Get it on Google Play
Download on the App Store

Chapter Fifth.

Dr. Ferguson energetically pushed the preparations
for his departure, and in person superintended the
construction of his balloon, with certain modifications; in
regard to which he observed the most absolute silence.
For a long time past he had been applying himself to the
study of the Arab language and the various Mandingoe
idioms, and, thanks to his talents as a polyglot, he had
made rapid progress.
In the mean while his friend, the sportsman, never let
him out of his sight--afraid, no doubt, that the doctor
might take his departure, without saying a word to anybody.
On this subject, he regaled him with the most
persuasive arguments, which, however, did NOT persuade
Samuel Ferguson, and wasted his breath in pathetic
entreaties, by which the latter seemed to be but slightly
moved. In fine, Dick felt that the doctor was slipping
through his fingers.
The poor Scot was really to be pitied. He could not look
upon the azure vault without a sombre terror: when asleep,
he felt oscillations that made his head reel; and every
night he had visions of being swung aloft at immeasurable heights.
We must add that, during these fearful nightmares,
he once or twice fell out of bed. His first care then was
to show Ferguson a severe contusion that he had received
on the cranium. "And yet," he would add, with
warmth, "that was at the height of only three feet--not
an inch more--and such a bump as this! Only think, then!"
This insinuation, full of sad meaning as it was, did not
seem to touch the doctor's heart.
"We'll not fall," was his invariable reply.
"But, still, suppose that we WERE to fall!"
"We will NOT fall!"
This was decisive, and Kennedy had nothing more to say.
What particularly exasperated Dick was, that the doctor
seemed completely to lose sight of his personality--
of his--Kennedy's--and to look upon him as irrevocably
destined to become his aerial companion. Not even the
shadow of a doubt was ever suggested; and Samuel made
an intolerable misuse of the first person plural:
"'We' are getting along; 'we' shall be ready on
the ----; 'we' shall start on the ----," etc., etc.
And then there was the singular possessive adjective:
"'Our' balloon; 'our' car; 'our' expedition."
And the same in the plural, too:
"'Our' preparations; 'our' discoveries; 'our' ascensions."
Dick shuddered at them, although he was determined
not to go; but he did not want to annoy his friend. Let
us also disclose the fact that, without knowing exactly
why himself, he had sent to Edinburgh for a certain
selection of heavy clothing, and his best hunting-gear and
One day, after having admitted that, with an overwhelming
run of good-luck, there MIGHT be one chance of
success in a thousand, he pretended to yield entirely to
the doctor's wishes; but, in order to still put off the
journey, he opened the most varied series of subterfuges. He
threw himself back upon questioning the utility of the
expedition--its opportuneness, etc. This discovery of the
sources of the Nile, was it likely to be of any use?--Would
one have really labored for the welfare of humanity?--
When, after all, the African tribes should have been civilized,
would they be any happier?--Were folks certain
that civilization had not its chosen abode there rather
than in Europe?--Perhaps!--And then, couldn't one wait
a little longer?--The trip across Africa would certainly
be accomplished some day, and in a less hazardous manner.--
In another month, or in six months before the year
was over, some explorer would undoubtedly come in--etc., etc.
These hints produced an effect exactly opposite to
what was desired or intended, and the doctor trembled
with impatience.
"Are you willing, then, wretched Dick--are you willing,
false friend--that this glory should belong to another?
Must I then be untrue to my past history; recoil before
obstacles that are not serious; requite with cowardly
hesitation what both the English Government and the
Royal Society of London have done for me?"
"But," resumed Kennedy, who made great use of that
"But," said the doctor, "are you not aware that my
journey is to compete with the success of the expeditions
now on foot? Don't you know that fresh explorers are
advancing toward the centre of Africa?"
"Listen to me, Dick," and cast your eyes over that map."
Dick glanced over it, with resignation.
"Now, ascend the course of the Nile."
"I have ascended it," replied the Scotchman, with
"Stop at Gondokoro."
"I am there."
And Kennedy thought to himself how easy such a trip
was--on the map!
"Now, take one of the points of these dividers and let it rest
upon that place beyond which the most daring explorers have
scarcely gone."
"I have done so."
"And now look along the coast for the island of Zanzibar,
in latitude six degrees south."
"I have it."
"Now, follow the same parallel and arrive at Kazeh."
"I have done so."
"Run up again along the thirty-third degree of longitude
to the opening of Lake Oukereoue, at the point where
Lieutenant Speke had to halt."
"I am there; a little more, and I should have tumbled
into the lake."
"Very good!  Now, do you know what we have the
right to suppose, according to the information given by
the tribes that live along its shores?"
"I haven't the least idea."
"Why, that this lake, the lower extremity of which is
in two degrees and thirty minutes, must extend also two
degrees and a half above the equator."
"Well from this northern extremity there flows a
stream which must necessarily join the Nile, if it be not
the Nile itself."
"That is, indeed, curious."
"Then, let the other point of your dividers rest upon
that extremity of Lake Oukereoue."
"It is done, friend Ferguson."
"Now, how many degrees can you count between the
two points?"
"Scarcely two."
"And do you know what that means, Dick?"
"Not the least in the world."
"Why, that makes scarcely one hundred and twenty
miles--in other words, a nothing."
"Almost nothing, Samuel."
"Well, do you know what is taking place at this moment?"
"No, upon my honor, I do not."
"Very well, then, I'll tell you. The Geographical Society
regard as very important the exploration of this lake
of which Speke caught a glimpse. Under their auspices,
Lieutenant (now Captain) Speke has associated with him
Captain Grant, of the army in India; they have put themselves
at the head of a numerous and well-equipped expedition;
their mission is to ascend the lake and return to
Gondokoro; they have received a subsidy of more than
five thousand pounds, and the Governor of the Cape of
Good Hope has placed Hottentot soldiers at their disposal;
they set out from Zanzibar at the close of October, 1860.
In the mean while John Petherick, the English consul at
the city of Karthoum, has received about seven hundred
pounds from the foreign office; he is to equip a steamer at
Karthoum, stock it with sufficient provisions, and make his
way to Gondokoro; there, he will await Captain Speke's
caravan, and be able to replenish its supplies to some extent."
"Well planned," said Kennedy.
"You can easily see, then, that time presses if we are
to take part in these exploring labors. And that is not
all, since, while some are thus advancing with sure steps
to the discovery of the sources of the Nile, others are
penetrating to the very heart of Africa."
"On foot?" said Kennedy.
"Yes, on foot," rejoined the doctor, without noticing
the insinuation. "Doctor Krapf proposes to push forward,
in the west, by way of the Djob, a river lying under the
equator. Baron de Decken has already set out from
Monbaz, has reconnoitred the mountains of Kenaia and
Kilimandjaro, and is now plunging in toward the centre."
"But all this time on foot?"
"On foot or on mules."
"Exactly the same, so far as I am concerned," ejaculated Kennedy.
"Lastly," resumed the doctor, "M. de Heuglin, the
Austrian vice-consul at Karthoum, has just organized a
very important expedition, the first aim of which is to
search for the traveller Vogel, who, in 1853, was sent into
the Soudan to associate himself with the labors of Dr.
Barth. In 1856, he quitted Bornou, and determined to
explore the unknown country that lies between Lake Tchad
and Darfur. Nothing has been seen of him since that
time. Letters that were received in Alexandria, in 1860,
said that he was killed at the order of the King of Wadai;
but other letters, addressed by Dr. Hartmann to the traveller's
father, relate that, according to the recital of a felatah
of Bornou, Vogel was merely held as a prisoner at
Wara. All hope is not then lost. Hence, a committee
has been organized under the presidency of the Regent of
Saxe-Cogurg-Gotha; my friend Petermann is its secretary;
a national subscription has provided for the expense
of the expedition, whose strength has been increased
by the voluntary accession of several learned men, and
M. de Heuglin set out from Massowah, in the month of
June. While engaged in looking for Vogel, he is also to
explore all the country between the Nile and Lake Tchad,
that is to say, to knit together the operations of Captain
Speke and those of Dr. Barth, and then Africa will have
been traversed from east to west."[1]
"Well," said the canny Scot, "since every thing is
getting on so well, what's the use of our going down there?"
Dr. Ferguson made no reply, but contented himself
with a significant shrug of the shoulders.


↑ After the departure of Dr. Ferguson, it was ascertained that M. de Heuglin, owing to some disagreement, took a route different from the one assigned to his expedition, the command of the latter having been transferred to Mr. Muntzinger.