"Come, be calm, my dear Dick!" resumed the doctor. "You're angry at me because I did not acquaint you with my new project."
"He calls this his new project!"
"I have been very busy," the doctor went on, without heeding the interruption; "I have had so much to look after! But rest assured that I should not have started without writing to you."
"Oh, indeed! I'm highly honored."
"Because it is my intention to take you with me."
Upon this, the Scotchman gave a leap that a wild goat would not have been ashamed of among his native crags.
"Ah! really, then, you want them to send us both to Bedlam!"
"I have counted positively upon you, my dear Dick, and I have picked you out from all the rest."
Kennedy stood speechless with amazement.
"After listening to me for ten minutes," said the doctor, "you will thank me!"
"Are you speaking seriously?"
"And suppose that I refuse to go with you?"
"But you won't refuse."
"But, suppose that I were to refuse?"
"Well, I'd go alone."
"Let us sit down," said Kennedy, "and talk without excitement. The moment you give up jesting about it, we can discuss the thing."
"Let us discuss it, then, at breakfast, if you have no objections, my dear Dick."
The two friends took their seats opposite to each other, at a little table with a plate of toast and a huge tea-urn before them.
"My dear Samuel," said the sportsman, "your project is insane! it is impossible! it has no resemblance to anything reasonable or practicable!"
"That's for us to find out when we shall have tried it!"
"But trying it is exactly what you ought not to attempt."
"Why so, if you please?"
"Well, the risks, the difficulty of the thing."
"As for difficulties," replied Ferguson, in a serious tone, "they were made to be overcome; as for risks and dangers, who can flatter himself that he is to escape them? Every thing in life involves danger; it may even be dangerous to sit down at one's own table, or to put one's hat on one's own head. Moreover, we must look upon what is to occur as having already occurred, and see nothing but the present in the future, for the future is but the present a little farther on."
"There it is!" exclaimed Kennedy, with a shrug. "As great a fatalist as ever!"
"Yes! but in the good sense of the word. Let us not trouble ourselves, then, about what fate has in store for us, and let us not forget our good old English proverb: 'The man who was born to be hung will never be drowned!'"
There was no reply to make, but that did not prevent Kennedy from resuming a series of arguments which may be readily conjectured, but which were too long for us to repeat.
"Well, then," he said, after an hour's discussion, "if you are absolutely determined to make this trip across the African continent--if it is necessary for your happiness, why not pursue the ordinary routes?"
"Why?" ejaculated the doctor, growing animated. "Because, all attempts to do so, up to this time, have utterly failed. Because, from Mungo Park, assassinated on the Niger, to Vogel, who disappeared in the Wadai country; from Oudney, who died at Murmur, and Clapperton, lost at Sackatou, to the Frenchman Maizan, who was cut to pieces; from Major Laing, killed by the Touaregs, to Roscher, from Hamburg, massacred in the beginning of 1860, the names of victim after victim have been inscribed on the lists of African martyrdom! Because, to contend successfully against the elements; against hunger, and thirst, and fever; against savage beasts, and still more savage men, is impossible! Because, what cannot be done in one way, should be tried in another. In fine, because what one cannot pass through directly in the middle, must be passed by going to one side or overhead!"
"If passing over it were the only question!" interposed Kennedy; "but passing high up in the air, doctor, there's the rub!"
"Come, then," said the doctor, "what have I to fear? You will admit that I have taken my precautions in such manner as to be certain that my balloon will not fall; but, should it disappoint me, I should find myself on the ground in the normal conditions imposed upon other explorers. But, my balloon will not deceive me, and we need make no such calculations."
"Yes, but you must take them into view."