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Caravan Crossing a Plain

The voyage of the lake was completed without any incident of importance. The time went quickly enough in visits to the islands and occasional halts on the shore, and a couple of days before the date arranged for meeting Frank the steamer reached Magungo, and ascended the Somerset River, or Victoria Nile, to the foot of Murchison Falls.

Frank was not there, but a messenger was waiting with a letter from him. It briefly told the incidents of his journey from Afuddo to Foueira, and said that he thought best to remain at Foueira, to make certain repairs to the packages which were in his care, and had become injured on the way, and also to keep the porters in readiness for their departure to the south. Besides, if he went to the falls and returned to Foueira he would be obliged to go twice over the same road. He preferred to hear of the journey from the lips of Doctor Bronson and his cousin, rather than to make it himself, and he hoped they would think his decision a proper one.

Of course, his action was approved without hesitation, as his absence from the fort might endanger the safety of their supplies, and there might be difficulty in having the requisite number of porters when wanted, if they were not kept steadily under control. Frank had taken the precaution to send guides that could conduct them to Foueira, a sufficient number of porters for carrying their baggage, and their saddle horses, in charge of faithful grooms.

Everything was unloaded from the steamer and piled on the bank of the river. It was within a couple of hours of sunset when the work was completed, and therefore Doctor Bronson determined not to move forward until the next day, when they would make an early start. The proper rewards were distributed to the officers and crew of the Khedive, and the Doctor and his nephew slept on board for the last time. They were roused before daylight by the faithful Ali, though they really had no occasion to be called, as both were wide awake when the youth rapped on the doors of their cabins. The excitement of ending the lake voyage and again returning to land travel had given Fred a night of wakefulness, and it is possible that the same causes had had their effect on his more experienced companion.

The sun was just peering above the horizon when the caravan was ready to move. As the head of the column of porters turned into the path that led along the bank of the river the steamer cast off the lines that had held her to the shore and turned down the stream, on her return to the point of departure. There was a general hurrahing on shore and on the boat, in token of farewell. As the Khedive disappeared around a bend of the river our friends mounted their horses, and a few minutes later were once more in the depths of the African forest.
Scene in an African Village

Between Foueira and Murchison Falls there is a succession of cascades and rapids. Lake Albert is more than a thousand feet lower than Lake Victoria, and by far the greater part of this descent is below Foueira. Consequently, the road taken by Doctor Bronson and his nephew ascended considerably. In many places it was so steep that the horses had no easy task to carry their riders, and the porters found it necessary to make frequent halts. Most of the way the route was in sight of the river, or would have been, save for the dense foliage that often made it difficult to see more than a few yards. Near the cascades and rapids the ground was so broken that it often became necessary to go back from the bank a considerable distance to find smooth ground. In a few places the road led over treeless plains several miles across, but for the most part it was among forests and hills.

There were several villages along the route, but our friends did not stop long to examine them. They were all of the same pattern—a collection of grass huts, running to a point at the top, and so heavily thatched that the heaviest rain of tropical Africa could not penetrate them. The inhabitants did not appear to have much to do, as they were generally lying on the ground in front of their dwellings, or seated in little groups, discussing the news of the day or the politics of the country. At one village there was considerable excitement, and Fred suggested that it was probably election day, and a sharp contest was going on among the friends of the rival candidates.

The guide talked with some of the people, and learned that it was not the election of an official, but the advent of a lion in the neighborhood, that made the commotion. The beast was said to be lurking in a thicket close by the village, and the natives asked the Doctor if he wanted to help them kill the intruder. Fred seconded the proposal; and as the thicket was not far off, and they could easily reach the camp, even if delayed an hour or more, they consented.

The guide said it was only a few steps away, but it proved to be half a mile and more, and, what was worse, there was a small stream in the way, too wide to step over; it was also too deep for the strangers to ford, though an easy matter for the natives. But there was a bridge, in the shape of a fallen tree, and, by careful balancing along its surface, the party, one by one, reached the other side without accident.
Crossing a River on a Fallen Tree

Several of the natives had gone on in advance and surrounded the thicket, which, fortunately, was not very large. Doctor Bronson and Fred took their places, about fifty yards apart, where it was thought the lion would endeavor to escape when roused by the sound of the drums and other noisy instruments carried by the natives. When all was ready the signal was given, and the din of the discord began in its full force.

Fred was peering sharply into the bushes to watch for any moving thing; all at once he caught sight of a yellow mass gliding along close to the ground, and advancing in his direction. He was satisfied it was the lion, and made ready to fire at the proper moment.

Fred's motion of his rifle attracted the Doctor's attention, and he too brought his weapon to the shoulder, and prepared to use it at the first opportunity.

The lion crept slowly, as if aware of his danger. Fred allowed him to get within twenty yards of his position, and then discharged the rifle, after taking careful aim.

The lion gave a bound into the air. He was evidently wounded, but quite as evidently he was not killed.

Doctor Bronson was a good shot "on the wing," and while the lion was in the air a bullet from the Doctor's rifle brought him dead to the ground. There was no need of any farther shot, and the animal never moved a muscle after he touched the earth.

There was a wild shout from the guides and others who accompanied them, and in a little while half a hundred and more of the people were around the dead lion. Fred suggested that the skin of the lion would make an admirable trophy. It was speedily removed, and the fleshy side covered with wood ashes, to assist in its preservation. Our friends then returned to the village, where their horses were waiting.

On their way back to the village, and just after recrossing the stream on the fallen tree, Fred managed to bring down a bird of a kind he had never seen before. The Doctor examined it, and remarked that it was something remarkable.

"It is found in several parts of Africa," said he, "and is ordinarily called a goatsucker, for the reason that it is erroneously supposed to obtain milk from goats after the manner of the young kid, and without the permission of their owners.

"The specimen you have just shot is called the Cosmetornis Spekii by the naturalists, as it was first described by the traveler Speke. The seventh pen feathers are double the length of the ordinaries, the eighth is twice as long as the seventh, and the ninth is about twenty inches long. The bird belongs to the same family as the whippoorwill and nighthawk of North America. It rarely goes out by day, and it was quite accidental that you were able to secure this specimen."

The chief of the village offered a present of fresh fruit as a token of friendship. Two enormous bunches of bananas were handed over to the servants to carry to camp, and then the hunters took their departure.

When they reached camp they found that the tents had been pitched on a little plain backed by a range of hills, and just outside a native village. An awning had been placed for the Doctor and Fred, where they could recline comfortably, and have the full benefit of the evening breeze as it swept down from the hills. The people came in with grain and other things to sell, and there was no scarcity of provisions.

The character of the commerce of the region was shown by an incident that occurred just after the arrival of our friends, and while they were occupied in their tents.
A Boy Whipped and Offered for Sale

A native came into camp leading a boy at the end of a rope. Whenever the prisoner lagged he received a blow from a stick in the hands of his cruel master; and just outside the line of tents the boy was the victim of a sound beating, in order to make him show his best points when on exhibition.

The native man offered the boy for sale, and asked where was the chief trader. Ali replied that the chief of the party did not buy slaves.

The native did not believe Ali's statement, and repeated his demand to see the chief.

"I will go and call him," said the boy; "but he is 'Ingleez,' and won't buy slaves."

At the word "Ingleez" (English), the native comprehended the situation, and left the camp with his human merchandise. All through Africa the English detestation of the slave trade is well known, and whenever a trader learns of an Englishman being in his neighborhood he knows that his traffic will receive no countenance. No distinction is made between English and Americans, as the term English is applied to all who speak the language of Great Britain. Frank and Fred tried repeatedly to make the natives understand the difference between English and Americans, but finally gave up the attempt and allowed themselves to be classified as English. The universal response to their explanations was, that the strangers spoke the same language and came from beyond the sea, and therefore there could be no difference between them. Frank said there had been many differences, particularly in 1776 and 1812; but his joke was unfortunately lost on his native listeners.

The next day's march was through a rough country, the road ascending steadily as it followed the valley of the river. The caravan passed several villages, but made no halt at any of them, and the camp for the night was made near a small stream which flowed into the great river, less than a mile away. One of the natives brought a fish caught in the stream. It bore a close resemblance to the trout, and Doctor Bronson said it was evidently a member of that voracious but wary family. Its native name was moora, and it was said to be found in several of the smaller streams of that region, but not in the lakes or large rivers.
Kawendé Surgery

One of the porters met with a serious accident, and the Doctor's professional skill was called into play. The man slipped on a sloping rock, and the fall broke one of the small bones of his right leg. The natives desired to treat it after their manner, which consisted in covering the limb with earth, and then building a fire over it, until the patient howls with agony. He is then released, and the half-roasted flesh is bound in splints and wound with thin bark, and must take its chances of healing. The Doctor refused to allow this treatment, and set the broken limb after the usual manner of American surgeons. Four bearers were then employed to carry the man on a litter to Foueira; and they set off an hour in advance of the caravan, so that there should be no delay.

The incident recalled the account which Dr. Livingstone gives of the surgery he once witnessed in the Kawendé country, where the thigh bone of a native was smashed by the accidental discharge of a rifle. It was as follows:

"First of all a hole was dug, say, two feet deep and four in length, in such a manner that the patient could sit in it with his legs out before him. A large leaf was then bound round the fractured thigh and earth thrown in, so that the patient was buried up to the chest. The next act was to cover the earth which lay over the man's legs with a thick layer of mud; then plenty of sticks and grass were collected, and a fire lighted on the top directly over the fracture. To prevent the smoke smothering the sufferer they held a tall mat, as a screen, before his face, and the operation went on. After some time the heat reached the limbs underground; and moaning in pain, and covered with perspiration, the man implored them to let him out.

"The authorities, concluding that he had been sufficiently long under treatment, quickly burrowed down and lifted him from the hole. He was now held perfectly fast while two strong men stretched the wounded limb with all their might. Splints, duly prepared, were afterward bound round it, and we must hope that in due time benefit accrued; but as the ball had passed through the limb, we must have our doubts on the subject. The villagers said that they constantly treated bad gunshot wounds in this way with perfect success."

The march the next day and the next were without incident of consequence; and as both Fred and the Doctor were anxious to get to Foueira and meet the companion of their travels through Asia, we will gratify their wishes and stand within a few miles of the encampment. Frank had been notified by the porters who brought the wounded man in advance of the caravan. Immediately on receiving the news he prepared to go out to meet them; and thus it happened that they saw the young gentleman riding along the path when the encampment was yet half a dozen miles away.

The meeting was a happy one for all concerned. The boys ran to embrace each other, and the Doctor joined them, so that a triangle of happiness was speedily formed. The natives set up a shout of greeting, partly on account of the meeting of the foreigners, and partly on their own behalf. There was a considerable number of their friends who had accompanied Frank from the fort, and made haste to remove the burdens from the heads and shoulders of the weary porters and transfer them to their own. Of course, all had to sit down for a while to exchange gossip. Fully an hour was taken up with the fraternal meeting, and then the march was resumed.
A Pair of Demons

There was little sleep that night in the camp at Foueira until long after twelve o'clock. Our friends had a thousand things to say to each other, and the stories of the last thirty days included a great deal on both sides. The natives had a festival in honor of the safe arrival of the party from the lake: it included a dance around the campfires, and a theatrical exhibition, in which some of them were dressed as demons.

As these demons were said to be worth examining, Frank and Fred went out to see them. Frank thought their attire was more hideous than anything he had ever seen, and Fred suggested that the African idea of demons did not run in the line of beauty. One of them had his entire body covered with a coarse net from the neck down to his feet; his feet and hands were covered with gloves, and his head was concealed by a sort of helmet or mask. The net was striped horizontally, so that the man reminded our friends of a prisoner of Sing Sing, and the gloves and socks were laced to the rest of the dress, so that not an inch of skin was anywhere visible.

The man carried a staff in one hand and a bell in the other. He tinkled the bell constantly, and its sound was a signal that he wanted presents, which were to be given to a small boy who followed him with a bag. The other demon actor wore the same kind of clothing. His mask was adorned with a row of feathers, and the face was hideously painted, while a fringed hoop was extended around his waist. A brief inspection of these dramatic figures was sufficient for our friends, who gave some simple presents and then returned to their tents.

Abdul said that these demons are to be found among many African tribes, the dress varying according to the fancy of its owner, whose chief endeavor is to conceal his identity while going through his performances, and also to make himself as hideous as possible. The men are analogous to the rainmakers already described, and one of their duties is to keep the real demons from visiting the fields and villages. As no two demons can occupy the same place at once, the actors compel the genuine to move away by monopolizing all the good spots where a demon might wish to live. The trade is by no means unprofitable, as the inhabitants pay liberally for their services. Whenever a calamity of any kind occurs a broad hint is given that the people have been stingy of late, and thus the real demons have put in an appearance.
An African Band of Music

Another curiosity of the occasion was the band which furnished the music. It came in front of the tents and played in honor of the strangers, who went out to see as well as to listen.

The instruments consisted of hollow gourds, wooden drums, and marimbas. The drums were made of long strips of thin planks, which had been soaked in hot water to make them flexible. In this condition they were bent until the ends met, when they were fastened together and allowed to dry. They were capable of a good deal of noise when used industriously, and the natives who managed them seemed to give their whole minds and muscles to the operation.

The hollow gourds were blown upon as one might blow into the end of a door key, and produced a sound like the heavy note of a bugle. The most pleasant of the instruments was the marimba. It consisted of small sticks placed over the mouths of gourds, and arranged on a portable table suspended from the performer's neck. In this position the sticks were beaten more or less gently, and as they were set to different notes the sound was a nearer approach to music than that of the other instruments.

After the performance, the Doctor distributed presents to the players and indicated that they could move on. But they were determined to give him the value of his money, and continued playing until Abdul came among them and said the "English" had had all they wanted. Even this did not succeed in stopping them, and they were only induced to discontinue their labors by the promise of more presents in the morning, coupled with the threat of nothing whatever in case they made any more noise that night.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Thatched: Covered by straw, rushes, or similar to make a roof over a building.
Thicket: A dense, but generally small, growth of shrubs, bushes or small trees.
Din: A loud noise, a cacophony, or loud commotion.
Goatsucker: Any bird in the nightjar family Caprimulgidae, called goatsuckers due to the folk tale that they drank the milk of goats.
Encampment: A campsite.
Sing Sing: A prison in New York State.
Calamity: A disaster resulting in great loss.
Marimbas: Musical instruments similar to a xylophone but clearer in pitch.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

Trace the Victorian Nile through Uganda:

  • Start at Lake Albert
  • Continue east and then south into Lake Kyoga
  • End at Lake Victoria

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the applicable mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.