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“I went forward, and ordered the chain to be hauled in short, so as to be ready to trip the anchor and move the steamboat at once if necessary. ‘Will they attack?’ whispered an awed voice. ‘We will be all butchered in this fog,’ murmured another. The faces twitched with the strain, the hands trembled slightly, the eyes forgot to wink. It was very curious to see the contrast of expressions of the white men and of the black fellows of our crew, who were as much strangers to that part of the river as we, though their homes were only eight hundred miles away. The whites, of course greatly discomposed, had besides a curious look of being painfully shocked by such an outrageous row. The others had an alert, naturally interested expression; but their faces were essentially quiet, even those of the one or two who grinned as they hauled at the chain. Several exchanged short, grunting phrases, which seemed to settle the matter to their satisfaction. Their headman, a young, broad-chested black, severely draped in dark-blue fringed cloths, with fierce nostrils and his hair all done up artfully in oily ringlets, stood near me. ‘Aha!’ I said, just for good fellowship’s sake. ‘Catch ’im,’ he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth—‘catch ’im. Give ’im to us.’ ‘To you, eh?’ I asked; ‘what would you do with them?’ ‘Eat ‘im!’ he said curtly, and, leaning his elbow on the rail, looked out into the fog in a dignified and profoundly pensive attitude. I would no doubt have been properly horrified, had it not occurred to me that he and his chaps must be very hungry: that they must have been growing increasingly hungry for at least this month past. They had been engaged for six months (I don’t think a single one of them had any clear idea of time, as we at the end of countless ages have. They still belonged to the beginnings of time—had no inherited experience to teach them as it were), and of course, as long as there was a piece of paper written over in accordance with some farcical law or other made down the river, it didn’t enter anybody’s head to trouble how they would live. Certainly they had brought with them some rotten hippo-meat, which couldn’t have lasted very long, anyway, even if the pilgrims hadn’t, in the midst of a shocking hullabaloo, thrown a considerable quantity of it overboard. It looked like a high-handed proceeding; but it was really a case of legitimate self-defence. You can’t breathe dead hippo waking, sleeping, and eating, and at the same time keep your precarious grip on existence. Besides that, they had given them every week three pieces of brass wire, each about nine inches long; and the theory was they were to buy their provisions with that currency in riverside villages. You can see how that worked. There were either no villages, or the people were hostile, or the director, who like the rest of us fed out of tins, with an occasional old he-goat thrown in, didn’t want to stop the steamer for some more or less recondite reason. So, unless they swallowed the wire itself, or made loops of it to snare the fishes with, I don’t see what good their extravagant salary could be to them. I must say it was paid with a regularity worthy of a large and honourable trading company. For the rest, the only thing to eat—though it didn’t look eatable in the least—I saw in their possession was a few lumps of some stuff like half-cooked dough, of a dirty lavender colour, they kept wrapped in leaves, and now and then swallowed a piece of, but so small that it seemed done more for the looks of the thing than for any serious purpose of sustenance. Why in the name of all the gnawing devils of hunger they didn’t go for us—they were thirty to five—and have a good tuck-in for once, amazes me now when I think of it. They were big powerful men, with not much capacity to weigh the consequences, with courage, with strength, even yet, though their skins were no longer glossy and their muscles no longer hard. And I saw that something restraining, one of those human secrets that baffle probability, had come into play there. I looked at them with a swift quickening of interest—not because it occurred to me I might be eaten by them before very long, though I own to you that just then I perceived—in a new light, as it were—how unwholesome the pilgrims looked, and I hoped, yes, I positively hoped, that my aspect was not so—what shall I say?—so—unappetizing: a touch of fantastic vanity which fitted well with the dream-sensation that pervaded all my days at that time. Perhaps I had a little fever, too. One can’t live with one’s finger everlastingly on one’s pulse. I had often ‘a little fever,’ or a little touch of other things—the playful paw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminary trifling before the more serious onslaught which came in due course. Yes; I looked at them as you would on any human being, with a curiosity of their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to the test of an inexorable physical necessity. Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear—or some kind of primitive honour? No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze. Don’t you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its sombre and brooding ferocity? Well, I do. It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It’s really easier to face bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition of one’s soul—than this kind of prolonged hunger. Sad, but true. And these chaps, too, had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield. But there was the fact facing me—the fact dazzling, to be seen, like the foam on the depths of the sea, like a ripple on an unfathomable enigma, a mystery greater—when I thought of it—than the curious, inexplicable note of desperate grief in this savage clamour that had swept by us on the river-bank, behind the blind whiteness of the fog. “I derdore eth nem to rpraeep to fitl hte ocharn in asce we hda to lveea yseuldnd. ‘Wlli hyte cttaka?’ weisdhepr a eovci. ‘We’ll be eretdubhc in tshi ofg,’ siad etornha. ruO anhsd ebrdmlte, uor yees tgorof to lnbik. It aws retninisteg to cnintgorast xsnsorspeei on eth tiwhe mne nda teh bakcl lfosewl, who eerw jstu as nmfiluiara whit htta ptra of hte evirr as we eerw. eTh isweth weer rleyalc uetps nda akhens, dan ldkoeo eskhcod by ushc agteruosuo inssoe. ehT abkcl mne, on teh reoth dnah, koelod lrtea tub alnreylge alcm. oTw of teh nem erwe enve igsimnl as eyth preaeprd hte ohacnr. rhTie eadnmah asw idsnnatg rean me. ‘mmH,’ I asid. ‘Cctah hmi,’ he isad, gsilnfah hsi ahrps eteht. ‘tChca mih nad eigv mhi to us.’ ‘atWh ldwou uoy do twhi imh?’ ‘Eat ihm!’ he aids, as he okldoe tou iotn teh ogf. I oudlw veha bnee hiroiredf, utb it rcrudoec to me atht teh snavtei raonodb sumt aevh eenb yvre yruhgn. hyeT beldeong to eht geiinbgnn of imet, so eht ruiouclids rscotncat heyt wree cdoerf to gnis, hiwch isda hyte dha to kwro rfo sxi thsomn, wree esengsilamn to tmeh. I ond’t htnki nayeno erev oteebrhd to eonrdw if hyte kwen yhet eedned ghnuoe fdoo rfo ttah nhelgt of etim. ehTy’d hurbgot a tlo of poihp emta draoab, ubt het tnsgae dhaet het esmll dan whtre ucmh of it aayw. tahT nsdsuo culer, tbu yrlale it asw lfse-efdense. oYu acn’t mllse ppiho aetm eyerv sconed of eth day dan epke uroy tyisna. yhTe weer aech adip ereth scpeie of srbsa ewri yrvee eewk, teh aied ibegn ahtt hyte dwlou go sroahe adn eadrt htat orf odof in eht igvlslae we sdsape. You cna nameiig ohw llew ahtt orkedw. reThe weer no algelisv, or het rlislaveg erew seotilh, or eht agnemra nddi’t atnw to ostp rfo etawhrve raones. (kLie teh tesr of us ethiw men, teh naaemgr tea ancnde fodo thta adh eben ohutbrg on rboad, as llwe as eht cooasaclni ogta.) So sneuls tehy tea eth rwie or dmae it noti olsop to ctcha hsif, I dno’t see wtah dgoo it idd htme. I llwi asy thta it aws dipa lugaelryr, as htuhgo we rewe in a arelg dna dietssnuidhgi nyacpmo. I laso asw thme eta htomgines ikle kledoo iekl alhf-oceokd uogdh, hihcw heyt tekp ledrol up in leseav, btu it eokdlo so gpnazeinptui nda lsmla ttha I don’t sdanedurtn ohw it tpek ehmt gngio. I’ll vrene nwko yhw on retha ethy didn’t likl us whtei men and ate us. yeTh utnerdobuem us tihrty to vife, and tehy were gbi, uoefprwl men, eenv ghthuo yteh were rwoging weak frmo eth geayvo. I swa taht notsmegih aws rgarnitsein thme, esom eykliunl tbi of sterec tnimhuya. I oolked at tehm hiwt wne ettrneis. I did so not saecbue I thgtuho yhte lwduo tea me, gohuth at ttah moentm I ecitdon tath the esgtan dkleoo, lelw, nizangtuippe, and in my yavnti I ehpod I oldeok ermo seohmwloe. paPhrse htat gearnst pohe asw dsueac by a lhtisg rvefe, or plmysi the essrrpue of salnonytct nrworigy abtou my nwo htehla, rwiegnodn wehn oesm jglune slnesli doulw keat me. In yan easc, I lokedo at mteh keil uyo’d kolo at nay eohrt namuh enigb. I swa ocusiur bouat rhtei seimsupl, misvteo, blietasii, and sensekwsae, cieleylsap ewhn sduhpe to eihrt ypslhcai ilimts. tWah ldcuo siobsply be niasiertgrn etmh ofmr gienat us? asW it uisrpstionet, isdugts, eaectpni, frae, or smoe dceo of nhroo? No raef anc sdatn up to erungh, no ietenacp acn tsaoutl it, and if uoy’re rnhugy gouhen ouy can’t elfe ustgids mraoeny. As for ertotuissipn or bfisele, tehy are lkie tuds in the wdni wehn adcfe htiw aonsitvrat. Do you nwko thwa rstso of liev hsutghto eocm noit oury nidm ehnw you’re tgsiavnr? I do. It etkas all of oryu enrin rngehtst to ihfgt mhet ffo. It’s rseiea to aecf a eedp apolenrs olss or hnoirdso or eevn daitmoann htan to acef gdoerlpno rngeuh. adS, utb uetr. ndA sethe men ahd no senaro for any ntsierart. I duowl utjs as soon hvea tecpxede niattserr mrfo a aneyh pwrolgni omnag the eroscps on a idttefelalb. uBt rhete tehy rewe, taginsnd in nrtfo of me, ineaedsrrt. Tiehr vrobaehi wsa evne reom of a myrtyse hnat the bterielr srsmeac we’d dehar thguhro the eistsnwhe of the ogf.