Black Bagheela can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Weird Tales, January 1935

BLACK BAGHEELA

By BASSETT MORGAN

A story of brain transplantation, huge apes that spoke with the voices of menT and a swirling, dancing, black leopard-cat in the Maharajah's court 

IF THERE existed under the hard surface of Captain Daunt's not unhandsome visage an assailable weakness, or if he possessed an Achilles heel, young Mobray, late of the Royal Navy, had failed to touch it. He tried every human means of persuasion.

"Give up the idea," said Captain Daunt.

"No. I'm finding my brother or his remains. I hoped you would help me, but I've one more ace in the hole—Ti Fong."

"He's a very fine man to dodge," said Captain Daunt, "as your brother could tell you, maybe, if he could speak to you."

"I'm not afraid. His fast yacht has been seen in the vicinity of the Red God Island, and I've shown you the message picked up in a floating bottle and assured you I've checked the drift and the bottle could easily have come from that cursed island. I believe my brother is there. Daunt, don't you understand it's more to us than settling the estate, which can't be done until his death is proved or legally admitted? His wife and my mother are taking it hard. Nick's son, born since he disappeared."

"I know all that and I'm sorry, but there is nothing I can do about it," said Captain Daunt.

"You call at the Island of the Red God. You could get permission from Jornado to let me land and search." Captain Daunt was shaking his head when Mobray burst out, "Then I'm off to Sumatra to see Ti Fong."

"Make your will," said Captain Daunt. "Your brother tangled with that devil."

"Afraid of the Chink, Captain?"

"Enough to let you get away with that remark because I feel sorry for your mother, and your wife or sweetheart. Go along. I've warned you, and I'm busy taking two black panthers to His Highness the Maharajah of Awroot, up-country. Nice cats." He opened a door of an adjoining cabin, and Mobray saw two thicker shadows in the room corner, with blinking emeralds for eyes. One yawned, his pink throat and red muzzle set with fanged ivory.

"Beauties!" Mobray backed toward the door, however. "That mouth looked like an orchid of rare color, Captain."

"Genus 'Man-trap'," said Captain Daunt. "They roam this island you're interested in, though these were hand-raised from cubs. Listen, my lad, would a trip with me delivering these keep you from tangling with worse, which is one description of Ti Fong? Not that it matters to me what happens to you, only I hate letting him add you to his collection of odd achievements. We are foes, as you might put it politely."

"I'd like the trip with the cats, Captain Daunt." And the skipper was aware Mobray thought it might provide a chance to obtain further information in case acquaintance proved amicable.

The big chromium-plated car of the Maharajah waiting for him on the wharf with a uniformed chauffeur under the wheel was searing the eyes of all beholders in the hot Singapore sunlight. Captain Daunt exchanged his cap for a panama, whistled to the leopards, who stretched, yawned again and undulatingly slid within reach of leather collars he snapped around their necks, holding the chains in his hand.

Mobray stepped lively going to the deck. Daunt sauntered along, talking to the cats, which showed uneasiness at the crowded wharf and glittering automobile. It took soothing to keep them beside him while the car hummed through traffic and shot into the empty road down the peninsula. Mobray was ahead with the chauffeur.

THE car rolled into a walled court, and was received with some pomp. A short time later Mobray and Captain Daunt were entertained by the resplendent potentate in his best British manner, and the leopards lapped milk from a golden basin and stretched supine. Before he left, Daunt put them through a few tricks, most pleasing of which was a feline waltz on their hind paws and leaping high to capture a flower Daunt tossed in the air. The prince was delighted and presented Captain Daunt with a black pearl in addition to the high price paid for the leopards, and after due courtesies the visitors were escorted to the car and whirled away.

"So that's part of the treasures of the Red God Island," said Mobray, "trained leopards. Why can't you trust me enough?"

"My lad, I rather like you. It isn't that. I've orders——" He interrupted himself to speak to the driver. "Put me down at Ira Singh's, the gold-beater.... If you want to see pretty jewelry, Mobray, come along. I'll have this pearl set for use."

In the bazar, Mobray watched Captain Daunt select a pendant setting on a chain of fine gold for his pearl, an ornament for a woman, which was boxed for him. The native said something Mobray did not understand.

"Wait outside and we'll go somewhere for dinner," said Daunt. "I'll pay for this trinket. He says I am foolish to be walking with you, Mobray, which means whoever got your brother is watching you. Ira Singh is a friend of mine."

Mobray walked down the block gazing at bazars lighted in the early darkness, looking like pirate caves of colorful loot. He walked back, up and down, and finally entered Ira Singh's bazar. Daunt-sahib was gone, said an obsequious clerk, but hard on his words came a native police officer barging into the place. The clerk yelped and took to his legs, a crowd after him. The singular occurrence alarmed Mobray. He hailed a ricksha and was driven to the wharf and Daunt's vessel. The gang-plank was drawn in, but Mobray leaped the intervening lane of water and climbed over the rail. He ran down to Daunt's cabin, which was dark. Snapping a cigarette lighter, he entered. Behind him the door was banked shut and a lock grated. He was a prisoner. Beside the lock, an iron bar clanged, though he could have sworn there was none on the door when he entered that noonday.

The throb of engines jarred the vessel. There were shouts and running feet overhead, and the navy man knew they were being towed stern-first into the stream, bound God alone knew where. He took it philosophically. He wanted a trip to Daunt's source of valuable cargo, and the Asiatic trickery of unknowns had granted his wish by an odd twist of adventure. Captain Daunt would be surprized to see him, probably, if he didn't drop him at the nearest opportunity.

But Mobray was not destined to see Captain Daunt, for that cruise. He sighted landmarks through his porthole, the spire of St. Andrew's Cathedral, Tanjong Ru and Tanjong Kantong, the Straits Islands dark against a moonlighted sea, praos flitting like black moths through webbed waves and silver; and he slept soundly.

NEXT morning his door was unlocked and opened by. a tall, urbane Chinese speaking excellent English, who listened to Mobray's protest.

"You came on board uninvited, Mr. Mobray. Captain Daunt is not on the vessel. He is the guest of the Lord Ti Fong."

Mobray controlled a grin of satisfaction at the joke on Daunt, who warned him about the mysterious Ti Fong. "No need of keeping me a prisoner," he said. "I'm a navy man, quite willing for a voyage and rather anxious to meet this Ti Fong. I obtained leave of absence to search for my brother out here." The Chinese nodded.

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.