They passed in time the rocks that guard Madeira, the green bay of Funchal, the peak of Teneriffe, and then the ship turned on its heel to the West Coast, and, while yet a thousand miles away, was welcomed by two messengers—a shrike and a hawk-moth, who had sailed along some upper current of air with red sand from the Sahara to filter down at last on to a firm resting-place.
They went away down into the Gulf of Guinea, and with many a call by the way to discharge cargo, approached the mouth of the Congo, whose flood gave a tawny colour to the sea. So far they had seen nothing but the squalid fringe of the Continent, and the damp heat had steamed them and tried them, but the young explorers had not lost the fine edge of their imagination. They knew that hundreds of miles back in the unexplored heart of the land there were secrets to be unraveled, and though they shed their warmer clothing, they retained their ardour. The river somewhere in its far reaches held for them, and them alone, new forms of life—the grandfather of all the crocodiles, a mammoth hippo; and somewhere in the forest was some huge gorilla waiting to offer them battle. Moreover, were these not the gates of the Place of Rest?
"Surely," said Compton, as they steamed slowly into the night off the mouth of the great river, "thy slave is not cast down because the black children of the mud-house at our last calling-place did mock us with their mouths, and the man, their father, wore the silk hat and frock-coat of civilization?"
"Perish the thought," said Venning, throwing a banana peel at a brilliant flash of phosphorescent light in the oily waters. "Yet the man-who-was-tired, he of the parchment face, who sat on a verandah with his feet on the rail, prophesied that within seven days we should be sighing for English bacon in the country where a white man could breathe."