that hemmed me in that it soon became almost as light as day again, although not so light but that I could detect through the yellow, smoky glare the flickering lightnings wherewith the coming storm heralded its approach.
By-and-by the slow, measured beat of a tom-tom became audible through the noisy chattering of the vast crowd that had gathered about me, and immediately the excited jabbering subsided into an almost breathless silence. Then another tom-tom joined in, and another, and another, until there must have been a full dozen of them going, the beating becoming momentarily more rapid, until my throbbing brain fairly reeled with the giddy sounds, above which the low, sullen rumble of distant thunder now made itself heard. Presently I became aware, by the increasing loudness of the savage music, that the tom-tom beaters were approaching, and two or three minutes later they wheeled into the open space in front of me, and squatted down upon their haunches, with their tom-toms—now being most furiously beaten—between their knees. They were followed by about a hundred men fully armed with spear and shield, in the midst of which, borne aloft on a sort of rude throne supported upon the shoulders of eight stalwart negroes, sat an enormously fat man, black as ebony, naked save for a leopard skin apron about his loins, armed with some half-dozen long, broad-bladed, cruel-looking spears. This potentate, whom I rightly surmised to be King Plenty, halted his bearers square in front of me, scrutinised me curiously, and with a savage leer of delight upon his bloated features, for fully ten minutes. Then he made a sign by raising his right hand in the air, and on the instant some thirty or forty savages sprang forward with a shout and thrust their blazing torches into the heart of the combustibles by which I was surrounded.
"Thank God," thought I, "it will soon be over now!" and I only regretted that there was no wind to blow the