“I don’t know,” answered Alan, with a shiver. “I believe that I am fever proof, but otherwise I should have caught it last night, and—just give me the quinine, I will take five grains for luck.”
“Yes, yes, for luck,” answered Jeekie as he opened the medicine chest and found the quinine, at the same time glancing anxiously out of the corner of his eye at his master’s face, for he knew that the spot where they had slept was deadly to white men at this season of the year. “You not catch fever, Little Bonsa,” here he dropped his voice and looked down at the box which had served Alan for a pillow, “see to that. But quinine give you appetite for breakfast. Very good chop this morning. Which you like best? Cold ven’son, or fish, or one of them ducks you shoot yesterday?”
“Oh! some of the cold meat, I think. Give the ducks to the boatmen, I don’t fancy them in this hot place. By the way, Jeekie, we leave the Qua River here, don’t we?”
“Yes, yes, Major, just here. I ’member spot well, for your uncle he pray on it one whole hour; I pretend pray too, but in heart give thanks to Little Bonsa, for heathen in those days, quite different now. This morning we begin walk through forest where it rather dark and cool and comfortable, that is if we no see dwarf people from whom good Lord deliver us,” and he bowed towards the box containing Little Bonsa.
“Will those four porters come with us through the forest, Jeekie, as they promised?”
“Yes, yes, they come. Last night they say they not come, too much afraid of dwarf. But I settle their hash. I tell them I save up bits of their hair and toe nails when they no thinking, and I mix it with medicine, and if they not come, they die every one before they get home. They think me great doctor and they believe. Perhaps they die if they go on. If so, I tell them that because they want show white feather, and they think me greater doctor still. Oh! they come, they come, no fear, or else Jeekie know reason why. Now, here coffee, Major. Drink him hot before you go take tub, but keep in shallow water, because crocodile he very early riser.”
Alan laughed, and departed to “take tub.” Notwithstanding the mosquitoes that buzzed round him in clouds, the water was cool and pleasant by comparison with the hot, sticky air, and the feel of it seemed to rid him of the languor resulting from his disturbed night.
A month had passed since he had left Old Calabar, and owing to the incessant rains the journeying had been hard. Indeed the white men there thought that he was mad to attempt to go up the river at this season. Of course he had said nothing to them of the objects of his expedition, hinting only that he wished to explore and shoot, and perhaps prospect for mines. But knowing as they did, that he was an Engineer officer with a good record and much African experience, they soon made up their minds that he had been sent by Government upon some secret mission