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CHAPTER I

The Coming of the White Man

Samba lay face downwards upon the yellow sand, amid which his body shone in the sunlight like polished ebony. Behind, the rising bank was thick with trees and shrubs ablaze with colour, overspread with the delicate tracery of lianas and, creeping plants. Here was a spot of red, there a dash of orange; at intervals the pale yellow flowers of climbing gourds and the mauve blossoms of convolvuli peeped from the wall of vivid green. Tiny rills made music as they trickled through the foliage; and near at hand was a path trodden by herds of antelopes as they came to drink.

Before, rolled the brown waters of a broad river, rippling over whitened rocks in the bed, or over the gnarled limbs of fallen trees. Here, on a sandy islet, flashed the scarlet and blue of little kingfishers, contrasting with the sober grey of the bittern, or the black and white of the vulture. A giant heron perched on a low overhanging branch, gazing solemnly at the ibis standing solitary by a distant bush.

On a smooth spot at Samba’s right sported innumerable butterflies, blue and green and crimson, amid bees and dragon-flies lazily basking in the heat. Samba had but to stretch out his hand to make prisoners of what he chose. But Samba’s attention was already occupied. Looking over the brink into the placid water, his eye was caught by a small round soft object lying motionless on the surface. A tiny crocodile, only a few inches long, darted from beneath the leaf of a water-lily, in pursuit of a tinier fish. The round object suddenly contracted: there was a ripple on the water, and the baby crocodile found itself in the grasp of a droll little proboscis that shot out, gripped its hapless prey, and drew it beneath the surface. Samba smiled: he knew that just below lay a trionyx, the owner of that little nostrilled proboscis; he wasted no sympathy on the baby crocodile, which would never grow big to snap up little negro boys at the waterside.

All around was silence, save for the hum of insects and the gentle lapping of the water on the sand. Then a slight sound caught Samba’s ear, and turning, he saw a handsome young lizard, pied with yellow and greenish black, flashing along in chase of a fat frog which it had marked for its own. A swish of its flexible tail, a snap of its savage teeth, and ranunculus disappeared—a choice morsel for breakfast.

Such scenes as these gave Samba constant entertainment. He would often wander alone from his village, as he had done to-day, carrying his little broad-bladed dagger in case a snake should cross his path, and spend hours in the forest or by the river bank, listening to the chatter of the monkeys and the screams of the parrots, watching the little stingless bees at their work, mocking the hollow note of the drumbird or the wild pigeon’s doleful call, studying the busy doings of the multitudinous ants. There was not a bird or beast or insect within range of his village with whose ways Samba was not familiar.

The trionyx steered himself down stream; the lizard, swishing his pliant tail, went off in search of other prey; and Samba’s bright eyes followed the mazy movements of the myriad flies sporting on the surface of the sunlit water, and the shining fish darting this way and that in the clear depths. Suddenly a scream of the fishing eagle caused him to glance up. Then a shout made him spring to his feet and look wonderingly in the direction of the sound. He knew no fear. His lithe dusky body, bare save for a scrap of cloth about his loins and a string of cowries round his neck, stood erect and alert; his keen intelligent eyes expressed nothing but surprise and curiosity. Again came the hail.

“W’onkoe!”[1]

“Em’one!”[2] called Samba in reply.

A boat was being slowly paddled up the stream. Ten stalwart Baenga stood at the paddles, bending forward as they made their strokes. Two other negroes squatted in the forepart of the boat. Amidships sat another figure, the sight of which gave Samba a delightful thrill of expectation. It was a white man, with fair hair and beard, clad all in white. Could this be Bula Matadi, Samba wondered, the white man whom his grandfather, the chief Mirambo, had seen long ago at Wanganga? He waited, standing still as a rock. The boat drew nearer, a few more strokes of the paddle and it came under the bank. The white man leapt ashore, followed by the two men who had been seated. They were big fierce-looking fellows. Each carried a long strangely-shaped stick with a hollow tube; about his waist dangled a bag of skin. The white man stepped up to Samba, smiled upon him, patted his woolly head. Then one of the negroes began to question him. Where was his village? What was it called? Who was its chief? How many huts did it contain? Was there much forest about it? To these questions Samba replied frankly; surely it was a great honour to his grandfather that the white man should take such interest in him! Then came a question that somewhat amused him. Did the forest contain botofé?[3] He smiled. Of course it did. Were not the drumsticks in his village made of botofé? What a strange question to ask of a forest boy! The white man smiled in return, and said something in a strange tongue to the negro who had spoken. “Take us to your village,” said the man; and, nothing loth, Samba set off like a young deer, the three men following him.

Samba was eleven years old. His home was the village of Banonga, a street of bamboo huts thatched with palm leaves and shadowed by the broad foliage of bananas and plantains and tall forest trees. His grandfather Mirambo was the village chief, a tall, strong, wise old man, a great fighter in his day, his body scarred with wounds, his memory stored with the things he had seen and done. Samba’s father, Mboyo (or Isekasamba, “father of Samba,” as he was called after his boy was born), was the old chief’s favourite son, a daring hunter, a skilful fisher, and the most silent man of his tribe. He had several wives, but Samba’s mother was the best loved of them all, and wore about her ankles the brass rings that betokened her supreme place in her husband’s affections. Grandfather, father, mother, all doted on Samba, and for eleven years he had lived a happy merry life, the pet of the village.

Nothing had troubled the peace of the little community. Banonga was a secluded village, on the outskirts of a dense forest, not far from one of the innumerable tributaries of the great river Congo. Life passed easily and pleasantly for these children of Nature. In the morning, ere the sun was up, the men would spring from their simple bamboo beds, fling their hunting-nets or fishing-baskets on their shoulders, hang about their necks the charms that would preserve them from accident and ensure success in the work of the day, and repair to the old chief, who, sitting on his forked chair in the middle of the street, gave them the bokaku—the blessing without which they never left the village. “May you be preserved from accident,” he would say; “from wild beasts, from snags in the path and snakes in the grass, and return with great plenty.” Then they would shout their farewells, and hasten with light-hearted laughter into the forest or down to the river.

Meanwhile the women had been long astir. Some, babe on one arm, calabash in the other, went singing to a forest stream, to bathe their children and fill their vessels with water for the day’s cooking. Others, with baskets slung upon their backs and rude implements upon their shoulders, sped to the gardens and cultivated fields, to perform their simple operations of husbandry, and to return by and by with manioc, plantains, ground-nuts, which they would prepare against their husbands’ return. The morning’s work done, they would dress their hair, carefully, even fastidiously; kindle the fires of three converging logs, and set upon them well-heaped pots of manioc, covered with leaves of plantain or nongoti to prevent the escape of steam. Some would prattle or sing lullabies to their babes, others form little knots and gossip, laughing and jesting without a thought of care.

All day the village was cheered by the merry antics and joyous shouts of the children at play. Like children all over the world, the boys and girls of the Congo delight in mimicking their elders. The boys made little hunting-nets and ran hither and thither in mock chase, or spread their fishing-nets in the stream and gleefully boasted of their tiny catches. The girls wove little baskets and played with beads and shells. One and all, the children of Banonga were deft with their fingers, and none so deft as Samba. He was always busy, shaping now a mortar for his mother, now a chair for his grandfather, now a wicker basket so close in texture that he could bring in it water from the stream without spilling a drop.

Most of all Samba loved to squat by his grandfather’s chair in the late afternoon, when the old chief sat alone, chin on hand, waiting for the return of the men. Then, and on dark nights, Mirambo would recite, in his deep musical voice, interminable stories and legends, of the spirits that haunted the woods, of the animals he had hunted and slain, of narrow escapes from the greedy jaws of crocodiles, of fierce fights with cannibals, of adventurous journeys by field and flood. Samba never tired of one story: how, years before, Mirambo had made a long journey to Wanganga, far, very far away, and had there seen a white man, who wore cloth all over his body, and had come up the river on a wonderful smoke-boat, driven by a fiery snorting devil that devoured insatiably great logs of wood. Bula Matadi, “breaker of rocks,” this wonderful white man was called; but Mirambo had heard that in his own country he was called Tanalay.[4] Samba would listen with all his ears to his grandfather’s long narratives, inwardly resolving that he too, when he became a man, would take long journeys and see marvellous things—white men, and smoke-boats, and all.

Then, as the sun draws towards its setting, out of the forest there come faint strains of song. Mirambo’s monotone ceases: he sits erect, expectant; the women run out of the huts above which the wreathing smoke proclaims preparations for the evening meal; the children gather in a laughing chattering flock at the end of the street. The sound of singing draws nearer: at length it stops abruptly, but instantly is followed by a loud prolonged shout; only Lianza’s brazen throat can utter that sonorous cry:—

“I-yo-li-o! I-yo-li-o-o!”

And the long-drawn hail of Lianza is broken in upon by the roar of his companions. “Yo!” shout eighty men as one. And out of the forest spring the dusky band, laden with their spoils, which with an exultant shout they set down before the chief, amid cries and hand-clapping and slapping of the thighs by the women and children welcoming their return. The flesh is cut up, the fish divided: the women return to their huts to cook the supper; the children cling about their fathers’ legs and recount the little adventures of the day. The meal is eaten: the whole population form a wide circle in the street, and, squatting on their hams, give themselves up to the joy of watching the gyrations of the dancing women, who, in their aprons of long grass, decorated with tinkling bells, whirl around to the barbaric music of drums and castanets, as the day darkens and the moon throws her silvery beams upon the scene.

Such were the daily scenes amid which Samba passed his happy boyhood, in the village of Banonga, whither he was now leading the white stranger.

The village came in sight, nestling in a glade. The laughing children ceased their play, and stood finger in mouth shyly contemplating the new comers. The women, busily grinding manioc with pestle and mortar in the open, looked up with startled glance and fled into their huts, where they stood peeping from behind the posts of palm. Mirambo, the chief, rose from his seat and awaited with dignity the approach of the white man. Ceremonious greetings were exchanged. Then ensued a long conversation, the white man speaking, his negroes translating to the chief. He listened intently, and replied in brief phrases, most often contenting himself with exclamations of assent—”Inde!” “Ng’oko!” or of dissent—”Lako!” “O nye!”

Botofé! Yes, he knew where botofé could be found. And the white man, the Son of Heaven, wanted botofé; it had some value for him? Well, he should have it. Who so hospitable as the men of Banonga? They were not as the men of Kinshassa, who met the white man with cries of anger, and spears, and knives. Had not he, Mirambo, seen Bula Matadi, the friend of the black man? “When my sons return from their hunting,” said Mirambo, “they shall provide the stranger with all that he needs. They shall give him plantains, and fowls, and cakes of kwanga;[5] they shall make ready a hut for him; and botofé—yes, if he needs botofé, my young men shall go into the forest and fill their baskets with botofé for him. No one shall say but that the white man is welcome in Banonga.”

 

[1] Are you there?

[2] I am here.

[3] Rubber.

[4] H. M. Stanley.

[5] A preparation of manioc.

 

CHAPTER II

“Rubber is Death”

“Whew! This is a warm country, Jack. There’ll soon be nothing left of us.”

“There’s plenty at present, uncle,” replied Jack Challoner with a smile. “Barney can spare less, after all.”

“Sure an’ that’s the truth’s truth, sorr. ‘Twas the sorrow uv me mother’s heart that I ran to length instid uv breadth. Whin I was a bhoy she had to buy breeches always a size too long for me, and me bones grew so fast they almost made holes in me skin—they did.”

“Confound it, man, that’s where you score. The mosquitoes leave you alone: can’t find enough juice in you to make it worth their while to worry you. Whereas they suck at me till I’m all ulcers. Hi! Nando, when shall we get to this Banonga we’ve heard so much about?”

“Berrah soon, sah. Paddle small small, sah, den Banonga.”

Mr. Martindale mopped his brow and drew his white umbrella closer down upon his head. He was lying under a grass shelter amidships a dug-out, with his nephew Jack at his side and his man Barney O’Dowd at his feet. The clumsy native craft rocked to and fro under the paddles of twelve stalwart Baenga, who stood, their bodies bent slightly forward, singing in time with their strokes. They were paddling against the current of a stream that forced its brown waters into one of the tributaries of the Congo. It was a broiling day. A rainstorm in the night had cleared the sky of the haze that commonly covered it, and the sun beat down out of a dome of fleckless blue, irradiating the crimsons and purples, the golds and whites, of the rich vegetation on the banks.

“I tell you, Jack,” continued Mr. Martindale, “I shall grumble if this talk of Banonga turns out to be wind. I don’t see what the Congo State has to gain by exterminating the natives; and we know what liars these blacks can be.”

“Suppose the talk of gold turns out to be wind, uncle?”

“Eh? What’s that? Wind! Rubbish! The difference is that we hear of Banonga from the blacks; but ’twas Barnard told me of the gold, and Barnard hasn’t got enough imagination to say more than he knows. No, the gold is there safe enough; and I tell you I shall be glad when we get through this Banonga and can proceed to business.”

John Martindale was a florid well-preserved man of fifty-five years. Born in New York, he had early gone west, rapidly made his pile in California, and retired from the direction of his mines. But meeting one day in San Francisco an old friend of his, a queer stick of a fellow named Barnard, who spent his life in roaming over the world and making discoveries that laid the foundation of other men’s fortunes, not his own, he learnt from him that clear signs of gold had been observed in the Maranga district on the Upper Congo. Mr. Martindale was very rich; but, like many another man, he found after his retirement that time hung somewhat heavy on his hands. He was still full of energy, and Barnard’s story of gold in a new country stirred the imagination of the old miner. He decided to take a trip to Africa and test his friend’s information. As a matter of course he invited Barnard to accompany him.

“No, no, John,” replied his friend. “I scratched the soil; I know gold is there; I’ve no further interest in the stuff. I’m off to the Philippines next week. Go and dig, old fellow, and take plenty of quinine with you.”

It happened that Mr. Martindale’s only nephew, Jack Challoner, a lad of seventeen, was just home from school. He was an orphan. His mother, Mr. Martindale’s sister, had married an English barrister of great ability, who had already made a name at the Parliamentary Bar. But he died when his boy was only six years old; two years later his wife followed him to the grave, and the guardianship of Jack fell to his uncle, who, being a bachelor without other ties, readily assumed the charge. He surprised his friends by the course he took with the boy. Instead of bringing him to America, he entered him at Bilton and afterwards at Rugby, declaring that as the boy was English it was only fair he should receive an English education. “I read Tom Brown years ago,” he would say, “and if they turn ’em out now as they did then—well, we can’t do better this side of the herring pond.” Jack spent his holidays either in America, or in travelling about Europe with his uncle, and the two became great chums.

But when Jack reached his seventeenth birthday Mr. Martindale again surprised his friends. “Send him to Oxford?” he said. “Not much! He has had nearly four years at Rugby, he’s in the fifth form, and I guess he’s enough book learning to serve his turn. He’s tip-top at sports: he’s a notion of holding his own and helping lame dogs; and I don’t want his nose to turn up, as I believe noses have a trick of doing at Oxford. No: the boy’ll come home. I don’t know what he’s to be; but I’ll soon find out what he’s fit for, and then he’ll have to work at it. The least I could do for his father’s sake was to give him an English education; he’ll come back to America for a smartening up.”

It was not long after Jack’s return that Mr. Martindale met his friend Barnard. Since Barnard would not be his companion, Jack should. “It will do you no harm to see a little travel off the beaten track,” he said, “and I’m not going to work the gold myself: my mining days are done. You may tumble to it; in that case you’ll stay in Africa and take care not to waste my capital. You may not: that’ll be one thing settled, anyway.”

Accordingly, when Mr. Martindale sailed for Europe he took Jack with him. With characteristic energy he very quickly settled the preliminaries. He obtained for a comparatively small sum from a Belgian trading company, the holders of a large concession on the Upper Congo, the mining rights in the Maranga district, on condition of the company receiving a percentage of the profits. The first practical step having been taken, Mr. Martindale’s interest in his project became keen. He had never travelled out of America or Europe; there was a certain glamour about an adventure in the heart of Africa; and he was rich enough to indulge his humour, even if the results of Barnard’s discovery should prove disappointing.

Uncle and nephew sailed for Africa, spent a few days at Boma, travelled over the cataract railway from Matadi to Leopoldville, and thence went in a steamer for nearly three weeks up the Congo. Then, leaving the main river, they embarked on a smaller steamer, plying on a tributary stream. In about a week they arrived at a “head post,” whence they continued their journey, up a tributary of a tributary, by canoe. This last stream was quite a considerable river as the term would be understood in Europe, though neither so broad nor so deep as the one they had just left. But this again was insignificant by comparison with the mighty Congo itself, fed by a thousand tributaries in its course of fifteen hundred miles from the heart of Africa to the sea. Mr. Martindale became more and more impressed as the journey lengthened, and at last burst out: “Well, now, this licks even the Mississippi!”

But not the Shannon! Barney O’Dowd was a true Irishman. Mr. Martindale had engaged him in London as handy-man to the expedition. He had been in the army; he had been a gentleman’s servant, wardroom attendant at a hospital, drill-sergeant at a boys’ school, ‘bus conductor, cabman, and chauffeur; but in none of these numerous vocations, he said with a sigh, had he ever grown fat. He was long, lean, strong as a horse; with honest merry blue eyes, and curly lips that seemed made for smiling. He drove the travellers in a hansom during the week they stayed in London, and looked so sorrowful when Mr. Martindale announced his departure that the American, on the spur of the moment, with bluff impulsiveness, invited him to join the expedition.

“Sure an’ ’tis me last chance, sorr,” cried Barney, cheerfully consenting. “A sea voyage does wonders for some. There was Terence O’Bally, now, as thin as a lath in the ould counthry; he went to Australia, and by the powers! when he came back to say ‘God bless you’ to his ould mother, she did not know him at all at all, he was so full in the flesh, sorr. Sure an’ I’ll come wid ye wid the greatest pleasure in the world, and plase the pigs I’ll fatten like Terence. Only wan thing, sorr; ye would not have any inshuperable objection to Pat, sorr?”

“Who on earth’s Pat?”

“Just a dog, sorr; a little darlint uv a terrier no fatter than me, sorr; as kind an’ gentle as wan uv the blessed angels. He has as poor appetite, sorr, an’ sleeps on my coat, so he will not cost ye much for board and lodging. And I would thank ye kindly, sorr, if I might but go home to ‘m an’ say, ‘Pat, me darlint, times is changed. We are in luck, Pat. There’s a nice, kind, fat, jolly American gentleman that takes very kindly to dogs an’ Irishmen, an’——'”

“There then, that’ll do,” said Mr. Martindale, laughing. “Bring Pat, if you like. But he’ll have to go if he proves a nuisance.”

And so Pat became a member of the party. And he lay curled up now in the bottom of the canoe, and cocked an eye as Barney declared with emphasis that the Congo was a “mighty foine river, sure an’ ’tis only fair to say so; but by all the holy powers ’tis not to be compared wid the Shannon, blessed be its name!”

It was Pat that sprang first ashore when the paddlers with a resounding “Yo!” drove the canoe alongside a turfy platform by the bank, worn level by the treading of innumerable feet. The dog uttered one sharp bark, faced round to the river, and stood with ears pricked and stumpy tail wagging, to watch his master step to land.

“Now, Nando,” said Mr. Martindale, when all were ashore, “lead the way. Not too fast: and not too near skeeters or jiggers.”

“Berrah well, sah; me go fust; frighten skeeters all away.”

Leaving ten of the crew in the canoe, the rest of the party set off under Nando’s guidance. He led them through the mass of tall grass that lined the river bank, across a swampy stretch of heath, where a narrow path wound in and out among trees large and small, beset by dense undergrowth and climbing plants. Insects innumerable flitted and buzzed around the travellers, provoking lively exclamations from Mr. Martindale and Jack, and many a vicious snap from the terrier, but leaving Barney almost untouched. Once a wild pig dashed across the path and plunged into the thicket, with Pat barking frantically at its heels. Here and there Mr. Martindale caught sight of red-legged partridge and quail, and sighed for his rifle. Parrots squawked overhead; once, from the far distance, muffled by the foliage, came the trumpet of an elephant; but signs of humanity there were none, save the meandering track.

At length, however, they came to a clear open space amid the trees, where, on a low hill, stood a crude open hut, consisting of upright supports surmounted by a roof of bamboos and leaves, and partly walled by cloth.

“Berrah nice place, sah,” said Nando cheerfully. “Chief him missis buried dah.”

The travellers approached with curiosity. Inside the shed they saw a small image, roughly carved in semblance of a human figure, set upright in the ground. At one side lay two or three wicker baskets, at the other a bottle; in front a big iron spoon stuck out of the soil, and all around were strewed hundreds of small beads. Nando explained that these had been the property of the deceased lady.

“And is she buried under them?” asked Mr. Martindale, stepping back a pace.

“Bit of her, sah.”

“What do you mean—a bit of her?”

“All dey find, sah. Bula Matadi come, make big bobbery; bang! chief him missis lib for[1] dead, sah. Bad man cut up, put in pot, only little bit left, sah.”

Mr. Martindale shivered, then waxed indignant.

“I don’t believe it,” he declared stoutly. “Such things aren’t done in these days. There are no cannibals in these days—eh, Jack?”

“I hope not, uncle. But are we near Banonga, Nando?”

“Small small, sah, den Banonga.”

“Lead on, then,” cried Mr. Martindale; “I want to see with my own eyes whether those fellows were telling the truth.”

Some distance down the river, just after camping for the night, Mr. Martindale’s rest had been disturbed by a loud and excited conversation between his own party and a group of newcomers who had halted to exchange greetings. Inquiring the cause of the commotion, he learnt that the men had brought news of a terrible massacre that had taken place at Banonga, a village in the forest many miles up stream. The villagers had been remiss in their collection of rubber; the agents of Bula Matadi (which, originally the native name for Sir H. M. Stanley, had become the name for the Congo Free State) had appeared at the village with a force of native soldiers, and, according to the informant, who had received the news from an up-country man, the whole population had been annihilated. Mr. Martindale had heard, in America and England as well as in Africa, strange stories of the administration of the Congo State; but, like many others, he had been inclined to pooh-pooh the rumours of cruelty and atrocity as the vapourings of sentimentalists. But the stories imperfectly interpreted by Nando on that pleasant evening by the river made a new impression on him. He was a hard-headed man of business, as little inclined to sentimentality as any man could be; he hated any appeal to the emotions, and unasked gave large subscriptions to hospitals and philanthropic societies so as to avoid the harrowing of his feelings by collectors and other importunate folk; but beneath his rough husk lay a very warm heart, as none knew better than his nephew Jack; and the stories of cruelty told by the lips of these natives made him feel very uncomfortable. At a distance he could shut his eyes to things—open his purse to deserving objects and believe that his duty was done; but here, on the spot, this easy course was not possible. He did not like discomfort, bodily or mental; it annoyed him when any external cause ruffled the serenity of his life; and he made up his mind to pay a visit to Banonga on his way up the river, test the negroes’ story, and prove to his own satisfaction, as he believed he would do, that it was exaggerated if not untrue. That done, he would dismiss the matter from his thoughts, and proceed to the proper business of his journey without anything to disturb his peace of mind.

The party left the grave on the hill and followed the same path through another stretch of forest until they came, almost unawares, upon a large clearing.

“Banonga, massa,” said Nando, stretching out his hand, and looking into Mr. Martindale’s eyes with a glance as of some frightened animal.

“Banonga! But where are the huts?” said Mr. Martindale.

No one answered him. The party of five stood at the edge of the clearing, looking straight before them. Pat the terrier trotted around, wagging his stump, and blinking up into their faces as if to ask a question. What did they see? A long broad track, leading between palms and plantains away into the impenetrable forest. These leafy walls were vivid green, but the road itself was black. A smell of charred wood and burnt vegetation filled the air. There was not a complete hut to be seen. The space once thronged with a joyous chattering crowd was now empty, save for ashes, half-burnt logs, shattered utensils. Here and there a bird hopped and pecked, flying up into the trees with shrill scream as Pat sprang barking towards it. But for these sounds, the silence was as of death.

“Come,” said Mr. Martindale, stepping forward. It was he who led the way now as the party left the ring of forest and walked into the clearing. Barney, coming behind with Nando, groaned aloud.

“Stop that noise!” cried Mr. Martindale, swinging round irritably. “What’s the matter with you, man?”

“Sorrow a bit the matter wid me, sorr; but it just brought into me mimory a sight I saw in the ould counthry whin I was a bhoy; sure there was nothing to see there either, and that’s the pity uv it.”

Mr. Martindale walked on without speaking, poking with his stick into the black dust of the road. Nando went to his side, and pointed out such traces of former habitations as remained: here a cooking pot, there a half-consumed wicker basket, a broken knife, a blackened bead-necklace. And among the other scattered evidences of rapine there were the remains of human beings—skeletons, separate bones.

“Whoever did this did it thoroughly,” remarked Mr. Martindale with darkening brow. “But who did it? I won’t believe it was Europeans till ’tis proved. There are cannibals here; Nando said so: a cannibal tribe may have raided the place. Eh? But where are the people?”

In the thick undergrowth, beyond the desolated village, crouched a negro boy. His cheeks were sunken, his eyes unnaturally bright. His left arm hung limp and nerveless; in his right hand he clutched a broad-pointed dagger. He had been lying in a stupor until roused by a sharp sound, the cry of some animal strange to him. Then he raised himself slowly and with difficulty to his knees, and peered cautiously, apprehensively, through the foliage amid which he was ensconced.

He glared and shrank back when he saw that among the strangers moving about were two white men. But what was this animal they had brought with them? he wondered. Goats he knew, and pigs, and the wild animals of the forest; he knew the native dog, with its foxy head, smooth yellowish coat, and bushy tail; but this creature was new to him. True, it was like a dog, though its brown coat was rough and its tail stumpy; but he had never seen the dogs of his village trot round their masters as this was doing, never heard them speaking, as it seemed, to the men with this quick sharp cry. The dogs he had known never barked; their only utterance was a long howl, when they were hungry or in pain. He hated white men, but loved animals; and, weak as he was, he raised himself once more, and bent forward, to look at this active dog-like creature that came and went in apparent joyousness.

A bird flew down from a tree, and alighted hardily within a couple of yards of the terrier. This was too much for Pat. He darted at the audacious bird, pursued it into the thicket, then came to a sudden surprised stop when he descried a black form among the leaves. He stood contemplating the boy with his honest brown eyes, and his tail was very active. Then with one short bark he trotted back to his master, and looked up at him as if to say: “I have made a discovery; come and see.” But man’s intelligence is very limited. Barney did not understand.

“And did the cratur’ give ye the slip, then?” he said, patting the dog’s head.

“That’s not the point,” said Pat’s barks; “I want you to come and see what I have found,” and he ran off again towards the thicket, turning once or twice to see if his master was following. But Barney paid little attention to him, and Pat, giving him up as hopeless, went on alone to scrape acquaintance. He stood before the boy at a distance of a yard, blinking at him between the tendrils of a creeper. Then he advanced slowly, wagging his stump, poked his nose through the leaves, and after a moment’s sniffing deliberation put out his tongue and licked the black knee he found there. The boy made with his closed lips the humming sound with which the negro of the Congo expresses pleasure, and next moment the dog’s paws were in his hands, and the two, dog and boy, were friends.

But whoever was a friend of Pat’s must also be a friend of Barney O’Dowd. It was not long before Pat awoke to a sense of his duty. He tried with the negro the plan that had just failed with his master. He retreated a little way, cocked his head round and barked, and waited for the boy to follow. The latter understood at once; but he shook his head, and said, “O nye! O nye!” under his breath, and lay still. Pat began to see that there was something keeping the white man and the black boy apart. It was very foolish, he thought; they were both such good fellows: it was quite clear that they ought to be friends; but what was a dog to do? He trotted slowly back to Barney, and began to speak to him seriously, with a bark of very different intonation from that he had previously employed.

“Well, and what is it wid ye thin?” said Barney.

“He has caught the bird, I expect,” said Jack, amused at the dog’s manner, “and wants you to go and see it.”

“Sure thin I will,” said Barney, “and mutton being scarce, we will have a new kind uv Irish stew, Pat me bhoy. But why did ye not bring it, me darlint?”

He made to follow the dog, whose tail was now beating the air with frantic delight. But he had no sooner reached the edge of the plantation than there was a rustle among the leaves: the boy was leaving his hiding-place and trying to crawl away into the forest.

“Begorra!” quoth Barney, “’tis a living cratur’, and a bhoy, black as the peat on me father’s bog, and not knowing a word uv Irish, to be sure.”

Pat was rubbing his nose on the boy’s flank, wondering why he had taken to going on all fours. But the negro did not crawl far. Faint with weakness, moaning with pain, he sank to the ground. Pat gave one bark of sympathy and stood watching him. Meanwhile Jack had come up.

“A boy, did you say, Barney? What is he doing here?”

“Sure I would like to know that same, sorr, but niver a word uv his spache did I learn. Perhaps he has niver seen a white man, not to say an Irishman, before, and thinks ’tis a ghost.”

“Nando, come here!” called Jack.

The paddler hurried up, followed quickly by Mr. Martindale.

“What’s this? What’s this? A boy! They’re not all killed then.”

“I think he’s hurt, uncle, and scared. He tried to crawl away from us, but seemed too weak.”

“Well, lift him up, Barney; we’ll see.”

Barney approached, but the instant he stretched forth his hands the boy uttered a piercing shriek, and made to thrust at him with his dagger.

“Come, this will never do,” said Mr. Martindale. “Speak to him, Nando; tell him we are friends, and will do him no harm.”

Nando went up to the boy, and Pat stood by, wagging his tail and looking inquiringly from one to the other as the negro talked in his rapid staccato. A few minutes passed; then Nando turned round and with a beaming smile said:

“He understan’ all same now, sah. I say massa Inglesa ginleman, blood brudder Tanalay, oh yes. He know ’bout Tanalay: he no ‘fraid dis time; he come along along. He Samba, sah.”

 

[1] i.e. live for, an expression commonly used in all kinds of circumstances by the natives, practically an intensive for various forms of the verb to be.

 

CHAPTER III

Monsieur Elbel

Samba made no resistance when Nando lifted him and carried him to the centre of the clearing. He moaned once or twice as the Baenga pressed his wounded arm, and almost fainted when he was laid on the ground before Mr. Martindale. But a sip from the traveller’s flask revived him, and he smiled.

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