Another exciting title in the Sanders of the River adventure series, featuring Commissioner Sanders. Bosambo is a crook, and a conman. But he is a clever one. He frequently outwits Sanders and his crew. At the same time he is fiercely loyal to Sanders and often comes to his rescue. (Goodreads)
THE TAX RESISTERS
Sanders took nothing for granted when he accounted for native peoples. These tribes of his possessed an infinite capacity for unexpectedness-therein lay at once their danger and their charm. For one could neither despair at their sin nor grow too confidently elated at their virtue, knowing that the sun which went down on the naughtiness of the one and the dovelike placidity of the other, might rise on the smouldering sacrificial fires in the streets of the blessed village, and reveal the folk of the incorrigible sitting at the doors of their huts, dust on head, hands outspread in an agony of penitence.
Yet it seemed that the people of Kiko were models of deportment, thrift, and intelligence, and that the gods had given them beautiful natures. Kiko, a district of the Lower Isisi, is separated from all other tribes and people by the Kiko on the one side, the Isisi River on the other, and on the third by clumps of forest land set at irregular intervals in the Great Marsh.
Kiko proper stretches from the marsh to the tongue of land at the confluence of the Kiko and Isisi, in the shape of an irregular triangle.
To the eastward, across the Kiko River, are the unruly N'gombi tribes; to the westward, on the farther bank of the big river, are the Akasava; and the Kiko people enjoy an immunity from sudden attack, which is due in part to its geographical position, and in part to the remorseless activities of Mr. Commissioner Sanders.
Once upon a time a king of the N'gombi called his headmen and chiefs together to a great palaver.
"It seems to me," he said, "that we are children. For our crops have failed because of the floods, and the thieving Ochori have driven the game into their own country. Now, across the river are the Kiko people, and they have reaped an oat harvest; also, there is game in plenty. Must we sit and starve whilst the Kiko swell with food?"
A fair question, though the facts were not exactly stated, for the N'gombi were lazy, and had sown late; also the game was in their forest for the searching, but, as the saying is, "The N'gombi hunts from his bed and seeks only cooked meats."
One night the N'gombi stole across the river and fell upon Kiko city, establishing themselves masters of the country.
There was a great palaver, which was attended by the chief and headman of the Kiko.
"Henceforward," said the N'gombi king-Tigilini was his name-"you are as slaves to my people, and if you are gentle and good and work in the fields you shall have one-half of all you produce, for I am a just man, and very merciful. But if you rebel, I will take you for my sport."
Lest any misunderstanding should exist, he took the first malcontent, who was a petty chief of a border village, and performed his programme.
This man had refused tribute, and was led, with roped hands, before the king, all headmen having been summoned to witness the happening.
The rebel was bound with his hands behind him, and was ordered to kneel. A young sapling was bent over, and one end of a native rope was fixed to its topmost branches, and the other about his neck. The tree was slowly released till the head of the offender was held taut.
"Now!" said the king, and his executioner struck off the head, which was flung fifty yards by the released sapling.
It fell at the feet of Mr. Commissioner Sanders, who, with twenty-five Houssas and a machine gun, had just landed from the Zaire.
Sanders was annoyed; he had travelled three days and four nights with little sleep, and he had a touch of fever, which made him irritable.
He walked into the village and interrupted an eloquent address on the obligations of the conquered, which the N'gombi thief thought it opportune to deliver.
He stopped half-way through his speech, and lost a great deal of interest in the proceedings as the crowd divided to allow of Sanders's approach.
"Lord," said Tigilini, that quick and subtle man, "you have come at a proper time, for these people were in rebellion against your lordship, and I have subdued them. Therefore, master, give me rewards as you gave to Bosambo of the Ochori."
Sanders gave nothing save a brief order, and his Houssas formed a half circle about the hut of the king-Tigilini watching the manoeuvre with some apprehension.
"If," he said graciously. "I have done anything which your lordship thinks I should not have done, or taken that which I should not have taken, I will undo and restore."
Sanders, hands on hips, regarded him dispassionately.
"There is a body." He pointed to the stained and huddled thing on the ground. "There, by the path, is a head. Now, you shall put the head to that body and restore life."
"That I cannot do," said the king nervously, "for I am no ju-ju."
Sanders spoke two words in Arabic, and Tigilini was seized.
They carried the king away, and no man ever saw his face again, and it is a legend that Tigilini, the king, is everlastingly chained to the hind leg of M'shimba M'shamba, the green devil of the Akasava. If the truth be told, Tigilini went no nearer to perdition than the convict prison at Sierra Leone, but the legend is not without its value as a deterrent to ambitious chiefs.
Sanders superintended the evacuation of the Kiko, watched the crestfallen N'gombi retire to their own lands, and set up a new king without fuss or ceremony. And the smooth life of the Kiko people ran pleasantly as before.
They tilled the ground and bred goats and caught fish. From the marsh forest, which was their backland, they gathered rubber and copal, and this they carried by canoe to the mouth of the river and sold.
So they came to be rich, and even the common people could afford three wives.
Sanders was very wise in the psychology of native wealth. He knew that people who grew rich in corn were dangerous, because corn is an irresponsible form of property, and had no ramifications to hold in check the warlike spirit of its possessors.
He knew, too, that wealth in goats, in cloth, in brass rods, and in land was a factor for peace, because possessions which cannot be eaten are ever a steadying influence in communal life.
Sanders was a wise man. He was governed by certain hard and fast rules, and though he was well aware that failure in any respect to grapple with a situation would bring him a reprimand, either because he had not acted according to the strict letter of the law, or because he "had not used his discretion" in going outside that same inflexible code, he took responsibility without fear.
It was left to his discretion as to what part of the burden of taxation individual tribes should bear, and on behalf of his government he took his full share of the Kiko surplus, adjusting his demands according to the measure of the tribe's prosperity.
Three years after the enterprising incursion of the N'gombi, he came to the Kiko country on his half-yearly visit.
In the palaver house of the city he listened to complaints, as was his custom.
He sat from dawn till eight o'clock in the morning, and after the tenth complaint he turned to the chief of the Kiko, who sat at his side.
"Chief," he said, with that air of bland innocence which would have made men used to his ways shake in their tracks, "I observe that all men say one thing to me-that they are poor. Now this is not the truth."
"I am in your hands," said the chief diplomatically; "also my people, and they will pay taxation though they starve."
Sanders saw things in a new light.
"It seems," he said, addressing the serried ranks of people who squatted about, "that there is discontent in your stomachs because I ask you for your taxes. We will have a palaver on this."
He sat down, and a grey old headman, a notorious litigant and a league-long speaker, rose up.
"Lord," he said dramatically, "justice!"
"Kwai!" cried the people in chorus.
The murmur, deep-chested and unanimous, made a low, rumbling sound like the roll of a drum.
"Justice!" said the headman. "For you, Sandi, are very cruel and harsh. You take and take and give us nothing, and the people cry out in pain."
He paused, and Sanders nodded.
"Go on," he said.
"Corn and fish, gum and rubber, we give you," said the spokesman; "and when we ask whither goes this money, you point to the puc-a-puc[#] and your soldiers, and behold we are mocked. For your puc-a-puc comes only to take our taxes, and your soldiers to force us to pay."
Again the applauding murmur rolled.
"So we have had a palaver," said the headman, "and this we have said among ourselves: 'Let Sandi remit one-half our taxes; these we will bring in our canoes to the Village-by-the-Big-Water, for we are honest men, and let Sandi...