"Dat de fetish man," said Timbo. "He do no good. He t'ink he enchant de sick children. He one 'postor."
"Little doubt about that," I observed; "but we must take care not to offend him. But you tell them that white man's doctor has come, and that if he will go and carry on his incantations outside we will go inside and try ours, and there can be no doubt that the two working together will produce more effect than one alone."
"You no t'ink dat, Massa Andrew," said Timbo, looking up in my face. "No, I only tell dem he go out, we go in. White man know how to cure children better dan de black."
We found two fine boys about twelve and fourteen years old, both in a raging fever. David, I should have said, had come provided with a few medicines, which he thought most likely to be of use, and he now sent all the people out of the house except the mother of the boys and our friend. "Tell him," he said to Timbo, "that he must get me some pure water." This was easily procured from a stream which came rushing down the side of the mountain at no great distance. David gave each of the boys a cooling draught, and made their parents understand that they were to take no food except such as he ordered. He watched by the children till they at length fell into a profound sleep, charging Igubo not to allow anybody to enter the house. David then proposed that we should take a turn through the village, of which we had not seen much on our previous visit. I need not again describe the village. We had not got far when we met several slaves bringing us a number of fowls, some bunches of plantains, and baskets of cassava. These they placed at our feet with a message from the chief to say that we were welcome, for he had heard of our brave deeds. We of course received them, and they were carried to a sort of verandah in front of Igubo's house, while through Timbo we returned our thanks to the chief. He himself soon afterwards made his appearance, followed by several attendants. Unless by his anklets and necklace, and the rich tattooing on his breast, he was not to be distinguished from the rest of the people. His only clothing was a piece of fine matting, worn round the waist in the form of a kilt.
David was unwilling to leave the boys, and we therefore consented to remain till the following day. They were then somewhat better, but when we proposed going their father entreated that we would remain. David explained that he was wanted at home, that one of our party was sick, and that if Igubo would follow his directions the boys would probably recover.
"Dat's de bery t'ing dey will not do," said Timbo. "He say, if you go, de boys go too. We make carriage and take dem."
"The best thing, probably, that can be done," said David; and we accordingly agreed to let the boys be brought with us.
The litters were soon constructed, and were by David's advice covered over thickly with branches of trees, so as completely to shade them from the heat of the sun. Eight stout fellows undertook to carry them, and all things being ready, we bade farewell to the chief, who, however, seemed rather angry at our departure.
"He no good man," said Timbo, as we came away. "Better go dan stay. I find out he take elephant's tusks and de meat de oder day, but he no tell us, lest we ask to have dem again."
We considered it wise not to say anything about the elephant's tusks, and, glad to get out of the village, we proceeded homewards.
"Whom have you brought?" exclaimed Leo, when he saw us arrive.
When we told him, he and Natty expressed themselves well pleased at having some companions. "We will look after them," said Leo.
"And I will teach them to read," exclaimed Natty. "I hope they will not want to be going away, though. We must nurse them in the meantime, and try and get them well."
"Poor little fellows," said the ever kind Kate, when she saw them. "We will do all we can for them, though they look very ill."
The eyes and cheeks of the young negroes were sadly sunk, for fever makes the same ravages in their frames as it does in those of white people. The father, though he saw his boys in safe keeping, still seemed unwilling to leave them. He had done what was quite contrary to the customs of his people, and he told Timbo he was afraid, if he was long absent, that the rest of his family might be ill-treated. He accordingly, after looking affectionately at them, and expressing his thanks to us all, but to David especially, took his departure. I should have said that we brought away the presents made to us, which proved a welcome addition to our bill of fare.
A FLIGHT FOR LIFE.
"When are we to see the Giraffe and Gazelle launched, and to have our promised excursion on the river?" asked Kate, the evening after Igubo had left us.
"Oh do, Stanley!" cried Bella. "It is cruel to keep us so long shut up like captive princesses in your Castle, and as the natives are friendly and you can avoid the hippopotami, there can be no danger."
"The Gazelle is not yet launched," answered Stanley; "but as soon as she is in the water you can come and see her."
"Oh, but we should like to see her at once, and help you to launch her," said Kate. "If you will start to-morrow morning as soon as it is daylight and the air is still cool, we will accompany you."
The young ladies gained their object, and we were all on foot even before the sun had risen, ready to set out. They would not wait for breakfast, but insisted on carrying provisions and a kettle to boil our tea. David wished to remain to look after his patients, and Senhor Silva was not yet sufficiently strong to bear us company.
"Remember we are to paddle your canoe, girls," cried Leo; "and Andrew will steer for us; and if Timbo will come with a musket or spear, to do battle with any hippopotami or other river monsters, we will allow him to go also."
As we had the rollers with which we had launched the other canoe, and the road had already been cut, the labour of dragging the Gazelle to the water was much less than it had been in the former case. We all cheered as she was launched into the water.
"May you bound over the waters of the river as your namesake does over the prairie," exclaimed Bella; "and carry us safely to the south, there to end your existence in a respected old age!"
"Bravo, Bella!" cried Leo, clapping his hands. "You have uttered my speech to perfection, and now you shall have the pleasure of the first paddle our new craft has made. Come, Andrew, come, Timbo, we will lose no time; we can get back for breakfast."
The Gazelle floated even more gracefully than her sister canoe. The boys jumped in with their paddles, and Timbo and I holding her to the bank while the ladies stepped in, we followed them, the black taking his place in the bow with another paddle, and I sitting in the stern and steering with a fourth. Chickango and Jack were in the other canoe, and were soon after us.
"Come, let us have a race; we will beat you!" cried Leo, flourishing his paddle; and Natty seconded him, though he saw very well that Timbo and I were really doing most of the work.
We pulled rapidly down the stream, startling numerous birds, some with beautiful plumage, greatly to the delight of Bella. We had not gone far, when a huge head appeared near the bank.
"Oh, what a monster!" exclaimed Bella, shrieking with alarm. "That must be one of those dreadful river-horses which so nearly ate you all up the other day."
"Oh no; he only nearly bit the boat in two," said Natty; "and we will not let him come near you now."
"We will keep out of his way, at all events," I observed, turning the canoe round.
Stanley just then fired at a water-fowl, and immediately several dark heads rose above the water to see what was the matter, and a huge monster, not hitherto perceived, came rolling off the bank; but he, as well as his companions, quickly disappeared beneath the surface. Remembering what had before occurred, I could not help dreading that one of them might rise up and strike the bottom of our canoe.
"Don't you think we had better go on shore?" said Bella, looking back on the spot where the river-horses had appeared. "Kate, you will want to be there some time before Stanley, to get the breakfast ready."
Little Bella's courage had evidently oozed away. However, as I knew it was possible that one of the hippopotami might strike us, we paddled up the stream as fast as we could go. Soon afterwards I caught sight of another creature resting on a sandbank, with a hideous long snout and a scaly tail and short thick legs. It was a monstrous crocodile.
"Oh do, Andrew, make haste and get on shore!" exclaimed Bella. "What a horrible creature! I did not expect to meet with such monsters."
I tried to comfort her by assuring her that the crocodile would not attack us, and would more likely swim away than follow us. On landing, we hauled up the canoe, and then commenced collecting sticks for a fire. Kate's kettle was soon hissing merrily, suspended by a high tripod over the fire, and by the time the provisions were spread, Stanley and his companions had arrived. While we were so engaged, we saw, approaching among the trees, a black man, with a shield on one arm and a spear held in the other hand. His arms and part of his body were tattooed in curious lines. Round his neck he wore a necklace of alligator's teeth, while his hair was so dressed as to form a long tail behind, and his beard was twisted into two curious horns, which stuck out from his chin. Round his loins was the skin of a wild beast, and at his side a broad short sword in a sheath; a sort of cross-bow hung at his back, with a quiver full of small arrows. Altogether, with the shield and spear I have mentioned, he looked a formidable warrior to those who were not possessed of firearms. The shield, though capable of turning the darts and spears of his equally savage foes, would have availed him little against a modern rifle ball.
Bella eyed the warrior with a glance of terror.
"Do not be afraid," said Natty, placing himself before her. "Leo and I will fight for you."
"Yes, even though there were an hundred such fellows," said Leo. "He looks very different from our friend Igubo. I wonder what he has come for."
Chickango advancing, a conversation ensued which lasted some minutes. The countenance of the warrior fell. We saw him glancing now over one shoulder, now over the other. Then suddenly he turned, and without uttering another word, ran off as fast as his legs could carry him through the forest. Chickango, who had his rifle in his hand, raised it. Stanley shouted to him not to fire, and while he hesitated, the stranger had darted behind the trees. The black returned, uttering words which, though incomprehensible to us, showed that he was very angry. At length, when somewhat calmed, Timbo, who had been unable himself to understand what was said, learned from him that the stranger was one of a band of Pangwes who were advancing towards the territory of the Bakeles. He had come, apparently unaware that there were inhabitants so near. He had first begun to threaten us with the vengeance of his people should we oppose their progress; but on Chickango telling him that a large number of Bakeles were in the neighbourhood, and that, should his people venture to come that way, they would speedily be driven back and destroyed, he had become alarmed, and so, in spite of his boasting, afraid of being captured, had taken to flight. Still the account which Chickango gave of these Pangwes made us very anxious. The people of his tribe, he said, had for long been at war with them, and had frequently been defeated. They had come from a long way off in the interior, and year after year had been advancing towards the coast. They were not only fierce and cruel warriors, but cannibals, and capable of committing every atrocity.
"What do you think about it all?" said Stanley to Timbo, who had been interpreting Chickango's account.
"Dog dat bark not always bite, massa," answered the black. "Me t'ink dat dey see our rifles and run away."
"I am of Timbo's opinion," I could not help observing. "However, we must send and let our friends at the village know of the approach of their enemies; but unless we are attacked, we must on every account avoid fighting. The sooner we can embark and proceed on our voyage the better."
"I believe you are right, Andrew," observed Stanley; "but still I do not like the thought of running away; besides, we cannot leave those two black boys to the mercy of the savages, though if we carry them with us, their father will not know what has become of them."
"I tell you what I do, massa," answered Timbo; "I go and tell Igubo that he come and fetch dem, and den we send out scout to know what de Pangwes are doing."
Our further boating for the day was, of course, put an end to; and having concealed the canoes in the thick brushwood which grew down to the river's bank, we proceeded homewards, with the exception of Timbo, who hastened off to the Bakeles village.
Senhor Silva looked very grave when he heard what had occurred. "Those Pangwes are fierce fellows," he said, "from what I know of them; and though they may not venture to come within range of our firearms, yet they may surround us and starve us out. We shall act wisely if we at once prepare for our voyage, and commence it as soon as Timbo returns."
"But about these two boys, what shall we do with them?" asked David.
"I am afraid their fate must be a sad one," was the answer, "whether their father comes for them or not. If he takes them away, they will probably fall into the hands of their enemies; or if they are left here, they are too likely to perish from hunger."
"Oh, then let us take them with us," said Kate, and little Bella echoed her words. "Surely the canoes are large enough to carry them, and it would be terrible to leave them to die."
"They shall have part of my share of food," said Bella.
"And mine and mine," added Leo and Natty.
"I would rather leave Chico behind," said Leo, "though I am afraid those dreadful savages would eat him."
"Oh, we must carry him too," said Natty; "for I am sure when we stop at night he will be able to forage for himself; he will find out roots and fruit when very often we are not able to discover them."
We did not spend much more time in talking. It was arranged that we should start immediately on the return of Timbo. We therefore at once set to work to pack up our goods and to collect all the provisions we had in store to carry with us. As we could not tell into what regions the river might carry us it was important to kill some game and to collect as many plantains as we could carry off from the deserted village. Chickango and the two boys undertook to set off for the latter object, while Stanley and I went out with our guns into the woods. We were unusually successful, and in an hour had bagged as many pigeons and other birds as we could carry. We found, as we neared the Castle, Natty and Leo staggering on under a load of plantains.
"We shall have no fear of starving now, at all events!" cried Leo, "for Chickango has got as many more. As we came along, however, he started off to the top of the hill, where we understood him to say he could get a sight of the Bakeles village, and I suppose that he will be soon with us."
We were disappointed on our arrival at finding that Timbo had not returned.
"I am afraid that some accident has happened to the poor fellow," said Stanley; "or he may have been incautious, and fallen into the hands of the savages."
David and Jack had been so well employed, that, with the assistance of the young ladies, everything was prepared for a start.
"I wish that we could be off," said David; "but we must not leave our faithful Timbo behind."
"Well, if you will all go down to the boats, I will remain here and bring him up as soon as he comes," said Natty. "We shall thus gain time."
"No, no; I cannot let you do that," I said. "I will remain, and you must go."
Natty, however, positively refused, and Stanley had to exert his authority, as our leader, to make him accompany them. Very unwillingly, he at length consented to do so, provided I promised, should Timbo not appear in the course of an hour, to follow them. The matter was arranged, and our party were taking up the loads they proposed to carry, when Chickango made his appearance among us. His countenance expressed alarm, and he was too much agitated to explain himself. At length Senhor Silva understood him to say that, on looking towards the Bakeles village, he had seen smoke ascending—that it grew thicker and thicker, and then flames burst forth, and he was convinced the whole village was on fire.
"Depend upon it, the Pangwes have done this," he observed; "and, flushed with their victory, they will very soon march to attack us. We must either prepare ourselves to stand a siege, or lose no time in escaping."
"Then let us at once commence our march," said the captain; "but, Andrew, I do not like that you should run the risk of falling into the hands of these savages, which you will do if you remain behind."
"I know my way down to the river so well," I answered, "that I can easily join you should I see them approaching, and I will, meantime, keep a look-out from the height above the fort. Depend upon it, they have too much respect for our firearms to venture an attack, unless with their whole body. At all events, some time must elapse before they can be here. My only anxiety is about Timbo, should he have fallen into their hands."
"You will promise, Andrew, not to remain more than an hour?" said Kate, as she and Bella, each carrying a load proportionate to their strength, went out of the fort. "We shall be very anxious till you join us."
I watched the party as they descended the hill. I did not think the young ladies had much cause to regret leaving the place; but still they turned a glance behind them, as if they were quitting it with sorrow. Though difficulties and dangers might be before them, still I hoped that they were on their way to a more civilised and healthy climate. In the hurry of departure Chico had been forgotten, for he was quietly snoozing in his usual corner of Jack's hut. Leo and Natty had already left the fort, when they discovered that he was not with them. "Chico, Chico!" they both cried out, and hearing his name called, he ran out, and sprang up upon Jack's shoulder, who had already got as much as he could well carry. Nothing, however, would shake Master Chico off. I could not help thinking even at that moment of Sinbad the Sailor, and the Old Man of the Sea. "Well, I suppose if you will not walk, I must carry you," exclaimed Jack; and away he went after the rest, Chico glancing about him with a look of surprise at the sudden exodus of his friends.
As soon as they were gone, I closed the gates and climbed out of a window in the back of the fort. This I did, that should the Pangwes arrive, they might not discover the flight of our party, and might spend some time in making preparations for the attack. I then ascended the hill, with my telescope, which I had retained, but could see no one moving in any of the open places I could command. In the distance, however, I observed dense clouds of smoke and bright flames ascending above the forest, which I was sure must proceed from the village we had visited. What was the fate of the unfortunate inhabitants? I knew too well the way that negro warriors are accustomed to treat those they conquer, and I could not help picturing to myself the horrid spectacle of women and children murdered, and those who had escaped slaughter carried off to be sold as slaves to the cruel dealers in human flesh, and, more than that, in the hearts and souls of their fellow-creatures. I looked at my watch. I calculated how long it would take my friends to reach the canoes. I was thankful when I felt sure they must have had time to get on board, and thus to be in comparative safety. Time went slowly on. I kept looking at my watch, but still Timbo did not appear. The hour had nearly passed.
At length, with great regret. I descended the rock, and took my way towards the river. I had just passed the Castle, when I caught sight of two figures moving towards me among the trees below. They might be scouts of the enemy. I hesitated what to do. Concealing myself behind some brushwood, I lifted my glass to examine them. Great was my satisfaction when I saw that one of them was Timbo; the other was a negro whom he was assisting along, and who appeared to be wounded. I hurried down to meet them. Timbo, when he saw me, made a sign to me not to shout, pointing behind him to make me understand that he was pursued. As I approached, I saw the negro was Igubo. He recognised me, and it seemed to revive his strength. Without stopping to inquire what had occurred, I took his arm, and assisted Timbo in hurrying him on towards the river's bank. When he found this, he made a significant gesture towards the Castle. "He ask for his sons," whispered Timbo. "Tell him they are both safe, I hope, in the canoes." A gleam of satisfaction passed over the countenance of the wounded man, and he made fresh efforts to struggle on.
We had great reason to hurry, for ever and anon I could hear the shouts of the savages in the woods behind us, though still they appeared to be at some distance. Blood was flowing from Igubo's side. I fortunately had a handkerchief, and in spite of the necessity for haste, I insisted on stopping to bind up the wound. I was afraid that otherwise he would bleed to death. We gained by it, indeed, for he was afterwards able to move more rapidly, and the flow of blood appeared almost staunched. As we approached the river I caught sight of two figures among the bushes and tall reeds which lined the bank. Could our enemies have got ahead of us? Presently we saw one of the figures dart out from their concealment, and then, to my satisfaction, I recognised Leo. He and Natty soon came running towards us. They had been on the watch, it appeared, having grown anxious at my non-appearance. The rest of the party were seated in the canoes. We assisted the wounded man into the one in which David was, with the two young ladies and Jack. A place had been left for me there also. Igubo, not seeing his boys in it, uttered an expression of disappointment. We lifted him up, however, and showed that they were in the other canoe. When satisfied, he submitted to have his wounds more completely and scientifically bound up than I had been able to do. Meantime Jack had taken the steering-oar, while Timbo and I seized the paddles. A few hurried words from Timbo explained to Stanley what had happened, and without further delay we shoved off from the bank, and began to make the best of our way down the stream. Natty had come into my canoe, while Stanley called Leo into his. Mine was the Gazelle. It was the best of the two, the other having been injured by the hippopotamus. Stanley had placed his sisters in it, trusting rather to Jack's seamanship than to his own. His canoe being the lightest, he took the lead, that he might give timely notice to us should any sandbanks be encountered in our course, and, what were perhaps more to be dreaded, any wild rapids, down which it might be dangerous to proceed. Chico had seated himself in the bow of the canoe, as if he had been placed there to keep a look-out. Natty had taken a paddle, and Kate begged that she might use another till her brother had finished attending to poor Igubo's wounds.
Not till we had got a little way down could I ask Timbo what had occurred. "Oh, Massa Andrew," he answered, "me no like talk about it. De Pangwes come, and stay hid in de night close to de village, and just before de sun get up,—de sun dat is so bright and good, make de trees grow, and cheer de heart of man,—dey steal out wid de sharp sword and de spear, and de moment de Bakeles open de gate, rush in and kill all de women, children, and old men; and some stay outside and kill dose dat run away, and catch de young men and knock dem down, and tie deir hands, and take away to de slave-dealers. Igubo jump over de wall, and kill two or t'ree who came after him; and dough dey stuck de spear in his side, he get away. As I got near de village I hear de cries, and know too well what dey mean; so I hide, for I fear if I run dey see me and follow; but when I found Igubo drop down just near where I was, I rushed out and lift him up and bring him along; and de Pangwes just den no see us, because some young men who had got swords and bows and arrows 'tack dem, and fight bravely; but dey all killed, and den de Pangwes set fire to de village, and you know de rest."
Timbo had scarcely finished his account when he shouted out, "See, see! Dere dey are! Dey come dis way!"
We had all been so busy in paddling the canoe and watching our leader that we had not looked either to the right hand or the left. Stanley, for the same reason, had not seen what was taking place on shore. We now saw a large body of black warriors shaking their spears, and beating them against their shields, as they rushed on towards the bank of the river. They had evidently the intention of stopping us.
"On, on!" cried Stanley. "Put your best strength into your strokes; the river is broader a little way down, and we may escape their arrows and spears if they attack us."
"Don't you think, sir, we had better get a broadside ready and give it them?" exclaimed Jack. "They are more likely to treat us with respect if we show that we are well-armed."
"I would advise you not to fire unless hard-pressed," said Senhor Silva. "We will show our muskets, but they are fierce warriors, and even should a few be killed, the rest would not be daunted, and would probably pursue us till a more narrow part of the river is reached, when they might overwhelm us with their spears and poisoned arrows."
"Let me now take the paddle, Kate," said David, who had placed Igubo at the bottom of the canoe, resting his head on a bundle. "My arm is stronger than yours, my sister, and in case the savages attack us, you and Bella must lie down at the bottom of the canoe."
The canoes glided rapidly down the stream, making the water hiss and bubble under their bows. Had we not had the two helpless girls to protect, the adventure would have been an exciting one, which few of us would have objected to go through. The Pangwes, shouting and shrieking, and shaking their spears and shields, had now reached the banks of the river. It seemed scarcely possible that we could escape them. Not, however, till David had again and again pressed them, would his sisters consent to place themselves in greater safety at the bottom of the canoe. The crew of Stanley's canoe plied their paddles vigorously, and kept just ahead of us. We needed no exhortation from him to follow their example.
We had now got almost abreast of where the savages were standing. Every instant I expected to see them draw their bows, with those deadly poisoned shafts; or hurl their spears, which I knew too well could reach to a great distance. I saw Timbo eyeing them very calmly.
"If we were to fire a broadside into them now, it would soon put them to flight," cried Jack.
We, however, kept on without apparently noticing them. As we approached, they increased their shouts. Some of their chiefs seemed to be going among them, urging them to rush into the stream. Happily the river was here much wider than above us, and continued so for some distance down. A sandbank appeared in the middle. We trusted that a channel might be found on the right side of it, away from where the savages stood. We now saw several men with swords in their hands, urged by their chiefs, rush into the stream.
"See, see!" cried Timbo; "what are those creatures on the sandbank?"
I looked ahead, and there observed eight or ten large alligators and several small ones basking on the sandbank. Our approach somewhat startled them; and off they slid into the water, swimming towards the bank where the Pangwes were collected. They apparently caught sight of them at the same time. One of the leading swimmers at that instant threw up his arms, and, uttering a shriek, was drawn down under the water. The others, seeing the fate of their companion, turned round, and, in spite of the shouts and exhortations of their chiefs, swam back to the shore. The alligators pursued them, and two others were carried down before they could reach the banks. So eager were the monsters that we saw their snouts rising above the water even at the very bank, when hundreds of spears were darted at them. Aimed in a hurry, the missiles probably glided off their scaly sides. We could not discover whether any were killed.
Now the Pangwes, finding that their attempt to cut us off had failed, began hurling their spears at us, and sending showers of light arrows, many of which fell fearfully close to the canoe. Some stuck in the sandbank, inside of which we were making our way. It showed us the danger of having to pass our enemies where the river became narrower. The only advantage we should there possess would be the greater rapidity of the current. We continued to ply our paddles with might and main. Now we had passed the sandbank, and a wide extent of water lay between us and the negro army. They, however, appeared to have discovered that should we get far ahead we might escape them altogether; and we saw a large body moving away to the southward. We could not help fearing that there might be some bend in the river, or narrow passage, where they might still hope to cut us off. Our utmost efforts must be exerted, therefore, to gain the place before they could reach it. There was still another danger. We might ground on one of the sandbanks, or some point might project from the western side and compel us to go round nearer to the eastern bank. I, of course, kept these thoughts to myself, and did my utmost to send the canoe along, and to keep up the spirits of my companions.
"If we get within reach of them," sung out Stanley from his canoe, as he saw them moving along the bank of the river, "we must instantly take to our arms and give them a volley. It will not do to let any of their arrows come near us."
"Ay, ay," I answered. "Our muskets are, I believe, all loaded."
"All right, sir," said Jack. "I loaded them before I placed them in the canoe, and I do not think those black fellows will stand a taste of our bullets."
Poor little Bella looked very much frightened when she heard us talk of firing.
"They will not fire unless there is absolute necessity for it," I heard Kate say to her. "You know, Bella, it will only be done if we have to defend ourselves."
The current was so strong and our canoes moved so swiftly that we were quickly leaving the main body of Pangwes. We heard their shouts of rage and disappointment as they saw us escaping them. Horrid as were those shrieks and cries, they of course only made us paddle the harder; but still I felt anxious lest the smaller body I have spoken of might outstrip us.
"Suppose the Pangwes try to cut us off at another place, could we not haul our canoes up and make our escape overland?" exclaimed Natty, showing that he had understood the reason of the movement we had observed.
"We might escape them, certainly, for the moment," I answered; "but we could not proceed on our journey without our canoes."
"But we might return and get them, or drag them overland," he observed.
"That would be a task, I fear, too great for our strength," I said. "But your suggestion, Natty, is worthy of consideration, if we are hard-pressed."
I told Stanley what Natty had said.
"I hope we shall not be obliged to do that," he answered. "Paddle away, lads; we shall soon, I hope, see the last of them."
On we went, the river now making its way through a thick forest, the trees coming down to the very water's edge; now again it opened, and low prairie land was seen on the eastern side. The level appearance of the country made me fear that the river might make some bend such as I supposed our enemies were attempting to reach. The banks were, however, too high to enable us to see to a distance. At any moment they might appear on the shore. At length the banks became somewhat lower, and, standing up, I caught sight of a body of men hurrying across the prairie. They were, however, at a considerable distance behind us; and now it evidently depended on whether we should reach the supposed narrow place before them or not. I had often read of heroines; but as I looked at the calm countenance of Kate, showing that she was resolved to go through all danger without flinching, I could not help thinking that she deserved especially to be ranked as one.
I could see as I gazed over the plain, besides the negro army, numerous animals scampering across it, put to flight by their appearance—herds of quaggas, zebras, buffaloes, and various sorts of deer, the lofty heads of a troop of giraffes appearing above them all. Innumerable birds flew amid the boughs of the trees, and wild-fowl rose from the sedgy shores, or gazed at us from the mud-banks as we shot by. Here and there a huge hippopotamus raised his head, and gazed with his ferocious eyes, wondering what new creatures had invaded his territory; while scaly alligators lay basking in the sun, or swam about seeking some creature to devour.
"If we get clear of the savages we shall have no fear of starving," observed Natty, as he saw the herds of wild animals I have described.
"You are right, Natty," said Jack; "and as to getting clear of them, there is no doubt about that."
"I have been praying that we may escape them," said Natty; "and that makes me think we shall."
"Right again, Massa Natty," observed Timbo. "It great t'ing to know dat we have got One to take care of us when we can no take care of ourselves. He hear de little boy prayer just as much as de big man."
Had Timbo joined us at an earlier hour, we might have escaped the dangers to which we were exposed; but still I was thankful that we had got him with us. As I looked ahead I saw that the river was making a bend towards the east. It was what I had dreaded; but the danger—if danger there was—must be run. Again I asked Stanley whether he thought it would be wise to haul up the canoes, and try to escape overland, should the river be too narrow to enable us to keep out of the range of the poisoned arrows of our enemies.
"That must be our last resource," he answered. "We must first try the effect of our firearms. Their blood be upon their own heads, if we kill any. I have no wish to injure any of them, even though they may be seeking our lives, if we can by any possibility avoid it."
I felt much as Stanley did. To desert the canoes would be to expose the young ladies to fearful fatigue and danger, and was to be avoided by every means.
We now entered into the reach I had expected to find. It was, however, as broad as the part we had lately passed through. We took the centre of the stream rather than cut off the angle, lest our enemies might be concealed on the bank. And now, going along it for some distance, we rounded another point projecting from the west, and found ourselves in a still broader part. It was somewhat shallow, we judged by the numerous little islands and banks which rose above its surface.
"Hark!" said Natty, suddenly; "don't you hear the roar of water?"
I listened, and felt convinced that some waterfall or rapid was near us. I shouted to Stanley. We ceased paddling for an instant.
"It may be a cataract," he answered; "but I have hopes that it is simply the sound of rapids. If so, we may pass through them."
"A dangerous experiment!" observed David.
"It depends upon their character," answered his brother, from the other canoe.
"But, without a pilot, would it be possible?"
"We must land and survey them first," shouted Stanley, "We shall have no difficulty in doing that; and if we cannot pass them, we must try and drag the canoes over the land. That, at all events, can be done."
We found as we proceeded that the roar of waters increased; and there could be no doubt, from the way the river ran, that a rapid was before us. We went on till the water was already beginning to bubble and hiss. The bank on our right afforded tolerably easy landing; so, running the canoes to it, we secured them to some trees which grew close down to the water. Stanley sprang out, and called to Timbo to accompany him.
"We shall be able to judge whether we can safely pass through them," he said. "I will be back quickly. Yes, we will take our rifles; we may find them necessary."
He said this as Senhor Silva handed them out of the canoe. They were soon out of sight among the thick underwood which grew near the banks. It is very different, I should say, from the underwood in England; composed rather of huge leaves, reeds of enormous height, and other plants of the Tropics. The opposite side was also covered with wood, so that we were unable to ascertain whether the Pangwes were in the neighbourhood or not. We were, however, so much concealed by the foliage among which our canoes were moored, that an enemy might have passed on the opposite bank without perceiving us. We waited anxiously for the return of Stanley and Timbo. At length they appeared.
"We can do it," Stanley exclaimed. "The water is rapid but clear, and we may easily steer our way clear of the huge boulders through which it passes."
Once more we shoved off. Each man screwed up his nerves for the trial; for no slight trial it would prove—of that I was certain.
"Stanley is so cool and calm," observed Kate, "I have no fear."
His canoe led. In a few minutes we were in the strength of the current. On we glided, like arrows from a bow. We had little else to do than to guide our canoes. Still we kept paddling, so that we might the more easily, if it were possible, turn aside from any danger ahead. Now a huge boulder rose up on one side; now we darted through a passage which only afforded room for the canoes to pass. Now the water ran smoothly without a bubble; now it hissed and foamed as it passed over a shallower bed. There was an excitement in the scene which made our spirits rise. I felt almost inclined to shout at times as we dashed on. Yet an instant's carelessness might have proved our destruction. We appeared to be descending a steep hill of water at times; now wavelets rose on either side, and threatened to leap into the boat.
Our eyes were fixed on our leader's canoe, and his on the water ahead, through which he was to guide us. For one moment I cast my eyes on the eastern shore, and was sorry that I had done so, for there I saw a number of dark forms collected just below the rapids. What they were about I had not time to observe. I said nothing; it would be time enough when we had shot the rapids. On, on we went. We were in a sea of foam, the water roaring, bubbling, and hissing. I feared that Stanley's skill could scarcely carry the canoe through; but he had noted the point, and his experience told him that there was sufficient depth. Now a wave washed aboard on one side, now on the other, now came hissing over our bows; but we dashed through them, and I saw before us a calm and lake-like expanse. In another instant we were free of the rapids, and floating calmly on the lower portion of the river.
Once more I cast my eyes to the spot where I had seen the blacks. They were our enemies; of that I had no doubt. I pointed them out to Stanley.
"What can they be about?" he asked.
Timbo looked at them. "Building rafts," he answered. "Dey are shoving off even now. Dey knew we must come dis way, and hoped to cut us off. But hurrah! hurrah! we got down sooner dan dey!"
Several rafts of reeds, such as I before described, were shoved off from the bank. We did not stop to examine them; but plying our paddles with might and main, we continued our course towards the point where we believed the river made its exit out of the lake.
VOYAGE DOWN THE RIVER, CONTINUED.
The savages on the raft, which had already got some way out into the lake, saluted us with showers of arrows; but, happily, we were too far off for them to reach us. Already our arms ached with our long paddle, but it was no time to rest. We knew not whether, vindictive as they appeared, they would attempt to pursue us, or whether others might not have gone further down along the margin of the lake, with the hope of even yet intercepting us at the narrow part which we saw. Evening was approaching, and the difficulties of the navigation, should the night prove dark, would be greater.
"I see some objects on the left bank," cried Natty. "Never fear, we will slip by them," said Jack. "To my eyes they have got four legs, and will not hurt us."
We speedily neared the point where the lake-like expanse narrowed into the proportions of a river. The creatures seen by Natty were now discovered to be a herd of zebras, which had come down to the river's bank to drink. They gazed at us as we passed with a look of astonishment; but, though they kept moving here and there, as if asking each other what we could be, they did not take to flight, but continued scampering round and round as horses do in a field, stopping every now and then to take another look at us. They quickly, however, returned to the water, for they probably knew that unless they made haste they would be interrupted by some of their remorseless foes—lions, panthers, or hyenas—which might come down to the same spot to quench their thirst before setting forth on their nightly rambles in search of prey. They were beautiful and graceful creatures, very unlike the poor patient ass with which we are acquainted in England, and accustomed to associate with everything that is stupid and obstinate. Yet the zebra and the ass are nearly related; indeed, the former is classed by naturalists as an ass. I shall have more to say about them by-and-by.
Evening was rapidly drawing to a close. Still, although the alarm which the zebras had caused us when first indistinctly seen had subsided, we thought it possible that some of our savage foes might still be on the watch for us further down the stream, or, should we land and rest, that they might overtake us before we again got under weigh. "It's wisest, according to my notions, to keep well ahead of an enemy if you have to run from him, and as close as you can to his heels if you have to chase him, till he hauls down his flag!" exclaimed Jack, vigorously plying his paddle. "What do you say, Mr Crawford?"
I heartily agreed with him. The thought of what would be the fate of my young relatives would have nerved my arm for even greater exertions than we were called on to make. We still, therefore, continued paddling, in spite of our fatigue, with might and main, anxious to put as many leagues as possible between ourselves and our enemies before we stopped. The sun set in a glorious glow of ruddy light on our right, shedding a hue over the tops of some lofty hills which appeared on the opposite bank. The stream increased in rapidity; but still, as far as we could see, was free from danger. There was yet sufficient light from the sky, though it could not be called twilight, to enable us to continue our course.
"If the navigation is as open as at present, we will continue on for another hour," shouted Stanley. "We shall then be safe from the savages, and may have a quiet rest, I hope, after our day's work."
"Ay, ay, sir," answered Jack from our canoe. "We have not worn our arms off yet; though, if you don't mind stopping, maybe the ladies would like a bit of pigeon and a bite of plantain."
"Oh, no, no," exclaimed Kate. "Do not stop for our sakes, if you are not tired. We feel no hunger, and would rather not delay a moment till you think it safe."
We accordingly paddled on. By degrees the glow faded from the sky, and darkness settled down over the landscape. Still Stanley continued leading. Presently I saw on our left a silvery arch rising over the hills. It increased rapidly, and soon the full moon rose in the sky, shedding its light over the waters.
"We do not get sight of such a moon as that in old England," cried out Leo from the other canoe. "It is often there more like a patch of red putty stuck on to a wall; but see! this looks like a mighty globe of pure fire floating in the heavens." So indeed it did.
"Do not be disparaging our good old English moons," cried out Natty. "You forget the harvest moon; and, though it is not quite like this, it is a very beautiful object to gaze at, and useful to those who have to carry home the full-loaded waggons of corn."
Our spirits were rising as we felt we were escaping from the danger we had encountered. I hoped, too, our hearts were grateful. The bright light of the moon now enabled us to proceed with almost as much ease as during the day. As we sped on, however, we saw numerous animals on the banks coming down to drink; but we passed them too rapidly to ascertain what they were. I think we must have continued paddling on two hours longer, rather than one. Stanley seemed unwilling, so long as we could move our arms, to stop; indeed, the cool air of night renewed our strength; and, for my part, I felt that I could have gone on till daylight, if necessary, for the sake of securing the safety of the young girls depending on us for protection.
At length the ground on our right rose considerably above the plain. "I think I see an island ahead," cried Stanley. "If so, it may suit us for a bivouac, and may be more secure than the mainland." As we went on we found that he was right. The island appeared to be about four or five hundred yards in circumference, with numerous trees growing on it, which would afford us the means of forming huts, and give us wood for our fires besides. Fortunately, we had no need of provisions, as we had an abundance in the canoes. We took the passage on the west side, and, going to the further end of the island, found a small bay, into which we steered the canoes.
"We must act the part of invaders and drive out any previous occupants," observed Stanley as he stepped on shore. "Kate and Bella and the two boys, with the wounded black and his sons, must remain in the canoes till we can find a safe place for encamping. David will stay behind for your protection. Now, my friends, we will advance into the interior."
At the word we all stepped on shore. There was a small extent of open ground extending a few yards from the water's edge. This would, at all events, afford us space for our encampment. Had it been a dark night, we should have run a considerable risk if any savage animals existed on the island; but during moonlight neither lions nor panthers will assail a man, unless hard-pressed by hunger. We had our axes in our belts, and were thus able to clear our way over the rocky ground among the underwood and trees, mostly growing wide apart. As we advanced, we shouted to each other, now one now another firing his gun and stopping to reload. Suddenly a loud splash told us that some animal had leaped into the water. Now another was heard, and in a short time we reached the northern end of the island, having completely passed over it. We were satisfied that whatever creatures had been there had taken their departure, and we now returned to prepare for our encampment. In the meantime, we found that David and the boys had been landing the provisions. We had all become pretty expert in cutting down trees; and, as many of those in our neighbourhood were small, we soon had a sufficient number to make a small hut for Kate and Bella. This was erected with a rapidity which would have astonished people at home. As there was no fear of rain, we were not very particular as to the roof; and the abundance of vines enabled us quickly to weave a network round it, through which no panther, nor even a lion, could force its way. Less substantial structures were erected for the rest of the party. The boys were busy in collecting dry wood for the fires; and in scarcely more than half an hour we had formed a village which might have served us for many weeks if necessary, provided the weather remained dry. The two young blacks had, in the meantime, under the superintendence of Kate, been preparing our supper. She insisted that she was in no degree tired, and would not be idle. Igubo sat up, with his back supported against a bale, giving directions to his sons. A number of birds were forthwith roasting before the fire, while an ample supply of plantains were being baked on the ashes. Our cookery was of necessity somewhat rough, but we were grateful to those who prepared our food, and I could not help fancying it tasted better done by their hands. A sufficient amount of wood had been collected to keep up four good fires during the night One was placed on the river side, to scare any animals which might approach from the water; one at either end of the camp; and one on the forest side, though we hoped that we had driven off all enemies from our island. As soon as supper was over, Stanley recommended all hands to retire to rest.
"But, massa," said Timbo, "we escape great danger; sure we t'ank Him who preserved us."
"Indeed we ought to do so," said Kate; "and we are thankful to you, Timbo, for reminding us."
"I am sure my father would," I heard Natty say to Leo.
Stanley took a pace or two up and down, and then turning to Timbo, said, "You are right, old friend; but it would be somewhat out of my way, I am sorry to say. David, I must ask you to take the lead."
The young doctor, though full of talent, felt, I saw, a diffidence under the circumstances; but, mustering courage, he undertook to lead us in prayer; and with expressions which came, I am sure, from his heart, he returned thanks to the God of mercy for our preservation from the great dangers we had passed, and implored protection for the future. I heard Natty, who was kneeling near me, repeat his words with deep earnestness; and I was sure also that Kate and little Bella were pouring out their hearts in prayer. Though Timbo was the only African who could join us, the others were, I believe, greatly impressed with the scene, which, I had reason to know, was never forgotten by them.
Chickango and I had been appointed to keep the first watch, while Senhor Silva and Jack were to relieve us. In a short time the rest of our party were fast asleep, with the exception of David, who, as soon as his sisters had entered their hut, drove some stakes round the entrance, so that even a snake could not find its way in. After pacing up and down for some time with my gun in my hand, I told Chickango I would try and make my way to the other side of the island, as a full moon shining down among the trees enabled me to do without much difficulty. Its beams shed a silvery light on the water, which flowed calmly by. I soon reached a spot whence I could see the opposite shore, across a channel which divided the island from the mainland. As I stood there, I fancied I saw creatures moving along the banks, then I discovered five or six elephants approaching the water. They came to the edge, and, dipping in their trunks, poured the cool liquid down their throats. Presently a herd of giraffes came with a swinging trot across the ground, their heads moving about from side to side as they swung forward their long legs. They appeared, however, rather cautious of approaching till their more powerful companions had quenched their thirst. Just then, from a point a little on one side, several smaller animals made their way down to the bank; and, as they drew nearer, I discovered them to be a male and female lion, with their whelps. They stood watching the elephants, now and then uttering a low angry sound, yet never breaking into a roar. I stood rivetted to the spot, thankful that we had chosen the island for our encampment; for had we been on the mainland, we must have found our post untenable. They were, however, not the only visitors to the water. A huge rhinoceros, which I recognised by the horn on his nose, advanced with a heavy tread; and several buffaloes, and other animals which I took to be wild boars, joined the assemblage. The elephants, it appeared to me, kept the other animals in awe, for all stood at a distance from each other, slaking their thirst after the burning heat of the day. Many, probably, had come from a distance to seek for water. The giraffes were the only ones which continued in motion, they evidently being unwilling to approach while their savage enemies the lions were in the neighbourhood. Fortunately for them, I was not possessed with the instincts of a hunter, or I should probably have shot one of the lions; the female especially, as she kept looking at the elephant, with her cubs by her side, offering me a mark which I could not well have missed; but, in the first place, I should have disturbed my friends, and then I thought to myself, "Why should I kill one of these creatures, which are but following their natural instincts? and, as they are not likely to attack us, no good can be attained."
At length I thought that Chickango would fancy some accident had happened, and might be induced to leave his post to search for me. I therefore returned to the camp. I had nearly reached it when I fancied I heard a sound behind me. I turned round, an indefinite feeling of horror suddenly seizing me. I called to Chickango: he sprang forward. At that instant I saw a huge creature creeping along through the underwood. Chickango was by my side. He raised his gun, and gave a loud shout. The animal sprang up a tree. He fired, and a large panther fell to the ground. The rest of the party, starting from their beds, came hurrying up. The creature was not quite dead, but a blow from the negro's axe quickly finished it. My friends congratulated me on my narrow escape; and indeed I was thankful that I had been again preserved. The creature must have remained on the island. Probably the moonlight prevented it springing on me at once, as it might easily have done.
It was some time before quiet was restored to the camp. David hurried back to assure his sisters that there was no danger; for they had naturally been alarmed by the shot, and the cries of the party as they sprang up from their sleep. The adventure made us increase the number of our fires on that side of the camp; while Stanley, declaring he had had sleep enough, joined us on the watch. As may be supposed, I felt no inclination to make another trip about the island by myself, lest a companion of the animal we had killed might take a fancy to spring upon me. I must confess I was very glad when Timbo and Senhor Silva came to relieve me; but nothing could induce Stanley again to lie down.
No sooner had I placed my head upon the bale of goods which served me as a pillow, than I was fast asleep. I was aroused by Natty's voice—
"Oh see, Mr Crawford!—it is worth looking at. The sun has just risen."
I sprang to my feet, and found all the camp already up. The sun at that instant was showing its upper edge above the mountains, looking like an arch of fire, tinting the distant mountains with a soft tinge of the same hue, and casting a ruddy glow over the broad stream which flowed at our feet; while the whole sky was covered with a rich orange glow, deepening towards the horizon into the brightest vermilion.
"We will lose no time in proceeding on our voyage," said Stanley; "so the sooner we can get through our breakfast the better."
As the fire was ready, the water was soon boiling, and we contented ourselves with the cold meat and plantain which had been cooked on the previous night. The canoes were immediately reladen; and quickly embarking, we once more commenced our voyage down the stream. As we opened the wider part, we looked northward along the banks, but could discover no signs of our enemies; and we hoped, therefore, that we had completely distanced them. The number of animals which we saw on the banks showed us that we were not likely to meet with many inhabitants. This was satisfactory, as we could not tell how they might be disposed towards us. Although the heat was great, our spirits felt lighter in the belief that we should meet with no enemies: and we continued paddling along, Chico standing as before in the bows of the canoe; the boys, as usual, joking with each other; while Jack every now and then burst into one of his sea-songs, an entertainment with which he had not indulged us since we were engaged in building the canoes. The Giraffe, as before, took the lead. We paddled more leisurely than on the previous day, as we should soon have worn ourselves out had we continued the exertion we had then gone through. Thus, in spite of the heat, we were able to continue on for some hours.
We landed at noon on the western bank, where a group of trees afforded us shade, which we greatly needed; indeed, the heat of the sun had become so great that we could scarcely have continued longer exposed to its rays. We as before beat the bushes in the neighbourhood to ascertain that no animal lurked among them, and then lighted a fire to cook our dinner. As may be supposed, the birds that had been killed on the previous morning were no longer fit for English palates; but our black friends, without ceremony, consumed them. We had therefore to wait until we had killed some fresh game.
Stanley, Senhor Silva, Timbo, and I took up our guns to proceed inland. The scenery on the banks was very beautiful, the trees not growing in dense masses, but scattered in groups, like those in a gentleman's park in England. Beautiful flowers covered the open spaces. Among some of the groups of trees we observed the orchilla weed hanging from the branches. This is one of the exports of Africa, and is used as a dye stuff. There was a beautiful little shrub which Chickango called the mullah. It bore a yellow fruit. He gathered several—which he said were good to eat—and we found them full of seeds, like a custard-apple, with a sweet taste. A larger tree was covered with white blossoms, their fragrance reminding me of the hawthorn at home; but the flowers of these were as large as dog-roses and the fruit the size of big marbles. Chickango pointed to the flowers; not so much to admire them, as because numerous bees were sucking their sweets. "Dere! dere!"—and he pointed out several hollows in the neighbouring trees. "Me come back, and get for eat," he said. From another shrub—which our companion called the mogametsa—he picked a quantity of fruit, which had the appearance of a bean with pulp round it.
"Why," cried Leo, as he tasted the mogametsa, "it is just like sponge-cake—capital stuff! We must take a quantity to the camp."
Another very nice fruit was the maioa, which grew abundantly on low bushes. Indeed, we found a number of edible bulbs and bushes. Among them I must not forget to mention the mamosho and milo. The latter is a sort of medlar, which all hands pronounced delicious. Indeed, there was no fear of our starving in this region. There were great numbers of birds also; but I will describe them by-and-by.
Troops of animals passed us, among which the giraffe was conspicuous. We were just emerging from the wood, when we saw a single giraffe following a large herd at a distance, having from some cause been separated from his companions. On he went, swinging his tall head from side to side to keep time with the motion of his legs, which put me in mind of the way spiders move. He was passing a clump of trees, when a terrific roar reached our ears. The poor animal attempted to increase his pace; but before he could do so, a huge lion sprang from a thicket, and with one bound alighted on the giraffe's back.
"It is too far off for a bullet to reach him," observed Stanley, "or I would try to rescue the giraffe by killing the lion."
"It would be useless, for I suspect the giraffe's fate is sealed," said Senhor Silva. "The grip with which the lion seized his neck is sufficient to end his days. In spite of the giraffe's strength, the king of the forest will soon have him down."
The giraffe continued his course, going away from us, so that our chance of shooting the lion decreased. Still we pushed on, hoping that the terrified animal might turn, and bring his murderer closer to us. On he went, however, uttering cries of terror, the rest of the herd scampering off at full speed, which soon carried them away from their unfortunate companion. The life-blood was flowing fast from the giraffe's neck; but he struggled on in spite of the immense weight of the creature on his back and the agony he must have been suffering. In vain he reared up— in vain he struggled. Presently we saw him sink to the ground, when the savage beast flew at his neck, and soon finished his sufferings.
"Take care," said Senhor Silva; "we must not approach too near, for if we attempt to dispute his prey with the lion, it will make him more savage than ever."
"Our guns will settle that question," answered Stanley, still hurrying on.
I kept by his side, and the boys followed. Not till we were within fifty paces did the lion perceive us. He was then standing over his prey, which he had already begun to rend. Raising his head, with his claws on the carcase, he eyed us fiercely, sending forth terrific growls of anger. Still he did not move and Stanley had now an opportunity of taking steady aim. Still we advanced nearer. The lion perceiving this, with a roar which even now rings in my ears, gave a bound towards us. I raised my rifle and fired; but my arm must have trembled, and I confess I felt little able to take steady aim: the ball only grazed the lion's head. He was now within a dozen paces of us. Leo and David were standing a little on one side. Stanley raised his gun. He fired; but, to my horror, no explosion followed.
"Now! now!" he cried out.
The boys saw what had happened, and both, levelling their pieces, fired. The lion gave a bound in the air, and fell backward. "Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted Leo and Natty; "we have killed the lion!"
"No; it was my shot did it," cried Leo.
"It was mine," exclaimed Natty; "I am sure."
"You both had the honour," exclaimed Stanley, as he knelt over the monster's head. "Here are two shot holes, and either would have killed him."
As may be supposed, the boys' triumph was very great. Chickango, however, was better pleased with the giraffe.
"Here meat enough for one week," he exclaimed, as he began to cut away into the giraffe's flesh.
As we had no prejudice in taking an animal killed immediately before our eyes, though we might have objected to it had we found it dead, we all assisted Chickango in cutting up the animal, each of us taking as much as we could possibly carry.
"You stay here," he said. "Take care no oder lion come. I go call oders;" and loading himself with twice as much as we could have attempted to carry, he hurried back to the camp.
The rest of the party soon arrived; and we had now an ample supply of food for several days, if it would keep so long. Not delaying to kill any birds, as the rest of the party were waiting for their dinner, we hurried back to the camp. We found that Timbo had not been idle, and had caught several fish, which were of good size, and pronounced wholesome. We found Igubo's sons—the eldest of whom was called Mango and the other Paulo—creeping along the banks at a little distance down the river.
"They are after something," observed Jack, "for they have been making a couple of harpoons; and they seem to know pretty well what they are about."
Presently we saw a creature which at a distance looked like a young crocodile leap off the shore into the water. Mango's harpoon was rapidly darted at it; and he was now seen hauling up the creature, which was struggling to escape. He and his brother soon despatched it with blows on the head, and, leaving it on the bank, crept on a little further. Presently another creature was harpooned in the same way by Paulo; and they now came back looking highly pleased, and dragging the reptiles after them. They were about three feet long, with a high ridge running along their backs, and with hideous heads.
"Bery good eat," exclaimed Chickango when he saw the little monsters.
"What!" cried out Leo; "you do not mean to say you would eat those hideous creatures?"
"I suspect we shall have no objection to do so," said David. "They are varanians, a species of water-lizard, very similar to the iguanas of the New World, which are considered great delicacies. Ugly as they look, they are perfectly harmless."
The fires were already lighted, and without loss of time young Mango and Paulo set to work to skin their prizes. Chickango stewed a portion of them in our big pan. The flesh looked remarkably white and nice. First I took a piece; David followed; then Leo put in his wooden fork.
"Why, it is capital!" he exclaimed. "Kate, you must have some. Bella, I am sure you will like it."
In fact, in a short time we were all partaking of the varaniad meat, which we preferred to that of the giraffe. We had a dessert of great variety, if not to be compared to some of our English fruits; but we were very thankful to get such nice and wholesome food. The fruits, indeed, were particularly cooling and pleasant to the palate. Chickango, who had disappeared, soon came back with a quantity of honey, which he had taken from the hollows in the trees we had seen on our shooting expedition. It was, as may be supposed, a welcome addition to our repast.
We were still seated at our meal, when a low rumbling noise reached our ears. It continued for some time, and looking out towards the east, whence it appeared to come, we saw dark clouds collecting. Presently vivid flashes of lightning darted forth, and reiterated roars came pealing through the air. "We must get shelter up immediately," cried Senhor Silva, "or the young ladies will be wet through; and our goods may suffer too." The canoes had been well secured to trunks of trees, though not unladen. We immediately got out the axes, and commenced cutting down the smaller saplings and straight branches of trees as rapidly as we could. These we placed on the side of the bank, covering our rude hut over with large leaves and heavy boughs on the top, which we secured by rattans to prevent their being blown away. Everything that could be injured by rain was immediately brought up, leaving room for the young ladies and poor Igubo in the centre.
"Oh, we can perch ourselves on the top of the baggage," cried Leo. "There will be room then for all hands inside."
While we were working away the clouds came rushing on over the sky, the flashes of lightning becoming every instant more vivid and frequent. I had hitherto seen nothing like it on shore. The most vivid flashes of forked lightning darted from the clouds, apparently playing round the summits of the taller trees, and then descending, went zigzagging along over the ground. Others were seen traversing the river in all directions. It was a grand but terrific scene. The blacks looked alarmed, and poor Chico chattered as if he would shake his teeth out, and clung to Jack's neck for protection. The thunder roared and rattled louder and louder, till we could scarcely hear each other speak; while sometimes the whole atmosphere seemed filled with flame. Presently huge drops began to fall. They came thicker and thicker, till they splashed down upon the river, throwing up miniature waterspouts all over it. The roar of the splashing and pattering was quite deafening. The wind, too, howled through the trees, which threatened to come down upon our heads, though we had placed our hut as far from them as possible. In a few minutes the water, which had been perfectly clear, became thick and muddy, and branches of trees and logs of wood were seen floating down the stream.
"We should be thankful that we are safe on land," said David. "Will this last long, Senhor Silva?"
"Sometimes such storms are over in half an hour," was the answer; "but they may last for a couple of days. Should this do so, we may congratulate ourselves on having the canoes to escape in, for the river may speedily swell, and cover the very spot where we are sitting."
This was not satisfactory news; at the same time, it was better to know of the probability of such an occurrence, that we might be prepared for it. The river was rising—that was evident—and now flowed down in waves which would have been almost sufficient to swamp our canoes; while torrents of water came rushing down the banks, and threatening every instant to sweep away our hut. Happily we had formed it on a little elevation on the bank, so that the stream turned on either side, and the risk was therefore lessened. Fiercer and fiercer raged the storm. The waters increased rapidly. It seemed as if the very clouds were emptying themselves upon the earth.
"I hope we are not going to have another deluge," exclaimed Leo.
"Of course not," answered Natty. "Don't you know that one is never to occur again? To be sure, this river may overflow its banks, but we have our canoes to get away in if it does."
I was afraid little Bella would be alarmed, but she kept gazing up at her sister, and seeing her countenance calm and tranquil, sat contented by her side, without speaking, however. In spite of the rain, I every now and then put my head out to ascertain that the canoes were safe; for as the waters rushed down, I was afraid lest the stumps to which they were fastened might be carried away. So thick was the rain that we could scarcely see across to the other side. Suddenly, as if by word of command, it ceased; and though the thunder continued to rattle towards the west, and flashes still issued from the clouds in the east, all quickly became serene. The sun burst forth again upon our heads, and the leaves of the trees and shrubs glittered for a few minutes as if covered with diamonds, though the sun rapidly dried up the moisture. The hut had become very hot, and I was just going out of it, when I saw the head of an animal crawling out from a neighbouring bush. At first I thought it was some creature, till I saw a long body following. It was a huge serpent. It came wriggling over the ground directly towards the hut. "Ondara!" shouted Chickango; "shoot! shoot!" Stanley sprang down from his seat, and aimed at the monster's head. I did the same. The creature, after convulsively twisting and turning itself into huge coils, lay still. We hurried down to examine it. On measuring it, we found that it was upwards of fifteen feet in length. David examined the head, and pronounced it to be venomous.
"Yes, indeed," said Senhor Silva. "It is the largest of all venomous serpents, and if the stories told of it are true, so virulent is the poison that it causes almost instantaneous death."
We had reason to be thankful that we had escaped the two dangers. As we were anxious to proceed on our voyage, having now an ample supply of provisions, we once more embarked. I was afraid, from the thickness of the water, that we should have difficulty in avoiding any banks in our course; but it very soon cleared, and we proceeded as before.
As we were paddling along a sudden sickness seized me. Whether it was from over-exerting myself, or from the heat of the sun, I could not tell. Still I tried to go on. At length I felt my paddle slip from my hand. Natty had just time to catch it, and to save me from falling forward on my face. I was placed in the bottom of the canoe, alongside poor Igubo, and knew no more.
For days and days I lay in an unconscious state, utterly unable to move or speak or think.
Some time after this I had a dreamy consciousness of existence, but often for hours together I knew nothing of what was occurring. I felt myself now and then lifted out of the canoe. I knew that David was attending me, and at other times a sweet face bending over me, and fair hands holding a fan and driving away the flies. Once I heard Natty whispering, "Oh, he will die! he will die!"
"I pray Heaven he may not," was the answer; "and David thinks he will get through it. But he is very ill."
Then again I fell off into a dreamy state. Now and then I knew I was on shore, and once more on the water. I was conscious of the movement of the canoe, but what was happening round me I could not tell. I heard shots fired, and then strange voices shouting and shrieking, but I could not utter a word, nor could I understand what was said to me. After a time the power of thought came back, and I knew when it was day and when it was night, and I was able to discover that many days and nights had passed away. Still I could not ask questions. An awning had been placed over the stern of the canoe, under which I lay. I remember seeing Igubo paddling away, as strong as the rest of the party, and though there was the mark of the wound in his side, it was perfectly healed. This showed me that a considerable time must have elapsed since I had been attacked. I discovered also that we were ascending a stream, but even then I could not speak. Shortly after this I felt myself lifted up and placed on a sort of palanquin, and carried along over the ground. I knew that I was remaining for some time, and that my little cousin Bella was sitting by my side fanning my face, and now and then moistening my lips, or giving me a slight portion of food. After that, I was once more lifted into the canoe. The river must have been far narrower than any we had passed through, for even as I lay in the bottom of the canoe I could see the trees on either side.
I had a relapse. I knew nothing more till one day I opened my eyes, and saw my cousin Kate seated near me, and Bella on a low stool at my side, with a book before her. Kate was working away most assiduously, as was her wont. Not far off in a corner sat Chico, as busily, though not so usefully, employed in cracking nuts. We were in a large airy hut, formed, as far as I could see, very much after the fashion of those we had before constructed. I was so placed as to be in the shade, and at the same time to obtain as much air as possible. I heard the voices of Leo and Natty at a little distance. They were engaged in some work, I concluded, and were laughing and talking merrily. I tried to speak, and I must have uttered a sound, for instantly Bella sprang up, and, casting her bright eyes on me, ran to her sister. "Oh, he is awake, and looks as if he knew me!" she exclaimed. Kate cautiously approached, and I saw her looking down upon me with an eye of pity and interest.
"Are you better, Andrew?" she whispered.
"Yes, thank you," I could just utter in a low voice, "much better." I wanted to say more, but could not.
"Leo! Leo!" she cried out, "call David! he will be so glad to hear that Andrew has returned to consciousness."
I could just catch sight of the boys running past the hut.
"Where are we? what has happened?" I asked.
"Oh, that would take too long to tell you," answered Kate. "You have been very ill for several weeks, and we have all been mercifully preserved from many dangers. You shall know all about it by-and-by. We are safe now, I hope, and Stanley has sent for assistance; but I must not talk more now."
OUR NEW HOME IN THE MOUNTAINS.
Thanks to David's skill, and the preservation of the medicine-chest, under God's providence, I gradually recovered my strength. Several days passed, however, after the one I have mentioned when I returned to consciousness, before I could converse, or David would allow me to listen to a narrative of the events which had occurred since I was taken ill. My friends were employed in building huts and a stockade on a high hill which they had selected as a location to remain at till means of proceeding to the south could be procured. It was some hundred miles to the north of Walfish Bay, the nearest point where Europeans were located.
The first day I could sit up (I remember it well), Kate was by my side. A fresh breeze blew in at the open door of our hut, cooling my fevered brow. How beautiful all nature looked. We could gaze over a wide expanse of country, with blue hills on the left, and thick forests gradually breaking into scattered clumps of trees, and an open prairie reaching to the horizon towards the south. Below us I saw an extensive lake with a river flowing into it.
"There," said Kate, "is the stream down which we came to this spot. How thankful I was when we reached it, for David said he had no hope of your recovery till we could find a resting-place, with pure air and a more bracing climate than we were passing through. It was dreadful to have you exposed so long to the damp night air, and the miasmas which arose from the river; but we are in safety now, and I try to forget all the dangers and anxiety we endured. It may be many weeks or months before we can again set out; but by that time, David says he hopes you will be thoroughly restored to health, and we shall be able to journey on with light hearts, and, I hope, find friends to welcome us at the end."
"Oh, yes, dear Andrew," exclaimed Bella. "You have no idea how frightened we often were; for we thought if the savages had stopped us or taken us away from you, that you would certainly have died. Sometimes we thought you were dead, you were so quiet and pale; but when you are well again, we shall not mind anything."
"Hush, hush!" said Kate, "we must not talk to Andrew of what has passed. All is well now. Stanley is delighted with the place. There is an extraordinary abundance of game of all sorts, as he calls the wild animals which rove over those plains. Sometimes we can see from here herds of buffaloes, and cameleopards, zebras, and all sorts of deer and quaggas; and there are savage animals too—lions, rhinoceroses, and leopards, and elephants; indeed, he will not allow the boys to go far by themselves lest they should be attacked."
"No, indeed," said Bella; "for though Stanley does not always tell us his adventures, I suspect he has some narrow escapes. In the river and lake, too, there is an immense number of hippopotami and crocodiles. The boys went down to bathe soon after we arrived, and had a fright, which will prevent them ever doing it again. They were both in the water when a huge crocodile darted across towards them, and they had just time to scramble out and run away, leaving their clothes behind them, when Jack and Timbo, who were fortunately near, rushed down and drove the creature off."
"It was indeed a mercy they were not seized," said Kate. "But we must not talk more to you now, Andrew. Stanley says he could not have wished to go to a finer spot, and it is only necessary to be cautious to avoid danger from any of them."
"Ah, here come the boys, and they have got a beautiful little animal between them. What can it be?" exclaimed Bella. "See, it has got small horns, and looks a graceful creature."
"It must be an antelope of some sort," said Kate; "but they will tell us."
The boys, who were coming up the hill, soon reached the hut. "We have got a koodoo! It is for you, Bella," they exclaimed in the same breath. "Chickango and Igubo caught it this morning, and have given it to us; but we are to take great care of it. See, it is already almost tame, but if we were to let it go it would soon be off." Kate made a sign to them. They both stopped and looked eagerly at me.
"O Andrew, how glad I am to see you sit up," cried Natty, on discovering that I knew them. "We were very unhappy about you; but now you will soon be yourself again, and till you are well enough to go about, our koodoo will give you plenty of employment, for Chickango says he requires careful nursing, just like one baby. We are to feed him with milk, and in a little time he will become as tame as Chico, though he will not play so many funny tricks, perhaps."
The little koodoo, when brought up to Kate and Bella, allowed itself to be stroked, and put out its tongue and licked their hands, though I saw from its startled eye and the tremor in its slender legs that it was as yet far from happy in its captivity. In a short time David came in, and after he had congratulated me on my improved looks, examined the little animal.
"Yes, indeed, it is a pretty creature," he observed; "but the full-grown one is still more beautiful. I saw several two mornings ago, which had taken shelter during the night in a thick wood which clothes the side of the hill at a short distance from this, and as they did not perceive me, I was able to observe them at leisure. The female is without horns, but the male has magnificent spiral ones upwards of three feet in length, which rise erect from his exquisitely-formed head, and give him an air of nobility and independence. The animal is about four feet high at the shoulder, and the general colour is a reddish grey, marked with white bars over the neck and croop. When walking slowly its action is very graceful. While watching the beautiful creatures I caught sight of a leopard lurking in the neighbourhood. I fired just in time to save the life of one towards which he was stealing. I missed the leopard, for I was at a considerable distance; but the report frightened the koodoos, and away they went, leaping over bushes, stones, and all impediments at a rapid rate, while the savage beast stole off, vowing vengeance, probably, against me for having disappointed him of his morning meal. The koodoo lives chiefly on buds and leaves and the young shoots of trees and bushes, and it is said that he is capable of going a long time without water. He is of a very timid disposition, but I am told, however, that when hotly pressed or wounded, he will sometimes face about and attack his pursuer. But we must now see about getting food for our young captive. We were, fortunately, on our way here, able to purchase half-a-dozen goats from some natives who had brought them from the south, and we must devote the milk of one of them to him."
"But how can you make him drink it?" asked Bella.
"Just as we give it to babies," said David, laughing. "I will make a sucking-bottle for him. It can very easily be done. See! that small gourd hanging up will answer the purpose. I will fasten a piece of linen and a small quill in the mouth, and we will try the little creature."
"I will go and milk the goat," cried Leo, rushing out. "You come and help me, Natty, though."
Meantime David prepared the bottle, and in a few minutes Leo returned with a calabash full of milk.
"It is lucky I went," said Natty, "for the goat had refused to be milked at this hour, and had knocked Leo over."
"Yes, and she would have knocked you over, too, if I had not held her legs," said Leo. "However, we managed it."
"Why, how did you do that?" asked David.
"Oh, we tied her hind-legs to a post on one side and her fore-legs to another, and I held the head while Natty milked," said Leo. "Poor goat!" observed Kate. "I suspect she will not allow you to play that trick again."
The bottle was filled, and no sooner was it put to the little koodoo's lips than the creature began pulling away in a very satisfactory manner, every now and then giving a butt at it as it might have done when obtaining milk from its mother. It satisfied us, however, that there would be but little difficulty in bringing up the creature. Chico had eagerly watched the operation from his corner in the hut, though he did not approach the new comer. As soon as the deer had done with the bottle, David hung it up, when the monkey, fancying himself unobserved, instantly made for it, and, greatly to our amusement, applied it to his own lips, and began sucking away till he had drained it dry. He then quietly attempted to hang it up again, though in this he failed, and the bottle fell to the ground.
"We cannot afford to give you milk. Master Chico," said David; "but I will soon cure you of that trick." Saying this, he went to his medicine-chest, which stood near, and having filled the bottle with water, put in a little powder, which he shook up. He then returned the bottle to its usual place.