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Title: A Parisian Sultana, Vol. III (of 3)
Author: Belot, Adolphe
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Parisian Sultana, Vol. III (of 3)" ***

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A PARISIAN SULTANA

A TRANSLATION OF
ADOLPHE BELOT'S
"La Sultane parisienne"
BY
H. MAINWARING DUNSTAN.

BOOK III.
VENUS IN EBONY.

CHAPTER I.

It will not, we trust, have been forgotten that in the month of
March, 1873, the Count de Pommerelle paid a visit to Dr. Desrioux,
whom he found bowed down with grief, in consequence of the death of
his mother. To his affection for her the young doctor had sacrificed
his love for Madame de Guéran, his plans for accompanying her in her
travels, and his most cherished hopes. In this state of almost
despair he had begged M. de Pommerelle to take him away anywhere out
of Paris.

The two friends met again at the funeral of Madame Desrioux. Prom the
house of death they proceeded to the church, and thence to Père La
Chaise. The Count at first considerately mingled with the crowd of
relations and friends who had assembled to show the Doctor their
sympathy with him in his distress. But as soon as the mournful
ceremony was over, and the concourse of people had taken their
departure, some in mourning coaches, and others down the long avenues
of the cemetery, M. de Pommerelle resumed his place at his friend's
side, to which he was entitled by his daily association with the
Doctor, by their ties of friendship, drawn closer and closer during
the few past months, and by the words which had passed between them
on the previous evening.

"By virtue of the powers you have yourself given me, I take
possession of you," said the Count.

And, acting up to his words, he put his arm in that of M. Desrioux,
and drew his grief-stricken friend away. At the gate of the cemetery
they found a brougham in waiting, which, after half an hour's drive,
deposited them in front of a small hotel in the Avenue Montaigne.

M. Desrioux alighted from the vehicle mechanically, ascended the
steps, and, with his friend and host, entered a room on the ground
floor. He appeared quite unconscious of how he had reached the hotel,
or what he was doing. It was almost as if his mind, clinging to its
former companionship with his mother, had sought a voluntary grave by
her side, and as if his spirit had ascended to heaven with hers.

The Count felt bound to make an attempt to rouse him from this state
of stupor and mental lethargy, this physical and intellectual
prostration, which not unfrequently follows upon excessive fatigue
and prolonged experiences of sorrow. Placing himself right in front
of M. Desrioux, and compelling the latter to look up, he said—

"You have fulfilled to the utmost every duty, both as a son and a
physician. You have fought against death, and have been worsted in
the fight. Now, what do you intend doing?"

M. Desrioux looked at him at first without taking in the sense of his
words, but, on the question being repeated, he exclaimed—

"What am I going to do? I know not—I know not."

"But I do," said the Count, decidedly. "You are going to rejoin her
whom, after your mother, you loved best in the world, by whose side,
even if you cannot altogether forget the past, you will at all events
suffer less acutely. You are going to set out for Africa, and
endeavour to rejoin Madame de Guéran."

"No, no I do not let us speak of her now," exclaimed M. Desrioux, "I
have no right to talk about her. I must devote myself to the memory
of my mother. All my thoughts belong to her, and I cannot turn to any
one else."

"Was not Madame de Guéran a favourite with your mother?" asked the
Count.

"Oh! yes, a very great favourite."

"Then," replied M. de Pommerelle, "what wrong can there be in your
devoting yourself to one who was dear to her whom you have lost? It
is a homage to the dead to think of all they loved here below. And
have you not also told me that Madame Desrioux regretted your having
remained with her in Paris, and your refusal to accompany Madame de
Guéran?"

"Yes, in her thorough unselfishness and self-denial she did her best
to induce me to go, and was never tired of urging me. 'Go, my dear
boy,' she would say, 'go with that charming woman. I am not jealous,
I love her as a daughter. I will take care of myself during your
absence, I will not be guilty of any imprudence, but will watch over
myself for your sake. You will find me on your return, sitting by the
window in my arm chair, waiting for you, and ready to welcome you
back with a smile and a kiss.' I did well," continued M. Desrioux,
"not to listen to her. I should not have seen her again, and she
would have looked for me at her bedside in vain. Her latest moments,
soothed, perhaps, by my presence, would have been sad indeed had I
been away."

"Be it so. You did well, I admit, to remain, but now you will be
doing equally well to go away, because in that lies your only means
of assuaging your grief. As a matter of fact, the idea was your own—
did you not entreat me to take you away, far away?"

"Yes, that is true; and, possibly, with you, and giving myself up
entirely to your guidance, I might carry out the idea, but I have not
the courage, at all events now, to tear myself away from the spots
hallowed by her memory, and the tomb in which we have but just laid
her."

"Who said anything about your going alone?" asked M. de Pommerelle,
"What makes you think that I intend to give you up?"

"Do you mean to say," said the Doctor, in astonishment, "that you
would go to Africa—you?"

"Yes, I—I will go to Africa. When one has been as far as Monaco, as I
have been, one is capable of anything. Besides, did we not make up
our minds to go, only our plans were nipped in the bud?"

"We certainly did map out a journey one evening, in a fit of passing
excitement, but on the following morning we came to our senses, and
released each other from the engagement."

"Say rather, my dear fellow, that you released yourself."

"That is true. But, tell me frankly—if I had started would you have
come with me?"

"No, I would not, because for certain reasons, less weighty than
yours, but serious enough from my point of view, I was compelled to
remain where I was. These reasons have disappeared, and with them
have vanished all my man-about-town proclivities, as well as that
dislike to travelling which I have so often assumed for the simple
purpose of deceiving myself, and endeavouring to hide the heavy clogs
and chains which held me fast, like a convict, in Paris. I will not
do your sorrow the injustice of comparing it to the annoyance I have
just undergone, but you have already experienced your severest shock;
if you are destined still to suffer much, you will, at least, admit
that you are not in any danger; neither your future nor your honour
are menaced. My annoyance, on the contrary, is mingled with serious
fears; I dread giving way to a ridiculous temptation, and committing
an act of downright folly—in short, for I have no secrets from you, I
am afraid of committing matrimony with a charming, but decidedly
ineligible woman. Let us be off, then, as soon as ever we can; you,
to distract your mind from its sorrow, and I, to run away from my own
cowardice, and escape from what would almost amount to dishonour. Let
us be off, I say again, in both our interests. I will take you to the
woman you love, and who is worthy of your love; you will take me from
the one I hate, and love, and, above all, fear. It is not one bit too
much to put France, the Mediterranean, and the greater portion of
Africa between her and me, for by so doing I shall be putting away
from myself all possibility of return or cowardice. I know that I
shall, perhaps, lose my life where we are going, but that is very
little in comparison with what I should certainly lose here. Africa,
however cruel she may be, will have some consideration for me, and
that is precisely what the fair lady in question has not. I prefer
being physically eaten by the Niam-Niam to being morally devoured by
that she-cannibal of the Boulevard Haussman. In a word, my dear
fellow, just as a reformed rake, they say, makes a model husband, so
a sedentary being like myself becomes, the very moment he turns
wanderer, capable of any eccentricity, gives himself up to every
extravagance, thinks no journey formidable enough, and would scale
the moon, if she had not been for a considerable period placed out of
reach of dilatory, and, for that, very reason, over bold travellers
like your humble servant."

M. de Pommerelle stopped at last, and waited to see the effect of his
long harangue.

M. Desrioux reflected for a moment or two, and then, holding out his
hand, he said—

"When shall we start?"

"When you like," replied the Count, "the sooner the better for you,
for me, and for our friends, too, in case they should be in danger
and need our assistance."

"I agree with you, but we must make some preparations."

"We can do all that in Africa, at the port of disembarkation. If we
take money, and plenty of it, we shall be able to smooth away every
difficulty. Remember how Stanley, who was not at the time dreaming of
Livingstone, made up his mind in twenty-four hours to join him. Let
us show the Americans that, on occasion, we can be quite as
expeditious and determined as they are."

"Very well. Only, it is not enough merely to go to Africa; we must go
there to some purpose. What is to be our starting-point? Shall we
follow the route taken by our friends?"

"That is just what we must avoid," replied M. de Pommerelle. "It
would be the very way never to find them, seeing that they have six
months' start of us. In their last letter, you will remember, they
said, 'If instead of having received our information about M. de
Guéran at Khartoum, we could have been furnished with it in France,
our plan of action would have been altered considerably. In fact, if
M. de Guéran has managed to cross the frontier of the Monbuttoos, we
are destined simply to follow up his tracks without any chance of
overtaking him. On the other hand, by setting foot in Africa at
Zanzibar, and taking a north-westerly direction towards the Lakes
Victoria and Albert, we should have undoubtedly met him, as he was
travelling from a precisely opposite point. If we could start afresh,
we should start from Zanzibar.' So, you see, we shall do what our
friends could not, and we shall profit by their experience. Their
argument about M. de Guéran is equally applicable to themselves,
because they have adopted the same route that he did. At Cairo, at
Khartoum, in the district watered by the White Nile and the Bahr-el-Gazal,
they have been seen, but nobody would be able to tell us what
has become of them. To all our questions we could get but one reply.
They were going towards the south-east—and we know that already from
their letters. At Zanzibar, on the contrary, we shall either find
them ready to embark on their return to Europe, or, if they are not
there, we can set out to meet them."

"Your reasoning is good," said M. Desrioux, "and I agree to your
plan."

"Do you agree, also, to my making the necessary arrangements for our
very speedy departure?"

"Certainly. I give you full power."

"Then I shall engage a couple of berths on board the first steamer
leaving for the Indian ocean. I have travelled along the map with you
so frequently during the last six months that I know exactly what to
do."

CHAPTER II.

Whilst the two friends, Dr. Desrioux and the Count de Pommerelle,
were getting ready to set out for equatorial Africa, the European
caravan, whose course we have followed up to now, escorted by the
army of Munza, King of the Monbuttoos, was making its onward way
through unknown tribes, in districts marked on the map by these
words—unexplored regions. We resume the journal of the expedition,
edited by M. Périères.

"To think that we should ever have complained of the slow progress of
our caravan! We used to do our four or five leagues a day, and we
even managed to get over from five to six when the country was open;
now with Munza's army we scarcely move more than six or eight miles
(English) in the twenty-four hours. We are, it is true, in the midst
of innumerable water-courses, which, by their entwinings, form a net-work
similar to that met with by Livingstone in other parts of
Africa, and compared by him to the patterns formed by the frost on a
window-pane.

The rainy season, now on the point of coming to an end, appears
desirous of leaving behind it lingering memorials of its stay in the
provinces of the equator  it converts plains into marshes and makes
every stream a river. For quite half our time we do not walk, we
dabble. If we were to meet with a regular river, like the Gadda, for
instance, a whole morning would be taken up in transporting the army
from one bank to the other. There is, nevertheless, no lack of
boatmen, numbers of them having joined us by Munza's order, and
placed at our disposal not only their canoes, but also enormous
trees, felled on the bank, and forming a raft or a floating bridge
according to circumstances.

When it comes to making our way through a forest, our delays are even
greater, an afternoon being frequently consumed in marching a league.
The men are obliged to hew a passage with their axes through the
dense thickets, destitute of even a track, for nature in a very few
days conceals those which may from time to time be made. And yet,
notwithstanding the difficulties which spring up without intermission
when crossing these almost virgin forests, and in spite of the humid
heat which is so oppressive underneath their leafy vaults, it is
impossible to resist the temptation, every now and then, to stop and
gaze around in admiration. The continuous showers have succeeded in
making their way at last through the overhanging foliage and the
interlacing creepers, and everywhere flowers of every sort are in
full bloom. Here the Ashantee pepper tree, with its coral berries,
completely encircles the trunks of the trees; there are garlands,
rich festoons, clusters of flowers of a brilliant scarlet, and bell-flowers
of bright orange, all sparkling in the darkness of the
undergrowth, and apparently specially destined to give light to these
profound solitudes wherein is an unending night.

As it is a matter of considerable difficulty to maintain a close
surveillance over Munza's army or to preserve strict discipline on
the march through this labyrinth, the men take advantage of the
position to stray away amongst the least bushy thickets and, ever
mindful of their appetites, to hunt everything, eatable and
uneatable. One band of twenty or thirty men will make an attack on
the chimpanzees, the usual denizens of these forests; another lays
siege with burning torches to a beehive, and swallows with equal
greed the wax and the honey, and the insects which produce them. Here
and there a solitary soldier will stumble across a regular town of
ant-hills, from ten to twelve feet high, and, making a raid on the
insects, crushes them in his hands, and eats them up.

In the villages our task is still more difficult, owing to the gross
immorality which prevails throughout the kingdom of Munza, but,
nevertheless, by dint of continually struggling against the powers of
nature and the passions of man, we contrive to traverse the tract
which separates us from the district governed by Degberra, and
encounter that chief on his way to meet us.

Though Munza has preserved an absolute silence as regards his
brother, Nassar, some time ago, drew for us a gloomy enough portrait
of this ruler. To begin with, Degberra is a parricide, neither more
nor less. His father lived too long for him, and became a bore; so he
had him assassinated. But this crime, intended as a stepping stone to
the Monbuttoo throne, was of advantage to Munza alone, who lost no
time is assuming the crown, and made his brother merely his
lieutenant or viceroy.

We are led to suppose that our host and friend is ignorant of the
murder, from the circumstance that, since he has been secure on the
throne, he does not appear to have thought of getting rid of his
brother. A parricide would scarcely falter on his amiable way, and
would not have recoiled, from excess of sensitiveness, before a
convenient act of fratricide, almost marked out for him. It is quite
possible, however, that Munza's conduct furnishes another instance of
his tact; if he did not put Degberra out of the way, he took very
good care to make him innocuous. Knowing that his brother was a slave
to his passions, he furnished his harem with the prettiest women in
the kingdom, and Degberra forgot politics in sensuality. He is now,
consequently, an effeminate, listless being, incapable of revolting
against his sovereign, who, also, is a source of constant terror to
him.

The meeting of the two brothers was utterly devoid of sentiment, and
took place in our presence. The conversation between them, translated
on the spot by Nassar, was of such importance to us, that I give it
almost word for word—

"Why are you dressed in this fashion?" said Munza to his lieutenant.
"You know that in my kingdom all my subjects, great and small, must
wear the same style of dress."

Munza, who had noticed that his brother's head was arrayed in a
species of silken turban, and that his feet were encased in Oriental
slippers, was, in a roundabout way, leading the conversation into the
channel interesting to himself.

Degberra, timid to excess in presence of the King, although amongst
his own subjects he is a terrible despot, made some incoherent
explanations, and wound up by saying that he had received the
articles, as presents, from Aboo-Sammit.

"That is a lie," said Munza, roughly. "You got them from a white man
who passed through your district some time ago, and of whom you nave
never spoken to me. Now you will have to tell me all about him."

Taken thus, at a disadvantage, the Viceroy was at a loss what to say.
He turned towards his officers, and was about to question them, but
Munza gave a _sotto-voce_ order to his own subordinates, and in a
moment those in the service of Degberra were separated from their
master, and isolated from each other.

We did not at first realise the full meaning of this manoeuvre, but
we very speedily came to the conclusion that it was both excellent
and ingenious. In fact, if Degberra were to take it into his head to
lie, all his myrmidons would repeat the same falsehood, and Munza
would not be able to get at the truth. To learn that, he was first of
all going to make the accused speak, and then he would examine the
witnesses in turn. A _juge d'instruction,_ or a judge of assize in
France, would have adopted a similar course.

"Answer," said the King of the Monbuttoos to his brother, when the
latter stood alone before him. "A stranger has resided in your
dominions without my knowledge. Tell me everything you know about
him. On that condition alone will I pardon you."

"Ask, and I will answer," replied Degberra.

"First of all, when was this white man with you?"

We had to pause for a reply. The most intelligent negroes have great
difficulty in accounting for time. The new moon is the general basis
of their calculations, which consequently are rather indefinite, and
often inaccurate. However, after considerable effort, Degberra
managed to fix, very clearly, as far as we were concerned, the date
when M. de Guéran passed through his district. This date agreed with
the indications given by Nassar, as well as with the heading of the
letter entrusted to him.

This first point settled, Munza proceeded to further details—

"Describe the white man to me," said he.

This question caused a general stir amongst us. We had, it may be
remembered, described M. de Guéran as a father, and not as a husband.
If he were described as young, Munza might begin by suspecting, and
end by finding out the truth. But when a man's age is under
consideration, the ideas of equatorial tribes differ from ours;
amongst them a man is old at fifty, and, as the Baron de Guéran
attained his fortieth year in 1872, Degberra would not dream of
exhibiting him as a young man.

The portrait drawn by him was similar to that limned by Madame de
Guéran for our benefit, and the emotion of our fair companion was
almost painful to witness. Her tear-dimmed eyes, her pallor, and the
whole expression of her face told their tale eloquently. Munza
watched her narrowly, and, if he still had any lingering doubt about
the truth of our tale, he was evidently now convinced that she was in
search of some one beloved, whose traces she had at length found.

The examination became, in consequence, closer and more searching.

"Whence came the stranger?" asked the King. "Had he crossed any
portion of the kingdom before he arrived in your district?"

"No," replied Degberra, struggling with his faulty memory. "He never
set foot in the western portion of your empire. He came from the
north and, to reach the south, he passed through the Momvoo country,
and over the mountains to the east of your possessions."

These words confirmed Nassar's statements; more than that, even his
suppositions were, so to speak, certified to.

"And why," asked the King, with some severity, "did you not apprise
me of the arrival of the white man?"

Degberra again hesitated, but warned by his brother's look that he
had better obey, he answered—

"He begged me not to tell you. He feared you, and knew that you had
prevented another traveller from going southwards."

"Why do you not say at once," exclaimed Munza, "that you were paid by
him for your silence and your treason? You exact tribute from all
foreigners, and, to avoid sharing it with me, you conceal from me the
fact of their having been with you. But I have already told you that
I will pardon you on condition that you speak the truth. How long did
your guest stay with you?"

"I do not remember," said Degberra. "From one moon to another, I
think."

"Was his caravan a numerous one?"

"No; during his stay amongst the Zandeys, the small-pox committed
great ravages amongst his soldiers and bearers."

"Did he appear to be in good health?"

"Yes, as long as he was with us; but he had suffered from fever in
the marshes amongst other tribes."

All these questions took a long time to ask, and still longer to
answer.

"You treated him well, at all events?" resumed Munza.

"I received him in my palace, and he was a constant source of
amusement to my harem, for he made music all day long with an
instrument he had with him which played of its own accord."

This was a very precious piece of information. Madame de Guéran was
aware that her husband, just as he was about to leave for Africa, had
bought a large musical box at a shop in Paris, and this evidently was
the instrument alluded to by Degberra. The Baron, profiting by the
experience gained in former travels, was bent, by means of music,
upon getting into the good graces of the Africans.

At length, Munza thought the moment had arrived to put the crowning
question for him and for us, the one which was to decide our future.

"In what direction," he said suddenly to his brother, "did the white
man go when he left you? Which way did he take?"

In excitement and anxiety we awaited Degberra's reply.

CHAPTER III.

Instead of replying by word of mouth to his brother's question, he,
with both hands, took hold of the lance on which he was leaning,
stooped down, placed it on the ground, and, after a momentary
hesitation, proceeded to set it. It is thus, as a rule, that the
Africans indicate a route, or explain the position of any given
place. The exactitude of this kind of compass is such, that,
according to many travellers, the spot so indicated can be reached,
even if it is a hundred leagues off, without any deviation.

As soon as the lance was motionless, we stooped down to ascertain its
direction, and by the aid of our compasses, we perceived that it
pointed to the south-east. This fresh piece of intelligence,
furnished by Degberra, was an additional confirmation of the letter
of M. de Guéran. The Baron had expressed his intention of making for
the Blue Mountains mentioned by Baker, and these mountains lay due
south-east.

We had, therefore, settled a most important point, for M. de Guéran
spoke, also, of reaching Lake Tanganyika southwards, or, if he went
westwards, the provinces explored by Livingstone in his earlier
travels, and leading to Congo on the Atlantic Ocean. It became
evident, from the scraps of information collected in the Monbuttoo
country, that the Baron had decided upon the first of these routes,
by far the most simple, far less complicated than the other two, and
much more rational, seeing that when once he was in Degberra's
kingdom, lying east of the Monbuttoos, he was on the high road to
Zanzibar.

Our host, however, extracted from his brother some details even more
precise. The white man, when on the point of setting out, had asked a
number of questions about the south-eastern tribes, and obtained all
the information he possibly could from all the officers and others
capable of giving any. In addition to this, he had persuaded Degberra
to give him an escort to accompany him as far as the Domondoo
frontier. This escort, after a ten days' march, left him, but saw
that he was continuing his journey towards the south-east.

We could not possibly have obtained any indications more precise,
trustworthy, and in conformity, at the same time, with our private
information, our suppositions, and the probabilities of the case.

Munza, however, was not satisfied yet. He had his own reasons for
mistrusting Degberra, and for taking the evidence of his officers,
adroitly placed out of earshot from the very commencement of the
interview. He accordingly ordered them to be brought before him,
informed them that if they deviated one hair's breadth from the
truth, he would have them beheaded, and, having produced the desired
effect with this mild threat, an advantageous substitute, perhaps,
for the oath enacted from witnesses amongst us, he questioned them
one after the other.

The fear inspired by the King, who was known to be pitiless when on a
tour of inspection in his brother's territory, jogged the memories of
even the most rebellious, loosened their tongues, and made every one
inclined to be outspoken. The additional information gleaned from
these people, served to confirm that already given by their master.
It went further than that; it completed it by clearing up a still
obscure point, and doing away with a doubt which harassed us to such
an extent that we informed Munza of it.

It was difficult to understand how Degberra had allowed M. de Guéran
to set out for the south simply because his guest had paid him
tribute, and made him a few presents. The avarice of the Viceroy was
notorious, but his bad faith was equally so; he would have taken the
tribute and the presents, but would also have forbidden M. de Guéran
to continue his journey. Being fully aware of his brother's policy as
regarded strangers, and sharing his dread of seeing them establish
seribas and depôts amongst the tribes of the Equator, he would have
paid little heed to keeping his word with a foreigner, if, by doing
so, he ran the risk of displeasing his powerful and dreaded master.
But, thanks to the statements made by his followers, we now knew, or,
rather, divined why he had so graciously accorded to M. de Guéran a
right of way through his territories.

The Baron, whilst his musical box was contributing to the pleasures
of the Court, indulged in a few psychological studies, from which he
gathered that Degberra was both sensual and fickle, and that any
chance of a successful appeal to him lay through his passions. At the
same time, the tales which had reached our ears, as I have mentioned
already, were repeated in a far more detailed fashion in the Court of
the Viceroy; it was in everybody's mouth that there was a country
situated at the foot of the mountains, where all the women, so the
tale ran, were far more lovely than the Monbuttoos. M. de Guéran saw
at once the part he had to play, and when he had roused the curiosity
and excitement of Degberra to a proper pitch, he proposed to set out
for the south, make a razzia on these women, bring them captive
northwards again, and exchange them with his host for elephants'
tusks. The idea took the Viceroy's fancy; he put implicit faith in
the promises of the white man, and allowed him to depart under the
guard, be it understood, of an escort, with orders to watch him
narrowly, and if necessary, to bring him back. But when he reached
the Domondoo country, M. de Guéran lost no time in getting rid of the
escort, continuing his journey in solitude, disappearing altogether.

Such was the gist of the revelations made to us, and to them our
imagination contributed in no small degree. But it was impossible to
avoid believing the united testimony of the ministers and principal
officers, more especially as their account tallied so exactly with
the character and passions of Degberra.

We were considerably edified; the King of the Monbuttoos had played
the part of _juge d'instruction_ to perfection, and we felt bound to
show him our satisfaction and our gratitude.

To sum up—there could no longer be any doubt that in the month of
February in the preceding year, M. de Guéran was fairly within those
unexplored regions which are bounded by the Blue Mountains. Had he
been massacred by the tribes amongst whom his escort left him? Had he
died of sickness or fatigue in that land so close to the equator? Was
he a prisoner there? Or, after having reached the Blue Mountains, had
he succeeded in crossing them and reaching the beaten track? In this
latter case he might have gained Zanzibar, have embarked there for
Europe, and be awaiting Madame de Guéran in Paris.

All these hypotheses, reasonable in themselves, could have no effect
on our route. Whether we continued our journey in search of our
fellow-countryman, or made the best of our way back to France, we
had, under existing circumstances, but one road before us, the one
thus pointed out to us. This plan, moreover, appeared to suit Munza
down to the ground, and that was a great thing. Towards the south-east,
he would encounter tribes, on whose possessions he had already
made several razzias, and whom he had intended to attack this year
for the purpose of replenishing his stock of goats and cattle,
animals not to be found in his own country. He was, consequently, not
deviating in the least from his customary line of conduct, and his
army would accept his proceedings as a matter of course. He might,
indeed, have feared being drawn still farther onward in our behoof,
but the negroes, however intelligent they may be, do not bother their
heads about the future.

We did not make a long stay with Degberra, for the King appeared to
have but little sympathy with his brother, and to wish to get away
from him as soon as possible. He was also too wise to expose his army
to the seductions of the country.

The troops set forward on their march with, incessant cries of
_Pouchio_! _Pouchio_! which, being interpreted, means Meat! Meat!
They were marching, in fact, against the possessors of countless
herds of cattle, and against enemies who, in default of oxen and
goats, were good to eat. After consulting with Munza, we decided to
move towards the river Keebaly. This stream, as far as our
information allows us to judge, takes its rise in the Blue Mountains,
and if we can manage never to lose sight of it, it will guide us on
our road, and lead us, as it were, by the hand.

It was decided also that, wherever we went, we should endeavour to
question the chiefs of the tribes as we had done in the case of
Degberra. The King, even if he could not succeed in obtaining any
precise information amongst the neighbouring tribes, counted upon
gaining some from one of his most powerful allies, the chief of the
Maogoos or Maleggas. He did not conceal from us his fear that he
should be unable to proceed any farther, if in this latter country we
failed in discovering him of whom we were in search.

Our route did not admit of our taking a straight line through the
land of the Akkas, a tribe of dwarfs whom Delange, now converted into
an enthusiastic explorer, was very anxious to see. But we marched
along their western frontier, and, as the inhabitants of this region
are tributaries, as well as allies, of Munza, we made the
acquaintance of a number of specimens of this curious race of
pygmies.

Schweinfurth, who saw them at Munza's Court, and not, as we did, in
their own country, suggests that the Akkas are the famous pygmies
mentioned by Herodotus. He does not give any decided opinion on this
point, but he expresses himself satisfied that they are not an
isolated tribe in equatorial Africa, but that they belong to an
aboriginal race scattered here and there from the Indian to the
Atlantic Ocean. I think that the German traveller is right; the
wandering tribe of hunters described by Du Chaillu, whose average
height he says is 4 feet 7 inches, only differs from the Akkas in the
great growth of hair about the body. These pygmies may be connected,
also, with the Matimbos, alluded to in the accounts of Escayrac de
Lauture, the Kimos of Madagascar, and the Bushmen, natives of the
South African forests. All these little beings are incontestably
related to each other, as is also the case with the various cannibal
tribes in different parts of Africa.

Schweinfurth thus relates the manner in which he became acquainted
with the Akkas. "After a few mornings my attention was arrested by a
shouting in the camp, and I learned that Aboo-Sammit had surprised
one of the pygmies in attendance upon the King, and was conveying
him, in spite of a strenuous resistance, straight to my tent. I
looked up, and there, sure enough, was the strange little creature,
perched upon Sammit's right shoulder, nervously hugging his head, and
casting glances of alarm in every direction. Sammit soon deposited
him in the seat of honour. A royal interpreter was stationed at his
side. Thus, at last, was I able veritably to feast my eyes upon a
living embodiment of the myths of some thousand years!"

The European traveller put several questions to him, but, becoming
very soon weary of this examination, the little man made a frantic
bound, and took to flight. He was pursued, and caught; fresh
persuasion was brought to bear upon him, and, his impatience being
quelled, he was prevailed upon to go through a few evolutions of his
war-dance. He was dressed in the rokko coat and plumed hat of the
Monbuttoos, and was armed with a diminutive lance, and a bow and
arrows in miniature. His agility was marvellous, and his attitudes so
varied and grotesque that all the spectators held their sides with
laughter. Our interpreter states that the Akkas jump about in the
grass like grasshoppers, and that, when they can get near to an
elephant, they shoot their arrows into its eyes, and then drive their
lances into its belly. We have never seen them disembowel an
elephant, but we have learnt to our cost, or, rather, to Joseph's
cost, that, most decidedly this trusty servant is predestined to
every kind of misadventure, and is worthy of a special page in this
veracious record, a space which, accordingly, I intend to devote to
him.

CHAPTER IV.

We were joined on the 20th July by a small troop of Akkas, who had
taken advantage of Munza's presence on their frontier to come and pay
to him at one and the same time their homage and their annual
tribute. As soon as the audience was at an end, the Akkas, as curious
to see the white people as we were eager to set eyes on the pygmies,
came to where we were.

After having got over their first feelings of timidity and alarm,
they became by degrees more familiar with us, and de Morin turned
their amiability to account by taking likenesses of several of them,
whilst I jotted down in my memorandum-book the following particulars.
Head, large and round, set on a thin, weak neck; height from 4 feet 5
inches to 4 feet 9 inches; arms long; upper part of the chest
contracted, but widening out downwards to the huge stomach—paunch
would be a better word; knees round and plump; hands small and
elegant enough to excite the envy of Europeans even; a waddling-gait,
owing to the centre of gravity being shifted by the size of the
stomach; skull wide, and with a deep indentation at the base of the
nose; chin receding; jaw pointed; hair short, and no beard whatever,
notwithstanding the fable which endues the Akkas with flowing white
beards, descending to their knees. After having pencilled down this
portrait, I added these words—in spite of all their imperfections,
these tiny beings do not resemble in any way the dwarfs exhibited
amongst us at so much per head. Their deformity is, if I may so
speak, natural, neither the result of any accident, nor phenomenal.

I closed my note-book, and did the honours of the tent, to the best
of my ability, to our little visitors, so as to leave them a pleasing
recollection of the celebrated white men, whose renown had penetrated
even to them. Madame de Guéran gave them a few presents, Delange set
himself seriously to work to study them from a phrenological point of
view, and Miss Poles even, terribly severe on her own sex, but ever
indulgent towards ours, treated these diminutive personages with all
respect, declared that they were not at all bad in their way, and was
especially eloquent on the intelligence of their expression.

As the Akkas, taking advantage of their diminutive stature and our
kindness to them, very soon were guilty of certain indiscretions, we
left them to themselves and our servants. Then it was that Joseph,
emerging, theatrically speaking, from the wings, appeared on the
stage. Full as ever of importance and presumption, inflated with his
own personal advantages, proud of his physical superiority, and
deeming himself, as a white man, to be far above all the Africans put
together, he took it into his head to hold an inspection of the
Akkas.

He walked to and fro amongst them, did the very heavy swell, stroked
his whiskers, and looked down with lofty contempt upon all these
funny beings, the tallest of whom was about the height of a child of
ten years old. From time to time he stopped in his perambulation to
cast a contemptuous glance on those around him, grinning, as he did
so, in an idiotic, imbecile manner, and here and there bestowing a
back-handed slap, intended to be encouraging.

Several of the Akkas, serious old gentlemen, very grand personages,
perhaps, in their own little way, speedily came to the conclusion
that the white man was making fun of them, and they began to betray
signs of impatience. Joseph was utterly blind to all this; not
content with his promenading and grinning, he showed an inclination
to play with his little companions, like a fat schoolmaster with the
small urchins of his village. The game he invented to take the place
of a ball or a hoop was not a very happy idea, for he took it into
his head, after the manner of Gulliver, to convert himself into a
triumphal arch and make the newly-discovered Liliputians pass
underneath it.

Some of them, good-tempered and entering into the spirit of the
thing, joined in the game, but, all of a sudden, a man of about
thirty, who had previously shown symptoms of annoyance at being
treated like a child, and was now rendered positively furious by this
final indignity, instead of passing beneath the triumphal arch,
jumped on Joseph's back, clasped him round the neck with his arms,
and bit his shoulder until it bled.

The pain was excessive, but it was nothing to the fear experienced by
Joseph. The unexpected attack, and savage bite, conjured up all the
ghosts of cannibalism which had haunted his troubled spirit for some
time past. The Akka dwarfs, whom he had looked upon as harmless,
disappeared; he saw before him only gigantic cannibals; they were not
biting him, they were not eating him up bit by bit; he was being
swallowed wholesale.

He uttered the most piercing shrieks, and begged for mercy, but the
Pygmy was quite comfortable pick-a-back, relished the flavour of his
steed's shoulder, and gave himself up to it with all his heart, or,
rather, with all his teeth, whilst the whole of his companions, with
their little hands holding their fat stomachs, laughed all over their
tiny faces, as they had seen Joseph do.

The more our servant struggled, the more he curvetted about in order
to throw the Akka, the tighter the latter held on to his neck with
his arms, and to his shoulder with his teeth. He used Joseph as a
steed, spurred him with his heels, and made him run or stop as he
pleased, clasping him round the neck more and more firmly, and
digging his teeth into him with increasing ferocity. Joseph wanted a
game, so that he had no right to complain. He was playing at horses,
only he was the steed, and the Akka the rider.

And what a rider! It was impossible to unhorse him. His steed,
recalling the way a donkey has of rolling on his back, with his four
legs in the air, lay down at full length and attempted to crush his
jockey under his weight. But the skilful cavalier was quite up to
that move; he slid round in front, and when Joseph got up the Akka
was face to face with him, with his little eyes glistening, and every
pointed tooth showing.

At last Joseph's piercing shrieks attracted the attention of some
Monbuttoo soldiers. Seeing what was taking place, and having
themselves, possibly, marked Joseph down as a toothsome morsel in
case provisions should run short, they rescued him from the grinders
of the dwarf, so that at all events a little bit of him might be
left.

On the day after this occurrence, Joseph, whose head had been
troubling him, was seized with a raging fever, accompanied by
contractions of the muscles, and severe cramp. In the height of this
fever, he imagined that he had been bitten by some mad animal, and
that he had himself gone mad in consequence. "Get away," he shouted,
"get away, I shall bite you!" Dr. Delange, though he did not fear
rabies, which is nearly unknown in Africa, was at first alarmed by
the violence of the delirium, but Nassar informed us that it was
almost an invariable feature in the disease from which Joseph was
suffering, peculiar to this climate, and called _kichyoma_.

The sorcerers and fetish-mongers of every description who followed
the army, hastened to offer their services on behalf of the sufferer,
but we sent them away, after overwhelming them with thanks and
presents, for in Africa it is indispensably necessary to keep these
quacks, often more powerful than even the chiefs, in a good humour.

Delange is quite equal to the task of restoring his patient to
health, but if he is so restored, he will not be cured. He is sure to
meet with some fresh disaster; indeed, he appears to be making a
collection of them.

August 2nd.—We are in a hostile country, amongst the Domondoos. The
inhabitants took to flight at our approach, abandoning all their
possessions to the rapacity and, above all, the voracity of the
Monbuttoos, who laid violent hands on fowls, goats, glass beads,
ivory, skins, and tobacco. We are on a regular thieving expedition.

Munza is nearly always close to us, grave, thoughtful, often
taciturn. He takes no part in the lawless proceedings of his army;
but, though he appears to repudiate them, he does nothing to stop
them.

"If I were to forbid them to rob and eat," said he one day to Madame
de Guéran, "they would think I was mad, and would refuse to follow
me. For your sakes I must not choose this time to reform the manners
of my people."

He was wise in his generation, and he might have added that to bring
about any reformation in African manners would be a task of
considerable difficulty. The further we go the more disheartened we
become on the subject. When we reflect that this people, old as the
hills, has stood still for centuries—nay, that, on the contrary, it
has gone backward to the utmost extreme of barbarism! For one man
possessed of intelligence, and displaying more civilization than the
remainder, such as Munza, for instance, we see every moment of our
lives scores of brutes, neither more nor less. From a tribe like that
of the Monbuttoos, considerably ahead of their neighbours, we pass
suddenly to the Domondoos, who differ from animals simply in their
power of speech.

If they had only an idea of fighting, by which they live, or, more
truly die, but they have not even that. For countless years past the
Monbuttoos have been in the habit of making a descent upon their
territory at certain fixed periods, when they rob them, plunder,
kill, and eat them, and not even yet have they been able to see that
nothing would be easier than to exterminate and get rid, once and for
all, of their dreaded invaders. Five or six hundred men hidden in the
high grass, which in this country would afford cover for a whole
army, screened by the gigantic trees, sheltered by the rocks on the
Keebaly, or posted on the rising ground, which the enemy must skirt,
would be ample to protect a country such as this, admirably adapted
for defensive operations, and almost impregnable. But no—no sooner do
they catch sight of the enemy than away they run, abandoning
everything they possess, without even thinking of carrying off their
most valuable treasures and hiding them in the mountains. Then all
the fugitives collect together, and in a compact body engage the army
of the Monbuttoos on open ground, where their bodies are just so many
targets. The fight begins, it lasts for a few hours at most, and all
is over; the Monbuttoos march off with their plunder and a thousand
prisoners, to return in the following year at exactly the same
period, and once more leave their cards on their neighbours.

This description was verified to the letter, and we came upon them in
number about five or six thousand, in close order like ears of corn
in a field, gesticulating, shouting, and beating their drums. We had
only to open fire upon them with our sixty rifles, every bullet from
which would find a billet in the ruck, and we should have laid the
whole army low in ten minutes.

But they need not be uneasy; we are not going to take part in the
massacre. It is a matter entirely between the Monbuttoos and the
Domondoos, and we Europeans have nothing whatever to do with it.
Nevertheless, the Nubians and Dinkas of our escort were eager to
fight. Neither our society, which they had enjoyed for six months,
the examples of moderation and humanity we had given them, nor their
own semi-civilized state could subdue their warlike nature; the old
original African blood rushed to their heads, and they felt impelled
to put themselves in motion, to shout, strike, and kill.

They came round us and begged permission to fight. "What will the
Monbuttoos think of us," said they, "if we do not help them?"

"Fight away, my friends, fight away!" replied de Morin, and he served
out to each man ten rounds of blank cartridge, which he had prepared
on the previous evening expressly for this purpose. They could thus
make plenty of noise and not hurt anybody.

We ourselves, armed with telescopes, followed from a distance the
varying fortunes of the battle. If it went against our allies, then,
and then alone, would we interfere. We did not consider that we could
well do otherwise.

The arrows began to whiz through the air; the battle had begun.
Attention!

CHAPTER V.

In the retreat we had chosen, on the flank, and about three hundred
yards from both armies, no arrow, however badly aimed, could reach
us, protected as we were by spreading, lofty trees. But if by means
of our telescopes, we could follow the movements of the troops, take
account of their manoeuvres, and distinguish them in the mass, all
the details of the battle escaped us. We were looking down upon a
_mêlée_ on a large scale, but we could take no note of the curious
incidents of the fray.

"We are too far off!" de Morin persisted in saying. He was in such a
state of excitement that he could not keep still, but was continually
moving about and venturing into the open.

Nobody took the trouble to answer him, for the simple reason that
there was nothing to say. We knew that we were too far off to see
well, but we were quite near enough for safety, and that was all we
cared about.

After having taken one or two turns round the trees, de Morin, still
harping on his one fixed idea, came up to us and said—

"If we could only manage to catch sight of the king from this
observatory of ours! Politeness alone would seem to dictate our
contriving to witness his prowess."

"I am a witness already," I replied, "and it only depends on yourself
to enjoy the self-same sight. If instead of pacing about in that
idiotic manner, you would keep quiet for a moment, you would see the
great Munza, towering with his head and plumed hat above all his
guard of honour. He has plunged into the thick of the fight, and has
already cleared a large space around him. See, he turns towards us,
as if to say, 'I fight for you!'"

My last words were ill-judged, and I saw it as soon as they were out
of my mouth.

"That is just my reason," cried de Morin, "for chafing at not being
by his side. He exposes his life for us, and—"

To remedy my error, I hastened to say—

"My dear fellow, he exposes himself because it is his duty to fight
at the head of his men. The chiefs of the Niam-Niam alone, amongst
all the black tribes, hold aloof during a battle, ready to hide
themselves, their wives, and their treasures in the most accessible
marshes, should fortune declare against them. They never appear
except to share in the plunder; but the King of the Monbuttoos
belongs to quite another class."

"If you were to say," added Miss Poles, who for some time past had
invariably spoken of Munza in terms of the utmost contempt, "that
this savage has the most disgusting tastes, and is in his element
amidst fire and sword, you would be giving the true reason of his
rushing headlong into the fray."

De Morin did not hear this malicious speech, emanating from wounded
pride, and continued his feverish, excited walk up and down an open
space in front of some banana trees. Anyone who knew de Morin would
have been pretty sure that he was revolving some scheme in his head.

Suddenly he stopped, and turning towards us, asked us whether we had
not been struck with the expressions made use of by the Nubians.

"What expressions?" said Madame de Guéran.

"They told us that they would be despised by the Monbuttoos if they
did not fight with them."

"Yes; but what of that?"

"I am afraid," replied our friend, with some hesitation, "that if we
remain passive, they will despise us also."

"Do you mean to say that you care about the contempt of the
Monbuttoos? Oh, M. de Morin!" said Miss Poles, with lofty disdain.

The grievance of Miss Beatrice against Munza made her unjust as
regards his subjects; in her anger, hatred, and malice she tarred the
King and his army with the same brush.

Without taking any notice of the remark of our eccentric companion, I
observed to de Morin that we had no right to massacre these brave
Domandoos, against whom we could not possibly have any ground of
complaint.

"I never said a word about massacring them," replied de Morin. "But
we ought to take the command of our Nubians. They are, as you see,
behaving very prudently, and await our orders to fire; we could do
what we liked with them."

"Nassar is quite capable of leading them," said Madame de Guéran.
"Believe me," she added with a smile, "we shall be doing right by
observing strict neutrality in this affair. You will have other
opportunities, and very soon, perhaps, of fighting on your own
account."

Unfortunately, the Baroness, after uttering this sage advice,
strolled away with Miss Poles to seek shelter from the sun under a
large sycamore tree.

Her presence had up to this time kept our friend's excitement within
bounds; but as soon as he was no longer subject to this salutary
influence, he lost his head completely, as he sometimes did, without
showing the slightest symptom of the fact. The dear old donkey was
never so clear in argument, so cool, or so collected as when he was
meditating some act of downright folly.

This time he tried to make Delange his excuse. He knew very well that
he was in no danger of reckoning without his host; the Doctor, wise
and prudent at the commencement of the expedition, had now
occasionally his moments of mild insanity, as if he had had a
sunstroke.

"You will doubtless remember," said de Morin to him, "that one
evening when I was tranquilly smoking my pipe in the hut with
Périères, you compelled me to get up and follow you into the shed
constructed for Munza's eighty wives."

"Do I remember!" replied Delange. "We had a charming game of bezique,
with the women on one side and Bengal lights on the other. I was
quite justified in disturbing you as I took the liberty of doing. I
had lost on the previous night."

"I never said you were wrong. But, if I am not mistaken, you won the
game you mention, and ever since then fortune has smiled incessantly
upon you. Yesterday, again, I lost at piquet."

"I should never, of my own accord, have summoned up these sad
memories," replied Delange; "but as you have mentioned them—why, yes,
my debt to you has by this time become trifling—a matter of a few
thousand francs at the outside."

"Shall we play double or quits?" suggested de Morin, suddenly.

Delange's eyes sparkled, and he brightened up directly, though, for
the sake of appearances, he felt bound to say—

"Have we any right to infringe one of the most formal clauses of our
treaty?"

"Hang the treaty!" replied de Morin. "It is such an old affair.
Besides, if we are both of the same mind we can cancel it at any
time."

"Oh, quite so. I am only speaking, as you can see clearly enough, in
your interest. I am in luck—"

"Pray do not stand on any ceremony with me, for I have a presentiment
that I shall win."

"We will see about that."

"Then do not let us lose any time about it."

"With all my heart. Here are our cards—they never leave me—and the
trunk of this old tree will do for a card-table."

"What! You propose playing here, well under cover, whilst down below
there they are cutting each others throats? You did not mean that,
surely, my dear fellow."

"Your idea is—?" said Delange, pointing with his finger.

"Exactly so! it is a charming spot, just between the two armies, and
beneath the cloud of arrows, which is becoming more dense every
moment. They will take the place of a tent or an awning, and will
shield us from the sun."

"Of course they will. Upon my word, your idea is positively
charming."

"You are a couple of fools," I exclaimed, thinking it high time to
put my oar in. "The arrows will not go over your heads; they will
take you in front and in rear."

"Then we shall be just like two animated pin-cushions," rejoined de
Morin, laughing.

"That will be a joke," added Delange. "Come along, old fellow; I am
with you."

I made one more effort to restrain the pair of lunatics.

"I should be the first to applaud and follow you if there were the
least use in what you are going to do."

"Do you think," exclaimed de Morin, interrupting him, "that it is of
no use to teach all these people that we are not afraid of them, and
that we hold their arrows and lances in utter contempt? I suppose you
would like them to say, when they get back to their country, 'In the
hour of danger the white men ensconced themselves behind the banana
trees and looked on whilst their allies fought and bled for them.' It
is not only of use, but it is indispensably necessary that we should
stand high in the esteem of the Monbuttoos. It may be that the
success of our enterprise depends on our line of conduct this very
day."

"De Morin is right," said Delange. "In the first flush of success
these people may make us pay dearly for our inaction and prudence."

"Then," said I, "if that is your opinion, I have nothing to do but go
with you. I was present at the game you played under the shed; I will
look on at the one you are going to play beneath the arrows."

"No, no," exclaimed de Morin; "you must stay with Madame de Guéran."

"Would you act on that piece of advice, my dear de Morin, if I were
in your place and gave it to you?" I asked.

"I should take very good care to do nothing of the sort, my dear
Périères," replied my rival.

"Then do not interfere with me. The battle is becoming more serious
every moment. The Monbuttoos have some idea of strategy, and have
nearly turned the enemy's flank. I do not think the fight will last
much longer."

"I do not care," said de Morin, "so long as it gives us time for one
game at écarté!"

"Only one?" asked Delange. "Kindly recollect that I owe you still
eleven thousand francs; I have just consulted my book. Eleven
thousand francs in five points is a little bit too much."

"Would you prefer a rubber?"

"Yes; a rubber, by all means. But," continued Delange, "a thought has
just struck me. If I win, I shall not owe you anything."

"Certainly not, because we are going to play double or quits."

"In that case we shall not play any more to the end of the journey?"
said the Doctor, in a tone of dismay.

"Make your mind easy," replied de Morin. "I will not be as cruel as
all that. We have agreed to play for fifty louis every day, and we
will go on doing so. If I am the loser in the end, so much the worse
for me. The contract remains in full force, and this breaking through
its provisions must be looked upon as an exceptional case."

"Then I have nothing more to say," rejoined Delange. "I was getting
rather nervous, I admit, and I was thinking of making my way back to
Paris alone. But as long as I can play cards every day, I am
delighted with Africa."

Whilst this conversation was going on these two dear lunatics had
advanced about three hundred yards towards the opposing forces, and I
walked with them, watching the flight of arrows through the air, and
listening to their hissing noise, now very plainly audible.

CHAPTER VI.

The war cries, shouts, and the groans of the wounded were also
distinctly heard by us. The Domondoos express their sufferings by the
cry _Aou! Aou!_ or, if their agony is extreme, by _Akonn! Akonn!_ The
Monbuttoo expression, on the contrary, is _Nanegoué! Nanegoué!_

"You see, my dear Périères," said de Morin, "that we were quite right
to leave the pit of the theatre and take our places in the stalls; we
are gaining instruction. These cries teach us that every nation
expresses suffering in a different way. The French people say—_Aïe!
Aïe! Oh! la! la!_ The English call out—_Oh! oh! oh!_ The Germans—
_Och! och! och!_ The Bungos—_Aah!_ The Djours—_Aooay!_ As for the
Monbuttoos, you can hear what they say, and I am free to confess that
the fools cry out loud enough."

"These remarks," chimed in Delange, who, even when he was joking,
maintained his customary air of gravity, "are of immense interest to
science, and we shall have deserved well of all the learned societies
in the world. And to think that those miserable Parisians, with easy
consciences and minds at rest, are at this moment strolling on the
beach at Dieppe and Trouville without giving a thought to the fact
that they are ignorant of the cry of a Monbutto in pain!"

"Too true!" added de Morin. "They have not even a suspicion that such
beings as the Monbuttoos exist."

"Is it possible? Poor creatures, how deeply they are to be pitied!"

We had reached the spot we intended to occupy—a little hillock, very
conspicuous, without shelter of any kind, and equidistant from the
troops of Munza and the hostile force. We seated ourselves on the
grass, which at this precise place was not more than a foot high, and
Delange, taking two packs of cards out of his pocket, said to de
Morin—

"Let us cut for deal."

We were not exposed over-much to the sun, for, as my two companions
had foreseen, the continuous flights of arrows from the two armies
darkened the sky. It was slightly warm, and that was all.

The game commenced, and was played with the utmost seriousness. De
Morin was, perhaps, less interested than his adversary, but as the
stakes were rather high, and losing or winning them meant an entire
change in the state of affairs, with a possibility of his no longer
playing on velvet, as the saying goes, he was tolerably careful in
his play. As regards Delange, the prospect of at last getting rid of
a debt which had for so long been tormenting him, and the idea that
very soon he might be a creditor in his turn, raised his excitement
to a very high pitch, though he played his best and was thoroughly
self-possessed.

Whilst these two were absorbed in their game, I lay at full length on
the grass and watched the progress of the fray. The Monbuttoos,
seeing us advancing towards the field of battle, naturally thought we
were going to help them, and received us with uproarious shouts. But,
when they saw us come to a halt, sit down, take little pictures out
of our pockets, and shuffle them in our hands, they were dumbfounded.
Munza alone, perhaps, was capable of appreciating our idea; he
understood, as we found out later on, that, though we were determined
not to fight, we did not intend to shirk our share of danger.
However, if the motive by which we were actuated escaped the mass of
the people, they recognized the one fact before their eyes—in the
situation occupied by us, of our own free will, we were exposed to
the missiles of both armies. Instinctively they admired our courage
and coolness, and as soon as they saw that the arrows did not hit us,
they thought we were invulnerable, and we must have risen
proportionately in their esteem.

The Domondoos, on their side, were alarmed by the sudden apparition
of three white men, clothed in a strange garb, and advancing quietly
in the open. If they had been gifted with any religious feeling, they
might have taken us for celestial beings, a trio of angels descended
from the clouds, to watch over the struggles of man. But, without
having such an exalted opinion of us, they, possibly, imagined that
we had come up from below to protect them. When they perceived that,
instead of spreading our wings over their army, we were simply
minding our own business—lying down on the grass, and turning our
backs upon them, they were excessively dissatisfied, and set to work
to insult us. Some of them indulged in threatening gestures, others,
shouting their war cry, and bounding from one side to the other, as
if they were taking part in a pantomime, came close up to us and
assailed us with volleys of invective.

A flight of arrows, winged, no doubt, by Munza's orders, compelled
them to retire, and from that moment we heard nothing but the
whizzing of the shafts, and the unceasing din of the battle.

"One game to me," said Delange.

"So much the better," replied de Morin. "I shall win the second, and
then we can play the conqueror."

"Pending which, I mark the king," rejoined the doctor.

"Mark away, but excuse me for one moment whilst I glance at this
arrow which just missed my back."

He put out his hand and, without getting up, pulled the impertinent
missile out of the ground.

"Look," continued de Morin, turning to me, "the shaft is feathered
with the leaves of the banana tree."

"To increase its velocity," remarked Delange, as he shuffled the
cards. "Is the point iron or wood?"

"Iron."

"That is bad; I do not like that, the wound is so much more difficult
to cure."

"See," said de Morin, handing the arrow to the doctor. "It seems as
if the point were smeared with some gummy substance."

"So it is, my dear fellow; there is no doubt about that, any more
than that the substance is poison."

"Poison? Brr! as Munza says, that sounds nasty."

"Don't be uneasy," replied the doctor. "If you are wounded by one of
these engines of war, I will wash the wound with a preparation I
have, and you may, possibly, get over it. Cards?"

"No, thanks. I play."

The arrows whizzed by incessantly in a perfect deluge, and as I saw
numbers of them falling all around us, I could not help thinking of
the description given by Schweinfurth of his fight with the Niam-Niam,
where he says that "the storm of arrows which they hurled
against us as we advanced fell like strays from a waggon-load of
straw."

At the same time the war cries, the yelling, the groans of the
wounded and dying, the braying of trumpets, and rolling of drums,
were mingled in one confused, deafening din, slightly trying to the
nerves of peaceable écarté players.

Suddenly, at the very height of the uproar, profound silence fell on
the host of the Monbuttoos, whilst cries of joy and triumph might be
heard from the ranks of the hostile army. Something serious had
evidently happened. I took up my telescope, steadied it on the
shoulder of the doctor, who, more and more absorbed in his game, did
not even know that I was using him as a rest, and looked towards the
Monbuttoos.

"Munza is wounded!" I exclaimed.

"Ah!" said de Morin.

"Ah!" echoed Delange. "I score one. We are four all."

"Are you not going to offer your services to the wounded man?" I
asked.

"Certainly; that is my intention. I know my duty. But on the cards
which de Morin is dealing hangs my fate. If they are good, I shall
win the second game, and, consequently, the rubber. Munza will not
die from the momentary delay."

He took the five cards which his adversary had just laid tenderly on
the grass, looked at him, and said—

"I play."

"Play," said de Morin, with a smile, as if he were sure of the game.

For a moment I forgot all about the King of the Monbuttoos in my
interest in his hand, which might possibly be a decisive one. It was
not so. De Morin, thanks to a wretched little trump, made the third
trick and went out. They were consequently game and game, and had to
play the conqueror.

"I must go and attend to the King's wound," said the doctor, laying
hold of his instrument case, which he had taken care to bring with
him.

"Shall I come with you?" asked de Morin.

"There is no necessity for that," replied Delange, as he went away.
"I shall be back directly. Take care of the cards, whatever you do,
and keep them out of harm's way."

"I will cover them with my body!" exclaimed de Morin.

The doctor, in a hurry to get back and finish the rubber, strode
along rapidly towards the Monbuttoos. I went after him, thinking that
I might be of some use, and, as I felt sure that nobody would ask me
to show my commission or diploma, I at once conferred upon myself the
rank of staff-surgeon of the second class.

Munza's officers, when they saw Delange, the white sorcerer, as they
called him, coming towards them, ran to meet him and brought him to
the spot where their leader lay, to the great dismay of the official
sorcerers, whose position we were, without any ceremony, going to
usurp. The King was resting on a shield and, in marked contrast to
his followers, who were indulging in an incessant chorus of
_Nanegoué! Nanegoué!_ allowed no sign of suffering to escape him. He
welcomed Delange with a smile, and made a sign with his hand that
everybody else should withdraw.

The doctor stooped down and found that the King was suffering from an
arrow wound in the thigh. The iron head was still in the wound, none
of the negro sorcerers having even attempted to extract it. This
operation, as a rule, is not a very difficult one; they seize the
shaft of the arrow with both hands, and tug away until it chooses to
come out. But by a very ingenious device, the Domondoos manufacture
their missiles in such a way that they break at the moment of impact,
the head remaining in the wound, and the shaft falling to the ground.
The operator has, therefore nothing to catch hold of, and when that
functionary happens to be a negro sorcerer, he howls, tears his hair,
and does nothing else.

Delange, without a moment's hesitation, opened his case, and, taking
out one of those horrible little instruments which always cause a
shudder, proceeded to make a large incision in the royal thigh, and
with his forceps extracted the iron barb. This operation was
performed without a sound from Munza, and the doctor then washed the
wound, stanched the blood, bound up the thigh, examined the general
state of his patient, put his implements of torture back into their
case, shook the hand held out to him by the wounded man in token of
gratitude, and made his way back again through the midst of the army.

He had done this all himself, like photographers do, and, no doubt
jealous of me, had not even condescended to give me the lint to hold.
Nevertheless, I thought I might as well go back with him, and in a
few moments we had rejoined de Morin, who, during our absence, had
been amusing himself by making a collection of the arrows which were
falling around him, and had already possessed himself of a
decent-sized bundle.

"Now for the conqueror," said the doctor, as he took his place
opposite his adversary.

CHAPTER VII.

The spot was no longer tenable by the écarté players; the arrows fell
faster and faster, and in ever increasing quantities. De Morin would
have had several in his back, if the havresack, which he carried
about with him, had not acted as a cuirass. Three arrows had stuck in
it, but their onward progress had been arrested by the various
articles in the bag, and so the wearer escaped.

"A hit!" said de Morin, each time he felt an arrow strike his
havresack. "With all these points, to all appearances sticking out of
my body, I shall end by being taken for a porcupine."

"Yes," remarked Delange, "these fools are beginning to show some
signs of skill, and I see the moment fast approaching when I shall
have to operate on myself, as I have already done on Munza, and that,
I assure you, is not exactly the sort of amusement I should choose."

The Domondoos certainly deserved the epithet fools just conferred on
them by the Doctor; instead of following up their momentary success,
consequent on Munza being wounded, and taking advantage of the panic
thus created amongst their enemies, instead of attacking the opposing
force with greater vigour than before, charging home, and, possibly,
routing it entirely, they began to dance, and sing, and shout, making
us the targets of their arrows. It might have been supposed that we
three represented Munza's troops, and that if we were exterminated,
the whole army would disappear.

But the King was watching over us, and as soon as he saw we were bent
on staying where we were, he did his best to render the spot less
dangerous by fortifying it in a measure. By his order, a score of
soldiers came to our assistance, with a lot of wooden shields, of
which they made a sort of palisading behind us; they themselves then
extended to the right and left of us, and, by raising and lowering
their other shields as the too intrusive arrows flew towards us, they
protected us on every side. We were, consequently, in perfect safety,
sheltered not only from the arrows, but also from the sun's rays, and
the two gamblers were loud in their praises of Munza.

"Nothing could be more ingenious," remarked de Morin. "Thanks to that
excellent man, we can continue our game in peace and quietness. Ah! I
score a vole."

"Too true, by Jove! There is no disputing that."

The doctor did not score a vole, but, in his next hand, he marked the
king, and made the point, which came to the same thing. The two
adversaries were two all, and a few moments more would settle the
question.

The idea of the palisade was really a very happy one; the short,
sharp sounds made by the iron arrowheads, as they struck against the
shields, told us that our enemies were continuing their trial of
skill at us.

"It might be hailing," observed de Morin.

"I do not know whether it hails or not, my dear fellow," replied
Delange, "but I do know that I have made a point, so that I am three
to your two."

"So I see; but you need not be so ungenerous as to boast about it."

A Monbuttoo soldier, attending to the game, instead of to his
business, let an arrow pass him.

"Look out, clumsy!" exclaimed de Morin. "If I lose, I will have it
out of you to the tune of a few thousand francs."

The black burst out laughing, as if he quite saw the joke.

The deal was now with Delange, who turned up the ace of hearts. De
Morin looked at his hand, and, without asking for cards, played the
king of spades.

An almost imperceptible smile played round the doctor's lips. He took
the king with a small trump, played the queen of hearts, which, of
course, was the best card, and timidly put down the knave of
diamonds. As his adversary had a lower card of the same suit, this
gave Delange three tricks out of the five.

He looked at de Morin, and said—

"I score two, if you have no objection, seeing that you chose not to
ask for cards. Three and two make five, all over the world, Africa
included, and, consequently, the rubber is mine."

"By the skin of your teeth," said de Morin, as he got up.

"Do not grudge me my triumph," replied Delange. "We are now quits,
and I feel as if I had escaped a great danger."

"I can quite imagine it—you have escaped ninety thousand francs."

"If we could only escape back again to France," I chimed in. "It is
high time we did so, I fear."

"You are right," said de Morin. "That small detail had escaped me.
This gambling saloon, constructed by Munza, is so pleasant and
comfortable, that I thought I was at the club."

"Don't you think," I continued, "that the battle is becoming
monotonous? would it not be as well to interfere?"

"Yes, I do; but how are we to set about it?"

"Let us authorise our Nubians to join in the fray. Look at them down
below there; they are boiling over with impatience, and cannot leave
their rifles alone. If Nassar had not been there to restrain them,
they would have opened fire long ago."

"Their fire would not finish the business; their rifles are only
loaded with blank cartridge."

"Are you sorry for that?" asked de Morin.

"Well, considering that the Domondoos have presented us with a
plentiful stock of arrows, I think we ought to give them a few
bullets in return."

"Nonsense," replied de Morin. "Let us keep our ammunition for a
better purpose. Blank cartridge will do well enough here."

He stepped outside our palisade, and contrived, by dint of frantic
gesticulations, to let Nassar know that he required the attendance of
our escort. They were only too ready to obey, and Nassar was at once
despatched to the King with a request that we might be furnished with
a hundred of his crack shots. As soon as they reached us, de Morin
made them form up in a double line, and told them not to let fly
their arrows until he gave the word. At the same time, our soldiers
were instructed to reserve their fire until the arrows sped on their
way.

Delange and I saw our friend's drift at once; the report of our arms
would spread terror amongst the Domondoos, whilst the arrows, from
the short range, would make immediate havoc in their ranks. By this
combination, the Nubians, seeing their adversaries fall, would labour
under the delusion that they had killed or wounded them, and would
never perceive that their cartridges were destitute of bullets. The
enemy, terrified by the noise, would equally think that they were hit
by us. Our consciences would, in this way, be quite clear; our rifles
would have done no harm, and in a few moments we should put an end to
a struggle which could not fail to be more bloody the longer it
lasted.

At a signal from de Morin, away flew the arrows, and a simultaneous
report of fire-arms was heard.

The Domondoos were completely routed; some ran in terror across the
plain, others sought a refuge in the tall grass, whilst very many
were so paralyzed by fright that they lay down flat on their faces,
or went on their knees and held out their arms to implore our pity.
We should have been well pleased to pardon them, and we would have
given much to have been able to tell them to lay down their arms, and
return in peace to their homes. But how were we to stop Munza's army,
how could we prevent his people pursuing the fugitives, making some
prisoners, and killing the remainder?

We contrived, nevertheless, to save a portion of our foes by giving
them time to save themselves. By our orders, and still under the
impression that they were doing wonders, the Nubians continued their
fire, and the Monbuttoos, quite as much frightened as their enemies
were by the noise, dared not set off in pursuit. Posted between the
two armies, we thus managed, for a short time, to set up a kind of
barrier between the victors and the vanquished. But our soldiers, as
I have already said, had only ten rounds each, and these were soon
expended.

The plain thus became the scene of a horrible _mêlée_; lances, axes,
knives and teeth took the place of arrows. Hand to hand they fought,
and bled, and bit, and ate. It was a sight worthy of the infernal
regions, a loathsome, revolting spectacle. In one place a group of
soldiers might be seen to suddenly cease to fight, and take to
dancing round their victims; some would seize on a corpse and cut the
flesh to ribands, and others, for the purpose of rendering themselves
invulnerable, as Munza had told us, would hack the bodies of their
foes to get at the fat. All these scenes were revolting to a degree,
but we should have been wrong in shrinking from them and giving way
to our feelings of disgust. On the contrary, we rushed from group to
group, intent on rescuing same victims, at all events, from the
knives of their butchers.

Munza did his best to help us. At the urgent entreaty of Madame de
Guéran, who, accompanied by the Arab interpreters, had courageously
made her way to the King, he gave orders for the massacre to cease,
telling his men to give quarter and make prisoners only. He himself
saw that his orders were obeyed; preceded by his musicians, and borne
on a shield by six runners, he went all over the battle field as we
were doing. As for the prisoners, we obtained permission to place our
Nubians on guard over them, together with the Monbuttoos. By this
time we had served out ball cartridge to our men, and we knew well
that they would not allow the prisoners to be beheaded, so long as
they were there to prevent it, the tribes to which they belong having
a superstitious horror of decapitation.

We had thus done our very best to mitigate the horrors of this annual
massacre, in no way provoked by our presence amongst the Monbuttoos.
But, when evening arrived, we were powerless to prevent fire and
plunder. A large village was situated hard by the field of battle,
and it was to protect the place that the Domondoos had massed their
forces in the plain, Munza's troops, when the battle was over, rushed
headlong into this important hamlet, and, after having sacked the
huts, set fire to them.

Delange, de Morin and I followed close upon their heels, in the hope
of saving the aged, the children and such sick people as might have
been left to their fate in the huts. We succeeded, indeed, in taking
a few under our protection, and we were just about to withdraw with
them and rescue them from the flames, when piercing shrieks fell upon
our ears.

They proceeded from a hut not yet attacked by the flames. I was the
first to enter, and I found a poor, sick man who, unable to get out,
was calling for assistance, to save himself from being burnt alive.
Just as I was taking him up in my arms, the lurid glare of the flames
lit up the interior of the hut, and a species of placard, suspended
from the wall, caught my eye.

I went up to it. On a large sheet of paper, evidently torn out of a
book, were about a hundred lines of writing, and underneath them we
read, in large letters, this signature—
BARON DE GUÉRAN.

CHAPTER VIII.

De Morin and Delange joined me, and assisted me in providing for the
safety of the inhabitant of the hut. We entrusted him, as well as the
other unfortunates rescued by us, to Nassar, and then made the best
of our way back to our camp. Madame de Guéran was on the look out for
us, and, after explaining to her in a few words what had taken place,
I handed her the sheet of paper with the small, close handwriting of
her husband.

She took it, glanced at it, and handed it back to me, saying, in a
broken voice—

"I cannot read it; read it for me, and aloud, for I have no secrets
from any of you."

By the light of the flames, which had enveloped the entire Domondoo
village, had attacked the neighbouring woods, and were extinguished
only about a hundred yards from where we were, I contrived to
decipher this precious document.

I copy it word for word in the journal of the Expedition—

"How long have I lingered through my enduring agony? Am I in the
middle or at the end of 1872? I cannot answer that question
precisely.

"If I look around me, the cloudless, deep blue sky, the warm
colouring of the trees, the masses of red which overtop the tall
grass, and the haze rising from the parched ground and spreading
upwards like a cloud in the horizon, all tell me that the dry season
has returned.

"My illness, my long lethargy, must therefore have lasted for four
months at the very least! Indeed, I remember having been still in
possession of my senses during the rainy season; I can recollect the
beginning of July, but from that time all is a blank.

"I must needs consult Nature's page. Who can tell me, if she cannot,
anything about the time that has escaped me? I am alone—long, very
long ago my interpreters and all my servants were massacred before my
eyes. As for my soldiers and bearers, some are dead, and the rest,
more fortunate than I, fled away.

"Alone—yes, I am alone, and so far from my country, so far from those
I love, so far from her!

"How I have been punished for having left you, my loved companion!
for having preferred the novelty and excitement of distant travel to
the calm joy of our dear fireside; for having dared to let my love of
science outweigh my love for you! You deem me at this moment dead,
and are weeping for me. You may, indeed, weep for me; I live still,
but I am so weak, so utterly destitute of resources, and so
disheartened, that I shall not go much farther; you may wear mourning
for me; it is only a little premature.

"But I will not die without having said good-bye to you. I will tear
this page out of my note-book, I will fasten it to the partition of
my hut, and I will try to impress upon the unfortunate invalid who
inhabits it, the only being who, in this country, has shown me one
grain of pity, that this piece of paper is a fetish able to protect
him. He will never tear it down, and some day, perhaps, other
travellers, following the same route that I have done, will find
these lines and take them back to my country.

"What has happened to me?—If my enfeebled memory would only come back
to my assistance! Let me try.

"I made a great mistake in allowing Degberra's soldiers to enter the
territory of the Domondoos. I very soon succeeded, as I had always
intended to do, in getting rid of my compromising escort, and in
alarming them to such a degree that they were glad to make the best
of their way to their own country. But the Domondoos had recognised
their mortal enemies in the midst of my caravan, the men who, every
year, plunder them, kill them, and carry them away into captivity. I
and my people were destined to bear their vengeance on the
Monbuttoos.

"Day after day they attacked us, harassed us with their arrows, and
killed some of my men. Then we fell into an ambush, and, in spite of
our determined resistance, we were overwhelmed by numbers. They
seized upon everything I possessed, baggage, provisions, and arms; my
ammunition they could not take, for it was exhausted, and for a long
time we had been fighting with side-arms. With ten rifles I could
have routed the whole tribe!

"Instead of vanquishing them, I am become their slave, the slave of a
tribe of wild beasts! The Monbuttoos are right in stigmatising them
with the degrading title, the _Momvoos_. The Monbuttoos! They are the
refinement of civilisation compared with this tribe. The wretches
have but one merit; they are not cannibals. On this side of Africa,
cannibalism appears to cease on their frontier. But if they do not
eat their prisoners, they make them suffer horribly, and I almost
think they would display more humanity if they did eat them!

"One day, worn out by privation and fatigue, tortured in mind and
body, broken down and utterly overcome, I fell in one of the streets
of the village, and I did not get up again.

"What happened then I know not, and never shall know. They, no doubt,
thought I was dead; I must have been thrown aside in some corner,
where, later on, I was picked up and brought here. What was the
nature of my illness? Sunstroke, I imagine, or malignant typhoid
fever. Who looked after me? Nobody—I only remember a negro, a poor
invalid, the sole inhabitant of the hut, dragging himself
occasionally to my side, and putting to my lips a gourd filled with a
beverage of his own brewing. How came an angel of mercy into this
Domondoo hell? I owe him my life, and T cannot show him my gratitude.
May God reward him; may He watch over the awakening of this benighted
soul, and bring it to the full knowledge of Himself!

"Afterwards, long afterwards, I was able to open my eyes, and look
around me; I felt that I still lived, and that was all—I could
neither move, speak, nor think.

"By degrees my strength came back to me, and my host gave me now and
then a banana or a little flour mixed with water. My weakness
diminished, and I was once more becoming master of myself. In about
ten days from this time I was able to walk about the hut, but my
saviour made me understand that I must not cross the threshold. His
countrymen thought me dead, and, thanks to this mistake, I might be
able to escape during the night.

"Escape! Where can I go in my present state? Return to Degberra? It
is too far, and I should have to pass through the country of the
Domondoos; I should be recaptured, I should be their prisoner once
more! No! no! I have suffered outrage and torture enough! And,
besides, how should I be received by the despot whom I have misled,
who has been deceived in his expectations?

"I have but one course before me; to gain the frontier of the
Maleggas, a few miles only distant from this spot. That tribe,
according to what I have been told, is more humane than the
Domondoos; they will, perhaps, let me regain my strength in their
country, recover my health, and, later on, continue my journey.

"My journey! As if I could think even of carrying out my project—as
if, in my state of weakness and destitution, I could dream of filling
up the blank between the discoveries of Schweinfurth and those of
Speke and Grant!

"And yet—hope has not abandoned me altogether. I cannot have
undergone all these perils to die now. It cannot be that, after
having achieved so much, I am destined to leave my task unfinished.
My terrible past is, in itself, a guarantee for my future.

"I will escape to-night! I will drag myself to the neighbouring
frontier. May God have mercy on me, and be gracious to those who read
these lines!"

As soon as I had finished reading I looked at Madame de Guéran. Her
face was bathed in tears.

We were going discreetly to withdraw, when, drying her tears and
mastering her emotion, she made a sign to beg us not to leave her,
and as soon as she had thoroughly recovered her self-possession, she
said—

"Is the negro of whom my husband speaks alive? Can we find him?"

"Certainly," I replied. "He is close to us, with our people. We were
fortunate enough to save him and snatch him from the flames."

"Ah!" she exclaimed, holding out the paper I had handed back to her,
"my husband was not mistaken! These lines have served as a talisman
to this poor creature! I want to see him. I want to question him.
Perhaps he can tell us more—perhaps—"

She stopped. We divined her unspoken thought.

"You had better let us question this man," said de Morin. "We will
repeat to you every word he says, but if there should be bad news, we
might break it to you less brusquely, less unfeelingly—"

"Be it so! Go, and I will wait for you here."

We found Nassar keeping watch and ward over our personal prisoners,
_protegés_ would be the better word, and he brought us to the man who
interested us so deeply. The poor wretch was awake, his fears
preventing him from sleeping; it appeared to him impossible that he
should have been rescued from the flames and made a prisoner without
being destined to be eaten. The Monbuttoos enjoyed an unenviable
reputation, and he tarred us with the same brush.

Nassar succeeded in explaining to him that, so far from wishing to do
him harm, we were bent upon doing everything we could for him, and as
soon as he had reassured him on this point, he questioned him about
the white man, his guest for so long a time.

"What has become of him?" asked our interpreter. "Has he reached the
frontier of the Maleggas?"

The negro considered for some time; the terrible fright he had just
undergone had almost deprived him of the little memory he possessed.
At length he gave us to understand that the white man had never
reappeared.

"But," persisted the interpreter, "did he die before reaching the
neighbouring tribe?"

"No," replied the sick man, "he arrived there, and, some time
afterwards, sent me, as a present, an ox given to him by the King of
that tribe."

We had this answer repeated and translated twice, as it appeared to
us to be of the utmost importance. It, indeed, established the fact
that not only had M. de Guéran been able to escape from his enemies
and continue his journey, but that he had been received kindly by the
Maleggas.

"And you have never heard of him since?" asked Nassar.

"Never," was the reply.

"Well," said de Morin, as we made our way back to the spot where we
had left Madame de Guéran, "I begin to think that, one day or other,
we shall stumble across this dear Baron."

"Yes," I replied, "the chances are in favour of it."

"So I think. But has it occurred to you that in proportion as those
chances increase, ours diminish?"

"Clearly. How does that affect you?"

"How does it affect you?"

"My dear fellow," said de Morin to me, "it is very odd, but all the
same it is a fact that I have ended by sharing the hopes, fears,
doubts, and sufferings of our companion. I appear now to have a
direct interest in finding her husband, whereas you might naturally
suppose that all my interest would be centred in never setting eyes
on him. In short, this charming woman has gained such a hold over me,
and I esteem her so highly, that every now and then I am surprised at
finding my own identity merged in hers, and my thoughts devoted to
her happiness alone."

"That is precisely my feeling," I replied. "Only, I wish she would
feel that to bring about my happiness would conduce to her own."

This philosophical dissertation was interrupted by the subject of it.
She came to meet us as soon as she caught sight of us, and at once
asked for our report. De Morin must have been right, for I
experienced a real pleasure in imparting to her the good news we had
just heard.

The night was far advanced when we separated, after having decided
upon the line of conduct we were to pursue on the morrow.

CHAPTER IX.

About an hour after sunrise Doctor Delange commenced his round of
visits. The wounded had, indeed, every need of his skilful
ministrations. De Morin and I went with him, as medical students or
hospital orderlies. Less presumptuous than on the previous day, I had
resigned my position as assistant-surgeon.

"I do not intend," said Delange, as we walked along, "to depart from
my Parisian habits. When I was a surgeon at Lariboisière, I always
began my rounds with the hospital, leaving my rich patients to wait
until I had finished there. So I am going to begin with the
prisoners, and shall attend to those who were wounded yesterday
before I do anything to the royal thigh. Does that suit you?"

"Perfectly," I replied. "We shall, in all probability, have a long
conversation with Munza, and the other invalids might grow
impatient."

The prisoners had been turned into a large enclosure, surrounded by a
palisade; quite naked, and huddled together like a flock of sheep
brought to the shambles, they awaited, with resignation, the arrival
of the butchers. Thanks to the precautions we had taken, no harm had
come to any of them.

Delange dressed their wounds, set a few dislocated limbs, and very
skilfully extracted such arrow-heads as had been thoughtless enough
to remain embedded in the flesh. Did his patients appreciate these
attentions? Did they take him for a surgeon or a cook? To reply to
these questions, the doctor betook himself to the study of a few
heads. Alas! after examination made, he confessed that the gorilla
and the chimpanzee appeared to him superior to the Domondoos, from an
intellectual point of view. Nevertheless, as regards the structure of
the body, we have come to the conclusion that the nearer we approach
to the equator, the more perfect becomes the human form. The Niam-Niam
have the advantage of the Bongos, and are in turn surpassed by
the Monbuttoos, whilst the Domondoos are in advance of both.

"We are evidently drawing near," said Delange, "to that famous tribe
of which we have heard so much. At last we shall see the dusky Venus
of my dreams."

Munza appeared very grateful to the doctor for the visit. His
ordinary attendants would never have succeeded in extracting the
arrow-head which had wounded him, and, without Delange, he would have
suffered horribly, even if he had not died from the poison. He
submitted, therefore, with the best possible grace to a fresh
dressing, which made him lend a willing ear to what we had to say.

Nassar recounted to him the incident of the previous evening, and
gave him a resumé of M. de Guéran's letter. One point, which seemed
to us of but little importance, struck him at once.

"The Domondoos ill-treated your father," said he, "and you,
doubtless, are eager for revenge. Take two thousand of my prisoners
and kill them without mercy; I give them to you."

We replied that white men never thought of revenge, but did good,
even to their enemies. Munza was silent for a moment; in spite of all
his efforts, he could not understand us.

"Then," he said, at last, addressing Delange, "you did not come to my
assistance yesterday, and cure my wound, because I am your friend?"

"I came to you because you were in pain," replied the Doctor. "I try
to cure all those who suffer."

The King was silent once more for an instant, and then he murmured a
few words, which meant, "these white men are very strange!"

A species of slow, but progressive, revolution was taking place in
the mind of this barbarian. He was still far from understanding or
sharing in our ideas, but they attracted his attention, and he
endeavoured to make a note of them, ponder over them, and compare
them with his own. He was living with us in a new world, one which,
he instinctively admired.

"And so," he resumed presently, "you do not want me to give you my
prisoners?"

"On the contrary," said de Morin. "But if you do we shall set them at
liberty."

"That is impossible;" replied Munza, as soon as the words were
translated for him; "my soldiers would mutiny. Whatever we capture
from the enemy, belongs to them equally with myself."

"Give us, then, your share of the booty," said I, boldly.

"Yes, I will give that to your sister," replied the King.

"In her name we thank you, and we will release the women, the
children, and the wounded."

"Be it so! What is done," he asked, after another pause, "in your
country with the prisoners?"

"We keep them in custody for a certain time," replied de Morin, "to
prevent them fighting against us. As soon as the war is over, we send
them back to their own country."

"Where do you keep them?"

"In our towns. The officers can even walk about, as they are free on
parole."

Nassar could not translate this last expression, and we were
compelled to make use of a paraphrase to convey our meaning.

"And is that sufficient?" said Munza.

"The white man never lies," replied de Morin, imprudently.

"Ah!" exclaimed the King. "Then tell me if you think your sister will
return to my kingdom and marry me?"

De Morin had made the mistake, and on him fell the responsibility of
repairing it.

"She will certainly return," said he, "if we find our father, and he
allows her to marry you."

"Do you think he will?"

"I do not know, and I cannot say. To make a statement, without being
sure about its truths is to tell a lie, and I have already said that
we never lie."

A lengthy silence ensued.

"You wish, therefore," resumed Munza, "to visit the people you call
Maleggas, and we Maogoos? I can take you there without any fighting,
for the King, Kadjoro, is my ally. But suppose your father has left
his kingdom?"

"We must go on."

"I cannot go so far away from my country."

"Not even to win our sister?"

"If I were only sure of winning her I would give up my kingdom!"

Nassar was not under the necessity of interpreting this last
sentence, such expression was there in Munza's look, action and
voice.

It was agreed that the King of the Monbuttoos should give due notice
to his ally of his speedy arrival, and that the army should continue
its march towards the south. The prisoners were to be despatched to
Degberra, but the soldiers sent with them were forbidden, on pain of
death, to maltreat them.

"Munza is decidedly becoming more and more civilised," said Delange,
as we were going back to our camp. "Love works wonders. But is there
not something in the conduct of this savage quite contrary to reason?
Nobody will believe our account of this part of our expedition. I
think I hear the Club wits say—'Get along with you! You are making
fun of us! Instead of making love to Madame de Guéran in the orthodox
fashion, and setting about the discovery of her _soi-disant_ father,
an African monarch would have killed or poisoned you off-hand. And
when he had got rid of his trio of bores, he would have shut the
Baroness up in his palace, without giving her the option of saying
yes or no."

"The ignorant and fools would, doubtless, say so, my dear Delange,"
replied de Morin, "and their saying so would simply prove that they
knew nothing whatever of the credulous, unsophisticated character of
the negro, and that they utterly ignored the marvellous _prestige_
attaching to white men amongst the African tribes. Men of
intelligence would take the trouble of reflecting, and would say to
themselves that the stronger and more numerous have not always the
courage to attack their weaker brethren. Here the colour of the skin
goes for something; in Europe, rank and education fill the same
_rôle_. Take a regiment, for instance. Send it on a campaign by
itself, free from all control, and fearless of consequences. The rank
and file muster two thousand, and the officers, perhaps, twenty, but
those twenty men, even with sheathed swords, can do what they like
with that, comparatively speaking, vast army of rifles. Materially,
Munza cannot fear us; morally, without knowing it, he trembles before
us."

"In that case," said I to de Morin, "we shall never have to fight the
King and his army?"

"I never said so. The moment he sees that we do not intend to return
to his dominions, and to surrender Madame de Guéran to him, he may
become terrible. The influence we exercise over him at this present
time will vanish before his passions. The savage will once more
resume his rights, and in that case I would not give much for our
three lives. But, my dear fellow, we must be guided, as we have ever
been, by events. If we only take proper precautions before
undertaking anything, Paris may yet have the honour of claiming us
once more as her own."

In the afternoon, some of Munza's officers came to ask us to choose
our prisoners. Without standing on any ceremony, we released a goodly
number—that is to say, we allowed M. de Guéran's host to release
them. He selected his friends, and they were at once turned out of
the enclosure. He thus, very cheaply, acquired a great reputation in
his own country, and was speedily recognised as a sorcerer, which
elevated him to the ranks of the nobility. The Baron's debt was
discharged.

CHAPTER X.

We might very well suppose that Africa, flattered at receiving a
visit from Europeans, is bent upon preparing a fresh surprise for us
every day, and wishes to astonish us by the variety of her landscapes
and manners. The soil, and they who inhabit it, present a fresh
aspect every moment, so that the eye is never wearied, curiosity is
always aroused, and one's imagination is incessantly active.

Yesterday, we met with a race of dwarfs, the Akkas; to-day we find
ourselves amongst the Maleggas, men of commanding stature, and
admirably-proportioned limbs, with frank, open countenances, fine
eyes, well-shaped mouths, and complexions of bronze. Yesterday we
were fighting against the Domondoos, a set of cowardly, cruel brutes;
to-day we have been received with open arms by a hospitable, brave,
and almost intellectual people.

The natives, amongst whom we have sojourned during the past few
months, have never been able to make up their minds to cultivate the
ground, although the soil requires so little labour, and repays the
slightest attention. They reap the harvest before it is ripe, gather
the fruit whilst it is still green, and in every conceivable way
display their ingratitude towards the paradise where accident has
made them see the light. If they become tired of the vegetables and
fruit which Nature places ready to their hands, if the manna which
falls from heaven does not suffice them, and if they hanker after
more substantial food, they betake themselves to plundering their
neighbours, "lifting" their cattle, and growing fat at their expense.

For the last few days, on the other hand, we have been passing
through a vast territory in a state of perfect cultivation, whose
inhabitants are self-dependent. Oxen form the wealth of the country,
and every hamlet possesses a large quantity of them. They roam at
will through the extensive pasture-grounds watered by numerous
streams converging towards the Keebally. This constant supply of
water renders the plains as green, even in summer, as they are in the
height of the rainy season. Vast forests encircle them and shelter
them from the sun's rays, and where the plain is of too great an
extent to be effectually shaded by the surrounding woods, trees
scattered here and there prevent all possibility of its being parched
and dried up. Here one sees a tamarind tree, eighty feet in diameter,
and forming a perfect bower; there a baobab, with a circumference of
twenty yards.

Such of the cattle as are not allowed to roam about, are herded in
large kraals surrounded by palisades and guarded by herdsmen, who
keep large fires burning to protect them from the flies and
mosquitoes. We are in the midst of a mild-mannered race of shepherds,
who fight in self-defence alone, when their wealth provokes the
cupidity of their neighbours. As a measure of precaution, sentries
continually patrol round the kraals and villages, and the war-drum is
ever in readiness to summon the tribe to arms. As if to assert that
they are neither invaders nor oppressors, but confine themselves to
protecting their native land, their dwellings and their families, the
Maleggas do not possess any weapon of attack. They replace the bow
and arrow by a long-bladed knife, and a formidable iron-headed club.

These people defend themselves valiantly, and their neighbours are so
well aware of it that they hesitate to attack them. In other respects
the Maleggas show themselves friendly-disposed towards the bordering
tribes, and, in order to enjoy the blessings of peace, and herd their
cattle in ease and tranquillity, they pay tribute to those whose
strength they fear. They never trouble their heads about the
Domondoos, their northern neighbours, because the Monbuttoos, as we
have already seen, make it their business to bring that nation to
reason once a year, and carry all its able-bodied men into slavery.

Amongst this tribe, out of place in the heart of Africa, planted,
apparently, by God, to be an example to their neighbours—an example,
by-the-way, by which those neighbours do not profit the least—we
ought very easily to obtain the information we seek.

If accident had not placed in our hands the notes written by M. de
Guéran, we should not have learnt a single thing from the Domondoos,
who were incapable even of understanding our interpreters and
replying to them. But here, with the knowledge we have already gained
of the negro dialects, which are very various, but always, to a
certain extent, analogous, we can often manage to convey our own
meaning, and grasp the sense, at all events, of what is said to us.
The vocabularies of these tribes are not so voluminous as our own; a
few simple words and certain expressions, adopted into common usage,
form the foundation of the language. By degrees, one gets to
understand these, and any verbal deficiencies are made up
advantageously by a look or a gesture.

These interviews were not always easily arranged, because in the
first districts we passed through, our arrival produced great
consternation. King Kadjoro, however, lost no time in assuring his
subjects that they had nothing to fear from the Monbuttoos, and
Munza, at the same time, maintained strict discipline in his army,
having secured that desirable end by the summary execution of a few
thieves and marauders.

In spite of these delicate attentions on the part of Munza, and the
remonstrances of their own King, the peaceable Maleggas in the first
instance took to flight at the very approach of our noisy and always
unruly army. But by degrees, when the soldiers had constructed their
camp, and it was seen that they laid aside their arms and lolled
about quietly in the shade, the natives returned to their homes, and
frequently came to our side of the encampment.

Without being almost entirely clothed, as the Monbuttoos are, the
Maleggas wear a species of drawers made out of cow-hide, which
renders them presentable. This is supplemented by tattooing, in their
case very complicated, composed of curved and straight lines crossing
each other, with zigzags and circles intermixed. The women, following
the example of their sisters in other tribes, wear a costume of
leaves, and are not sparing of the material, which is always of
considerable dimensions. Near the equator, Nature is liberal with her
foliage, and the Malegga ladies take advantage of her generosity to
give amplitude to their garments.

It was not long before we were surrounded by curious, but not
offensively inquisitive groups. We, on our side, scanned the crowd
attentively, so as to single out the man or woman whose appearance
held out the greatest promise of intelligence. When we hit upon a
likely subject, we called him or her, as the case might be, to come
to us. The individual thus distinguished would hesitate at first, and
show signs of retreating, but urged on by his comrades he would end
by waddling awkwardly towards us.

The examination would then commence, M. de Guéran, of course, being
the sole topic. Here we learnt that he stayed in the neighbouring
village for nearly a fortnight. He appeared, so we were told, tired
and ill, and dragged himself along rather than walked. They showed us
the hut where he had rested, and whence, as soon as he felt himself
strong enough, he had set out towards the south. We were thus
following our fellow-countryman, step by step. We saw him, as it
were, recovering his strength, and making longer and longer stages on
his journey. The hospitality of the Maleggas hastened his recovery;
in the villages on the frontier he was still an invalid, staggering
along; in the hamlets in the centre of the country he was a man
again, stronger and more vigorous. He walked and did not merely
crawl.

His portrait never varies, but seems graven on the memory of the
whole tribe. Those who never saw him have heard him spoken of so
often that they know him and can depict his appearance. The journey
of this stranger through the country has been a regular event, and
the recollection of it is even now far from dying out.

Everybody is agreed on the point that he had a long fair beard, and
flowing locks. This latter detail was at first a surprise to the
Baroness, who only knew her husband as with a pair of moustaches and
short hair, but it soon dawned upon her that M. de Guéran, robbed by
the Domondoos of all his baggage, must have been obliged to submit to
the growth of that which he could neither cut nor shave. Besides,
travellers in central Africa, even those who have not been robbed, as
the Baron was, do not take very great pains with their toilet, and we
are exceptionally favoured in this respect, thanks to Joseph, who at
the commencement of our journey was appointed to the rank of sole
barber to the expedition. It also very frequently happens that
Europeans end by drawing near to the Africans in the matter of
complexion, the fair ones becoming coffee-coloured, and the dark ones
chocolate. The skin peels under the influence of the sun's burning
rays, one becomes unrecognizable and might very easily pass muster,
if not amongst regular negroes, at all events amongst many tribes of
a less dusky hue. M. de Guéran appears to have saved from the wreck
the clothes he had on, for he is described as having been dressed
very much as we are. This piece of minor information seemed to
delight Miss Poles, who had never attempted to conceal her fear that
we shall find M. de Guéran reduced to the condition of a savage,
which, she is wont to add, would be very shocking.

The natives are very clear about the route adopted by the white man
on leaving their village for the next hamlet, but we can gain no
information as to the direction he took on the day when he finally
quitted their country, or, indeed, whether he ever left it. Their
knowledge and information never extend beyond a radius of five or six
leagues; the districts in the north are entirely ignorant of what
passes in those of the centre and south. It could not well be
otherwise in countries where communication is a matter of difficulty,
and newspapers are unknown. We can only be assured on this point when
we reach the monarch, who, according to all accounts, appears to have
hospitably entertained the European traveller. In the meantime,
thanks to the intelligence of the Maleggas, we can trace, to a
certain extent, each stage made by our fellow-countryman. He arrived
amongst them in the middle of October, just as we were setting out
from Paris in search of him. That, seeing that we are now in October,
1873, is precisely a year ago. We can, even, approach him in thought
more nearly than that, as he certainly remained amongst the Maleggas
for several months, taking advantage of their hospitality to recruit
his forces, to pick up again, in vulgar _parlance_, in order to
attempt fresh enterprises. Six or eight months only, therefore,
separate us from him—a blank of six or eight months, how has he
filled up that blank? That is a question which we must lose no time
in answering.

As we approach the royal residence the country becomes still more
picturesque, and the villages succeed each other in closer, more
unbroken array. They are dotted here and there on the hills, and
nestle amidst their wooded and flowering slopes. We are tempted to
forget Africa and to imagine ourselves in Normandy. Goats frisk about
the hills, cattle find luxuriant pasture in the plains, and
diminutive shepherds armed with miniature lances and clubs keep watch
over the flocks and herds. Pretty girls, with upright carriage and
shapely limbs, bearing huge jars on their heads, wend their way
towards the river. In front of the huts, under a sort of verandah
composed of banana branches, the family take their ease, from the
hoary-headed ancient to the toddling infant just taking his first
lessons in walking. The sun pours his rays in streams over this
landscape; odours of ineffable sweetness escape from the flower-laden
bushes, and the birds sing amongst the branches. We push as far as
possible ahead of the army to revel, free and untroubled, in the
glorious beauty of the scene.

At length the roll of our drums is echoed by a similar sound from
afar, shouts are heard, men run to meet us, soldiers appear. Kadjoro
is advancing to welcome his ally Munza. Despite the simplicity of his
manner and customs, he has seized on the opportunity for display. An
African sovereign could never deny himself that pleasure.

CHAPTER XI.

The King of the Maleggas took his royal brother by the hand, and led
him towards an immense baobab, underneath which he is in the habit of
holding his receptions and administering justice. A space of about
twenty square yards is carpeted with ox hides, and trunks of trees,
covered with hyæna, lion, and leopard skins, serve for the throne and
its surrounding seats.

Whilst we lingered behind the two chiefs, and in the midst of their
respective escorts, I examined Kadjoro. He is a man about thirty
years of age, tall and robust. His manner is a mixture of the rustic
and the warrior. His features are regular and agreeable; his eyes
black, fine and full of expression; his hair, or, to describe it more
correctly, his mane is parted in the middle of his forehead, and
falls behind his ears in numerous twists, reaching to the shoulders.
Feathers of the ostrich, eagle and vulture are stuck at intervals in
this thick wool. In his left hand he holds a shield of buffalo hide,
in his right a club, and, after the manner of his tribe, a portion of
his body is covered with a pair of very ample breeches. Looking only
at his features, his physiognomy generally, and his olive complexion,
one might take him for a European; his mane, ornaments, and tattoo-marks
make him a savage, "but a very handsome savage," affirms Miss
Poles, who has already, from behind her blue spectacles, made her
little observations, and gives us the benefit of them.

"Take care," said de Morin to me in a whisper, "she is quite capable
of falling in love with Kadjoro, and indulging in some fresh folly."

I promised my friend that I would watch over her.

The King has not yet taken his seat; he converses with his guest, and
is questioning him, undoubtedly about us, for he frequently looks in
our direction, a proceeding which puts Miss Poles in a great state of
excitement, she being already persuaded that the new monarch is
noticing and admiring her.

"How far superior he is to Munza!" she repeats, incessantly.

Suddenly, Kadjoro, having, doubtless, heard all about us from his
royal friend, leaves him abruptly, comes to where we are standing,
shakes hands with us three, bows to our two companions, just as we
Europeans should do, and, by a wave of his hand, invites us to follow
him.

"He is charming," whispers Delange; "this savage has the manners of a
_grand seigneur_."

Reminding him that Kadjoro must by this time know of our connection
with M. de Guéran, we follow the King and set foot on the carpet of
skins.

Our entrance into the reserved enclosure is made to the accompaniment
of Malegga music. A score of musicians, placed at a convenient
distance, blow to the full extent of their lungs into elephants'
tusks shaped like shells, at the same time keeping in perpetual
motion their arms and legs, on which, at the wrists, knees, and
ankles, are hung small iron bells. Behind these musicians stand the
members of the royal Court, eager to see us; everybody is standing on
tip-toe, and some high dignitaries, forgetful of the proprieties,
even get on their neighbours' backs. But no one dares penetrate into
the enclosure reserved for the King and his guests. Not a single
woman is to be seen anywhere; it appears that, amongst the Maleggas,
they are excluded from all public meetings.

At a sign from Kadjoro, the orchestra is silent. We take our places
on the seats pointed out to us by the King, and the interview, to
which we have for so long looked forward, commences.

"Welcome to my kingdom!" were the first words of Kadjoro. "You are
the friends of my ally, the King of the Monbuttoos. That is
sufficient for me, and I do not need any explanation of your plans."

"We, on the contrary," said de Morin, at once, "wish to inform you of
those plans. We can have no secrets from one who has behaved in so
generous and hospitable a manner towards us ever since we have been
in his dominions."

"Speak," replied the King, "and I will endeavour to be of service to
you."

"We quite believe you. To see you and hear you is to believe in your
sincerity."

De Morin had expressed the opinion of all of us. At first sight we
were drawn towards this savage, so superior to all those whom we had
seen, even to the King of the Monbuttoos himself.

"Whatever you do, do not wound our touchy Munza by being too
complimentary to his ally," said I to de Morin.

"Make your mind easy," replied my friend. "His turn will come."

Turning again towards Kadjoro, he resumed, aloud—

"We are in search of a white man, our father. He stayed for some time
in this country, and we are come to you for news of him."

"Your father! The white man was your father?"

De Morin was fully alive to all the dangers of the situation, but,
resolute as ever, he did not even take the trouble to enter into any
explanation, lest by so doing he should arouse the suspicions of
Munza, who was drinking in every word of the conversation. He hoped
also, for reasons already explained, that the title of father,
bestowed upon M. de Guéran, would pass unnoticed, or that in any case
Kadjoro would not attach any importance to it.

He was not mistaken. The King evidently recalled to his mind the worn
features of M. de Guéran, his long beard, his flowing locks, his
countenance seared by severe illness, and, glancing at Madame de
Guéran, young, charming, and with her colour heightened by the
excitement under which she was labouring, he acknowledged to himself
that she might well be the stranger's daughter.

Without, however, giving him time to utter a word, which might have
been dangerous for us, de Morin went on to say—

"We have made a long and perilous journey to obtain an interview with
you. We beg you, therefore, to tell us all you know about him who was
your guest."

"Yes, he was both my guest and my friend," said the Malegga chief, in
a tone almost of affection.

"Where is he?" asked de Morin, quickly. "Can he still be in your
dominions?"

"No, no," said the King, sadly; "he left me long ago."

We all shared in the emotion now exhibited by Madame de Guéran. She
had risen from her seat, and pale and trembling, but determined to
know all as soon as possible, she herself questioned the African
monarch through the medium of Nassar.

These questions were not, perhaps, put in the order in which I now
write them, but the interview, so interesting to all of us, not
excepting Munza, is to this day so vividly impressed on my memory,
that I feel sure I do not forget a single incident, nor err, either
as to the sense of the questions, or the answers to them, which were
given without the slightest hesitation, and with the utmost candour.

"Is he who was your guest still living?" asked Madame de Guéran,
abruptly.

"I do not know," was the reply. "Since the day he crossed my
frontier, I have had no news of him."

"When did he leave you?"

Kadjoro made a calculation, and entered into some explanations with
Nassar, from which we gathered that scarcely six months had elapsed
since the departure of M. de Guéran.

"Which direction did he take on leaving you?"

"Towards the south, in the direction of the mountains."

"What country would he enter on crossing your frontier?"

"Ulindi."

"Is it large?"

"Yes; it extends as far as the mountains."

"What is the name of the King who rules over it?"

"It is not a King; it is a Queen—Queen Walinda, who has given her
name to her kingdom and her subjects. They are called Walindis."

Nassar informed us that in Africa, when the name of a country begins
with _U_, that of the inhabitants commences with _Wa_.

"Do you think that this Queen has allowed our father to continue his
journey?"

"No, I do not think so. She does not even allow her neighbours, or
her allies like ourselves, to enter her kingdom."

"Nevertheless, from what you say, our father appears to have entered
it?"

"Yes, against all my advice. But he would be made prisoner at once."

"You are sure of that?"

"It cannot have happened otherwise, for he Has not returned to my
dominions."

"There would be no necessity for his returning, if he could succeed
in crossing the mountains?"

"He could not cross them. They are the boundary of the earth; it ends
there."

Instead of combating this error, de Morin said to the King—

"Then, if our father still lives, we shall find him amongst the
Walindis?"

"No, you will never find him. You will be taken prisoners, as he has
been, as soon as you set foot in the country."

"We will purchase the right of going through it," said I at once.

Nassar had scarcely time to translate these words before the King
demanded an explanation; he could not grasp the meaning of my
expression. In the districts where the ivory and slave merchants have
not penetrated, the idea of securing a right of way by payment has
not entered the minds of the natives; they consider that everybody is
free to traverse the uncultivated districts, and, with few
exceptions, look upon a visit from a stranger as a compliment. If, in
the districts watered by the Nile and on the high road of the
caravans, any tribute is exacted, it is simply because the slave
merchants, fearing the loss of their prisoners, have adopted the
custom of offering presents to the chiefs for the purpose of securing
their good-will. For a long time the latter remained in ignorance of
the reason why their wishes were thus anticipated, but they have
since then taken kindly to the custom, and now display the greatest
rapacity towards white men, all of whom they regard indiscriminately
as traders in human flesh.

"The Queen of the Walindis," resumed Kadjoro, as soon as he
understood what we meant, "will decline your presents, and will not
allow you even to get as far as her palace."

"We will get there by force," said de Morin.

"It is evident that you do not know my neighbours," replied the King.
"I am strong and powerful, but yet I pay them a tribute to prevent
them making war on me."

"Their army, then, is more numerous than yours?"

"No, but the battalions of women of whom it is composed frighten my
soldiers."

The King perceived our astonishment, and hastened to give Nassar the
following details. At the commencement of his reign, the Walindis
suddenly invaded his country on a cattle-stealing expedition. He had
defended himself valiantly, and was on the point of gaining a
decisive victory, when a numerous force of women, commanded by the
Queen in person, appeared on the scene and, in a few moments, routed
his whole army. These female warriors, of whose very existence he was
ignorant, were young, for the most part lovely, and strong and brave
to a degree. They did not waste any time in shooting arrows, or
fighting at a distance; they came to close quarters at once, and
committed fearful havoc with their steel pikes and long knives. It
was impossible to seize them, or even to approach them at all
closely; their foreheads, necks, waists, wrists, legs below the
thigh, and feet above the ankle, were surrounded with iron rings
barbed with sharp points a foot long, which served at once for
offensive and defensive weapons. The King added that, whilst
fightings they utter most terrifying cries, their eyes flash fire,
and they foam at the mouth; they give no quarter, despise making
prisoners, and, as soon as they have wounded an enemy, they despatch
him. Consequently, these women inspire the Maleggas with
unconquerable fear, and it was because of this fear that Kadjoro had
come to the conclusion that he had better make a few prudent
concessions to his neighbours, and purchase the alliance of their
Queen, the lovely and invincible Walinda, as she is called in this
Country.

"It seems to me," said de Morin, turning to us, "that in the heart of
Africa we have found a second kingdom of Dahomey."

"And it seems to me," whispered Delange in my ear, "that I shall very
soon find myself in the presence of my Venus in ebony."

CHAPTER XII.

If the Amazons, whose existence has just come to our knowledge are
too formidable for us to make light of them, we must on no account
allow it to be supposed that they cause us any alarm.

Consequently, de Morin, addressing the King, went on to say—

"I can quite understand that your troops, armed only with lances and
clubs, are afraid of the Queen of the Walindis and her female
warriors. But it need not be the same with us, because our arms
enable us to keep the enemy at a distance, and so avoid the hand to
hand conflicts which you describe as being so deadly."

"I know your arms," replied the King, "your fellow-countryman spoke
to me of their effect. I know that they make thunder, but I also know
that they cannot always make it. The time comes sooner or later when
they are of no more use than these clubs of ours which you appear to
despise."

M. de Guéran had evidently explained to Kadjoro, so far as such a
thing was possible, the mechanism of fire-arms, and the negro king
was fully aware of their uselessness without ammunition.

"You are quite right," replied de Morin, holding up his rifle, "in
supposing that there is a time when this weapon can no longer kill.
But a few moments alone would suffice to disperse or destroy the
whole force of Walindis. Ask your ally how long it took to conquer
the Domondoos after we appeared on the scene."

Kadjoro drew himself up. We had not convinced him.

"My neighbours in the south," said he, "are far more formidable than
those in the north. I do not fear the Domondoos, but I do dread the
Walindis. You may massacre one half of their array, and the remainder
will exterminate you and yours. Your father knew their power and
shared my fears."

"Which, by the way," replied de Morin, "did not prevent him from
venturing into the midst of them alone. We cannot hesitate to do what
he has done, more especially when his safety is at stake."

Kadjoro, obstinate as all negroes are, did not budge an inch.

"Your fellow-countryman was alone," he persisted, "and there was no
reason to fear him; his life has, therefore, probably been spared.
You are numerous and well-armed, and, consequently, they will kill
you."

"Very well, they will kill us," exclaimed de Morin and Delange,
simultaneously, my voice coming up behind like an echo.

Instead of admiring us, Kadjoro looked at us with a pitying air; with
him wisdom and prudence predominated over enthusiasm. But the King of
the Monbuttoos came to our rescue; if Kadjoro had the bump of
obstinacy very strongly developed, his African brother was proud to
excess, and de Morin at once made every effort to rouse that pride.
Munza fell into the trap immediately, and, taking the King of the
Maleggas aside, told him that he would never abandon the white
people, who were his guests and his friends, but that he would march
with them against the tribe which held their father in captivity.

"In that case you will be utterly annihilated," observed Kadjoro,
calmly.

Nothing could have served our purpose better than this speech. Munza
was furious, declaring that his army was invincible, and that he
would soon prove it. If Madame de Guéran had not joined us in
smoothing him down, he would have declared war, on the nail, against
the King of the Maleggas in order to show his power. But, from that
moment we could rely upon our powerful ally; he was determined to
have a trial of strength with the Walindis. It is quite possible that
the cunning Kadjoro was playing a similar game to our own; he was
urging Munza on against his own inconvenient and dangerous
neighbours, people whom he dared not attack, but whom his ally, led
away by his pride, was bent on fighting. Whatever might be the result
of the struggle, the King of the Maleggas had nothing to lose, and
everything to gain; a defeat of the Monbuttoos would render them less
exacting as regards an ally who had up to that time been treated by
them as a vassal, whilst their success, on the other hand, would
diminish the power of the Walindis, and, perhaps, do away with his
paying any further tribute to them. Negro monarchs are, very
frequently, rather clever politicians, and Kadjoro, more intelligent
than his contemporaries, might, if the worst came to the worst, not
only turn diplomatist, but be a grand success in that line.

In the course of one hour we had made a great step in advance; we had
received the most positive information that, six months previously,
the Baron de Guéran had started off in the direction of Ulindi and we
had strong reasons for supposing that he was still in that territory,
only a few days' march from us. Finally, Munza, who might very
reasonably have declined to proceed any farther southwards, had
decided, not merely from a desire to please Madame de Guéran, but
impelled by his pride as a negro and a king, to accompany us, and,
with us, attempt fresh adventures. It was no longer an effort to
induce him to move onwards; on the contrary, we had our work cut out
to limit his zeal, and tone down an eagerness, which, if applied in a
wrong direction, would do us positive harm.

In reality, if, as Kadjoro asserted, his neighbours are formidable,
Munza's army, notwithstanding our support, may be defeated and
exterminated, and we may share its fate. In our interest, therefore,
in that of Madame de Guéran—in short, on all accounts we must, if we
can manage it, avoid coming to blows with this Venus in ebony, as
Delange persists in calling her.

Madame de Guéran, whose influence over Munza was all the greater by
reason of her never condescending to make use of it, undertook to
preach prudence to the King, without, however, extinguishing all his
warlike fire. She advised him to send to Walinda a regular embassy,
charged with proposals for an alliance and a request for an
interview. If the Queen assented, the army of the Monbuttoos would
enter the neighbouring territory peaceably, and would assist us in
our endeavour to liberate our compatriot. If, on the other hand,
Walinda declined the alliance, that army would march against her, and
the Europeans, with easy consciences, this time fighting on their own
behalf, would render assistance to the Monbuttoos.

One difficulty, however, presented itself. How were Munza's
ambassadors to react the Queen, in a country ever on the alert,
always suspicious, and where the chiefs of districts had orders to
treat all strangers as enemies?

Kadjoro helped us out of this dilemma. It was his time for paying the
Walindis his annual tribute, and he offered to let his envoys
accompany ours. Munza's officers would mingle indiscriminately with
the Maleggas, would pass unnoticed in their midst, and in that way
would reach the royal palace, situated at the other extremity of the
kingdom, at the foot, according to all accounts, of the mountains.
This offer was accepted, and we took a speedy leave of Kadjoro. Our
departure was as simple as our arrival had been; a little music, a
few shouts, and that was all. Whether the King of the Maleggas had a
contempt for excessive pomp and show, or whether he was not in a
position to display it, his reception of us was not to be named in
the same breath with that vouchsafed by the King of the Monbuttoos,
except that it was far more frank and cordial.

As soon as we got back to camp, de Morin joined me, and, taking his
arm, I said—

"You are quite of opinion, are you not, that the despatch of Munza's
ambassadors to Ulindi will not suffice for us? They are going to
propose an alliance and an interview, very important, I admit, if M.
de Guéran is a prisoner there, which is possible, probable even, but
by no means certain. The great point with us is to find out whether
the Baron is actually present in the neighbouring district, and to
commit that task to somebody on whom we can rely."

"Precisely so," replied de Morin, "and I pushed on the business of
the embassy in order to settle the question of M. de Guéran with as
little delay as possible. If we receive news of his death, we shall
then only have to get rid of Munza, and try to reach Zanzibar by some
route more to the south, which will enable us to avoid these terrible
Walindis. In that case, we might skirt the Blue Mountains and reach
Lake Victoria by Ouando, without paying any attention to Lake Albert.
For Delange's sake I shall be sorry to make this _détour_, for he is
burning to see this Venus in ebony of his, but, before all things, I
must look after our own safety. If, on the other hand, our envoy
should find M. de Guéran a prisoner in the hands of the neighbouring
tribe, we will endeavour to communicate with him, and get him to tell
us what plan he may have formed for escape."

"Admirably conceived," said I, "but have you settled who this trusted
envoy is to be? He must be brave, reliable, intelligent, devoted, and
prudent. Who is there amongst us who unites in himself these
indispensable qualifications?"

"Delange, you, and I," replied de Morin. "But we cannot ask the
doctor to make such a sacrifice; it would be taking advantage of him.
As for you, my dear Périères, though I detest you as my rival, I have
the sincerest friendship for you, and I could not suggest your doing
what I myself am incapable of undertaking. My devotion to Madame de
Guéran stops at the point of making myself an object of ridicule."

"Ridicule?" I repeated. "I do not understand you. What do you mean?"

"What!" replied de Morin. "Cannot you see that, taking into
consideration the hostile attitude of the Walindis, a white man could
only form part of the proposed embassy by metamorphosing himself
entirely, and passing for a Malegga or a Monbuttoo? Not a very
difficult business, either; I would undertake to transmogrify myself
in an hour into a savage, and the transformation would be a success,
I assure you. But the fear of ridicule, as I have already told you,
is precisely the thing that holds me back. I know what women are;
there are certain impressions which they cannot get over. Madame de
Guéran, as soon as she knew that I was going to set out alone to
discover her husband, would exclaim—'What a splendid fellow that M.
de Morin is, and how devoted!' But when I appeared on the scene,
clean shaved, with ostrich feathers in my hair, powdered with cinders
to darken my skin, still too white despite the efforts of the sun,
tattoed with all the colours of the rainbow, three parts dressed in
cow-hide breeches, with naked feet, a club in one hand, and a shield
in the other, she would burst out laughing and show all her pretty
teeth, and I should be for ever lost, as far as she is concerned. And
her husband? Cannot you picture to yourself her husband refusing to
take me for an European? I should have to say to him—'I am not a
savage, as you think I am; I am a Parisian, M. de Morin, Rue
Taitbout, near Tortoni's. I have been chasing you for the last six
months, in company with your wife, whom I love. I am going back to
her, give me some message to take with me—' No, my dear Périères, a
thousand times no! Notwithstanding my devotion, I have not the
courage to make myself so ridiculous, and I advise you to follow the
example of my reserve. If, however, in spite of my advice, you choose
to convert yourself into a savage—you will, perhaps, play the part
more naturally than I should—I have nothing more to say, and I will
let you go without displaying any great amount of annoyance. The
friend will be grieved indeed, but the rival will rub his hands."

"Let the friend make his mind quite easy," I replied, "and do not let
the rival be in too great a hurry to rejoice, I cannot, any more than
you, afford to run counter to prejudice. Let us give up the idea of
sacrificing ourselves, and turn our attention to finding somebody who
will sacrifice himself in our stead, and allow us to travesty him."

"Let us think," said de Morin.

He thought for a moment, and then exclaimed—

"Eureka!"

"Who is it?"

"Miss Poles."

CHAPTER XIII.

The idea of disguising Miss Poles as a savage was more amusing than
practical. I remarked to de Morin that she would be in the same boat
with ourselves; she lacked neither the courage nor the intelligence
for such an adventure, but she would dread ridicule as much as we
did. And besides this, I felt bound to point out that the scanty
amount of costume allowed for the part would be another obstacle in
the way.

"You see, my dear fellow," I continued, "that we must lose no time in
finding a substitute for Miss Poles. Munza, as regards energy and
promptitude of decision, has nothing of the negro about him. I can
see him down below there in the midst of his officers. He has very
likely made his choice of ambassadors by this time, and by to-morrow,
if not to-night, they may be on the road. We must think again."

"What do you say to Nassar? He is trusty and devoted to us."

"He is a Dinka," I replied. "There would be considerable difficulty
in passing him off as a Malegga or a Monbuttoo. These people cannot
help betraying their nationality, because, to say nothing of other
details, their gums, deprived, according to the custom of their
country, of several teeth, would at once call attention to them. In
addition to this, Nassar is proud of his so-called uniform,
especially his boots. You would have some diflficulty in persuading
him to leave those off, seeing that he would be afraid of losing his
_prestige_. Nassar is no more destitute of _amour-propre_ than we
are."

"There only remain," said de Morin, "our two Arab interpreters, Omar
and Ali. The latter, especially, has given us many proofs of his
devotion, courage, and intelligence. To him, as well as to you, I owe
my rescue from bondage amongst the Bedouins of El-Hejaz."

"Happy thought!" I exclaimed. "Our brave Ali will do capitally. He
has for a long time been complaining of his inaction; he is jealous
of Nassar, who is, in these parts, the more useful of the two, and he
will, I have no doubt, be thoroughly satisfied with our choice."

"But," observed de Morin, "he does not understand the dialect of the
country."

"So much the better. Will not his sole duty consist of looking about
him, making observations, and telling us what he has seen? It would
be dangerous for him to question the Walindis about M. de Guéran; he
would at once, in that case, rouse their suspicions, and the Queen
must at all hazards be kept in ignorance that any search is on foot
after her prisoner. We ought to rejoice over Ali's ignorance of the
language. He will be mute—at all events until he meets M. de Guéran
and can speak to him. He knows quite enough of French for that."

"You have convinced me," said de Morin. "Let us go to the Baroness,
who is chatting, as you see, with Delange, and apprise her of our
plan. If she approves, we must act without loss of time."

The same evening our interpreter, Ali, was in a position to pass as a
native of the country. His olive tint would not have been suspected
by a Malegga, and, on the score of tattooing, de Morin, who took that
in hand, had succeeded admirably.

"Ah," said he, as he covered our interpreter's skin with suns,
arabesques, birds, and animals, "how I should have enjoyed doing this
on Miss Poles' back! It is really too cruel that an artist is not
allowed to choose his own canvas."

Whilst de Morin was thus transforming an Arab into a Malegga, Delange
and I drew up a letter intended for M. de Guéran, in case our envoy
should meet him without being able to speak to him.

This note was couched in the following terms—

"An expedition, sent from Europe in search of you, is aware of your
being a prisoner amongst the Walindis. Lose no time in joining it in
the country of your former host, Kadjoro, or, if that is out of your
power, send a line by our envoy to let us know how best we can rescue
you."

We had settled with Madame de Guéran that her name was not to be
mentioned, because if the Baron were to know that his wife, whom he
believed to be in Paris, was so near him, he might be tempted, in
order to join her, to commit some act of imprudence which would cost
him his life.

The embassy, composed of ten Monbuttoos, thirty Maleggas, with whom
went Ali, and a thousand oxen, sent by Kadjoro as tribute to Queen
Walinda, started on the 10th of October. A month must elapse before
their return, and that time was barely sufficient to accomplish the
end de Morin had in view—to form a battalion capable of aiding us and
reinforcing our escort. This body, according to our friend's idea,
was to be composed of a hundred men, armed with rifles and revolvers.
We had arms enough for such a number, and we looked to the King of
the Monbuttoos to furnish us with the men. We had, hitherto, refused
to let him have any of our reserve arms, because we were afraid that
we might have to fight him in order to regain our liberty. This fear
was still present with us, but it had to yield before a necessity
that might soon be ours—that of coming to blows with the renowned and
formidable people of Ulindi.

Munza, following our advice, chose, with the greatest care, from out
his army a hundred tried men, who were placed under the direct orders
of de Morin. The latter armed them, taught them how to use their
rifles and revolvers, and gave them firing drill every day. In
conjunction with our Nubians, they formed a very respectable
battalion, quite capable of keeping the Walindis, male and female, in
check. At the same time, calling to my recollection what I had learnt
during the siege of Paris, I taught them battalion drill to a certain
extent, including skirmishing, rallying on a given point, and such
other evolutions as had not escaped my memory.

Kadjoro smiled as he saw all this going on. He began to admit, but
only to himself, that his terrible neighbour, to whom he had just
sent the flower of his flocks and herds, might, thanks to us, very
probably become less formidable. But, as a man of prudence, he
obstinately refused to allow his army to join that of Munza. He was
both frank in his refusal, and logical in his reason for it.

"If I unite with you to fight the Walindis," he said to his African
colleague, "you, as soon as the war is over, will hasten to return to
your own country with your prisoners and your booty—_voila tout_, as
far as you are concerned. The Queen will never revenge herself by
attacking you in your dominions; you live too far away, and you are
too powerful. But I, as her next-door neighbour, shall have to bear
the brunt of her vengeance, and she will make me pay dearly for the
damage I have done in concert with you. If, on the contrary, she
defeats us, she will not rest until she has taken possession of my
kingdom—a long-cherished wish on her part. I would rather that she
did not recognize any of my soldiers in the ranks of your army. By
these means she will have nothing wherewith to reproach me, and we
shall continue to live on terms of good understanding."

Whilst we were doing our best to carry out the transformation of
Munza's army, Madame de Guéran lived quite apart from us. The various
phases of emotion through which she had passed, her continual state
of apprehension, fear, and uncertainty, added, possibly, to the
dryness of the season and its abnormal heat, completely shook her
nervous system, and rendered her subject to an intermittent fever,
which even quinine was powerless to subdue. She never went outside
the tolerably spacious hut erected for her by Kadjoro, and only
received us at long intervals. We respected the seclusion imposed
upon her by her mental anxiety and bodily sufferings, and de Morin
and I were quite men enough to understand the trouble she was in, and
the struggle going on within her mind. Delange, who was confidant and
doctor in one, said to us sometimes—

"She suffers terribly, I assure you; but she is a charming woman!"

A charming woman! We know that only too well for the sake of our
peace of mind.

This moral prostration from which Madame de Guéran was suffering, and
the fever which kept her a prisoner in her hut, presented, at all
events, one advantage. Munza, whose passion had seemed to increase, a
circumstance which placed us in a perpetual state of anxiety lest we
should have to repress some folly on his part, became gradually
calmer as his idol was no longer visible.

Love in a negro, there is no disguising the fact, is exclusively
material; the heart is not concerned in it, and memory vanishes with
the disappearance of the object beloved. These imperfect beings are
cognizant of the transport of passion, but the infinite tenderness of
love is a sealed book to them. Absence, which revives our love,
extinguishes theirs; neither in thought nor in imagination can they
to-day dwell upon the being they worshipped yesterday. Sickness,
also, instinctively repels them; accustomed to look down upon a woman
and to regard her as a beast of burden, she becomes to them a useless
incumbrance and devoid of existence from the moment she succumbs to
bodily suffering. I am persuaded that Munza, infatuated yesterday,
and ready to become so again to-morrow, is to-day so calm and
tranquil in mind that, if it were not for his pride and obstinacy, he
would let us proceed on our journey without opposition.

November 6.—Our embassy cannot now be long in making its appearance,
and we have decided to go as far as the frontier to meet it. We shall
thus more speedily obtain the news we are so impatiently awaiting,
and we shall be in readiness to enter the territory of the Walindis,
either to fight them, or to have an interview with their Queen, as
the case may be.

November 25th.—At last the caravan is in sight, just as we had given
up all hope of ever seeing it again. Warned of its arrival, we have
all of us emerged from our tents. Yes! There is no doubt about it.
There is Ali in front. He recognizes us, and hurries to meet us. Why
such haste, if he has no news of M. de Guéran? The Arab and the
negro, when they are conscious of failure, dissemble and try to hide
their want of success. Our interpreter must have some great news for
us—our fate is on the point of being decided.

CHAPTER XIV.

Ali, our interpreter, was with us in a few seconds.

"I see by your eyes," I exclaimed, as soon as he reached us, "that
you have succeeded in your mission."

"Yes," replied the Arab triumphantly, "I have succeeded."

"You have discovered M. de Guéran?"

"I have found him, seen him, spoken to him."

"What did he tell you to say to us?"

"Nothing; he was not able to say a word, but I have something to give
you."

He put his hand into the leather bag which hung from his waist-belt,
pulled out a small sheet of paper, and handed it to us.

I opened it. Yes—it was the handwriting of M. de Guéran, the same
handwriting as that of the letter given to us at Khartoum by Nassar,
the same as that of the placard we found in the Domondoo hut.

I did not feel myself justified in reading the letter before Madame
de Guéran had seen it. Though her health had improved from the moment
she quitted Kadjoro's residence to accompany the army to the
frontier, she was still too weak to leave the camp, and she was
consequently ignorant of the arrival of the caravan. On Delange
devolved the duty of telling her the news, which would have indeed
been a hard task for de Morin or myself, and of giving her the letter
sent by her husband.

When we were alone with Ali we began our enquiries. De Morin, very
nervous, very much agitated, but, at the same time, very clear and
precise in his questions, opened the ball.

"Why," he asked, "have you been so long away? You have been absent
now for more than six weeks, and the journey there and back,
according to what the King has told us, as a rule does not take more
than a month. Did the Queen detain you, as prisoners, any time?"

"No," said Ali, "but her people would scarcely let us pass. All the
chiefs of districts made us wait for orders before they would allow
us to go on. Besides, the country is not at all like this; at every
step we came across torrents flowing down from the mountains. Storms
are of frequent occurrence at the end of the rainy season, and we
lost a great deal of time in overcoming all these difficulties."

"Did you come across a large lake, marked on some of our maps as Lake
Piaggia?"

"No, I never saw it. There is no such thing in the country."

"Is the territory of the Walindis of great extent?"

"Yes, twenty days' march before you get to the royal palace."

"Is it a fact, as we have been told, that the palace is on the
eastern frontier of the kingdom?"

"It is at the foot of a lofty and impassable mountain."

Our interpreter, no doubt, meant that mountain which the latest
African explorers call Mount Maccorly or M'Caroli.

"And behind that mountain," I asked, "are there others?"

"Yes, larger still, so large that they hide the sky. Their tops
appear quite blue, and at night a great noise may be heard coming
from their bowels, like the sound produced by a hundred torrents
falling together from a lofty height."

"Those are the falls spoken of as being at the north end of Lake
Albert," said de Morin to me. "The information given us by Ali leads
to the inference that the residence of Walinda is situated at the
foot of the Blue Mountains, in Lat. 2° N., and that Lake Albert is
immediately behind those mountains. The noise heard by our
interpreter evidently proceeds from the cascades, falls, or cataracts
on the eastern shores of the lake, at the same elevation as Magungo,
and called by certain geographers the Murchison Falls. All these
details are valuable, for I certainly think," added de Morin,
somewhat bitterly, "that we are now called upon to work on behalf of
M. de Guéran by throwing him, as soon as possible, into the arms of
his wife."

"My dear fellow," said I, "our first duty is to rescue our
fellow-countryman. Suppose, for a moment, that we did not know him, and
that, instead of being the husband of our companion, he were a
stranger to us, should we hesitate for a moment to go to his rescue?"

"No," replied de Morin quickly, "certainly not. All Europeans who
venture into these parts are mutually bound to aid and protect each
other. Nevertheless," he added, after a momentary pause, "during the
last few seconds, since the existence of M. de Guéran has been
established, a queer, novel, perhaps unworthy idea has entered my
head and worries me."

"Let us have your idea, by all means. Possibly I have one very like
it."

"I guessed as much. You are asking yourself, as I am, whether M. de
Guéran is really a prisoner with the Queen of the Walindis, endowed
by common report with so much beauty, this Venus in ebony, as Delange
will call her? You are tempted to believe that he is staying by her
side of his own free will, and that he does not half like the idea of
an expedition from Europe coming to interfere with his love-making?"

"I do not go quite to the same length that you do, my dear friend," I
replied, smiling. "It is quite possible, indeed, that our compatriot
has not always been insensible to the beauty of this female savage,
and that she, on her side, is infatuated about the first white man
she has ever seen, just as Munza is about the first white woman
brought to his notice. This sort of thing is by no means rare in
Africa. But a man of intellect like M. de Guéran, a Parisian, is not
very likely to surrender the habits of a life-time, civilization, and
a wife such as his, simply to spend his days in the society of a
native of Ulindi! Depend upon it, I am right. Ask any Parisian you
like who has visited Egypt, Palestine, and such-like places. M. de
Guéran, whatever position he may occupy amongst the Walindis, is
deserving of our sympathy. But, Ali, no doubt, can give us some
information as to what that position is. Let us continue our
cross-examination of him, and cut short our private reflections,
which, after all, as you will admit, proceed from jealousy."

Having thus delivered myself, I turned towards our interpreter, and
said to him—

"You were received by Queen Walinda?"

"Yes, sir; the caravan entered her palace, a mass of mud huts covered
with branches."

"What did you think of her? Is she as pretty as everybody says she
is?"

"Yes, and prettier still," replied the Arab quickly. "She is tall and
majestic, with a light brown complexion, ruddy lips, teeth like
ivory, and large eyes gleaming between the black fringe of her
eye-lashes."

I was afraid that this enthusiasm might involve a waste of time, so I
changed the subject.

"Was M. de Guéran with her," I asked, "when you saw him?"

"Yes, he never leaves her, or, really, she never leaves him. He walks
by her side, and they are surrounded by fifty female warriors, all
young, better made even than the Soudan women, supple as serpents,
and—"

Ali, ever enthusiastic, was going to plunge into a fresh
dissertation, but I stopped him.

"To come back to M. de Guéran," said I. "Did he appear to you to be
in good health?"

"No, he was pale, with a hectic flush on his cheeks, and a
disheartened look; he was evidently suffering from fever, for he
walked with difficulty."

"Is the climate of Ulindi unhealthy?"

"Not in the northern portion of the kingdom, in the midst of the
chains of hills we crossed; but a foreigner would find it so in the
vast plain where the royal residence is situated. The surrounding
mountains prevent the air from reaching it, and that causes a feeling
of suffocation. I suffered more from the heat there than in the
Nubian deserts."

I looked at de Morin, as much as to say to him, "You see, M. de
Guéran is not quite as happy as you thought he was." Then, turning to
Ali, I asked—

"How did you manage to get near our fellow-countryman?"

"The Queen," he replied, "went right through our caravan, in order to
make a closer examination of the animals we brought her. I took
advantage of the opportunity to get close to the white man and
whisper to him, 'your friends send me to you; they wish to deliver
you; drop your arm next to me and open your hand. I have a paper to
give you.' He started when he heard these words spoken in his native
tongue, but he soon recovered himself, and, without saying a word,
did as I asked him. At the same moment the Queen rejoined him and
they went away together."

"You saw him later on?"

"Yes, when the caravan took leave of Walinda. I managed to get close
to him again; he had recognized me, and made a sign to me. I
understood from it that he was not able to speak to me, but that he
had something to give me. Our two hands met; he shook mine, in token
of gratitude, no doubt, and slipped between my fingers the paper I
gave you."

"And that is all? He did not say a single word to you?"

"Not a word."

I turned towards de Morin, and said to him—

"You see now, my dear fellow, that M. de Guéran is really a prisoner,
and watched more narrowly than he would be on the hulks."

We had now only to thank our brave Ali for his services, and to send
him to Madame de Guéran, who, after having read her letter, would
certainly wish to question him.

As he was going away, Delange came up to us, and asked us whether we
had heard the Queen's reply.

"What reply?" we enquired.

Having for the past hour been exclusively occupied with M. de Guéran
and his concerns, we had forgotten all about the embassy sent by the
King of the Monbuttoos to the Queen of Ulindi. Delange told us that,
after having chatted for a moment with the Baroness, and handed her
M. de Guéran's letter, he had joined Munza. The latter had just
received the report of his ambassadors, which was to the effect that
the Queen absolutely declined either an alliance or an interview with
him.

"I do not wish"—to use her own words—"the tribes from the north to
enter my kingdom and bring their manners and customs with them. I do
not go to them, and why should they come to me? An alliance with them
is of no use to me; I am quite strong enough to defend myself against
all my neighbours put together. Tell your master to return to his own
dominions, and not to send me another embassy, because, if he does,
he will never see it again; I will have every man in it put to death,
from the first to the last."

"This reply," said Delange, "as you may well suppose, has exasperated
Munza. He wants to cross the frontier at once, and attack the
insolent Queen of the Walindis."

"We must not prevent him," replied de Morin. "It is our only method
now of rescuing the Baron."

"Perhaps he himself may have pointed out another," I suggested. "Let
us go to Madame de Guéran; she must have finished her reading by this
time, and will let us see what her husband says."

Without further delay we bent our steps towards the hut occupied by
Madame de Guéran in the middle of the encampment.

CHAPTER XV.

Miss Poles was waiting for us.

"The Baroness," said she, "will receive you whenever you wish, but
she begs you first of all to glance over these papers. She has just
read them, and says that they are addressed to you rather than to
her, since M. de Guéran has no idea that she is in Africa."

I took the papers, and drew de Morin into my tent.

"I feared," said I, "that Madame de Guéran would refuse to receive us
to-day, and I was astonished at her message."

"You were wrong to fear anything of the kind. The Baroness knows very
well that though, as Frenchmen, we may rejoice over the actual and
officially-reported resurrection of M. de Guéran, we are rather sorry
for it from another point of view. She knows also that we shall bring
with us somewhat gloomy countenances, and, with her usual bravery,
she wishes to confront us as soon as possible, and arm herself
against our despair. Moreover, we must not forget that ever since we
left Khartoum, her position towards us has been as open and clearly-defined
as possible; she has not concealed from us her conviction
that she should find her husband again, that she did not believe
herself to be a widow, and that, instead of having to kneel at the
tomb of a dead man, she hoped soon to throw herself into the arms of
a living one. She begged us not to follow her; it was our idea not to
leave her; so that it is not her fault if we have cherished the hope
that M. de Guéran might be dead and buried."

"You are a walking hand-book of logic," I replied, determined not to
be behind de Morin in the matter of forced spirits. "Let us study the
revelations of the _ci-devant_ corpse."

These revelations were written in pencil on some sheets of paper torn
out of the self-same note book which had already on several occasions
been used by the Baron in his communications.

I have copied these notes into the journal of the expedition, and not
into the private memorandum book wherein I jot down, every day, my
own personal impressions.

"From the bottom of my heart I thank the European expedition, which,
after having so courageously set out in search of me, is to-day bent
on rescuing me. But I cannot join it in the Malegga territory, nor
can I permit it to come to my aid in Ulindi.

"Flight is out of the question, for all the inhabitants of the
country are, in a way, my gaolers. They know that the Queen intends
to keep me prisoner, and nobody would dare to oppose her will.

"Three months ago I attempted to escape, and I got as far as five
leagues in the direction of the mountains. On the day after I started
all Walinda's guards were despatched in pursuit of me, and discovered
my hiding-place. I was conducted back to the royal residence with
every mark of respect, but the whole of the villages through which I
had passed, and where I was supposed to have received hospitality,
were burnt by order of the Queen, and all their inhabitants put to
death. More than three hundred beings were massacred. I have no
longer any right to escape.

"Neither do I think that I have any right, for the sake of regaining
my liberty, to expose Europeans to certain death. The expedition,
which so generously offers me its assistance, has already overcome so
many obstacles, and surmounted so many and great dangers, that it
deems itself capable of emerging safe and sound out of a fresh
adventure. It is mistaken; the Walindis do not in any way resemble
the other tribes which inhabit the north. They are stronger and more
dangerous than the most numerous and most warlike tribes on the
African continent. A day, perhaps an hour, will suffice for them to
crush a caravan, notwithstanding the bravery of its soldiers, and the
terror caused by fire-arms.

"Two vices, carried to excess, sensuality and sloth, appear to have
developed the warlike instincts of this tribe. Determined not to
cultivate their ground, more irregular, be it known, than the
neighbouring districts, disinclined to breed cattle, hunters and
fishers without any natural bent in that direction, but gluttons to
excess, and greedy of vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish, the
Walindis have gained a gradual reputation for being able to live at
the expense of their neighbours. Every inhabitant of the country has
turned soldier so as to avoid becoming a husbandman or a shepherd.

"An hereditary and despotic monarchy for a long time presided over
the destinies of this tribe, and transmitted, from reign to reign,
certain traditions and customs, having, for their object, the
maintenance of the warlike spirit of the people. Thus it happened
that a prince, acting on the ideas of his predecessors, formed a
corps of amazons, which later on became a regular army. These women,
enrolled at the age of twelve, are put through a course of training
and exercise, which develops their muscles, renders them wonderfully
active, and fits them to undergo any amount of fatigue and to brave
every danger. One of their exercises consists of hurling themselves,
entirely naked, against a village, defended by fascines of sharp
thorns and surrounded by gigantic cacti, and taking it by assault. It
is a species of petty warfare far more dangerous than ours, where
every combatant leaves strips of flesh behind her, if she does not
sustain, as is frequently the case, severe wounds.

"When they attain the age of fifteen, these young girls, by that time
converted into robust women, with large shoulders and hardy limbs,
active and supple to a degree, are incorporated into the army, which
is composed of five battalions, that is to say, five or six thousand
warriors. Their weapons are terrible; arrows dipped in a deadly
poison, and iron points, like bayonets, which protect their bodies
and render their hugs and embraces mortal.

"It is impossible to give any just idea of the discipline prevailing
amongst them; the most trivial faults are punished in the severest
manner, death being continually decreed. As for rewards, they are
eagerly sought after, and, in the case of the women, consist simply
of the right to marry. This is, in their idea, the supreme recompense
for their fatigue, their sufferings, and their courage. To obtain it,
they must have killed an enemy; the most rigorous celibacy is imposed
on those who have not fulfilled this condition. As soon as their
efforts are crowned with success, they no longer form part of the
active army, but belong to a sort of sedentary militia, constituting
the internal police of the country. Their daughters, unless they are
deformed, in which case the poor little things are pitilessly
massacred, are destined later on to become amazons like their mothers
were.

"Women, therefore, are a formidable element of power amongst the
Walindis, and it followed, very naturally, that one day, having found
out their superiority over the men, they determined to be governed by
a Queen instead of a King. This idea, as far as I can learn, was put
in force about twenty years ago, the reigning Queen, Walinda, having
succeeded, without any masculine interruption, six other sovereigns
of her sex. Her eldest daughter, the heiress to the throne, is being
brought up in the midst of the amazons, whose labours and dangers she
shares. She has no rivals in the shape of brothers to fear, because
all the male children of the Queen are smothered on the day they are
born. This ostracism, applied to our sex amongst the Walindis, is
confined to the throne and the royal dynasty. The government of the
various districts is entrusted to men; the male sex has also its
army, less formidable than that of the amazons, and inferior in
discipline, but far above the armies of other tribes.

"This information, which I beg the European expedition to transmit,
in my name, to our various Geographical Societies, will, I trust,
cause my fellow-countrymen to abandon their designs. I intreat them
to give up all attempt to rescue me. In my soul and my conscience I
feel that they can do nothing for me.

"Let me die in this country, where I have already accomplished some
good, where I hope to do more. Walinda keeps me a prisoner, I admit;
rather than let me leave her dominions, she would put her whole tribe
to death. But when my liberty is not in question, I exercise a
serious influence over her mind. She is gradually getting rid of her
barbarism. I have already succeeded in inducing her to abolish many
bloody customs. I have experienced the joy of saving hundreds of
lives, and I trust to save far more.

"If you had only seen the horrible spectacles at which I had to be
present during the first part of my stay here! Under the pretence of
sacrificing to the Gods, that is to say, to the hideous serpents
elevated by the priests and fetish-mongers, what rivers of blood have
been set flowing under my very eyes! One of these fêtes—heaven save
the mark—lasted a whole week, the Queen, surrounded by her personal
guard, presiding at it. On the first day a hundred prisoners were led
out on to a platform raised in front of the palace. They were seated
in huge baskets, thrown together pell-mell, men and women alike,
their knees forced up to their chins, their arms bound tightly across
their chests, and their mouths stopped with leaves. At a sign from
Walinda, the crowd drew near. I cannot give any idea of the
excitement, the gestures, the contortions, and the ferocity of this
mob. The joy depicted on every face! The voluptuous looks of the
amazons! With craning necks and chests pressed against the platform,
with every nerve in their bodies vibrating with pleasure, they
hungered for their prey, and gloated over the sufferings of their
victims, their nostrils quivering and their sensual mouths half open.

"At a fresh signal the drummers execute a prolonged roll, and a hush
succeeds the former din; the Queen, reclining indolently on her mats,
half rises, and the sacrificing priests, who were awaiting this
signal, commence their office. They drag each prisoner singly from
the baskets, bring him to the front of the platform, show him to the
crowd, and strangle or behead him forthwith. Each execution is
welcomed with cries of joy and frenzied shouts; the spectators leap,
dance, roll themselves on the ground, and become a maddened herd,
whilst the amazons, delirious with delight, drag themselves along
through the dust to kiss the feet of the Queen.

"Well, I hope, nay, I believe that there will be no more such
sacrifices! I have prayed the Queen to allow, to ordain no more. I
have awakened in her breast some feelings of humanity; she has
promised to spare me these hideous sights she even appears to be
conscious of their atrocity.

"Let me be! Let me save fresh victims, and pursue the task imposed on
me by circumstances. Do not interrupt me in my work of regeneration,
my efforts towards gentleness and peace. The good that I can do in
this country will, perhaps, compensate for the wrong I have done in
leaving those who were dear to me, those whom I never ought to have
left.

"Adieu! adieu! my dear friends. Prom the bottom of my heart I thank
you for your efforts to find me, and your plans for my rescue. They
are, alas! beyond realization. It is impossible to save me, nor do I
wish it."

CHAPTER XVI.

When we had finished reading these notes I turned to de Morin and
said to him—

"Does the Baron de Guéran remind you of Ladislas Magyar?"

"I remember the name," replied, de Morin, "but I cannot recall any
circumstances in connection with him."

"He was a Hungarian explorer," I replied, "employed in a house of
business in Benguela, a country of western Africa. His business
obliged him, in 1849, to take a trip into the interior, where he had
the misfortune to take the fancy of Ozoro, the lovely daughter of the
king of Bihé, who compelled him to marry her. As Ladislas Magyar was
never seen again, it was supposed that the jealousy of his wife, and
the _surveillance_ put in force by her over him, kept him away from
his family and his country."

"By quoting this historical and geographical incident," said de Morin
to me, "do you wish to advance the opinion that M. de Guéran is the
happy lover of Venus in ebony? When I suggested that a moment ago,
you scouted the idea."

"Not at all, my dear fellow, you quite misunderstood me. On the
contrary, I agreed with you; I merely maintained that the charms of
Walinda would not be powerful enough to induce a Parisian to settle
down and naturalize himself in Africa. M. de Guéran's letter
strengthens me in that conviction. After all, the Baron is flesh and
blood like ourselves, capable of becoming, either by force or fancy,
the lover of the Queen. But this weakness would not prevent his
hankering after freedom. He is perfectly sincere, rely upon it, when
he speaks of the work of regeneration which he has in hand. M. de
Guéran, the _protégé_, the godson, I believe, of Livingstone, has in
his veins some drops of that African missionary's blood. A feverish
longing for discovery was not the only motive which induced him to
leave his country and his beloved wife; he has also, and above all,
the fervour of an apostle, or perhaps, a martyr. Do not destroy my
illusion; I experience a certain pleasure in forming this high
opinion of the husband of Madame de Guéran. I absolutely refuse to
believe that such a right-minded, clear-headed woman would have, of
her own free will, chosen a mere seeker after adventures."

"So far from trying to do away with your illusion, as you call it, I
share it. I look upon M. de Guéran, the husband, as my personal
enemy, and I always place my enemies on a pedestal so that I may gain
all the more credit for upsetting them when I get the chance.
Besides, it is not the first time that my thoughts have turned upon
M. de Guéran. I often heard him spoken of in France, and I formed a
high opinion of him. I respect his memory, and should like to admire
his conduct. He is a missionary, an apostle, a martyr, I admit, but
he is also a rather queer specimen of humanity, _blasé_ with Parisian
life and European customs. He knows all the secrets of our countries,
and he must needs dive into the mysteries of another continent. He is
quite comfortable, believe me, in the midst of this menagerie of wild
beasts called amazons, and by the side of this splendid, ferociously
amorous queen, whose lord and slave he is at one and the same time."

"Our opinions," I replied, "are not so far apart after all. M. de
Guéran is a working missionary, but a layman, if I may so express
myself, without any religious 'call;' he does good, civilizes
savages, and preaches Christian morality. But he knows also how to
mingle the profane with the sacred, and he manages to pass the period
of his apostolate as pleasantly as possible. So far we agree. When,
however, he speaks of the dangers which lie before us amongst the
Walindis, and the utter impossibility of rescuing him, do you believe
that he is sincere?"

"I do. His information is strictly correct. He is convinced that we
shall be crushed, smashed to pieces, or cut up into little bits, if
we try to save him; but he is mistaken. In his idea, our expedition
differs in no way from any other; we are depending on ourselves
alone, as indeed we had to do for a long time, and our caravan
consists of a hundred bearers and a weak escort—that is his idea. He
could not know by intuition that we have at our disposal a hundred
and fifty soldiers, armed with European rifles, and more than five
thousand men disciplined by us, and roused to fanaticism by their
King."

"Then, according to you, under these circumstances we should pay no
attention to his warnings and his prayers?"

"Certainly not. Moreover, allow me to observe that if it suits M. de
Guéran to plant himself in Africa, to establish there his electoral
freehold, and to die there, we are not bound in the same way. We want
to get back again to our own country; one route only is open to us—
that towards the south, and we are going that way. If we come across
the Baron in Ulindi, so much the better, or so much the worse for
him, but go that way we must and will. Do you follow me?"

"I entirely agree with you. M. de Guéran is a mere accessory. In
saving ourselves we may possibly save him."

"Precisely so, and in that way he will have nothing to thank us for.
That pleases me all the more, for I confess that his gratitude would
annoy me slightly."

We might have added that even if we wished to avoid the Walindis and
retrace our steps, King Munza would prevent us by insisting on our
following him. Our conversation was scarcely at an end, when we heard
loud shouts proceeding from the Monbuttoo camp, and emanating,
apparently, from the entire army. Whilst we had been discoursing,
Munza had taken an innings too. He had called together his troops,
and, following the invariable custom of African chiefs, had made a
sort of proclamation to them. He narrated his grounds of complaint
against the Queen of the Walindis, expatiated with great skill upon
the riches of her kingdom and the beauty of the women inhabiting it,
and asked his soldiers if they would not like to get possession of
the riches and make a razzia amongst the inhabitants.

The army replied, as armies generally do to the addresses of their
commanders, by loud applause. "_Ee, Ee, tchupy, tchupy, Ee, Manza,
Ee_," resounded on every side, the drums and trumpets began their
horrid din once more, bows and lances were waved in the air, and the
Monbuttoos, without waiting for marching orders, burnt their camp and
made ready to advance against the enemy.

We were obliged to calm this excitement, and prevail upon Munza not
to start until the following day; we had several preparations to
make, and it appeared to us a very dangerous proceeding to cross the
frontier at nightfall.

When the hour of departure was settled, we had to apprise Madame de
Guéran of our proceedings. She was waiting for us. As soon as she saw
us she came forward, and, without either hesitation or embarrassment,
held out her hand.

"The doctor tells me," she said, "that in spite of the warnings of M.
de Guéran you are bent upon making an attempt to rescue him?"

"No," said de Morin; "there you are mistaken. We are not going to
rescue anybody; we are only going back to Paris by the shortest
possible way."

"No other is open to us," I added, "unless we go back by the way we
came, and take up our abode amongst the Monbuttoos for the remainder
of our existence."

"You may possibly succeed," she replied, with a smile, "in deceiving
yourselves, and being mistaken as to the motives which actuate you,
but I know you, and for some time past have formed my estimate of
your courage, your generosity, and your self-denial. Depreciate
yourselves, if you like, I know what value to place upon you, and you
will ever have in my heart the large place which you deserve. I
accept this fresh proof of your devotion, and I do not feel inclined
even to thank you for it. One does not thank men like you, one
admires and esteems them."

The arrival of Delange cut short this conversation.

"Give me the benefit of your advice," he exclaimed, "for I am
terribly puzzled about Miss Poles. She has just been to me, in my
tent, in a state of the greatest excitement. 'Doctor,' she cried,
'Doctor, protect me, I beseech you, from myself.'"

"Good heavens!" said I; "what danger is she in?"

"After much beating about the bush, and an immense amount of maidenly
hesitation, she ended by confessing that she was madly in love with
Kadjoro."

"We suspected as much," said do Morin; "but, my dear Delange, we hand
her over to your tender mercies with every confidence."

"No, no, never!" exclaimed Delange. "Oh, what a mistake I made in
coming with you instead of Dr. Desrioux! When I think that on this
25th of November, 1873, whilst we are menaced with so many dangers,
he is seated quietly by a nice fire, with his friend Pommerelle at
his side, and that they are both sticking pins on maps of Africa,
following us from tribe to tribe, with their feet on the fender—"

"Oh, bother," said de Morin. "Very likely they are not following us
any longer, but have forgotten all about us."

Madame de Guéran, who was present and had smilingly listened to
Delange's rhapsody, thought it high time to interfere in defence of
Desrioux.

"He has not forgotten us," said she; "and if it had not been for his
mother, whom he would not leave, he would have been with us, and
would have shared our dangers."

November 26th.—The sun is just rising in all its radiant glory. The
army of the King of the Monbuttoos is already on the march, and we
are off after it.

CHAPTER XVII.

The King of the Maleggas only left us at the farthest extremity of
his kingdom, and very sorry we were to part with this intelligent,
humane, and, relatively speaking, civilized chief, who has behaved so
well to our caravan. He, too, had tears in his eyes as he warmly
shook hands with us, and for a long time we could see him following
us with his gaze as we went farther and farther away from him. Miss
Poles, of course, assumed that all this was intended for her, and, by
way of reply, sent countless kisses through the intervening air. But
Delange, notwithstanding his protests, had constituted himself the
guardian of this impressionable creature, and he had taken very good
care to confine Miss Poles to aerial osculation.

Ali has not misled us; the country through which we are passing does
not in any way resemble that of the Maleggas. No more pasture land,
no more cultivation, no more pretty little villages nestling among
wooded slopes; torrents, rocks, and sharp-pointed stones have
replaced all these. We are evidently upon an old spur of the mountain
range already visible in the horizon. Some severe volcanic shock must
have produced this effect in days gone by; a portion of the mountain
must have been detached, in the first instance, and subjected
afterwards to a leveling process which has brought about the stony,
unequal, deeply indented ground over which we have been passing
to-day.

But vegetation is so luxuriant and irresistible in these parts that
superb trees raise their heads amidst weird and jagged ridges, and
palms, with their bare stems and fan-like foliage, stand side by side
with aloes on the banks of the torrents.

The temperature, in this semi-desert, is stifling; there is but an
imperceptible line of shadow at the foot of the rocks, and the earth
seems to faint under the burden of the heat. Our army winds slowly,
like a huge serpent, along the turnings and twistings of the road.
The men march in silence, step by step, rifles in hand, and ready for
any emergency. A scouting party has been organized by de Morin to
warn us of coming danger, and the army is composed of several
battalions, subdivided into companies. We occupy the centre of this
force with our own personal escort, and the Monbuttoos whom we have
trained in the use of the rifle.

Munza, still suffering from his wound, is close to us, carried on a
shield. Madame de Guéran reclines in a hammock slung from large
poles, borne by eight Nubians, who advance with measured step.
Delange, de Morin, and I are on foot, the last horse we had having
been attacked in the Malegga country by the _tsetse_, a fly whose
bite, though harmless to human beings and wild animals, is fatal to
horses.

Finally, Joseph, induced by his natural indolence to prolong his
period of convalescence, is carried on the back of an ox, converted
for the nonce into a beast of burden. The flocks and herds follow
after, and they are of considerable dimensions, thanks to the
generosity of Kadjoro. We cannot count upon receiving any hospitality
at the hands of the Walindis, and we have taken our precautions
accordingly. Our caravan and the army generally are plentifully
supplied with cattle and grain, for we have come to an arrangement
with Munza that there shall be no plundering until we are attacked.

However, there are at present no symptoms of hostility; nobody
opposes our advance; no one flies at our approach. On the contrary,
in front of every village (we go round them instead of passing
through them) the inhabitants assemble to see us pass.

Has Queen Walinda changed her mind about us, or is she at this moment
collecting her forces and waiting until we have advanced farther into
the interior of her country to attack us? This latter supposition is
the more probable one.

The natives of this district are evidently conscious of their
strength, and are not tormented by a thousand and one fears on the
approach of strangers. Consequently, when we see them gathered
together, it often happens that Delange, de Morin, and I leave the
army for the purpose of making a more minute inspection of them.

They are a fine race, superior even to the Maleggas, whose physical
attractions have already commanded our admiration. Their facial angle
is strictly correct, the forehead rather wide, the lips thick but not
swollen, the teeth good and even, and if their noses are not aquiline
they are, at all events, delicately rounded. The most complete nudity
appears to be obligatory throughout the entire tribe, a decree of
banishment having apparently been pronounced against the slightest
strip of hide, or the minutest leaf. Some sovereign, in order to give
his people full liberty to develop themselves and spread out
unfettered, must have decreed a sumptuary law on the most radical
lines.

We are not yet in the presence of the regular amazons, those who,
according to the report of M. de Guéran, form part of the active
army; we only see here and there the sedentary ones, national guards
at the disposal of the chiefs of the various districts. Nevertheless,
these second-class women, if I may call them so, would be eagerly
sought after as models by all our sculptors. Their necks are well set
on spreading shoulders, their limbs are muscular and admirably
proportioned, and the play of their muscles is very marked.

"They are superb," says Delange, always enthusiastic over the human
form divine in living bronze. "The natives of this country are
evidently daughters of Venus, and that goddess of antiquity must have
had amongst her numerous train of admirers some negro deity who has
been discreetly ignored in the Mythology."

As is the case with several other tribes, the women of Ulindi,
disdaining all clothing and ornament, give way to considerable luxury
in the manner of dressing their hair. Their thick, abundant tresses,
curly rather than woolly, are restrained by a fillet, or network of
bark. Instead of falling over the temples, the neck, or the
shoulders, all the plaits and straggling locks are gathered together
on the top of the head, and rise one above the other until they form
a thick pad of hair, a species of extremely solid cushion, capable of
resisting any sword cut, however well directed. The majority of these
new-fangled helmets are stained with red ochre, a natural dye
obtained from the clay deposited by the streams in the ravines of the
country. Some coquettes also dye their eyelashes and eyebrows with
this ochre, and from a distance they look like red-haired negroes, a
combination which nature, notwithstanding her eccentricities, never
allows.

We managed, also, to gain access to some of the huts, surrounded by
three circular walls like regular bastions, and surmounted by a
spherical roof made of rushes bound together by a fine, flexible sort
of grass. As soon as you have stooped down and made your way on all
fours through the aperture which serves as a door to these huts, you
experience an indefinable sense of enjoyment; to the equatorial heat
outside succeeds a most refreshing coolness. In a moment, however,
you are anxious to get out again, and make for the door, or hole, to
speak more correctly. This arises from the circumstance that two or
three brands, placed in a corner of the cabin, are kept continually
smoking in order to drive away the mosquitoes and dry the skins which
curtain the walls of the hut. I saw many lion skins, there being
numbers of those animals, so we were told, in the neighbouring
districts. Against these the amazons wage a continual warfare,
because in the chances of the chase, as well as of war, they can gain
the husband, the reward of their bravery.

December 8th.—For twelve days we have been marching in Ulindi, and
still have no news of the Queen! It might be supposed that she was
either entirely ignorant of our arrival in her dominions, or that she
does not condescend to bother her head about us. But there is
evidently some scheme on foot; the chiefs of these districts fly at
our approach for fear we should question them. All the able-bodied
men, and all the women capable of fighting have disappeared from the
villages. There only remain the children and old men, who, in fear
and trembling, make all sorts of grimaces instead of answering our
questions. An appalling void has been created all around us.

We shall soon find out the answer to this terrible riddle, for Ali
tells us that we are scarcely three days' march from the royal
residence. Moreover, the mountains, which serve as the south eastern
frontier of Ulindi, rear themselves up about a dozen leagues from us.
We can see their crests, and distinguish every bend in them. In the
foreground, and in the centre is Mount Maccorly or M'Caroli, from
fifteen to eighteen hundred feet high; behind it are two long chains,
one behind the other, whose peaks are lost in the clouds. They lie
almost due N.N.E. and S.S.W., and extend for about thirty leagues.

Our telescopes are not only levelled towards this distant horizon;
they are turned in all directions and scan every feature of the
landscape. We ourselves do duty as scouts, and we do not allow the
army to advance without reconnoitring at short intervals. This army,
moreover, is a source of astonishment to us. Is it conscious of the
danger it runs, and does it obey us instinctively? Has the discipline
we have attempted to introduce into it had a great effect on these
savages? Or is it reserving its strength for a grand _razzia_ of
lovely prisoners, and a meal off the most appetizing of them?
Whatever may be the reason, not a soul strays from the line of march
we mark out in advance; there is no quarrelling; the natives and
their dwellings are alike respected. We are indeed glad of it; let
the battle come—we have right on our side.

Of all the Monbuttoos, Munza, who ought to set an example of calmness
and self-possession, is certainly the least tractable and the most
excited. If it had not been for Madame de Guéran, who is occupied
incessantly in soothing him, he would already have burnt a village or
two, and massacred a goodly number of natives. His inaction weighs
upon him, the unknown unnerves him, the utter silence and void around
us, which are day by day becoming more marked, make him uneasy. He
longs, even at the risk of imprudence, to emerge from out the
profound night in which we now are. As soon, too, as he again saw
Madame de Guéran, who is regaining her strength, as soon as he could
be by her side, and she could speak to him, his insane passion
appeared to return in all its strength.

Good heavens, what a situation! If we are attacked and conquered by
the Walindis, it is death! If we are victors, we shall have to fight
another battle with Munza to regain our freedom—and we have armed him
against us! Eighty of his picked men are in possession of rifles and
revolvers, all his troops have now some idea of fighting, and he is
in a position to command them. We have taught him all we know! De
Morin imparted to me, in confidence, these fears and, heaven knows, I
share them.

Delange continues to deplore, very cheerfully all the same, the
filial affection of Dr. Desrioux, which led to his taking that loving
son's place. But, above all, he envies Pommerelle who, after having
risked his life once as far as Monaco, has not hit upon the happy
idea of journeying two thousand leagues farther to bring us
reinforcements and cigars.

"He is a selfish egotist," says Delange. "He prefers whispering soft
nothings into the ear of that questionable flame of his, who will
hook him in the end! And he will have missed seeing Ulindi! A country
of adorable, but unapproachable women!"

Miss Poles utters no sound; her thoughts, her regrets, and her
amorous despair drive away all fear. She is marching on to death with
her eyes shut. Perhaps she courts it! Without Kadjoro, life is
wearisome!

Joseph, on the contrary, is fully alive to the situation, and
protests as vehemently as his fat will allow him to do. But de Morin
disposes of him very quickly by informing him that he is quite at
liberty to return alone to the Rue Taitbout.

December 11th.—About five o'clock this morning I left my tent to look
about me. Large, confused bodies of people are moving on the rising
ground which surrounds us on every side. The army of the Walindis has
taken advantage of the night to advance towards us, and is now
endeavouring to close in upon us.

CHAPTER XVIII.

The journal of the European expedition comes to an abrupt close on
the 11th December. That is to say, the notes taken by M. Périères are
so concise that they are not sufficient for the exigencies of our
tale. In order to give a more detailed account of the events which
followed on each other with such rapidity, and hastened the
_dénouement_ of this lengthy history, we have had recourse to certain
information subsequently obtained from those who were best qualified
to enlighten us.

M. Périères, as soon as he had satisfied himself about the appearance
of the army of the Walindis, hurried himself off to warn MM. de Morin
and Delange.

"Bravo!" said the latter. "This style of thing is much more to my
taste. There will be an end of the business now."

"We shall be attacked at sun-rise," said de Morin. "That is the way
the black tribes, when they make war, love to salute that luminary.
Quick, let us rouse the camp and to arms!"

"Then you do not see," asked Périères, "any means of avoiding this
battle, which threatens to be a terrible one?"

"I see nothing but fighting for it," replied M. de Morin. "And it is
not for want of thinking, I can assure you, because, for a long time,
I have foreseen what has come to pass this morning."

"Suppose we send a flag of truce to the Queen?"

"She will receive it with a flight of arrows, and, besides, what are
our envoys to say to her?"

"They can say that the army of the Monbuttoos has not been guilty of
any excesses in the territory of the Walindis, that it has respected
both the inhabitants and their property, that it has behaved more
like an ally than an enemy, and that it makes fresh proposals for an
alliance."

"Well! I agree to a last attempt, but only on condition that we send
our own proper ambassadors. As white men, we may possibly have some
influence. But if we are attacked _en route_, if we are killed before
we can reach the Queen, or if we are taken prisoners, for we must not
place too much reliance on her forbearance, or on her respect for
flags of truce—you will admit that, will you not?—what will become of
Madame de Guéran, of our caravan, of Munza, and of his army without
us?"

"In fact," said the doctor, "the presence of both of you is not only
precious in the extreme but also indispensably necessary, for your
death or disappearance would spread discouragement through the ranks
of the Monbuttoos and the Nubians. But I am not so generally
necessary. I could die or be made prisoner without any very great
inconvenience, and I offer to make my way to Walinda alone. Oh I
don't go into raptures, you may postpone your admiration. At this
moment my prevailing feeling is curiosity. I have for a long time
been burning with a desire to find myself face to face with this
lovely Queen, whose godfather I am, seeing that I have christened her
with the name of Venus in ebony. I want, and speedily too, to see her
beauty for myself, because one of our bullets may disfigure my
godchild at any moment, and convert a pretty woman into a mere
corpse. I will therefore set out alone and unarmed; that will be the
more prudent course. So let us find out with our telescopes where she
is, for I confess to not relishing the idea of searching for her
through the ranks of that vast army."

MM. de Morin and Périères did not attempt to turn the doctor from his
purpose. Being themselves quite capable of acting as he was doing,
they considered his conduct as perfectly natural. Though they did not
expect very much from their friend's proceedings, they yet felt that
some attempt ought to be made to obviate the frightful massacre, the
wholesale butchery that was on the eve of taking place. They gave
Delange no instructions whatever, not quite knowing what to tell him
to do, and relying on that intelligence and imperturbable coolness of
which he had so often given such proofs.

Whilst the bearer of the fresh flag of truce was quietly making his
way towards a hillock about five hundred yards distant, lighted up by
the earliest rays of the rising sun, and seeming to be the central
point of the line of battle arrayed against us, MM. de Morin and
Périères, without loss of time, carried out a plan they had just hit
upon.

The ground upon which they had passed the night, and which in all
probability was destined to serve as the battle-field, resembled a
large, oblong amphitheatre, surrounded on the north, east, and west,
by gradually sloping hills, and shut in, on the south, by a mountain
about eighteen hundred feet high.

Périères had conceived the idea of resting the army against this last
mentioned rampart, and cutting a deep trench in front of it. Thanks
to this plan of defence, the Walindis would not be able to surround
their enemies, as would have been the case had the latter remained in
the centre of the open plain. At the same time, the European caravan
and a portion of the Monbuttoo army would be protected by a
fortification where, should they not succeed in defeating the
Walindis, they might make a last desperate stand.

Whilst the soldiers and bearers, and, indeed, everybody who was
capable of wielding an axe or tearing up the ground with his hands,
were working for the common safety, de Morin was engaged in a careful
survey of the mountain which rose up before him.

"What a nuisance it is," said he, "that this splendid wall is
insuperable! If we could only get past it we could save ourselves
without having to strike a blow, we could escape from the territory
of the Walindis, and gain Lake Albert."

"Let us blow it up," replied Périères, laughing. "It is very likely
stopping up the mouth of some extensive pass."

"My dear fellow," said de Morin. "I labour under a very decided
impression that very soon we shall find another, and a better use for
our powder."

The doctor was, meanwhile, composedly continuing his walk across the
plain alone and unattended. He had been asked to take Nassar with
him, but he distinctly refused, on the ground that if he saw the
Queen he should see M. de Guéran also, and that he preferred having
the Baron as interpreter.

He was not mistaken; his fellow countryman came to his rescue.
Received at first by a heavy shower of arrows, Delange soon noticed
that the missiles became fewer and farther between. They ceased at
last altogether, and when he was about a hundred yards from the group
he was attempting to reach, some one stepped forward and came to meet
him.

CHAPTER XIX.

It was a man about forty years of age, tall, thin, and with a slight
stoop. Despite his sunburnt skin, unkempt hair, long beard, and the
tattered garments which barely covered him, you could tell from the
whole contour of his face, his marked and aristocratic features, and
his general bearing, that you were face to face with a man of birth
and breeding.

He walked towards Delange, and, raising a cap, saved from the general
shipwreck of his belongings, he said in French and in a broken voice—

"You, sir, are a member of that expedition which has so generously
devoted itself to searching after me?"

"I am," replied the doctor, as he also uncovered, "for I presume I
have the honour of addressing the Baron de Guéran?"

"Yes, I am, indeed, the Baron de Guéran, though," he added with a
slight smile, "my dress might lead you to doubt that assertion. And
now, may I in turn enquire to whom I am speaking? I must needs know
your name, if only that I may ever cherish it in my memory."

"Dr. Delange, a Frenchman, and a Parisian."

"And your friends?"

"M. de Morin and M. Périères."

"Thank you; those names are graven on my heart. But permit me to come
straight to the point without further delay, for time presses. It has
been a difficult matter to obtain even this short interview with you.
In spite of my advice you have persisted in your idea of rescuing me.
Well! I should, perhaps, have done the same in your place. But what
is your present object, and why have you ventured here alone?"

"I want to see the Queen, and, through your mediation, make proposals
of peace to her, so that, if possible, we may avoid a bloody battle."

"You will not succeed, for the Queen is furious against the
Monbuttoos for having invaded her territory, and in her anger she
mixes you up with her enemies. For the last fortnight, ever since she
was warned of your arrival in Ulindi, she has been eager to come to
blows. The whole tribe is equally anxious; her sorcerers and fetish-mongers
have declared in favour of war, and preach it as the crusades
used to be preached in olden days, and I, alas! am powerless to ward
off from you the evils which menace you."

"But," asked the doctor, "is it, as you wrote, absolutely necessary
that we should be conquered?"

"Yes, I believe so firmly. The force at Walinda's disposal is
considerable. Ah! you will do me justice at least," added M. de
Guéran, seizing the doctor's hand. "I have done all in my power to
prevent your coming here—and now, I cannot even fight by your side!"

"What?" asked Delange. "Are you not coming over to us?"

"Coming to you? Would I not have been with you already if I could
have managed it? Turn your head, and look at that band of women who
are watching our slightest movement. They are not more than a hundred
yards from us. If I make one step in advance, if I were to pass the
limits laid down for me, if I were to attempt to approach your camp,
at that very moment my gaolers would rush upon us, and would, after
they had killed you, take me back to the Queen. Come, there is yet
time, let my friends desist from all endeavours to save me; let them
cross the frontier once more. Perhaps I may induce the Queen to let
you go without attacking you."

"Your advice is impracticable. The King of the Monbuttoos is bent on
a trial of strength with Walinda, and we should never persuade him to
beat a retreat. If the Queen persists in refusing him an interview
and an alliance, he will attack her before she has time to attack
him."

"She will refuse, just as she has already done."

"Then a battle is inevitable."

"Inevitable, as you say."

"And it means defeat and death for us?"

M. de Guéran bowed in silence. Then M. Delange said in a clear,
distinct voice, dwelling upon each word—

"You know that we have two white women with us?"

"Yes, so the Queen told me. They are your wives, doubtless. You are
travelling after the fashion of my old friend Livingstone, and as
Baker was travelling when last I saw him."

"You are mistaken," said Delange, abruptly. "We are travelling with
the Baroness de Guéran, your wife."

"My wife! my wife here!" stammered the Baron. "It is impossible—
impossible."

"I give you my word," interrupted Delange, "that I have spoken the
truth."

"The truth! the truth! She is there—my wife is there!" said M, de
Guéran, over and over again, as if he were stupefied or had lost his
head completely.

"Yes," continued Delange, "Madame de Guéran is not more than three
hundred yards from you, at the foot of that mountain, in the midst of
that army yonder."

"How could she have travelled so far? How has she had the courage—I
do not understand, I—"

He stopped, his emotion overcoming him. The doctor came to his
rescue.

"She arranged," said he, "an expedition of which I and my friends
have the honour to be members, and this expedition has been searching
for you during the last fourteen months."

Suddenly M. de Guéran, who had been leaning on the doctor's shoulder
to prevent himself falling, drew himself up, and exclaimed—

"I must see her! I must see her! Let them kill me—what do I care? I
must see her, I tell you! Come! Come!"

He seized hold of Delange, who, seeing the danger, tried to restrain
him.

But, hardly had the pair stirred a step, than a hundred amazons
rushed at full speed towards the Frenchmen, overtook them, and,
without any violence, without even touching them, formed a circle,
three deep, round them.

It was impossible to break through this living zone, this three-fold
wall of flesh bristling with iron points, for all these amazons were
in their war-paint.

M. de Guéran had by this time recovered his self-possession to a
certain degree.

"You see," said he to the doctor, "that I have not deceived you. I am
a prisoner, and," he added, pointing to the amazons, "I have some
terrible gaolers. But here comes the Queen, time presses, listen to
me—I will persuade Walinda that I did not wish to escape with you. I
will ask and obtain your liberty. But that is all I can do. Do not
attempt to speak to her, or to make any proposals for peace; that
would only be a confession of weakness and fear. Moreover, she is no
longer at liberty to avoid war; her army is in too great a state of
excitement. Return to your people—to mine, as soon as you can. You
will be attacked without delay. Defend yourselves, fight, try, above
all things, to keep the enemy at a distance; avoid, as far as
possible, a hand to hand struggle. These women are terrible when once
they get at and seize hold of their foes. As soon as the fight begins
I shall be more at liberty, and less strictly guarded. My gaolers and
the Queen herself will forget all about me in the fury of the battle.
The smell of blood will intoxicate them. I will take advantage of
that moment to join you. If I die, I shall die near you, by her side.
Here is the Queen."

Walinda advanced, grave, calm, majestic, and surrounded by a fresh
guard. The circle opened to let her pass, and, without taking the
least notice of Delange, she marched straight up to her prisoner,
questioned him sharply, and entered into conversation with him.

Whilst this was going on, the doctor scanned her closely. He had
nothing better to do, and this is what he says about her—

"What ease in all her movements! What grace and strength combined!
Yes, she is a Venus, a marvellous bronze statue moulded by a great
sculptor, but a living statue, overflowing, indeed, with life. And
what an expressive head, so full of character, is placed on this
lovely body! Long hair, black as jet, despising the fashion of the
country, and free from any trammels, covers her shoulders and hangs
down to her waist like a silken mantle; a broad, square forehead
without a single wrinkle; a warm complexion, verging on copper-colour,
like that of an Indian half-caste; fine, almond-shaped eyes,
at one moment soft and languishing, at another cruel and determined.
Eyes which can weep, or fascinate, or look you down; a nose
delicately rounded, and with nostrils which quiver at the slightest
emotion; small, even, sharp teeth, showing the brilliancy of their
whiteness behind the pouting, ruddy lips; and a smile wherein cruelty
and tenderness are curiously blended. I have never seen anything, and
I never shall see anything so picturesque and so lovely; dazzled by
her beauty and entirely lost in the contemplation of it, I absolutely
forgot all about my very dangerous situation."

Did the Queen read this admiration in the eyes of the doctor as she
looked at him for a moment? Was she flattered, and disposed to show
him the mercy for which M. de Guéran pleaded so eagerly, or did she
say to herself that she might very well let him go away, seeing that
in a very short time, when the victory should be hers, he would once
more be in her power? The doctor did not attempt to settle these
knotty points; moreover, he had no time. A breach was made in the
human wall surrounding him, and Walinda, stretching out her arm,
motioned him to withdraw.

He was simply shown the door without having had a single word
addressed to him. He thought it better not to raise any objection, so
he eyed the Queen from head to foot for the last time, so as to
impress her form on his memory, exchanged a look with the now
impassible Baron, and withdrew, staring in the coolest manner at the
women who were ranged on either side of him.

A quarter of an hour afterwards, still under the influence of all
that he had seen, he rejoined his friends. They had employed their
time during his absence to good purpose, having surrounded their post
by a ditch, a hundred yards long by one deep, starting from the foot
of the mountain, and describing a semi-circle round them. The earth
dug out from this ditch and thrown up on both sides of it, formed an
embankment, which would serve as a protection from the arrows, and
would render an assault difficult, if it did not actually prevent it.
Trunks of trees, stones, all the baggage of the caravan, and the
_débris_ of the previous night's encampment, were also piled up here
and there, like detached forts. One of these barricades, constructed
with more care than the others, and forming an inner circle within
the ditch, was intended as a shelter for Madame de Guéran, her
servants, the sick, and, later on, for the wounded.

At each end of the semi-circle were posted two battalions, commanded
by Munza's best officers, and held in readiness to advance against
the enemy. The King, at the head of a third body, was in reserve, to
reinforce whichever portion of the army might most need his
assistance. The Europeans, Nubians, Dinkas, and the eighty Monbuttoos
armed with rifles, were destined to repel assaults, and were not to
leave the main enclosure, where Périères and the two Arab
interpreters undertook to restrain them and direct their movements.

De Morin was with Munza as commander-in-chief, and Nassar acted as
their interpreter and aide-de-camp.

Under the pretext that amongst the Walindis the women fight, Miss
Poles was anxious to take her share of the common danger. She had got
herself up in a fancy costume, half-civil, half-military, held a
lance in one hand, and her inseparable revolver in the other. She
might have passed for an amazon, strictly speaking, if she had been
more sparing of clothing and a little better made—"only a little," as
Delange politely said. Stiff and motionless, at a barricade
constructed by Madame de Guéran's orders, she was extremely like a
sign-post or a figure intended to frighten away the birds.

Joseph, alone, had not offered his services in any way. He pretended
to be suffering from a renewed attack of fever, and moaned in a
corner of the inner circle, behind a third barricade constructed by
himself for his own private use; his saddle-ox, near which he was
reclining, was also capable of acting as a last line of defence.

The army of the Walindis was set in motion about 7 a.m., when compact
masses were seen simultaneously descending from the rising ground,
debouching on to the plain, and advancing directly against the
entrenched camp we have described.

By the aid of the telescope, de Morin ascertained that the advancing
force was composed of male troops only. Walindi, husbanding her
strength, was holding her amazons in reserve until the time should
come to strike a decisive blow.

When about three hundred paces from the camp, the Walindi archers
shouted vigorously, drew their bows, and let fly their arrows. Not
one of them reached the mark. Perceiving their want of success, they
advanced another hundred paces in tolerably good order, and
discharged a second flight; some passed over the camp and broke
against the mountain side, whilst others were embedded in the sand,
which formed a sort of bolster round the ditch.

"I declare, on behalf of all of us," said de Morin, turning to the
Europeans, "that up to to-day we have done no wrong to this tribe,
and that it is about to attack us. We, from this moment, have a right
to act in self-defence, and that right we will exercise."

He exchanged a few words with the King; the latter gave the word of
command, and the arrows of the Monbuttoos winged their way through
the air. The aim was true, and the ranks of the Walindis were thrown
into disorder.

This first blush of success caused Munza to lose his head. Eager to
fight, chafing at the inaction to which he had been so long
condemned, he could not content himself with decimating the hostile
battalion at long range by means of arrows, but rushed out against
them followed by his small _corps d'armée_.

The first shock was terrible, for both sides had long yearned to come
to close quarters, and eat each other!

Thrice the Walindis, who were fighting under the eyes of the amazons
and wanted to gain the day without their assistance, succeeded in
driving the Monbuttoos on to their entrenchment; thrice were they in
their turn compelled to fall back.

The Europeans could take no active part in this strife. The _mêlée_
was too compact, and the combatants too close together; the bullets
might easily have killed an ally or a friend.

Munza, armed with his battle-axe, bore himself like a hero of old
Gaul, when hand to hand fighting was the fashion. Not yet quite
recovered from his wound, and sometimes unable to stand up, he went
on his knees from group to group, struck at the legs of his enemies,
mowed them down with his axe, and reaped a goodly harvest round him.
Sometimes he managed to stand upright, drawing his figure up to its
full height and towering over friend and foe. Then he would cast a
long, lingering look towards the European camp, as if seeking for
some one, and, forgetting his wound, would hurl himself, with a
fearful yell, against the enemy.

Suddenly a cry, more terrible than all that had preceded it, was
heard, and the Monbuttoos were seen to break, and run in all
directions.

The King had just been mortally wounded.

CHAPTER XX.

A blow from an axe had broken Munza's left knee, a lance head had
penetrated deeply into his right side, and from these two wide,
gaping wounds the blood flowed in streams. Nevertheless, the King
fought on; he no longer attacked, but he defended himself, kept his
enemies at a distance, and prevented their coming to close quarters
to despatch him. Powerless to rise from the spot where he had fallen,
his bleeding body scarce raised from the ground, he still wielded the
battle-axe, so terrible in his hands, looked so ferociously at the
Walindis, and uttered such fear-instilling cries, that he kept the
space around him clear.

Little by little, however, the surrounding host closed in upon him;
they knew that their prey could not escape them, but they were not in
a hurry to fall upon him. They advanced slowly, cautiously, silently,
ready to rush in the moment Munza showed any sign of weakness.

But now M. Périères, followed by the Monbuttoos armed with revolvers,
hurried out of the encampment to the rescue of the wounded King. It
was high time; Munza had made such superhuman efforts to defend
himself that his wounds had opened, and, weakened by loss of blood,
he swooned upon the ground. Some soldiers lifted him up in their
arms, whilst M. Périères and his little band kept at bay the maddened
and yelling mob.

They succeeded in bearing the King within the enclosure set apart by
Madame de Guéran for the sick and wounded. But Delange, after a
moment's examination, saw clearly that this time his skill would be
of no avail. They had not brought him a wounded man, but an already
stiffening corpse, whose large eyes alone were open and rivetted on
Madame de Guéran, who had just appeared on the scene.

Munza might, perhaps, have had strength enough left to speak to her
and touch her; but he only fixed his eyes upon her and appeared
well-content to die near her and for her. He had struggled heroically
against his enemies, but he disdained to fight against death. He
accepted his fate without a murmur, without reviling. This savage
died like a Frenchman.

Madame de Guéran knelt down beside him, and, after having solemnly
made the sign of the cross over him, laid her hand on his forehead.
He shivered at her touch; his already closing eyes opened wide with a
last effort, his face was lighted up with a smile of intense meaning,
his lips moved, and in a long, deep sigh his soul fled away.

Laura de Guéran remained on her knees for a long time, praying to the
God of the Christians to receive into His keeping the heathen soul
which, lifted out of its former abasement, was in a state to expand
into something far higher and better. She prayed, too, for ail those
friends who were fighting so valiantly in her defence, and for her
husband, so near to her and yet so far removed, not by mere distance,
but by the terrible obstacles lying between them.

Whilst she thus knelt beside the body of Munza, the Walindis came on
again to recover from the Europeans the wounded man snatched from
their vengeance. They did not know that he was dead, and they
hungered after the pleasure of strangling him with their own hands,
carrying off his body, casting it down at the feet of the Queen, and
saying to her—"You see that we can fight as valorously as your women;
your warriors are in no way inferior to your amazons."

Intoxicated by their first success, and thinking now that victory was
within their grasp, they rushed in one huge, compact body against the
encampment.

"Fire!" called out de Morin.

A hundred rifles volleyed forth their messengers of death; every
bullet told on the mass; a hundred bodies fell, and the remainder,
terrified and dismayed, recoiled as one man, and attempted to fly.
But that was out of their power; they now found themselves enclosed,
cooped up, and penned in, so to speak, between their enemies and
their friends.

The army of the amazons had moved down from the neighbouring hills on
to the plain to reinforce the battalions already engaged. The latter,
on turning to fly, consequently found behind them an impenetrable
human wall, five thousand women, who reviled them as cowards, and
threatened them with death if they retreated. Put thus to the blush,
and in despair at flight being impossible, they attempted a fresh
attack. They were received with a second volley, and another hundred
of their number bit the dust.

But this time the fire was continuous, a never-ceasing storm of
leaden hail, where every bullet found its billet. The Europeans saw
clearly that if they ceased firing for a second, or if their line was
broken at any one point by their countless enemies, it would be
death, speedy, inevitable death!

The Walindis were now in utter confusion, fighting amongst themselves
and killing each other. The front rank fell under the European fire;
the rear-rank, borne backward, was hurled against the amazons, and
suffered terribly from the sharp blades with which the bodies of
these women were covered. The brutal terror which had taken
possession of this human herd at length inspired them with an
intelligent idea. They, suddenly, made a simultaneous rush against
the living barrier which shut them in, made a breach in it, and sped,
through this opening, in haste and disorder across the plain.

Nothing now separated the Europeans from the army of the amazons.
Five thousand women, bristling with iron and armed with axes and
lances, five thousand raving maniacs, only awaited the word to
assault the camp, defended by scarcely a hundred men.

"This time," said Dr. Delange, cheerfully, to his two friends, "I
imagine that we shall see the end of all this, and a very good end,
too. At all events, I am glad of it. We shall no longer have to say
to each other every morning, 'Is this the day? Are we to be
exterminated before or after sunset?' Now we are regularly in for it;
in five minutes there will remain of our caravan only an agreeable
memory—for the Walindis. What have we to complain of? We might have
died of fever, which is a stupid sort of thing to do, or we might
have fallen into the hands of the Bongos, Niam-Niam, or Domondoos,
all very second-rate people, whereas we are going to die by the hands
of those charming women. Only look at them! They are perfectly
adorable! Here they come, on purpose that we may admire their pretty,
graceful necks, their flashing eyes, their dear little noses, and
kissable lips!"

The whole of the amazons were, indeed, advancing, but in hostile
array and good order, commanded by the Queen in person, who was in
the centre of the front rank.

"Are you not going to give the word to fire?" said M. Périères to M.
de Morin.

"I shall take very good care to do nothing of the kind," replied M.
de Morin. "We have but one hope—that of frightening them by a general
attack, and so throwing them into disorder."

"You are the commander-in-chief, but I do not think that these sweet
creatures are to be daunted so easily."

"Nor I either, but we must do something."

"What have they done with M. de Guéran?" asked Delange. "I cannot see
him, even with my telescope."

"The Queen," said de Morin, "no doubt thinks that it would be useless
to expose so valuable a life, and has put her prisoner in some quiet
corner."

Whilst he was saying these words, Madame de Guéran came out of the
inner enclosure, and gravely, calmly, and almost smilingly, joined
her three friends.

"Gentlemen," said she, "I am come to die with you."

She had barely finished speaking, when a loud shout came from the
ranks of the Walindis, and those immediately around the Queen seemed
to be thrown into disorder, as if they were fighting amongst
themselves. At length their ranks opened before a man, armed with an
axe, which he was whirling furiously round his head. He walked
backwards, with his face to his enemies, who followed and tried to
surround him, but dared not strike him.

He had already accomplished about twenty yards in this manner, when
he turned round towards the Europeans; his eyes sought those of
Madame de Guéran, with whom he exchanged a long, lingering glance.
Then, calling out to the three young men who were preventing her from
rushing out to meet him, he exclaimed—

"Fire! Fire!"

"Our bullets may hit you," shouted de Morin.

"What matter! You are all lost if you hesitate a moment longer."

"Fire!" said de Morin.

As soon as the smoke had cleared away, everybody looked for M. de
Guéran. He was no longer as he had been but a moment before, standing
upright and formidable. The Queen had got up to him, and, whilst he
hesitated, no doubt, to strike her, had thrown her arms round him,
and borne him down to the ground, where she was stabbing him in a
perfect fury with all the iron blades fixed to her neck, her arms and
her ancles.

At the same time, the amazons, now beyond Walinda's control, and
undeterred by the dropping fire from the entrenchment, rushed
altogether against the camp, and succeeded in effecting an entrance.

Fortunately for the Europeans, they had crossed the ditch to rescue
M. de Guéran, and were consequently on the outside of the rampart.
The Nubians, and a few Monbuttoos, had followed them, and now formed
a forlorn hope, still capable of a sturdy defence. The amazons gave
them a moment's breathing time; wholly occupied in killing the
unfortunate wretches left in the camp, intoxicated with blood,
frantic with rage, and half-mad, they had even forgotten their Queen,
whom Nassar and three Dinkas, after a severe struggle, had managed to
tear away from the mangled body she was hugging convulsively.

But a hundred victims were not enough to satisfy the ferocity of the
amazons. As soon as they had massacred all the enemies they found
within the entrenchment, they turned their attention to those who
were outside.

Their numbers were still so great, that they completely filled the
space between the mountain and the ditch; a second more, and they
would have rescued their Queen, and butchered the Europeans and their
surviving defenders.

But, suddenly, a fearful sound was heard—the mountain seemed to open
out—rocks and immense blocks of granite rolled down its slopes;
enormous stones, hurled high into the air, were falling on all sides;
they crushed everything beneath them, inspired all around with
terror, and either destroyed or dispersed the remnant of the army of
the amazons.

CHAPTER XXI.

In the first chapter of this volume, we left Dr. Desrioux and the the
Count de Pommerelle in readiness to leave Paris. They embarked at
Marseilles, on board the very steamer which, six months previously,
had conveyed their friends, but instead of stopping at Suez, as the
de Guéran expedition had done, they went right down the Red Sea,
through the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, as far as Aden.

Accident furthered their desire to travel as quickly as possible.
Without being obliged to land at the port of Aden, they found at
Steamer-Point, a large open roadstead, where the mails for India and
China put in for a few hours, a vessel just leaving for Zanzibar.
Their passage was at once secured on board this ship, their baggage
was transhipped, and very soon they were steaming through the Gulf of
Aden.

Doubling Cape Gardafuin they emerged into the Indian Ocean, coasted
along the barren and desert shore called the Somauli, crossed the
equator, and at the end of April, 1873, landed on the island of
Zanzibar.

In order to allow our readers to follow us, we must recall to their
recollection that the caravan of Madame de Guéran, after having,
travelled for more than twelve months towards the south-east, had
halted, on the 11th December, 1873, in front of the Blue Mountains,
in lat. 2° N., long. 27° E. To come up with it, MM. Desrioux and de
Pommerelle were consequently obliged, on leaving Zanzibar, to take a
north-westerly direction, and to traverse nine degrees of latitude,
that is to say, about two hundred and twenty-five miles, without
taking into account the longitude, which, of course, makes the
journey longer, seeing that it cannot be in a direct line.

Dr. Desrioux and the Count de Pommerelle were neither geographers,
nor even explorers, strictly speaking. The former had but one idea—to
reach Madame de Guéran as soon as possible. He neither saw nor
thought of anything but her, and until he found her, he could pay no
attention to countries, people or things. He was a traveller for
love; he needed no compass; his instinct and the cherished desire of
his heart guided him to his single point of attraction.

As for M. de Pommerelle, the drawing-room traveller, the ardent, but
latent, explorer, as soon as he commenced to soar, as soon as his
yearning, so long restrained, burst forth, he was carried away by his
new life. He was like a prisoner just released, or a school-boy in
the holidays, a reformed coward, to use his own expression, who had
at last made up his mind to fight. Forward! was his continual cry,
and he never wanted to stop. He filled his lungs with the novel air
which surrounded him; he scanned with all his eyes, and admired with
all his heart, the scenes which unfolded themselves before him.

Travellers like MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle are of no possible use
to learned societies. They took no notes, and we have no means of
getting at their ideas, or of giving, from their standpoint, even a
bird's-eye view of the strange countries through which they passed.
But earnest travellers, both before and after them, have followed the
same route, and have, fortunately, left behind them records easy of
access. To the works of Burton, Speke and Grant, Livingstone and
Stanley we must refer our readers for the information withheld by MM.
Desrioux and Pommerelle. A persual of these works will give the
reader an idea of the interest attaching to this portion of the
African continent. We are now going briefly to describe the journey
of this pair, and to fill up the gap left by them, as we have already
said, from information derived from more reliable sources.

Bent upon joining the de Guéran expedition as soon as possible, and
determined to spare neither strength nor money to attain that end,
MM. Desrioux and Pommerelle, owing to the assistance rendered them by
the Sultan of Zanzibar, and the European Consuls, were enabled in a
few days to get together a caravan of considerable size. It consisted
of _pagazis_, or bearers, freed slaves, in number about two hundred,
under the leadership of a native guide (_kirangozi_), and an escort
of sixty Belucks, enlisted voluntarily, and of the Bashi-Bazouk, or
dare-devil class, commanded by a jemadar (lieutenant), and armed with
first-rate rifles, bought by M. de Pommerelle in Paris just before
leaving.

These preparations completed, our two friends sailed across to
Bagamoyo, on the mainland, whence they started on the 15th of May.

CHAPTER XXII.

In former days, the name Zanzibar, or Black Country, was applied
indiscriminately to the coast, the island, and its capital; now the
term is used on the spot for the capital only. The island is called
Kisikuja, and the coast rejoices in a variety of appellations, the
most common being Zanguebar, M'rima, and Sohouahil.

The population on the coast, composed of a mixture between the
Mussulman, the negro and the Arab, is nominally subject to the Sultan
of Zanzibar, but is really independent. The men, as a rule, are
yellowish brown; they wear round their loins a cloth reaching half-way
down the thigh, and, when they appear in public, are invariably
armed with a sword, a lance, or, at all events, a stick. To possess
an umbrella is the height of their ambition, and, under the shade of
this highly prized luxury, they may be seen rolling barrels on the
shore.

The women wear a kind of frock, covering them from the shoulder to
the ancles, necklaces of sharks teeth, and ornaments of the leaves of
the cocoa-nut, wooden discs, or betel nuts in their ears, the lobes
of which are abnormally large. The left nostril is pierced by a
silver or copper pin, and the hair, covered with sesame oil, is
coiled up on each side of the head, like a bear's ears, or in some
cases, appears in the guise of "heart-breakers," small and very round
twists.

Savage customs are still in vogue amongst this community, more Arab
than negro. For example, an uncle has an indisputable right to sell
his nephews and nieces; and, if a European ventures to express his
astonishment at such a custom, he is met at once with the remark—

"You would not have a man suffer from want so long as his brothers
and sisters have children?"

The vast territory through which we are about to travel in the
society of MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux, obtaining our information,
however, from their predecessors, especially from Burton, may be
divided into several zones. The first of these extends over about a
hundred miles, from the shore of the Indian Ocean, to the mountains
of Usagara. Deep streams, lofty forests, and masses of foliage
covering the gigantic trees lend to this region, in certain places,
the appearance of a park; the cultivated fields are numerous, and
every village is hidden in the grass or brushwood. Vegetation, under
the influence of the damp but warm atmosphere, is more than usually
luxuriant; the grass grows to the height of twelve feet, with stalks
as thick as a man's finger, and there is no straying from the paths
worn through these jungles.

The second zone, a region of hills and forests, commences at the
mountains of Usagara, and extends to the province of Ugogo, the
native caravans, when not too heavily laden, traversing it in about
three weeks. The shades of colour amongst the inhabitants vary
considerably, ranging from almost black to chocolate. The men envelop
themselves in a large piece of dark blue cotton stuff, or drab
calico; the women, if wealthy, wear the _tobé_, a garment four yards
long, which passes under the arms, crosses the chest, and is brought
round the body to be fastened at the hip. The poor women wear a
petticoat made of some skin and a species of breast-piece, tied round
the neck and reaching to the waist. Both men and women are usually
very ugly, but tall and vigorous, and, in spite of their frank and
open countenances, they are nothing better than a set of freebooters,
ever ready to spoil the smaller and weaker caravans.

The third zone extends as far as Kazé, and comprises the vast
territory, a hundred miles square, known under the name of Ugogo. Its
general aspect is arid and monotonous in the extreme. In several
parts the soil is condemned to everlasting drought, water being found
only in the large pits dug by the natives. Wild beasts, such as the
hyæna, leopard, zebra, elephant, and giraffe, as well as ostriches,
abound here, and caravans enter this region in fear and trembling.

On the frontier of Ugogo is a desert, several miles broad, commonly
called the Wilderness. Burton suffered terribly there, but Cameron
says that the country has improved, the inhabitants having made and
cultivated extensive clearings, and having also succeeded in finding
water.

MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux, who crossed this district at the same
time with the English naval officer, reaped the advantage of this
improvement. In fact, it was just as they were emerging from the
Wilderness, at the beginning of July, that our two travellers
overtook Cameron, who, although he had left Zanzibar six weeks before
they did, had not been travelling nearly so fast. The famous
explorer, then on the eve of his three years' journey, was still in
good health, and had not yet been attacked by the wasting fever and
inflammation in the eyes which caused him so much suffering a few
months later on.

MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux questioned Cameron, just as they had
done two months previously the Consuls at Zanzibar, on the subject of
the de Guéran expedition, but he could not give them any information.
It became very evident that their friends had not yet reached these
parts, either from want of time, or because they were detained
farther northward, or—they might no longer be alive. The Count and
the doctor hurried on.

Next to the territory of Ugogo comes the country of the Moon, of
which Kazé is the most important point. Kazé is in the south what
Khartoum is on the Nile and in the north, the depôt or rendezvous for
caravans either going to or coming from the interior. The inhabitants
of this town, mostly Arabs, live in great comfort, almost
magnificence; their houses, though of only one storey, are large and
solidly built; their gardens are extensive and tastefully laid out,
and they receive regularly from Zanzibar, not only what is necessary
for life, but also a quantity of luxuries. They are surrounded by a
host of slaves, in proper liveries, and use the Zanzibar donkeys as
steeds.

When they reached Kazé, MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux had already
traversed more than six hundred miles in less than three months. They
would have dearly liked to have gone on without stopping, but they
were compelled to give way to the laziness of their bearers, and the
prevailing custom which prescribes for all caravans a halt of at
least six weeks. In the country of the Moon several letters, written
by Dr. Desrioux to Europe from Kazé, record, however, that this
period, owing to a display of great firmness, several presents and a
formal promise of more, was curtailed more than one-half.

Towards the middle of August, the European caravan set out from Kazé
in the direction of Lake Victoria. Just as Madame de Guéran and her
companions, after having met, on the banks of the Nile and as far as
the Bahr-al-Gazal, with almost presentable people and manners, found
themselves face to face with barbarians, so MM. de Pommerelle and
Desrioux, when they left the sea coast and bent their steps
northwards, had to say adieu to everything savouring of European
customs.

CHAPTER XXIII.

After leaving the country of the Moon and accomplishing a few stages
through the neighbouring districts, the caravan of MM. Desrioux and
de Pommerelle reached the valley of Uzinza, surrounded by mountains
covered by a luxuriant vegetation, scaled the N'yamwara, some 5,000
feet above the level of the sea, and arrived at Karagué, formerly the
residence of King Rumanika, so frequently mentioned in the travels of
Speke and Grant.

The Europeans for six weeks followed the shore of Lake Victoria and
in due course reached, at the northern end of the lake, the Uganda
country, where, according to the latest accounts given by Stanley,
the famous M'tésa still reigns.

This royal personage has produced such an impression upon more than
one traveller that we cannot resist the temptation of quoting Captain
Speke on the subject.

"No one," says this authority, "dare stand before the King whilst he
is either standing still or sitting, but must approach him with
downcast eyes and bended knees, and kneel or sit when arrived. To
touch the King's throne or clothes, even by accident, or to look upon
his women, is certain death. When sitting in court holding a levée,
the King invariably has in attendance women, Wabandwa, evil-eye
averters or sorcerers. They talk in feigned voices raised to a
shrillness almost amounting to a scream. They wear dried lizards on
their heads, small goat-skin aprons trimmed with little bells,
diminutive shields and spears set off with cock-hackles, their
functions in attendance being to administer cups of marwa
(plantain-wine).

"When the company has squatted before him the court is converted into
one of assize. The officers bring forward the prisoners and give
their evidence. At once the sentence is given, perhaps awarding the
most tortuous, lingering death—probably without trial or
investigation, and, for all the King knows, at the instigation of
some one influenced by wicked spite. If the accused endeavours to
plead his defence, his voice is at once drowned, and the miserable
victim dragged off in the roughest manner possible by those officers
who love their King, and delight in carrying out his orders.

"This expeditious justice despatched, M'tésa condescends to receive
the presents of his subjects. Young virgins, the daughters of
Wakungu, stark naked, and smeared with grease, but holding, for
decency's sake, a small square of mbugu at the upper corners in both
hands before them, are presented by their fathers in propitiation for
some offence, and to fill the harem. After having formed part of the
harem they are distributed amongst the most trusted officers as
rewards for distinguished services.

"I have now been some time within the court precincts, and have
consequently had an opportunity of witnessing court customs. Amongst
these, nearly every day since I have changed my residence, incredible
as it may appear to be, I have seen one, two, or three of the
wretched palace women led away to execution, tied by the hand, and
dragged along by one of the body-guard, crying out, as she went to
premature death, '_Hai Minangé_' (O my lord!), '_Kbakha_' (my king!),
'_Hai N'yawo_' (my mother!) at the top of her voice, in the utmost
despair and lamentation; and yet there was not a soul who dared lift
hand to save any of them, though many might be heard privately
commenting on their beauty.

"On the first appearance of the new moon every month, the King shuts
himself up, contemplating and arranging his magic horns—the horns of
wild animals stuffed with charm-powder—for two or three days. These
may be counted his Sundays or church festivals, which he dedicates to
devotion. On other days he takes his women, some hundreds, to bathe
or sport in ponds; or, when tired of that, takes long walks, his
women running after him, when all the musicians fall in, take
precedence of the party, followed by the Wakungu and pages, with the
King in the centre of the procession, separating the male company
from the fair sex. On these occasions no common man dare look upon
the royal procession. Should anybody by chance happen to be seen, he
is at once hunted down by the pages, robbed of everything he
possesses, and may count himself very lucky if nothing worse happens.
Pilgrimages are not uncommon, and sometimes the King spends a
fortnight yachting on Lake Victoria; but whatever he does, or
wherever he goes, the same ceremonies prevail—his musicians, Wakungu,
pages, and the wives take a part in all."

A young Frenchman, M. Linant de Bellefonds, who was assassinated in
these parts in 1875, was permitted by the King to accompany him in
some of his numerously-attended promenades. To his account and that
of Speke we may add the report of Chaillé-Long, who witnessed the
execution of thirty persons by order of M'tésa, and these details are
completed by the narration of Stanley, who affirms that the King is
gradually becoming civilized, thanks to the frequent visits of
Europeans. He is being transformed, says Stanley, from a heathen to a
Mahommedan, and has even some idea of Christianity. The American
traveller is unwearying in his praises of his host, whose
prepossessing countenance betokens intellect and amiability. He
describes him as a coloured man, well brought up, who might have
frequented the European courts, and there have acquired a certain
elegance and ease of manner, combined with great knowledge of the
world.

MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux, like Stanley, appear to have nothing
but praise to bestow upon M'tésa. In the month of September they
quitted, without any obstacle being thrown in their way, the capital
of Uganda, leaving to the eastward the celebrated Ripon Falls, which
Speke affirms to be the real outset of the Nile. They then crossed an
important river, the Kafoor, and proceeded in a direct line towards
the north-west, reaching, in the month of October, M'Rooli, formerly
the capital of King Kamrasi, who, for so long a time, detained Speke,
Baker, and Lady Baker in his kingdom.

A fortnight after its departure from M'Rooli the caravan at length
reached Lake Albert, or M'Wootan. From this point, thanks to notes,
jotted down from time to time in a memorandum book, we are enabled to
follow the two travellers by the light of their own observations.

"There is nothing," exclaims M. de Pommerelle, "in the whole of this
country so superb as the appearance of Lake Albert. At my feet lies a
long, verdant line of reeds bathing in the blue, transparent water,
and waving under the influence of a fitful breeze. In the horizon, a
grand wall of mountains, half hidden by shifting vapour, and standing
out azure blue in the sunlight and the distance. Rounded, wooded,
green hillocks repose on the sides of this granite mass, a tropical
vegetation descending its slopes and disappearing on the margin of
the lake."

MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux were not mistaken in supposing that
the mountains before them were the Blue Mountains, closing the north-west
route which they had, up to this time, followed so strictly, in
accordance with the hints contained in the letter from M. Périères.
If their friends had not strayed from their intended track they were
bound to meet them on the other side of those mountains. But how were
they to scale them, or cross the intervening lake?

For some time they made their way along the shore, and reached
Magungo, in lat. 2° N., recognizing this harbour by the description
given by Baker of it, and its adjoining falls, a thousand feet high.

These falls, situated about twenty-five miles from Magungo, were
afterwards christened by Baker the Murchison Falls, and this name has
been preserved by both Chaillé-Long and the Italian Gessi in the
latest maps published by them, in 1875 and 1876 respectively.

And now we have come to a point where we must recall to our readers
the conversation which took place between MM. de Morin and Périères
and the interpreter Ali, after the latter had contrived to
communicate with M. de Guéran. "The residence of Queen Walinda," said
the Arab interpreter, "is situated at the foot of a lofty and
insurmountable mountain. Behind that mountain (which M. Périères
supposed was Mount Maccorly or M'Caroli) are other mountains still
more lofty, so high that they are lost in the clouds. Their tops, so
much of them as can be seen, are quite blue, and at night from within
them is heard a loud noise similar to that which would be produced by
many torrents falling together from a great height." Those, M. de
Morin remarked at the time, are the falls discovered at the northern
end of Lake Albert, at the same elevation as Magungo, and known as
the Murchison Falls.

Some time afterwards, at the end of November, 1873, the expedition of
Madame de Guéran came in contact with the Walindis, and, on the 11th
of December, gave battle to their army.

MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux, on their side, reached Magungo, on
the eastern shore of Lake Albert, in November, and were then only
separated from their friends by that lake and the mountains on its
western shore.

CHAPTER XXIV.

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle were detained during the greater part
of the month of November in the harbour of Magungo. All their efforts
were directed to crossing the lake, and that was precisely what they
could not accomplish. Not only did they hesitate to entrust their
luggage and themselves to the frail boats used by the natives, but
they also found that they must resort to violence if they wished to
procure an adequate supply of even those dangerous and unsatisfactory
craft. The natives confounded our two travellers with the Arabs
engaged in the slave trade in these parts, and suspected them of a
desire to get possession of the neighbouring islands for the purpose
of laying in a stock of slaves, and they declined to lend a hand in
furtherance of that supposed object. Much precious time was
consequently lost in negotiations and in attempts at arrangements
which were settled at night only to be upset the next morning. As
soon as the Europeans, weary of the delay and incessant
disappointments to which they were exposed, proceeded to the beach
and appeared determined to lay violent hands on the boats, the
nagara, or drum, summoned the natives to arms, and hosts of black
people, armed with lances, responded to the call.

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle were, nevertheless, bent upon crossing
the lake at the particular point where they then were, because all
the information which they could obtain led them to believe that it
was narrower there than at any other part. The mountains directly in
front of them seemed also less inaccessible than those lying farther
to the south. On the other hand, if they were to proceed northwards
along the shore of the lake, they would not only be getting away from
their proper route, which lay north-west, but they would also find
the Nile and the Murchison Falls barring their onward progress.

They finally came to the resolution to dispense with boats, and to
construct for themselves large rafts or floats of timber. They would
not, it is true, be able to steer these at will, but M. Desrioux had
noticed that the cataract, in falling into the lake, displaced a
large volume of water, and formed a current which seemed to run in
the direction of the western bank. This current does not exist close
in shore at Magungo, being noticeable only about two or three
kilometers out in the open lake; the raft, however, by the aid of
large poles, could easily be propelled through the shallow water
until it reached it. In addition to this, their progress would be
facilitated by laying hold of the aquatic plants and the ambatch,
growing in abundance close to the shore, and only ceasing at the edge
of the current.

The natives would have opposed the construction of these rafts if
they had suspected their object, but as they never felt very secure
in their own canoes, they did not imagine for a moment that the
Europeans would care about trusting themselves to trunks of trees
fastened together with creepers.

The timber floats were finished in a few days, and, during the night
of the 25th November, the baggage and provisions of the caravan were
placed on board them. Every obstacle, however, was not yet swept
away; the bearers (_pagazis_) refused to embark or to trust their
precious lives to the one allotted to them. Fifty men only, born on
the M'rima coast, accustomed to the Indian Ocean, and, therefore, not
to be dismayed by Lake Albert, consented to follow their masters. As
for the Beluchs, who were braver than the bearers, and had often made
the passage from the island of Zanzibar to Bagamoyo, they made no
objection whatever to taking their places on board one of the rafts,
together with the two Frenchmen, their interpreters and guides.

The embarkation commenced towards midnight, and was not completed
until 3 a.m. At sunrise the flotilla was not more than two miles from
the shore, and had not reached the current. The natives, when they
discovered this novel mode of putting out to sea, gave utterance to
loud shouts, beat their drums, and lost no time in sending a perfect
storm of arrows after the fugitives, who, by this time, were well out
of range. A fleet of a hundred boats also put out in pursuit of the
Europeans, but a few bullets soon caused them to turn tail and make
for the shore again.

About 8 a.m., the water, which, up to that time had been of a
blackish hue in consequence of the quantity of ambatch wood, became
clearer; the floating islets of verdure, and the large aquatic plants
disappeared gradually, and the force of the current began to make
itself felt. Dr. Desrioux was not mistaken; the direction of the
current set directly towards the western shore of the lake, which the
expedition reached, without further obstacle, at noon, the strength
of the stream preventing the reeds from taking firm root in the
shallow water.

The landing, nevertheless, was a matter of considerable difficulty,
for the wind had risen, and the waves uplifted the rafts, and dashed
them against the shore, very rugged and broken at this point. At last
a small, sheltering creek was sighted, and in it they eventually
contrived to take refuge. It was high time they did so, as, although
it was not the rainy season, one of those terrible storms, so
frequent on Lake Albert, burst upon them in all its fury. The natives
on the other shore doubtless thought that the Europeans had been
shipwrecked, and without delay gave themselves up to the celebration
of an orgie in honour of that imaginary occurrence, an indirect
victory for themselves, as they supposed.

The coast was entirely deserted, either because the natives bad taken
to flight on witnessing the arrival of the strangers, or because the
sterility of the soil had long since driven away its former denizens.
In fact, the only thing to be seen between the lake and the mountain,
was a tongue of land, about a hundred yards broad, sandy and
uncultivated, the trees which grew up the mountains and along their
sides being too perpendicular to be of much account.

Nevertheless, the question of the hour was how to scale this lofty
mountain chain. At first sight the ascent appeared impracticable, and
M. Desrioux, in spite of all his courage, and the experience he had
acquired in the Alps and Pyrenees, would possibly have hesitated to
make the attempt, had it not been that amongst the escort there were
some soldiers who were natives of the mountainous district of
Usagara. Not only did these men make light of the ascent, but they
also laughed their less venturesome comrades out of all their fears.
A few Beluchs, natives of the coast, and sworn foes to mountains in
any shape, alone resisted both entreaty and ridicule. MM. de
Pommerelle and Desrioux did not take this defection very much to
heart, for they did not care about dragging the whole caravan with
them on to the mountain tops, whither neither baggage nor provisions
could be conveyed, or to regions, evidently uninhabited, where no
food could be obtained.

Fifty men were ample for the attempt, and each one of this number was
provided with a rifle, a lance to serve as an Alpenstock, an axe for
pioneer purposes, a cord wound round the waist, and a linen bag or
haversack, carried on the back, and containing provisions enough for
several days. Cartridges and powder were also served out in equal
proportions to every man.

The recalcitrant Beluchs and the few bearers who had mustered up
courage to cross the lake, were left on the shore under the command
of the jemadar. They were to await the return of the Europeans for
the space of one month; that time past, they were at liberty to
return to Zanzibar, where, on application at the Consulate, and on
production of a certificate given to them by MM. Desrioux and de
Pommerelle, they would receive the wages agreed upon.

On the 28th November, at sunrise, fifty Beluchs, after having
embraced their comrades with that ardour and effusion natural to the
entire black race, moved off in Indian file, and commenced the
ascent. For the first two days it was not so difficult as had been
anticipated. The forests through which the party passed, though
sometimes an obstruction, were more often an assistance. Every trunk
was a sort of fulcrum, and had the additional advantage of preventing
all chance of falling backwards down the more precipitous places. The
work was laborious and fatiguing, but frequent halts were made, and
the novelty of the style of march, and the role of mountaineer which
the negroes were playing, was a continual source of enjoyment to men
easily amused, and naturally of a cheerful disposition.

Very soon, however, the ascent became more difficult and more
dangerous; vegetation disappeared gradually; shrubs, too small to be
of any assistance, succeeded to the trees; huge masses of rock barred
the way, and much time was lost in getting round them. The caravan,
also, found itself completely isolated in these regions, just as a
ship would be if far from land and in an open, unexplored ocean. Not
only was there no trace of any habitation, but there was not even the
faintest sign that a human foot had ever passed that way. The
dwellers by the shores of the lake had evidently no liking for the
mountain, and very possibly, some superstition withheld them from
penetrating into these regions.

On the 3rd of December, the instruments brought by Dr. Desrioux
recorded an altitude of 1,800 metres above the level of Lake Albert.
(According to Baker, the lake itself is 2,720 feet above the level of
the sea). They were still far from having reached the topmost
summits, which reared themselves up towards the west like a granite
wall, and on that side completely shut out the horizon from view.
After so much arduous exertion, were they perforce to be stopped by
these last obstacles, and compelled to retrace their steps without
even having a bird's eye view of the countries hidden from their
sight only by a curtain of stone?

During one of their halts. Dr. Desrioux observed that a mountain,
which up to that time had been lost in the clouds, but had then just
emerged from its veil, was flat at the top, and had for its summit a
plateau instead of a point. He determined to reach this lofty spot,
whence, even if it did not prove to be the highest point, he could,
at all events, obtain a view of the western slope of the mountain.

The escort would have only been a source of delay in an ascent of
this kind; six men furnished with ropes and lances were quite
sufficient for his purpose. He selected the strongest and most
daring, and begged M. de Pommerelle, who for some time past had made
light of every obstacle, and was now anxious to accompany him, to do
nothing of the kind, but await his return with the remainder of the
escort.

He made his arrangements in the evening, and started at the first
glimmer of daylight on the 4th of December. After heroic exertion, he
reached his goal about two o'clock in the afternoon, and was at once
rewarded for his trouble. He found a vast plateau which, as he says
in his notes, may be likened to the fort of Venasque, in the
Pyrenees. Instead of having France to the north, and Spain to the
south, he saw on the eastern side. Lake Albert, the Murchison Falls,
and Magungo; on the western, several ranges of mountains, less lofty
than the one he had ascended, and, behind these mountains, through
the crevices and natural undulations in them, he beheld an extensive
plain.

He was the first European—nay, possibly the first man who had ever
reached the summit of the Blue Mountains, which, in this part of
Africa, cut the continent in two and separate the western provinces
from the eastern territory.

CHAPTER XXV.

The conquest just achieved by M. Desrioux in the dominion of science,
had no effect on his pride. If he congratulated himself at all on his
success, it was simply because he had managed to overcome one of the
obstacles which, in his idea, separated him from Madame de Guéran. In
a word, it seemed impossible to him that behind this last curtain of
mountains, and in the vast and certainly inhabited plain stretching
out before him, he could fail to obtain some news of the European
caravan.

His heart beat high at the thought that down below him, at the edge
of a forest, on the bank of a river, or in some unknown village, he
might suddenly find himself face to face with Laura de Guéran. He
would not admit for a moment, even to himself, that instead of having
come southwards, she might have been obliged to return towards the
north, or that she might have fallen a victim either to the climate
or a savage attack. No; something told him that not in vain had he
undertaken so long a journey, surmounted so many obstacles, braved so
many dangers. If he were not near the longed-for end, would his heart
be beating as it did beat at that moment? Would his gaze be rivetted
so fondly on the sea of mountain and plain?

Whilst his thoughts were thus straying and his eyes seeking to
discover the land inhabited by Madame de Guéran, three of the men who
had accompanied him made their way back in the evening to M. de
Pommerelle, and handed him a note scribbled on a scrap of paper, and
in this note M. Desrioux informed the Count of the success of the
ascent, and begged him to attempt it, in his turn, on the following
day, together with all the soldiers and escort. It could no longer be
looked upon as dangerous, because the guides, whom he had sent to
him, had already accomplished it, and consequently would be able to
take the most direct road, and point out the dangerous places.

On the afternoon of the 5th of December the doctor, the Count de
Pommerelle, and fifty men of the escort were together on the summit
of the mountain, discovered and trodden for the first time by M.
Desrioux.

The rest of the day was devoted to rest, and the recovery of the
strength necessary for the long marches of the following days. But it
was unanimously resolved that a fresh start should be made at
daylight on the morrow, and that no further halt should be made
except when some natural obstruction should render it a matter of
necessity. As the caravan had with it only provisions enough to last
five or six days, it was bound to make every effort to reach an
inhabited district as soon as possible. The keen air prevailing on
the mountain tops, and the comparative cold felt by men accustomed to
an unvarying temperature of 30° or 40°, imparted to them unwonted
briskness and activity; they would be called upon for exertions which
they would certainly have been powerless to make in the plain.

The descent at first was easy enough. M. Desrioux had employed his
time, whilst waiting for the Count de Pommerelle, in making a careful
survey of the neighbourhood, and was therefore able to act as guide
in the earlier stages. But very soon, obstacles made their
appearance; they had scarcely made their way down a precipitous
incline than a fresh mountain obtruded its unwelcome presence and
closed their road almost vertically. They must either make a long
detour, or mark out a path for themselves above an abyss. The plain
seen on the previous day was lost to view as soon as ever they left
the plateau. The horizon now became contracted in the extreme,
precipices, rocks, gorges, and lofty peaks succeeding each other in
unbroken succession. It was like plunging into an inextricable
labyrinth, and without a compass they would have been lost for ever.

The Beluchs began to murmur, complaining of having been inveigled too
far away from the coast, and saying that they would never see their
own country any more. Sometimes they stopped and cried like children,
and a dozen times a day they had to be reasoned with, entreated, and
threatened by turns. On the 8th of December, at the first gleam of
dawn, just as they received the order to move on, they one and all
refused to budge an inch.

"As you please," said M. de Pommerelle, calmly, "I am going on with
my friend and will leave you here. You will not have anyone to guide
you, and in two days you will all be dead from starvation. Fools!
Don't yon see that to get back to the lake is ten times as far as to
reach the country we are in search of?"

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle suited the action to the word, and,
leaving the escort, slowly ascended a hill in front of them. As they
anticipated, half an hour had not passed away before all their men
rejoined them, begging them to continue their leadership.

"Very well," replied the doctor, "but at the first show of resistance
or sign of fear, we part and for ever. We shall leave you at night
when you are asleep, and you will never be able to find us. If, left
to yourselves, you manage to reach the coast, which is very doubtful,
all your trouble will have been thrown away, because the Consul will
refuse to pay you, and your Sultan, our friend, will have you
punished for deserting us."

This forcible manner of reasoning touched the escort, their murmurs
ceased and their courage revived.

On the 9th, they scaled another mountain, and the first soldiers who
reached the top uttered shouts of joy, for in the horizon appeared
the plain so long lost to view, an immense plain, surrounded by
wooded hills, with a black, confused mass in the midst of it, a
village no doubt. To reach this promised land a descent had to be
made into a valley, and a corresponding ascent accomplished on the
other side of it up a last mountain, comparatively speaking
insignificant, which now alone stood in the way of the caravan.

M. Desrioux, when he had come up to the leading men of the escort,
lost no time in scanning the horizon through his telescope, and he
made out that an important village was situated on one of the sides
of the plain. After a few moments he thought, also, that he could not
only distinguish habitations, but groups of human beings as well.

"See what you can make of it," said he, handing the telescope to M.
de Pommerelle.

"Yes," said the latter, "the black specks you point out to me appear
to move and change their places—for all the world like an army of
ants making an expedition around their dwelling place."

"Your army of ants," replied M. Desrioux, "is in all probability an
army of natives either fighting or making ready for battle. There is
nothing very wonderful in that, for these countries are invariably at
war."

The Beluchs were beside themselves with joy as soon as they heard
about the village. They embraced each other, danced, jumped about,
and, thinking that they had already reached their destination,
imprudently consumed their last provisions. Consequently, they made
no objection when ordered to resume their march; tired of slaking
their thirst, as they had been doing for a week past, at the mountain
streams, they were overjoyed at the prospect of indulging in banana
wine, beer, or some other fermented liquor. They did not halt until
seven o'clock in the evening, when night suddenly closed in.

On the following day, after a march of three hours, the expedition
found itself, unexpectedly, at the entrance of a gorge which divided
the mountain into two parts, each about three hundred feet high. The
space left free between the two ridges of these cliffs appeared very
practicable, and the party took this natural road, hollowed out in
the rock, without hesitation. As far as they could judge, seeing that
they were crossing this last mountain in its breadth, that is to say
from east to west, they were bound to emerge on to the plain
recognized by them on the previous evening. They might also find
themselves on the same level as this plain, for the pass they were in
had a very steep incline, was of considerable extent, and at its
entrance was not more than 1,500 feet high.

Everything, moreover, led to the supposition that the mouth of the
gorge would soon be reached. The passage, sixty feet wide at its
commencement, was now not more than fifteen feet at most, the
mountain tops overhanging it being so close to each other that they
almost touched; there was only one little bit of blue sky to be seen,
and the road was more like a subterranean passage than an open path.

Suddenly, the guides who marched at the head of the party came to an
abrupt halt, and shouted for their comrades. A general rush was made
to them, and their consternation was readily understood.

The way was barred by an immense rock. At the very moment when the
caravan seemed to be on the point of reaching its goal, a terrible
obstacle started up before it.

All the Beluchs, after having mingled their lamentations with those
of the guides, became silent and pressed round the Europeans,
recognizing that the white men alone could extricate them from this
fresh difficulty.

"What do you think of it, old fellow?" said M. de Pommerelle to the
doctor.

"I think," replied M. Desrioux, "that this rock is impracticable. I
have just been examining it attentively, and I cannot discover a
single crevice or fissure, or any of those natural steps which
sometimes enable one to climb up such a place as this. Our ropes,
moreover, would not reach the top, and, if they did, we have no
grappling hooks to fasten them there."

"At the same time you agree with me that this rock alone separates us
from the plain?"

"There can be no question about that. The two mountains, or, rather,
the two cliffs which shut us in come to an end here. Behind this rock
the sky and the horizon are once more spread out. We have evidently
been following the bed of an immense torrent, perhaps a cascade of
considerable size, now dried up, lost to view, perhaps, for centuries
past. This torrent, which in former times must have spread over the
plain, one day dragged along with it this block of granite. The rock
rolled on as long as the two cliffs would let it, and then it was
brought to a sudden stop between them, hemmed in by the two walls."

"I am quite ready to accept your version," said M. de Pommerelle,
"but it is not of much importance to us to know how the rock got
here. It stops the way for us—that is the essential, as well as the
mournful part of the business. A few yards of granite in length and
breadth imprison us. What are we to do? Shall we seek another route?"

"No. First of all, I have examined the mountain thoroughly, and I do
not believe that there is another exit. Secondly, our men, already
discouraged, would this time most assuredly decline to follow us."

"Are we then to go back by the way that we came, and find our way to
the lake again?"

"Never—not at any price. We must pass this way by hook or by crook."

"How?"

"By blowing up the rock."

CHAPTER XXVI.

M. de Pommerelle could not disguise his astonishment. His eyes turned
quickly to the immense block, he measured its height and depth in
silence, a smile of incredulity meanwhile playing over his features.
At last he turned to the doctor, and said to him—

"I suppose you have a secret store of dynamite or blasting powder?"

"Alas! no," replied M. Desrioux, "you know that well enough."

"In that case?"

"In that case I shall be reduced to have recourse to our ordinary
powder."

"And you believe that it is powerful enough to—"

"I do not believe anything at all," interrupted the doctor, "I only
hope—_voila tout_. If you, my dear fellow, have anything else to
propose—"

"I should not be at all sorry, believe me," said the Count,
completing the sentence, "but I have done my very best to think of
something, and I have found nothing."

"That being so, do me the favour of not crying out before you are
hurt, and oblige me by at least discussing my very modest
proposition."

"Let us discuss it by all means. What quantity of powder have you at
your disposal?"

"A very respectable quantity indeed, nearly a hundred kilos."

"Something may be done with that."

"Very much may be done, I can assure you. Ordinary powder is quite as
powerful as blasting powder, which is used solely on account of its
being of a larger grain, and, consequently, slower of combustion. But
our powder, notwithstanding its fine grain, has not lost any of its
virtue in this sunburnt country, and, besides, it has been kept in
hermetically-sealed tin canisters, so that I believe it to be in
thoroughly good order. I will add, my dear Count, that when I said
'we will blow up the rock,' I was not speaking with strict accuracy.
I do not pretend, even with a hundred kilos of powder, to send it up
into the air like a sky-rocket. I hope merely to shake it violently,
to give it a severe shock, and, as it is placed on an incline and
nothing appears to be in its way on the side opposite to that where
we now are, we may possibly succeed in displacing it or make a breach
in it, and by that means open up a passage for ourselves."

"Enough, enough!" exclaimed M. de Pommerelle. "I begin to share your
hopes. One more objection, nevertheless—you have not noticed any
fissure in this block, and we have no instrument wherewith to bore
it; how, then, do you propose to introduce the powder?"

"You are quite right," replied the doctor, "in saying that there is
not a single fissure on the face of it which would in any way assist
us in scaling it, but, as you may see, there are at its base a number
of small channels, if I may use the word. Come and lie down on the
ground with me. Now, do you see them?"

"Yes, perfectly. Here is one running right through the rock; I can
see daylight on the other side."

"Well, it is in that particular chink that we are going to introduce
the powder."

"And how about igniting it? We have no more matches."

"The ropes we used in scaling the mountain will do instead. They are
so dry that they will burn like tinder. We shall have to scatter a
few grains of powder amongst the strands to revive their powers of
combustion if they show any signs of languishing."

"You have an answer for every objection. Come along, and, as our
minds are made up, let us to work."

"No, no! I will not undertake anything to-day. It is too late;
darkness will soon set in, and, for this delicate operation, we need
all the light we can get. Besides, I shall not be sorry to have a
whole night for reflection—I might possibly find some better means—"

"There is no chance of that."

"Holloa!" said M. Desrioux, laughing. "Who is convinced now? I should
be playing a sorry part if I were to try to stifle the conviction I
myself have brought about. Nevertheless, I must remind you that there
is such a thing as prudence; our powder is too precious to be cast to
the winds, unless from absolute necessity. If indeed, after having
got across this rock, we could rely upon entering a friendly country,
I should be the first to say that we might hold our ammunition cheap.
But this part of Africa, into which we are about to enter so noisily,
and with such _éclat_, excuse the joke, is utterly unknown to us.
Judging merely from the glimpse we had of the plain yesterday, we
shall drop into the middle of numerous and warlike tribes. Allow me,
therefore, to counsel patience until to-morrow."

"Until to-morrow be it, then!" said M. de Pommerelle, closing the
conversation.

The doctor summoned a Beluch, who acted as interpreter, and ordered
him to tell his comrades that the white men had discovered a way of
getting across the obstacle lying between them and the plain. The
soldiers broke out into shouts of joy, which became less exuberant,
and finally degenerated into murmuring, when they learnt that nothing
was to be done until the following day. But they soon came to their
senses; they stood, at this juncture, far too much in need of the
Europeans to complain about them.

On the morrow, at 5 a.m., M. Desrioux went to rouse M. de Pommerelle.

"Well?" said the Count, as soon as he had all his wits about him.
"What are we going to do? What have you discovered?"

"Nothing fresh, my dear fellow."

"Then we are bound for up aloft?"

"I hope so, eventually, but that, as you know, depends very much upon
circumstances. What we have to do now is to send the rock there."

"I stand corrected, and, at the same time, ready for anything.
Command me."

They were obliged to rouse the soldiers themselves, because, in order
to avoid encumbering themselves with a mass of things, they had
brought neither drums nor horns with them.

When the Beluchs received the order to make one single heap of all
their provision of powder, they looked at each other in astonishment,
collected together, and began talking in whispers.

"What is the matter with them? Why do they not obey?" asked M.
Desrioux of the interpreter.

"They accuse you," he replied, "of having some sinister designs with
regard to them, with wishing to leave them to their fate, and taking
away from them all means of defending themselves and resisting you."

The Doctor joined the group of Beluchs, and, with the aid of the
interpreter, endeavoured to explain to them as clearly as possible
what he intended to do. They did not understand him in the least;
powder, in their idea, was put into a gun, and, when ignited, sent
out a bullet. The idea of employing it in any other way had never
occurred to them. The Doctor thought that experience would be a more
satisfactory and sufficient instructor than any argument, and so he
took up a stone about the size of one of our Paris, paving-stones,
put a small quantity of powder under it, made a sort of match out of
the rope, set fire to it, and awaited the result. In about a moment,
to the profound consternation of the soldiers, who were looking on
with wondering eyes, a report was heard, and the stone was shattered
to pieces. They understood the whole business now; it was only a
question of doing the same thing on a larger scale, and they were all
ready to lend a hand.

When the powder had been collected in a heap, four men carried it
close to the rock, and poured it into the fissure which sloped down
at the same angle as the block of granite itself.

Suddenly M. Desrioux, who had been lying at full length with his ear
close to the ground, directing the operation, got up hurriedly, and
addressing M. de Pommerelle, who was close to him, said—

"There is a battle going on in the plain, on the other side of this
rock!"

"Nothing very wonderful in that," replied the Count. "Did we not come
to the conclusion yesterday, through the medium of our telescopes,
that an army was advancing towards the mountain? And did not you
yourself say that battles are of frequent occurrence in this part of
Africa?"

"Yes, undoubtedly," said M. Desrioux, who appeared very much
agitated. "But, if I am right, this is no question of an ordinary
fight between two hostile tribes; a European caravan must at this
very moment be engaged in a struggle with the natives of the
country."

"What makes you think so?"

"Lie down on the ground, put your ear to this chink, and listen."

The Count did so, and, after listening for a moment, got up again.

"I have certainly heard shots being fired," said he, "but there is
nothing to show me that they were fired by Europeans. The Arab
caravans and the slave-traders have firearms, just the same as ours."

"I tell you," exclaimed M. Desrioux, more and more excited, "that
there are Europeans there, and that very possibly they are the
friends we seek."

"What? Do you mean—"

"Why not? Are we not expecting to meet them every moment! Have not
all our forecasts and calculations during the past eight months led
us to this part of Africa? They are there, I tell you—I know it—I
feel it! Madame de Guéran is there, I repeat, on the other side of
that rock, and she is, perhaps, in imminent danger!"

His voice trembled, his eyes sparkled, and he seemed so thoroughly
convinced of what he said, that the incredulity of M. de Pommerelle
was in the end overcome.

"In that case," said the latter, "do not let us waste our time in
talking; let us act. I do not share your conviction, but I do not see
the least objection to continue what we have already commenced."

M. Desrioux at once resumed his place near the rock, and issued his
final orders.

Half-an-hour afterwards, two-thirds of the powder had disappeared
down the fissure in the rock, and the remaining third had been
distributed afresh amongst the soldiers. If the operation, now being
attempted, should, succeed, they might, after having successfully
fought against nature, be called upon to wage war against man, and
prudence dictated their keeping a supply of ammunition in reserve.

The rope, manipulated according to the directions of the doctor, was
laid so as to serve as a slow-match, and all the escort were then
told to get away as quickly as possible. MM. Desrioux and de
Pommerelle took upon themselves the duty of igniting the slow-match,
of keeping a watch on it as long as possible, and of staying by it to
the last moment.

As the doctor had anticipated, the rope, when separated into its
component strands, caught fire easily; at the end of a quarter-of-an-hour
it was half consumed. The two travellers, after having
ascertained that there was no danger of its going out, fed, as it
was, and assisted by the grains of powder scattered here and there
upon it, then thought that it was about time for them to retire to a
place of safety.

Ten minutes elapsed.

Suddenly the sound of a terrific explosion was heard; the earth
trembled, and the mountain shook—and then, silence reigned around.

Without exchanging a look or a word, MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle
ran down the gorge in which they had taken refuge, and in a few
moments reached the spot where they had before stationed themselves.

CHAPTER XXVII.

The rock was split into two nearly equal parts, exactly over the
fissure where the powder had exploded. One of the blocks remained
upright, resting against the side of the mountain, but the other,
propelled by the severe shock and detached from the main body, had
toppled over completely.

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle saw, open before them, a large gap,
three yards wide, without a single obstruction in it.

They took a few steps forwards, reached the spot where the granite
block had stood for so many years, centuries perhaps, and came to a
sudden halt.

The ground was giving way beneath their feet; they found themselves
on the brink of an abyss some thirty yards deep; the plain was not on
the same level as the road blocked up but a few moments previously by
the rock.

But they went on, clinging to, and supporting themselves by the side
of the mountain, and they then saw that the rock they had displaced
not only opened out the horizon to their view, but also afforded them
a means whereby they might reach the country just exposed to their
gaze. In fact, after having turned a somersault in the air, the top
of the rock had fallen on to the plain, whilst its base, resting
against the mountain, remained on the spot previously occupied by it.
It was exactly like the floor of a bridge which has given away; one
of its sides remained fixed to the supports on the right bank of the
river, the other was engulfed in the stream.

All the caravan had to do was to slide down an inclined plain of
granite, thirty yards long. But, before committing themselves to this
descent, and overcoming the very last obstacle which separated them
from the plain, MM. Desrioux and Pommerelle looked around them, and
were dismayed.

Nothing could be seen on the vast expanse before them but people
running in terror in all directions; naked women, raising their hands
to heaven and hurrying away with rapid strides; men jostling each
other in utter confusion or, stupefied by fear and incapable of
movement, throwing themselves down on the ground and seeking to bury
themselves in it. The grass of the plain was strewn with arms of
every description—lances, arrows, bows, and shields, cast away by the
fugitives to render their flight more rapid. In the distance,
however, were seen close, compact bodies of men, battalions reforming
and being continually reinforced by the accession of stragglers.
These soldiers belonged, no doubt, to the victorious army, who,
having taken to flight at the commencement of the engagement, were
now reappearing to rejoice over the victory of their comrades, and to
plunder and massacre the enemies against whom the remainder of their
force had so valiantly fought.

But when, after having scanned the distant horizon, MM. Desrioux and
de Pommerelle turned their eyes to the foreground of the tableau,
their astonishment was converted into stupefaction.

A kind of entrenched camp, with a circular ditch round it, met their
eyes. It must have been, a few moments previously, taken by assault,
and its defenders put to the sword. More than three hundred dead
bodies lay there; some on the ground, some on the sides of the ditch,
and others on boxes and baggage heaped up in one corner to serve as
ramparts, or scattered far and wide, broken open and smashed to
pieces, showing that plunder, as well as massacre, had been going on.
Underneath the rock, just where it had fallen, was to be seen, in a
perfect lake of blood, a hideous mass of mangled corpses, of detached
limbs, and flesh in strips. In the midst of all these corpses a few
poor wounded wretches were heaving, struggling, making superhuman
efforts to avoid the touch of the bodies on whom death had laid his
icy hand, and to escape a living tomb among the dead; the very
mountains echoed the piercing shrieks which resounded over this
ghastly scene.

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle had then arrived too late, at the end
of the battle where one of the two forces had suffered defeat. The
upheaving of the rock had only served to augment the number of the
victims; the block of granite, in pitching headlong on the plain,
had, no doubt, crushed beneath its ponderous weight the remnant of
the Europeans left in the camp, for there could be no doubt but that
the baggage, tents, and rifles strewn upon the ground belonged to
Europeans.

From the camp the gaze of our two travellers wandered to a space,
about twenty yards square, where were stationed the survivors of this
vast hecatomb. At first they only perceived a confused group, whence
were proceeding shouts and signs apparently intended for themselves.
Little by little the details became more distinct; Arab bûrnus, linen
tunics, European clothes could be distinguished. Then a few white
faces stood out from the black and bronzed features surrounding them.

M. Desrioux could look no longer; his eyes closed, he grew deadly
pale, his limbs gave way beneath him, and if M. de Pommerelle had not
caught him and propped him up against the side of the mountain, he
would inevitably have fallen down the abyss.

His eyes had rested on her whom he felt he should see—he had
recognised Madame de Guéran.

If the two young men had been able, in a few moments, to discover
their friends in the midst of the crowd and single them out on that
extensive battle-field, MM. de Morin, Périères, and Delange had seen
them for a long time, though without recognizing them. At the moment
when, driven out of their camp by the amazons, they had sought refuge
with their servants and surviving soldiers on the other side of the
entrenchment, at the very moment when they were defending themselves
with all the energy of despair, knowing full well that they, in their
turn, were about to be massacred as their companions had been,
suddenly a terrific detonation had sounded in their ears, and the
mountain had appeared and overwhelmed their enemies.

Dazzled by this miracle, and almost alarmed at their own escape, they
remained at first with their eyes fixed on the mountain, whose fall
had not only delivered them out of the hands of the Walindis, and
snatched them from imminent death, but had also opened up for them a
road to the east, the lakes, and to Europe.

But, as Parisians are somewhat sceptical on the score of miracles,
MM. Delange and de Morin, their momentary stupor over, gave M.
Périères the credit of their deliverance. Had not he conceived the
idea of blowing up the rock to secure a passage through the mountain,
and was it not, therefore, probable that he had put his theory into
practice? Périères, for his part, imagined that somebody had stolen
his idea, and he was looking with admiration on the thieves, whoever
they might be. The minds of all three of them were, nevertheless,
rather uneasy. They wanted to know how it had happened that the
mountain, instead of bursting open at the base, above the mine which
one of them must have sprung, revealed an aperture over their heads?

Whilst these thoughts passed through their minds, and their eyes were
fixed on the block of stone, of which one end had just rolled on to
the plain, and the other remained supported, thirty yards higher up,
beside the welcome aperture, two men appeared suddenly on the
threshold of this blessed gate, in the foreground of the triumphal
arch.

Under the shade of the two lofty mountains, between which they were
advancing, surrounded by shadow, they had all the appearance of
emerging from a sepulchre. But, once on the brink of the abyss, on
the platform of the uplifted rock, they were in the full glare of the
sun. Clothed in white, and radiant in the sunlight, they might have
been taken for two angels from heaven, who had lighted on the
mountain before continuing their flight down to earth.

It is quite possible that this sudden apparition contributed to the
flight of the amazons in a greater degree than the noise of the
explosion which accompanied the fail of the rock. After their first
consternation they might have rallied for another attack on the
Europeans, and for the rescue of their Queen; but, when they saw that
their motionless and immoveable hill, their sacred mount, had fallen
and crushed beneath it many of their number, and that it had opened
to give egress to supernatural beings, a thousand superstitious fears
took possession of them, and these terrible warriors became women
once more.

The surviving Nubians, the Arab interpreters, the Dinkas, and the
Monbuttoos, on the other hand, notwithstanding their amazement,
understood that heaven was protecting them; the mountain was their
ally, the two angels their deliverers. They, therefore, prostrated
themselves in gratitude to the God, the idol, or the sorcerer who had
saved them.

As for the Europeans, they thanked their deliverers from the depths
of their souls, but they did not endue them with any magic power or
supernatural influence. They had a simple explanation at hand; a
European caravan, advancing from the south-east to the north-west,
after having crossed the Blue Mountains, had found their road blocked
up by an immense rock, and, being unable either to get round or over
it, they had underminded it and blown it up. Their only idea had been
to open up a passage for themselves, and chance had willed that at
the same time they should do a like office for another caravan
proceeding in an opposite direction. Accident, which always appears
so improbable in romances, but which plays so large a part in human
life, had also contrived that the meeting of these two caravans, and
the fall of the mountain should take place at an opportune moment,
and in a propitious hour.

The idea never occurred to them that chance, or accident, was not
entirely responsible for what had occurred, and that they were face
to face with their friends, the Count de Pommerelle and Dr. Desrioux.
How could they possibly have supposed that these two men, one
detained, as far as they knew, in France by duty, and the other by
the force of habit and his own disinclination to move, would appear
in the heart of Africa, in 2° lat. N.?

M. Desrioux, on the contrary, who was entirely taken up with the
thought of Madame de Guéran, who had for so long a time been
journeying towards her, and expecting every moment to meet her, had
recognised her at once, or, perhaps, felt by inspiration that she was
at hand. It is more than probable, also, that she in her turn was
conscious of his presence before he was seen by his friends.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle, whilst contemplating the field of
battle, were rejoined by their escort, who, on reaching the place
where the mine had exploded and left a free passage, were overcome
with admiration, and attempted to worship the two white men, before
whom even the mountains opened. But the Count and the doctor made
short work of this intended adoration. They calmed the enthusiasm of
the Beluchs, and ordered them to fall in two by two and follow them.

It was a curious spectacle to behold this long file of men in their
strange, gaudy-coloured dress, resting on their lances, and slowly
descending, step by step, the species of aërial way lying open before
them.

MM. de Morin, Delange and Périères, in their turn, followed by a few
servants and soldiers, advanced to meet the new arrivals. Miss Poles
was not in a position to accompany them, being engaged in effecting
some necessary repairs to her toilet, which had suffered considerable
damage in a desperate struggle against three amazons, to whom she had
given the _coup de grâce_ with her revolver. Gratitude impelled her
to welcome her deliverers, but coquetry withheld her from appearing
before strangers, Europeans, fellow-countrymen, perhaps, with her
dress in tatters, her sleeves tucked up to her shoulders, her hair
dishevelled, her face as red as the middle of the fire, and her
spectacles anyhow. When M. Delange endeavoured to induce her to
accompany them, she replied—

"No, I do not care about presenting myself before these gentlemen
just now; I am not looking my best."

Nobody dreamt of asking Madame de Guéran to go and meet the newly-arrived
caravan. She was on her knees beside her husband, who was
dangerously wounded and, perhaps, dying. Her eyes were fixed on him,
and she appeared wholly absorbed in the contemplation of the face
which she had known in all the glory of youth and manly beauty, and
now again beheld worn by suffering and fatigue.

Ah! why had he left her for so long! What grief had he not caused
her! To what dangers of every kind had he not exposed her! And now
she had found him only to lose him very soon, for he could not
recover from the wounds inflicted by that woman!

But why had Walinda been so furious against him? Why, instead of
hurling herself upon her enemies, had she chosen to attack her
prisoner and her guest so unmercifully?

She was there, close to her, only a few yards off, that terrible
Queen, that Venus in ebony, as Dr. Delange called her. After having
literally torn her away from the body she was holding in so deadly an
embrace, Nassar, assisted by some Dinkas, had stripped her of her
fatal bracelets and necklets, had bound her legs with cords, tied her
arms down to her sides, and thrown her at full length on the ground.

If Walinda was powerless to strike, she took account of everything
that was going on around her. Lying on her back, stark naked, but, at
the same time, partly hidden by the grass which had opened out to
receive her, and now enclosed her, she never took her eyes off the
victim rescued from her clutches, the prey snatched from her, and she
cast glances of furious hatred on the wounded man and the woman
kneeling by his side.

By-and-by, Madame de Guéran crept closer to her husband, and took one
of his hands in hers. The Queen's look at once became more ferocious
still, her nostrils dilated, her lips half opened, and a shudder went
through her body, motionless up to this time. She made frantic
efforts to burst her bonds, without success, but by dint of great
exertion, she managed to turn over and lie with her face downwards.

Then, by bending her knees, resting first on one shoulder and then on
the other, dragging her chest along the grass, and pushing herself by
means of the ground, she managed to get close to the spot where M.
and Madame de Guéran were. She stopped every time the grass around
her rustled, and held her breath lest she should attract the
attention of her enemies.

As soon as she was close to them, she shut her hands, of which she
had the use, buried her fists in the sand, and, having thus secured a
support, she was able to lift her head and chest to the level of the
grass. There she remained motionless and silent, brooding, so to
speak, over her enemies, with parted lips, ready, like a viper, to
spit out her venom.

Madame de Guéran did not see her. Absorbed in her own thoughts, she
heard nothing, saw nothing. She was scarcely conscious of what had
passed since the moment when her husband had so suddenly appeared
before her. He was brandishing an axe, and fighting valiantly when
one of those terrible amazons fell upon him, overthrew him, and
wounded him mortally. Simultaneously with this, shouts of terror had
reached her ears, the camp was invaded—then came a terrific
explosion, followed, first of all, by renewed din, and, then, by
absolute silence. She did not make any attempt to recall what had
happened. What did it matter to her? After so much exertion, she had
only found an inanimate being, a dying man. She was overwhelmed by
her grief and her reflections, too.

However, as she had no more water wherewith to refresh the wounded
man's lips and forehead, she turned round to ask for some. At that
moment she perceived in the grass, close to her, the Queen of the
Walindis, covered with M. de Guéran's blood.

She did not turn away in disgust; on the contrary, she surprised
herself in the act of contemplating this woman, who had for so long a
time kept her husband a prisoner.

The features of the Queen, notwithstanding their cruel expression,
were charming; her eyes full of determination; her lips full, bright
red, and voluptuous to a degree; her shoulders, her limbs, and such
parts of her body as could be distinguished from amidst the dust and
blood covering it, were superbly moulded, splendidly formed.

As she looked at Walinda, she glanced, too, at M. de Guéran, and
strange thoughts passed through her mind, and darkened her brow.

At length, she got up, and, as the serpent lying at her feet made
another effort to get near her, to bite her, perhaps, she pushed her
away with her foot contemptuously, but without any appearance of
anger. At the same time, Nassar, not finding his prisoner at the
place where he had left her, followed the track made by her body in
the grass, came up to her, and, taking hold of the cords round her
with both hands, lifted her up, and threw her farther away.

This short incident recalled Madame de Guéran back to reality; she
looked round her, and was amazed to find that her friends and
servants were no longer in sight. What had become of them? Presently
she saw them approaching from the direction of the mountain. Were
they going to fight again? What heaps of dead and dying were lying
around them! Was it not high time to put an end to this carnage? No,
they were not making ready to fight; they were waving their arms in
the air, and making signs to somebody with their hands.

Who were they saluting after this fashion? She raised her eyes, and
saw another body of men descending from the mountains by a road which
she did not remember having seen in the morning.

At the head of the new-comers, marched a man dressed after the
European fashion, of medium height and elegant figure. His hair,
somewhat long, and his light beard looked like threads of gold in the
brilliant sunlight. The black peak of his grey cap threw a shade over
his wide forehead, straight nose, smiling lips, and large blue eyes
with long eyelashes—a grand head, at once energetic and sweet.

He walked slowly, supporting himself by a lance, but with upright
body, and apparent unconsciousness of the difficulties of the road.
He took no notice either of the escort behind him, or that coming to
meet him; he might be said to be making directly for Madame de
Guéran, without seeing what was going on around him, with his eyes
fixed on her alone.

Suddenly, she uttered a cry; she had just recognized him. She had
recognized him first of all, from where she was, without stirring a
step, even sooner than his best friends, who were almost touching
him. It was he! It was he! He had overtaken her; he had found her in
the desert, amidst chaos!

At first, when she recognized him, she felt as if she was going to
faint and sink down to the ground. But she soon recovered herself,
and an irresistible impulse appeared to attract her towards him who
was drawing nearer and nearer, with his eyes fixed upon her.

She made two or three steps mechanically, and then stopped abruptly.
All the blood, rushing from her heart, mounted into her cheeks; she
raised her arms, covered her face with her hands, and, turning back,
ran and knelt once more by the side of M. de Guéran, taking hold of
his hands and kissing his forehead, as if she were imploring pardon
and placing herself under the protection of her husband.

MM. Desrioux and Pommerelle had reached the base of the rock; a yard
only separated them from the plain; they leaped down and fell into
the arms of their friends, who had at last recognized them.

They looked at each other, shook hands, and embraced, too much moved
to ask for either explanations or news, or to express either
astonishment, curiosity, or gratitude.

The Beluchs and _pagazis_ of Zanzibar at the same time fraternized
with the Nubians, Soudan men, and Dinkas. They did not know each
other, nor had they ever had an idea even of each other's existence;
but they were birds of a feather all the same. They escorted
caravans, carried baggage, and, in short, were colleagues—quite
enough to justify the warmest embraces.

Whilst these pacific demonstrations were taking the place of the
terrible battle which had just been fought, M. Desrioux left his
friends, handed M. de Pommerelle over to them, and went alone towards
Madame de Guéran.

She heard him coming, turned round and went a few steps to meet him,
by this time calm, brave, quiet and self-possessed.

When he reached her and was looking at her without being able to say
a word, she held out her hands and let them rest for a moment in his
frankly, as a sister might do, in sight of all.

This affectionate reception enabled him to recover himself, and,
presently he said in a low, sad tone—

"My mother died in my arms; she no longer needed me, and so—I am come
to you."

"You have done well," she replied. "We will mourn your dear mother
together."

After a short interval of silence she resumed—

"Did you, before you started, receive my last letter, dated from
Khartoum, in which I spoke of M. de Guéran?"

"No," said he, surprised. "What did you tell me about him?"

"I told you," she replied tremblingly, "that, according to the latest
information, my husband was still living, and that I had every reason
to hope that I should find him."

"Ah!" said he, paler than ever. "And have you found him?"

"Yes, but to lose him for ever, if you do not succeed in saving him."

"If he can be saved," he murmured, "I will save him!"

CHAPTER XXIX.

Madame de Guéran led Dr. Desrioux to the side of the wounded man. He
knelt down on the grass, and looked fixedly for a long time at the
man he was called upon to restore to life. The lover had vanished,
and the man of science reappeared on the scene.

By the time he had risen, all the Europeans had come up and formed a
single group. He drew Dr. Delange aside and was about to converse
with him in an undertone, when Madame de Guéran stopped him and said—

"I wish to know the truth. Speak; I am strong enough to hear anything
you may have to say."

"I have nothing to conceal from you," replied M. Desrioux. "I merely
wished to ascertain whether my colleague was of the same opinion as
myself, and to ask his permission to speak."

"Say on, my dear fellow, and do not be afraid of treading on my
professional toes," said M. Delange. "I have, unfortunately for
myself, and," he added, with a smile, "very possibly for others also,
been a kind of amateur doctor, whilst you have devoted all your care,
all your time, and all your intelligence to your profession. I look
upon you as a master rather than a colleague."

M. Desrioux bowed, without speaking.

"Moreover," continued Dr. Delange, "I only acted for you amongst your
friends and with this caravan. You have turned up, and even, if I did
not give way before your talent and your high position, I should
yield to your right."

"I thank you for all the kind things you have said about me," replied
M. Desrioux. "But above all do I thank you for allowing me to attend
upon M. de Guéran in conjunction with you. I have just examined his
wounds, and I feel myself in a position to say that not one of them
is serious. I would even add that they could be quickly cured, if the
Baron were in his ordinary state of health. But before he was wounded
he must have been ill for a long time, and very much pulled down; you
can see that as well as I can. Recent occurrences have augmented his
fever to an alarming extent; we must devote all our energies to
reducing it, for it is heating his blood and will prevent the curing
of his wounds. I only know one efficacious remedy, and that is,
change of air."

"I agree with you," said Dr. Delange. "But how are we to remove M. de
Guéran with the necessary speed to a more salubrious country than
this, and to a fresh climate?"

"Nothing is easier," replied M. Desrioux. "I have opened up for you a
road to the mountains. Let us all set out to-day, and to-morrow, on
the lofty summits, thanks to the sudden change, the fever will be
subdued, and we shall no longer have occasion to fear the brain
affection which at this moment gives rise to serious alarm."

"Let us start, by all means, and as soon as possible. We have no
possible inducement to remain here in the midst of all these corpses,
too numerous for us to think of burying them. The air we are
breathing on the plain will be deadly in a few hours."

"And you may as well add," said M. Périères chiming in, "that we may
be attacked again from one moment to another. The amazons, when they
recover from their first surprise, will re-form and march against us
for the purpose of rescuing their Queen. I insist, also, on our
immediate departure. What do you say, de Morin?"

"Certainly. This spot is both unhealthy and depressing, for we are
not only surrounded by the corpses of our enemies, but more than one
faithful follower lies dead beside us. I counted our loss in killed
whilst Delange was attending to the wounded, and I find that we have
lost thirty of our bearers, fifteen Nubian and Dinka soldiers, and
about twenty of the Monbuttoos whom we had armed. I am as anxious as
you are to get away at once from this accursed plain. But can we
start at once? Our cattle have been killed and our provisions
scattered far and wide. Ought we, denuded of all our resources as we
are, to venture in such numbers up that mountain?"

"Provisions for a few days will suffice," replied M. Desrioux, "and I
think we might at once collect what we have and divide them amongst
our men. Just look at my escort; they have soon found a grazing
ground in the midst of your camp, and they are making up, at your
expense, for the privations they have suffered for some days past. As
for the cattle, their loss is not to be regretted, seeing that we
could not have taken them with us up the mountain. Besides, in ten or
twelve days, we shall have reached Lake Albert, and on its western
shore we shall find the caravan we left there with a sufficiently
large quantity of provisions."

"I will also take the liberty of remarking in my turn," said M. de
Pommerelle, "that if we do not start at once so as to reach Lake
Albert on or before the 25th of December, the said caravan, which is
not under any obligation to wait for us beyond a month, will have
taken the road again with all our baggage and our most precious
treasures."

"Very well," said M. de Morin. "That settles the question of
provisions. But we have some duties to perform before we can think of
starting—to bury our dead, for instance."

"Nassar, by my orders," said M. Périères, "is seeing to that. The
Nubians will have a grave; indeed, it is already being dug."

"And Munza?" asked M. de Morin. "He died for us, or, at all events,
in our cause."

"He is already buried," said M. Périères, and his tomb is worthy of
his rank. The rock crushed his body in its fall and buried it in the
ground. Instead of a tombstone, a mountain will mark the spot where
rest his remains."

"But," urged de Morin once more, "what about his army? Have we any
right to leave them to their fate?"

"Have we any more right," replied M. Périères, "to drag that horde of
barbarians and cannibals into another part of Africa, into regions
which enjoy, at any rate, the appearance of civilization? Moreover,
my dear fellow, the Monbuttoos have but one idea—that of returning as
quickly as possible to their own country. They would refuse to go any
farther with us."

"That is possible; but when we are no longer by to assist them, they
will be massacred by the Walindis."

"Or the Walindis by them," replied M. Périères. "Make use of your
telescope. The whole army, which took to flight on the death of
Munza, has, during the past hour, recovered its original formation,
not to join us, not to defend us, but to destroy the villages, burn
the huts, pursue the vanquished amazons, kill them, and, if you do
not object to my saying so, undoubtedly eat them. Have we not already
seen that little operation performed in the case of the Domondoos? I
have no sympathy whatever, my dear fellow, with these people, and I
cannot help saying that you, as a rule so full of common sense, are
to-day raising objections to our departure which are absurd."

M. de Morin did not reply; but, leaning over to M. Périères, he said
in a whisper—

"How can I be reasonable on such a day as this? Within twenty-four
hours to stumble across a husband and a rival!"

"Do not make yourself out to be worse than you really are," replied
M. Périères in the same tone. "The husband owes his deliverance to
you alone, and you are only regretting that he has been restored to
us in so deplorable a state. As regards Desrioux, do you bear him any
ill-will for having saved our lives and opened up for us a road to
Europe? If it had not been for him, my dear fellow, we should at this
moment be either lying dead on the ground, or, what would not be much
better, prisoners of Walinda."

"Wait a bit," said Delange, coming up. "I have no objection to being
taken prisoner by her. Where is the sweet creature?"

"There she is," replied Périères, pointing to the Queen, who was
still lying at full length on the grass.

"And what are we to do with her if we start to-day? Shall we let her
go?"

"No, a thousand times no!" exclaimed de Morin. "We should be guilty
of the gravest imprudence by doing anything of the sort. If she were
restored to freedom she would lose no time in collecting together the
scattered remnants of her army and would attack us afresh. Cannot you
see how ferociously she looks at us?"

"I see," replied Delange, "that she is a splendid creature, quite
worthy of the name I gave her, and the interest I take in her."

M. Périères, without paying the slightest attention to the words of
the too susceptible Delange, said to M. de Morin—

"How can she attack us if we start to-day? She would not follow us up
the mountain."

"Why not?"

"What road would she take?"

"The same that we are going to take," replied de Morin. "Up this rock
suspended in mid-air. If we can scale it, encumbered with our
baggage, our provisions, and our wounded, will the amazons, whose
activity you have had every opportunity of remarking, find any
difficulty in following us?"

"Upon my word," replied M. Périères. "You are decidedly off your head
to-day; the most simple things escape you. As soon as ever our
caravan reaches the plateau whence Desrioux first burst upon our
gaze, all the men can insert their lances, after the fashion of
levers, underneath the rock, which is simply leaning against the
cliff. One good heave all together will suffice to overturn it; its
base will roll over on to the plain just as its summit has already
done, and the road to the mountain will once more be closed against
the natives of these parts."

"You are right," said de Morin. "Our retreat is safe enough. I can
only now plead the cause of the Monbuttoos. They are savages of the
worst description, and cannibals to boot. I admit all that. But we
ought to be all the more grateful to them for having neither molested
nor eaten us. We cannot, therefore, under the pretext that Walinda
will not be able to fight us, leave our ancient allies exposed to so
dangerous an enemy."

"But how are we to get rid of her?" persisted M. Périères. "Do you
intend to have her shot?"

"She certainly deserves it, and the idea has crossed my mind, but I
lacked courage to give the order. If you like to take the
responsibility—"

"Never. And you, Delange?"

"Not if I know it! She is far too pretty. All my anger fades away
before her beauty. Why not take her with us? We can set her at
liberty in eight or ten days, as by that time the Monbuttoos will
have left the country. She is quite sharp enough, believe me, to
discover the way back to her kingdom by herself."

"Yes," replied de Morin, "that is the only course open to us; we have
no choice. But she is a very dangerous prisoner, and we must not let
her out of our sight for a moment."

"I will take care of that," replied Delange, quickly.

"I thought we should come to that," replied M. de Morin, laughing.
"Only—take care of Miss Poles! You are reinstated in her good graces;
are you going to forfeit them once more?"

"My dear fellow," said Delange, "do not be alarmed. As soon as the
new caravan appeared on the scene I was laid on the shelf. Just watch
the look she bestows on Pommerelle, and observe the elaborate toilet
she has made in his honour."

"For goodness sake, gentlemen, let us arrange about starting," said
Dr. Desrioux, joining his three friends. "It is already three o'clock
in the afternoon, and in the common interest we ought, this very
night, to pitch our tent some twenty feet above this place."

CHAPTER XXX.

The departure was not effected quite so easily as might have been
anticipated. The de Guéran caravan, whilst the Europeans were laying
their plans, had been making some of its own, and these plans
consisted in resting until the evening, and then joining the
Monbuttoos for the purpose of celebrating a united orgie on a
gigantic scale in honour of the victory. As an exceptional case, and
contrary to all their habits, the negroes were taking thought of the
future, and had come to the conclusion that their chiefs intended to
indulge them with a long spell of idleness. Had they not found the
white man they had been seeking for so long? Had not the object of
the journey been attained, and, before retracing their steps along
the road by which they had come, were not both soldiers and porters
entitled to make a long stay in the conquered country, the country of
lovely women whose charms had been vaunted to arouse their zeal?
These women were terrible in battle—that they had found out to their
cost, but now that they were conquered and disarmed, they might
possibly be found to possess an amount of amiability hitherto
unsuspected.

Consequently, when an attempt was made to rouse the Nubians from
their day-dreams, and warn them to be ready to start at once, some
very significant murmuring was heard. Although, owing to the mingled
firmness and tact of M. de Morin, the soldiers had learnt discipline,
though for more than a year they had proved themselves to be faithful
and devoted servants, and had become almost civilized by contact with
the Europeans, as soon as a disposition was shown to rob them of the
fruits of their victory and to restrain them from the indulgence of
their ruling passion, they became what they were before —
unreasonable, unmanageable and mutinous.

Their leaders had, in the long run, gained too great an ascendancy
over them not to be able to overcome this resistance, which, after
all, was more a matter of instinct than of reason. They made them
understand that the hour for repose was not yet come, and that the
Walindis might yet collect their scattered forces and attack them
again. They showed them the heaps of dead bodies lying all around,
and hinted that they too were still liable to share the fate of their
friends. But, as soon as they comprehended that, instead of regaining
the road to the north and going back to their own country, they were
to scale the mountain range and go on southwards, they made fresh
objections. It was all over with them! They would never more set eyes
on the Dinka land, or their beloved Nubia, or the dear old Nile! When
the Europeans arrived at the end of their journey, so far, far away,
they would leave them to their fate, and how were they to get back to
Khartoum?

These complaints were reasonable enough up to a certain point. The
bearers and soldiers, it is true, had been engaged to follow their
leaders whithersoever it might please the latter to go, but nobody
then foresaw so long a journey. The return, indeed, would be a matter
of considerable diflficulty for everybody, if these men were taken as
far as Zanzibar.

"Why should we go there at all?" M. de Pommerelle was the first to
suggest. "The journey is a long one, and it took us more than six
months to accomplish it. How are we to get across Lake Albert again
on our rafts? They did very well for us, because the current took us
from east to west, but when it becomes a question of going against
the current, what are our means of transport? Can we rely upon the
inhabitants of Magungo, who saluted our departure with flights of
arrows, sending their canoes to bring us over to the eastern side?"

"And even supposing," continued Dr. Desrioux, "that we manage to get
across the lake, I dread the effect of the long journey and the
unhealthy climate of certain parts of the country upon M. de Guéran."

"You have, I suppose," asked M. Périères, "some other route to
propose?"

"Certainly I have. As soon as we have rejoined our caravan on the
shore of the Albert Nyanza, there is nothing to prevent our remaining
on the western side, and proceeding northwards to Gondokoro, as
Baker, Speke, and Grant did. We are now in lat. 2° N., and Gondokoro,
or Ismailia, is about 5°. It is a mere question of 3°, or, in other
words, seventy-five leagues, a matter of six weeks at most. That is
evidently the shortest way."

"Undoubtedly," said M. de Morin, "seeing that we are at least 8° from
Zanzibar. But, when once we have reached that island we should be, as
it were, at home again, because we could take ship there and steam to
Europe."

"At Gondokoro," replied Dr. Desrioux, "we can hire a vessel. We shall
then descend the Nile and set sail for France after a more direct
fashion still."

"The proposed route appears to me to be an excellent one," said M.
Périères, as if to close the discussion, "and I move that it be
adopted. It has, moreover, one considerable advantage; it will enable
us to overcome all the objections of our Nubians and Dinkas. We shall
be taking them home in a straight line, and, if they so wish, we can
drop them at their respective doors. Will you allow me to make this
arrangement with them?"

MM. de Morin and Delange gave their consent, and M. de Pommerelle
could not help being charmed at such a resolution.

"After having done so much," said he, "to come to Africa, I should
have been in despair at having seen so little and being obliged to go
back the same way. It is bad enough to be deprived of all chance of a
peep at the countries of the Monbuttoos, the Niam-Niam, and the
Bongos, but you must tell me all about them, and T will try to
console myself."

"I will console you," said Miss Poles, accompanying her words by one
of her most seductive smiles. "I will talk to you about King Kadjoro,
a very charming man, and about his royal brother Munza, of whom I
will not say one word in disparagement—his tomb is too close to us."

"Mind you tell him _all_ your adventures," said Dr. Delange, with a
laugh.

"I will not forget anything, sir," replied Miss Poles, in a tone of
pique. "A man like M. de Pommerelle is worthy of truth."

As she said the words—M. de Pommerelle—she plumed herself to such a
degree, that there was no disguising the fact that he had made a
great impression upon her.

Whilst this conversation was going on, M. Périères unfolded to Nassar
and the Arab interpreters the plan of action he was about to adopt.
They understood it at once, and undertook to explain it to the
caravan.

After having settled matters with the Khartoum people, an arrangement
had to be made with the Zanzibar contingent. When the latter heard of
the proposed route, they began to grumble—"What was to become of
them? How were they to get back from Gondokoro to the coast and their
own country?" In reality, they had very little cause for complaint,
as most of them had already made the trip, the central point in which
is Lake Victoria, but they hoped, by means of grumbling, to secure an
increase in their wages. They got what they wanted, for there was no
dispensing with these fifty men, well armed and just calculated to
fill up the gaps created by death in the de Guéran expedition.

Towards four o'clock in the afternoon, by dint of mingled arguments,
threats and promises, the last efforts at resistance on the part of
the two caravans were successfully overcome. Active preparations for
departure were at once set on foot; the torn sacks were sewn up,
cases closed again, and arms collected. The provisions and absolutely
indispensable baggage were next got together, everything too
cumbersome to be easily transported being left behind. Masters and
servants, men and women, all concerned, worked their very hardest,
Madame de Guéran alone remaining with her husband, whilst Queen
Walinda, whose bonds had been made still more secure, lay motionless
on the ground.

M. de Morin, on making a survey of this army of labourers, at length
noticed that Joseph was _non est_. He had satisfied himself some time
previously, when inspecting the field of battle, that his faithful
servant was not amongst the killed, and, reassured on this essential
head, he had not troubled himself any more about that useless being.
But now that he could not see him, he became rather anxious. At the
very commencement of the battle, Joseph had ensconced himself behind
his bullock and a vast array of boxes—had he, too, like Munza, been
buried underneath the rock? Was he sharing, with the King of the
Monbuttoos, the honour of a royal tomb? Joseph's decease would
certainly not compromise the success of the expedition in any one
way, but M. de Morin had always had a certain weakness for his valet;
he looked upon taking him back to the Rue Taitbout in a state of
perfect preservation as a point of honour, and he thought himself
bound, before making an official report of his death, to make some
effort to find him alive. At first he called him by name, adding
thereto a series of epithets by no means complimentary, such as
"good-for-nothing," "lazy," "scoundrel," "coward." As Joseph did not
respond to these appeals, M. de Morin grew more tender. "Joseph, my
good Joseph, my dear Joseph, don't be afraid; the amazons have
disappeared." This sweetness was equally futile; the valet remained
invisible. His master then thought of drumming for him, there being
no town-crier at hand with a bell. Accordingly a Nubian was provided
with an empty tin case, and on it he executed a prolonged and
artistic roll.

At the sound of the drum two serpents of the python species, called
by the natives of Africa _metsé_, _pallah_, or _tari_, were seen to
glide out of a cleft at the bottom of the rock. Passionately fond of
music, like all their race, they were attracted by the roll of the
African drum. Presently, there appeared behind them a man, or,
rather, the head of a man, whose body was enveloped by a python five
metres long and from thirty to forty centimeters in circumference.
The head belonged to Joseph. Early in the morning this brave servant
had come to the conclusion that things would turn out badly for him,
and that his barricade was by no means a sufficient protection.
Creeping along the foot of the mountain, he slipped into a cleft
which might have been constructed on purpose to afford him a hiding-place.
But the serpents, alarmed by the firing, had hit upon
precisely the same idea, had chosen the same refuge, and taking
Joseph, who was paralysed by fear, for the trunk of a tree, had
coiled themselves round him. For several hours the unhappy wretch was
a silent spectator of the proceedings of these reptiles. A naturalist
would assuredly have profited by the opportunity of studying their
manners and customs, but Joseph, persuaded that his last hour was
come, limited himself to repenting of his misdeeds, and silently
confessing his sins.

At last the music produced its effect. Two of the serpents uncoiled
themselves, one after the other, and left their perch, whilst the
third, converting a point of a rock into a fulcrum, wound his tail
round it, and, without quitting his victim, drew him outwards. A
general rush was made to rescue Joseph as soon as his terror-stricken
face, haggard eyes, and hair on end appeared in view, and as the
pythons are quite harmless, they were driven away without difficulty.
The lower orders of creation had certainly manifested a decided
predilection for M. de Morin's valet. Bees, ants, leeches, termites
of all kinds, and serpents had in turn disported themselves on his
body, and left behind them charming reminiscences of his journey.

At five o'clock the united caravans were all ready to start.

CHAPTER XXXI.

The ascent of the rock, that bond of union between the plain and the
mountain, was as easy as possible for the able-bodied men of the
expedition, bat the work of conveying the wounded up it was perilous
in the extreme. Every obstacle, however, was overcome, thanks to the
ropes in possession of the Desrioux caravan. These were tied one to
the other, and thus made a sort of railing, firmly fixed on the
plateau by the first arrivals there, and descending along the whole
length of the granite bridge right down to the plain. By the aid of
this support, M. de Guéran was carried in a hammock, borne on poles.

The use of her legs was restored to Queen Walinda, by order of M.
Delange, who was answerable for her, and four Nubians, strictly
enjoined to watch her narrowly, made her walk in front of them.
Contrary to the expectation of everybody, she did not make the
slightest resistance, but scaled the rock deliberately, without a
murmur or even turning her head, just as if she were leaving her
dominions of her own free will. When she reached the plateau, she did
not even glance back at the land of which, that very morning, she had
been the sovereign. She appeared to have no eyes except for her
former prisoner and for Madame de Guéran, who walked at his side.

The caravan by degrees wound along the defile traversed on the
previous evening by MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle. The Beluchs, who
knew the road, formed the vanguard; then came the wounded, escorted
by Drs. Desrioux and Delange, ever ready to aid them, and followed by
the women and the bearers. The Nubians and Dinkas, commanded by
Nassar and the Arab interpreters, brought up the rear.

Before joining the ranks, the Europeans acted on the hint given by M.
Périères. Some soldiers, provided with lances to be used as levers,
lifted the part of the rock which rested against the mountain, and by
a resolute and united effort rolled the block of stone over on to the
plain.

The amazons, however, did not seem disposed to follow up the
Europeans and rescue their Queen; their whole attention was given to
escaping from the Monbuttoos, who in the last hour or so had made
themselves masters of the country. These people made a terrible use
of the victory they had not gained, setting fire to all the villages
and huts, dancing and frisking around the bonfires, and going into
mourning for their King in the gayest fashion.

The Europeans, after having cast a sorrowful look over the field of
carnage, and said a last adieu to the vast regions they had just
traversed, followed the caravan. M. de Pommerelle walked beside his
two friends, de Morin and Périères, and gave them—for up to this
moment they had not had any opportunity for chatting—the latest news
from Paris. This news was rather stale, eight months old in fact,
seeing that the Count and the doctor had left France in the month of
March, but they were none the less welcome to his hearers, exiles
since October, 1872. M. de Pommerelle also told them how, in reading
their letters, following them on the map, and trying to live their
life, he had felt himself gradually acquiring a taste for far-off
adventures. These and other confidential communications were
interrupted by Miss Poles, who had left her place, allowed the
caravan to defile before her, and now joined the Count de Pommerelle,
that very attractive man, as she had just confided to Dr. Delange.

Left to themselves, MM. de Morin and Périères lighted a couple of
those excellent cigars of which they had been so long deprived, a
gift from M. de Pommerelle. After a few moments' silent enjoyment of
these luxuries, they looked at each other, and the painter, said to
the man of letters—

"Well, we have found him at last!"

"Yes, we have found him," replied M. Périères. "And, moreover, we may
safely say that for a year past we have not left a stone unturned in
that direction."

"With a chivalrous disinterestedness," added M. de Morin, "worthy a
place in the records of practical morality."

"We shall figure in them one of these days, I dare say, my dear
fellow; that is one consolation."

"But we have another."

"What is that?"

"We might have found him strong, well-to-do, and in perfect health,
which would, I admit, have been all very well for him, but rather
disagreeable for us. On the contrary he is in a deplorable state,
and, to speak frankly, our jealousy has no longer any _locus
standi_."

"Our execution is only postponed," observed M. de Morin. "We have
been told that none of his wounds are serious, and that the fever
will leave him when he reaches the high ground. In a few days
perhaps—"

"In a few days, my dear de Morin," added Périères, "the husband will
doubtless be cured, but the wife will not."

"What do you mean?"

"My meaning is simple enough. To-day Madame de Guéran only beholds in
her husband a wounded man, an invalid, almost at death's-door, whom
it is her mission to recall to life. As soon as his health shall have
been re-established, the husband will re-appear, and the sister of
charity, a wife once more, will call him to account somewhat
severely. She was only too ready to forget the errors, to use a mild
word, of M. de Guéran, so long as she believed him dead or in
captivity; she will remember them on the day of his restoration to
life and health. She cannot conceal from herself that he left her
very cavalierly, at the end of two years only of married life, to run
about the world, and she already looks upon herself as having been
rather a fool, believe me, for having taken so much trouble and
encountered so many dangers to regain possession of an eccentric and
fickle husband. Up to this time she has been fulfilling a duty, and
she sees nothing but the heroism of her action. The heroism
disappears with the fulfilment of the duty, and then the minor points
of the subject will come to the surface.

"If she had found him still in the power of some terrible African
potentate, reduced to slavery and more or less in durance vile, she
would have been satisfied. But she surprised him in the midst of a
tribe of very attractive women, or very uncommon, as you will admits
One of them, their Queen by right both of birth and beauty, appears
to love him to the verge of criminality. For fear he should escape
her, she throws herself upon him, tears him in pieces like a wild
beast, and if she does not kill him it is only because she is robbed
of her prey. Madame de Guéran is fully alive to these—petty details,
shall we call them? She is very keen, and nothing escapes her. She
has divined what she has not seen, and she admits, as we do, that the
Baron, to have inspired so sanguinary a passion, must for his part
have afforded some grounds for it.

"She does not look upon him as criminal; so much I will concede. She
is far too intelligent not to understand the difficulties of the
situation, and the necessities of slavery; but she will for a long,
long time, perhaps for ever, resent his having placed himself in such
a position. There was nothing to compel him to leave Paris and expose
himself to all these adventures. 'He ought not to have been, and
gone, and done it,' she will say to herself, if she is aware of that
vulgar phrase. We must also make due allowance for womanly pride, and
the peculiar delicacy of Madame de Guéran. She cannot feel flattered
at being the successor of a native of equatorial Africa. Rest assured
that the recollection of this female savage will haunt her throughout
the remainder of her life, and will be a perpetual moral shower bath.
Queen Walinda is lovely in our eyes, and especially so in those of
the susceptible Dr. Delange, but, as a woman, she does not exist, so
far as Madame de Guéran is concerned. She is a being of some sort, a
fine animal of the ape tribe, overlooked by naturalists in their
classifications, and the Baroness will ever experience a feeling of
repulsion towards the man who for six months took up his abode in the
den of this semi-wild animal.

"I bring my long harangue to a close, my dear fellow, with these
words. On the score of health M. de Guéran is not now formidable, and
he will never be so for the simple reason that his wife is
disillusionized."

"He is none the less her husband," observed M. de Morin. "He has been
found, he lives, and his widow, whom we wished to marry, is out of
our reach. But you are not so calm as you would have me believe.
Whilst I was giving way to-day to my bad temper, you remained quiet
and all smiles, but you did not suffer any the less. Come, make a
clean breast of it."

"I admit it," exclaimed M. Périères. "I feel precisely as you do. I
suffer, and I am jealous, not of the husband, rescued by us this
morning on the plain, but of the rival who fell upon us from the top
of the mountain. He is about to benefit by the state of mind and
heart in which he finds the Baroness, and which I have just
explained. He will benefit also by the rivalry of both of us, by that
equality between us which has allowed Madame de Guéran to remain
undecided and wavering, and by the love we have displayed for her, a
love which has not roused any corresponding feeling in her heart, but
has nevertheless prepared it for the reception of somebody else.

"Finally, rely upon it, he will benefit by the unexpected fashion of
his appearance amongst us. The imagination of women is always taken
by the marvellous, especially when it does not come to pass by
design, when he who appears surrounded by fireworks has not
consciously produced the illumination, and especially when he is as
modest as he is brilliant. For I will do Desrioux justice, it was not
his fault that he did not arrive by rail with his carpet bag in his
hand. If he blew up the mountain, it was simply because he was
without the means of scaling it; if he appeared to me in a cloud,
duly furnished with wings, it was merely because chance, that great
scene-painter, was pleased on this occasion to furnish a fairy-like
tableau. Madame de Guéran was none the less moved by the explosion
and its attendant apotheosis; even we were surprised into admiration.
In a word, my dear fellow, and to make a long story short—we have
been pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the past year, and now
Desrioux is going to eat them."

"You take it very smilingly, at all events."

"I laugh to keep myself from crying."

"And you accept the situation?"

"Just as you will have to accept it. What can we do? Any display of
jealousy would be out of place and futile. Shall we quarrel with
Desrioux? Have we dared to quarrel with each other? No, we recoiled
from such an act of injustice, and we shall recoil again. Moreover,
as I have already said, Desrioux, thanks to his _coup de theâtre_,
has saved our lives, and people as a rule do not fall foul of their
saviours. Reflection must show us that we have only one thing to do—
to get back to Paris as soon as possible, and console ourselves as
best we may, and if we can."

Just as this conversation came to an end, the caravan emerged from
the defile through which it had been wending its way. After a day so
full of incident the moment for well-earned repose had arrived. Tents
were pitched for the Europeans on a plateau of some extent, whilst
the people of Khartoum and Zanzibar sought a sleeping place in the
clefts of the mountain, or lay down on the rocks, huddling close
together to keep out the cold. The centigrade thermometers registered
eighteen degrees, but the natives of central and southern Africa
shiver in anything under twenty. This lowering of the temperature was
on the contrary beneficial to M. de Guéran, and Dr. Desrioux, before
quitting his patient, ascertained that the fever had decreased
sensibly.

The camp was soon buried in repose—Venus in ebony alone, with her
large eyes wide open, looked fixedly at the tent wherein reposed her
former prisoner.

CHAPTER XXXII.

On the fifth day of March, the caravan reached the elevated plateau
where the Ulindi territory had first met the gaze of Dr. Desrioux.

The long ascent, interspersed with equally precipitous descents, had
been both arduous and dangerous. The bearers frequently stood in need
of assistance, embarrassed as they were by their heavy loads, and
they had to be helped along by the aid of ropes, and, occasionally,
by means of relieving them of their burdens. Several bags of
provisions and other things of great value to the Europeans were left
on the mountain or fell into the abyss.

MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle were here, there, and everywhere,
endeavouring to hit upon the track they had traversed before,
avoiding the paths which appeared to them to be too full of peril,
discovering fresh ones, cheering and encouraging everybody.

Miss Poles was generally to be found close to them; if she hated the
sea, she was proportionately fond of the mountain, and, like most
Englishwomen, she was possessed of remarkable climbing powers. It was
quite a treat to see her scale, often quite unnecessarily, a lofty
summit, and, planting her lance upon it, take possession of it in the
name of Great Britain, and bestow an English name on it. In this she
was only imitating her fellow countrymen, who lose no time in
christening all the mountains and lakes they discover, although it
would be much more practical to retain the native designations. The
French, Germans, and Americans appear determined to resist the stupid
monomania, and Lakes Victoria, Albert, and Alexandra, and the
cataract known as the Murchison Fall, in honour of the President of
the Royal Geographical Society of London, will soon be designated on
all maps by then primitive titles, M'Wootan, Oukéréonè, Akenyira.
These names may not be quite so euphonious, but they are far more
rational.

One day, whilst the caravan was resting on the top of a mountain, and
before attempting the descent down its eastern side, M. de Morin
joined M. Delange.

"Delange," said he, "in the exercise of my authority as leader of the
caravan, for both Desrioux and de Pommerelle have thought fit to
place their soldiers and bearers under my orders, I am under the
necessity, in the common interest, of taking an important step."

"What is the matter? Your exordium rouses my curiosity."

"The matter is that we must release a prisoner in whom you appear to
take a great interest."

"Queen Walinda? Yes, she is a splendid creature, and she interests
me, from a purely artistic point of view."

"Quite so," said de Morin laughing.

"Well, my dear fellow," continued Delange, "the fact is that she is
so wrapped up in her former admirer, that she has no eyes for any one
else."

"Be that as it may," replied de Morin, "I intend, metaphorically
speaking, to show her the door. It has taken us five days to reach
this spot, but she could manage the return journey in three, and,
during the week thus occupied, the Monbuttoos will have had time to
escape from Ulinda. The Queen will no longer be in a position to
exterminate them, and we shall have saved them, as was our duty, from
any measures of reprisal."

"Do you think it absolutely necessary," asked Delange, "to be in such
a hurry? Could we not keep her prisoner for a few days longer?"

"That would be cruel. The Queen will have hard enough work, as it is,
to find her way out of the labyrinth of mountains without our making
her task still more difficult."

"How is she ever to get out of it? The rock which served us as a
means of communication between the mountain and the plain has been
overthrown into the abyss. An empty space, thirty yards high,
separates her from her kingdom."

"First of all, my dear Delange," replied M. de Morin, "permit me to
point out that your thirty yards may be reduced to twenty, seeing
that the rock is at least ten yards thick. Secondly, in anticipation
of this little difficulty, I have paid your friend the delicate
attention of leaving on the plateau the rope which we used as a
railing. Walinda is quite capable of uncoiling it, and she is quite
agile enough to descend to her own country with its assistance. So,
you see, you need not be at all uneasy as to the fate of this very
interesting person."

"Possibly so, but you are far more anxious about her return to her
dominions than she is herself. She does not wish to leave us."

"That is possible also, but, unfortunately, I most decidedly wish her
to leave us."

"Why, may I ask?"

"Because, in my idea, she is an element of danger in the midst of our
caravan. She has not been able to accept her defeat, closely followed
by her ruin, with resignation, and she is sure to be plotting
something terrible against us."

"How can she do anything, bound and closely watched as she is?"

"In the long run some cord will give way, or her keepers will fall
asleep, and, to tell you the truth, I have not much confidence in you
as a chief warder. A clever and pretty—for she must be pretty—
prisoner would have very little difficulty in getting possession of
your bunch of keys, for your eyes would see nothing but the thief."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it. But, if this reason is not sufficient for you, I
have another at your service. We have no right any longer to inflict
upon Madame de Guéran the sight of a woman who must recall to her
mind unpleasant thoughts."

"Oh! as for that," said Dr. Delange, "Madame de Guéran has no cause
for complaint. She has never found herself in the society of my
prisoner, and if she has seen her it is quite her own fault. In a
caravan, a hundred and fifty strong, marching in single file and
winding about continually, one individual can very easily remain
unseen. I do not say that the Queen has displayed this amount of
delicacy, but I have displayed it for her. Several Nubians, by my
orders, have surrounded her continually and kept her as far as
possible from the Baroness.

"Forgive me," said de Morin. "I was wrong in mentioning this detail,
and I apologize. But the other reasons I have advanced in favour of
the immediate liberation of your prisoner are, I think, unanswerable.
They are quite enough for me, and ought to be so for you.
Consequently, you will have the goodness to attend to them."

"Your orders shall be obeyed, sir, by me," said Delange, bringing his
hand up to the salute, "but I cannot answer for Walinda. She may not
be willing to leave us."

"Out of love for her gaoler?" said de Mori smiling.

"Alas! no. The gaoler is not taken into consideration. The whilom
prisoner is alone in question."

"All the more reason for getting rid of her at once. And now I leave
you to give orders for her release, and I rely upon you to assist me
in getting rid of her."

"You may rely upon me, since it is my duty," said Delange with a
sigh.

As soon as de Morin had taken his departure, M. Delange had the Queen
brought before him, and he gave the necessary orders for her to be
set at liberty.

The men of the escort expected to see her give some sign of pleasure,
but she did nothing of the kind. She, on the contrary, looked about
her with an air of uneasiness.

"She thinks, perhaps, that we are going to kill her," said Nassar in
reply to a question from M. Delange.

"Try to explain to her," replied the Doctor, "that she is at liberty,
and may return to hor kingdom."

Did Walinda understand the interpreter? None could tell. She was
crouching on a rock, and, instead of glancing towards the territory
of Ulindi, which appeared in the far distance, and was pointed out to
her, she in silence and immobility fixed her eyes on the caravan, now
on the move once more, and winding like a serpent round the mountain.

M. Delange had not the courage to prolong the situation. He took a
last look on the splendid creature whom he thought he should never
see again, then turned away abruptly and, with his men, rejoined the
rear guard of the caravan.

In an hour's time, when he had reached a dell commanded by the
plateau he had just left, he turned his head once more.

Walinda, illumined by the burning rays of the setting sun, was still
in the same place on the rock. He took his telescope and looked at
her for a long time. Her head was always turned towards the caravan,
but he could no longer distinguish either the covering left with her
to protect her against the cold, or the bag of provisions which had
been placed round her neck. She had hurled these presents from the
Europeans into the abyss.

"Does she want to die of hunger and cold?" said Delange to himself.

Filled with sorrow for the unhappy being, he went to the front and
overtook his friends. MM. de Morin and Périères were still
interchanging their mutual confessions. Miss Poles was sighing by the
side of M. de Pommerelle, and M. de Guéran, carried in his hammock,
was being borne on his way escorted by his wife and Dr. Desrioux.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

About five o'clock on the following morning, just as the caravan was
about to get under way, Nassar came up to MM. de Morin and Delange.

"The Queen," said he, "has not gone back to her country. By dint of
walking all night she has just overtaken us, and is hiding down below
there, behind a rock."

"Poor woman!" M. Delange could not help saying.

"You pity her?" said M. de Morin.

"Certainly, I pity her," and, he added in a lower tone, "I pity her
as one pities a faithful dog chased away by his master."

"You forget that this dog bit its master. It was not even content
with biting, but sprang upon him open-mouthed."

"Yes, but now that its rage and anger, both inspired by jealousy,
have passed away, the dog has repented, and returns with drooping
ears to its master's dwelling. It seeks him, moaning and whining,
fawns upon him, and refuses to be driven away. It will not bite him
again, you may be quite sure."

"I agree with you; but it will bite those who have replaced it in its
master's affections, and usurped its place by his fireside."

M. de Morin turned to Nassar, and said—

"This woman must be got rid of at all hazards. I do not want to see
her any more."

"How am I to carry out your orders?" replied Nassar. "When my men
threaten her with the butt ends of their lances she does not appear
to see them, and if they throw stones at her she does not seem to
feel them."

"I warned you," said Delange to M. de Morin. "The simplest plan after
all would have been to have kept her here in the midst of us, bound
hand and foot."

"No, it was not the simplest plan," replied M. de Morin, impatiently,
"and I have already told you why. This creature can no longer, with
any propriety, form part of Madame de Guéran's caravan. Look here!"
he added in an undertone, and rather unsteadily, "if I only were to
consult my own interest, I should take very good care that the
Baroness should always be seeing her. Her husband is rapidly
improving physically, and to get rid of him morally would be quite
fair, in which case Walinda would be of considerable use to me. But
neither Périères nor I, as you may well understand, would ever dream
of having recourse to such means; we despise such weapons, and, once
for all, I will not allow our Sultana to run the risk of setting eyes
on your Venus in ebony."

"Have her put to death then."

"I shall very possibly have to do that in order to prevent her
killing others; but, for mercy's sake, do not drive me to that
extremity. Find some means of getting rid of this woman. I assure you
that she is dangerous, and the responsibility which falls upon me, as
leader of the expedition, positively appals me."

When M. de Morin had taken himself off, M. Delange allowed the
caravan to pass on, and took his place in the rearmost rank so as to
be able to watch all Walinda's movements.

She appeared in sight first of all from behind the rock pointed out
by Nassar. She was looking about her in evident fear, and no longer
had the pride and assurance so conspicuous in her in days gone by.
Then she was lost to view again. She was, doubtless, endeavouring to
hide herself behind the inequalities of the ground, amongst the
shrubs and briars, and instead of walking she was creeping, so as not
to be seen.

In the afternoon the caravan had to go down the side of a mountain,
too rocky and precipitous to afford even an appearance of vegetation.
The road along the smooth and slippery granite was perfectly exposed
to view, there was absolutely no foothold, and not a single tuft of
grass nor loose stone met the eye.

Then the Queen was once more seen on the top of the mountain just
left by the caravan; she was following, step by step, at a distance
of about fifty yards, the route taken by the escort. On she came,
with head erect and firm, unyielding tread. She had no stick to aid
her steps; she was entirely naked, illumined by the sunlight, and her
coloured skin, red rather than brown, stood out in bold contrast with
the grey and gloomy mountain side. When she stood still she might
well have been taken for a splendid statue in terra cotta, life size
and fixed in the rock.

The whole caravan could see her, and from time to time a soldier, or
a bearer, would stop to contemplate her.

At the foot of the mountain they had just past, vegetation began to
reappear, and presently isolated trees took the place of shrubs, to
be followed by extensive forests. The shores of Lake Albert were at
hand.

Walinda could now hide herself again, and she was no more seen until
the evening.

When night came on a halt was made, and the soldiers, after having
lighted fires to cook their evening meal and warm themselves, lay
down and were soon asleep.

M. Delange remained awake; he felt that the protection he was
endeavouring to extend to Walinda threw upon him a heavy
responsibility. He could not help occasionally sharing the fears of
his friend, and, distrusting the vigilance of the sentries, he kept a
sharp look out over the neighbourhood of the camp.

Towards midnight he saw Walinda once more. She was, doubtless, cold,
and she quietly, with stealthy steps, approached one of the fires of
the bivouac.

As soon as she reached it she began to warm herself, and when she had
succeeded in doing that, never suspecting that any one was watching
her, she crept on her hands and knees within the camp.

What was she going to do? What plan had she conceived? Did she intend
to glide to the tent where Madame de Guéran was sleeping?

He remained silent and motionless, but ready to interfere should need
be.

But the Queen, on that particular night, was not under the influence
of any passion; she was neither thinking of her lost love, nor of
vengeance. She was simply seeking to satisfy the hunger which was
torturing her.

In a moment of anger she had hurled down the abyss the provisions
handed over to her, and now, famished, mastered by instinct and not
by pride, she was prowling round the camp in search of nourishment,
seeking, near the smouldering embers, a few scraps of food, a
forgotten grain or two of eleusine, some sorghum roots, or a bone to
gnaw.

Having satisfied the pangs of hunger, she withdrew from the camp, and
hurried off to hide herself in the neighbouring woods.

On the following day nobody saw her. M. Delange in vain looked
through his telescope at every spot of high ground where she could
possibly appear, as well as at all the paths she could have chosen in
order to follow the caravan.

"She has taken it into her head to return to her own country," said
M. de Morin.

"I am more inclined to think that she has taken it into her head to
die," replied the doctor.

Miss Poles was close to the speakers, and the remark of M. Delange
roused her at once.

"Die!" said she. "Die! You talk about it quietly enough, and you do
her honour enough and to spare. The idea of suicide presupposes a
certain amount of self-will and intelligence, and this creature
possesses nothing but animal instinct. Animals do not kill
themselves; consult the naturalists."

"I have no need to consult them. Miss Poles," replied M. Delange, "to
tell you that you are mistaken. An animal will not poison itself of
its own free will, nor will it drown itself, nor will it break its
own neck—all that I admit. But dogs have been known to allow
themselves to die of hunger after the death of their masters."

"The dogs you refer to," said Miss Poles, with great acerbity, "had
lived in the society of civilized people."

"Do you mean me to infer from that remark that M. de Guéran is not
civilized?"

"I do not understand how M. de Guéran enters into the argument."

"But Walinda has lived in his society, and it appears to me—"

"I have not the least desire to know what appears to you. I merely
maintain that this female savage is not a woman."

* * * * *

M. Delange awaited nightfall impatiently. He thought it probable that
Walinda would approach the caravan, as on the previous evening, to
warm herself and pick up the crumbs of the evening meal. But the
sentries, kept awake by a keen north wind, were, for once, on the
alert. The Queen did not put in an appearance, and the fears
expressed by the doctor seemed likely to be realized. The unhappy
creature would die of cold and hunger in some cleft in the mountain.

The thought worried him; he tried to sleep, but he could not even
doze. Towards three o'clock in the morning he thought he heard a
wailing sound in the distance. He pricked up his ears and listened.

The sound seemed to draw nearer; it became more distinct, and was
repeated by the echoes of the mountain.

It was mournful in the extreme, and did not in the least resemble the
cry of a human being. It was more like the prolonged howl of a
wounded animal, or the baying of a dog at death.

The sentries listened in fear and uneasiness, and M. Delange had to
get up and reassure them. Then, unattended, he entered into a
neighbouring wood, where he thought he might find Walinda. Convinced
that the wailing proceeded from her, he was anxious to succour her.

He did not see a living thing, and at daylight the sound ceased.

Thereupon he bent his steps towards the tent where Madame de Guéran
had passed the night.

He knew that the Baroness was always the first to rise, and he hoped
to be able to speak to her before anybody could appear to interrupt
their conversation.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

M. Delange was not mistaken; Madame de Guéran had opened the doorway
of her tent at dawn of day. As soon as she saw the doctor she went
quickly towards him and, holding out her hand, said affectionately—

"So early! Then you have something to say to me. I am delighted, for
I, also, for some days past, have had something to say to you, and
you have never been near me."

"I feared to be in the way," said he.

"How could that possibly be?" she replied quickly. "Do you think that
I have forgotten our long conversation one night on the mountain,
just before we entered the southern provinces? You were not afraid of
being in the way on that evening, and you probed my poor heart as if
you had that terrible scalpel of yours in your hand. I have never
borne you any ill-will for that, my dear doctor, as you know full
well. On the contrary, from that very time I have inscribed your name
on the list of my best friends, and that is the reason why, having
sinned against friendship, I want to beg your pardon to-day."

"What sin have you committed, my dear penitent?"

"I agreed," she replied, "to your yielding your place to your
_confrère_. I have allowed Dr. Desrioux to attend almost exclusively
upon my husband."

"I was anxious that it should be so. You had not seen Desrioux for a
long time, and I effaced myself so as to allow you to be often with
him and hear all he had to say."

"Do you imagine," she exclaimed, "that he has spoken of his love?"

"There was no necessity for him to speak. He proved it to you by
coming after you."

"And do you think," she continued, "that I can still now—"

She stopped; she dared not go on.

He put her thought into words.

"Do you think I can still love him? is what you wished to say. Yes, I
do think so; I am convinced of it. You love him, and you do not any
longer love your husband."

"It is untrue! It is untrue," she said, hiding her face in her hands.

"It is true," he replied. "You know very well that it is true, and
you are suffering more than ever. It is simply my conviction on this
score which has caused me no longer to attend upon your husband."

"I do not understand you," said she in amazement.

"I would not have you say to yourself," he replied boldly, "that he
owed his recovery to me, and I would not have you reproach me for
your unhappiness."

"Oh, how can you say so?"

"I would have watched over him and saved him if Desrioux had not
come. But he could replace me and I preferred to disappear. It is his
business to effect this cure. His large heart and unselfish
disposition will in it find their proper work. His love will profit,
too, by it, for you will only love him the more for the self-denial
he displays, and the self-immolation to which his professional honour
and his conscience condemn him."

The camp showed signs of returning to life, and the solitude enjoyed
by M. Delange and Madame de Guéran was on the point of being
interfered with.

"In a few moments," said the doctor hurriedly, "our conversation will
be interrupted. Do let me say a few words to you."

"Do so by all means. You are right; I had forgotten that you had
something to say to me. What is the matter, my friend?"

"I am come to ask you to use your influence with M. de Morin to put
an end to a persecution which worries me in spite of myself."

"A persecution!" she exclaimed. "Has M. de Morin been persecuting
anybody in the caravan? Impossible? He is so good, so just—"

"You misunderstand me; he is not persecuting anybody. But, in
consequence of an order he has thought fit to issue, and which, I
admit, he had every right to give, a certain being is at this moment
suffering—dying, perhaps."

"Good heavens? What are you saying? Why did you not tell me of this
before? My negligence is, perhaps, to blame. Yes, since our departure
from Cairo I have always attended to the sick and wounded in the
caravan and protected the weak, but now I am neglecting all my
duties."

"I am not referring to any member of the caravan," said the doctor.
"Nobody amongst us lacks either care or protection. I am speaking of
an unhappy woman who persists in following us. She is one who is
unworthy of all our pity, but at the same time one whom you have both
the right and the will to save."

"Who is it?"

"Our enemy, Walinda."

"What! Is she here?"

"No; but she is close by. At least, I hope so."

He explained, as briefly as possible, to the Baroness the urgent
reasons which had compelled the Europeans to convey the Queen to some
distance from her country.

"It was the right thing to do," she said. "This woman might have
proved formidable to the Monbuttoos, and we were bound to protect our
former allies."

Delange then informed her of the no less urgent reasons which had
actuated M. de Morin in ordering Walinda to be set at liberty.

"For my sake!" exclaimed the Baroness. "It is to avoid wounding my
susceptibilities that this course has been pursued, and this woman
has been driven away! It is simply madness," continued Madame de
Guéran, growing warm. "Do you imagine that I have paid any attention
to her, or have ever seen her? Do you fancy for one moment that I
should do her the honour of regarding her as an enemy and fearing
her? Why should I have any grudge against her, I should like to
know?" she added sarcastically. "What has she done that is not quite
natural? What crime has she committed? She was quite comfortable in
her dominions, when one day it pleased a European to enter her
kingdom, in the face of all warnings and threats. He was young and
handsome, and, above all, a white man; she had never seen any people
of his complexion; she was astonished and dazzled, then she was
touched, grew enthusiastic, and ended by loving the stranger. He, for
his part, he, a married man, but one of those men who think nothing
of stray amours, he, I say, also fell in love with this beautiful
creature, and was contented to bask in her smiles. Then his wife, the
other woman, she who had stayed in France to lament his absence, she
conceives the idea of erecting a tomb far away in Africa for the
defunct, but instead of a corpse, she finds a living man, rather
annoyed, perhaps, at being disturbed and discovered in his illicit
domicile. A feeling of shame, however, drives him to make an attempt
to join, if not his wife, at all events those friends who have come
from so great a distance to his rescue. But the African woman is
jealous; she does not care about being thrown on one side for the
sake of the new comer, and she runs after her prisoner. He has an
axe, he could defend himself, he could kill her, but he does nothing
of the kind, he is afraid of hurting her. She has no such
consideration for him; she seizes him, hurls him to the ground, and
half murders him. According to the standard of morality in these
countries she is right; was he not her prisoner, her slave, her
property, her chattel? Would our laws even condemn her? Was he not
armed? Could he not have resisted? And I am supposed to have a grudge
against this woman? I am not so unjust. I can see her without
suffering from the sight! If M. de Guéran had died of his wounds, I
will not say but that I should have looked upon certain things with a
more indulgent eye, and perhaps it would have been necessary to
banish from my sight his—murderess. But he is being cured rapidly. He
will soon be up and about again, and when he does come to life, I
should not like him to see his fondly loved—African suffering, and at
death's door. I see M. de Morin, and I wish to speak to him."

Madame de Guéran, as a rule, so calm and self-possessed, had
gradually roused herself to a state of excitement as she thus gave
vent to the bitterness of her spirit. Her voice had quite a novel
tone, and her look an unwonted fire, as she launched forth this
accusation against M. de Guéran, and overwhelmed him with her
complaints, as if to justify herself in her own eyes for not feeling
towards him as she had formerly felt.

A few moments later on M. de Morin came to the doctor.

"You are a pretty fellow, you are," said he, laughing, "to complain
to the Baroness about your commanding officer, and retail his orders.
Very well, my dear sir, run after your Venus, and give her a snug
corner at our shifting fireside. But, if misfortune comes of it, in
strict justice do not hold me responsible."

As the sun rose in the horizon and the caravan was making ready to
start, M. Delange, followed by Nassar and three or four of the
shrewdest Nubians, set to work to seek for the Queen. They remained
concealed in the wood until the caravan had disappeared from view,
thinking that Walinda would only await its departure to emerge from
her hiding place, and, after devouring the scraps left behind in the
abandoned camp, set off once more in pursuit.

Their calculations were quite correct. A quarter of an hour had not
elapsed before they saw the Queen creep out of a dense thicket, and,
under the impression that she was alone, advance towards where they
were. As soon as they thought she could not escape them, they rushed
upon her all at once, surrounded her, and took possession of her
after a slight resistance.

Then, whilst she remained in fear and trembling, motionless on the
spot where the Nubians had, so to speak, pinned her, Nassar explained
to her that, so far from anybody wishing to do her harm, she would in
future be permitted to live in the midst of the caravan. On receiving
this piece of news, her eyes, dimmed by suffering and fatigue,
brightened, the blood surged up to her cheeks, and she seemed
overjoyed at being once more a prisoner.

Food was given to her, and she seized upon it with avidity, retiring
into a corner and eating until her hunger was appeased. That
operation over, she returned to her captors, and herself held out her
arms to be fettered. Delange did not feel justified in omitting this
formality, for, though the fears of his friend de Morin appeared to
him to be exaggerated, he felt bound to pay some attention to them.
The prisoner and her escort speedily overtook the caravan, and were
lost in its midst.

On the same day they descended the last slopes of the Blue Mountains,
and gained Lake Albert. The spot they reached was within two miles of
the one from which MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle had started. A
dozen Beluchs, sent out as scouts, perceived their comrades, for whom
they had been waiting for the last three weeks on the shores of the
lake. They met and fraternized, and the Europeans of the de Guéran
expedition experienced a real pleasure in tasting the good things
brought from France by MM. de Pommerelle and Desrioux. Explorers who
have for a long time suffered from privation, alone can understand
this kind of substantial gratification.

CHAPTER XXXV.

A week's rest was granted to the three united caravans, and nobody
asked for more. When, as often happens, a European traveller is
compelled by his escort to make a longer stay than he wishes in any
one place, it is because the country through which he is passing, or
the village where he has halted, does not offer any attraction to
either the soldiers or his bearers. The western shore of Lake Albert
certainly does not present any feature of interest to beings
insensible to the beauties of Nature, and, consequently, all these
people were desirous of reaching, as soon as possible, the less
deserted districts.

This rest was more appreciated by the Europeans than by their escort.
After so much excitement and fatigue, they had a pressing need of
rest and the opportunity of recruiting their strength. The calm of
the surrounding scene, the blue water which appeared to be lulled to
sleep at their feet, and the fresh and smiling country, refreshed
their jaded minds and calmed their over-excited nerves, whilst at the
same time their limbs, wearied by forced marches, recovered their
wonted suppleness in the cooling waters of the Albert-Nyanza.

M. de Guéran, especially, could not fail to benefit from this
interval of rest; the mountain air, the change of climate, and the
comparatively speaking, fresh air following on the equatorial heat of
Ulindi, did him a world of good. The fever, though it did not leave
him altogether, gave him a respite of whole days, his weakness
decreased sensibly, and the fears entertained by M. Desrioux, that an
affection of the brain would supervene, were completely set at rest.
But, in spite of all his care and the general solicitude, the wounded
man had suffered cruelly during his ten days journey through the
mountains. His hammock had more than once struck against obstacles on
the road, and his wounds, which would have healed over, had he been
at rest, were still open. Now, lying on a camp bedstead near the
shore, under the shade of a tamarind tree, and far from the noise of
the caravan, he was in a fair way to recovery. Under the pretext, a
very good one, by-the-way, that he should make no effort to think,
and that his brain should enjoy absolute rest, he was not allowed to
speak to anybody, Madame de Guéran even avoiding any sustained
conversation with him.

The rest and idleness on the shore of the lake might, possibly, have
been prolonged in the interests of the convalescent, had there not
been a general wish to leave Africa before the commencement of the
rainy season, and, above all, to reach Gondokoro before the general
exodus of the boats, which takes place in March and April. Three
months had still to elapse before the arrival of that period, and,
according to all calculations, a few weeks would suffice to gain the
last station on the Nile, but in Africa a considerable margin must
always be allowed for accidents and eventualities of all kinds.

The expedition, therefore, set out once more on the 2nd January,
1874. For several days it journeyed, at the rate of about fifteen
miles per diem, along the western shore of Lake Albert. As it
advanced northwards, the lake became narrower, and presently the
eastern side and the most trivial details of the country there could
be distinctly seen without the aid of a telescope. The caravan might
easily have imagined that it was on the bank of a large river if the
maps had not made it clear that the sheet of water terminated in a
point.

But, a few days afterwards, a river, instead of a lake, was in view.

"It is the Nile," said M. de Morin. "It flows out of the Albert-Nyanza,
according to the records of Speke, Grant, and Baker. We have
only to follow it and we shall reach Gondokoro by the territory of
the Madis, Baris, and Latookas, and the valley of Ellyria."

"I fancy you are mistaken, my dear fellow," replied Dr. Desrioux.
"The Nile, as far as I have been able to ascertain, flows from W.S.W.
to N.E. The river before us, on the contrary, is running westwards,
and appears to flow away from the countries you have just mentioned.
It is also stated that the Nile, on leaving the Albert-Nyanza, at
once enters a defile, formed by two chains of mountains, one of which
is called Gebel-Kookoo, and I do not see any defile whatever. I am
therefore tempted to believe that we have discovered a second arm of
the Nile, flowing, like the other one, from Lake Albert. But what
does it matter? Let us follow the route it appears to show us, always
supposing that it does not make too sharp a bend and so turn us from
our course."

This advice was followed; the caravan, without seeking for any other
road or attempting to fathom this fresh mystery of the Nile, pursued
its riverside way.

The justice of the doctor's observations presently became apparent.
The stream alongside which they were journeying did not present any
of the obstacles recorded as existing in the Nile, neither rocky
islets, nor mud banks covered with papyrus, nor gloomy ravines, nor
steep cliffs. They met with no impetuous torrents, nor narrow gorges,
bordered by perpendicular rocks and forests of bamboos. The river
appeared to be navigable along its entire course, whilst the Nile,
according to trustworthy authorities, is interspersed, between Lake
Albert and Gondokoro, with impassable cataracts.

They were anxious to make enquiries amongst the natives, and to
ascertain the name of their country, but the people, alarmed at the
appearance of so numerous a caravan, and fearing to be taken as
slaves, fled at their approach. In order to obtain a supply of
provisions they had often to enter the abandoned huts and seize upon
what they would have been willing to purchase. But, by the express
orders of the Europeans, glass beads, iron wire, or calico, of which
MM. Desrioux and de Pommerelle had still a considerable stock, were
left in exchange either in the dwellings or the public squares.

The river now no longer flowed westwards; from the fourth degree of
latitude it ran directly towards the north, and this confirmed the
Europeans in their idea that it would not take them out of their
proper course. There were other indications, also, which not only
removed all doubt on this head, but also showed that if the
expedition had not actually entered the Latooka country, the frontier
was close at hand. The aspect of the villagers, the dress of the
natives, who now allowed themselves to be approached, a few costumes
seen here and there, agreeing with the reports made by Baker, gave
unmistakeable evidence that they were in a district already marked
and traversed, of which certain portions only, those they were
crossing, were unexplored.

At length, on the 5th February, whilst the caravan was, as usual,
following a course parallel with the Nile, they saw, on the left
hand, the conical hill of Regiaf, and, on the right, the distant peak
of Belignian. At sunset Gondokoro was but three miles distant.

The journey was, to a certain extent, at an end. Indeed, in the case
of explorers who had come such an enormous distance, it was mere
child's play, simply a stroll, to descend the Nile in a boat, to
touch at Khartoum and Berber, to pass a few rapids, to cross Nubia
and Egypt, arrive at Cairo, and embark on board a mail steamer for
Marseilles.

As they had had a hard day's work, they determined not to enter
Gondokoro the same evening; so, for the last time, the camp was
pitched in the open air on the banks of the Nile. As usual, the tents
of the Europeans were placed at one end of the encampment, as far as
possible from the Khartoum and Zanzibar people, whose very numbers
made them noisy. These tents, as might be expected after so long a
campaign, were rather dilapidated, and more than one large slit gave
free ingress to the sun's rays. That used by Madame de Guéran was the
only one in a decent state of preservation, owing to the great care
which had been bestowed upon it. It was distinguished from the rest
by a small flag, placed on the top of it so that the Europeans, in
case of alarm, might more easily rush to the assistance of their
beloved Sultana.

Nobody sat up late that evening. There was a general anxiety to be up
and astir the first thing next morning, and to enter Gondokoro as
soon as possible, in the hope of finding there news from Europe and
of arranging everything for an immediate return. M. de Morin,
however, before turning in to his tent, had a short conversation with
M. Delange.

"Well," said he, "what are you going to do now with your Venus in
ebony? I presume you do not intend to secure a berth for her on board
the vessel we are about to engage? My fears are dissipated. Walinda,
I admit, no longer indulges in black looks. You have kept watch and
ward over her most conscientiously, and you have been prudently cruel
enough not to cut her cords. Nevertheless, she cannot enjoy our
society for ever. Up to to-day you have managed to prevent all
communication between the Queen and her former prisoner. That was
possible; the one, closely watched, marched with the rearguard; the
other, still suffering, and always carried in his hammock, never left
the centre of the caravan. But very soon M. de Guéran will be
perfectly well, and will wander at will amongst the soldiers and
bearers—do you take in the whole scene?"

"Make your mind quite easy," said the doctor. "From to-morrow Walinda
shall be free, and everything leads me to believe that she will have
no other thought than that of returning to her own country."

"In that case, good night," said M. de Morin.

He went away, and M. Delange, as soon as he was out of sight,
rejoined his prisoner.

In order to watch her more readily, he had caused a sort of hut to be
constructed for her between the European tents and the spot occupied
by the escort. He often took her daily meal to her, and spent a few
moments in her hut. He, nevertheless, did not allow himself to be
moved with compassion, nor had he hitherto deemed it right to restore
her freedom to her. But, now that Gondokoro was only a few miles
distant, now that Egypt was almost reached, M. Delange departed from
his severity and forgot his prudence. For the first time for six
weeks the bonds of Venus in ebony were cast off.

Towards two o'clock in the morning, whilst the doctor, who had now
entire confidence in his prisoner, was fast asleep and reposing after
the fatigues of the day, Walinda took hold of a hunting knife which
M. Delange had left close to her, looked carefully round about her,
and, when she had satisfied herself that everything was quiet in the
camp, and that the sentries themselves, reassured by the proximity of
Gondokoro, had left their posts, she glided stealthily in the
darkness towards the tents of the Europeans.

There she halted and peered about for the flag which marked the tend
occupied by Madame de Guéran. She saw it, and now sure of not making
a mistake, she crept to the tent, noiselessly raised one of the
curtains, glided inside, and then suddenly standing upright she
bounded to the side of the bed, and buried her knife in the breast of
the sleeper.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

At day-break on the following morning the drums and horns joyfully
sounded the reveille. Neither soldiers nor bearers needed, as was
their wont, any rousing to make them leave their couches of dried
leaves or straw; they, like everybody else, were in a hurry to make
their triumphal entry into Gondokoro. Walinda even, usually so
unconcerned and apparently insensible to every noise and every
incident of the journey, left her shelter. With her eyes fixed on the
tents, she seemed impatiently to await the moment when the Europeans
would appear and give the order to start.

M. de Morin was the first person she saw; then, a moment afterwards,
M. de Pommerelle, M. Périères, and the two doctors, Delange and
Desrioux. A moment afterwards Miss Poles emerged from her sleeping
place, having got up before everybody else in order to devote more
time to a toilet intended to create a sensation in Gondokoro.

Two tents alone gave no signs of life, those of Madame de Guéran and
her husband, separated one from the other by ten yards.

At last, the door of the tent without the flag was seen to move, and
at the moment when the rising sun was shedding on all around his
earliest rays, and tingeing them with his rosy hues, the Baroness de
Guéran stepped forth, smiling, charming as ever, into the light of
day.

Walinda, on seeing her, uttered a terrible cry, a cry of mingled rage
and terror.

Other cries were heard. They proceeded from Joseph, who, by order of
M. de Morin, had entered M. de Guéran's tent to see whether he could
do anything for him, and at the same time to tell him that all was in
readiness for the march.

He found the unhappy man covered with blood, dead, and cold. The
knife, with which the blow had been struck, was still in his heart.

Walinda had been misled; she thought to kill the wife; she had
murdered the husband instead.

She did not know that, on the previous evening, Madame de Guéran,
fearing that the mist from the neighbouring marshes of Gondokoro
might prove injurious to her husband, had given her tent up to him
and had passed the night in the one usually occupied by him.

* * * * * *

Eight days after this catastrophe, the Europeans secured two
negghers, vessels used on the Upper Nile, and sailed down the river.
A third vessel, smaller than the others, carried the coffin of M. de
Guéran.

Before embarking, the Europeans, after having settled all accounts in
a most liberal manner, parted with their soldiers and bearers, who
immediately entered into other engagements with the slave dealers, so
plentiful in these parts at that particular season of the year. The
servants alone were retained. Nassar, whose devotion and intelligence
had been so valuable, and the two Arab interpreters, Omar and Ali,
wished to accompany their masters as far as Cairo.

They had not been afloat for more than a few hours, Gondokoro was
still in sight, and the vessels, compelled to tack, were making but
slow progress, when M. de Morin thought he saw in the middle of the
river a dead body being carried down by the current. He at once got
into a boat, and, by dint of hard rowing, discovered that it was the
body of Walinda. The splendid corpse, on which death had not yet
commenced its work of destruction, which it still respected, floated
on the top of the water, gilded by the beams of the setting sun.

The Queen, in despair at having spared her rival and killed the man
she loved, had taken advantage of the consternation throughout the
camp to escape. She had, no doubt, wandered for some days along the
banks of the river, and then plunged beneath its waters.

In death she still followed the caravan and the coffin of her lover.

At Khartoum the Europeans made a very short stay, at the commencement
of April. 1874, for the purpose of conferring with Colonel Chaillé
Long, chief of the staff to General Gordon. In exchange for the news
from Europe which he gave them, he obtained from MM. Desrioux and de
Pommerelle information concerning the Uganda territory and its king,
M'tesa, to whom he was about to pay a visit.

Nothing of importance occurred during the long voyage down the Nile;
all the members of the party kept aloof from each other, wrapped up
in themselves, alone with their reminiscences and their thoughts.
Advantage was taken of this inaction, following so closely on so
agitated a life, to collect and arrange the notes of the expedition,
and occasionally to admire the new countries stretching out to the
horizon.

Madame de Guéran, secluded in a cabin in the after part of the
vessel, appeared very seldom. She was, perhaps, reproaching herself
for her harshness towards him who was no more, and for the words
which had escaped her during her interview with M. Delange. She
forgot all the faults of her husband in remembering only the
indomitable courage and resolution of the great explorer.

Dr. Delange had also lost some of his light-heartedness, and he felt
acutely the sole reproach addressed to him by M. de Morin. "Your
admiration for African women, my dear friend," said the leader of the
expedition to him, "has cost a man's life."

At Cairo the residue of the Nubians, the Soudan women, Nassar, and
the Arabs took their departure, and all these faithful servants might
very well exist for a long time on the handsome presents which were
made to them.

The little European colony, left now to itself, after having embarked
at Port Said, in the month of June, on board a steamer belonging to
the _Messageries Maritimes_, arrived at Paris without any further
delay.

Then came more adieux. Miss Poles said good-bye to her companions,
who, although they had often made fun of her, fully appreciated her
goodness, her devotion, and her courage. When the moment of departure
arrived, and she had to tear herself away from the four men whom she
had loved one by one, for whom she had burned with equal ardour, she
forgot her latest preference for M. de Pommerelle and enfolded the
whole lot in one embrace. From the arms of M. Périères she passed to
those of M. de Morin, to fall into the embrace of M. Delange, who
handed her over to the Count de Pommerelle. The Kings Munza and
Kadjoro were alone wanting in this all-round embrace; if they had
been present the _fête_ would have been complete, and Miss Poles
would have bestowed one huge, universal kiss on those she had loved
so well.

After having wiped her tear-dimmed spectacles, and thanked Madame de
Guéran, who had just secured an independance for her during the
remainder of her life, she betook herself to her beloved England,
where she now indulges in the "cup which cheers but not inebriates"
in the society of her friend, the confidant of her most secret
thoughts, the sole depository of her famous adventures amongst the
Thouaregs.

The faithful Joseph has not left, his master having too much need of
him. M. de Morin is, if one may be allowed to say so, the living
crown of Joseph's glory, the landmark of his courage. A dozen times a
day the valet points out his young master to the servants and
tradesmen of the neighbourhood, saying to them at the same time. "You
see that young fellow over there? The Arabs were going to shoot him,
but I rescued him. The Niam-Niam wanted to eat him, I offered myself
as a sacrifice. The amazons were making ready to massacre him, I
delivered him out of their hands." All the feats of arms performed by
M. de Morin were inscribed on Joseph's record of service. History is
often written thus, the parts being reversed, and the truly great are
swallowed up by the really small.

The various Geographical Societies of Europe did more justice to the
de Guéran expedition, for although at first they received with a
certain reserve the notes sent to them by an unknown explorer like M.
Périères, they, in the course of time, officially accepted his
discoveries, and replaced the words "unexplored regions" on their
maps by the names of the Domondoos, the Maleggas, and the Walindis.
Every day, moreover, some fresh traveller appears to confirm these
discoveries, and quite lately, in the course of the year 1876, M.
Gessi, one of Gordon's lieutenants, reported the existence of a
second arm of the Nile, issuing, like its fellow, from the Albert-Nyanza,
flowing westwards, and, according to the natives, rejoining
the great river above Gondokoro. This is the arm of the Nile which M.
Desrioux discovered and pointed out in 1874.

* * * * * *

Eighteen months elapsed without Madame de Guéran putting off her
weeds, or showing any sign of marrying again.

"Why on earth does not she marry her dear doctor?" said M. de Morin
one day to M. Delange. "They adore each other! That, alas! is easily
seen, and I know the Baroness. She is just as incapable of shortening
the term of her widowhood as she would be of breaking her marriage
vows. But I wish she would put an end to this state of things, and
betake herself, as soon as possible, to the priest and the mayor."

"My dear fellow," replied Delange, "Périères last week said almost
the same thing in the same words, but they were, like yours, so full
of bitterness that I dared not repeat them to Madame de Guéran. If
she were to hear either of you, so far from making up her mind, as
you want her to do, she would wait still longer."

"According to you, her scruples and her delicacy as regards us are
the real causes of the delay?"

"Yes, she wants to let time heal your wounds; she has so sincere a
friendship for both of you that she would not wound you for the
world."

"Then tell her, please, that we shall not have the sorrow of knowing
even the date of her wedding. Our first journey has whetted our
appetites; the feverish longing for discovery has taken possession of
Périères, de Pommerelle, and myself, and in a few weeks we shall
start for western Africa. Following the example of the brothers
Lander, we shall follow the course of the Congo, and proceed, in a
north-easterly direction, towards Lake Tanganyika. We are in earnest,
you see, and Madame de Guéran may resume her freedom of action. We
are going to travel without her, and consequently she has a right to
marry without us."

* * * * * *

Two months after this conversation Laura de Guéran became Madame
Desrioux. The newly-married couple have retired to a villa on the
borders of Lake Como, whose picturesque shores recall to their minds
the Albert-Nyanza, near which they refound each other.

M. Delange and Joseph alone of all our heroes remain in Paris. The
former is devoting himself to his profession, which does not prevent
him, at midnight when his work is over, playing a rubber of whist, or
making one at a baccarat table in his club. He it is, so report says,
whom Gondinet and Felix Cohen have hit off in the second act of their
capital play "_Le Club_." The doctor still dreams occasionally of the
women of Africa, but he makes no secret of his opinion that several
of his Parisian patients are their superiors.

Joseph betrayed a certain amount of indifference when the question of
again setting out for Africa was mooted before him, and it is,
moreover, quite possible that M. de Morin, with good reason for it,
did not make a point of his accompanying him. The trusty valet is a
valet no longer. He is a gentleman of independent means, thanks to
the generosity of his master, and the sale of thirty elephant's
tusks.

As for ourselves, our task is ended, and with it this lengthy
history, which has only one merit—that of being entirely exact from a
geographical point of view, and with regard to African customs. We
have thought that our readers might be interested in being taken far
away from Paris, and in having brought before them, in a possibly
attractive guise, laborious researches, interesting discoveries, and
the mysteries of a new world.

THE END.





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