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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIn The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 6
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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 6 Post by :AmyFolk Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2558

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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 6


Several days had passed away. Our progress had, of necessity, been slow; but it was a satisfaction to feel that we were going towards the south, and getting nearer to where we might hope to meet with assistance. We had all kept our health, and even my young cousins seemed in no way to have suffered; indeed, they looked stronger and better than they were when they landed. Our bearers, however, had for some time shown a disinclination to proceed. They told Senhor Silva that they had come further than they had bargained for, and evidently began to doubt our intentions. They knew very well that their countrymen were carried off in great numbers by the whites; and stories had been told them about the cruelties practised by those white men, and that they even collect people merely to slaughter and eat them. Although they did not perhaps suspect us of such intentions, yet altogether, in spite of the bribes we had to offer them, they thought it wiser to return to their own people. Senhor Silva promised them that as soon as we could find a spot on which to settle, if they did not wish to remain with us, they should be paid and allowed to depart.

Chickango and Timbo had by this time become great friends. They were able to converse freely together; and Timbo told me that he was doing his utmost to instruct his countryman.

"Timbo tell de Chicken all about England and Cape Town, and de oder countries of de world, and de big ships, and de rich white men; and, more dan dat, I tell him dat he got soul, and dat white man and black man hab de same God; and if he stay wid us, we treat him like one broder. You see, I no t'ink he go away now."

Not without the greatest difficulty, however, could Chickango persuade his countrymen to proceed further with us. The hills over which we were travelling were covered thickly with wood, so that often we could see but a short distance either on one side or the other. Now and then we came to openings, whence we looked down on the wide-spreading country on either side, partly hilly or undulating, and then stretching away in an even plain, intersected by rivers, till lost to sight. Stanley and Senhor Silva, with their guns, were ranging the country on either side.

"Listen!" cried David, who was walking by my side. "What noise is that?"

I listened.

"It sounds like the roar of breakers on a rocky shore," I observed.

"No," he said; "it must be a waterfall."

Hurrying on, we saw before us a wide lake-like expanse on one side, and on the other a cloud of spray floating in the air. As we drew nearer, a broad stream appeared, rushing over a ledge of rocks and falling into a deep chasm below, after which it ran towards the south and east.

"This would be a grand place to settle on," said David. "Where there is water in this region we are sure to find abundance of game; and it will assist us in defending ourselves against any attacks of the natives, should they prove hostile."

I agreed with David, and we anxiously looked out for the appearance of Stanley and Senhor Silva, to learn whether they were of the same opinion. When Kate and Bella overtook us, they were delighted with the scene, and agreed that it was just the place where they should like to settle.

In a short time Stanley arrived. He was as well pleased as we were with the appearance of the country around. Senhor Silva had no objection to fixing our abode there, though he would have preferred moving on, in the hope before long of reaching Portuguese territory. Chickango, however, assured us that the country to the south was more difficult to pass over than that we had traversed, and that without men to carry our provisions and goods we could not perform the journey. The matter was settled by our bearers refusing to proceed further. Senhor Silva asked Chickango whether he intended to return with his people or to remain with us. He hesitated; then he seized Senhor Silva's hands, and gave rapid utterance to an harangue.

"He say we good people, he stop. He my broder now. Hurrah!" exclaimed Timbo.

Although Chickango had resolved to remain with us, he could only induce his countrymen to delay their departure for a few days, in order to assist us in putting up our huts. They at once set to work to construct our usual shelter for the night, which would serve until we could erect a more permanent abode. We fixed upon a spot considerably raised above the head waters of the stream, which would defend us on one side from wild beasts, while the ground sloping downwards on the other would enable us to fortify it against either human beings, or lions or leopards. Those creatures will, without difficulty, leap over the highest fences; and if erected on level ground, no ordinary means are capable of keeping them out. I should observe that there are no tigers in Africa; their absence, however, as Leo remarked, being more agreeable than their company. Stanley and Senhor Silva had been very successful in their hunt, and had brought back a good supply of birds and young deer, besides three or four smaller animals.

By Chickango's advice, we built our huts in the fashion of his people-- that is to say, facing each other, so as to form a street, with their backs to the outside of our little fortress. As the river side was altogether enclosed, one strong door at the other end was sufficient for all the houses. For the sake of air, however, we built our huts separate from each other, and we thus had windows on all sides. The poles were of bamboo, and the walls strong pieces of bark, secured by ropes composed of creepers. The framework roofing was also formed of bamboos, with thick palm-leaves at the top, kept down by ropes. At the inner end was a shed for cooking; and our street was sufficiently wide to enable us to light a fire at night in the centre, to prevent the unwelcome intrusion of wild beasts. Our habitation, though not very imposing, was sufficiently strong to keep out the wet and rain, and, at the same time, was tolerably cool.

The two young ladies had one house to themselves; Stanley, David, and Senhor Silva another; the boys and I a third; Timbo and Chickango had one to themselves; and Jack was left alone in his glory, he taking a small one at the entrance, and having charge of the gate.

"You may depend upon me," he said. "I will always sleep with one eye open; and if any strange black fellows come near us, or any savage beasts, I will be up and have a crack at them before they know where they are."

The bearers, having performed their contract very much to our satisfaction, received from Senhor Silva a piece of calico, a knife, and some tobacco, as their payment, with a few beads for their wives, either present or prospective, with which they seemed highly pleased. When they were about to take their departure, Chickango addressed them. What he said we did not understand, but the result was that they agreed to stop two or three days longer and assist us in hunting, whereby they themselves were to benefit by a share of the spoil. They remained at night in the huts they had previously occupied, while we took possession of our new abode. Besides our sleeping houses, there was a large one intended for what Leo called our banqueting-hall. In the centre we constructed a long table, at which we could all sit, with two chairs at the end for the ladies, Stanley, as our chief, having his seat between them, somewhat in the fashion of ancient days, Jack and the two blacks taking their places at the further one. Our bed-places were formed of bamboos raised from the ground. Senhor Silva politely devoted some of his calico to making curtains for those of the young ladies. He had also brought some mosquito-curtains, which he presented to them; for we found that even in that higher region we were not free from those pests of a hot climate.

As I gazed round our new location, I could not help wishing that it was the permanent abode of civilised men. Far as the eye could reach, forest and prairie stretched away into the interior, capable of supporting a dense population; and from the health we had hitherto enjoyed, I saw no reason why even whites should not inhabit it; or, at all events, a civilised black community might there, I hoped, be some day established.

As soon as our black friends had agreed to remain, they set off, headed by Chickango, for the purpose of exploring the banks of the stream, to ascertain in what direction we should commence our hunt the following day. They had not been long absent, when Chickango came hurrying back in a state of excitement, and called to Senhor Silva.

"They have discovered an hippopotamus higher up the stream, and beg that we will go out at once and assist in killing it."

"What! can they wish to eat one of those ugly brutes?" said Leo. "If they are like those we saw the other day, it will be a hard matter to kill them."

"Nothing comes amiss to them," said Senhor Silva; "and we must not disappoint them."

Senhor Silva, with Stanley and Chickango, accordingly started off, the two boys and I accompanying them to see the sport. Chickango led us some way up the stream, where, on a rock among the trees which lined the island in the centre, we saw a huge monster. He turned his eyes towards us; but from the indifference with which he regarded our approach, it was evident that he was unaccustomed to the sight of man Chickango shouted out.

"What does he say?" asked Stanley.

"It is an hippopotamus. You must fire, and hit him under the ear, and you are sure to kill him," said Senhor Silva. "The blacks want the creature for food, and you must not disappoint them."

The water by the side of the banks above the fall was shallow, flowing amongst numerous rocks. Stanley carried a long pistol in his belt.

"Here, take my gun," he said. "I can hit the creature with this; and if I fall, it will not be of so much consequence."

Springing forward, he levelled his pistol, and the huge beast rolled over into the water and was carried down the stream. The report, however, brought out several others from among the trees on the river's bank. They came swimming down towards the fall. I was surprised they did not make towards us, and could not help feeling anxious for Stanley's safety. He stood his ground, however. Two or three had passed before he had again loaded. He then took aim at a third. He missed! The whole, herd now made for the falls. The body of the first rolled over and over, but the others plunged downwards in a way which showed that they were well accustomed to the feat; and we saw them swimming down the centre to the lower part of the stream. As the last was passing, Stanley took steady aim, and by the way the creature moved, it was evident that it was severely wounded.

The blacks now shouted out again, and led the way down to the lower part of the waterfall. We all followed. How they proposed getting the bodies of the hippopotami out of the river I could not tell, and fully expected that they would soon be lost to sight. There was, however, an eddy, which probably the blacks had observed, and into this both the huge animals were drawn. Still they were at a considerable distance from the land. The blacks, as soon as they reached the banks, began cutting away at a grove of reeds, a species of palmyra. As soon as they were cut, a layer was thrown on the surface of the water. Another layer was placed crossways on this; and so on, till the raft was of sufficient thickness to bear the party. No binding was required, as the reeds were thus sufficiently united for the purpose. With some long poles and some rattan vines cut from the forest, three hunters embarked. Throwing their ropes round the head of the first animal they got up to, they soon towed it ashore, where their companions secured it, while they shoved off for the other. The second was scarcely dead, though unable to defend itself. They secured it to the raft, when it gave a convulsive struggle, and then opened its enormous jaws, which were certainly big enough to swallow one of the men at a mouthful. It was its last effort, however, for it merely grasped the edge of the raft, and the blacks, shoving on, soon brought it to land.

I had now, for the first time, an opportunity of examining an hippopotamus thoroughly. It is a most singular looking animal, which may be described as intermediate between an overgrown hog and a high-fed bull, without horns and with cropped ears. It has an enormous head. Each of its jaws is armed with two formidable tusks, and those in the lower, which are the largest, are nearly two feet in length. The nostrils, ears, and huge eyes are placed on nearly the same plane, thus allowing the animal to make use of its three senses and of respiration, at the same time exposing but a very small part of its body. It is but little inferior in size to the elephant, though its legs are very much shorter; indeed, the belly in the full-grown one almost touches the ground. The hoofs are divided into four parts, unconnected by membranes. By this means it is able to spread out its clumsy-looking toes, and to walk at a quick pace even through mud or in very deep water. The skin is from one to two inches thick, and completely bullet-proof, except behind the ear and near the eye, where it is thinner; and it has a few hairs only on the muzzle, the edge of the ears, and tail. When out of the water it is of a purple-brown hue. In the young animal it is somewhat of a clay yellow, and under the belly of almost a roseate hue; but seen in a clear pool it is a sort of dark blue, or light Indian-ink hue. As we looked at its head we agreed that few animals have more hideous or terrific countenances.

"Why, he would swallow Natty and me up at a mouthful," said Leo, as he tried to lift up the jaws of one of the huge animals.

"Take care! he will bite!" cried out Natty; and Leo, letting his stick drop, sprang back with an expression of horror in his countenance which made us all laugh.

We left the blacks cutting up their prizes, for which, through Chickango, they expressed themselves duly grateful to Stanley.

We found that the young ladies, aided by Timbo, had prepared a sumptuous repast of wild-fowl and venison, to which we now added some hippopotamus steaks. The meat was somewhat coarse-grained, but tasted not unlike beef. Our black friends consumed it eagerly. During supper we discussed our plans for the future. Chickango assured Senhor Silva that he hoped to obtain a messenger to proceed to the south, although he himself would not venture to go alone. He took his meals with us; indeed he was, in many respects, a civilised black. He knew perfectly well how to behave at table; and used his knife and one of the wooden forks Jack and Timbo had manufactured with perfect ease.

At length our black friends, loaded with as much hippopotamus-meat as they could carry, in addition to the various articles they had received as payment, took their departure. We should have been better pleased had they continued with us, as we might then have proceeded further south without the assistance of strangers.

I have hitherto said very little about Natty Page. He had greatly recovered his spirits after the loss of his father, and now showed that there was a great deal in him. He and Leo and little Bella were the life of our party. They, happily, were not troubled with thoughts of the difficulties and dangers before us, and enjoyed the present to the utmost.

"Do you not think, Andrew," said Natty to me, "that if we were to build a canoe we could explore the river and make our way to the south far more easily than by land? Meantime, it would assist us in our hunting expeditions; and we should be able to go fishing or shooting birds, although I should not much like to meet with any of those fierce monsters the captain killed the other day."

"An excellent idea, Natty," I answered. "I will propose it to Captain Hyslop, and I am sure he will agree with you."

Stanley was well pleased with the suggestion, and it was at once agreed that we should carry it into execution.

"I, however, never built a canoe, and should scarcely know how to set about it, although I understand the management of one thoroughly," said Stanley. "I must trust, therefore, to others."

"No fear, captain," observed Timbo. "Jack, Chickango, and I soon do de work. First t'ing find big tree; and Senhor Silva got axes, so we soon cut it down."

Before the day was over we found a large tree, not more than three hundred yards from the bank of the river, which was likely to answer our purpose. The trunk was perfectly straight, the wood soft, and about twelve feet in circumference. The axes our Portuguese friend had among his stores were, however, rather small for the purpose; but yet, if carefully used, we hoped, with perseverance, to have the tree felled in the course of a day. Jack Handspike undertook to act as chief architect, although Chickango and Timbo, I suspect, knew more about the actual work than he did.

"Now, boys," he sung out, "the first thing we have got to do is to place the craft in the right position for launching, so just see that the tree falls towards the river."

Senhor Silva interpreted Jack's remark to Chickango. He nodded, and forthwith cut from the surrounding trees a number of vines, as creepers of all sorts are called. These, with my aid and that of the two boys, he formed into a strong rope. He then mounted the tree by throwing a band round it and his waist, till he reached the branches, carrying the end of the rope with him. This he secured to the top. Descending, he made signs to us to carry it to a distance towards the river, where he secured the opposite end to another tree.

Jack and Timbo, who were expert axe-men, then began cutting away near the ground. First they made a deep notch on the river side, scoring the tree all round. David and I stood by ready to take their places, while Stanley and Senhor Silva went in search of game.

"But what are we to do?" exclaimed Leo. "We do not want to be idle!"

"No, young masters, nor need you," said Jack. "We shall want spars and oars, so do you go and look out for some small trees fit to make them out of, and cut them down."

"That will be capital," cried Natty. "We will soon have a mast and yard ready for you, and as many paddles as we can pull."

The young ladies, meantime, remained in the house, that Kate might teach Bella, and, when the lessons were over, get dinner ready for us. We worked away with a will, the sound of the axes never ceasing, for as soon as Jack and Timbo were tired, David and I stepped into their places.

"See, we shall soon have the trunk through!" cried Jack. "Run and help Chickango, and haul away as hard as you can. We will have the tree down in a jiffy in that clear space."

We gave a loud cheer as we saw the tall tree bending towards us, and hauling with all our might as we ran from it, down it came with a crash. Then, as if it had been some huge creature with long feelers ready to seize hold of us, we lashed at the branches with our axes, and began hacking away at them. We had now to cut off a piece of the trunk of sufficient length for the canoe. Jack wanted to make it thirty feet long; but Timbo advised that it should not be more than twenty feet, that it might be the more easily managed in the stream. As we had no saw, this had to be done with our axes, and, of course, occupied more than half as much time as getting down the trunk. The boughs, also, had to be cut up and cleared away, that we might have an open road to the river. By the time this was done night had come on, while hunger made us all ready to return to the house.

The boys were very proud of the tree they had cut down for a mast. They had barked it completely, and shaped it partially, and now came towards us bearing it on their shoulders in triumph.

"Do you not think we might saw the thick end off?" cried Leo, after he had gone a little way with us. "It is wonderfully heavy, I can assure you, and I do not think so long a mast can be required."

"Better cut it in half at once and make two masts," said Natty. "It is somewhat heavy to carry up to the top of the hill."

"Come, young masters, I see what it is you want," said Jack. "You have cut down the spar, and done it well, and you think that stronger men ought to carry it. Timbo and I will relieve you of it, and you may run on ahead and say we are coming."

However, the boys, after all, were not very willing to give up the spar of which they were so proud, and carried it on a little way further in spite of their friends' offers. At length Jack quietly put his shoulder under one end, and Timbo took the other, and fairly lifted it off their backs. It was high time, for their knees were beginning to shake, and their faces looked very red with their exertions. The mast was indeed a great deal too long for the canoe, and required more than a third cut off.

We found that the young ladies had, as usual, made ample preparation for our supper, and Kate had found time to give Bella her usual lessons. Her instruction was imparted certainly under difficulties. Her only books were a Bible, a small History of England, a Johnson's Dictionary, and a work on natural history. The latter was especially useful to all of us, as it gave a very fair account of many of the animals we were likely to meet with. Senhor Silva had laid in a good stock of paper, pens, and ink. Kate herself was so well acquainted with geography, that she was able to draw maps, and teach her sister without difficulty. History, too, she seemed to have at her fingers' ends, so that Bella not only learned about England, but most other countries in the world.

Next day we all went back to our work. We began first to shape the outside of the canoe--a task we performed with our axes, and at this four could work at once. By Jack's advice we planed off the upper side of the tree, so that the plan of the canoe could be drawn off on it by exact measurements. We first drew a straight line down the centre, and from this measured off the two sides with the greatest care. In the game way the stem and stern were measured with a plumb-line. We then turned the log over, and having levelled that side, marked off the keel, thus having it truly in the centre. Natty and Leo had remained to assist in turning over the log.

"Why, that is exactly how I should cut out a model-boat!" exclaimed Leo. "If we had a saw we could shape the bows and stern much more easily, just as I always used to do."

"But you see, young gentleman, we must make use of what tools we have," observed Jack. "By sticking at it, I dare say we shall not be as long cutting out this here canoe as you would have been making a little model."

"Let me see," said Leo. "No; I remember it took me a good month before I got it ready for painting, and even then, I own, from some unaccountable cause, it was somewhat lopsided."

"Maybe you did not use the plumb-line, Master Leo," observed Jack. "You see there is nothing like that for getting things perpendicular, though I cannot say exactly the reason why."

"There I have you, Jack, then," said Leo. "It is on account of the centre of gravitation, and a weight let down on the earth always falls perpendicularly to the plane of the earth."

"That may be philosophy, as you call it, Master Leo, but I cannot say as how I am much wiser than I was; only you will see we will get our canoe to sit fairly on the water--neither heeling over to one side nor t'other."

Having got all our measurements correct, we once more put the canoe on an even keel, and then commenced chopping away round the intended gunwale, so as to have the upper works done first. By Jack's advice she was sharp at both ends, like a whale-boat, that we might the better back out of danger if necessary.

"Come, you are getting on so fast with the canoe, that we shall not have the spars ready if we do not set to work," said Natty. "Come along, Leo;" and the boys ran off with their axes on their shoulders in high glee.

They had not been gone long when we heard their voices crying out, "Come, come!--quick, quick!" Stanley, David, and I hurried on with our guns, which we kept ready for use, and soon reached the boys. They were too excited at first to speak. "A wild man!" cried Leo. "A fierce-looking fellow! I thought he was going to run after us, but he did not, and I do not know if he is still there."

"But was he a wild man?" said Natty. "He was walking along on all fours, and then he went up a tree. If he had been a man I do not think he would have done that."

"Probably he was a big ape," said David; "another gorilla."

"No, no; not a gorilla," answered Natty; "but I think he was an ape. He was not so big as the fearful one the captain killed and the ants ate; but he is a big fellow, notwithstanding."

This account of course excited our curiosity, and we all hurried on, hoping to find the creature which the boys had seen. They led us some way into the forest.

"We shall frighten him if we make a noise," whispered Natty.

"But I say he is a wild man, and I do not think he will be frightened," said Leo. "Only take care; if he has companions they may rush out and surprise us."

"Whether man or beast, we will be cautious," said Stanley, advancing in woodland fashion, concealing himself as much as possible behind the trunks and undergrowth.

The boys kept close to his side. Presently they stopped, and pointed to a tree standing by itself in a little open glade. The lowest branch was about twenty feet from the ground, and on looking up we saw spread above it a curious roof of leaves like an umbrella, while seated on a branch with one arm round the tree was a huge ape. His feet were resting on the stump of a lower branch, while his head was so completely covered by the roof of his nest that it almost looked like a Chinaman's huge hat. Presently we heard him give a peculiar sound, something like "hew"--"hew," which was answered from a little distance, and looking round, we discovered another roof with an ape seated under it. We guessed that it was the female, by her having a funny-looking young ape clinging to her, which she held, as a nurse does a baby, in one arm. We had advanced so cautiously that neither of the animals saw us. They were smaller than the gorilla; the hair seemed blacker and longer, and more glossy.

"Do not kill the creatures," said David. "They will do us no harm, and we do not want them for food."

This remark was made just in time to save the life of the old ape, at whom Stanley was aiming.

"You are right," he answered. "I should like to know more about them, however."

"Perhaps Chickango or Timbo can tell us," answered David.

As it was not far off, the boys agreed to go and get them, while we watched the spot. Before long the two blacks came creeping up. Chickango watched them for a little time. Then he spoke to Timbo, who whispered to us:

"He say dat is _Nshiego Mbouve_. He got bald head, wide mouth, round chin, and--see! beard like one old man! He not nearly so strong as gorilla. Dey stay dere; no fear, not run away now."

With this information we returned to the canoe. Timbo advised the boys to keep at a distance from the animals; for should they discover that they were watched, they might come down and attack them. Being somewhat tired with our work, and having made considerable progress, we retired earlier than usual to the Castle; for such was the name we had given our abode. Chickango and Timbo, however, remained behind, keeping their guns with them, and saying that they would give a few more touches to the canoe.

We had scarcely reached the house when we heard a distant shot. Leo and Natty, who had just given an account of the animal they had seen to the young ladies, and were still somewhat excited, ran out to ascertain who had fired. We heard them shouting out--

"There they are! and they're bringing a little chap along with them!"

"It is a young ape," cried Natty.

"No; I tell you it is a small savage--a boy," exclaimed Leo. "See! why, he is walking along!"

This announcement, as may be supposed, made us all rush to the door. Sure enough, the two blacks were seen dragging along a young ape with a handkerchief tied over its head; and even then it was turning first on one side and then on the other, endeavouring to bite its captors.

"I am afraid they must have killed the old one," said David, "or they would not have caught that young creature. That must be the little ape we saw with its mother. No, we did not tell them to let the animals alone; and they do not understand the humane feelings which, at all events, ought to influence us. They probably were surprised we did not kill the creatures at once."

The blacks now came up with their prize.

"We killed de big mother," said Timbo. "Chickango say he go back and fetch her when we make fast de little one, which we bring as playmate for Missy Kate and Bella."

"I doubt if the young ladies will be pleased with their intended companion," observed David.

"Oh, but he will do as a chum for us!" cried Leo. "He is a brave little chap; I like the spirit he shows, doing his best to bite you."

The young nshiego was at once secured in Chickango's hut, for he undertook to take charge of the creature and tame it. David, hearing that the mother was shot, was eager to go and examine her. We accordingly all set off with some poles on which to convey the body. We found on measuring it that it was about four feet high. The skin was black, and many parts of the body were covered with thin blackish hair. It was a far less powerful animal than the gorilla, though its arms were rather longer in proportion to its size. One of its characteristics was its bald head. Its mouth was wider, and the nose less prominent than that of the gorilla. We found nothing but leaves in its inside, which were apparently the food on which it lives. Our young doctor was anxious to secure its skin; and the blacks wished to have its flesh for eating, but to this even Jack demurred.

"No, no!" exclaimed Jack. "I would as lief almost eat one of your people."

This made Timbo very indignant.

"Dis beast no man," he exclaimed; "no mind, no soul. Why not eat him? Chickango say he bery good food."

It was finally agreed that Chickango should cook it outside the Castle, if he wished it, and that he and Timbo should be welcome to feast off it. Senhor Silva and David's curiosity prompted them to taste some of the animal, which they declared to be very delicate, and not unlike venison. They, however, were very unwilling that Kate and Bella should hear of it.

"You know we eat small monkeys without scruple, and I cannot therefore see why we should not eat the flesh of a big one; in reality, I suspect it is the best of the two," observed the young doctor.

Our amusement for some time every evening was endeavouring to civilise our young prisoner, the little nshiego. Leo at once called him Chico, because Chickango had caught him, and _chico in Spanish means "little."

The mother's skin had been drying on some trees outside the Castle. No sooner was it brought in than the creature recognised it, and, running towards it, placed its hands on the head, and finding that it did not move, broke out into a plaintive cry which sounded like "Ooye! ooye! ooye!" and then it looked up in our faces as if seeking for commiseration. At length it ran up to the doctor, and appeared to appeal to him to restore its mother. Jack, who stood by, watched it with an eye of pity. The little creature seemed to understand his feelings; and at length the sailor took it in his arms and caressed it, while Timbo carried off the skin and hid it in his hut. Chico after this always seemed to consider Jack his particular friend. In a few days it became perfectly tame, and showed no inclination to run away. I shall have more to say about Chico by-and-by.

The canoe was progressing. The boys had cut their spars in a very creditable way, and now commenced chopping out boards of sufficient width for the paddles. They had, however, ample time for exploring the neighbourhood. The morning after the capture of Chico they had gone out at an early hour, when, just as we were beginning breakfast, we heard their shouts proceeding from the higher ground up the stream. We ran out, thinking something was the matter.

"We have seen two huge baboons," exclaimed Leo. "If we had had a gun, we should have killed one of them, at all events."

David and I accompanied the boys along the banks of the river for some distance, when they said we must be near the spot; and directly afterwards we saw two creatures, one seated on a fallen trunk on the top of the cliff, gazing out over the stream. I examined them with my glass, which I then handed to David.

"Those are baboons," he said. "Their faces more resemble those of dogs than of monkeys; and hideous-looking monsters they are. It was fortunate you boys did not encounter them. You must take care and not go unarmed so far from our Castle."

"I should say they were nearly as large as gorillas."

"Now the sun is shining on them, I can see their huge black faces. That big fellow on the trunk has a hide of reddish brown colour, though his head is shaded with light red, and his limbs are of a fawn colour. He is, I suspect, the _Gynocephalus anerbis_. See! he is sitting down, scowling round him maliciously, as if in search of an enemy, or meditating on his own bad deeds. They always move over the ground on all fours, and often descend in numbers on a plantation, and carry off all the fruits they can lay hands on. We must take care to keep them at a distance, for from what I have heard they are as daring as the gorilla, and, though not so powerful, more mischievous."

"Let us see if we cannot frighten them," said Leo; and before we could stop him, he rushed out, clapping his hands and shrieking loudly.

The baboons gazed at us with looks of astonishment, when several others, scrambling out from the neighbouring rocks, assembled in a body. They seemed to be consulting together whether they should advance, when Leo and Natty again shouted. This seemed to decide them; and they began, instead of running away, to approach us in a menacing attitude. I now saw it was time to fire. I took aim, and hit the leader. He stopped for an instant, and, giving forth a loud cry between a bark and a roar, turned round, and with his companions made off into the rugged country up the river. I must say I was very glad thus to be rid of them; for although I had often seen baboons in captivity, when I thought them disgusting-looking creatures, in their wild state as they had just exhibited themselves they looked ferocious and terrible in the extreme.

David told us they often go hunting in packs like wolves, and on those occasions do not hesitate to attack the largest wild animals. Sometimes they will assault even elephants, while they without hesitation encounter the leopard and hyena. The leopard, however, retaliates, and when he finds one alone springs on it, and seldom fails to come off the victor.

The mandrills are another species of baboon who inhabit this region. They are remarkable for the brilliancy and variety of their colour. Often their cheeks are striped with violet, scarlet, blue, and purple, which looks not unlike artificial tattooing; the nose is blood-red; the loins, which are almost bare, are of a violet-blue colour, gradually verging into a bright blood-red; the tail is short, and carried erect. Though very fierce in their wild state, they are more easily tamed than the other baboons. I had seen one in a London menagerie, who went by the name of Jelly, and who really knew how to behave himself, as he could sit upon a chair, and drink out of a pewter can, and smoke a pipe as if he enjoyed it.

Every day we met with various small monkeys in whole troops, skipping about the trees, and looking down upon us wherever we went. Kate was much alarmed when she heard of the boys' encounter with the baboons, and entreated them in future not to go from the Castle without a third person well-armed.

"But," said Leo, "give me a gun or Stanley's pistols, and I will fight as well as anybody."

"And I will back him up," said Natty.

"Yes; but Leo might miss the wild beast, and you might hit Leo, and so I am afraid you would have a very unsatisfactory account to give of yourself when you got home," said Stanley.

"By which observation, Captain Hyslop, I conclude you are descended from an Irishman," observed Senhor Silva; "for if Natty was to kill Leo, and a wild beast was to carry off Natty, I do not see how they could come and give an account of themselves."

"Had poor Terence O'Brien uttered the expression, I should not have been surprised," said Kate, laughing at her brother. "But I hope such a dreadful event will not occur, and that Leo and Natty will be content not to make use of firearms till they are a little more accustomed to them."

"There I have you, sister," said Stanley. "How are they to be accustomed to them unless they use them? Well, as we are brother and sister, it is not surprising that you should make such a remark; and I believe our dear mother comes from Ireland, which I suppose will fully account for the same. However, in my opinion, the sooner the boys learn to use firearms, under the circumstances in which we are placed, the better. It is very important that boys should learn to swim, ride, and row, if they are to go out into the world. I must give them regular shooting lessons. They will then be able to use their guns to advantage when called upon to do so."

As soon as breakfast was over we hurried down to the canoe. The outside was now completed, and there was ample work for all hands in cutting out the inside. We commenced with axes, clearing away as much of the wood as we could. When this was done, we lighted a fire. We had some pieces of bar iron: these were made red hot, and we were thus able to smooth away the parts the axe could not so well reach.

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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 7 In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 7

In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 7
CHAPTER SEVEN. WE MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF OUR NEIGHBOURS We were working away at the canoe: the boys keeping the fire up; the rest of us heating the irons and burning out the inside; Jack amusing himself and us by singing a sea-song to the tune of "Come, cheer up, my lads;" while Chickango was indulging himself in shouting a native ditty of which we could neither make out the words nor very clearly the tune,--it had reference, I fancy, to our canoe-building, to which he was wishing all manner of success. Suddenly a loud, trumpeting sound saluted our ears;

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