“That gay dog gone,” he said in a reflective voice. “All those old ghosts come to fetch him at proper time. No good run away from ghosts; they travel too quick; one jump, and pop up where you no expect. Well, more place for Jeekie now,” and he spread himself out comfortably in the empty seat, adding, “like hello-swello’s room much better than company, he go in scent-bath every day and stink too much, all that water never wash him clean.”
Thus died the Mungana, and such was the poor wretch’s requiem. With a shiver Alan reflected that had it not been for him and his insane jealousy, he too might have been expected to go into that same scent-bath and have his face painted like a chorus girl. Only would he escape the spell that had destroyed his predecessor in the affections of the priestess of the Bonsas? Or would some dim power such as had drawn Mungana to the death drag him back to the arms of the Asika or to the torture pit of “Great Swimming Head.” He remembered his dream in the Treasure Hall and shuddered at the very thought of it, for all he had undergone and seen made him superstitious; then bade the men paddle faster, ever faster.
All that night they rowed on, taking turns to rest, except Alan and Jeekie, who slept a good deal and as a consequence awoke at dawn much refreshed. When the sun rose they found themselves across the lagoon, over thirty miles from the borders of Asiki-land, almost at the spot where the river up which they had travelled some months before, flowed out of the lake. Whether by chance or skill Fahni had steered a wonderfully straight course. Now, however, they were face to face with a new trouble, for scarcely had they begun to descend the river when they discovered that at this dry season of the year it was in many places too shallow to allow the canoe to pass over the sand and mud banks. Evidently there was but one thing to be done—abandon it and walk.
So they landed, ate from their store of food and began a terrible and toilsome journey. On either side of the river lay dessicated swamp covered with dead reeds ten or twelve feet high. Doubtless beyond the swamp there was high land, but in order to reach this, if it existed, they would be obliged to force a path through miles of reeds. Therefore they thought it safer to follow the river bank. Their progress was very slow, since continually they must make detours to avoid a quicksand or a creek, also the stones and scrubby growth delayed them so that fifteen or at most twenty miles was a good day’s march.
Still they went on steadily, seeing no man, and when their food was exhausted, living on the fish which they caught in plenty in the shallows, and on young flapper ducks that haunted the reeds. So at length they came to the main river into which this tributary flowed, and camped there thankfully, believing that if any pursuit of them had been undertaken, it was abandoned. At least Alan and the rest believed this, but Jeekie did not.