It so happens that I drop in to see you at a moment when you are busy unpacking a parcel. Friends such as we are, travelling companions who have pulled out together many a time on old trails and new for thousands-of-miles long journeys, do not stand on ceremony when they meet.
"Surprise packet - just arrived!" you explain excitedly, proceeding to make quick work of removing string and paper. One by one you carefully extract the contents of a packing-case, unwrapping each find from its tissue-paper covering, or drawing it out of its corrugated cardboard sheath before you again dip into the paper shavings to try your luck once more.
In a few minutes the table is set out with a variety show of good things - a daintily beribboned big box of mixed chocolates, pound, half-pound and quarter-pound packets of plain chocolate, cartons of Neapolitans, a slab of nut-milk chocolate, a box of chocolate almonds, a tin of cocoa, a tin of chocolate biscuits, a tin of chocolate powder, a tin of cocoa and milk powder, and a tin of condensed cocoa and milk.
"What a tuck-box!" you exclaim - "food for the gods!"
"The very name!" I break in hurriedly, before you have time to accuse me of remembering your birthday. "That's almost exactly what Linnaeus called cocoa - Theobroma - which, being translated from Greek into English, means 'food of the gods.' Are you sure you've reached the bottom of that box?"
Taking the hint, you grope again amongst the shavings, and presently bring to light an envelope. You break the seal, peer in curiously, and with a puzzled look shake out on to the table a dozen or so brown beans.
"What in the name of all the theos are those things? you ask. "What's the joke?"
"Depends on what you call a joke," I reply. "I have a little plan in mind, and if it takes your fancy we shall soon be playing the very practical joke of slipping away from rain and slush, fog and snow, to winter in the sunshine. I'm speaking quite seriously, my friend, and before we go any further I want to win your respect for the brown beans before us, which you have just greeted with scorn. They are the dried seeds from the fruit-pod of a tropical tree; beans such as these are the natural raw product from which all the goodies arrayed before us on this table have been made. Indeed, beans of this kind are the prime source of all the cocoa and chocolate you or anyone else in the world has ever consumed-of all the cocoa and chocolate you and millions of other folk in all quarters of the globe hope to continue eating and drinking as some portion of their daily fare.
'The trees which yield these beans flourish in many parts of the Tropics. I propose that we should set forth on a tour of the raw-cocoa producing countries of the world, where we can visit the little farms and big plantations on which the trees are born and brought up, watch the scenes connected with harvesting the crop and preparing it for market, get into touch with the manners and customs of the people who yearly produce hundreds of thousands of tons of cocoa beans Then, if we travel home with a cargo of cocoa beans and accompany them to a factory to see them transformed into cocoa essence, plain chocolate, and a variety of other popular provisions such as are now awaiting your pleasure on the table, I hope you will find even greater enjoyment than ever you have done before in a cup of cocoa, a bar of chocolate, a chocolate pudding, or any of their many good, wholesome, and nice relations."
A week or so later, on a grey November day, we are in Liverpool, where we have just come aboard a mail steamer that is leaving this afternoon for the West Coast of Africa. We are off to the Gold Coast, to start our tour of cocoaland in a British colony which has recently risen to fame as the biggest cocoa producer in the world. The rapid development of the cocoa industry in the Gold Coast is one of the romances of commercial history, comparable only with the phenomenal growth of the plantation rubber industry in the parts of our Empire known as Ceylon and Malaya.