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Donatien spoke very quickly, in bursts, running his words together. Sometimes, his Adam's apple moved up and down as if his salivary glands were working overtime and producing too much saliva for him to swallow. That was decided by the first officers who came to the region.

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The Captain has only been here for five years, same as me. I've been his orderly from the start. He really values me. He wouldn't want anyone else. They walked up the slope, stepping on the planks laid across the path to keep them from muddying their boots. When they reached the top of the hill, Donatien paused to get his breath back, and Chrysostome, like an explorer trying to orient himself, shaded his eyes with one hand and gazed around him.

Ahead lay the first huts and a few European-style houses, all of which were surrounded by a palisade; lush palm trees grew on either side, and beyond was the imposing sight of the River Congo and a seemingly endless expanse of jungle. The Congo was a powerful river. It cut straight through the jungle, although the vegetation, as if it continued to grow beneath the water, sprouted up again in the middle of the river in the form of small islands thick with trees and undergrowth.

Two men were unloading the luggage and another two were carrying it to a building situated on the beach itself. I'm in charge of the storeroom there. My biggest worry are the mice. It's the same in every storeroom in the Congo, but they don't get their way in Yangambi. I finish them off before they can so much as take one bite of the sugar or the biscuits. Chrysostome appeared to have heard none of this and was still gazing down on the jungle. Several columns of smoke rose up here and there among the trees. The inhabitants of the villages or mugini were doubtless preparing their meal.

But they don't often attack. Not, at least, at the moment,' answered Donatien. He pointed to the right. About half a mile away, you could see the line of another river — the Lomami. Its waters joined those of the Congo, slowing the latter's flow and creating the pool that served as a harbour opposite the beach. But, like I say, lately, they've been pretty quiet. Of course, as soon as they show any signs of activity, Lieutenant Van Thiegel is quick to put them down.

He's not as intelligent as Captain Lalande Biran, but he's completely fearless. They say that even the lions shit themselves when they see him. Donatien set off again, laughing loudly to show that his words had been intended as a joke. His remark drew no response from Chrysostome, however, and so as they went through the palisade to the square — the Place du Grand Palmier — Donatien decided to say nothing more and to refrain from explaining which of the buildings were the residences of Lalande Biran and Van Thiegel and which was Yangambi's Government House; nor did he indicate the area or hut where Chrysostome would be living from then on.

It was tedious trying to strike up a conversation with a tongue-tied novice. Leaving the palisade behind them, they walked another five hundred or so yards to the firing range. When they arrived, they found the whole garrison waiting for them: the white officers in the front row, smiling, hands behind their backs; the black non-commissioned officers in the second row, also smiling, but with hands folded over their chests; and a little way behind them, divided into five companies, stood the askaris, the soldiers recruited from Zanzibar and from among the cannibals in northern Congo; they were standing to attention, left arms rigidly by their sides and right arms holding rifles.

Opposite them, next to a dais, at the top of a flagstaff, fluttered the blue flag of the Force Publique with its single yellow star. He was a very handsome man, with blue eyes flecked with gold.

French Lesson 81 - Rooms in the house Vocabulary - Les pièces de la maison - Partes de la casa

He saluted Chrysostome, then ordered him to step onto the dais so that everyone could see him. It was a ceremony in which military humour prevailed. Captain Lalande Biran began by presenting Chrysostome with the blue uniform and red fez of the askaris instead of an officer's pale brown uniform and white hat, a joke which caused everyone present on the firing range to titter, particularly his soon-to-be comrades. Frowning and resisting the desire of the Captain, the other officers and the NCOs to have their bit of fun, Chrysostome solemnly stuffed the trousers and shirt into his canvas bag and donned the red fez.

More tittering. The target's over there. Let's see what you can do. At the far end of the firing range, high up in a tree, a monkey appeared to be watching the ceremony with great interest. It was straight ahead, about a hundred yards away.


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That was the target. Above the trees, the birds frightened by the shot were still wheeling around looking for somewhere else to perch. Any clear patches of sky were growing ever fewer, and clouds were covering the sun. A heavy rain shower was imminent. It was best not to prolong matters. He took a few long strides and planted himself in front of Chrysostome. Compared with the musket, it seemed positively delicate. He had belonged to the French Foreign Legion before enlisting in the Force Publique, and, to use a common metaphor, his heart was still there. As far as he was concerned, all his comrades were legionnaires.

Chrysostome continued to frown, as if he found the jokes and the ceremony disagreeable.

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This wasn't because he was annoyed, however, but because he was studying every detail of the weapon he had been given. It was a real marvel. A twelve- shot, breech-loading Albini-Braendlin. It's the same in every storeroom in the Congo, but they don't get their way in Yangambi. I finish them off before they can so much as take one bite of the sugar or the biscuits. Chrysostome appeared to have heard none of this and was still gazing down on the jungle. Several columns of smoke rose up here and there among the trees.

The inhabitants of the villages or mugini were doubtless preparing their meal. But they don't often attack. Not, at least, at the moment,' answered Donatien.

He pointed to the right. About half a mile away, you could see the line of another river — the Lomami. Its waters joined those of the Congo, slowing the latter's flow and creating the pool that served as a harbour opposite the beach.

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But, like I say, lately, they've been pretty quiet. Of course, as soon as they show any signs of activity, Lieutenant Van Thiegel is quick to put them down. He's not as intelligent as Captain Lalande Biran, but he's completely fearless. They say that even the lions shit themselves when they see him. Donatien set off again, laughing loudly to show that his words had been intended as a joke.


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His remark drew no response from Chrysostome, however, and so as they went through the palisade to the square — the Place du Grand Palmier — Donatien decided to say nothing more and to refrain from explaining which of the buildings were the residences of Lalande Biran and Van Thiegel and which was Yangambi's Government House; nor did he indicate the area or hut where Chrysostome would be living from then on.

It was tedious trying to strike up a conversation with a tongue-tied novice. Leaving the palisade behind them, they walked another five hundred or so yards to the firing range. When they arrived, they found the whole garrison waiting for them: the white officers in the front row, smiling, hands behind their backs; the black non-commissioned officers in the second row, also smiling, but with hands folded over their chests; and a little way behind them, divided into five companies, stood the askaris, the soldiers recruited from Zanzibar and from among the cannibals in northern Congo; they were standing to attention, left arms rigidly by their sides and right arms holding rifles.

Opposite them, next to a dais, at the top of a flagstaff, fluttered the blue flag of the Force Publique with its single yellow star. He was a very handsome man, with blue eyes flecked with gold. He saluted Chrysostome, then ordered him to step onto the dais so that everyone could see him. It was a ceremony in which military humour prevailed.