We were glad to leave the wonderful insects to their repast on the dead gorilla, and, returning to our camp, found out bearers ready for starting.
We toiled on all day, ascending the sides of the mountain range. Now we had to plunge into a valley thickly covered with trees, and then to ascend the opposite side, now to proceed along the edge of lofty precipices. Sometimes the ascent was so steep that we were obliged to use our hands as well as our long poles to make our way up it. I was thankful that bearers had been provided for the young ladies; for although they had spirit enough to attempt whatever we did, yet they must inevitably have been much fatigued had they been compelled to walk. Leo and Natty, however, trudged on bravely in our midst; and often indeed, when ascending steep places, took the lead. Chickango, who knew the way, having often before traversed it, was of great use. He also kept a watchful eye on either side of the path, especially when we were crossing valleys, lest a leopard or lion might spring out on us, or any huge serpent might lie across our path. At length we reached a lofty plateau, or table-land, which Chickango informed Senhor Silva extended a long way to the south. Over this, therefore, we resolved to travel, till we could find a suitable spot in which to fix our abode. We purposed remaining there till we could send a messenger towards the Cape Colony, hoping that he might fall in with either traders or explorers or missionaries, several of whom were settled in Damara or Namaqua land. The further we travelled south, the cooler and more healthy we should find the climate. We had no wish, either, to remain longer than necessary in the gorilla region.
THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAINS.
Several days had passed away. Our progress had, of necessity, been slow; but it was a satisfaction to feel that we were going towards the south, and getting nearer to where we might hope to meet with assistance. We had all kept our health, and even my young cousins seemed in no way to have suffered; indeed, they looked stronger and better than they were when they landed. Our bearers, however, had for some time shown a disinclination to proceed. They told Senhor Silva that they had come further than they had bargained for, and evidently began to doubt our intentions. They knew very well that their countrymen were carried off in great numbers by the whites; and stories had been told them about the cruelties practised by those white men, and that they even collect people merely to slaughter and eat them. Although they did not perhaps suspect us of such intentions, yet altogether, in spite of the bribes we had to offer them, they thought it wiser to return to their own people. Senhor Silva promised them that as soon as we could find a spot on which to settle, if they did not wish to remain with us, they should be paid and allowed to depart.
Chickango and Timbo had by this time become great friends. They were able to converse freely together; and Timbo told me that he was doing his utmost to instruct his countryman.
"Timbo tell de Chicken all about England and Cape Town, and de oder countries of de world, and de big ships, and de rich white men; and, more dan dat, I tell him dat he got soul, and dat white man and black man hab de same God; and if he stay wid us, we treat him like one broder. You see, I no t'ink he go away now."
Not without the greatest difficulty, however, could Chickango persuade his countrymen to proceed further with us. The hills over which we were travelling were covered thickly with wood, so that often we could see but a short distance either on one side or the other. Now and then we came to openings, whence we looked down on the wide-spreading country on either side, partly hilly or undulating, and then stretching away in an even plain, intersected by rivers, till lost to sight. Stanley and Senhor Silva, with their guns, were ranging the country on either side.
"Listen!" cried David, who was walking by my side. "What noise is that?"
"It sounds like the roar of breakers on a rocky shore," I observed.
"No," he said; "it must be a waterfall."
Hurrying on, we saw before us a wide lake-like expanse on one side, and on the other a cloud of spray floating in the air. As we drew nearer, a broad stream appeared, rushing over a ledge of rocks and falling into a deep chasm below, after which it ran towards the south and east.
"This would be a grand place to settle on," said David. "Where there is water in this region we are sure to find abundance of game; and it will assist us in defending ourselves against any attacks of the natives, should they prove hostile."
I agreed with David, and we anxiously looked out for the appearance of Stanley and Senhor Silva, to learn whether they were of the same opinion. When Kate and Bella overtook us, they were delighted with the scene, and agreed that it was just the place where they should like to settle.
In a short time Stanley arrived. He was as well pleased as we were with the appearance of the country around. Senhor Silva had no objection to fixing our abode there, though he would have preferred moving on, in the hope before long of reaching Portuguese territory. Chickango, however, assured us that the country to the south was more difficult to pass over than that we had traversed, and that without men to carry our provisions and goods we could not perform the journey. The matter was settled by our bearers refusing to proceed further. Senhor Silva asked Chickango whether he intended to return with his people or to remain with us. He hesitated; then he seized Senhor Silva's hands, and gave rapid utterance to an harangue.
"He say we good people, he stop. He my broder now. Hurrah!" exclaimed Timbo.
Although Chickango had resolved to remain with us, he could only induce his countrymen to delay their departure for a few days, in order to assist us in putting up our huts. They at once set to work to construct our usual shelter for the night, which would serve until we could erect a more permanent abode. We fixed upon a spot considerably raised above the head waters of the stream, which would defend us on one side from wild beasts, while the ground sloping downwards on the other would enable us to fortify it against either human beings, or lions or leopards. Those creatures will, without difficulty, leap over the highest fences; and if erected on level ground, no ordinary means are capable of keeping them out. I should observe that there are no tigers in Africa; their absence, however, as Leo remarked, being more agreeable than their company. Stanley and Senhor Silva had been very successful in their hunt, and had brought back a good supply of birds and young deer, besides three or four smaller animals.
By Chickango's advice, we built our huts in the fashion of his people— that is to say, facing each other, so as to form a street, with their backs to the outside of our little fortress. As the river side was altogether enclosed, one strong door at the other end was sufficient for all the houses. For the sake of air, however, we built our huts separate from each other, and we thus had windows on all sides. The poles were of bamboo, and the walls strong pieces of bark, secured by ropes composed of creepers. The framework roofing was also formed of bamboos, with thick palm-leaves at the top, kept down by ropes. At the inner end was a shed for cooking; and our street was sufficiently wide to enable us to light a fire at night in the centre, to prevent the unwelcome intrusion of wild beasts. Our habitation, though not very imposing, was sufficiently strong to keep out the wet and rain, and, at the same time, was tolerably cool.
The two young ladies had one house to themselves; Stanley, David, and Senhor Silva another; the boys and I a third; Timbo and Chickango had one to themselves; and Jack was left alone in his glory, he taking a small one at the entrance, and having charge of the gate.
"You may depend upon me," he said. "I will always sleep with one eye open; and if any strange black fellows come near us, or any savage beasts, I will be up and have a crack at them before they know where they are."
The bearers, having performed their contract very much to our satisfaction, received from Senhor Silva a piece of calico, a knife, and some tobacco, as their payment, with a few beads for their wives, either present or prospective, with which they seemed highly pleased. When they were about to take their departure, Chickango addressed them. What he said we did not understand, but the result was that they agreed to stop two or three days longer and assist us in hunting, whereby they themselves were to benefit by a share of the spoil. They remained at night in the huts they had previously occupied, while we took possession of our new abode. Besides our sleeping houses, there was a large one intended for what Leo called our banqueting-hall. In the centre we constructed a long table, at which we could all sit, with two chairs at the end for the ladies, Stanley, as our chief, having his seat between them, somewhat in the fashion of ancient days, Jack and the two blacks taking their places at the further one. Our bed-places were formed of bamboos raised from the ground. Senhor Silva politely devoted some of his calico to making curtains for those of the young ladies. He had also brought some mosquito-curtains, which he presented to them; for we found that even in that higher region we were not free from those pests of a hot climate.
As I gazed round our new location, I could not help wishing that it was the permanent abode of civilised men. Far as the eye could reach, forest and prairie stretched away into the interior, capable of supporting a dense population; and from the health we had hitherto enjoyed, I saw no reason why even whites should not inhabit it; or, at all events, a civilised black community might there, I hoped, be some day established.
As soon as our black friends had agreed to remain, they set off, headed by Chickango, for the purpose of exploring the banks of the stream, to ascertain in what direction we should commence our hunt the following day. They had not been long absent, when Chickango came hurrying back in a state of excitement, and called to Senhor Silva.
"They have discovered an hippopotamus higher up the stream, and beg that we will go out at once and assist in killing it."
"What! can they wish to eat one of those ugly brutes?" said Leo. "If they are like those we saw the other day, it will be a hard matter to kill them."
"Nothing comes amiss to them," said Senhor Silva; "and we must not disappoint them."
Senhor Silva, with Stanley and Chickango, accordingly started off, the two boys and I accompanying them to see the sport. Chickango led us some way up the stream, where, on a rock among the trees which lined the island in the centre, we saw a huge monster. He turned his eyes towards us; but from the indifference with which he regarded our approach, it was evident that he was unaccustomed to the sight of man Chickango shouted out.
"What does he say?" asked Stanley.
"It is an hippopotamus. You must fire, and hit him under the ear, and you are sure to kill him," said Senhor Silva. "The blacks want the creature for food, and you must not disappoint them."
The water by the side of the banks above the fall was shallow, flowing amongst numerous rocks. Stanley carried a long pistol in his belt.
"Here, take my gun," he said. "I can hit the creature with this; and if I fall, it will not be of so much consequence."
Springing forward, he levelled his pistol, and the huge beast rolled over into the water and was carried down the stream. The report, however, brought out several others from among the trees on the river's bank. They came swimming down towards the fall. I was surprised they did not make towards us, and could not help feeling anxious for Stanley's safety. He stood his ground, however. Two or three had passed before he had again loaded. He then took aim at a third. He missed! The whole, herd now made for the falls. The body of the first rolled over and over, but the others plunged downwards in a way which showed that they were well accustomed to the feat; and we saw them swimming down the centre to the lower part of the stream. As the last was passing, Stanley took steady aim, and by the way the creature moved, it was evident that it was severely wounded.
The blacks now shouted out again, and led the way down to the lower part of the waterfall. We all followed. How they proposed getting the bodies of the hippopotami out of the river I could not tell, and fully expected that they would soon be lost to sight. There was, however, an eddy, which probably the blacks had observed, and into this both the huge animals were drawn. Still they were at a considerable distance from the land. The blacks, as soon as they reached the banks, began cutting away at a grove of reeds, a species of palmyra. As soon as they were cut, a layer was thrown on the surface of the water. Another layer was placed crossways on this; and so on, till the raft was of sufficient thickness to bear the party. No binding was required, as the reeds were thus sufficiently united for the purpose. With some long poles and some rattan vines cut from the forest, three hunters embarked. Throwing their ropes round the head of the first animal they got up to, they soon towed it ashore, where their companions secured it, while they shoved off for the other. The second was scarcely dead, though unable to defend itself. They secured it to the raft, when it gave a convulsive struggle, and then opened its enormous jaws, which were certainly big enough to swallow one of the men at a mouthful. It was its last effort, however, for it merely grasped the edge of the raft, and the blacks, shoving on, soon brought it to land.
I had now, for the first time, an opportunity of examining an hippopotamus thoroughly. It is a most singular looking animal, which may be described as intermediate between an overgrown hog and a high-fed bull, without horns and with cropped ears. It has an enormous head. Each of its jaws is armed with two formidable tusks, and those in the lower, which are the largest, are nearly two feet in length. The nostrils, ears, and huge eyes are placed on nearly the same plane, thus allowing the animal to make use of its three senses and of respiration, at the same time exposing but a very small part of its body. It is but little inferior in size to the elephant, though its legs are very much shorter; indeed, the belly in the full-grown one almost touches the ground. The hoofs are divided into four parts, unconnected by membranes. By this means it is able to spread out its clumsy-looking toes, and to walk at a quick pace even through mud or in very deep water. The skin is from one to two inches thick, and completely bullet-proof, except behind the ear and near the eye, where it is thinner; and it has a few hairs only on the muzzle, the edge of the ears, and tail. When out of the water it is of a purple-brown hue. In the young animal it is somewhat of a clay yellow, and under the belly of almost a roseate hue; but seen in a clear pool it is a sort of dark blue, or light Indian-ink hue. As we looked at its head we agreed that few animals have more hideous or terrific countenances.
"Why, he would swallow Natty and me up at a mouthful," said Leo, as he tried to lift up the jaws of one of the huge animals.
"Take care! he will bite!" cried out Natty; and Leo, letting his stick drop, sprang back with an expression of horror in his countenance which made us all laugh.
We left the blacks cutting up their prizes, for which, through Chickango, they expressed themselves duly grateful to Stanley.
We found that the young ladies, aided by Timbo, had prepared a sumptuous repast of wild-fowl and venison, to which we now added some hippopotamus steaks. The meat was somewhat coarse-grained, but tasted not unlike beef. Our black friends consumed it eagerly. During supper we discussed our plans for the future. Chickango assured Senhor Silva that he hoped to obtain a messenger to proceed to the south, although he himself would not venture to go alone. He took his meals with us; indeed he was, in many respects, a civilised black. He knew perfectly well how to behave at table; and used his knife and one of the wooden forks Jack and Timbo had manufactured with perfect ease.
At length our black friends, loaded with as much hippopotamus-meat as they could carry, in addition to the various articles they had received as payment, took their departure. We should have been better pleased had they continued with us, as we might then have proceeded further south without the assistance of strangers.
I have hitherto said very little about Natty Page. He had greatly recovered his spirits after the loss of his father, and now showed that there was a great deal in him. He and Leo and little Bella were the life of our party. They, happily, were not troubled with thoughts of the difficulties and dangers before us, and enjoyed the present to the utmost.
"Do you not think, Andrew," said Natty to me, "that if we were to build a canoe we could explore the river and make our way to the south far more easily than by land? Meantime, it would assist us in our hunting expeditions; and we should be able to go fishing or shooting birds, although I should not much like to meet with any of those fierce monsters the captain killed the other day."
"An excellent idea, Natty," I answered. "I will propose it to Captain Hyslop, and I am sure he will agree with you."
Stanley was well pleased with the suggestion, and it was at once agreed that we should carry it into execution.
"I, however, never built a canoe, and should scarcely know how to set about it, although I understand the management of one thoroughly," said Stanley. "I must trust, therefore, to others."
"No fear, captain," observed Timbo. "Jack, Chickango, and I soon do de work. First t'ing find big tree; and Senhor Silva got axes, so we soon cut it down."
Before the day was over we found a large tree, not more than three hundred yards from the bank of the river, which was likely to answer our purpose. The trunk was perfectly straight, the wood soft, and about twelve feet in circumference. The axes our Portuguese friend had among his stores were, however, rather small for the purpose; but yet, if carefully used, we hoped, with perseverance, to have the tree felled in the course of a day. Jack Handspike undertook to act as chief architect, although Chickango and Timbo, I suspect, knew more about the actual work than he did.
"Now, boys," he sung out, "the first thing we have got to do is to place the craft in the right position for launching, so just see that the tree falls towards the river."
Senhor Silva interpreted Jack's remark to Chickango. He nodded, and forthwith cut from the surrounding trees a number of vines, as creepers of all sorts are called. These, with my aid and that of the two boys, he formed into a strong rope. He then mounted the tree by throwing a band round it and his waist, till he reached the branches, carrying the end of the rope with him. This he secured to the top. Descending, he made signs to us to carry it to a distance towards the river, where he secured the opposite end to another tree.
Jack and Timbo, who were expert axe-men, then began cutting away near the ground. First they made a deep notch on the river side, scoring the tree all round. David and I stood by ready to take their places, while Stanley and Senhor Silva went in search of game.
"But what are we to do?" exclaimed Leo. "We do not want to be idle!"
"No, young masters, nor need you," said Jack. "We shall want spars and oars, so do you go and look out for some small trees fit to make them out of, and cut them down."
"That will be capital," cried Natty. "We will soon have a mast and yard ready for you, and as many paddles as we can pull."
The young ladies, meantime, remained in the house, that Kate might teach Bella, and, when the lessons were over, get dinner ready for us. We worked away with a will, the sound of the axes never ceasing, for as soon as Jack and Timbo were tired, David and I stepped into their places.
"See, we shall soon have the trunk through!" cried Jack. "Run and help Chickango, and haul away as hard as you can. We will have the tree down in a jiffy in that clear space."
We gave a loud cheer as we saw the tall tree bending towards us, and hauling with all our might as we ran from it, down it came with a crash. Then, as if it had been some huge creature with long feelers ready to seize hold of us, we lashed at the branches with our axes, and began hacking away at them. We had now to cut off a piece of the trunk of sufficient length for the canoe. Jack wanted to make it thirty feet long; but Timbo advised that it should not be more than twenty feet, that it might be the more easily managed in the stream. As we had no saw, this had to be done with our axes, and, of course, occupied more than half as much time as getting down the trunk. The boughs, also, had to be cut up and cleared away, that we might have an open road to the river. By the time this was done night had come on, while hunger made us all ready to return to the house.
The boys were very proud of the tree they had cut down for a mast. They had barked it completely, and shaped it partially, and now came towards us bearing it on their shoulders in triumph.
"Do you not think we might saw the thick end off?" cried Leo, after he had gone a little way with us. "It is wonderfully heavy, I can assure you, and I do not think so long a mast can be required."
"Better cut it in half at once and make two masts," said Natty. "It is somewhat heavy to carry up to the top of the hill."
"Come, young masters, I see what it is you want," said Jack. "You have cut down the spar, and done it well, and you think that stronger men ought to carry it. Timbo and I will relieve you of it, and you may run on ahead and say we are coming."
However, the boys, after all, were not very willing to give up the spar of which they were so proud, and carried it on a little way further in spite of their friends' offers. At length Jack quietly put his shoulder under one end, and Timbo took the other, and fairly lifted it off their backs. It was high time, for their knees were beginning to shake, and their faces looked very red with their exertions. The mast was indeed a great deal too long for the canoe, and required more than a third cut off.
We found that the young ladies had, as usual, made ample preparation for our supper, and Kate had found time to give Bella her usual lessons. Her instruction was imparted certainly under difficulties. Her only books were a Bible, a small History of England, a Johnson's Dictionary, and a work on natural history. The latter was especially useful to all of us, as it gave a very fair account of many of the animals we were likely to meet with. Senhor Silva had laid in a good stock of paper, pens, and ink. Kate herself was so well acquainted with geography, that she was able to draw maps, and teach her sister without difficulty. History, too, she seemed to have at her fingers' ends, so that Bella not only learned about England, but most other countries in the world.
Next day we all went back to our work. We began first to shape the outside of the canoe—a task we performed with our axes, and at this four could work at once. By Jack's advice we planed off the upper side of the tree, so that the plan of the canoe could be drawn off on it by exact measurements. We first drew a straight line down the centre, and from this measured off the two sides with the greatest care. In the game way the stem and stern were measured with a plumb-line. We then turned the log over, and having levelled that side, marked off the keel, thus having it truly in the centre. Natty and Leo had remained to assist in turning over the log.
"Why, that is exactly how I should cut out a model-boat!" exclaimed Leo. "If we had a saw we could shape the bows and stern much more easily, just as I always used to do."
"But you see, young gentleman, we must make use of what tools we have," observed Jack. "By sticking at it, I dare say we shall not be as long cutting out this here canoe as you would have been making a little model."
"Let me see," said Leo. "No; I remember it took me a good month before I got it ready for painting, and even then, I own, from some unaccountable cause, it was somewhat lopsided."
"Maybe you did not use the plumb-line, Master Leo," observed Jack. "You see there is nothing like that for getting things perpendicular, though I cannot say exactly the reason why."
"There I have you, Jack, then," said Leo. "It is on account of the centre of gravitation, and a weight let down on the earth always falls perpendicularly to the plane of the earth."
"That may be philosophy, as you call it, Master Leo, but I cannot say as how I am much wiser than I was; only you will see we will get our canoe to sit fairly on the water—neither heeling over to one side nor t'other."
Having got all our measurements correct, we once more put the canoe on an even keel, and then commenced chopping away round the intended gunwale, so as to have the upper works done first. By Jack's advice she was sharp at both ends, like a whale-boat, that we might the better back out of danger if necessary.
"Come, you are getting on so fast with the canoe, that we shall not have the spars ready if we do not set to work," said Natty. "Come along, Leo;" and the boys ran off with their axes on their shoulders in high glee.
They had not been gone long when we heard their voices crying out, "Come, come!—quick, quick!" Stanley, David, and I hurried on with our guns, which we kept ready for use, and soon reached the boys. They were too excited at first to speak. "A wild man!" cried Leo. "A fierce-looking fellow! I thought he was going to run after us, but he did not, and I do not know if he is still there."
"But was he a wild man?" said Natty. "He was walking along on all fours, and then he went up a tree. If he had been a man I do not think he would have done that."
"Probably he was a big ape," said David; "another gorilla."
"No, no; not a gorilla," answered Natty; "but I think he was an ape. He was not so big as the fearful one the captain killed and the ants ate; but he is a big fellow, notwithstanding."
This account of course excited our curiosity, and we all hurried on, hoping to find the creature which the boys had seen. They led us some way into the forest.
"We shall frighten him if we make a noise," whispered Natty.
"But I say he is a wild man, and I do not think he will be frightened," said Leo. "Only take care; if he has companions they may rush out and surprise us."
"Whether man or beast, we will be cautious," said Stanley, advancing in woodland fashion, concealing himself as much as possible behind the trunks and undergrowth.
The boys kept close to his side. Presently they stopped, and pointed to a tree standing by itself in a little open glade. The lowest branch was about twenty feet from the ground, and on looking up we saw spread above it a curious roof of leaves like an umbrella, while seated on a branch with one arm round the tree was a huge ape. His feet were resting on the stump of a lower branch, while his head was so completely covered by the roof of his nest that it almost looked like a Chinaman's huge hat. Presently we heard him give a peculiar sound, something like "hew"—"hew," which was answered from a little distance, and looking round, we discovered another roof with an ape seated under it. We guessed that it was the female, by her having a funny-looking young ape clinging to her, which she held, as a nurse does a baby, in one arm. We had advanced so cautiously that neither of the animals saw us. They were smaller than the gorilla; the hair seemed blacker and longer, and more glossy.
"Do not kill the creatures," said David. "They will do us no harm, and we do not want them for food."
This remark was made just in time to save the life of the old ape, at whom Stanley was aiming.
"You are right," he answered. "I should like to know more about them, however."
"Perhaps Chickango or Timbo can tell us," answered David.
As it was not far off, the boys agreed to go and get them, while we watched the spot. Before long the two blacks came creeping up. Chickango watched them for a little time. Then he spoke to Timbo, who whispered to us:
"He say dat is Nshiego Mbouve. He got bald head, wide mouth, round chin, and—see! beard like one old man! He not nearly so strong as gorilla. Dey stay dere; no fear, not run away now."
With this information we returned to the canoe. Timbo advised the boys to keep at a distance from the animals; for should they discover that they were watched, they might come down and attack them. Being somewhat tired with our work, and having made considerable progress, we retired earlier than usual to the Castle; for such was the name we had given our abode. Chickango and Timbo, however, remained behind, keeping their guns with them, and saying that they would give a few more touches to the canoe.
We had scarcely reached the house when we heard a distant shot. Leo and Natty, who had just given an account of the animal they had seen to the young ladies, and were still somewhat excited, ran out to ascertain who had fired. We heard them shouting out—
"There they are! and they're bringing a little chap along with them!"
"It is a young ape," cried Natty.
"No; I tell you it is a small savage—a boy," exclaimed Leo. "See! why, he is walking along!"
This announcement, as may be supposed, made us all rush to the door. Sure enough, the two blacks were seen dragging along a young ape with a handkerchief tied over its head; and even then it was turning first on one side and then on the other, endeavouring to bite its captors.
"I am afraid they must have killed the old one," said David, "or they would not have caught that young creature. That must be the little ape we saw with its mother. No, we did not tell them to let the animals alone; and they do not understand the humane feelings which, at all events, ought to influence us. They probably were surprised we did not kill the creatures at once."
The blacks now came up with their prize.
"We killed de big mother," said Timbo. "Chickango say he go back and fetch her when we make fast de little one, which we bring as playmate for Missy Kate and Bella."
"I doubt if the young ladies will be pleased with their intended companion," observed David.
"Oh, but he will do as a chum for us!" cried Leo. "He is a brave little chap; I like the spirit he shows, doing his best to bite you."
The young nshiego was at once secured in Chickango's hut, for he undertook to take charge of the creature and tame it. David, hearing that the mother was shot, was eager to go and examine her. We accordingly all set off with some poles on which to convey the body. We found on measuring it that it was about four feet high. The skin was black, and many parts of the body were covered with thin blackish hair. It was a far less powerful animal than the gorilla, though its arms were rather longer in proportion to its size. One of its characteristics was its bald head. Its mouth was wider, and the nose less prominent than that of the gorilla. We found nothing but leaves in its inside, which were apparently the food on which it lives. Our young doctor was anxious to secure its skin; and the blacks wished to have its flesh for eating, but to this even Jack demurred.
"No, no!" exclaimed Jack. "I would as lief almost eat one of your people."
This made Timbo very indignant.
"Dis beast no man," he exclaimed; "no mind, no soul. Why not eat him? Chickango say he bery good food."
It was finally agreed that Chickango should cook it outside the Castle, if he wished it, and that he and Timbo should be welcome to feast off it. Senhor Silva and David's curiosity prompted them to taste some of the animal, which they declared to be very delicate, and not unlike venison. They, however, were very unwilling that Kate and Bella should hear of it.
"You know we eat small monkeys without scruple, and I cannot therefore see why we should not eat the flesh of a big one; in reality, I suspect it is the best of the two," observed the young doctor.
Our amusement for some time every evening was endeavouring to civilise our young prisoner, the little nshiego. Leo at once called him Chico, because Chickango had caught him, and chico in Spanish means "little."
The mother's skin had been drying on some trees outside the Castle. No sooner was it brought in than the creature recognised it, and, running towards it, placed its hands on the head, and finding that it did not move, broke out into a plaintive cry which sounded like "Ooye! ooye! ooye!" and then it looked up in our faces as if seeking for commiseration. At length it ran up to the doctor, and appeared to appeal to him to restore its mother. Jack, who stood by, watched it with an eye of pity. The little creature seemed to understand his feelings; and at length the sailor took it in his arms and caressed it, while Timbo carried off the skin and hid it in his hut. Chico after this always seemed to consider Jack his particular friend. In a few days it became perfectly tame, and showed no inclination to run away. I shall have more to say about Chico by-and-by.
The canoe was progressing. The boys had cut their spars in a very creditable way, and now commenced chopping out boards of sufficient width for the paddles. They had, however, ample time for exploring the neighbourhood. The morning after the capture of Chico they had gone out at an early hour, when, just as we were beginning breakfast, we heard their shouts proceeding from the higher ground up the stream. We ran out, thinking something was the matter.
"We have seen two huge baboons," exclaimed Leo. "If we had had a gun, we should have killed one of them, at all events."
David and I accompanied the boys along the banks of the river for some distance, when they said we must be near the spot; and directly afterwards we saw two creatures, one seated on a fallen trunk on the top of the cliff, gazing out over the stream. I examined them with my glass, which I then handed to David.
"Those are baboons," he said. "Their faces more resemble those of dogs than of monkeys; and hideous-looking monsters they are. It was fortunate you boys did not encounter them. You must take care and not go unarmed so far from our Castle."
"I should say they were nearly as large as gorillas."
"Now the sun is shining on them, I can see their huge black faces. That big fellow on the trunk has a hide of reddish brown colour, though his head is shaded with light red, and his limbs are of a fawn colour. He is, I suspect, the Gynocephalus anerbis. See! he is sitting down, scowling round him maliciously, as if in search of an enemy, or meditating on his own bad deeds. They always move over the ground on all fours, and often descend in numbers on a plantation, and carry off all the fruits they can lay hands on. We must take care to keep them at a distance, for from what I have heard they are as daring as the gorilla, and, though not so powerful, more mischievous."
"Let us see if we cannot frighten them," said Leo; and before we could stop him, he rushed out, clapping his hands and shrieking loudly.
The baboons gazed at us with looks of astonishment, when several others, scrambling out from the neighbouring rocks, assembled in a body. They seemed to be consulting together whether they should advance, when Leo and Natty again shouted. This seemed to decide them; and they began, instead of running away, to approach us in a menacing attitude. I now saw it was time to fire. I took aim, and hit the leader. He stopped for an instant, and, giving forth a loud cry between a bark and a roar, turned round, and with his companions made off into the rugged country up the river. I must say I was very glad thus to be rid of them; for although I had often seen baboons in captivity, when I thought them disgusting-looking creatures, in their wild state as they had just exhibited themselves they looked ferocious and terrible in the extreme.
David told us they often go hunting in packs like wolves, and on those occasions do not hesitate to attack the largest wild animals. Sometimes they will assault even elephants, while they without hesitation encounter the leopard and hyena. The leopard, however, retaliates, and when he finds one alone springs on it, and seldom fails to come off the victor.
The mandrills are another species of baboon who inhabit this region. They are remarkable for the brilliancy and variety of their colour. Often their cheeks are striped with violet, scarlet, blue, and purple, which looks not unlike artificial tattooing; the nose is blood-red; the loins, which are almost bare, are of a violet-blue colour, gradually verging into a bright blood-red; the tail is short, and carried erect. Though very fierce in their wild state, they are more easily tamed than the other baboons. I had seen one in a London menagerie, who went by the name of Jelly, and who really knew how to behave himself, as he could sit upon a chair, and drink out of a pewter can, and smoke a pipe as if he enjoyed it.
Every day we met with various small monkeys in whole troops, skipping about the trees, and looking down upon us wherever we went. Kate was much alarmed when she heard of the boys' encounter with the baboons, and entreated them in future not to go from the Castle without a third person well-armed.
"But," said Leo, "give me a gun or Stanley's pistols, and I will fight as well as anybody."
"And I will back him up," said Natty.
"Yes; but Leo might miss the wild beast, and you might hit Leo, and so I am afraid you would have a very unsatisfactory account to give of yourself when you got home," said Stanley.
"By which observation, Captain Hyslop, I conclude you are descended from an Irishman," observed Senhor Silva; "for if Natty was to kill Leo, and a wild beast was to carry off Natty, I do not see how they could come and give an account of themselves."
"Had poor Terence O'Brien uttered the expression, I should not have been surprised," said Kate, laughing at her brother. "But I hope such a dreadful event will not occur, and that Leo and Natty will be content not to make use of firearms till they are a little more accustomed to them."
"There I have you, sister," said Stanley. "How are they to be accustomed to them unless they use them? Well, as we are brother and sister, it is not surprising that you should make such a remark; and I believe our dear mother comes from Ireland, which I suppose will fully account for the same. However, in my opinion, the sooner the boys learn to use firearms, under the circumstances in which we are placed, the better. It is very important that boys should learn to swim, ride, and row, if they are to go out into the world. I must give them regular shooting lessons. They will then be able to use their guns to advantage when called upon to do so."
As soon as breakfast was over we hurried down to the canoe. The outside was now completed, and there was ample work for all hands in cutting out the inside. We commenced with axes, clearing away as much of the wood as we could. When this was done, we lighted a fire. We had some pieces of bar iron: these were made red hot, and we were thus able to smooth away the parts the axe could not so well reach.
WE MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF OUR NEIGHBOURS.
We were working away at the canoe: the boys keeping the fire up; the rest of us heating the irons and burning out the inside; Jack amusing himself and us by singing a sea-song to the tune of "Come, cheer up, my lads;" while Chickango was indulging himself in shouting a native ditty of which we could neither make out the words nor very clearly the tune,—it had reference, I fancy, to our canoe-building, to which he was wishing all manner of success. Suddenly a loud, trumpeting sound saluted our ears; and looking round to ascertain whence it came, we saw far away in the forest a huge elephant, which we naturally concluded had been attracted by our voices. He stood whisking his ears and holding his trunk out in a somewhat threatening manner. Our guns stood against the trees at some little distance. Chickango gave a warning shout.
"Hide behind the trees, or climb up the nearest you can reach," said Senhor Silva.
Stanley seemed in no way disposed to follow this advice, but rushed to his gun.
"Come, boys! come with me," cried Jack, "and we will be up a tree."
Timbo followed Jack and the two boys. Jack sprang up to a low bough of a tree, and then, stooping down, with Timbo's aid helped up the boys. David had some time before this gone back to the Castle to remain with his sisters. Senhor Silva also seized his gun, and ran off to a distance. Chickango rushed behind a stout tree; whilst I, seizing my weapon, stood by Stanley's side. Just then I recollected that it was only loaded with small shot, which, of course, would not have been of the slightest avail against the monstrous animal. Again the elephant sent forth a loud trumpeting, and rushed towards us. Stanley took aim and fired, but whether the animal was struck or not we could not tell: at all events, it came rushing on furiously towards us.
"Fly behind a tree!" cried my cousin, suiting the action to the word; but the elephant had his eye fixed on me, and scarcely had I reached the trunk of the one I had selected when he was close to me on the other side. Confused by the fearful noise he made, I knew not which way to turn. He seemed in no way disposed to quit me. He kept dodging round and round the tree. "Run to the next tree!" I heard Stanley cry out. "You may get up it and escape him!" Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that the boughs were low down, and being a good climber, I had fair hopes of success. It seemed my only prospect of escaping a fearful death. I watched my opportunity, and when the elephant was on the other side of the big tree, I ran to the next, and springing to a bough, caught it, and soon swung myself up to the next. He caught sight of me, however, shrieking and trumpeting with rage. Even now I did not feel that I was out of his reach. I had just time to scramble up to the boughs above my head, when he was close under the tree. As I did so my cap fell off. I knew that the animal could reach to a great height with his trunk, and did not feel secure till I had clambered up to one still higher. I was then able to look down on my assailant, when I saw that he had seized my cap as it fell; and that probably saved my leg being seized by his trunk, for he could without difficulty have reached it. I could only hope that my cousin would in the meantime be able to reload and kill the creature.
I looked round, but could not see him. Presently I observed two young elephants coming out of the bush, when the old one, giving a glance up at me to see that I was safe, ran towards them and began fondling them with his trunk; the infant monsters (for they were as big as cart horses) returning his caresses with their own proboscises. What had become of my friends I could not tell. Every instant I expected to hear the sound of Stanley's rifle, but it was silent. I now began to fear that some accident had happened to him, for I was very sure that he would not have deserted me. Jack and the boys were, I hoped, safe; and I knew that the blacks could very well take care of themselves. At all events, I thought, Senhor Silva will return—though, to be sure, he is no sportsman, and may not wish to encounter the elephant. By degrees the elephant's anger seemed to abate, and he stood whisking his tail and flapping his ears, playing with his young charges. Still I knew very well that should I venture down, his anger would revive, and he would rush at me as before. I determined, therefore, to wait patiently till my friends could come to my rescue.
As I was looking round, trying to discover where Jack and the boys had got to, I saw the head of a negro moving among the brushwood. I thought it must be that of Chickango; but presently I caught sight of another and then another creeping along like serpents, now moving slowly, now more rapidly. I concluded that their leader had his eye on the elephant, as whenever he stopped they stopped, so that they could scarcely be distinguished on the ground. Each man carried a large spear in his hand. They increased in numbers, approaching from all quarters. It was evident that they had tracked the elephant, and at length closed in on him. They were fierce-looking warriors, and I could only hope that they might prove friendly, as from their numbers they would have been awkward people to deal with as enemies. I expected every moment that the elephant would discover them, for I thought, by the way he stopped and looked about, that he was aware that danger was near. The hunters, however, remained perfectly still, and I could scarcely have believed that some fifty or more human beings were close to me, ready in an instant to spring up into active exertion. I anxiously watched their proceedings, keeping my eye on the man I supposed to be their leader. Once more I saw him stealthily moving on; then suddenly springing up from behind a tree, he darted his spear with tremendous force right into the elephant's neck, and before the creature could look round, had again disappeared behind the tree. The young elephants had caught sight of their assailants, but instead of flying, rushed up again to their guardian, one of them intertwining its trunk round his neck. And now from every side the hunters started up. Spear after spear was darted into the elephant's back, till it literally bristled with shafts. Whenever the creature turned round, he was met by new assailants, while the young ones were meantime untouched. The hunters probably knew that they would fall easy victims when their guardian was killed. The poor creature turned round and round, apparently to defend its young charges from the spears of its assailants. Its life-blood was now flowing fast. When the blacks observed this, they continued to plunge more and more weapons into his body. The young ones turned round, and, I thought, cast reproachful, if not angry, glances at the assailants of their guardian. Fresh hunters kept coming up, and discharging their weapons, again retreated under shelter. At length the poor elephant could no longer move. Its huge head and trunk fell slowly down, then sinking on his knees, fell gradually over on one side. The poor young elephants were quickly despatched; and the hunters came rushing up, shouting and singing over their prizes. The chief then stuck a club into the ground, with a hideous-looking figure carved on the top of it. On this they all joined hands and began dancing and shouting more furiously than before, going round and round their prey. The chief and others then brought pieces of the meat, which they placed before the idol. This I now knew to be a fetish, as all idols as well as charms are called throughout Negro-land. I was afraid every instant that I should be seen. Hitherto there had been little risk of that, as they were all so eagerly engaged in their assault on the elephant. I supposed that my friends must have seen the hunters; at all events their loud shouts would now make their presence known.
Presently one of the hunters looking up caught sight of me in the tree. I thought he would have fallen back with astonishment. The spear he was holding in his hand dropped to the ground, his hand sank by his side, and he kept gazing up, rolling the large white balls of his eyes round and round as if he was going off in a fit. His exclamation drew the attention of his companions to me. Many of them seemed as much astonished, exhibiting their surprise in various grotesque ways. What they took me for I could not tell; probably some strange animal or a spirit of the woods. The latter was, I believe, the case. I made signs to them that I wished to be their friend, putting my hand out as if to shake theirs, and then began slowly to descend the tree. Still they did not seem to have made up their minds whether they would wish for a nearer acquaintance. I tried to explain to them, however, that I had got up the tree to avoid the elephant, and as they had killed it, for which I was much obliged to them, I could now come down without fear. Whether they understood my signs I could not tell, but by degrees I saw that their fears were somewhat quelled. Stopping at each branch to make signs, I at length reached the lowest, when once more stretching out my hand I dropped to the ground, and, in as composed a way as I could, walked into their midst. They possibly had never seen a white man before, and looked at me with as much astonishment as an European who had never heard of the existence of negroes would have looked at them. They now crowded round me, and began to examine my dress. Some put their hands on my face and rubbed it, as if expecting the white colour to come off. Others examined my hands, while one fierce-looking fellow poked his fingers through my hair.
Familiarity, it is said, breeds contempt; and when I found that they were making these advances, I feared that, instead of looking upon me as some superior being as they at first did they might at length ill-treat me. One of them found my cap, which the elephant had thrown to the ground. After examining it and putting it on my head, he instantly pulled it off again and clapped it on his own woolly pate. The chief hunter next seemed disposed to take possession of my jacket. I knew it would not do to show any signs of fear, so rushing at the man who had taken my cap, I seized it from his head and held it tightly in one hand, while I resisted the efforts of the chief to draw off my coat. Having satisfied their curiosity for the present, they at length left me alone, and returned to the carcases of the elephants.
Their first care was to cut off the tusks of the old elephant which were of great size. This done, they gave vent to their exultation in loud shouts, and then set to work to cut up the flesh. They seemed to prefer the young ones, the flesh of which was divided among the whole party. They next assailed the larger beast, when each man was loaded with as much as he could carry. This work occupied some time.
Considering that it would be wise to take my departure, I was on the point of doing so, when several of the blacks seized me by the arms, and making me understand that I was to accompany them, pointed to a huge piece of elephant flesh, which they signified it would be my duty to carry. This was more than I had bargained for, and I positively refused to go with them. They now began to move off, and two or three attempted to drag me along. I shouted at the top of my voice, resisting with all my power, "Help!—help!—Jack!—Timbo!—Chickango!" I had got some way, and was afraid I should be carried off as a captive, when I heard a shout at a little distance, and presently saw Timbo and Chickango running towards us. They were followed by Jack, Stanley, and David, the two boys bringing up the rear. The hunters, when they saw my friends advancing, faced about, looking at them with glances of astonishment. I heard them all talking together, seemingly asking each other who these strangers could be. They had recovered their spears, which, still red with the blood of the elephants, they held in their hands, ready to dart at Timbo and Chickango. Seeing this, my friends halted, and placing their muskets on the ground, held up their hands as a sign of peace, addressing their countrymen, who quickly replied, turning their glances every now and then at me. Again Timbo spoke to them, and this time with greater effect than at first. The expressions of anger and fear which I had observed in their countenances gradually wore off, and they looked with a more kindly expression towards me. Presently they turned the points of their spears to the ground, when my two friends advancing, took the chief by the hand, and immediately those who held me brought me to the front. Chickango, who had taken up the thread of the discourse, went on speaking very vehemently, and advancing, led me out of the throng. Timbo immediately seized my hand. "Go away—quick now, Massa Andrew. Perhaps dey change deir mind. See! here come de captain and Senhor Silva, and de t'ree young gentlemen. Dese niggers t'ink you white spirit, and no dare hurt you."
By this time the rest of our party had come up, and great was the surprise of the hunters when Senhor Silva addressed them in a language they could understand. I do not know exactly what account he gave of us, but the result was that we were all in a short time shaking hands, and apparently the best of friends. They even begged that we would accept of some of the flesh of the elephants they had killed—to be sure it was part of what they themselves could not carry off. Our new friends now invited us to visit them at their village, which was situated on the summit of a hill about four or five miles off, but so surrounded by woods that we had not seen it.
From their wild looks and manners, we were not sorry when at length they took their departure. Timbo called them Bakeles, and gave no very flattering description of them. We were thankful that they had not caught sight of our canoe. They might prove friendly, but should they, as was possible, attempt to molest us, it might be advisable to leave their neighbourhood, when we should certainly have a better chance of escaping by water than by land.
"Then we had better have another craft built without delay," observed Jack, who heard Stanley make a remark to this effect. "And now that we know how to set about it, we should get another built much quicker than the last."
On reaching the Castle we found the young ladies greatly alarmed at our absence. Senhor Silva, it appeared, had rushed back and called out David, telling him to come without delay to our assistance. Some of us were up trees, besieged by an elephant, and he could not tell what had become of the captain and the rest of us. Stanley had, it appeared, lost his bag of bullets, and had made off to where we were working at the canoe to find them. This had prevented him from firing at the elephant; and not being able to find his ammunition, he also had gone back to the Castle, from which he found David issuing with a rifle and some bullets. Soon afterwards they were met by Timbo and Chickango, who also had observed the approach of the hunters, and had advised them not to show themselves till the elephant was killed and they were in good humour after their victory. Jack and the boys had in the meantime remained up the tree, and, like me, had been watching all that was taking place. When they saw that I was made prisoner, they had slipped down, and, unperceived, had hastened to the Castle for assistance. Kate, on hearing the account given of the savages, strongly urged us to commence our journey without delay to the south.
"But you see, miss," observed Jack, "it will take us some time to build another boat, and it may be that we shall become good friends with these people before then. Timbo says that if we know how to manage them, we shall be able to get on very well, and maybe we shall do them a good turn, and they will help us."
Our first canoe was now completed, and we lost no time in commencing a second.
"It would be as well, I think," said Senhor Silva, "after we have cut down another tree, to take the bull by the horns, and visit these people at once. If we show confidence in them they are less likely to injure us, and, at all events, we can be on our guard against any treachery they may meditate. I know these native tribes well. If we show that we do not fear them and are prepared to resist aggression, they will seldom venture on an attack."
The knowledge that we had a number of natives in our neighbourhood, who might possibly be evil-affected, greatly changed the sense of security we had hitherto enjoyed. Although, as far as we were aware, they had not found out the Castle, they might do so at any moment, and come and attack us. We agreed, therefore, never to leave it in future without defenders. We accordingly formed ourselves into two parties. While one went out hunting, or exploring, or working at the canoe, the other was to remain in the fortress for its protection.
Stanley, who always considered it best to meet danger in the face, or, as our Portuguese friend had said, "to take the bull by the horns," was anxious forthwith to pay a visit to our neighbours. He begged Senhor Silva to accompany him, and chose myself and Chickango to be of the party; while David, Timbo, and Jack, with the two boys, were left to protect the young ladies. To increase the strength of our fort, we had driven stout poles all round it, and formed what Jack called ports along the walls, through which our muskets could be fired.
"Do not be afraid, Stanley," said Leo, as we were preparing to set off. "If the blacks come, we will render a good account of them. Natty and I can now fire a musket as well as any of you, and we have been teaching Kate and Bella. We will beat them off, depend on it."
"I do not think the blacks will come," said Natty; "but if they do, I think we ought to fight. There is no doubt about that."
Natty was always more quiet in his remarks than his friend, but I felt sure there was quite as much mettle in him. With our guns on our shoulders, our friends cheering us, we marched down the hill towards the negro village. Senhor Silva had brought a couple of swords, one of which he wore, and the other Stanley had girded to his side, while Chickango and I carried spears. Stanley had in addition his pistols stuck in his belt. Altogether we presented a tolerably warlike appearance, sufficient, we hoped, to make the savages treat us with respect. After proceeding for some distance we found a native path, which, Chickango said, led to the village. He and I by this time were able to converse pretty well, I having learned some of his language, and he having picked up a good many words of English. We did not always, to be sure, understand what each other said, but we made out our meaning by signs when words failed us. An open space at the foot of the hill, where plantains were growing, showed us that we were near the village, though it was so completely concealed by trees that not till we were actually at the gates did we discover it. It consisted of a long street of huts, the doors facing each other, with the blank walls on the outside; very similar indeed to those we had constructed, though ours was on a much smaller scale. At each end were gates, which were now left open. Several men came rushing out, with their spears poised, as we approached, but on Chickango addressing them, they lowered their weapons, and gave us a friendly greeting. Their skins were somewhat lighter than the coast natives. They were a tolerably good-looking race for Africans. Their only dress was a piece of matting worn round the loins, and their ornaments, necklaces formed of the teeth of wild animals, and rings round their arms and legs. The women whom we saw had a number of these rings, while their hair was dressed in various ways with no little care. Nearly all the people had, slung over their shoulders, a grass-cloth bag or purse, very neatly made, in which they carried various articles. The chief had neat grass-cloth mats spread for us, and taking his seat on one, he begged us to sit down on the others. Senhor Silva then presented him with some tobacco, greatly to his delight, and be instantly produced some well-carved pipes, when, fire being brought, he commenced smoking with evident satisfaction. It is curious that savages in both the eastern and western hemispheres should so delight in the much-abused weed. As we sat smoking the calumet of peace—for such we hoped it would prove—the chief informed us that he had been residing at that spot about a couple of years, but added: "I fear we shall soon have to move towards the coast, for already we hear that the fierce Pangwes are advancing in this direction; and unless you white men will help us, we cannot hope to oppose them." He described the Pangwes as a terrible people, and great warriors. "It is said that they eat up all the enemies they kill," he added, shuddering as he spoke. "Such may be our fate; for as they come not only in hundreds but in thousands, we cannot hope to withstand them."
Senhor Silva replied, that although we, as visitors to their country, could not interfere in their quarrels, yet we should be glad to negotiate with their enemies should they make their appearance.
The chief laughed at the notion. "You might as well attempt to turn the torrent of yonder river," he answered, "as to try and induce the savage Pangwes to turn aside from any undertaking on which they have resolved. There is only one thing they understand, and that is the argument which your muskets can hold. If you wish to aid us, you must come with them and plenty of ammunition, and you may then make the Pangwes turn aside to some other district."
I need not further describe our interview, but it ended in a most satisfactory manner, the Bakeles promising to be our friends, and to help us should we require their aid. Having concluded our visit, we took our leave, and commenced our return homewards. As we made our way through the forest we saw vast numbers of apes playing about the trees, and kept a bright look-out on either side lest we should come suddenly upon a lion or leopard—an animal still more to be dreaded, on account of the distance it can spring. We trusted to the guidance of Chickango, for alone I doubt whether we should have been able to find our way. As we were moving along, suddenly, from among the leaves of a palm, I caught sight of an odd-looking face peering out at us, and apparently examining us with much curiosity. The nose was white, and a thick fringe of white hair surrounded the cheeks. The face was black, and the body was of a dark colour, stunted hair covering the top of the head. I could not help bursting out into a fit of laughter at the odd look of the creature, for it reminded me of an old woman. It was unlike any ape I had before seen. Hearing the noise, it turned up its eyes with a look of astonishment, and then springing to the nearest branch, ran off, twirling its long tail, into the depths of the forest. As we agreed not to kill any animal uselessly, we let it go without firing a shot; for we were too far off from home to carry it with us. It would have been useless to collect objects of natural history, except very small ones, as we could not have conveyed them with us on the long journey we expected soon to make.
We were slowly making our way through the forest, keeping our guns ready to fire at a moment's notice, when, in the thick shade of some closely growing trees, we caught sight of another huge ape, with a young one by its side. At the first glance I fancied it was a gorilla, but the second showed me that it was a differently formed animal, and not nearly so large as that monster of the woods. The mother and infant were gambolling together; the young one tumbling head over heels, then leaping on its mother's shoulders, then rolling about the ground, while she turned it over and over, apparently to the little creature's great delight. We all stopped, and concealing ourselves behind some thick brushwood, watched the creatures.
"There you see a very curious animal," said Senhor Silva to me. "That is what you call in Europe a chimpanzee."
The old animal had an intensely black face, while that of its young one was yellow. It was between four and five feet in height. Suddenly it stood up on its legs and walked a few paces, stooping somewhat like an old man. The position it assumed enabled it to look at us, when, with a sudden cry, it seized its young one in its arms, and sprang up the nearest tree, exhibiting a wonderful agility. I should have had no heart to shoot the creature, and I was glad to see Stanley, though he instinctively lifted his piece to his shoulder, drop it again.
"No," he said; "we must let the mother and child live. David must go without the specimen. We could not carry even the skin home, and one young monkey as a pet is enough. So Master Chico shall have no rival."
We had not gone far when we met with two paths leading through the thickest part of the forest, both of which we concluded would conduct us homeward.
"If you and Chickango will take one, Senhor Silva and I will take the other," said Stanley. "We shall have better prospect of sport, and two guns are sufficient to contend with either lions or panthers."
We accordingly separated, I taking the path to the right.
When passing through an African forest, it is necessary for a man to keep his eyes about him in every direction. The path I was following led to an open space, which had been used as a plantation by the natives, I guessed, by finding a few plantains growing on it. Passing across it, we discovered another path, which led further into the forest. "Dis no man path," observed Chickango. "Elephant make it." I had no doubt he was right from the appearance of the opening, the boughs on either side being broken down, and the ground being trampled by the feet of large animals. Though I might have been somewhat proud of "bagging" an elephant, as Stanley would have called it, I had no great wish to encounter one. Still, as from the direction I judged the path to take, by observing the way the sun's rays penetrated the thick foliage, I thought it would lead us homeward, I did not like to turn back. We therefore proceeded along it. Elephants are tolerable road-makers, as wherever they can get through an army may follow.
We went on for about an hour, till we were in a denser forest than I had yet seen. Creepers innumerable hung down from the boughs, twisting round them, and forming a complete network in all directions; while huge fern-leaved plants covered the ground, waving gracefully above our heads. We were in a complete labyrinth of shrubs, plants, and creepers, out of which alone I could certainly never have extricated myself. "No fear, me find a way," said Chickango, "while sun up," and he pointed to a small opening above our heads, through which the sky could be seen. We went on a little way; but it appeared to me that we were getting more and more involved in the mazes of the forest. I looked at Chickango. He had always been faithful. I could not suppose that he now intended treachery; and yet could he have had any private communication with the natives we had been visiting, and agreed to deliver the white men dead or alive into their hands? I was following close behind him, for often there was not room for us to walk two abreast, I should say to creep rather, in and among the underwood. Suddenly he turned round and touched me on the arm, making a significant gesture to be silent. Then he crept slowly on, crouching down close to the ground. I followed his example as well as I could, though it was difficult to get on in that attitude. Presently he stopped, as did I, behind the crooked trunk of a half-dead tree, and listening, I heard a loud flapping noise as if some machinery were at work. Then rising a little from my cover, I observed a high brown back, looking like some vast mound among the foliage. It soon began to move, and the head and ears of an enormous elephant came into view. It appeared to me that the creature's eye was turned towards us. If so, I could not but expect that he would quickly come to ascertain who were the pigmy intruders into his domain. Chickango kept crouching down watching the creature. I fancied I heard a noise on my left side, and glancing in that direction, I saw another huge head with a trunk lifted above it. Had I been an experienced hunter, I might have known how to act. I was afraid of speaking and asking Chickango what he advised, lest the elephant might hear us. Even now I could not but suppose that we were perceived. Presently Chickango sprang to his feet and took aim at the creature's head. I expected to see it roll over, but some white splinters which flew from an intervening branch told me that the bullet had been turned aside, though I fancied even then it must have struck the animal. Instantly its trunk was lifted up, and, with a tremendous trumpeting which made the forest ring, and a loud tramping of his heavy feet, he dashed towards us. I felt that our lives depended upon the accuracy of my aim. It was my first shot at an elephant, and let any one fancy how the mighty animal must appear in a rage, and it may be supposed that my aim was not likely to be very steady. I fired when he was about a dozen paces off. A practised sportsman might have waited longer. If my bullet took effect it did not stop his charge, for on he came directly at us. Chickango sprang on one side. I attempted to follow his example by springing on the other. As I did so my gun caught in a creeper, which suddenly whisked it from my hand. I dared not stop to recover it. The creature's huge tusks were aimed at me, I thought, and I expected the next instant to be pierced through or crushed to death, or to find myself tossed high in air by his trunk; but, blind with rage, and somewhat puzzled by two enemies, he ran his trunk against the stump of the tree with such force as to pierce the rotten wood through and through. Over it came with a crash; but so firmly fixed, that for a moment he could not shake it off, while the dust from the rotten wood fell into his eyes. His companion, meantime, was trumpeting away furiously, and advancing towards us, but Chickango and I were concealed from him by the thick wood. Other trumpetings were heard at the same time, which showed us that he had other companions besides the one we had seen. I had not forgotten the way I had escaped the previous day, and glancing round, I saw a thick-stemmed tree directly behind me. I darted round it; while Chickango concealed himself behind another. Our assailant, meantime, disconcerted by the piece of the tree still clinging to his tusks, went crashing on through the underwood till he had got to a considerable distance from us. His nearest companion, fortunately a female, followed him. "Load, massa, load!" cried Chickango to me. Alas! I dared not move to recover my gun, and felt that my only chance of safety till I could do so and reload was to keep behind the tree. The male elephant, having cleared his tusks of the rotten wood, lifted up his trunk, and began trumpeting away as a signal of defiance, which was echoed by his other companions in the neighbourhood. Chickango advanced towards him cautiously as before. Once more he lifted his weapon and fired; but, to my horror, I saw the creature again dash forward. The black, though a bad shot, was active of foot, and sprang behind a tree. The other elephant now came rushing forward; while at the same moment I heard another trumpeting sound close behind me, and saw, to my dismay, the vast heads of numerous male elephants, their huge tusks and trunks towering above the underwood. The various movements I had made brought me back to the neighbourhood of the spot where the elephant had made his first charge, when I caught sight of my gun at a little distance. I dashed forward and seized it. The attempt was dangerous, for the elephants were coming towards me. In doing so I lost sight of Chickango; but I was sure from his previous conduct that he would not desert me. I again retreated towards the nearest large trunk I could see, though all the intervening space, it must be understood, was filled with fallen trees, and creepers, and saplings, intertwined as I have before described. To stay there, however, I saw would be more dangerous than to take to flight, as with so many assailants, sagacious and cunning in the extreme, I should at once have been surrounded; and as to climbing a tree, as I had before done, that was impossible, as no branches were within reach. I had no time either to reload my piece. I therefore ran, or rather I scrambled, among the boughs as fast as I could get along. Probably it was fortunate my gun was not loaded, as I could scarcely have prevented the lock catching in the creepers through which I made my way. For some seconds I thought the creatures were at fault, for I saw them standing still, looking about for me. It was sharp work. I did not profess to be an elephant hunter, but I could not help feeling that I was, at all events, now being hunted by the elephants. Still I persevered, but I dreaded every moment to find myself caught by a creeper, or my head in a noose, and then to see the monsters rush towards me.
The big elephant and his companion whom I had at first met with now again espied me, and, trumpeting and shrieking, came dashing through the woods towards me, tearing down the branches, and trampling the young saplings under foot. Once I stopped and began to load my gun, but again the elephants advanced, and I feared that I should not have time to do so before they were upon me. I continued to retreat in the same uncomfortable way as before, scrambling over the fallen trunks, and expecting to see every moment a huge boa, or some venomous snake, dart out from among them. I was thus scrambling on, endeavouring to increase my speed, when one of the dangers I dreaded occurred. I slipped, and my foot catching in a creeper, held me firmly, while I fell forward amid the tangled mass of creepers, out of which I could by no efforts release myself. I struggled in vain. The trumpetings and cries of the elephants sounded loudly in my ears. Just as I had given myself up for lost, a shot whistled over my head. The nearest animal staggered forward till he was within half-a-dozen paces of me. Another and another shot followed. One of them appeared to have been equally successful with the first, for another elephant, turning round as if to move off, sank hopelessly on the ground. Loud shouts followed, and presently I saw my cousin and Senhor Silva forcing their way through the forest, while Chickango darted out from behind a tree where he had taken post, and fired, just at the moment to save my life. The other elephants, frightened by the sound, lifted up their trunks and rushed back into the forest, the crashing sound of falling boughs and the loud tramp of their feet showing the direction they had taken.
Two male elephants with fine tusks, and a cow, were the result of our adventure. The tusks were too valuable to be left, so we immediately set to work to cut them from the heads of the animals.
"Pity Bakeles no know of dis," said Chickango. "Dey come and have great feast, and t'ank us."
Stanley and our Portuguese friend told me that they had been directed towards the spot on hearing our first shot, and that then the trumpeting of the elephants had reached their ears. This had made them hurry forward to our assistance. I was thankful that they had arrived thus opportunely, or I believe that my adventures in Africa would have been terminated. The weight of the tusks was considerable. We slung them, however, on two poles, and carried them between us, though darkness had set in before we reached the Castle, and we felt not a little anxious lest some lurking wild beast might spring out on us—an event very likely to happen in an African forest at night. We, however, reached home in safety, and gave an account of our adventures. Our visit to the Bakeles village excited great interest; but when I came to describe our adventure with the elephants, I saw Kate and Bella's colour go.
"Oh, Andrew!" exclaimed Kate, "how dreadful it would have been had the elephants reached you! How providential it was that Stanley and Senhor Silva arrived in time to save your life!"
David and his sister both expressed a wish to visit the Bakeles.
"I am not quite certain that that would be wise," observed Stanley. "At present they look upon us as a party of warriors who may be gone to-morrow; but if they see young people, they will think we have come to settle, and may perhaps be disposed to try and get rid of us."
Kate was very glad to hear that we had let the chimpanzee go.
"I wish, though, that you had brought the young one home; we could very well have taken care of it, and Chico would like to have a playmate," exclaimed Bella.
"Possibly Chico and Chim might have quarrelled instead of played together," observed Senhor Silva; "and I suspect you will find Chico sufficient to look after."
Senhor Silva, though accustomed to the climate, was not so strong as most of us, and the morning after our long expedition he was unable to rise from his couch. David said he had a bad attack of fever; and as the day wore on, he became delirious, and caused us great anxiety. He had endeared himself to us by his kind and unpresuming manners; besides which we knew that he would be very useful in enabling us to travel through the country—indeed, without his aid the difficulties of accomplishing the journey would be very great. Anxious as we were, we could not all of us remain at home. David therefore stayed behind with the two girls to attend on our sick friend, and Stanley begged me to accompany him on a shooting expedition with Chickango, while Jack, Timbo, and the two boys continued working on the second canoe. We were anxious to shoot some pigeons and small game for our larder; though I suspect Stanley would have been better pleased to come across some of the larger animals of the forest. We had bagged a good many birds, when a beautiful little gazelle came bounding across our path. It put me in mind of an Italian greyhound, only it had a longer neck and was somewhat larger. I was quite sorry when Chickango, firing, knocked it over. It was, however, a welcome addition to our game bag. He called it Ncheri. It was the most elegant little creature I met with in Africa among the numberless beautiful animals which abound in the regions we passed through.
We were at the time proceeding along the foot of a hill. Scarcely had he fired, when a loud trumpeting was heard, and directly afterwards we saw a negro rushing through the underwood, followed by a huge elephant. "Up! up the hill!" cried Chickango, suiting the action to the word. I followed, for as we were wishing to kill birds alone, my gun was loaded only with small shot. The elephant made towards us. The negro stranger came bounding on. Chickango and I had got some way up the hill, but Stanley, who stood his ground, was engaged in ramming home a bullet. The elephant had all the time been keeping one eye on the black and one on us. When I thought he was on the point of seizing my cousin, he suddenly turned on his first assailant. The black darted to a tree, when the elephant, seizing him with his trunk, threw him with tremendous force to the ground. This enabled Stanley to spring up after us; and the hill being very steep, with rolling stones, we hoped that we were there safe from the attacks of the now infuriated beast. It cast a glance at the unfortunate black, who was endeavouring to crawl away along the ground. Again the elephant was about to seize him with his trunk, and in an instant would have crushed him to death, when Stanley, raising his gun, fired, and struck the creature in the most vulnerable part—behind the ear. The ball must have entered the brain, for, sinking down instantly, it rolled over, and, we thought, must have killed the black by its weight. We hurried down, hoping that there might yet be time to save the poor fellow's life, regardless at the moment of our victory, which, with hunters in general, would have been a cause of triumph. As we got round, we found that the black had narrowly escaped being crushed to death; indeed, as it was, his legs appeared to lie almost under the monster's back. We drew him out, however, and to our satisfaction found that he was still breathing. Chickango said that he belonged to the Bakeles, and was probably a chief hunter among them. As, however, we were much nearer our own abode than their village, Stanley and I agreed to carry him with us, somewhat, I fancied, to Chickango's astonishment. "Oh! he black fellow, he die; what use carry?" he remarked. Of course we kept to our own opinion, hoping that with David's skill the poor man might recover. He was unable to speak, and was indeed apparently unconscious.
"Had my rifle been loaded with ball, I should have saved that poor fellow the last fearful crush; and in future we must not go without one or two of our fowling-pieces loaded with ball," observed Stanley, ramming down a bullet into his rifle.
Chickango and I did the same. We then constructed a rough litter, on which we placed the injured negro. We bore him along, my cousin and Chickango carrying the head and I the feet part of the litter. We found the weight considerable, especially over the rough ground we had to traverse, but the life of a fellow-creature depended upon our perseverance. Chickango carefully noted the spot where the elephant lay, that we might return as soon as possible for some of the meat and the tusks, which were very large. We reached the spot where our friends were cutting out the canoe just as they were about to leave it, and we were thankful to have their assistance in carrying the stranger. Kate got a great fright seeing us coming, thinking that one of our party had been killed. David instantly applied himself to examining the hurts of the negro. He found that his left arm had been broken, and the ribs on the same side severely crushed. "The injuries might be serious for a European," he observed; "but the blood of an African, unheated by the climate, escapes inflammation, and I have hopes that he may recover." Senhor Silva had recovered his senses, though still very weak, and when I went to see him, he expressed his gratitude for the attention with which David and the young ladies had treated him. Chickango was very eager to set out immediately, in order to bring in the elephant's tusks and some meat, but Stanley considered that it was too late in the day, and put off the expedition till the following morning.
We were somewhat later in starting than we had intended—Jack and Timbo accompanying Stanley, Chickango, and I. We carried baskets and ropes, to bring with us the ivory and a supply of meat. On reaching the spot, however, where the huge monster lay, we found that others had been before us. The tusks were gone, and a portion of the flesh. Innumerable birds of prey, also, were tearing away at it, or seated on the surrounding trees devouring the pieces they had carried off, while several hyenas, already gorged, crept sulkily away, doubting whether they should attack us or not. The spectacle was almost ghastly, and it showed how soon a mountain of flesh might disappear in that region. Chickango was greatly disappointed, as not a particle of flesh which he could touch remained, while, of course, we regretted the loss of the valuable tusks. On our way back, we caught sight of a number of beautiful little monkeys skipping about in the trees. Chickango called them oshingui. They were the smallest I ever saw. Below the trees where they had their abode ran a small stream; and Chickango told me they were very fond of water, and were never found at a distance from it. On the same trees, and playing with them, were numerous birds, called monkey-birds from their apparent attachment to those creatures. We saw another very beautiful little bird, with an extremely long flowing tail of pure milk-white. It had a crest on its head of a greenish black, and its breast was of the same colour, while lower down the feathers were of an ashy brown. Snow-white feathers on the back rose up, like those of the birds of paradise, to which it had a strong resemblance. Soon after this I saw some creatures on the ground, and catching hold of one of them, I found that it was an enormous ant of a greenish white colour, with a head of a reddish black. The fangs were so powerful that when I put my fingers to them, they literally tore a piece of flesh out.
"Why, these creatures would eat us all up, if we were to encounter them as we did those the other day," I remarked.
"No fear, massa," answered Timbo. "Dey no come in same way. Dey no go into house, no climb tree, and only just a few hundred or t'ousand march together."
It was satisfactory to hear this, for really I felt that should an army invade us, we might have more reason to dread them than the blacks themselves. I was not sorry to miss the elephant flesh, for I had not forgotten the tough morsels we had placed between our teeth when presented to us by the friendly blacks soon after we landed.
OUR ADVENTURES ON THE RIVER.
Our first canoe had been ready to launch for some days, and we were eager to try it. We had, however, to cut a road through the brushwood down to the river's bank before we could do so. This task accomplished, placing it on rollers, the boys assisting, we easily dragged it down to the water. "There, Master Leo, I told you she would not be lopsided," exclaimed Jack. "Not she; see! she sits on the water like a duck; and them paddles will send her pretty briskly through it, depend on that."
We all jumped in, and eagerly paddled about, well pleased with the success of our undertaking. Though capacious, however, it was evident that she would not carry the whole of our party and luggage, and I was glad therefore that our second canoe was nearly completed.
"We will have races!" cried Leo; "Natty shall steer one, and I the other. Won't it be fun!"
The boys, taking the paddles, showed by the way they handled them that they would soon be able to manage her. They wished, indeed, to start at once down the river, but as it was already getting late, we were compelled to return to the shore. We found a secure place where we could conceal the canoe under some bushes, and having done so, returned homewards. Senhor Silva was somewhat better, and the strange negro had sufficiently recovered to speak. He told Chickango that he belonged, as we supposed, to the village we had visited, that his name was Igubo, and that he had the reputation of being one of the best hunters of the tribe. "And so I am," he added; "but had it not been for my white friend there, I should have been slain at last by my huge enemy, of whose brothers I have killed so many." Though he could have had but a glance at Stanley he recognised him at once, and begged Chickango to thank him for saving his life.
The next day the boys were very eager to go out in the canoe. "No, no, young gentlemen, time enough by-and-by," said Jack. "You come and help Timbo and I to finish off the other, and we will get on with it while the Captain and Mr Crawford take a cruise."
"But, I say, we have not settled what they are to be called," exclaimed Leo, as we walked along.
"I have been thinking about that," said Natty. "What do you say to calling one the Panther, and the other the Leopard? They are proper names for this part of the world."
"And so would be the Crocodile and Hippopotamus," said Leo; "and as they are water animals, those names would be more suitable."
"But they are not pretty names," argued Natty. "Would not the Giraffe and Gazelle be better?"
"We ought to have got Kate and Bella down to name them," exclaimed Leo.
"Come, what do you say, Mr Crawford?" said Natty. "Do not you consider the Giraffe and Gazelle are two pretty names?"
"They are prettier than the others," I replied, "though they are not quite so appropriate perhaps; but as all sorts of names are given to vessels, I do not know why our canoes should not have the prettiest names we can find."
At last Leo came round to Natty's opinion, and it was agreed that our two canoes should be called after the names he proposed, the first launched being called the Giraffe. The boys, I saw, were very anxious to accompany us, but still they went away with a good grace with Jack and Timbo. We hoped to obtain a good supply of wild-fowl, and perhaps to shoot some larger game from the banks. Though I had my gun with me, I assisted Chickango in paddling the canoe, while Stanley sat with his gun ready to shoot whatever might appear. We had knocked over a good many wild-fowl, which made us wish that we had a dog with us to bring them out, as we had a good deal of trouble in rowing after them. At length Stanley shot a beautiful flamingo, which went away paddling down the stream at a great rate. We pursued. We were not far from the banks, when suddenly I felt so tremendous a shock, that I thought we must have run on a rock, and immediately afterwards a huge head appeared above the water and dashed towards us. The hippopotamus, for such it was, and a very large one, seized the boat by the gunwale, and threatened to overturn her. At the same moment several other monsters rose with their snouts above the water. I felt that we should have a poor chance of escaping if the canoe was upset, for I thought that the monsters would immediately make at us and tear us to pieces, or swallow us whole, for their mouths seemed large enough to take any one of us down at a gulp. I seized my gun, as did my cousin, who sprang to his feet, and levelled his piece at the monster's head. "Fire! massa, fire! or he upset boat and kill all we," cried Chickango, leaping up to the bow of the boat, and holding up his hands with a look of horror. I heard the wood crunching under the creature's teeth. Stanley, who never lost his presence of mind, balancing himself in the bow of the boat, took aim, and at the moment I expected to find the boat dragged under, and probably we ourselves attacked by the other monsters, he fired. The bullet struck the creature in its most vital part, near the ear, and penetrated the brain. It opened its huge jaws and sank back into the water, beneath which it disappeared, while its companions, alarmed by the report, swam off, leaving us unmolested.
There we were, floating calmly on the stream, and I could scarcely believe that an instant before we were engaged in a fearful encounter. The canoe, however, gave evidence of the power of the creature's teeth, for part of the gunwale, though it was of considerable thickness, was literally crunched up. Several holes were made in the bottom, through which the water was running. We soon had out our knives and set to work to plug the latter, which we quickly did, before much water had rushed in, and that was soon bailed out with our hats. Our canoe had received too much damage to allow us to continue our voyage, and we therefore paddled back, hoping that we might never again be engaged in a similar adventure.
"You see, young gentlemen, it's just as well you did not go in the canoe," observed Jack, when he saw what had happened. "Why, that creature would have bitten you in two if he had caught you in his jaws just as easily as you would crack a nut. It will take us a pretty time to repair this damage. However, it is as well matters are no worse. Take my advice, in future we will go cruising in company, and if a beast like that munches up one canoe, we shall at all events have the other to get home in."
As most of the next day was spent in repairing the canoe, we did not go off in her. The young ladies I found had become very anxious for a change. Bella complained much of not being allowed to run about outside the Castle by herself.
"Could not you find me some pretty animal to ride upon?" she said. "I have seen many passing along in the distance, and if you could catch a couple you could soon tame them, and then Kate and I could ride about with you wherever you go."
"What were the animals like?" asked Stanley.
"Something like horses, or perhaps large donkeys, but they galloped along so fast that I could not very well distinguish them," she answered.
"They must have been zebras or quaggas," said David; "though, if Bella has seen them, I do not know how we could have missed them."
"Because we have been up on the height and can look over the country, while you have been either busy inside or down in the valley," answered Bella. "Is not that a good reason?"
"I am afraid, however, that even if we were to catch a quagga for you, we should have a hard task to tame it," said David; "but we will try what we can do; perhaps, however, we shall find some other animal which will answer the purpose. What do you think of an ox? They are used more to the south, and make very good steeds, though a little difficult to guide perhaps."
"I will tell you what!" exclaimed Leo. "If the rest will not go to the south, what do you say to starting off with Natty and I, and we will have an independent expedition, and take Chico with us. Natty and I will paddle and you shall steer, and Chico can sit in the bows and keep a look-out ahead. What do you say to that, old fellow?"
The ape had at that moment entered the room, and walked up to Leo, whom he looked upon as his especial playmate, though he seemed to consider Jack his chief protector.
I was glad to find that Senhor Silva was improving. Our negro guest was also much better, and seemed anxious to return to his people. His wives and children would be looking for him, and he thought he could very well make his way through the forest to his home. David, however, persuaded him to stay a few days longer, till his arm and ribs were properly set.
Two weeks passed away without any unusual occurrence. The other canoe was now finished and ready for launching, but the heat of the weather prevented us from willingly making any exertion, and had it not been for the necessity of procuring food, on many days we should not have left the house. We discovered at a little distance the remains of a deserted village, and outside it grew a number of plantains, as well as pumpkins, and other fruit, which, although not so good as those carefully cultivated, were very valuable. We also found many wild fruits growing in the forest; pine-apples, especially, were very fine, and there were nuts of various sorts. Chickango discovered a quantity of ground or pea-nuts, which, though bitter, and somewhat unpalatable, were very nutritious, and he and Timbo ate them readily.
At length our guest was well enough to take his departure. His two countrymen accompanied him for some distance, and Senhor Silva had generously given him several articles which he valued highly—a few yards of cotton, a knife, and some tobacco were among them. He begged Timbo and Chickango to express his gratitude, and I really believe, from the expression of his countenance, that he felt it.
Two days after this, early in the morning, we were surprised to see him approaching the Castle. I went out to meet him. He took my hands, and looked into my face with an imploring glance, which showed that he was much distressed, and then accompanied me into the Castle. The moment he saw David he ran up to him, and then pointed in the direction of his own home. Then he ran to Leo and Natty, and stroked their heads, as if he was weeping over them. Timbo, who had been in the cook-house, now came out, and having exchanged a few words, Timbo said, "Igubo got home, found children bery ill; want doctor come cure them."
This was plain enough. "Tell him I will go gladly," said David; "but either you or Chickango must accompany me to interpret."
"I will bear you company also," I said. "I feel sure we can trust to him, but his people may not be so well disposed, and if we all three go armed we may make them respect us."
Directly breakfast was over we set out, greatly to Igubo's satisfaction. He hurried along, leading us through elephant tracks, till we reached a path formed by the natives which led to the village. Igubo conducted us immediately to his house, round which a number of people were collected, and inside was a man with his face painted and his hair dressed out with strange ornaments, performing all sorts of antics.