among the evening dresses of the ladies and gentlemen, which had
troubled him while he was awaiting the summons to the dining room,
quite passed out of his mind, and he was able to do the honors of
his cases naturally and without embarrassment. At eleven o'clock
he took his leave, promising to call upon Mr. Goodenough, who was
in lodgings in Jermyn Street, upon the following morning, that
gentleman having at Sir James' request undertaken to procure all
the necessary outfit.
"I feel really obliged to you, Sir James," Mr. Goodenough said when
Frank had left. "The lad has a genius for natural history, and he
is modest and self possessed. From what you tell me he has done
rather than apply for assistance to anyone, he must have plenty of
pluck and resolution, and will make a capital traveling companion. I
feel quite relieved, for it is so difficult to procure a companion
who will exactly suit. Clever naturalists are rare, and one can never
tell how one will get on with a man when you are thrown together.
He may want to have his own way, may be irritable and bad tempered,
may in many respects be a disagreeable companion. With that lad I
feel sure of my ground. We shall get on capitally together."
On his return to the shop Frank told his employer, whom he found
sitting up for him, the change which had taken place in his life,
and the opening which presented itself.
Mr. Horton expressed himself as sincerely glad.
"I shall miss you sadly," he said, "shall feel very dull for a
time in my solitary house here; but it is better for you that you
should go, and I never expected to keep you long. You were made for
better things than this shop, and I have no doubt that a brilliant
career will be open before you. You may not become a rich man, for
natural history is scarcely a lucrative profession, but you may
become a famous one. Now, my lad, go off to bed and dream of your
The next morning Frank went over, the first thing after breakfast,
to see his friend the porter. He, too, was very pleased to hear
of Frank's good fortune, but he was too busy to talk much to him,
and promised that he would come over that evening and hear all
about it. Then Frank took his way to Jermyn Street, and went with
Mr. Goodenough to Silver's, where an outfit suited for the climate
of Central Africa was ordered. The clothes were simple. Shirts made
of thin soft flannel, knickerbockers and Norfolk jackets of tough
New Zealand flax, with gaiters of the same material.
"There is nothing like it," Mr. Goodenough said; "it is the only
stuff which has a chance with the thorns of an African forest.
Now you will want a revolver, a Winchester repeating carbine, and
a shotgun. My outfit of boxes and cases is ready, so beyond two or
three extra nets and collecting boxes there is nothing farther to
do in that way. For your head you'd better have a very soft felt
hat with a wide brim; with a leaf or two inside they are as cool
as anything, and are far lighter and more comfortable than the
helmets which many people use in the tropics."
"As far as shooting goes," Frank said, "I think that I shall do
much better with my blowgun than with a regular one. I can hit a
small bird sitting nineteen times out of twenty."
"That is a good thing," Mr. Goodenough answered. "For shooting
sitting there is nothing better than a blowgun in skillful hands.
They have the advantage too of not breaking the skin; but for
flying a shotgun is infinitely more accurate. You will have little
difficulty in learning to shoot well, as your eye is already trained
by the use of your blowpipe. Will you want any knives for skinning?"
"No, sir. I have a plentiful stock of them."
"Are you going back to Eaton Square? I heard Sir James ask you to
stop there until we start."
"No," Frank replied; "I asked his permission to stay where I am
till tomorrow. I did not like to seem in a hurry to run away from
Mr. Horton, who has been extremely kind to me."
"Mind, you must come here in three days to have your things tried
on," Mr. Goodenough said. "I particularly ordered that they are to
be made easy and comfortable, larger, indeed, than you absolutely
require, but we must allow for growing, and two years may make
a difference of some inches to you. Now, we have only to go to a
bootmaker's and then we have done."
When the orders were completed they separated, as Mr. Goodenough
was going down that afternoon to the country, and was not to return
until the day preceding that on which they were to sail. That
evening Frank had a long chat with his two friends, and was much
pleased when the old naturalist, who had taken a great fancy to the
honest porter, offered him the use of a room at his house, saying
that he should be more than paid by the pleasure of his company
of an evening. The offer was accepted, and Frank was glad to think
that his two friends would be sitting smoking their pipes together
of an evening instead of being in their solitary rooms. The next
day he took up his residence in Eaton square.
CHAPTER VIII: TO THE DARK CONTINENT
After spending two or three days going about London and enjoying
himself with his friend Dick, Frank started for Deal, where he was
pleased to find his sister well and happy. He bade goodbye to her,
to the doctor, and such of his schoolfellows as lived in Deal, to
whom his start for Central Africa was quite an event. Dr. Bateman
handed over to him his watch and chain and his blowgun, which he
had taken care of for him, also his skinning knives and instruments.
The same evening he returned to town, and spent the days very
pleasantly until the afternoon came when he was to depart. Then he
bade farewell to his kind friends Sir James and Lady Ruthven. Dick
accompanied him in the cab to Euston station, where a minute or two
later Mr. Goodenough arrived. The luggage was placed in a carriage,
and Frank stood chatting with Dick at the door, until the guard's
cry, "Take your places!" caused him to jump into the carriage.
There was one more hearty handshake with his friend, and then the
train steamed out of the station.
It was midnight when they arrived at Liverpool, and at once went
to bed at the Station Hotel. On coming down in the morning Frank
was astonished at the huge heap of baggage piled up in the hall,
but he was told that this was of daily occurrence, as six or eight
large steamers went out from Liverpool every week for America
alone, and that the great proportion of the passengers came down,
as they had done, on the previous night, and slept at the Station
hotel. Their own share of the baggage was not large, consisting
only of a portmanteau each, Mr. Goodenough having sent down all
his boxes two days previously. At twelve o'clock they went on board
the Niger, bound for the west coast of Africa. This would carry
them as far as Sierra Leone, whence Mr. Goodenough intended to take
passage in a sailing ship to his starting point for the interior.
Frank enjoyed the voyage out intensely, and three days after sailing
they had left winter behind; four days later they were lying in
the harbor of Funchal.
"What a glorious place that would be to ramble about!" he said to
"Yes, indeed. It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast
than between this mountainous island of Madeira and the country
which we are about to penetrate. This is one of the most delightful
climates in the world, the west coast of Africa one of the worst.
Once well in the interior, the swamp fevers, which are the curse of
the shores, disappear, but African travelers are seldom long free
from attacks of fever of one kind or the other. However, quinine
does wonders, and we shall be far in the interior before the bad
season comes on."
"You have been there before, you said, Mr. Goodenough?"
"Yes, I have been there twice, and have made excursions for short
distances from the coast. But this time we are going into a country
which may be said to be altogether unknown. One or two explorers
have made their way there, but these have done little towards
examining the natural productions of the country, and have been
rather led by inducements of sport than by those of research."
"Did you have fever, sir?"
"Two or three little attacks. A touch of African fever, during
what is called the good season, is of little more importance than a
feverish cold at home. It lasts two or three days, and then there
is an end of it. In the bad season the attacks are extremely violent,
sometimes carrying men off in a few hours. I consider, however,
that dysentery is a more formidable enemy than fever. However, even
that, when properly treated, should be combated successfully."
"Do you mean to hire the men to go with you at Sierra Leone?"
"Certainly not, Frank. The negroes of Sierra Leone are the most
indolent, the most worthless, and the most insolent in all Africa.
It is the last place in the world at which to hire followers. We
must get them at the Gaboon itself, and at each place we arrive at
afterwards we take on others, merely retaining one of the old lot
to act as interpreter. The natives, although they may allow white
men to pass safely, are exceedingly jealous of men of other tribes.
I shall, however, take with me, if possible, a body of, say six
Houssas, who are the best fighting negroes on the coast. These I
shall take as a bodyguard; the carriers we shall obtain from the
different tribes we visit. The Kroomen, whom you will see at Cape
Palmas, are a magnificent set of men. They furnish sailors and
boatmen to all the ships trading on these shores. They are strong,
willing, and faithful, but they do not like going up into the
interior. Now we will land here and get a few hours' run on shore.
There are one or two peculiarities about Madeira which distinguish
it from other places. To begin with we will go for a ride in a
bullock cart without wheels."
"But surely it must jolt about terribly," Frank said.
"Not at all. The roads are paved with round, knubbly stones, such
as you see sometimes in narrow lanes and courts in seaside places
at home. These would not make smooth roads for wheeled vehicles;
but here, as you will see, the carts are placed on long runners
like those of sledges. These are greased, and the driver always has
a pound of candles or so hanging to the cart. When he thinks that
the runners want greasing he takes a candle, lays it down on the
road in front of one of the runners, and lets this pass over it.
This greases it sufficiently, and it glides along over the stones
almost as smoothly as if passing over ice."
Frank thoroughly enjoyed his run on shore, but was surprised at
the air of listlessness which pervaded the inhabitants. Every one
moved about in the most dawdling fashion. The shopkeepers looked
out from their doors as if it were a matter of perfect indifference
to them whether customers called or not. The few soldiers in
Portuguese uniform looked as if they had never done a day's drill
since they left home. Groups sat in chairs under the trees and
sipped cooling drinks or coffee. The very bullocks which drew the
gliding wagons seemed to move more slowly than bullocks in other
places. Frank and his friend drove in a wagon to the monastery,
high up on the mountain, and then took their places on a little
hand sledge, which was drawn by two men with ropes, who took them
down the sharp descent at a run, dashing round corners at a pace
which made Frank hold his breath. It took them but a quarter of an
hour to regain the town, while an hour and a half had been occupied
in the journey out.
"I shall buy a couple of hammocks here," Mr. Goodenough said. "They
are made of knotted string, and are lighter and more comfortable
than those to be met with on the coast. I will get a couple of
their cane chairs, too, they are very light and comfortable."
In the afternoon they again embarked, and then steamed away for
Sierra Leone. After several days' passage, they arrived there at
daylight, and Frank was soon on deck.
"What a beautiful place!" he exclaimed. "It is not a bit what I
"No," Mr. Goodenough said; "no one looking at it could suppose
that bright pretty town had earned for itself the name of the white
Sierra Leone is built on a somewhat steep ascent about a mile up
the river. Freetown, as the capital is properly called, stands some
fifty feet or so above the sea, and the barracks upon a green hill
three hundred feet above it, a quarter of a mile back. The town, as
seen from the sea, consists entirely of the houses of the merchants
and shopkeepers, the government buildings, churches, and other
public and European buildings. The houses are all large and bright
with yellow tinged whitewash, and the place is completely embowered
in palms and other tropical trees. The native town lies hidden from
sight among trees on low ground to the left of the town. Everywhere
around the town the hills rise steep and high, wooded to the
summit. Altogether there are few more prettily situated towns than
the capital of Sierra Leone.
"It is wonderful," Mr. Goodenough said, "that generations
and generations of Europeans have been content to live and die in
that wretchedly unhealthy place, when they might have established
themselves on those lofty hills but a mile away. There they would
be far above the malarious mists which rise from the low ground.
The walk up and down to their warehouses and offices here would
be good for them, and there is no reason why Sierra Leone should
be an unhealthy residence. Unfortunately the European in Africa
speedily loses his vigor and enterprise. When he first lands
he exclaims, 'I certainly shall have a bungalow built upon those
hills;' but in a short time his energy leaves him. He falls into
the ways of the place, drinks a great deal more spirits than is
good for him, stops down near the water, and at the end of a year
or so, if he lives so long, is obliged to go back to Europe to
"Look at the boats coming out."
A score of boats, each containing from ten to twelve men, approached
the ship. They remained at a short distance until the harbor master
came on board and pronounced the ship free from quarantine. Then
the boats made a rush to the side, and with shouts, yells, and
screams of laughter scrambled on board. Frank was at once astonished
and amused at the noise and confusion.
"What on earth do they all want?" he asked Mr. Goodenough.
"The great proportion of them don't want anything at all," Mr.
Goodenough answered, "but have merely come off for amusement. Some
of them come to be hired, some to carry luggage, others to tout
for the boatmen below. Look at those respectable negresses coming
up the gangway now. They are washerwomen, and will take our clothes
ashore and bring them on board again this afternoon before we
"It seems running rather a risk," Frank said.
"No, you will see they all have testimonials, and I believe it is
perfectly safe to intrust things to them."
Mr. Goodenough and Frank now prepared to go on shore, but this was
not easily accomplished, for there was a battle royal among the
boatmen whose craft thronged at the foot of the ladder. Each boat
had about four hands, three of whom remained on board her, while
the fourth stood upon the ladder and hauled at the painter to keep
the boat to which he belonged alongside. As out of the twenty boats
lying there not more than two could be at the foot of the ladder
together, the conflict was a desperate one. All the boatmen shouted,
"Here, sar. This good boat, sar. You come wid me, sar," at the
top of their voices, while at the same time they were hard at work
pulling each other's boats back and pushing their own forward. So
great was the struggle as Frank and Mr. Goodenough approached the
gangway, so great the crowd upon the ladder, that one side of the
iron bar from which the ladder chains depend broke in two, causing
the ladder to drop some inches and giving a ducking to those on the
lower step, causing shouts of laughter and confusion. These rose
into perfect yells of amusement when one of the sailors suddenly
loosed the ladder rope, letting five or six of the negroes into the
water up to their necks. So intense was the appreciation by the
sable mind of this joke that the boatmen rolled about with laughter,
and even the victims, when they had once scrambled into their boats,
yelled like people possessed.
"They are just like children," Mr. Goodenough said. "They are
always either laughing or quarreling. They are good natured and
passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up
to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an
average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years
old. A few, a very few, go beyond this, but these are exceptions,
just as Shakespeare was an exception to the ordinary intellect of
an Englishman. They are fluent talkers, but their ideas are borrowed.
They are absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive
power. Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable
them to attain a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to
their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their
This was said as, after having fixed upon a boat and literally
fought their way into it, they were rowed towards the shore. On
landing Frank was delighted with the greenness of everything. The
trees were heavy with luxuriant foliage, the streets were green
with grass as long and bright as that in a country lane in England.
The hill on which the barracks stand was as bright a green as you
would see on English slopes after a wet April, while down the streets
clear streams were running. The town was alive with a chattering,
laughing, good natured, excitable population, all black, but with
some slight variation in the dinginess of the hue.
Never was there such a place for fun as Sierra Leone. Every one was
brimful of it. Every one laughed when he or she spoke, and every
one standing near joined freely in the conversation and laughed
too. Frank was delighted with the display of fruit in the market,
which is probably unequaled in the world. Great piles there were
of delicious big oranges, green but perfectly sweet, and of equally
refreshing little green limes; pineapples and bananas, green, yellow,
and red, guava, and custard apples, alligator pears, melons, and
sour sops, and many other native fruits.
Mr. Goodenough purchased a large basket of fruit, which they took
with them on board the ship. The next morning they started down
the coast. They passed Liberia, the republic formed of liberated
slaves, and of negroes from America, and brought up a mile or two
off Monrovia, its capital. The next day they anchored off Cape
Palmas, the headquarters of the Kroomen. A number of these men
came off in their canoes, and caused great amusement to Frank and
the other passengers by their fun and dexterity in the management
of their little craft. These boats are extremely light, being
hollowed out until little thicker than pasteboard, and even with two
Kroomen paddling it is difficult for a European to sit in them, so
extremely crank are they. Light as they are the Krooboy can stand
up and dive from his boat without upsetting it if he take time;
but in the hurry and excitement of diving for coppers, when half a
dozen men would leap overboard together, the canoes were frequently
capsized. The divers, however, thought nothing of these mishaps,
righting the boats and getting in again without difficulty.
Splendidly muscular fellows they were. Indeed, except among the
Turkish hamals it is doubtful whether such powerful figures could
be found elsewhere.
"They would be grand fellows to take with us, Mr. Goodenough,"
"Yes, if they were as plucky as they are strong, one could wish
for nothing better; but they are notorious cowards, and no offer
would tempt them to penetrate into such a country as that into
which we are going."
Stopping a few hours at Cape Coast Castle, Accra, and other ports
they at last arrived at Bonny.
"It is not tempting in appearance," Frank said, "certainly."
"No," Mr. Goodenough replied, "this is one of the most horribly
unhealthy spots in Africa. As you see, the white traders do not
dare to live on shore, but take up their residence in those old
floating hulks which are thatched over, and serve as residences and
storehouses. I have a letter from one of the African merchants in
London, and we shall take up our abode on board his hulk until we
get one of the coasting steamers to carry us down. I hope it will
not be many days."
The very bulky luggage was soon transferred to the hulk, where Frank
and Mr. Goodenough took up their residence. The agent in charge was
very glad to receive them, as any break in the terrible monotony of
such a life is eagerly welcomed. He was a pale, unhealthy looking
man, and had just recovered from an unusually bad attack of fever.
Like most of the traders on the coast he had an immense faith in
the power of spirits.
"It is the ruin of them," Mr. Goodenough said to Frank when they
were alone. "Five out of six of the men here ruin their constitutions
with spirits, and then fall an easy prey to the fever."
"But you have brought spirits with you, Mr. Goodenough. I saw some
of the cases were labeled Brandy.'"
"Brandy is useful when taken as a medicine, and in moderation.
A little mixed with water at the end of a long day of exhausting
work acts as a restorative, and frequently enables a worn out man
to sleep. But I have brought the brandy you see for the use of
others rather than myself. One case is of the very best spirits for
our own use. The rest is common stuff and is intended as presents.
Our main drink will be tea and chocolate. These are invaluable for
the traveler. I have, besides, large quantities of calico, brass
stair rods, beads, and powder. These are the money of Africa, and
pass current everywhere. With these we shall pay our carriers and
boatmen, with these purchase the right of way through the various
tribes we shall meet. Moreover it is almost necessary in Africa
to pass as traders. The people perfectly understand that white men
come here to trade; but if we said that our object was to shoot
birds and beasts, and to catch butterflies and insects, they would
not believe us in the slightest degree, but would suspect us of all
sorts of hidden designs. Now we will go ashore and pay our respects
to the king."
"Do you mean to say that there is a king in that wretched looking
village?" Frank asked in surprise.
"Kings are as plentiful as peas in Africa," Mr. Goodenough said,
"but you will not see much royal state."
Frank was disappointed indeed upon landing. Sierra Leone had given
him an exalted idea of African civilization, but this was at once
dispelled by the appearance of Bonny. The houses were constructed
entirely of black mud, and the streets were narrow and filthy
beyond description. The palace was composed of two or three hovels,
surrounded by a mud wall. In one of these huts the king was seated.
Mr. Goodenough and Frank were introduced by the agent, who had
gone ashore with them, and His Majesty, who was an almost naked
negro, at once invited them to join him in the meal of which he
was partaking. As a matter of courtesy they consented, and plates
were placed before them, heaped with a stew consisting of meat,
vegetables, and hot peppers. While the meal went on the king asked
Mr. Goodenough what he had come to the coast for, and was disappointed
to find that he was not going to set up as a trader at Bonny, as
it was the custom for each newcomer to make a handsome present to
him. When the meal was over they took their leave.
"Do you know what you have been eating?" the agent asked Frank.
"Not in the least," Frank said. "It was not bad; what was it?"
"It was dog flesh," the agent answered.
"Not really!" Frank exclaimed with an uncomfortable sensation of
"Yes, indeed," the agent replied. "Dog's meat is considered a luxury
in Bonny, and dogs are bred specially for the table."
"You'll eat stranger things than that before you've done, Frank,"
Mr. Goodenough continued, "and will find them just as good, and in
many cases better, than those to which you are accustomed. It is
a strange thing why in Europe certain animals should be considered
fit to eat and certain animals altogether rejected, and this without
the slightest reason. Horses and donkeys are as clean feeders as
oxen and sheep. Dogs, cats, and rats are far cleaner than pigs and