Part 5 out of 7
It seemed that the travellers by the other balloon
had just the same idea, at the same moment, for the same
kind of flag repeated precisely the same salute with a
hand that moved in just the same manner.
"What does that mean?" asked Kennedy.
"They are apes," said Joe, "imitating us."
"It means," said the doctor, laughing, "that it is you,
Dick, yourself, making that signal to yourself; or, in other
words, that we see ourselves in the second balloon, which
is no other than the Victoria."
"As to that, master, with all respect to you," said Joe,
"you'll never make me believe it."
"Climb up on the edge of the car, Joe; wave your
arms, and then you'll see."
Joe obeyed, and all his gestures were instantaneously
and exactly repeated.
"It is merely the effect of the MIRAGE," said the doctor,
"and nothing else--a simple optical phenomenon due to
the unequal refraction of light by different layers of the
atmosphere, and that is all.
"It's wonderful," said Joe, who could not make up
his mind to surrender, but went on repeating his
"What a curious sight! Do you know," said Kennedy,
"that it's a real pleasure to have a view of our
noble balloon in that style? She's a beauty, isn't she?--
and how stately her movements as she sweeps along!"
"You may explain the matter as you like," continued
Joe, "it's a strange thing, anyhow!"
But ere long this picture began to fade away; the
clouds rose higher, leaving the balloon, which made no
further attempt to follow them, and in about an hour
they disappeared in the open sky.
The wind, which had been scarcely perceptible, seemed
still to diminish, and the doctor in perfect desperation
descended toward the ground, and all three of the travellers,
whom the incident just recorded had, for a few moments,
diverted from their anxieties, relapsed into gloomy
meditation, sweltering the while beneath the scorching
About four o'clock, Joe descried some object standing
out against the vast background of sand, and soon was
able to declare positively that there were two palm-trees
at no great distance.
"Palm-trees!" exclaimed Ferguson; "why, then
there's a spring--a well!"
He took up his glass and satisfied himself that Joe's
eyes had not been mistaken.
"At length!" he said, over and over again, "water!
water! and we are saved; for if we do move slowly, still
we move, and we shall arrive at last!"
"Good, master! but suppose we were to drink a mouthful
in the mean time, for this air is stifling?"
"Let us drink then, my boy!"
No one waited to be coaxed. A whole pint was swallowed
then and there, reducing the total remaining supply
to three pints and a half.
"Ah! that does one good!" said Joe; "wasn't it
fine? Barclay and Perkins never turned out ale equal to
"See the advantage of being put on short allowance!"
moralized the doctor.
"It is not great, after all," retorted Kennedy; "and if
I were never again to have the pleasure of drinking water,
I should agree on condition that I should never be deprived
At six o'clock the balloon was floating over the palm-trees.
They were two shrivelled, stunted, dried-up specimens
of trees--two ghosts of palms--without foliage, and more
dead than alive. Ferguson examined them with terror.
At their feet could be seen the half-worn stones of a
spring, but these stones, pulverized by the baking heat
of the sun, seemed to be nothing now but impalpable dust.
There was not the slightest sign of moisture. The doctor's
heart shrank within him, and he was about to communicate
his thoughts to his companions, when their exclamations
attracted his attention. As far as the eye could
reach to the eastward, extended a long line of whitened
bones; pieces of skeletons surrounded the fountain; a caravan
had evidently made its way to that point, marking its
progress by its bleaching remains; the weaker had fallen
one by one upon the sand; the stronger, having at length
reached this spring for which they panted, had there found
a horrible death.
Our travellers looked at each other and turned pale.
"Let us not alight!" said Kennedy, "let us fly from
this hideous spectacle! There's not a drop of water
"No, Dick, as well pass the night here as elsewhere;
let us have a clear conscience in the matter. We'll dig
down to the very bottom of the well. There has been a
spring here, and perhaps there's something left in it!"
The Victoria touched the ground; Joe and Kennedy
put into the car a quantity of sand equal to their weight,
and leaped out. They then hastened to the well, and
penetrated to the interior by a flight of steps that was now
nothing but dust. The spring appeared to have been dry
for years. They dug down into a parched and powdery
sand--the very dryest of all sand, indeed--there was not
one trace of moisture!
The doctor saw them come up to the surface of the
desert, saturated with perspiration, worn out, covered with
fine dust, exhausted, discouraged and despairing.
He then comprehended that their search had been
fruitless. He had expected as much, and he kept silent,
for he felt that, from this moment forth, he must have
courage and energy enough for three.
Joe brought up with him some pieces of a leathern
bottle that had grown hard and horn-like with age, and
angrily flung them away among the bleaching bones of
At supper, not a word was spoken by our travellers,
and they even ate without appetite. Yet they had not,
up to this moment, endured the real agonies of thirst, and
were in no desponding mood, excepting for the future.
One Hundred and Thirteen Degrees.--The Doctor's Reflections.--A Desperate
Search.--The Cylinder goes out.--One Hundred and Twenty-two Degrees.--
Contemplation of the Desert.--A Night Walk.--Solitude.--Debility.--Joe's
Prospects.--He gives himself One Day more.
The distance made by the balloon during the preceding
day did not exceed ten miles, and, to keep it afloat,
one hundred and sixty-two cubic feet of gas had been
On Saturday morning the doctor again gave the signal
"The cylinder can work only six hours longer; and,
if in that time we shall not have found either a well or a
spring of water, God alone knows what will become of us!"
"Not much wind this morning, master," said Joe; "but
it will come up, perhaps," he added, suddenly remarking
the doctor's ill-concealed depression.
Vain hope! The atmosphere was in a dead calm--one
of those calms which hold vessels captive in tropical seas.
The heat had become intolerable; and the thermometer,
in the shade under the awning, indicated one hundred
and thirteen degrees.
Joe and Kennedy, reclining at full length near each
other, tried, if not in slumber, at least in torpor, to forget
their situation, for their forced inactivity gave them
periods of leisure far from pleasant. That man is to be
pitied the most who cannot wean himself from gloomy
reflections by actual work, or some practical pursuit. But
here there was nothing to look after, nothing to undertake,
and they had to submit to the situation, without
having it in their power to ameliorate it.
The pangs of thirst began to be severely felt; brandy,
far from appeasing this imperious necessity, augmented
it, and richly merited the name of "tiger's milk" applied
to it by the African natives. Scarcely two pints of water
remained, and that was heated. Each of the party devoured
the few precious drops with his gaze, yet neither
of them dared to moisten his lips with them. Two pints
of water in the midst of the desert!
Then it was that Dr. Ferguson, buried in meditation,
asked himself whether he had acted with prudence.
Would he not have done better to have kept the water
that he had decomposed in pure loss, in order to sustain
him in the air? He had gained a little distance, to be
sure; but was he any nearer to his journey's end? What
difference did sixty miles to the rear make in this region,
when there was no water to be had where they were?
The wind, should it rise, would blow there as it did here,
only less strongly at this point, if it came from the east.
But hope urged him onward. And yet those two gallons
of water, expended in vain, would have sufficed for nine
days' halt in the desert. And what changes might not
have occurred in nine days! Perhaps, too, while retaining
the water, he might have ascended by throwing out
ballast, at the cost merely of discharging some gas, when
he had again to descend. But the gas in his balloon was
his blood, his very life!
A thousand one such reflections whirled in succession
through his brain; and, resting his head between his
hands, he sat there for hours without raising it.
"We must make one final effort," he said, at last,
about ten o'clock in the morning. "We must endeavor,
just once more, to find an atmospheric current to bear us
away from here, and, to that end, must risk our last
Therefore, while his companions slept, the doctor raised
the hydrogen in the balloon to an elevated temperature,
and the huge globe, filling out by the dilation of the gas,
rose straight up in the perpendicular rays of the sun.
The doctor searched vainly for a breath of wind, from the
height of one hundred feet to that of five miles; his
starting-point remained fatally right below him, and absolute
calm seemed to reign, up to the extreme limits of the
At length the feeding-supply of water gave out; the
cylinder was extinguished for lack of gas; the Buntzen
battery ceased to work, and the balloon, shrinking together,
gently descended to the sand, in the very place
that the car had hollowed out there.
It was noon; and solar observations gave nineteen
degrees thirty-five minutes east longitude, and six degrees
fifty-one minutes north latitude, or nearly five hundred
miles from Lake Tchad, and more than four hundred miles
from the western coast of Africa.
On the balloon taking ground, Kennedy and Joe awoke
from their stupor.
"We have halted," said the Scot.
"We had to do so," replied the doctor, gravely.
His companions understood him. The level of the soil at
that point corresponded with the level of the sea, and,
consequently, the balloon remained in perfect equilibrium,
and absolutely motionless.
The weight of the three travellers was replaced with
an equivalent quantity of sand, and they got out of the
car. Each was absorbed in his own thoughts; and for
many hours neither of them spoke. Joe prepared their
evening meal, which consisted of biscuit and pemmican,
and was hardly tasted by either of the party. A mouthful
of scalding water from their little store completed this
During the night none of them kept awake; yet none
could be precisely said to have slept. On the morrow
there remained only half a pint of water, and this the
doctor put away, all three having resolved not to touch it
until the last extremity.
It was not long, however, before Joe exclaimed:
"I'm choking, and the heat is getting worse! I'm
not surprised at that, though," he added, consulting the
thermometer; "one hundred and forty degrees!"
"The sand scorches me," said the hunter, "as though
it had just come out of a furnace; and not a cloud in this
sky of fire. It's enough to drive one mad!"
"Let us not despair," responded the doctor. "In this
latitude these intense heats are invariably followed by
storms, and the latter come with the suddenness of lightning.
Notwithstanding this disheartening clearness of
the sky, great atmospheric changes may take place in less
than an hour."
"But," asked Kennedy, "is there any sign whatever
"Well," replied the doctor, "I think that there is
some slight symptom of a fall in the barometer."
"May Heaven hearken to you, Samuel! for here we are
pinned to the ground, like a bird with broken wings."
"With this difference, however, my dear Dick, that
our wings are unhurt, and I hope that we shall be able to
use them again."
"Ah! wind! wind!" exclaimed Joe; "enough to
carry us to a stream or a well, and we'll be all right.
We have provisions enough, and, with water, we could
wait a month without suffering; but thirst is a cruel
It was not thirst alone, but the unchanging sight of the
desert, that fatigued the mind. There was not a variation
in the surface of the soil, not a hillock of sand, not a
pebble, to relieve the gaze. This unbroken level discouraged
the beholder, and gave him that kind of malady
called the "desert-sickness." The impassible monotony
of the arid blue sky, and the vast yellow expanse of the
desert-sand, at length produced a sensation of terror. In
this inflamed atmosphere the heat appeared to vibrate
as it does above a blazing hearth, while the mind grew
desperate in contemplating the limitless calm, and could
see no reason why the thing should ever end, since immensity
is a species of eternity.
Thus, at last, our hapless travellers, deprived of water
in this torrid heat, began to feel symptoms of mental disorder.
Their eyes swelled in their sockets, and their gaze
When night came on, the doctor determined to combat
this alarming tendency by rapid walking. His idea
was to pace the sandy plain for a few hours, not in search
of any thing, but simply for exercise.
"Come along!" he said to his companions; "believe
me, it will do you good."
"Out of the question!" said Kennedy; "I could not
walk a step."
"And I," said Joe, "would rather sleep!"
"But sleep, or even rest, would be dangerous to you,
my friends; you must react against this tendency to
stupor. Come with me!"
But the doctor could do nothing with them, and, therefore,
set off alone, amid the starry clearness of the night.
The first few steps he took were painful, for they were
the steps of an enfeebled man quite out of practice in
walking. However, he quickly saw that the exercise
would be beneficial to him, and pushed on several miles
to the westward. Once in rapid motion, he felt his spirits
greatly cheered, when, suddenly, a vertigo came over him;
he seemed to be poised on the edge of an abyss; his knees
bent under him; the vast solitude struck terror to his
heart; he found himself the minute mathematical point,
the centre of an infinite circumference, that is to say--a
nothing! The balloon had disappeared entirely in the
deepening gloom. The doctor, cool, impassible, reckless
explorer that he was, felt himself at last seized with a
nameless dread. He strove to retrace his steps, but in
vain. He called aloud. Not even an echo replied, and
his voice died out in the empty vastness of surrounding
space, like a pebble cast into a bottomless gulf; then,
down he sank, fainting, on the sand, alone, amid the eternal
silence of the desert.
At midnight he came to, in the arms of his faithful
follower, Joe. The latter, uneasy at his master's prolonged
absence, had set out after him, easily tracing him
by the clear imprint of his feet in the sand, and had found
him lying in a swoon.
"What has been the matter, sir?" was the first inquiry.
"Nothing, Joe, nothing! Only a touch of weakness,
that's all. It's over now."
"Oh! it won't amount to any thing, sir, I'm sure of
that; but get up on your feet, if you can. There! lean
upon me, and let us get back to the balloon."
And the doctor, leaning on Joe's arm, returned along
the track by which he had come.
"You were too bold, sir; it won't do to run such
risks. You might have been robbed," he added, laughing.
"But, sir, come now, let us talk seriously."
"Speak! I am listening to you."
"We must positively make up our minds to do something.
Our present situation cannot last more than a few
days longer, and if we get no wind, we are lost."
The doctor made no reply.
"Well, then, one of us must sacrifice himself for the
good of all, and it is most natural that it should fall to me
to do so."
"What have you to propose? What is your plan?"
"A very simple one! It is to take provisions enough,
and to walk right on until I come to some place, as I must
do, sooner or later. In the mean time, if Heaven sends
you a good wind, you need not wait, but can start again.
For my part, if I come to a village, I'll work my way
through with a few Arabic words that you can write for
me on a slip of paper, and I'll bring you help or lose my
hide. What do you think of my plan?"
"It is absolute folly, Joe, but worthy of your noble
heart. The thing is impossible. You will not leave us."
"But, sir, we must do something, and this plan can't
do you any harm, for, I say again, you need not wait;
and then, after all, I may succeed."
"No, Joe, no! We will not separate. That would
only be adding sorrow to trouble. It was written that
matters should be as they are; and it is very probably
written that it shall be quite otherwise by-and-by. Let
us wait, then, with resignation."
"So be it, master; but take notice of one thing: I
give you a day longer, and I'll not wait after that. To-day
is Sunday; we might say Monday, as it is one o'clock
in the morning, and if we don't get off by Tuesday, I'll
run the risk. I've made up my mind to that!"
The doctor made no answer, and in a few minutes they
got back to the car, where he took his place beside Kennedy,
who lay there plunged in silence so complete that
it could not be considered sleep.
Terrific Heat.--Hallucinations.--The Last Drops of Water.--Nights
of Despair.--An Attempt at Suicide.--The Simoom.--The Oasis.--The
Lion and Lioness.
The doctor's first care, on the morrow, was to consult
the barometer. He found that the mercury had scarcely
undergone any perceptible depression.
"Nothing!" he murmured, "nothing!"
He got out of the car and scrutinized the weather;
there was only the same heat, the same cloudless sky, the
same merciless drought.
"Must we, then, give up to despair?" he exclaimed,
Joe did not open his lips. He was buried in his own
thoughts, and planning the expedition he had proposed.
Kennedy got up, feeling very ill, and a prey to nervous
agitation. He was suffering horribly with thirst, and his
swollen tongue and lips could hardly articulate a syllable.
There still remained a few drops of water. Each of
them knew this, and each was thinking of it, and felt
himself drawn toward them; but neither of the three dared
to take a step.
Those three men, friends and companions as they were,
fixed their haggard eyes upon each other with an instinct
of ferocious longing, which was most plainly revealed in
the hardy Scot, whose vigorous constitution yielded the
soonest to these unnatural privations.
Throughout the day he was delirious, pacing up and
down, uttering hoarse cries, gnawing his clinched fists,
and ready to open his veins and drink his own hot blood.
"Ah!" he cried, "land of thirst! Well might you be
called the land of despair!"
At length he sank down in utter prostration, and his
friends heard no other sound from him than the hissing of
his breath between his parched and swollen lips.
Toward evening, Joe had his turn of delirium. The
vast expanse of sand appeared to him an immense pond,
full of clear and limpid water; and, more than once, he
dashed himself upon the scorching waste to drink long
draughts, and rose again with his mouth clogged with hot
"Curses on it!" he yelled, in his madness, "it's nothing
but salt water!"
Then, while Ferguson and Kennedy lay there motionless,
the resistless longing came over him to drain the last
few drops of water that had been kept in reserve. The
natural instinct proved too strong. He dragged himself
toward the car, on his knees; he glared at the bottle
containing the precious fluid; he gave one wild, eager
glance, seized the treasured store, and bore it to his lips.
At that instant he heard a heart-rending cry close
beside him--"Water! water!"
It was Kennedy, who had crawled up close to him, and
was begging there, upon his knees, and weeping piteously.
Joe, himself in tears, gave the poor wretch the bottle,
and Kennedy drained the last drop with savage haste.
"Thanks!" he murmured hoarsely, but Joe did not
hear him, for both alike had dropped fainting on the sand.
What took place during that fearful night neither of
them knew, but, on Tuesday morning, under those showers
of heat which the sun poured down upon them, the
unfortunate men felt their limbs gradually drying up, and
when Joe attempted to rise he found it impossible.
He looked around him. In the car, the doctor, completely
overwhelmed, sat with his arms folded on his
breast, gazing with idiotic fixedness upon some imaginary
point in space. Kennedy was frightful to behold. He
was rolling his head from right to left like a wild beast in
All at once, his eyes rested on the butt of his rifle,
which jutted above the rim of the car.
"Ah!" he screamed, raising himself with a superhuman effort.
Desperate, mad, he snatched at the weapon, and turned
the barrel toward his mouth.
"Kennedy!" shouted Joe, throwing himself upon his friend.
"Let go! hands off!" moaned the Scot, in a hoarse,
grating voice--and then the two struggled desperately for
"Let go, or I'll kill you!" repeated Kennedy. But
Joe clung to him only the more fiercely, and they had
been contending thus without the doctor seeing them for
many seconds, when, suddenly the rifle went off. At the
sound of its discharge, the doctor rose up erect, like a
spectre, and glared around him.
But all at once his glance grew more animated; he extended
his hand toward the horizon, and in a voice no
longer human shrieked:
"There! there--off there!"
There was such fearful force in the cry that Kennedy
and Joe released each other, and both looked where the
The plain was agitated like the sea shaken by the fury
of a tempest; billows of sand went tossing over each other
amid blinding clouds of dust; an immense pillar was seen
whirling toward them through the air from the southeast,
with terrific velocity; the sun was disappearing behind an
opaque veil of cloud whose enormous barrier extended
clear to the horizon, while the grains of fine sand went
gliding together with all the supple ease of liquid particles,
and the rising dust-tide gained more and more with
Ferguson's eyes gleamed with a ray of energetic hope.
"The simoom!" he exclaimed.
"The simoom!" repeated Joe, without exactly knowing what it meant.
"So much the better!" said Kennedy, with the bitterness of
despair. "So much the better--we shall die!"
"So much the better!" echoed the doctor, "for we
shall live!" and, so saying, he began rapidly to throw out
the sand that encumbered the car.
At length his companions understood him, and took
their places at his side.
"And now, Joe," said the doctor, "throw out some
fifty pounds of your ore, there!"
Joe no longer hesitated, although he still felt a fleeting
pang of regret. The balloon at once began to ascend.
"It was high time!" said the doctor.
The simoom, in fact, came rushing on like a thunderbolt,
and a moment later the balloon would have been
crushed, torn to atoms, annihilated. The awful whirlwind
was almost upon it, and it was already pelted with showers
of sand driven like hail by the storm.
"Out with more ballast!" shouted the doctor.
"There!" responded Joe, tossing over a huge fragment
With this, the Victoria rose swiftly above the range
of the whirling column, but, caught in the vast displacement
of the atmosphere thereby occasioned, it was borne
along with incalculable rapidity away above this foaming
The three travellers did not speak. They gazed, and
hoped, and even felt refreshed by the breath of the tempest.
About three o'clock, the whirlwind ceased; the sand,
falling again upon the desert, formed numberless little
hillocks, and the sky resumed its former tranquillity.
The balloon, which had again lost its momentum, was
floating in sight of an oasis, a sort of islet studded with
green trees, thrown up upon the surface of this sandy
"Water! we'll find water there!" said the doctor.
And, instantly, opening the upper valve, he let some
hydrogen escape, and slowly descended, taking the ground
at about two hundred feet from the edge of the oasis.
In four hours the travellers had swept over a distance
of two hundred and forty miles!
The car was at once ballasted, and Kennedy, closely
followed by Joe, leaped out.
"Take your guns with you!" said the doctor; "take
your guns, and be careful!"
Dick grasped his rifle, and Joe took one of the fowling-pieces.
They then rapidly made for the trees, and disappeared under
the fresh verdure, which announced the presence of abundant
springs. As they hurried on, they had not taken notice of
certain large footprints and fresh tracks of some living
creature marked here and there in the damp soil.
Suddenly, a dull roar was heard not twenty paces from them.
"The roar of a lion!" said Joe.
"Good for that!" said the excited hunter; "we'll
fight him. A man feels strong when only a fight's in
"But be careful, Mr. Kennedy; be careful! The lives
of all depend upon the life of one."
But Kennedy no longer heard him; he was pushing
on, his eye blazing; his rifle cocked; fearful to behold in
his daring rashness. There, under a palm-tree, stood an
enormous black-maned lion, crouching for a spring on his
antagonist. Scarcely had he caught a glimpse of the
hunter, when he bounded through the air; but he had not
touched the ground ere a bullet pierced his heart, and he
fell to the earth dead.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted Joe, with wild exultation.
Kennedy rushed toward the well, slid down the dampened
steps, and flung himself at full length by the side of
a fresh spring, in which he plunged his parched lips. Joe
followed suit, and for some minutes nothing was heard but
the sound they made with their mouths, drinking more
like maddened beasts than men.
"Take care, Mr. Kennedy," said Joe at last; "let us
not overdo the thing!" and he panted for breath.
But Kennedy, without a word, drank on. He even
plunged his hands, and then his head, into the delicious
tide--he fairly revelled in its coolness.
"But the doctor?" said Joe; "our friend, Dr. Ferguson?"
That one word recalled Kennedy to himself, and, hastily
filling a flask that he had brought with him, he started on
a run up the steps of the well.
But what was his amazement when he saw an opaque
body of enormous dimensions blocking up the passage!
Joe, who was close upon Kennedy's heels, recoiled with
"We are blocked in--entrapped!"
"Impossible! What does that mean?--"
Dick had no time to finish; a terrific roar made him
only too quickly aware what foe confronted him.
"Another lion!" exclaimed Joe.
"A lioness, rather," said Kennedy. "Ah! ferocious
brute!" he added, "I'll settle you in a moment more!"
and swiftly reloaded his rifle.
In another instant he fired, but the animal had disappeared.
"Onward!" shouted Kennedy.
"No!" interposed the other, "that shot did not kill
her; her body would have rolled down the steps; she's
up there, ready to spring upon the first of us who appears,
and he would be a lost man!"
"But what are we to do? We must get out of this,
and the doctor is expecting us."
"Let us decoy the animal. Take my piece, and give
me your rifle."
"What is your plan?"
And Joe, taking off his linen jacket, hung it on the end
of the rifle, and thrust it above the top of the steps. The
lioness flung herself furiously upon it. Kennedy was on
the alert for her, and his bullet broke her shoulder. The
lioness, with a frightful howl of agony, rolled down the
steps, overturning Joe in her fall. The poor fellow imagined
that he could already feel the enormous paws of the
savage beast in his flesh, when a second detonation
resounded in the narrow passage, and Dr. Ferguson appeared
at the opening above with his gun in hand, and still smoking
from the discharge.
Joe leaped to his feet, clambered over the body of the
dead lioness, and handed up the flask full of sparkling
water to his master.
To carry it to his lips, and to half empty it at a draught,
was the work of an instant, and the three travellers offered
up thanks from the depths of their hearts to that Providence
who had so miraculously saved them.
An Evening of Delight.--Joe's Culinary Performance.--A Dissertation on Raw
Meat.--The Narrative of James Bruce.--Camping out.--Joe's Dreams.--The
Barometer begins to fall.--The Barometer rises again.--Preparations for
The evening was lovely, and our three friends enjoyed
it in the cool shade of the mimosas, after a substantial
repast, at which the tea and the punch were dealt out with
no niggardly hand.
Kennedy had traversed the little domain in all directions.
He had ransacked every thicket and satisfied himself
that the balloon party were the only living creatures
in this terrestrial paradise; so they stretched themselves
upon their blankets and passed a peaceful night that
brought them forgetfulness of their past sufferings.
On the morrow, May 7th, the sun shone with all his
splendor, but his rays could not penetrate the dense screen
of the palm-tree foliage, and as there was no lack of provisions,
the doctor resolved to remain where he was while
waiting for a favorable wind.
Joe had conveyed his portable kitchen to the oasis, and proceeded
to indulge in any number of culinary combinations, using water
all the time with the most profuse extravagance.
"What a strange succession of annoyances and enjoyments!"
moralized Kennedy. "Such abundance as this after such
privations; such luxury after such want! Ah! I nearly went mad!"
"My dear Dick," replied the doctor, "had it not been
for Joe, you would not be sitting here, to-day, discoursing
on the instability of human affairs."
"Whole-hearted friend!" said Kennedy, extending
his hand to Joe.
"There's no occasion for all that," responded the latter;
"but you can take your revenge some time, Mr. Kennedy,
always hoping though that you may never have occasion
to do the same for me!"
"It's a poor constitution this of ours to succumb to so
little," philosophized Dr. Ferguson.
"So little water, you mean, doctor," interposed Joe;
"that element must be very necessary to life."
"Undoubtedly, and persons deprived of food hold out
longer than those deprived of water."
"I believe it. Besides, when needs must, one can eat
any thing he comes across, even his fellow-creatures,
although that must be a kind of food that's pretty hard
"The savages don't boggle much about it!" said
"Yes; but then they are savages, and accustomed to
devouring raw meat; it's something that I'd find very
disgusting, for my part."
"It is disgusting enough," said the doctor, "that's a
fact; and so much so, indeed, that nobody believed the
narratives of the earliest travellers in Africa who brought
back word that many tribes on that continent subsisted
upon raw meat, and people generally refused to credit the
statement. It was under such circumstances that a very
singular adventure befell James Bruce."
"Tell it to us, doctor; we've time enough to hear it,"
said Joe, stretching himself voluptuously on the cool
"By all means.--James Bruce was a Scotchman, of
Stirlingshire, who, between 1768 and 1772, traversed all
Abyssinia, as far as Lake Tyana, in search of the sources
of the Nile. He afterward returned to England, but did
not publish an account of his journeys until 1790. His
statements were received with extreme incredulity, and
such may be the reception accorded to our own. The
manners and customs of the Abyssinians seemed so different
from those of the English, that no one would credit the
description of them. Among other details, Bruce had put
forward the assertion that the tribes of Eastern Africa fed
upon raw flesh, and this set everybody against him. He
might say so as much as he pleased; there was no one
likely to go and see! One day, in a parlor at Edinburgh,
a Scotch gentleman took up the subject in his presence, as
it had become the topic of daily pleasantry, and, in reference
to the eating of raw flesh, said that the thing was
neither possible nor true. Bruce made no reply, but went
out and returned a few minutes later with a raw steak,
seasoned with pepper and salt, in the African style.
"'Sir,' said he to the Scotchman, 'in doubting my
statements, you have grossly affronted me; in believing
the thing to be impossible, you have been egregiously
mistaken; and, in proof thereof, you will now eat this
beef-steak raw, or you will give me instant satisfaction!'
The Scotchman had a wholesome dread of the brawny
traveller, and DID eat the steak, although not without a
good many wry faces. Thereupon, with the utmost coolness,
James Bruce added: 'Even admitting, sir, that the
thing were untrue, you will, at least, no longer maintain
that it is impossible.'"
"Well put in!" said Joe, "and if the Scotchman
found it lie heavy on his stomach, he got no more than he
deserved. If, on our return to England, they dare to
doubt what we say about our travels--"
"Well, Joe, what would you do?"
"Why, I'll make the doubters swallow the pieces of
the balloon, without either salt or pepper!"
All burst out laughing at Joe's queer notions, and thus
the day slipped by in pleasant chat. With returning
strength, hope had revived, and with hope came the courage
to do and to dare. The past was obliterated in the
presence of the future with providential rapidity.
Joe would have been willing to remain forever in this
enchanting asylum; it was the realm he had pictured in
his dreams; he felt himself at home; his master had to
give him his exact location, and it was with the gravest
air imaginable that he wrote down on his tablets fifteen
degrees forty-three minutes east longitude, and eight degrees
thirty-two minutes north latitude.
Kennedy had but one regret, to wit, that he could not
hunt in that miniature forest, because, according to his
ideas, there was a slight deficiency of ferocious wild beasts
"But, my dear Dick," said the doctor, "haven't you
rather a short memory? How about the lion and the
"Oh, that!" he ejaculated with the contempt of a
thorough-bred sportsman for game already killed. "But
the fact is, that finding them here would lead one to
suppose that we can't be far from a more fertile country."
"It don't prove much, Dick, for those animals, when
goaded by hunger or thirst, will travel long distances, and
I think that, to-night, we had better keep a more vigilant
lookout, and light fires, besides."
"What, in such heat as this?" said Joe. "Well, if it's
necessary, we'll have to do it, but I do think it a real pity
to burn this pretty grove that has been such a comfort to us!"
"Oh! above all things, we must take the utmost care
not to set it on fire," replied the doctor, "so that others
in the same strait as ourselves may some day find shelter
here in the middle of the desert."
"I'll be very careful, indeed, doctor; but do you think
that this oasis is known?"
"Undoubtedly; it is a halting-place for the caravans
that frequent the centre of Africa, and a visit from one
of them might be any thing but pleasant to you, Joe."
"Why, are there any more of those rascally Nyam-Nyams
"Certainly; that is the general name of all the neighboring
tribes, and, under the same climates, the same
races are likely to have similar manners and customs."
"Pah!" said Joe, "but, after all, it's natural enough.
If savages had the ways of gentlemen, where would be the
difference? By George, these fine fellows wouldn't have
to be coaxed long to eat the Scotchman's raw steak, nor
the Scotchman either, into the bargain!"
With this very sensible observation, Joe began to get
ready his firewood for the night, making just as little of
it as possible. Fortunately, these precautions were superfluous;
and each of the party, in his turn, dropped off into
the soundest slumber.
On the next day the weather still showed no sign of
change, but kept provokingly and obstinately fair. The
balloon remained motionless, without any oscillation to
betray a breath of wind.
The doctor began to get uneasy again. If their stay in the
desert were to be prolonged like this, their provisions
would give out. After nearly perishing for want of
water, they would, at last, have to starve to death!
But he took fresh courage as he saw the mercury fall
considerably in the barometer, and noticed evident signs
of an early change in the atmosphere. He therefore resolved
to make all his preparations for a start, so as to
avail himself of the first opportunity. The feeding-tank
and the water-tank were both completely filled.
Then he had to reestablish the equilibrium of the balloon,
and Joe was obliged to part with another considerable
portion of his precious quartz. With restored health,
his ambitious notions had come back to him, and he made
more than one wry face before obeying his master; but
the latter convinced him that he could not carry so considerable
a weight with him through the air, and gave
him his choice between the water and the gold. Joe
hesitated no longer, but flung out the requisite quantity
of his much-prized ore upon the sand.
"The next people who come this way," he remarked,
"will be rather surprised to find a fortune in such a
"And suppose some learned traveller should come
across these specimens, eh?" suggested Kennedy.
"You may be certain, Dick, that they would take him
by surprise, and that he would publish his astonishment
in several folios; so that some day we shall hear of a
wonderful deposit of gold-bearing quartz in the midst of the
"And Joe there, will be the cause of it all!"
This idea of mystifying some learned sage tickled Joe
hugely, and made him laugh.
During the rest of the day the doctor vainly kept on
the watch for a change of weather. The temperature rose,
and, had it not been for the shade of the oasis, would have
been insupportable. The thermometer marked a hundred
and forty-nine degrees in the sun, and a veritable rain of
fire filled the air. This was the most intense heat that
they had yet noted.
Joe arranged their bivouac for that evening, as he had
done for the previous night; and during the watches kept
by the doctor and Kennedy there was no fresh incident.
But, toward three o'clock in the morning, while Joe
was on guard, the temperature suddenly fell; the sky
became overcast with clouds, and the darkness increased.
"Turn out!" cried Joe, arousing his companions.
"Turn out! Here's the wind!"
"At last!" exclaimed the doctor, eying the heavens.
"But it is a storm! The balloon! Let us hasten to the
It was high time for them to reach it. The Victoria
was bending to the force of the hurricane, and dragging
along the car, the latter grazing the sand. Had any portion
of the ballast been accidentally thrown out, the
balloon would have been swept away, and all hope of
recovering it have been forever lost.
But fleet-footed Joe put forth his utmost speed, and
checked the car, while the balloon beat upon the sand, at
the risk of being torn to pieces. The doctor, followed by
Kennedy, leaped in, and lit his cylinder, while his companions
threw out the superfluous ballast.
The travellers took one last look at the trees of the
oasis bowing to the force of the hurricane, and soon,
catching the wind at two hundred feet above the ground,
disappeared in the gloom.
Signs of Vegetation.--The Fantastic Notion of a French Author.--A
Magnificent Country.--The Kingdom of Adamova.--The Explorations of
Speke and Burton connected with those of Dr. Barth.--The Atlantika
Mountains.--The River Benoue.--The City of Yola.--The Bagele.--Mount
From the moment of their departure, the travellers
moved with great velocity. They longed to leave behind
them the desert, which had so nearly been fatal to them.
About a quarter-past nine in the morning, they caught
a glimpse of some signs of vegetation: herbage floating
on that sea of sand, and announcing, as the weeds upon
the ocean did to Christopher Columbus, the nearness of
the shore--green shoots peeping up timidly between pebbles
that were, in their turn, to be the rocks of that vast
Hills, but of trifling height, were seen in wavy lines
upon the horizon. Their profile, muffled by the heavy
mist, was defined but vaguely. The monotony, however,
was beginning to disappear.
The doctor hailed with joy the new country thus disclosed,
and, like a seaman on lookout at the mast-head, he
was ready to shout aloud:
"Land, ho! land!"
An hour later the continent spread broadly before their
gaze, still wild in aspect, but less flat, less denuded, and
with a few trees standing out against the gray sky.
"We are in a civilized country at last!" said the hunter.
"Civilized? Well, that's one way of speaking; but
there are no people to be seen yet."
"It will not be long before we see them," said Ferguson,
"at our present rate of travel."
"Are we still in the negro country, doctor?"
"Yes, and on our way to the country of the Arabs."
"What! real Arabs, sir, with their camels?"
"No, not many camels; they are scarce, if not altogether
unknown, in these regions. We must go a few degrees farther
north to see them."
"What a pity!"
"And why, Joe?"
"Because, if the wind fell contrary, they might be of
use to us."
"Well, sir, it's just a notion that's got into my head:
we might hitch them to the car, and make them tow us
along. What do you say to that, doctor?"
"Poor Joe! Another person had that idea in advance
of you. It was used by a very gifted French author--
M. Mery--in a romance, it is true. He has his travellers
drawn along in a balloon by a team of camels; then a lion
comes up, devours the camels, swallows the tow-rope, and
hauls the balloon in their stead; and so on through the
story. You see that the whole thing is the top-flower of
fancy, but has nothing in common with our style of locomotion."
Joe, a little cut down at learning that his idea had
been used already, cudgelled his wits to imagine what
animal could have devoured the lion; but he could not
guess it, and so quietly went on scanning the appearance
of the country.
A lake of medium extent stretched away before him,
surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills, which yet could
not be dignified with the name of mountains. There were
winding valleys, numerous and fertile, with their tangled
thickets of the most various trees. The African oil-tree
rose above the mass, with leaves fifteen feet in length upon
its stalk, the latter studded with sharp thorns; the bombax,
or silk-cotton-tree, filled the wind, as it swept by,
with the fine down of its seeds; the pungent odors of the
pendanus, the "kenda" of the Arabs, perfumed the air
up to the height where the Victoria was sailing; the
papaw-tree, with its palm-shaped leaves; the sterculier,
which produces the Soudan-nut; the baobab, and the
banana-tree, completed the luxuriant flora of these
"The country is superb!" said the doctor.
"Here are some animals," added Joe. "Men are not
"Oh, what magnificent elephants!" exclaimed Kennedy.
"Is there no way to get a little shooting?"
"How could we manage to halt in a current as strong
as this? No, Dick; you must taste a little of the torture
of Tantalus just now. You shall make up for it afterward."
And, in truth, there was enough to excite the fancy of
a sportsman. Dick's heart fairly leaped in his breast as
he grasped the butt of his Purdy.
The fauna of the region were as striking as its flora.
The wild-ox revelled in dense herbage that often concealed
his whole body; gray, black, and yellow elephants of the
most gigantic size burst headlong, like a living hurricane,
through the forests, breaking, rending, tearing down,
devastating every thing in their path; upon the woody
slopes of the hills trickled cascades and springs flowing
northward; there, too, the hippopotami bathed their huge
forms, splashing and snorting as they frolicked in the
water, and lamantines, twelve feet long, with bodies like
seals, stretched themselves along the banks, turning up
toward the sun their rounded teats swollen with milk.
It was a whole menagerie of rare and curious beasts in
a wondrous hot-house, where numberless birds with plumage
of a thousand hues gleamed and fluttered in the sunshine.
By this prodigality of Nature, the doctor recognized
the splendid kingdom of Adamova.
"We are now beginning to trench upon the realm of
modern discovery. I have taken up the lost scent of preceding
travellers. It is a happy chance, my friends, for
we shall be enabled to link the toils of Captains Burton and
Speke with the explorations of Dr. Barth. We have left
the Englishmen behind us, and now have caught up with
the Hamburger. It will not be long, either, before we
arrive at the extreme point attained by that daring explorer."
"It seems to me that there is a vast extent of country
between the two explored routes," remarked Kennedy;
"at least, if I am to judge by the distance that we have
"It is easy to determine: take the map and see what
is the longitude of the southern point of Lake Ukereoue,
reached by Speke."
"It is near the thirty-seventh degree."
"And the city of Yola, which we shall sight this evening,
and to which Barth penetrated, what is its position?"
"It is about in the twelfth degree of east longitude."
"Then there are twenty-five degrees, or, counting sixty
miles to each, about fifteen hundred miles in all."
"A nice little walk," said Joe, "for people who have
to go on foot."
"It will be accomplished, however. Livingstone and
Moffat are pushing on up this line toward the interior.
Nyassa, which they have discovered, is not far from Lake
Tanganayika, seen by Burton. Ere the close of the century
these regions will, undoubtedly, be explored. But," added
the doctor, consulting his compass, "I regret that the
wind is carrying us so far to the westward. I wanted to
get to the north."
After twelve hours of progress, the Victoria found herself
on the confines of Nigritia. The first inhabitants of
this region, the Chouas Arabs, were feeding their wandering
flocks. The immense summits of the Atlantika Mountains
seen above the horizon--mountains that no European
foot had yet scaled, and whose height is computed to be
ten thousand feet! Their western slope determines the
flow of all the waters in this region of Africa toward the
ocean. They are the Mountains of the Moon to this part
of the continent.
At length a real river greeted the gaze of our travellers,
and, by the enormous ant-hills seen in its vicinity, the
doctor recognized the Benoue, one of the great tributaries
of the Niger, the one which the natives have called "The
Fountain of the Waters."
"This river," said the doctor to his companions, "will,
one day, be the natural channel of communication with
the interior of Nigritia. Under the command of one of
our brave captains, the steamer Pleiad has already ascended
as far as the town of Yola. You see that we are
not in an unknown country."
Numerous slaves were engaged in the labors of the
field, cultivating sorgho, a kind of millet which forms the
chief basis of their diet; and the most stupid expressions
of astonishment ensued as the Victoria sped past like a
meteor. That evening the balloon halted about forty miles
from Yola, and ahead of it, but in the distance, rose the
two sharp cones of Mount Mendif.
The doctor threw out his anchors and made fast to the
top of a high tree; but a very violent wind beat upon the
balloon with such force as to throw it over on its side, thus
rendering the position of the car sometimes extremely
dangerous. Ferguson did not close his all night, and
he was repeatedly on the point of cutting the anchor-rope
and scudding away before the gale. At length, however,
the storm abated, and the oscillations of the balloon ceased
to be alarming.
On the morrow the wind was more moderate, but it
carried our travellers away from the city of Yola, which
recently rebuilt by the Fouillans, excited Ferguson's curiosity.
However, he had to make up his mind to being borne farther
to the northward and even a little to the east.
Kennedy proposed to halt in this fine hunting-country,
and Joe declared that the need of fresh meat was beginning
to be felt; but the savage customs of the country,
the attitude of the population, and some shots fired at the
Victoria, admonished the doctor to continue his journey.
They were then crossing a region that was the scene of
massacres and burnings, and where warlike conflicts between
the barbarian sultans, contending for their power
amid the most atrocious carnage, never cease.
Numerous and populous villages of long low huts
stretched away between broad pasture-fields whose dense
herbage was besprinkled with violet-colored blossoms.
The huts, looking like huge beehives, were sheltered behind
bristling palisades. The wild hill-sides and hollows
frequently reminded the beholder of the glens in the Highlands
of Scotland, as Kennedy more than once remarked.
In spite of all he could do, the doctor bore directly to
the northeast, toward Mount Mendif, which was lost in
the midst of environing clouds. The lofty summits of
these mountains separate the valley of the Niger from the
basin of Lake Tchad.
Soon afterward was seen the Bagele, with its eighteen
villages clinging to its flanks like a whole brood of children
to their mother's bosom--a magnificent spectacle for
the beholder whose gaze commanded and took in the entire
picture at one view. Even the ravines were seen to
be covered with fields of rice and of arachides.
By three o'clock the Victoria was directly in front of
Mount Mendif. It had been impossible to avoid it; the
only thing to be done was to cross it. The doctor, by
means of a temperature increased to one hundred and
eighty degrees, gave the balloon a fresh ascensional force
of nearly sixteen hundred pounds, and it went up to an
elevation of more than eight thousand feet, the greatest
height attained during the journey. The temperature of
the atmosphere was so much cooler at that point that the
aeronauts had to resort to their blankets and thick coverings.
Ferguson was in haste to descend; the covering of the
balloon gave indications of bursting, but in the meanwhile
he had time to satisfy himself of the volcanic origin of the
mountain, whose extinct craters are now but deep abysses.
Immense accumulations of bird-guano gave the sides of
Mount Mendif the appearance of calcareous rocks, and there
was enough of the deposit there to manure all the lands in
the United Kingdom.
At five o'clock the Victoria, sheltered from the south
winds, went gently gliding along the slopes of the mountain,
and stopped in a wide clearing remote from any habitation.
The instant it touched the soil, all needful precautions
were taken to hold it there firmly; and Kennedy,
fowling-piece in hand, sallied out upon the sloping plain.
Ere long, he returned with half a dozen wild ducks and a
kind of snipe, which Joe served up in his best style. The
meal was heartily relished, and the night was passed in
undisturbed and refreshing slumber.
Mosfeia.--The Sheik.--Denham, Clapperton, and Oudney.--Vogel.--The Capital
of Loggoum.--Toole.--Becalmed above Kernak.--The Governor and his Court.
--The Attack.--The Incendiary Pigeons.
On the next day, May 11th, the Victoria resumed her
adventurous journey. Her passengers had the same confidence
in her that a good seaman has in his ship.
In terrific hurricanes, in tropical heats, when making
dangerous departures, and descents still more dangerous,
it had, at all times and in all places, come out safely. It
might almost have been said that Ferguson managed it
with a wave of the hand; and hence, without knowing in
advance, where the point of arrival would be, the doctor
had no fears concerning the successful issue of his journey.
However, in this country of barbarians and fanatics, prudence
obliged him to take the strictest precautions. He
therefore counselled his companions to have their eyes
wide open for every thing and at all hours.
The wind drifted a little more to the northward, and,
toward nine o'clock, they sighted the larger city of Mosfeia,
built upon an eminence which was itself enclosed between
two lofty mountains. Its position was impregnable,
a narrow road running between a marsh and a thick wood
being the only channel of approach to it.
At the moment of which we write, a sheik, accompanied
by a mounted escort, and clad in a garb of brilliant
colors, preceded by couriers and trumpeters, who put aside
the boughs of the trees as he rode up, was making his
grand entry into the place.
The doctor lowered the balloon in order to get a better
look at this cavalcade of natives; but, as the balloon
grew larger to their eyes, they began to show symptoms
of intense affright, and at length made off in different
directions as fast as their legs and those of their horses
could carry them.
The sheik alone did not budge an inch. He merely
grasped his long musket, cocked it, and proudly waited in
silence. The doctor came on to within a hundred and
fifty feet of him, and then, with his roundest and fullest
voice, saluted him courteously in the Arabic tongue.
But, upon hearing these words falling, as it seemed,
from the sky, the sheik dismounted and prostrated himself
in the dust of the highway, where the doctor had to
leave him, finding it impossible to divert him from his
"Unquestionably," Ferguson remarked, "those people
take us for supernatural beings. When Europeans came
among them for the first time, they were mistaken for
creatures of a higher race. When this sheik comes to
speak of to-day's meeting, he will not fail to embellish the
circumstance with all the resources of an Arab imagination.
You may, therefore, judge what an account their
legends will give of us some day."
"Not such a desirable thing, after all," said the Scot,
"in the point of view that affects civilization; it would be
better to pass for mere men. That would give these negro
races a superior idea of European power."
"Very good, my dear Dick; but what can we do about
it? You might sit all day explaining the mechanism of
a balloon to the savants of this country, and yet they would
not comprehend you, but would persist in ascribing it to
"Doctor, you spoke of the first time Europeans visited
these regions. Who were the visitors?" inquired Joe.
"My dear fellow, we are now upon the very track of
Major Denham. It was at this very city of Mosfeia that
he was received by the Sultan of Mandara; he had quitted
the Bornou country; he accompanied the sheik in an expedition
against the Fellatahs; he assisted in the attack
on the city, which, with its arrows alone, bravely resisted
the bullets of the Arabs, and put the sheik's troops to
flight. All this was but a pretext for murders, raids, and
pillage. The major was completely plundered and stripped,
and had it not been for his horse, under whose stomach he
clung with the skill of an Indian rider, and was borne with
a headlong gallop from his barbarous pursuers, he never
could have made his way back to Kouka, the capital of
"Who was this Major Denham?"
"A fearless Englishman, who, between 1822 and 1824,
commanded an expedition into the Bornou country, in
company with Captain Clapperton and Dr. Oudney. They
set out from Tripoli in the month of March, reached Mourzouk,
the capital of Fez, and, following the route which at
a later period Dr. Barth was to pursue on his way back to
Europe, they arrived, on the 16th of February, 1823, at
Kouka, near Lake Tchad. Denham made several explorations
in Bornou, in Mandara, and to the eastern shores of
the lake. In the mean time, on the 15th of December,
1823, Captain Clapperton and Dr. Oudney had pushed
their way through the Soudan country as far as Sackatoo,
and Oudney died of fatigue and exhaustion in the town
"This part of Africa has, therefore, paid a heavy tribute
of victims to the cause of science," said Kennedy.
"Yes, this country is fatal to travellers. We are moving
directly toward the kingdom of Baghirmi, which Vogel
traversed in 1856, so as to reach the Wadai country, where
he disappeared. This young man, at the age of twenty-three,
had been sent to cooperate with Dr. Barth. They
met on the 1st of December, 1854, and thereupon commenced
his explorations of the country. Toward 1856, he
announced, in the last letters received from him, his
intention to reconnoitre the kingdom of Wadai, which no
European had yet penetrated. It appears that he got as
far as Wara, the capital, where, according to some accounts,
he was made prisoner, and, according to others,
was put to death for having attempted to ascend a sacred
mountain in the environs. But, we must not too lightly
admit the death of travellers, since that does away with
the necessity of going in search of them. For instance,
how often was the death of Dr. Barth reported, to his
own great annoyance! It is, therefore, very possible that
Vogel may still be held as a prisoner by the Sultan of
Wadai, in the hope of obtaining a good ransom for him.
"Baron de Neimans was about starting for the Wadai
country when he died at Cairo, in 1855; and we now know
that De Heuglin has set out on Vogel's track with the
expedition sent from Leipsic, so that we shall soon be
accurately informed as to the fate of that young and
* Since the doctor's departure, letters written from El'Obeid
by Mr. Muntzinger, the newly-appointed head of the expedition,
unfortunately place the death of Vogel beyond a doubt.
Mosfeia had disappeared from the horizon long ere this,
and the Mandara country was developing to the gaze of
our aeronauts its astonishing fertility, with its forests of
acacias, its locust-trees covered with red flowers, and the
herbaceous plants of its fields of cotton and indigo trees.
The river Shari, which eighty miles farther on rolled its
impetuous waters into Lake Tchad, was quite distinctly
The doctor got his companions to trace its course upon
the maps drawn by Dr. Barth.
"You perceive," said he, "that the labors of this savant
have been conducted with great precision; we are moving
directly toward the Loggoum region, and perhaps toward
Kernak, its capital. It was there that poor Toole died, at
the age of scarcely twenty-two. He was a young Englishman,
an ensign in the 80th regiment, who, a few weeks
before, had joined Major Denham in Africa, and it was
not long ere he there met his death. Ah! this vast
country might well be called the graveyard of European
Some boats, fifty feet long, were descending the current
of the Shari. The Victoria, then one thousand feet
above the soil, hardly attracted the attention of the
natives; but the wind, which until then had been blowing
with a certain degree of strength, was falling off.
"Is it possible that we are to be caught in another dead
calm?" sighed the doctor.
"Well, we've no lack of water, nor the desert to fear,
anyhow, master," said Joe.
"No; but there are races here still more to be dreaded."
"Why!" said Joe, again, "there's something like a town."
"That is Kernak. The last puffs of the breeze are
wafting us to it, and, if we choose, we can take an exact
plan of the place."
"Shall we not go nearer to it?" asked Kennedy.
"Nothing easier, Dick! We are right over it. Allow
me to turn the stopcock of the cylinder, and we'll not be
long in descending."
Half an hour later the balloon hung motionless about
two hundred feet from the ground.
"Here we are!" said the doctor, "nearer to Kernak
than a man would be to London, if he were perched in the
cupola of St. Paul's. So we can take a survey at our
"What is that tick-tacking sound that we hear on all sides?"
Joe looked attentively, and at length discovered that
the noise they heard was produced by a number of weavers
beating cloth stretched in the open air, on large trunks of
The capital of Loggoum could then be seen in its entire
extent, like an unrolled chart. It is really a city with
straight rows of houses and quite wide streets. In the
midst of a large open space there was a slave-market,
attended by a great crowd of customers, for the Mandara
women, who have extremely small hands and feet, are in
excellent request, and can be sold at lucrative rates.
At the sight of the Victoria, the scene so often produced
occurred again. At first there were outcries, and
then followed general stupefaction; business was abandoned;
work was flung aside, and all noise ceased. The
aeronauts remained as they were, completely motionless,
and lost not a detail of the populous city. They even
went down to within sixty feet of the ground.
Hereupon the Governor of Loggoum came out from his residence,
displaying his green standard, and accompanied by his
musicians, who blew on hoarse buffalo-horns, as though
they would split their cheeks or any thing else,
excepting their own lungs. The crowd at once gathered
around him. In the mean while Dr. Ferguson tried to
make himself heard, but in vain.
This population looked like proud and intelligent people,
with their high foreheads, their almost aquiline noses,
and their curling hair; but the presence of the Victoria
troubled them greatly. Horsemen could be seen galloping
in all directions, and it soon became evident that the
governor's troops were assembling to oppose so extraordinary
a foe. Joe wore himself out waving handkerchiefs
of every color and shape to them; but his exertions were
all to no purpose.
However, the sheik, surrounded by his court, proclaimed
silence, and pronounced a discourse, of which the
doctor could not understand a word. It was Arabic, mixed
with Baghirmi. He could make out enough, however, by
the universal language of gestures, to be aware that he
was receiving a very polite invitation to depart. Indeed,
he would have asked for nothing better, but for lack of
wind, the thing had become impossible. His noncompliance,
therefore, exasperated the governor, whose courtiers
and attendants set up a furious howl to enforce immediate
obedience on the part of the aerial monster.
They were odd-looking fellows those courtiers, with
their five or six shirts swathed around their bodies! They
had enormous stomachs, some of which actually seemed
to be artificial. The doctor surprised his companions by
informing them that this was the way to pay court to the
sultan. The rotundity of the stomach indicated the ambition
of its possessor. These corpulent gentry gesticulated
and bawled at the top of their voices--one of them
particularly distinguishing himself above the rest--to
such an extent, indeed, that he must have been a prime
minister--at least, if the disturbance he made was any
criterion of his rank. The common rabble of dusky denizens
united their howlings with the uproar of the court,
repeating their gesticulations like so many monkeys, and
thereby producing a single and instantaneous movement
of ten thousand arms at one time.
To these means of intimidation, which were presently
deemed insufficient, were added others still more formidable.
Soldiers, armed with bows and arrows, were drawn
up in line of battle; but by this time the balloon was
expanding, and rising quietly beyond their reach. Upon
this the governor seized a musket and aimed it at the
balloon; but, Kennedy, who was watching him, shattered
the uplifted weapon in the sheik's grasp.
At this unexpected blow there was a general rout.
Every mother's son of them scampered for his dwelling
with the utmost celerity, and stayed there, so that the
streets of the town were absolutely deserted for the remainder
of that day.
Night came, and not a breath of wind was stirring.
The aeronauts had to make up their minds to remain
motionless at the distance of but three hundred feet
above the ground. Not a fire or light shone in the deep
gloom, and around reigned the silence of death; but the
doctor only redoubled his vigilance, as this apparent quiet
might conceal some snare.
And he had reason to be watchful. About midnight,
the whole city seemed to be in a blaze. Hundreds of
streaks of flame crossed each other, and shot to and fro
in the air like rockets, forming a regular network of fire.
"That's really curious!" said the doctor, somewhat
puzzled to make out what it meant.
"By all that's glorious!" shouted Kennedy, "it looks
as if the fire were ascending and coming up toward us!"
And, sure enough, with an accompaniment of musket-shots,
yelling, and din of every description, the mass of
fire was, indeed, mounting toward the Victoria. Joe got
ready to throw out ballast, and Ferguson was not long at
guessing the truth. Thousands of pigeons, their tails garnished
with combustibles, had been set loose and driven
toward the Victoria; and now, in their terror, they were
flying high up, zigzagging the atmosphere with lines of
fire. Kennedy was preparing to discharge all his batteries
into the middle of the ascending multitude, but what
could he have done against such a numberless army?
The pigeons were already whisking around the car; they
were even surrounding the balloon, the sides of which,
reflecting their illumination, looked as though enveloped
with a network of fire.
The doctor dared hesitate no longer; and, throwing
out a fragment of quartz, he kept himself beyond the
reach of these dangerous assailants; and, for two hours
afterward, he could see them wandering hither and thither
through the darkness of the night, until, little by little,
their light diminished, and they, one by one, died out.
"Now we may sleep in quiet," said the doctor.
"Not badly got up for barbarians," mused friend Joe,
speaking his thoughts aloud.
"Oh, they employ these pigeons frequently, to set fire
to the thatch of hostile villages; but this time the village
mounted higher than they could go."
"Why, positively, a balloon need fear no enemies!"
"Yes, indeed, it may!" objected Ferguson.
"What are they, then, doctor?"
"They are the careless people in the car! So, my friends,
let us have vigilance in all places and at all times."
Departure in the Night-time.--All Three.--Kennedy's Instincts.--Precautions.--
The Course of the Shari River.--Lake Tchad.--The Water of the Lake.--The
Hippopotamus.--One Bullet thrown away.
About three o'clock in the morning, Joe, who was then
on watch, at length saw the city move away from beneath
his feet. The Victoria was once again in motion, and
both the doctor and Kennedy awoke.
The former consulted his compass, and saw, with satisfaction,
that the wind was carrying them toward the north-northeast.
"We are in luck!" said he; "every thing works in
our favor: we shall discover Lake Tchad this very day."
"Is it a broad sheet of water?" asked Kennedy.
"Somewhat, Dick. At its greatest length and breadth,
it measures about one hundred and twenty miles."
"It will spice our trip with a little variety to sail
over a spacious sheet of water."
"After all, though, I don't see that we have much to
complain of on that score. Our trip has been very much
varied, indeed; and, moreover, we are getting on under
the best possible conditions."
"Unquestionably so; excepting those privations on
the desert, we have encountered no serious danger."
"It is not to be denied that our noble balloon has
behaved wonderfully well. To-day is May 12th, and we
started on the 18th of April. That makes twenty-five
days of journeying. In ten days more we shall have
reached our destination."
"Where is that?"
"I do not know. But what does that signify?"
"You are right again, Samuel! Let us intrust to Providence
the care of guiding us and of keeping us in good
health as we are now. We don't look much as though
we had been crossing the most pestilential country in the
"We had an opportunity of getting up in life, and that's
what we have done!"
"Hurrah for trips in the air!" cried Joe. "Here we
are at the end of twenty-five days in good condition, well
fed, and well rested. We've had too much rest in fact,
for my legs begin to feel rusty, and I wouldn't be vexed
a bit to stretch them with a run of thirty miles or so!"
"You can do that, Joe, in the streets of London, but
in fine we set out three together, like Denham, Clapperton,
and Overweg; like Barth, Richardson, and Vogel, and,
more fortunate than our predecessors here, we are three
in number still. But it is most important for us not to
separate. If, while one of us was on the ground, the
Victoria should have to ascend in order to escape some
sudden danger, who knows whether we should ever see
each other again? Therefore it is that I say again to
Kennedy frankly that I do not like his going off alone to
"But still, Samuel, you will permit me to indulge that
fancy a little. There is no harm in renewing our stock of
provisions. Besides, before our departure, you held out
to me the prospect of some superb hunting, and thus far I
have done but little in the line of the Andersons and Cummings."
"But, my dear Dick, your memory fails you, or your
modesty makes you forget your own exploits. It really
seems to me that, without mentioning small game, you
have already an antelope, an elephant, and two lions on
"But what's all that to an African sportsman who sees
all the animals in creation strutting along under the
muzzle of his rifle? There! there! look at that troop of
"Those giraffes," roared Joe; "why, they're not as big
as my fist."
"Because we are a thousand feet above them; but close
to them you would discover that they are three times as
tall as you are!"
"And what do you say to yon herd of gazelles, and
those ostriches, that run with the speed of the wind?"
"Those ostriches?" remonstrated Joe, again; "those
are chickens, and the greatest kind of chickens!"
"Come, doctor, can't we get down nearer to them?"
"We can get closer to them, Dick, but we must not
land. And what good will it do you to strike down those
poor animals when they can be of no use to you? Now,
if the question were to destroy a lion, a tiger, a cat, a
hyena, I could understand it; but to deprive an antelope
or a gazelle of life, to no other purpose than the gratification
of your instincts as a sportsman, seems hardly worth
the trouble. But, after all, my friend, we are going to
keep at about one hundred feet only from the soil, and,
should you see any ferocious wild beast, oblige us by sending
a ball through its heart!"
The Victoria descended gradually, but still keeping at a safe
height, for, in a barbarous, yet very populous country, it was
necessary to keep on the watch for unexpected perils.
The travellers were then directly following the course
of the Shari. The charming banks of this river were
hidden beneath the foliage of trees of various dyes; lianas
and climbing plants wound in and out on all sides and
formed the most curious combinations of color. Crocodiles
were seen basking in the broad blaze of the sun or plunging
beneath the waters with the agility of lizards, and in
their gambols they sported about among the many green
islands that intercept the current of the stream.
It was thus, in the midst of rich and verdant landscapes
that our travellers passed over the district of Maffatay,
and about nine o'clock in the morning reached the
southern shore of Lake Tchad.
There it was at last, outstretched before them, that
Caspian Sea of Africa, the existence of which was so long
consigned to the realms of fable--that interior expanse of
water to which only Denham's and Barth's expeditions
had been able to force their way.
The doctor strove in vain to fix its precise configuration
upon paper. It had already changed greatly since
1847. In fact, the chart of Lake Tchad is very difficult to
trace with exactitude, for it is surrounded by muddy and
almost impassable morasses, in which Barth thought that
he was doomed to perish. From year to year these
marshes, covered with reeds and papyrus fifteen feet high,
become the lake itself. Frequently, too, the villages on
its shores are half submerged, as was the case with Ngornou
in 1856, and now the hippopotamus and the alligator
frisk and dive where the dwellings of Bornou once stood.
The sun shot his dazzling rays over this placid sheet
of water, and toward the north the two elements merged
into one and the same horizon.
The doctor was desirous of determining the character
of the water, which was long believed to be salt. There
was no danger in descending close to the lake, and the car
was soon skimming its surface like a bird at the distance
of only five feet.
Joe plunged a bottle into the lake and drew it up half
filled. The water was then tasted and found to be but
little fit for drinking, with a certain carbonate-of-soda
While the doctor was jotting down the result of this
experiment, the loud report of a gun was heard close beside
him. Kennedy had not been able to resist the temptation
of firing at a huge hippopotamus. The latter, who
had been basking quietly, disappeared at the sound of the
explosion, but did not seem to be otherwise incommoded
by Kennedy's conical bullet.
"You'd have done better if you had harpooned him,"
"With one of our anchors. It would have been a hook
just big enough for such a rousing beast as that!"
"Humph!" ejaculated Kennedy, "Joe really has an
idea this time--"
"Which I beg of you not to put into execution," interposed
the doctor. "The animal would very quickly have
dragged us where we could not have done much to help
ourselves, and where we have no business to be."
"Especially now since we've settled the question as to
what kind of water there is in Lake Tchad. Is that sort
of fish good to eat, Dr. Ferguson?"
"That fish, as you call it, Joe, is really a mammiferous
animal of the pachydermal species. Its flesh is said to be
excellent and is an article of important trade between the
tribes living along the borders of the lake."
"Then I'm sorry that Mr. Kennedy's shot didn't do
"The animal is vulnerable only in the stomach and between
the thighs. Dick's ball hasn't even marked him;
but should the ground strike me as favorable, we shall halt
at the northern end of the lake, where Kennedy will find
himself in the midst of a whole menagerie, and can make
up for lost time."
"Well," said Joe, "I hope then that Mr. Kennedy
will hunt the hippopotamus a little; I'd like to taste the
meat of that queer-looking beast. It doesn't look exactly
natural to get away into the centre of Africa, to feed on
snipe and partridge, just as if we were in England."
The Capital of Bornou.--The Islands of the Biddiomahs.--The Condors.--The
Doctor's Anxieties.--His Precautions.--An Attack in Mid-air.--The Balloon
Covering torn.--The Fall.--Sublime Self-Sacrifice.--The Northern Coast of
Since its arrival at Lake Tchad, the balloon had struck
a current that edged it farther to the westward. A few
clouds tempered the heat of the day, and, besides, a little
air could be felt over this vast expanse of water; but about
one o'clock, the Victoria, having slanted across this part
of the lake, again advanced over the land for a space of
seven or eight miles.
The doctor, who was somewhat vexed at first at this
turn of his course, no longer thought of complaining when
he caught sight of the city of Kouka, the capital of Bornou.
He saw it for a moment, encircled by its walls of
white clay, and a few rudely-constructed mosques rising
clumsily above that conglomeration of houses that look
like playing-dice, which form most Arab towns. In the
court-yards of the private dwellings, and on the public
squares, grew palms and caoutchouc-trees topped with a
dome of foliage more than one hundred feet in breadth.
Joe called attention to the fact that these immense parasols
were in proper accordance with the intense heat of
the sun, and made thereon some pious reflections which it
were needless to repeat.
Kouka really consists of two distinct towns, separated
by the "Dendal," a large boulevard three hundred
yards wide, at that hour crowded with horsemen and foot
passengers. On one side, the rich quarter stands squarely
with its airy and lofty houses, laid out in regular order;
on the other, is huddled together the poor quarter, a miserable
collection of low hovels of a conical shape, in which
a poverty-stricken multitude vegetate rather than live,
since Kouka is neither a trading nor a commercial city.
Kennedy thought it looked something like Edinburgh,
were that city extended on a plain, with its two distinct
But our travellers had scarcely the time to catch even
this glimpse of it, for, with the fickleness that characterizes
the air-currents of this region, a contrary wind suddenly
swept them some forty miles over the surface of Lake Tchad.
Then then were regaled with a new spectacle. They
could count the numerous islets of the lake, inhabited by
the Biddiomahs, a race of bloodthirsty and formidable
pirates, who are as greatly feared when neighbors as are
the Touaregs of Sahara.
These estimable people were in readiness to receive the
Victoria bravely with stones and arrows, but the balloon
quickly passed their islands, fluttering over them, from one
to the other with butterfly motion, like a gigantic beetle.
At this moment, Joe, who was scanning the horizon,
said to Kennedy:
"There, sir, as you are always thinking of good sport,
yonder is just the thing for you!"
"What is it, Joe?"
"This time, the doctor will not disapprove of your shooting."
"But what is it?"
"Don't you see that flock of big birds making for us?"
"Birds?" exclaimed the doctor, snatching his spyglass.
"I see them," replied Kennedy; "there are at least a
dozen of them."
"Fourteen, exactly!" said Joe.
"Heaven grant that they may be of a kind sufficiently
noxious for the doctor to let me peg away at them!"
"I should not object, but I would much rather see
those birds at a distance from us!"
"Why, are you afraid of those fowls?"
"They are condors, and of the largest size. Should
they attack us--"
"Well, if they do, we'll defend ourselves. We have a
whole arsenal at our disposal. I don't think those birds
are so very formidable."
"Who can tell?" was the doctor's only remark.
Ten minutes later, the flock had come within gunshot,
and were making the air ring with their hoarse cries. They
came right toward the Victoria, more irritated than frightened
by her presence.
"How they scream! What a noise!" said Joe.
"Perhaps they don't like to see anybody poaching in their
country up in the air, or daring to fly like themselves!"
"Well, now, to tell the truth, when I take a good look
at them, they are an ugly, ferocious set, and I should think
them dangerous enough if they were armed with Purdy-Moore
rifles," admitted Kennedy.
"They have no need of such weapons," said Ferguson,
looking very grave.
The condors flew around them in wide circles, their
flight growing gradually closer and closer to the balloon.