Matters remained thus for several days, and we continued our journey up the Rhine. At Cologne, I had hoped to find some reassuring indications, but there was no Cologne. And as there had been no other cities along the river up to that point, the devastation was infinitely greater than time alone could have wrought. Great guns, bombs, and mines must have leveled every building that man had raised, and then nature, unhindered, had covered the ghastly evidence of human depravity with her beauteous mantle of verdure. Splendid trees reared their stately tops where splendid cathedrals once had reared their domes, and sweet wild flowers blossomed in simple serenity in soil that once was drenched with human blood.
Nature had reclaimed what man had once stolen from her and defiled. A herd of zebras grazed where once the German kaiser may have reviewed his troops. An antelope rested peacefully in a bed of daisies where, perhaps, two hundred years ago a big gun belched its terror-laden messages of death, of hate, of destruction against the works of man and God alike.
We were in need of fresh meat, yet I hesitated to shatter the quiet and peaceful serenity of the view with the crack of a rifle and the death of one of those beautiful creatures before us. But it had to be done--we must eat. I left the work to Delcarte, however, and in a moment we had two antelope and the landscape to ourselves.
After eating, we boarded the launch and continued up the river. For two days we passed through a primeval wilderness. In the afternoon of the second day we landed upon the west bank of the river, and, leaving Snider and Thirty-six to guard Victory and the launch, Delcarte, Taylor, and I set out after game.
We tramped away from the river for upwards of an hour before discovering anything, and then only a small red deer, which Taylor brought down with a neat shot of two hundred yards. It was getting too late to proceed farther, so we rigged a sling, and the two men carried the deer back toward the launch while I walked a hundred yards ahead, in the hope of bagging something further for our larder.
We had covered about half the distance to the river, when I suddenly came face to face with a man. He was as primitive and uncouth in appearance as the Grabritins--a shaggy, unkempt savage, clothed in a shirt of skin cured with the head on, the latter surmounting his own head to form a bonnet, and giving to him a most fearful and ferocious aspect. sex restraints
The fellow was armed with a long spear and a club, the latter dangling down his back from a leathern thong about his neck. His feet were incased in hide sandals.