« PreviousContinue »
the veritable fairy queen of those dainty offsprings of romance, who used
in grove or green,
By fountain clear or spangled starlight sheen.
"How splendidly you draw, Alma!" exclaimed De Vigne. "If you exhibited at the Water-Colour Society, you would excite as much wonder as Rosa Bonheur. And do these pay you well?"
"Yes; at least, what seems so to me.'
"Pauvre enfant!" smiled De Vigne; her ideas of wealth and his were strikingly different. "A friend of mine is a great connoisseur of these things. I must show them to him some day; but I cannot stay now, for I have an engagement at two, and it is now striking."
"But you will come and see me again," interrupted Alma, beseechingly. "Pray do. You cannot think how lonely I am. I have no friends, you know."
"Oh yes, I will come," answered De Vigne. "I have much more to hear about you and your pursuits. How could you know us, Alma, after so long?"
"I did not know Captain Chevasney," said the little lady, with uncomplimentary frankness, "but I knew you perfectly. The first picture I could really sketch was one of your face, as I remembered it, for Sir Folko. You know I always thought you like him. I will show it you some day. Besides, grandpapa talked of you so constantly, and I was always expecting you to come to Lorave with your yacht, as you had promised, that it was impossible for me to forget you. I was so grieved when you did not notice me in Pall-Mall. I called you, but you did not hear. You were thinking of that young lady. How lovely she was!
Who is she?"
"Violet Molyneux-Lord Molyneux's daughter. I was not thinking of her, though, but that the pair of horses in her carriage were not worth half what I heard they gave for them. Young ladies are the last things in my thoughts, I assure you," said De Vigne, laughing, as he gave her his hand; and now, good-by. I am very pleased to have found you out. I shall not be long before I find my way to the farm again— without my bull-dog."
The gentle courtesy natural to him from his good breeding made his manner very winning to women, especially when he discarded the cold reserve and cynical sarcasm now habitual to him. No wonder that Alma looked gratefully in his face, and bid him, with a radiant smile, not defer his promised visit to St. Crucis, as he had done his promised yachting to Lorave. She guessed little enough what had prevented that yachting to Lorave.
"Strange we should have lighted on that child!" said he, as we drove to the Dilcoosha. "She is the same frank, impulsive, enthusiastic little thing as when we first saw her. She was the heiress of Wieve Hurst then; now she has to work for her bread. Who can prophesy the ups and downs of life? Here am I with forty thousand a year, bored to death, and might be happier if I were a private on sixpence a day; and there is a girl, a delicate child, who has to earn her critical subsistence by her talents. Boughton Tressillian was game to the backbone. Perhaps she inherits some of his pluck-it is to be hoped so-she will want it. A
woman, young, unprotected, and as attractive as she looks, is pretty sure to come to grief someway or other. Her very virtues will be her ruin! She is not one of your sensible, prudent, cold, common-place women, who go through the world scathless; Lucretias and Casta Divas, too wise to err, too selfish to sacrifice themselves, who win from an admiring public a reputation for virtue and honour, while their real mainsprings are prudence and egotism. Alma will come to grief, I am afraid. Here, take the reins, Arthur, and I will see what her grandfather says. Poor old fellow! my conscience will prick me for having neglected him. I might have written when I was in Scinde, but I thought of nothing there but my troop, and 'slaying my fellow-creatures,' as Sabretasche terms it."
He tore open the letter, and gave a long whistle as he finished it. "What's the matter ?" said I.
"Poor little thing! She hasn't thirty pounds a year, and isn't his grandchild after all."
"Not his grandchild! "What I say."
What do you mean ?"
"His daughter, I suppose ?"
66 No; no relation at all. The letter is scrawled to me, broken off unfinished; probably where his hand and strength failed him, poor old He says my name recurred to him as the only person who had not heeded his decline of fortune, and the only man of honour whom he could trust. Out of his income as consul he contrived to save her a few hundreds-voilà tout! He must leave her, of course, to struggle for herself; and this is what weighs so heavily upon him, because, it seems, he adopted this child, who was not the slightest relation to him, when she was three years old, believing, of course, that he would make her one of the richest heiresses in England; and, according to his view of the case, he considers he has done her a great wrong. Who she is he does not tell me, except that she was a little Italian girl he picked up in Naples. He was going, no doubt, to add more, as he began the letter by saying he wished her secret to be known to some one, and having heard much of my mother's sweet and generous character, appealed to her, through me, to aid and serve Alma if she would; but here the sentence breaks off unfinished. Poor fellow, his strength failed him, I suppose."
"Do you think Alma knows it; she calls him her grandfather still?" "Can't say—yet of course she does," said De Vigne, with a cynical smile. "No woman's curiosity ever allowed her to keep an unsealed letter three years and never look into it. However, I will not tell her of it till I see whether she does or not. Here we are. It will be as well not to tell Sabretasche of his little neighbour, eh? He is such a deuced fellow for women, and she would be certain to go down before his thousand-and-one accomplishments. Not that it would matter much, perhaps; she will be somebody's prey, no doubt, and she might as well be the Colonel's as any other man's, save that he is a little quicker fickle than most, knowing better than most the little value of his toys."
With which concluding sarcasm De Vigne threw the reins to his groom, who met him at the door, and entered that abode of perfect taste and epicurean luxury, known as the Dilcoosha, where Sabretasche and
luncheon were waiting for us; and where, after due discussion of Strasbourg pâtés, Comet Hock, Bass, and the news of the day, we inspected La Violette's paces, pronounced her pretty certain, unless something very unforeseen in the way of twitch and opium-ball occurred, to win the Queen's Cup, and drove back to town together, De Vigne to go into the U. S., Sabretasche to accompany Violet Molyneux and her mother to a morning concert, and I to call on a certain lady who had well-nigh broken my heart, when it was young and breakable, who had exchanged rings with me under the Kensington Garden trees, when she was fresh, fair, kind-natured Gwen Brandling, and who was now staying in town as Madame la Duchesse de la Vieillecour, a French ambassador's wife, black velvet and point replacing the muslin and ribbons, dignity in the stead of girlish grace, and-hélas pour mes beaux jours!—a fin sourire of skilled coquetry in lieu of that heartfelt sunny smile, Gwen's whilom charm. I take it doves are sold by the dozen on the altar-steps of St. George's, but-it is true that the doves have a strange passion for the gold coins that buy them, and would not fly away if they could!
N'importe! Madame de la Vieillecour and I met as became people living in good society; if less fresh she was perhaps more fascinating, and though one begins life tender and transparent as Sèvres, one is stonechina, luckily, long before the finish, warranted never to break at any blows whatever. And as I drove my tilbury from the Duchess's door, I thought, I did not know why, of little Alma Tressillian, who was just opening the fresh leaves of her book of life;—she looked terribly delicate Sèvres now, needing gentlest touches, tenderest shelter. When it had passed through the furnace and come forth from the fire, would the Sèvres be hardened or-destroyed?
THE OKAVANGO RIVER.*
THE drainage of western tropical Africa is as yet but imperfectly understood. Rains fall there at certain seasons of the year for a lengthened period of time with extreme violence, yet the drainage is wholly unrepresented by any rivers of importance save the Zaire or Congo, and, strange to say, to the present day nothing is known of the northern tributaries to that river. Du Chaillu's discovery of the Crystal Mountains, and of the great river Ogobai having three different outlets, as well as of the Mimi, the Mundah, and the Gaboon-the three latter north of the equatorhave done much towards throwing light upon a new and important region of west tropical Africa, and have induced some sanguine theorists, like Mr. Galton, to go so far as to argue that there is no valid reason why Du Chaillu's river should not have its origin on the other side of the continent, nor why the waters of Lake Victoria-Nyanza should not have
The Okavango River: a Narrative of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure. By Charles John Andersson, Author of "Lake Ngami." With numerous Illustrations. London: Hurst and Blackett. 1861.
their outlet by it or by the Congo instead of by the Nile! (Proceedings R. G. S., vol. v. No. iii. p. 111.)
It is quite true that Barth obtained information as to the existence of a large river running west in central tropical Africa, and it is marked in Beke's map, attached to his recent work on "The Sources of the Nile," as flowing north of the equator, between the parallels of 20 and 25 deg. east longitude; but the Tu-Bari, or Tubiri, branch of the Nile has been traced so close to Lake Victoria, that we do not entertain the slightest apprehensions of Captains Speke and Grant turning up one fine day at St. Paul de Loando instead of, as they anticipated, at Misr al Kahira, or the metropolis of Egypt.
When Messrs. Galton and Andersson were in Ovambo, or Ovampo Land, in 1850, they heard of a great river to the north, known as the Cunene or Nourse River, and which to the north-west, in the country of the Ovabundja, was formed by the confluence of three others. (Galton's Tropical South Africa, p. 222.) Mr. Andersson ascertained that in its upper course this river was called Mukuru Mukovanga, and in its lower course Cunene. That the people dwelling on its south bank were called Ovapangari and Ovabundya, both tribes of the Ovambo, the latter living among "many waters; and, moreover, that though of very considerable size, and containing a large volume of water, it does not always find its way direct to the sea. (Andersson's Lake Ngami, p. 207.) This explained how it was that a French frigate was said to have discovered the embouchure of a magnificent river between the 17th and 18th deg. of south latitude, known to the Portuguese as the Rio Cunene, whilst other vessels sent out to explore it searched for it in vain!
Messrs. Galton and Andersson were, to their infinite annoyance, prevented visiting this great river upon that occasion, although within four long, and five easy days' journey from it, by the jealousy and ill-will of the fat and formidable Nangoro, king of Ondonga, in the Ovambo Land. Since that epoch Mr. Frederick Green has, accompanied by the two Rhenish missionaries—the Rev. Messrs. Hahn and Rath—visited Ovambo Land also, with the intention of proceeding thence on to the Cunene. The travellers were at first well received by King Nangoro.
This good reception, however, turned out at last to be but treacherous; for as the party were one morning about to retrace their steps from Ondonga, they were suddenly attacked by his orders. Fortunately they were not altogether unprepared, having received frequent hints of the kind intentions of their friends, as they called themselves. By a most determined and judicious resistance they not only secured their own safety, but completely defeated the Ovambo, with the loss of but one native attendant, who was stabbed by the side of Mr. Hahn's waggon previous to the commencement of the affray. The Ovambo, on the other hand, had many killed and wounded. Amongst the former was one of Nangoro's sons. Indeed, the king himself met his death on this memorable occasion; for on hearing the repeated discharges of fire-arms he became so terrified that his bowels burst asunder, and he fell down dead on the spot. It was supposed, at the lowest calculation, that at one time the assailants of the English party must have amounted to six hundred fighting men, all well armed with kieries, assegais, bows and arrows; whilst the travellers could only muster thirteen men capable of bearing arms, some of whom, moreover, had other duties to attend to, such as
driving waggons, cattle, &c. In short, their victory was most wonderful, and deserves to be chronicled amongst heroic deeds.
The travellers, however, succeeded on this untoward occasion in discovering a fresh-water lake, called Onondova, which Messrs. Galton and Andersson must have passed within a couple of days' journey in 1850, without hearing of it.
Mr. Andersson had, in the mean time, after publishing his "Lake Ngami," returned to the Cape in 1856, where he had taken the management of certain mines on the borders of Great Namaqua and Damara Land, and, upon the expiration of this engagement, he felt so disappointed at his friend Mr. Green's failure in reaching the Cunene, which enterprise he had also assisted by pecuniary means, that he determined to try and solve the problem in person. With this view he proceeded to obtain an outfit at the Cape, and, with the aid of kind friends, he was enabled to start from Otjimbingue on the 22nd of March, 1858, through western Damara Land, in company with John Mortar, Galton's faithful cook, John Pereira as a general attendant, one waggon driver, one leader, one guide, two herds, two interpreters, and two lads-eleven in toto. For the convenience of the party there was one waggon, thirty first-rate trek-oxen, five draught and carriage oxen, eleven young oxen, four donkeys, one old horse, seventy sheep and goats, chiefly for slaughter, and about a dozen dogs of a mongrel description, but good enough as watch-dogs, for which service they were principally required.
Progress was exceedingly slow at first, the caravan being sometimes delayed for days by deluging rains, the soil being, at the same time, so yielding that both waggon and oxen got embedded in it, and it was nearly a fortnight before our traveller found himself on the banks of the Omaruru River, or about seventy English miles, as the crow flies, from his startingpoint. After crossing the Omaruru River, they had literally to cut their way step by step for upwards of one hundred miles through dense thorn jungle. Game also, contrary to all expectations, was exceedingly scarce, and our traveller began to have serious forebodings for the future. After several mischances, they found themselves in a forest of tall handsome trees, soon, however, succeeded by ruts and ravines, with the usual thorn jungle, and that again by limestone cliffs, part of an extensive mountain system. Waggon, oxen, and driver were precipitated over a precipice in crossing this rocky ridge. On the other side, the bush was so dense that Andersson says they probably cut down fifteen hundred trees and bushes in a single day's journey; and this again was followed by another rocky range, beyond which the country changed much for the better, both soil and vegetation being different.
On the 1st of May they reached the fine fountains of Otjidambi, and here they met with the first specimens of humanity they had come in contact with, and they forced one of them to act as a guide to the next fountain and werft, whence the natives had unfortunately fled at their approach. They, however, succeeded, after an interval, in establishing relations with them, and obtained guides, by the help of whom they, after many mishaps and sufferings from desertion, fires, losing their way, and want of water, reached Okaoa. The account of one of these fires or conflagrations, caused by the thoughtlessness of the natives, is exceedingly picturesque. The party were just escaping out of a thorn thicket, when they were suddenly startled by a grand but appalling sight: