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 one—there were seldom crocodiles this far north in the Niger bend.
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 dribbled away.
"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.
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 them giggled.
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 hand.
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 new ways."
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 said.
"Brother, you said it," she told him. "Where can I change out of these rags?"
"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 assignment."
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 next?"
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 general."
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 over."
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 me."
"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 reputation."
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 down river.
Now she renewed old acquaintances, calling them by name—after 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 pointing upward.
"Huh!" said Isobel again, but she was really in no mood for their usual banter. "Listen," she said, "what're we accomplishing with all this masquerade?"
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 Mali alone."
"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 registering weariness.
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 word."
Isobel laughed, but unhappily. "I don't recognize myself in the description."
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 goes—everyone 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 delivered."
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 development— _subtle_?"
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 accused.
"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 teams."
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 Nations."
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 Sudan."
"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 murmured.
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 besides—
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 bag—undoubtedly housing his _gris gris_ , as Amadijuè could well imagine—Dolo 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 orders."
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 skies.
"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 Tellum together.
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 Tellum—and, 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 juju—as all the Dogon have decided, in tribal conference—the 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 the schools."
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 the trick.
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.