In the open country at last.—Interview with Mayolo.—Igala falls sick.—A mutiny.—The Otando prairie on fire.—Return of Macondai and Igalo.—Their adventures.—All together again.
A stretch of open undulating country was before me. Guns were fired by my men, and soon after I entered the first Otando village. It was the village of Mayolo, who was the only chief that was willing to receive me. We went right to the ouandja, and I seated myself in the center of the building. Soon after, the beating of the kendo was heard; Mayolo, the chief, his body streaked with alumbi chalk, was coming, muttering mysterious words as he advanced toward me. When he came nearer, he shouted, "Here is the great Spirit, with his untold wealth." The language of the Otando people was the same as that of the Ashiras, so I had no difficulty in understanding him. He looked at me with perfect astonishment for a while, and then told me the trouble he had with his people on my account, since they did not want me to come into the country; "for," said they, "he brings the plague and death wherever he goes." "I told them that the plague had killed our people before we ever heard of you, and that the plague was in our country before it went to the Ashira Land to kill the people there."
"That was right," said I; "Mayolo, I love you; I kill: no people—I send no plague. I will be your friend, and the friend of your people."
As Mayolo was talking to me, I took a good look at him. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and almost yellow in color; his eyes were small and piercing. When young he had gone toward the sea, and in his trading had succeeded in buying a gun, and, not knowing how to load it, it had burst and taken off three of his fingers while firing at an elephant.
After Mayolo had retired, a large goat and two enormous bunches of plantains were brought before me. I wish you could have seen the faces of my Commi men, the prospect of a good meal made them grin so complacently.
Immediately after Mayolo had taken leave of me I went to see Igala. Poor Igala was very sick: the plague had seized him; his body seemed a mass of putrid flesh. How glad he was to see me! I do believe he would have died if I had not come to take care of him. There he lay in a large hut, with all my goods around him. I went to him, took hold of both his hands, and looked him in the face. He said, "Chally, are you not afraid to get the plague by taking my hands?" "No," said I; "Igala, I will take care of you as if you were my brother." Immediately I warmed some water in a kettle, and then washed him delicately, and he felt more comfortable.
Poor Igala! he was my right arm, my fighting man. I depended upon him.
The next morning, opening my packages and boxes, I saw the sad havoc the Ashira thieves had made with my goods. They had stolen a great deal, but, strange to say, they had left a certain quantity in each parcel.
I felt furious at the discovery. Oh, how sorry I was that Igalo and Macondai had remained behind; for, if they had not, the Ashiras would never have gone back to their own country: I would have made porters of them.
I boldly accused Mintcho of the robbery, and seized the gun he had. The hypocritical rascal pretended to be in a rage at the discovery I had made; he foamed at the mouth, and exclaimed, "Let me go back, Chally; I will find the robbers, and kill them if they do not give up every thing you have lost."
Just at this time his brother Ayagui came, with a gun which Rebouka had foolishly lent him. I ordered him to give up the gun; he was unwilling, and threatened to shoot the first man who approached him. When I heard this, I ordered my four Commi men to level their guns at him and shoot him dead if in an instant he did not lay it on the ground. The gun was handed to Mayolo.
Ashiras thought the end of Ayagui had come, and fled in the direction of the forest. We pursued them, and captured one, whom I resolved to retain as a hostage for the restitution of my property; but it so happened that the captive was the son of Adingo, an Ashira chief who was a good friend of mine. The guilty Ashiras were terribly frightened, and I shouted, "Bring the things back, and the boy shall be returned."
Mintcho, in his flight, passed near Igala, who could have seized him, but, as his shelter was a little way off, Igala did not suspect his intentions, and let him escape, thinking that he was only going into the woods.
The Otando people had seen by our prompt action of what stuff we were made. I regretted the necessity for such measures, but it was the first time since I began my travels that the natives had dared to rob me on the road, and the news would spread. All this was Rogueri's doings.
In the mean time, Rebouka had secured our little prisoner so tightly with ropes that he fairly moaned with pain. As I came up to him, he said, "Chally, you are my father's great friend. I am but a child; I can not run away. The Ashiras will come back with all your stolen goods. I am your boy; I did not leave you in the woods, but followed you here. Do loosen the cords which hurt me so much." I Ordered Rebouka to slacken the cords, which he did; but he remonstrated firmly, saying that I was too kind; that I did not know negroes; that negroes were not children at that age. "Do you think," said he, "that a child could have come from the Ashira country here with the load this boy has carried?" We then secured him under the veranda of my hut, and I set a watch over him during the night. Mayolo recommended me to keep a good lookout on the boy, "for," said he, "the goods are sure to come back." Adingo was a powerful chief, and, as soon as he should hear of the cause of his son's captivity, he would threaten war, and, in order to secure peace, every thing would have to be returned.
The moon was full, and it was quite light, so that every thing around could be easily seen.
Rebouka was right; I had loosened the cords too much, and the cunning little fellow escaped during that first night. I felt sorry, for I knew now that nothing that had been stolen would ever come back, especially with Macondai and Igalo in the hands of the Ashiras; but, after all, I did not feel so badly as if some others of the Ashiras had run away. If I had only secured Mintcho, I assure you he would never have run away. Happily I had a great many goods left, and, all the scientific instruments necessary to make astronomical observations.
The next morning Mayolo, being the head man of his clan, ordered the chiefs of the different villages of the clan to come to see me. They came, and a grand reception took place. Mayolo made a great speech. I gave presents to the men who had come to fetch me out of the woods, and to all the leading men and women. Then Mayolo shouted, pointing to the goods, "This is the plague the spirit brings."
We had hardly been four days in Otando Land when Mayolo fell ill. How sorry I felt! Fear seized upon his people. Surely I was an evil spirit. Olenda had died; I had killed him, and now I wanted to kill Mayolo. Night after night I was kept awake with anxiety, for Mayolo was very unwell. I found that he had a disease of the heart; his sufferings were intense at times, and his moanings filled me with distress. Surely if Mayolo was to die, I could not advance a step farther inland.
A few days after my arrival I had an uncomfortable fright; the Otando prairie became a sheet of fire, and threatened the destruction of the village of Mayolo. Should the fire get into the village, I said to myself, what a terrible explosion would take place! So I immediately called the men and moved the powder into the woods. Happily, the natives prevented the fire from reaching the village.
Time went on slowly, and one day, about noon, as I was wondering when Igalo and Macondai would come back to us, I heard guns fired in the forest. My Commi men at that time were round me. Perhaps the Ashiras were coming back with their plunder! We looked toward the path which led into the forest, when lo! what should we see but Macondai, my boy, and Igalo. They were safe. A wild cheer welcomed them, and they went directly to the olako or hospital, where Igala and Rebouka were confined with confluent smallpox, for, since my return Rebouka had been seized with the malady. Igalo left Macondai with them, and continued his way to our village, to give me mbolo, "good-morning salutation." The Otando people seemed almost as delighted as ourselves. We were again all together. I had now learned wisdom, and promised myself never to divide our party again, happen what might. After I had heard the news from Igalo, I went to the camp, and there I looked at my boy Macondai, and took his hand into mine. What a, sight! Poor Macondai was more frightfully disfigured than I could possibly have imagined, or than I can describe, and I shuddered as I gazed upon him. A chill ran through me as I thought he might not yet recover, but I felt so thankful that I had all the medicines necessary for his proper treatment.
"Macondai, my boy," I said, "you do not know how glad I am to see you. You do not know how often I have thought of you; indeed, several times I wanted to go back for you."
I seated myself on a log of wood, and all was silence for a little while. Then Macondai spoke and said, "Chally, I have been very ill; I thought I would die," The boy's throat was too full; he could say no more. Then Igalo, his companion, became the spokesman, and I give you the whole of his speech just as it was written out by me at the time. "Chally, after you left us we went to an olako in a plantation close by, where we slept. Ondonga took us there, saying that the head man was his ogoi (relation), and that he would take care of us. Then he said he was going to Ademba (Olenda village), to see how things were getting along in the village, and that he would return in two days. He borrowed from us our cutlass, saying that he would return it when he came back. This was the last we saw of him. Then the next day the chief came and said he wanted his pay for keeping us, as we stayed in his olako. Finally he agreed that he would wait till Macondai could get well.
"Four days after you had gone, some of the boys who had accompanied you returned. We knew that they could not have gone to the Otando country and got back in so short a time, and, being well aware themselves that we knew it, they said at once, 'We have left Chally with Mintcho and the other people one day's journey from the Otando country, for we have had palavers with the Otando people, and we were afraid to proceed farther for fear that the Otando people would seize us; and they also went away. Some time afterward Ayagui and Etombi made their appearance. They said they had left you well, but that you said you would not pay them until Macondai had come to the Otando; and they added, 'Make haste, Macondai, and cure yourself, so that we may go. If you were well now, I would say we must go in two days; that would just give us time to rest and get food for the journey.' Then, as they were leaving, they said they would come back in two days. This was the last we saw of them. Then the chief wanted us to move off. Macondai said he was so ill that he could not move; 'I would rather die where I am.' "I did not want," said Igalo, "to go back to the plantation or to the village. I had had enough of Olenda's village. Then the chief took another tack. 'What shall I do?' said he. 'Ondonga, who brought you to me, has not again shown himself here; he has deserted you.' And he added, 'These people have come back. Chally has seized two gangs of slaves because the Ashira stole some of his things, and Mintcho has come to see if he can get the things back, for one of the gangs seized belongs to him, and the other to Ondonga.' The chief left us after saying this, telling us that he was going to see a friend, and would come back in the evening, and we never saw him again. Three days afterward two old men and three young lads came; they slept near us, and said, 'Igalo, you must not stop washing Macondai's body; we see that you wash only his leg.' By seeing me taking great care of Macondai's leg they thought we probably intended to leave, which we wanted to do as soon as Macondai was well enough to walk. Then they added, 'Go to the spring, and fetch plenty of water, and wash Macondai well, for this disease requires it.' Then," said Igalo, "I went to the spring, and during the time I was gone they plundered us of our things, seized the gun I had left behind, and Macondai's double-barreled gun, a box containing beads and our clothes, and escaped to the woods, and when I came back with the water I learned our misfortune. They had come to the plantation under the pretext of getting plantains.
"When I saw how things stood—that we had not a gun with which to defend ourselves—mistrusting the Ashira, I thought best to leave the place, and said to Macondai, 'Let us go.' Rebouka had told us the road before you left for the Otando, so we loaded ourselves with plantains which we got in the plantations, and left at once, with the utmost speed, the deserted olako, and we have been four nights and four days on the road."
"Well done!" we shouted with one voice; "well done, boys! Macondai, and Igalo, you are men! you are men!"
"Then," added Igalo, "I forgot to tell you that the man of the olako had told us that Mintcho and Ondonga had made a plot for a general robbery, but that you watched them so closely that they could not accomplish it."
I was so angry that I felt very much like going to the Ashira country, all of us armed to the teeth, when my followers should have regained their health and strength, and carrying fire and sword through all the villages that belonged to the clan of Olenda, and raising the whole country against them. I knew I could have done this easily, but then I had not come to make war.
After hearing the pitiful story of Macondai and Igalo I went back to the village, and heated some water in one of my huge kettles; then, returning to the camp, I gave poor Macondai a tepid bath with a sponge, and ordered some chicken soup to be prepared for the sufferer.
How poor Macondai enjoyed his soup! It did me good to see him lap it up. I had forbidden him to eat any thing without my permission, telling him that I should feed him well, so that he might get strong, but that it would be some few days before I could let him eat to his heart's content, for he had been starved so long that I was afraid he would get ill if he was permitted to indulge his appetite to repletion.
Though filled with anxiety about Macondai, I slept well that night. We were all together again; it was so nice, for getting all our party together again gave me lively satisfaction.