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IN the month of July, 1863, if you had been in London, you might have seen in St. Catharine's Dock a schooner called the Mentor, a little vessel of less than one hundred tons' measurement, and if you had gone on board you would have encountered your old friend Paul Du Chaillu busily superintending the taking of the cargo, and getting all things in readiness for the voyage upon which he is now going to take you.
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The Country of the Dwarfs
Paul B. Du Chaillu
DU CHAILLU AND KING QUENGUEZA.
FLETCHER HARPER, Esq.
Dear Sir:—I dedicate this volume to you, not only as an acknowledgment of many kindnesses which I have received from you during the years in which you have been the publisher of my books, but also as a token of the personal affection and esteem of
Paul B. Du Chaillu.
North Cape, Norway, August, 1871.
HOW PAUL SET OUT FOR THE COUNTRY OF THE DWARFS, AND WHAT HE TOOK WITH HIM.
In the month of July, 1863, if you had been in London, you might have seen in St. Catharine's Dock a schooner called the Mentor, a little vessel of less than one hundred tons' measurement, and if you had gone on board you would have encountered your old friend Paul Du Chaillu busily superintending the taking of the cargo, and getting all things in readiness for the voyage upon which he is now going to take you.
Captain Vardon, the commander of the vessel, was generally by his side, and I am sure you would have been happy to make his acquaintance, for he was a very pleasant man.
Every body was busy on board, either on deck or below deck, storing away the goods. Boxes upon boxes came alongside the Mentor from morning till evening. These contained my outfit and the equipment necessary for the expedition.
Paul Du Chaillu had an anxious look, and you need not wonder at it, for he was about to undertake a journey of explorations of about five years' duration, and had to think of many things. It was, indeed, no small undertaking. What an outfit it was! I will give you some idea of it.
Clothing for five years was to be provided; the very smallest article must not be forgotten, even to needles, thread, and scissors.
It would never do again to be left without shoes, as I was in Apingi Land, so I had seventy-two pairs of Balmoral lace-boots made specially for journeying in the great forest, with soles flexible enough to allow me to bend my feet while jumping from rock to rock, or from the base of one tree to another. Besides these lace-boots I had twenty-four pairs of shoes and twelve pairs of linen slippers. Twelve pairs of leggins were to protect my legs from thorns, briers, and the bite of snakes; so you see my feet and legs were to be well taken care of in that journey, and for my further comfort I laid in twelve dozen pairs of socks. I took so many because I do not know how to darn socks, and when a pair became full of holes they would have to be thrown away.
All my shirts were made of light-colored flannel; these were more healthy than linen shirts, and, besides economizing soap, it saved me from the necessity of getting under-garments, and consequently allotted me space which could be devoted to other articles.
With an eye to the great wear and tear of pantaloons, I had ordered six dozen pairs made of the strongest twisted blue drill that could be got. Instead of coats I ordered two dozen blouses, made of durable linen stuff, of a color not easily seen in the woods. The blouse was a very convenient garment, admitting of numerous pockets, in which I could keep many things while on the march. Every thing was made for wear and not for show, and to go through the thickest and most thorny jungle.
Several dozen pocket-handkerchiefs completed my wearing outfit. Besides their ordinary use, these were to be worn, generally wet, inside the three fine soft Panama hats I had provided to protect my head from the rays of a burning sun. No collars, no neck-ties were necessary.
Clothes must be washed, so I took with me one hundred pounds of the hardest Marseilles soap. That quantity was not much, but then I would probably be able some time to make my own soap with palm-oil.
Then came the drugs, and these gave me more embarrassment than any thing else. If it had been only to take medicines for myself, the matter would have been simple enough. A compact little medicine-chest, with an extra quantity of quinine, laudanum, and a few other remedies used in tropical climates more frequently than in ours, would have sufficed; but I had to think of my followers and porters—a retinue that would sometimes number five and six hundred—and accordingly I purchased
75 ounce bottles of quinine.
10 gallons of castor-oil.
50 pounds of Epsom salts.
2 quarts of laudanum.
These were the medicines which would be the most needed; but, besides these, I had pretty nearly all the drugs to be found at the apothecary's.
Of arsenic I took one hundred pounds, to preserve the skins of animals and birds I expected to kill in my journeyings.
Most of these and my wearing apparel were packed in japanned tin boxes, which would be serviceable afterward for the preservation of my butterflies and stuffed birds. Tin boxes were safer than wooden ones; the white ants would not be able to pierce through them.
Though I did not set out to make war, I felt that I ought to be prepared for any emergency. Besides, I was to hunt, and I must have guns. After a great deal of thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that, for such a wild country, where I might get short of cartridges, the greater part of my guns should be muzzle-loaders, so I bought four splendid English muzzle-loaders, four long muzzle-loading rifles, two very short smooth-bore muzzle-loaders, and two very short muzzle-loading rifles.
Then I took a magnificent double-barrel breech-loading rifle which could throw steel-pointed bullets weighing more than two ounces. I had Dean and Adams's revolvers, magnificent arms that never got out of order, and several long, formidable hunting-knives.
These guns were for my own special use, and they were supplied with moulds for making bullets, etc., etc.
Besides these, I had ordered in Birmingham two hundred and fifty cheap guns for my body-guard and the native king, to whom I might desire to give one. Most of them were flint-locks, and of the pattern called the Tower.
I had great trouble in knowing what quantity of ammunition to take, for lead is heavy; but, then, what would a man do in a savage country without powder and bullets?
The great difficulty with rifle muzzle-loaders is, that when the charge has been driven home the bullets can not be easily withdrawn. So it is with the revolvers; and a great deal of ammunition would be lost on that account.
My ammunition consisted of 15,000 cartridges for my revolvers, in soldered tin boxes of fifties; 15,000 bullets for my guns and rifles, and lead for 20,000 more, for the practice of my men before starting into the desert; 1000 pounds of small shot of different sizes, for birds; 400 pounds of fine powder; 50,000 caps. I also took 200 10-pound barrels of coarse powder for my body-guard and to give away to my friends, or as presents.
So you see the warlike and hunting apparatus of the expedition was very heavy, but we were to depend in a great measure on our guns for food. Elephants, antelopes, hippopotami, gazelles, crocodiles, and monkeys would be our chief diet. Then came the scientific instruments:
4 strong, splendid hunting-case watches, by Brock, London.
1 watch made by Frodsham, London.
48 spare watch-keys and 24 spare glasses.
3 sextants, 8, 6, and 4 inches radius.
1 binocular yachting-glass.
1 universal sun-dial (a magnificent instrument).
2 compasses, prismatic, with stand, shades, and reflector three inches in diameter, to take the bearings of land, etc., etc.
2 pocket compasses.
1 set drawing instruments (German silver).
2 dozen drawing-pens.
2 artificial horizons, folding roof, improved iron trough, and bottles containing quicksilver, in sling case.
1 hypsometrical apparatus.
2 bull's-eye lanterns, copper boiler, three reservoirs for spirits, oil, or candles.
3 thermometers for measuring heights and boiling water.
2 thermometers for the sun (to know its power).
2 thermometers graduated Fahrenheit and Centigrade.
1 thermometer graduated Centigrade and Reaumur.
1 powerful electro-magnetic machine, with 90 feet of conducting wire or cord.
2 large magnifying-glasses.
7 pounds of mercury, in a bottle, as a reserve supply.
Parallel rule (German silver).
Protractor, circular, with compass rectifier, in a mahogany box.
3 rain-gauges and spare glasses, to tell the amount of rain falling at a given time.
Scale, 18 inches, metal, graduated to inches, and sub-divided to tenths and hundredths, in a box.
Tape, 100 feet, to measure trees.
75 sheets of skeleton maps, ruled in squares, to mark out in the rough my daily route as determined by compass.
4 Nautical Almanacs, 1863, '4, '5, '6, to be used in my astronomical observations; and several other scientific books.
12 blank books for keeping my daily journal.
10 quires of paper.
Ink, pens, pencils, slates.
For illumination I provided 100 pounds of wax candles, 10 gallons of spirits (alcohol) for lamps, thermometers, etc., etc.; 12 gross of matches in boxes, each dozen boxes inclosed in a separate soldered tin box. Though I had fire-steel and flint, the matches could light a fire much quicker, and they were "big things" with the natives.
So you see I had a complete set of instruments, and in sufficient number, so that in case of accident I could replace the injured one; and accidents I knew were sure to happen.
If I did not explain to you why I took five watches, I am sure you would say that I was foolish to spend so much money in watches. Then let me tell you that I bought so many because I was afraid that if I took only one or two, they might stop running, and in this event it would have been impossible for me to know my longitude, that is to say, how far east or west I might be, and to ascertain the day and month, should illness have caused me to forget the calendar. No watch can be safely depended upon to run for five years in such a climate without cleaning. But as four of them had been made specially for the journey, I felt assured that at least one or two out of the five would run till my return.
But we have not yet done with my equipment. There were 18 boxes containing photographic apparatus, with tent, and chemicals for 10,000 photographs. The transportation of these alone would require twenty men.
All that I have enumerated to you constituted but a small proportion of the things that came on board, and were for my special use, with the exception of the 250 common guns and a great part of the ammunition.
There are yet to be mentioned the presents for my old friends, who had been so kind to me in my former journeys, and whom I hoped to see again. These were the chiefs whose hospitality I had enjoyed, and my dear hunters Aboko, Fasiko, Niamkala, Malaouen, Querlaouen, Gambo, dear old Quengueza, Ranpano, Rikimongani, and Obindji, the Bakalai chief. Presents, too, were indispensable for the people who were to take me from tribe to tribe, and the right of way I knew would often have to be bought. So more than two months had been spent by me in the London clothing, hardware, and dry-goods establishments, finding what I wanted.
I bought more than 5000 pounds of beads of different sizes and colors, several hundred pieces of cotton goods, some pieces of silks, coats, waistcoats, shirts, 2000 red caps, a few umbrellas, files, knives, bells, fire-steels, flints, looking-glasses, forks, spoons, some stove-pipe hats for the kings near the sea-shore, straw hats, etc., etc.
Then, to impress the wild people with what I could do, I bought several large Geneva musical boxes, one powerful electrical battery, several magnets, and six ship clocks, etc., etc.
The abundant results of the sale of my "Adventures in Equatorial Africa," and the proceeds arising from the disposal of my gorillas, and my collection of beasts, birds, insects, and shells, alone enabled me to undertake this new expedition, for not one dollar has ever been given by any scientific society to help me in any of my travels or explorations; but I was very happy in expending a part of my means in the interest of science and for the enlargement of our knowledge of unknown countries. I only wish now I could have done more, but really I think that I did the best I could.
Years had passed away since I had gone first to Africa, my parents were both dead, I was alone in the world and the world was before me, and I thought I could do nothing better than make another exploration.
I had made up my mind, without confiding my purpose to any one, to cross the continent of Africa near the equator, from the west to the head waters of the Nile, and to set out from the Commi country. I knew my old negro friends would help me. That was the reason my outfit was on so large a scale.
The only thing that worried me before my departure was our civil war, but then I thought it was soon to end.
ON THE AFRICAN COAST.—MEETING WITH OLD FRIENDS.—CHANGES IN FOUR YEARS.—THE CAPTAIN'S MISGIVINGS.
On the 5th of August we sailed from London. I will not weary you with a narrative of the voyage. The days passed pleasantly on board the Mentor. By the end of the month of August we were not far from the Tropic of Cancer. September glided away calmly, and on the 7th of October Captain Vardon said that the following day we should come in sight of land.
Accordingly, the next morning I heard from the main-top the cry of "Land! Land!" Two hours afterward from the deck I could discern the low lands of the Commi country. Nearer and nearer the coast we came, until we could see the white surf breaking with terrific force on the shore, and hear the booming sound of the angry waves as they dashed against the breakers. The country was so monotonous in its outlines that we could not make out exactly where we were; we only knew that we were south of Cape Lopez, and not very far from it. I thought it strange that I could not recognize the mouth of the Fernand Vaz or Commi River.
No canoes could ride through the surf, so no natives could come on board. In the evening we stood off the land and shortened sail, and afterward we cast anchor.
DU CHAILLU MEETS HIS OLD FRIEND ADJOUATONGA.
The next morning we sailed again in a southerly direction, and at last we saw a canoe pass through the breakers; it came alongside, and the negroes in it shouted in English, "Put down the anchor! Plenty of ivory, plenty of every thing; load the ship in a fortnight."
We had passed the Fernand Vaz, having sailed too far south. The mouth of the river itself is very difficult to discover. Perhaps you may recollect my having formerly described it as discernible only by the white surf combing over its bar, by large flocks of fish-eating birds hovering in the air above it, and by a long, white sandy point forming the extremity of the land on the left bank.
As we approached the river, two canoes left the shore and made for the vessel. In the first, as it neared us, I recognized my friend Adjouatonga, a chief belonging to the clan Adjiéna, whose villages occupied the mouth of the river. He climbed up the vessel's side, and went to shake hands with the captain, and then advanced toward me to do the same. I had not said a word, but upon my raising my hat, which had been pulled down so as partly to conceal my face, and turning round upon him, he stepped back in astonishment, and, recognizing me at once, cried out in his own language, "Are you Chally, or his spirit? Have you come from the dead? For we have heard you were dead. Tell me quickly, for I do not know whether I am to believe my own eyes. Perhaps I am getting a kendé" (an idiot, a fool). And I said, "Adjouatonga, I am Chally, your friend!" The good fellow embraced me in a transport of joy, but he hugged me so tight and so long that I wished his friendship had been less enthusiastic. Four years had nearly gone by since I had left the Commi country.
As the second canoe came nearer, I ordered Adjouatonga not to say a word. My heart leaped for joy, for in it were my own people from the dear, good old African Washington of mine. Sholomba, the nephew of King Ranpano, was there, and my boy Macondai; all my former canoe-men, Kombé, Ratenou, Oshimbo, were in that canoe. I longed for them to come on board. I could hardly restrain myself; but I felt that I must appear like as if I did not know them, and see whether they would recognize me.
In a moment they were on deck, and a wild shout of joy came from them, "Our white man has come back! Chally! Chally!" and they all rushed toward me. Good fellows! In their savage natures they loved me, and they remembered the friend who had never wronged them. I was seized and almost pulled to pieces, for they all wanted to hug me at the same time. Captain Vardon looked with perfect amazement at the scene of greeting. They seemed to be crazy with joy to see me again.
Then followed a long and confused account of what had taken place since my departure, all talking at the same time.
When we had come back to our senses, the next subject to be considered was how I was to get ashore. Of course I wished to go by the mouth of the river, but Sholomba assured me it could not be done. The mouth of the Fernand Vaz had changed much for the worse, and it would be less dangerous to run a canoe through the surf to the beach than to attempt to cross the bar of the river. It was now the beginning of the rainy season, when the winds are less violent than in the dry season, but the surf had not subsided from the agitation of the heavy south winds of the dry season.
The anchor was cast, and I left the Mentor in Adjouatonga's canoe, which was a better one than the other.
All was excitement in the canoe, and the men sang. Adjouatonga, looking more and more anxious as we approached the rollers, rested outside for a while, and then, at the proper moment, skillfully directed the frail canoe over the crest of a huge wave, which bore us with lightning speed to the beach, where I was caught up by the natives that were waiting for us, and carried safely to dry land. Tremendous huzzas were given.
Once more I stood on African soil.
The people recognized me, and I was hurried along, amidst a crowd of several hundred savages, all dancing and shouting with frantic joy, across the sandy tongue of land to the banks of the Commi, my own Commi River, where canoes were waiting to take us to Washington and to old King Ranpano.
Time had wrought great changes in the land of my former explorations. The mouth of the river had altered so much that I could hardly recognize it. The long, sandy, reed-covered pits, which projected three miles from the southern point of the river's mouth, and which had been the scene of many hunting adventures with ducks, cranes, and sea-gulls, had disappeared, and the sea had washed the sand away, and taken the greater part of it to the northern side of the village of Elinde, whose chief, Sangala, had given me so much trouble in former times. The spot where Sangala's village had stood had become untenanted, and the people had removed. Many a dear little island, where I used to hide to shoot birds, had also been submerged or washed away, and I no longer saw the flocks of sea-fowl which formerly frequented the locality.
I felt sad indeed; a pang of sorrow shot through me. It was like a dream; the scene of my former hunting had vanished, and nothing but the record of what I had written about the land was left. I can not express to you the lonely feeling that came over me. Though every thing was changed, the former picture of the landscape was before me. I remembered every island, every little outlet, the herd of hippopotami, the "Caroline" inside the bar quietly at anchor.
Oh, I would have given any thing if I could have seen the country as it was when I left it! I had been so happy, I spent so many pleasant days there, I had so loved to roam on that sandy point, and to lie on its sand! Now it was nothing but a dream; it had been swept away.
The canoes in the river being ready, I embarked in one, followed by all the others, the people singing, "Our ntangani (white man) has come back. Oh, how we love our white man! Oh, how our white man loves us! For he has come back to us. Yes, we never stole from our white man; our white man remembers that, and he comes back to us, for he is not afraid of us."
Paddling up the stream, many, many sights I recognized; many mangrove-trees I remembered; the old banks of the river were familiar to me. I looked eagerly at every thing around.
Halloo! What do I see yonder? A herd of hippopotami motionless in the water, and looking for all the world like old logs stuck in the mud. Familiar species of cranes stalked about here and there, the pelican swam majestically, the kingfishers were watching for their prey, with white cranes and ducks not far from them.
Thus we glided along up the river. My heart was full; I did not speak a word. Soon we came in front of my old settlement of Washington, of which I gave you a picture in my Apingi Kingdom.
Oh! What do I see? Nothing but ruins! The houses had all tumbled down; a few bamboos and rotting poles alone remained to show me where my big house stood. The four trees between which my house had been built were still there; the gum copal tree was in front. The little village for my men was not to be seen; desolation had taken possession of the place. One single house was still standing. The men stopped their singing; their faces became sad. A feeling that some misfortune had happened seized me.
I got up and shouted, looking the men steadily in the face, "Where is Rikimongani, my friend, he whom I intrusted with the settlement of Washington?" "Dead, dead," said they. "The people were jealous that you loved him so well, and they did not want him to see you again, and they bewitched him; he fell ill, and died."
"Rikimongani dead!" I exclaimed. I took off my hat as we passed the place, and said, "Oh, how sorry I am, Rikimongani! What shall I do with the fine old coat I have for you? What shall I do with the nice cane and the fine hat I have brought for you? Oh, dear Rikimongani, I have many presents for you. Rikimongani, did you know how much I loved you?"
"See," shouted the men, "how much he loved Rikimongani!"
"Oh yes," said the canoe-men, "he always talked of you, and said he was sure you would come back, though we all said that you would not, and that you would forget us. Rikimongani used to say, 'One day we shall see a white sail, and Chally will be on board, and he will land and come to see us again.' In the evenings he would talk of you to us boys."
Tears filled my eyes. Then Sholomba whispered to me, "When the wizards who were accused of having bewitched Rikimongani were about to drink the mboundou, they said, 'Chally has killed Rikimongani, for he will never come back here, and he loves Rikimongani so much that he has killed him, so that he might have his spirit always with him.' And," said Sholomba, "many believed them, but many did not."
"We must not land here," said Sholomba. "Chally, you must never build here; the people are afraid of the place; nobody will dare to come here, for people die always in this place. Several times villages had been built, and the people had to leave this spot. Witchcraft is here."
I felt that I had come back to a wild life, full of superstitions and legends.
We paddled till we came two miles above my place of Washington, which had brought back so many reminiscences to me. Though I would have liked to build again there, I could not think of it on account of the superstitious dread of the natives for the spot.
When we stopped, Sholomba and Djombouai had reached their little village. Ranpano was away from home, on the Ogobai River. So I resolved to build a new settlement close to their village.
Messengers were sent to King Ranpano to tell him to come, and the news spread over the country that Chally had come back, and the people from all the villages and the country round came trooping by land and water to see their old friend, and to hear about the stores of good things he had brought with him. They came pouring in day after day, camping in the woods, on the prairie, every where. They would endure hunger rather than go home. Many, many an old face I saw; many a kind-hearted woman came and told me how glad she was to see me; many boys and girls who had grown up said they wanted to work for me; many people brought me presents of food.
How pleased I was! Oh yes, I had tried to do right with these savages, and they knew it, and they loved me for it. I knew that not one of them thought unkindly of me.
The day after my landing I dispatched Sholomba with a canoe filled with paddlers up the river. Those among you who have followed me in my former adventures must guess where I sent that canoe.
To the village of King Quengueza, that dear old chief. I wanted to see his face. I had brought great numbers of presents for him, to show him that in the white man's country I had thought of him. I had brought presents for many of his people, his nephews, sons, and nieces. His old faithful slaves were not forgotten—good old Etia among them; and his head slave Mombon.
So one canoe had gone for friend Ranpano, and another for good old Quengueza.
Canoes strong enough to go through the surf were coming from all the villages. Huts were given to me in which to store my goods, and now we had reached the point of bringing them ashore.
It was necessary for me to go on board the Mentor, and arrange the mode of disembarkation of my extensive outfit and stock of goods. As the mouth of the river had become unsafe on account of the breaking-up of the sandy spit, and was now an uninterrupted line of breakers, we resolved to land every thing on the beach through the surf, and then carry them across to the river, and put them in other canoes, which were to carry them to my new settlement.
So on the 14th I went to the schooner, and slept on board that night. Captain Vardon was somewhat anxious; he had never been on this wild and unfrequented part of the coast, so far from any civilized settlements, and when he saw me he was delighted, and said that he began to think that the natives had murdered me. He had kept an armed guard on the watch all the time, for, said he, such a country looked exactly like one where the natives could pounce upon the unsuspecting vessel, murder the crew, and rob the ship. I assured him that there was no danger; that I could do what I wished with the Commi people, as he would be able to see for himself; and that, though many of the boxes would have to be opened, and the goods deposited loose in the canoes, not a single thing would be stolen.
Knowing the negroes of the Coast (for he had been a trader), he seemed somewhat incredulous at my statement.
LANDING GOODS.—AMONG THE BREAKERS.—KING RANPANO.—LOSS OF INSTRUMENTS.—KING QUENGUEZA.—A PALAVER.—CHANGING NAMES.
The next morning, at daybreak, three canoes came alongside to take off the cargo. The men brought the news that King Ranpano had arrived, and was on the beach.
My most precious things were lowered into the canoes, and when every thing was ready, the captain concluded to go ashore with me.
The captain and I got into the canoe containing all my scientific instruments, medicines, some of my best guns, my watch chronometers, five Geneva musical boxes, etc., etc. Before we left the captain ordered the mate to keep a sharp lookout, and fasten to the anchors seventy fathoms of chain, for the sea was heavy. The crew came to say good-by to me, and as our canoes left the side of the Mentor they gave three cheers for me. Then, as fast as our paddles could propel us, we made for the beach.
As we approached the breakers, the faces of the canoe-men looked anxious, for the swells were heavy, and I could hear the roar of the surf. Nearer and nearer we came. The two other canoes were ahead of us.
The men were watching the swells, resting on their paddles. At last we hear their cheers; they plunge their paddles into the water, and onward they go toward the shore, rolling on the top of a heavy, long swell.
My men thought we were too late, as we were behind, and had better wait for the next lull. In the mean time we watched the two canoes; they seemed for a while to be buried in the foaming billows. "Surely," I said to Captain Vardon, "those canoes will never reach the shore safely."
"I don't believe they will," was his answer.
"We had reached a point just outside the breakers, where we watch; the two canoes appear again; they have not capsized; the men are covered with spray; they are paddling as hard as they can; they are over the breakers; they land safely; the people on the shore seize the canoes, and bring them up the beach.
Now our time has come, and the men are watching anxiously. I have the finest canoe-men of the Commi tribe in my canoe. Oshimbo holds the steering-paddle. Kombé, Ratenou, Ondonga, Gonwe, Sholomba, and the others, are not only splendid paddlers, but they all swim like fish—a very important thing for me if we capsize. My sixteen men are resting on their paddles; they are all looking outside, and watching the heavy rollers as they come in. Generally six of these come, and then there is a kind of a lull. "Get ready! Paddle hard!" shouted Oshimbo. The men gave a terrific Commi hurra, and down went their paddles, and with heavy strokes we got on what we thought a gentle swell. We had hardly got on it when the swell became higher and higher, carrying us almost with lightning speed; then it began to crest itself; we were caught, and finally were dashed upon a white foaming wave with fearful force. "Be careful!" shouted Oshimbo. "Have your eyes upon our white man!"
Though we did not upset, our canoe was partly filled with water, and the rush of the wave had prevented Oshimbo's paddle from acting as a rudder, and the canoe was now lying broadside at the mercy of the next wave that should come.
"Hurry!" shouted Oshimbo to the men; "let us bring back the canoe's head on to the waves!" and the men put forth all their might to rescue us from our perilous position. Just as we had succeeded in bringing the canoe round, a second immense roller, coming from far out at sea, and mounting higher and higher as it approached, threatened our destruction. We were in fearful suspense. Perhaps we will be able to ride upon it; perhaps it will break ahead of us. It was a terrific one. My men cried again with one voice, "Let us look out for our white man!"
These words were hardly uttered when the huge wave broke over the stern of our canoe with appalling force, instantly upsetting it and hurling us into the sea, where we were deeply submerged in the spray.
I do not know how I ever got back on the surface of the water, but when I did I was some forty feet from the canoe, and all the men were scattered far and wide.
I was almost stunned. Breaker upon breaker succeeded each other with awful rapidity, sending us rolling about under them, and giving us hardly time to breathe. The sea all round became a mass of foaming billows. By this time all my faithful negroes were around me, shouting to each other, "To our ntangani—our ntangani (white man)!" It was indeed high time, for I felt myself sinking. A minute more, and I would have sank helpless to the bottom of the sea, never to rise again. The Commi swam round me and held me up, till another wave would scatter us again, and then they came back to my succor.
In spite of all their efforts, I became weaker and weaker. They had succeeded in ridding me of the greater part of my clothing, but, notwithstanding this relief, my strength was fast failing me, and I had drank large quantities of salt water.
I cried, "Where is the captain? Go for him!" My cry was just in time, for he was in his last struggle for life. Once we had got hold of the canoe, but the waves had made us loose our grip. Loud shouts came from the shore; the people were almost frantic. Canoe after canoe was launched, but only to be swamped in the breakers the next instant.
At length the tumult of the waves subsided; there came a lull, and the rising tide had driven us toward the beach. We were not far from it, indeed, and now we rested a little, holding fast to our capsized canoe.
At last a canoe succeeded in leaving the shore, and came to our rescue. As it reached us the crew jumped into the sea to give us their places, and, in order not to load it too heavily, they swam alongside, holding fast to it to keep it steady.
As we neared the shore, the natives did not wait for me to land, but ran into the water, and, seizing me, carried me off in their arms, in the midst of deafening cries and cheers, the women wringing their hands and shouting, "The sea wanted to eat our white man; the sea wanted to eat our white man."
The people led me into a thicket of trees, where a bright fire was lighted, and whom should I see but King Ranpano seated on the ground, his little idol before him, his eyes shining with excitement, and his body trembling all over. I drew myself up, trying to look haughty and displeased.
"Ranpano," I said, "if any one had told me that you did not care for me, I would not have believed them. What!" said I, "every one was on the shore to see what they could do to save us from drowning; even your wife, the queen, was there, and went into the sea to catch me as we landed, and I might have died and been drowned for all that you cared. You were cold, and you sat by the fire."
"Oh," said Ranpano, "my white man die in the water? Never, while I am alive! How could it be? How could it be? Oh no, Chally, you could not be drowned—you could not, my white man; my Chally will never die in our country. I have a fetich, and as long as I wear it you can not be drowned. I was talking to my idol; I was invoking before her the spirit of my father to protect you in the sea. When the waves were around you, I begged the idol to send the sharks away from you. Oh, Chally, I would not leave the idol for fear you might perish. Oh!" exclaimed Ranpano, with a stentorian voice, "there are people already jealous of me and of my village. Some village has sent an aniemba to upset the canoe."
The wildest excitement prevailed around me. I was partly stunned, and I had drunk a great deal of salt water. Poor Captain Vardon had a narrow escape, and, as he said, he was sinking when my boys—my good boys—clinched him. And once more I thanked silently the great God that had watched so mercifully over me.
After a while I realized the severe blow I had received when the great loss I had sustained presented itself to my mind. Scientific instruments, watch chronometers, medicines, guns, musical instruments, etc., etc., had gone to the bottom of the sea.
"Oh dear," said I to myself, "I must remain here on this barren and lonely coast, and wait for a vessel to come back and bring me new scientific instruments, for without them I can not go across the continent toward the Nile. I wish to make a good map of the country, to take accurate astronomical observations, to determine the height of the mountains, and to be able to ascertain at any time the day and the month if I should forget their regular succession in the calendar, and, without my instruments, all this will be impossible."
I can not tell you how sorry I felt. That evening I felt utterly heart-broken, and I could have cried. "But," said I to myself, "to bear my misfortune with fortitude is true manhood;" and, though it was hard to believe it, I knew that all that had happened was for the best.
Captain Vardon felt a sincere sympathy with me. The poor man was himself an object of commiseration, for he was so exhausted and had drank so much water that he was quite ill.
My mind was made up, however, that very day as to what I should do. I must manage to have a letter reach the island of Fernando Po, and then that letter would be forwarded to London. That letter will be for Messrs. Baring Brothers, and I will ask them to send me a vessel with all I need.
The next night, as I lay on my hard bed pondering my wondrous escape from the deep sea, I could not help thinking bitterly of the heavy loss I had sustained. It was not so much for the large sum of money that had been sacrificed, but for the great waste of time this catastrophe had entailed upon me.
I could not sleep; these thoughts kept me awake. I turned from side to side in the hope that an easier position would put me to sleep, but it was of no avail, when suddenly I heard the sound of the natives' bugles on the river. The people were blowing their bugles made of antelopes' horns, and then I heard the songs of a multitude of paddlers. The sound became more and more distinct as the canoes neared my cabin. Then I could hear distinctly, "Quengueza, our king, comes to see his great friend Chally—Chally, who has returned from the white man's country."
Soon after the singing stopped, and I knew that they had landed.
All my gloomy fancies were soon forgotten, and I got up and dressed myself as quickly as possible. As I opened my door, whom should I see, as quiet as a statue in front of my hut, but King Quengueza, the venerable chief. He opened his arms to receive me, and we hugged each other without saying a word. The great and powerful African chief, the dread of the surrounding tribes and clans, the great warrior, held me in his arms, and after a while he said, "Chally, I would have staid before your door all night if I had not seen you. I could not go to sleep without embracing you, for you do not know how much I love you. You do not know how many times I have thought of you, and many, many times I have said to my people, 'We shall not see Chally again.' And first, when Sholomba told me you had come, and had sent for me, I said, 'Sholomba, this is a lie; Chally has not come. Four rainy seasons and four dry seasons have passed away, and if he had intended coming he would have been here long ago. No, Sholomba, why do you come and make fun of me? It is a lie; Chally has not come—Chally has not come, and he will not come any more to the country of the black man.'"
"Here I am," I said, "friend Quengueza; your friend Chally is before you. He has thought of you many and many a time in the white man's country; he has not forgotten you;" and I whispered in his ears, "He has brought you a great many fine things which no black man has seen before, and which no black man will have but yourself."
Then the old chief ordered his attendants to retire, and when he had entered my little hut I lighted a torch, and he looked at me and I looked at him without our saying a word. Then I seated myself on the edge of my bed, and the king seated himself on the little stool close to me, and filled his pipe with native Ashira tobacco, and we had a long talk.
I said, "Quengueza, I have come. Since I saw you a great many things have happened. I have been in different countries of the white man. Many know you, many love you, for I have told the white man what great friends we were—how much we loved each other. I have told them how kind you were to your friend Chally; that every thing he wanted you gave to him, and that not one of your people ever took any thing from Chally—if he had he would have had his head cut off or been sold into slavery. Many white men and white women, boys and girls, know you, and I have presents from them for you, which you shall see in a few days. I have told them what we did together, how we went into the woods together, and how we cut that big ebony-tree"—here I stopped a while, and presently said, "how I hope to go farther inland than I have ever been, and will come back again by the sea."
Then I remained silent, and the old chief rose up, the shadow of his stately form falling behind him. For a few moments he did not utter a word, and then he said,
"Chally, my town is yours; my forests, my slaves are yours; all the girls and women of my village are yours; I will have no will of my own when you are with me. You shall be the chief, and whatever you say shall be obeyed. You shall never know hunger as long as there is a plantain-tree on our plantation, or a wild animal in the forests. And, Chally, when you shall say 'I must go—go far away, where nobody has been,' I will let you go; I will help you to go, though my heart will be sad when you depart."
I found Quengueza still in mourning for his brother, whom he had succeeded, and that he had taken his brother's name, "Oganda," which is the name taken by every chief of the Abouya clan. What a queer custom they have! The law of inheritance there is from brother to brother, and Quengueza's name had been Ratenou Kombé Quengueza, and now came the last, which he was to carry to his grave, Oganda.
I said, "Friend Quengueza, it will be hard for me to call you Oganda, for the name by which I have learned to love you is Quengueza."
"Never mind, Chally, call me Quengueza," said he; and, as he left my hut, he implored me once more in a whisper not to tell any one that I had brought him presents, "for," said he, "if the people knew that you had brought me many fine things, they would bewitch me, and I should die."
I saw that poor Quengueza was as superstitious as ever.
The old chief then went to the hut that had been prepared for him during his visit to me. By this time it was four o'clock in the morning, and the cock in the village had already begun to crow when I lay down to sleep.
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