Setting forth how the Voyager descends the Rembwe River, with divers excursions and alarms, in the company of a black trader, and returns safely to the Coast.
Getting away from Agonjo seemed as if it would be nearly as difficult as getting to it, but as the quarters were comfortable and the society fairly good, I was not anxious. I own the local scenery was a little too much of the Niger Delta type for perfect beauty, just the long lines of mangrove, and the muddy river lounging almost imperceptibly to sea, and nothing else in sight. Mr. Glass, however, did not take things so philosophically. I was on his commercial conscience, for I had come in from the bush and there was money in me. Therefore I was a trade product — a new trade stuff that ought to be worked up and developed; and he found himself unable to do this, for although he had secured the first parcel, as it were, and got it successfully stored, yet he could not ship it, and he felt this was a reproach to him.
Many were his lamentations that the firm had not provided him with a large sailing canoe and a suitable crew to deal with this new line of trade. I did my best to comfort him, pointing out that the most enterprising firm could not be expected to provide expensive things like these, on the extremely remote chance of ladies arriving per bush at Agonjo — in fact not until the trade in them was well developed. But he refused to see it in this light and harped upon the subject, wrapped up, poor man, in a great coat and a muffler, because his ague was on him.
I next tried to convince Mr. Glass that any canoe would do for me to go down in. “No,” he said, “any canoe will not do;” and he explained that when you got down the Rembwe to ‘Como Point you were in a rough, nasty bit of water, the Gaboon, which has a fine confused set of currents from the tidal wash and the streams of the Rembwe and ‘Como rivers, in which it would be improbable that a river canoe could live any time worth mentioning. Progress below ‘Como Point by means of mere paddling he considered impossible. There was nothing for it but a big sailing canoe, and there was no big sailing canoe to be had. I think Mr. Glass got a ray of comfort out of the fact that Messrs. John Holt’s sub-agent was, equally with himself, unable to ship me.
At this point in the affair there entered a highly dramatic figure. He came on to the scene suddenly and with much uproar, in a way that would have made his fortune in a transpontine drama. I shall always regret I have not got that man’s portrait, for I cannot do him justice with ink. He dashed up on to the verandah, smote the frail form of Mr. Glass between the shoulders, and flung his own massive one into a chair. His name was Obanjo, but he liked it pronounced Captain Johnson, and his profession was a bush and river trader on his own account. Every movement of the man was theatrical, and he used to look covertly at you every now and then to see if he had produced his impression, which was evidently intended to be that of a reckless, rollicking skipper. There was a Hallo-my-Hearty atmosphere coming off him from the top of his hat to the soles of his feet, like the scent off a flower; but it did not require a genius in judging men to see that behind, and under this was a very different sort of man, and if I should ever want to engage in a wild and awful career up a West African river I shall start on it by engaging Captain Johnson. He struck me as being one of those men, of whom I know five, whom I could rely on, that if one of them and I went into the utter bush together, one of us at least would come out alive and have made something substantial by the venture; which is a great deal more than I could say, for example, of Ngouta, who was still with me, as he desired to see the glories of Gaboon and buy a hanging lamp.
Captain Johnson’s attire calls for especial comment and admiration. However disconnected the two sides of his character might be, his clothes bore the impress of both of his natures to perfection. He wore, when first we met, a huge sombrero hat, a spotless singlet, and a suit of clean, well-got-up dungaree, and an uncommonly picturesque, powerful figure he cut in them, with his finely moulded, well-knit form and good-looking face, full of expression always, but always with the keen small eyes in it watching the effect his genial smiles and hearty laugh produced. The eyes were the eyes of Obanjo, the rest of the face the property of Captain Johnson. I do not mean to say that they were the eyes of a bad bold man, but you had not to look twice at them to see they belonged to a man courageous in the African manner, full of energy and resource, keenly intelligent and self-reliant, and all that sort of thing.
I left him and the refined Mr. Glass together to talk over the palaver of shipping me, and they talked it at great length. Finally the price I was to pay Obanjo was settled and we proceeded to less important details. It seemed Obanjo, when up the river this time, had set about constructing a new and large trading canoe at one of his homes, in which he was just thinking of taking his goods down to Gaboon. Next morning Obanjo with his vessel turned up, and saying farewell to my kind host, Mr. Sanga Glass, I departed.
She had the makings of a fine vessel in her; though roughly hewn out of an immense hard-wood tree: her lines were good, and her type was that of the big sea-canoes of the Bight of Panavia. Very far forward was a pole mast, roughly made, but European in intention, and carrying a long gaff. Shrouds and stays it had not, and my impression was that it would be carried away if we dropped in for half a tornado, until I saw our sail and recognised that that would go to darning cotton instantly if it fell in with even a breeze. It was a bed quilt that had evidently been in the family some years, and although it had been in places carefully patched with pieces of previous sets of the captain’s dungarees, in other places, where it had not, it gave “free passage to the airs of Heaven”; which I may remark does not make for speed in the boat mounting such canvas. Partly to this sail, partly to the amount of trading affairs we attended to, do I owe the credit of having made a record trip down the Rembwe, the slowest white man time on record.
Fixed across the stern of the canoe there was the usual staging made of bamboos, flush with the gunwale. Now this sort of staging is an exceedingly good idea when it is fully finished. You can stuff no end of things under it; and over it there is erected a hood of palm-thatch, giving a very comfortable cabin five or six feet long and about three feet high in the centre, and you can curl yourself up in it and, if you please, have a mat hung across the opening. But we had not got so far as that yet on our vessel, only just got the staging fixed in fact; and I assure you a bamboo staging is but a precarious perch when in this stage of formation. I made myself a reclining couch on it in the Roman manner with my various belongings, and was exceeding comfortable until we got nearly out of the Rembwe into the Gaboon. Then came grand times. Our noble craft had by this time got a good list on her from our collected cargo — ill stowed. This made my home, the bamboo staging, about as reposeful a place as the slope of a writing desk would be if well polished; and the rough and choppy sea gave our vessel the most peculiar set of motions imaginable. She rolled, which made it precarious for things on the bamboo staging, but still a legitimate motion, natural and foreseeable. In addition to this, she had a cataclysmic kick in her — that I think the heathenish thing meant to be a pitch — which no mortal being could foresee or provide against, and which projected portable property into the waters of the Gaboon over the stern and on to the conglomerate collection in the bottom of the canoe itself, making Obanjo repeat, with ferocity and feeling, words he had heard years ago, when he was boatswain on a steamboat trading on the Coast. It was fortunate, you will please understand, for my future, that I have usually been on vessels of the British African or the African lines when voyaging about this West African sea-board, as the owners of these vessels prohibit the use of bad language on board, or goodness only knows what words I might not have remembered and used in the Gaboon estuary.
We left Agonjo with as much bustle and shouting and general air of brisk seamanship as Obanjo could impart to the affair, and the hopeful mind might have expected to reach somewhere important by nightfall. I did not expect that; neither, on the other hand, did I expect that after we had gone a mile and only four, as the early ballad would say, that we should pull up and anchor against a small village for the night; but this we did, the captain going ashore to see for cargo, and to get some more crew.
There were grand times ashore that night, and the captain returned on board about 2 A.M. with some rubber and pissava and two new hands whose appearance fitted them to join our vessel; for a more villainous-looking set than our crew I never laid eye on. One enormously powerful fellow looked the incarnation of the horrid negro of buccaneer stories, and I admired Obanjo for the way he kept them in hand. We had now also acquired a small dug-out canoe as tender, and a large fishing-net. About 4 A.M. in the moonlight we started to drop down river on the tail of the land breeze, and as I observed Obanjo wanted to sleep I offered to steer. After putting me through an examination in practical seamanship, and passing me, he gladly accepted my offer, handed over the tiller which stuck out across my bamboo staging, and went and curled himself up, falling sound asleep among the crew in less time than it takes to write. On the other nights we spent on this voyage I had no need to offer to steer; he handed over charge to me as a matter of course, and as I prefer night to day in Africa, I enjoyed it. Indeed, much as I have enjoyed life in Africa, I do not think I ever enjoyed it to the full as I did on those nights dropping down the Rembwe. The great, black, winding river with a pathway in its midst of frosted silver where the moonlight struck it: on each side the ink-black mangrove walls, and above them the band of star and moonlit heavens that the walls of mangrove allowed one to see. Forward rose the form of our sail, idealised from bed-sheetdom to glory; and the little red glow of our cooking fire gave a single note of warm colour to the cold light of the moon. Three or four times during the second night, while I was steering along by the south bank, I found the mangrove wall thinner, and standing up, looked through the network of their roots and stems on to what seemed like plains, acres upon acres in extent, of polished silver — more specimens of those awful slime lagoons, one of which, before we reached Ndorko, had so very nearly collected me. I watched them, as we leisurely stole past, with a sort of fascination. On the second night, towards the dawn, I had the great joy of seeing Mount Okoneto, away to the S.W., first showing moonlit, and then taking the colours of the dawn before they reached us down below. Ah me! give me a West African river and a canoe for sheer good pleasure. Drawbacks, you say? Well, yes, but where are there not drawbacks? The only drawbacks on those Rembwe nights were the series of horrid frights I got by steering on to tree shadows and thinking they were mud banks, or trees themselves, so black and solid did they seem. I never roused the watch fortunately, but got her off the shadow gallantly single-handed every time, and called myself a fool instead of getting called one. My nautical friends carp at me for getting on shadows, but I beg them to consider before they judge me, whether they have ever steered at night down a river quite unknown to them an unhandy canoe, with a bed-sheet sail, by the light of the moon. And what with my having a theory of my own regarding the proper way to take a vessel round a corner, and what with having to keep the wind in the bed-sheet where the bed-sheet would hold it, it’s a wonder to me I did not cast that vessel away, or go and damage Africa.
By daylight the Rembwe scenery was certainly not so lovely, and might be slept through without a pang. It had monotony, without having enough of it to amount to grandeur. Every now and again we came to villages, each of which was situated on a heap of clay and sandy soil, presumably the end of a spit of land running out into the mangrove swamp fringing the river. Every village we saw we went alongside and had a chat with, and tried to look up cargo in the proper way. One village in particular did we have a lively time at. Obanjo had a wife and home there, likewise a large herd of goats, some of which he was desirous of taking down with us to sell at Gaboon. It was a pleasant-looking village, with a clean yellow beach which most of the houses faced. But it had ramifications in the interior. I being very lazy, did not go ashore, but watched the pantomime from the bamboo staging. The whole flock of goats enter at right end of stage, and tear violently across the scene, disappearing at left. Two minutes elapse. Obanjo and his gallant crew enter at right hand of stage, leg it like lamplighters across front, and disappear at left. Fearful pow-wow behind the scenes. Five minutes elapse. Enter goats at right as before, followed by Obanjo and company as before, and so on da capo. It was more like a fight I once saw between the armies of Macbeth and Macduff than anything I have seen before or since; only our Rembwe play was better put on, more supers, and noise, and all that sort of thing, you know. It was a spirited performance I assure you and I and the inhabitants of the village, not personally interested in goat-catching, assumed the role of audience and cheered it to the echo.
We had another cheerful little incident that afternoon. While we were going along softly, softly as was our wont, in the broiling heat, I wishing I had an umbrella — for sitting on that bamboo stage with no sort of protection from the sun was hot work after the forest shade I had had previously — two small boys in two small canoes shot out from the bank and paddled hard to us and jumped on board. After a few minutes’ conversation with Obanjo one of them carefully sank his canoe; the other just turned his adrift and they joined our crew. I saw they were Fans, as indeed nearly all the crew were, but I did not think much of the affair. Our tender, the small canoe, had been sent out as usual with the big black man and another A. B. to fish; it being one of our industries to fish hard all the time with that big net. The fish caught, sometimes a bushel or two at a time, almost all grey mullet, were then brought alongside, split open, and cleaned. We then had all round as many of them for supper as we wanted, the rest we hung on strings over our fire, more or less insufficiently smoking them to prevent decomposition, it being Obanjo’s intention to sell them when he made his next trip up the ‘Como; for the latter being less rich in fish than the Rembwe they would command a good price there. We always had our eye on things like this, being, I proudly remark, none of your gilded floating hotel of a ferry-boat like those Cunard or White Star liners are, but just a good trader that was not ashamed to pay, and not afraid of work.
Well, just after we had leisurely entered a new reach of the river, round the corner after us, propelled at a phenomenal pace, came our fishing canoe, which we had left behind to haul in the net and then rejoin us. The occupants, particularly the big black A. B., were shouting something in terror stricken accents. “What?” says Obanjo springing to his feet. “The Fan! the Fan!” shouted the canoe men as they shot towards us like agitated chickens making for their hen. In another moment they were alongside and tumbling over our gunwale into the bottom of the vessel still crying “The Fan! The Fan! The Fan!” Obanjo then by means of energetic questioning externally applied, and accompanied by florid language that cast a rose pink glow smelling of sulphur, round us, elicited the information that about 40,000 Fans, armed with knives and guns, were coming down the Rembwe with intent to kill and slay us, and might be expected to arrive within the next half wink. On hearing this, the whole of our gallant crew took up masterly recumbent positions in the bottom of our vessel and turned gray round the lips. But Obanjo rose to the situation like ten lions. “Take the rudder,” he shouted to me, “take her into the middle of the stream and keep the sail full.” It occurred to me that perhaps a position underneath the bamboo staging might be more healthy than one on the top of it, exposed to every microbe of a bit of old iron and what not and a half that according to native testimony would shortly be frisking through the atmosphere from those Fan guns; and moreover I had not forgotten having been previously shot in a somewhat similar situation, though in better company. However I did not say anything; neither, between ourselves, did I somehow believe in those Fans. So regardless of danger, I grasped the helm, and sent our gallant craft flying before the breeze down the bosom of the great wild river (that’s the proper way to put it, but in the interests of science it may be translated into crawling towards the middle). Meanwhile Obanjo performed prodigies of valour all over the place. He triced up the mainsail, stirred up his fainthearted crew, and got out the sweeps, i.e. one old oar and four paddles, and with this assistance we solemnly trudged away from danger at a pace that nothing slower than a Thames dumb barge, going against stream, could possibly overhaul. Still we did not feel safe, and I suggested to Ngouta he should rise up and help; but he declined, stating he was a married man. Obanjo cheering the paddlers with inspiriting words sprang with the agility of a leopard on to the bamboo staging aft, standing there with his gun ready loaded and cocked to face the coming foe, looking like a statue put up to himself at the public expense. The worst of this was, however, that while Obanjo’s face was to the coming foe, his back was to the crew, and they forthwith commenced to re-subside into the bottom of the boat, paddles and all. I, as second in command, on seeing this, said a few blood-stirring words to them, and Obanjo sent a few more of great power at them over his shoulder, and so we kept the paddles going.
Presently from round the corner shot a Fan canoe. It contained a lady in the bows, weeping and wringing her hands, while another lady sympathetically howling, paddled it. Obanjo in lurid language requested to be informed why they were following us. The lady in the bows said, “My son! my son!” and in a second more three other canoes shot round the corner full of men with guns. Now this looked like business, so Obanjo and I looked round to urge our crew to greater exertions and saw, to our disgust, that the gallant band had successfully subsided into the bottom of the boat while we had been eyeing the foe. Obanjo gave me a recipe for getting the sweeps out again. I did not follow it, but got the job done, for Obanjo could not take his eye and gun off the leading canoe and the canoes having crept up to within some twenty yards of us, poured out their simple tale of woe.
It seemed that one of those miscreant boys was a runaway from a Fan village. He had been desirous, with the usual enterprise of young Fans, of seeing the great world that he knew lay down at the mouth of the river, i.e. Libreville Gaboon. He had pleaded with his parents for leave to go down and engage in work there, but the said parents holding the tenderness of his youth unfitted to combat with Coast Town life and temptation, refused this request, and so the young rascal had run away without leave and with a canoe, and was surmised to have joined the well-known Obanjo. Obanjo owned he had (more armed canoes were coming round the corner), and said if the mother would come and fetch her boy she could have him. He for his part would not have dreamed of taking him if he had known his relations disapproved. Every one seemed much relieved, except the causa belli. The Fans did not ask about two boys and providentially we gave the lady the right one. He went reluctantly. I feel pretty nearly sure he foresaw more kassengo than fatted calf for him on his return home. When the Fan canoes were well back round the corner again, we had a fine hunt for the other boy, and finally unearthed him from under the bamboo staging.
When we got him out he told the same tale. He also was a runaway who wanted to see the world, and taking the opportunity of the majority of the people of his village being away hunting, he had slipped off one night in a canoe, and dropped down river to the village of the boy who had just been reclaimed. The two boys had fraternised, and come on the rest of their way together, lying waiting, hidden up a creek, for Obanjo, who they knew was coming down river; and having successfully got picked up by him, they thought they were safe. But after this affair boy number two judged there was no more safety yet, and that his family would be down after him very shortly; for he said he was a more valuable and important boy than his late companion, but his family were an uncommon savage set. We felt not the least anxiety to make their acquaintance, so clapped heels on our gallant craft and kept the paddles going, and as no more Fans were in sight our crew kept at work bravely. While Obanjo, now in a boisterous state of mind, and flushed with victory, said things to them about the way they had collapsed when those two women in a canoe came round that corner, that must have blistered their feelings, but they never winced. They laughed at the joke against themselves merrily. The other boy’s family we never saw and so took him safely to Gaboon, where Obanjo got him a good place.
Really how much danger there was proportionate to the large amount of fear on our boat I cannot tell you. It never struck me there was any, but on the other hand the crew and Obanjo evidently thought it was a bad place; and my white face would have been no protection, for the Fans would not have suspected a white of being on such a canoe and might have fired on us if they had been unduly irritated and not treated by Obanjo with that fine compound of bully and blarney that he is such a master of.
Whatever may have been the true nature of the affair, however, it had one good effect, it got us out of the Rembwe into the Gaboon, and although at the time this seemed a doubtful blessing, it made for progress. I had by this time mastered the main points of incapability in our craft. A. we could not go against the wind. B. we could not go against the tide. While we were in the Rembwe there was a state we will designate as C— the tide coming one way, the wind another. With this state we could progress, backwards if the wind came up against us too strong, but seawards if it did not, and the tide was running down. If the tide was running up, and the wind was coming down, then we went seaward, softly, softly alongside the mangrove bank, where the rip of the tide stream is least. When, however, we got down off ‘Como Point, we met there a state I will designate as D— a fine confused set of marine and fluvial phenomena. For away to the north the ‘Como and Boque and two other lesser, but considerable streams, were, with the Rembwe, pouring down their waters in swirling, intermingling, interclashing currents; and up against them, to make confusion worse confounded, came the tide, and the tide up the Gaboon is a swift strong thing, and irregular, and has a rise of eight feet at the springs, two-and-a-half at the neaps. The wind was lulled too, it being evening time. In this country it is customary for the wind to blow from the land from 8 P.M. until 8 A.M., from the south-west to the east. Then comes a lull, either an utter dead hot brooding calm, or light baffling winds and draughts that breathe a few panting hot breaths into your sails and die. Then comes the sea breeze up from the south-south-west or north-west, some days early in the forenoon, some days not till two or three o’clock. This breeze blows till sundown, and then comes another and a hotter calm.
Fortunately for us we arrived off the head of the Gaboon estuary in this calm, for had we had wind to deal with we should have come to an end. There were one or two wandering puffs, about the first one of which sickened our counterpane of its ambitious career as a marine sail, so it came away from its gaff and spread itself over the crew, as much as to say, “Here, I’ve had enough of this sailing. I’ll be a counterpane again.” We did a great deal of fine varied, spirited navigation, details of which, however, I will not dwell upon because it was successful. We made one or two circles, taking on water the while and then returned into the south bank backwards. At that bank we wisely stayed for the night, our meeting with the Gaboon so far having resulted in wrecking our sail, making Ngouta sea-sick and me exasperate; for from our noble vessel having during the course of it demonstrated for the first time her cataclysmic kicking power, I had had a time of it with my belongings on the bamboo stage. A basket constructed for catching human souls in, given me as a farewell gift by a valued friend, a witch doctor, and in which I kept the few things in life I really cared for, i.e. my brush, comb, tooth brush, and pocket handkerchiefs, went over the stern; while I was recovering this with my fishing line (such was the excellent nature of the thing, I am glad to say it floated) a black bag with my blouses and such essentials went away to leeward. Obanjo recovered that, but meanwhile my little portmanteau containing my papers and trade tobacco slid off to leeward; and as it also contained geological specimens of the Sierra del Cristal, a massive range of mountains, it must have hopelessly sunk had it not been for the big black, who grabbed it. All my bedding, six Equetta cloths, given me by Mr. Hamilton in Opobo River before I came South, did get away successfully, but were picked up by means of the fishing line, wet but safe. After this I did not attempt any more Roman reclining couch luxuries, but stowed all my loose gear under the bamboo staging, and spent the night on the top of the stage, dozing precariously with my head on my knees.
When the morning broke, looking seaward I saw the welcome forms of Konig (Dambe) and Perroquet (Mbini) Islands away in the distance, looking, as is their wont, like two lumps of cloud that have dropped on to the broad Gaboon, and I felt that I was at last getting near something worth reaching, i.e. Glass, which though still out of sight, I knew lay away to the west of those islands on the northern shore of the estuary. And if any one had given me the choice of being in Glass within twenty-four hours from the mouth of the Rembwe, or in Paris or London in a week, I would have chosen Glass without a moment’s hesitation. Much as I dislike West Coast towns as a general rule, there are exceptions, and of all exceptions, the one I like most is undoubtedly Glass Gaboon; and its charms loomed large on that dank chilly morning after a night spent on a bamboo staging in an unfinished native canoe.
The Rembwe, like the ‘Como, is said to rise in the Sierra del Cristal. It is navigable to a place called Isango which is above Agonjo; just above Agonjo it receives an affluent on its southern bank and runs through mountain country, where its course is blocked by rapids for anything but small canoes. Obanjo did not seem to think this mattered, as there was not much trade up there, and therefore no particular reason why any one should want to go higher up. Moreover he said the natives were an exceedingly bad lot; but Obanjo usually thinks badly of the bush natives in these regions. Anyhow they are Fans — and Fans are Fans. He was anxious for me, however, to start on a trading voyage with him up another river, a notorious river, in the neighbouring Spanish territory. The idea was I should buy goods at Glass and we should go together and he would buy ivory with them in the interior. I anxiously inquired where my profits were to come in. Obanjo who had all the time suspected me of having trade motives, artfully said, “What for you come across from Ogowe? You say, see this country. Ah! I say you come with me. I show you plenty country, plenty men, elephants, leopards, gorillas. Oh! plenty thing. Then you say where’s my trade?” I disclaimed trade motives in a lordly way. Then says he, “You come with me up there.” I said I’d see about it later on, for the present I had seen enough men, elephants, gorillas and leopards, and I preferred to go into wild districts under the French flag to any flag. I am still thinking about taking that voyage, but I’ll not march through Coventry with the crew we had down the Rembwe — that’s flat, as Sir John Falstaff says. Picture to yourselves, my friends, the charming situation of being up a river surrounded by rapacious savages with a lot of valuable goods in a canoe and with only a crew to defend them possessed of such fighting mettle as our crew had demonstrated themselves to be. Obanjo might be all right, would be I dare say; but suppose he got shot and you had eighteen stone odd of him thrown on your hands in addition to your other little worries. There is little doubt such an excursion would be rich in incident and highly interesting, but I am sure it would be, from a commercial point of view, a failure.
Trade has a fascination for me, and going transversely across the nine-mile-broad rough Gaboon estuary in an unfinished canoe with an inefficient counterpane sail has none; but I return duty bound to this unpleasant subject. We started very early in the morning. We reached the other side entangled in the trailing garments of the night. I was thankful during that broiling hot day of one thing, and that was that if Sister Ann was looking out across the river, as was Sister Ann’s invariable way of spending spare moments, Sister Ann would never think I was in a canoe that made such audaciously bad tacks, missed stays, got into irons, and in general behaved in a way that ought to have lost her captain his certificate. Just as the night came down, however, we reached the northern shore of the Grand Gaboon at Dongila, just off the mouth of the ‘Como, still some eleven miles east of Konig Island, and further still from Glass, but on the same side of the river, which seemed good work. The foreshore here is very rocky, so we could not go close alongside but anchored out among the rocks. At this place there is a considerable village and a station of the Roman Catholic Mission. When we arrived a nun was down on the shore with her school children, who were busy catching shell-fish and generally merry-making. Obanjo went ashore in the tender, and the holy sister kindly asked me, by him, to come ashore and spend the night; but I was dead tired and felt quite unfit for polite society after the long broiling hot day and getting soaked by water that had washed on board.
We lay off Dongila all night, because of the tide. I lay off everything, Dongila, canoe and all, a little after midnight. Obanjo and almost all the crew stayed on shore that night, and I rolled myself up in an Equetta cloth and went sound and happily asleep on the bamboo staging, leaving the canoe pitching slightly. About midnight some change in the tide, or original sin in the canoe, caused her to softly swing round a bit, and the next news was that I was in the water. I had long expected this to happen, so was not surprised, but highly disgusted, and climbed on board, needless to say, streaming. So, in the darkness of the night I got my portmanteau from the hold and thoroughly tidied up. The next morning we were off early, coasting along to Glass, and safely arriving there, I attempted to look as unconcerned as possible, and vaguely hoped Mr. Hudson would be down in Libreville; for I was nervous about meeting him, knowing that since he had carefully deposited me in safe hands with Mme. Jacot, with many injunctions to be careful, that there were many incidents in my career that would not meet with his approval. Vain hope! he was on the pier! He did not approve! He had heard of most of my goings on.
This however in no way detracts from my great obligation to Mr. Hudson, but adds another item to the great debt of gratitude I owe him; for had it not been for him I should never have seen the interior of this beautiful region of the Ogowe. I tried to explain to him how much I had enjoyed myself and how I realised I owed it all to him; but he persisted in his opinion that my intentions and ambitions were suicidal, and took me out the ensuing Sunday, as it were on a string.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10