CHAPTER VI. AFRICA.
Oh! oh! here is a little dried crocodile come alive, and opening a horrid great mouth, lined with terrible teeth, at her.
No, he is no longer in the museum; he is in a broad river, yellow, heavy, and thick with mud; the borders are crowded with enormous reeds and rushes; there is no getting through; no breaking away from him; here he comes; horrid, horrid beast! Oh, how could Lucy have been so foolish as to want to travel in Africa up to the higher parts of the Nile? How will she ever get back again? He will gobble her up, her and Clare, who was trusted to her, and what will mamma and sister do?
Hark! There’s a cry, a great shout, and out jumps a little black figure, with a stout club in his hand. Crash it goes down on the head of master crocodile. The ugly beast is turning over on its back and dying. Then Lucy has time to look at the little negro, and he has time to look at her. What a droll figure he is, with his wooly head and thick lips, the whites of his eyes and his teeth gleaming so brightly, and his fat little black person shining all over, as well it may, for he is rubbed from head to foot with castor-oil. There it grows on the bush, with broad, beautiful, folded leaves and red stems and the pretty grey and black nuts. Lucy only wishes the negroes would keep it all to polish themselves with, and not send any home.
She wants to give the little black fellow some reward for saving her from the crocodile, and luckily Clare has on her long necklace of blue glass beads. She puts it into his hand, and he twists it round his black wool, and cuts such dances and capers for joy that Lucy can hardly stand for laughing; but the sun shines scorching hot upon her, and she gets under the shade of a tall date palm, with big leaves all shooting out together at the top, and fine bunches of dates below, all fresh and green, not like those papa sometimes gives her at dessert.
The little negro, Tojo, asks if she would like some. He takes her by the hand, and leads her into a whole cluster of little round mud huts, telling her that he is Tojo, the king’s son; she is his little sister and these are all his mothers! Which is his real mother Lucy cannot quite make out, for she sees an immense party of black women, all shiny and polished, with a great many beads wound round their heads, necks, ankles, and wrists; and nothing besides the tiniest short petticoats: and all the fattest are the smartest; indeed, they have gourds of milk beside them, and are drinking it all day long to keep themselves fat. No sooner however is Lucy led in among them, than they all close round, some singing and dancing, and others laughing for joy, and crying, “Welcome, little daughter from the land of spirits!” And then she finds out that they think she is really Tojo’s little sister, who died ten moons ago, come back again from the grave as a white spirit.