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´╗┐Title: O'er Many Lands, on Many Seas
Author: Stables, Gordon, 1840-1910
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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O'er Many Lands, on Many Seas
By Gordon Stables
Published by Cassell and Company Limited, London, Paris, New York.
This edition dated 1884.

O'er Many Lands, on Many Seas, by Gordon Stables.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
O'ER MANY LANDS, ON MANY SEAS, BY GORDON STABLES.

CHAPTER ONE.

  "And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
  Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
  Borne, like thy bubbles, onward; from a boy
  I wantoned with thy breakers--they to me
  Were a delight...
  For I was, as it were, a child of thee."

  Byron.

Not a breath of wind from any direction.  Not a cloud in the sky, not a
ripple on the ocean's blue.  Only when a bird alighted on the water,
quisling rings of silver formed all around it, and widened and widened,
but soon were lost to view.  Or when a fish leaped up, or the dorsal fin
of some monster shark appeared above the surface, the sea about it
trembled for a time, trembled and sparkled as if a shower of diamonds
had suddenly fallen there.

And a broad low swell came rolling in from the Indian Ocean, as if the
bosom of the sea were moving in its sleep.  But landwards, had you
looked, you might have seen it break in a long fringe of snowy foam on a
beach of yellow sand; and, had you listened, the distant hum and boom of
those breakers would have fallen on your ears in a kind of drowsy
long-drawn monotone.

The brave ship _Niobe_ [this word is pronounced as if spelt "Ni-o-bee"]
slowly rose and slowly fell, and gently rocked and rolled on this
heaving tide, and sometimes her great sails flapped with the vessel's
motion, but, alas! not with the rising wind.

No, not with the rising wind, but whenever they moved, the officer who
paced up and down the white-scoured quarter-deck, would glance above as
if in hope; then he would gaze seawards, and anon shorewards, wistfully,
wishfully, uneasily.

Uneasy, indeed, was the feeling on the minds of all on board.

The vessel was far too near the shore, the wind had been dead for hours,
but it had died away suddenly, and the glass had gone tumbling down.
That it would come on to blow again, and that before long, everyone from
the captain to the dark-skinned Kroo-boy was well aware.  But from what
direction would the wind come?  If from the east, strong though the
_Niobe_ was, close to the wind though she could sail, well-officered and
manned though she was, there was more than a probability she would be
dashed to pieces on that sandy beach.

And small mercy could the survivors, if any, expect from the savage
Somali Indians, and the still more cruel Arabs, who dwelt in the
wretched little towns and villages on the coast.  For the ship was here
in the Indian Ocean for the avowed purpose of putting down slavery and
piracy, and by slavery and piracy those Arabs lived.

It was in the days before steam-power was generally adopted by our navy,
when sailors were sailors in reality, and not merely in name.

The crew of the _Niobe_ numbered about seventy, all told fore--and--aft.
She carried ten good guns, and an unlimited supply of small arms,
cutlasses, and boarding pikes.  The timbers of this brave craft were of
the toughest teak, ay, and her men were hearts of oak.  They feared
nothing, they hated nothing, save uncertainty and inaction.  All that
they longed for was to be accomplishing the object of their cruise.

Had you been on board the _Niobe_ when the wind was blowing half a gale,
and the ship ripping through the waves with, maybe, green seas hitting
her awful thuds at times, and the foam dashing high over the main or
fore-tops, you would have found the men as merry and jolly as boys at
cricket.  Had you been on board when the battle raged, and the cannon
roared, and balls crashed through her sides or rigging, when splinters
flew and men dropped bleeding to the deck, you would have found nought
save courage and daring in every eye, and calmness in every hand.

But to-day, at the time our story opens, there was neither laughing,
joking, nor singing to be heard.  The men clustered quietly about bows
or fo'c'sle, or leaned lazily over the bulwarks watching the vessel
roll--for at one moment she would heel over till the cool clear water
could be touched with the hand, and the next she would raise her head or
side until a yard at least of her copper sheathing shone in the sunlight
like burnished gold.

There was no sound to break the stillness save the far-off boom of the
breakers; so quiet was it that the sound of even a rope's-end thrown on
deck grated harshly on the ear, and a whisper could be heard from one
end of the ship to the other.

"Bill," said one sailor to another, biting off the end of a chunk of
nigger-head tobacco, "I don't half like this state of affairs."

"And I don't like it either, Jack," was the reply, "but I suppose we
must put up with it."

"Do ye think it would be any good to whistle for the wind, Bill?"

"Whistle for your grandmother," replied Bill, derisively.

"Bill," persisted Jack, "they do tell me--older men, I mean, tell me--
that whistling for the wind is sure to bring it."

"Ay, lad, if you whistle long enough.  Look here, Jack, don't be a
superstitious donkey.  I've seen five hands at one time whistling for
the wind; but, Jack, they nearly whistled the whites o' their eyes out."

"And the wind didn't come?"

"Never a breath.  Never a puff."

"Hand in sail!"  This was an order from the quarter-deck.

"Ay, ay, sir."  This was an answer from for'ard.

"Thank goodness," cried Jack and Bill both.  "Better something than
nothing."

There was plenty of bustle and stir and din now, for a time at least,
and bawling of orders, and shrill shriek of boatswain's pipe.  But when
all was done that could be done, silence once more settled down on the
ship--lethargy claimed her again as its own.

"I think, sir," said the boatswain, touching his cap to the officer on
watch, "I think, and I likewise hope, the wind'll come off the land when
it does come, sir.  Anyhow, if it doesn't commence to blow for the next
ten hours we'll get away into the open sea."

"You're an old sailor, Mr Roberts, and know this coast better than I
do, so I like to hear you say what you do.  Well, sure enough, the sun
will be down in three hours, then we may get a bit of a land breeze.
But the falling glass, Mr Roberts!  I don't like the falling glass!"

"No more do I, sir, and I've seen a tornado in these same waters, and
the glass not much lower than it is now."

Leaving these two talking on the quarter-deck, let us take a look down
below.

Within a canvas screen, that formed a kind of a square tent on the main
deck, a cot was swung in which there lay, apparently asleep, the fragile
form of a young woman.  A woman, a mother, and still to all appearance
but little more than a girl.

Presently the screen was gently lifted, and a young soldier, dressed in
the scarlet jacket of a sergeant of the line, glided in, dropped the
screen again, then silently seating himself on a camp stool beside the
cot, he began to smooth the delicate little snow-white hand that lay on
the coverlet.  Then her eyelids lifted, and a pair of orbs of sad sweet
blue looked tenderly at the soldier by her side.

She smiled.

"Oh, Sandie!" she said, "I've had such a dear delightful dream.  I
thought that our darling had grown up into such a beautiful child, and
that you, and he, and I, were back once more, wandering among the bonnie
hills, and over the gowany braes of bonnie Arrandale.  I thought that
father had forgiven us, Sandie, and kissed and blessed our boy, and was
laughing to see him stringing gowans into garlands, and hanging them
around the neck of our old and faithful Collie."

"Cheer up, dear wife," said the young sergeant, kissing her pale brow.
"Oh! if you only knew how much good it does my heart to see you smiling
once again.  Yes, dear, and I too have good hopes, brave hopes, that all
will yet be well with us.  I was but a poor corporal when you fell in
love with me, Mary; when, despite the wishes of your father, who would
have wedded you to the surly old laird of Trona, and to lifelong misery,
I made you my wife.  Your father knew I had come of gentle blood--that
Dunryan belongs by rights to me--but he saw before him only the humble
soldier of fortune; and he cursed me and spurned me.

"But see, dear, look at these stripes on my arm, behold the medal.  I
carry already a sergeant's sword; that sword I hope to wave and wield on
many a field of battle, and with its aid alone, though friendless now, I
mean to earn both fame and glory, ay, and with it win my spurs.  Then,
Mary, the day will come when your father will be glad to own me as a
son.

"But sleep now, dear; remember, the doctor says you are not to move.
Sleep; nay, you must not even talk.  See, I have brought my guitar; I
will sit here and sing to you."

He touched a few chords as he spoke, then sang low, sweet, loving songs
to her, and ere long she was back once more in the land of dreams.

The sun sank lower and lower in the heavens, and at last leapt like a
fiery ball down behind the waves.  A short, very short twilight
succeeded, a twilight of tints, tints of pink, and blue, and yellow.
Sky and ocean seemed to meet and kiss good-night.  Then shadows fell,
and the stars shone out in the eastern sky, and twinkled down from
above, and finally glittered even over the distant hills of the western
horizon: then it got darker and darker.

But no breeze came off the shore, and this was in itself full ominous.

The captain was now on deck with his first lieutenant.

"We cannot be very many miles," he said, "off the river."

"Yes, sir," replied the lieutenant, "I reckon I know what you are
thinking about.  If we cannot keep off from the shore in the event of
its coming on to blow, you would try to cross the bar."

"I would," replied the captain.  "It would indeed be a forlorn hope, but
better that than certain destruction."

"I fear, sir, it would be but a choice of deaths."

"Better die fighting for life, though," said the captain, "than without
a struggle."

"Quite true," said the other, "and once over the bar we could get round
the point and shelter would be certain.  But that terrible bar, sir!"

It was far on in the middle watch ere the storm that had been brewing
came on at last.  It came from the east, as the captain had feared it
would.  Clouds had first risen up and gradually obscured the stars.
Among these clouds the lightning flashed and played incessantly, but for
a long time no thunder was heard.  This, at last, began to mutter, then
roll louder and louder, nearer and nearer, then a bank of white was seen
creeping along the sea's surface towards the ship, and almost
immediately after the wind was upon her, she was on her beam ends with
the sea dashing through her rigging, and the storm seeming to hold her
down, but gradually she righted and sprang forward like an arrow from a
bow, and apparently into the very teeth of the wind.

The ship had been battened down and made ready in every way hours before
the gale began, and well was it for all on board that preparations had
thus been made.

She was headed as near to the wind as she would sail, but for some time
it seemed impossible for her to keep off the shore.  Gradually, however,
the wind veered more to the south, and she made a good offing.  But the
storm increased rather than diminished; still the good ship struggled
onwards through darkness and danger.

The royal masts had been got down early on the previous afternoon so as
to reduce top-hamper to a minimum, but the pitching and rolling were
frightful, yet she made but little water.

Towards morning, however, fire and wind and waves appeared to combine
together for the destruction of the ship.  The gale increased suddenly
to all the fury of a hurricane, the roaring of the wind drowned even the
rattle of the thunder, a ball of fire quivered for a moment over the
fore-top-mast, then rent it into fragments, ran along a stay and
splintered the bulwarks ere it reached the water, while at the same
moment the whole ship was engulphed by a solid sea that swept over her
bows, and carried away almost everything it reached, bulwarks, boats,
and men.

Then, as if it had done its worst, the gale moderated, the sea became
less furious, the thunder ceased to roll, the lightning to play, and in
half an hour more the grey light of morning spread over the ocean, and
on the eastern horizon a bank of lurid red showed where the sun was
trying to struggle through the clouds.

With bulwarks ripped away and boats gone, the _Niobe_ looked little
better than a wreck, while, sad to relate, when the roll was called five
men failed to answer.  Five men swept away during the darkness and
tempest, five brave hearts for ever stilled, five firesides at home in
merrie England made to mourn for those whom their friends would sadly
miss, but never, never see again!

But see: the gale begins once more with redoubled fury, and to the
horror of that unhappy ship, the wind goes round to meet the sun.

"I fear, sir," said the lieutenant to the captain, "that nothing can now
save us.  We must die like men."

"That we will, I trust," replied the captain, "but we will die doing our
duty to the very last.  Is there any one on board who knows this coast
well?"

"The boatswain, sir, Mr Roberts."

"Send for him."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Mr Roberts, what think you of the outlook?"

"A very poor one, captain.  But I have been looking at the land, sir,
and hazy though it is I find we are right off the bar of Lamoo."

"Why, then, we must have been driven back many many miles; we were off
Brava last night."

"I reckon, sir, we made up our leeway at times like, when there was a
bit of a shift of wind, and lost it again when it veered.  But our only
chance now is to head for that bar, sir."

"You've been over it?"

"I have, sir, many is the time; and I'll try to pilot the good _Niobe_
over it now."

"Very well, Mr Roberts, you shall try; if you succeed, you are a made
man, if you fail--"

"All," said the boatswain, "I knows what failure'll mean, sir."

Half an hour afterwards, stripped of nearly every inch of canvas save
what sufficed to steer her, with four men at the wheel, and the sturdy
pilot guiding them with hand movements alone--for his voice could not be
heard amid the raging of the storm and awful roar of the breaking
billows that were everywhere around them--the brave _Niobe_ was rushing
stem on through the mountain seas that rolled shorewards over the most
dreaded bar on all the African coast.

It is impossible to describe the turmoil and strife of the waves when
the vessel was once fairly on the bar; and to add to the terror of the
scene more than once she struck the sandy bottom with a force that made
every timber creak and groan.  Next moment she would be swallowed up
apparently in boiling, breaking, swirling water, but rising again on the
crest of a wave, she would shake herself free and rush headlong on once
more.

But look at her now: she is on the very top of a curling avalanche, and
speeding shorewards with it, her jibboom and bowsprit, and even part of
her bows, hang clear over that awful precipice of water, and if the ship
moves faster than the breaker beneath her then her time is come.

It is a moment of awful suspense, but it is only a moment, for in
shorter time than pen takes to describe it, the billow seems to sink and
melt beneath her; again she bumps on the sand, but next minute amidst a
chaos of snowy foam she is hurled into the deep water beyond.

An hour afterwards the _Niobe_ is lying snugly at anchor in a little
wooded bay, with all her sails furled, and nothing to tell of the
dangers she has just come through, save the splintered mast, the ragged
rigging, and sadly-torn bulwarks.

But the wind goes moaning through the mangrove forest, where birds and
beasts are crouching low for shelter among the gnarled boughs and roots,
and although the water around the _Niobe_ is calm enough, the storm
roars through her upper rigging, and she rocks and rolls as if out at
sea.

The youthful sergeant is sitting beside the cot within the screen, but
his head is bowed down with grief, and a sorrow such as men feel but
once in a life-time is rending his heart.  The little white hand of his
wife still lies on the coverlet, but it is cold now as well as white.
The heart that loved him had ceased to beat--

  "And closed for aye the sparkling glance
  That dwelt on him sae fondly."

All his bright visions of yesterday have fled away, all his hopes are
crushed, his very soul seems dead within him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

At the very time the gale was raging its fiercest, and the sea
threatening every minute to engulph the ship, the lady's life had passed
away, and he who sits here pen in hand was left without a mother's care.
Born on the stormy ocean, rocked in infancy on the cradle of the deep,
no wonder he loves the sea, and can look back with pleasure even to the
dangers he has encountered and gone through.

As the sea on which he was born, so stormy has been the life of him who
tells this tale.

CHAPTER TWO.

  "Majestic woods of every vigorous green,
  Stage above stage, high waving o'er the hills;
  Or to the far horizon wide diffused,
  A boundless deep immensity of shade."

  Thomson's "Seasons."

  "Hearts of oak!" our captain cried, "when each gun
  From its adamantine lips,
  Spread a death-shade round the ships,
  Like the hurricane eclipse of the sun."

  Campbell.

There are two events in the history of a man, of which he himself in
writing his autobiography can hardly be expected to give any very clear
account, namely, his birth and his death.  To describe the former, he
would require to be born with his eyes very wide open indeed, and
instead of a silver spoon in his mouth, which they tell me some children
are born with, a silver pencil-case behind his ear; to describe the
latter, a man would need to be a prophet in reality.  How is it then, it
may be asked, that I, Niobe Radnor, am able with truthfulness and
accuracy to give an account of the occurrences that were taking place
around me when I first made my appearance on "the stage of life."  For
the ability to do so, I am indebted to the only father I ever knew, my
true and trusty old friend Captain (formerly boatswain) Ben Roberts, who
supplies me with the facts.

Yonder he is, sitting out on the rose lawn there, as I write, book in
hand, his white beard glittering in the spring sunshine, and his jolly
old round red face surmounted by an immensity of straw hat--just as if
_his_ complexion _could_ be spoiled, just as if a complexion that has
borne the brunt of a thousand storms, been scathed and scarred in
battle, blistered by many a fierce and scorching summer sun, and
reddened by the snows of many a hard and stormy winter, _could_ be
spoiled.

Ah! dear old Ben! he is getting old, wearing up towards the threescore
years and ten--

  "--That form
  That short allotted span.
  That binds the few and weary years
  Of pilgrimage to man."

Yes, Ben is getting old.  As oaks get old, so is my faithful friend
getting old.  As oaks in age are hard and tough, and defiant of the
gales that rage through the forest, uprooting mighty trees, so is Ben my
friend; and for all the storms he has weathered, I trust I shall have
him by me yet for years and years to come.  Ben is so buoyant and fresh,
it always instils new blood into my veins merely to talk to him.  "Ben,
my boy," I often say, "you are, by your own confession, some twenty
years my senior, and yet I believe you feel as young and even younger
than I do."

"Well, Nie," he replies, "I believe it's the heart that does it, you
know.

  "For old as I am, and old as I seem,
  My heart is full of youth.

  "Eye hath not seen, tongue hath not told,
  And ear hath not heard it sung,
  How buoyant and bold, though it seem to grow old,
  Is the heart for ever young.

  "For ever young--though life's old age
  Hath every nerve unstrung;
  The heart, the heart, is a heritage
  That keeps the old man young."

He always calls me "Nie" for short, "because," he added once, by way of
explanation, "your name is a heathenish kind of one at best, but a
person is bound to make the most of it."

I cannot deny that Ben is right; my name is a heathenish one.  How did I
come by it?  I will tell you.  I was born, as you know, at sea, in the
Indian Ocean, in the _Niobe_, whilst she was cruising in that region in
the search of slavers--born not long before the appearance of that
terrible gale of wind described in the first chapter of this story, when
the tempest was at its fiercest, and the stormy waves were doing their
worst; born on board a vessel which seemed doomed to certain
destruction.  And it is the custom of the service to call a child by the
name of the ship in which he first sees the light of day.

I never knew a father's love or a mother's tender care, for the gentle
lady who gave me birth lived but a little after that event; but she
bequeathed me all she had--her blessing--and died.  In a glade in the
gloomy depths of an African forest my mother is sleeping, in the shade
of a banian tree.  I stood by that lonely grave one morning not many
years ago.  The ground, I remember, was all chequered with sunshine and
with shade from the tree above; little star-like primulas grew here and
there.  Among these and the fallen leaves sea-green lizards were
creeping; high overhead bright-winged birds sang soft lullabies, and
every time the wind moved the boughs a whole shower of sparkling drops
fell down, like tears.

And my father?  He never seemed to rally after my mother's death until
one hour before his own, just a fortnight and a day from that on which
he had followed her to her grave in the forest like one dazed.  He did
not appear in his mess-place after this.  He took no food, he spoke to
no one, he spent his time mostly within the screen by the empty cot
where my mother had been--in grief.

About the tenth day he suffered my friend Roberts (the boatswain) to
lead him like a child to the spare cabin where his baby boy was
sleeping; and in a daze he had seen her loved remains laid to rest
beneath the tree.  He bent over the grave for a moment, and then for the
first time he burst into tears.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The _Niobe_ remained for ten days where she had cast anchor, in order to
make good repairs.

It was a very quiet spot in which she lay, a kind of bay or bight, as
the sailors called it, with mangrove trees growing all around it close
down to the water's edge, except at the one side where the great river
stole silently away seaward, its current seeming hardly to affect in any
degree the waters in the bay itself.

At last all repairs were finished, and the "clang, clang, clang" of the
carpenters' hammers, that had been till now incessant all day long, and
far into the night, was hushed, sails were shaken half loose, and the
_Niobe_ only waited for a breeze to bear her down the river and across
the great and dreaded bar, where, even in the calmest weather, the
breakers rolled and tumbled mountains high.

But the breeze seemed in no hurry to come.  During the day those dull
dreamy woods and forests lay asleep in the sunshine, and stirred not
leaf or twig, and the creatures that dwelt therein were as silent as the
woods around them.  Had you landed on that still shore, and wandered
inland through the trees, you would have seen great lizards enjoying
themselves in patches of sunlight, an occasional monkey enjoying a nap
at a tree foot or squatting on a bough blinking at the birds that--
open-beaked as if gasping for more air--sat among the branches too
languid to hop or fly.  But except a startled cry at your presence
emitted by some of these, hardly any other sound would have fallen on
your ears.

The only creatures that seemed to be busy were the beetles on the ground
and the bees, the latter long, dark, dangerous-looking hornets that flew
in clouds about the lime and orange-trees, and behaved as if all the
forest belonged to them, the former of all shapes and sizes, and of
colours more brilliant than the rainbow.  No doubt they knew exactly
what they were about and had their ideas carefully arranged, but what
their business was in particular would have puzzled any human being to
tell--why they dug pits and rolled little pieces of stones down them, or
why they pulled pieces of sticks along bigger than themselves, dropped
them, apparently without reason, and went in search of others.  There
was, one would have thought, no method in the madness of these strange
but lovely creatures: it looked as though they were doomed to keep
moving, doomed to keep on working, and doing something, no matter what.

In the great river itself sometimes small herds of hippopotami would
appear, especially in parts where the water was shallow.  They came but
to enjoy a sunshine bath and siesta.

But at night both forest and river seemed to awaken from their slumbers.

The river cows now came on shore to feed, and their grunting and
bellowing, that often ended in a kind of shriek, mingled [Two pages
missing here].

"Well, my friend, how much for your bananas, and that bottle of honey,
and those eggs, and fowls?  Come, I'll buy the lot," said the boatswain.

"De Arab chief come in big ship, two three week ago.  De ship he hide in
de bush.  He come to-night when de moon am shine.  He come on board you
big ship, plenty knife, plenty spear, plenty gun, killee you all for
true.  Den he take all de money and all de chow-chow.  Plenty much
bobbery he makee, plenty much blood he spillee, plenty much murder.
Sweeba tell you for true."

While this conversation was going on the fruit, eggs, and fowls were
being handed on board and money thrown into the boat, which was quickly
concealed by the natives in their cummerbunds.

They found themselves richer than they had ever been before in their
lives.

"But why do you come and tell us?" then inquired Roberts.  (Roberts, by
the way, was the only one the native would converse with.  He had
eagerly requested the captain and officers to keep away, for fear of
exciting the suspicion of those who he averred were lurking in the
forest.)

"What for I come and tellee you?" he replied.  "English have been good
to me many time 'fore now.  Arab chief he bad man.  He come to my house,
he tie me to a tree by de neck.  He think I dead.  Den he takee my poor
wife away, and all de poor piccaninnies.  My poor ole mudder she berry
bad.  She not fit to trabbel away to de bush, so he cut her head off,
and trow her in de blaze.  He burn all my hut, all my house.  I not lub
dat Arab chief berry berry much."

"I shouldn't think you did," was the reply; "but now, my friend, if all
goes well come back to-morrow, and we will reward you."

About eight o'clock that same night, the full moon rose slowly up over
the woods, bathing the trees in a soft blue haze, but changing the
river, 'twixt the ship and the distant shore, into a broad pathway of
light that shimmered and shone like molten gold.  There was hardly a
cloud in the heaven's dark blue, and the stars shone with unusual
brilliancy.

No one was visible on the _Niobe's_ decks, and never a light burned
aloft, but, nevertheless, sentinels were watching the water on all
sides, and down below the crew, fully armed, were waiting.  The guns
were all ready to run out, and there was no talking save in whispers,
and when any one had occasion to cross the deck he did it so lightly
that you could scarcely have heard his footfall.

Except the officers of the watch, all others were in the saloon or
ward-room.  They too were armed, but passing the time in quietly playing
draughts and other games.  Instead of being in his cabin, the captain
was there along with his officers.

Presently the boatswain, whose duty it was to keep one of the
night-watches, came quietly in to make a report.

"There are no signs yet, sir.  The forest is quiet enough, except for
the birds and beasts.  It is very bright now.  If they do come, we will
have light enough to give 'em fits."

"I hope they will, then," replied the captain; "I sincerely trust that
tall native wasn't a-gammoning us."

"I feel sure enough he wasn't, sir."

"Hark!" cried the captain.

It was the sentry's hail.  Next moment his rifle rang out on the night
air.  It seemed to be caught up by the echoes of the forest, and the
sound multiplied indefinitely, but there was instant evidence that this
was no echo.

A long line of fire swept across the forest shore, and bullets rattled
through the rigging or on the vessel's sides.

The attack was about to commence.

Guns were speedily run out in the direction from which the volley had
come, and just by way of showing the enemy that the _Niobe_ was
prepared, two loaded with shrapnel were fired.

The yell of rage and pain that rang through the forest, told plainly
enough that some of the savages had bitten the dust.  The battle had
begun.

But it was not to be a fight of rifle against big guns.  The Arabs,
unless at close quarters, are ever at disadvantage.  The chief who led
this particular band bore a fierce and implacable hatred to the English
race, more especially to those who wore the blue uniform of the Royal
Navy.  Many a time had he been thwarted in his designs by the ubiquitous
British cruiser, and, sword in hand, he had sworn by Allah--sworn on his
"book"--to have revenge.

His time, it almost seemed, had come to-night.  Though far south when
the first news of the disaster to the _Niobe_ had been brought to him by
a swift-footed Somali spy, Zareppa had lost no time in setting sail in
his largest dhow--he was the proud owner of many--and making his way
north.

It was no trouble for this daring piratical slaver to cross the bar even
on a light wind.  He had stolen up the river by night unseen, and soon
after planned his attack.

Now at the very moment that a whole fleet of canoes filled with armed
Somalis and Arabs left the forest shore, under cover of volley after
volley from the bush, Zareppa, the pirate chief, was stealing round the
corner of the bay with over a hundred of his best warriors, who were
lying down so that they might not be seen, to attack the _Niobe_ on the
other quarter.

Swiftly came they while guns thundered forestward, and all hands lay on
the port side to repel boarders.  It looked as though the fate of the
good ship were sealed.

Till this moment the soldier sergeant--my father--had lain apparently
helpless and apathetic in a screen berth on the main deck.  But the
sound of warfare will stir the blood of even a dying soldier, as the
blast of a bugle does that of the aged and worn-out war-horse.  No
sooner had the firing commenced than he started from his cot and
speedily dressed himself, often tottering as he did so.

Captain Roberts tells me that even then my father could hardly have
known what he was about: that all he could have been certain of was that
a fight was going on, and it was his duty to be in it.

Grasping sword and pistol, he rushed on deck.  Still staggering, and
gazing wildly around him, almost the first thing he saw was the approach
of Zareppa's boats.  He was all alive now, he rushed across the deck,
and more by gesture than by voice made the commander aware of the
terrible danger.

None too soon.  Already the heads of the foremost boarders were
appearing above the bulwarks.  But our men were speedily divided into
two parties, and in a minute more the battle was raging fiercely on both
sides of the deck.

"Deen!  Deen!  Deen!" was the fierce and shrill Arab war-cry.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" was the bold and answering shout of our marines and
bluejackets.

The tall form of Zareppa seemed everywhere.  It towered high on the
bulwarks.  It was seen springing down on deck, and vaulting backwards,
and wherever it came death followed in its wake.

Soon no sound even of pistol was heard.  It was a hand-to-hand fight
_on_ deck, for the _Niobe_ had been boarded: hand to hand, and breast to
breast; cutlass and sword 'gainst Somali dagger and Arab spear.  There
were the shrieks of pain, the cries of exultation, and horrible oaths as
well, I blush to say, mingling with the groans of the dying in this
dreadful _melee_.

How peacefully the moon shone--how quiet and lovely and still the forest
looked all around!  How great the contrast 'twixt man and nature!

But, see! the fight is finished.  The enemy are borne backwards into the
sea.  Our fellows hack them down as they fly, for they are wild with the
excitement of the strife.

But high on the poop a young soldier is engaged in a deadly strife with
the Arab chief himself.  All his skill would hardly save Zareppa.  For
several minutes the duel seemed to rage.  Then with a wild rash the Arab
dashed forward on the soldier, his sword passed through his body and--my
father fell dead.

"English dogs!" shouted Zareppa, standing for a moment on the bulwarks
with bleeding sword upheld.  "Dogs of English, Zareppa's day will come!
Beware!"

He would have vaulted into the sea, but up from behind the very place
where he stood rose a dark naked figure.  A dagger gleamed one instant
in its hand, and next was plunged into the back of the chief, who gave a
fearful shriek.

"Ha! ha! aha!" yelled this strange figure, "Zareppa's day _hab_ come.
Plenty quick.  Ha!"

The Arab chief fell face forward on the deck.

It was the negro Sweeba, who had brought the news of the intended
attack.

From his own side of the river he had heard the firing and the wild
shouts that told of the raging combat, and had speedily launched his
rude canoe, intent on revenge for the murder of his poor wife and babes.

CHAPTER THREE.

  "Hope, with her prizes and victories won,
  Shines in the blue of my morning sun,
  Conquering hope with golden ray,
  Blessing my landscape far away."

  Tupper.

Not a single prisoner was taken.

Those who were not fatally wounded had sprung overboard.

The rest of the night passed in quietness, but when day broke, the sun
shone on a sad and ghastly scene.  There still lay about broken
cutlasses, spears, torn pieces of cloth, and all the _debris_ of fight,
and blood, blood everywhere.

On one side of the deck, with upturned faces, lay in ghastly array the
dead of the enemy, on the other our own poor fellows had been put, and
carefully covered with flags.

All hands were summoned to prayers, to bury the dead and clear up decks.

When, after service, the commander and his officers--alas! among those
who lay beneath the Union Jack were one or two officers--went round to
view the bodies, to their astonishment, they found that Zareppa had
gone.

He had only shammed death, then, in order to escape!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Incidents of the very saddest character are soon forgotten in the
service.  It is as well it should be so.  But a battle is no sooner
fought than the decks are carefully washed, the damages all made good,
and even rents and holes in the ship's side, that might well redound to
her honour, are not only carefully repaired but painted over.  And
whenever a vessel has had sails torn in a gale of wind, sailors are put
to mend them on the following day.

For modesty always goes hand-in-hand with true valour.

In a fortnight after the fight in the river the brave _Niobe_ was once
more at sea, and looking all over as smart a craft as ever sailed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just as I wrote these lines my good friend, Captain Roberts, looked over
my shoulder.

"Ay, lad," he said, "and she _was_ a smart craft too.  They don't make
such ships now, and they couldn't find the men to man 'em if they did.
I tell you, Nie, it was a sight that used to make Frenchmen stare to see
the old _Niobe_ taking down top-gallant masts."

"Well, my dear old sea-dad," I replied, "of course you are fond of the
good old times.  It is only natural you should be."

"But they _were_ times.  Why, nowadays they could no more do the things
we did than they could pitch a ball o' spun yarn 'twixt here and
Jericho.  I'm right, lad, I tell you, and I should know."

"Oh!"  I replied, "for the matter of that, I was living in those brave
old days as well as yourself."

"Yes, so you were," cried the old captain, laughing.  "You were borne on
the books o' the old _Niobe_ as well as myself, and a queer little chap
you were when first we met.  Heigho! time flies: it's more'n forty years
ago, Nie."

"Wait half a minute," I said, for I knew the old man was going to spin
me a yarn that I was never tired of hearing--the story of my own early
years.  Why was it that I liked to hear him tell the tale over and over
again, you may ask.  For this reason--he never told it twice quite the
same: always the same in the main incidents, doubtless, but with
something new each time.

"Wait half a minute."

"Ay, ay, lad!"

I brought out the little table and set it down under his favourite tree
on the lawn, and placed thereon his favourite pipe and his pouch.

The old sailor smiled, and drew his great straw chair up and sat down,
and I threw myself on the grass and prepared to listen.

The captain had his two elbows on the table; he was teasing the tobacco,
and when he began to speak he was evidently following out some train of
thought, and addressing the tobacco, not me.

"As saucy a wee rascal he turned out as ever put a foot on board a
ship," said Captain Roberts.

"Whom are you talking about, old friend?"  I asked.

"I'm talking about baby Nie," replied the captain, still addressing the
tobacco.  "I wonder, now, what would have become of him, though, if it
hadn't been for old Bo'swain Roberts.  Why, he would have died.  Died?
Ay, but I wouldn't see poor Sergeant Radnor's baby thrown to the sharks,
not for all the world.  Fed him first on hen's milk [the name given by
sailors to egg beaten up in water].  Didn't do well on that.  `Cap'n,'
says I to the skipper one day, `soon's we go to Zanzibar we must get a
nanny-goat for the young papoose, else he'll lose the number of his
mess, and the doctor will have to mark him D.D.'  [discharged dead.]
`Very well, Roberts,' says the skipper, `that's just as you like.'

"Now our purser was a mean old fellow.  `Nanny-goat!' he cries, when I
went to ask him for the money.  `What next, I wonder? the service is
going to the deuce.  No, Her Majesty pays for no nanny-goats, I do
assure ye.'

"I just touches my hat and marches off to our dear old doctor.  I knew
he had a kindly heart.  `Nanny-goat,' cries he, `why, of course the
darling baby'll have a nanny-goat.  We'll keep it out of the sick-mess
fund, and mark it down medical comforts.'  [Note 1.]  `Excuse me, sir,'
said I, catching hold of the doctor's hand--it was as rough as my
own--`but you're a brick.'

"And that, `Nie,' is how you came for the first five years o' your life
to be called nothing else but young `medical comforts.'"

"Five years!"  I said, "that is a long spell for a ship to be on one
station."

"Ay, lad, you're right.  But ships were ships in those days.

"Young `medical comforts'," he continued, "as they called you, in less
than four years was a deal smarter than any monkey on board.  Not that
he could climb quite so high, maybe, but he was more tricky, and that is
saying a lot.  And it was among the monkeys that `medical comforts'
would mostly be, too.

"But the monkeys all seemed to like you, Nie; they would tease each
other, and fight each other, but they never touched you.  There was one
animal in particular, and he was your favourite, the queerest old chap
you ever saw.  We got him down in Madagascar, and they called him the
Ay-ay.  Doctor always said he was a being from another world, a kind of
a spirit, and the men used to be afraid of him.  He had hands like a
human being, but the middle finger was much longer than the others, and
not thicker than a straw.  When only a baby, he used to dip this long
skinny finger in milk and give you to suck, and when you went to sleep
he never left your side.  Sometimes he would stroke your face and say,
`Ay-ay' as tenderly as if he'd been a mother to you.  But the men always
declared it was `Nie, Nie,' he'd be saying.

"But you had one pet on board that maybe you mind on--the Albatross?"

"I do," said I, "young as I must have been at the time."

"People say," the captain went on, "they've never been tamed; but there
he was, sure enough, in an immense great hencoop, that the doctor had
made for him, and there you'd be in front of him often enough, though he
would have cut the nose of anyone but yourself; and never a flying-fish
was caught you didn't get hold of, and take to him.  The men got small
share of these.  But, bless you, Nie, you were the ship's chief pet, and
the men would have gone through fire and water for you any hour of the
day or night.

"The jealousies there used to be about you, too, Nie!  Why, lad, if it
had been a young lady it couldn't have been worse.  Jealousies, Nie, ay,
and more than jealousies, for our fellows didn't need much to make them
strip to the waist and fight.  Fact is, when times were dull with us, I
think they rather liked the excuse.  I've heard a row got up for'ard
just in the following fashion:

"You would be playing on Davis's knee.

"`Give us half an hour o' the wee chap,' Bill would say.

"`Go along,' Davis would reply, `you 'ad him all day yesterday.'

"`He's smilin' to me,' Bill would say.

"`Smilin' _at_ you, you mean,' Davis would answer derisively.

"`Smilin' at your ugly face.  Why, that mouth o' yours couldn't be made
any bigger 'athout shifting your ears back.'

"This would be enough.

"`Come below,' Bill would cry, `and I'll see if a big ugly lubber like
you is to cheek me!'

"`Go with him, Davis!' half a dozen would cry.  `_I'll_ hold the
youngster!'

"And there would be such a scramble to get you, that I used to wonder
you weren't torn to pieces.  And all the while that animal with the long
skinny middle finger would be jumping around like a demon and crying--

"`Ay-ay!--Ay-ay!--Ay-ay!'

"As he never cried like this without all the monkeys following suit, and
all the parrots whistling and shrieking--on occasions like these, Nie,
there was five minutes of a rough ship, I can tell you."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Medical comforts are luxuries for the sick, bought at the
surgeon's discretion out of the sick-mess fund.

CHAPTER FOUR.

  "Still onward, fair the breeze nor rough the surge,
  The blue waves sport around the stern they urge;
  Far on the horizon's verge appears a speck,
  A spot--a mast--a sail--an armed deck."

  Byron.

"Well, Ben," I said, "life must have been very pleasant to me then."

"And isn't it now, Nie? isn't it now, lad?  Look at the beautiful old
place that you have around you--all your own; you ought to be thankful.
Listen to the birds on this delightful morning, their songs mingling
with the cry o' the wind through the poplars.  And, lad, you cannot draw
a breath out on the lawn here, without inhaling the odour of honey, and
the perfume of flowers."

"You are quite poetic, Ben Roberts," I replied.

"Quite enough to make the barnacliest old tar that ever lived feel
poetic, Nie," quoth Ben.

"Well, fill your pipe again, Ben."

"Ha! ha!" laughed the old man, "fill my pipe again, eh?  That means
heave round with another yarn, eh?"

"Something very like it," I said.

"Well," said the captain, "an old man is to be forgiven if he does get a
little bit gossiping now and then, and wanders from his subject, and I
always was fond of a bit o' pretty scenery, Nie--pretty bits like the
old mill by the riverside down yonder."

"And a bit of fishing and shooting, Ben?"

"Ay, lad.  But memory is at this moment taking me back to one of the
loveliest bits o' woodland landscape in the world.  What a poem our
Robbie Burns could have written there!  You were still the _Niobe's_
pet, but old enough now to be left at times without your sea-dad.  Away
miles and miles into the wooded interior of Africa, we were a good long
distance south the Line, and just sitting down, me and my mates, to a
snack o' lunch on the banks of a roaring tumbling brook, where we'd been
bathing.  We'd had a smartish week's shooting, and were thinking of
returning to the ship the very next day.

"Our guns were lying carelessly enough at some little distance, when
suddenly a branch snapped, and before any of us could have stood up to
defend ourselves, had it been an unfriendly Arab, or a savage Somali, a
dark skin pushed the branches aside and stood before us.

"It was our faithful Sweeba, the negro who had brought us the news of
Zareppa's intended attack on the night your poor father was killed, Nie.

"`Sweeba, what on earth brings you here?' says I.

"`Commander's orders,' said Sweeba, saluting.

"Now Sweeba was always dressed when on board like a British sailor, but
here he was almost as naked as the stem of a palm-tree.

"`What have you done with your clothes, Sweeba?'  I asked.

"`I expect he has pawned them,' said little Brown, our purser's clerk.

"`I not can run muchee wid English clothes,' Sweeba said modestly.

"`And so you hid them in the bush, eh?'

"`Ah!  Massa Roberts,' replied the negro, smiling; `you berry much
clebber.'

"`Well, and what are the commander's orders?'

"`You come back plenty much quick.'

"`Ship on fire?'

"`No, sah.'

"`Anything happened to Nie?'

"`No, sah.  Nie and de monkey all right, sah.'

"`Well, explain.'

"`Only dis, sah, we goin' to fight Arab dhow.'

"We were all up quick enough at this intelligence.  We didn't stop to
finish our luncheon.

"`Lead the way, Sweeba,' I cried.

"And off went Sweeba through the forest, we following in Indian file.
We didn't take more of the game with us than we could easily carry, so
the jackals had a good feed that night.

"It was a long and a rough road to travel.  You know the style of thing,
Nie; the dark dismal woods, the broad swamps, the hills and the wide
stony uplands, where never a thing lives or thrives, bar the lizards and
a few snakes, and then last of all the mangrove forests.  Our anxiety to
get back made us hurry all the more.  We made forced marches, and burned
but two camp fires ere we reached the coast.

"The ship we had left lying at anchor in a little wooded creek.  We
returned to find it gone.

"`Massa, massa; we too late,' cried Sweeba.  `Now de Arab men come quick
and kill us all for true.'

"`Where is the nearest village, Sweeba?'

"`Long way, sah; long way, and no good.  Dey kill Englishman.  No gib
mooch time to tink.'

"`Well, we're in a fix, I think,' I said.

"`Not a bit of it,' cried a cheery voice close behind us; and looking
round there stood little Midshipman Leigh, of the starboard watch.  The
young rascal had heard us coming, and hidden his boat among the trees,
making his men lie close, as he expressed it, to see how we'd look.

"Our orders were to follow the _Niobe_ south, where she had gone to
pitch into a whole fleet of piratical slavers, and it was currently
reported that our old friend Zareppa was admiral of the pirates, and
thirsting for his revenge.

"What a lovely day it was, Nie; the sea as blue and tranquil as the eye
of a beautiful child."

"More poetry, old tar," I said.

"Wait a bit," said Captain Roberts.  "Well, we cruised along down the
coast with just enough sea-breeze to bear us onwards and keep the oars
in-board.

"We expected to find our ship at a little island called Chaksee, where
she would wait us; or, if absent when we went home, as our middy called
it, we could wait till she returned to this rendezvous.

"There wasn't a sail in sight when we started, nor a speck on the
ocean's breast, except a jumping skip-jack now and then, or a big shark
asleep on the surface, with a bird perched upon his protruding fin.

"The breeze held, and very pleasant it was, and most of us, I think,
were asleep at the moment the outlook at the bows sang out--

"`Sail ho!'

"`Where away?' cried the midshipman.

"`Rounding the point yonder, sir.'

"The midshipman scrambled forward, and we were all alert enough now.
She wasn't a dhow, and no one could make anything of her at first, but
we soon made her out to be one of those low freeboard one-masted craft
that the Portuguese had in those days as coasters, and which they often
used as slavers or even pirates.

"`She seems very low in the water,' said the midshipman, `Is she too big
to fight, Mr Roberts?'

"`A deal too big,' I replied, `We'd better let her alone, I think.'

"We got to windward of her anyhow, so we could have a peep on board.  We
loaded with ball cartridge, and stood by for whatever might happen.

"The strange craft stood right on her course, and never seemed to heed
us, though the lowering glance her captain gave us showed he bore us no
good will.  She was crowded with a rascally crew of Portuguese and
negroes, and many bore ghastly wounds, that showed she had been in a
recent fray; and it afterwards turned out that she had had a brush with
the _Niobe_, but escaped.

"On her deck were four or five biggish guns.  Discretion in this case
was evidently then the better part of valour, for she could easily have
blown us out of the water, but she seemed too disheartened for anything
else but flight.

"I think we were pleased also to escape an encounter that would
certainly have ended in disaster.

"The wind fell about sunset, then oars were got out, and, laden as we
were, it was a stiffish pull.  All in the dark too, until eight o'clock,
when the moon rose, half hidden at first by a bank of greyish clouds,
which she soon surmounted, and then shone out with a splendour that you
only see in one part of the world."

"And that," said I, interrupting him, "is the Indian Ocean."

"True, Nie, true," said Roberts.

"We were among islands now, some bare and level, others wooded, a few
with lofty cocoa-palms.

"We had just landed on one of the latter, because owing to the cocoa-nut
trees there would be, as you know, Nie, a few natives, and we expected a
bit of hot supper.  We had drawn our boat well up on the sandy beach of
a little cove, hidden by some scraggy bushes when--

"`Look, look!' cried our purser's clerk.

"All eyes were directed seaward.

"Two great dhows stealing out to sea!  They were off in the same
direction that we were going, and from the cut of their sails we could
tell they were pirates, that is Arab fighting slavers.

"`I say, Mr Roberts,' said the middy, `I wouldn't tackle those, would
you?'

"`We'd never see England again if we did,' I replied.

"`Well,' said the boy, `I'm precious hungry, aren't you, Mr Roberts?'

"`I could do with a pick,' I replied.

"Then young Leigh gave his orders like a prince.

"`Bear a hand, lads,' he cried, `and get supper; gather sticks, light a
fire, on with the pot; some of you run to the village and bring half a
dozen fowls.  Cut up the bacon.  Did you bring the onions?  Smith, if
you've forgotten the onions, I'll have you flogged.'

"`Then I won't be flogged,' said Smith.

"Well, Nie, the remembrance of that stew, that cock-a-leekie soup, made
gipsy-fashion in that lonely island of the ocean, makes me truly hungry
to think of even now."

"Shall I get you a ham sandwich, Roberts?"  I asked provokingly.

"A ham sandwich!" he cried, "What! sawdust and paint, and the memory of
that stew hovering round one like the odours of Araby the Blest?  Don't
insult me, Nie.  I tell you, boy, that a hungry man might have been
content to dine off the steam.  There!

"Well, we had a good long rest after supper."

"You needed it, I should think," I said, laughing.

"None o' your sauce," said the old captain.  "We rested, and smoked our
pipes, and looked on the sea.  Oh! to see the moonlight dancing on the
rippling waves!"

"I can easily imagine it, because I've often seen the like myself," I
replied.

"It was late that night when we got to Chaksee.  The ship was in behind
the rocks so snug that we thought at first she wasn't there.

"All on board were glad to see us, including Nie himself."

"How old would I be then, Roberts?"

"About five.  The _Niobe_, it seems, was ordered down to the Cape to
refit; all her crew were to return to England, but, as you know, I
preferred to stop in the old ship with the new crew.  I'm like the cats,
I don't like to move.

"The captain and I had a long talk.  He treated me just as if I'd been a
commissioned officer.  He told me he had found a whole nest of pirates,
that he had given one fits a day or two before, and meant to pepper the
others soon if he had a chance.  They were over there, he said, pointing
to the African coast, and he would have them.

"The commander of the _Niobe_, indeed, was in high glee.  He had been
ordered home, he said, but he would wait for those piratical scoundrels
and old Zareppa if it were a month.  Then, surely, if he destroyed him
and his ships his country would, in some way or other, requite his good
services, and either promote him or give him a better command.

"We lay snug behind the rocks at Chaksee for two whole days.  Our
top-gallant masts were down, and no one in passing the island could have
told there was a vessel there at all.

"On a hill, not far off, two men were kept always on the outlook.

"On the morning of the third day the signalmen left their posts and
hurried towards the ship.

"Three large piratical dhows, carrying the blood-red flag of the Arab
nation, were bearing down towards the island.  They turned out to be the
very same we'd seen two nights before, in company with another and much
larger one.

"We determined not to frighten them off by coming out too soon.  We
didn't know then that these fellows rather courted fight than otherwise.

"All sails were loosened and at last we got clear, took up the boats
that had been heading us, lifted sails, and stood out to meet them.

"Every man was at his post.  The marines lying down on deck under arms,
the bluejackets, stripped to the trousers, standing by the guns on both
decks.  There was a glorious breeze blowing.  Oh!  Nie, lad, it was just
the morning for a fight.  My old blood dances in my veins yet at the
very thoughts of it.

"I must say that those Arabs managed their little craft beautifully.
The largest one was the first to advance, and the first to receive and
return our fire.  She had even the daring and pluck to fire at us."

"Did she succeed?"

"She did, alas! and she poured a broadside into us that made our upper
deck like shambles.  Meanwhile the other two dhows were at us, _on_ us
almost, for we were sometimes fighting gun to gun, and we had to fight
on both sides of our vessel at once.

"The commander of the _Niobe_ wanted all his wits about him, for it was
a trying time.

"We had one advantage over the pirates, namely, our marines.

"The pirates had muskets, it is true, but either they were very bad
ones, or they couldn't use them properly, one or the other.

"We stationed our marines in the tops and rigging, and every shot told
home, every bullet got its billet.

"There were times during the fight when all the combatants seemed to
pause.  It was as if the ships were taking breath, but in reality we
stopped to allow the smoke of battle to clear away, for our ship was
surrounded, so to speak, and all our gear was hanging anyhow.

"The impetuosity of the attack of Arabs fighting at sea is very similar
to the way in which they charge on _terra firma_; it is furious while it
lasts.

"It lasts as long as hope promises brightly, when it goes it goes at
once, and, except in the case of fanatics in a religious war, there is a
wild stampede.  Victory for a time hung in the balance, then it seemed
to sway to the side of the enemy, because the _Niobe_ became for a time
unmanageable.

"It was a trying time to the nerves of the bravest of us.  There would
be small mercy accorded to those among our poor fellows who happened to
fall into Zareppa's bands.

"The commander held a hurried consultation with his first lieutenant, at
which I was present.  It was over in two minutes; in ten minutes more,
during which time the battle raged with unabated fury, we had all the
sails set which the few hands that could be spared were able to clap on
her, and were clearing sheer away from the scene of action, steering as
close to the wind as possible.  And the _Niobe_ could luff too, I can
tell you.

"Shots tore through our rigging as we fled, or seemed to fly, and
derisive jeers and cheers, worse by far than bullets, were fired after
us, till we were out of earshot, out of reach.  We replied not either by
shot or shout.  We drew the big dhow after us--and that was all we
wanted--as near as she could come.  We even let her gain on us, and her
shots began to tell again.  Then all sail was clapped on, and next--

"`Ready about,' was the cry.

"Ah!  Nie, my boy, it was a beautiful sight, and a supreme moment.

"We thundered down on that devoted pirate.  She never even divined our
intention.  We might overwhelm her perhaps, she thought.  She prepared
to out-manoeuvre us.  Then all seemed to become confusion on board her.
Mind, she was over-manned to begin with, her rigging too was badly
damaged, and her decks hampered with her dead and dying.

"In a minute more we had hurtled into her.  We actually cut her in two;
she sank before our eyes, almost before we could sheer off."

At this part of his yarn, poor old Captain Roberts stopped.  I feel sure
he was thinking of that dreadful scene; that, long ago though it was, he
saw again that blood-stained ship sinking beneath the waves, with its
living freight, many of them innocent slaves.

He filled his pipe before he resumed.

"Ah, well! poor misguided wretches, to do them justice they died
bravely, and cheered wildly as they sank beneath the billows."

"And so," I said; "Zareppa escaped even yet."

"Yes, it was a plucky thing.  He swum out from the wreck ere she sank,
and one of the dhows ran up even under our guns, and picked him out of
the water.

"Then both got clear away."

CHAPTER FIVE.

  "Like mountain cat that guards its young.
  Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung."

  Scott.

  "He watched me like a lion's whelp,
  That gnaws and yet may break its chain."

  Byron.

"Ben Roberts, dear old friend," I said, as soon as the captain had
finished.  "I remember that sea-fight which you have just so graphically
described."

"And pray," said he, "what and how much of it could you remember, seeing
you were down below, and were so well used to guns thundering over your
baby head, that you often went to sleep during general quarters?  Now,
just you tell me."

"Well," I replied, "I suppose it must have been the collision at the
conclusion, for I was knocked all of a heap off the chair, and the Ay-ay
and I threw ourselves into each other's arms and wept."

"Yes, lad, and I found you, when I went down to my cabin, in each
other's arms, and both fast asleep."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I myself, dear reader, must now resume the thread of my narrative, from
the place where Captain Roberts gives it up.

When the crew of the _Niobe_ returned to their native land from the
Cape, and the new crew joined, I remained with my foster-father--my dear
old sea-dad.

From the Cape we sailed straight to Bombay, it being found that the old
_Niobe_ would require to go into dry dock.

I remember being dazzled with all I saw in Bombay, except those terrible
Towers of Silence, on which the dead bodies of the Parsees are exposed
to be devoured by birds.  What I think struck me most was the gorgeous
dresses of the natives, and the enormous amount of gold and silver
ornaments they wore about them; bangles, and bracelets, and jewelled
noselets, and ear-rings as big as cymbals, or the brass plates that
barbers hang out in front of their doors.  If I wondered at the natives,
the natives wondered at me--the piccaninny sailor-boy, as they called
me--for I was now dressed out quite like a man-o'-war's man.

From Bombay we returned to our cruising ground, which was at that time
called the Cape station, and stretched all along the entire east coast
of Africa, from the Cape to the Red Sea, including not only Madagascar
with its circlet of tiny islets, but Mozambique, the Comoro Islands, and
Seychelles as well.  Were I to tell you all my adventures on these
shores, I should have no space to devote to sketches probably quite as
interesting.

Let me come then as speedily as I may to the one great event of my life:
my capture by that arch-fiend Zareppa, and my treatment while a prisoner
for ten long years in the wildest part of the interior of Africa.

As soon as we reached Zanzibar, I being then of the ripe age of six
years, the captain called me aft, and Roberts the boatswain came along
with me.

"My man," said the captain to me, "You are six now, and it is high time
you were rated."

I began to cry.  A rating I thought meant a flogging, and I had seen
poor fellows tied up over and over again and flogged until the blood
gushed out of their backs.

"It is nothing," said the kindly captain; "I'm going to make a man of
you."

"Oh!"  I said, and wiped my eyes.

"But," continued the captain laughing, "We'll make a second-class boy of
you first."

Roberts laughed now.

"I'll teach him sir," he said, saluting the captain, "to splice and reef
and steer."

"Well, away you go," said the captain, "and see, my little man, that you
do all you are told."

I touched my forelock, and went away forward with the good boatswain; so
proud that I'm sure I didn't feel my feet touching the deck.

My education had begun long before; it continued now, and I hope I did
my duty.

For the next four years we had plenty of chasing of ships, plenty of
cruising, plenty of jollity and fun, both on shore and afloat, and now
and then a pitched battle.

We had never seen Zareppa again, but we had often and often heard of
him.  We knew that he was in the habit of marching into the interior
upon peaceful negro villages lying about the Equator, burning them, and
capturing the inhabitants as slaves.

Oh! boys at home, if you but knew the horrors of the slave trade; if you
could but realise even a tithe of the misery and wretchedness and
fearful crimes included in that one word "slavery," as applied to Africa
alone, you would not deem yourself entitled to the proud name of British
boy, until you had registered a vow to do all that may ever lie in your
power, be that little or be it much, by deeds or by words alone, to wipe
out the curse.

Had you seen what I have seen of it, had you sojourned where I have
sojourned, you would have witnessed deeds that would harrow your mind to
think of even till your dying day.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

My life on board the _Niobe_ was altogether a very pleasant one; the
best part of it was the long glorious cruises we used to have in open
boats.  Fancy, if you can, going away in a well-found boat, away from
your ship entirely for, perhaps, a month or six weeks at a time, in the
glorious summer weather, with the blue sky above, the blue sea below,
and hardly ever more wind than sufficed to cool and fan you, and to
raise the sea into a gentle ripple.  We cruised along the coast, we
cooked our food on shore--and oh! what jolly "spreads" they used to be,
what soups, what stews!--we cruised along the coast, and we sailed or
pulled up rivers, and into many a lovely wooded creek, going everywhere,
in fact, where there was a chance of capturing a slaver, or of making a
prize.  When the slave ships ran we chased them, when they fired on us
we fought them, and they were always beaten.  They might win a race, but
never a battle.  We were some fifty men strong; we never stopped,
therefore, for an invitation to go on board; we went, sword or cutlass
in hand, and they were bound to give way.

But to me, I think, the glad sense of being away from the ship and of
leading a free and roving life, was the greatest part of the pleasure,
and I used to be so sorry when we bore up at last for the rendezvous
where we were to meet our ship.

That, then, was the bright side of the picture of my life in these glad
old days.  And I must confess that it really had not a dark one,
although sadness used to steal over my heart, when letters came from
what others called home--England.

Home!  To me the word had no other meaning except the wide ocean, and
yet when I saw others reading their letters with such joy depicted on
every countenance, well--it was very foolish of me, no doubt--but I used
to steal away into some quiet corner, and weep.

"Now, my lad," cried Roberts to me one day.  "Get that twopenny-ha'penny
cutlass of yours out, and prepare to go on shore.  We're going up
country to fight those rascally Arabs.  We are going to storm Zareppa's
own stronghold."

"Hurrah!"  I shouted; "And you will really take me with you, Mr
Roberts?"

"That I will, lad; and you're not your father's son unless you know how
to behave yourself in presence of a foe."

I said nothing; but at that moment I almost thought that Roberts
instigated an act on my part, which followed some days after this.  Had
he not mentioned Zareppa and my father in two consecutive sentences--my
father and my father's slayer?

"Oh!"  I said inwardly, "could I but meet the man face to face!"  What a
childish thought, you will say, for a mere stripling, with a
twopenny-ha'penny cutlass!  The cutlass, by the way, was a middy's dirk,
of which I felt very proud indeed.

The boats were called away.  The expedition against the Arab stronghold
was going to be "a big thing," as Roberts said, so every man that could
be spared from the ship joined it.

Our guide was poor Sweeba.  This negro had but one thought in life;
namely, to avenge the murder of his family.  I'm afraid that revenge is
a very human though an improper feeling; and it is easy enough to
understand, without attempting to justify, Sweeba's thirst for
vengeance.  I hope that I myself shall never forget that Bible text
which says--

  "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay."

The utmost caution was necessary in passing up through the forest and
jungle, for we were surrounded by enemies on all sides.  However, we
made forced marches in silence and all by night, and in three days'
time, being favoured by fortune, we arrived in front of Zareppa's
stronghold, and within two miles of the place.  We lay closely hidden
till daybreak, a good two hours, sending Sweeba forward to scout.  He
returned shortly with the intelligence that the Arabs were in great
force, and had both camels and cavalry, and that they had also thrown up
a strong earthwork on the hill around their position.

Before sunrise we were ready; a mere band we were, but a brave one,
about one hundred and twenty in all, bluejackets and marines.  Ere the
sun had mounted over the forest land we were close upon Zareppa's
position, and in the darkness our fellows had even cut out a company of
war and baggage camels.  It was here that the fighting first began, but
taken by surprise, the camel-drivers, after a faint show of resistance,
fled hurriedly up towards the fort.

It was now daylight, but the beams of the sun were sadly shorn by the
smoke that arose from the fort as a tremendous volley was fired to check
our advance.  Under cover of this volley down thundered the foe to the
charge.  But little more than two hundred yards intervened between the
fort and our fellows.  Yet many a horse lost its rider, many a brave and
stately Arab bit the dust, ere the enemy reached us.

I cannot describe what followed.  No one can give an account of anything
save his own experience in a fight like this.  The enemy fought with
terrible courage.  Again and again were they foiled, again and again did
they return to the charge with redoubled determination.  They leaped on
our very bayonets, over their own wounded, and their dead and dying fell
together in heaps.  But all in vain.  Zareppa at last, despairing of
success, withdrew his daring followers.

"Now, lads," cried our commander, "follow me into the fort.  They have
shown us how Arabs fight; we will now show them what true Britons can
do.  Hurrah!"

The wild "Deen! deen!" of the Arab is nothing in strength of volume to
the stern British "Hurrah!"  It is a war-cry that has struck terror into
the hearts of foemen on every land on which the sun shines.  It is a
war-cry that means business.  It meant business to-day, as our fellows
dashed up that hill and entered the fort.  Then the fighting commenced
in deadly earnest; the Arabs had leaped from their chargers, which were
held in readiness in the rear, and fought with swords only, even their
spears being for a time discarded.  Our fellows fought with sword, with
bayonet, or with butt-end, and men fell fast on both sides.

Only once during this fight Roberts was near me, but then his good sword
saved me from a fearful cut.  "Back to the rear, boy," I heard him yell;
"you're too young for this work."

But, look! yonder is the chief, yonder is Zareppa.  Though I had never
seen him before, an instinct seemed to tell me that that was the man who
had slain my father.  I flew at him--foolishly enough, no doubt--flew at
him as if I had been a wild cat.  I clutched his belt and raised my arm
to strike.  He bore me to the ground by a blow from his sword-hilt.  He
seemed to scorn to fight with such as I.

Next moment he himself was down.  Sweeba had felled him, but was, in his
turn, cut down almost immediately.  On the ground I grappled again with
the pirate chief.  It seems all like a dream now, but I have little
doubt my agility saved me, and enabled me to make such good use of my
dirk that Zareppa never rose again.

Years after this I knew we had gained this fight, but now, as for me, I
was taken prisoner, bound hand and foot, and carried into the interior.
After the death of their chief, the Arabs had fought only long enough to
secure possession of the boy who had killed their leader.  This done,
they mounted and fled.

I was, it would seem, reserved for the torture.  But the king of a
warlike tribe fancied the boy for a white slave, and the cupidity of the
Arabs overcame their love even for vengeance--I was sold into slavery.

Then began a long, dreary march into the interior.  It is only fair to
say, however, that from the commencement King Otakooma was not unkind to
me.  He ordered my wrists to be untied, and I was set free--such freedom
as it was, for with a mob of savages around me I dared not attempt to
escape.  Indeed, I cared little now what became of me, and for the first
few days I refused all food.  Then nature asserted herself, and I ate
greedily of the fruit that grew plentifully everywhere in the country
through which we were passing.

I had pulled what appeared to me a most delicious-looking large berry,
when suddenly I heard our chief shriek.

"_Oa eeah wa ka_!" and at the same moment the fruit was dashed from my
hand ere I could convey it to my lips.  I knew from this it was poison.
Then the chief called me towards him, and placed me on the grass, and
put before me a plate of boiled paddy [a kind of rice] and a bright
glittering dagger.  I knew what he meant, and chose the paddy.  Then the
king laughed till his fat sides shook again.  He was a sort of
half-caste Arab, I suppose, and yellow, not black.  Perhaps his colour
made him king, for his followers were very black, tall, wiry, and
savage-looking.

The king on the other hand simply looked good-humouredly idiotic, but I
found out afterwards that he could be both cruel and fierce, and though
not a cannibal, he was addicted to human sacrifices.  Piles of skulls
adorned his palace grounds.  He built them up like rockeries, and
flowers actually grew on them, although they had never been planted.

As soon as I had eaten the rice, he patted my cheek and asked me,
through a boy interpreter, if I would have some rum.  I refused; upon
which a cocoa-nut half full and the dagger were again placed before me.

I drank the rum, and I learned a lesson; and whenever afterwards the
king asked me to do anything that I had scruples at performing, I
pretended to be exceedingly eager to do it--and thus got off.

Our adventures on our journey inland were many and varied.  Under other
circumstances I should have enjoyed them, but every mile west was taking
me away from all I held dear in the world, so no wonder my heart sank
within me and that I loathed the savages, loathed the fat old king, and
even the boy interpreter, although he was the only one with whom I could
converse.

Jooma was his name, and he turned out no friend to me.  He entertained
me from the first with terrible stories about the cruelties of the tribe
I was going amongst, tales that made me long for death and my very blood
run cold.

Then I thought of the poison berry, and was strangely tempted to eat a
few.  Thank Heaven, I did not give way to the fearful temptation!  It is
an awful thing for a human soul to hurry unbidden into the presence of
its Maker.

One adventure thrilled me at first with delight, afterwards with grief.
We met and attacked a caravan of English travellers.  I was bound to a
horse and strictly guarded, at a distance from the scene of action.  I
do not know what occurred, but from the exultant looks of the savages on
their return, and from the blood-stained booty they brought with them, I
feared the worst.

Another adventure I remember was a night attack on our camp by a
rhinoceros.  The savages fled before the infuriated brute more speedily
than they would have done before a human foe.

But my experience, gained since then, is that rhinoceroses are not as a
rule dangerous animals, although a great many marvellous stories are
told about them, usually travellers' tales.

Sometimes the hill and the jungle gave place to wide marsh lands,
through which the cattle were driven first, the horses following, and
last of all the foolish old king on his litter, with his rum bottle
beside him.

Often he used to drink till he fell asleep.  Sometimes he would make me
sit by him.  Once he had his great hand on my shoulder, and kept feeling
at my neck.

I afterwards asked Jooma what he meant.

"Nothing he mean," replied Jooma, grinning, "only feel for proper place
to cut your head away.  Dat nothing!"

This was pleasant.

At last we arrived in the king's country, and a small tent was assigned
to me near the royal palace.

The country all round, although unfilled, was fertile and lovely in the
extreme.  Giant cocoa-palms waved on high, some parts of the landscape
were wild orchards of the most delicious fruit, the hills were covered
with purple heath, the valleys carpeted with grass and flowers of every
shape and hue; while the birds that flitted among the boughs, and the
monster butterflies that floated from one bright blossom to another,
were lovelier than anything you could imagine in your happiest dreams.

To King Otakooma's country bands of wandering Arabs occasionally came,
and visited the king in his summer tent or his winter palace--for he had
both.  They came to solicit his assistance in the inhuman raids they
made upon surrounding tribes of less warlike negroes.

Did I hope for escape through these Arabs?  As well might the linnet beg
the hawk to deliver her from the talons of the owl.

CHAPTER SIX.

  "Much I misdoubt this wayward boy,
  Will one day work me more annoy.
  I'll watch him closer than before."

  Byron.

When I look back now to the first two, or even three, years that I spent
in Otakooma's country, among Otakooma's savages, I wonder that I was not
bereft of reason, or that, knowing escape by death to be in my power, I
did not have recourse to the deadly poison berry that grew in abundance
in many a thicket.  Our goats ate freely of this berry, by-the-bye, but
it seemed to have no other effect upon them than to make them lively.

But even at this date, strange to say, there are certain sights and
sounds that never fail to recall to me not merely my life among those
savages, but the very feelings I then had.  For instance, in the county
in England where I now reside, the cow-boys, or sheep-herds (I will not
call them shepherds), have a peculiar way of calling to each other; it
is a kind of prolonged shrill quavering shout, and it bears some faint
resemblance to the howl of Otakooma's savages, as heard by night in the
forest.  Again, anyone drumming on the table with his finger-nails will
sometimes bring to my mind the feelings I used to have on hearing the
beating of the horrid tom-toms.  The beating of tom-toms and the
howling, combined now and then with a shriek as of some poor wretch in
mortal agony and dread, even when I was not present, but probably a
prisoner in my hut, used to tell me as well as words could, that a human
sacrifice was progressing somewhere in the vicinity of the royal palace.

The smell of weeds burning in a field only yesterday depressed me; the
savages were constantly burning fires of different kinds of dried roots
and weeds.

Just one more instance.  I would not have a rockery in my grounds or
garden; it would remind me of Otakooma's terrible piles of skulls on
which weeds grew green, and flowers bloomed, and lizards--sea-green
lizards with crimson marks on their shoulders, and lizards the colour of
a starling's breast, that is, metallic-changing colour--used to creep.

If ever at that time I spent a happy hour it was in studying and
wondering at the tricks and manners of the many strange denizens of the
forest.  Monkeys, mongooses, and even chameleons I managed to tame.

You see, then, I could not have been very happy.  How could I?  For at
least two years I lived in constant dread of a violent death, and I
never knew what shape it would take.  I might die by the spear of some
angry savage; I might be sacrificed to please some sudden fancy of the
king; I might be burned at the stake or die by the torture.

My enemy--and he ought to have been my friend--was the boy Jooma.  He
was jealous, no doubt, of my influence with the king.  I tried my best
in every way to please this lad, because he could talk English, but in
vain.  He belied me one day after I had been a whole year in the
country, belied me to the king in my presence--he pointed his hand at
me.  I struck the hand.

Then, as he threatened to kill me with his knife, I squared up in good
English fashion and let my enemy have one straight from the shoulder.
He went down as if he had been shot.

The fat old king shouted for joy.  That boy Jooma had never had a proper
British bleeding nose before in his life, I expect.  And he did not like
it.  He kept lying on the ground, because he saw me in the attitude to
give him another blow.  But the king made him stand up, and for fear of
offending the king I had to put him down again.  Then he refused to
rise.  The king told him that a cock and a goat and two curs were going
to be carried in procession to the execution ground that afternoon, and
that if he, Jooma, did not fight "the foreign boy" he should head the
procession and finally lose his head.  So Jooma had to fight as well as
he could, and although I did not punish him willingly, he was paid out
for many an ill turn that he had done me.

I was a favourite with the king for fully a month after this.  He
brought boy after boy for me to thrash.  Indeed, three or four times a
day I was fighting.  I suppose every boy about the king's village had a
set-to with me.  I cannot say I blacked their eyes because they were
already black, but they must have felt my knocks, and I know they did
not love me any the better for it.

I did not know how all this would end, but my heart leaped to my mouth
when one day the king himself, valiant through the rum he had drunk,
stood up and announced his intention of trying conclusions with me
himself.

What could I do?

What would you have done, gentle reader?

I knew I could have thrashed him, for though not old I was very hardy
and wonderfully strong for my years, but I did not want to figure in a
procession.  So I submitted to be knocked down.  Then I had to get up
and be knocked down again and again.  It didn't hurt very much, but
there was indignity attached to it.

The king had found a new pleasure, and every afternoon or evening I was
summoned to the palace yard or grounds, and first I had to fight the
king, then a boy of my own standing.  Well, I am afraid that if I
suffered in body and mind from my encounter with the king, I took it out
of the smaller savage to follow.  There was some satisfaction in that.

But one day, to show his own wonderful powers of fisticuff, the king
summoned a crowd of his warriors to his palace, and made them form a
great ring.  Then I was ordered in and pitted against an Indian boy
bigger than myself.  I never cared how big they were, they held their
arms wide and hit downwards as if thumping a piano.

After one or two boys had been disposed of, to the wild delight of the
warriors, the king took a drink of rum and handed the leather bottle to
his chief executioner; then he took off his extra garments--his one boot
and his crown, an old tin kettle without a bottom to it--and stood up in
front of me.  I went down several times according to my own programme,
and the savages shook their spears and rattled them against their
shields of buffalo hide, and shouted and shrieked to their hearts'
content.

Then the king hit me rather hard, and I suppose my English pride was
touched, for the next thing I remember is--horror of horrors!--the
sacred person of his Majesty King Otakooma sprawling on the dusty ground
and his nose bleeding.

A silence deep as death fell on all the crowd.

Then there was a rush for me.  Spears were at my breast and I expected
only instant death, when the king sprang to my rescue and all fell back.

If I had knelt to him and begged his pardon, even then I might have been
forgiven.

But an English youth to sue on his knees for mercy from a savage!  Nay,
it was not to be thought of.

The king sat down.

The king was silent for a space of time.  The king took more rum.

Then he ordered ropes of skin to be brought, and I was bound hand and
foot and taken away to a loathsome dungeon.

I knew I was to die next day, and I longed for sunrise to have it past,
for I suffered excruciating agony from the tightness of the cords that
bound me.

The time came.  I was to form part in a procession, and did; I was
carried shoulder-high, lying on my back on a kind of bark tray, amid
tom-tom beating, howling, shrieking, and a deal of capering and dancing
that at any other time I should have laughed most heartily at.

At the execution ground goats and cocks were killed, then it came to my
turn.

The king came to have a last look at me.  The cords were undone, and I
stood up staggering because my feet were swollen.  The king looked at my
hands: they were swollen double the size.

The king rubbed his nose.

The king was thinking.

"Now," he must have thought, "here is a hand (meaning my swollen fist)
that couldn't hurt anybody.  What a chance to redeem my lost honour!"

The king took more rum.

Then he started from his throne and shouted.  What he said matters
little.  At the conclusion of his speech I was again dragged up to fight
the king.  If I could have hit him then I would have done so.  But with
such hands, how could I?  So it ended in my being fearfully punished.

Then there was such shouting and yelling as I had never before heard in
my life.  But I was free.

The king took more rum.

For a whole year after this I was kept under almost constant
surveillance, but there was no more fighting.

Sometimes the king and his savages went away on the war-path, for many
weeks together.  When they did so, I was confined in a dungeon, and had
no other companions except frogs, lizards, and centipedes.  All the food
they gave me was a piece of dried cassava root [the root from which
arrowroot is made], daily, and I had very little water.

But in spite of my hardships, I grew strong and robust.  Probably, if I
had not been a friendless orphan, if I had had a mother for instance, or
a father, or sisters, or brothers, in a far-off home to think about, my
misery would have been greater; as it was I had no one, for I believed
that Roberts and all the people of the _Niobe_ had been slain in that
terrible fight at Zareppa's fort.

Amelioration of my sufferings came at last, and in a strange way.

The king fell ill.

The king took more rum.

The king grew worse, and all the sorcery of his medicine men could not
cure him, so I was sent for.

I had seen Jooma putting poison into the rum, and I told the king he had
been poisoned.  Who had done so? he asked: the culprit should die.  No
human being, I was determined, should die on account of anything I said.
I told him, however, that next day I should fetch the evil creature who
had destroyed the health of the king.  Meanwhile the rum was poured on
the ground, and I made him a pill of the poison berry, and a little
scraped cassava root.  He saw me mix it.  His medicine men assured him
it would be death to take it; I took a pill myself, and when he saw I
did not die, he followed my example, and took two or three.  For I had
found out that in small doses this poison berry was medicinal.  The king
slept, and awoke refreshed.

Then he called for the culprit who had dared to poison his rum.

I went and found Jooma.  I told him that his guilt was discovered, and
that his life was in my hands; that a word from me would march him to
the execution ground.  He knelt and prayed for mercy.  I told him he
needn't trouble, that Englishmen were far too honourable to harbour
revenge.  Then I made him bring a very old and savage billy-goat, and
together we brought it to the king.

The king was greatly pleased.  He said he never had liked the looks of
the billy-goat, and he had no doubt that it had worked some deadly spell
upon his rum.  So the billy-goat--poor beast--was slain, and after a few
more pills the king got better, and I was chief favourite among all the
tribe.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

  "But what avails this wondrous waste of wealth,
  This gay profusion of luxurious bliss?
  Ill-fated race! the softening arts of peace,
  Kind equal rule, the government of laws,
  These are not theirs."

  Thomson.

I became the king's head-counsellor, his prime-minister, so to speak,
his chief medicine man.  There was not much honour in this, certainly,
but nevertheless it procured me some amelioration of my sufferings.
There was less of the dungeon after this, and fewer threats of
decapitation.

I think the king still hankered after rum, and it was an anxious day for
me when some Arab chiefs appeared in camp.  Otakooma assembled not only,
all his forces but most of his people.  Something was going to happen, I
knew, but till now I had had no idea of the utter depravity of this
wretch.

He was positively going to barter his people for rum.  The Arabs would
buy them as slaves.

It was terrible to see these same Arabs walking round among the sable
mob, as calmly as a farmer does among a herd of cattle, and picking one
out here and there.  But, oh! the grief, and the agony, and the anxiety
displayed in voice and in action by these poor doomed creatures--the
scene defies description.  Here was the child torn shrieking from its
mother's side, there a wife separated from her husband, or a husband
from a weeping wife.

Some indulged their grief quietly, others gave vent to loud howls and
lamentations; while others lay moaning and groaning on the ground, ever
and anon taking up great handfuls of dust, and throwing it up over their
poor heads!

I could not help turning away and shedding tears.  But had they been
tears of blood they could not have saved these people.  They were
relentlessly marched away, and I was really glad when night fell, and
sleep sealed the eyes of even those who mourned.

It was bright clear moonlight.  I rose from my couch, and stole out into
the open air.  I wanted to think.  The close warm atmosphere of the tent
seemed to stifle me, and I could not sleep.

I passed slowly up the beaten footpath towards the king's tent.  There
was not a single soul astir, it had been a busy exciting day with
everyone, and the king had been liberal enough in his offers of rum to
his chief favourites; and although some of them ought to have been doing
duty as sentinels near to his sacred person, they had preferred
retirement and slumber.

I stole away from the camp, and ascended an eminence some distance from
it, and sat me down on a rock.  It was cool and pleasant here, away from
that blood-stained camp.  The moonlight flooded all the beautiful
country, bathing plain and rock and tree in its mellow rays.  The only
sounds that broke the stillness were the yapping howl of the cowardly
jackal, and farther off in the woods the mournful roar of lions.

It was a lovely scene, but terrible in its loveliness.  I buried my face
in my hands.  I was boldly struggling against my sorrow.  How long, I
thought, would this life last?  Should I live and die among these
terrible savages?  Escape there seemed none.  To attempt it, I knew,
would end in failure, and probably in death by torture.  I was many
hundreds of miles from the sea.  I did not even know in what direction
Zanzibar lay.  No, I must wait for a time, at all events.  What mattered
a year or two more to one so young as I!

I suppose this last reflection had some kind of a drowsy influence on
me, for I lay down with my head on a piece of rock, and with face
upturned to the sky, fell fast asleep.

How long I had slept I know not.  I awoke with a start: something cold
had touched my face, and I had heard a creature breathing close at--
almost into--my ear.  I started, as well I might.  The thing that had
waked me was a jackal; but there, not thirty yards away, standing boldly
out against the moonlit sky, was a gigantic lioness!

There was astonishment depicted in every line of her great face.
Strange to say, at that moment I could not help thinking that she looked
far from cruel, and I could not help admiring the splendid animal.  I
never moved, but gazed as if spell-bound.  Probably it was my fixity of
look that saved me, for after staring steadily, but wonderingly, at me
for fully a minute, she turned round and stalked solemnly off, giving
many a look behind, as if expecting I should follow her.

I waited till she was well away.  I felt very happy at that moment, and
very bold.  I went straight back to camp, and approached the tent of the
king, and softly entered.  He was fast asleep and snoring.  In the
matter of rum he had been even more liberal to himself than to his
followers.  There lay the skins of spirits in a corner, not far from the
couch of the drunken king.  I hesitated not a moment, but seizing the
king's own dagger, I stabbed--not the king, but the skins of rum.

Then I hastened away with my heart in my mouth.  Remember, I was very
young.

There were terrible doings next day in camp, and, I'm sorry to say, more
than one human sacrifice.  I, as medicine man and chief sorcerer, went
through a great many mummeries, which I managed to make last all the
forenoon.  I was endeavouring to find out the wretch who had dared to
spill the great king's rum; that is, I was pretending to.  There was
more than one chief on whose shoulders I permitted my magician's wand to
rest for a while, just by way of a mild revenge, but the lot finally
fell once again on an aged billy-goat.  I had saved the king, and saved
many of his subjects, for when the king was intoxicated, human
sacrifices were of everyday occurrence.  At ordinary times they were no
more numerous than Bank Holidays in our own country.

When it was all over I stole away to the shady banks of a stream to
bathe, and lie and watch the kingfishers.  It was a favourite resort of
mine, whenever I dared be alone.

The warriors of this tribe spent most of their time either on the
hunting grounds--forest and plain--or in making raids on their
neighbours.  I was allowed to join the hunting expeditions, but not the
forays.  I became an expert horseman.  I could ride bare-backed as well
as any circus-man I have ever seen since.  The king was too fat to ride
much, but he used to follow to the chase of the koodoo.

This is a kind of beautiful antelope, and excellent eating, its
principal recommendation in the eyes of Otakooma.  We often caught the
young, and they became as tame as our goats.

Now once having taken it into my head that escape from this country of
savages was impossible, strange to say I began to settle down, in
everything else except human bloodthirstiness, and soon became a very
expert savage, taking a wild kind of pride in my exploits.

Mine was now a life of peril and hardship; adventures to me were of
everyday occurrence; I carried my life in my hand; I grew as wily as a
jackal, and I hope as bold as a lion.  I take no credit to myself for
being bold; I had to be so.

The king and I continued friends.  At the end of the sixth year of my
captivity, Jooma died.  He died from wounds received at the horns of a
wild buffalo in the forest.

This buffalo-hunting had for me a very great charm, and it certainly was
not unattended with danger, for there were times when, headed by an old
bull or two, a whole herd of these animals would charge down upon us.
This was nothing to me.  I could climb trees as well as most monkeys, so
I got out of harm's way, but it was hard upon the savages, who were not
always so nimble.

Jooma was terribly tossed and wounded by a bull, and he died at the tree
foot.  He called me to him before his eyes were for ever closed, and
asked me to forgive him for all the ill he had done me, and tried to do
me.

"I have been to you one ver bad fellow," said poor Jooma; "I have want
to kill you plenty time.  Now I die.  You forgive Jooma?"

"I do, Jooma," I said, and pressed his cold hard hand.

"Ver well," said the lad, faintly and slowly.  "Now I die.  Now, I go
home--go home--home."

We buried him just where he lay, between the gnarled roots of a great
forest tree, and piled wood over the grave to keep the sneaking jackals
at bay.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

One morning about two years after this, I was awakened early--indeed it
was hardly dawn--by hearing a tremendous uproar and commotion in the
camp, with much warlike shouting and beating of those everlasting
tom-toms [Note 1].

The king was running about wildly--too wildly, indeed, for his weight--
and was summoning his warriors to arms.

White men were coming to attack the camp!

This was glorious news for me.

But who, or what could they be, or what could they want?

All that day, from far and near, the warriors of Otakooma came trooping
into camp.  To do them justice they were fond of fighting, and eager for
the fray; they loved fighting for its own sake, but a battle with white
men was a thing that did not happen every day.

The old men, the women and children, and the cattle were separated from
the main or soldier portion of the tribe, and taken westwards towards
the distant hills.  So it was evident that Otakooma and his people meant
business.

What part should I take in the coming fray?  I might have fled, and
remained away until the victory was secured by the white men, but this
would have been both unkind and cowardly.  On the other hand, I would
not lift a spear or poise a lance against my own people.

That same evening, after all was hushed in the camp, I sought out the
king.  He looked at me very suspiciously before I spoke.

I sat quietly in front of him on the ground, and explained to him my
situation.

He was wise enough to see exactly how I stood, but he told me there was
an easy way out of the difficulty.  Early in the morning he would chop
off my head.  He bore me no grudge, he explained, _it was a mere matter
of policy_.

"Quite right," I replied, "and, if he chose, he might take my head off
then and there.  I didn't at all mind; and would just as soon be without
a head as with one."

The king smiled, and seemed pleased.

"But," I continued, "you may look at the possession of a head in a
different light, so far as your own particular head is concerned.  If
your people are beaten, you will assuredly lose that head, unless a
white man is near to take your part.  I will be your friend," I said,
"in this matter, and during the battle I will stand by your person and
never leave you."

Otakooma was delighted at the proposal, and so we arranged matters to
our mutual satisfaction, and I felt glad I had come; I had certainly
lost nothing by my candour.  No one ever does.

Firing began early in the morning.  The battle raged till nearly noon,
with dreadful slaughter on the side of the savages, who were finally
borne backwards a disorganised mob.

I stuck by the king.  He did not fly.  He felt safe and said so, but he
wept to see his children, as he called them, slain before his very eyes.

Oh! the glad sight it was to me, after all these years, to behold the
bold bluejackets, and brave marines, dashing after the foe, gun and
bayonet in hand!

But a more joyful surprise awaited me when the battle was over; for the
very first man to rush up to me and shake me by the two hands was my
dear friend Ben Roberts.

"Nie, old boy!" he cried, "I wouldn't have known you.  You've grown a
man, and what a savage you do look!  And do you know, Nie, what all this
fighting has been about?"

"No," I said innocently.

"Why, about _you_!"  He almost shouted the last word, and I could see in
his honest eyes the tears which he could hardly keep from failing.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  A tom-tom is a kind of kettle-drum.  It is simply a log of wood
hollowed out at one end, and a dried skin stretched over it.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

  "The sea! the sea! the open sea!
  The blue, the fresh, the ever free!"

  Proctor.

  "England, thy beauties are tame and domestic,
  To one who has roamed o'er the mountains afar."

  Byron.

Yes, all the fighting had been about me.

Our fellows had not lost the battle that day at Zareppa's fort; on the
contrary, they had given the Arabs a grievous defeat.  I had at first
been reported killed, but as I was not found among the dead and wounded,
search was made for me more inland, and it was soon elicited that I had
been carried away prisoner, and no doubts were left in the minds of my
shipmates, that I had died by the torture, in order to avenge the death
of the pirate chief.

The old _Niobe_ had been wrecked since my incarceration in the land of
the savages.  Roberts had been made lieutenant, and it was not until he
returned to the shores of Africa, several years after, that he heard
from friendly Arabs that there was an English prisoner in the hands of a
warlike tribe of savages, who lived almost in the centre of the dark
continent.  After this my dear friend never rested in his hammock, as he
himself expressed it, until he had organised the expedition that came to
my relief.

What a delightful sensation it was to me to feel myself once more at
sea!

  "The glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
  Glasses itself in tempest."

We were homeward bound.  I was a passenger, and we had splendid weather,
so everything seemed to combine to make me feel joyful and happy.
Joyful, did I say? why, there were times when I wanted to run about and
shout for joy like a schoolboy, or like the savage that I fear I had
almost become.

But I could not run about and shout on board a trim and well-disciplined
man-o'-war.  The very appearance of the

  "White and glassy deck, without a stain
  Where, on the watch, the staid lieutenant walked,"

forbade, so at such moments I used to long to be away in the woods
again, in order to give proper vent to my exultation.

Besides, I had good cause to be staid and sedate.  Roberts had heard
news that changed the whole course of my life.  I was no longer a
friendless sailor-boy.  My grandfather was dead, and I was the heir to
his estate.  It was not a very large patrimony, I admit.  It was simply
a competence, but to me, when I heard it described, it appeared a
princely fortune.  There would be no longer any need for me to sail the
seas.  I could settle down in life, or I could choose some honourable
career on shore, and, if I was good for anything at all, distinguish
myself therein.

Or, stay, I thought, should I become a soldier?  "No, no, no," was the
answer of my soul.  The war was past and gone; even the terrible Indian
Mutiny had been quelled at last.  To be a soldier in the field was a
career worthy of a king's son.  To be a soldier, and have nothing to do
but loll about in some wretched garrison town, play billiards or
cricket, have a day's shooting, English fashion, now and then, be
admired by school-misses and probably snubbed by men with more money
than brains; no, such a life would not suit me.

I should much prefer, I thought, to stay at home and till my garden.
With my jacket off, my shirt-sleeves rolled up, and an axe or spade in
hand, I should feel far more free than playing with a useless sword.

Lieutenant Roberts was about to retire from active service in the Royal
Navy, and he had already been promised the command of a ship in the
Merchant Service.  But before he left England he would, he said, see me,
his foster-son, well settled down.

The ship was homeward bound.  There was nothing but laughing and talking
and singing all day long, for many of the poor fellows on board had not
placed foot on their native shores for five long years and more.  What a
glorious place England must be, I mused, to make these men so happy at
the prospect of returning to it.  How brightly the sun must shine there!
How blue and beautiful must be the seas that lave her coasts!

So we presently crossed the Line and sailed north, and north, and north.
Past Madeira--and then the brightness began to leave the sky.  The wind
to me grew chilly, biting, and cruel.  The sea became a darker blue, and
finally, as we entered the Bay of Biscay, a leaden grey.  My hopes of
happiness fell, and fell, and fell.  Roberts tried all he could to cheer
me up, told me of the monster cities I should see, of the ballrooms, of
the concert-rooms, and of a multitude of wonderful things, not
forgetting cricket and football.

We sailed past the Isle of Wight with a grey chopping sea all around us,
grey clouds above us, a bitter cold wind blowing, and a drizzling rain
borne along on its wings.

Then we entered Portsmouth harbour, and cast anchor among the wooden
walls of England.  Finally I landed.  Landed, much to my disgust, upon
stones instead of soft sand.  Landed, still more to my disgust, among
crowds of people who stared at me as if I had a plurality of heads, or
only one eye right in the middle of my brow.  I glanced around me with
all the proud dignity of a savage prince.  The crowd laughed, and
Roberts hurried me on.

I daresay a visit to a fashionable tailor and its subsequent results
made me a little more presentable, but I disliked this town of
Portsmouth with a healthy dislike, and was glad when my friend took me
away.

I had to go to London.  The railway amused me, and made me wonder, but
used as I was to the quiet of the desert and forest, it deafened me, and
the shaking tired me beyond conception.

My solicitor, a prim white-haired man, said he was _so_ glad to see me,
though I do believe he was a little afraid of me.  Probably not without
cause, for at the very moment he was entering into business as he called
it, and arranging preliminaries, I was thinking how quickly Otakooma's
savages would rub all the starch out of this respectable citizen.
_They_ would not take long to arrange preliminaries with the little man,
and as to entering into business, they would do so in a way that would
considerably astonish his nerves.

"Bother business!"  I exclaimed at last, in a voice that made the prim
solicitor almost spring off his chair.

"Oh! my dear sir," he pleaded, mildly.  "We _must_ go into these little
matters."

He ventured to give me two fingers to shake as I left the office with
Roberts.  I feel sure he was afraid to entrust me with all his hand.

"And as soon as you get home you will telegraph to me; won't you, Mr
Radnor?"

"Telegraph!"  I said in astonishment.  "Telegraph! and you tell me it is
five hundred miles from here to Dunryan.  Do you think you can see a
fire at that distance?  It must be a precious big one I'll have to
light, and the mountains around Dunryan must be amazingly high."

Both Roberts and the solicitor laughed; they could see that the only
idea I had of telegraphing was the building of fires on hill-tops.

I arrived at Dunryan at last--my small patrimony.  If I was pleased with
it at all, it was simply because it was my own; but everything was so
new and so strange and so tame, that as soon as my friend saw me what he
called "settled," and went away to sea and left me, I began, in the most
methodical manner possible, to dislike everything round me.

People called on me, but I'm sure they were merely curious to hear my
history from my own lips, and partly afraid of me at the same time.
They invited me out to tea!  Ha! ha! ha!  I really cannot help laughing
about it now as I write; but fancy a savage sitting down to tea, of all
treats in the world, with a company of gossiping ladies of both sexes.

Now my neighbours made me out to be a bigger savage than I really was,
because, to do myself justice, I did know a little of the courtesies of
civilised life.  There was one lady who expressed a wish to have the
"dreadful creature" to tea with her.  I found out before I went that she
had styled me so, though her note of invitation was most politely
worded.

The "dreadful creature" did go to tea, intent on a kind of quiet
revenge.  They could not get a word out of me--neither my hostess nor
the three old ladies she had asked to meet me by way of protection.  I
did nothing but drink cup after cup of tea, handing in my cup to be
replenished, and drinking it at once.  The bread and butter disappeared
in a way that seemed to them little short of miraculous.  I saw that
they were getting frightened, so I thought I would make them a little
soothing speech.

"Ahem!"  I began, standing up.  I never got any further.

One old lady fainted; another "missed stays," as a sailor would say,
when making for the doorway, and tumbled on the floor; a third fell over
the piano-stool.  All screamed--all thought I was about to do something
very dreadful.

All I did do was to step gingerly out into the hall, pick up my hat, and
go off.

I lived in Dunryan for a year.  The scenery all around was charming in
the extreme.  The very name will tell you that Dunryan is in Scotland;
the very word Scotland conjures up before the eye visions both of beauty
and romance.

But one year even of Scotland, the "land of green heath and shaggy
wood," was enough for me then.

There was no sport, no wild adventure; all was tame, tame, tame,
compared to what I had been used to.

But if following game in Scotland seemed tame to me, what could I say of
sport in English fashion?  I tried both; grew sick of both.  Hunting the
wild gorilla in the jungles of Africa was more in my line.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

One night, soon after the first snow had fallen, a carriage drove up to
my door.  It was to bear me away to the distant railway-station.  The
moon was shining brightly down upon our little village as we drove
through; here and there in the windows shone a yellow light; but all was
silent, and neither the horses' hoofs nor the carriage wheels could be
heard on the snow-muffled street.

It was a peaceful scene, and I heaved one sigh--well, it might have been
of regret.  For many and many a long year to come I never saw Dunryan
again.

CHAPTER NINE.

  "The dismal wreck to view
  Struck horror to the crew."

  Old Song.

The earlier history of a human being's life is engraved upon his mind as
with a pen of steel.  After one comes to what are termed years of
discretion, the soul is not so impressionable, and events must be of
more than usual interest to be very long remembered.  The story, then,
of a chequered life cannot be told with even a hopeful attempt at
minuteness, unless a log has been kept day after day and year after
year; and my opinion is, that although diaries are often most
religiously commenced, especially about New Year's time, they are seldom
if ever kept up very long.

My own adventures, and the scenes I passed through in the first stages
of my existence, were not, as the reader already knows, of a kind to be
very easily forgotten, even had my mind never been very impressionable.
It was easy enough, therefore, to record them in some kind of
chronological form.

The few adventures I and my friend Ben Roberts tell in the pages that
follow, and our sketches of life, are given as they occur to our memory;
often brought back to our minds by the incidents of our present everyday
life.

But I do not think that even if Ben and I live as long as Old Parr, we
shall either tire of spinning our yarns, or fall short of subject
matter.

Let me say a word or two about the place I live in now, and where Ben so
often pays me a visit.

We call it Rowan Tree Villa.

It stands mid-way up a well-wooded hill, about two and a half miles from
a dreamy, drowsy old village, in one of the dreamiest, drowsiest nooks
of bonnie, tree-clad Berkshire.

The top of the hill is covered by tall-stemmed pine trees, and from this
eminence you can see, stretching far away below, all the undulating
country, the fertile valley of the Thames, and the river itself winding
for many and many a mile through it--a silver thread amidst the green.

From the top of this hill, too, if you take the trouble to climb it, you
can have a bird's-eye view of Rowan Tree Villa.

There it is, a pretty, many-gabled cottage, with a comfortable-looking
kitchen garden and orchard behind it, and a long, wide lawn in front.
Now this lawn has one peculiarity.  From the gate on each side up to the
terrace in front of the house sweeps a broad carriage drive, bounded on
both its sides, first by a belt of green grass, carefully trimmed and
dotted here and there with patches of flowers, and secondly by two rows
of rowan trees (the mountain ash), trained on wires, and forming the
prettiest bit of hedge-work you could easily imagine.

If you were Scotch, and looked at that hedge even for a moment, the
words, and maybe the air as well, of the Baroness Nairne's beautiful
song would rise in your mind--

  "Thy leaves were aye the first in spring,
      Thy flowers the summer's pride;
  There was nae sic a bonnie tree
      In a' the country side.
  And fair wert thou in summer time,
      Wi' a' thy clusters white,
  And rich and gay thy autumn dress
      Of berries red and bright.
                  Oh, rowan tree!"

Well, it is June to-day--an afternoon in June; a day to make one feel
life in every limb--a day when but to exist is a luxury.  The roses are
bending their heads in the sweet sunshine, for there is not a cloud in
Heaven's blue.  The butterflies are chasing each other among the flowers
on the lawn, where we recline among the daisies, and the big velvety
bees go droning and humming from clover blossom to clover blossom.

"Strange, is it not, my dear Ben," I said, "that on such a day as this,
and in the midst of sunshine, I should bethink me of some night-scenes
at sea and on land?

"I remember well my first experience of a storm by night in the Northern
Ocean.  We were going to the Arctic regions, cruising in a sturdy and,
on the whole, not badly fitted, nor badly found ship.

"The anchor was weighed, the sails were set, and spread their wings to
the breeze; the crew had given their farewell cheer, and the rough old
pilot, having seen us safely out of Brassy Sound, had shaken the captain
roughly by the hand, and wishing us `God-speed and safely home,' had
disappeared in his boat round a point.

"We were once more on the deep and dark blue ocean.  Then the night
began to fall, and soon the only sound heard was the tramp, tramp on
deck, or the steady wash of the water, as our vessel ever and anon
dipped her bows or waist in the waves.

"The captain had given his last orders on deck, and came below to our
little saloon, the only occupants of which were myself and the ship's
cat.

"Poor Pussy was endeavouring, rather ineffectually, to steady herself on
the sofa, and looked very much from home, while I myself was trebly
engaged: namely, in placing such articles as were constantly tumbling
down into a safer and steadier position, in keeping the fire brightly
burning, and in reading a nautical book.

"There was a shade of uneasiness on the captain's face as he looked at
the barometer; and when he entered his state-room, and presently after
emerged dressed in oilskins and a sou'-wester hat, I felt as sure we
were going to have a dirty night as though he had rigged himself out in
sackcloth and ashes.

"He sat down, and, calling for some coffee, invited me to join in a
social cup.

"`Is there plenty of sea-room?'  I inquired.

"`Very little sea-room,' he replied; `but she must take her chance.'

"Then we relapsed into silence.

"About an hour or two after this it became a difficult matter to sit on
a chair at all, so much did the vessel pitch and roll.

"The captain had gone on deck, and as I had neither the need nor the
desire to follow him, I threw myself on the sofa, at the risk even of
offending my good friend and companion, Pussy.

"The storm was now raging with terrible fury.

"Two watches were called to shorten sail, and the din and noise of
voices could be distinctly heard rising high over the dashing of the
waves, and the whistling of the wind among the rigging and shrouds.
Every timber was stretched, every plank seemed to creak and wail in
agony; yet the good ship bore it well.

"Tired of the sofa I turned into bed, hoping to have a few hours of
sleep; but was very soon obliged to turn out again, having been awakened
from a pleasant dream of green fields, pine-clad hills, and a broad,
quiet river, where ferns and water-lilies grew, by the crashing of
crockery in the steward's pantry.  It sounded as if bottles, dishes,
plates, and cups were all in a heap in the middle of the floor breaking
each other to infinitesimal pieces.  And that is precisely what they
were doing.

"Things in the saloon were fast verging into a state of chaos, and
appeared to be making very merry in my absence.  The fender and
fire-irons presided over the musical department.

"The captain's big chair was dancing very emphatically, but rather
clumsily, with the coal-scuttle as a partner; the table was bowing to
the sofa, but the sofa begged to be excused from getting up.  The only
reasonable-looking article of furniture in the room was a chair, which
was merely staggering around with my coat on, while the cat had gone to
sleep in my sou'-wester; and while endeavouring to restore quiet and
order, I was thrown below the table like a pair of old boots, where, for
the want of ability to do anything better, I was fain to remain.

"`Clear away the wreck!'  I could now hear the captain's voice bawling,
for our fore-mast had gone by the board.

"_His_ voice was not the only one I heard.  On passing the man at the
wheel, I heard the captain ask, `What! are you getting afraid, man?'
And the brave British voice that so firmly replied `Not at all, sir!'
explained better than printed volumes could have done the secret of all
our naval greatness; for to hearts like his, and hands like his, in many
a dark and stormy night, Britannia entrusts her honour, and bravely is
it kept and guarded.

"Musing on this fact, I fell soundly to sleep beneath the table, and
when I awoke the storm had ceased.

"There are few situations in which a healthy man can be placed that are
more full of discomfort than that of being at sea in a small ship during
a storm.  I do not refer to a mere `capful of wind;' I mean a great-gun
gale.  There is, literally speaking, no rest for the sole of the foot.
Tossed about in all directions, in vain do you seek to exchange your
chair for the sofa.  Probably you are sent rolling off on to the deck,
and thankful you ought to be if the cushions are the only things that
follow you.  Flesh-sore and weary, perhaps you seek for solace in a cup
of tea: thankful you may be again if the steward succeeds in pouring it
into your cup, instead of spilling it down your neck.  Then, if you so
far forget the rules of the sea as to place it for a moment on the table
without a hand to guard it, you are instantly treated to a gratuitous
shower-bath.

"Still the ocean has its pleasures and its charms as well as the land.
My mind, even now, carries me back and away to a scene very different
from that which I have just been describing.

"I am sitting in my little cabin.  It is a summer's evening, and all is
peace within and around my barque.  Yonder is my bed, and the little
port close by my snow-white pillow is open, and through it steals the
soft, cool breeze of evening, and wantonly lifts and flutters the little
blue silken hangers.  Not far off I can catch glimpses of the wooded
hills and flowery valleys of a sunny land.  And night after night the
light wind that blows from it is laden with the sweet breath of its
flowers; and between there lies the ocean, asleep and quiet and still,
and beautiful with the tints of reflected clouds.

"Often in the cool night that succeeds a day of heat have I lain awake
for hours, fanned by the breath of the sea, gazing on the watery world
beneath and beyond me, and the silvery moon and tiny stars, that make
one think of home, till sleep stole gently down on a moonbeam, and
wafted me off to dreamland.

"But in witnessing even the war of the elements at sea, a sailor often
finds a strange, wild pleasure.  Enveloped in the thundercloud you mount
with every wave to meet the lightning's flash, or descend, like an
arrow, into the gulf below--down, down, down, till the sun, lurid and
red, is hidden at last from view by the wall of black waters around you.

"Or fancy the picture, which no artist could depict, of a ship far away
in ocean's midst by night in a thunderstorm.  Dimly through the murky
night behold that tumbling sea, lighted only by its own foam and the
occasional flash from the storm-cloud.  See that dark spot on the sea;
it is a ship, and living souls are there--human beings, each with his
own world of cares and loves and thoughts that are even now far away,
all in that little spot.  Whish! now by the pale lightning's flash you
can see it all.  The black ship, with her bare poles, her slippery,
shining deck and wet cordage, hanging by the bows to the crest of that
great inky wave.  What a little thing she looks, and what a mighty ocean
all around her; and see how pale appear the faces of the crew that
`cling to slippery shrouds,' lest the next wave bear them into eternity.

"Whoever has been to prayers at sea during a storm has had a solemn
experience he will never forget."

"Perhaps there is no more impressive ocean-scene ever beheld by the
sailor," said Captain Ben Roberts, "than the phosphorescent seas
witnessed at times in the tropics."  But though far more common in these
regions than in the temperate zones, this extraordinary luminosity of
the water is sometimes observed around our own coasts.

"I shall always remember," he continues, "the first time I witnessed the
phenomenon, though I've often seen it since.

"What a happy day we had had, to be sure!  We were a party of five--I
but a schoolboy, my comrades little more.  It was the first time I had
been to that most bewitching of western islands called Skye.  We had
started off one morning early on a ramble.  We simply meant to go
somewhere--anywhere, so long as we did not come back again for a night
or two.  Not that we were not happy enough in the old-fashioned manse of
K--.  But we wanted change, we wanted adventure if we could find any,
and if we did not, then probably we should be able to make some.  There
was, at all events, the wild mountain peak of Quiraing to be climbed,
with its strange top--the extinct crater of a burning mountain.  Ah! but
long before we came anywhere near it, there was a deal to be done.

"We had started from the beautiful little bay of Nigg, keeping a
northerly course over a broad Highland upland.

"It was the month of June; the heather was not purple yet, but it was
long and rank and green, and it was inhabited by many a curious wild
bird, whose nests we hunted for, but did not rob; we saw some snakes,
too, and one of us killed a very long one, and we all thought that boy a
very hero, though I know now it was no more dangerous or deadly than a
tallow candle.

"But the best fun we got was when we took to horse-catching.  There was
not much harm in this after all.  There were dozens of ponies roaming
wild over the green moor, and if they allowed themselves to be caught
and ridden for miles through the heather, why, it did not hurt them;
they soon danced back again.

"We laughed, and screamed, and whooped, loud enough to scare even the
curlews, and that is saying a good deal.  I'm not sure, indeed, that we
didn't scare the eagles from their eeries; at all events we thought we
did.  Then we began to ascend Quiraing, a stiff climb and somewhat
hazardous; and light-hearted though we were, I believe we were all
impressed with the grandeur of the view we caught from between the
needle-like rocks that form one side.

"We went down to the plains below more quickly than we came up.

"Presently we came to a little Highland village close to the sea, and
there, to our joy, we found that a large fishing-boat was going round
the northernmost and east part of the island to Portree, the capital.
For a trifle we managed to take a passage.  We had lots of bread and
cheese in our wallets, and we had some money in our pockets, good
sticks, and stout young hearts; so that we should not be badly off even
although we should have to trudge on foot back again to the old manse.
Which, by the way, we had to.

"Our voyage was a far longer one in time than we had expected it would
be, because the wind fell.  But the beauty of the scenery, the hills,
the strange-shaped mountains, the rocks and cliffs, with waterfalls
tumbling sheer over them and falling into the sea; the sea itself, so
calm and blue, and the distant mainland, enshrouded in the purple mist
of distance, repaid us for all, and made the day seem like one long,
happy dream.

"But daylight faded at last, and just as the gloaming star peeped out
there came down upon our boat a very large shoal of porpoises, which the
boatman gravely assured us at first was the great sea-serpent.  These
creatures were in chase of herrings, but they were so reckless in their
rush and so headlong, that we were fain to scream to frighten them off,
and even to arm ourselves with stones from the ballast, and throw at
those that came too near.

"Night fell at last, and we were still at sea, and the stars came out
above us.  But if there were stars above us there were stars beneath us
too; nay, not only beneath us, but everywhere about and around us.  The
sea was alive with phosphorescent animalculae; the wake of the boat was
a broad belt of light behind us, every ripple sparkled and shone, and
the water that dripped from the oars looked like molten silver."

"Ah!" said I, "that was one of your first experiences of the open sea,
wasn't it, Ben?"

"I was only a boy, Nie," replied my friend.  "I've had many a sleep in
the cradle of the deep since then."

"I was reading this morning," I said, "of that terrible shipwreck in the
Atlantic.  It puts me in mind of the loss of the _London_.  I was in the
Bay of Biscay in that very gale, Ben; our vessel unmanageable, wallowing
in the trough of the seas, the waves making a clean breach over us; and,
Ben, at the very darkest hour of midnight, we saw, by the lightning's
gleam, a great ship stagger past us.  We were so close that we could
have pitched a coil of rope on board.  There were no men on her decks;
her masts were carried away, and her bulwarks gone, and it was evident
she was foundering fast.  There were more ships lost, Ben, that night in
the Bay of Biscay than ever we shall know of--

  "`Till the sea gives up its dead.'"

CHAPTER TEN.

  "Throned in his palace of cerulean ice,
  Here Winter holds his unrejoicing court."

  Thomson's "Seasons."

"I don't think," said I, as Captain Ben Roberts and I sat at breakfast
one day in a homely old hotel in Bala, North Wales, "I don't think, Ben,
my boy, I ever ate anything more delicious in the way of fish than these
same lovely mountain trout."

"Well, you see," replied my friend, "we caught them ourselves, to begin
with; then the people here know exactly how to cook them.  But, Nie,
lad, have you forgotten the delicious fries of flying-fish you used to
have in the dear old _Niobe_?"

"Almost, Ben; almost."

"Well, I can tell you that you did use to enjoy them, all the same."

"Ay, and I've enjoyed them since many and many is the time in the
tropics, and especially in the Indian Ocean."

"So have I," said Ben Roberts.  "Funny way they used to have of catching
them, though, in the old _Sans Pareil_.  Of course you know they will
always fly to a light if held over the ship's side?"

"Yes."

"Well, but the orders were not to have lights kicking about the deck at
night, either naked or in a lantern; so some of our fellows--not that I
at all approve of what they did--utilised a wild cat the doctor kept in
a cage.  When they came on deck to keep the middle watch--we were on a
voyage from Seychelles to the Straits of Malacca--they would swing him,
cage and all, over the stern.  His eyes would be gleaming like bottled
wildfire.  'Twasn't long, I can tell you, before the flying-fish sprang
up at the cage.  Old Tom put out his claws and hooked some of them in;
but lots flew on board, and they were being fried five minutes
afterwards."

"I quite believe you, Roberts," I said; "though some would call that a
traveller's tale.  But just look at that lovely pair of Persian cats in
the corner there, Ben; it seems almost impossible to believe they can
belong to the same family as the wild cat you've been speaking about."

"Yes, Nie, civilisation is a wonderful thing when it can extend even to
the lower animals.  You were once a savage yourself too, Nie.  Think of
that."

"I shan't think about it," I replied.  "None of your sauce, my worthy
friend.  What were you doing at Seychelles, and what were you doing with
a wild cat on board?"

"We had queerer things than wild cats on board, Nie; the fact is, we
were what they call cruising on special service.  We had a fine time of
it, I can tell you.  We seemed to go everywhere, and do nothing in
particular.  At the time we had that wild cat on board, Nie, we had
already been three years in commission, and had sailed about and over
almost every ocean and sea in the world."

"What a lot of fun and adventure you must have had, Ben!  Wish I had
been with you."

"You were in the Rocky Mountains then, I believe?"

"Yes, and in Australia, and the Cape.  You see, I had a turn after gold
and diamonds wherever I thought I could find them.  But help yourself
and me to some more of those glorious trout, and spin your yarn."

"Let us get away out of doors first, Nie.  On this lovely summer's day
we should be on the lake."

So we were, reader, one hour afterwards; but the sun was too bright;
there were neither clouds nor wind, and the fish wouldn't bite; so we
pulled on shore, drew up our boat, and seated ourselves at the shady
side of a great rock on a charming bit of greensward, and there we
stayed for hours, Ben lazily talking and smoking, I listening in a
dreamy kind of way, but enjoying my friend's yarn all the same.

"Yes," said Ben, "we were on special service.  One day we would be
dredging the bottom of the sea, the next day taking soundings.  One day
we would be shivering under polar skies, the next roasting under a
tropical sun."

"Come, come, be easy, Ben; be easy," I cried, half-rising from the
grass.  "If you were under polar skies one day, how, in the name of
mystery, could you be in the tropics next, Captain Roberts?  I shall
imagine you are going to draw the long bow, as the Yankees call it."

"Well, well, Nie; the fact is, we passed so pleasant an existence in the
_Sans Pareil_, that time really glided away as if we had been in
dreamland all the while.  We sailed away to the far north in the early
spring of the year.  We didn't go after either seals or whales; but we
did have the sport for all that.  Our captain was one of those real
gentlemen that you do find now and then commanding ships in the Royal
Navy.  Easy-going and complacent, but a stickler for duty and service
for all that.  There wasn't a man or officer in the ship who wouldn't
have risked his life at any moment to please him--ay, or laid it down in
duty's cause.  Indeed, the men would any day do more for Captain Mann's
nod and smile, than they would do for any one else's shouted word of
command.

"We dredged our way up north to Greenland.  It was a stormy spring.  We
often had to lie-to for a whole week together; but we were a jolly crew,
and well-officered, and we had on board two civilians--Professor kind of
chaps I think they were--and they were the life and soul of the whole
ship.  Whenever we could we took soundings, and hauled up mud and
shingle and stuff from the bottom of the dark ocean, even when it was a
mile deep and more.  But when that mud was washed away, and the living
specimens spread out and arranged on bits of jet-black paper, what
wonders we did see, to be sure!  Our Scotch doctor called them
`ferlies': he called everything wonderful a `ferlie.'  But these
particular ferlies, Nie, took the shape of tiny wee shells of all the
colours in the rainbow, and funny wee fishes, some not bigger than a
pin-point.  But, oh! the beauty, the more than loveliness of them!  The
roughest old son of a gun on board of us held up his hands in admiration
when he saw them.  We cruised all round Spitzbergen, and all down the
edge of the eastern pack ice.  We shot bears and foxes innumerable;
walruses, narwhals, seals, and even whales fell to our guns; while the
number of strange birds we bagged and set up would have filled a museum.

"Some of those walruses gave us fun, though.  I remember once we fell
amidst ice positively crowded with them.  They seemed but little
inclined to budge, either.  Again and again we fought our way through
them; but the number seemed to increase rather than diminish, till at
last our fellows--we were two boats' crews--were thoroughly exhausted,
and fain to take to the boats.  Was the battle ended then?  I thought it
was only just beginning, when I saw around us the water alive with
fierce tusked heads evidently bent on avenging the slaughter of their
comrades.

"Our good surgeon was as fond of sport as anyone ever I met, but he
confessed that day he had quite enough of it.  At one time the peril we
were in was very great indeed.  Several times the brutes had all but
fastened their terrible tusks on the gunwale of our boat.  Had they
succeeded, we should have been capsized, and entirely at their mercy.

"The surgeon, with his great bone-crushing gun, loaded and fired as fast
as ever fingers could; but still they kept coming.

"`Ferlies'll never cease,' cried the worthy medico, blowing the brains
clean out of one who had almost swamped the boat from the stern.
Meanwhile it fared but badly with the other boat.  The men were fighting
with clubs and axes, their ammunition being entirely spent.  One poor
fellow was pierced through the arm by the tusk of a walrus and fairly
dragged into the water, where he sank before he could be rescued.

"The ship herself bore down to our assistance at last, and such a rain
of bullets was poured upon the devoted heads of those walruses that they
were fain to dive below.  The noise of this battle was something
terrible; the shrieks of the cow walruses, and the grunting, groaning,
and bellowing of the bulls, defy all attempts at description.

"What do you think," continued Captain Roberts, "I have here in my
pocket-book?  Look; a sketch of a strangely fantastic little iceberg the
doctor made half an hour after the battle.  He was a strange man--partly
sportsman, partly naturalist, poet, painter, all combined."

"Is he dead?"

"No, not he; I'll warrant he is busy sketching somewhere in the interior
of Africa at this very moment.  But I loved Greenland so, Nie, that old
as I am I wouldn't mind going back again.  The beauty of some of the
aurora scenes, and the moonlight scenes, can never be imagined by your
stay-at-home folk.  We went into winter quarters.  Well, yes, it was a
bit dreary at times; but what with fun and jollity, and games of every
kind on board, and sledging parties and bear and fox hunts on shore on
the ice around us, the time really didn't seem so very long after all."

"What say you to lunch, Ben, my boy?"  I remarked.

"The very thing," replied my friend; "but first and foremost, just shake
that ferocious-looking stag-beetle off your shoulder; he'll have you by
the ear before you know where you are."

"Ugh!"  I cried, knocking the beast a yard away.  The creature turned
and shook his horrid mandibles threateningly at me, for a stag-beetle
never runs away.  Although admiring his pluck, I could not stand his
impudence, so I flicked him away, and he fell into the lake.

"Ah!  Nie," Captain Roberts said, "if the wild beasts of the African
jungle were only half as courageous and fierce as that beetle, not so
many of our gay sportsmen would go after them.  Only fancy that creature
as big as an elephant!

"Well, Nie, in that cruise of ours, we had no sooner got back to England
and been surveyed than off we were down south, across the Bay of Biscay.
No storms then; we could have crossed it in the dinghy boat.  Visited
Madeira.  You know, Nie, how grand the scenery is in that beautiful
island."

"And how delicious the turtle!"  I said.

"True, O king!" said Ben; "the bigwigs in London think they know what
turtle tastes like, but they're mistaken; there is as much difference
between the flavour of a turtle newly caught, and one that has been
starved to death as your London turtles are, as there is between a bit
of cork and a well-boiled cauliflower."

"Bravo!  Ben, you speak the truth."

"Then we visited romantic Saint Helena.  It used to be called `a rock in
the middle of the ocean.'  How different now!  A more fertile and
luxuriant place there isn't in all the wide, wide world.  We called at
Ascension next; well, that is a rock if you like, not a green thing
except at the top o' the hill [it has since been cultivated].  But the
birds' eggs, Nie, and the turtle.  It makes me hungry to think of them
even now.

"We had whole months of sport at the Cape and in South Africa, and all
up the coast as far as Zambesi.  We visited Madagascar; more sport
there, and a bit of honest fighting; then on to the Comoro islands--more
romantic scenery, and more fighting; then to Zanzibar.  Captured prizes,
took soundings, dredged, and went on again.  On, to Seychelles, then to
Java, Sumatra, Penang, then back to India, and thence to Africa, the Red
Sea, Mocha; why, it would be easier far to mention the places we did not
visit.  But the best of it was that we stayed for months at every new
place where we cast anchor."

"Visited Ceylon, I dare say?"

"Yes, hid, and had some rare sport elephant-shooting.  I tell you what,
Nie, there was some clanger attached to that sort of thing in those
days, but now it is little better than shooting cows, unless you get
away into the little-known regions of equatorial Africa; there you still
find the elephant has his foot--and a big one it is--upon his native
soil.  But I remember once--I and my man Friday--being charged by two
gigantic tuskers, and the whole herd rushing wildly down to their
assistance.  It was a supreme moment, Nie.  I thought my time was come;
I would have given anything and everything I possessed to get up into
the top of the palm-tree close beside me.

"`Now, Friday,' I cried, `be steady if you value your own life and
mine.'

"I fired, and my tusker dropped.  But the terrible noise and trumpeting
must have shaken Friday's nerves a bit.  He was usually a good shot, but
on this occasion he missed.  I loaded at once again, and as the great
brute came down on us, let him have it point-blank.  He reeled, but
still came on.  I felt rooted to the spot.  My life in a moment more, I
thought, would be crushed out of me.  Ah! but there must have been a
mist of blood before the tusker's eyes; it was a tree he charged; his
tusk snapped like a pipe-stalk, and the great elephant at once fell
dead."

"It was a narrow escape."

"Well, it was, but for the matter of that, Nie, who knows but that our
lives may be ever in danger, no matter where we are.  A hundred times a
day, perhaps, we are upheld by the kind hands of an unseen Providence,
`our eyes are kept from tears, and our feet from falling.'

"Should we be grateful when our lives are spared?  I think so, Nie, lad;
only the reckless, and the braggart, and too often the coward, boast of
the dangers they have come through, just as if their own strength alone
had saved them."

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

  "They are all, the meanest things that be.
  As free to live, and to enjoy that life,
  As God was free to form them at the first,
  Who in His sovereign wisdom made them all."

  Cowper.

We had just finished lunch by the lake-side at Bala, my friend Ben
Roberts and I, and were thinking of trying the fishing once more, for
the clouds had banked up from the west and obscured the sun's glare, a
little breeze had rippled the water, and everything looked promising,
when the Captain burst out laughing.

"Shiver my timbers! as sailors say on the stage, Nie," cried he, "if
there isn't that same old stag-beetle making his way up your jacket
again, intent on revenge."

"Plague take it!"  I exclaimed, shaking the brute off again; "I have
flicked him away once; I shall have to kill him now."

"No you won't," said Ben Roberts; "the world happens to be wide enough
for the lot of us.  Let him live.  I'm a kind of Brahmin, Nie; I never
take life unless there is dire necessity.

"We in England," continued Captain Roberts, "have little to complain
about in the matter of insects; our summer flies annoy us a little, the
mountain midges tickle, and the gnats bite, and hornets sting.  But
think of what some of the natives of other countries suffer.  I remember
as if it were this moment a plague of locusts that fell upon a beautiful
and fertile patch of country on the seaboard of South Africa.  It
extended only for some two hundred miles, but the destruction was
complete.

"The scenes of grief and misery I witnessed in some of the villages I
rode through, I shall remember till my dying day.

"`All, all gone!' cried one poor Caffre woman who could talk English,
`no food for husband, self, or children, and we can't eat the stones.'

"These poor wretches were positively reduced to eating the locusts
themselves."

"I shouldn't like to be reduced to eating insects," said I; "fancy
eating a stag-beetle fried in oil."

"And yet I doubt," replied the Captain, "if it is a bit worse than
eating shrimps or swallowing living oysters.  You've seen monkeys eating
cockroaches?"

"Yes, swallowing them down as fast as they possibly could, and when they
couldn't eat any more, stuffing their cheeks for a future feast."

"On the old _Sans Pareil_ we had fifteen apes and monkeys, besides the
old cat and a pet bear.  Ah!  Nie, what fun we did use to have, to be
sure!"

"Didn't they fight?"

"No, they all knew their places, and settled down amiably enough.  The
very large ones were not so nimble, and some of them were very solemn
fellows indeed; the smaller gentry used to gather round these for
advice, we used to think, and apparently listened with great attention
to everything told them, but in the end they always finished up by
pulling their professors by their tails.  If at any time they did happen
to find that old cat's tail sticking out of the cage, oh! woe betide it!
they bent on to it half a dozen or more, and it was for all the world
like a caricature of our sailors paying in the end of a rope.  Meanwhile
the howls of the cat would be audible in the moon, I should think.  Then
up would rush our old cook with the broom, and there would be a sudden
dispersal.  But they were never long out of mischief.  The little bear
came in for a fair share of attention.  You see, he wasn't so nimble as
the monkeys; they would gather round him, roll him on deck, and scratch
him all over.  The little Bruin rather liked this, but when three or
four of the biggest held his head and three or four others began to
stuff cockroaches down his throat, he thought it was taking advantage of
good nature; he clawed them then and sometimes squeezed them till they
squeaked with pain or fright.  They used to bathe Bruin, though.  The
men brought the bath up, then the monkeys teased the bear until he got
on his hind-legs and began clawing the air; this was their chance.  They
would make a sudden rush on the poor little fellow, he would step back,
trip, and go souse into the bath.  Then the chattering and jumping and
grinning of the monkeys, and the laughing and cheering of the men, made
a fine row, I can tell you.  We had two monkeys that didn't brook much
nonsense from the others--an orang, and a long-nosed monkey--we got her
in Sumatra--who looked a very curious old customer.  The best of it was
that the sailors taught the long-nosed one to snuff, and the orang to
drink a glass of rum.

"As soon as the old orang heard the hammering on the rum-cask to knock
out the bung, he began to laugh, and he beamed all over when his basin
of grog was brought.  The other old monkey taking a pinch was a sight to
see.  She stack to the box at last, and when any of her friends came to
see her would present it to them with a `hae! hae! hae!' that spoke
volumes."

"Any other funny pets on the _Sans Pareil_?"

"Oh, yes, lots.  We had an adjutant.  Ah!  Nie, we did use to laugh at
that bird, too.  Five feet tall he was, and a more conceited old fop of
a fellow I never did see.  He had a pouch that hung down in front.
Well, he used to eat everything, from a cockroach to half a leg of
mutton; and when he couldn't hold any more he used to stuff his pouch.

"`Comes in handy, you see,' he seemed to say, alluding to this pouch of
his.  `But, dear me!' he would continue, `ain't I a pretty bird?  Look
at my pretty little head; there ain't much hair on it; but never mind,
look at my bill.  There is a bill for you!  Just see me eat a fish, or a
frog, or a snake!  And now, look at my legs.  Pretty pair, ain't they?
See me walk!'

"Then he would set off to promenade up and down the deck till the ship
gave a bit of a lurch, when down he would go, and the monkeys would all
gather round to laugh and jibber, and Snooks, as we called him, would
deal blows with his bill in all directions, which the monkeys, nimble
though they were, had some difficulty in dodging.

"`Can't you see,' he would say, `that I didn't tumble at all--that I
merely sat down to arrange my pretty feathers?'  And Snooks would retain
his position for about half an hour, preening his wings, and scratching
his pouch with the point of his bill, just to make the monkeys believe
he really hadn't fallen, and that his legs were really and truly
serviceable sea-legs.

"I've lain concealed and watched the adjutants in an Indian marsh for
hours; there they would be in scores, and in every conceivable idiotic
position.

"Suddenly, perhaps, one would mount upon an old tree-stump, and spread
wide his great wings.  `Hullo, everybody!' he would seem to cry, `look
at _me_.  I'm the king o' the marsh!  Hurrah!

  "`My foot's upon my native heath,
  My name, Macgregor;'

"or words to that effect, Nie."

"You were always fond of birds, and beasts, and fishes, weren't you,
Ben?"

"I was, Nie, lad, and never regretted it but once."

"How was that?"

"I was down with that awful fever we call Yellow-Jack; and, oh!  Nie, it
seemed to me that at first all the awful creatures ever I had seen on
earth or in the waters came back to haunt my dream; and often and often
I awoke screaming with fright.  Indeed, the dream had hardly faded when
my eyes were opened, for I would see, perhaps, a weird-looking camel or
dromedary's head drawing away from the bed, or a sea-elephant, a bear,
an ursine seal, or an old-fashioned-looking puffin.

"In my fever, thirst was terribly severe, and I used to dream I was
diving in the blue pellucid water of the Indian Ocean, down--down--down
to beds of snow-white coral sands, with submarine flowers of far more
than earthly beauty blooming around me; suddenly I should perceive that
I was being watched by the terrible and human-like eyes of a monk shark,
or--I shudder even now, Nie, to think of it--I should see an awful
head--the uranoscope's--with extended jaws and glaring protruding eyes.
Then I would awake in a fright, shivering with cold, yet bathed in
perspiration.  But, Nie, when I began to get well a change came o'er the
spirit of my dreams.  The terrible heads, the horrid fishes, and the
slimy monsters of the deep appeared no more; in their place came
beautiful birds, and scenery far more lovely than ever I had clapped a
waking eye upon.  So, in one way, Nie, I was rewarded for my love for
natural history."

"What a lovely day!"  I remarked, looking around me.

"Yes," replied Ben; "but do you know what this very spot where we are
now standing puts me in mind of--lake and all, I mean?"

"I couldn't guess, I'm sure," I replied.

"Well, it is just like the place where I was nearly killed by a panther,
and would have been, but for my man Friday."

"He must have been a useful nigger, then," I said, "that man Friday."

"He came in precious handy that day, Nie.  You see, it was like this:--
Neither he nor I had ever been to South America before; so when we went
away shooting together we weren't much used to the cries of the birds or
beasts of the woods.  The birds seemed to mimic the beasts, and reptiles
often made sounds like birds.  We had been away through the forest, and
such a forest--ah!  Nie, you should have seen the foliage and the
creepers.  We had had pretty good sport for strangers.  We shot and
bagged everything, snakes and birds and beasts, for I was making up a
bag for the doctor, who was a great man for stuffing and setting up.  We
had just sat down to rest, when suddenly the most awful cries that ever
I heard began to echo through the woods.

"They came from a thicket not very far away, and at one moment were
plaintive, at the next, discordant, harsh, dreadful.

"`Friday,' I cried, starting up and seizing my gun, `there is murder,
and nothing less, being done in that thicket.  Let's run down and see.'

"`It seems so, massa,' said Friday; `it's truly t'rific.'

"We ran on as we spoke, and soon came to the place, and peered
cautiously in.

"It was only a howler monkey after all."

"And was nothing the matter with him?"  I asked.

"Nothing at all.  It was merely this monkey's way of amusing itself."

"Did you shoot him?"

"I never shot a monkey in my life, and never will, Nie; it appears to me
almost as bad as shooting a human being.

"`We'll go back to the lake-side now, Friday,' I said, `and have
dinner.'

"Alas!  I had no dinner that day, Nie, nor for many a long day to come.

"There is no fiercer wild beast in all the forests or jungles than the
cougar or puma, and none more treacherous.  I have an idea myself that
the darker in colour the more courageous and bloodthirsty they are;
however that may be, I would any day as soon fight hand-to-hand with a
man-eating tiger as I would with some of the monstrous pumas I have seen
in South America.  And yet I have heard sportsmen despise them, probably
because they have never met one face to face as I have done, and as I
did on the day in question.

"We were quietly returning, Friday and I, to the place where we had left
our provisions and bags, when he suddenly cried, `Look, massa! look
dere!'  We had disturbed one of the largest boa-constrictors I had ever
seen, and it was moving off, strange to say, instead of boldly attacking
us, but hissing and blowing with rage as it did so.  It looked to me
like the trunk of some mighty palm-tree in motion along the ground.

"`Fire!'  I cried; `fire!  Friday.'

"The crack of both of our rifles followed in a second, but though
wounded, the terrible creature made good its escape.

"I hurried after him, loading as I went, and thus got parted for a short
time from my faithful servant and body-guard.

"I soon discovered, to my sorrow, the reason why the boa had not
attacked us.

"In these dense forest lands, the wildest animals prey upon each other.
Thus the boa often seizes and throttles the life out of even the puma,
agile and fierce though it be.  This particular boa had been watching a
puma, evidently, when we came up.  The brute gave me not a moment to
consider, nor to finish my loading.

"I yelled in terror as I found myself seized by the shoulder.  I
remember no more then.

"Friday had boldly rushed to my rescue.  He struck the puma over the
head with his useless rifle.  The beast sprang backwards fully fifteen
feet, and prepared to give Friday battle, but the brave fellow was on
him, knife in hand, in a moment.  Friday told me afterwards that he
literally flung himself on the puma.  Had he missed his aim, he would
never have had another chance, but deep into the monster's very heart
went the dagger, and he never moved a muscle more.  Friday was
unwounded."

"And you, Ben?"

"Fearfully cut in the shoulder with the puma's teeth, cut in the back
with the talons of his fore feet, and lacerated in the stomach with his
hind.  They have an ugly way of cutting downwards with those talons of
theirs, few who have felt it are likely to forget."

CHAPTER TWELVE.

                  "Wide-rent, the clouds
  Pour a whole flood; and yet, its flame unquenched
  Th' unconquerable lightning straggles through
  Ragged and fierce, or in red whirling balls,
  And fires the mountains with redoubled rage."

  Thomson.

My old friend Captain Roberts is quite a remarkable man in his way--yes,
I might go farther and say, in many of his ways.  As a pedestrian, for
example, there are few young men can beat him.  When he and I make up
our minds to have a walk, the elements do not prevent us.  We start and
go through with it.

But in summer or spring weather, when the roads are not quite ankle-deep
in mud, we dearly love to mount our tricycles and go for a good long
spin.  We like to return feeling delightfully hungry and delightfully
tired; then we dine together, and after dinner, when good old Ben gets
his pipe in full blast, it would indeed do your heart good to listen to
him.  Everything or anything suggests a yarn to Ben, or brings back to
his mind some sunny memory or gloomy recollection.

One day last summer we started for a ride, for the morning looked very
promising, and the roads were in splendid form.  We followed the course
of the Thames upwards, and about noon found ourselves enjoying our
frugal luncheon near a pretty little reach of the river, one of the
thousand beautiful spots by the banks of this famous old stream.

As the clouds, however, began to bank up rather suddenly in the west,
and as they soon met and quite hid the sun, and as the day was still and
sultry, we expected, what we soon got, a thunderstorm.  Neither my
friend nor I am very shy, when it comes to the push, so we ran for
shelter, and just as the thunder began to roll and the raindrops to
fall, we got our 'cycles comfortably housed in a farmer's shed.

The farmer was not content, however, until he had us both indoors in his
comfortable parlour.  He threw the window wide open, because, he said,
the glass drew the lightning; so there we sat with the thunder rattling
overhead, the rain pattering on the grass and sending up delicious
odours of red and white clover, while the lightning seemed to run along
the ground, and mix itself up with the sparkling rain-rush in quite a
wonderful way.

"Terrible thunder!" said Captain Roberts.  "Terrible! puts me in mind of
South America."

The farmer looked eagerly towards him.

The farmer's wife entered with tea, and this completed our feeling of
comfort.

"You've got something to tell us, Ben," I said.  "There is something
which that storm reminds you of.  Better out with it, without much
further parley."

"Ah, well," he said, "I suppose I must.  Not that it is very much of a
story; only, gentlemen, it is true.  I haven't lived long enough yet to
have to invent yarns.  I haven't told half what I've seen and come
through.  But not to weary you--what delicious tea, ma'am!"

"So glad it pleases you, sir."

"I've sailed around a good many coasts in my time; but I think you will
find scenery more charming on the seaboard of some parts of South
America than in any other country in the world.  Round about Patagonia,
now, what can beat the coast line for grandeur and stern beauty?
Nothing that I know of.

"But farther north--on the shores of Bolivia, for instance--the scenery
is just a trifle disappointing; the coast is low and sandy, and very
rough in places.

"They call the ocean that laves it the Pacific.  Bless my soul! friends,
had you but seen it one day in the month of April, 18--, you wouldn't
have said there was much `pacific' about it.  The bit of a barque I was
coasting in was on a lee-shore, too, and there was nothing short of a
miracle could save her.  We all saw that from the first.  That miracle
never took place.  We were carried on shore--carried in on top of a
mountain wave, struck with fearful force, and broke in two in less than
an hour.

"It was a wonder anybody was saved.  As it was, seven of us got on shore
one way or another, and there we lay battered and bruised.  The sun
dried one half of our clothes; then we rolled round, and he dried the
other.  We had tasted no food for four-and-twenty hours, for we had been
battened down, and all hands had to be on deck.  So when a case rolled
right up to our very feet we weren't long looking inside it, and glad
enough to find some provisions in the shape of tinned soup.

"Stores floated on shore next day, and spars, and one thing and another,
so we rigged a tent, and made ourselves as much at home as it was
possible for shipwrecked mariners to do.

"We had been shipwrecked apparently on a most inhospitable shore.  To
say there wasn't a green thing in sight would hardly be correct.  Bits
of scrubby bushes grew here and there in the sand, and a kind of strong
rough grass also in patches; but that was all.  Inland, the horizon was
bounded by a chain of mountains; to the west was the ocean, calm enough
now, very wide and dark and blue, with not even an island to break its
monotony.

"It was a poor look-out for us, only we all agreed that it would be
better to stay where we were until our wounds and bruises were somewhat
healed, and until we had gathered sufficient strength to explore the
country.

"We had plenty to eat and drink where we were; we could not tell how we
might fare elsewhere.  Only we were quite out of the way of ships, and
our provisions would not last for ever.

"For the first three or four days, I may say we did nothing else but
bury our dead.  Sad enough employment, you must allow.  But after this a
breeze of wind sprang up, which during the night increased to a gale,
blowing right on to the shore.  When the darkness lifted, to our great
joy we found our ship, or rather the pieces of her that had in a sort of
way held together, floated high and dry on the beach.

"Had we wished now to become Crusoes we should have had every
convenience, for we not only got provisions of all kinds out of the
wreck, but boxes of stores, guns, and ammunition.  For the last we were
very grateful; and rough sailors though we were, we did not forget to
kneel down there on the sands and thank the Giver of all good, not only
for having mercifully spared us from the violence of the sea, but for
giving us this earnest of future good fortune.

"The hawk scents the quarry from afar, and early next morning we were
not surprised to receive a visit from some armed Indians.  They rode on
horses and on mules that seemed as fleet as they were sure-footed.
These Indians were kind enough to express a wish, not over-politely
worded, to possess samples of our various stores.  We gave them to eat
as much as they liked; but when they attempted to pillage the wreck, we
first and foremost smilingly and persuasively hinted our disapproval of
such a proceeding.

"This hint not being taken, we tried another: we levelled guns at them,
and they fled.

"They came again the next day; and we made them many presents, and asked
them, in broken Spanish and a deal of sign language, to conduct us
safely over the mountains to the nearest Bolivian town or settlement.

"They were in all about twenty, and if they were half as bad in heart as
they looked, then they were indeed scoundrels of the first water.  But
we numbered seven--seven bold hearts and true, and we were well armed,
and able enough to drive a bargain with these fellows to our mutual
advantage.

"We did so in this way: we were to have several horses and five mules,
which should be laden with all our own especial baggage.  They--the
Indians--should have as much as they liked of the stores that remained.

"They appeared to consent to this willingly enough.  So we made our
packs up--taking the best of everything, of course, and whatever was of
the greatest value.

"It was now well on in the afternoon, so we determined to start on our
journey inland the very next morning.  The Indians had still half a
dozen good mules left, and they at once set about making preparations
for loading them.

"There was a deal of squabbling and wrangling over the division, and
more than once they seemed coming to blows.

"As soon as they had chosen all they could carry, we set about piling up
the rest of the wreckage in a heap, preparatory to setting fire to it.
This was absolutely necessary, for if anything was left behind it would
be but a short convoy those Indians would give us.  They would hide
their mule packs among the mountains and hurry back for more.

"They were very much displeased, therefore, to see what we were about.

"But nothing cared we; and just as the sun dipped down into the western
ocean we set fire to the immense pile.

"When darkness fell, and the flames leaped high into the air, the scene
was one worthy of the brush of a Rembrandt.  The sea was lit up for
miles with a ruddy glare; the sands were all aglow with the blaze; the
Indians and their mules thrown out in bold relief looked picturesque in
the extreme, while we, the white men, armed to the teeth, and carefully
watching the Indians, though not in any way to give them cause for
alarm, formed a by no means insignificant portion of the scene.

"We were early astir the next day, and on the road before the sun had
begun to peep down over the eastern hills.

"We marched in single file, an old grey-bearded Indian leading the van
as our guide.

"Before many hours we had left the sandy hills along the seashore, and
had entered the mountain defiles.

"Scenery more rugged, wild, and beautiful I had seldom clapped eyes
upon, either before or since.  At the same time we could not help
feeling thankful that we had obtained the guidance of these Indians,
treacherous though they no doubt were, for we never could have made our
way otherwise across this range of rugged mountains, nor through the
wild entanglement of forest.

"By day many a wild beast crossed our pathway, but only seldom we shot
them, and we never followed far; we were shipwrecked sailors trying to
make our way to some semi-civilised town, where we could live in some
degree of safety until we found out the lay of the land, as our mate
called it, and fell in at last with some British ship.

"These fellows, our guides, could tell us nothing, but they led us day
after day towards the east and the north.

"We kept a strict watch over their every movement, and it was well we
did so.  At night we bivouacked but a little distance from their camp,
and had separate fires and separate sentries.

"Almost every evening after supper they made themselves madly drunk with
the wine they had received from us, and without which they would have
refused to guide us at all.

"After four days' wandering we arrived, during a pitiless storm of
thunder and rain, at a strange and semi-barbarian village.  The houses
or huts were built upon piles, and the inhabited portion of them stood
high above the ground; you had to ascend to this on a sort of hen's
ladder.

"The street itself at the time we entered the town was more like a river
than anything else.  But we were glad enough to find shelter of any
kind, drenched to the skin as we were, and wet and weary as well.

"Next day was bright and clear again, and it seemed to me that every one
of the villagers turned out to see us start.  They appeared to be
peaceable enough, so we made little presents to the women, and advised
our Indian guides to do the same.  They were not inclined to part with
anything, however, and evidently looked upon us as fools for what we
did.

"Our march that day was across vast plains and swamps towards another
mountain-chain, more rugged and grand than any we had yet seen.

"We chatted pleasantly and sang as we rode on, for the Indians assured
us that in two days more we should arrive at a very large and populous
city, where plenty of rich white men lived, with splendid houses, broad
paved streets, hotels, and even palaces.  We bivouacked that night at
the very foot of the chain of mountains, and next morning entered and
rode through gloomy glens and dark woods, and the farther we rode the
wilder the country seemed to become.  Yet some of the woodland scenes
were inexpressibly lovely.  We came out at last on the brow of a hill,
just as the sun was setting over the distant forest, and bathing with
its golden glory a scene as lovely as it was sad and melancholy.

"A vast plain in the centre of an amphitheatre of hills, clad almost to
their summits with lofty trees, a broad river meandering through this
plain, and on both banks thereof what appeared from where we stood to be
a city of palaces.  Alas! on entering it we found it a city of ruins.
Trees and shrubs grew where the streets had been, the gardens had
degenerated into jungles; we saw wild beasts hiding behind the
mouldering walls, and heard them growl as we passed; and we saw monster
snakes and lizards wriggling hither and thither, and these were the only
inhabitants of this once large and populous town.

"Yet in the halls of its palaces the banquet had once been spread, and
gaiety, mirth, and music had resounded in its streets and thoroughfares,
till war came with murder and pestilence, and then all was changed.  The
city's best sons were sent to work in mines, or slain; the city's
fairest daughters marched away in chains to become the slaves of their
terrible foes.

"I could not help thinking of all this as I rode through this ruined
city of the plain, and sighed as I did so.  The words and music of the
sad old song came into my mind:

  "`So sinks the pride of former days
      When glory's thrill is o'er.
  And hearts that once beat high with praise
      Now feel that pulse no more.'

"But the sun set and night came on, and with it storm and darkness."

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

  "Here roams the wolf, the eagle whets his beak.
  Birds, beasts of prey, and wilder men appear."

  Byron.

My friend Ben paused for a moment.

A sheet of lightning almost blinded us.  It was followed instantaneously
by one of the most terrific peals of thunder I have ever heard in this
country.

"It was in just such a storm as this," said Captain Roberts, "that we
took shelter in the ruins of an old fort.  We tethered our mules
outside, and we had not even the heart to keep the Indians from sharing
our quarters.  For once, and it was the last time, we ate with them,
drank with them, and talked to them.  How little we suspected them of
treachery!

"We found plenty of dry wood in the old fort and soon had a roaring fire
with which to warm up our soup and cook our vegetables.

"`Who goes sentry to-night?'  I said to the mate.

"`Well,' replied the mate, `I guess we'd better draw for it.  He'll have
a wet skin whoever does it.'

"It was just after dinner when this conversation took place.

"`But,' continued the mate, stretching himself before the fire, `I
expect it will be between you and me, for, look, the other fellows have
all gone to sleep, and I feel so drowsy I really--don't--know--how
long--'

"He said no more; he was asleep.

"`Poor fellows,' I said to myself, as I took up my gun and prepared to
leave the room, `they're tired.  I'll station myself here by the door,
where I can be in the dry and still see all that is going on.'

"The storm continued with unabated violence.  The rain came down in
sheets; the thunder seemed to rend the old fort and shake it to its very
foundation, while the lightning was everywhere; the whole world looked
as if on fire.  Night was coming on, and rude though our shelter was, I
felt thankful we were not out in the gloom of the forest.

"`How soundly they sleep!'  I said to myself about half an hour after
when I went to heap more wood on the five.  `How I envy them!  I'll sit
a moment and think.  The Indians are not so bad as they look.  First
impressions are not always--the--best.'

"The next thing I was conscious of was hearing voices close beside me.
It was the Indians bending over me and over my companions, and seeming
to listen for our breathing.

"`They're dead,' one said.

"`Better make sure,' said another.

"Then with half-open eyes I could see drawn daggers gleaming in the
fire-light; but I was unable to stir hand or foot; I felt like one in
some dreadful nightmare.  I tried to shriek, but my voice failed me.
Then, `O God, be merciful to us!'  I inwardly prayed, `for our hour is
come.'

"Two Indians advanced, knives in hand, towards the mate.  One pulled his
head back, the other had his arm uplifted to strike, when suddenly he
sprang back appalled.

"Was it sent as in answer to my prayer?  I know not; yet I firmly
believe nothing happens by chance.  The electric fluid had entered by
the roof, shattering the masonry and scattering the fire.  It gleamed on
the uplifted knife of the would-be assassin; he dropped it, and with arm
paralysed and hanging by his side fled shrieking from the building.  The
others uttered exclamations of terror and surprise, and quickly followed
the first.

"I remember no more then.  Daylight was shimmering in through the broken
roof of the building, and the fire had long gone out, when I awoke
shivering, and started to my feet.

"Almost at the same moment the mate jumped up.  He was the first to
speak.

"`We have been drugged,' he cried, pressing his hand to his aching head.

"`Drugged?'  I answered.  `Yes, fools that we were to trust those
scoundrels; we've been drugged, and, doubtless, robbed.'

"The mate looked very pale and ghastly in the early light of the
morning; probably I myself looked little better.  My surmise was right:
the Indians had gone.  They had taken all our goods and our pack-mules
with them, and driven away the spare animals.  Thank goodness, they had
left us our arms and ammunition.

"Not even on the morning after the shipwreck did we poor fellows feel so
miserable as we did now, seated round a meagre meal of bananas and
gourds.

"But we were intent on regaining our goods.

"Clever though these Indians might be if alone and unencumbered, they
could hardly go fast, nor far at a time, through forest and jungle with
horses and laden mules.  Nor could they go anywhere without leaving a
trail that even a white man could pick up and follow.

"The rain of the previous night favoured us.  We soon found the trail,
and, better still, we had not gone very far ere a sound fell upon our
ears that caused us to pause and listen.  It was soon repeated--the
neighing of a horse.  I sprang into the jungle, and there, to my joy,
found not only the horse I had ridden, but two others and some mules
besides.  The poor brutes were quietly browsing on the herbage and the
tender leaves of young palm-trees, but were evidently delighted to see
us.

"We went on now with more comfort, and had good hope of speedily coming
up with the pillaging Indians, of whom we never doubted we could give a
good account.

"Somewhat to our surprise we found they were taking a westerly
direction, instead of going east and by north, as they had been leading
us.  They were either then bent upon returning to their own village, or
making their way to some seaport where they could sell their plunder.
If this latter surmise was the correct one, we were comparatively safe;
if the former, any chance we had of recapturing our goods lay in our
being able to come up with them before they were reinforced by members
of their own tribe.  This thought made us redouble our exertions.  But
we were weak for want of food and from the effects of the drug that had
been administered to us on the previous evening, so that our progress
was not so great as we wished it to be.

"The trail continued all day to lead us through the jungle; but before
sunset we found ourselves out in the open, on the brow of a hill that
overlooked a vast, almost treeless, swamp.  It was bounded on the
further horizon by a chain of mountains--spurs, no doubt, of the
ubiquitous Andes.  Away to the left, and just under the hills, we could
see smoke rising, and had no doubt that here our friends were encamped.

"We speedily held a council of war, at which we discussed the best plan
for attacking the Indians.

"We stirred not then till long past nine o'clock, when the moon rose and
flooded all the landscape.  Then we took to the swamp.  It was a
terrible ride: at times our horses floundered in the quagmires, at other
times they had to swim, to our imminent danger of being devoured by the
huge alligators with which the place seemed to swarm.  We startled the
birds from their beds in the reeds, the wild beasts from their lairs in
the patches of jungle, and herds of fleet-footed creatures fled,
bounding away towards the forest at sight of us.  It was a dangerous
ride.  But we cared for nothing now; it was life or death with us.  We
must reach the camp of the Indians, conquer them, or die in the attempt.

"All night we rode, struggling and fighting against fearful odds; but at
five o'clock in the morning, or about one hour before sunrise, we left
the plain and entered the forest, determined to take our foes by
surprise.  The ride through the tangled forest, without any pathway save
that made by the beasts, was one of extreme difficulty.  But we were
free at last; and tethering our horses, we prepared for the attack.  We
could see the Indians on a small plateau not three hundred yards beneath
us, asleep by their smouldering fires.  But we were on the brow of a
hill, they much nearer the plain; beneath was a precipice, overhung with
trailing shrubs and creepers, fully five hundred feet in depth, which it
was impossible to descend without risk of being seen.

"The place the Indians had chosen for a camping-ground was fortified by
nature.  Probably that is the reason they had not troubled to set a
sentry.  We saw our advantage at once; it was to make a detour, gain the
level of the plain, then creep up the hill upon them, attacking both in
flank and rear.

"We carried out our plans most successfully.  Few but sailors could have
climbed up the rocks which led to the plateau.  So steep were they that
in some places the loosening of a stone or one false step might mean
death.

"Just as we were at the very brink of this precipice, and within twenty
yards of where the enemy lay, a bough snapped with a loud report, and
next moment they were all up and on the alert.

"There was no need for further concealment; we speedily showed
ourselves, poured a volley into their bewildered ranks, and before they
could recover from their surprise we were on them with our muskets,
which we used as clubs.

"They were nearly three to one.  They fought like fiends.  So did we,
and the battle for a time was desperate.  They were beaten at last, and
the few who remained alive ran shrieking away towards the rocks.  We
cared but little how they fared.

"Our mate and another man were wounded, but not severely, and in two
days' time we were able to resume our journey.

"Providence was kind to us.  We came upon a broad old war-road that led
through the forest and jungles and plains towards the setting sun, and
in one week more we were overjoyed to find ourselves standing on a
hill-side overlooking a verdant plain, with a river and a town, and
beyond it the blue sea itself, studded with the ships of many nations.

"And those who climb the hills in Greenland in spring-time to catch the
first rays of the returning sun, were not more joyful than we were now.
We laughed and shouted, and I believe the tears rolled down over our
cheeks.

"But we did not forget to kneel down there, and, with our faces on the
ground, thank in silence the kind Father who had led us through so many
troubles and dangers.  And now, Nie, the storm is gone.  We must thank
these good people for their kind hospitality, and start."

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

  "Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
  Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
  The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
  And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad.
  The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike.
  No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm;
  So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."

  Shakespeare.

It was Christmas Eve.  It was going to be an old old-fashioned
Christmas, too, there was no mistake about that.  And to-night the snow
lay fully two feet deep on the lawn in front of Rowan Tree Villa.  The
sky was overspread with masses of darkest cloud that were being
continually driven onward on the wings of a fierce north wind, seldom
permitting even one solitary star to peep out.  The storm roared through
the leafless elm trees, and shrieked and moaned among the giant poplars.
It was indeed a wild and wintry night.

Ah! but it didn't prevent my old and faithful Ben from making his
appearance, though what with his long white beard, his snow-clad coat,
and his round, rosy, laughing face, when I went myself to open the hall
door to him, I really took him for King Christmas himself.

But half an hour afterwards, when the crimson curtains were closely
drawn, when the table was laden with good cheer, the two great
Newfoundlands sleeping on the ample hearthrug, old Polly asleep on her
perch, the cat singing on the footstool, and the kettle on the hob, with
Ben at one side of the fire, his pipe in full blast, and myself at the
other, you would have admitted we looked just as snug and jolly as there
was any occasion to be.

"Well, Nie, lad," said Ben, "this is what I call the quintessence of
comfort.  Heave round with a yarn."

"Just the thing," said I; "but what shall it be?"

"Well, we're cosy enough here, that's certain, Nie, and as contrasts are
pleasant sometimes, why, let's hear of some doings of yours in the ice
and snow."

"So let it be, Ben; I will tell you of a Christmas I once spent in the
Arctic Ocean."

"Not a very jolly one, I suppose," Ben replied.

"Not so dull as you might imagine, I can tell you.  Ours was a brave
brig, as strong as iron and oak could make us.  It seemed to me that
there were no icebergs big enough to hurt us.  We had spent the summer
whaling in Baffin's Bay.  The sport we had, so far as birds and bears
and seals and foxes were concerned, was as good as anyone could have
wished; while the wild grandeur of the scenery, and the very desolation
of some of it, are painted on the tablets of my memory, and will remain
for ever.  But we had not the fortune to kill a single whale.

"Then winter came on us all at once, and we found ourselves frozen in,
in one of the dreariest packs of ice it has ever been my lot to lie in.
The days got shorter and shorter, till the sun at last went down to rise
no more for months.  We had the glorious aurora, though, and moonlight
and stars, but sometimes for weeks together snows fell and storms raged,
and we were enveloped in total darkness and a silence deep and awful as
that of the very vaults of death.  We managed, despite the weather, to
give Christmas a welcome, and were gay enough for a time.  Perhaps it
was our very gaiety at this season that caused us to be so gloomy and
disheartened afterwards.

"Sickness came, the black death almost decimated our crew, and when, in
the cold bleak spring-time, the sun returned, and the ice opened and
allowed us to stagger southwards, though the whales were plentiful,
there were not men enough to man the boats, and hardly enough to set the
sails.

"I had been an invalid; indeed, I had barely escaped with life, and it
would be long ere I was fit again for the wild roving existence and wild
sports in which my soul was so much bound up.

"`Come with me, sir,' said our captain when we reached New York at last.
`I'm going south for the good of my health, and I have cousins near San
Francisco, and it is right welcome we both shall be.'

"`Are they ladies?'  I asked.

"`Ay, and dear good sisterly girls at that,' he answered.

"My savage nature rather rebelled against the society of ladies, Ben;
bears and wolves were more in my line.  But I could not offend my kind
friend, so consented to go.

"`We'll take it easy,' he said, `and have a look at the land as we go
south.'

"We did take it easy.  We visited all the lovely and enchanting scenery
of the Adirondacks, then went slowly south and west; we lingered for
weeks in the Yellowstone Park.  It was summer, all the woods and forests
were astir with life, the prairies gay with gorgeous flowers; there was
joy all around us; we drank in health in every breath we breathed.

"I felt myself no longer an invalid when we arrived at the home of my
captain's cousins, an old-fashioned log mansion, with verandahs and
porticoes around which gigantic creepers flower-laden trailed and
twined, and cooled the sun's rays that sifted through their leaves, ere
they entered the beautifully-furnished rooms.  There were wide, grassy,
park-like lawns, terraces, and fountains, and everything that wealth
could bestow or luxury suggest adorned this lovely spot.  The owner was
a retired planter.  His servants were still slaves, but the master was
kindness itself to even the meanest of them.

"I would now fain have resumed my old life, and gone with rod or gun in
hand to the forest, the mountain, and stream.  But I was not to be
permitted to do so.  I must still consider myself an invalid.  Such were
the orders of my captain's cousins.  So I became a willing captive, and
did all that the dear kind-hearted girls told me.

"And, indeed, sitting under the shade of a cool and leafy orange-tree,
the air perfumed with its delightful scent, with Letitia quietly sewing
beside me, and Miriam reading `The Lady of the Lake,' was as good a way,
Ben, of passing a drowsy summer's afternoon as any I ever tried."

"Didn't you fall in love?" asked Ben slyly.

"Don't ask any questions," I replied.  "Stir the fire, my boy; just hear
how the wind is roaring, and the hail rattling against the panes."

"Ugh!" said Ben, with a little shudder as he applied the poker to the
blazing coals.  "Well, go on, Nie."

"When I got still a little stronger, we, the captain's cousins and I,
used to go for long rambles to the hills and woods, and sometimes south
to a picnic or dance.

"There are giants in the forests of California, Ben.  Once, I remember,
our ball-room was the stump of an old tree, the lofty pines its walls,
and the blue sky its roof.

"As I happened one day to let out rather inadvertently that I was,
virtually speaking, a homeless man, a wanderer over the wide, wide
world, my good host said bluntly, but kindly:

"`Then, my dear sir, you are a prisoner here for the next six months.
Come, I won't take a word of denial.'

"Well, I had to give in, if only for the simple reason that both the
girls added their influence to that of their father; I promised to stay,
and didn't repent it.

"Though I say it myself, Ben, I was soon a favourite with all the slaves
about the old estate.  I daresay I had my favourites among them; it is
only natural.  One of these was Shoe-Sally, another was Shoe-Sally's
little brother Tom.  They were both characters in their way, and both
oddities.  Shoe-Sally was quite a personage about the old mansion.  She
seemed to do anything and everything, and to be here, there, and
everywhere all at the same time.  Shoe-Sally also knew everything, or
appeared to do so, and she was just as black and shiny as the shoes she
polished.  Sally was bound up in a little brother of hers called Tom.

"`Leetle tiny Tom,' she told me one day, `is so cleber, sah.  He read de
good Book all same's one parson, sah.  Make parson hisself one o' dem
days.  Sure he will, sah.'

"But Tom had a deadly enemy in the person of Joliffe the overseer, a
perfect brute of a fellow, with slouching gait and murderous eye.  How
his master retained him so long I don't know, but he had been overseer
for more than ten years, I was told.  Well, he might have been useful in
some ways, but he was terribly cruel.  He did not dare to let his master
see him with a whip in his hand, but he had a short thick one in his
pocket with which he flogged the poor slaves most unmercifully.

"Once Shoe-Sally came running to me; I was playing with a little pet dog
belonging to Tom:

"`Oh! for mussy sake, come quick, sah!' she shrieked; `Massa Joliffe he
done whip my pooh brudder most to death.'

"I followed her quickly enough, and I never want to see again what I saw
then.  Joliffe had stripped the poor black boy, tied him up in the
stable, and was lashing him across the face and shoulders.  He had
injured one eye badly, and the blood was flowing everywhere about.

"`You cowardly savage!'  I roared.

"Ben, I have a hard fist.  That wretch's head was under my arm in a
moment, and I simply punched it till I was tired, then I threw him into
the stall and let him have a bucket of water over him by way of a
reviver.  Joliffe's face was a sight to see for some weeks.  I told my
host what I had done, and the verdict was, `Serve Joliffe right!'

"Poor Shoe-Sally came to thank me with the tears streaming over her
honest black cheeks.

"`For what you hab done dis day,' sobbed Sally, `Hebbin will bress you
ebery hour in your life.  And, oh, sah!' she added, `Sally will die for
you!'

"I shudder even now, Ben, my friend, when I think of how true, how
terribly true, the latter part of this little grateful speech turned
out.

"Time passed, and I felt happier far in that old Californian home than I
believe I ever did anywhere before.  I never once, however, met Joliffe
the overseer, but he scowled a dreadful scowl at me, and I knew he was
inwardly vowing deep revenge.  As for the little boy, Tom, he was taken
entirely out of the overseer's charge, and became message-boy and
`buttons' about the house.

"It was before the tremendous civil war had broken out in America, Ben,
and I was very young and just a bit romantic.  Perhaps I really was in
love with dear Miriam.  At all events, there was nothing I would not
have done for her, and I was never so perfectly, so serenely happy as
when in her sweet presence.  But everyone loved Miriam, ay, every slave
about the place, and every beast and every bird.  The wandering Indians
that occasionally came around looked upon her as some being better than
themselves, and I believe that even when they were on the war-path she
might have gone to their camps, or to their fastnesses in the
wilderness, and need have dreaded nought of ill.

"It came to pass that Miriam was invited to spend a week at the house of
a friend who lived some twenty miles from the old mansion.

"Her father took her over, and--for sake of the drive we shall say,
Ben--I went along with him.  I never enjoyed any drive so much, at all
events.  At the end of the week, as my host was not over well, I boldly
volunteered to go alone for Miriam, and my proposition was accepted.

"I should sleep one night at the house where she had gone, and together
we should drive home next day.  I knew every foot of the road and every
feature of the scenery; even should we be belated, there would be bright
moonlight.  At any time, a ride through the forests and hills of the far
West, when the full moon is shining down from a clear sky, is a treat to
be remembered, but with such companionship as I should enjoy, why, it is
bliss, Ben, and nothing less.

"Now, something out of the common occurred on the very day I left to
bring Miriam home.  It was this: both Joliffe and Shoe-Sally were
missed.  Poor Tom was disconsolate in the extreme, and went about all
the forenoon with tears coursing along his nose, almost as big as the
silver buttons he wore on his jacket.

"That same day at noon a strange meeting took place between two braves,
apparently Indians, in one of the deepest and darkest nooks of the great
forest.  The spot was on the brink of a deep canon almost filled up with
fallen trees, the result of some terrible storm.

"One savage, who evidently belonged to the warlike Apaches, and was a
chief, sat quietly and meditatively smoking.  The other leaned upon his
club, and did all the talking, and this most energetically.

"`Ugh!' said the sitting chief; `but the paleface and I am at peace.  I
like it not.  I care not for his scalp.'

"`But think of the gold I offer you,' said his companion; `think of the
fire-water it will buy you.  You will be happy for ever with such wealth
and riches, and think of the _prize_.  You are a great chief, this
paleface girl will be brighter than the sunshine in your wigwam, sweeter
far than the wild bee's honey.  Think.'

"Nearer and nearer to a rifted tree not far from these two men crept a
dark figure, moving along low on the ground, and as silently as a snake
glides, till their every word became audible, their every gesture
visible.

"There was much more that the club-armed savage said which need not be
repeated.  Suffice it to say that the listener heard all, or heard
enough, then retired with the same stealthy gliding motion as it had
approached.

"Miriam and I set out about noon next day on our return journey.

"With our spirited horse, and light waggonette, three hours would have
taken us home easily.  But we did not hurry the horse, and it was two
o'clock ere we had accomplished half the distance.

"`We must be quick,' cried Miriam, looking at her watch with some degree
of anxiety depicted on her lovely face.

"She had hardly spoken these words ere an Indian woman tearing a child
on her back in her blanket, suddenly appeared at the bend of the road,
and begged for a few coppers.  I felt too happy to refuse, and drew up.
The woman leaned against the wheel, a silver coin glittered in her hand,
and next moment we had driven on.

"Our path now wound along through a beautiful forest, and close by the
banks of a lake.

"The view was charming in the extreme, and I could not help stopping for
just a moment that we might gaze on it.  The day was hot and still;
there was silence on the hills, silence on pine wood and lake, broken
only by an occasional plash as a fish leaped up, or a bird stirred the
glassy waters with glad wing.  We were almost close to the edge of a
fearful precipice.

"`Get me that flower,' murmured Miriam, pointing to a deep crimson
anemone that grew by the side of the road.

"I sprang down to get it.  I had hardly reached the ground ere one of
the front wheels flew off and rolled over the rock; it took all my
strength to support that side of the machine, until Miriam should
alight.

"My thoughts at once reverted to the Indian woman who had leaned against
the wheel.  She had doubtless drawn the linch-pin.

"There was treachery of some kind in the wind.  But what could it mean?
I never for a moment thought of Joliffe and his possible revenge.

"As quickly as fingers could work, I took out the horse and tied him to
a tree, then I backed the carriage into a sheltering corner of the rock,
and hardly had I done so ere the whole forest resounded with the howling
of vengeful savages.

"I had expected no assistance from Miriam, and was surprised to get it.
But the dear girl had all the courage and coolness in danger of a true
American woman.  Armed with a revolver each, we gave those Redskins a
warm reception; and though the bullets rattled on the rocks behind us
like the hail on our window panes, Ben, they retired discomfited.

"We could hardly expect to remain where we were much longer, and hope
itself was sinking in my heart, when the yelling was renewed, and the
Indians came on a second time to the attack.

"Ah! but help was at hand.  Savages can _yell_, but there is nothing so
blood-stirring as the wild `hurrah!' of a Briton or an American.

"We heard it now, and sent back cheer for cheer.

"I can hardly describe the scene that followed.  It was a fierce
_melee_, a hand-to-hand contest, and dreadful while it lasted.  But the
Redskins were beaten, Ben, at length, as Redskins always have been in
the long run who crossed sword or spear against civilised man.

"For the life of me I could never tell how long that fight continued.
It might have been but five minutes--it might have been an hour.

"But there, in the midst of the dead and the dying, stood Miriam, locked
in her father's arms.

"Ben," I continued, after a pause, "the most mournful part of my tale
remains to be told.  It was poor, droll, innocent Shoe-Sally who had
followed Joliffe to the forest that day, dodged him while he disguised
himself, and crept after him, and listened to all he had said to the
Apache chief.  She had hurried home again and exposed his treachery, and
as it happened our friends were on the spot barely in time to save our
lives."

"And Shoe-Sally?" said Ben; "what became of her?"

"We found her among the dying.

"`My brudder, my brudder!' was all she ever said ere death stepped in
and closed the scene."

There was moisture in my friend's eyes as he bent down to stir the fire.

"`Poor Sally!' he said; `and were these her last words?  Well, Nie, we
are all of us brothers and sisters in this world.'"

Yes, my dear readers, all of us, as Ben said, black or white.  Remember
that.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The End.





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