A SLAVE CARAVAN
Too Long; Didn't ReadThe storm of the previous night, by swelling the tributaries of the Coanza, had caused the main river to overflow its banks. The inundation had entirely changed the aspect of the country, transforming the plain into a lake, where the peaks of a number of ant-hills were the sole objects that emerged above the watery expanse.
The Coanza, which is one of the principal rivers of Angola, falls into the Atlantic about a hundred miles from the spot at which the "Pilgrim" was stranded. The stream, which a few years later was crossed by Cameron on his way to Benguela, seems destined to become the chief highway of traffic between Angola and the interior; steamers already ply upon its lower waters, and probably ten years will not elapse before they perform regular service along its entire course.
Dick Sands had been quite right in searching northwards for the navigable stream he had been so anxious to find; the rivulet he had been following fell into the Coanza scarce a mile away, and had it not been for this unexpected attack he and his friends might reasonably have hoped to descend the river upon a raft, until they reached one of the Portuguese forts where steam vessels put in. But their fate was ordered otherwise.
The camp which Dick had descried from the ant-hill was pitched upon an eminence crowned by an enormous sycamore-fig, one of those giant trees occasionally found in Central Africa, of which the spreading foliage will shelter some five hundred men. Some of the non-fruit-bearing kind of banyan-trees formed the background of the landscape.