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Chapter Twenty-Third.

A magnificent night overspread the earth, and the
missionary lay quietly asleep in utter exhaustion.
"He'll not get over it!" sighed Joe. "Poor young
fellow--scarcely thirty years of age!"
"He'll die in our arms. His breathing, which was so
feeble before, is growing weaker still, and I can do nothing
to save him," said the doctor, despairingly.
"The infamous scoundrels!" exclaimed Joe, grinding
his teeth, in one of those fits of rage that came over him
at long intervals; "and to think that, in spite of all, this
good man could find words only to pity them, to excuse,
to pardon them!"
"Heaven has given him a lovely night, Joe--his last
on earth, perhaps! He will suffer but little more after
this, and his dying will be only a peaceful falling asleep."
The dying man uttered some broken words, and the
doctor at once went to him. His breathing became difficult,
and he asked for air. The curtains were drawn
entirely back, and he inhaled with rapture the light
breezes of that clear, beautiful night. The stars sent
him their trembling rays, and the moon wrapped him in
the white winding-sheet of its effulgence.
"My friends," said he, in an enfeebled voice, "I am
going. May God requite you, and bring you to your safe
harbor! May he pay for me the debt of gratitude that I
owe to you!"
"You must still hope," replied Kennedy. "This is
but a passing fit of weakness. You will not die. How
could any one die on this beautiful summer night?"
"Death is at hand," replied the missionary, "I know
it! Let me look it in the face! Death, the commencement
of things eternal, is but the end of earthly cares.
Place me upon my knees, my brethren, I beseech you!"
Kennedy lifted him up, and it was distressing to see
his weakened limbs bend under him.
"My God! my God!" exclaimed the dying apostle,
"have pity on me!"
His countenance shone. Far above that earth on
which he had known no joys; in the midst of that night
which sent to him its softest radiance; on the way to
that heaven toward which he uplifted his spirit, as though
in a miraculous assumption, he seemed already to live and
breathe in the new existence.
His last gesture was a supreme blessing on his new
friends of only one day. Then he fell back into the arms
of Kennedy, whose countenance was bathed in hot tears.
"Dead!" said the doctor, bending over him, "dead!"
And with one common accord, the three friends knelt
together in silent prayer.
"To-morrow," resumed the doctor, "we shall bury him in the
African soil which he has besprinkled with his blood."
During the rest of the night the body was watched,
turn by turn, by the three travellers, and not a word
disturbed the solemn silence. Each of them was weeping.
The next day the wind came from the south, and the
balloon moved slowly over a vast plateau of mountains:
there, were extinct craters; here, barren ravines; not a
drop of water on those parched crests; piles of broken
rocks; huge stony masses scattered hither and thither,
and, interspersed with whitish marl, all indicated the most
complete sterility.
Toward noon, the doctor, for the purpose of burying
the body, decided to descend into a ravine, in the midst
of some plutonic rocks of primitive formation. The surrounding
mountains would shelter him, and enable him to
bring his car to the ground, for there was no tree in sight
to which he could make it fast.
But, as he had explained to Kennedy, it was now impossible
for him to descend, except by releasing a quantity
of gas proportionate to his loss of ballast at the time when
he had rescued the missionary. He therefore opened the
valve of the outside balloon. The hydrogen escaped, and
the Victoria quietly descended into the ravine.
As soon as the car touched the ground, the doctor
shut the valve. Joe leaped out, holding on the while to
the rim of the car with one hand, and with the other
gathering up a quantity of stones equal to his own weight.
He could then use both hands, and had soon heaped into
the car more than five hundred pounds of stones, which
enabled both the doctor and Kennedy, in their turn, to
get out. Thus the Victoria found herself balanced, and
her ascensional force insufficient to raise her.
Moreover, it was not necessary to gather many of
these stones, for the blocks were extremely heavy, so much
so, indeed, that the doctor's attention was attracted by
the circumstance. The soil, in fact, was bestrewn with
quartz and porphyritic rocks.
"This is a singular discovery!" said the doctor, mentally.
In the mean while, Kennedy and Joe had strolled away
a few paces, looking up a proper spot for the grave. The
heat was extreme in this ravine, shut in as it was like a
sort of furnace. The noonday sun poured down its rays
perpendicularly into it.
The first thing to be done was to clear the surface of
the fragments of rock that encumbered it, and then a
quite deep grave had to be dug, so that the wild animals
should not be able to disinter the corpse.
The body of the martyred missionary was then
solemnly placed in it. The earth was thrown in over
his remains, and above it masses of rock were deposited,
in rude resemblance to a tomb.
The doctor, however, remained motionless, and lost in
his reflections. He did not even heed the call of his
companions, nor did he return with them to seek a shelter
from the heat of the day.
"What are you thinking about, doctor?" asked Kennedy.
"About a singular freak of Nature, a curious effect of
chance. Do you know, now, in what kind of soil that
man of self-denial, that poor one in spirit, has just been
"No! what do you mean, doctor?"
"That priest, who took the oath of perpetual poverty,
now reposes in a gold-mine!"
"A gold-mine!" exclaimed Kennedy and Joe in one breath.
"Yes, a gold-mine," said the doctor, quietly. "Those
blocks which you are trampling under foot, like worthless
stones, contain gold-ore of great purity."
"Impossible! impossible!" repeated Joe.
"You would not have to look long among those
fissures of slaty schist without finding peptites
of considerable value."
Joe at once rushed like a crazy man among the scattered
fragments, and Kennedy was not long in following
his example.
"Keep cool, Joe," said his master.
"Why, doctor, you speak of the thing quite at your ease."
"What! a philosopher of your mettle--"
"Ah, master, no philosophy holds good in this case!"
"Come! come! Let us reflect a little. What good
would all this wealth do you? We cannot carry any of
it away with us."
"We can't take any of it with us, indeed?"
"It's rather too heavy for our car! I even hesitated
to tell you any thing about it, for fear of exciting your
"What!" said Joe, again, "abandon these treasures
--a fortune for us!--really for us--our own--leave it
"Take care, my friend! Would you yield to the thirst
for gold? Has not this dead man whom you have just
helped to bury, taught you the vanity of human affairs?"
"All that is true," replied Joe, "but gold! Mr. Kennedy,
won't you help to gather up a trifle of all these
"What could we do with them, Joe?" said the hunter,
unable to repress a smile. "We did not come hither in
search of fortune, and we cannot take one home with us."
"The millions are rather heavy, you know," resumed
the doctor, "and cannot very easily be put into one's
"But, at least," said Joe, driven to his last defences,
"couldn't we take some of that ore for ballast, instead of
"Very good! I consent," said the doctor, "but you
must not make too many wry faces when we come to
throw some thousands of crowns' worth overboard."
"Thousands of crowns!" echoed Joe; "is it possible
that there is so much gold in them, and that all this is
the same?"
"Yes, my friend, this is a reservoir in which Nature
has been heaping up her wealth for centuries! There is
enough here to enrich whole nations! An Australia and
a California both together in the midst of the wilderness!"
"And the whole of it is to remain useless!"
"Perhaps! but at all events, here's what I'll do to
console you."
"That would be rather difficult to do!" said Joe, with
a contrite air.
"Listen! I will take the exact bearings of this spot,
and give them to you, so that, upon your return to England,
you can tell our countrymen about it, and let them have a
share, if you think that so much gold would make them
"Ah! master, I give up; I see that you are right, and
that there is nothing else to be done. Let us fill our car
with the precious mineral, and what remains at the end of
the trip will be so much made."
And Joe went to work. He did so, too, with all his
might, and soon had collected more than a thousand pieces
of quartz, which contained gold enclosed as though in an
extremely hard crystal casket.
The doctor watched him with a smile; and, while Joe
went on, he took the bearings, and found that the missionary's
grave lay in twenty-two degrees twenty-three minutes east
longitude, and four degrees fifty-five minutes
north latitude.
Then, casting one glance at the swelling of the soil,
beneath which the body of the poor Frenchman reposed,
he went back to his car.
He would have erected a plain, rude cross over the
tomb, left solitary thus in the midst of the African deserts,
but not a tree was to be seen in the environs.
"God will recognize it!" said Kennedy.
An anxiety of another sort now began to steal over
the doctor's mind. He would have given much of the
gold before him for a little water--for he had to replace
what had been thrown overboard when the negro was
carried up into the air. But it was impossible to find it
in these arid regions; and this reflection gave him great
uneasiness. He had to feed his cylinder continually; and
he even began to find that he had not enough to quench
the thirst of his party. Therefore he determined to lose
no opportunity of replenishing his supply.
Upon getting back to the car, he found it burdened
with the quartz-blocks that Joe's greed had heaped in it.
He got in, however, without saying any thing. Kennedy
took his customary place, and Joe followed, but not without
casting a covetous glance at the treasures in the ravine.
The doctor rekindled the light in the cylinder; the
spiral became heated; the current of hydrogen came in a
few minutes, and the gas dilated; but the balloon did not
stir an inch.
Joe looked on uneasily, but kept silent.
"Joe!" said the doctor.
Joe made no reply.
"Joe! Don't you hear me?"
Joe made a sign that he heard; but he would not understand.
"Do me the kindness to throw out some of that quartz!"
"But, doctor, you gave me leave--"
"I gave you leave to replace the ballast; that was all!"
"Do you want to stay forever in this desert?"
Joe cast a despairing look at Kennedy; but the hunter
put on the air of a man who could do nothing in the
"Well, Joe?"
"Then your cylinder don't work," said the obstinate
"My cylinder? It is lit, as you perceive. But the
balloon will not rise until you have thrown off a little
Joe scratched his ear, picked up a piece of quartz, the
smallest in the lot, weighed and reweighed it, and tossed
it up and down in his hand. It was a fragment of about
three or four pounds. At last he threw it out.
But the balloon did not budge.
"Humph!" said he; "we're not going up yet."
"Not yet," said the doctor. "Keep on throwing."
Kennedy laughed. Joe now threw out some ten pounds,
but the balloon stood still.
Joe got very pale.
"Poor fellow!" said the doctor. "Mr. Kennedy, you
and I weigh, unless I am mistaken, about four hundred
pounds--so that you'll have to get rid of at least that
weight, since it was put in here to make up for us."
"Throw away four hundred pounds!" said Joe, piteously.
"And some more with it, or we can't rise. Come,
courage, Joe!"
The brave fellow, heaving deep sighs, began at last to
lighten the balloon; but, from time to time, he would stop,
and ask:
"Are you going up?"
"No, not yet," was the invariable response.
"It moves!" said he, at last.
"Keep on!" replied the doctor.
"It's going up; I'm sure."
"Keep on yet," said Kennedy.
And Joe, picking up one more block, desperately tossed it out
of the car. The balloon rose a hundred feet or so, and, aided
by the cylinder, soon passed above the surrounding summits.
"Now, Joe," resumed the doctor, "there still remains
a handsome fortune for you; and, if we can only keep the
rest of this with us until the end of our trip, there you
are--rich for the balance of your days!"
Joe made no answer, but stretched himself out luxuriously
on his heap of quartz.
"See, my dear Dick!" the doctor went on. "Just see
the power of this metal over the cleverest lad in the world!
What passions, what greed, what crimes, the knowledge
of such a mine as that would cause! It is sad to think
of it!"
By evening the balloon had made ninety miles to the
westward, and was, in a direct line, fourteen hundred miles
from Zanzibar.