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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIn The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 8
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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 8 Post by :AmyFolk Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2711

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In The Wilds Of Africa - Chapter 8


Our first canoe had been ready to launch for some days, and we were eager to try it. We had, however, to cut a road through the brushwood down to the river's bank before we could do so. This task accomplished, placing it on rollers, the boys assisting, we easily dragged it down to the water. "There, Master Leo, I told you she would not be lopsided," exclaimed Jack. "Not she; see! she sits on the water like a duck; and them paddles will send her pretty briskly through it, depend on that."

We all jumped in, and eagerly paddled about, well pleased with the success of our undertaking. Though capacious, however, it was evident that she would not carry the whole of our party and luggage, and I was glad therefore that our second canoe was nearly completed.

"We will have races!" cried Leo; "Natty shall steer one, and I the other. Won't it be fun!"

The boys, taking the paddles, showed by the way they handled them that they would soon be able to manage her. They wished, indeed, to start at once down the river, but as it was already getting late, we were compelled to return to the shore. We found a secure place where we could conceal the canoe under some bushes, and having done so, returned homewards. Senhor Silva was somewhat better, and the strange negro had sufficiently recovered to speak. He told Chickango that he belonged, as we supposed, to the village we had visited, that his name was Igubo, and that he had the reputation of being one of the best hunters of the tribe. "And so I am," he added; "but had it not been for my white friend there, I should have been slain at last by my huge enemy, of whose brothers I have killed so many." Though he could have had but a glance at Stanley he recognised him at once, and begged Chickango to thank him for saving his life.

The next day the boys were very eager to go out in the canoe. "No, no, young gentlemen, time enough by-and-by," said Jack. "You come and help Timbo and I to finish off the other, and we will get on with it while the Captain and Mr Crawford take a cruise."

"But, I say, we have not settled what they are to be called," exclaimed Leo, as we walked along.

"I have been thinking about that," said Natty. "What do you say to calling one the _Panther_, and the other the _Leopard_? They are proper names for this part of the world."

"And so would be the _Crocodile and _Hippopotamus_," said Leo; "and as they are water animals, those names would be more suitable."

"But they are not pretty names," argued Natty. "Would not the _Giraffe and _Gazelle be better?"

"We ought to have got Kate and Bella down to name them," exclaimed Leo.

"Come, what do you say, Mr Crawford?" said Natty. "Do not you consider the _Giraffe and _Gazelle are two pretty names?"

"They are prettier than the others," I replied, "though they are not quite so appropriate perhaps; but as all sorts of names are given to vessels, I do not know why our canoes should not have the prettiest names we can find."

At last Leo came round to Natty's opinion, and it was agreed that our two canoes should be called after the names he proposed, the first launched being called the _Giraffe_. The boys, I saw, were very anxious to accompany us, but still they went away with a good grace with Jack and Timbo. We hoped to obtain a good supply of wild-fowl, and perhaps to shoot some larger game from the banks. Though I had my gun with me, I assisted Chickango in paddling the canoe, while Stanley sat with his gun ready to shoot whatever might appear. We had knocked over a good many wild-fowl, which made us wish that we had a dog with us to bring them out, as we had a good deal of trouble in rowing after them. At length Stanley shot a beautiful flamingo, which went away paddling down the stream at a great rate. We pursued. We were not far from the banks, when suddenly I felt so tremendous a shock, that I thought we must have run on a rock, and immediately afterwards a huge head appeared above the water and dashed towards us. The hippopotamus, for such it was, and a very large one, seized the boat by the gunwale, and threatened to overturn her. At the same moment several other monsters rose with their snouts above the water. I felt that we should have a poor chance of escaping if the canoe was upset, for I thought that the monsters would immediately make at us and tear us to pieces, or swallow us whole, for their mouths seemed large enough to take any one of us down at a gulp. I seized my gun, as did my cousin, who sprang to his feet, and levelled his piece at the monster's head. "Fire! massa, fire! or he upset boat and kill all we," cried Chickango, leaping up to the bow of the boat, and holding up his hands with a look of horror. I heard the wood crunching under the creature's teeth. Stanley, who never lost his presence of mind, balancing himself in the bow of the boat, took aim, and at the moment I expected to find the boat dragged under, and probably we ourselves attacked by the other monsters, he fired. The bullet struck the creature in its most vital part, near the ear, and penetrated the brain. It opened its huge jaws and sank back into the water, beneath which it disappeared, while its companions, alarmed by the report, swam off, leaving us unmolested.

There we were, floating calmly on the stream, and I could scarcely believe that an instant before we were engaged in a fearful encounter. The canoe, however, gave evidence of the power of the creature's teeth, for part of the gunwale, though it was of considerable thickness, was literally crunched up. Several holes were made in the bottom, through which the water was running. We soon had out our knives and set to work to plug the latter, which we quickly did, before much water had rushed in, and that was soon bailed out with our hats. Our canoe had received too much damage to allow us to continue our voyage, and we therefore paddled back, hoping that we might never again be engaged in a similar adventure.

"You see, young gentlemen, it's just as well you did not go in the canoe," observed Jack, when he saw what had happened. "Why, that creature would have bitten you in two if he had caught you in his jaws just as easily as you would crack a nut. It will take us a pretty time to repair this damage. However, it is as well matters are no worse. Take my advice, in future we will go cruising in company, and if a beast like that munches up one canoe, we shall at all events have the other to get home in."

As most of the next day was spent in repairing the canoe, we did not go off in her. The young ladies I found had become very anxious for a change. Bella complained much of not being allowed to run about outside the Castle by herself.

"Could not you find me some pretty animal to ride upon?" she said. "I have seen many passing along in the distance, and if you could catch a couple you could soon tame them, and then Kate and I could ride about with you wherever you go."

"What were the animals like?" asked Stanley.

"Something like horses, or perhaps large donkeys, but they galloped along so fast that I could not very well distinguish them," she answered.

"They must have been zebras or quaggas," said David; "though, if Bella has seen them, I do not know how we could have missed them."

"Because we have been up on the height and can look over the country, while you have been either busy inside or down in the valley," answered Bella. "Is not that a good reason?"

"I am afraid, however, that even if we were to catch a quagga for you, we should have a hard task to tame it," said David; "but we will try what we can do; perhaps, however, we shall find some other animal which will answer the purpose. What do you think of an ox? They are used more to the south, and make very good steeds, though a little difficult to guide perhaps."

"I will tell you what!" exclaimed Leo. "If the rest will not go to the south, what do you say to starting off with Natty and I, and we will have an independent expedition, and take Chico with us. Natty and I will paddle and you shall steer, and Chico can sit in the bows and keep a look-out ahead. What do you say to that, old fellow?"

The ape had at that moment entered the room, and walked up to Leo, whom he looked upon as his especial playmate, though he seemed to consider Jack his chief protector.

I was glad to find that Senhor Silva was improving. Our negro guest was also much better, and seemed anxious to return to his people. His wives and children would be looking for him, and he thought he could very well make his way through the forest to his home. David, however, persuaded him to stay a few days longer, till his arm and ribs were properly set.

Two weeks passed away without any unusual occurrence. The other canoe was now finished and ready for launching, but the heat of the weather prevented us from willingly making any exertion, and had it not been for the necessity of procuring food, on many days we should not have left the house. We discovered at a little distance the remains of a deserted village, and outside it grew a number of plantains, as well as pumpkins, and other fruit, which, although not so good as those carefully cultivated, were very valuable. We also found many wild fruits growing in the forest; pine-apples, especially, were very fine, and there were nuts of various sorts. Chickango discovered a quantity of ground or pea-nuts, which, though bitter, and somewhat unpalatable, were very nutritious, and he and Timbo ate them readily.

At length our guest was well enough to take his departure. His two countrymen accompanied him for some distance, and Senhor Silva had generously given him several articles which he valued highly--a few yards of cotton, a knife, and some tobacco were among them. He begged Timbo and Chickango to express his gratitude, and I really believe, from the expression of his countenance, that he felt it.

Two days after this, early in the morning, we were surprised to see him approaching the Castle. I went out to meet him. He took my hands, and looked into my face with an imploring glance, which showed that he was much distressed, and then accompanied me into the Castle. The moment he saw David he ran up to him, and then pointed in the direction of his own home. Then he ran to Leo and Natty, and stroked their heads, as if he was weeping over them. Timbo, who had been in the cook-house, now came out, and having exchanged a few words, Timbo said, "Igubo got home, found children bery ill; want doctor come cure them."

This was plain enough. "Tell him I will go gladly," said David; "but either you or Chickango must accompany me to interpret."

"I will bear you company also," I said. "I feel sure we can trust to him, but his people may not be so well disposed, and if we all three go armed we may make them respect us."

Directly breakfast was over we set out, greatly to Igubo's satisfaction. He hurried along, leading us through elephant tracks, till we reached a path formed by the natives which led to the village. Igubo conducted us immediately to his house, round which a number of people were collected, and inside was a man with his face painted and his hair dressed out with strange ornaments, performing all sorts of antics.

"Dat de fetish man," said Timbo. "He do no good. He t'ink he enchant de sick children. He one 'postor."

"Little doubt about that," I observed; "but we must take care not to offend him. But you tell them that white man's doctor has come, and that if he will go and carry on his incantations outside we will go inside and try ours, and there can be no doubt that the two working together will produce more effect than one alone."

"You no t'ink dat, Massa Andrew," said Timbo, looking up in my face. "No, I only tell dem he go out, we go in. White man know how to cure children better dan de black."

We found two fine boys about twelve and fourteen years old, both in a raging fever. David, I should have said, had come provided with a few medicines, which he thought most likely to be of use, and he now sent all the people out of the house except the mother of the boys and our friend. "Tell him," he said to Timbo, "that he must get me some pure water." This was easily procured from a stream which came rushing down the side of the mountain at no great distance. David gave each of the boys a cooling draught, and made their parents understand that they were to take no food except such as he ordered. He watched by the children till they at length fell into a profound sleep, charging Igubo not to allow anybody to enter the house. David then proposed that we should take a turn through the village, of which we had not seen much on our previous visit. I need not again describe the village. We had not got far when we met several slaves bringing us a number of fowls, some bunches of plantains, and baskets of cassava. These they placed at our feet with a message from the chief to say that we were welcome, for he had heard of our brave deeds. We of course received them, and they were carried to a sort of verandah in front of Igubo's house, while through Timbo we returned our thanks to the chief. He himself soon afterwards made his appearance, followed by several attendants. Unless by his anklets and necklace, and the rich tattooing on his breast, he was not to be distinguished from the rest of the people. His only clothing was a piece of fine matting, worn round the waist in the form of a kilt.

David was unwilling to leave the boys, and we therefore consented to remain till the following day. They were then somewhat better, but when we proposed going their father entreated that we would remain. David explained that he was wanted at home, that one of our party was sick, and that if Igubo would follow his directions the boys would probably recover.

"Dat's de bery t'ing dey will not do," said Timbo. "He say, if you go, de boys go too. We make carriage and take dem."

"The best thing, probably, that can be done," said David; and we accordingly agreed to let the boys be brought with us.

The litters were soon constructed, and were by David's advice covered over thickly with branches of trees, so as completely to shade them from the heat of the sun. Eight stout fellows undertook to carry them, and all things being ready, we bade farewell to the chief, who, however, seemed rather angry at our departure.

"He no good man," said Timbo, as we came away. "Better go dan stay. I find out he take elephant's tusks and de meat de oder day, but he no tell us, lest we ask to have dem again."

We considered it wise not to say anything about the elephant's tusks, and, glad to get out of the village, we proceeded homewards.

"Whom have you brought?" exclaimed Leo, when he saw us arrive.

When we told him, he and Natty expressed themselves well pleased at having some companions. "We will look after them," said Leo.

"And I will teach them to read," exclaimed Natty. "I hope they will not want to be going away, though. We must nurse them in the meantime, and try and get them well."

"Poor little fellows," said the ever kind Kate, when she saw them. "We will do all we can for them, though they look very ill."

The eyes and cheeks of the young negroes were sadly sunk, for fever makes the same ravages in their frames as it does in those of white people. The father, though he saw his boys in safe keeping, still seemed unwilling to leave them. He had done what was quite contrary to the customs of his people, and he told Timbo he was afraid, if he was long absent, that the rest of his family might be ill-treated. He accordingly, after looking affectionately at them, and expressing his thanks to us all, but to David especially, took his departure. I should have said that we brought away the presents made to us, which proved a welcome addition to our bill of fare.

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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;