Black Sheep: Iii. The Mail From the Beach

LOLODORF, WEST AFRICA, October 12.
Now this is the way I call the roll in the Bulu school. ‘Child of a guest!’ ‘Here.’ ‘ThreeDreams!’ ‘Here!’ ‘Boejeli Maballi!’ No answer; try again, until a neighbor of the absentee explains that Boejeli is still in his town. ‘ And why ? ’ asks Matchenda. ‘ Because his brother whipped him, and he said if his brother whipped him, why he would just sit down in his town and not make school.’ ‘He hunts another whipping,’ says Matchenda, very stern; ‘he looks for me to whip him; tell him where I am! ’ — ‘ Child of a Ngumba ’; to which name a boy of the Mvele tribe makes answer. (I hope you get the horrid immoral flavor of these names.) ‘Biguer, why did you not come back to school yesterday?’ ‘Because the people of my town enticed me to sit down.’ ‘Zambe, why were you absent?’ ‘Because the people of my town enticed me.’ (Matchenda wakes from her trance and fixes these two with an eye, motioning with her chin to a bench by her side; the two sons of Adam come up higher.) ‘Sala, where were you ? ’ ‘ The soldiers caught a little girl in our town, and therefore I could not come.’ Matchenda waves her chin at the bench; Sala drifts forward, and so it goes. Not, my dears, that I can claim to do the whipping. I write little notes to the Doctor. ‘Whip this boy,’ write I, in a fine flowing hand; the boy reads this reflected in my eye. ‘ Give this to the Doctor,’ say I; and the boy takes the note with something less cheerful than the American postman’s mien. The Bulu school is the primary school, you understand; my advanced classes are in the German school. The older boys are quite beyond whipping; they behave indeed with uncommon decency.

LOLODORF, November 10.
Bitum came up from Ipose to confess to a breach of the seventh commandment. He has been teaching school there. The woman is not living with her husband. I talked to her and the Doctor talked to Bitum. She is a rather silly person with questing eyes; I had suffered maternal anxieties as to Bitum’s safety when first I saw those questing eyes. Well, never mind, that is what happened anyway; and I think it is a pity, but I don’t think it is very dreadful. Certainly it is a pity. Bitum of course is removed from the school and from the church. The day he confessed he sat, toward evening, in my room — no dimples at all, but wiping his eyes on his crumpled felt hat. He had nothing to say; at least he could not say it. But two days later, when he returned from closing school at Ipose, he came into my room and talked quite freely, wiping his eyes at intervals with his boy knuckles. This is the kind of thing he said: —
‘It was a nice school. No one could see it but must have thought it was a nice school. I used to worry about it sometimes; some little thing would go wrong and I would lie awake at night and think that the school was going to be ruined. But really it was a nice school sometimes. At noon my head would ache — a person would think the whole school was in my head. When I came away to-day not a child — not an old woman— but shed tears. They all shed tears — Ndungó Ze himself shed tears.’ An interval during which Bitum follows the popular example.
‘When we are children we like to think of what we shall do when we grow to be men, and I always chose to teach people and help them. In the afternoons when Ngem and I used to sit together and talk thus — did I ever choose anything else? Do you believe they will ever let me teach school again?’
So on and on — about his dreams and his performance and his poor young disappointment. Not very much about his repentance, but enough. I feel it rather hopeless to let you in on our attitude. We take such a defection as this with a certain resignation, — at least some of us do. The sins of the flesh present a simpler aspect than you can realize, and in such a case as this do not inflict any social injury. The people at Ipose are puzzled at a judgment which removes Bitum on such a charge; only the Christians have any sense of the sin; and this is more a reasonable inference from the law than any quick sense. I can’t explain to you without minimizing their wish and intent to keep this commandment, which they think as good as any other, Bitum’s trouble of soul has more to do with his disloyalty to Christ than with any sense of personal shame. He had meant to be obedient to his Master and then he spoiled his service like a silly. We are having preparatory meetings this week; from where I sit I see his face, and I can’t tell you how sometimes his poor bewildered boy heart looks out of his eyes. I seem never to have realized Bitum so completely as now: his nervous animation, the grace of his sudden gestures, the eagerness of his youth, and his sudden calms of gentle, earnest attention.
I suppose you think that I feel very badly about this; and I do feel badly, but not so much as you think. We people who have come out into the wilderness are not too quick to start at a reed shaken by the wind. Neither do I take this defection of a young Christian lad to contribute anything in particular to my exceedingly vague ideas as to the possibilities of the African race, —either the possibilities or the impossibilities.
All this time I have been much occupied, — getting out of my room over into the Fords’ house, — and I have been often weary. The Lehman children have a Bulu measles, and Mrs. Lehman is a much worn woman; but I have had no leisure in which to help her, even if she had been of a mind to let me.

Saturday night.
Bitum has just left after two hours of such pathetic outpouring as would hurt you. At first he said he had five words to open for me and he went at them in a sufficiently systematic fashion. But presently he was saying, ‘My heart is just dried up within me and my body is weak. If I sat with another man and there was food between us he might have it all; and if I broke a kank and gave him half, my portion would fall to the ground before I would think to eat it. Every way I look I find no peace. The worst is that I cannot give up teaching school and that you won’t take me back’ (for I think it is best for him to go to his town until the next term of school, and then to do something more hardy than my work). ‘I cannot run from these thoughts—they are with me all the time. I am surprised. I am like an animal who went away on a visit, and there was one who dug a pit for him, and the animal, returning, fell into the pit. He did not know of the pit — he fell in. I cannot see people as I used — something is wrong with my eyes. Now I walk as slowly as the chameleon, and so I will walk because of the evil which I was so quick to do. The path ahead is plain enough, but I am like a man who was walking, and something strikes him on the head from behind — he cannot forget that blow — he wonders about it and who did it and will it happen again; for all the path is plain before him, his thoughts are all behind him.’
I cannot tell you all he said. I thought I had heard something similar before, so I began to read out of the Psalms, translating as I went along. There was the whole matter and the ancient anguish, — David’s tears gathered up in God’s bottle so long ago, — and Bitum said, ‘I would say you were reading from the heart of a man!’

Monday, November 12.
Bitum said good-bye to me last night, to leave this morning. More than when he went to Ipose I hated to see him go. I tell you, I suffered real pangs. It was Communion Sunday. He is, of course, stricken from the Church roll. Very many people are here from Lam and Ipose, — I took all the time I could get to go about among the various huddles of them; and in one Ipose group I found Bitum, giving last directions to his flock, — how they were to conduct themselves, and achieve the Christian graces. The sad old women could hardly let him go. On Sunday he looked a nice proper Bulu youth in his white singlet and his bright cloth. On Saturday night, when we talked together, I had reproved him for his careless dress. ‘Have n’t you anything decent in your box?’ I had asked; and he had said, ‘Why, I have lots of things, but I can’t bear to open the box; I think about how the body is more than raiment and the life than the body.’
I do hope he will be good now. He will go in my caravan to Elat and carry a load. If I could bring myself to feel it right to take him back, I would have so much comfort in him; but I know that he must go if he is to be a man.

LIBREVILLE, WEST AFRICA,
July 10.
I write you this from Libreville on the Gaboon River in the French Congo; rather, I write from Baraka, the mission station among the Mpongwe people. I have been transferred hither from the Kamerun because I speak French, and there is need of such a French-speaking missionary here. Very charming it is at this station in the old house among the old trees looking out upon the river and beyond this to the sunset. And very encouraging it is to a missionary from a young station to see these Mpongwe Christians, the fruit of half a century of missionary labor, who have come to be a people of pleasant and orderly life, living in their gray bamboo houses after no mean fashion, with books upon their shelves and clean linen upon their beds. Some of the houses are papered and some have cement floors; in some there are pictures of miscellaneous royalty upon the walls and fading photographs of the family when they were bride and groom; in the little gardens flowers run from the sea wind. Of a Sunday the little church is full of a decent congregation who have come up to the House of God with pleasure and with pride, dressed, I suspect, with a good deal of conscious vanity, and observing solemn rules of conduct with great good cheer and complacency. Do not despise this joy in form and order; the house after having been swept is furnished after a new fashion that passeth not away, and how shall the owner conceal his delight? I call at the houses of the Christians and go about to the village prayermeetings just for the pleasure of seeing these comely Mpongwe women move about in their enriched circumstance, — themselves enriched in mind and heart and spirit beyond all counting. To me the windows, open to the river; the great white beds under their white curtains and their covers of red and white appliqué; the tables dressed with a white cloth, where the wife eats with the husband, — all these are pledges of hope for the poor Bulu woman, for the Ngumba woman, for the little Dwarf woman in the hidden places of the forest, and for the Fang woman who lives in the waterways back of us as the dweller in Third Avenue lives back of the dweller in Fourth.
Baraka has its potent past. One may not forget the women of long ago who were busy at its inception, in hoops, — if indeed they stooped to vanity, — with curls back of their ears or smooth hair drawn over them. Some of these are long dead, some of them are in America, some are still among us, — these last so much a part of our present that we hardly associate with them a past of so quaint an aspect. But the past survives intact in the memory of the old Mpongwe women. ‘Mrs. Walker was very kind,’says one, in that soft English which she learned of Mrs. Walker in her youth. ‘She was tenderhearted. When the work was badly done she would say to us little girls, “Child, child, sit down!” and we liked that. Mrs. Bushnell was kind too — ah, Mrs. Bushnell! And when the work was badly done we must always do it again for Mrs. Bushnell. When we grew older we knew that she was right. Mrs. Bushnell taught us to work!’
And Sarah, ironing Miss Nassau’s dress while she talks to me, dreams over the days when Miss Nassau was a young woman on Corisco Island. On that account we sit still for a little. The sound of the tide comes in at the open door and the flowers in the little garden run from the sea wind. Everywhere in the open is the exceeding brightness of day; and I think of how, in America, God has laid a hand upon Mrs. Bushnell’s eyes.
There are very wicked women among the Mpongwe, and there are saints too, — I feel the quaintness of this word and its difficulty. But there is a sort of woman for whom it is just a common term — who must be so called or lack a name; I mean kind old women who have befriended others; who have smiled so long out of their kind eyes that there is a perpetual glimmer of smile in the ultimate dimness; who have moved so softly about the sick and dying that they come down the village street as still, in their bare brown feet, as evening air. In the gardens of their minds righteousness and peace grow together, with many homely healing herbs for the wounded of their people. Some such have I seen in the village about Baraka, which is pretty much of a heavenly vision in the eyes of a missionary from Ngumba.

July 12.
You will be glad, since you care for my comfort, to know that we are pleasantly housed at Baraka. We live in an old house, among the scattered Mpongwe villages. Three miles of a road that follows the shore of the Gaboon estuary brings us to Libreville, one of the largest of the West Coast settlements. There are over one hundred white people, and more than twenty women. These are French people, and some English traders. I cannot hope to give you a sense of how metropolitan we feel ourselves to be. Indeed I think that only a ‘bush ’ person like myself experiences the full flavor of our excessive urbanity.
The Mpongwe people themselves are extraordinary in their grace and finish. Who can say for how many generations they have been in contact with the trader; and the American mission was busy among them as many as seventy years ago. They are people of a fastidious instinct, the nicest sort of instinct for true gentility; and there is nothing grotesque in their very modified aspect or in the modifications of their manner of life. Many of these old Christian women have an air of distinction for which one can hardly account— quite the ’grand manner ’; and the women of the tribe generally are graceful with a grace not at all primitive, — a sophisticated, almost a morbid, grace.
There has been, and there continues to be, a mingling of races here, so that we have to do with many mulattoes, little mulatto children in the school, poor pretty mulatto girls who want to be good against all the tides of their blood. Nothing is simple here, goodness least of all.
Well, my dears, I am to remain here. The Fords have no immediate intention of going home, and one must approve the earnestness of their devotion to this place, which must be closed if they go. And as for me, I shall go in for the work with all the heart I can bring to it. I don’t know what the work means, what it may come to mean; it is foreign to me. But I must manage to put myself into it somehow, and then we shall see.

July 27.
This afternoon I studied the language; and then I looked up and saw our settlement on its ridge rising between the sea and the sweet rolling country, and everywhere the light of the late afternoon. This place is not magic or strange but extraordinarily rural, — yes, even magically rural. The street that runs by the water, and the street back of this and upon the higher land of Libreville — with its little houses under the great mango trees and trees of strange blossoms and palm trees, the little houses painted brightly and standing in bright flowers — are rural but not in any common sense; there is a strangeness. There is no suggestion of the forest, but there is a suggestion of the primeval animal. I think this is as true as if the town with its little streets beneath its great trees were the jungle, and the poor pretty yellow girls that look at you from under the thatched eaves were leopardesses. There for generations the animal passions of men have been exceedingly busy, and everywhere is the melancholy of license. Don’t tell me that all the white men whose children run naked in the streets were minded to father such broods. I suppose the air of this place is heavy with self-disgust and a thousand remorses — a thousand thousand. This is an old settlement.

BARAKA, July 29.
I am conducting a French examination in the little schoolhouse. About seventy scholars come regularly, but to-day one class of six is held for examination. They are writing tensely with their chins above their slow hands. The eldest may be thirteen; there is one girl in the crowd. The teacher, Joseph, speaks better French than I do — and is handsomer too. He is very much in the flower of youth — the son of a woman still comely in her sixties.
For the minute the yoke of the French verb is heavy. From outside there come in sweet airs by the six windows and the open doors. We see the gray water and the green trees moving in the wind, and the sunny places where the mown grass is bleaching, and where Igue the Evangelist is washing his clothes. He is our preacher and a very timid person; he was a slave, and is perhaps of Dwarf origin.
There are twenty-eight girls in the school. Six of these are mulattoes or the children of white men and mulatto women. One is like a flower — her grace is excessive; some of the black ones are handsome, with a more robust and happy charm.

July 31.
Another examination — of the seniors, eight in number. One is a mulatto girl. We are bound to take them seriously if we take their race seriously. They read in French well enough — with a soft slur. Any one who doubts that Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ is thinking should look at the feet of these poor children: all the tenses of the verb aller are trodden out of the wine-press by their feet.

September 10.
The prettiest dress of the Mpongwe woman is a cloth drawn up under the arms, a scarf on the shoulders, and a handkerchief folded over the coiled hair in a high stiff fold set well up on the head, rather like a child’s idea of a crown. There is a great fancy for purples and lavenders set off with shades of rose and red and a sudden keen note of gilt. With black there will be a touch of most delicious bright green. A cloth and a scarf worn by a woman of beautiful gesture — and a Gabonnaise is always that — have a certain mutable charm; the movements of the body, the wind that blows from the sea, — these renew and display the folds of the garment so that the eye is intrigued.
There are two women, mother and daughter, who wear dresses of a type all by themselves. You would think the mother must be old, but she does not look so; Ntyuakero’s widow she is — he who was the minister here and who died of sleeping sickness. Her name is Osuka, She is a slight woman with a thin, thoughtful face, and a look of tender brooding and that fixed sweetness which is so often — perhaps always — a fruit of sorrow. When I go to see her, she comes from the spring — where she washes — in her straight black dress, with her black handkerchief above her little thin face; and as she sits under the eaves of her house, smiling at her guest, I see her a type — she is so much a widow, so much the little hard-working bereft woman who cries before she sleeps at night in her lonely house.
Her daughter is Joseph’s wife, and that is to be proud and happy. She dresses very sweetly, in lavenders and rose colors, falling rather scant on her thin young body except for a sort of congestion of gathers between the shoulders. Anuregulé braids her rather long hair in little braids; these fall straight and thick from under the stiff folds of her handkerchief down her temples and beside her delicate cheeks, with an effect of something angular and Egyptian, very stimulating to the imagination. She is good and happy, opulent, quite cheerfully vain, I fancy; and yet, in her slight face that is so gracious and so sweetly young, there is a shadow of latent melancholy — the daughter of Osuka’s melancholy.
I write this out because I want to try to make you see it, my dears, so that things will begin to be real to you a little. I wonder if the house is real, — the little old house under its thatch, with cocoanut trees standing high about it, rustling in the wind, and other denser trees, — a cinnamon tree at the back; the flamboyant tree putting out its first great red blossoms between the house and the church; the breadfruit trees with their gross leaves and their great green globes; the swaying, crowded plumes of the bamboo between us and the water? So many missionaries have sat in this same room, and have gone their many ways.

October 14.
The days go like this: I need n’t get up much before seven, so I don’t. Breakfast at something like a quarter past, and after this prayers, — I mean personal, white man’s prayers, and we take turns. By half-past eight I am in school. I look after the two advanced classes. I have divided them, and Joseph with an apprentice assists me. The advanced class studies in the afternoon, and I have nothing to do with afternoon sessions: Joseph and Mr. Ford attend to them. I have six little assistants who manage the lower classes, each in his own fashion, which is only in a measure modified by mine. There must be about fifty little codgers, boys and girls not much in love with school and not quick in beginning, — in which they differ from the Bush people, — but quite surprisingly intelligent.
We struggle along until noon, not so badly. The little teachers love to beat the little scholars, but they are not let. Teaching comes to be a dull business. These are my six assistants: Kidney, grandson of an English sea captain, and about sixteen, I should fancy, — slow and sad, not at all a virile type, quite a mulatto type; Madiba, a Benga boy, good stuff, about fifteen; Mbueke, a little younger and too, too clever — after all he may be no more than twelve. His teaching is a series of barks — you would say an exasperated collie herding silly sheep. Alexander, so lazy that I can’t afford to write about him; Japoma, who teaches mystically, all knowledge a whispered secret. I never caught him in the act; he floats with his class in a windless calm; I can’t fancy how the transfer is effected, but of a Friday, when they are called up to deliver, they open their little hands and there is the button. Then there is Rebieno. These last two cannot be twelve years old. Rebieno controls and teaches thirteen children; he would love to knock them about, and missing this, he bullies them by sheer mental force. He is small and some of them are bigger, some older, but he quietly and systematically grinds them down. Driving them to the water, he holds them under until they come up with a jolly good mouthful, and they need n’t gasp either. Out of the tail of his astute eye he measures my approval or disapproval, and he can change tack without order. His eye on me is not a sly one; it is the eye of a truly clever, disinterested, ruthless subordinate. This is my teaching force, and sometimes I call sweet Anyuré, who is a member of this class and whose little womanly presence diffuses something very tender and refreshing to ease your friend’s sense.
We read French as soon as we know all our letters, and Mrs. Ford has evolved a thoroughly practical system. We come to be quite glib, and would compare very creditably with a class of French peasantry in certain respects. Not in speaking French, of course, but hardly any one in the world can write as beautifully as some of us do. Only, here is none of the passion for learning which trembles in the Bush hearts, nor any hungering and thirsting after God. Quite like a school at home. The matter of age makes an element of the difference; one could not look for such ardors in such young hearts; but neither do the young men in this place seem to care. You can think if this would make a difference to missionaries! These are the things I think about more and more, and with less and less tranquillity. When I go to bed at night, I think, ‘Tomorrow something must happen’; and every day I think this more and more until the thought and the desire for the Bush work is being crowded by the will to make good here.

November 15.
Yesterday, in the late afternoon, I went to see Ekandé, a little cosy woman who is always busy by her open door. A mat will be spread on her clay floor and from her knees her bright-colored sewing falls on to the mat. Last evening we talked together — she was going with me a piece of the way home — about her son who was born twenty-five years ago. His father, she said, was a Dane, once a sailor, but in her day a trader. He took her away from Gaboon to Kamerun. They lived together seven years; he spoke Mpongwe. She was happy with him, she said. ‘White men are kinder to us than our Mpongwe men.’ Then he went away with the little boy; they were to have come back but never did. Now she is married to Magago, who is, I suppose, less kind. One of the French missionaries here, who was a trader before he became a missionary, says that the white men become very sincerely attached to their black women. I understand that, and I understand, too, that a black woman may gain by such a connection; but no one has explained to me yet how a Caucasian — with his racial prejudice in favor of the purity of his women — can cheerfully breed daughters of whom he may never hope that they will be chaste.
Another thing, — the black woman under contract to a white man continues to bear black children. The white men are obliged to submit to this, which a black man of this tribe need not tolerate. A black husband — well, never mind. This is not a particularly simple business.
Now I begin a little to get beneath the manner here. A few days ago I saw a little child with the sleeping sickness — further gone than when I saw her last, poor little girl — sleeping under a blanket, her little limbs sprawled out. In her waking moments she suffers mute fears; she may n’t say what she fears, only her frightened eyes hunt and find. Is n’t it too sad?

February 9.
This morning I woke when the day was still dim and strange. The people in a town a quarter of a mile away had been dancing all night, and the sound of their drumming was curiously deliberate in the dawn. I have never heard this rhythm before, — sad, my dears, to break the heart, desperate and deliberate at once. A measure of three, then two, then three, the last three falling always from the even deliberation of the first two measures, with a movement toward abandon — a very curious and disquieting effect. One wonders what was the dance, after the long night of dancing, at that disillusioning hour and to that cynical rhythm.
To-morrow I will have my letters; for that I am happy. Yesterday little Jana, the child with the sleeping sickness, died, and that was well. To-day I was with the poor weary mother, and she thanked me sweetly for the times I had come to see her. Was n’t that touching of her? The last time I saw the child she was lost to childish semblance; but a matter of two weeks ago I happened in while her mother was rubbing her with oil. She was sleeping, her little face an untroubled young mask, and the long angular lines of her young body very sweet and touching. Two women moved her about; she had little sudden rigors, gestures of angular childish grace.
I beg your pardon if it is wrong to talk about this. But it was extraordinary to see a human creature so lost as an individual, so lost to the senses, so unresponsive and so much at peace, so like a faint drawing of a little child on an Egyptian wall — and still beautiful.

March 16.
I feel —what you are often tempted to express — your dissatisfaction with my circumstance. And yet, my dears, take account of this: your friend actually insures the welfare of a school of nearly eighty little children. What more would you ask for me, or I for myself, than that I should be so practically serviceable? Think once how I stand on a platform, like a personage. Little boys go to wash their hands to please me. And once when a little boy was absent ‘because he had no cloth,’ I sent for him to come anyway, which he did, a little jacket tied by the sleeves about his middle. This is power. When they cough I say, ‘ You must stop coughing,’ and they do. When one has injured another I make him say, ‘Forgive me,’ which he hates to do but does. And then I tell the injured party that he is unmanly, so that no one is too complacent or comfortable for long.

March 20.
Mr. Martin, poor dear, is ordered to a trading post up the river, quite a lost place and ‘sunken from the healthy breath of morn.’ This makes us sad. But Mr. X. has taken his mulatto woman and his little children home, which is a great wonder. Now I can forget those little deep-eyed children that so grieved me.
They are boys, and that is better. It is the cross-breed girls who grieve me most, who are most adrift. The black men do not pick their wives from these, who are too frail, they think, for hardy uses. They are bad investments. Where may they cast anchor, these poor yellow girls who drift between black men and white?

March 27.
Anyuré and Aworé walk and talk together in the moonlight; they talk secrets, as they should. Anyuré’s little head is flowerlike; she carries her chin high and looks about her with smiling eyes. Aworé is very dark and, of late, womanly; she is pretty too. To-night in the moonlight I see some silver beads on her neck; they quite shine. Her black dress is figured with gay flowers; her hair comes down from under her flowered kerchief in close-set, stiff little twists.
These young girls seem very dear and sweet to me; I would like to be intimate with them. But I am not intimate with any one but Miagomori, and we keep this intimacy a secret. Little Miagomori, who must always hitch up his trousers when he stands to recite, should be grateful, I suppose. He is perhaps nine years old; he smiles more than is reasonable and this distinguishes him. I took care of him the day his little sister was buried; that is, I found him in the rear of the procession to the grave, dragging reluctant feet and terribly oppressed. I took him by his little cold hand and led him away out of the valley of the shadow. That was the beginning of our intimacy, as holding of hands has been before now.

March 29.
Mr. Martin is not to go up river, as seemed likely. I am glad. When I think how men are cast away here, and why, I am sick, — when I think of young Pierce at his lonely post between Cape St. John and Benito, walking his veranda at night because he cannot sleep; and of Mr. B-, who told me that in the times of his troubles with the Spanish officials at Eloby he used sometimes, from very loneliness and desolation, to weep. He looked for me to explain a thing so extraordinary.

April 8.
My dears, I salute you. Is it well on the top of the world where you live? There will be blossoms there on familiar trees that are green, above rivers that are better than all the waters of this estuary.
Yet here there is a great blessing and gift, — it is the gift of vision. Being well out of the woods one sees the forest, and you; and the ‘happy highways where you go shine plain and clear’ to me. On moonlight nights like these, when the world hangs all bright in the firmament, I see you on the gilded half, the very heart of all that fire and light. You can surely never see yourselves so. It is truly a fine sight, worth a penny a peep, and as good as an Easter egg with a glass end.
I begin to be almost glib in Mpongwe.

April 20.
To-day in a village a little girl was very friendly to me. Nay, more. She asked me to marry her. She was perhaps five years old; she had on a little dress in my honor, but it did n’t button. She discovered very much about me in a very short time — a gold tooth well back in my mouth because I was so indiscreet as to laugh. She asked me — had I borne? And I said no, I had never borne, but went about the towns hunting other women’s little children. She asked me in a most searching manner, did I love them? An extraordinary question from such a source. She patted me with her little hand and said she would marry me. Presently, a neighbor coming into the yard, she put her face to a crack in the railing about the veranda and called out, ‘You must see this white person who has come with a hat and an umbrella.’ Funny little black baby!
Was I telling you this wonder? A man all gaunt and shaggy, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, strolled up our way the other day. Jones by name. Prospecting, where he is allowed, for gold and precious stones. He had come up from the Cape in a bit sloop, he and another man from ‘ Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.’ Together they went up the Congo, and were there when I was, and the Count of Turin. I warmed to a type I know so well, and yet not just the type I know, either. Blue eyes, something too wild and too wistful in his whimsical brown face. Eighteen years he has been about the south coasts. Before that he was married and his wife died. His habits, he would have us know, are convivial. Yet he did not look like a heavy drinker. He looked a clean-bodied man, driven to and fro upon the face of the earth by some tireless devil of idealism.

October 18.
To-day I wandered down to the far end of our little holding. In among the trees by the fence some little girls were playing, — neighbors who had crept in under the wire and had gathered a heap of ripe mangoes that had fallen on our ground from a tree over the fence. One of these, a little ivory mulattress with sweet pale hair and gray eyes, was dreadfully startled to see me. She had a panic sense that the mangoes might perhaps belong to the white woman; but she took courage and invited me, very sweetly and like a lady, to have some. She is a most lovely little creature, the child of a mulattress and an Englishman; a poor little waif, fading with anæmia.
How can Englishmen, — who would kill their legitimate children rather than see them corrupted, — how can they father little helpless girls like these who are bred to serve a trader’s passing day!
The school improves wherever I concentrate. That is very satisfying and very tormenting, — the little teacher cannot sit on all her eggs at once.

January 15.
This station is to be left, like Corisco, in the hands of the native Christians; the white people are to be withdrawn for the work in Kamerun.
These days we have all the air of being sold out — all the poor old duds of this poor old station are spread out under the sun in the yard, and our neighbors, black and white, inspect them. We live half in and half out of packing boxes, with an eye out for the steamer, which will not leave for some time after arrival. This is a Sunday. All our relations with the people are melancholy now; their feelings are wounded, and that is sad to see, for they are good and true. They are not angry with us, but wounded. Many good kind Mpongwe people I have seen burst out crying in these last days. They will be trying to speak reasonably and quietly, when suddenly they give way. This is painful to see, particularly in the old.

January 20.
Ma Sara, dear woman, was talking to me in the moonlight last night. The young people, she said, can never know how the old ones feel to see Baraka ‘ die.’1 And that was a most pregnant expression, for the Baraka pillars were all hewn out of the rock of a certain period. ‘I jes’ sit at my window,’says Ma Sara, ‘and I jes’ watch the people carry everything away. They tek away the grind-stone, and I jes’ say in my heart it is an old friend is dead and they tek him away; and so I watch them tek away one, two, three, ten friends, all those old things they buy and tek away jes’ like old friends that die and they tek them away. I can’t eat, Mademoiselle, and I can’t sleep. When the morning comes I jes’ think one more day our few days. Mademoiselle, young people don’t know — maybe they think this is a small trouble.’
It is really a hideous time, but has to be got through.

{To be continued.)

  1. Baraka station passed into the hands of the French Protestant Society. — THE AUTHOR.