Ivory, lots of it, heaped up in vast glistening piles everywhere we looked. Enough riches to buy the City of London many times over. How remarkable that in the midst of this vast and desolate marauding wilderness such riches should exist! Was this why men journeyed fearlessly into the dark inhuman reaches of a jungle infested with Tarantulas, Scorpions and legions of Red Ants? Was this why they came, braving this hotbed of Yellow Fever and Dengue Flu and dying in their legions raving and foaming in the Nederhiwi Bush? All this to secure one’s financial position in English Society indefinitely?
What monomanic affliction (I wondered) bade the Professor horde up prodigious supplies of that for which men gladly drove themselves mad? Even as I speculated as to what sickness drove my poor friend’s embrace of barbarism and avarice, Captain Dunrudy surveyed the gleaming mounds of Ivory and giggled quietly to himself. He glanced at the Chief Porter whose swarthy visage lit up at the sight of the white tusks and he too giggled,”Moribund moribund tee tee!!” he declared lifting his hands to heaven and giggling some more. Captain Dunrudy clearly agreed with him for “Moribund moribund mayhem gazulu tee tee!” was his guffawing reply “Small wonder the Kon-Konsafwo-Redwoods are on the warpath! “.
I looked at Captain Dunrudy questioningly, but he merely laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks and pointed towards the dozen or so tethered vultures kept in bamboo cages, nearby the gargantuan mounds of Ivory. “Look at those cages” he said, “If I’m not mistaken those are West Africa Company Carrier Vultures” he chuckled “They only gets sent to the Ivory outposts when Ivory cargoes stop coming altogether!”.
He guffawed so heartily that his face turned redder than usual and his eyes streamed with tears. His humour proved so infectious that the natives were soon rolling around on the ground alongside him clutching their sides. I must confess that I could not see what humour there was in our predicament. The vast heaps of gleaming Ivory should have been despatched to the West Africa Company’s imperial outpost in Nefertiri Umbongo, but for whatever sinister reason, that had not happened.
Ashar Parshad alone shared my dismay and unease “This is very very bad Mr Stanley, very bad indeed. Professor Powell has taken up arms against that fine bulwark of Englishness, the West Africa Company. Why, they own all the Gold, Gari and Palm Wine Reserves and most of the Ivory Reserves of Umbongo! To go against them is to brave the wrath of the Governor-General of Umbongo Umbongo, and the legions of Glorious British Grenadiers sent to safeguard the Empress of India’s booty!”
“A parlous state of affairs and a puzzling one” I admitted for the Professor Powell who mentored me as a boy at New College in Oxford, professed no interest in the business of Ivory. His had been an anthropological fascination, what lunatick epiphany could have propelled him from those scientific realms he so loved into the very depths of tawdry nativism he had embraced? Why, it hardly bore thinking on and yet as I bit into a Panama Plum I found myself obliged to think on it.
To be continued……