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Also, while Girardi waited for the de- ler commenced a horrible uproar as it tachment which had marched inland on whirred round in free air, and sickly secret business, Moslem Senegali and black
were scrambling everywhite Christian died, because that part where. Two leapt out into the river, of Africa is deadly in a bad season and were probably speared by the even to colored intruders, and when tribesmen, for they never came back one of the party came back alone with again. Then some one stopped the ena tale of suffering he gladly turned the gines, and a pulsatory roar of escaping vessel's head towards the sea.
steam drowned all other sound, while But the pestilence followed her, and a bare-headed officer shouted himself by glaring sandbar or in the shadows hoarse in an effort to restore order. of the dim forest little crosses marked Presently the grinding and crashing the last resting-places of those they left ceased, the rush of steam died away, behind, while those who lived grew and the vessel rose more upright as she weaker every day. Now Girardi was settled herself in the sand, and lay there straining his eyes to find a buoy he had hard and fast, with the muddy current placed at lower water upon a sandy gurgling mockingly as it raced past shoal, not knowing that the tattooed her. Then the sable seamen settled tribesmen, who considered the big iron down into the fatalist's apathy, and cylinder, which might be forged into their leader, gazing at the pitiless spear heads, was wasting its utility in heavens and flaming river, said: the river, had prudently removed it. "While there was hope we obeyed the
So presently the ebony Senegali, who white man and worked on. Now the gripped the steering wheel in answer food is spent, and all are sick, so it is to a question.said:
doubtless written that we shall die." "I see a ripple in the water, but there In the little sweltering chart-room is no buoy. This is either the work of two haggard white men took counsel magic or some accursed heathen has together, and the Commander watched stolen it."
them stupidly, trying to understand, for Then the treacherous current which the throbbing in his head grew louder slid seawards smooth as oil at over and almost deafened him, so he lay four knots an hour wrinkled ahead, still, only plucking at his garments with and the wheel-chains rattled, while claw-like hands. One afterwards went Girardi stretched out a shaking hand down stream to bring back help if he towards the telegraph. A gong clanged could, and the other tried to set the below, but there was no slackening of sickly crew to work heaving the vessel the vibration, perhaps because the man off, but some lay down beside the who should have heard it lay laughing winches from utter weariness, and the foolishly upon the floor-plates of the rest dragged themselves about despairengine-room. So, with propeller thrash- ingly, for, as they said, it was no use ing full-speed, and a shouting on the fighting against destiny. So day by bridge, the steamer drove on until a day the little vessel lay aground under few minutes later her forefoot struck the burning heat, and the striken something with a sickening crash. wretches crouched gasping beneath the Over she rolled, lifting one weedy bilge awnings, looking for the help that in the air and grinding the other into never came, until again the red sun the sand, while the current drove her dipped behind the forest, and with the sideways across the shoal. Muddy sudden darkness it grew hotter. water leapt and spouted along the in- It was about this time that Fleming, clined deck, the half-immersed propel- the trader, lounged one night under the
roofed veranda of his lonely factory, there is nothing to do. Confound it, why
for he fancied he understood.
them low trader give me for a 'team-
Fleming aside. "You can't beat this ringing far across the misty forest kept brand of native for cold-blooded dev. time to each sturdy stroke. iltry. It's one of the French treaty "I suppose I'm a fool,” said Fleming, hunters or sounding parties; they've "and am probably bringing the river been taking an unholy interest of late pirates down upon our heads. Still, in this river.” Then with a brief "Get you see, one must do something. Hyah, out, you sable scoundrel,” he seized the you Krooboy, every boy in them canoe negro by the shoulders and flung him which first catch them 'teamboat get halfway down the veranda stairway, two piece of cloth. Now, Benson, I pitching his insignia of office after him, think you'll see a circus." with the answer, “Tell Shulane if he He did, for the splash and swirl of hurts one of those sick men l'll turn water grew yet faster as the canoes out my Krooboys with matchets and swept forward, gurgling through the come up and burn his place, and he shadows, until in a shallow reach, where should know by this time I am gener- the channel narrowed in and ally as good as my word.”
would give place, they drove crashing Next he flung himself down in the into each other. Then the sable padcanvas chair, stretched out one hand dlers smote their neighbors with blade towards the tray, and drew it back with and shaft, clawed each other's woolly a laugh, saying:
hair, screamed and yelled and laughed, "I forgot. Of course, from one point while Fleming lay back shaking with of view, they deserve to come to grief, merriment, until somehow they drew but you can't let white men die off clear again, and shot out into a broader unhelped, if it's only for the credit of river. It was the second evening when, one's color. Besides I'm sick of this spread out in a straggling line, they killing monotony. Suppose you go came sliding down a lake-like reach. down and muster the Krooboys." The weary men swung slowly with the
Presently a swarm of dusky laborers, glistening blades, and the two Eurobrawny, good-humored pagans from peans ached all over from crouching the distant beaches of Liberia, gath- many hours on end in the stern. Ahead, ered shouting and laughing in the dew- the fever-mist rolled slowly across the wet compound, and Eleming, leaning waters, and a blue-gray dimness, which over the veranda balustrade, made a seemed charged with heat, hung above, speech to them, pointed with the whim- while tall palms ashore rose up like sical sayings which appeal to the negro an island out of drifting vapor. The mind.
river shimmering oilily was lost in the Next he called up the big head- haze ahead; no sound but the beat of man and gave him a rifle, with its paddles broke the curious stillness, and striker removed as a measure of pre- it seemed to Benson they might have caution, because the West African been translated into some forgotten reloves firearms rather well than wisely, gion of fairyland. and left him with a picked few in Then a howl rose up from the bows charge of the factory, though he care- of the leading canoe, and, dimly seen fully hid the keys of the store shed. through the vapor, a black patch Then four big canoes were thrust off loomed out. The Krooboys forgot their from the miry bank, and, at a short weariness, only remembering the promword of command, the long paddles ised pieces of cloth, and, with a deepwhirled together. Muddy foam flew throated roar of challenge to each other, up behind them, the "thud-thud” grew the canoes surged forward. Higher and sbarper, and a wildly musical, chanty higher rose the black hulk of the
stranded gunboat, and Fleming, watch- ter's example, they made friends with ing her intently, said:
them. Then Fleming was led into the “What are they doing forward ?” little chart-room, where another skeleBy George, that looks very like a pivot- ton in white uniform lay huddled in a gun," and with a wrench of his shoul- chair, and looked at him with glazed ders he swung the canoe off at a tan- and sunken eyes, as he feebly muttered gent with the steering paddle. It was something which ended with "mes well he did so, for a long red flash pauvres enfants." blazed over the steamer's side, a cloud "He thinks all times of the men we of yellow smoke blotted out half her lose," the other explained, “and he length, and whirring something not comprehend much because of the hurled up a fountain of water where fever, while of the cabin store he give they had been.
to the sick Senegali, and so he has nothThen Fleming rose in the sternsheets, ing to eat.” shouting, “Confound you, you lunatics, “Yes, I know," said Fleming. "I are you trying to kill your friends?” have been nearly starved myself. Here, and a hoarse European voice made Benson, see to bringing the food in, and some unintelligible answer from the start Bad Dollar cooking a banquet. stranded vessel. There was a rattle of Now, Lieutenant, I am going to help matchets in the leading canoe, for the you heave this vessel off; and I propose Krooboy generally carries with him the to start as soon as you have eaten a stout blade which is equally useful for decent meal." So presently, when a domestic service and as a weapon of simple feast was spread out in the ovenoffence, and the paddles splashed furi- like saloon, Commander Girardi, who ously.
was induced to eat a little, seemed to “Go on like mad,” he shouted to his gather his wandering senses, with Own crew. "Benson, we must head draughts of lukewarm wine which them. Those are Cavally fighting men, Fleming had brought with him from and they would rather enjoy storming his private stock. Afterwards, when the gunboat.” Then shouting mingled the latter, growing impatient, raised warnings and offers of goodwill he his glass aloft, saying, “To the honor stood upright, waving his sun helmet, of France," he lifted himself feebly. encouraging the paddlers into a fierce The lined face twitched as he answered, race. With a grinding shock the ca- “I thank you for giving life back to my noes blundered alongside, wild black men, and the nation you have served men climbing like monkeys fell over will never forget." Then the goblet the rail, and then halted in wonder as fell with a splinter of broken glass, a haggard white skeleton who, grimed and the stricken officer sank forward, by powder-fouling, stood sponge in
choking. hand beside the gun, flung himself "Benson,” said Fleming, “the poor dramatically into their master's arms, man is played out. You and Bad Dol. who seemed embarrassed by the proc- lar do your best for him, and afteress.
wards you follow me on deck. “We're “Ces diables d'indigènes-how you ready to begin now, Lieutenant.” All say? furious savages-have threaten night the Krooboys worked like fiends us," he said. “Soit béni! how you come in the red light of the smoky lamps, for in time!" and starving black wretches the Moslem storekeeper had served out in uniform clustered round the big, to them sundry bottles of forbidden naked Krooboys, who grinned sym- liquor, and some of the Senegalis tried pathetically as, following their mas. to assist, flinging coal up from the bunkers and into the canoes which carried naces, a sheet of yellow flame rushed it ashore. All night the thud of pad- from the funnel, while a jet of steam dles echoed across the river, while the roared aloft from the escape pipe. clatter of shovels and wild bursts of Then, as grimier than ever the big man negro melody rose from the stranded appeared again, the whole vessel sbook ship. Blackened all over, dripping with and trembled to the thudding engine's sweat, Fleming encouraged the rest, stroke, and great sheets of mud and working himself harder than any of water were hurled up astern, while the them, and when morning came, under smell that ascended with them was inMarsaut's directions, with toil incred- describable. An African river bottom is ible, they carried two anchors out and not a nice thing to stir up unadvisedly. dropped them into the bed of the river. Then Fleming howled to the Krooboys, Then, while the canoes carried every- and the Krooboys howled to him as thing movable ashore, he descended they bent their backs to the rope, and into the engine-room, and the clang the cable of the second anchor came in and clink of hammers rose up through a little, for that mass of well-trained the skylights. Under the burning heat muscle was stronger than the leaking of noon and the midnight damp they windlass. labored on, while the dawn found "Fetch her home! $ing, oh, conFleming stripped to the waist, sweat found you, sing!” he cried, and with a and coal dust streaming from him, as shout down the gratings, “More steam, he toiled before the roaring furnaces. Benson, she's moving," he laid his Now, nearly every Niger trader, whose hands on the rope.
The stout hemp highway is always a river, is at home creaked and strained, drawing out to among the engines of a small steamer; half its size, the tackle blocks were so, when the pressure gauges climbed screaming, and link by link the cable towards the danger limit, panting and
came in, while above the groan of the breathless he ascended to the deck. windlass the roaring chorus of a Kroo
Marsaut stood beside the little wind- boy chanty rang far out across forest lass forward, and a line of brawny and river. Then the iron bull shivered, Krooboys gripped the tackles which led stirring in its sandy bed, the grind of to the cable of the second anchor, the screw grew faster still, and there while, in reply to a questioning look, was more flame licking about the funnel. Fleming said:
A bumping, scraping, sucking sound “She'll blow up unless you start in rose up from somewhere below, and a the next five minutes. So you have line of yelling Krooboys sat down with got to heave her off before the boiler a bang, while all else was drowned in comes up through the deck; it's death the mad rattle of the windlass as the or glory now. One piece of cloth each little steamer slid off the shoal. Krooboy if you pull harder than them “Stop her before she runs over her winch."
anchors," Fleming shouted as, after Marsaut raised one hand and opened crawling out from under a mass of the valve, and with a rush of steam greasy, black humanity, he scrambled the windlass began to clank, hammered towards the gratings, and the beat of viciously and brought up again, while the propeller slackened as she forged Fleming dropped back suddenly into ahead into deeper water. Then a wild the engine-room. With a wheeze of roar of triumph went up from every the big cylinders the propeller began throat. Moslem Senegali and pagan to throb, and, after sundry tins of Krooboy, friends for once, clawed each kerosene had been flung into the fur- other, and Fleming, saying nothing