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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

Was exceedingly detrimental to the reputation of Mafuta


All

this, however, was exceedingly detrimental to the reputation of Mafuta, the chief witch-doctor of the community, who found his power and influence rapidly waning, and he soon discovered means to make me understand that I must cease to trespass upon what he deemed his own exclusive sphere of operations, on pain of making him my mortal enemy. This of course was bad, for I was in no position to make any man my enemy, much less an individual of such power and influence as Mafuta; nevertheless I continued to prescribe for all who came to me, trusting that if ever it should come to a struggle between Mafuta and myself, the gratitude of my patients would suffice to turn the scale in my favour.

Meanwhile I devoted my spare moments to the construction of a flute, and, after two or three partial failures, succeeded in producing an instrument of very sweet tone and a sufficient range of notes to enable me to tootle the air of several of the most popular songs of the day, as well as a fairly full repertoire of jigs, hornpipes, and other dance music. And it was particularly interesting to observe how powerfully anything in the nature of real music, like some of the airs of Braham, Purcell, Dr Arne, and Sir H. Bishop, appealed to these simple savages; a sentimental ditty, such as "The Anchor's weighed" or "Tom Bowling," would hold them breathless and entranced; "Rule, Britannia!" or "Should He upbraid" set them quivering with excitement; and they seemed

to know by intuition that "The Sailor's Hornpipe" was written to be danced to, and they danced to it accordingly a wild, furious, mad fandango in which the extraordinary nature of the gambols of the performers was only equalled by the ecstasy of their enjoyment. Such proceedings as these could not of course long exist without the fame of them reaching the ears of the king, and I had only given some three or four performances when I was summoned to entertain his Majesty and his household, which I did in the great square before the palace, my audience numbering quite two thousand; Banda and his numerous family being seated in a huge semicircle--of which I was the centre--in front of the palace, while the rest of the audience filled the remaining portion of the square.

It was now that I first began to grow aware of the fact that there was a certain member of the king's household who seemed to be taking rather more interest in me than any one else had thus far manifested. She was a girl of probably not more than sixteen years of age, but for all that a woman, and, as compared with the rest, a very pretty woman too; quite light in colour, exquisitely shaped, and with a most pleasing expression of countenance, especially when she smiled, as she generally did when my eyes happened to meet hers. I had seen her many times before, but had never taken very particular notice of her until now that she appeared determined to make me understand that she was friendly disposed toward me. I endeavoured to ascertain who she was; but although I had contrived to pick up a few words of the language, my ignorance of it was still so great that I had experienced the utmost difficulty in making myself understood, and all I could then learn about her was that her name was Ama. It was not until later that I discovered her to be King Banda's favourite daughter. And the discovery was made in a sufficiently dramatic manner, as shall now be related.


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