * * *
El Aicha, who was of Maraboutic ancestry and hence a holy man as
well as elder of the Ouled Fredj, spoke first as senior member of the
conference. We have heard reports that are disturbing of recent
months, Abd-el-Kader. Reports of activities amongst the Ouled Touameur.
We would know more of the truth of these. But also we have high
interest in your reason for summoning the djemaa el kebar at such a
time of year.
Abd-el-Kader made a brief gesture of obeisance to the Chaambra
leader, a gesture so brief as to verge on disrespect. He said, his
voice clear and confident, as befits a warrior chief, Disturbing only
to the old and unvaliant, O El Aicha.
The old man looked at him for a long, unblinking moment. As a youth,
he had fought at the Battle of Tit when the French Camel Corps had
broken forever the military power of the Ahaggar Tuareg. El Aicha was
no coward. There were murmurings about the circle of elders.
But when El Aicha spoke again, his voice was level. Then speak to
us, Abd-el-Kader. It is well known that your voice is heard ever more
by the young men, particularly by the bolder of the young men.
The fighting man remained standing, his legs slightly spread. The
Arab, like the Amerind, likes to make speech in conference, and
eloquence is well held by the Chaambra.
Long years ago, and only shortly after the death of the Prophet,
the Chaambra resided, so tell the scribes, in the hills of far away
Syria. But when the word of Islam was heard and the true believers
began to race their strength throughout all the world, the Chaambra
came here to the deserts of Africa and here we have remained. Long
centuries it took us to gain control of the wide areas of the northern
and western desert and many were the battles we fought with our
traditional enemies the Tuareg and the Moors before we controlled all
the land between the Atlas and the Niger and from what is now known as
Tunisia to Mauritania.
All nodded. This was tribal history.
Abd-el-Kader held up four fingers on which to enumerate. The
Chaambra were ever men. Warriors, bedouin; not for us the cities and
villages of the Zenatas, and the miserable Haratin serfs. We Chaambra
have ever been men of the tent, warriors, conquerors!
El Aicha still nodded. That was before, he murmured.
That will always be! Abd-el-Kader insisted. His four fingers were
spread and he touched the first one. Our life was based upon, one, war
and the spoils of war. He touched the second finger. Two, the toll we
extracted from the caravans that passed from Timbuktu to the north and
back again. Three, from our own caravans which covered the desert
trails from Tripoli to Dakar and from Marrakech to Kano. And
fourthhe touched his last fingerfrom our flocks which fed us in
the wilderness. He paused to let this sink in.
All this is verily true, muttered one of the elders, a so-what
quality in his voice.
Abd-el-Kader's tone soured. Then came the French with their weapons
and their multitudes of soldiers and their great wealth with which to
pursue the expenses of war. And one by one the Tuareg and the Teda to
the south and the Moors and Nemadi, yes, and even the Chaambra fell
before the onslaughts of the Camel Corps and their wild-dog Foreign
Legion. He held up his four fingers again and counted them off. The
four legs upon which our life was based were broken. War and its spoils
was prevented us. The tolls we charged caravans to cross our land were
forbidden. And then, shortly after, came the motor trucks which crossed
the desert in a week, where formerly the journey took as much as a
year. Our camel caravans became meaningless.
Again all nodded. Verily, the world changes, someone muttered.
The warrior leader's voice went dramatic. We were left with naught
but our flocks, and now even they are fated to end.
The elderly nomads stirred and some scowled.
At every water hole in the desert teams of the new irrigation
development dig their wells, install their pumps which bring power from
the sun, plant trees, bring in Haratin and former slavesour
slavesto cultivate the new oases. And we are forbidden the water for
the use of our goats and sheep and camels.
Besides, one of the clan chiefs injected, they tell us that the
goat is the curse of North Africa, nibbling as it does the bark of
small trees, and they attempt to purchase all goats until soon there
will be few, if any, in all the land.
So our young people, Abd-el-Kader pressed on, stripped of our
former way of life, go to the new projects, enroll in the schools, take
work in the new oases or on the roads, and disappear from the sight of
their kinsmen. He came to a sudden halt and all but glared at them,
maintaining his silence until El Aicha stirred.
And? El Aicha said. This was all obviously but preliminary.
Abd-el-Kader spoke softly now, and there was a different drama in
his voice. And now, he said, the French are gone. All the Rouma,
save a handful, are gone. In the south the English are gone from the
lands of the blacks, such as Nigeria and Ghana, Sierra Leone and
Gambia. The Italians are gone from Libya and Somaliland and the Spanish
from Rio de Oro. Nor will they ever return for in the greatest council
of all the Rouma they have decided to leave Africa to the African.
They all stirred again and some muttered and Abd-el-Kader pushed his
point. The Chaambra are warriors born. Never serfs! Never slaves!
Never have we worked for any man. Our ancestors carved great empires by
the sword. His voice lowered again. And now, once more, it is
possible to carve such an empire.
He swept his eyes about their circle. Chiefs of the Chaambra, there
is no force in all the Sahara to restrain us. Let others work on the
roads, planting the new trees in the new oases, damming the great
Niger, and all the rest of it. We will sweep over them, and dominate
all. We, the Chaambra, will rule, while those whom Allah intended to
drudge, do so. We, the Chosen of Allah, will fulfill our destiny!
* * * * *
Abd-el-Kader left it there and crossed his arms on his chest,
staring at them challengingly.
Finally El Aicha directed his eyes across the circle of listeners at
two who had sat silently through it all, their burnooses covering their
heads and well down over their eyes. He said, And what do you say to
Time to go into your act, man, Abe Bakr muttered, under his
Homer Crawford came to his feet and pushed back the hood of the
burnoose. He looked over at the headman of the Ouled Touameur warrior
clan, whose face was darkening.
In Arabic, Crawford said, I have sought you for some time,
Abd-el-Kader. You are an illusive man.
Who are you, Negro? the fighting man snapped.
Crawford grinned at the other. You look as though you have a bit of
Negro blood in your own veins. In fact, I doubt if there's a so-called
Arab in all North Africa, unless he's just recently arrived, whose
family hasn't down through the centuries mixed its blood with the local
people they conquered.
Abe chuckled from the background. The Chaambra leader was at least
as dark of complexion as the American Negro. Not that it made any
difference one way or the other.
We shall see who is the liar here, Homer Crawford said flatly.
You asked who I am. I am known as Omar ben Crawf and I am headman of a
team of the African Development Project of the Reunited Nations. As you
have said, Abd-el-Kader, this great council of the headmen of all the
nations of the worldnot just the Roumahas decided that Africa must
be left to the Africans. But that does not mean it has lost all
interest in these lands. It has no intention, warrior of the Chaambra,
to allow such as you to disrupt the necessary progress Africa must make
if it is not to become a danger to the shaky peace of the world.
Abd-el-Kader's eyes darted about the tent. So far as he could see,
the other was backed only by his single henchman. The warrior chief
gained confidence. Power is for those who can assert it. Some will
rule. It has always been so. Here in the Western Erg, the Chaambra will
rule, and I, Abd-el-Kader will lead them!
Homer Crawford was shaking his head, almost sadly it seemed. No,
he said. The day of rule by the gun is over. It must be over because
at long last man's weapons have become so great that he must not trust
himself with them. In the new world which is still aborning so that
half the nations of earth are in the pains of labor, government must be
by the most wise and most capable.
In a deft move the sub-machine gun's sling slipped from the desert
man's shoulder and the short, vicious gun was in hand. The strong will
always rule! the Arab shouted. Time was when the French conquered the
Chaambra, but the French have allowed their strength to ebb away, and
now, armed with such weapons as these, we of the Sahara will again
assert our birthright as the Chosen of Allah!
Abe Baker chuckled. That cat sure can lay on a speech, man. As
though magically, a snub-nosed hand weapon of unique design appeared in
his dark hand.
El Aicha's voice was suddenly strong and harsh. There shall be no
violence at a djemaa el kebar.
Homer ignored the automatic weapon in the hands of the excited Arab.
He said, and there was still a sad quality in his voice. The gun you
carry is a nothing-weapon, desert man. When the French conquered this
land more than a century ago they were armed with single-shot rifles
which were still far in advance of your own long barrelled flintlocks.
Today, you are proud of that tommy gun you carry, and, indeed, it has
the fire power of a company of the Foreign Legion of a century past.
However, believe me, Abd-el-Kader, it is a nothing-weapon compared to
those that will be brought against the Chaambra if they heed your
The desert leader put back his head and laughed his scorn.
He chopped his laughter short and snapped, more to the council of
chiefs than to the stranger. Then we will seize such weapons and use
them against those who would oppose us. In the end it is the strong who
win in war, and the Rouma have gone soft, as all men know. I,
Abd-el-Kader will have these two killed and then I shall announce to
the assembled tribes the new jedah, a Holy War to bring the Chosen of
Allah once again to their rightful position in the Sahara.
Man, Abe Baker murmured pleasantly, you're going to be one awful
disappointed cat before long.
El Aicha said mildly, Such decisions are for the djemaa el kebar to
make, O Abd-el-Kader, not for a single chief of the Ouled Touameur.
The desert warrior chief sneered openly at the old man. Decisions
are made by those with the strength to enforce them. The young men of
the Chaambra support me, and my men surround this tent.
So do mine, Homer Crawford said decisively. And I have come to
arrest you and take you to Columb-Béchar where you will be tried for
your participation in recent raids on various development projects.
El Aicha repeated his earlier words. There shall be no violence at
a djemaa el kebar.
The Ouled Touameur chief's eyes had narrowed. You are not strong
enough to take me.
* * * * *
In English, Abe Baker said, Like maybe these young followers of
this cat need an example laid on them, man.
I'm afraid you're right, Crawford growled disgustedly.
The younger American came to his feet. I'll take him on, Abe said.
No, he's nearer to my size, Crawford grunted. He turned to El
Aicha, and said in Arabic, I demand the right of a stranger in your
camp to a trial by combat.
On what grounds? the old man scowled.
That my manhood has been spat upon by this warrior who does his
fighting with his loud mouth.
The assembled chiefs looked to Abd-el-Kader, and a rustling sigh
went through them. A hundred times the wiry desert chieftain had proven
himself the most capable fighter in the tribes. A hundred times he had
proven it and there were dead and wounded in the path he had cut for
Abd-el-Kader laughed aloud again. Swords, in the open before the
Homer Crawford shrugged. Swords, in the open before the assembled
Chaambra so that they may see how truly weak is the one who calls
himself so strong.
Abe said worriedly, in English, Listen, man, you been checked out
They're the traditional weapon in the Arab code duello,
Homer said, with a wry grin. Nothing else would do.
Man, you sound like you've been blasting pot and got yourself as
high as those cats out there with their kif. This Abd-el-Kader
was probably raised with a sword in his hand.
Abd-el-Kader smiling triumphantly, had spun on his heel and made his
way through the tent's entrance. Now they could hear him shouting
El Aicha looked up at Homer Crawford from where he sat. His voice
without inflection, he said, Hast thou a sword, Omar ben Crawf?
No, Crawford said.
The elderly tribal leader said, Then I shall loan you mine. He
hesitated momentarily, before adding, Never before has hand other than
mine wielded it. And finally, simply, Never has it been drawn to
I am honored.
Outside, the rumors had spread fast and already a great arena was
forming by the packed lines of Chaambra nomads. At the tent entrance,
Elmer Allen, his face worried, said, his English in characteristic
Jamaican accent, What did you chaps do?
Duel, Abe growled apprehensively. This joker here has challenged
their top swordsman to a fight.
Elmer said hurriedly, See here, gentlemen, the hovercraft are
parked over behind that tent. We can be there in two minutes and away
Crawford's eyes went from Elmer Allen to Abe Baker and then back
again. He chuckled, I don't think you two think I'm going to win this
fight, he said.
What do you know about swordsmanship? Elmer Allen said accusingly.
Practically nothing. A little bayonet practice quite a few years
Oh, great, Abe muttered.
Elmer said hurriedly, See here, Homer, I was on the college fencing
Crawford grinned at him. Too late, friend.
As they talked, they made their way to the large circle of men. In
its center, Abd-el-Kader was stripping to his waist, meanwhile
laughingly shouting his confidence to his Ouled Touameur tribesmen and
to the other Chaambra of fighting age. No one seemed to doubt the final
issue. Beneath his white burnoose he wore a gandoura of lightweight
woolen cloth and beneath that a longish undershirt of white cotton,
similar to that of the Tuareg but with shorter and less voluminous
sleeves. This the desert fighter retained.
Crawford stripped down too, nude to the waist. His body was in
excellent trim, muscles bunching under the ebony skin. A Haratin
servant came up bearing El Aicha's sword.
Homer Crawford pulled it from the scabbard. It was of scimitar type,
the weapon which had once conquered half the known world.
From within the huge circle of men, Abd-el-Kader swung his own blade
in flashing arcs and called out something undoubtedly insulting, but
which was lost in the babble of the multitude.
Well, here we go, Crawford grunted. You fellows better station
yourselves around just on the off chance that those Ouled Touameur
bully-boys don't like the decision.
We'll worry about that, Abe said unhappily. You just see you get
out of this in one piece. Anything happens to you and the head
office'll make me head of this teamand frankly, man I don't want the
Homer grinned at him, and began pushing his way through to the
* * * * *
The Arab cut a last switch in the air, with his whistling blade and
started forward, in practiced posture. Homer awaited him, legs spread
slightly, his hands extended slightly, the sword held at the ready but
with point low.
Abe Baker growled, unhappily, He said he didn't know anything about
the swords, and the way he holds it bears him out. That Arab'll cut
Homer to ribbons. Maybe we ought to do something about it. As usual,
under stress, he'd dropped his beatnik patter.
Elmer Allen looked at him. Such as what? There are at least three
thousand of these tribesmen chaps here watching their favorite sport.
What did you have in mind doing?
Abd-el-Kader hadn't remained the victor of a score of similar duels
through making such mistakes as underestimating his foe. In spite of
the black stranger's seeming ignorance of his weapon, the Arab had no
intention of being sucked into a trap. He advanced with care.
His sword darted forward, quickly, experimentally, and Homer
Crawford barely caught its razor edge on his own.
Save for his own four companions, the crowd laughed aloud. None
among them were so clumsy as this.
The Ouled Touameur chief was convinced. He stepped in fast, the
blade flicked in and out in a quick feint, then flicked in again. Homer
Crawford countered clumsily.
And then there was a roar as the American's blade left his hand and
flew high in the air to come to the ground again a score of feet behind
the desert swordsman.
For a brief moment Abd-el-Kader stepped back to observe his foe, and
there was mockery in his face. So thy manhood has been spat upon by
one who fights only with his mouth! Almost, braggart, I am inclined to
give you your life so that you may spend the rest of it in shame. Now
Crawford stood hopelessly, in a semicrouch, his hands still slightly
forward. The Arab came in fast, his sword at the ready for the death
Suddenly, the American moved forward and then jumped a full yard
into the air, feet forward and into the belly of the advancing Arab.
The heavily shod right foot struck at the point in the abdomen
immediately below the sternum, the solar plexus, and the left was as
low as the groin. In a motion that was almost a bounce off the other's
body, Crawford came lithely back to his feet, jumped back two steps,
But Abd-el-Kader was through, his eyes popping agony, his body
writhing on the ground. The whole thing, from the time the Arab had
advanced on the disarmed man for the kill, hadn't taken five seconds.
His groans were the only sounds which broke the unbelieving silence
of the Chaambra tribesmen. Homer Crawford picked up the fallen leader's
sword and then strolled over and retrieved that of El Aicha. Ignoring
Abd-el-Kader, he crossed to where the tribal elders had assembled to
watch the fight and held out the borrowed sword to its owner.
El Aicha sheathed it while looking into Homer Crawford's face. It
has still never been drawn to commit dishonor.
My thanks, Crawford said.
Over the noise of the crowd which now was beginning to murmur its
incredulity at their champion's fantastic defeat, came the voice of Abe
Baker swearing in Arabic and yelling for a way to be cleared for him.
He was driving one of the hovercraft.
He drew it up next to the still agonized Abd-el-Kader and got out
accompanied by Bey-ag-Akhamouk. Silently and without undue roughness
they picked up the fallen clan chief and put him into the back of the
hover-lorry, ignoring the crowd.
Homer Crawford came up and said in English, All right, let's get
out of here. Don't hurry, but on the other hand don't let's prolong it.
One of those Ouled Touameur might collect himself to the point of
deciding he ought to rescue his leader.
Abe looked at him disgustedly. Like, where'd you learn that little
party trick, man?
Crawford yawned. I said I didn't know anything about swords. You
didn't ask me about judo. I once taught judo in the Marines.
Well, why didn't you take him sooner? He like to cut your head off
with that cheese knife before you landed on him.
I couldn't do it sooner. Not until he knocked the sword out of my
hand. Until then it was a sword fight. But as soon as I had no sword
then in the eyes of every Chaambra present, I had the right to use any
method possible to save myself.
Bey-ag-Akhamouk looked up at the sun to check the time. We better
speed it up if we want to get this man to Columb-Béchar and then get on
down over the desert to Timbuktu and that meeting.
Let's go, Homer said. The second hovercraft joined them, driven by
Elmer Allen, and they made their way through the staring, but
motionless, crowds of Chaambra.
Once the city of Timbuktu was more important in population, in
commerce, in learning than the London, the Paris or the Rome of the
time. It was the crossroads where African traffic, east and west, met
African traffic, north and south; Timbuktu dominated all. In its
commercial houses accumulated the wealth of Africa; in its universities
and mosques the wisdom of Greece, Rome, Byzantium and the Near Eastat
a time when such learning was being destroyed in Dark Ages beset
Timbuktu's day lasted but two or three hundred years at most. By the
middle of the Twentieth Century it had deteriorated into what looked
nothing so much as a New Mexico ghost town, built largely of adobe. Its
palaces and markets has melted away to caricatures of their former
selves, its universities were a memory of yesteryear, its population
fallen off to a few thousands. Not until the Niger Projects, the dams
and irrigation projects, of the latter part of the Twentieth Century
did the city begin to regain a semblance of its old importance.
Homer Crawford's team had come down over the Tanezrouft route,
Reggan, Bidon Cinq and Tessalit; that of Isobel Cunningham, Jacob
Armstrong and Clifford Jackson, up from Timbuktu's Niger River port of
Kabara. They met in the former great market square, bordered on two
sides by the one time French Administration buildings.
Isobel reacted first. Abe! she yelled, pointing accusingly at him.
Abe Baker pretended to cringe, then reacted. Isobel! Somebody
told me you were over here!
She ran over the heavy sand, which drifted through the streets, to
the hovercraft in which he had just pulled up. He popped out to meet
her, grinning widely.
Why didn't you look me up? she said accusingly, presenting a cheek
to be kissed.
In Africa, man? he laughed. Kinda big, Africa. Like, I didn't
know if you were in the Sahara, or maybe down in Angola, or wherever.
She frowned. Heaven forbid.
Abe turned to the others of his team who had crowded up behind him.
It had been a long time since any of them had seen other than native
Isobel, he said, I hate to do this, but let me introduce you to
Homer Crawford, my immediate boss and slave driver, late of the
University of Michigan where he must've found out where the body
wasthey gave him a doctorate. Then here's Elmer Allen, late of
JamaicaBritish West Indies, not Long Islandall he's got is a
master's, also in sociology. And this is Kenneth Ballalou, hails from
San Francisco, I don't think Kenny ever went to school, but he seems to
speak every language ever. Abe turned to his final companion. And
this is our sole real African, Bey-ag-Akhamouk, of Tuareg blood,
so beware, they don't call the Tuareg the Apaches of the Sahara for
Bey pretended to wince as he held out his hand. Since Abe seems to
be an education snob, I might as well mention the University of
Minnesota and my Political Science.
Jake Armstrong and Cliff Jackson had come up behind Isobel, and were
now introduced in turn. The older man said, A Tuareg in a Reunited
Nations team? Not that it makes any difference to me, but I thought
there was some sort of policy.
I was taken to the States when I was three, Bey said. I'm an
Isobel was chattering, in animation, with Abe Baker. It developed
they'd both been reporters on the school paper at Columbia. At least,
they'd both started as reporters, Isobel had wound up editor.
Since their introduction, Homer Crawford had been vaguely frowning
at her. Now he said, I've been trying to place where I'd seen you
before. Now I know. Some photographs of Lena Horne, she was
Isobel dropped a mock curtsy. Thank you, kind sir, you don't have
to tell me about Lena Horne, she's a favorite. I have scads of tapes of
Brother, Elmer Allen said dourly, how's anybody going to top
that? Homer's got the inside track now. Let's get over to this meeting.
By the cars, helio-copters and hovercraft around here, you got more of
a turnout than I expected, Homer.
The meeting was held in what had once been an assembly chamber of
the officials of the former Cercle de Tombouctou, when this had
all been part of French Sudan. It was the only room in the vicinity
which would comfortably hold all of them.
* * * * *
Elmer Allen had been right, there was something like a hundred
persons present, almost all men but with a sprinkling of women, such as
Isobel. More than half were in native costume running the gamut from
Nigeria to Morocco and from Mauritania to Ethiopia. They were a
competent looking, confident voiced gathering.
Homer Crawford knocked with a knuckle on the table that stood at the
head of the hall and called for silence. Sorry we're late, he said,
Particularly in view of the fact that the idea of this meeting
originated with my team. We had some difficulty with a nomad raider, up
in Chaambra country.
Someone from halfway back in the hall said bitterly, I suppose in
typical African Development Project style, you killed the poor man.
Crawford said dryly, Poor man isn't too accurate a
description of the gentleman involved. However, he is at present in
jail awaiting trial. He got back to the meeting. I had originally
thought of this being an informal get-together of a score or so of us,
but in view of the numbers I suggest we appoint a temporary chairman.
You're doing all right, Jake Armstrong said from the second row of
I second that, an unknown called from further back.
Crawford shrugged. His manner had a cool competence. All right. If
there is no objection, I'll carry on until the meeting decides, if it
ever does, that there is need of elected officers.
I object. In the third row a white haired, but Prussian-erect man
had come to his feet. I wish to know the meaning of this meeting. I
object to it being held at all.
Abe Baker called to him, Dad, how can you object to it being held
if you don't know what it's for?
Homer Crawford said, Suppose I briefly sum up our mutual situation
and if there are any motions to be madeincluding calling the meeting
quitsor decisions to come to, we can start from there.
There was a murmur of assent. The objector sat down in a huff.
Crawford looked out over them. I don't know most of you. The word
of this meeting must have spread from one group or team to another. So
what I'll do is start from the beginning, saying little at first with
which you aren't already familiar, but we'll lay a foundation.
He went on. This situation which we find in Africa is only a part
of a world-wide condition. Perhaps to some, particularly in the Western
World as they call it, Africa isn't of primary importance. But,
needless to say, it is to we here in the field. Not too many years ago,
at the same period the African colonies were bursting their bonds and
achieving independence, an international situation was developing that
threatened future peace. The rich nations were getting richer, the poor
were getting poorer, and the rate of this change was accelerating. The
reasons were various. The population growth in the backward countries,
unhampered by birth control and rocketing upward due to new sanitation,
new health measures, and the conquest of a score of diseases that have
bedeviled man down through the centuries, was fantastic. Try as they
would to increase per capita income in the have-not nations, population
grew faster than new industry and new agricultural methods could keep
up. On top of that handicap was another; the have-not nations were so
far behind economically that they couldn't get going. Why build a
bicycle factory in Morocco which might be able to turn out bikes for,
say, fifty dollars apiece, when you could buy them from automated
factories in Europe, Japan or the United States for twenty-five
Most of his audience were nodding agreement, some of them
impatiently, as though wanting him to get on with it.
Crawford continued. For a time aid to these backward nations was
left in the hands of the individual nationsespecially to the United
States and Russia. However, in spite of speeches of politicians to the
contrary, governments are not motivated by humanitarian purposes. The
government of a country does what it does for the benefit of the ruling
class of that country. That was the reason it was appointed the
government. Any government that doesn't live up to this dictum soon
stops being the government.
That isn't always so, somebody called.
Homer Crawford grinned. Bear with me a while, he said. We can
debate till the Niger freezes overlater on.
He went on. For instance, the United States would aid
Country X with a billion dollars at, say four per cent interest,
stipulating that the money be spent in America. This is aid? It
certainly is for American business. But then our friends the Russians
come along and loan the same country a billion rubles at a very low
interest rate and with supposedly no strings attached, to build, say, a
railroad. Very fine indeed, but first of all the railroad, built
Russian style and with Russian equipment, soon needs replacements, new
locomotives, more rolling stock. Where must it come from? Russia, of
course. Besides that, in order to build and run the railroad it became
necessary to send Russian technicians to Country X and also to send
students from Country X to Moscow to study Russian technology so that
they could operate the railroad. Crawford's voice went wry. Few
countries, other than commie ones, much desire to have their students
study in Moscow.
* * * * *
There was a slight stirring in his audience and Homer Crawford
grinned slightly. You'll pardon me if in this little summation, I step
on a few ideological toesof both East and West.
Needless to say, under these conditions of aid in short
order the economies of various countries fell under the domination of
the two great collossi. At the same time the other have nations
including Great Britain, France, Germany and the newly awakening China,
began to realize that unless they got into the aid act that they
would disappear as competitors for the tremendous markets in the newly
freed former colonial lands. Also along in here it became obvious that
philanthropy with a mercenary basis doesn't always work out to the
benefit of the receiver and the world began to take measures to
administer aid more efficiently and through world bodies rather than
But there was still another problem, particularly here in Africa.
The newly freed former colonies were wary of the nations that had
formerly owned them and often for good reasons, always remembering that
governments are not motivated by humanitarian reasons. England did not
free India because her heart bled for the Indian people, nor did France
finally free Algeria because the French conscience was stirred with
thoughts of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity.
A voice broke in from halfway down the hall, a voice heavy with
British accent. I say, why did you Yanks free the Philippines?
Homer Crawford laughed, as did several other Americans present.
That's the first time I've ever been called a Yankee, he said. But
the point is well taken. By freeing the islands we washed our hands of
the responsibility of such expensive matters as their health and
education, and at the same time we granted freedom we made military and
economic treaties which perpetuated our fundamental control of the
The point is made. The distrust of the European and the white man
as a whole was prevalent, especially here in Africa. However, and
particularly in Africa, the citizens of the new countries were almost
unbelievably uneducated, untrained, incapable of engineering their own
destiny. In whole nations there was not a single lawyer or
That's no handicap, somebody called.
There was laughter through the hall.
Homer Crawford laughed, too, and nodded as though in solemn
agreement. However, there were also no doctors, engineers, scientists.
There were whole nations without a single college graduate.
He paused and his eyes swept the hall. That's where we came in.
Most of us here this afternoon are from the States, however, also
represented to my knowledge are British West Indians, a Canadian or
two, at least one Panamanian, and possibly some Cubans. Down in the
southern part of the continent I know of teams working in the
Portuguese areas who are Brazilian in background. All of us, of course,
are Africans racially, but few if any of us know from what part of
Africa his forebears came. My own grandfather was born a slave in
Mississippi and didn't know his father; my grandmother was already a
hopeless mixture of a score of African tribes.
That, I assume, is the story of most if not all of us. Our
ancestors were wrenched from the lands of their birth and shipped under
conditions worse than cattle to the New World. He added simply, Now
There was a murmur throughout his listeners, but no one interrupted.
When the great powers of Europe arbitrarily split up Africa in the
Nineteenth Century they didn't bother with race, tribe, not even
geographic boundaries. Largely they seemed to draw their boundary lines
with ruler and pencil on a Mercator projection. Often, not only were
native nations split in twain but even tribes and clans, and sometimes
split not only one way but two or three. It was chaotic to the old
tribal system. Of course, when the white man left various efforts were
made from the very start to join that which had been torn apart a
century earlier. Right here in this area, Senegal and what was then
French Sudan merged to form the short-lived Mali Federation. Ghana and
French Guinea formed a shaky alliance. More successful was the
federation of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar, which of course,
has since grown.
But there were fantastic difficulties. Many of the old tribal
institutions had been torn down, but new political institutions had
been introduced only in a half-baked way. African politicians,
supposedly 'democratically' elected, had no intention of facing the
possibility of giving up their individual powers by uniting with their
neighbors. Not only had the Africans been divided tribally but now
politically as well. But obviously, so long as they continued to be
Balkanized the chances of rapid progress were minimized.
Other difficulties were manifold. So far as socio-economics were
concerned, African society ran the scale from bottom to top. The
Bushmen of the Ermelo district of the Transvaal and the Kalahari are
stone age people stillsavages. Throughout the continent we find
tribes at an ethnic level which American Anthropologist Lewis Henry
Morgan called barbarism. In some places we find socio-economic systems
based on chattle slavery, elsewhere feudalism. In comparatively few
areas, Casablanca, Algiers, Dakar, Cairo and possibly the Union we find
a rapidly expanding capitalism.
Needless to say, if Africa was to progress, to increase rapidly her
per capita income, to depart the ranks of the have-nots and become have
nations, these obstacles had to be overcome. That is why we are here.
Speak for yourself, Mr. Crawford, the white haired objector of ten
minutes earlier, bit out.
* * * * *
Homer Crawford nodded. You are correct, sir. I should have said
that is the reason the teams of the Reunited Nations African
Development Project are here. I note among us various members of this
project besides those belonging to my own team, by the way. However,
most of you are under other auspices. We of the Reunited Nations teams
are here because as Africans racially but not nationally, we have no
affiliation with clan, tribe or African nation. We are free to work for
Africa's progress without prejudice. Our job is to remove obstacles
wherever we find them. To break up log jams. To eliminate prejudices
against the steps that must be taken if Africa is to run down the path
of progress, rather than to crawl. We usually operate in teams of about
half a dozen. There are hundreds of such teams in North Africa alone.
He rapped his knuckle against the small table behind which he stood.
Which brings us to the present and to the purpose of suggesting this
meeting. Most of you are operating under other auspices than the
Reunited Nations. Many of you duplicate some of our work. It occurred
to me, and my team mates, that it might be a good idea for us to get
together and see if there is ground for co-operation.
Jake Armstrong called out, What kind of co-operation?
Crawford shrugged. How would I know? Largely, I don't even know who
you represent, or the exact nature of the tasks you are trying to
perform. I suggest that each group of us represented here, stand up and
announce their position. Possibly, it will lead to something of value.
I make that a motion, Cliff Jackson said.
Second, Elmer Allen called out.
The majority were in favor.
Homer Crawford sat down behind the table, saying, Who'll start
Armstrong said, Isobel, you're better looking than I am. They'd
rather look at you. You present our story.
Isobel came to her feet and shot him a scornful glance. Lazy, she
Jake Armstrong grinned at her. Make it good.
Isobel took her place next to the table at which Crawford sat and
faced the others.
She looked at the chairman from the side of her eyes and said,
After that allegedly brief summation Mr. Crawford made, I have
a sneaking suspicion that we'll be here until next week unless I set a
new precedent and cut the position of the Africa for Africans
Isobel got her laugh, including one from Homer Crawford, and went
Anyway, I suppose most of you know of the AFAA and possibly many of
you belong to it, or at least contribute. We've been called the African
Zionist organization and perhaps that's not too far off. We are
largely, but not entirely an American association. We send out our
teams, such as the one my colleagues and I belong to, in order to speed
up progress and, as our chairman put it, eliminate prejudices against
the steps that must be taken if Africa is to run down the path of
progress instead of crawl. We also advocate that Americans and other
non-African-born Negroes, educated in Europe and the Americas, return
to Africa to help in its struggles. We find positions for any such who
are competent, preferably doctors, educators, scientists and
technicians, but also competent mechanics, construction workers and so
forth. We operate a school in New York where we teach native languages
and lingua franca such as Swahili and Songhai, in preparation for going
to Africa. We raise our money largely from voluntary contributions, and
largely from American Negroes although we have also had government
grants, donations from foundations, and from individuals of other
racial backgrounds. I suppose that sums it up.
Isobel smiled at them, returned to her chair to applause, probably
due as much to her attractive appearance as her words.
Crawford said, When we began this meeting we had an objection that
it be held at all. I wonder if we might hear from that gentleman next?
The white haired, ramrod erect, man stood next to his chair, not
bothering to come to the head of the room. You may indeed, he
snapped. I am Bishop Manning of the United Negro Missionaries, an
organization attempting to accomplish the only truly important task
that cries for completion on this largely godless continent. Accomplish
this, and all else will fall into place.
Homer Crawford said, I assume you refer to the conversion of the
I do indeed. And the work others do is meaningless until that has
been accomplished. We are bringing religion to Africa, but not through
white missionaries who in the past lived off the natives, but
through Negro missionaries who live with them. I call upon all
of you to give up your present occupations and come to our assistance.
Elmer Allan's voice was sarcastic. These people need less
superstition, not more.
The bishop spun on him. I am not speaking of superstition, young
Elmer Allen said. All religions are superstitions, except one's
And yours? the Bishop barked.
I'm an agnostic.
The bishop snorted his disgust and made his way to the door. There
he turned and had his last word. All you do is meaningless. I pray
you, again, give it up and join in the Lord's work.
Homer Crawford nodded to him. Thank you, Bishop Manning. I'm sure
we will all consider your words. When the older man was gone, he
looked out over the hall again. Well, who is next?
* * * * *
A thus far speechless member of the audience, seated in the first
row, came to his feet. His face was serious and strained, the face of a
man who pushes himself beyond the point of efficiency in the vain
effort to accomplish more by expenditure of added hours.
He came to the front and said, Since I'm possibly the only one here
who also has objections to the reason for calling this meeting, I might
as well have my say now. He half turned to Crawford, and continued.
Mr. Chairman, my name is Ralph Sandell and I'm an officer in the
Sahara Afforestation Project, which, as you know, is also under the
auspices of the Reunited Nations, though not having any other
connection with your own organization.
Homer Crawford nodded. We know of your efforts, but why do you
object to calling this meeting? He seemed mystified.
Because, like Bishop Manning, I think your efforts misdirected. I
think you are expending tremendous sums of money and the work of tens
of thousands of good men and women, in directions which in the long run
will hardly count.
Crawford leaned back in surprise, waiting for the other's reasoning.
Ralph Sandell obliged. As the chairman pointed out, the problem of
population explosion is a desperate one. Even today, with all the
efforts of the Reunited Nations and of the individual countries
involved in African aid, the population of this continent is growing at
a pace that will soon outstrip the arable portion of the land. Save
only Antarctica, Africa has the smallest arable percentage of land of
any of the continents.
The task of the Afforestation Project is to return the Sahara to
the fertile land it once was. The job is a gargantuan one, but
ultimately quite possible. Here in the south we are daming the Niger,
running our irrigation projects farther and farther north. From the
Mauritania area on the Atlantic we are pressing inland, using water
purification and solar pumps to utilize the ocean. In the mountains of
Morocco, the water available is being utilized more efficiently than
ever before, and the sands being pushed back. We are all familiar with
Egypt's ever increasingly successful efforts to exploit the Nile. In
the Sahara itself, the new solar pumps are utilizing wells to an extent
never dreamed of before. The oases are increasing in a geometric
progression both in number and in size. He was caught up in his own
Crawford said, interestedly, It's a fascinating project. How long
do you estimate it will be before the job is done?
Perhaps a century. As the trees go in by the tens of millions,
there will be a change in climate. Forest begets moisture which in turn
allows for more forest. He turned back to the audience as a whole. In
time we will be able to farm these million upon million of acres of
fertile land. First it must go into forest, then we can return to field
agriculture when climate and soil have been restored. This is our prime
task! This is our basic need. I call upon all of you for your support
and that of your organizations if you can bring their attention to the
great need. The tasks you have set yourselves are meaningless in the
face of this greater one. Let us be practical.
Crazy man, Abe Baker said aloud. Let's be practical and cut out
all this jazz. The youthful New Yorker came to his feet. First of all
you just mentioned it was going to take a century, even though it's
going like a geometric progression. Geometric progressions get going
kind of slow, so I imagine that your scheme for making the Sahara
fertile again, won't really be under full steam until more than halfway
through that century of yours, and not really ripping ahead until,
maybe two thirds of the way. Meanwhile, what's going to happen?
I beg your pardon! Ralph Sandell said stiffly.
That's all right, Abe Baker grinned at him. The way they figure,
population doubles every thirty years, under the present rate of
increase. They figure there'll be three billion in the world by 1990,
then by 2020 there would be six billions, and in 2050, twelve billions
and twenty-four by the time your century was up. Old boy, I suggest the
addition of a Sahara of rich agricultural land a century from now
wouldn't be of much importance.
You mean me, or you? Abe grinned. I once read an article by
Donald Kingsbury. It's reprinted these days because it finished off the
subject once and for all. He showed with mathematical rigor that given
the present rate of human population increase, and an absolutely
unlimited technology that allowed instantaneous intergalactical
transportation and the ability to convert anything and everything into
food, including interstellar dust, stars, planets, everything, it would
take only seven thousand years to turn the total mass of the total
universe into human flesh!
The Sahara Afforestation official gaped at him.
The room rocked with laughter.
Irritated, Sandell snapped again, Ridiculous!
It sure is, man, Abe grinned. And the point is that the job is
educating the people and freeing them to the point where they can
develop their potentialities. Educate the African and he will see the
same need that does the intelligent European, American, or Russian for
that matter, to limit our population growth. He sat down again, and
there was a scattering of applause and more laughter.
Sandell, still glowering, took his seat, too.
Homer Crawford, who'd been hard put not to join in the amusement,
said, Thanks to both of you for some interesting points. Now, who's
next? Who else do we have here?
* * * * *
When no one else answered, a smallish man, dressed in the costume of
the Dogon, to the south, came to his feet and to the head of the room.
In a clipped British accent, he said, Rex Donaldson, of Nassau, the
Bahamas, in the service of Her Majesty's Government and the British
Commonwealth. I have no team. Although our tasks are largely similar to
those of the African Development Project, we field men of the African
Department usually work as individuals. My native pseudonym is usually
He looked out over the rest. I have no objection to such meetings
as this. If nothing else, it gives chaps a bit of an opportunity to air
grievances. I personally have several and may as well state them now.
Among other things, it becomes increasingly clear that though some of
the organizations represented here are supposedly of the Reunited
Nations, actually they are dominated by Yankees. The Yankees are
seeping in everywhere. He looked at Isobel. Yes, such groups as your
Africa for Africans Association has high flown slogans, but wherever
you go, there go Yankee ideas, Yankee products, Yankee schools.
Homer Crawford's eyebrows went up. What is your solution? The fact
is that the United States has a hundred or more times the educated
Negroes than any other country.
Donaldson said, doggedly, The British Commonwealth has done more
than any other element in bringing progress to Africa. She should be
given the lead in developing the continent. A good first step would be
to make the pound sterling legal tender throughout the continent. And,
as things are now, there are some seven hundred different
languages, not counting dialects. I suggest that English be made the
lingua franca of
An excitable type, who had been first to join in the laughter at
Sandell, now jumped to his feet. Un moment, Monsieur! The
French Community long dominated a far greater portion of Africa than
the British flag flew over. Not to mention that it was the most
advanced portion. If any language was to become the lingua franca of
all Africa, French would be more suitable. Your ultimate purpose, Mr.
Donaldson, is obvious. You and your Commonwealth African Department
wish to dominate for political and economic reasons!
He turned to the others and spread his hands in a Gallic gesture. I
introduce myself, Pierre Dupaine, operative of the African Affairs
sector of the French Community.
Ha! Donaldson snorted. Getting the French out of Africa was like
pulling teeth. It took donkey's years. And now look. This chap wants to
bring them back again.
Crawford was knuckling the table. Gentlemen, Gentlemen, he yelled.
He finally had them quieted.
Wryly he said, May I ask if we have a representative from the
government of the United States?
A lithe, inordinately well dressed young man rose from his seat in
the rear of the hall. Frederic Ostrander, C.I.A., he said. I might
as well tell you now, Crawford, and you other American citizens here,
this meeting will not meet with the approval of the State Department.
Crawford's eyes went up. How do you know?
The C.I.A. man said evenly, We've already had reports that this
conference was going to be held. I might as well inform you that a
protest is being made to the Sahara Division of the African Development
Crawford said, I suppose that is your privilege, sir. Now, in
accord with the reason for this meeting, can you tell us why your
organization is present in Africa and what it hopes to achieve?
Ostrander looked at him testily. Why not? There has been
considerable infiltration of all of these African development
organizations by subversive elements....
Oh, Brother, Cliff Jackson said.
... And it is not the policy of the State Department to stand idly
by while the Soviet Complex attempts to draw Africa from the ranks of
the free world.
Elmer Allen said disgustedly, Just what part of Africa would you
really consider part of the Free World?
The C.I.A. man stared at him coldly. You know what I mean, he
rapped. And I might add, we are familiar with your record, Mr. Allen.
Homer Crawford said, You've made a charge which is undoubtedly as
unpalatable to many of those present as it is to me. Can you
substantiate it? In my experience in the Sahara there is little, if
any, following of the Soviet Complex.
An agreeing murmur went through the room.
Ostrander bit out, Then who is subsidizing this El Hassan?
Rex Donaldson, the British Commonwealth man, came to his feet. That
was a matter I was going to bring up before this meeting.
Homer Crawford, fully accompanied by Abe Baker and the rest of their
team, even Elmer Allen, burst into uncontrolled laughter.
When Homer Crawford, Abe Baker, Kenny Ballalou, Elmer Allen and
Bey-ag-Akhamouk had laughed themselves out, Frederic Ostrander, the
C.I.A. operative stared at them in anger. What's so funny? he
From his seat in the middle of the hall, Pierre Dupaine, operative
for the French Community, said worriedly, Messieurs, this El
Hassan is not amusing. I, too, have heard of him. His followers are
evidently sweeping through the Sahara. Everywhere I hear of him.
There was confirming murmur throughout the rest of the gathering.
Still chuckling, Homer Crawford said, a hand held up for quiet,
Please, everyone. Pardon the amusement of my teammates and myself. You
see, there is no such person as El Hassan.
To the contrary! Ostrander snapped.
No, please, Crawford said, grinning ruefully. You see, my team
invented him, some time ago.
Ostrander could only stare, and for once his position was backed by
everyone in the hall, Crawford's team excepted.
Crawford said doggedly, It came about like this. These people need
a hero. It's in their nomad tradition. They need a leader to follow.
Given a leader, as history has often demonstrated, and the nomad will
perform miracles. We wished to spread the program of the African
Development Project. Such items as the need to unite, to break down the
old boundaries of clan and tribe and even nation, the freeing of the
slave and serf, the upgrading of women's position, the dropping of the
veil and haik, the need to educate the youth, the desirability of
taking jobs on the projects and to take up land on the new oases. But
since we usually go about disguised as Enaden itinerant smiths, a
poorly thought of caste, our ideas weren't worth much. So we invented
El Hassan and everything we said we ascribed to him, this mysterious
hero who was going to lead all North Africa to Utopia.
Jake Armstrong stood up and said, sheepishly, I suppose that my
team unknowingly added to this. We heard about this mysterious El
Hassan and he seemed largely to be going in the same direction, and for
the same reasonto give the rumors we were spreading weightwe
ascribed the things we said to him.
Somebody farther back in the hall laughed and said, So did I!
Homer Crawford extended his hands in the direction of Ostrander,
palms upward. I'm sorry, sir. But there seems to be your mysterious
Angered, Ostrander snapped, Then you admit that it was you,
yourself, who have been spreading these subversive ideas?
Now, wait a minute, Crawford snapped in return. I admit only to
those slogans and ideas promulgated by the African Development Project.
If any so-called subversive ideas have been ascribed to El Hassan, it
has not been through my team. Frankly, I rather doubt that they have.
These people aren't at any ethnic period where the program of the
Soviet Complex would appeal. They're largely in a ritual-taboo tribal
society and no one alleging any alliance whatsoever to Marx would
contend that you can go from that primitive a culture to what the
Soviets call communism.
I'll take this up with my department chief, Ostrander said
angrily. You haven't heard the last of it, Crawford. He sat down
Crawford looked out over the room. Anybody else we haven't heard
A middle-aged, heavy-set, Western dressed man came to his feet and
cleared his throat. Dr. Warren Harding Smythe, American Medical
Relief. I assume that most of you have heard of us. An organization
supported partially by government grant, partially by contributions by
private citizens and institutions, as is that of Miss Isobel
Cunningham's Africa for Africans Association. He added grimly, But
there the resemblance ends.
He looked at Homer Crawford. I am to be added to the number not in
favor of this conference. In fact, I am opposed to the presence of most
of you here in Africa.
Crawford nodded. You certainly have a right to your opinion,
doctor. Will you elucidate?
Dr. Smythe had worked his way to the front of the room, now he
looked out over the assemblage defiantly. I am not at all sure that
the task most of you work at is a desirable one. As you know, my own
organization is at work bringing medical care to Africa. We build
hospitals, clinics, above all medical schools. Not a single one of our
hospitals but is a school at the same time.
Abe Baker growled, Everybody knows and values your work, Doc, but
what's this bit about being opposed to ours?
Smythe looked at him distastefully. You people are seeking to
destroy the culture of these people, and, overnight thrust them into
the pressures of Twentieth Century existence. As a medical doctor, I do
not think them capable of assimilating such rapid change and I fear for
their mental health.
There was a prolonged silence.
Crawford said finally, What is the alternative to the problems I
presented in my summation of the situation that confronts the world due
to the backward conditions of such areas as Africa?
I don't know, it isn't my field.
There was another silence.
Elmer Allen said finally, uncomfortably, It is our field,
Smythe turned to him, his face still holding its distaste. I
understand that the greater part of you are sociologists, political
scientists and such. Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I do not think of
the social sciences as exact ones.
He looked around the room and added, deliberately, In view of the
condition of the world, I do not have a great deal of respect for the
product of your efforts.
There was an uncomfortable stirring throughout the audience.
Clifford Jackson said unhappily, We do what we must do, doctor. We
do what we can.
Smythe eyed him. He said, Some years ago I was impressed by a
paragraph by a British writer named Huxley. So impressed that I copied
it and have carried it with me. I'll read it now.
The heavy-set doctor took out his wallet, fumbled in it for a moment
and finally brought forth an aged, many times folded, piece of yellowed
He cleared his throat, then read:
To the question quis custodiet custodes?who will mount
guard over our guardians, who will engineer the engineers?the answer
is a bland denial that they need any supervision. There seems to be a
touching belief among certain Ph.Ds in sociology that Ph.Ds in
sociology will never be corrupted by power. Like Sir Galahad's, their
strength is the strength of ten because their heart is pureand their
heart is pure because they are scientists and have taken six thousand
hours of social studies. Alas, high education is not necessarily a
guarantee of higher virtue, or higher political wisdom.
The doctor finished and returned to his seat, his face still
* * * * *
Homer Crawford chuckled ruefully. The point is well taken, I
suppose. However, so was the one expressed by Mr. Jackson. We do what
we must, and what we can. His eyes went over the assembly. Is there
any other group from which we haven't heard?
When there was silence, he added, No group from the Soviet
Ostrander, the C.I.A. operative, snorted. Do you think they would
Or from the Arab Union? Crawford pursued. Whether or not the
Soviet Complex has agents in this part of Africa, we know that the Arab
Union, backed by Islam everywhere, has. Frankly, we of the African
Development Project seldom see eye to eye with them which results in
considerable discussion at Reunited Nations meetings.
There was continued silence.
Elmer Allen came to his feet and looked at Ostrander, his face
surly. I am not an advocate of what the Soviets are currently calling
communism, however, I think a point should be made here.
Ostrander stared back at him unblinkingly.
Allen snorted, I know what you're thinking. When I was a student I
signed a few peace petitions, that sort of thing. Howor why they
botheredthe C.I.A. got hold of that information, I don't know, but as
a Jamaican I am a bit ashamed of Her Majesty's Government. But all this
is beside the point.
What is your point, Elmer? Crawford said. You speak, of course,
as an individual not as an employee of the Reunited Nations nor even as
a member of my team.
Our team, Elmer Allen reminded him. He frowned at his chief, as
though surprised at Crawford's stand. But then he looked back at the
rest. I don't like the fact that the C.I.A. is present at all. I grow
increasingly weary of the righteousness of the prying for what it calls
subversion. The latest definition of subversive seems to be any chap
who doesn't vote either Republican or Democrat in the States, or
Conservative in England.
Ostrander grunted scorn.
Allen looked at him again. So far as this job is concernedand by
the looks of things, most of us will be kept busy at it for the rest of
our livesI am not particularly favorable to the position of either
side in this never-warming cold war between you and the Soviet Complex.
I have suspected for some time that neither of you actually want an
ending of it. For different reasons, possibly. So far as the States are
concerned, I suspect an end of your fantastic military budgets would
mean a collapse of your economy. So far as the Soviets are concerned, I
suspect they use the continual threat of attack by the West to
keep up their military and police powers and suppress the freedom of
their people. Wasn't it an old adage of the Romans that if you feared
trouble at home, stir up war abroad? At any rate, I'd like to have it
on the record that I protest the Cold War being dragged into our work
in Africaby either side.
All right, Elmer, Crawford said, you're on record. Is that all?
That's all, Elmer Allen said. He sat down abruptly.
Any comment, Mr. Ostrander? Crawford said.
Ostrander grunted, Fuzzy thinking. Didn't bother with anything
The chairman looked out over the hall. Any further discussion, any
motions? He smiled and added, Anythingperiod?
Finally Jake Armstrong came to his feet. He said, I don't agree
with everything Mr. Allen just said; however, there was one item where
I'll follow along. The fact that most of us will be busy at this job
for the rest of our livesif we stick. With this in mind, the fact
that we have lots of time, I make the following proposal. This meeting
was called to see if there was any prospect of we field workers
co-operating on a field worker's level, if we could in any way help
each other, avoid duplication of effort, that sort of thing. I suggest
now that this meeting be adjourned and that all of us think it over and
discuss it with the other teams, the other field workers in our
respective organizations. I propose further that another meeting be
held within the year and that meanwhile Mr. Crawford be elected
chairman of the group until the next gathering, and that Miss
Cunningham be elected secretary. We can all correspond with Mr.
Crawford, until the time of the next meeting, giving him such
suggestions as might come to us. When he sees fit to call the next
meeting, undoubtedly he will have some concrete proposals to put before
Isobel said, sotto voce, Secretaries invariably do all the
work, why is it that men always nominate a woman for the job?
Jake grinned at her, I'll never tell. He sat down.
I'll make that a motion, Rex Donaldson clipped out.
Second, someone else called.
Homer Crawford said, All in favor?
Those in favor predominated considerably.
* * * * *
They broke up into small groups for a time, debating it out, and
then most left for various places for lunch.
Homer Crawford, separated from the other members of his team, in the
animated discussions that went on about him, finally left the
fascinating subject of what had happened to the Cuban group in Sudan,
and who had done it, and went looking for his own lunch.
He strolled down the sand-blown street in the general direction of
the smaller market, in the center of Timbuktu, passing the aged, wind
corroded house which had once sheltered Major Alexander Gordon Laing,
first white man to reach the forbidden city in the year 1826. Laing
remained only three days before being murdered by the Tuareg who
controlled the town at that time. There was a plaque on the door
revealing those basic facts. Crawford had read elsewhere that the city
was not captured until 1893 by a Major Joffre, later to become a
Marshal of France and a prominent Allied leader in the First World War.
By chance he met Isobel in front of the large community butcher
shop, still operated in the old tradition by the local Gabibi and
Fulbe, formerly Songhoi serfs. He knew of a Syrian operated restaurant
nearby, and since she hadn't eaten either they made their way there.
The menu was limited largely to local products. Timbuktu was still
remote enough to make transportation of frozen foodstuffs exorbitant.
While they looked at the bill of fare he told her a story about his
first trip to the city some years ago while he was still a student.
He had visited the local American missionary and had dinner with the
family in their home. They had canned plums for desert and Homer had
politely commented upon their quality. The missionary had said that
they should be good, he estimated the quart jar to be worth something
like one hundred dollars. It seems that some kindly old lady in Iowa,
figuring that missionaries in such places as Timbuktu must be in dire
need of her State Fair prize winning canned plums, shipped off a box of
twelve quarts to missionary headquarters in New York. At that time,
France still owned French Sudan, so it was necessary for the plums to
be sent to Paris, and thence, eventually to Dakar. At Dakar they were
shipped through Senegal to Bamako by narrow gauge railroad which ran
periodically. In Bamako they had to wait for an end to the rainy season
so roads would be passable. By this time, a few of the jars had
fermented and blown up, and a few others had been pilfered. When the
roads were dry enough, a desert freight truck took the plums to Mopti,
on the Niger River where they waited again until the river was high
enough that a tug pulling barges could navigate, by slow stages, down
to Kabara. By this time, one or two jars had been broken by inexpert
handling and more pilfered. In Kabara they were packed onto a camel and
taken to Timbuktu and delivered to the missionary. Total time elapsed
since leaving Iowa? Two years. Total number of jars that got through?
Isobel looked at Homer Crawford when he finished the story, and
laughed. Why in the world didn't that missionary society refuse the
old lady's gift?
He laughed in return and shrugged. They couldn't. She might get
into a huff and not mention them in her will. Missionary societies
can't afford to discourage gifts.
She made her selection from the menu, and told the waiter in French,
and then settled back. She resumed the conversation. The cost of
maintaining a missionary in this sort of country must have been
Um-m-m, Crawford growled. I sometimes wonder how many millions
upon millions of dollars, pounds and francs have been plowed into this
continent on such projects. This particular missionary wasn't a medical
man and didn't even run a school and in the six years he was here
didn't make a single convert.
Isobel said, Which brings us to our own pet projects. HomerI can
call you Homer, I suppose, being your brand new secretary....
He grinned at her. I'll make that concession.
... What's your own dream?
He broke some bread, automatically doing it with his left hand, as
prescribed in the Koran. They both noticed it, and both laughed.
I'm conditioned, he said.
Me, too, Isobel admitted. It's all I can do to use a knife and
He went back to her question, scowling. My dream? I don't know.
Right now I feel a little depressed about it all. When Elmer Allen
spoke about spending the rest of our lives on this job, I suddenly
realized that was about it. And, you knowhe looked up at herI
don't particularly like Africa. I'm an American.
She looked at him oddly. Then why stay here?
Because there's so much that needs to be done.
Yes, you're right and what Cliff Jackson said to the doctor was
correct, too. We all do what we must do and what we can do.
Well, that brings us back to your question. What is my own dream?
I'm afraid I'm too far along in life to acquire new ones, and my basic
dream is an American one.
And that is? Isobel prompted.
He shrugged again, slightly uncomfortable under the scrutiny of this
pretty girl. I'm a sociologist, Isobel. I suppose I seek Utopia.
She frowned at him as though disappointed. Is Utopia possible?
No, but there is always the search for it. It's a goal that recedes
as you approach, which is as it should be. Heaven help mankind if we
ever achieve it; we'll be through because there will be no place to go,
and man needs to strive.
They had finished their soup and the entree had arrived. Isobel
picked at it, her ordinarily smooth forehead wrinkled. The way I see
it, Utopia is not heaven. Heaven is perfect, but Utopia is an
engineering optimum, the best-possible-human-techniques. Therefore we
will not have perfect justice in Utopia, nor will everyone
get the exactly proper treatment. We design for optimumnot
perfection. But granting this, then attainment is possible.
She took a bite of the food before going on thoughtfully. In fact,
I wonder if, during man's history, he hasn't obtained his Utopias from
time to time. Have you ever heard the adage that any form of government
works fine and produces a Utopia provided it is managed by wise,
benevolent and competent rulers? She laughed and said mischievously,
Both Heaven and Hell are traditionally absolute
monarchiesdespotisms. The form of government evidently makes no
difference, it's who runs it that determines.
Crawford was shaking his head. I've heard the adage but I don't
accept it. Under certain socio-economic conditions the best of men, and
the wisest, could do little if they had the wrong form of government.
Suppose, for instance, you had a government which was a
military-theocracy which is more or less what existed in Mexico at the
time of the Cortez conquest. Can you imagine such a government working
efficiently if the socio-economic system had progressed to the point
where there were no longer wars and where practically everyone were
atheists, or, at least, agnostics?
She had to laugh at his ludicrous example. That's a rather silly
situation, isn't it? Such wise, benevolent men, would change the
Crawford pushed his point. Not necessarily. Here's a better
example. Immediately following the American Revolution, some of the
best, wisest and most competent men the political world has ever seen
were at the head of the government of Virginia. Such men as Jefferson,
Madison, Monroe, Washington. Their society was based on chattel slavery
and they built a Utopia for themselves but certainly not for the
slaves who out-numbered them. Not that they weren't kindly and good
men. A man of Jefferson's caliber, I am sure, would have done anything
in the world for those darkies of hisexcept get off their backs.
Except to grant them the liberty and the right to pursue happiness that
he demanded for himself. He was blinded by self interest, and the
interests of his class.
Perhaps they didn't want liberty, Isobel mused. Slavery isn't
necessarily an unhappy life.
I never thought it was. And I'm the first to admit that at a
certain stage in the evolution of society, it was absolutely necessary.
If society was to progress, then there had to be a class that was freed
from daily drudgery of the type forced on primitive man if he was to
survive. They needed the leisure time to study, to develop, to invent.
With the products of their studies, they were able to advance all
society. However, so long as slavery is maintained, be it necessary or
not, you have no Utopia. There is no Utopia so long as one man denies
another his liberty be it under chattel slavery, feudalism, or
Isobel said dryly, I see why you say your Utopia will never be
reached, that it continually recedes.
He laughed, ruefully. Don't misunderstand. I think that particular
goal can and will be reached. My point was that by the time we reach
it, there will be a new goal.
* * * * *
The girl, finished with her main dish, sat back in her chair, and
looked at him from the side of her eyes, as though wondering whether or
not he could take what she was about to say in the right way. She said,
slowly, You know, with possibly a few exceptions, you can't enslave a
man if he doesn't want to be a slave. For instance, the white man was
never able to enslave the Amerind; he died before he would become a
slave. The majority of Jefferson's slaves wanted to be slaves.
If there were those among them that had the ability to revolt against
slave psychology, a Jefferson would quickly promote such. A valuable
human being will be treated in a manner proportionate to his value. A
wise, competent, trustworthy slave became the major domo of the
master's estatewith privileges and authority actually greater than
that of free employees of the master.
Crawford thought about that for a moment. I'll take that, he said.
What's the point you're trying to make?
I, too, was set a-thinking by some of the things said at the
meeting, Homer. In particular, what Dr. Smythe had to say. Homer, are
we sure these people want the things we are trying to give
He looked at her uncomfortably. No they don't, he said bluntly.
Otherwise we wouldn't be here, either your AFAA or my African
Development Project. We utilize persuasion, skullduggery, and even
force to subvert their institutions, to destroy their present culture.
Yes. I've known this a long time.
Then how do you justify your being here?
He grinned sourly. Let's put it this way. Take the new government
in Egypt. They send the army into some of the small back-country towns
with bayoneted rifles, and orders to use them if necessary. The
villagers are forced to poison their ancient village wellsone of the
highest of imaginable crimes in such country, imposed on them
ruthlessly. Then they are forced to dig new ones in new places that are
not intimately entangled with their own sewage drainage. Naturally they
hate the government. In other towns, the army has gone in and, at gun
point, forced the parents to give up their children, taken the children
away in trucks and 'imprisoned' them in schools. Look, back in the
States we have trouble with the Amish, who don't want their children to
be taught modern ways. What sort of reaction do you think the
tradition-ritual-tabu-tribesmen of the six thousand year old Egyptian
culture have to having modern education imposed on their children?
Isobel was frowning at him.
Crawford wound it up. That's the position we're in. That's what
we're doing. Giving them things they need, in spite of the fact they
don't want them.
He said, You know the answer to that as well as I do. It's like
giving medical care to Typhoid Mary, in spite of the fact that she
didn't want it and didn't believe such things as typhoid microbes
existed. We had to protect the community against her. In the world
today, such backward areas as Africa are potential volcanoes. We've got
to deal with them before they erupt.
The waiter came with the bill and Homer took it.
Isobel said, Let's go Dutch on that.
He grinned at her. Consider it a donation to the AFAA.
Out on the street again, they walked slowly in the direction of the
old administration buildings where both had left their means of
Isobel, who was frowning thoughtfully, evidently over the things
that had been said, said, Let's go this way. I'd like to see the old
Great Mosque, in the Dyingerey Ber section of town. It's always
Crawford said, looking at her and appreciating her attractiveness,
all over again, You know Timbuktu quite well, don't you?
I've just finished a job down in Kabara, and it's only a few miles
Just what sort of thing do you do?
She shrugged and made a moue. Our little team concentrates on
breaking down the traditional position of women in these cultures. To
get them to drop the veil, go to school. That sort of thing. It's a
long story and
Homer Crawford suddenly and violently pushed her to the side and to
the ground and at the same time dropped himself and rolled frantically
to the shelter of an adobe wall which had once been part of a house but
now was little more than waist high.
Down! he yelled at her.
She bug-eyed him as though he had gone suddenly mad.
There was a heavy, stub-nosed gun suddenly in his hand. He squirmed
forward on elbows and belly, until he reached the corner.
What's the matter? she blurted.
He said grimly, See those three holes in the wall above you?
She looked up, startled.
He said, grimly, They weren't there a moment ago.
What he was saying, dawned upon her. But ... but I heard no shots.
He cautiously peered around the wall, and was rewarded with a puff
of sand inches from his face. He pulled his head back and his lips
thinned over his teeth. He said to her, Efficiently silenced guns have
been around for quite a spell. Whoever that is, is up there in the
mosque. Listen, beat your way around by the back streets and see if you
can find the members of my team, especially Abe Baker or
Bey-ag-Akhamouk. Tell them what happened and that I think I've got the
guy pinned down. That mosque is too much out in the open for him to get
away without my seeing him.
But ... but who in the world would want to shoot you, Homer?
Search me, he growled. My team has never operated in this
But then, it must be someone who was at the meeting.
That is was, Homer said grimly. Now, go see if you can find my
lads, will you? This joker is going to fall right into our laps. It's
going to be interesting to find out who hates the idea of African
development so much that they're willing to commit assassination.
But it didn't work out that way.
Isobel found the other teammates one by one, and they came hurrying
up from different directions to the support of their chief. They had
been a team for years and operating as they did and where they did,
each man survived only by selfless co-operation with all the others. In
action, they operated like a single unit, their ability to co-operate
almost as though they had telepathic communication.
From where he lay, Homer Crawford could see Bey-ag-Akhamouk,
Tommy-Noiseless in hands, snake in from the left, running low and
reaching a vantage point from which he could cover one flank of the
ancient adobe mosque. Homer waved to him and Bey made motions to
indicate that one of the others was coming in from the other side.
Homer waited for a few more minutes, then waved to Bey to cover him.
The streets were empty at this time of midday when the Sahara sun drove
the town's occupants into the coolness of dark two-foot-thick walled
houses. It was as though they were operating in a ghost town. Homer
came to his feet and handgun in fist made a dash for the front
Bey's light automatic flic flic flicked its excitement and
dust and dirt enveloped the wall facing Crawford. Homer reached the
doorway, stood there for a full two minutes while he caught his breath.
From the side of his eye he could see Elmer Allen, his excellent teeth
bared as always when the Jamaican went into action, come running up to
the right in that half crouch men automatically go into in combat,
instinctively presenting as small a target as possible. He was
evidently heading for a side door or window.
The object now was to refrain from killing the sniper. The important
thing was to be able to question him. Perhaps here was the answer to
the massacre of the Cubans. Homer took another deep breath, smashed the
door open with a heavy shoulder and dashed inward and immediately to
one side. At the same moment, Abe Baker, Tommy-Noiseless in hand, came
in from the rear door, his eyes darting around trying to pierce the
gloom of the unlighted building.
Elmer Allen erupted through a window, rolled over on the floor and
came to rest, his gun trained.
Where is he? Abe snapped.
Homer motioned with his head. Must be up in the remains of the
Abe got to the creaking, age-old stairway first. In cleaning out a
hostile building, the idea is to move fast and keep on the move. Stop,
and you present a target.
But there was no one in the minaret.
Got away, Homer growled. His face was puzzled. I felt sure we'd
Bey-ag-Akhamouk entered. He grunted his disappointment. What
happened, anyway? That girl Isobel said a sniper took some shots at you
and you figure it must've been somebody at the meeting.
Somebody at the meeting? Abe said blankly. What kind of jazz is
that? You flipping, man?
Homer looked at him strangely.
Who else could it be, Abe? We've never operated this far south.
None of the inhabitants in this area even know us, and it certainly
couldn't have been an attempt at robbery.
There were some cats at that meeting didn't appreciate our ideas,
man, but I can't see that old preacher or Doc Smythe trying to put the
slug on you.
Kenny Ballalou came in on the double, gun in hand, his face anxious.
Abe said sarcastically, Man, we'd all be dead if we had to wait on
That girl Isobel. She said somebody took a shot at the chief.
Homer explained it, sourly. A sniper had taken a few shots at him,
then managed to get away.
Isobel entered, breathless, followed by Jake Armstrong.
Abe grunted, Let's hold another convention. This is like old home
Her eyes went from one of them to the other. You're not hurt?
Nobody hurt, but the cat did all the shooting got away, Abe said
Jake said, and his voice was worried, Isobel told me what happened.
It sounds insane.
They discussed it for a while and got exactly nowhere. Their
conversation was interrupted by a clicking at Homer Crawford's wrist.
He looked down at the tiny portable radio.
Excuse me for a moment, he said to the others and went off a dozen
steps or so to the side.
They looked after him.
Elmer Allen said sourly, Another assignment. What we need is a
Abe adopted the idea. Man! Time and a half for overtime.
With a special cost of living clause Kenny Ballalou added.
And housing and dependents allotment! Abe crowed.
They all looked at him.
Bey tried to imitate the other's beatnik patter. Like, you got any
Abe made a mark in the sand on the mosque's floor with the toe of
his shoe, like a schoolboy up before the principal for an infraction of
rules, and registered embarrassment. Well, there's that cute little
Tuareg girl up north.
Ha! Isobel said. And all these years you've been leading me on.
Homer Crawford returned and his face was serious. That does it, he
muttered disgustedly. The fat's in the fire.
Like, what's up, man?
Crawford looked at his right-hand man. There are demonstrations in
Mopti? Jake Armstrong said, surprised. Our team was working there
just a couple of months ago. I thought everything was going fine in
They're going fine, all right, Crawford growled. So well, that
the local populace wants to speed up even faster.
They were all looking their puzzlement at him.
The demonstrations are in favor of El Hassan.
Their faces turned blank. Crawford's eyes swept his teammates. Our
instructions are to get down there and do what we can to restore order.
Come on, let's go. I'm going to have to see if I can arrange some
transportation. It'd take us two days to get there in our outfits.
Jake Armstrong said, Wait a minute, Homer. My team was heading back
for Dakar for a rest and new assignments. We'd be passing Mopti anyway.
How many of you are there, five? If you don't haul too much luggage
with you; we could give you a lift.
Great, Homer told him. We'll take you up on that. Abe, Elmer,
let's get going. We'll have to repack. Bey, Kenny, see about finding
some place we can leave the lorries until we come back. This job
shouldn't take more than a few days at most.
Huh, Abe said. I hope you got plans, man. How do you go about
stopping demonstrations in favor of a legend you created yourself?
* * * * *
Mopti, also on the Niger, lies approximately three hundred
kilometers to the south and slightly west of Timbuktu, as the bird
flies. However, one does not travel as the bird flies in the Niger
bend. Not even when one goes by aircraft. A forced landing in the
endless swamps, bogs, shallow lakes and river tributaries which make up
the Niger at this point, would be suicidal. The whole area is more like
the Florida Everglades than a river, and a rescue team would be hard
put to find your wreckage. There are no roads, no railroads. Traffic
follows the well marked navigational route of the main channel.
Homer Crawford had been sitting quietly next to Cliff Jackson who
was piloting. Isobel and Jake Armstrong were immediately behind them
and Abe and the rest of Crawford's team took up the remainder of the
aircraft's eight seats. Abe was regaling the others with his customary
Out of a clear sky, Crawford said bitterly, Has it occurred to any
of you that what we're doing here in North Africa is committing
The others stared at him, taken aback. Isobel said, I beg your
Genocide, Crawford said bitterly. We're doing here much what the
white men did when they cleared the Amerinds from the plains, the
mountains and forests of North America.
Isobel, Cliff and Jake frowned their puzzlement. Abe said, Man, you
just don't make sense. And, among other things, there're more Indians
in the United States than there was when Columbus landed.
Crawford shook his head. No. They're a different people. Those
cultures that inhabited the United States when the first white men
came, are gone. He shook his head as though soured by his thoughts.
Take the Sioux. They had a way of life based on the buffalo. So the
whites deliberately exterminated the buffalo. It made the plains
Indians' culture impossible. A culture based on buffalo herds cannot
exist if there are no buffalo.
I keep telling you, man, there's more Sioux now than there were
Crawford still shook his head. But they're a different people, a
different race, a different culture. A mere fraction, say ten per cent,
of the original Sioux, might have adapted to the new life. The others
beat their heads out against the new ways. They foughtthe Sitting
Bull wars took place after the buffalo were already gonethey drank
themselves to death on the white man's firewater, they committed
suicide; in a dozen different ways they called it quits. Those that
survived, the ten per cent, were the exceptions. They were able to
adapt. They had a built-in genetically-conferred self discipline enough
to face the new problems. Possibly eighty per cent of their children
couldn't face the new problems either and they in turn went under. But
by now, a hundred years later, the majority of the Sioux nation have
probably adapted. But, you see, the point I'm trying to make? They're
not the real Sioux, the original Sioux; they're a new breed. The
plains living, buffalo based culture, Sioux are all dead. The white men
Jake Armstrong was scowling. I get your point, but what has it to
do with our work here in North Africa?
We're doing the same thing to the Tuareg, the Teda and the
Chaambra, and most of the others in the area in which we operate. The
type of human psychology that's based on the nomad life can't endure
settled community living. Wipe out the nomad way of life and these
human beings must die.
Abe said, unusually thoughtful, I see what you mean, man. Fish
gotta swim, bird gotta flyand nomad gotta roam. He flips if he
Homer Crawford pursued it. Sure, there'll be Tuareg afterward ...
but all descended from the fraction of deviant Tuareg who were so
abnormalspeaking from the Tuareg viewpointthat they liked settled
community life. He rubbed a hand along his jawbone, unhappily. Put it
this way. Think of them as a tribe of genetic claustrophobes. No matter
what a claustrophobe promises, he can't work in a mine. He has no
choice but to break his promise and escape ... or kill himself trying.
Isobel was staring at him. What you say, is disturbing, Homer. I
didn't come to Africa to destroy a people.
He looked back at her, oddly. None of us did.
Cliff said from behind the aircraft's controls, If you believe what
you're saying, how do you justify being here yourself?
I don't know, Crawford said unhappily. I don't know what started
me on this kick, but I seem to have been doing more inner searching
this past week or so than I have in the past couple of decades. And I
don't seem to come up with much in the way of answers.
Well, man, Abe said. If you find any, let us know.
Jake said, his voice warm, Look Homer, don't beat yourself about
this. What you say figures, but you've got to take it from this angle.
The plains Indians had to go. The world is developing too fast for a
few thousand people to tie up millions of acres of some of the most
fertile farm land anywhere, because they needed it for their gamethe
buffaloto run on.
Um-m-m, Homer said, his voice lacking conviction.
Maybe it's unfortunate the way it was done. The story of the
American's dealing with the Amerind isn't a pretty one, and usually
comfortably ignored when we pat ourselves on the back these days and
tell ourselves what a noble, honest, generous and peace loving people
we are. But it did have to be done, and the job we're doing in North
Africa has to be done, too.
Crawford said softly, And sometimes it isn't very pretty either.
* * * * *
Mopti as a town had grown. Once a small river port city of about
five thousand population, it had been a river and caravan crossroads
somewhat similar to Timbuktu, and noted in particular for its spice
market and its Great Mosque, probably the largest building of worship
ever made of mud. Plastered newly at least twice a year with fresh
adobe, at a distance of only a few hundred feet the Great Mosque, in
the middle of the day and in the glare of the Sudanese sun, looks as
though made of gold. From the air it is more attractive than the
grandest Gothic cathedrals of Europe.
Isobel pointed. There, the Great Mosque.
Elmer Allen said, Yes, and there. See those mobs? He looked at
Homer Crawford and said sourly, Let's try and remember who it was who
first thought of the El Hassan idea. Then we can blame it on him.
Kenny Ballalou grumbled, We all thought about it. Remember, we
pulled into Tessalit and found that prehistoric refrigerator that
worked on kerosene and there were a couple of dozen quarts of Norwegian
beer, of all things, in it.
And we bought them all, Abe recalled happily. Man, we hung one
Homer Crawford said to Cliff, The Mopti airport is about twelve
miles over to the east of the town.
Yeah, I know. Been here before, Cliff said. He called back to
Ballalou, And then what happened?
We took the beer out into the desert and sat on a big dune. You can
just begin to see the Southern Cross from there. Hangs right on the
Bey said, I've never heard Kenny wax poetic before. I don't know
which sounds more lyrical, though, that cold beer or the Southern
Kenny said, Anyway, that's when El Hassan was dreamed up. We kicked
the idea around until the beer was all gone. And when we awoke in the
morning, complete with hangover, we had the gimmick which we hung all
our propaganda on.
El Hassan is turning out to be a hangover all right, Elmer Allen
grunted, choosing to misinterpret his teammate's words. He peered down
below. And there the poor blokes are, rioting in favor of the product
of those beer bottles.
It was crazy beer, man, Abe protested. Real crazy.
Homer Crawford said, I wish headquarters had more information to
give us on this. All they said was there were demonstrations in favor
of El Hassan and they were afraid if things went too far that some of
the hard work that's been done here the past ten years might dissolve
in the excitement; Dogon, Mosse, Tellum, Sonrai start fighting among
Jake Armstrong said, That's not my big worry. I'm afraid some
ambitious lad will come along and supply what these people evidently
How's that? Cliff said.
They want a leader. Someone to come out of the wilderness and lead
them to the promised land. The older man grumbled sourly. All your
life you figure you're in favor of democracy. You devote your career to
expanding it. Then you come to a place like North Africa. You're just
kidding yourself. Democracy is meaningless here. They haven't got to
the point where they can conceive of it.
And Elmer Allen prodded.
Jake Armstrong shrugged. When it comes to governments and social
institutions people usually come up with what they want, sooner or
later. If those mobs down there want a leader, they'll probably wind up
with one. He grunted deprecation. And then probably we'll be able to
say, Heaven help them.
Isobel puckered her lips. A leader isn't necessarily a misleader,
Perhaps not necessarily, he said. However, it's an indication of
how far back these people are, how much work we've still got to do,
when that's what they're seeking.
Well, I'm landing, Cliff said. The airport looks free of any kind
That's a good word, Abe said. Manifestations. Like, I'll have to
remember that one. Man's been to school and all that jazz.
Cliff grinned at him. Where'd you like to get socked, beatnik?
About two feet above my head, Abe said earnestly.
* * * * *
The aircraft had hardly come to a halt before Homer Crawford clipped
out, All right, boys, time's a wasting. Bey, you and Kenny get over to
those administration buildings and scare us up some transportation. Use
no more pressure than you have to. Abe, you and Elmer start getting our
equipment out of the luggage
Jake Armstrong said suddenly, Look here, Homer, do you need any
Crawford looked at him questioningly.
Jake said, Isobel, Cliff, what do you think?
Isobel said quickly, I'm game. I don't know what they'll say back
at AFAA headquarters, though. Our co-operating with a Sahara
Development Project team.
Cliff scowled. I don't know. Frankly, I took this job purely for
the dough, and as outlined it didn't include getting roughed up in some
riot that doesn't actually concern the job.
Oh, come along, Cliff, Isobel urged. It'll give you some
experience you don't know when you'll be able to use.
He shrugged his acceptance, grudgingly.
Jake Armstrong looked back at Homer Crawford. If you need us, we're
Thanks, Crawford said briefly, and turned off the unhappy stare
he'd been giving Cliff. We can use all the manpower we can get. You
people ever worked with mobs before?
Bey and Kenny climbed from the plane and made their way at a trot
toward the airport's administration buildings. Abe and Elmer climbed
out, too, and opened the baggage compartment in the rear of the
Well, no, Jake Armstrong said.
It's quite a technique. Mostly you have to play it by ear, because
nothing is so changeable as the temper of a mob. Always keep in mind
that to begin with, at least, only a small fraction of the crowd is
really involved in what's going on. Possibly only one out of ten is
interested in the issue. The rest start off, at least, as idle
observers, watching the fun. That's one of the first things you've got
to control. Don't let the innocent bystanders become excited and get
into the spirit of it all. Once they do, then you've got a mess on your
Isobel, Jake and Cliff listened to him in fascination.
Cliff said uncomfortably, Well, what do we do to get the whole
thing back to tranquillity? What I mean is, how do we end these
We bore them to tears, Homer growled.
They looked at him blankly.
We assume leadership of the whole thing and put up speakers.
Jake protested, You sound as though you're sustaining not placating
We put up speakers and they speak and speak, and speak. It's almost
like a fillibuster. You don't say anything particularly interesting,
and certainly nothing exciting. You agree with the basic feeling of the
demonstrating mob, certainly you say nothing to antagonize them. In
this case we speak in favor of El Hassan and his great, and noble, and
inspiring, and so on and so forth, teachings. We speak in not too loud
a voice, so that those in the rear have a hard time hearing, if they
can hear at all.
Cliff said worriedly, Suppose some of the hotheads get tired of
this and try to take over?
Homer said evenly, We have a couple of bully boys in the crowd to
take care of them.
Jake twisted his mouth, in objection. Might that not strike the
spark that would start up violence?
Homer Crawford grinned and began climbing out of the plane. Not
with the weapons we use.
Weapons! Isobel snapped. Do you intend to use weapons on those
poor people? Why, it was you yourself, you and your team, who started
this whole El Hassan movement. I'm shocked. I've heard about your
reputation, you and the Sahara Development Project teams. Your
Crawford chuckled ruefully and held up a hand to stem the tide.
Hold it, hold it, he said. These are special weapons, and, after
all, we've got to keep those crowds together long enough to bore them
to the point where they go home.
Abe came up with an armful of what looked something like tent-poles.
The quarterstaffs, eh, Homer?
Um-m-m, Crawford said. Under the circumstances.
Quarterstaffs? Cliff Jackson ejaculated.
Abe grinned at him. Man, just call them pilgrim's staffs. The least
obnoxious looking weapon in the world. He looked at Cliff and Jake.
You two cats been checked out on quarterstaffs?
Jake said, The more I talk to you people, the less I seem to
understand what's going on. Aren't quarterstaffs what, well, Robin Hood
and his Merry Men used to fight with?
That's right, Homer said. He took one from Abe and grasping it
expertly with two hands whirled it about, getting its balance. Then
suddenly, he drooped, leaning on it as a staff. His face expressed
weariness. His youth and virility seemed to drop away and suddenly he
was an aged religious pilgrim as seen throughout the Moslem world.
I'll be damned, Cliff blurted. Oop, sorry Isobel.
I'll be damned, too, Isobel said. What in the world can you do
with that, Homer? I was thinking in terms of you mowing those people
down with machine guns or something.
Crawford stood erect again laughingly, and demonstrated. It's
probably the most efficient handweapon ever devised. The weapon of the
British yeoman. With one of these you can disarm a swordsman in a
matter of seconds. A good man with a quarterstaff can unhorse a knight
in armor and batter him to death, in a minute or so. The only other
handweapon capable of countering it is another quarterstaff. Watch
this, with the favorable two-hand leverage the ends of the staff can be
made to move at invisibly high speeds.
Bey and Kenny drove up in an aged wheeled truck and Abe and Elmer
began loading equipment.
Crawford looked at Bey who said apologetically, I had to liberate
it. Didn't have time for all the dickering the guy wanted to go
Crawford grunted and looked at Isobel. Those European clothes won't
do. We've got some spare things along. You can improvise. Men and
women's clothes don't differ that much around here.
I'll make out all right, Isobel said. I can change in the plane.
Hey, Isobel, Abe called out. Why not dress up like one of these
Some chance, Isobel hissed menacingly at him. A strip tease you
want, yet. You'll see me in a haik and like it, wise guy.
Shucks, Abe grinned.
Crawford looked critically at the clothing of Jake and Cliff. I
suppose you'll do in western stuff, he said. After all, this El
Hassan is supposed to be the voice of the future. A lot of his
potential followers will already be wearing shirts and pants. Don't
look too civilized, though.
When Isobel returned, Crawford briefed his seven followers. They
were to operate in teams of two. One of his men, complete with
quarterstaff would accompany each of the others. Abe with Jake, Bey
with Cliff, and he'd be with Isobel. Elmer and Kenny would be the other
twosome, and, both armed with quarterstaffs would be troubleshooters.
We're playing it off the cuff, he said. Do what comes naturally
to get this thing under control. If you run into each other,
co-operate, of course. If there's trouble, use your wrist radios. He
looked at Abe and Bey. I know you two are packing guns underneath
those gandouras. I hope you know enough not to use them.
Abe and Bey looked innocent.
Homer turned and led the way into the truck. O.K., let's get
Driving into town over the dusty, pocked road, Homer gave the
newcomers to his group more background on the care and control of the
genus mob. He was obviously speaking through considerable
Using these quarterstaffs brings to mind some of the other
supposedly innoxious devices used by police authorities in controlling
unruly demonstrations, he said. Some of them are beauties. For
instance, I was in Tangier when the Moroccans put on their revolution
against the French and for the return of the Sultan. The rumor went
through town that the mob was going to storm the French Consulate the
next day. During the night, the French brought in elements of the
Foreign Legion and entrenched the consulate grounds. But their
commander had another problem. Journalists were all over town and so
were tourists. Tangier was still supposedly an international zone and
the French were in no position to slaughter the citizens. So they
brought in some special equipment. One item was a vehicle that looked
quite a bit like a gasoline truck, but was filled with water and
armored against thrown cobblestones and such. On the roof of the cabin
was what looked something like a fifty caliber but which was actually a
hose which shot water at terrific pressure. When the mob came, the
French unlimbered this vehicle and all the journalists could say was
that the mob was dispersed by squirting water on it, which doesn't
sound too bad after all.
Isobel said, Well, certainly that's preferable to firing on them.
Homer looked at her oddly. Possibly. However, I was standing next
to the Moorish boy who was cut entirely in half by the pressure spray
The expression on the girl's face sickened.
Homer said, They had another interesting device for dispersing
mobs. It was a noise bomb. The French set off several.
A noise bomb? Cliff said. I don't get it.
They make a tremendous noise, but do nothing else. However, members
of the mob who aren't really too interested in the whole thingjust
sort of along for the funfigure that things are getting earnest and
that the troops are shelling them. So they remember some business they
had elsewhere and take off.
Isobel said suddenly, You like this sort of work, don't you?
Elmer Allen grunted bitterly.
No, Homer Crawford said flatly. I don't. But I like the goal.
And the end justifies the means?
Homer Crawford said slowly, I've never answered that to my own
satisfaction. But I'll say this. I've never met a person, no matter how
idealistic, no matter how much he played lip service to the contention
that the ends do not justify the means, who did not himself use the
means he found available to reach the ends he believed correct. It
seems to be a matter of each man feeling the teaching applies to
everyone else, but that he is free to utilize any means to achieve his
own noble ends.
Man, all that jazz is too much for me, Abe said.
They were entering the outskirts of Mopti. Small groups of obviously
excited Africans of various tribal groups, were heading for the center
Abe, Jake, Crawford said. We'll drop you here. Mingle around.
We'll hold the big meeting in front of the Great Mosque in an hour or
Crazy, Abe said, dropping off the back of the truck which Kenny
Ballalou, who was driving, brought almost to a complete stop. The older
Jake followed him.
The rest went on a quarter of a mile and dropped Bey and Cliff.
Homer said to Kenny, Park the truck somewhere near the spice
market. Preferably inside some building, if you can. For all we know,
they're already turning over vehicles and burning them.
Crawford and Isobel dropped off near the pottery market, on the
banks of the Niger. The milling throngs here were largely women.
Elements of half a dozen tribes and races were represented.
Homer Crawford stood a moment. He ran a hand back over his short
hair and looked at her. I don't know, he muttered. Now I'm sorry we
brought you along. He leaned on his staff and looked at her worriedly.
You're not very ... ah, husky, are you?
She laughed at him. Get about your business, sir knight. I spent
nearly two weeks living with these people once. I know dozens of them
by name. Watch this cat operate, as Abe would say.
She darted to one of the over-turned pirogues which had been dragged
up on the bank from the river, and climbed atop it. She held her hands
high and began a stream of what was gibberish to Crawford who didn't
understand Wolof, the Senegalese lingua franca. Some elements of the
crowd began drifting in her direction. She spoke for a few moments, the
only words the surprised Homer Crawford could make out were El
Hassan. And she used them often.
She switched suddenly to Arabic, and he could follow her now. The
drift of her talk was that word had come through that El Hassan was to
make a great announcement in the near future and that meanwhile all his
people were to await his word. But that there was to be a great meeting
before the Mosque within the hour.
She switched again to Songhoi and repeated substantially what she'd
said before. By now she had every woman hanging on her words.
A man on the outskirts of the gathering called out in high
irritation, But what of the storming of the administration buildings?
Our leaders have proclaimed the storming of the reactionaries!
Crawford, leaning heavily on the pilgrim staff, drifted over to the
other. Quiet, O young one, he said. I wish to listen to the words of
the girl who tells of the teachings of the great El Hassan.
The other turned angrily on him. Be silent thyself, old man! He
raised a hand as though to cuff the American.
Homer Crawford neatly rapped him on the right shin bone with his
quarterstaff to the other's intense agony. The women who witnessed the
brief spat dissolved in laughter at the plight of the younger man.
Homer Crawford drifted away again before the heckler recovered.
He let Isobel handle the bulk of the reverse-rabble rousing. His bit
was to come later, and as yet he didn't want to reveal himself to the
* * * * *
They went from one gathering place of women to another. To the spice
market, to the fish and meat market, to the bathing and laundering
locations along the river. And everywhere they found animated groups of
women, Isobel went into her speech.
At one point, while Homer stood idly in the crowd, feeling its
temper and the extent to which the girl was dominating them, he felt
someone press next to him.
A voice said, What is the plan of operation, Yank?
Homer Crawford's eyebrows went up and he shot a quick glance at the
other. It was Rex Donaldson of the Commonwealth African Department. The
operative who worked as the witchman, Dolo Anah. Crawford was glad to
see him. This was Donaldson's area of operations, the man must have got
here almost as soon as Crawford's team, when he had heard of the
Crawford said in English, They've been gathering for an outbreak of
violence, evidently directed at the Reunited Nations projects
administration buildings. I've seen a few banners calling for El Hassan
to come to power, Africa for the Africans, that sort of thing.
The small Bahamian snorted. You chaps certainly started something
with this El Hassan farce. What are your immediate plans? How can I
co-operate with you?
A teenage boy who had been heckling Isobel, stooped now to pick up
some dried cow dung. Almost absently, Crawford put his staff between
the other's legs and tripped him up, when the lad sprawled on his face
the American rapped him smartly on the head.
Crawford said, Thanks a lot, we can use you, especially since you
speak Dogon, I don't think any of my group does. We're going to hold a
big meeting in front of the square and give them a long monotonous
talk, saying little but sounding as though we're promising a great
deal. When we've taken most of the steam out of them, we'll locate the
ringleaders and have a big indoor meeting. My boys will be spotted
throughout the gang. They'll nominate me to be spokesman, and nominate
each other to be my committee and we'll be sent to find El Hassan and
urge him to take power. That should keep them quiet for a while. At
least long enough for headquarters in Dakar to decide what to do.
Good Heavens, Donaldson said in admiration. You Yanks are
certainly good at this sort of thing.
Takes practice, Homer Crawford said. If you want to help, ferret
out the groups who speak Dogon and give them the word.
Out of a sidestreet came running Abe Baker at the head of possibly
two or three hundred arm waving, shouting, stick brandishing Africans.
A few of them had banners which were being waved in such confusion that
nobody could read the words inscribed. Most of them seemed to be
younger men, even teen-agers.
Good Heavens, Donaldson said again.
At first snap opinion, Crawford thought his assistant was being
pursued and started forward to the hopeless rescue, but then he
realized that Abe was heading the mob. Waving his staff, the New Yorker
was shouting slogans, most of which had something to do with El
Hassan but otherwise were difficult to make out.
The small mob charged out of the street and through the square,
still shouting. Abe began to drop back into the ranks, and then to the
edge of the charging, gesticulating crowd. Already, though, some of
them seemed to be slowing up, even stopping and drifting away,
puzzlement or frustration on their faces.
Those who were still at excitement's peak, charged up another street
at the other side of the square.
In a few moments, Abe Baker came up to them, breathing hard and
wiping sweat from his forehead. He grinned wryly. Man, those cats are
way out. This is really Endsville. He looked up at where Isobel was
haranguing her own crowd, which hadn't been fazed by the men who'd
charged through the square going nowhere. Look at old Isobel up there.
Man, this whole town's like a combination of Hyde Park and Union
Square. You oughta hear old Jake making with a speech.
What just happened? Homer asked, motioning with his head to where
the last elements of the mob Abe'd been leading were disappearing down
a dead-end street.
Ah, nothing, Abe said, still watching Isobel and grinning at her.
Those cats were the nucleus of a bunch wanted to start some action.
Burn a few cars, raid the library, that sort of jazz. So I took over
for a while, led them up one street and down the other. I feel like I
just been star at a track meet.
Good Heavens, Donaldson said still again.
They're all scattered around now, Abe explained to him. Either
that or their tongues are hanging out to the point they'll have to take
five to have a beer. They're finished for a while.
Isobel finished her little talk and joined them. What gives now?
Rex Donaldson said, I'd like to stay around and watch you chaps
operate. It's fascinating. However, I'd better get over to the park.
That's probably where the greater number of the Dogon will be. He
grumbled sourly, I'll roast those blokes with a half dozen bits of
magic and send them all back to Sangha. It'll be donkey's years before
they ever show face around here again. He left them.
Homer Crawford looked after him. Good man, he said.
Abe had about caught his breath. What gives now, man? he said. I
ought to get back to Jake. He's all alone up near the mosque.
It's about time all of us got over there, Crawford said. He looked
at Isobel as they walked. How does it feel being a sort of reverse
Her forehead was wrinkled, characteristically. I suppose it has to
be done, but frankly, I'm not too sure just what we are doing. Here we
go about pushing these supposed teachings of El Hassan and when we're
taken up by the people and they actually attempt to accomplish what we
taught them, we draw in on the reins.
Man, you're right, Abe said unhappily. He looked at his chief.
What'd you say, Homer?
Of course she's right, Crawford growled. It's just premature, is
all. There's no program, no plan of action. If there was one, this
thing here in Mopti might be the spark that united all North Africa. As
it is, we have to put the damper on it until there is a definite
program. He added sourly, I'm just wondering if the Reunited Nations
is the organization that can come up with one. And, if it isn't, where
is there one?
The mosque loomed up before them. The square before it was jam
packed with milling Africans.
Great guns, Isobel snorted, there're more people here than the
whole population of Mopti. Where'd they all come from?
They've been filtering in from the country, Crawford said.
Well, we'll filter 'em back, Abe promised.
* * * * *
They spotted a ruckus and could see Elmer Allen in the middle of it,
his quarterstaff flailing.
On the double, Homer bit out, and he and Abe broke into a trot for
the point of conflict. The idea was to get this sort of thing over as
quickly as possible before it had a chance to spread.
They arrived too late. Elmer was leaning on his staff, as though
needing it for support, and explaining mildly to two men who evidently
were friends of a third who was stretched out on the ground, dead to
the world and with a nasty lump on his shaven head.
Homer came up and said to Elmer, in Songhai, What has transpired, O
Holy One? He made a sign of obeisance to the Jamaican.
The two Africans were taken aback by the term of address. They were
unprepared to continue further debate, not to speak of physical action,
against a holy man.
Elmer said with dignity, He spoke against El Hassan, our great
For a moment the two Africans seemed to be willing to deny that, but
Abe Baker took up the cue and turned to the crowd that was beginning to
gather. He held his hands out, palms upward questioningly, And why
should these young men beset a Holy One whose only crime is to love El
The crowd began to murmur and the two hurriedly picked up their
fallen companion and took off with him.
Homer said in English, What really happened?
Oh, this chap was one of the hot heads, Elmer explained. Wanted
some immediate action. I gave it to him.
Abe chuckled, Holy One, yet.
Spotted through the square, holding forth to various gatherings of
the mob were Jake Armstrong, Kenny Ballalou and Cliff Jackson. Even as
Homer Crawford sized up the situation and the temper of the throngs of
tribesmen, Bey entered the square from the far side at the head of two
or three thousand more, most of whom were already beginning to look
bored to death from talk, talk, talk.
Isobel came up and looked questioningly at Homer Crawford.
He said, Abe, get the truck and drive it up before the entrance to
the mosque. We'll speak from that. Isobel can open the hoe down, get
the crowd over and then introduce me.
Abe left and Crawford said to Isobel, Introduce me as Omar ben
Crawf, the great friend and assistant of El Hassan. Build it up.
Right, she said.
Crawford said, Elmer first round up the boys and get them spotted
through the audience. You're the cheerleaders and also the sergeants at
arms, of course. Nail the hecklers quickly, before they can get
organized among themselves. In short, the standard deal. He thought a
moment. And see about getting a hall where we can hold a meeting of
the ringleaders, those are the ones we're going to have to cool out.
Wizard, Elmer said and was gone on his mission.
Isobel and Homer stood for a moment, waiting for Abe and the truck.
She said, You seem to have this all down pat.
It's routine, he said absently. The brain of a mob is no larger
than that of its minimum member. Any disciplined group, almost no
matter how small can model it to order.
Just in case we don't have the opportunity to get together again,
what happens at the hall meeting of ringleaders? What do Jake, Cliff
and I do?
What comes naturally, Homer said. We'll elect each other to the
most important positions. But everybody else that seems to have
anything at all on the ball will be elected to some committee or other.
Give them jobs compiling reports to El Hassan or something. Keep them
busy. Give Reunited Nations headquarters in Dakar time to come up with
She said worriedly, Suppose some of these ringleaders are capable,
aggressive types and won't stand for us getting all the important
Crawford grunted. We're more aggressive and more capable.
Let my team handle that. One of the boys will jump up and accuse the
guy of being a spy and an enemy of El Hassan, and one of the other boys
will bear him out, and a couple of others will hustle him out of the
hall. Homer yawned. It's all routine, Isobel.
Abe was driving up the truck.
Crawford said, O.K., let's go, gal.
Roger, she said, climbing first into the back of the vehicle and
then up onto the roof of the cab.
Isobel held her hands high above her head and in the cab Abe bore
down on the horn for a long moment.
Isobel shrilled, Hear what the messenger from El Hassan has come to
tell us! Hear the friend and devoted follower of El Hassan!
At the same time, Jake, Kenny, and Cliff discontinued their own
harangues and themselves headed for the new speaker.
* * * * *
They stayed for three days and had it well wrapped up in that time.
The tribesmen, bored when the excitement fell away and it became
obvious that there were to be no further riots, and certainly no
violence, drifted back to their villages. The city dwellers returned to
the routine of daily existence. And the police, who had mysteriously
disappeared from the streets at the height of the demonstrations, now
magically reappeared and began asserting their authority somewhat
At the hall meetings, mighty slogans were drafted and endless
committees formed. The more articulate, the more educated and able of
the demonstrators were marked out for future reference, but for the
moment given meaningless tasks to keep them busy and out of trouble.
On the fourth day, Homer Crawford received orders to proceed to
Dakar, leaving the rest of the team behind to keep an eye on the
Abe groaned, There's luck for you. Dakar, nearest thing to a good
old sin city in a thousand miles. And who gets to go? Old sour puss,
here. Got no more interest in the hot spots
Homer said, You can come along, Abe.
Kenny Ballalou said, Orders were only you, Homer.
Crawford growled, Yes, but I have a suspicion I'm being called on
the carpet for one of our recent escapades and I want backing if I need
it. He added, Besides, nothing is going to happen here.
Crazy man, Abe said appreciatively.
Jake said, We three were planning to head for Dakar today
ourselves. Isobel, in particular, is exhausted and needs a prolonged
rest before going out among the natives any more. You might as well
continue to let us supply your transportation.
Fine, Homer told him. Come on Abe, let's get our things
What do we do while you chaps are gone? Elmer Allen said sourly.
I wouldn't mind a period in a city myself.
Read a book, man, Abe told him. Improve your mind.
I've read a book, Elmer said glumly. Any other ideas?
* * * * *
Dakar is a big, bustling, prosperous and modern city shockingly set
down in the middle of the poverty that is Africa. It should be, by its
appearance, on the French Riviera, on the California coast, or possibly
that of Florida, but it isn't. It's in Senegal, in the area once known
as French West Africa.
Their aircraft swept in and landed at the busy airport.
They were assigned an African Development Project air-cushion car
and drove into the city proper.
Dakar boasts some of the few skyscrapers in all Africa. The Reunited
Nations occupied one of these in its entirety. Dakar was the center of
activities for the whole Western Sahara and down into the Sudan. Across
the street from its offices, a street still named Rue des Résistance in
spite of the fact that the French were long gone, was the Hotel
Crawford and Abe Baker had radioed ahead and accommodations were
ready for them. Their western clothing and other gear had been brought
up from storage in the cellar.
At the desk, the clerk didn't blink at the Tuareg costume the two
still wore. This was commonplace. He probably wouldn't have blinked had
Isobel arrived in the costume of the Dogon. Your suite is ready, Dr.
Crawford, he said.
The manager came up and shook hands with an old customer and Homer
Crawford introduced him to Isobel, Jake and Cliff, requesting he do his
best for them. He and Abe then made their excuses and headed for the
paradise of hot water, towels, western drink and the other amenities of
On the way up in the elevator, Abe said happily, Man, I can just
taste that bath I'm going to take. Crazy!
Personally, Crawford said, trying to reflect some of the other's
typically lighthearted enthusiasm, I have in mind a few belts out of a
bottle of stone-age cognac, then a steak yea big and a flock of French
fries, followed by vanilla ice cream.
Abe's eyes went round. Man, you mean we can't get a good dish of
cous cous in this town?
Cous cous, Crawford said in agony.
Abe made his voice so soulful. With a good dollop of rancid camel
butter right on top.
Homer laughed as they reached their floor and started for the suite.
You make it sound so good, I almost believe you. Inside he said,
Dibbers on the first bath. How about phoning down for a bottle of
Napoleon and some soda and ice? When it comes, just mix me one and
bring it in, that hand you see emerging from the soap bubbles in that
tub, will be mine.
I hear and obey, O Bwana! Abe said in a servile tone.
By the time they'd cleaned up and had eaten an enormous western
style meal in the dining room of the Juan-les-Pins, it was well past
the hour when they could have made contact with their Reunited Nations
superiors. They had a couple of cognacs in the bar, then, whistling
happily, Abe Baker went out on the town.
Homer Crawford looked up Isobel, Jake and Cliff who had, sure
enough, found accommodations in the same hotel.
Isobel stepped back in mock surprise when she saw Crawford in
western garb. Heavens to Betsy, she said. The man is absolutely
extinguished in a double-breasted charcoal gray.
He tried a scowl and couldn't manage it. The word is
distinguished, not extinguished, he said. He looked down at the
suit, critically. You know, I feel uncomfortable. I wonder if I'll be
able to sit down in a chair instead of squatting. He looked at her own
evening frock. Wow, he said.
Cliff Jackson said menacingly, None of that stuff, Crawford. Isobel
has already been asked for, let's have no wolfing around.
Isobel said tartly, Asked for but she didn't answer the summons.
She took Homer by the arm. And I just adore extinguishoops, I mean
distinguished looking men.
They trooped laughingly into the hotel cocktail lounge.
The time passed pleasantly. Jake and Cliff were good men in a field
close to Homer Crawford's heart. Isobel was possibly the most
attractive woman he'd ever met. They discussed in detail each other's
work and all had stories of wonder to describe.
Crawford wondered vaguely if there was ever going to be a time, in
this life of his, for a woman and all that one usually connects with
womanhood. What was it Elmer Allen had said at the Timbuktu meeting?
... most of us will be kept busy the rest of our lives at this.
In his present state of mind, it didn't seem too desirable a
prospect. But there was no way out for such as Homer Crawford. What had
Cliff Jackson said at the same meeting? We do what we must do.
Which, come to think of it, didn't jibe too well with Cliff's claim at
Mopti to be in it solely for the job. Probably the man disguised his
basic idealism under a cloak of cynicism; if so, he wouldn't be the
They said their goodnights early. All of them were used to Sahara
hours. Up at dawn, to bed shortly after sunset; the desert has little
fuel to waste on illumination.
In the suite again, Homer Crawford noted that Abe hadn't returned as
yet. He snorted deprecation. The younger man would probably be out
until dawn. Dakar had much to offer in the way of civilization's
He took up the bottle of cognac and poured himself a healthy shot,
wishing that he'd remembered to pick up a paperback at the hotel's
newsstand before coming to bed.
He swirled the expensive brandy in the glass and brought it to his
nose to savor the bouquet.
But fifteen-year-old brandy from the cognac district of France
should not boast a bouquet involving elements of bitter almonds. With
an automatic startled gesture, Crawford jerked his face away from the
He scowled down at it for a long moment, then took up the bottle and
sniffed it. He wondered how a would-be murderer went about getting hold
of cyanide in Dakar.
Homer Crawford phoned the desk and got the manager. Somebody had
been in the suite during his absence. Was there any way of checking?
He didn't expect satisfaction and didn't receive any. The manager,
after finding that nothing seemed to be missing, seemed to think that
perhaps Dr. Crawford had made a mistake. Homer didn't bother to tell
him about the poisoned brandy. He hung up, took the bottle into the
bathroom and poured it away.
In the way of precautions, he checked the windows to see if there
were any possibilities of entrance by an intruder, locked the door
securely, put his handgun beneath his pillow and fell off to sleep.
When and if Abe returned, he could bang on the door.
* * * * *
In the morning, clad in American business suits and frankly feeling
a trifle uncomfortable in them, Homer Crawford and Abraham Baker
presented themselves at the offices of the African Development Project,
Sahara Division, of the Reunited Nations. Uncharacteristically, there
was no waiting in anterooms, no dealing with subordinates. Dr. Crawford
and his lieutenant were ushered directly to the office of Sven
Upon their entrance the Swede came to his feet, shook hands abruptly
with both of them and sat down again. He scowled at Abe and said to
Homer in excellent English, It was requested that your team remain in
Mopti. Then he added, Sit down, gentlemen.
They took chairs. Crawford said mildly, Mr. Baker is my right-hand
man. I assume he'd take over the team if anything happened to me. He
added dryly, Besides, there were a few things he felt he had to do
Abe cleared his throat but remained silent.
Zetterberg continued to frown but evidently for a different reason
now. He said, There have been more complaints about your ... ah ...
Homer looked at him but said nothing.
Zetterberg said in irritation, It becomes necessary to warn you
almost every time you come in contact with this office, Dr. Crawford.
Homer said evenly, My team and I work in the field Dr. Zetterberg.
We have to think on our feet and usually come to decisions in split
seconds. Sometimes our lives are at stake. We do what we think best
under the conditions. At any time your office feels my efforts are
misdirected, my resignation is available.
The Swede cleared his throat. The Arab Union has made a full
complaint in the Reunited Nations of a group of our men massacring
thirty-five of their troopers.
Homer said, They were well into the Ahaggar with a convoy of modern
weapons, obviously meant for adherents of theirs. Given the
opportunity, the Arab Union would take over North Africa.
This is no reason to butcher thirty-five men.
We were fired upon first, Crawford said.
That is not the way they tell it. They claim you ambushed them.
Abe put in innocently, How would the Arab Union know? We didn't
leave any survivors.
Zetterberg glared at him. It is not easy, Mr. Baker, for we who do
the paper work involved in this operation, to account for the
activities of you hair-trigger men in the field.
We appreciate your difficulties, Homer said evenly. But we can
only continue to do what we think best on being confronted with an
The Swede drummed his fingers on the desk top. Perhaps I should
remind you that the policy of this project is to encourage amalgamation
of the peoples of the area. Possibly, the Arab Union will prove to be
the best force to accomplish such a union.
Homer Crawford was shaking his head. You don't believe that Dr.
Zetterberg, and I doubt if there are many non-Moslems who do. Mohammed
sprung out of the deserts and his religion is one based on the
surroundings, both physical and socio-economic.
Zetterberg grumbled, argumentatively, though his voice lacked
conviction, So did its two sister religions, Judaism and
Crawford waggled a finger negatively. Both of them adapted to
changing times, with considerable success. Islam has remained the same
and in all the world there is not one example of a highly developed
socio-economic system in a Moslem country. The reason is that in your
country, and mine, and in the other advanced countries of the West, we
pay lip service to our religions, but we don't let them interfere with
our day by day life. But the Moslem, like the rapidly disappearing
ultra-orthodox Jews, lives his religion every day and by the rules set
down by the Prophet fifteen centuries ago. Everything a Moslem does
from the moment he gets up in the morning is all mapped out in the
Koran. What fingers of the hand to eat with, what hand to break bread
withand so on and so forth. It can get ludicrous. You should see the
bathroom of a wealthy Moslem in some modern city such as Tangier.
Mohammed never dreamed of such institutions as toilet paper. His
followers still obey the rules he set down as an alternative.
What's your point?
That North Africa cannot be united under the banner of Islam if she
is going to progress rapidly. If it ever unites, it will be in spite of
local religionsIslam and pagan as well; they hold up the wheels of
Zetterberg stared at him. The truth of the matter was that he agreed
with the American and they both knew it.
He said, This matter of physically assaulting and then arresting
the chieftainhe looked down at a paper on his deskof the Ouled
Touameur clan of the Chaambra confederation, Abd-el-Kader. From your
report, the man was evidently attempting to unify the tribes.
Crawford was shaking his head impatiently. No. He didn't have the
... dream. He was a raider, a racketeer, not a leader of purposeful
men. Perhaps it's true that these people need a hero to act as a symbol
for them, but he can't be such as Abd-el-Kader.
I suppose you're right, the Swede said grudgingly. See here, have
you heard reports of a group of Cubans, in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan to
help with the new sugar refining there, being attacked?
The eyes of both Crawford and Baker narrowed. There'd been talk
about this at Timbuktu. Only a few rumors, Crawford said.
The Swede drummed his desk with his nervous fingers. The rumors are
correct. The whole group was either killed or wounded. He said
suddenly, You had nothing to do with this, I suppose?
Crawford held his palms up, in surprise, My team has never been
within a thousand miles of Khartoum.
Zetterberg said, See here, we suspect the Cubans might have
supported Soviet Complex viewpoints.
Crawford shrugged, I know nothing about them at all.
Zetterberg said, Do you think this might be the work of El Hassan
and his followers?
Abe started to chuckle something, but Homer shook his head slightly
in warning and said, I don't know.
How did that affair in Mopti turn out, these riots in favor of El
Homer Crawford shrugged. Routine. Must have been as many as ten
thousand of them at one point. We used standard tactics in gaining
control and then dispersing them. I'll have a complete written report
to you before the day is out.
Zetterberg said, You've heard about this El Hassan before?
Quite a bit.
From the rumors that have come into this office, he backs neither
East nor West in international politics. He also seems to agree with
your summation of the Islamic problem. He teaches separation of Church
They're the same thing in Moslem countries, Abe muttered.
Zetterberg tossed his bombshell out of a clear sky. Dr. Crawford,
he snapped, in spite of the warnings we've had to issue to you
repeatedly, you are admittedly our best man in the field. We're giving
you a new assignment. Find this El Hassan and bring him here!
Zetterberg leaned forward, an expression of somewhat anxious
sincerity in his whole demeanor.
Abe Baker choked, and then suddenly laughed.
Sven Zetterberg stared at him. What's so funny?
Well, nothing, Abe admitted. He looked to Homer Crawford.
Crawford said to the Swede carefully, Why?
Zetterberg said impatiently, Isn't it obvious, after the
conversation we've had here? Possibly this El Hassan is the man we're
looking for. Perhaps this is the force that will bind North Africa
together. Thus far, all we've heard about him has been rumor. We don't
seem to be able to find anyone who has seen him, nor is the exact
strength of his following known. We'd like to confer with him, before
he gets any larger.
Crawford said carefully, It's hard to track down a rumor.
That's why we give the assignment to our best team in the field,
the Swede told him. You've got a roving commission. Find El Hassan and
bring him here to Dakar.
Abe grinned and said, Suppose he doesn't want to come?
Use any methods you find necessary. If you need more manpower, let
us know. But we must talk to El Hassan.
Homer said, still watching his words, Why the urgency?
The Reunited Nations official looked at him for a long moment, as
though debating whether to let him in on higher policy. Because,
frankly, Dr. Crawford, the elements which first went together to
produce the African Development Project, are, shall we say, becoming
The glue was never too strong, Abe muttered.
Zetterberg nodded. The attempt to find competent, intelligent men
to work for the project, who were at the same time altruistic and
unaffected by personal or national interests, has always been a
difficult one. If you don't mind my saying so, we Scandinavians,
particularly those not affiliated with NATO come closest to filling the
bill. We have no designs on Africa. It is unfortunate that we have
practically no Negro citizens who could do field work.
Are you suggesting other countries have designs on Africa? Homer
For the first time the Swede laughed. A short, choppy laugh. Are
you suggesting they haven't? What was that convoy of the Arab Union
bringing into the Sahara? Guns, with which to forward their cause of
taking over all North Africa. What were those Cubans doing in Sudan,
that someone else felt it necessary to assassinate them? What is the
program of the Soviet Complex as it applies to this area, and how does
it differ from that of the United States? And how do the ultimate
programs of the British Commonwealth and the French Community differ
from each other and from both the United States and Russia?
That's why we have a Reunited Nations, Crawford said calmly.
Theoretically, yes. But it is coming apart at the seams. I
sometimes wonder if an organization composed of a membership each with
its own selfish needs can ever really unite in an altruistic task.
Remember the early days when the Congo was first given her freedom?
Supposedly the United Nations went in to help. Actually, each element
in the United Nations had its own irons in the fire, and usually their
The Swede shrugged hugely. I don't know, but I am about convinced,
and so are a good many other officers of this project, that unless we
soon find a competent leader to act as a symbol around which all North
Africans can unite, find such a man and back him, that all our work
will crumble in this area under pressure from outside. That's why we
want El Hassan.
Homer Crawford came to his feet, his face in a scowl. I'll let you
know by tomorrow, if I can take the assignment, he said.
Why tomorrow? the Swede demanded.
There are some ramifications I have to consider.
Very well, the Swede said stiffly. He came to his own feet and
shook hands with them again. Oh, there's just one other thing. This
spontaneous meeting you held in Timbuktu with elements from various
other organizations. How did it come out?
Crawford was wary. Very little result, actually.
Zetterberg chuckled. As I expected. However, we would appreciate
it, doctor, if you and your team would refrain from such activities in
the future. You are, after all, hired by the Reunited Nations and owe
it all your time and allegiance. We have no desire to see you fritter
away this time with religious fanatics and other crackpot groups.
I see, Crawford said.
The other laughed cheerfully. I'm sure you do, Dr. Crawford. A word
to the wise.
* * * * *
They remained silent on the way back to the hotel.
In the lobby they ran into Isobel Cunningham.
Homer Crawford looked at her thoughtfully. He said, We've got some
thinking to do and some ideas to bat back and forth. I value your
opinion and experience, Isobel, could you come up to the suite and sit
She tilted her head, looked at him from the side of her eyes.
Something big has happened, hasn't it?
I suppose so. I don't know. We've got to make some decisions.
Come on Isobel, Abe said. You can give us the feminine viewpoint
and all that jazz.
They started for the elevator and Isobel said to Abe, If you'd just
be consistent with that pseudo-beatnik chatter of yours, I wouldn't
mind. But half the time you talk like an English lit major when you
forget to put on your act.
Man, Abe said to her, maybe I was wrong inviting you to sit in on
this bull session. I can see you're in a bad mood.
In the living room of the suite, Isobel took an easy-chair and Abe
threw himself full length on his back on a couch. Homer Crawford paced
Well? Isobel said.
Crawford said abruptly, Somebody tried to poison me last night. Got
into this room somehow and put cyanide in a bottle of cognac Abe and I
were drinking out of earlier in the evening.
Isobel stared at him. Her eyes went from him to Abe and back. But
... but, why?
Crawford ran his hand back over his wiry hair in puzzlement. I ...
I don't know. That's what's driving me batty. I can't figure out why
anybody would want to kill me.
I can, Abe said bluntly. And that interview we just had with Sven
Zetterberg just bears me out.
Zetterberg, Isobel said, surprised. Is he in Africa?
Crawford nodded to her question but his eyes were on Abe.
Abe put his hands behind his head and said to the ceiling,
Zetterberg just gave Homer's team the assignment of bringing in El
El Hassan? But you boys told us all in Timbuktu that there was no
El Hassan. You invented him and then the rest of us, more or less
spontaneously, though unknowingly, took up the falsification and spread
That's right, Crawford said, still looking at Abe.
But didn't you tell Sven Zetterberg? Isobel demanded. He's too
big a man to play jokes upon.
No, I didn't and I'm not sure I know why.
I know why, Abe said. He sat up suddenly and swung his feet around
and to the floor.
The other two watched him, both frowning.
Abe said slowly, Homer, you are El Hassan.
His chief scowled at him. What is that supposed to mean?
The younger man gestured impatiently. Figure it out. Somebody else
already has, the somebody who took a shot at you from that mosque.
Look, put it all together and it makes sense.
These North Africans aren't going to make it, not in the short
period of time that we want them to, unless a leader appears on the
scene. These people are just beginning to emerge from tribal society.
In the tribes, people live by rituals and taboos, by traditions. But at
the next step in the evolution of society they follow a Heroand the
traditions are thrown overboard. It's one step up the ladder of
cultural evolution. Just for the record, the Heroes almost invariably
get clobbered in the end, since a Hero must be perfect. Once he is
found wanting in any respect, he's a false prophet, a cheat, and a new,
perfect and faultless Hero must be found.
O.K. At this stage we need a Hero to unite North Africa, but this
time we need a real super-Hero. In this modern age, the old style one
won't do. We need one with education, and altruism, one with the dream,
as you call it. We need a man who has no affiliations, no preferences
for Tuareg, Teda, Chaambra, Dogon, Moor or whatever. He's got to be
truly neutral. O.K., you're it. You're an American Negro, educated,
competent, widely experienced. You're a natural for the job. You speak
Arabic, French, Tamabeq, Songhai and even Swahili.
Abe stopped momentarily and twisted his face in a grimace. But
there's one other thing that's possibly the most important of all.
Homer, you're a born leader.
Who me? Crawford snorted. I hate to be put in a position
where I have to lead men, make decisions, that sort of thing.
That's beside the point. There in Timbuktu you had them in the palm
of your hand. All except one or two, like Doc Smythe and that
missionary. And I have an idea even they'd come around. Everybody there
felt it. They were in favor of anything you suggested. Isobel?
She nodded, very seriously. Yes. You have a personality that goes
over, Homer. I think it would be a rare person who could conceive of
you cheating, or misleading. You're so obviously sincere, competent and
intelligent that it, well, projects itself. I noticed it even
more in Mopti than Timbuktu. You had that city in your palm in a matter
of a few hours.
Homer Crawford shifted his shoulders, uncomfortably.
Abe said, You might dislike the job, but it's a job that needs
Crawford ran his hand around the back of his neck, uncomfortably.
You think such a project would get the support of the various teams
and organizations working North Africa, eh?
Practically a hundred per cent. And even if some organizations or
even countries, with their own row to hoe, tried to buck you, their
individual members and teams would come over. Why? Because it makes
Homer Crawford said worriedly, Actually, I've realized this,
partially subconsciously, for some time. But I didn't put myself in the
role. I ... I wish there really was an El Hassan. I'd throw my efforts
There will be an El Hassan, Abe said definitely. And you can be
Crawford stared at Abe, undecided.
Isobel said, suddenly, I think Abe's right, Homer.
* * * * *
Abe seemed to switch the tempo of his talk. He said, There's just
one thing, Homer. It's a long range question, but it's an important
What're your politics?
My politics? I haven't any politics here in North Africa.
I mean back home. I've never discussed politics with you, Homer,
partly because I haven't wanted to reveal my own. But now the question
comes up. What is your position, ultimately, speaking on a world-wide
Homer looked at him quizzically, trying to get at what was behind
the other's words. I don't belong to any political party, he said
Abe said evenly, I do, Homer. I'm a Party member.
Crawford was beginning to get it. If you mean do I ultimately
support the program of the Soviet Complex, the answer is definitely no.
Whether or not it's desirable for Russia or for China, is up to the
Russians and Chinese to decide. But I don't believe it's desirable for
such advanced countries as the United States and most of Western
Europe. We've got large problems that need answering, but the commies
don't supply the answers so far as I'm concerned.
I see, Abe said. He was far, far different than the laughing,
beatnik jabbering, youngster he had always seemed. That's not so
Why not? Homer demanded. His eyes went to where Isobel sat, her
face strained at all this, but he could read nothing in her expression,
and she said nothing.
Abe said, Because, admittedly, North Africa isn't ready for a
communist program as yet. It's in too primitive a condition. However,
it's progressing fast, fantastically fast, and the coming of El Hassan
is going to speed things up still more.
Abe said deliberately, Possibly twenty years from now the area
will be ready for a communist program. And at that time we don't
want somebody with El Hassan's power and prestige against us. We take
the long view, Homer, and it dictates that El Hassan has to be secretly
on the Party's side.
Homer was nodding. I see. So that's why you shot at me in
Abe's eyes went wary. He said, I didn't know you knew.
Crawford nodded. It just came to me. It had to be you. Supposedly,
you broke into the mosque from the back at the same moment I came in
the front. Actually, you were already inside. Homer grunted. Besides,
it would have been awfully difficult for anyone else to have doped that
bottle of cognac on me. What I couldn't understand, and still can't,
was motive. We've been in the clutch together more than once, Abe.
That's right, Homer, but there are some things so important that
friendship goes by the board. I could see as far back as that meeting
something that hadn't occurred to either you or the others. You were a
born El Hassan. I figured it was necessary to get you out of the way
and put one of our ownperhaps me, evenin your place. No ill
feelings, Homer. In fact, now I've just given you your chance. You
could come in with us
Even as he was speaking, his eyes moved in a way Homer Crawford
recognized. He'd seen Abe Baker in action often enough. A gun flicked
out of an under-the-arm holster, but Crawford moved in anticipation.
The flat of his hand darted forward, chopped and the hand weapon was on
As Isobel screamed, Abe countered the attack. He reached forward in
a jujitsu maneuver, grabbed a coat sleeve and a handful of suit coat.
He twisted quickly, threw the other man over one hip and to the floor.
But Homer Crawford was already expertly rolling with the fall,
rolling out to get a fresh start.
Abe Baker knew that in the long go, in spite of his somewhat greater
heft, he wouldn't be able to take his former chief in the other man's
own field. Now he threw himself on the other, on the floor. Legs and
arms tangled in half realized, quickly defeated holds and maneuvers.
Abe called, Quick, Isobel, the gun. Get the gun and cover him.
She shook her head, desperately. Oh no. No!
Abe bit out, his teeth grinding under the punishment he was taking,
That's an order, Comrade Cunningham! Get the gun!
No. No, I can't! She turned and fled the room.
Abe muttered an obscenity, bridged and crabbed out of the desperate
position he was in. And now his fingers were but a few inches from the
weapon. He stretched.
Homer Crawford, heavy veins in his own forehead from his exertions,
panted, Abe, I can't let you get that gun. Call it quits.
Can't, Homer, Abe gritted. His fingers were a few fractions of an
inch from the weapon.
Crawford panted, Abe, there's just one thing I can do. A karate
blow. I can chop your windpipe with the side of my hand. Abe, if
I do, only immediate surgery could save your
Abe's fingers closed about the gun and Crawford, calling on his last
resources, lashed out. He could feel the cartilage collapse, a sound of
air, for a moment, almost like a shriek filled the room.
The gun was meaningless now. Homer Crawford, his face agonized, was
on his knees beside the other who was threshing on the floor. Abe, he
groaned. You made me.
Abe Baker's face was quickly going ashen in his impossible quest for
oxygen. For a last second there was a gleam in his eyes and his lips
moved. Crawford bent down. He wasn't sure, but he thought that somehow
the other found enough air to get out a last, Crazy man.
When it was over, Homer Crawford stood again, and looked down at the
body, his face expressionless.
From behind him a voice said, So I got here too late.
Crawford turned. It was Elmer Allen, gun in hand.
Homer Crawford said dully, What are you doing here?
Elmer looked at the body, then back at his chief. Bey figured out
what must have happened at the mosque there in Timbuktu. We didn't know
what might be motivating Abe, but we got here as quick as we could.
He was a commie, Crawford said dully. Evidently, the Party
decided I stood in its way. Where are the others?
Scouring the town to find you.
Crawford said wearily, Find the others and bring them here. We've
got to get rid of poor Abe, there, and then I've got something to tell
Very well, chief, Elmer said, holstering his gun. Oh, just one
thing before I go. You know that chap Rex Donaldson? Well, we had some
discussion after you left. This'll probably surprise you Homer,
buthold onto your hat, as you Americans sayDonaldson thinks you
ought to become El Hassan. And Bey, Kenny and I agree.
Crawford said, We'll talk about it later, Elmer.
* * * * *
He knocked at her door and a moment later she came. She saw who it
was, opened for him and returned to the room beyond. She had obviously
Homer Crawford said, but with no reproach in his voice, You should
have helped me, to be consistent.
I knew you'd win.
Nevertheless, once you'd switched sides, you should have attempted
to help me. If you had, maybe Abe would still be alive.
She took a quick agonized breath, and sat down in one of the two
chairs, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. She said, I ... I've
known Abe since my early teens.
He said nothing.
In college, he was the cell leader. He enlisted me into the Party.
Crawford still didn't speak.
She said defiantly, He was an idealist, Homer.
I know that, Crawford said. And along with it, he's saved my
life, on at least three different occasions in the past few years. He
was a good man.
It was her turn to hold silence.
Homer hit the palm of his left hand with the fist of his right.
That's what so many don't realize. They think this is all a kind of
cowboys and Indians affair. The good guys and the bad guys fighting it
out. And, of course, all the good guys are on our side and their side
is composed of bad guys. They don't realize that many, even most, of
the enemy are fighting for an ideal, tooand are willing to die for
it, or do things sometimes even harder than dying.
He paced the floor for an agonized moment, before adding. The fact
that the ideal is a false oneor so, at least, is my opinionis
beside the point.
He suddenly dropped it and switched subjects. This isn't as much a
surprise to me as you possibly think, Isobel. There was only one way
that episode in Timbuktu could have taken place. Abe was waiting for me
to pass that mosque. But I had to pass. I had to be fingered as
the old gangster expression had it. And you led me into the ambush.
He looked down at her. But what changed his mind? Why did he offer,
tonight, to let me take over the El Hassan leadership?
Isobel said, her voice low. In Timbuktu, when Abe saw the way
things were going, he realized you'd have to be liquidated, otherwise
El Hassan would be a leader the Party couldn't control. He tried to
eliminate you, and then tried again with the cognac. Last night,
however, he checked with local party leaders and they decided that he'd
acted too precipitately. They suggested you be given the opportunity to
line up with the Party.
And if I didn't? Homer said.
Then you were to be liquidated.
So the finger is still on me, eh?
Yes, you'll have to be careful.
He looked full into her face. How do you stand now?
She returned his frank look. I'm the first follower to dedicate her
services to El Hassan.
So you want to come along?
Yes, she said simply.
And you remember what Abe said? That in the end the Hero invariably
gets clobbered? Sooner or later, North Africa will outgrow the need for
a Hero to follow and then ... then El Hassan and his closest followers
have a good chance of winding up before a firing squad.
Yes, I know that.
Homer Crawford ran his hand back over his short hair, wearily.
O.K., Isobel. Your first instructions are to contact those two friends
of yours, Jake Armstrong and Cliff Jackson. Try to convert them.
What are you going to be doing ... El Hassan?
I'm going over to the Reunited Nations to resign from the African
Development Project. I have a sneaking suspicion that in the future
they will not always be seeing eye to eye with El Hassan. Nor will the
other organizations currently helping to advance Africawhilst still
at the same time keeping their own irons in the fire. Possibly the
commies won't be the only ones in favor of liquidating El Hassan's