French Equatorial Africa
1: French Equatorial Africa
Jean slipped off his cot and closed the mosquito net behind him then set off, bare feet slapping on the raised walkway to the facility, as the outhouse was politely called. The flooring was raised only half a meter above the ground, but it kept his feet off the muddy earth and lessened the chance of a barefoot encounter with a snake. Good thing there was a strong breeze tonight to keep the bloodsuckers off him, though they usually bothered him much less than folk with darker hair; his was blond. Moonlight shone on his bare skin. In the brutal tropical heat of French Equatorial Africa, Jean always slept naked.
He quickly did his business and had started back to his rooms when a rain shower started. This was fine by him. He pull one of the cane chairs out onto the open deck, sat down, and let the shower wash all over him. It felt good on his bare skin. He bathed daily, as much to prevent tropical skin diseases as for comfort and cleanliness, but it didn't take long to acquire a sheen of sweat in this heat, even lying still. Gods know why the French Republic wanted an official presence in these forsaken lands which brought no obvious economic benefits to France. Showing the flag really. In the scramble for Africa in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the district of Ubangi was a part of the continent that had fallen into the hands of the French, sandwiched between German and Belgian holdings.
At least his superior in the Colonial Office, M. Malherbe, wasn't around to see him at this late hour and complain yet again about his casual attitude to clothing off duty. Here he was sitting totally naked where he might be seen from the servants moving about, up early to get things ready.
"The white man must set the example for the natives, M. Thibault. They are like children." Malherbe always said. "Proper attire is necessary for us to maintain our position, to show the superiority of French civilization, to promote our civilizing mission. What would your grandfather say?"
Jean did not view the natives as children at all but as men and women, and he thought they set a fine example of minimal clothing, just a loincloth for men in the tropical heat. Too bad he could not emulate them. Malherbe barely tolerated the sarongs Jean wore off duty, brought back from his first truncated posting in French Polynesia. Jean also thought that his grandfather Thibault, an old soldier, would attribute the superiority of French civilization in Africa to the machine gun and the breech-loading rifle.
Malherbe visited this remote district sub-office only once a month, staying a couple of days. Jean liked it that way. If he had to endure exile from his beloved Paris, at least he didn't have to put up with the company of a boor like his boss every day. It did make for isolation. Jean was the only white man thereabouts except for an occasional patrol by the military.
Malherbe had his own reservations about his young subordinate. Malherbe suspected some scandal had cut the young man's tour of duty on Tahiti short after less than a year. Whatever it was, his contacts had failed to unearth any details.
Actually, Jean, then only eighteen and just out of the lycŽe, was found in bed one night with four native Tahitians his own age, in lusty sexual congress. He was caught in flagrante delicto with a boy plugging each orifice. The other two admitted they were just waiting their turn at him too. It was a twice weekly arrangement where this scion of the French aristocracy surrendered himself to randy native boys to be used as their sexual plaything. Jean had no difficulty finding partners. He had taken to swimming naked in the lagoon and had caught the eye of many of the young men of the islands.
Jean did not share the racial prejudices of his time. He though the Polynesians were fine looking folk. The men were handsome (and the women pretty, if that was where your interests lay). Tahitians were not sexually inhibited the way white men so often were, Sex was deemed entirely natural, even between young males. Jean was very much a bottom boy and very much in demand. One time they had held an orgy where more than a dozen boys or young men had enjoyed Jean's charms.
The Prefect hustled Jean out on the very next boat. For his family's sake they hushed it up. The family was old and rich and influential, and the old General, a notable duelist, would likely challenge anyone who cast aspersions on his only grandson.
It was the general, not Clemenceau, himself a well-known duelist, about whom the famous quip was first told. The young officer serving as then Colonel Thibault's aide and second for the duel noticed that his superior had bought only a one-way ticket for the trip on the suburban railway to the dueling ground.
"Sir, aren't you being rather pessimistic?" the young man asked reproachfully.
"Not at all," the older man assured him, adding confidently: "I always use my opponent's ticket for the return trip."
Actually for all his fierce reputation, the General would not have called a man out over his grandson's preference for his own gender. Killing a man for speaking the truth, whatever his motivation, would be dishonorable. Deplorable as it was and disappointing to the continuity of the family line, it was only the truth, as Jean had admitted to him in a heart to heart talk.
Jean was the apple of his eye, a comely youth with a lively intelligent face. True, he lacked his father's military bearing. He took after his mother, bless her, as fine a daughter-in-law as any man could have wished for. Jean was rather a pretty boy: short and slightly built with longish blond hair, green eyes, and delicate features.
He had an almost elfin quality about him but was not at all effeminate. He was always an active lad running around the estate, swimming, climbing the fells and cliffs of their corner of the Massif Central. He liked to compete in foot races with the other boys and usually won. At the general's suggestion, he had taken up the arts of savate and boxing and knew how to wield a stave and the more elegant walking stick in self-defense as well as shoot both pistol and rifle. Although an avid reader and insatiably curious, the boy was no pasty faced bookworm but usually bronzed from the summer sun.
The General had hoped that keeping Jean away from the temptations of Paris would give the boy a chance to come to his senses. Yes the general could understand his feelings. As a young man, he himself had taken a a male lover, but discreetly. He later had married a good woman and been a kind and caring spouse. His wife had accepted his very occasional dalliances knowing her husband would not bring it home, would never impose on the servants, and would certainly never take advantage of his official position. Yes his aides were always handsome young men, but were chosen for their competence and promise. Their physical beauty, while not coincidental, was entirely decorative. There was never anything physical with any of his subordinates. That too would have been dishonorable.
Jean was very sorry he had disappointed his grandfather. He was the father figure he grew up with after the early death of his father from the cholera in Morocco. The General had expected Jean would take another posting in pleasant Algeria, virtually an extension of southern France. Instead Jean had wound up in this pestilential hell-hole, deep in the interior. At least he hadn't taken sick like so many whites in these regions. For all his slight build, his wiry body had always been resistant to illnesses that plagued others.
Since dawn was upon him, he decided to get some paperwork out of the way before breakfast. Slipping a sarong around his narrow hips he walked to his office and sat down at his desk. Two productive hours later, it was time to start his daily routine. He wondered if he should shave today. He looked in the mirror and saw only a very light fuzz near the jaw line -- you had to get quite close to the mirror to see anything at all, so fine, you couldn't call it stubble. It had been eleven days since a razor had touched those cheeks. Nineteen years old and still a beardless boy. He also had almost no body hair, just small tufts in his armpits and groin and an invisible dusting on his lower legs.
As a preventive health measure Jean kept his groin and armpits shaved, where, like his sparse beard, the hair did not grow out very fast. Three kinds of lice infest the human body. Shaving the groin thwarted possible pubic lice, clean clothing and bedding thwarted body lice. Jean's frequent nudity and light clothing helped there too. And he was always careful about head to head contact and keeping his headgear separate for fear of head lice. He suspected Malherbe carried two or even all three kinds. So much for the superiority of French civilization.
After breakfast Jean showered and dressed properly in tropical whites and boots but without the string necktie. He received visitors and petitioners with much the usual complaints: the road was washed out here; a rogue elephant were rampaging among the fields there, bandits had struck in the south, slavers in the east. Some problems he handled with a telegram to Malherbe or to the military garrison at Fort Dinard. He himself would take care of the rogue elephant. It was a good excuse for a short safari anyway, a few days away from the office. On the way back he could check out the extent of the damage to the roadway before mobilizing a crew to fix it.
In the afternoon he set out on the hunt. He did not bother with a horse. That was for riding along the military roads, really dirt tracks, that criss crossed the country linking French outposts. This part of Africa was not plagued by the tsetse fly that doomed European livestock and often white men too. For this trip into the jungle, he would be on footpaths or forcing his way through the tangle, chopping a path with a machete. He set off with a small party, a couple of bearers and his major domo and interpreter, Maloto.
He brought a doubled-barrel express rifle to handle the elephant or any of the big cats. He also took along a pistol, a telescope, and a map, such as it was. Cartographers had their work cut out for them in the wastes of central Africa with the limitations of late nineteenth century technology. Maloto was similarly armed. He was a native constable in addition to his other duties. Jean made sure he was paid twice, once for his job a major domo, and again as a constable and interpreter. That had led to an argument early on with Malherbe. In the end, Jean agreed to pay Maloto's salary as major domo out of his own pocket. The man was invaluable for his local knowledge of the people and the land, and he had a fine sense of humor to liven the long hours they spent together. A widower with grown children, he could devote his full time to his duties.
Jean did not disdain to carry some of his own supplies, though in a back pack, not on top of his head like the bearers did. That was supposed to be easier, with the skeleton rather than the muscles bearing the load, but he knew it would look ridiculous, even if he got the hang of it. He carried his rifle. His grandfather had spoken scornfully of white hunters in Africa who were too lazy to carry their own rifles. A soldier never lets his weapon get out of his hands while on the march.
"What do you think, Maloto? Is all the damage to these fields the work of a rogue or just a hungry and opportunistic elephant?"
"Definitely, a rogue, sir, from all the unnecessary damage. Also the way he attacked the man and boy who tried to scare him off banging pots and pans. A normal elephant would not have trampled them."
From the prints Jean could tell it was of good size, but forest elephants are smaller than the great bush elephant of the open savannah. With any luck, he could bring him down with a single shot. Jean and Maloto followed the tracks to a dust wallow where they found the rogue. The beast caught the white man's distinctive scent at the last moment when the wind shifted, but Jean got him in the head with his first shot.
You really don't want to have to rely on a second. Elephants can move fast, charging in a kind of shuffle. An elephant is too heavy to get all four feet off the ground at once as a horse does in a gallop. Never try to outrun one though. Same thing for the comical looking but aggressive and dangerous hippos, if you encountered them on land. Jean took comfort in the knowledge that Maloto was a fair shot and would have backed him up, if his first shot had not done the trick. Maloto had once assured Jean that a man could outrun a crocodile, but Jean hoped he never had to prove it. Maybe that was just Maloto's sense of humor talking.
Jean saw to it that the elephant's meat was distributed to the entire village, with the ivory tusks going to the families of the two victims. The natives appreciated his forbearance in not taking the valuable ivory for himself, as was his right, and welcomed the swift end to the threat of the murderous elephant.
The party them proceeded to where the roadway had washed out. It was more like a small landslide. Jean would have to mobilize more men than he had figured once he got back to the district office. At least they had enough tools in storage for the work crew, and Jean could draw on discretionary funds to pay the workers. Jean was scrupulous about paying wages, not just raising an unpaid levy as some corrupt officials were known to do, and simply pocketing the men's wages. He left word at the nearest village for the men to assemble in four days' time when he would be back with tools and to supervise the work. A colonial officer was necessarily a jack of all trades: administrator, diplomat, conciliator, judge, constable, hunter, engineer, and even doctor, though the local witch doctors were touchy about their prerogatives.
Jean respected the natives as human beings, with the same hopes and desires as anyone. However, as a son of the Enlightenment Jean did not see any reason to respect their superstitious belief that when something bad happened a malign witch must be responsible. Witch doctors were good at singling out vulnerable old women to take the blame for illness, crop failure, snake bite, storms, or any other misfortune, often inciting mobs to kill the supposed malefactor.
"Nkobo says this landslide was caused by a witch." Maloto reported.
"More likely the heavy rains in the last week, Maloto. Tell him that for me. Try to be diplomatic."
The witch doctor merely blamed the witch for the heavy rains. There was no reasoning with the irrational. Jean wished these people well. He respected how they had managed to wrest a living from this wretched land, but how could they advance if they still held to primitive notions of how the world worked? This was the nineteenth century after all, almost the twentieth. Such views were out of date in the modern world.
He was candid enough to admit that native witch doctors in Africa were all too similar to Christian witch hunters of Europe only a couple of centuries earlier. Both were unscientific and magic based attempts to understand the existence of good and evil, fortune and misfortune. Completely wrongheaded of course, and charges of witchcraft were often opportunistic. Also, local witch doctors were responsible for half the recent unrest among the tribes. They even opposed visits by traveling doctors or preventive public health measures like vaccinations and sanitary water supplies.
Nkobo was not mollified, glaring at the young white man. It did not help that Jean was small and slight of build, much smaller than the average native who was strongly built. Jean's blond hair, green eyes, and straight nose emphasized their racial differences. Nkobo was a mature man. Jean was only nineteen and looked younger and he was so very pretty, like a girl. Nkobo almost sneered at the young Frenchman, dismissing his naturalistic notions about misfortune and disease. No wonder. If they gained wider currency, they would completely undermine his position.
That would be just as well, Jean thought. Pasteur and Koch had recently proved the germ theory of disease. Now there was an exemplar of French civilization: the great Louis Pasteur, dead only this year. French doctors had originally rejected his theories because he was a chemist by training, not a medical man. He and the German Koch invented the science of microbiology, despite the naysaying of the medical establishment. In so doing, they had showed up the medical community for essentially a bunch of quacks in their understanding of infectious disease. It was doctors who for centuries had foisted the system of the four bodily humors on humanity, doctors who persisted in completely ineffective herbal remedies, doctors who insisted on aggressively treating every ailment, not recognizing that many illnesses were self-limiting, ones people got over naturally, if left alone.
It was doctors, after all, who had killed the great George Washington, friend and father figure to Lafayette, one of Jean's heros and a man to whom he was distantly related, bleeding him of five pints of blood instead of just giving supportive care till his own vitality threw off the flu or simple head cold he had contracted. Only recently had orthodox medicine become truly scientific. The lesson there was that irrationality was not limited by race or culture or nation.
A couple of weeks later, back at the district station, Jean heard a clatter from outside the compound. It was a patrol of French soldiers led by Lieutenant Henri Duchamp, his only real friend in the region. Duchamp was dark and wavy while Jean was fair and straight, but both were small in build and pretty rather than handsome. Henri affected a narrow mustache trying to look older and more seasoned, but he still looked like a very young man of twenty-two.
"Welcome, Henri. Come, let me show your men to their new quarters."
Jean led the officer and his sergeant around the side of the compound where Jean had erected twin platforms covered with thatch to shelter the men during their stop overs. The platforms kept them off the damp ground, protected them from snakes and scorpions, but had no walls except mosquito netting. Jean was very proud of that. The men could lay their bedrolls out, the open walls would let the evening breezes in, but the netting would keep the mosquitos out. The thatched roof would keep the men out of the rain. Another shelter protected an outdoor kitchen.
"Naturally, I hope you will still accept my personal hospitality, Henri." Jean ventured, giving his friend a wink. They were lovers as well as friends.
Jean was delighted to learn the soldiers would be staying for several days, marching out in different directions to show the flag. The natives had been restless of late. Rumors had spread that the French were about to repeat the dastardly tactics of the Belgian king Leopold II in his personal possession, the Congo Free State, a corporate state which he ran more like a concentration camp than a colony. The Belgians forced the natives to search for wild rubber, neglecting their own fields and families. Those who fell short of the quota got a hand lopped off. The rapacious monarch earned infamy due to the brutal mistreatment of native peoples and plunder of natural resources. (The Belgian state was finally forced by international outcry to take over the colony in 1908.)
Over dinner Jean and Henri discussed their recent adventures and talked idly of what they would do once they were free to return to Paris. Meanwhile, they had each other. Both young men were randy boys who enjoyed lusty sexual congress. They made a fun couple. Though there was nothing serious between them, they really liked each other as friends and were very good in bed together. Fortunately Jean had long since replaced his original cot with a solidly built bed, big enough for two. Often the boys sixty-nined, both of them liking the taste of a boy's cum or just having it splooge on their face. That made them feel very sexy and desired. They French kissed, tongues dueling and probing deep.
Sometimes Jean straddled Henri's hips, slowly sinking down on his rigid cock, impaling himself on the older boy's member, sighing as he sank all the way down and his butt cheeks touched Henri's bare groin. Like Jean, Henri was hairless at the fork of his legs and virtually everywhere else. Henri traced his fingers down the small veins, just under the skin, in Jean's hairless belly. He fingered the chevrons of the blond boy's ribs. His thumbs circled Jean's tiny red nipples then rubbed the sharp hipbones he had come to know so well. He admired the corrugations of Jeans abdominals. Jean had so little body fat, it was easy to see the tracery of veins or the movements of tendons and muscles in the forearms. For one so slender, Jean was well muscled, much like Henri himself. Indeed Henri was only four centimeters taller with nearly the identical build.
Henri also liked to put Jean on his back, to throw Jean's slender legs over his shoulders, to bend the younger boy in half, pushing him up and over till his knees were by his face and he was scrolled up utterly vulnerable. Then he drilled into the blond boy, squelching and thrusting into his fundament. Jean would toss his head from side to side in helpless arousal as Henri filled his ass with his formidable cock.
"This is what you need 'blondinet' (little blondie), a real man to show you what you were born for, to put you on your back with your heels in the air or on your knees worshiping his manhood. Your tiny nipples were made for chewing on or for pinching as you submit to a man's cock."
"Yes, Henri, fuck me, fuck me hard. You are right, I need it. I want it. I can't get enough cock or enough of you."
He said it so passionately you would not realized some of it was play acting till he added in an off-hand tone.
"Just remember, mon ami. Tomorrow night, I get to play the aggressor."
That earned him a playful slap on his rump from his lover for his effrontery. Soon after their lovemaking ended, rain started to fall. They stepped out onto the deck and let it wash over them, limbs still intertwined, kissing and nibbling ears or stroking backs and asses. Then they turned their faces upwards, opening themselves totally to nature's cleansing and cooling rains, reveling in life, in their sexuality, in their closeness, and in their joy in having found each other practically at world's end. It felt so sexy to be there in the rain. The way it washed so totally over them, touching them everywhere made them feel utterly naked. The rain drummed on their chests. The waters flowed down their sides and their bellies, dividing around the prow of their proud cocks, sluicing down their cleavages.
After a while they lay down on the deck side by side, ribs and hips and legs touching. The deck had just enough give so it was not too uncomfortable. The boys held hands, looked up at the clouds, blinked away the raindrops that fell onto their faces and plastered the hair to their heads. Just two naughty boys without the sense to come in out of the rain, and they loved it. They giggled as they reminisced about the boyhoods. Something about being naked and rained upon under the open sky made them cast aside their last reserve as they spoke candidly of their hopes and desires for the future, a future they hoped they could share in some way. Henri expected to marry eventually, if only to continue the family line. Jean reached out and placed his hand protectively over his lover's genitals. Perish the day when these organs were not devoted to their mutual pleasure.
After a while, Henri raised up on one elbow and leaned over and kissed Jean. They resumed their lovemaking though this time at a slow tempered pace. Jean flipped on his belly as Henri gripped his buttocks and entered him carefully, seeking his joy spot. Their hearts soared in the age old dance of physical love between two males, carrying their passions to their natural consummation. Then still locked together, they rolled over on their sides and let the rain wash over their conjoined bodies. Neither had ever felt so much at one with the natural world and with each other. It was a sublime moment. In their exhaustion they actually fell asleep for an hour. Then they got up and sank together onto Jean's comfortable bed.
The next day, their joint shower was but a pale imitation of their consummation in the rain, but still naughty and fun. Alas, duty called so their time together was brief. At least they had three more nights together. Both boys hoped for more rain. What a sensual experience they had shared!
3: Restless Natives
Orders came from Fort Dinard by telegraph for Henri to march his men east to meet the main column on the Ubangi River. Given the respective distances, his patrol would not have to depart till the next day. Henri set his soldiers to readying their equipment, fixing boots, cleaning their rifles and sharpening their bayonets under the supervision of his two sergeants. Jean proposed an excursion to Henri in the meantime. It would be just the two of them. They rode their horses up a trail then led them by the reins as they picked their way on foot to a small meadow in the middle of the jungle. A low escarpment loomed overhead. Leaving their horses, Jean and Henri made the climb, to find a lovely pool of water fed by a spring.
"You see Henri. With these steep slopes, we can be sure there are no crocs in this pool. Let's go swimming. I come here often."
Stripping off, he plunged into the pool. Jean loved to swim and here he could do it in perfect safety. Henri soon joined him. He was an adequate swimmer though nothing like Jean. After a while Henri hiked his butt on a rock and watched Jean stroke back and forth. The younger boy was like a seal, completely at home in the water. Henri leaned back on his elbows and turned his face up to the sun, eyes closed so he did not see Jean's stealthy approach. Suddenly Jean's face was at the fork of Henri's legs, playfully mouthing his friend's limp member. That soon changed as both boys became aroused.
Jean closed his lips around the lovely, hard cock and sucked, moving his head up and down, taking his lover's manhood entirely into his mouth and throat as his lips kissed Henri's groin. Jean was a talented cock sucker and had only a little trouble with Henri's considerable endowment. His hands cupped Henri's buttocks as if to pull him even deeper into his throat. His technique drew approving moans from Henri, as his erection vanished into a velvet warmth that was his friend's mouth. Then Jean withdrew to play with his tongue at his lover's cock head, licking away the drops of clear fluid welling out of the tiny slit at the end. Jean gently grazed it with his teeth, tugging on the glans with soft sucks. Henri spread his legs apart and squirmed, tossing his head. When the hard member was coated and slick Henri suddenly put his hand on Jean's forehead and said to him huskily.
"Get out of the water and on all fours. I am going to fuck you."
Jean complied, spreading his legs, looking back, his face flushed with ardor, as Henri ran his cock head up and down his cleavage then poked at Jean's hole which was already twitching with excitement. Henri's fingered the hole for a bit, getting it ready to accept his girth, then put the head of his cock to Jean's hole. This felt so right to both of them. Just a little push to get past the first sphincter eliciting a little gasp from the smaller boy. Henri pushed forward, slipping into him little by little, leaning forward, his arms supporting his weight.
He was always surprised that this tiny orifice with its crinkly folds, could accept his rather impressive girth, but it did, letting him slip in up to the hilt. Their balls smacked together. When he was a deep as he could go, Henri was rewarded with a blissful sigh from his partner. Henri gave Jean time to get used to him, then started to pump slowly in and out. He bent down to kiss the back of Jean's neck then nipped the flesh of his shoulder.
Jean kept asking for more cock, for Henri to plant it deeper into him, to thrust harder, to fill him with cock. They fell into a rhythm, Jean raising his rump to meet the descending shaft as it penetrated his ass, using his internal muscles to squeeze the invading penis, both boys sweating profusely. They climaxed together, Jean felt his seed spurt on his belly and on the ground matched by the wet warmth filling his innermost being.
"Mon Dieu", he uttered, satisfaction in his voice. "It gets better every time!"
The lay down for a while, recouping their energy. After a while it was Jean's turn, though this time he and Henri made love face to face, kissing and playing with each other's nipples. Jean had tiny red nipples. Henri's were large and brown, like a woman's Jean always kidded him. They were young and in love so it did not take long for their bodies to reach a second climax that morning. The two young men sighed and lay together contentedly.
What a wonderful chance for the two of them to cast aside the cares of office and just enjoy each other, to enjoy their youth and vitality, to have time to themselves, together, naked, under the sky, basking in the sunlight, watching birds flit along the edge of the forest, listening to monkeys chatter and scold in the background. They had brought bread and cheese and wine and cold meats. With their backs against a large rock, the two youthful males partook of a simple meal.
"Life is good, Henri. At least when I can share it with you."
"Yes, my friend. These months together have been magical. Let us hope for more of the same in the future."
The boys kissed then stretched out on the grass, happy to be together, to be naked and alone in each other's company. What a happy time for both of them. Jean asked if Henri knew what the military maneuvers meant, but the lieutenant was just as much in the dark as his friend in the colonial office. He did know that the natives were restless. They both hoped bloodshed could be avoided. An actual uprising would be a disaster, useless really. No matter what they did, not matter what their initial success, the natives could not stand against modern arms.
Look at the Zulus in British South Africa. They got lucky at Isandlwana in 1879 when an eclipse of the sun let the spear carrying warriors close unseen with the British and their native levies. The Zulus slaughtered an entire column, 1200 men, but ultimately lost the war despite their courage and ferocity. How had that rhyming writer put it?
Whatever happens, we have got,
The Maxim gun, and they have not.
Suddenly as the boys were kissing and stroking each other, spear carrying warriors emerged from the woods. The white men were cut off from their weapons and clothing and quickly subdued, their wrists tied behind their backs, a noose put around their necks to serve as a lead. The young men were led stark naked from their trysting place back to the district office. The natives purposely dragged them through thorn bushes or thistles. Soon they were bleeding from dozens of minor cuts and pricks, footsore, and very frightened.
Lt. Duchamp's command had been wiped out in a surprise attack aided by poison slipped into their food. Only the residence still stood. The other buildings had been burnt down. Jean's major domo Maloto was still alive, beaten up, and, like them, in bondage. Warriors had broken into the liquor stores, and many were drunk. One of the leaders of the uprising was the witch doctor Nkobo. He spoke through Maloto, having him translate his words.
"This is the beginning of the end for your tyranny over our people. Soon all Africa will rise up to throw out the white man."
"What tyranny?" Jean countered. "We brought peace between the tribes, law and order, and the benefits of civilization. We suppressed the slave trade."
"Silence, white dogs! Do you think we haven't been watching, you and your disgusting couplings. This is what you have brought to Africa: your unnatural lusts for other males. For this alone you shall die."
"If I weren't tied up..." Henri began.
"Then we shall untie you Lieutenant. Let us see how well you do against one of our warriors. If you survive, we may let you live. Both of you."
They formed a ring and gave Henri a spear. He held the unfamiliar weapon uncertainly. Jean nodded to him encouragingly. Now Henri had trained with rifle, pistol, and saber, and he did not lack in courage, but this was new to him, its weight quite unlike a bayonet on the end of a rifle. An officer did not use a rifle much anyway, and the bayonet was nearly obsolete in the days of breechloaders. It did give a soldier close-in protection in colonial warfare if faced by a foe before he could reload.
A giant warrior confronted the naked Frenchmen, and their duel began. It was more like an execution. Henri had little chance against the man's greater strength and reach and his familiarity with the spear. Spear fighting features nimble footwork. The smaller man was actually more agile, but he could not take advantage of it. The style of fighting he had learned for the bayonet was to plant the back foot and step forward with your weight behind your thrust.
The warrior prolonged the combat, stabbing and cutting but not going for a mortal blow till Henri gave him a couple of minor cuts. That made the warrior more careful, blocking every thrust the Frenchman made. Soon both boys had tears in their eyes, Henri from frustration, Jean from witnessing the slow murder of his lover. Finally when Nkobo decided he had impressed his warriors enough, he called out and the giant combatant drove his blade into Henri's belly. Henri fell mortally wounded.
During the combat another contingent of warriors had arrived and had witnessed the finale. Jean ran to Henri's side. He could not take his soldier lover into his arms, because they were bound. As Henri died, Jean knelt next to him and sobbed for his loss. This beautiful young man was now so much dead meat. Nkobo smiled at this. He shouted a command for Jean to be killed too, but the chief of the new contingent countermanded the order.
This chief was named Kalundi. He recognized Jean as the man who had slain the rogue elephant and had given the ivory to the families of the dead. Jean was an official who had never cheated workers Ñ unlike his predecessor Ñ and had recently help recover villagers seized as slaves. Jean had guessed where the slavers would go next and telegraphed for soldiers to intercept them and return them to their village. Kalundi insisted that in simple justice Jean deserved a chance to live. They owed him that much even though they were at war and he and the young French officer just slain were enemies.
After some arguing back and forth, Nkobo saw it would be to his advantage to yield on this point. A reputation for magnanimity, feigned though it might be, would strengthen his political power. He agreed to the ritual of the Run of the Spears and signaled for warriors to cut Jean's bonds.
Five spearman from Kalundi's contingent threw their spears as far as they could, the second standing where the first spear had fallen, then the third where the second spear had fallen, and so forth. Maloto explained that this was the head start they would give Jean. He must run for his life for the warriors would surely slay him. Five warriors were singled out for the pursuit from Nkobo's men. If they were successful, they would bring back Jean's head as proof. The big warrior who had slain Henri insisted on leading them. Kalundi laughed at the thought that the lumbering giant could catch a nimble boy like Jean, but the man shook his head and retorted that the other warriors would run the young white man down. He wanted to be in on the kill.
Kalundi rather hoped Jean would get away, though he did not give much for his chances. He had done what he could. His men had thrown their spears as far as possible to give the white boy a decent head start. Still, the young white man was small and with a shorter stride than the warriors. He was unaccustomedly barefoot whereas the black warriors were used to going unshod. Even so it was a chance. He gave Jean a water bottle and let him drink his fill. Nkobo glared at this favoritism but said nothing. Jean nodded his gratitude.
"I hope you get as much of a head start, Maloto." he told his assistant.
"I am afraid all I will get is a spear in the belly. Good luck, my friend."
As Jean stepped to the starting line, the giant warrior finished Maloto off. Jean glanced at the bodies of his friend and his lover then trotted to the far end of the line of spears, then took off running for all he was worth.
4: Run of the Spears
Jean ignored the unaccustomed wear and tear on his bare feet as he ran from the compound. He heard a shout behind him that told him the warriors had set out after him. At first he stayed on the military road as it was easier on his feet, but he knew he had to leave it soon. He could not hope to simply outdistance his pursuers, even if he were actually faster than any single runner of theirs.
The warriors would use a well proven strategy to run the white man down, same as wolves used. All but one of the group backs off the pace while a single warrior bounds forward at full speed. This forces Jean to run faster too. The warrior cannot maintain such a pace indefinitely, but neither can the white man fleeing before him. After a while the warrior drops back, letting another warrior force the pace. The first warrior lets the others pass him. He will catch up as best he can after getting his wind back. Jean meanwhile has to maintain this killer pace nearly full time. Eventually he must drop from exhaustion.
This is a winning strategy with only one flaw. When a front runner closes on his prey, he is thereby far from his comrades. Jean might be able to overcome him in a one-to-one fight. Of course Jean is unarmed while the warrior has both spear and knife. Alternatively Jean might shake his pursuers long enough to hide briefly, change direction, maybe even double back. He had started off running eastward, toward Belgian territory and where the French military were concentrating their forces. Fort Dinard lay to the north. Those were the directions they would expect him to run. Somehow, he had to shake them long enough to run west to German territory in Kamerun. It had been more than twenty years since the Franco Prussian War and it would be another twenty before hostilities resumed in the First World War. He could expect the Germans to help a fellow European.
A canebrake was his first opportunity. It was a long stretch of bamboo which Jean knew from previous hunts had no real game trails through it. He darted off the road and into the bamboo, his small lithe body slipping easily between the stalks. Although it was slower going than an all out run, he could make better time through it than the large boned warriors who were chasing him, especially the giant. Also, he managed to catch his breath a bit. The bamboo stretched nearly a kilometer the long way but only two hundred meters across, so he was soon out of it and into more open country. That is when he poured it on, trying to put some real distance between them, distance that would give him options.
Although his position was perilous, at least he started out with a full belly and had drunk his fill of water. He was small and should be able to hide fairly easily. His blond hair was a definite problem. It would stand out against the green of the vegetation. Maybe he could plaster mud on his hair later or weave a cap of leaves. No help for it now though. He hoped for rain. That would help conceal him and wash out any tracks Jean was leaving. His pursuers were too close for him to try to disguise his tracks.
Unexpectedly he came across a small river, swift flowing from where it drained the low mountains to the north. The water was rough, with eddies and whirlpools and rapids, but he had to chance it. Better to drown than to be killed by their spears. Even worse was to be taken alive. The warriors would not kill him right away. He could expect rape and torture before they cut his head off. He plunged in, relying on his skills as a swimmer. Even for someone as good in the water as Jean it was a close thing, but he made it across then set off into the jungle, walking for a bit while his got back his strength. Behind him he heard a shout of frustrated rage. The warriors had found where he had swum across.
The big warrior wanted to try crossing the river, but it was too swift and too deep to ford. One of the men lost his footing and disappeared below the surface of the water. They caught a glimpse of his corpse floating downstream but did not give chase. All the remaining warriors backed out of the water, jabbering excitedly until one of them reminded them of the log bridge several kilometers upstream. So they trooped off in that direction, not even running. They would have to try to pick up Jean's trail on the other side. Well, maybe they were not swimmers, but they were experienced trackers and hunters. They would soon sniff out the young white man who had temporarily shaken them off their trail.
Meanwhile Jean tried to turn his temporary advantage into a permanent one. He realized the warriors would cast about for his trail and come after him. He ran along a sloping rock bed to conceal his tracks, left impressions in the soft ground just beyond, then stepped back through his own footprints onto the rock. He left in a different direction entirely, swinging on some overhanging branches to a dry spot where he would not leave footprints. His grandfather had taught his something of tracking even though Jean himself did not care much for blood sports.
Finally he got far enough ahead to lay a trap. It was simple enough, footprints leading into a pit of quicksand, hastily concealed by reeds stuck along the edge. He could not hope to trap the entire party, strung out as they were, but he might get the lead runner, as indeed happened. His pursuers were two down as he could see from a vantage point just below the skyline in the distance. Now there were only three warriors plus the giant.
If only Jean could get a weapon. Being naked as a fugitive was no fun at all. He had always liked running around naked, sleeping in the raw, swimming and frolicking with a boyfriend without clothing. Now he knew what that old phrase about girding one's loins meant. He felt so vulnerable without clothing, so utterly naked! It was entirely psychological, he realized, but no less real for that. Besides his feet hurt, and that was real. He simply ignored the cuts and welts on his hide as he forced his way through the forest. Insects buzzed around annoyingly. Maybe they didn't bite or sting him so often as other folk, but he was hardly immune. So far so good on finding clean water to drink. He might find himself hungry tomorrow, but food could wait. He needed distance. No more laying traps. That last one had made his enemies cautious. Time now for speed.
The night found Jean up in a tree hoping he did not have to share it with a leopard or a tree snake. All he had with him was a stick he had picked up. It was a stout cudgel but that was all. Tomorrow he would strike out for German Kamerun, hoping to get away completely. During the night he dreamed of Henri. At first it was a dream of their love together but it soon turned tragic. He woke up with tears in his eyes. He vowed he would survive, if only to see justice done.
The next day Jean woke up sore and hungry. His body was still tired though he was wide awake. His feet were cut up and bruised; he had cuts and welts from bamboo thorns and brush. His back ached from where he had cradled himself between two close branches of the tree. He dropped to the ground then set off walking, slowly at first till he worked out the worst of the stiffness. The he fell into a ground covering routine of alternately trotting then walking a half kilometer at a time. He hoped he had thrown off his pursuers, but a recon from the top of a ridge showed two men were still after him: the giant and one other. Good. At least he had made them split their forces, uncertain whether he had continued east or had doubled back to the west, as indeed he had. Two to one and both armed were not good odds.
By the afternoon of the third day, Jean was ravenous. All the running had burned up his energy stores, not that he could pack away much in the way of reserves on his slight frame. He needed food, and not just the few grubs he had found under logs and such. Maloto had claimed they were delicacies. Well, the French ate snails and frogs legs, so who was he to complain. Still he wished he had paid more attention to Maloto's explanation of edible roots and fruits. The natives had a practical wisdom about their land, one he wished had had availed himself of more than he had. One thing he did remember is that many plants were poisonous. Plants were at perpetual war with insects and herbivores, and toxins were their weapons of choice. Even the humble domestic tomato plant was poisonous in every single part except its fruit. (Tomatos really are fruits, botanically a true berry.) He could not risk slipping into a village to look for food, even if he came across one. Villages held warriors and dogs.
He stumbled across a dead antelope that buzzards and jackals fed off, but its flesh was too putrid to risk. Better hungry than sick. He did manage to club a catfish to death as it crawled on land between ponds. He ate it raw, with no way to light a fire, which he could not have risked anyway. That would have to sustain him. He realized he must be close to the border now with German ruled lands. Of course, that was just a line on a map. There wouldn't be a border post. There were no roads to Kamerun or through it, for that matter, west to the lands of the British owned Royal Niger Company. Each colonial power built its roads and its very few railroads to its own coastal ports.
Jean realized he must be quite a sight: a small blond youth, pretty as a girl, naked, sweaty, battered and bruised, slapping at bugs, tramping barefoot and bare-ass across the African countryside, fleeing like a hunted animal. Now he knew how the big game he occasionally hunted felt. Like them he was looking for some way to shake off pursuit, forcing himself to keep going when his body cried out for rest, ignoring hurts that would otherwise seem incapacitating. If he survived, he did not think he would ever again hunt purely for sport.
On the fourth day he heard a shout behind him. It was the other warrior, not the giant, racing forward to catch Jean and engage him till his ally could run up to them. Jean had discarded his cudgel for speed. It was just a small naked youth against a strong and armed warrior. Jean's only advantages were speed, agility, and the savate he had learned several years earlier and still practiced regularly. A small man sometimes needs an equalizer. Jean got lucky. The warrior ran right at him instead of simply trailing closer till he had caught his breath. Jean dodged the first spear thrust, made clumsy by the warrior's fatigue, and got in close enough to kick him hard in the groin and then in the belly. He snatched the spear from the warrior's grasp and clouted the man in the head with the butt of the spear. This was not from any sense of mercy, just the quickest way to put him out of action as the giant lumbered into the fray.
Suddenly a warning shot rang out and Jean looked around to see a German officer leading a platoon of shikari (native soldiers) march up to them. The German pointed to the African warrior ready to give the order to shoot, but Jean forestalled him.
"Nein," he said in his schoolboy German. "Er is fuer mich. No, he is mine.Ó With a nod the German acknowledged Jean's claim and stood back for the final combat.
The giant warrior was confidant he could kill the boy, no matter what happened afterwards. He was far stronger and more experienced with a spear. It was true that the cuts Henri had inflicted on him had festered, untended, poisoning his system, but he had every reason to expect a victory.
Unfortunately for him, his smaller opponent did not use his captured weapon as he expected. He used it like a quarter staff. The huge warrior had no good counter to such tactics. A man with a stout staff is a match for a man with a spear or a sword any day, at least defensively. Jean soon rang blows and shallow cuts off the giant's knees, arms, and ribs, before driving the butt of the spear into his throat crushing the windpipe. The man fell to the ground mortally wounded. Jean plunged his spear into the man's belly to let him feel the hurts he had inflicted on his lover only days before.
As the man died, Jean turned to the German officer, a Leutnant Krueger, to explain what he, a French civil servant, was doing in German territory stark naked and running from native warriors. The shikaris took the unconscious warrior prisoner. Under questioning he confirmed Jean's amazing story.
The German officer did not know which was more admirable. The young man's courageous conduct or his extraordinary beauty. Even battered and bruised he was lovely, slender yet muscular, tanned, taut and toned with narrow shoulders, washboard abdominal muscles, well defined Adam's girdle, and narrow hips. His hands were small and his legs slender with veins prominent under the skin because of his low body fat. No hair interrupted the flow of its faultless lines. Cock and balls were reasonably large but nothing really, compared to the endowments of the natives, something that had always chagrined the twenty-five year old German.
The young Frenchman had said he was nineteen, but could pass for two years younger, naked and hairless as he was. The boy had one of those faces that literally turned heads. Fine features, high cheekbones, straight nose, his eyes limpid pools of green. Krueger hoped they could spend some time together. His own fiancee was so far away in Danzig, and this French boy was so very pretty and so very close and so very naked.
Well first things first. Duty required that he extend every hospitality to a fellow European in distress. The boy had collapsed from complete exhaustion after his battle with the giant, everything finally catching up with him. Even so, he looked like an angel, as his unconscious body lay in the litter his men made to carry him back to camp. His muscles must be sore. Yes, Krueger would offer the lad a massage once they got him back to camp and cleaned up and rested. As so it went, though Jean was polite in refusing the officer's subtle advances. It was much to soon to think of another man, only days after losing Henri.
Months later, Grandfather Thibault with Jean's mother Marie at his side looked on as his grandson, in his best Colonial Service uniform, received a decoration for valor in a formal ceremony at the Colonial Ministry building in Paris. Maybe Jean was not a soldier, but he had carried out his duty courageously. Jean's story was in all the papers, adding yet another proud chapter to the family legend. Jean's account of his adventures had given credit to Henri for a brave death and his personal thanks for wounding the native giant enough to give Jean a chance to defeat him in personal combat.
The general was also proud of the way Jean had played peacemaker in Africa once the rebellion was put down. The natives really had no answer to the Maxim gun or mortars, so resistance collapsed quickly. His superior Malherbe had lost his nerve and fled the country entirely, so Jean was briefly the ministry's senior man on the scene. At Jean's insistence, Chief Kalundi was pardoned and coopted into the newly reformed governmental structure. The chief's wisdom helped heal the wounds that war had inflicted on his land. Nkobo had died in the last battle, throwing himself on French bayonets rather than surrender.
Yet Jean still hadn't settled down. Recently he had taken up with that artist fellow. Not the General's sort really, but it was Jean's life to live, after all, so he had made his peace with the man. Paul DesRoches was a water colorist and sketch artist, and illustrator, some half dozen years older, tall and well built. He was brought in originally to illustrate Jean's forthcoming book about his adventures. Soon he stayed over for the night, then opened up a studio in the chateau. From the start the young men had adjoining rooms. Within two weeks they stopped pretending they did not share a bed.
Except for a rendering of the awards ceremony, all the illustrations would be of Jean nude, 'drawn from life', as the phrase went, to titillate the public with views of the lovely French youth without a stitch on. Even the frontispiece would show the boy bare from head to hips. Paul had indicated that his model would be completely nude for the sitting. A bit scandalous, but beauty such as Jean's should be preserved from the ravages of time. The general would get the actual portrait to hang in his den. In time it would grace a museum.
Paul had Jean model for the actions he wanted to capture for the book. The boy ran across remote sections of the grounds entirely naked, climbed trees, swam, sparred with a big stableman who played the giant warrior, or craftily laid his quicksand trap. That was one of the most scandalous of the illustrations. It showed Jean from behind, bending over, presenting his taut buns and cleavage to the reader, and there in the shadows between his legs a suggestion of male genitalia with a hint of an orifice just above. The general had to admit the artist had a way with the male nude. You could see the tension in the legs of the runner or the muscle bundles of the forearm stand out as Jean gripped the spear like a quarterstaff or the sweat rolling down a bare chest and belly.
Jean was actually shown twice in one illustration. He modeled Henri in his fight with the giant, with Henri's face drawn from a photograph. In the background stood a trussed up Jean, looking on anxiously, in one of only three illustrations with full frontal nudity.
Jean had asked for his grandfather's help in writing his story. The old man was famous for the cogency of his orders in the field and his after action reports. Instead of giving the lad detailed advice, he simply gave him a copy of U.S. Grant's memoirs, in English. They both were fluent in that language.
"Try to write as well as Grant did in his memoirs, and you will be fine. Imagine Grant writing his chapters in French. Then do likewise."
One day the general walked in on them unexpectedly in the studio DesRoches had set up at the chateau. He found Jean strung up by the wrists with Paul working him over with a light whip.
"What are you doing to my grandson?" the general demanded in a firm tone.
Jean was surprised and embarrassed and hurriedly assured his grandfather that nothing was amiss.
DesRoches quickly added. "I was just getting him ready for his next pose as a whipped boy. The welts are for verisimilitude. I am doing nothing to Jean that he doesn't want done to him."
Jean confirmed his claim.
"See, grandfather, I wasn't really bound at all," he said holding up the loose length of rope. It's just a pose.
"I see," the old man said. "Very well, but don't show your mother the finished picture, that is all I ask of you."
"And Jean, I don't remember a whipping in the story of your capture and escape. So?"
Jean colored, a full body blush, as he stammered something about a second folio of drawings, perhaps for a work of fiction that might follow his chronicle. Indeed, there had been some talk of such, but that was not the real reason for the drawings or the light whipping.
"I see... Very well. Just make sure you lock the door to your studio from now on, DesRoches."
"My fault, grandfather," Jean admitted.
"In that case, better give him another few licks as a reminder." the general said, departing with a nod to DesRoches.
"I assure you sir, I shall give due attention to the boy's rump."
That drew a harrumph and a chuckle from the old man. Second folio indeed. Erotic drawings for their own delectation was more like it.
A few days later, the old general was riding and came upon the two young men in an isolated corner of the estate. Jean was posing and Pierre was sketching him. Both were in the nude, bodies wet from a swim in the creek. They made courtly and ironic bows to the old man who rode away smiling. Well, they made a lovely couple, and Jean needed someone a bit older in his life anyway. He hoped the older man realized that their relationship required discretion. Look what happened to the poets Verlaine and young Rimbaud after the took up with each other. An international scandal. Both had come to bad ends.
For his part, Jean knew that he would always remember Henri and what they had shared in Africa, but life was for the living and for now he would share his with Paul.
Peace returned to the land where Jean had served. There was little fighting in the First World War which ended with German Kamerun split between the French and British. There was no fighting in the Second World War when the colonial governments mostly declared for the Free French. In time, nearly seven decades after Jean's time in Africa, in 1960, the French colonies were set free to decide their own destiny. Africa's sons would now rule their own lands, for better or for worse. And so it has been even to this day.
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