As our little boat crept along the river toward C., we became conscious that the crewmen were rowing in dead silence instead of chanting their songs; that the captain was peering anxiously into the thickets alongshore; that even the little river docks, normally so lively with commerce, were deserted. We asked what it meant, and finally the captain admitted the truth: "Bandits have been killing and robbing in this district. They know you are on board and have been following for hours along the shore. And we must tie up at the next pier."
Miss Miller and I, two white women in a region where such are rarely seen, would be a choice prize. Half-sick with apprehension we saw the pier just ahead. As we made fast, the crew adjusted their long knives, and the captain brought out a shotgun. Not a soul stirred in the nearby village. I heard a low cry from one of the crew. The bandits were coming.
"Captain! Put the gangplank down! I'm going ashore!" Miss Miller suddenly cried. He started to expostulate, but she jumped to the dock and, as the bandits approached, bowed low. The leader, a great burly fellow, looked puzzled, then returned her bow.
"Thank you, gentlemen," she said, smiling. "Thank you for coming!" The outlaws looked at her, bewildered.
"We had heard there were bandits in this country," Miss Miller went on, "and we have been very frightened. Now we know we are safe, and we thank you for coming to protect us."
The leader turned to his companions with a wide grin; they grinned also, and nodded. "We are gentlemen, as you have said," he replied. "There is nothing to fear. We will stand guard and you will be safe."
All night they squatted beside the boat with their guns across their knees. And in the morning we went on our way, leaving them bowing and grinning proudly on the pier.