Raven the Explorer: Episode Two

September 20, 1852

My Dearest Jack,

In the span of three days, I have obtained a shadow and documented many different specimens of flora and fauna of the African Jungles. I have also discovered evidence of one of the strangest animals of these parts.

Two nights ago, I was reading in my tent when I heard a noise from outside. I promptly grabbed my trusty umbrella to use as a weapon and looked outside. I heard a rather unusual rummaging noise coming from my trunk, which had been placed under an awning just outside the door. Peering over the side of the trunk, I saw some small white animal wreaking havoc among my clothing. Acting quickly, I returned to my travel desk and retrieved a rather large plaid scarf, which I tossed over the animal. It latched its jaws into the fabric, and I took the opportunity to wrap it wholly in the scarf. It was truly a funny sight, watching the thing blunder around inside the bundle.

I lifted it out of my trunk and onto my camp cot. I withdrew my hand sharply as its little teeth nipped me through the fabric. It made many small growling noises as I freed its head, and I discovered almost immediately that the Mysterious Invader was a puppy! Bernie, who had been lurking nearby throughout this episode, tells me that the fluffy white thing escaped from the boat that had brought us to this campsite. I have decided to keep the little rascal, and have dubbed her the Maltese Poodle. Bernie has gone to the trouble of fixing a haversack for me to carry her in, since she follows me Everywhere. She is perfectly happy to sit atop my mackintosh with her little fluffy head sticking out. Her little wriggling presence is something that I fear I could get used to. As I write to you, she is curled on my camp cot, having partaken of a bowl of milk and fine piece of meat. Spoiled little thing.

We set out today to explore along the banks of a river that leads farther into the jungle. We had gone for several miles when one of the guides spotted something in the mud. We quickly assembled around the strange markings. I am convinced that these tracks are those of the mysterious Whatever Bird. They appear to be webbed; a fact that I suppose ought not to surprise me. Any large bird that dwells in these very wet areas must indeed have webbed feet. We continued to follow the tracks until we lost them in the undergrowth. Tomorrow we shall return to that spot, in hopes of tracking the beast farther into the interior. Perhaps tomorrow shall bring my first glimpse of the elusive Whatever Bird.

In addition to the Maltese Poodle, our expedition has collected a few other specimens for study. For instance, when we returned from our hike this morning, we found that most of my clothing was strewn across the floor of my tent. A large, white lump was jouncing around the floor in a most astounding manner. Upon closer examination, it proved to be a kangaroo sort of creature that had somehow worked its way into one of my Large Floppy Nightgowns. It was disentangled quickly and put into a cage, which some of the stronger fellows took back to the boat. I continue to refer to it as the Smocked Wallaby, in memory of the nightgown. We also have collected several specimens of the plant life of this area. Several orchid species, a type of morning glory or trumpet vine, and a fern or two have all been duly preserved in jars of spirit for the boffins at the Institute.

And now, dear Brother, I must go. The Maltese Poodle has been chewing my trouser hem for the last five minutes, and I can no longer endure it. I must close this letter and submit to playing with a puppy instead. God go with you in your wanderings, as he has been with me in mine. All my love,

Your sister,

Raven Hardington

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