The waters of the Mississippi flow lazily through the broad plains of Arkansas, through sun-burned land, high grass and scrub. - A day's journey from Greenville, an Ohio steamer that had berthed for a few days now loosened its moorings in order to continue its journey up-river. Long vanes of sooty smoke trailed behind the funnels of the powerful paddle-steamer. Her name, "Sooty Nelly", was written with tar in large letters on the bow. - Uuuuuuuuuuu !! the siren boomed through the shimmering air, and the man high up on the bridge bawled: "All set!" - A late passenger came at a gallop from the barren land. It was Bobby Box with his large travelling bag, shouting "Stop!" over and over. But the steamer had already moved some distance from the landing-stage, and Bobby ran into some sailors.
They were two very tall blacks with large gleaming eyes. "You've missed the boat, Sir!" they laughed and as a joke took hold of the fine gentleman. - "Hohohohooooo!!" Bobby Box was swung to and fro a few times and then flung up high over the water. Bobby was dispatched. He reached the ship "per backboard" - it hurt terribly. - "Ouch!" The momentum was such that Bobby was propelled on further, through a door and fell near a deep hatch, which loomed up towards him out of the darkness. Fortunately the handle of his travelling bag had got caught on the hook of the winch and so he made his descent down into the depths suspended on the rope. - Into the depths? That only appeared to be so. Bobby moved very slowly downwards. On the other end of the winch there hung a crate of oranges which was almost as heavy as Bobby and which more or less balanced his weight. It was indeed a textbook example of the laws of equilibrium. Bobby was soon down below and the orange crate up above. Crash! - "That worked splendidly," said Bobby to himself, "but..." Rrrrrrrr! Rrrrrrrr! - the crate hurtled down from above. Craaaack!! The wood split, the oranges scattered like rubber balls in all directions. "Hey! - that could have flattened me!!" thought Bobby Box, now quite bemused, and he bumped into a large bunch of bananas hanging up behind him, whose aroma now enveloped him.
Ah! - there was something to be had, something for body and soul - bananas! Bobby reached into the big bunch of fruit and secured some provisions. Then he searched around in the darkness of the hold like a mole seeking light. At last he found a ladder which seemed suited to his purpose. He climbed up. - Careful! - he had reached the ceiling - a hatch opened. So this was the way back to his fellow-passengers. Smiling cheerfully, Bobby shoved his bag, stick and hat through the hatch up on deck. But before he stepped out of the hatch himself, he made for the bananas and sang, although his mouth was full:
Gibble, gobble, munch -
Banana is all my lunch.
Banana gives you tiny feet, -
So here is one for you to greet.
Gibble, gobble, munch.
One banana skin after the other flew up out of the hatch. - On deck it was sheer bliss. The passengers were lying in the sun, chatting, stretching their legs or idling. Over there on the long seats sat two elderly globe-trotters in top hats - Messers X and Y - telling each other stories as tall as their hats. But punishment was pending: splish - splash! two banana skins came flying, landed and stuck to the noses of the pair like two wet bats. They looked around, furious, to find the perpetrator. Bobby Box had just lept out of the hatch with acrobatic elegance. He was utterly enchanted and spellbound by what he saw.
An unusually beautiful girl with the face of an angel was sitting under one of the funnels surrounded by little bags, boxes and small suitcases. Her full skirt - pale pink with forget-me-not blue dots - a very small sunshade and an even smaller straw hat looked very well on her. She smiled delightfully at Bobby's feats. He was most chivalrous. With great ceremony he offered the lovely girl a banana, but first peeled it on all sides so that it looked like a flower. - "I am a poet and write verse!" he said by way of introduction, putting on his best Sunday face. She accepted the banana flower with a sweet smile and said very softly: "Marygold". Bobby had to assume that this attractive word "Marygold" must be her name. His mood of exhilaration was somewhat checked and a feeling of unease took hold of him. He thought he saw a sinister looking creature standing behind the girl like a shade, its gleaming eyes balefully fixed on him. "Him-hem-ham-hum!" he heard the creature murmur. There was a satanic rhythm in this "Him-hem-ham-hum". "That is the devil!" Bobby Box was convinced of that, as it had at once become clear to his poet's soul that wherever in the world one comes across an angel, there must a devil in the vicinity. He did not have time to think about this matter for very long as X and Y fell upon him, shaking with rage. At that very moment the hot air pressed the clouds of smoke that were billowing out of the funnel down on to the deck, enveloping and concealing Bobby Box, which was quite inconvenient for the two furious men. They took firm action, nonetheless. - "Oh Bobby, how will you manage?!" whispered Marygold, who had no choice but to watch what was happening. Bing, bang! - stars were seen, blows were heard landing on their targets, but the smoke and vapour obscured everybody's vision. Once the smoke had lifted, Marygold laughed loud and long. Messers X and Y were thrashing each other most violently and Bobby Box, who had at once fled to safety behind the funnel, joined in with Marygold and was splitting his sides laughing. Hoho hihi! - hoho hihi!! The air was full of laughter. But amid the laughter, Bobby Box heard the uncanny "Him-hem-ham-hum"; he took a quick look over at Marygold and saw her giving the dark creature behind her a slap with her sunshade. - "Be quiet Jim and behave yourself!" Bobby heard her say and now he knew that the devil's name was "Jim". As he was watching from behind the funnel, he saw two very small strangely dressed boys, who were creeping up on the passengers from behind armed with little blow-pipes and similar utensils. Then he heard a piercing female voice calling: "Where are my two fiends?!" Bobby was still crouching down behind the funnel and everything he saw and heard seemed to come from a dream-world. As he was engrossed in his thoughts about all this, he did not realise that the two fiends had already sneaked up behind him and tied a little bottle to his coat tails bearing the inscription in big letters: "Nitroglycerine". -
The ship's bell rang out and the steamer stopped. Bobby Box reached for his travelling bag and his walking-stick; good thoughts and bad came into his head. But the sun was shining so beautifully that he at once began to compose more poetry:
The Mississipi trip was fine
Adieu! Farewell! - We'll meet again.