Chapter 3 – On The March

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Africa! That name so terrible under the present circumstances, that
name which he must now substitute for that of America, was not for an
instant out of Dick Sand’s thoughts. When the young novice traced back
the last weeks, it was to ask himself how the "Pilgrim" had ended
by reaching this dangerous shore, how it had doubled Cape Horn, and
passed from one ocean to the other! He could now explain to himself
why, in spite of the rapid motion of his vessel, land was so long
coming in sight, because the length of the distance which he should
have made to reach the American coast had been doubled without his

"Africa! Africa!" Dick Sand repeated.

Then, suddenly, while he called up with tenacious mind all the
incidents of this inexplicable voyage, he felt that his compass must
have been injured. He remembered, too, that the first compass had been
broken, and that the log-line had snapped – a fact which had made it
impossible for him to establish the speed of the "Pilgrim."

"Yes," thought he, "there remained but one compass on board, one only,
the indications of which I could not control! And one night I was
awakened by a cry from old Tom. Negoro was there, aft. He had just
fallen on the binnacle. May he not have put it out of order?"

Dick Sand was growing enlightened. He had his finger on the truth. He
now understood all that was ambiguous in Negoro’s conduct. He saw
his hand in this chain of incidents which had led to the loss of the
"Pilgrim," and had so fearfully endangered those on board of her.

But what, then, was this miserable man? Had he been a sailor and known
so well how to hide the fact? Was he capable of contriving this odious
plot which had thrown the ship on the coast of Africa?

At any rate, if obscure points still existed in the past, the present
could offer no more of them. The young novice knew only too well that
he was in Africa, and very probably in the fatal province of Angola,
more than a hundred miles from the coast. He also knew that Harris’s
treason could no longer be doubted. From this fact, the most simple
logic led him to conclude that the American and the Portuguese had
long known each other, that a fatal chance had united them on this
coast, and that a plan had been concerted between them, the result of
which would be dreadful for the survivors of the "Pilgrim."

And now, why these odious actions? That Negoro wished, at all hazards,
to seize Tom and his companions, and sell them for slaves in this
slave-trading country, might be admitted. That the Portuguese, moved
by a sentiment of hatred, would seek to be revenged on him, Dick Sand,
who had treated him as he deserved, might also be conceived. But Mrs.
Weldon, this mother, and this young child – what would the wretch
do with them? If Dick Sand could have overheard a little of the
conversation between Harris and Negoro, he would have known what to
expect, and what dangers menaced Mrs. Weldon, the blacks, and himself.

The situation was frightful, but the young novice did not yield under
it. Captain on board, he remained captain on land. He must save Mrs.
Weldon, little Jack, all those whose fate Heaven had placed in his
hands. His task was only commencing. He would accomplish it to the

After two or three hours, during which the present and the future were
summed up in his mind, with their good and their evil chances – the
last, alas! the most numerous – Dick Sand rose, firm and resolved.

The first glimmer of light then touched the summits of the forest.
With the exception of the novice and Tom, all slept. Dick Sand
approached the old black.

"Tom," he said to him, in a low tone, "you have recognized the roaring
of the lion, you have remembered the instruments of the slave-traders.
You know that we are in Africa!"

"Yes, Mr. Dick, I know it."

"Well, Tom, not a word of all that, neither to Mrs. Weldon nor to your
companions. We must be the only ones to know, the only ones to have
any fears."

"Alone – in fact. It is necessary," replied Tom.

"Tom," continued the novice, "we have to watch more carefully than
ever. We are in an enemy’s country – and what enemies! what a country!
To keep our companions on their guard, it will be enough to tell them
that we have been betrayed by Harris. They will think that we fear an
attack from wandering Indians, and that will suffice."

"You can count absolutely on their courage and devotion, Mr. Dick."

"I know it, as I count on your good sense and your experience. You
will come to my help, old Tom?"

"Always, and everywhere, Mr. Dick."

Dick Sand’s plan was accepted and approved by the old black. If Harris
were detected in open treason before the hour for action, at least
the young novice and his companions were not in fear of any immediate
danger. In fact, it was the discovery of the irons abandoned by some
slaves, and the roaring of the lion, that had caused the American’s
sudden disappearance.

He knew that he was discovered, and he had fled probably before the
little party which he guided had reached the place where an attack
had been arranged. As for Negoro, whose presence Dingo had certainly
recognized during these last days of the march, he must have rejoined
Harris, so as to consult with him. At any rate, several hours would
pass before Dick Sand and his friends would be assailed, and it was
necessary to profit by them.

The only plan was to regain the coast as quickly as possible. This
coast, as the young novice had every reason to believe, was that of
Angola. After having reached it, Dick Sand would try to gain, either
to the north or to the south, the Portuguese settlements, where his
companions could await in safety some opportunity to return to their

But, to effect this return to the coast, should they take the road
already passed over? Dick Sand did not think so, and in that he
was going to agree with Harris, who had clearly foreseen that
circumstances would oblige the young novice to shorten the road.

In fact, it would have been difficult, not to say imprudent, to
recommence this difficult journey through the forest, which, besides,
could only tend to bring them out at the place they had started from.
This would also allow Negoro’s accomplices to follow an assured track.
The only thing they could do was to cross a river, without leaving any
traces, and, later on, to descend its course. At the same time, there
was less to fear from an attack by animals, which by a happy chance
had so far kept at a good distance. Even the animosity of the natives,
under these circumstances, seemed less important. Once embarked on a
solid raft, Dick Sand and his companions, being well armed, would be
in the best condition to defend themselves. The whole thing was to
find the river.

It must be added that, given the actual state of Mrs. Weldon and her
little Jack, this mode of traveling would be the most suitable. Arms
would not fail to carry the sick child. Lacking Harris’s horse, they
could even make a litter of branches, on which Mrs. Weldon could be
borne. But this would require two men out of five, and Dick Sand
wished, with good reason, that all his companions might be free in
their movements in case of a sudden attack.

And then, in descending the current of a river, the young novice would
find himself in his element!

The question now was, whether a navigable stream of water existed in
the neighborhood. Dick Sand thought it probable, and for this reason:
The river which emptied into the Atlantic at the place where the
"Pilgrim" had stranded could not ascend much to the north, nor much to
the east, of the province, because a chain of mountains quite close to
them – those which they had mistaken for the Cordilleras – shut in the
horizon on these two sides. Then, either the river descended from
these heights, or it made a bend toward the south, and, in these two
cases, Dick Sand could not take long to find the course. Perhaps, even
before reaching the river – for it had a right to this qualification,
being a direct tributary of the ocean – one of its affluents would be
met with which would suffice for the transport of the little party.

At any rate, a stream of some sort could not be far away.

In fact, during the last miles of the journey the nature of the earth
had been modified. The declivities diminished and became damp. Here
and there ran narrow streams, which indicated that the sub-soil
enclosed everywhere a watery network. During the last day’s march the
caravan had kept along one of these rivulets, whose waters, reddened
with oxyde of iron, eat away its steep, worn banks. To find it again
could not take long, or be very difficult. Evidently they could not
descend its impetuous course, but it would be easy to follow it to its
junction with a more considerable, possibly a navigable, affluent.

Such was the very simple plan which Dick Sand determined upon, after
having conferred with old Tom.

Day came, all their companions gradually awoke. Mrs. Weldon placed
little Jack in Nan’s arms. The child was drowsy and faded-looking
during the intermittent periods, and was sad to see.

Mrs. Weldon approached Dick Sand. "Dick," she asked, after a steady
glance, "where is Harris? I do not perceive him."

The young novice thought that, while letting his companions believe
that they were treading on the soil of Bolivia, it would not do to
hide from them the American’s treason. So he said, without hesitation:
"Harris is no longer here."

"Has he, then, gone ahead?" asked Mrs. Weldon. "He has fled, Mrs.
Weldon," replied Dick Sand. "This Harris is a traitor, and it is
according to Negoro’s plan that he led us this far." "For what
motive?" quickly asked Mrs. Weldon. "I do not know," replied Dick
Sand; "but what I do know is, that we must return, without delay, to
the coast."

"That man – a traitor!" repeated Mrs. Weldon. "I had a presentiment of
it! And you think, Dick, that he is in league with Negoro?"

"That may be, Mrs. Weldon. The wretch is on our track. Chance has
brought these two scoundrels together, and – "

"And I hope that they will not be separated when I find them again!"
said Hercules. "I will break the head of one against the other’s
head!" added the giant, holding out his formidable fists.

"But my child!" cried Mrs. Weldon. "The care that I hoped to find for
him at the farm of San Felice – "

"Jack will get well," said old Tom, "when he approaches the more
healthy part of the coast."

"Dick," remarked Mrs. Weldon, "you are sure that this Harris has
betrayed us?"

"Yes, Mrs. Weldon," replied the young novice, who would have liked to
avoid any explanation on this subject.

He also hastened to add, while looking at the old black:

"This very night Tom and I discovered his treason, and if he had not
jumped on his horse and fled, I would have killed him."

"So this farm – "

"There is neither farm, nor village, nor settlement in the
neighborhood," replied Dick Sand. "Mrs. Weldon, I repeat to you, we
must return to the coast."

"By the same road, Dick?"

"No, Mrs. Weldon, but by descending a river which will take us to the
sea without fatigue and without danger. A few more miles on foot, and
I do not doubt – "

"Oh, I am strong, Dick!" replied Mrs. Weldon, who struggled against
her own weakness. "I will walk! I will carry my child!"

"We are here, Mrs. Weldon," said Bat, "and we will carry you!"

"Yes. yes," added Austin. "Two branches of a tree, foliage laid

"Thanks, my friends," replied Mrs. Weldon; "but I want to march. I
will march. Forward!"

"Forward!" exclaimed the young novice.

"Give me Jack," said Hercules, who took the child from Nan’s arms.
"When I am not carrying something, I am tired."

The brave negro gently took in his strong arms the little sleeping
boy, who did not even wake.

Their arms were carefully examined. What remained of the provisions
was placed in one package, so as to be carried by one man. Austin
threw it on his back, and his companions thus became free in their

Cousin Benedict, whose long limbs were like steel and defied all
fatigue, was ready to set out. Had he remarked Harris’s disappearance?
It would be imprudent to affirm it. Little disturbed him. Besides, he
was under the effects of one of the most terrible catastrophes that
could befall him.

In fact, a grave complication, Cousin Benedict had lost his
magnifying-glass and his spectacles. Very happily, also, but without
his suspecting it, Bat had found the two precious articles in the tall
grass where they had slept, but, by Dick Sand’s advice, he kept them
safely. By this means they would be sure that the big child would keep
quiet during the march, because he could see no farther, as they say,
than the end of his nose.

Thus, placed between Acteon and Austin, with the formal injunction not
to leave them, the woful Benedict uttered no complaint, but followed
in his place, like a blind man led by a string.

The little party had not gone fifty steps when old Tom suddenly
stopped it with one word.

"Dingo?" said he.

"In fact, Dingo is not here!" replied Hercules.

The black called the dog several times with his powerful voice.

No barking replied to him.

Dick Sand remained silent. The absence of the dog, was to be
regretted, for he had preserved the little party from all surprise.

"Could Dingo have followed Harris?" asked Tom.

"Harris? No," replied Dick Sand; "but he may have put himself on
Negoro’s scent. He felt him in our steps."

"This cook of misfortune would quickly end him with a ball!" cried

"Provided Dingo did not first strangle him," replied Bat.

"Perhaps so," replied the young novice. "But we cannot wait for
Dingo’s return. Besides, if he is living, the intelligent animal will
know how to find us. Forward!"

The weather was very warm. Since daybreak large clouds obscured the
horizon. Already a storm was threatened in the air. Probably the day
would not end without some thunder-claps. Happily the forest, more or
less dense, retained a little freshness of the surface of the soil.
Here and there great forest trees inclosed prairies covered with
a tall, thick grass. In certain spots enormous trunks, already
petrified, lay on the ground, indicating the presence of coal mines,
which are frequently met with on the African continent. Then, in the
clearings, where the green carpet was mingled with some sprigs of
roses, the flowers were various in color, yellow and blue ginger
plants, pale lobelias, red orchids, incessantly visited by the insects
which fertilized them.

The trees no longer formed impenetrable masses, but their nature was
more varied. There were a kind of palm-tree, which gives an oil found
only in Africa; cotton-trees forming thickets from eight to ten feet
high, whose wood-stalks produce a cotton with long hairs, almost
analogous to that of Fernambouc. From the copals there oozes, by the
holes which certain insects make, an odorous gum, which runs along
the ground and collects for the wants of the natives. Here spread the
lemon-trees, the grenadiers of a savage condition of a country, and
twenty other odorous plants, which prove the prodigious fertility of
this plateau of Central Africa. In several places, also, the perfume
was agreeably mingled with the tine odor of vanilla, although they
could not discover what tree exhaled it.

This whole collection of trees and plants was perfectly green,
although it was in the middle of the dry season, and only rare storms
could water these luxuriant forests. It was then the time for fevers;
but, as Livingstone has observed, they can be cured by leaving the
place where they have been contracted. Dick Sand knew this remark of
the great traveler, and he hoped that little Jack would not contradict
it. He told it to Mrs. Weldon, after having observed that the
periodical access had not returned as they feared, and that the child
slept quietly in Hercules’ arms.

Thus they went forward carefully and rapidly. Sometimes they
discovered traces where men or animals had recently passed. The
twisted and broken branches of the brushwood and the thickets afforded
an opportunity to walk with a more equal step. But the greater part of
the time numerous obstacles, which they had to overcome, retarded the
little party, to Dick Sand’s great disappointment.

There were twisted lianes that might justly be compared with the
disordered rigging of a ship, certain vines similar to bent swords,
whose blades were ornamented with long thorns, vegetable serpents,
fifty or sixty feet long, which had the faculty of turning to prick
the passer-by with their sharp spikes. The blacks, hatchet in
hand, cut them down with vigorous blows, but the lianes reappeared
constantly, reaching from the earth to the top of the highest trees
which they encircled.

The animal kingdom was not less curious than the vegetable kingdom
in this part of the province. Birds flew in vast numbers under these
powerful branches; but it will be understood that they had no gunshot
to fear from the men, who wished to pass as secretly as rapidly. There
were Guinea fowls in large flocks, heath-cocks of various kinds, very
difficult to approach, and some of those birds which the Americans
of the North have, by onomatopoeia, called "whip-poor-wills," three
syllables which exactly reproduce their cries. Dick Sand and Tom might
truly have believed themselves in some province of the new continent.
But, alas! they knew what to expect.

Until then the deer, so dangerous in Africa, had not approached the
little troop. They again saw, in this first halt, some giraffes, which
Harris had undoubtedly called ostriches. These swift animals
passed rapidly, frightened by the apparition of a caravan in these
little-frequented forests. In the distance, on the edge of the
prairie, there arose at times a thick cloud of dust. It was a herd of
buffaloes, which galloped with the noise of wagons heavily laden.

For two miles Dick Sand thus followed the course of the rivulet which
must end in a more important river. He was in haste to confide his
companions to the rapid current of one of the coast rivers. He felt
sure that the dangers and the fatigue would be much less than on the

Towards noon three miles had been cleared without any bad incident or
meeting. There was no trace of either Harris or Negoro. Dingo had not
reappeared. It was necessary to halt to take rest and nourishment.

The encampment was established in a bamboo thicket, which completely
sheltered the little party.

They talked very little during this repast. Mrs. Weldon had taken her
little boy in her arms; she could not take her eyes off of him; she
could not eat.

"You must take some nourishment, Mrs. Weldon," Dick Sand repeated
several times. "What will become of you if your strength gives out?
Eat, eat! We will soon start again, and a good current will carry us
without fatigue to the coast."

Mrs. Weldon looked in Dick Sand’s face while he thus talked. The young
novice’s burning eyes spoke of the courage by which he felt animated.
In seeing him thus, in observing these brave, devoted blacks, wife
and mother, she could not yet despair; and, besides, why was she
abandoned? Did she not think herself on hospitable ground? Harris’s
treason could not, in her eyes, have any very serious consequences.
Dick Sand read her thought, and he kept his eyes on the ground.


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