Part 3 out of 7
"Should the slightest accident happen, waken me,"
said Ferguson, "and, above all things, don't lose sight of
the barometer. To us it is the compass!"
The night was cold. There were twenty-seven degrees
of difference between its temperature and that of the daytime.
With nightfall had begun the nocturnal concert
of animals driven from their hiding-places by hunger and
thirst. The frogs struck in their guttural soprano,
redoubled by the yelping of the jackals, while the imposing
bass of the African lion sustained the accords of this living
Upon resuming his post, in the morning, the doctor
consulted his compass, and found that the wind had
changed during the night. The balloon had been bearing
about thirty miles to the northwest during the last two
hours. It was then passing over Mabunguru, a stony
country, strewn with blocks of syenite of a fine polish, and
knobbed with huge bowlders and angular ridges of rock;
conic masses, like the rocks of Karnak, studded the soil
like so many Druidic dolmens; the bones of buffaloes and
elephants whitened it here and there; but few trees could
be seen, excepting in the east, where there were dense
woods, among which a few villages lay half concealed.
Toward seven o'clock they saw a huge round rock
nearly two miles in extent, like an immense tortoise.
"We are on the right track," said Dr. Ferguson.
"There's Jihoue-la-Mkoa, where we must halt for a few
minutes. I am going to renew the supply of water necessary
for my cylinder, and so let us try to anchor somewhere."
"There are very few trees," replied the hunger.
"Never mind, let us try. Joe, throw out the anchors!"
The balloon, gradually losing its ascensional force,
approached the ground; the anchors ran along until, at
last, one of them caught in the fissure of a rock, and the
balloon remained motionless.
It must not be supposed that the doctor could entirely
extinguish his cylinder, during these halts. The equilibrium
of the balloon had been calculated at the level of
the sea; and, as the country was continually ascending,
and had reached an elevation of from six to seven hundred
feet, the balloon would have had a tendency to go lower
than the surface of the soil itself. It was, therefore,
necessary to sustain it by a certain dilation of the gas. But,
in case the doctor, in the absence of all wind, had let the
car rest upon the ground, the balloon, thus relieved of a
considerable weight, would have kept up of itself, without
the aid of the cylinder.
The maps indicated extensive ponds on the western
slope of the Jihoue-la-Mkoa. Joe went thither alone
with a cask that would hold about ten gallons. He found
the place pointed out to him, without difficulty, near to a
deserted village; got his stock of water, and returned in
less than three-quarters of an hour. He had seen nothing
particular excepting some immense elephant-pits. In fact,
he came very near falling into one of them, at the bottom
of which lay a half-eaten carcass.
He brought back with him a sort of clover which the
apes eat with avidity. The doctor recognized the fruit
of the "mbenbu"-tree which grows in profusion, on the
western part of Jihoue-la-Mkoa. Ferguson waited for
Joe with a certain feeling of impatience, for even a short
halt in this inhospitable region always inspires a degree
The water was got aboard without trouble, as the car
was nearly resting on the ground. Joe then found it easy
to loosen the anchor and leaped lightly to his place beside
the doctor. The latter then replenished the flame in the
cylinder, and the balloon majestically soared into the air.
It was then about one hundred miles from Kazeh, an
important establishment in the interior of Africa, where,
thanks to a south-southeasterly current, the travellers
might hope to arrive on that same day. They were moving
at the rate of fourteen miles per hour, and the guidance
of the balloon was becoming difficult, as they dared
not rise very high without extreme dilation of the gas, the
country itself being at an average height of three thousand
feet. Hence, the doctor preferred not to force the
dilation, and so adroitly followed the sinuosities of a
pretty sharply-inclined plane, and swept very close to the
villages of Thembo and Tura-Wels. The latter forms
part of the Unyamwezy, a magnificent country, where the
trees attain enormous dimensions; among them the cactus,
which grows to gigantic size.
About two o'clock, in magnificent weather, but under a
fiery sun that devoured the least breath of air, the balloon
was floating over the town of Kazeh, situated about three
hundred and fifty miles from the coast.
"We left Zanzibar at nine o'clock in the morning,"
said the doctor, consulting his notes, "and, after two
days' passage, we have, including our deviations, travelled
nearly five hundred geographical miles. Captains
Burton and Speke took four months and a half to make
the same distance!"
Kazeh.--The Noisy Market-place.--The Appearance of the Balloon.--The
Wangaga.--The Sons of the Moon.--The Doctor's Walk.--The Population of the
Place.--The Royal Tembe.--The Sultan's Wives.--A Royal Drunken-Bout.--
Joe an Object of Worship.--How they Dance in the Moon.--A Reaction.--
Two Moons in one Sky.--The Instability of Divine Honors.
Kazeh, an important point in Central Africa, is not a
city; in truth, there are no cities in the interior. Kazeh
is but a collection of six extensive excavations. There
are enclosed a few houses and slave-huts, with little courtyards
and small gardens, carefully cultivated with onions,
potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and mushrooms, of perfect
flavor, growing most luxuriantly.
The Unyamwezy is the country of the Moon--above
all the rest, the fertile and magnificent garden-spot of
Africa. In its centre is the district of Unyanembe--a
delicious region, where some families of Omani, who are
of very pure Arabic origin, live in luxurious idleness.
They have, for a long period, held the commerce between
the interior of Africa and Arabia: they trade in
gums, ivory, fine muslin, and slaves. Their caravans
traverse these equatorial regions on all sides; and they
even make their way to the coast in search of those articles
of luxury and enjoyment which the wealthy merchants
covet; while the latter, surrounded by their wives
and their attendants, lead in this charming country the
least disturbed and most horizontal of lives--always
stretched at full length, laughing, smoking, or sleeping.
Around these excavations are numerous native dwellings;
wide, open spaces for the markets; fields of cannabis
and datura; superb trees and depths of freshest
shade--such is Kazeh!
There, too, is held the general rendezvous of the caravans
--those of the south, with their slaves and their freightage
of ivory; and those of the west, which export cotton,
glassware, and trinkets, to the tribes of the great lakes.
So in the market-place there reigns perpetual excitement,
a nameless hubbub, made up of the cries of mixed-breed
porters and carriers, the beating of drums, and the
twanging of horns, the neighing of mules, the braying of
donkeys, the singing of women, the squalling of children,
and the banging of the huge rattan, wielded by the jemadar
or leader of the caravans, who beats time to this pastoral
There, spread forth, without regard to order--indeed,
we may say, in charming disorder--are the showy stuffs,
the glass beads, the ivory tusks, the rhinoceros'-teeth, the
shark's-teeth, the honey, the tobacco, and the cotton of
these regions, to be purchased at the strangest of bargains
by customers in whose eyes each article has a price only
in proportion to the desire it excites to possess it.
All at once this agitation, movement and noise stopped
as though by magic. The balloon had just come in sight,
far aloft in the sky, where it hovered majestically for
a few moments, and then descended slowly, without
deviating from its perpendicular. Men, women, children,
merchants and slaves, Arabs and negroes, as suddenly
disappeared within the "tembes" and the huts.
"My dear doctor," said Kennedy, "if we continue to
produce such a sensation as this, we shall find some
difficulty in establishing commercial relations with
the people hereabouts."
"There's one kind of trade that we might carry on,
though, easily enough," said Joe; "and that would be to
go down there quietly, and walk off with the best of the
goods, without troubling our heads about the merchants;
we'd get rich that way!"
"Ah!" said the doctor, "these natives are a little
scared at first; but they won't be long in coming back,
either through suspicion or through curiosity."
"Do you really think so, doctor?"
"Well, we'll see pretty soon. But it wouldn't be prudent
to go too near to them, for the balloon is not iron-clad,
and is, therefore, not proof against either an arrow
or a bullet."
"Then you expect to hold a parley with these blacks?"
"If we can do so safely, why should we not? There
must be some Arab merchants here at Kazeh, who are better
informed than the rest, and not so barbarous. I remember
that Burton and Speke had nothing but praises
to utter concerning the hospitality of these people; so we
might, at least, make the venture."
The balloon having, meanwhile, gradually approached
the ground, one of the anchors lodged in the top of a tree
near the market-place.
By this time the whole population had emerged from
their hiding-places stealthily, thrusting their heads out
first. Several "waganga," recognizable by their badges
of conical shellwork, came boldly forward. They were
the sorcerers of the place. They bore in their girdles
small gourds, coated with tallow, and several other
articles of witchcraft, all of them, by-the-way, most
Little by little the crowd gathered beside them, the
women and children grouped around them, the drums
renewed their deafening uproar, hands were violently
clapped together, and then raised toward the sky.
"That's their style of praying," said the doctor; "and,
if I'm not mistaken, we're going to be called upon to play
a great part."
"Well, sir, play it!"
"You, too, my good Joe--perhaps you're to be a god!"
"Well, master, that won't trouble me much. I like a
At this moment, one of the sorcerers, a "myanga,"
made a sign, and all the clamor died away into the
profoundest silence. He then addressed a few words to the
strangers, but in an unknown tongue.
Dr. Ferguson, not having understood them, shouted
some sentences in Arabic, at a venture, and was
immediately answered in that language.
The speaker below then delivered himself of a very
copious harangue, which was also very flowery and very
gravely listened to by his audience. From it the doctor
was not slow in learning that the balloon was mistaken for
nothing less than the moon in person, and that the amiable
goddess in question had condescended to approach the town
with her three sons--an honor that would never be forgotten
in this land so greatly loved by the god of day.
The doctor responded, with much dignity, that the
moon made her provincial tour every thousand years,
feeling the necessity of showing herself nearer at hand
to her worshippers. He, therefore, begged them not to be
disturbed by her presence, but to take advantage of it to
make known all their wants and longings.
The sorcerer, in his turn, replied that the sultan, the
"mwani," who had been sick for many years, implored
the aid of heaven, and he invited the son of the moon to
The doctor acquainted his companions with the invitation.
"And you are going to call upon this negro king?"
"Undoubtedly so; these people appear well disposed;
the air is calm; there is not a breath of wind, and we have
nothing to fear for the balloon?"
"But, what will you do?"
"Be quiet on that score, my dear Dick. With a little
medicine, I shall work my way through the affair!"
Then, addressing the crowd, he said:
"The moon, taking compassion on the sovereign who
is so dear to the children of Unyamwezy, has charged us
to restore him to health. Let him prepare to receive us!"
The clamor, the songs and demonstrations of all kinds
increased twofold, and the whole immense ants' nest of
black heads was again in motion.
"Now, my friends," said Dr. Ferguson, "we must
look out for every thing beforehand; we may be forced to
leave this at any moment, unexpectedly, and be off with
extra speed. Dick had better remain, therefore, in the
car, and keep the cylinder warm so as to secure a sufficient
ascensional force for the balloon. The anchor is solidly
fastened, and there is nothing to fear in that respect. I
shall descend, and Joe will go with me, only that he must
remain at the foot of the ladder."
"What! are you going alone into that blackamoor's den?"
"How! doctor, am I not to go with you?"
"No! I shall go alone; these good folks imagine that
the goddess of the moon has come to see them, and their
superstition protects me; so have no fear, and each one
remain at the post that I have assigned to him."
"Well, since you wish it," sighed Kennedy.
"Look closely to the dilation of the gas."
By this time the shouts of the natives had swelled to
double volume as they vehemently implored the aid of the
"There, there," said Joe, "they're rather rough in
their orders to their good moon and her divine sons."
The doctor, equipped with his travelling medicine-chest,
descended to the ground, preceded by Joe, who kept
a straight countenance and looked as grave and knowing
as the circumstances of the case required. He then seated
himself at the foot of the ladder in the Arab fashion, with
his legs crossed under him, and a portion of the crowd
collected around him in a circle, at respectful distances.
In the meanwhile the doctor, escorted to the sound of
savage instruments, and with wild religious dances, slowly
proceeded toward the royal "tembe," situated a considerable
distance outside of the town. It was about three
o'clock, and the sun was shining brilliantly. In fact, what
less could it do upon so grand an occasion!
The doctor stepped along with great dignity, the waganga
surrounding him and keeping off the crowd. He was soon
joined by the natural son of the sultan, a handsomely-built
young fellow, who, according to the custom of the country,
was the sole heir of the paternal goods, to the exclusion
of the old man's legitimate children. He prostrated himself
before the son of the moon, but the latter graciously raised
him to his feet.
Three-quarters of an hour later, through shady paths,
surrounded by all the luxuriance of tropical vegetation,
this enthusiastic procession arrived at the sultan's palace,
a sort of square edifice called ititenya, and situated on the
slope of a hill.
A kind of veranda, formed by the thatched roof, adorned the
outside, supported upon wooden pillars, which had some
pretensions to being carved. Long lines of dark-red clay
decorated the walls in characters that strove to reproduce
the forms of men and serpents, the latter better
imitated, of course, than the former. The roofing of this
abode did not rest directly upon the walls, and the air
could, therefore, circulate freely, but windows there were
none, and the door hardly deserved the name.
Dr. Ferguson was received with all the honors by the
guards and favorites of the sultan; these were men of a
fine race, the Wanyamwezi so-called, a pure type of the
central African populations, strong, robust, well-made, and
in splendid condition. Their hair, divided into a great
number of small tresses, fell over their shoulders, and by
means of black-and-blue incisions they had tattooed their
cheeks from the temples to the mouth. Their ears, frightfully
distended, held dangling to them disks of wood and
plates of gum copal. They were clad in brilliantly-painted
cloths, and the soldiers were armed with the saw-toothed
war-club, the bow and arrows barbed and poisoned with
the juice of the euphorbium, the cutlass, the "sima," a long
sabre (also with saw-like teeth), and some small battle-axes.
The doctor advanced into the palace, and there, notwithstanding
the sultan's illness, the din, which was terrific before,
redoubled the instant that he arrived. He noticed, at the
lintels of the door, some rabbits' tails and zebras' manes,
suspended as talismans. He was received by the whole troop
of his majesty's wives, to the harmonious accords of the
"upatu," a sort of cymbal made of the bottom of a copper
kettle, and to the uproar of the "kilindo," a drum five feet
high, hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, and hammered by
the ponderous, horny fists of two jet-black virtuosi.
Most of the women were rather good-looking, and they laughed
and chattered merrily as they smoked their tobacco and "thang"
in huge black pipes. They seemed to be well made, too, under
the long robes that they wore gracefully flung about their
persons, and carried a sort of "kilt" woven from the fibres
of calabash fastened around their girdles.
Six of them were not the least merry of the party,
although put aside from the rest, and reserved for a cruel
fate. On the death of the sultan, they were to be buried
alive with him, so as to occupy and divert his mind during
the period of eternal solitude.
Dr. Ferguson, taking in the whole scene at a rapid
glance, approached the wooden couch on which the sultan
lay reclining. There he saw a man of about forty, completely
brutalized by orgies of every description, and in a
condition that left little or nothing to be done. The
sickness that had afflicted him for so many years was simply
perpetual drunkenness. The royal sot had nearly lost all
consciousness, and all the ammonia in the world would
not have set him on his feet again.
His favorites and the women kept on bended knees
during this solemn visit. By means of a few drops of
powerful cordial, the doctor for a moment reanimated the
imbruted carcass that lay before him. The sultan stirred,
and, for a dead body that had given no sign whatever of
life for several hours previously, this symptom was
received with a tremendous repetition of shouts and cries
in the doctor's honor.
The latter, who had seen enough of it by this time, by a
rapid motion put aside his too demonstrative admirers
and went out of the palace, directing his steps immediately
toward the balloon, for it was now six o'clock in the evening.
Joe, during his absence, had been quietly waiting at
the foot of the ladder, where the crowd paid him their
most humble respects. Like a genuine son of the moon,
he let them keep on. For a divinity, he had the air of a
very clever sort of fellow, by no means proud, nay, even
pleasingly familiar with the young negresses, who seemed
never to tire of looking at him. Besides, he went so far
as to chat agreeably with them.
"Worship me, ladies! worship me!" he said to them.
"I'm a clever sort of devil, if I am the son of a goddess."
They brought him propitiatory gifts, such as are usually
deposited in the fetich huts or mzimu. These gifts
consisted of stalks of barley and of "pombe." Joe considered
himself in duty bound to taste the latter species
of strong beer, but his palate, although accustomed to gin
and whiskey, could not withstand the strength of the new
beverage, and he had to make a horrible grimace, which
his dusky friends took to be a benevolent smile.
Thereupon, the young damsels, conjoining their voices
in a drawling chant, began to dance around him with the
"Ah! you're dancing, are you?" said he. "Well, I
won't be behind you in politeness, and so I'll give you one
of my country reels."
So at it he went, in one of the wildest jigs that ever
was seen, twisting, turning, and jerking himself in all
directions; dancing with his hands, dancing with his body,
dancing with his knees, dancing with his feet; describing
the most fearful contortions and extravagant evolutions;
throwing himself into incredible attitudes; grimacing beyond
all belief, and, in fine giving his savage admirers a
strange idea of the style of ballet adopted by the deities
in the moon.
Then, the whole collection of blacks, naturally as imitative
as monkeys, at once reproduced all his airs and
graces, his leaps and shakes and contortions; they did
not lose a single gesticulation; they did not forget an
attitude; and the result was, such a pandemonium of movement,
noise, and excitement, as it would be out of the
question even feebly to describe. But, in the very midst
of the fun, Joe saw the doctor approaching.
The latter was coming at full speed, surrounded by a
yelling and disorderly throng. The chiefs and sorcerers
seemed to be highly excited. They were close upon the
doctor's heels, crowding and threatening him.
Singular reaction! What had happened? Had the sultan
unluckily perished in the hands of his celestial physician?
Kennedy, from his post of observation, saw the danger
without knowing what had caused it, and the balloon,
powerfully urged by the dilation of the gas, strained and
tugged at the ropes that held it as though impatient to
The doctor had got as far as the foot of the ladder. A
superstitious fear still held the crowd aloof and hindered
them from committing any violence on his person. He
rapidly scaled the ladder, and Joe followed him with his
"Not a moment to lose!" said the doctor. "Don't
attempt to let go the anchor! We'll cut the cord!
"But what's the matter?" asked Joe, clambering into
"What's happened?" questioned Kennedy, rifle in hand.
"Look!" replied the doctor, pointing to the horizon.
"Well?" ejaculated the Scot.
"Well! the moon!"
And, in fact, there was the moon rising red and magnificent,
a globe of fire in a field of blue! It was she, indeed--she
and the balloon!--both in one sky!
Either there were two moons, then, or these strangers
were imposters, designing scamps, false deities!
Such were the very natural reflections of the crowd,
and hence the reaction in their feelings.
Joe could not, for the life of him, keep in a roar of
laughter; and the population of Kazeh, comprehending
that their prey was slipping through their clutches, set
up prolonged howlings, aiming, the while, their bows and
muskets at the balloon.
But one of the sorcerers made a sign, and all the
weapons were lowered. He then began to climb into the
tree, intending to seize the rope and bring the machine to
Joe leaned out with a hatchet ready. "Shall I cut
away?" said he.
"No; wait a moment," replied the doctor.
"But this black?"
"We may, perhaps, save our anchor--and I hold a
great deal by that. There'll always be time enough to
The sorcerer, having climbed to the right place, worked
so vigorously that he succeeded in detaching the anchor,
and the latter, violently jerked, at that moment, by the
start of the balloon, caught the rascal between the limbs,
and carried him off astride of it through the air.
The stupefaction of the crowd was indescribable as
they saw one of their waganga thus whirled away into
"Huzza!" roared Joe, as the balloon--thanks to its
ascensional force--shot up higher into the sky, with
"He holds on well," said Kennedy; "a little trip will
do him good."
"Shall we let this darky drop all at once?" inquired Joe.
"Oh no," replied the doctor, "we'll let him down
easily; and I warrant me that, after such an adventure,
the power of the wizard will be enormously enhanced in
the sight of his comrades."
"Why, I wouldn't put it past them to make a god of
him!" said Joe, with a laugh.
The Victoria, by this time, had risen to the height of
one thousand feet, and the black hung to the rope with
desperate energy. He had become completely silent, and
his eyes were fixed, for his terror was blended with
amazement. A light west wind was sweeping the balloon right
over the town, and far beyond it.
Half an hour later, the doctor, seeing the country deserted,
moderated the flame of his cylinder, and descended
toward the ground. At twenty feet above the turf, the
affrighted sorcerer made up his mind in a twinkling: he
let himself drop, fell on his feet, and scampered off at a
furious pace toward Kazeh; while the balloon, suddenly
relieved of his weight, again shot up on her course.
Symptoms of a Storm.--The Country of the Moon.--The Future of the African
Continent.--The Last Machine of all.--A View of the Country at Sunset.--
Flora and Fauna.--The Tempest.--The Zone of Fire.--The Starry Heavens.
"See," said Joe, "what comes of playing the sons of
the moon without her leave! She came near serving us
an ugly trick. But say, master, did you damage your
credit as a physician?"
"Yes, indeed," chimed in the sportsman. "What kind
of a dignitary was this Sultan of Kazeh?"
"An old half-dead sot," replied the doctor, "whose
loss will not be very severely felt. But the moral of all
this is that honors are fleeting, and we must not take too
great a fancy to them."
"So much the worse!" rejoined Joe. "I liked the
thing--to be worshipped!--Play the god as you like!
Why, what would any one ask more than that? By-the-way,
the moon did come up, too, and all red, as if she
was in a rage."
While the three friends went on chatting of this and
other things, and Joe examined the luminary of night
from an entirely novel point of view, the heavens became
covered with heavy clouds to the northward, and the lowering
masses assumed a most sinister and threatening look.
Quite a smart breeze, found about three hundred feet from
the earth, drove the balloon toward the north-northeast;
and above it the blue vault was clear; but the atmosphere
felt close and dull.
The aeronauts found themselves, at about eight in the
evening, in thirty-two degrees forty minutes east
longitude, and four degrees seventeen minutes latitude. The
atmospheric currents, under the influence of a tempest
not far off, were driving them at the rate of from thirty
to thirty-five miles an hour; the undulating and fertile
plains of Mfuto were passing swiftly beneath them. The
spectacle was one worthy of admiration--and admire it
"We are now right in the country of the Moon," said
Dr. Ferguson; "for it has retained the name that antiquity
gave it, undoubtedly, because the moon has been worshipped
there in all ages. It is, really, a superb country."
"It would be hard to find more splendid vegetation."
"If we found the like of it around London it would not be
natural, but it would be very pleasant," put in Joe. "Why
is it that such savage countries get all these fine things?"
"And who knows," said the doctor, "that this country
may not, one day, become the centre of civilization? The
races of the future may repair hither, when Europe shall
have become exhausted in the effort to feed her inhabitants."
"Do you think so, really?" asked Kennedy.
"Undoubtedly, my dear Dick. Just note the progress
of events: consider the migrations of races, and you
will arrive at the same conclusion assuredly. Asia was
the first nurse of the world, was she not? For about four
thousand years she travailed, she grew pregnant, she produced,
and then, when stones began to cover the soil
where the golden harvests sung by Homer had flourished,
her children abandoned her exhausted and barren bosom.
You next see them precipitating themselves upon young
and vigorous Europe, which has nourished them for the
last two thousand years. But already her fertility is beginning
to die out; her productive powers are diminishing
every day. Those new diseases that annually attack the
products of the soil, those defective crops, those insufficient
resources, are all signs of a vitality that is rapidly
wearing out and of an approaching exhaustion. Thus, we
already see the millions rushing to the luxuriant bosom of
America, as a source of help, not inexhaustible indeed, but
not yet exhausted. In its turn, that new continent will
grow old; its virgin forests will fall before the axe of
industry, and its soil will become weak through having too
fully produced what had been demanded of it. Where
two harvests bloomed every year, hardly one will be gathered
from a soil completely drained of its strength. Then,
Africa will be there to offer to new races the treasures
that for centuries have been accumulating in her breast.
Those climates now so fatal to strangers will be purified by
cultivation and by drainage of the soil, and those scattered
water supplies will be gathered into one common bed to
form an artery of navigation. Then this country over
which we are now passing, more fertile, richer, and fuller
of vitality than the rest, will become some grand realm
where more astonishing discoveries than steam and electricity
will be brought to light."
"Ah! sir," said Joe, "I'd like to see all that."
"You got up too early in the morning, my boy!"
"Besides," said Kennedy, "that may prove to be a
very dull period when industry will swallow up every
thing for its own profit. By dint of inventing machinery,
men will end in being eaten up by it! I have always
fancied that the end of the earth will be when some enormous
boiler, heated to three thousand millions of atmospheric
pressure, shall explode and blow up our Globe!"
"And I add that the Americans," said Joe, "will not
have been the last to work at the machine!"
"In fact," assented the doctor, "they are great boiler-makers!
But, without allowing ourselves to be carried away by such
speculations, let us rest content with enjoying the
beauties of this country of the Moon, since we have
been permitted to see it."
The sun, darting his last rays beneath the masses of
heaped-up cloud, adorned with a crest of gold the slightest
inequalities of the ground below; gigantic trees, arborescent
bushes, mosses on the even surface--all had their
share of this luminous effulgence. The soil, slightly undulating,
here and there rose into little conical hills; there
were no mountains visible on the horizon; immense brambly
palisades, impenetrable hedges of thorny jungle, separated
the clearings dotted with numerous villages, and
immense euphorbiae surrounded them with natural
fortifications, interlacing their trunks with the coral-shaped
branches of the shrubbery and undergrowth.
Ere long, the Malagazeri, the chief tributary of Lake
Tanganayika, was seen winding between heavy thickets
of verdure, offering an asylum to many water-courses that
spring from the torrents formed in the season of freshets,
or from ponds hollowed in the clayey soil. To observers
looking from a height, it was a chain of waterfalls thrown
across the whole western face of the country.
Animals with huge humps were feeding in the luxuriant
prairies, and were half hidden, sometimes, in the tall
grass; spreading forests in bloom redolent of spicy perfumes
presented themselves to the gaze like immense bouquets;
but, in these bouquets, lions, leopards, hyenas, and
tigers, were then crouching for shelter from the last hot
rays of the setting sun. From time to time, an elephant
made the tall tops of the undergrowth sway to and fro,
and you could hear the crackling of huge branches as his
ponderous ivory tusks broke them in his way.
"What a sporting country!" exclaimed Dick, unable
longer to restrain his enthusiasm; "why, a single ball fired
at random into those forests would bring down game
worthy of it. Suppose we try it once!"
"No, my dear Dick; the night is close at hand--a
threatening night with a tempest in the background--and
the storms are awful in this country, where the heated soil
is like one vast electric battery."
"You are right, sir," said Joe, "the heat has got to be
enough to choke one, and the breeze has died away. One
can feel that something's coming."
"The atmosphere is saturated with electricity," replied
the doctor; "every living creature is sensible that this
state of the air portends a struggle of the elements, and I
confess that I never before was so full of the fluid myself."
"Well, then," suggested Dick, "would it not be advisable
"On the contrary, Dick, I'd rather go up, only that I
am afraid of being carried out of my course by these
counter-currents contending in the atmosphere."
"Have you any idea, then, of abandoning the route
that we have followed since we left the coast?"
"If I can manage to do so," replied the doctor, "I will
turn more directly northward, by from seven to eight
degrees; I shall then endeavor to ascend toward the
presumed latitudes of the sources of the Nile; perhaps we
may discover some traces of Captain Speke's expedition
or of M. de Heuglin's caravan. Unless I am mistaken, we
are at thirty-two degrees forty minutes east longitude,
and I should like to ascend directly north of the equator."
"Look there!" exclaimed Kennedy, suddenly, "see
those hippopotami sliding out of the pools--those masses
of blood-colored flesh--and those crocodiles snuffing the
"They're choking!" ejaculated Joe. "Ah! what a fine
way to travel this is; and how one can snap his fingers at
all that vermin!--Doctor! Mr. Kennedy! see those packs
of wild animals hurrying along close together. There are
fully two hundred. Those are wolves."
"No! Joe, not wolves, but wild dogs; a famous breed
that does not hesitate to attack the lion himself. They
are the worst customers a traveller could meet, for they
would instantly tear him to pieces."
"Well, it isn't Joe that'll undertake to muzzle them!"
responded that amiable youth. "After all, though, if
that's the nature of the beast, we mustn't be too hard on
them for it!"
Silence gradually settled down under the influence of
the impending storm: the thickened air actually seemed
no longer adapted to the transmission of sound; the
atmosphere appeared MUFFLED, and, like a room hung with
tapestry, lost all its sonorous reverberation. The "rover
bird" so-called, the coroneted crane, the red and
blue jays, the mocking-bird, the flycatcher, disappeared
among the foliage of the immense trees, and all nature
revealed symptoms of some approaching catastrophe.
At nine o'clock the Victoria hung motionless over
Msene, an extensive group of villages scarcely distinguishable
in the gloom. Once in a while, the reflection of a
wandering ray of light in the dull water disclosed a
succession of ditches regularly arranged, and, by one last
gleam, the eye could make out the calm and sombre forms
of palm-trees, sycamores, and gigantic euphorbiae.
"I am stifling!" said the Scot, inhaling, with all the
power of his lungs, as much as possible of the rarefied air.
"We are not moving an inch! Let us descend!"
"But the tempest!" said the doctor, with much uneasiness.
"If you are afraid of being carried away by the wind,
it seems to me that there is no other course to pursue."
"Perhaps the storm won't burst to-night," said Joe;
"the clouds are very high."
"That is just the thing that makes me hesitate about
going beyond them; we should have to rise still higher,
lose sight of the earth, and not know all night whether
we were moving forward or not, or in what direction we
"Make up your mind, dear doctor, for time presses!"
"It's a pity that the wind has fallen," said Joe, again;
"it would have carried us clear of the storm."
"It is, indeed, a pity, my friends," rejoined the doctor.
"The clouds are dangerous for us; they contain opposing
currents which might catch us in their eddies, and lightnings
that might set on fire. Again, those perils avoided,
the force of the tempest might hurl us to the ground, were
we to cast our anchor in the tree-tops."
"Then what shall we do?"
"Well, we must try to get the balloon into a medium
zone of the atmosphere, and there keep her suspended
between the perils of the heavens and those of the earth.
We have enough water for the cylinder, and our two hundred
pounds of ballast are untouched. In case of emergency I
can use them."
"We will keep watch with you," said the hunter.
"No, my friends, put the provisions under shelter, and
lie down; I will rouse you, if it becomes necessary."
"But, master, wouldn't you do well to take some rest
yourself, as there's no danger close on us just now?"
insisted poor Joe.
"No, thank you, my good fellow, I prefer to keep
awake. We are not moving, and should circumstances
not change, we'll find ourselves to-morrow in exactly the
"Good-night, then, sir!"
"Good-night, if you can only find it so!"
Kennedy and Joe stretched themselves out under their
blankets, and the doctor remained alone in the immensity
However, the huge dome of clouds visibly descended,
and the darkness became profound. The black vault
closed in upon the earth as if to crush it in its embrace.
All at once a violent, rapid, incisive flash of lightning
pierced the gloom, and the rent it made had not closed
ere a frightful clap of thunder shook the celestial depths.
"Up! up! turn out!" shouted Ferguson.
The two sleepers, aroused by the terrible concussion,
were at the doctor's orders in a moment.
"Shall we descend?" said Kennedy.
"No! the balloon could not stand it. Let us go up
before those clouds dissolve in water, and the wind is let
loose!" and, so saying, the doctor actively stirred up the
flame of the cylinder, and turned it on the spirals of the
The tempests of the tropics develop with a rapidity
equalled only by their violence. A second flash of lightning
rent the darkness, and was followed by a score of
others in quick succession. The sky was crossed and dotted,
like the zebra's hide, with electric sparks, which danced
and flickered beneath the great drops of rain.
"We have delayed too long," exclaimed the doctor;
"we must now pass through a zone of fire, with our
balloon filled as it is with inflammable gas!"
"But let us descend, then! let us descend!" urged Kennedy.
"The risk of being struck would be just about even,
and we should soon be torn to pieces by the branches of
"We are going up, doctor!"
"Quicker, quicker still!"
In this part of Africa, during the equatorial storms, it
is not rare to count from thirty to thirty-five flashes of
lightning per minute. The sky is literally on fire, and the
crashes of thunder are continuous.
The wind burst forth with frightful violence in this
burning atmosphere; it twisted the blazing clouds; one
might have compared it to the breath of some gigantic
bellows, fanning all this conflagration.
Dr. Ferguson kept his cylinder at full heat, and the
balloon dilated and went up, while Kennedy, on his knees,
held together the curtains of the awning. The balloon
whirled round wildly enough to make their heads turn,
and the aeronauts got some very alarming jolts, indeed, as
their machine swung and swayed in all directions. Huge
cavities would form in the silk of the balloon as the wind
fiercely bent it in, and the stuff fairly cracked like a pistol
as it flew back from the pressure. A sort of hail, preceded
by a rumbling noise, hissed through the air and
rattled on the covering of the Victoria. The latter, however,
continued to ascend, while the lightning described
tangents to the convexity of her circumference; but she
bore on, right through the midst of the fire.
"God protect us!" said Dr. Ferguson, solemnly, "we
are in His hands; He alone can save us--but let us be
ready for every event, even for fire--our fall could not be
The doctor's voice could scarcely be heard by his companions;
but they could see his countenance calm as ever
even amid the flashing of the lightnings; he was watching
the phenomena of phosphorescence produced by the fires
of St. Elmo, that were now skipping to and fro along the
network of the balloon.
The latter whirled and swung, but steadily ascended,
and, ere the hour was over, it had passed the stormy belt.
The electric display was going on below it like a vast
crown of artificial fireworks suspended from the car.
Then they enjoyed one of the grandest spectacles that
Nature can offer to the gaze of man. Below them, the
tempest; above them, the starry firmament, tranquil,
mute, impassible, with the moon projecting her peaceful
rays over these angry clouds.
Dr. Ferguson consulted the barometer; it announced
twelve thousand feet of elevation. It was then eleven
o'clock at night.
"Thank Heaven, all danger is past; all we have to do
now, is, to keep ourselves at this height," said the doctor.
"It was frightful!" remarked Kennedy.
"Oh!" said Joe, "it gives a little variety to the trip,
and I'm not sorry to have seen a storm from a trifling
distance up in the air. It's a fine sight!"
The Mountains of the Moon.--An Ocean of Verdure.--They cast
Anchor.--The Towing Elephant.--A Running Fire.--Death of the
Monster.--The Field-Oven.--A Meal on the Grass.--A Night on the Ground.
About four in the morning, Monday, the sun reappeared
in the horizon; the clouds had dispersed, and a
cheery breeze refreshed the morning dawn.
The earth, all redolent with fragrant exhalations,
reappeared to the gaze of our travellers. The balloon,
whirled about by opposing currents, had hardly budged
from its place, and the doctor, letting the gas contract,
descended so as to get a more northerly direction. For
a long while his quest was fruitless; the wind carried him
toward the west until he came in sight of the famous
Mountains of the Moon, which grouped themselves in a
semicircle around the extremity of Lake Tanganayika; their
ridges, but slightly indented, stood out against the bluish
horizon, so that they might have been mistaken for a natural
fortification, not to be passed by the explorers of the
centre of Africa. Among them were a few isolated cones,
revealing the mark of the eternal snows.
"Here we are at last," said the doctor, "in an unexplored
country! Captain Burton pushed very far to the westward,
but he could not reach those celebrated mountains; he even
denied their existence, strongly as it was affirmed by
Speke, his companion. He pretended that they were born in
the latter's fancy; but for us, my friends, there is no
further doubt possible."
"Shall we cross them?" asked Kennedy.
"Not, if it please God. I am looking for a wind that
will take me back toward the equator. I will even wait
for one, if necessary, and will make the balloon like a ship
that casts anchor, until favorable breezes come up."
But the foresight of the doctor was not long in bringing
its reward; for, after having tried different heights,
the Victoria at length began to sail off to the northeastward
with medium speed.
"We are in the right track," said the doctor, consulting
his compass, "and scarcely two hundred feet from the
surface; lucky circumstances for us, enabling us, as they
do, to reconnoitre these new regions. When Captain
Speke set out to discover Lake Ukereoue, he ascended
more to the eastward in a straight line above Kazeh."
"Shall we keep on long in this way?" inquired the Scot.
"Perhaps. Our object is to push a point in the direction
of the sources of the Nile; and we have more than
six hundred miles to make before we get to the extreme
limit reached by the explorers who came from the north."
"And we shan't set foot on the solid ground?" murmured
Joe; "it's enough to cramp a fellow's legs!"
"Oh, yes, indeed, my good Joe," said the doctor, reassuring
him; "we have to economize our provisions, you know; and
on the way, Dick, you must get us some fresh meat."
"Whenever you like, doctor."
"We shall also have to replenish our stock of water.
Who knows but we may be carried to some of the dried-up
regions? So we cannot take too many precautions."
At noon the Victoria was at twenty-nine degrees fifteen
minutes east longitude, and three degrees fifteen minutes
south latitude. She passed the village of Uyofu, the last
northern limit of the Unyamwezi, opposite to the Lake
Ukereoue, which could still be seen.
The tribes living near to the equator seem to be a little
more civilized, and are governed by absolute monarchs, whose
control is an unlimited despotism. Their most compact union
of power constitutes the province of Karagwah.
It was decided by the aeronauts that they would
alight at the first favorable place. They found that they
should have to make a prolonged halt, and take a careful
inspection of the balloon: so the flame of the cylinder
was moderated, and the anchors, flung out from the car,
ere long began to sweep the grass of an immense prairie,
that, from a certain height, looked like a shaven lawn,
but the growth of which, in reality, was from seven to
eight feet in height.
The balloon skimmed this tall grass without bending
it, like a gigantic butterfly: not an obstacle was in sight;
it was an ocean of verdure without a single breaker.
"We might proceed a long time in this style," remarked
Kennedy; "I don't see one tree that we could
approach, and I'm afraid that our hunt's over."
"Wait, Dick; you could not hunt anyhow in this
grass, that grows higher than your head. We'll find a
favorable place presently."
In truth, it was a charming excursion that they were
making now--a veritable navigation on this green, almost
transparent sea, gently undulating in the breath of the
wind. The little car seemed to cleave the waves of verdure,
and, from time to time, coveys of birds of magnificent
plumage would rise fluttering from the tall herbage,
and speed away with joyous cries. The anchors plunged
into this lake of flowers, and traced a furrow that closed
behind them, like the wake of a ship.
All at once a sharp shock was felt--the anchor had caught
in the fissure of some rock hidden in the high grass.
"We are fast!" exclaimed Joe.
These words had scarcely been uttered when a shrill cry
rang through the air, and the following phrases, mingled
with exclamations, escaped from the lips of our travellers:
"A strange cry!"
"Look! Why, we're moving!"
"The anchor has slipped!"
"No; it holds, and holds fast too!" said Joe, who
was tugging at the rope.
"It's the rock, then, that's moving!"
An immense rustling was noticed in the grass, and soon
an elongated, winding shape was seen rising above it.
"A serpent!" shouted Joe.
"A serpent!" repeated Kennedy, handling his rifle.
"No," said the doctor, "it's an elephant's trunk!"
"An elephant, Samuel?"
And, as Kennedy said this, he drew his rifle to his shoulder.
"Wait, Dick; wait!"
"That's a fact! The animal's towing us!"
"And in the right direction, Joe--in the right direction."
The elephant was now making some headway, and soon reached
a clearing where his whole body could be seen. By his
gigantic size, the doctor recognized a male of a superb
species. He had two whitish tusks, beautifully curved, and
about eight feet in length; and in these the shanks of the
anchor had firmly caught. The animal was vainly trying with
his trunk to disengage himself from the rope that attached
him to the car.
"Get up--go ahead, old fellow!" shouted Joe, with
delight, doing his best to urge this rather novel team.
"Here is a new style of travelling!--no more horses for
me. An elephant, if you please!"
"But where is he taking us to?" said Kennedy, whose
rifle itched in his grasp.
"He's taking us exactly to where we want to go, my
dear Dick. A little patience!"
"'Wig-a-more! wig-a-more!' as the Scotch country folks say,"
shouted Joe, in high glee. "Gee-up! gee-up there!"
The huge animal now broke into a very rapid gallop.
He flung his trunk from side to side, and his monstrous
bounds gave the car several rather heavy thumps. Meanwhile
the doctor stood ready, hatchet in hand, to cut the
rope, should need arise.
"But," said he, "we shall not give up our anchor until
the last moment."
This drive, with an elephant for the team, lasted about
an hour and a half; yet the animal did not seem in the
least fatigued. These immense creatures can go over a
great deal of ground, and, from one day to another, are
found at enormous distances from there they were last
seen, like the whales, whose mass and speed they rival.
"In fact," said Joe, "it's a whale that we have harpooned;
and we're only doing just what whalemen do when out fishing."
But a change in the nature of the ground compelled
the doctor to vary his style of locomotion. A dense grove
of calmadores was descried on the horizon, about three
miles away, on the north of the prairie. So it became
necessary to detach the balloon from its draught-animal
Kennedy was intrusted with the job of bringing the
elephant to a halt. He drew his rifle to his shoulder, but
his position was not favorable to a successful shot; so
that the first ball fired flattened itself on the animal's
skull, as it would have done against an iron plate. The
creature did not seem in the least troubled by it; but, at
the sound of the discharge, he had increased his speed,
and now was going as fast as a horse at full gallop.
"The deuce!" ejaculated Kennedy.
"What a solid head!" commented Joe.
"We'll try some conical balls behind the shoulder-joint,"
said Kennedy, reloading his rifle with care. In
another moment he fired.
The animal gave a terrible cry, but went on faster
"Come!" said Joe, taking aim with another gun, "I
must help you, or we'll never end it." And now two balls
penetrated the creature's side.
The elephant halted, lifted his trunk, and resumed his
run toward the wood with all his speed; he shook his huge
head, and the blood began to gush from his wounds.
"Let us keep up our fire, Mr. Kennedy."
"And a continuous fire, too," urged the doctor, "for
we are close on the woods."
Ten shots more were discharged. The elephant made
a fearful bound; the car and balloon cracked as though
every thing were going to pieces, and the shock made the
doctor drop his hatchet on the ground.
The situation was thus rendered really very alarming;
the anchor-rope, which had securely caught, could not be
disengaged, nor could it yet be cut by the knives of our
aeronauts, and the balloon was rushing headlong toward
the wood, when the animal received a ball in the eye just
as he lifted his head. On this he halted, faltered, his knees
bent under him, and he uncovered his whole flank to the
assaults of his enemies in the balloon.
"A bullet in his heart!" said Kennedy, discharging
one last rifle-shot.
The elephant uttered a long bellow of terror and agony,
then raised himself up for a moment, twirling his trunk in
the air, and finally fell with all his weight upon one of his
tusks, which he broke off short. He was dead.
"His tusk's broken!" exclaimed Kennedy--"ivory too
that in England would bring thirty-five guineas per
"As much as that?" said Joe, scrambling down to the
ground by the anchor-rope.
"What's the use of sighing over it, Dick?" said the
doctor. "Are we ivory merchants? Did we come hither
to make money?"
Joe examined the anchor and found it solidly attached
to the unbroken tusk. The doctor and Dick leaped out on
the ground, while the balloon, now half emptied, hovered
over the body of the huge animal.
"What a splendid beast!" said Kennedy, "what a mass of
flesh! I never saw an elephant of that size in India!"
"There's nothing surprising about that, my dear Dick;
the elephants of Central Africa are the finest in the world.
The Andersons and the Cummings have hunted so incessantly
in the neighborhood of the Cape, that these animals
have migrated to the equator, where they are often met
with in large herds."
"In the mean while, I hope," added Joe, "that we'll
taste a morsel of this fellow. I'll undertake to get you a
good dinner at his expense. Mr. Kennedy will go off and
hunt for an hour or two; the doctor will make an inspection
of the balloon, and, while they're busy in that way,
I'll do the cooking."
"A good arrangement!" said the doctor; "so do as
you like, Joe."
"As for me," said the hunter, "I shall avail myself of the
two hours' recess that Joe has condescended to let me have."
"Go, my friend, but no imprudence! Don't wander
too far away."
"Never fear, doctor!" and, so saying, Dick, shouldering
his gun, plunged into the woods.
Forthwith Joe went to work at his vocation. At first
he made a hole in the ground two feet deep; this he filled
with the dry wood that was so abundantly scattered about,
where it had been strewn by the elephants, whose tracks
could be seen where they had made their way through the
forest. This hole filled, he heaped a pile of fagots on it
a foot in height, and set fire to it.
Then he went back to the carcass of the elephant,
which had fallen only about a hundred feet from the edge
of the forest; he next proceeded adroitly to cut off the
trunk, which might have been two feet in diameter at the
base; of this he selected the most delicate portion, and
then took with it one of the animal's spongy feet. In fact,
these are the finest morsels, like the hump of the bison, the
paws of the bear, and the head of the wild boar.
When the pile of fagots had been thoroughly consumed,
inside and outside, the hole, cleared of the cinders
and hot coals, retained a very high temperature. The
pieces of elephant-meat, surrounded with aromatic leaves,
were placed in this extempore oven and covered with hot
coals. Then Joe piled up a second heap of sticks over all,
and when it had burned out the meat was cooked to a turn.
Then Joe took the viands from the oven, spread the
savory mess upon green leaves, and arranged his dinner
upon a magnificent patch of greensward. He finally
brought out some biscuit, some coffee, and some cognac,
and got a can of pure, fresh water from a neighboring
The repast thus prepared was a pleasant sight to behold,
and Joe, without being too proud, thought that it
would also be pleasant to eat.
"A journey without danger or fatigue," he soliloquized;
"your meals when you please; a swinging hammock all
the time! What more could a man ask? And there was
Kennedy, who didn't want to come!"
On his part, Dr. Ferguson was engrossed in a serious
and thorough examination of the balloon. The latter did
not appear to have suffered from the storm; the silk and
the gutta percha had resisted wonderfully, and, upon estimating
the exact height of the ground and the ascensional
force of the balloon, our aeronaut saw, with satisfaction,
that the hydrogen was in exactly the same quantity as
before. The covering had remained completely waterproof.
It was now only five days since our travellers had
quitted Zanzibar; their pemmican had not yet been
touched; their stock of biscuit and potted meat was enough
for a long trip, and there was nothing to be replenished
but the water.
The pipes and spiral seemed to be in perfect condition,
since, thanks to their india-rubber jointings, they had
yielded to all the oscillations of the balloon. His examination
ended, the doctor betook himself to setting his
notes in order. He made a very accurate sketch of the
surrounding landscape, with its long prairie stretching
away out of sight, the forest of calmadores, and the balloon
resting motionless over the body of the dead elephant.
At the end of his two hours, Kennedy returned with a
string of fat partridges and the haunch of an oryx, a sort
of gemsbok belonging to the most agile species of antelopes.
Joe took upon himself to prepare this surplus stock
of provisions for a later repast.
"But, dinner's ready!" he shouted in his most musical voice.
And the three travellers had only to sit down on the
green turf. The trunk and feet of the elephant were declared
to be exquisite. Old England was toasted, as usual,
and delicious Havanas perfumed this charming country
for the first time.
Kennedy ate, drank, and chatted, like four; he was
perfectly delighted with his new life, and seriously
proposed to the doctor to settle in this forest, to construct a
cabin of boughs and foliage, and, there and then, to lay the
foundation of a Robinson Crusoe dynasty in Africa.
The proposition went no further, although Joe had, at
once, selected the part of Man Friday for himself.
The country seemed so quiet, so deserted, that the
doctor resolved to pass the night on the ground, and Joe
arranged a circle of watch-fires as an indispensable barrier
against wild animals, for the hyenas, cougars, and jackals,
attracted by the smell of the dead elephant, were prowling
about in the neighborhood. Kennedy had to fire his rifle
several times at these unceremonious visitors, but the
night passed without any untoward occurrence.
The Karagwah.--Lake Ukereoue.--A Night on an Island.--The Equator.--
Crossing the Lake.--The Cascades.--A View of the Country.--The Sources
of the Nile.--The Island of Benga.--The Signature of Andrea Debono.--The
Flag with the Arms of England.
At five o'clock in the morning, preparations for departure
commenced. Joe, with the hatchet which he had
fortunately recovered, broke the elephant's tusks. The
balloon, restored to liberty, sped away to the northwest
with our travellers, at the rate of eighteen miles per hour.
The doctor had carefully taken his position by the altitude
of the stars, during the preceding night. He knew
that he was in latitude two degrees forty minutes below
the equator, or at a distance of one hundred and sixty
geographical miles. He swept along over many villages
without heeding the cries that the appearance of the balloon
excited; he took note of the conformation of places
with quick sights; he passed the slopes of the Rubemhe,
which are nearly as abrupt as the summits of the Ousagara,
and, farther on, at Tenga, encountered the first projections
of the Karagwah chains, which, in his opinion,
are direct spurs of the Mountains of the Moon. So, the
ancient legend which made these mountains the cradle of
the Nile, came near to the truth, since they really border
upon Lake Ukereoue, the conjectured reservoir of the
waters of the great river.
From Kafuro, the main district of the merchants of that
country, he descried, at length, on the horizon, the lake
so much desired and so long sought for, of which Captain
Speke caught a glimpse on the 3d of August, 1858.
Samuel Ferguson felt real emotion: he was almost in
contact with one of the principal points of his expedition,
and, with his spy-glass constantly raised, he kept every
nook and corner of the mysterious region in sight. His
gaze wandered over details that might have been thus
"Beneath him extended a country generally destitute
of cultivation; only here and there some ravines seemed
under tillage; the surface, dotted with peaks of medium
height, grew flat as it approached the lake; barley-fields
took the place of rice-plantations, and there, too, could be
seen growing the species of plantain from which the wine
of the country is drawn, and mwani, the wild plant which
supplies a substitute for coffee. A collection of some fifty
or more circular huts, covered with a flowering thatch,
constituted the capital of the Karagwah country."
He could easily distinguish the astonished countenances
of a rather fine-looking race of natives of yellowish-brown
complexion. Women of incredible corpulence
were dawdling about through the cultivated grounds, and
the doctor greatly surprised his companions by informing
them that this rotundity, which is highly esteemed in that
region, was obtained by an obligatory diet of curdled milk.
At noon, the Victoria was in one degree forty-five
minutes south latitude, and at one o'clock the wind was
driving her directly toward the lake.
This sheet of water was christened Uyanza Victoria,
or Victoria Lake, by Captain Speke. At the place now
mentioned it might measure about ninety miles in breadth,
and at its southern extremity the captain found a group
of islets, which he named the Archipelago of Bengal. He
pushed his survey as far as Muanza, on the eastern coast,
where he was received by the sultan. He made a triangulation
of this part of the lake, but he could not procure a
boat, either to cross it or to visit the great island of
Ukereoue which is very populous, is governed by three
sultans, and appears to be only a promontory at low tide.
The balloon approached the lake more to the northward,
to the doctor's great regret, for it had been his wish
to determine its lower outlines. Its shores seemed to be
thickly set with brambles and thorny plants, growing together
in wild confusion, and were literally hidden, sometimes,
from the gaze, by myriads of mosquitoes of a light-brown
hue. The country was evidently habitable and inhabited.
Troops of hippopotami could be seen disporting
themselves in the forests of reeds, or plunging beneath the
whitish waters of the lake.
The latter, seen from above, presented, toward the
west, so broad an horizon that it might have been called a
sea; the distance between the two shores is so great that
communication cannot be established, and storms are frequent
and violent, for the winds sweep with fury over this
elevated and unsheltered basin.
The doctor experienced some difficulty in guiding his
course; he was afraid of being carried toward the east,
but, fortunately, a current bore him directly toward the
north, and at six o'clock in the evening the balloon
alighted on a small desert island in thirty minutes south
latitude, and thirty-two degrees fifty-two minutes east
longitude, about twenty miles from the shore.
The travellers succeeded in making fast to a tree, and,
the wind having fallen calm toward evening, they remained
quietly at anchor. They dared not dream of taking the
ground, since here, as on the shores of the Uyanza, legions
of mosquitoes covered the soil in dense clouds. Joe even
came back, from securing the anchor in the tree, speckled
with bites, but he kept his temper, because he found it
quite the natural thing for mosquitoes to treat him as they
Nevertheless, the doctor, who was less of an optimist,
let out as much rope as he could, so as to escape these
pitiless insects, that began to rise toward him with a
The doctor ascertained the height of the lake above
the level of the sea, as it had been determined by Captain
Speke, say three thousand seven hundred and fifty feet.
"Here we are, then, on an island!" said Joe, scratching
as though he'd tear his nails out.
"We could make the tour of it in a jiffy," added Kennedy,
"and, excepting these confounded mosquitoes, there's
not a living being to be seen on it."
"The islands with which the lake is dotted," replied
the doctor, "are nothing, after all, but the tops of submerged
hills; but we are lucky to have found a retreat
among them, for the shores of the lake are inhabited by
ferocious tribes. Take your sleep, then, since Providence
has granted us a tranquil night."
"Won't you do the same, doctor?"
"No, I could not close my eyes. My thoughts would
banish sleep. To-morrow, my friends, should the wind
prove favorable, we shall go due north, and we shall, perhaps,
discover the sources of the Nile, that grand secret
which has so long remained impenetrable. Near as we
are to the sources of the renowned river, I could not
Kennedy and Joe, whom scientific speculations failed
to disturb to that extent, were not long in falling into
sound slumber, while the doctor held his post.
On Wednesday, April 23d, the balloon started at four
o'clock in the morning, with a grayish sky overhead; night
was slow in quitting the surface of the lake, which was
enveloped in a dense fog, but presently a violent breeze
scattered all the mists, and, after the balloon had been
swung to and fro for a moment, in opposite directions, it
at length veered in a straight line toward the north.
Dr. Ferguson fairly clapped his hands for joy.
"We are on the right track!" he exclaimed. "To-day
or never we shall see the Nile! Look, my friends, we are
crossing the equator! We are entering our own hemisphere!"
"Ah!" said Joe, "do you think, doctor, that the equator
"Just here, my boy!"
"Well, then, with all respect to you, sir, it seems to
me that this is the very time to moisten it."
"Good!" said the doctor, laughing. "Let us have a glass
of punch. You have a way of comprehending cosmography
that is any thing but dull."
And thus was the passage of the Victoria over the
equator duly celebrated.
The balloon made rapid headway. In the west could
be seen a low and but slightly-diversified coast, and,
farther away in the background, the elevated plains of the
Uganda and the Usoga. At length, the rapidity of the
wind became excessive, approaching thirty miles per hour.
The waters of the Nyanza, violently agitated, were
foaming like the billows of a sea. By the appearance of
certain long swells that followed the sinking of the waves,
the doctor was enabled to conclude that the lake must
have great depth of water. Only one or two rude boats
were seen during this rapid passage.
"This lake is evidently, from its elevated position,
the natural reservoir of the rivers in the eastern part of
Africa, and the sky gives back to it in rain what it takes
in vapor from the streams that flow out of it. I am certain
that the Nile must here take its rise."
"Well, we shall see!" said Kennedy.
About nine o'clock they drew nearer to the western
coast. It seemed deserted, and covered with woods; the
wind freshened a little toward the east, and the other
shore of the lake could be seen. It bent around in such a
curve as to end in a wide angle toward two degrees forty
minutes north latitude. Lofty mountains uplifted their
arid peaks at this extremity of Nyanza; but, between
them, a deep and winding gorge gave exit to a turbulent
and foaming river.
While busy managing the balloon, Dr. Ferguson never
ceased reconnoitring the country with eager eyes.
"Look!" he exclaimed, "look, my friends! the statements
of the Arabs were correct! They spoke of a river
by which Lake Ukereoue discharged its waters toward
the north, and this river exists, and we are descending it,
and it flows with a speed analogous to our own! And this
drop of water now gliding away beneath our feet is, beyond
all question, rushing on, to mingle with the Mediterranean!
It is the Nile!"
"It is the Nile!" reeechoed Kennedy, carried away by
the enthusiasm of his friend.
"Hurrah for the Nile!" shouted Joe, glad, and always
ready to cheer for something.
Enormous rocks, here and there, embarrassed the
course of this mysterious river. The water foamed as it
fell in rapids and cataracts, which confirmed the doctor
in his preconceived ideas on the subject. From the environing
mountains numerous torrents came plunging and
seething down, and the eye could take them in by hundreds.
There could be seen, starting from the soil, delicate
jets of water scattering in all directions, crossing and
recrossing each other, mingling, contending in the swiftness
of their progress, and all rushing toward that nascent
stream which became a river after having drunk them in.
"Here is, indeed, the Nile!" reiterated the doctor, with
the tone of profound conviction. "The origin of its name,
like the origin of its waters, has fired the imagination of
the learned; they have sought to trace it from the
Greek, the Coptic, the Sanscrit; but all that matters little
now, since we have made it surrender the secret of its
"But," said the Scotchman, "how are you to make
sure of the identity of this river with the one recognized
by the travellers from the north?"
"We shall have certain, irrefutable, convincing, and
infallible proof," replied Ferguson, "should the wind hold
another hour in our favor!"
The mountains drew farther apart, revealing in their
place numerous villages, and fields of white Indian corn,
doura, and sugar-cane. The tribes inhabiting the region
seemed excited and hostile; they manifested more anger
than adoration, and evidently saw in the aeronauts only
obtrusive strangers, and not condescending deities. It
appeared as though, in approaching the sources of the
Nile, these men came to rob them of something, and so
the Victoria had to keep out of range of their muskets.
"To land here would be a ticklish matter!" said the Scot.
"Well!" said Joe, "so much the worse for these natives.
They'll have to do without the pleasure of our conversation."
"Nevertheless, descend I must," said the doctor,
"were it only for a quarter of an hour. Without doing
so I cannot verify the results of our expedition."
"It is indispensable, then, doctor?"
"Indispensable; and we will descend, even if we have
to do so with a volley of musketry."
"The thing suits me," said Kennedy, toying with his
"And I'm ready, master, whenever you say the word!"
added Joe, preparing for the fight.
"It would not be the first time," remarked the doctor,
"that science has been followed up, sword in hand. The
same thing happened to a French savant among the mountains
of Spain, when he was measuring the terrestrial meridian."
"Be easy on that score, doctor, and trust to your two
"Are we there, master?"
"Not yet. In fact, I shall go up a little, first, in order
to get an exact idea of the configuration of the country."
The hydrogen expanded, and in less than ten minutes the
balloon was soaring at a height of twenty-five hundred
feet above the ground.
From that elevation could be distinguished an inextricable
network of smaller streams which the river received into
its bosom; others came from the west, from between numerous
hills, in the midst of fertile plains.
"We are not ninety miles from Gondokoro," said the
doctor, measuring off the distance on his map, "and less
than five miles from the point reached by the explorers
from the north. Let us descend with great care."
And, upon this, the balloon was lowered about two
"Now, my friends, let us be ready, come what may."
"Ready it is!" said Dick and Joe, with one voice.
In a few moments the balloon was advancing along
the bed of the river, and scarcely one hundred feet above
the ground. The Nile measured but fifty fathoms in width
at this point, and the natives were in great excitement,
rushing to and fro, tumultuously, in the villages
that lined the banks of the stream. At the second degree
it forms a perpendicular cascade of ten feet in height, and
consequently impassable by boats.
"Here, then, is the cascade mentioned by Debono!"
exclaimed the doctor.
The basin of the river spread out, dotted with numerous
islands, which Dr. Ferguson devoured with his eyes.
He seemed to be seeking for a point of reference which he
had not yet found.
By this time, some blacks, having ventured in a boat
just under the balloon, Kennedy saluted them with a shot
from his rifle, that made them regain the bank at their
"A good journey to you," bawled Joe, "and if I were in
your place, I wouldn't try coming back again. I should
be mightily afraid of a monster that can hurl thunderbolts
when he pleases."
But, all at once, the doctor snatched up his spy-glass,
and directed it toward an island reposing in the middle
of the river.
"Four trees!" he exclaimed; "look, down there!" Sure
enough, there were four trees standing alone at one
end of it.
"It is Bengal Island! It is the very same," repeated
the doctor, exultingly.
"And what of that?" asked Dick.
"It is there that we shall alight, if God permits."
"But, it seems to be inhabited, doctor."
"Joe is right; and, unless I'm mistaken, there is a
group of about a score of natives on it now."
"We'll make them scatter; there'll be no great trouble
in that," responded Ferguson.
"So be it," chimed in the hunter.
The sun was at the zenith as the balloon approached
The blacks, who were members of the Makado tribe,
were howling lustily, and one of them waved his bark hat
in the air. Kennedy took aim at him, fired, and his hat
flew about him in pieces. Thereupon there was a general
scamper. The natives plunged headlong into the river,
and swam to the opposite bank. Immediately, there came
a shower of balls from both banks, along with a perfect
cloud of arrows, but without doing the balloon any damage,
where it rested with its anchor snugly secured in the
fissure of a rock. Joe lost no time in sliding to the ground.
"The ladder!" cried the doctor. "Follow me, Kennedy."
"What do you wish, sir?"
"Let us alight. I want a witness."
"Here I am!"
"Mind your post, Joe, and keep a good lookout."
"Never fear, doctor; I'll answer for all that."
"Come, Dick," said the doctor, as he touched the ground.
So saying, he drew his companion along toward a
group of rocks that rose upon one point of the island;
there, after searching for some time, he began to rummage
among the brambles, and, in so doing, scratched his hands
until they bled.
Suddenly he grasped Kennedy's arm, exclaiming:
Yes; there, indeed, could be descried, with perfect
precision of outline, some letters carved on the rock. It
was quite easy to make them out:
"A.D.!" repeated Dr. Ferguson. "Andrea Debono--
the very signature of the traveller who farthest ascended
the current of the Nile."
"No doubt of that, friend Samuel," assented Kennedy.
"Are you now convinced?"
"It is the Nile! We cannot entertain a doubt on that
score now," was the reply.
The doctor, for the last time, examined those precious
initials, the exact form and size of which he carefully noted.
"And now," said he--"now for the balloon!"
"Quickly, then, for I see some of the natives getting
ready to recross the river."
"That matters little to us now. Let the wind but
send us northward for a few hours, and we shall reach
Gondokoro, and press the hands of some of our countrymen."
Ten minutes more, and the balloon was majestically
ascending, while Dr. Ferguson, in token of success, waved
the English flag triumphantly from his car.
The Nile.--The Trembling Mountain.--A Remembrance of the Country.--The
Narratives of the Arabs.--The Nyam-Nyams.--Joe's Shrewd Cogitations.--The
Balloon runs the Gantlet.--Aerostatic Ascensions.--Madame Blanchard.
"Which way do we head?" asked Kennedy, as he
saw his friend consulting the compass.
"The deuce! but that's not the north?"
"No, Dick; and I'm afraid that we shall have some
trouble in getting to Gondokoro. I am sorry for it; but,
at last, we have succeeded in connecting the explorations
from the east with those from the north; and we must
The balloon was now receding gradually from the Nile.
"One last look," said the doctor, "at this impassable
latitude, beyond which the most intrepid travellers could
not make their way. There are those intractable tribes,
of whom Petherick, Arnaud, Miuni, and the young traveller
Lejean, to whom we are indebted for the best work
on the Upper Nile, have spoken."
"Thus, then," added Kennedy, inquiringly, "our discoveries
agree with the speculations of science."
"Absolutely so. The sources of the White Nile, of
the Bahr-el-Abiad, are immersed in a lake as large as a
sea; it is there that it takes its rise. Poesy, undoubtedly,
loses something thereby. People were fond of ascribing
a celestial origin to this king of rivers. The ancients gave
it the name of an ocean, and were not far from believing
that it flowed directly from the sun; but we must come
down from these flights from time to time, and accept
what science teaches us. There will not always be scientific
men, perhaps; but there always will be poets."
"We can still see cataracts," said Joe.
"Those are the cataracts of Makedo, in the third degree
of latitude. Nothing could be more accurate. Oh, if we could
only have followed the course of the Nile for a few hours!"
"And down yonder, below us, I see the top of a mountain,"
said the hunter.
"That is Mount Longwek, the Trembling Mountain of
the Arabs. This whole country was visited by Debono,
who went through it under the name of Latif-Effendi.
The tribes living near the Nile are hostile to each other,
and are continually waging a war of extermination. You
may form some idea, then, of the difficulties he had to
The wind was carrying the balloon toward the northwest,
and, in order to avoid Mount Longwek, it was necessary
to seek a more slanting current.
"My friends," said the doctor, "here is where OUR passage
of the African Continent really commences; up to this time
we have been following the traces of our predecessors.
Henceforth we are to launch ourselves upon the unknown.
We shall not lack the courage, shall we?"
"Never!" said Dick and Joe together, almost in a shout.
"Onward, then, and may we have the help of Heaven!"
At ten o'clock at night, after passing over ravines,
forests, and scattered villages, the aeronauts reached the
side of the Trembling Mountain, along whose gentle slopes
they went quietly gliding. In that memorable day, the 23d of
April, they had, in fifteen hours, impelled by a rapid
breeze, traversed a distance of more than three hundred and
But this latter part of the journey had left them in
dull spirits, and complete silence reigned in the car. Was
Dr. Ferguson absorbed in the thought of his discoveries?
Were his two companions thinking of their trip through
those unknown regions? There were, no doubt, mingled
with these reflections, the keenest reminiscences of home
and distant friends. Joe alone continued to manifest the
same careless philosophy, finding it QUITE NATURAL that
home should not be there, from the moment that he left
it; but he respected the silent mood of his friends, the
doctor and Kennedy.
About ten the balloon anchored on the side of the
Trembling Mountain, so called, because, in Arab tradition,
it is said to tremble the instant that a Mussulman sets
foot upon it. The travellers then partook of a substantial
meal, and all quietly passed the night as usual, keeping
the regular watches.
On awaking the next morning, they all had pleasanter
feelings. The weather was fine, and the wind was blowing
from the right quarter; so that a good breakfast,
seasoned with Joe's merry pranks, put them in high good-humor.
The region they were now crossing is very extensive.
It borders on the Mountains of the Moon on one side,
and those of Darfur on the other--a space about as
broad as Europe.
"We are, no doubt, crossing what is supposed to be
the kingdom of Usoga. Geographers have pretended that
there existed, in the centre of Africa, a vast depression,
an immense central lake. We shall see whether there is
any truth in that idea," said the doctor.
"But how did they come to think so?" asked Kennedy.
"From the recitals of the Arabs. Those fellows are
great narrators--too much so, probably. Some travellers,
who had got as far as Kazeh, or the great lakes, saw
slaves that had been brought from this region; interrogated
them concerning it, and, from their different narratives,
made up a jumble of notions, and deduced systems
from them. Down at the bottom of it all there is some
appearance of truth; and you see that they were right
about the sources of the Nile."
"Nothing could be more correct," said Kennedy. "It
was by the aid of these documents that some attempts at
maps were made, and so I am going to try to follow our
route by one of them, rectifying it when need be."
"Is all this region inhabited?" asked Joe.
"Undoubtedly; and disagreeably inhabited, too."
"I thought so."
"These scattered tribes come, one and all, under the
title of Nyam-Nyams, and this compound word is only a
sort of nickname. It imitates the sound of chewing."
"That's it! Excellent!" said Joe, champing his teeth
as though he were eating; "Nyam-Nyam."
"My good Joe, if you were the immediate object of
this chewing, you wouldn't find it so excellent."
"Why, what's the reason, sir?"
"These tribes are considered man-eaters."
"Is that really the case?"
"Not a doubt of it! It has also been asserted that
these natives had tails, like mere quadrupeds; but it was
soon discovered that these appendages belonged to the
skins of animals that they wore for clothing."
"More's the pity! a tail's a nice thing to chase away
"That may be, Joe; but we must consign the story to
the domain of fable, like the dogs' heads which the
traveller, Brun-Rollet, attributed to other tribes."