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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIn The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 4
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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 4 Post by :AmyFolk Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2402

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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 4


We sat on the shore under the shade of some tall trees on the outskirts of the forest, which came down in an apparently impenetrable mass nearly to the coast. Our eyes were turned towards the slave-schooner, which now, under all sail, was standing on, with her freight of living merchandise, at a distance from the shore. We were thankful to be out of her; yet our position was a trying one. We could not tell what dangers and difficulties were before us. In front was the dark rolling sea, which broke in masses of foam at our feet; behind us was the thick forest, through which on one hand a creek had forced its way into the ocean, though its mouth was impassable for boats on account of a sandbank which ran across it; while on the other side was a clear space, in which stood the barracoons and huts of the native slave-dealers. The blacks had taken little notice of us, leaving us to our own devices, probably, till we might be compelled to appeal to them for assistance. Close to us were piled up the articles we had saved from the wreck, as well as others which Senhor Silva had purchased from the captain for his own and our use.

We had been silent for some minutes. "What is to be done, Stanley?" said David at length. "Are we to proceed to the north, or south; and how are we to travel? We cannot carry all those things, that is certain."

"It must depend on whereabouts we are, the direction in which we proceed," answered Stanley. "The slave captain took good care to keep us in the dark as to that point; but perhaps Senhor Silva can inform us."

"Indeed, my friend, I am sorry to say I cannot," said the Portuguese. "It is only now that I breathe freely, and can assure you that although I appeared on friendly terms with the captain of yonder vessel, I hate the work in which he is engaged as much as you do; and though by a heavy bribe I induced him to land us, he would not tell me where he purposed putting us on shore, lest we might reach some settlement, and give notice of his being on the coast before he can leave it altogether for South America. Though he has already four hundred slaves on board, he will probably, if he can find them, take two or three hundred more before he considers he has his full cargo."

"Dreadful!" exclaimed Kate. "I would rather go through any dangers on shore than have remained longer on board that terrible vessel."

"So would I," said Bella. "I fancy I still hear the cries of those poor little black children." Timbo and Jack shook their fists at the vessel.

"Oh yes; Natty and I often talked of how we could set them free!" exclaimed Leo; "and only wished that the English man-of-war would come and catch them. If I become a sailor, I would rather be engaged in hunting slavers and liberating the poor blacks than in fighting Frenchmen, or any other enemies."

"One thing I would advise is, that we leave this coast and proceed to the highlands in the interior," observed Senhor Silva. "You saw that range of blue mountains as we approached the shore, though they are now hidden by the trees? They form the Serra do Crystal. They are but thinly inhabited, and though travelling along them will be rougher work than on the plains, yet we shall enjoy fresh breezes and a more healthy climate than down below."

"To the mountains, then, in the first place let us proceed," said Stanley, springing to his feet. "After that we can decide which way to take; but, for my own part, I should prefer moving towards the south. We shall be going homewards, and may be better able to send a message to our friends at the Cape. It is a long distance, but we shall, no doubt, hear from them if we have patience, and, in the meantime, maintain ourselves in the most healthy region we can find. There is, at all events, no lack of game, and we shall probably be able to obtain fruit and vegetables sufficient for our wants."

"An excellent plan!" exclaimed David. "We shall thus be able to add largely to our knowledge of natural history; and if Kate and Bella do not object to live a savage life for so many months, I think we can make our stay not only satisfactory, but in many respects delightful."

"I am glad to do whatever you wish, my brothers," said Kate; "and I think I shall enjoy the life you propose very much. I wish I had a few more books to teach Bella from; but we must make the most of those we have: and I will undertake to cook for you and tend the house, for I suppose you do not intend living out in the woods all the time?"

"Oh no, no," said David. "Wherever we settle to remain we must at once build a house, where you and Bella can live in comfort, and where we can stow our stores and collections of natural history."

Of course I agreed to my cousin's plan; and, indeed, I thought it, under all circumstances, the most advisable. Even should we reach one of the Portuguese settlements, we might not be able to find a vessel to carry us to the Cape; besides which, they are mostly unhealthy, and it would be far better travelling along the mountains than having to spend any length of time at one of them. I was afraid, however, that Senhor Silva would not so readily agree to this plan, as he might be anxious to reach Loando. I was relieved when I heard him say--

"Well, my friends, I approve of your proposal; but we must not wait here an hour longer than is necessary. At night we shall find unhealthy vapours rise from yonder river, and the sooner, therefore, we get away from its banks the better."

"But we have no horses or waggons to carry our goods," I observed, looking at the pile of property before me. "Even if each of us were to take a heavy package, we could not carry it."

"I will see to that," said Senhor Silva. "I think I can secure the services of some of those negroes, although they may not be willing to venture far into the country. Mr Crawford, will you come with me, and we will see what can be done?"

I started up with my gun in my hand, for I did not like the appearance of the black savages. I remembered the way the poor crew of the _Osprey had been treated, and thought it possible, if we were taken unawares, that we might meet the same fate.

"The case is very different here," said Senhor Silva in reply to my remark as we walked along. "Those poor men fell victims to the treachery not so much of the blacks, as of some of the white slavers who had but a short time before curried off a number of their kindred and friends. I heard the story on board the schooner. They had enticed them down to the coast on pretence of trading, and then surrounding them, had captured some forty or fifty of their number, and carried them off on board their ship. Those who had escaped, very naturally vowed vengeance against the first white men they might meet, of course not distinguishing between English and Portuguese. Thus the unfortunate crew of the brig became their victims. They would, had we landed before they had had time to ask questions, very probably have put us all to death. We have had, indeed, a providential escape."

We found that the slave-dealers and most of their followers had already taken their departure--probably to avoid rendering us any assistance. They had only come down to the coast to embark their captives, and had gone back again, my companion supposed, to obtain a fresh supply. We found, however, about a dozen men, who came out when Senhor Silva called them in their own language. When he assured them that we were friends, and that we would treat them honestly, they agreed, without hesitation, to act as our bearers as far as the Crystal Mountains. Beyond them they declined going, saying that they had enemies on the other side who would certainly, if they found them, kill them, or carry them off as slaves, or, they added, "very likely eat us, for they are terrible cannibals." As soon as the arrangement was made, they all came leaping and hooting and rushing against each other, like a set of school-boys unexpectedly let loose for a half holiday, or a party of sailors on shore after a long cruise.

While the blacks were arranging our property into fit packages for carrying, the two boys and I accompanied David to the mouth of the river, which, as I said, was lined with mangrove bushes, a ledge of rocks which ran out some way enabling us to get a view up the stream. We had thus an opportunity of examining those curious trees. Innumerable roots rose out of the water, lifting the trunk far above it, and from its upper part shot off numerous branches with bright green foliage, which grew in radiated tufts at their ends. Many of them were bespangled with large gaily-coloured flowers, giving them a far more attractive appearance than could be supposed, considering the dark, slimy mud out of which they grew. From the branches and trunk, again, hung down numberless pendulous roots, which had struck into the ground, of all thicknesses--some mere thin ropes, others the size of a man's leg--thus appearing as if the tree was supported by artificial poles stuck into the ground. David told me that the seeds germinate on the branches, when, having gained a considerable length, they fall down into the soft mud, burying themselves by means of their sharp points, and soon taking root, spring upwards again towards the parent tree. Thus the mangrove forms an almost impenetrable barrier along the banks of the rivers. On the other side of the stream, indeed, we saw that they had advanced a considerable distance into the ocean, their mighty roots being able to stem even the waves of the Atlantic. Near where we stood the ground was rather more open, and we saw the black mud covered with numberless marine animals, sea-urchins, _holothuria_, or sea-slugs, crabs, and several other creatures, many of brilliant hues, which contrasted curiously with the dark mud over which they were crawling. The roots of the trees were also covered with mussels, oysters, and other Crustacea. But the most curious creature was a small fish which I had before seen, called by sailors Jumping Johnny. David called him a close-eyed gudgeon (_periophthalmus_). He was of the oddest shape, and went jumping about sometimes like a frog, and sometimes gliding in an awkward manner over the mud. We were watching one of them when Leo cried out, "Why, the fish is climbing the tree--see, see!" And so in reality he was, working his way up by means of his pectoral fins, David supposed in search of some of the minute Crustacea which clung to the roots. Jumping Johnny, having eaten as much as he could swallow, or slipping off by accident, fell back into the mud, when we saw issuing sideways from under the roots a huge crab. David said he was of the _Grapsus family. Suddenly he gave a spring, and seized the unfortunate Johnny in his vice-like gripe, and instantly began to make his dinner off the incautious fish, who, as Leo said, would have been wiser if he had kept in the water, and not attempted to imitate the habits of a terrestrial animal.

As we looked up the stream we saw numerous birds feeding along the banks. Among them were tall flamingoes, rose-coloured spoonbills, snow-white egrets, and countless other water-fowl.

"I am glad we have been able to witness this scene here," said David, "where we can benefit by the sea-breeze; for such deadly miasmas rise from these mangrove swamps, that the further we keep off from them the better."

While we were watching we saw a canoe, paddled by half a dozen blacks, dart out from the mouth of a creek which had been concealed by the thick trees. We drew back, not knowing whether the people in the canoes might prove friends or foes. Another followed at a little distance, and proceeded up the stream. They were impelled by paddles with broad blades; and the sound of voices reached our ears as if they were singing.

"I do not think they can be enemies, or they would not be so merry," said Natty.

"I hope not," I observed.

"If we could stop them we might hire their canoes to convey us up the river."

"It might be dangerous to do so," said David, "on two accounts: they might prove treacherous, and the miasmas rising from the stream might also possibly give some of us fever. I think we had better let them go on their way, and proceed as Senhor Silva proposed."

Returning, we found the party ready to start. We told Senhor Silva about the canoes.

"I think you did wisely to let them go," he remarked. "Unless we were under the protection of their chief man, or king, as he is called, we could not tell how they might behave. We must use great caution in our intercourse with these people. When we have shown them that we are friends, and desire to do them all the good in our power, we, I hope, shall find them faithful; but they have become so debased by their intercourse with the white people, and especially, I am sorry to say, with my countrymen, who often deal treacherously with them, that they cannot be depended on. They in return, as might naturally be supposed, cheat and deceive the whites in every way."

Our path first led through the forest near the banks of the river, of which we occasionally got glimpses. It was here of considerable width, bordered by mangrove bushes. In one or two places there were wide flats covered with reeds. Suddenly, as we passed a point of the river, I saw drawn up what had much the appearance, at the first glance, of a regiment of soldiers, with red coats and white trousers.

"Why, where can those men have come from?" I cried out.

David, who was near me, burst into a laugh, in which his sisters and the boys joined. "Why, Andrew, those are birds," he answered. "A regiment, true enough, but of flamingoes; and see! they are in line, and will quickly march away as we approach."

A second glance showed me that he was right; and a very curious appearance they had.

"See! there is the sentinel."

As he spoke, one of the birds nearest to us issued a sound like that of a trumpet, which was taken up by the remainder; and the whole troop, expanding their flaming wings, rose with loud clamours into the air, flying up the stream. We went on, and cutting off a bend in the river, again met it; and here our bearers declared that they must stop and rest. We accordingly encamped, though Senhor Silva warned us that we must remain but a short time, as we wished to reach some higher ground before dark. A fire was lighted for cooking; and while our meal was preparing, David and I, with the two boys, went down nearer the banks to see what was to be seen. We observed on the marshy ground a little way off a high mound, and creeping along, that we might not disturb the numerous birds which covered the banks or sat on the trees around, we caught sight of another mound, with a flamingo seated on the top of it, her long legs, instead of being tucked up as those of most birds would have been, literally astraddle on it.

"That is one of their nests," whispered David. "The bird is a hen sitting on her eggs. Depend upon it, the troop is not far off. See, see! there are many others along the banks. What a funny appearance they have."

Presently a flash of red appeared in the blue sky, and looking up, we saw what might be described as a great fiery triangle in the air sweeping down towards us. On it came, greatly diminishing its rate, and we then saw that it was composed of flamingoes. They hovered for a moment, then flew round and round, following one another, and gradually approached the marsh, on which they alighted. Immediately they arranged themselves as we had before seen them, in long lines, when several marched off on either side to act as sentinels, while the rest commenced fishing. We could see them arching their necks and digging their long bills into the ground, while they stirred up the mud with their webbed feet, in order to procure, as David told us, the water-insects on which they subsist. They, however, were not the only visitors to the river. The tide was low, and on every mud-bank or exposed spot countless numbers of birds were collected--numerous kinds of gulls, herons, and long-legged cranes--besides which, on the trees were perched thousands of white birds, looking at a distance like shining white flowers. They were the _egretta flavirostris_. Vast flocks of huge pelicans were swimming along the stream, dipping their enormous bills into the water, and each time bringing up a fish. They have enormous pouches, capable of containing many pounds of their finny prey.

"Could we kill one or two we should get a good supply of fish for supper," said David; "for the pelican stows them away in his pouch, where they remain not only undigested, but perfectly fresh, and not till it is full does he commence his meal. However, as we have no canoe, even were we to kill one we could not get him."

While we were looking on, a huge bird, descending from the sky, it seemed, pounced down into the water, quickly rising again with a large fish in his mouth.

"Ah, that fellow is the fishing-eagle of Africa--the _Halicetus vocifer_" said David. "His piercing eye observed his prey when he was yet far up in the air. See how like a meteor he descended on it! Now he flies away to yonder rock; and there, see! he has begun to tear his fish to pieces. How quickly he has finished it--and listen to that curious shriek he is uttering, and how oddly he moves his head and neck. It is answered from those other rocks. The birds are calling to each other, and from this the fishing-eagle has gained his name of _vocifer_" Leo was for shouting and making them fly off. "No, no; let them feed," said David. "We have frightened the flamingo once; and how would you like to be disturbed in your dinner? We must get Kate to come and look at them."

While we were watching the birds, an enormous head emerged from the water at a short distance from us. Leo and Natty, who were a little in front, started back, Leo exclaiming, "What can it be? What a terrific monster!" A huge body rising after the head, the creature swam slowly up the stream.

"Why, that must be a hippopotamus," observed David, watching the creature in his usual calm way.

"It looks to me the size of an elephant," exclaimed Leo. "Run, run, run! If he were to attack us he would swallow us up in a mouthful."

"I do not think it has even noticed us," said David. "It will be time enough to run when the creature lands. See! there is another."

As he spoke, a second and then a third hippopotamus appeared, following the first. The creatures, indeed, had truly terrific countenances; their backs in the water looking, as Leo had declared, nearly as large as those of elephants.

"But see, there are some other creatures nearer!" cried Natty. "Oh, what are they? What fearful jaws!"

He pointed to the bank close below us, and there we saw, just scrambling out of the water, three huge crocodiles. There was no mistaking them. We knew at once by their long snouts and terrific jaws, their scaly backs and lizard-like tails, their short legs and savage eyes. They seemed in no way afraid of the hippopotami, which they kept watching as they swam by.

"I little expected to get a sight of these monsters," said David. "But see! they take no notice of us, and we need not be afraid of them."

I had my gun, and instinctively levelled at the head of the nearest hippopotamus.

"Do not fire," said David. "Even if you were to kill the beast we could not get him, and it would be cruel to slaughter him without any object in view. He intends us no harm; we ought to allow him to enjoy the existence the Creator has given him."

The hippopotami swam by and dived, and presently we saw them rise to the surface with a quantity of weeds in their mouths, which they chewed leisurely as they swam on. The crocodiles meantime crawled up on the bank and lay basking in the sun, enjoying its warmth, and looking at that time, at all events, as if they had no evil intentions. It was a curious scene, and gave us an idea of the vast amount of animal life to be met with in that region.

"I think it would frighten Kate, brave as she is, to see those huge monsters," said Leo.

"Oh, no," answered David. "Bella might be somewhat alarmed; but I am sure Kate would be as much interested as we are in witnessing this curious sight. We will get her to come, but warn her beforehand what she is to expect."

We accordingly hastened back to the camp, but found we had been so long absent that it was now time to proceed; and the bearers taking up their loads, we continued our march. Senhor Silva assured Kate and Bella they need not be disappointed at missing a sight of the flamingoes, as they would have many opportunities of seeing troops of those magnificent birds, which are found in vast numbers throughout that region.

The woods as we proceeded appeared full of life. Birds flitted among the boughs, and monkeys of all sorts sprang here and there, chattering and hooting as we passed. Soon after this we emerged from the wood and entered a beautiful prairie--a natural clearing covered with grass or low shrubs and flowers. As yet we had fallen in with no inhabitants. "Oh, but see!" exclaimed Leo. "There are some huts ahead. Shall we go and pay the people a visit?" The boys ran on. I thought Senhor Silva would have called them back, but he allowed them to proceed. At all events, he knew that if the huts were inhabited, the people were likely to prove friendly. The boys stopped before the seeming huts, and began to examine them. We saw them walking round and round, and they then finally climbed to the top of one of them. After apparently satisfying their curiosity, they came back towards us.

"They are not huts," exclaimed Natty, "but curious mounds, three or four times as high as we are."

"What do you say to those mounds or clay-built domes being the houses of ants, and built entirely by themselves?" said Senhor Silva.

As we approached we saw a dozen or more such mounds, scattered about at short distances from each other. Having got to a secure distance from the last, two of our bearers put down their loads, and advancing towards it with the poles they carried, began to attack it with heavy blows, knocking off one of the small turrets on the side. Instantly a white ant was seen to appear through the opening thus made, apparently surveying the damage done. Immediately afterwards, hundreds of other ants came to the spot, each carrying a small lump of clay, with which they began to repair the damage; and even for the short time we remained, they had made some progress. We could discover, however, no outlet or opening in the mound; nor, except at the hole made by our bearers, were any ants seen. We, however, could not remain to watch the progress of the work. Just as we were going, one of our bearers, much to my regret, commenced a still more furious attack on the citadel, exposing the whole centre to view, when it appeared crowded with thousands and tens of thousands--so it seemed--of ants, who issued forth with pincers stretched out, evidently intending to attack us. David caught up one of the ants to examine it; but we were all too glad hurriedly to make our escape. We found the creature, on examining it, to be a quarter of an inch in length, with a flat hard head, terminating in a pair of sharp horizontal pincers, something like the claws of a crab.

Several, who, in spite of our flight, caught hold of us, bit very hard, and did not fail to draw blood. Senhor Silva, as we marched on, gave us a very interesting account of these white ants, with the habits of which he was well acquainted, as he told us he had had one of the mounds cut completely in two, so as to examine the interior. The under part alone of the mound is inhabited by the ants; the upper portion serving as a roof to keep the lower warm and moist for hatching the eggs. His description put me somewhat in mind of the Pyramids of Egypt. The larger portion is solid. In the centre, just above the ground, is the chief cell, the residence of the queen and her husband. Round this royal chamber is found a whole labyrinth of small rooms, inhabited by the soldiers and workmen. The space between them and the outer wall of the building is used partly for store-rooms and partly for the purpose of nurseries. A subterranean passage leads from a distance to the very centre of the building. It is cylindrical, and lined with cement. On reaching under the bottom of the fortress, it branches out in numerous small passages, ascending the outer shell in a spiral manner, winding round the whole of the building to the summit, and intersecting numerous galleries one above the other, full of cells. The outer end of the great gallery, by which the mound is approached, also branches off into numerous small ones, so as to allow a passage into it from various directions. As the ants cannot climb a perpendicular wall without difficulty, all their ascents are gradual. It is through this great passage that they convey the clay, wood, water, and provisions to their colony.

To give you a correct idea of the way these curious mounds are built and stocked with inhabitants, I should tell you that the perfect termites are seen at certain seasons in vast quantities covering the earth, each having four narrow wings folded on each other. They are instantly set upon by their enemies--reptiles of all sorts, and numerous birds--who eat such quantities, that out of many thousands but few pairs escape destruction. There are besides them in their fortress vast numbers of labourers, who only issue forth with caution to obtain provisions and materials for their abodes. When these discover a couple of the perfect termites who have escaped destruction, they elect them as their sovereigns, and escorting them to a hollow in the earth which they at once form, they establish a new community. Here they commence building, forming a central chamber in which the royal pair are ensconced; while they go on with their work, building the galleries and passages which have been described, till the mound has reached the dimensions of those we have seen. The king in a short time dies, but his consort goes on increasing in bulk till she attains the enormous length of three inches, and a width in proportion. She now commences laying her eggs, at the rate, it is said, of nearly sixty in a minute. This often continues night and day for two years, in which time fifty million eggs have been laid. These are conveyed by the indefatigable labourers to the nurseries, which are thus all filled. When hatched, they are provided with food by the labourers. There is another class, the soldiers. These are distinguished by the size of their heads, and their long and sharp jaws, with which they bravely attack any intruders. When any unwary creature appears to attack their abode, first one comes out to see what is the matter. He summons others, and directly afterwards vast numbers issue forth, doing battle with the greatest courage. When any of them are knocked over, instantly recovering themselves, they return to the assault with a bravery and courage surpassed by no other creature in creation. The labourers meantime are exerting themselves to the utmost to repair the damages which have been effected in their fortress. Those who have watched their proceedings state that in a single night they will repair a gallery, which has been injured, of three or four yards in length. We were thankful that in our attack on the termites' fortress we had escaped with only a few bites; but probably had we remained longer in their neighbourhood we should have received far more severe injuries.

Travelling on for several days, we emerged into some open ground, where we prepared to encamp. We selected a spot somewhat above the plain, and our bearers at once set to work to cut down poles. These they planted in circles, and interwove them with branches of palm-trees, forming walls which afforded sufficient shelter from the night wind; then bringing the tops close together, they thatched them over with leaves of the same tree. We of course all assisted, and in a short time a number of small circular huts were formed sufficient to accommodate the whole of the party. A quantity of wood was collected, to keep up blazing fires to preserve us from the attacks of wild beasts. We were at a sufficient distance, however, from the skirts of the forest, not to be taken totally unawares. Still, it was considered necessary to place guards round the camp, two of our party and two of the blacks remaining on the watch all night. Before darkness closed in, we saw numbers of monkeys in the trees, watching us with curious looks, leaping from bough to bough, and chattering and grinning, wondering apparently who the strangers could be who had thus ventured into their domain. The two girls had a hut to themselves. We had formed a second wall of sticks round it, so that should any wild beast approach unseen, it could not force an entrance, which Senhor Silva told us had sometimes occurred. The moon rose in an unclouded sky, and cast a mild light over the scene. In the distance were the lofty mountains, on either side the dark woods, and far away to the west was the ocean we had left behind. It was a beautiful scene, such as I had not expected to witness in that region, and we were all more than ever thankful that we had escaped from the slaver. Still, I could not banish from my mind the spectacle I had witnessed on board, and my thoughts went back to the unhappy beings crowded on the slave-deck of that fearful craft. I was reminded that we were in Africa by the cries which proceeded ever and anon from the surrounding forest. Now there was a loud roar, with a suppressed muttering, which it would be hard to describe, and which I afterwards learned to distinguish as the voice of the monarch of the woods; not that he often ventures here, for his rule is disputed by the tremendous gorilla, the creature who had only a short time before been discovered in this region. We were, however, we concluded, on the most southern verge of his territory, and we therefore scarcely expected to encounter one. We kept our fires blazing through the night, and thus avoided any attacks from lions or panthers, or any other wild beasts.

The morning broke brightly, though we could see the mist hanging over the far distant coast. Birds flew about among the trees and across the prairie in all directions, uttering their varied notes; and the monkeys came forth, skipping from bough to bough, muttering and shrieking at us as on the previous evening, as if they had not as yet satisfied their curiosity. While Kate, assisted by Timbo and Jack, prepared breakfast, I accompanied Stanley and David, with the two boys, to shoot some birds for our next meal. I had heard so much of serpents and wild beasts, that I expected every instant to see a snake wriggling its way through the grass, and about to fasten its fangs in our legs, or to twine its fearful coils round our bodies. I could not help also looking anxiously at every bush, expecting to have a lion or a panther spring out on us, David acknowledged that he had a similar feeling. Stanley, however, laughed at our apprehensions, assuring us that snakes were not nearly so common as were supposed, or how could the almost naked blacks make their way through the country, though he acknowledged that lions and panthers were in some places justly dreaded; "But then," he observed, "we can the more easily defend ourselves against them. A well-aimed bullet will settle the fiercest lion we have to encounter."

We had good sport, and shot several varieties of birds. Among them was a partridge, of a grey colour; and David said that they were its loud calls we had heard in the forest the evening before, summoning its mate. He had observed them sleeping side by side on a branch of a tree where they have their home, and the bird which was first there did not cease calling till its mate arrived. We also shot several parrots, of a species known as the African damask parrot. They are pretty birds, and their habits are very interesting. Had we not positively required them for food, I should have been unwilling to kill them. We had seen numbers flying towards a stream which ran into the river we had passed on the previous evening. They there assembled, making a great deal of noise, and huddled and rolled over each other, frolicking together, and dipping their feet into the water, so as to sprinkle it over the whole of their bodies. Having enjoyed an ample bath and amused themselves for a time, they flew off to the forest whence they came. There we saw them sitting on the branches, cleaning their feathers. The operation over, they flew off in pairs, each pair seeking its own nest or roosting-place, separate from the others. David said that this species is noted for conjugal affection, for they never separate till one or the other dies, and the survivor then pines to death for its mate. The boys were very anxious to catch one alive for Bella, but we could not succeed in so doing. Coming near a dead tree, we saw several hollows, evidently formed by art. Leo climbed up to one of them, and putting in his hand, drew out a beautiful little bird, with a throat and breast of a glossy blue-black, having a scarlet head and a line of canary-yellow running from above the eyes along the neck. The back also, which was black, was covered with yellow spots. Here David brought his knowledge to bear; and said, from its habits, he should call it the carpenter bird. When the birds pair, they fix on a tree, the wood of which has been sufficiently softened by age to enable them to work upon it with their bills. They then take out a circular opening, about two inches in diameter and about two deep. Next they dig perpendicularly down for about four inches, the last hollow made serving as their nest. They line it softly, and the female, laying her eggs, is able to hatch them without much risk of an attack from birds of prey.

"I suppose monkeys do not eat birds," observed Leo; "or I suspect our little friend would very soon be pulled out of its nest."

"Just as you have done, Leo," observed Stanley; "and probably the poor little bird took you for a chimpanzee, or perhaps even for a gorilla."

"But neither chimpanzees nor gorillas eat animal food," observed David. "They live upon roots, fruits, and leaves; and do not amuse themselves by bird-nesting."

I need not mention the other birds we shot, but, pretty well loaded, we returned with our prizes to the camp. Breakfast over, we packed up and proceeded on our journey, leaving our huts for the occupation of the next comers.

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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 5 In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 5

In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 5
CHAPTER FIVE. THE DOMAINS OF THE GORILLA We travelled on for two days, and still the mountains were not reached; but they grew higher and clearer as we advanced, and we had hopes of getting to them at last. My young cousins bore the journey wonderfully well. When we came to difficult places, her brothers and I helped Kate along, making a seat for her with our joined hands. We could thus make but slow progress, and she entreated us to allow her to walk, declaring that she was not at all fatigued; while Timbo or Jack carried

Zanoni - Book 7 - Chapter 7.17 Zanoni - Book 7 - Chapter 7.17

Zanoni - Book 7 - Chapter 7.17
BOOK VII CHAPTER 7.XVIIThe Seventeenth and Last. Cosi vince Goffredo! "Ger. Lib." cant. xx.-xliv. (Thus conquered Godfrey.)And Viola was in prayer. She heard not the opening of the door; she saw not the dark shadow that fell along the floor. HIS power, HIS arts were gone; but the mystery and the spell known to HER simple heart did not desert her in the hours of trial and despair. When Science falls as a firework from the sky it would invade; when Genius withers as a flower in