The Times' Red Cross Story Book/The Bronze Parrot
The Bronze Parrot
Royal Army Medical Corps
The Reverend Deodatus Jawley had just sat down to the gate-legged table on which lunch was spread and had knocked his knee, according to his invariable custom, against the sharp corner of the seventh leg.
"I wish you would endeavour to be more careful, Mr. Jawley," said the rector's wife. "You nearly upset the mustard-pot, and these jars are exceedingly bad for the leg."
"Oh, that's of no consequence, Mrs. Bodley," the curate replied cheerfully.
"I don't agree with you at all," was the stiff rejoinder.
"It doesn't matter, you know, so long as the skin isn't broken," Mr. Jawley persisted with an ingratiating smile.
"I was referring to the leg of the table," Mrs. Bodley corrected frostily.
"Oh, I beg your pardon!" said the curate, and, blushing like a Dublin Bay prawn, he abandoned himself in silence to the consideration of the numerical ratios suggested by five mutton chops and three prospective consumers. The problem thus presented was one of deep interest to Mr. Jawley, who had a remarkably fine appetite for such an exceedingly small man, and he awaited its solution with misgivings born of previous disappointments.
"I hope you are not very hungry, Mr. Jawley," said the rector's wife.
"Er—no—er—not unusually so," was the curate's suave and casuistical reply. The fact is that he was always hungry, excepting after the monthly tea-meetings.
"Because," pursued Mrs. Bodley, "I see that Walker has only cooked five chops; and yours looks rather a small one."
"Oh, it will be quite sufficient, thank you," Mr. Jawley hastened to declare; adding, a little unfortunately, perhaps: "Amply sufficient for any moderate and temperate person."
The Reverend Augustus Bodley emerged from behind the Church Times and directed a suspicious glance at his curate; who, becoming suddenly conscious of the ambiguity of his last remark, blushed crimson and cut himself a colossal slice of bread. There was an uncomfortable silence which lasted some minutes, and was eventually broken by Mrs. Bodley.
"I want you to go into Dilbury this afternoon, Mr. Jawley, and execute a few little commissions."
"Certainly, Mrs. Bodley. With pleasure," said the curate.
"I want you to call and see if Miss Gosse has finished my hat. If she has, you had better bring it with you. She is so unreliable, and I want to wear it at the Hawley-Jones's garden party to-morrow. If it isn't finished, you must wait until it is. Don't come away without it."
"No, Mrs. Bodley, I will not. I will be extremely firm."
"Mind you are. Then I want you to go to Minikin's and get two reels of whitey-brown thread, four balls of crochet cotton, and eight yards of lace insertion—the same kind as I had last week. And Walker tells me that she has run out of black-lead. You had better bring two packets; and mind you don't put them in the same pocket with the lace insertion. Oh, and as you are going to the oil-shop, you may as well bring a jar of mixed pickles. And then you are to go to Dumsole's and order a fresh haddock—perhaps you could bring that with you, too—and then to Barber's and tell them to send four pounds of dessert pears, and be sure they are good ones and not over-ripe. You had better select them and see them weighed yourself."
"I will. I will select them most carefully," said the curate, inwardly resolving not to trust to mere external appearances, which are often deceptive.
"Oh, and by the way, Jawley," said the rector, "as you are going into the town, you might as well take my shooting-boots with you, and tell Crummell to put a small patch on the soles and set up the heels. It won't take him long. Perhaps he can get them done in time for you to bring them back with you. Ask him to try."
"I will, Mr. Bodley," said the curate. "I will urge him to make an effort."
"And as you are going to Crummell's," said Mrs. Bodley, "I will give you my walking shoes to take to him. They want soling and heeling, and tell him he is to use better leather than he did last time."
Half an hour later Mr. Jawley passed through the playground appertaining to the select boarding-academy maintained by the Reverend Augustus Bodley. He carried a large and unshapely newspaper parcel, despite which he walked with the springy gait of a released schoolboy. As he danced across the desert expanse, his attention was arrested by a small crowd of the pupils gathered significantly around two larger boys whose attitudes suggested warlike intentions; indeed, even as he stopped to observe them, one warrior delivered a tremendous blow which expended itself on the air within a foot of the other combatant's nose.
"Oh! fie!" exclaimed the scandalised curate. "Joblett! Joblett! Do you realise that you nearly struck Byles? That you might actually have hurt him?"
"I meant to hurt him," said Joblett.
"You meant to! Oh, but how wrong! How unkind! Let me beg you—let me entreat you to desist from these discreditable acts of violence."
He stood awhile gazing with an expression of pained disapproval at the combatants, who regarded him with sulky grins. Then, as the hostilities seemed to be—temporarily—suspended, he walked slowly to the gate. He was just pocketing the key when an extremely somnolent pear impinged on the gate-post and sprinkled him with disintegrated fragments. He turned, wiping his coat-skirt with his handkerchief, and addressed the multitude, who all, oddly enough, happened to be looking in the opposite direction.
"That was very naughty of you. Very naughty. Someone must have thrown that pear. I won't tempt you to prevarication by asking who? But pears don't fly of themselves—especially sleepy ones."
With this he went out of the gate, followed by an audible snigger which swelled, as he walked away, into a yell of triumph.
The curate tripped blithely down the village street, clasping his parcel and scattering smiles of concentrated amiability broadcast among the villagers. As he approached the stile that guarded the footpath to Dilbury, his smile intensified from mere amiability to positive affection. A small lady—a very small lady, in fact—was standing by the stile, resting a disproportionate basket on the lower step; and we may as well admit, at once and without circumlocution, that this lady was none other than Miss Dorcas Shipton and the prospective Mrs. Jawley.
The curate changed over his parcel to hold out a welcoming hand.
"Dorcas, my dear!" he exclaimed. "What a lucky chance that you should happen to come this way!"
"It isn't chance," the little lady replied. "I heard Mrs. Bodley say that she would ask you to go into Dilbury; so I determined to come and speed you on your journey" (the distance to Dilbury was about three and a half miles) "and see that you were properly equipped. Why did not you bring your umbrella?"
Mr. Jawley explained that the hat, the boots, the fresh haddock, and the mixed pickles would fully occupy his available organs of prehension.
"That is true," said Dorcas. "But I hope you are wearing your chest-protector and those cork soles that I gave you."
Mr. Jawley assured her that he had taken these necessary precautions.
"And have you rubbed your heels well with soap?"
"Yes," replied the curate. "Thoroughly—most thoroughly. They are a little sticky at present, but I shall feel the benefit as I go on. I have obeyed your instructions to the letter."
"That is right, Deodatus," said Miss Dorcas; "and as you have been so good, you shall have a little reward."
She lifted the lid of the basket and took out a small paper bag, which she handed to him with a fond smile. The curate opened the bag and peered in expectantly.
"Ha!" he exclaimed. "Bull's-eyes! How nice! How good of you, Dorcas! And how discriminating!" (Bull's-eyes were his one dissipation.) "Won't you take one?"
"No, thank you," replied Dorcas. "I mustn't go into the cottages smelling of peppermint."
"Why not?" asked Deodatus. "I often do. I think the poor creatures rather enjoy the aroma—especially the children."
But Dorcas was adamant; and after some further chirping and twittering, the two little people exchanged primly affectionate farewells, and the curate, having popped a bull's-eye into his mouth, padded away along the footpath, sucking joyously.
It is needless to say that Mrs. Bodley's hat was not finished. The curate had unwisely executed all his other commissions before calling on the milliner: had ordered the pears, and even tested the quality of one or two samples; had directed the cobbler to send the rector's boots to the hat-shop; and had then collected the lace, black-lead, cotton, pickles, and the fresh haddock, and borne them in triumph to the abode of Miss Gosse. It appeared that the hat would not be ready until seven o'clock in the evening. But it also appeared that tea would be ready in a few minutes. Accordingly the curate remained to partake of that meal in the workroom, in company with Miss Gosse and her "hands"; and having been fed to bursting-point with French rolls and cake, left his various belongings and went forth to while away the time and paint the town of Dilbury—not exactly red, but a delicate and attenuated pink.
After an hour or so of rambling about the town, the curate's errant footsteps carried him down to the docks, where he was delighted with the spectacle of a military transport, just home from West Africa, discharging her passengers. The khaki-clad warriors trooped down the gang-planks and saluted him with cheerful greetings as he sat on a bollard and watched them. One even inquired if his—Mr. Jawley's—mother knew he was out; which the curate thought very kind and attentive of him. But what thrilled him most was the appearance of the chaplain; a fine, portly churchman with an imposing, coppery nose, who was so overjoyed at the sight of his native land that he sang aloud. Mr. Jawley was deeply affected.
When the soldiers had gone, he slowly retraced his steps towards the gates; but he had hardly gone twenty yards when his eye was attracted by a small object lying in the thick grass that grew between the irregular paving-stones of the quay. He stooped to pick it up and uttered an exclamation of delight. It was a tiny effigy of a parrot, quaintly wrought in bronze and not more than two and a half inches high including the pedestal on which it stood. A perforation through the eyes had furnished the means of suspension, and a strand of silken thread yet remained, to show, by its frayed ends, how the treasure had been lost.
Mr. Jawley was charmed. It was such a dear little parrot, so quaint, so naïve. He was a simple man, and small things gave him pleasure; and this small thing pleased him especially. The better to examine his find, he seated himself on a nice, clean white post and proceeded to polish the little effigy with his handkerchief, having previously moistened the latter with his tongue. The polishing improved its appearance wonderfully, and he was inspecting it complacently when his eye lighted on a chalked inscription on the pavement. The writing was upside-down as he sat, but he had no difficulty in deciphering the words "Wet paint."
He rose hastily and examined the flat top of the post. There is no need to go into details. Suffice it to say that anyone looking at that post could have seen that some person had sat on it. Mr. Jawley moved away with an angry exclamation. It was very annoying. But that did not justify the expressions that he used; which were not only out of character with his usual mild demeanour but unsuitable to his cloth, even if that cloth happened to be—but again we say there is no need to go into details. Still frowning irritably, he strode out through the dock gates and up the High Street on his way to Miss Gosse's establishment. As he was passing the fruiterer's shop, Mr. Barber, the proprietor, ran out.
"Good evening, Mr. Jawley. About those pears that you ordered of my young man. You'd better not have those, sir. Let me send you another kind."
"Why?" asked the curate.
"Well, sir, those pears, to be quite candid, are not very good——"
"I don't care whether they are good or bad," interrupted Mr. Jawley. "I am not going to eat them," and he stamped away up the High Street, leaving the fruiterer in a state of stupefaction. But he did not proceed directly to the milliner's. Some errant fancy impelled him to turn up a side-street and make his way towards the waterside portion of the town; and it was, in fact, nearly eight o'clock when he approached Miss Gosse's premises (now closed for the night) and rang the bell. The interval, however, had not been entirely uneventful. A blue mark under the left eye and a somewhat battered and dusty condition of hat and clothing seemed reminiscent of recent and thrilling experiences; and the satisfied grin that he bestowed on the astonished caretaker suggested that those experiences, if strenuous, had not been wholly unpleasurable.
The shades of night had fallen on the village of Bobham when Mr. Jawley appeared in the one and only street. He carried, balanced somewhat unsteadily on his head, a large cardboard box, but was otherwise unencumbered. The box had originally been of a cubical form, but now presented a slightly irregular outline and from one corner a thin liquid dripped on Mr. Jawley's shoulder, diffusing an aroma of vinegar and onions with an added savour that was delicate and fish-like. Up the empty street the curate strode with a martial air, and having picked up the box—for the thirteenth time—just outside the gate, entered the rectory, deposited his burden on the drawing-room sofa, and went up to his room. He required no supper. For once in a way he was not hungry. He had, in fact, taken a little refreshment in town; and whelks are a very satisfying food, if you only take enough of them.
In his narrow and bumpy bed the curate lay wakeful and wrapped in pleasing meditation. Now his thoughts strayed to the little bronze parrot, which he had placed, after a final polish, on the mantelpiece; and now, in delightful retrospection, he recalled the incidents of his little jaunt. There was, for instance, the slightly intoxicated marine with whom he had enjoyed a playful interview in Mermaid Street. Gleefully he reconstituted the image of that warrior as he had last seen him sitting in the gutter attending to his features with a reddened handkerchief. And there was the overturned whelk-stall and the two bluejackets outside the "Pope's Head." He grinned at the recollection. And yet there were grumblers who actually complained of the dulness of the clerical life!
Again he recalled the pleasant walk home across the darkening fields, the delightful rest by the wayside (on the cardboard box), and the pleasantries that he had exchanged with a pair of rustic lovers—who had told him that "he ought to be ashamed of himself; a gentleman and a minister of religion, too!" He chuckled aloud as he thought of their bucolic irritation and his own brilliant repartee.
But at this moment his meditations were broken into by a very singular interruption. From the neighbourhood of the mantelpiece there issued a voice—a very strange voice, deep, buzzing, resonant, chanting a short sentence, framed of yet more strange and unfamiliar words:
"Donköh e didi mä tūm. On esse?"
This astounding phrase rang out in the little room with a deep, booming emphasis on the "tūm," and an interrogative note on the two final words. There followed an interval of intense silence, and then, from some distance, as it seemed, came the tapping of drums, imitating, most curiously, the sound and accent of the words; "tūm," for instance, being rendered by a large drum of deep, cavernous tone.
Mr. Jawley listened with a pleased and interested smile. After a short interval, the chant was repeated, and again, like a far-away echo, the drums performed their curious mimicry of speech. Mr. Jawley was deeply interested. After a dozen or so of repetitions, he found himself able to repeat, with a fair accent, the mysterious sentence, and even to imitate the tapping and booming of the drums.
But after all you can have too much of a good thing; and when the chant had continued to recur, at intervals of about ten seconds, for a quarter of an hour, Mr. Jawley began to feel bored.
"There!" said he, "that'll do," and he composed himself for slumber. But the invisible chanter, ignoring his remark, continued the performance da capo and ad lib.—in fact, ad nauseam. Then Mr. Jawley became annoyed. First he sat up in bed and made what he considered appropriate comments on the performance, with a few personal references to the performer; and then, as the chant still continued with the relentless persistence of a chapel bell, he sprang out and strode furiously over to the mantelpiece.
"Shut up!" he roared, shaking his fist at the invisible parrot; and, strange to say, both the chant and the drumming ceased forthwith. There are some forms of speech, it would seem, that require no interpreter.
When Mr. Jawley entered the breakfast-room on the following morning, the rector's wife was in the act of helping her husband to a devilled kidney, but she paused in the occupation to greet the curate with a stony stare. Mr. Jawley sat down and knocked his knee as usual, but commented on the circumstance in terms which were not at all usual. The rector stared aghast and Mrs. Bodley exclaimed in shrill accents: "Mr. Jawley, how dare——"
At this point she paused, having caught the curate's eye. A deathly silence ensued, during which Mr. Jawley glared at a solitary boiled egg. Suddenly he snatched up a knife, and with uncanny dexterity, decapitated the egg with a single stroke. Then he peered curiously into the disclosed cavity. Now if there was one thing that Mr. Jawley hated more than another, it was an underdone egg; and as his eye encountered a yellow spheroid floating in a clear liquid, he frowned ominously.
"Raw, by Gosh!" he exclaimed hoarsely; and plucking the egg from its calyx, he sent it hurtling across the room. For several seconds the rector stared, silent and open-mouthed, at his curate; then, following his wife's gaze, he stared at the wall, on the chrysanthemum paper of which appeared a new motive uncontemplated by the designer. And meanwhile, Mr. Jawley reached across the table and stuck a fork into the devilled kidney.
When the rector looked round and discovered his loss, he essayed some spluttered demands for an explanation. But since the organs of speech are associated with the act of mastication, the curate was not in a position to answer him. His eyes, however, were disengaged at the moment, and some compelling quality in them caused the rector and his wife to rise from their chairs and back cautiously towards the door. Mr. Jawley nodded them out blandly; and being left in possession, proceeded to fill himself a cup of tea, and another of coffee, cleared the dish, emptied the toast-rack, and having disposed of these trifles, concluded a Gargantuan repast by crunching up the contents of the sugar-basin. Never had he enjoyed such a breakfast, and never had he felt so satisfied and joyous.
Having wiped his smiling lips on the table-cloth, he strolled out into the playground, where the boys were waiting to be driven in to lessons. At the moment of his appearance, Messrs. Joblett and Byles were in the act of resuming adjourned hostilities. The curate strode through the ring of spectators and beamed on the combatants with ferocious benevolence. His arrival had produced a brief armistice, but as he uttered no protests, the battle was resumed with a tentative prod on the part of Joblett.
The curate grinned savagely. "That isn't the way, Joblett," he exclaimed. "Kick him, man. Kick him in the stomach."
"Beg pardon, sir," said Joblett, regarding his preceptor with saucer-eyes. "Did you say kick him?"
"Yes," roared the curate. "In the stomach. Like this!"
He backed a few paces, and fixing a glittering eye on Byles's abdomen, rushed forward, and, flinging his right foot back until it was almost visible over his shoulder, let out a tremendous kick. But Byles's stomach was not there. Neither was Byles, which, of course, follows. The result was that Mr. Jawley's foot, meeting with no resistance, flew into space, carrying Mr. Jawley's centre of gravity with it.
When the curate scrambled to his feet and glared balefully around, the playground was empty. A frantic crowd surged in through the open house door, while stragglers hurriedly climbed over the walls.
Mr. Jawley laughed hoarsely. It was time to open school, but at the moment he was not studiously inclined. Letting himself out by the gate, he strolled forth into the village and sauntered up the street. And here it was, just opposite the little butcher's shop, that he encountered the village atheist. Now this philosopher—who, it is needless to say, was a cobbler by profession—had a standing and perennial joke, which was to greet the curate with the words: "How do, Jawley?" and thereby elicit a gracious "Good morning, Mr. Pegg" and a polite touch of the hat. He proceeded this morning to utter the invariable formula, cocking his eye at the expectant butcher. But the anticipated response came not. Instead, the curate turned on him suddenly and growled:
"Say 'sir,' you vermin, when you speak to your betters."
The astounded cobbler was speechless for a moment. But only for a moment.
"What!" he exclaimed, "me say 'sir' to a sneakin' little sky-pilot, what——"
Here Mr. Jawley turned and stepped lightly over to the shop. Reaching in through the open front, he lifted a cleaver from its nail, and swinging it high above his head, rushed with a loud yell at the offending cobbler. But Mr. Pegg was not without presence of mind—which, in this case, connoted absence of body. Before you could say "wax," he had darted into his house, bolted the door, and was looking down with bulging eyes from the first-floor window on the crown of the curate's hat.
Meanwhile the butcher had emerged angrily from his shop and approached the curate from behind.
"Here," he exclaimed gruffly, "what are you doing with that chop——" Here he paused suddenly as Mr. Jawley turned his head, and he continued with infinite suavity:
"Could you, sir, manage to spare that cleaver? If you would be so kind——"
Mr. Jawley uttered a sulky growl and thrust the great chopper into its owner's hands; then, as the butcher turned away, he gave a loud laugh, on which the tradesman cleared his threshold at a single bound and slammed the half-door behind him. But a terrified backward glance showed him the curate's face wreathed in smiles, and another glance made him aware of the diminutive figure of Miss Dorcas Shipton approaching up the street.
The curate ran forward to meet her, beaming with affection. But he didn't merely beam. Not at all. The sound of his greeting was audible even to Mr. Pegg, who leaned out of window, with eyes that bulged more than ever.
"Really, Deodatus!" exclaimed the scandalised Miss Dorcas. "What can you be thinking about, in such a pub——" Her remonstrances were cut short at this point by fresh demonstrations, which caused the butcher to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand and Mr. Pegg to gasp with fresh amazement.
"Pray, pray remember yourself, Deodatus!" exclaimed the blushing Dorcas, wriggling, at length, out of his too-affectionate grasp. "Besides," she added with a sudden strategic inspiration, "you surely ought to be in school at this time."
"That is of no consequence, darling," said Jawley, advancing on her with open arms; "old Bod can look after the whelps."
"Oh, but you mustn't neglect your duties, Deodatus," said Miss Dorcas, still backing away. "Won't you go in, just to please me?"
"Certainly, my love, if you wish it," replied Jawley, with an amorous leer. "I'll go at once—but I must have just one more," and again the village street rang with a sound as of the popping of a ginger-beer cork.
As he approached the school, Mr. Jawley became aware of the familiar and distasteful roar of many voices. Standing in the doorway, he heard Mr. Bodley declare with angry emphasis that he "would not have this disgraceful noise," and saw him slap the desk with his open hand; whereupon nothing in particular happened excepting an apparently preconcerted chorus as of many goats. Then Mr. Jawley entered and looked round; and in a moment the place was wrapped in a silence like that of an Egyptian tomb.
Space does not allow of our recording in detail the history of the next few days. We may, however, say in general terms that there grew up in the village of Bobham a feeling of universal respect for the diminutive curate, not entirely unmixed with superstitious awe. Rustics, hitherto lax in their manners, pulled off their hats like clockwork at his approach; Mr. Pegg, abandoning the village street, cultivated a taste for footpaths, preferably remote and unobstructed by trees; the butcher fell into the habit of sending gratuitous sweetbreads to the Rectory, addressed to Mr. Jawley; and even the blacksmith, when he had recovered from his black eye, adopted a suave and conciliatory demeanour.
The rector's wife alone cherished a secret resentment (though outwardly attentive in the matter of devilled kidneys and streaky bacon), and urged the rector to get rid of his fire-eating subordinate; but her plans failed miserably. It is true that the rector did venture tentatively to open the subject to the curate, who listened with a lowering brow and sharpened a lead pencil with a colossal pocket-knife that he had bought at a ship-chandler's in Dilbury. But the conclusion was never reached. Distracted, perhaps, by Mr. Jawley's inscrutable manner, the rector became confused, and, to his own surprise, found himself urging the curate to accept an additional twenty pounds a year—an offer which Mr. Jawley immediately insisted on having in writing.
The only person who did not share the universal awe was Miss Dorcas; for she, like the sundial, "numbered only the sunny hours." But she respected him more than any, and, though dimly surprised at the rumours of his doings, gloried in secret over his prowess.
Thus the days rolled on, and Mr. Jawley put on flesh visibly. Then came the eventful morning when, on scanning the rector's Times, his eye lighted on an advertisement in the Personal Column:
"Ten Pounds Reward.—Lost: a small bronze effigy of a parrot on a square pedestal; the whole two and a half inches high. The above Reward will be paid on behalf of the owner by the Curator of the Ethnographical Department of the British Museum, who has a photograph and description of the object."
Now Mr. Jawley had become deeply attached to the parrot. But after all, it was only a pretty trifle, and ten pounds was ten pounds. That very afternoon, the Curator found himself confronted by a diminutive clergyman of ferocious aspect, and hurriedly disgorged ten sovereigns after verifying the description; and to this day he is wont to recount, as an instance of the power of money, the remarkable change for the better in the clergyman's manners when the transaction was completed.
It was late in the afternoon when Mr. Jawley reappeared in the village of Bobham. He carried a gigantic paper parcel under one arm, and his pockets bulged so that he appeared to suffer from some unclassified deformity. At the stile, he suddenly encountered Mr. Pegg, who prepared for instant flight and was literally stupefied when the curate lifted his hat and graciously wished him "good evening." But Mr. Pegg was even more stupefied when, a few minutes later, he saw the curate seated on a doorstep, with the open parcel on his knees, and a mob of children gathered around him. For Mr. Jawley, with the sunniest of smiles, was engaged in distributing dolls, peg-tops, skipping-ropes, and little wooden horses to a running accompaniment of bull's-eyes, brandy-balls, and other delicacies, which he produced from inexhaustible pockets. He even offered Mr. Pegg himself a sugar-stick, which the philosophic cordwainer accepted with a polite bow and presently threw over a wall. But he pondered deeply on this wonder, and is probably pondering still, in common with the other inhabitants of Bobham.
But though, from that moment, Mr. Jawley became once more the gentlest and most amiable of men, the prestige of his former deeds remained; reverential awe attended his footsteps abroad, devilled kidneys and streaky bacon were his portion at home; until such time as Miss Dorcas Shipton underwent a quieter metamorphosis and became Mrs. Deodatus Jawley. And thereafter he walked, not only amidst reverence and awe, but also amidst flowers and sunshine.
Postscript.—The curious who would know more about the parrot may find him on his appropriate shelf in the West African Section, and read the large descriptive label which sets forth his history.
"Bronze-gold weight in the form of a parrot. This object was formerly the property of the great Ashanti war Chief, Amankwa Tia, whose clan totem was a parrot. It was worn by him, attached to his wrist, as an amulet or charm, and when on a campaign a larger copy of it, of gilded wood, was carried by the chief herald, who preceded him and chanted his official motto. It may be explained here that each of the Ashanti generals had a distinguishing motto, consisting of a short sentence, which was called out before him by his heralds when on the march, and repeated, with remarkably close mimicry, by the message drums. Thus, when several bodies of troops were marching through the dense forest, their respective identities were made clear to one another by the sound of the chant on the drums. Amankwa Tia's motto was: 'Donköh e didi mä tūm. On esse?' Which may be translated: '(Foreign) Slaves revile me. Why?' A somewhat meaningless sentence, but having, perhaps, a sinister significance."