Bosambo of the River
Bosambo of the River
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 vi