These two daring explorers then reembarked for England; and the Geographical Society of Paris decreed them its annual prize medal.
Dr. Ferguson carefully remarked that they had not gone beyond the second degree of south latitude, nor the twenty-ninth of east longitude.
The problem, therefore, was how to link the explorations of Burton and Speke with those of Dr. Barth, since to do so was to undertake to traverse an extent of more than twelve degrees of territory.
Kennedy's Dreams.--Articles and Pronouns in the Plural.--Dick's Insinuations. --A Promenade over the Map of Africa.--What is contained between two Points of the Compass.--Expeditions now on foot.--Speke and Grant.--Krapf, De Decken, and De Heuglin.
Dr. Ferguson energetically pushed the preparations for his departure, and in person superintended the construction of his balloon, with certain modifications; in regard to which he observed the most absolute silence. For a long time past he had been applying himself to the study of the Arab language and the various Mandingoe idioms, and, thanks to his talents as a polyglot, he had made rapid progress.
In the mean while his friend, the sportsman, never let him out of his sight--afraid, no doubt, that the doctor might take his departure, without saying a word to anybody. On this subject, he regaled him with the most persuasive arguments, which, however, did NOT persuade Samuel Ferguson, and wasted his breath in pathetic entreaties, by which the latter seemed to be but slightly moved. In fine, Dick felt that the doctor was slipping through his fingers.
The poor Scot was really to be pitied. He could not look upon the azure vault without a sombre terror: when asleep, he felt oscillations that made his head reel; and every night he had visions of being swung aloft at immeasurable heights.
We must add that, during these fearful nightmares, he once or twice fell out of bed. His first care then was to show Ferguson a severe contusion that he had received on the cranium. "And yet," he would add, with warmth, "that was at the height of only three feet--not an inch more--and such a bump as this! Only think, then!"
This insinuation, full of sad meaning as it was, did not seem to touch the doctor's heart.
"We'll not fall," was his invariable reply.
"But, still, suppose that we WERE to fall!"
"We will NOT fall!"
This was decisive, and Kennedy had nothing more to say.
What particularly exasperated Dick was, that the doctor seemed completely to lose sight of his personality-- of his--Kennedy's--and to look upon him as irrevocably destined to become his aerial companion. Not even the shadow of a doubt was ever suggested; and Samuel made an intolerable misuse of the first person plural:
"'We' are getting along; 'we' shall be ready on the ----; 'we' shall start on the ----," etc., etc.
And then there was the singular possessive adjective:
"'Our' balloon; 'our' car; 'our' expedition."
And the same in the plural, too:
"'Our' preparations; 'our' discoveries; 'our' ascensions."
Dick shuddered at them, although he was determined not to go; but he did not want to annoy his friend. Let us also disclose the fact that, without knowing exactly why himself, he had sent to Edinburgh for a certain selection of heavy clothing, and his best hunting-gear and fire-arms.
One day, after having admitted that, with an overwhelming run of good-luck, there MIGHT be one chance of success in a thousand, he pretended to yield entirely to the doctor's wishes; but, in order to still put off the journey, he opened the most varied series of subterfuges. He threw himself back upon questioning the utility of the expedition--its opportuneness, etc. This discovery of the sources of the Nile, was it likely to be of any use?--Would one have really labored for the welfare of humanity?-- When, after all, the African tribes should have been civilized, would they be any happier?--Were folks certain that civilization had not its chosen abode there rather than in Europe?--Perhaps!--And then, couldn't one wait a little longer?--The trip across Africa would certainly be accomplished some day, and in a less hazardous manner.-- In another month, or in six months before the year was over, some explorer would undoubtedly come in--etc., etc.