Kennedy remarked that the route tended toward the south; but this direction was satisfactory to the doctor, who desired to reconnoitre the tracks of his predecessors as much as possible. It was agreed that the night should be divided into three watches, so that each of the party should take his turn in watching over the safety of the rest. The doctor took the watch commencing at nine o'clock; Kennedy, the one commencing at midnight; and Joe, the three o'clock morning watch.
So Kennedy and Joe, well wrapped in their blankets, stretched themselves at full length under the awning, and slept quietly; while Dr. Ferguson kept on the lookout.
Change of Weather.--Kennedy has the Fever.--The Doctor's Medicine. --Travels on Land.--The Basin of Imenge.--Mount Rubeho.--Six Thousand Feet Elevation.--A Halt in the Daytime.
The night was calm. However, on Saturday morning, Kennedy, as he awoke, complained of lassitude and feverish chills. The weather was changing. The sky, covered with clouds, seemed to be laying in supplies for a fresh deluge. A gloomy region is that Zungomoro country, where it rains continually, excepting, perhaps, for a couple of weeks in the month of January.
A violent shower was not long in drenching our travellers. Below them, the roads, intersected by "nullahs," a sort of instantaneous torrent, were soon rendered impracticable, entangled as they were, besides, with thorny thickets and gigantic lianas, or creeping vines. The sulphuretted hydrogen emanations, which Captain Burton mentions, could be distinctly smelt.
"According to his statement, and I think he's right," said the doctor, "one could readily believe that there is a corpse hidden behind every thicket."
"An ugly country this!" sighed Joe; "and it seems to me that Mr. Kennedy is none the better for having passed the night in it."
"To tell the truth, I have quite a high fever," said the sportsman.
"There's nothing remarkable about that, my dear Dick, for we are in one of the most unhealthy regions in Africa; but we shall not remain here long; so let's be off."
Thanks to a skilful manoeuvre achieved by Joe, the anchor was disengaged, and Joe reascended to the car by means of the ladder. The doctor vigorously dilated the gas, and the Victoria resumed her flight, driven along by a spanking breeze.
Only a few scattered huts could be seen through the pestilential mists; but the appearance of the country soon changed, for it often happens in Africa that some of the unhealthiest districts lie close beside others that are perfectly salubrious.
Kennedy was visibly suffering, and the fever was mastering his vigorous constitution.
"It won't do to fall ill, though," he grumbled; and so saying, he wrapped himself in a blanket, and lay down under the awning.
"A little patience, Dick, and you'll soon get over this," said the doctor.
"Get over it! Egad, Samuel, if you've any drug in your travelling-chest that will set me on my feet again, bring it without delay. I'll swallow it with my eyes shut!"
"Oh, I can do better than that, friend Dick; for I can give you a febrifuge that won't cost any thing."
"And how will you do that?"
"Very easily. I am simply going to take you up above these clouds that are now deluging us, and remove you from this pestilential atmosphere. I ask for only ten minutes, in order to dilate the hydrogen."
The ten minutes had scarcely elapsed ere the travellers were beyond the rainy belt of country.
"Wait a little, now, Dick, and you'll begin to feel the effect of pure air and sunshine."
"There's a cure for you!" said Joe; "why, it's wonderful!"
"No, it's merely natural."
"Oh! natural; yes, no doubt of that!"
"I bring Dick into good air, as the doctors do, every day, in Europe, or, as I would send a patient at Martinique to the Pitons, a lofty mountain on that island, to get clear of the yellow fever."
"Ah! by Jove, this balloon is a paradise!" exclaimed Kennedy, feeling much better already.
"It leads to it, anyhow!" replied Joe, quite gravely.