Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Abbeyport was made up of some twenty-five or twenty-six businesses, and as far as I could tell fifteen of them were saloons of some sort.  Among the few others, besides the single hotel, were a couple of general stores, at least two launderers, and an import/export office.  All the others were trading posts specializing in selling to the natives, using a barter system with which they could purchase European or American goods. There were none of the sorts of shops I had seen in cities like New York or San Francisco, which catered to the finer things in life.  The streets were all simple packed dirt affairs and one couldn’t help but kick up a great deal of dust just walking from here to there.  The large colonial style homes sitting around these clapboard stores and saloons looked totally out of place, with their carefully tended gardens, white picket fences, and brightly painted verandas.  Some of the inhabitants sat in chairs or beneath the shade fanning themselves and drinking cool beverages; the men dressed in white suits and the ladies in long dark dresses and white long-sleeved blouses, their hair piled high in carefully constructed stacks.

I didn’t stray too far beyond these houses, examining the native dwellings without wandering out among them.  They were square constructions made by carefully intertwining twigs together and then topping the home off with very large leaves.  I can only assume the roofs had to be replaced fairly often because most of them were still quite green.

Wandering back to the hotel, I hadn’t taken nearly as much time as I had expected to make an entire circuit of the area.  When I stepped into my room, I was surprised to find a native man bent over one of my steamer trunks, which had been laid flat on the floor.  I gave a shout as he plowed into me on his way out the door.  I didn’t try too hard to stop him, and doubt if I could easily have done so, because he was quite a large fellow.  I resolved then that I wouldn’t leave my possessions unguarded if I could help it. The thief had been unable to gain access to my belongings due to a complex locking mechanism that required not only a four-digit combination, but also the throwing of two secret switches hidden on either side of the luggage.

I went to what passed for the dining room in the hotel only long enough to grab a bowl of soup and a couple of slices of bread.  Then I retired to my room and went to bed at an early hour, though darkness had firmly settled before I did.

That night the dream returned for the first time since I had left the United States, though before that it had plagued me for many nights.  I found myself outside the door of my home in Boston. I turned the key in the lock, opened the door, and entered.  Though I tried to move quickly, I felt as if the air was thick syrup.  I stepped through the foyer and heard the voices coming from the parlor beyond.  In my dream I couldn’t recognize the voices, though my waking self knew who they were.

In the morning, I had just washed, shaved, and dressed when the native boy, Saral, arrived at my door.

“Someone tried to break into my things yesterday.”

“Yes, there are many thieves.  Not to worry. I will see your room guarded.”

“It has to be someone capable.  This fellow was bigger than I am.”

“Not to worry.  I will get my cousin Asika to guard your room.”

“As you think best,” I said, handing him another dollar.  “Who can I see about arranging an expedition into the wilderness?  I need bearers and… well, I don’t know what you call them here.  Men with guns.”

“Guards yes?  I can take care of all this for you.  It will not be easy to find all the men you need.  The great Roosevelt expedition has hired two hundred men.”

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