We fell very quickly into the half doze of too great exhaustion. It never became more than a half doze. I suppose every one who reads this has had at some time the experience of dropping asleep to the accompaniment of some noise that ought soon to cease—a conversation in the next room, singing, the barking of a dog, the playing of music, or the like. The fact that it ought soon to cease, permits the falling asleep. When, after an interval, the subconsciousness finds the row still going on, inexcusable and unabated, it arouses the victim to staring exasperation. That was our case here. Those natives should have turned in for sleep after a reasonable amount of pow-wow. They did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I dragged reluctantly back to consciousness and the realization that they had quite happily settled down to make a night of it. I glanced across the little tent to where Captain D. lay on his cot. He was staring straight upward, his eyes wide open.
After a few seconds he slipped out softly and silently. Our little fire had sunk to embers. A dozen sticks radiated from the centre of coals. Each made a firebrand with one end cool to the grasp. Captain D. hurled one of these at the devoted and unconscious group.
It whirled through the air and fell plunk in the other fire, scattering sparks and coals in all directions. The second was under way before the first had landed. It hit a native with similar results, plus astonished and grieved language. The rest followed in rapid-magazine-fire. Every one hit its mark fair and square. The air was full of sparks exploding in all directions. The brush was full of Wakamba, their blankets flapping in the breeze of their going. The convention was adjourned. There fell the sucking vacuum of a great silence. Captain D., breathing righteous wrath, flopped heavily and determinedly down on his cot. I caught a faint snicker from the tent next door.
Captain D. sighed deeply, turned over, and prepared to sleep. Then one of the dogs uprose—I think it was Ben—stretched himself, yawned, approached deliberately, and began to drink from the canvas bath-tub just outside. He drank—lap, lap, lap, lap—for a very long time. It seemed incredible that any mere dog—or canvas bath-tub—could hold so much water. The steady repetition of this sound long after it should logically have ceased was worse than the shenzi gathering around the fire. Each lap should have been the last, but it was not. The shenzi convention had been abated with firebrands, but the dog was strictly within his rights. The poor pups had had a long day with little water, and they could hardly be blamed for feeling a bit feverish now. At last Ben ceased. Next morning Captain D. claimed vehemently that he had drunk two hours forty-nine minutes and ten seconds. With a contented sigh Ben lay down. Then Ruby got up, shook herself, and yawned. A bright idea struck her. She too went over and had a drink. After that I, personally, went to sleep. But in the morning I found Captain D. staring-eyed and strung nearly to madness, trying feverishly to calculate how seven dogs drinking on an average of three hours apiece could have finished by morning. When Harold Hill innocently asked if he had slept well, the captain threw the remaining but now extinct firebrand at him.