Conclusion.—Return to the coast.—Desolation of the country.—Fate of old friends.—Reach the settlement.—Departure fore England.—Au revoir.
I need not recount to you our journey back, only that there was no more fighting, and that we returned by exactly the same road we had taken going eastward, reached the same villages, and were received every where with great kindness by the different tribes and their chiefs, who seemed all so glad to see us. Kombila, Nchiengain, Mayolo, begged me to come back again. But, when we reached the Ashira country, I did not go to see Olenda's people, nor did we stop at any village belonging to his clan, but went and tarried at Angouka's village, where we were hospitably welcomed, his people saying, "Why did not Quengueza bring you to us instead of taking you to Olenda?" Then we glided down the now placid waters of the Ovenga and the Rembo.
From the Ashira country to the sea-shore a picture of desolation every where met our eyes. The poor Bakalais seemed to have suffered heavily from the plague; many of their villages were silent, and as we entered them nothing but grim skeletons was presented to our view. Obindji, Malaouen, and my hunters were all dead; three men only were left of the Obindji village.
But when I reached Goumbi the havoc made by the plague seemed the most terrible of all. Every one of the nephews of the king who had gone to the Ashira country with us was dead; all my friends were dead. I felt the sincerest compassion for poor Quengueza: Goumbi had been abandoned, and all his warriors, his slaves, his wives, his family, his children, had been taken from him.
This plague had been a fearful visitation, and hundreds of thousands of people must have been carried off by it.
Finally I reached my settlement on the River Commi, and on my way there I missed many faces; but I was rejoiced that friend Ranpano's life had been spared. How glad the good old chief was to see me! He gave me back the shirt I had given him on my departure. "I knew you would not die," said the old chief.
We had all returned safely but one—Retonda. Many of those who had said of us when we started upon our journey, "We shall see them no more; they are going into the jaws of the leopards; they are courting death," were no more. The plague, which had spared us, had swept them away.
I had gone safely through pestilence, fire, famine, and war, and when I looked at the sea once more my heart rose in gratitude to that God who had so marvelously watched over me, the humble traveler in Equatorial Africa.
I found at the mouth of the river an English trading, vessel ready to start for London. The name of the vessel was the Maranee, Captain Pitts, and six days after my arrival on the coast, at the close of the year 1866, I sailed for England.
And thus I left the shores of Equatorial Africa, followed to the beach with blessings and good wishes of its inhabitants.
Since that time years have gone by, but I think often of the fierce encounters I have had with the wild beasts in that far-off country; of our camp-fires; of the Dwarfs; of dear, good Quengueza; of my hunters, Aboko, Niamkala, and Fasiko; of Malaouen, Querlaouen, Gambo; of friend Obindji, the Bakalai chief; of Mayolo; of Ndiayai, the king of the Cannibals; of Remandji; of my brave boys, Igala, Rebouka, Mouitchi, Ngoma, Rapelina, Igalo, and dear Macondai, and of other friends, and I hope that I may meet them again in the Spirit Land.
And now, my dear young friends, let us bid forever adieu to the regions of Equatorial Africa, whither I have taken you in imagination, and concerning which I have given you a faithful record of what I did, saw, and heard there.
I think we have had some pleasant hours together, and, at the same time, I hope that your knowledge of that unknown part of the world has been enlarged by the reading of the volumes I have specially written for your benefit.
Let us always be friends, and when I travel again in distant lands I shall not fail to tell you what I have seen in my journeyings.
Norway, Sweden, and Lapland are the countries where I am going to take you next. Meanwhile, I say good-by.