“I’ll try it, Hans,” I said.
“Yes, Baas, I thought you would. I’d come, too, only I can’t swim and when I was drowning I might make a noise, because one forgets oneself then, Baas. But it will be all right, for if it were otherwise I am sure that your reverend father would have shown us so in the sign. The moth floated off quite comfortably on the wood, and just now I saw it spread its wings and fly away. And the fish, ah! how he laughs with that fat old spider in his stomach!”
We went back to the others whom we found crouched on the ground among the coffins, looking distinctly depressed. No wonder; night was closing in, the thunder was beginning to growl and echo through the forest and rain to fall in big drops. In short, although Stephen remarked that every cloud has a silver lining, a proverb which, as I told him, I seemed to have heard before, in no sense could the outlook be considered bright.
“Well, Allan, what have you arranged?” asked Brother John, with a faint attempt at cheerfulness as he let go of his wife’s hand. In those days he always seemed to be holding his wife’s hand.
“Oh!” I answered, “I am going to get the canoe so that we can all row over comfortably.”
They stared at me, and Miss Hope, who was seated by Stephen, asked in her usual Biblical language:
“Have you the wings of a dove that you can fly, O Mr. Allan?”
“No,” I answered, “but I have the fins of a fish, or something like them, and I can swim.”
Now there arose a chorus of expostulation.
“You shan’t risk it,” said Stephen, “I can swim as well as you and I’m younger. I’ll go, I want a bath.”
“That you will have, O Stephen,” interrupted Miss Hope, as I thought in some alarm. “The latter rain from heaven will make you clean.” (By now it was pouring.)
“Yes, Stephen, you can swim,” I said, “but you will forgive me for saying that you are not particularly deadly with a rifle, and clean shooting may be the essence of this business. Now listen to me, all of you. I am going. I hope that I shall succeed, but if I fail it does not so very much matter, for you will be no worse off than you were before. There are three pairs of you. John and his wife; Stephen and Miss Hope; Mavovo and Hans. If the odd man of the party comes to grief, you will have to choose a new captain, that is all, but while I lead I mean to be obeyed.”
Then Mavovo, to whom Hans had been talking, spoke.
“My father Macumazana is a brave man. If he lives he will have done his duty. If he dies he will have done his duty still better, and, on the earth or in the under-world among the spirits of our fathers, his name shall be great for ever; yes, his name shall be a song.”
When Brother John had translated these words, which I thought fine, there was silence.