“Monsieur Stanley, je présume?”
Stanley had heard the joke thousands of times before but he acted like it was the first time.
“A nice quip, your Majesty.”
He didn’t want to get off to a bad start with the man he hoped was going to finance his next expedition. The King of the Belgians cut a stately figure with his impeccable square beard but he seemed as exited to meet Stanley as the street kids who had read about his African adventures in the papers.
A servant flung open the double doors to the palace garden.
“Inform me about the Dark Continent,” King Leopold said. “It excites me.”
“It is an inhospitable region, your Majesty. No roads. Rivers infested with crocodiles. Tribes out to get you. And a humidity that causes a fever that has claimed the life of one third of my men.”
“Yet not of you. Tell me, is it true what they say about the female wildlings? Do they have an insatiable libido?”
“Some of our company seemed to think so.”
“Did you taste the black flesh?”
Stanley did not want to answer. Luckily the King did not press on.
“The niggers, they work hard?”
“Some of the finest men I’ve ever encountered.”
“And they scoop coal and gems from the ground? No digging needed?”
“You are invited to dinner tomorrow, monsieur Stanley. We shall talk about how the Belgians can help you out.”
Stanley bowed politely and followed the servant out of the garden. King Leopold smiled. His advisors had been correct. Stanley was desperate for financing.
An exploitable explorer.
Just the way the King liked them.
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