Infomotions, Inc.African Camp Fires / White, Stewart Edward, 1873-1946



Author: White, Stewart Edward, 1873-1946
Title: African Camp Fires
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): memba sasa; camp
Contributor(s): Kiljander, K., 1817-1879 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 79,321 words (short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 62 (easy)
Identifier: etext14451
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Title: African Camp Fires

Author: Stewart Edward White

Release Date: December 24, 2004 [EBook #14451]

Language: English

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AFRICAN CAMP FIRES

BY

STEWART EDWARD WHITE

     THOMAS NELSON AND SONS
     LONDON, EDINBURGH, DUBLIN
     AND NEW YORK




CONTENTS.


     PART I.--TO THE ISLAND OF WAR.

     I. THE OPEN DOOR

     II. THE FAREWELL

     III. PORT SAID

     IV. SUEZ

     V. THE RED SEA

     VI. ADEN

     VII. THE INDIAN OCEAN

     VIII. MOMBASA


     PART II.--THE SHIMBA HILLS.

     IX. A TROPICAL JUNGLE

     X. THE SABLE

     XI. A MARCH ALONG THE COAST

     XII. THE FIRE


     PART III.--NAIROBI.

     XIII. UP FROM THE COAST

     XIV. A TOWN OF CONTRASTS

     XV. PEOPLE

     XVI. RECRUITING


     PART IV.--A LION HUNT ON KAPITI.

     XVII. AN OSTRICH FARM AT MACHAKOS

     XVIII. THE FIRST LIONESS

     XIX. THE DOGS

     XX. BONDONI

     XXI. RIDING THE PLAINS

     XXII. THE SECOND LIONESS

     XXIII. THE BIG LION

     XXIV. THE FIFTEEN LIONS


     PART V.--THE TSAVO RIVER.

     XXV. VOI

     XXVI. THE FRINGE-EARED ORYX

     XXVII. ACROSS THE SERENGETTI

     XXVIII. DOWN THE RIVER

     XXIX. THE LESSER KUDU

     XXX. ADVENTURES BY THE WAY

     XXXI. THE LOST SAFARI

     XXXII. THE BABU


     PART VI.--IN MASAILAND.

     XXXIII. OVER THE LIKIPIA ESCARPMENT

     XXXIV. TO THE KEDONG

     XXXV. THE TEANSPORT RIDER

     XXXVI. ACROSS THE THIRST

     XXXVII. THE SOUTHERN GUASO NYERO

     XXXVIII. THE LOWER BENCHES

     XXXIX. NOTES ON THE MASAI

     XL. THROUGH THE ENCHANTED FOREST

     XLI. NAIOKOTUKU

     XLII. SCOUTING IN THE ELEPHANT FOREST

     XLIII. THE TOPI CAMP

     XLIV. THE UNKNOWN LAND

     XLV. THE ROAN

     XLVI. THE GREATER KUDU

     XLVII. THE MAGIC PORTALS CLOSE

     XLVIII. THE LAST TREK




PART I.


TO THE ISLAND OF WAR.




I.

THE OPEN DOOR.


There are many interesting hotels scattered about the world, with a few
of which I am acquainted and with a great many of which I am not. Of
course all hotels are interesting, from one point of view or another. In
fact, the surest way to fix an audience's attention is to introduce your
hero, or to display your opening chorus in the lobby or along the facade
of a hotel. The life, the movement and colour, the drifting
individualities, the pretence, the bluff, the self-consciousness, the
independence, the _ennui_, the darting or lounging servants, the very
fact that of those before your eyes seven out of ten are drawn from
distant and scattered places, are sufficient in themselves to invest the
smallest hostelry with glamour. It is not of this general interest that
I would now speak. Nor is it my intention at present to glance at the
hotels wherein "quaintness" is specialized, whether intentionally or no.
There are thousands of them; and all of them well worth the
discriminating traveller's attention. Concerning some of them--as the
old inns at Dives-sur-Mer and at Mont St. Michel--whole books have been
written. These depend for their charm on a mingled gift of the unusual
and the picturesque. There are, as I have said, thousands of them; and
of their cataloguing, should one embark on so wide a sea, there could be
no end. And, again, I must for convenience exclude the altogether
charming places, like the Tour d'Argent of Paris, Simpson's of the
Strand,[1] and a dozen others that will spring to every traveller's
memory, where the personality of the host, or of a chef, or even a
waiter, is at once a magnet for the attraction of visitors and a reward
for their coming. These, too, are many. In the interest to which I would
draw attention, the hotel as a building or as an institution has little
part. It is indeed a facade, a _mise en scene_before which play the
actors that attract our attention and applause. The set may be as
modernly elaborate as Peacock Alley of the Waldorf or the templed lobby
of the St. Francis; or it may present the severe and Elizabethan
simplicity of the stone-paved veranda of the Norfolk at Nairobi--the
matter is quite inessential to the spectator. His appreciation is only
slightly and indirectly influenced by these things. Sunk in his
arm-chair--of velvet or of canvas--he puffs hard and silently at his
cigar, watching and listening as the pageant and the conversation eddy
by.

Of such hotels I number that gaudy and polysyllabic hostelry the Grand
Hotel du Louvre et de la Paix at Marseilles. I am indifferent to the
facts that it is situated on that fine thoroughfare, the Rue de
Cannebiere, which the proud and untravelled native devoutly believes to
be the finest street in the world; that it possesses a dining-room of
gilded and painted _repousse_ work so elaborate and wonderful that it
surely must be intended to represent a tinsmith's dream of heaven; that
its concierge is the most impressive human being on earth except Ludwig
von Kampf (whom I have never seen); that its head waiter is sadder and
more elderly and forgiving than any other head waiter; and that its
hushed and cathedral atmosphere has been undisturbed through immemorial
years. That is to be expected; and elsewhere to be duplicated in
greater or lesser degree. Nor in the lofty courtyard, or the equally
lofty halls and reading-rooms, is there ever much bustle and movement.
People sit quietly, or move with circumspection. Servants glide. The
fall of a book or teaspoon, the sudden closing of a door, are events to
be remarked. Once a day, however, a huge gong sounds, the glass doors of
the inner courtyard are thrown open with a flourish, and enters the huge
bus fairly among those peacefully sitting at the tables, horses' hoofs
striking fire, long lash-cracking volleys, wheels roaring amid hollow
reverberations. From the interior of this bus emerge people; and from
the top, by means of a strangely-constructed hooked ladder, are decanted
boxes, trunks, and appurtenances of various sorts. In these people, and
in these boxes, trunks, and appurtenances, are the real interest of the
Grand Hotel du Louvre et de la Paix of the marvellous Rue Cannebiere of
Marseilles.

For at Marseilles land ships, many ships, from all the scattered ends of
the earth; and from Marseilles depart trains for the North, where is
home, or the way home for many peoples. And since the arrival of ships
is uncertain, and the departure of trains fixed, it follows that
everybody descends for a little or greater period at the Grand Hotel du
Louvre et de la Paix.

They come lean and quiet and a little yellow from hard climates, with
the names of strange places on their lips, and they speak familiarly of
far-off things. Their clothes are generally of ancient cut, and the
wrinkles and camphor aroma of a long packing away are yet discernible.
Often they are still wearing sun helmets or double terai hats, pending a
descent on a Piccadilly hatter two days hence. They move slowly and
languidly; the ordinary piercing and dominant English enunciation has
fallen to modulation; their eyes, while observant and alert, look tired.
It is as though the far countries have sucked something from the pith of
them in exchange for great experiences that nevertheless seem of little
value; as though these men, having met at last face to face the ultimate
of what the earth has to offer in the way of danger, hardship,
difficulty, and the things that try men's souls, having unexpectedly
found them all to fall short of both the importance and the final
significance with which human-kind has always invested them, were now
just a little at a loss. Therefore they stretch their long, lean frames
in the wicker chairs, they sip the long drinks at their elbows, puff
slowly at their long, lean cheroots, and talk spasmodically in short
sentences.

Of quite a different type are those going out--young fellows full of
northern health and energy, full of the eagerness of anticipation, full
of romance skilfully concealed, self-certain, authoritative, clear
voiced. Their exit from the bus is followed by a rain of hold-alls,
bags, new tin boxes, new gun cases, all lettered freshly--an enormous
kit doomed to diminution. They overflow the place, ebb towards their
respective rooms; return scrubbed and ruddy, correctly clad, correctly
unconscious of everybody else; sink into more wicker chairs. The quiet
brown and yellow men continue to puff at their cheroots, quite eclipsed.
After a time one of them picks up his battered old sun helmet and goes
out into the street. The eyes of the newcomers follow him. They fall
silent; and their eyes, under cover of pulled moustache, furtively
glance towards the lean man's companions. Then on that office falls a
great silence, broken only by the occasional rare remarks of the quiet
men with the cheroots. The youngsters are listening with all their ears,
though from their appearance no one would suspect that fact. Not a
syllable escapes them. These quiet men have been there; they have seen
with their own eyes; their lightest word is saturated with the mystery
and romance of the unknown. Their easy, matter-of-fact, everyday
knowledge is richly wonderful. It would seem natural for these
young-young men to question these old-young men of that which they
desire so ardently to know; but that isn't done, you know. So they sit
tight, and pretend they are not listening, and feast their ears on the
wonderful syllables--Ankobar, Kabul, Peshawur, Annam, Nyassaland,
Kerman, Serengetti, Tanganika, and many others. On these beautiful
syllables must their imaginations feed, for that which is told is as
nothing at all. Adventure there is none, romance there is none, mention
of high emprise there is none. Adventure, romance, high emprise have to
these men somehow lost their importance. Perhaps such things have been
to them too common--as well mention the morning egg. Perhaps they have
found that there is no genuine adventure, no real romance except over
the edge of the world where the rainbow stoops.

The bus rattles in and rattles out again. It takes the fresh-faced young
men down past the inner harbour to where lie the tall ships waiting.
They and their cargo of exuberance, of hope, of energy, of thirst for
the bubble adventure, the rainbow romance, sail away to where these
wares have a market. And the quiet men glide away to the North. Their
wares have been marketed. The sleepy, fierce, passionate, sunny lands
have taken all they had to bring. And have given in exchange?
Indifference, ill-health, a profound realization that the length of days
are as nothing at all; a supreme agnosticism as to the ultimate value of
anything that a single man can do, a sublime faith that it must be done,
the power to concentrate, patience illimitable; contempt for danger,
disregard of death, the intention to live; a final, weary estimate of
the fact that mere things are as unimportant here as there, no matter
how quaintly or fantastically they are dressed or named, and a
corresponding emptiness of anticipation for the future--these items are
only a random few of the price given by the ancient lands for that which
the northern races bring to them. What other alchemical changes have
been wrought only these lean and weary men could know--if they dared
look so far within themselves. And even if they dared, they would not
tell.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] In old days before the "improvements."




II.

THE FAREWELL.


We boarded ship, filled with a great, and what seemed to us, an
unappeasable curiosity as to what we were going to see. It was not a
very big ship, in spite of the grandiloquent descriptions in the
advertisements, or the lithograph wherein she cut grandly and evenly
through huge waves to the manifest discomfiture of infinitesimal sailing
craft bobbing alongside. She was manned entirely by Germans. The room
stewards waited at table, cleaned the public saloons, kept the library,
rustled the baggage, and played in the band. That is why we took our
music between meals. Our staterooms were very tiny indeed. Each was
provided with an electric fan; a totally inadequate and rather
aggravating electric fan once we had entered the Red Sea. Just at this
moment we paid it little attention, for we were still in full enjoyment
of sunny France, where, in our own experience, it had rained two months
steadily. Indeed, at this moment it was raining, raining a steady, cold,
sodden drizzle that had not even the grace to pick out the surface of
the harbour in the jolly dancing staccato that goes far to lend
attraction to a genuinely earnest rainstorm.

Down the long quay splashed cabs and omnibuses, their drivers glistening
in wet capes, to discharge under the open shed at the end various hasty
individuals who marshalled long lines of porters with astonishing
impedimenta and drove them up the gang-plank. A half-dozen roughs
lounged aimlessly. A little bent old woman with a shawl over her head
searched here and there. Occasionally she would find a twisted splinter
of wood torn from the piles by a hawser or gouged from the planking by
heavy freight, or kicked from the floor by the hoofs of horses. This she
deposited carefully in a small covered market basket. She was entirely
intent on this minute and rather pathetic task, quite unattending the
greatness of the ship, or the many people the great hulk swallowed or
spat forth.

Near us against the rail leaned a dark-haired young Englishman whom
later every man on that many-nationed ship came to recognize and to
avoid as an insufferable bore. Now, however, the angel of good
inspiration stooped to him. He tossed a copper two-sou piece down to the
bent old woman. She heard the clink of the fall, and looked up
bewildered. One of the waterside roughs slouched forward. The Englishman
shouted a warning and a threat, indicating in pantomime for whom the
coin was intended. To our surprise that evil-looking wharf rat smiled
and waved his hand reassuringly, then took the old woman by the arm to
show her where the coin had fallen. She hobbled to it with a haste
eloquent of the horrible Marseillaise poverty-stricken alleys, picked it
up joyously, turned--and with a delightful grace kissed her finger-tips
towards the ship.

Apparently we all of us had a few remaining French coins; and certainly
we were all grateful to the young Englishman for his happy thought. The
sous descended as fast as the woman could get to where they fell. So
numerous were they that she had no time to express her gratitude except
in broken snatches or gesture, in interrupted attitudes of the most
complete thanksgiving. The day of miracles for her had come; and from
the humble poverty that valued tiny and infrequent splinters of wood she
had suddenly come into great wealth. Everybody was laughing, but in a
very kindly sort of way it seemed to me; and the very wharf rats and
gamins, wolfish and fierce in their everyday life of the water-front,
seemed to take a genuine pleasure in pointing out to her the
resting-place of those her dim old eyes had not seen. Silver pieces
followed. These were too wonderful. She grew more and more excited,
until several of the passengers leaning over the rail began to murmur
warningly, fearing harm. After picking up each of these silver pieces,
she bowed and gestured very gracefully, waving both hands outward,
lifting eyes and hands to heaven, kissing her fingers, trying by every
means in her power to express the dazzling wonder and joy that this
unexpected marvel was bringing her. When she had done all these things
many times, she hugged herself ecstatically. A very well-dressed and
prosperous-looking Frenchman standing near seemed to be a little afraid
she might hug him. His fear had, perhaps, some grounds, for she shook
hands with everybody all around, and showed them her wealth in her
kerchief, explaining eagerly, the tears running down her face.

Now the gang-plank was drawn aboard, and the band struck up the usual
lively air. At the first notes the old woman executed a few feeble
little jig steps in sheer exuberance. Then the solemnity of the
situation sobered her. Her great, wealthy, powerful, kind friends were
departing on their long voyage over mysterious seas. Again and again,
very earnestly, she repeated the graceful, slow pantomime--the wave of
the arms outward, the eyes raised to heaven, the hands clasped finally
over her head. As the brown strip of water silently widened between us
it was strangely like a stage scene--the roofed sheds of the quay, the
motionless groups, the central figure of the old woman depicting
emotion.

Suddenly she dropped her hands and hobbled away at a great rate,
disappearing finally into the maze of the street beyond. Concluding that
she had decided to get quickly home with her great treasure, we
commended her discretion and gave our attention to other things.

The drizzle fell uninterruptedly. We had edged sidewise the requisite
distance, and were now gathering headway in our long voyage. The quail
was beginning to recede and to diminish. Back from the street hastened
the figure of the little old woman. She carried a large white cloth, of
which she had evidently been in quest. This she unfolded and waved
vigorously with both hands. Until we had passed quite from sight she
stood there signalling her farewell. Long after we were beyond
distinguishing her figure we could catch the flutter of white. Thus that
ship's company, embarking each on his Great Adventure, far from home and
friends, received their farewell, a very genuine farewell, from one poor
old woman. B. ventured the opinion that it was the best thing we had
bought with our French money.




III.

PORT SAID.


The time of times to approach Port Said is just at the fall of dusk.
Then the sea lies in opalescent patches, and the low shores fade away
into the gathering night. The slanting masts and yards of the dhows
silhouette against a sky of the deepest translucent green; and the
heroic statue of De Lesseps, standing for ever at the Gateway he opened,
points always to the mysterious East.

The rhythmical, accustomed chug of the engines had fallen to quarter
speed, leaving an uncanny stillness throughout the ship. Silently we
slipped between the long piers, drew up on the waterside town, seized
the buoy, and came to rest. All around us lay other ships of all sizes,
motionless on the inky water. The reflections from their lights seemed
to be thrust into the depths, like stilts; and the few lights from the
town reflected shiveringly across. Along the water-front all was dark
and silent. We caught the loom of buildings; and behind them a dull glow
as from a fire, and guessed tall minarets, and heard the rising and
falling of chanting. Numerous small boats hovered near, floating in and
out of the patches of light we ourselves cast, waiting for permission to
swarm at the gang-plank for our patronage.

We went ashore, passed through a wicket gate, and across the dark
buildings to the heart of the town, whence came the dull glow and the
sounds of people.

Here were two streets running across one another, both brilliantly
lighted, both thronged, both lined with little shops. In the latter one
could buy anything, in any language, with any money. In them we saw
cheap straw hats made in Germany hung side by side with gorgeous and
beautiful stuffs from the Orient; shoddy European garments and Eastern
jewels; cheap celluloid combs and curious embroideries. The crowd of
passers-by in the streets were compounded in the same curiously mixed
fashion; a few Europeans, generally in white, and then a variety of
Arabs, Egyptians, Somalis, Berbers, East Indians and the like, each in
his own gaudy or graceful costume. It speaks well for the accuracy of
feeling, anyway, of our various "Midways," "Pikes," and the like of our
world's expositions that the streets of Port Said looked like Midways
raised to the nth power. Along them we sauntered with a pleasing feeling
of self-importance. On all sides we were gently and humbly besought--by
the shopkeepers, by the sidewalk vendors, by would-be guides, by
fortune-tellers, by jugglers, by magicians; all soft-voiced and
respectful; all yielding as water to rebuff, but as quick as water to
glide back again. The vendors were of the colours of the rainbow, and
were heavily hung with long necklaces of coral or amber, with scarves,
with strings of silver coins, with sequinned veils and silks, girt with
many dirks and knives, furnished out in concealed pockets with scarabs,
bracelets, sandalwood boxes or anything else under the broad canopy of
heaven one might or might not desire. Their voices were soft and
pleasing, their eyes had the beseeching quality of a good dog's, their
anxious and deprecating faces were ready at the slightest encouragement
to break out into the friendliest and most intimate of smiles. Wherever
we went we were accompanied by a retinue straight out of the Arabian
Nights, patiently awaiting the moment when we should tire; should seek
out the table of a sidewalk cafe; and should, in our relaxed mood, be
ready to unbend to our royal purchases.

At that moment we were too much interested in the town itself. The tiny
shops, with their smiling and insinuating Oriental keepers, were
fascinating in their displays of carved woods, jewellery, perfumes,
silks, tapestries, silversmiths' work, ostrich feathers, and the like.
To either side the main street lay long narrow dark alleys, in which
flared single lights, across which flitted mysterious long-robed
figures, from which floated stray snatches of music either palpitatingly
barbaric or ridiculously modern. There the authority of the straight,
soldierly-looking Soudanese policemen ceased, and it was not safe to
wander unarmed or alone.

Besides these motley variegations of the East and West, the main feature
of the town was the street car. It was an open-air structure of spacious
dimensions, as though benches and a canopy had been erected rather
haphazard on a small dancing platform. The track is absurdly narrow in
gauge; and as a consequence the edifice swayed and swung from side to
side. A single mule was attached to it loosely by about ten feet of
rope. It was driven by a gaudy ragamuffin in a turban. Various other
gaudy ragamuffins lounged largely and picturesquely on the widely spaced
benches. Whence it came or whither it went I do not know. Its orbit
swung into the main street, turned a corner, and disappeared. Apparently
Europeans did not patronize this picturesque wreck, but drove elegantly
but mysteriously in small open cabs conducted by totally incongruous
turbaned drivers.

We ended finally at an imposing corner hotel, where we dined by an open
window just above the level of the street. A dozen upturned faces
besought us silently during the meal. At a glance of even the mildest
interest a dozen long brown arms thrust the spoils of the East upon our
consideration. With us sat a large benign Swedish professor whose
erudition was encyclopaedic, but whose kindly humanity was greater.
Uttering deep, cavernous chuckles, the professor bargained. A red coral
necklace for the moment was the matter of interest. The professor
inspected it carefully, and handed it back.

"I doubt if id iss coral," said he simply.

The present owner of the beads went frantic with rapid-fire proof and
vociferation. With the swiftness and precision of much repetition he
fished out a match, struck it, applied the flame to the alleged coral,
and blew out the match; cast the necklace on the pavement, produced
mysteriously a small hammer, and with it proceeded frantically to pound
the beads. Evidently he was accustomed to being doubted, and carried his
materials for proof around with him. Then, in one motion, the hammer
disappeared, the beads were snatched up, and again offered, unharmed,
for inspection.

"Are those good tests for genuineness?" we asked the professor, aside.

"As to that," he replied regretfully, "I do not know. I know of coral
only that is the hard calcareous skeleton of the marine coelenterate
polyps; and that this red coral iss called of a sclerobasic group; and
other facts of the kind; but I do not know if it iss supposed to resist
impact and heat. Possibly," he ended shrewdly, "it is the common
imitation which does _not_ resist impact and heat. At any rate they are
pretty. How much?" he demanded of the vendor, a bright-eyed Egyptian
waiting patiently until our conference should cease.

"Twenty shillings," he replied promptly.

The professor shook with one of his cavernous chuckles.

"Too much," he observed, and handed the necklace back through the
window.

The Egyptian would by no means receive it.

"Keep! keep!" he implored, thrusting the mass of red upon the professor
with both hands. "How much you give?"

"One shilling," announced the professor firmly.

The coral necklace lay on the edge of the table throughout most of our
leisurely meal. The vendor argued, pleaded, gave it up, disappeared in
the crowd, returned dramatically after an interval. The professor ate
calmly, chuckled much, and from time to time repeated firmly the words,
"One shilling." Finally, at the cheese, he reached out, swept the coral
into his pocket, and laid down two shillings. The Egyptian deftly
gathered the coin, smiled cheerfully, and produced a glittering veil, in
which he tried in vain to enlist Billy's interest.

For coffee and cigars we moved to the terrace outside. Here an orchestra
played, the peoples of many nations sat at little tables, the peddlers,
fakirs, jugglers, and fortune-tellers swarmed. A half-dozen postal cards
seemed sufficient to set a small boy up in trade, and to imbue him with
all the importance and insistence of a merchant with jewels. Other
ten-year-old ragamuffins tried to call our attention to some sort of
sleight-of-hand with poor downy little chickens. Grave, turbaned, and
polite Indians squatted cross-legged at our feet, begging to give us a
look into the future by means of the only genuine hall-marked Yogi-ism;
a troupe of acrobats went energetically and hopefully through quite a
meritorious performance a few feet away; a deftly triumphant juggler did
very easily, and directly beneath our watchful eyes, some really
wonderful tricks. A butterfly-gorgeous swarm of insinuating smiling
peddlers of small things dangled and spread their wares where they
thought themselves most sure of attention. Beyond our own little group
we saw slowly passing in the lighted street outside the portico the
variegated and picturesque loungers. Across the way a phonograph bawled;
our stringed orchestra played "The Dollar Princess;" from somewhere over
in the dark and mysterious alleyways came the regular beating of a
tom-tom. The magnificent and picturesque town car with its gaudy
ragamuffins swayed by in train of its diminutive mule.

Suddenly our persistent and amusing _entourage_ vanished in all
directions. Standing idly at the portico was a very straight, black
Soudanese. On his head was the usual red fez; his clothing was of trim
khaki; his knees and feet were bare, with blue puttees between; and
around his middle was drawn close and smooth a blood-red sash at least a
foot and a half in breadth. He made a fine upstanding Egyptian figure,
and was armed with pride, a short sheathed club, and a great scorn. No
word spoke he, nor command; but merely jerked a thumb towards the
darkness, and into the darkness our many-hued horde melted away. We were
left feeling rather lonesome!

Near midnight we sauntered down the street to the quay, whence we were
rowed to the ship by another turbaned, long-robed figure, who sweetly
begged just a copper or so "for poor boatman."

We found the ship in the process of coaling, every porthole and doorway
closed, and heavy canvas hung to protect as far as possible the clean
decks. Two barges were moored alongside. Two blazing braziers lighted
them with weird red and flickering flames. In their depths, cast in
black and red shadows, toiled half-guessed figures; from their depths,
mounting a single steep plank, came an unbroken procession of natives,
naked save for a wisp of cloth around the loins. They trod closely on
each other's heels, carrying each his basket atop his head or on one
shoulder, mounted a gang-plank, discharged their loads into the side of
the ship, and descended again to the depths by way of another plank. The
lights flickered across their dark faces, their gleaming teeth and eyes.
Somehow the work demanded a heap of screeching, shouting, and
gesticulation; but somehow also it went forward rapidly. Dozens of
unattached natives lounged about the gunwales with apparently nothing to
do but to look picturesque. Shore boats moved into the narrow circle of
light, drifted to our gangway, and discharged huge crates of vegetables,
sacks of unknown stuffs, and returning passengers. A vigilant police
boat hovered near to settle disputes, generally with the blade of an
oar. For a long time we leaned over the rail watching them, and the
various reflected lights in the water, and the very clear, unwavering
stars. Then, the coaling finished, and the portholes once more opened,
we turned in.




IV.

SUEZ.


Some time during the night we must have started, but so gently had we
slid along it fractional speed that until I raised my head and looked
out I had not realized the fact. I saw a high sandbank. This glided
monotonously by until I grew tired of looking at it and got up.

After breakfast, however, I found that the sandbank had various
attractions all of its own. Three camels laden with stone and in convoy
of white-clad figures shuffled down the slope at a picturesque angle.
Two cowled women in black, veiled to the eyes in gauze heavily sewn with
sequins, barefooted, with massive silver anklets, watched us pass. Hindu
workmen in turban and loin-cloth furnished a picturesque note, but did
not seem to be injuring themselves by over-exertion. Naked small boys
raced us for a short distance. The banks glided by very slowly and very
evenly, the wash sucked after us like water in a slough after a duck
boat, and the sky above the yellow sand looked extremely blue.

At short and regular intervals, half-way up the miniature sandhills,
heavy piles or snubbing-posts had been planted. For these we at first
could guess no reason. Soon, however, we had to pass another ship; and
then we saw that one of us must tie up to avoid being drawn irresistibly
by suction into collision with the other. The craft sidled by, separated
by only a few feet, so that we could look across to each other's decks
and exchange greetings. As the day grew this interest grew likewise.
Dredgers in the canal; rusty tramps flying unfamiliar flags of strange
tiny countries; big freighters, often with Greek or Turkish characters
on their sterns; small dirty steamers of suspicious business; passenger
ships like our own, returning from the tropics, with white-clad, languid
figures reclining in canvas chairs; gunboats of this or that nation
bound on mysterious affairs; once a P. & O. converted into a troopship,
from whose every available porthole, hatch, deck, and shroud laughing,
brown, English faces shouted chaff at our German decks--all these
either tied up for us, or were tied up for by us. The only craft that
received no consideration on our part were the various picturesque Arab
dhows, with their single masts and the long yards slanting across them.
Since these were very small, our suction dragged at them cruelly. As a
usual thing four vociferous figures clung desperately to a rope passed
around one of the snubbing-posts ashore, while an old man shrieked
syllables at them from the dhow itself. As they never by any chance
thought of mooring her both stem and stern, the dhow generally changed
ends rapidly, shipping considerable water in the process. It must be
very trying to get so excited in a hot climate.

The high sandbanks of the early part of the day soon dropped lower to
afford us a wider view. In its broad, general features the country was,
quite simply, the desert of Arizona over again. There were the same
high, distant, and brittle-looking mountains, fragile and pearly; the
same low, broken half-distances; the same wide sweeps; the same
wonderful changing effects of light, colour, shadow, and mirage; the
same occasional strips of green marking the watercourses and oases. As
to smaller detail, we saw many interesting divergences. In the
foreground constantly recurred the Bedouin brush shelters, each with its
picturesque figure or so in flowing robes, and its grumpy camels. Twice
we saw travelling caravans, exactly like the Bible pictures. At one
place a single burnoused Arab, leaning on his elbows, reclined full
length on the sky-line of a clean-cut sandhill. Glittering in the
mirage, half-guessed, half-seen, we made out distant little white towns
with slender palm trees. At places the water from the canal had
overflowed wide tracts of country. Here, along the shore, we saw
thousands of the water-fowl already familiar to us, as well as such
strangers as gaudy kingfishers, ibises, and rosy flamingoes.

The canal itself seemed to be in a continual state of repair. Dredgers
were everywhere; some of the ordinary shovel type, others working by
suction, and discharging far inland by means of weird huge pipes that
apparently meandered at will over the face of nature. The control
stations were beautifully French and neat, painted yellow, each with its
gorgeous bougainvilleas in flower, its square-rigged signal masts, its
brightly painted extra buoys standing in a row, its wharf--and its
impassive Arab fishermen thereon. We reclined in our canvas chairs, had
lemon squashes brought to us, and watched the entertainment steadily and
slowly unrolled before us.

We reached the end of the canal about three o'clock of the afternoon,
and dropped anchor off the low-lying shores. Our binoculars showed us
white houses in apparently single rank along a far-reaching narrow sand
spit, with sparse trees and a railroad line. That was the town of Suez,
and seemed so little interesting that we were not particularly sorry
that we could not go ashore. Far in the distance were mountains; and the
water all about us was the light, clear green of the sky at sunset.

Innumerable dhows and row-boats swarmed down, filled with eager salesmen
of curios and ostrich plumes. They had not much time in which to
bargain, so they made it up in rapid-fire vociferation. One very tall
and dignified Arab had as sailor of his craft the most extraordinary
creature, just above the lower limit of the human race. He was of a dull
coal black, without a single high light on him anywhere, as though he
had been sand-papered, had prominent teeth, like those of a baboon, in a
wrinkled, wizened monkey face, across which were three tattooed bands,
and possessed a little, long-armed, spare figure, bent and wiry. He
clambered up and down his mast, fetching things at his master's behest;
leapt nonchalantly for our rail or his own spar, as the case might be,
across the staggering abyss; clung so well with his toes that he might
almost have been classified with the quadrumana; and between times
squatted humped over on the rail, watching us with bright, elfish, alien
eyes.

At last the big German sailors bundled the whole variegated horde
overside. It was time to go, and our anchor chain was already rumbling
in the hawse pipes. They tumbled hastily into their boats; and at once
swarmed up their masts, whence they feverishly continued their
interrupted bargaining. In fact, so fully embarked on the tides of
commerce were they, that they failed to notice the tides of nature
widening between us. One old man, in especial, at the very top of his
mast, jerked hither and thither by the sea, continued imploringly to
offer an utterly ridiculous carved wooden camel long after it was
impossible to have completed the transaction should anybody have been
moonstruck enough to have desired it. Our ship's prow swung; and just at
sunset, as the lights of Suez were twinkling out one by one, we headed
down the Red Sea.




V.

THE RED SEA.


Suez is indeed the gateway to the East. In the Mediterranean often the
sea is rough, the winds cold, passengers are not yet acquainted, and hug
the saloons or the leeward side of the deck. Once through the canal and
all is changed by magic. The air is hot and languid; the ship's company
down to the very scullions appear in immaculate white; the saloon chairs
and transoms even are put in white coverings; electric fans hum
everywhere; the run on lemon squashes begins; and many quaint and
curious customs of the tropics obtain.

For example: it is etiquette that before eight o'clock one may wander
the decks at will in one's pyjamas, converse affably with fair ladies in
pigtail and kimono, and be not abashed. But on the stroke of eight bells
it is also etiquette to disappear very promptly and to array one's self
for the day; and it is very improper indeed to see or be seen after that
hour in the rather extreme _negligee_ of the early morning. Also it
becomes the universal custom, or perhaps I should say the necessity, to
slumber for an hour after the noon meal. Certainly sleep descending on
the tropical traveller is armed with a bludgeon. Passengers, crew,
steerage, "deck," animal, and bird fall down then in an enchantment. I
have often wondered who navigates the ship during that sacred hour, or,
indeed, if anybody navigates it at all. Perhaps that time is sacred to
the genii of the old East, who close all prying mortal eyes, but in
return lend a guiding hand to the most pressing of mortal affairs. The
deck of the ship is a curious sight between the hours of half-past one
and three. The tropical siesta requires no couching of the form. You sit
down in your chair, with a book--you fade slowly into a deep, restful
slumber. And yet it is a slumber wherein certain small pleasant things
persist from the world outside. You remain dimly conscious of the
rhythmic throbbing of the engines, of the beat of soft, warm air on your
cheek.

At three o'clock or thereabout you rise as gently back to life, and sit
erect in your chair without a stretch or a yawn in your whole anatomy.
Then is the one time of day for a display of energy--if you have any to
display. Ship games, walks--fairly brisk--explorations to the
forecastle, a watch for flying fish or Arab dhows, anything until
tea-time. Then the glowing sunset; the opalescent sea, and the soft
afterglow of the sky--and the bugle summoning you to dress. That is a
mean job. Nothing could possibly swelter worse than the tiny cabin. The
electric fan is an aggravation. You reappear in your fresh "whites"
somewhat warm and flustered in both mind and body. A turn around the
deck cools you off; and dinner restores your equanimity--dinner with the
soft, warm tropic air breathing through all the wide-open ports; the
electric fans drumming busily; the men all in clean white; the ladies,
the very few precious ladies, in soft, low gowns. After dinner the deck,
as near cool as it will be, and heads bare to the breeze of our
progress, and glowing cigars. At ten or eleven o'clock the groups begin
to break up, the canvas chairs to empty. Soon reappears a pyjamaed
figure followed by a steward carrying a mattress. This is spread, under
its owner's direction, in a dark corner forward. With a sigh you in your
turn plunge down into the sweltering inferno of your cabin, only to
reappear likewise with a steward and a mattress. The latter, if you are
wise, you spread where the wind of the ship's going will be full upon
you. It is a strong wind and blows upon you heavily, so that the sleeves
and legs of your pyjamas flop, but it is a soft, warm wind, and beats
you as with muffled fingers. In no temperate clime can you ever enjoy
this peculiar effect of a strong breeze on your naked skin without even
the faintest surface chilly sensation. So habituated has one become to
feeling cooler in a draught that the absence of chill lends the night an
unaccustomedness, the more weird in that it is unanalyzed, so that one
feels definitely that one is in a strange, far country. This is
intensified by the fact that in these latitudes the moon, the great,
glorious, calm tropical moon, is directly overhead--follows the centre
line of the zenith--instead of being, as with us in our temperate zone,
always more or less declined to the horizon. This, too, lends the night
an exotic quality, the more effective in that at first the reason for it
is not apprehended.

A night in the tropics is always more or less broken. One awakens, and
sleeps again. Motionless white-clad figures, cigarettes glowing, are
lounging against the rail looking out over a molten sea. The moonlight
lies in patterns across the deck, shivering slightly under the throb of
the engines, or occasionally swaying slowly forward or slowly back as
the ship's course changes, but otherwise motionless, for here the sea is
always calm. You raise your head, look about, sprawl in a new position
on your mattress, fall asleep. On one of these occasions you find
unexpectedly that the velvet-gray night has become steel-gray dawn, and
that the kindly old quartermaster is bending over you. Sleepily, very
sleepily, you stagger to your feet and collapse into the nearest chair.
Then to the swish of water, as the sailors sluice the decks all around
and under you, you fall into a really deep sleep.

At six o'clock this is broken by chota-hazri, another tropical
institution, consisting merely of clear tea and biscuits. I never could
get to care for it, but nowhere in the tropics could I head it off. No
matter how tired I was or how dead sleepy, I had to receive that
confounded chota-hazri. Throwing things at the native who brought it did
no good at all. He merely dodged. Admonition did no good, nor
prohibition in strong terms. I was but one white man of the whole white
race; and I had no right to possess idiosyncrasies running counter to
dastur, the custom. However, as the early hours are profitable hours in
the tropics, it did not drive me to homicide.

The ship's company now developed. Our two prize members, fortunately for
us, sat at our table. The first was the Swedish professor
aforementioned. He was large, benign, paternal, broad in mind,
thoroughly human and beloved, and yet profoundly erudite. He was our
iconoclast in the way of food; for he performed small but illuminating
dissections on his plate, and announced triumphantly results that were
not a bit in accordance with the menu. A single bone was sufficient to
take the pretension out of any fish. Our other particular friend was C.,
with whom later we travelled in the interior of Africa. C. is a very
celebrated hunter and explorer, an old Africander, his face seamed and
tanned by many years in a hard climate. For several days we did not
recognize him, although he sat fairly alongside, but put him down as a
shy man, and let it go at that. He never stayed for the long _table
d'hote_ dinners, but fell upon the first solid course and made a
complete meal from that. When he had quite finished eating all he
could, he drank all he could; then he departed from the table, and took
up a remote and inaccessible position in the corner of the smoking-room.
He was engaged in growing the beard he customarily wore in the jungle--a
most fierce outstanding Mohammedan-looking beard that terrified the
intrusive into submission. And yet Bwana C. possesses the kindest blue
eyes in the world, full of quiet patience, great understanding, and
infinite gentleness. His manner was abrupt and uncompromising, but he
would do anything in the world for one who stood in need of him. From
women he fled; yet Billy won him with infinite patience, and in the
event they became the closest of friends. Withal he possessed a pair of
the most powerful shoulders I have ever seen on a man of his frame; and
in the depths of his mild blue eyes flickered a flame of resolution that
I could well imagine flaring up to something formidable. Slow to make
friends, but staunch and loyal; gentle and forbearing, but fierce and
implacable in action; at once loved and most terribly feared; shy as a
wild animal, but straightforward and undeviating in his human relations;
most remarkably quiet and unassuming, but with tremendous vital force in
his deep eyes and forward-thrust jaw; informed with the widest and most
understanding humanity, but unforgiving of evildoers; and with the most
direct and absolute courage, Bwana C. was to me the most interesting man
I met in Africa, and became the best of my friends.

The only other man at our table happened to be, for our sins, the young
Englishman mentioned as throwing the first coin to the old woman on the
pier at Marseilles. We will call him Brown, and, because he represents a
type, he is worth looking upon for a moment.

He was of the super-enthusiastic sort; bubbling over with vitality, in
and out of everything; bounding up at odd and languid moments. To an
extraordinary extent he was afflicted with the spiritual blindness of
his class. Quite genuinely, quite seriously, he was unconscious of the
human significance of beings and institutions belonging to a foreign
country or even to a class other than his own. His own kind he treated
as complete and understandable human creatures. All others were merely
objective. As we, to a certain extent, happened to fall in the former
category, he was as pleasant to us as possible--that is, he was pleasant
to us in his way, but had not insight enough to guess at how to be
pleasant to us in our way. But as soon as he got out of his own class,
or what he conceived to be such, he considered all people as
"outsiders." He did not credit them with prejudices to rub, with
feelings to hurt, indeed hardly with ears to overhear. Provided his
subject was an "outsider," he had not the slightest hesitancy in saying
exactly what he thought about any one, anywhere, always in his high
clear English voice, no matter what the time or occasion. As a natural
corollary he always rebuffed beggars and the like brutally, and was
always quite sublimely doing little things that thoroughly shocked our
sense of the other fellow's rights as a human being. In all this he did
not mean to be cruel or inconsiderate. It was just the way he was built;
and it never entered his head that "such people" had ears and brains.

In the rest of the ship's company were a dozen or so other Englishmen of
the upper classes, either army men on shooting trips, or youths going
out with some idea of settling in the country. They were a clean-built,
pleasant lot; good people to know anywhere, but of no unusual interest.
It was only when one went abroad into the other nations that inscribable
human interest could be found.

There was the Greek, Scutari, and his bride, a languorous rather
opulent beauty, with large dark eyes for all men, and a luxurious manner
of lying back and fanning herself. She talked, soft-voiced, in half a
dozen languages, changing from one to the other without a break in
either her fluency or her thought. Her little lithe, active husband sat
around and adored her. He was apparently a very able citizen indeed, for
he was going out to take charge of the construction work on a German
railway. To have filched so important a job from the Germans themselves
shows that he must have had ability. With them were a middle-aged
Holland couple, engaged conscientiously in travelling over the globe.
They had been everywhere--the two American hemispheres, from one Arctic
Sea to another, Siberia, China, the Malay Archipelago, this, that, and
the other odd corner of the world. Always they sat placidly side by
side, either in the saloon or on deck, smiling benignly, and conversing
in spaced, comfortable syllables with everybody who happened along. Mrs.
Breemen worked industriously on some kind of feminine gear, and
explained to all and sundry that she travelled "to see de sceenery wid
my hoos-band."

Also in this group was a small wiry German doctor, who had lived for
many years in the far interior of Africa, and was now returning after
his vacation. He was a little man, bright-eyed and keen, with a clear
complexion and hard flesh, in striking and agreeable contrast to most of
his compatriots. The latter were trying to drink all the beer on the
ship; but as she had been stocked for an eighty-day voyage, of which
this was but the second week, they were not making noticeable headway.
However, they did not seem to be easily discouraged. The Herr Doktor was
most polite and attentive, but as we did not talk German nor much
Swahili, and he had neither English nor much French, we had our
difficulties. I have heard Billy in talking to him scatter fragments of
these four languages through a single sentence!

For several days we drifted down a warm flat sea. Then one morning we
came on deck to find ourselves close aboard a number of volcanic
islands. They were composed entirely of red and dark purple lava blocks,
rugged, quite without vegetation save for occasional patches of stringy
green in a gully; and uninhabited except for a lighthouse on one, and a
fishing shanty near the shores of another. The high mournful mountains,
with their dark shadows, seemed to brood over hot desolation. The rusted
and battered stern of a wrecked steamer stuck up at an acute angle from
the surges. Shortly after we picked up the shores of Arabia.

Note the advantages of a half ignorance. From early childhood we had
thought of Arabia as the "burning desert"--flat, of course--and of the
Red Sea as bordered by "shifting sands" alone. If we had known the
truth--if we had not been half ignorant--we would have missed the
profound surprise of discovering that in reality the Red Sea is bordered
by high and rugged mountains, leaving just space enough between
themselves and the shore for a sloping plain on which our glasses could
make out occasional palms. Perhaps the "shifting sands of the burning
desert" lie somewhere beyond; but somebody might have mentioned these
great mountains! After examining them attentively we had to confess that
if this sort of thing continued farther north the children of Israel
must have had a very hard time of it. Mocha shone white, glittering, and
low, with the red and white spire of a mosque rising brilliantly above
it.




VI.

ADEN.


It was cooler; and for a change we had turned into our bunks, when B.
pounded on our stateroom door.

"In the name of the Eternal East," said he, "come on deck!"

We slipped on kimonos, and joined the row of scantily draped and
interested figures along the rail.

The ship lay quite still on a perfect sea of moonlight, bordered by a
low flat distant shore on one side, and nearer mountains on the other. A
strong flare, centred from two ship reflectors overside, made a focus of
illumination that subdued, but could not quench, the soft moonlight with
which all outside was silvered. A dozen boats, striving against a
current or clinging as best they could to the ship's side, glided into
the light and became real and solid; or dropped back into the ghostly
white unsubstantiality of the moon. They were long, narrow boats, with
small flush decks fore and aft. We looked down on them from almost
directly above, so that we saw the thwarts and the ribs and the things
they contained.

Astern in each stood men, bending gracefully against the thrust of long
sweeps. About their waists were squares of cloth, wrapped twice and
tucked in. Otherwise they were naked, and the long smooth muscles of
their slender bodies rippled under the skin. The latter was of a
beautiful fine texture, and chocolate brown. These men had keen,
intelligent, clear-cut faces, of the Greek order, as though the statues
of a garden had been stained brown and had come to life. They leaned on
their sweeps, thrusting slowly but strongly against the little wind and
current that would drift them back.

In the body of the boats crouched, sat, or lay a picturesque mob. Some
pulled spasmodically on the very long limber oars; others squatted doing
nothing; some, huddled shapelessly underneath white cloths that
completely covered them, slept soundly in the bottom. We took these for
merchandise until one of them suddenly threw aside his covering and sat
up. Others, again, poised in proud and graceful attitudes on the
extreme prows of their bobbing craft. Especially decorative were two,
clad only in immense white turbans and white cloths about the waist. An
old Arab with a white beard stood midships in one boat, quite
motionless, except for the slight swaying necessary to preserve his
equilibrium, his voluminous white draperies fluttering in the wind, his
dark face just distinguishable under his burnouse. Most of the men were
Somalis, however. Their keen small faces, slender but graceful necks,
slim, well-formed torsos bending to every movement of the boat, and the
white or gaudy draped nether garments were as decorative as the figures
on an Egyptian tomb. One or two of the more barbaric had made neat
headdresses of white clay plastered in the form of a skull-cap.

After an interval a small and fussy tugboat steamed around our stern and
drew alongside the gangway. Three passengers disembarked from her and
made their way aboard. The main deck of the craft under an awning was
heavily encumbered with trunks, tin boxes, hand baggage, tin bath-tubs,
gun cases, and all sorts of impedimenta. The tugboat moored itself to us
fore and aft, and proceeded to think about discharging. Perhaps twenty
men in accurate replica of those in the small boats had charge of the
job. They had their own methods. After a long interval devoted strictly
to nothing, some unfathomable impulse would incite one or two or three
of the natives to tackle a trunk. At it they tugged and heaved and
pushed in the manner of ants making off with a particularly large fly or
other treasure trove, tossing it up the steep gangway to the level of
our decks. The trunks once safely bestowed, all interest, all industry,
died. We thought that finished it, and wondered why the tug did not pull
out of the way. But always, after an interval, another bright idea would
strike another native or natives. He--or they--would disappear beneath
the canvas awning over the tug's deck, to emerge shortly, carrying
almost anything, from a parasol to a heavy chest.

On close inspection they proved to be a very small people. The
impression of graceful height had come from the slenderness and justness
of their proportions, the smallness of their bones, and the upright
grace of their carriage. After standing alongside one, we acquired a
fine respect for their ability to handle those trunks at all.

Moored to the other side of the ship we found two huge lighters, from
which bales of goods were being hoisted aboard. Two camels and a dozen
diminutive mules stood in the waist of one of these craft. The camels
were as sniffy and supercilious and scornful as camels always are; and
everybody promptly hated them with the hatred of the abysmally inferior
spirit for something that scorns it, as is the usual attitude of the
human mind towards camels. We waited for upwards of an hour, in the hope
of seeing those camels hoisted aboard; but in vain. While we were so
waiting one of the deck passengers below us, a Somali in white clothes
and a gorgeous cerise turban, decided to turn in. He spread a square of
thin matting atop one of the hatches, and began to unwind yards and
yards of the fine silk turban. He came to the end of it--whisk! he sank
to the deck; the turban, spread open by the resistance of the air,
fluttered down to cover him from head to foot. Apparently he fell asleep
at once, for he did not again move nor alter his position. He, as well
as an astonishingly large proportion of the other Somalis and
Abyssinians we saw, carried a queer, well-defined, triangular wound in
his head. It had long since healed, was an inch or so across, and looked
as though a piece of the skull had been removed. If a conscientious
enemy had leisure and an icepick he would do just about that sort of a
job. How its recipient had escaped instant death is a mystery.

At length, about three o'clock, despairing of the camels, we turned in.

After three hours' sleep we were again on deck. Aden by daylight seemed
to be several sections of a town tucked into pockets in bold, raw, lava
mountains that came down fairly to the water's edge. Between these
pockets ran a narrow shore road; and along the road paced haughty camels
hitched to diminutive carts. On contracted round bluffs towards the sea
were various low bungalow buildings which, we were informed, comprised
the military and civil officers' quarters. The real Aden has been built
inland a short distance at the bottom of a cup in the mountains.
Elaborate stone reservoirs have been constructed to catch rain water, as
there is no other natural water supply whatever. The only difficulty is
that it practically never rains; so the reservoirs stand empty, the
water is distilled from the sea, and the haughty camels and the little
carts do the distributing.

The lava mountains occupy one side of the spacious bay or gulf. The
foot of the bay and the other side are flat, with one or two very
distant white villages, and many heaps of glittering salt as big as
houses.

We waited patiently at the rail for an hour more to see the camels slung
aboard by the crane. It was worth the wait. They lost their impassive
and immemorial dignity completely, sprawling, groaning, positively
shrieking in dismay. When the solid deck rose to them, and the sling had
been loosened, however, they regained their poise instantaneously. Their
noses went up in the air, and they looked about them with a challenging,
unsmiling superiority, as though to dare any one of us to laugh. Their
native attendants immediately squatted down in front of them, and began
to feed them with convenient lengths of what looked like our common
marsh cat-tails. The camels did not even then manifest the slightest
interest in the proceedings. Indeed, they would not condescend to reach
out three inches for the most luscious tit-bit held that far from their
aristocratic noses. The attendants had actually to thrust the fodder
between their jaws. I am glad to say they condescended to chew.




VII.

THE INDIAN OCEAN.


Leaving Aden, and rounding the great promontory of Cape Guardafui, we
turned south along the coast of Africa. Off the cape were strange, oily
cross rips and currents on the surface of the sea; the flying-fish rose
in flocks before our bows; high mountains of peaks and flat table tops
thrust their summits into clouds; and along the coast the breakers
spouted like whales. For the first time, too, we began to experience
what our preconceptions had imagined as tropical heat. Heretofore we had
been hot enough, in all conscience, but the air had felt as though
wafted from an opened furnace door--dry and scorching. Now, although the
temperature was lower,[2] the humidity was greater. A swooning languor
was abroad over the spellbound ocean, a relaxing mist of enchantment.

My glasses were constantly clouding over with a fine coating of water
drops; exposed metal rusted overnight; the folds in garments accumulated
mildew in an astonishingly brief period of time. There was never even
the suggestion of chill in this dampness. It clung and enveloped like a
grateful garment; and seemed only to lack sweet perfume.

At this time, by good fortune, it happened that the moon came full. We
had enjoyed its waxing during our voyage down the Red Sea; but now it
had reached its greatest phase, and hung over the slumbering tropic
ocean like a lantern. The lazy sea stirred beneath it, and the ship
glided on, its lights fairly subdued by the splendour of the waters.
Under the awnings the ship's company lounged in lazy attitudes or
promenaded slowly, talking low voiced, cigars glowing in the splendid
dusk. Overside, in the furrow of the disturbed waters, the
phosphorescence flashed perpetually beneath the shadow of the ship.

The days passed by languidly and all alike. On the chart outside the
smoking-room door the procession of tiny German flags on pins marched
steadily, an inch at a time, towards the south. Otherwise we might as
well have imagined ourselves midgets afloat in a pond and getting
nowhere.

Somewhere north of the equator--before Father Neptune in ancient style
had come aboard and ducked the lot of us--we were treated to the
spectacle of how the German "sheep" reacts under a joke. Each nation has
its type of fool; and all, for the joyousness of mankind, differ. On the
bulletin board one evening appeared a notice to the effect that the
following morning a limited number of sportsmen would be permitted
ashore for the day. Each was advised to bring his own lunch, rifle, and
drinks. The reason alleged was that the ship must round a certain cape
across which the sportsmen could march afoot in sufficient time to
permit them a little shooting.

Now aboard ship were a dozen English, four Americans, and thirty or
forty Germans. The Americans and English looked upon that bulletin,
smiled gently, and went to order another round of lemon squashes. It was
a meek, mild, little joke enough; but surely the bulletin board was as
far as it could possibly go. Next morning, however, we observed a
half-dozen of our German friends in khaki and sun helmet, very busy with
lunch boxes, bottles of beer, rifles, and the like. They said they were
going ashore as per bulletin. We looked at each other and hied us to the
upper deck. There we found one of the boats slung overside, with our old
friend the quartermaster ostentatiously stowing kegs of water, boxes,
and the like.

"When," we inquired gently, "does the expedition start?"

"At ten o'clock," said he.

It was now within fifteen minutes of that hour.

We were at the time fully ten miles off shore, and forging ahead full
speed parallel with the coast.

We pointed out this fact to the quartermaster, but found, to our sorrow,
that the poor old man had suddenly gone deaf! We therefore refrained
from asking several other questions that had occurred to us--such as,
why the cape was not shown on the map.

"Somebody," said one of the Americans, a cowboy going out second class
on the look for new cattle country, "is a goat. It sure looks to me like
it was these yere steamboat people. They can't expect to rope nothing on
such a raw deal as this!"

To which the English assented, though in different idiom.

But now up the companion ladder struggled eight serious-minded
individuals herded by the second mate. They were armed to the teeth, and
thoroughly equipped with things I had seen in German catalogues, but in
whose existence I had never believed. A half-dozen sailors eagerly
helped them with their multitudinous effects. Not a thought gave they to
the fact that we were ten miles off the coast, that we gave no
indication of slackening speed, that it would take the rest of the day
to row ashore, that there was no cape for us to round, that if there
were--oh! all the other hundred improbabilities peculiar to the
situation. Under direction of the mate they deposited their impedimenta
beneath a tarpaulin, and took their places in solemn rows amidships
across the thwarts of the boat slung overside. The importance of the
occasion sat upon them heavily; they were going ashore--in Africa--to
Slay Wild Beasts. They looked upon themselves as of bolder, sterner
stuff than the rest of us.

When the procession first appeared, our cowboy's face for a single
instant had flamed with amazed incredulity. Then a mask of
expressionless stolidity fell across his features, which in no line
thereafter varied one iota.

"What are they going to do with them?" murmured one of the Englishmen,
at a loss.

"I reckon," said the cowboy, "that they look on this as the easiest way
to drown them all to onct."

Then from behind one of the other boats suddenly appeared a huge German
sailor with a hose. The devoted imbeciles in the shore boat were
drenched as by a cloud-burst. Back and forth and up and down the heavy
stream played, while every other human being about the ship shrieked
with joy. Did the victims rise up in a body and capture that hose nozzle
and turn the stream to sweep the decks? Did they duck for shelter? Did
they at least know enough to scatter and run? They did none of these
things; but sat there in meek little rows like mannikins until the boat
was half full of water and everything awash. Then, when the sailor shut
off the stream, they continued to sit there until the mate came to order
them out. Why? I cannot tell you. Perhaps that is the German idea of how
to take a joke. Perhaps they were afraid worse things might be
consequent on resistance. Perhaps they still hoped to go ashore. One of
the Englishmen asked just that question.

"What," he demanded disgustedly, "what is the matter with the beggars?"

Our cowboy may have had the correct solution. He stretched his long
legs and jumped down from the rail.

"Nothing stirring above the ears," said he.

It is customary in books of travel to describe this part of the journey
somewhat as follows: "Skirting the low and uninteresting shores of
Africa we at length reached," etc. Low and uninteresting shores! Through
the glasses we made out distant mountains far beyond nearer hills. The
latter were green-covered with dense forests whence rose mysterious
smokes. Along the shore we saw an occasional cocoanut plantation to the
water's edge and native huts and villages of thatch. Canoes of strange
models lay drawn up on shelving beaches; queer fish-pounds of brush
reached out considerable distances from the coast. The white surf
pounded on a yellow beach.

All about these things was the jungle, hemming in the plantations and
villages, bordering the lagoons, creeping down until it fairly overhung
the yellow beaches; as though, conqueror through all the country beyond,
it were half-inclined to dispute dominion with old Ocean himself. It
looked from the distance like a thick, soft coverlet thrown down over
the country; following--or, rather, suggesting--the inequalities.
Through the glasses we were occasionally able to peep under the edge of
this coverlet, and see where the fringe of the jungle drew back in a
little pocket, or to catch the sheen of mysterious dark rivers slipping
to the sea. Up these dark rivers, by way of the entrances of these tiny
pockets, the imagination then could lead on into the dimness beneath the
sunlit upper surfaces.

Towards the close of one afternoon we changed our course slightly, and
swung in on a long slant towards the coast. We did it casually; too
casually for so very important an action, for now at last we were about
to touch the mysterious continent. Then we saw clearer the fine, big
groves of palm and the luxuriance of the tropical vegetation. Against
the greenery, bold and white, shone the buildings of Mombasa; and after
a little while we saw an inland glitter that represented her narrow,
deep bay, the stern of a wreck against the low, green cliffs, and
strange, fat-trunked squat trees without leaves. Straight past all this
we glided at half speed, then turned sharp to the right to enter a long
wide expanse like a river, with green banks, twenty feet or so in
height, grown thickly with the tall cocoanut palms. These gave way at
times into broad, low lagoons, at the end of which were small beaches
and boats, and native huts among more cocoanut groves. Through our
glasses we could see the black men watching us, quite motionless,
squatted on their heels.

It was like suddenly entering another world, this gliding from the open
sea straight into the heart of a green land. The ceaseless wash of waves
we had left outside with the ocean; our engines had fallen silent.
Across the hushed waters came to us strange chantings and the beating of
a tom-tom, an occasional shrill shout from the unknown jungle. The sun
was just set, and the tops of the palms caught the last rays; all below
was dense green shadow. Across the surface of the water glided dug-out
canoes of shapes strange to us. We passed ancient ruins almost
completely dismantled, their stones half smothered in green rank growth.
The wide river-like bay stretched on before us as far as the waning
light permitted us to see; finally losing itself in the heart of
mystery.

Steadily and confidently our ship steamed forward, until at last, when
we seemed to be afloat in a land-locked lake, we dropped anchor and came
to rest.

Darkness fell utterly before the usual quarantine regulations had been
carried through. Active and efficient agents had already taken charge
of our affairs, so we had only to wait idly by the rail until summoned.
Then we jostled our way down the long gangway, passed and repassed by
natives carrying baggage or returning for more baggage, stepped briskly
aboard a very bobby little craft, clambered over a huge pile of baggage,
and stowed ourselves as best we could. A figure in a long white robe sat
astern, tiller ropes in hand; two half-naked blacks far up towards the
prow manipulated a pair of tremendous sweeps. With a vast heaving,
jabbering, and shouting, our boat disengaged itself from the swarm of
other craft. We floated around the stern of our ship, and were
immediately suspended in blackness dotted with the stars and their
reflections, and with various twinkling scattered lights. To one of
these we steered, and presently touched at a stone quay with steps. At
last we set foot on the land to which so long we had journeyed and
towards which our expectations had grown so great. We experienced "the
pleasure that touches the souls of men landing on strange shores."

FOOTNOTES:

[2] 82-88 deg. degrees in daytime, and 75-83 deg. degrees at night.




VIII.

MOMBASA.


A single light shone at the end of the stone quay, and another inside a
big indeterminate building at some distance. We stumbled towards this,
and found it to be the biggest shed ever constructed out of corrugated
iron. A bearded Sikh stood on guard at its open entrance. He let any one
and every one enter, with never a flicker of his expressionless black
eyes; but allowed no one to go out again without the closest scrutiny
for dutiable articles that lacked the blue customs plaster. We entered.
The place was vast and barnlike and dim, and very, very hot. A
half-dozen East Indians stood behind the counters; another, a babu, sat
at a little desk ready to give his clerical attention to what might be
required. We saw no European; but next morning found that one passed his
daylight hours in this inferno of heat. For the moment we let our main
baggage go, and occupied ourselves only with getting through our smaller
effects. This accomplished, we stepped out past the Sikh into the
grateful night.

We had as guide a slender and wiry individual clad in tarboush and long
white robe. In a vague, general way we knew that the town of Mombasa was
across the island and about four miles distant. In what direction or how
we got there we had not the remotest idea.

The guide set off at a brisk pace with which we tried in vain to keep
step. He knew the ground, and we did not; and the night was black dark.
Commands to stop were of no avail whatever; nor could we get hold of him
to restrain him by force. When we put on speed he put on speed too. His
white robe glimmered ahead of us just in sight; and in the darkness
other white robes, passing and crossing, glimmered also. At first the
ground was rough, so that we stumbled outrageously. Billy and B. soon
fell behind, and I heard their voices calling plaintively for us to slow
down a bit.

"If I ever lose this nigger, I'll never find him again," I shouted back,
"but I can find you. Do the best you can!"

We struck a smoother road that led up a hill on a long slant.
Apparently for miles we followed thus, the white-robed individual ahead
still deaf to all commands and the blood-curdling threats I had now come
to uttering. All our personal baggage had long since mysteriously
disappeared, ravished away from us at the customs house by a ragged
horde of blacks. It began to look as though we were stranded in Africa
without baggage or effects. Billy and B. were all the time growing
fainter in the distance, though evidently they too had struck the long,
slanting road.

Then we came to a dim, solitary lantern glowing feebly beside a bench at
what appeared to be the top of the hill. Here our guide at last came to
a halt and turned to me a grinning face.

"Samama hapa," he observed.

There! That was the word I had been frantically searching my memory for!
Samama--stop!

The others struggled in. We were very warm. Up to the bench led a tiny
car track, the rails not over two feet apart, like the toy railroads
children use. This did not look much like grownup transportation, but it
and the bench and the dim lantern represented all the visible world.

We sat philosophically on the bench and enjoyed the soft tropical
night. The air was tepid, heavy with unknown perfume, black as a band of
velvet across the eyes, musical with the subdued undertones of a
thousand thousand night insects. At points overhead the soft blind
darkness melted imperceptibly into stars.

After a long interval we distinguished a distant faint rattling, that
each moment increased in loudness. Shortly came into view along the
narrow tracks a most extraordinary vehicle. It was a small square
platform on wheels, across which ran a bench seat, and over which spread
a canopy. It carried also a dim lantern. This rumbled up to us and
stopped. From its stern hopped two black boys. Obeying a smiling
invitation, we took our places on the bench. The two boys immediately
set to pushing us along the narrow track.

We were off at an astonishing speed through the darkness. The night was
deliciously tepid; and, as I have said, absolutely dark. We made out the
tops of palms and the dim loom of great spreading trees, and could smell
sweet, soft odours. The bare-headed, lightly-clad boys pattered
alongside whenever the grade was easy, one hand resting against the
rail; or pushed mightily up little hills; or clung alongside like
monkeys while we rattled and swooped and plunged down hill into the
darkness. Subsequently we learned that a huge flat beam projecting
amidships from beneath the seat operated a brake which we above were
supposed to manipulate; but being quite ignorant as to the ethics and
mechanics of this strange street-car system, we swung and swayed at
times quite breathlessly.

After about fifteen minutes we began to pick up lights ahead, then to
pass dimly-seen garden walls with trees whose brilliant flowers the
lantern revealed fitfully. At last we made out white stucco houses, and
shortly drew up with a flourish before the hotel itself.

This was a two-story stucco affair, with deep verandas sunken in at each
story. It fronted a wide white street facing a public garden; and this,
we subsequently discovered, was about the only clear and open space in
all the narrow town. Antelope horns were everywhere hung on the walls;
and teakwood easy-chairs, with rests on which comfortably to elevate
your feet above your head, stood all about. We entered a bare,
brick-floored dining-room, and partook of tropical fruits quite new to
us--papayes, mangoes, custard apples, pawpaws, and the small red eating
bananas too delicate for export. Overhead the punkahs swung back and
forth in lazy hypnotic rhythm. We could see the two blacks at the ends
of the punkah cords outside on the veranda, their bodies swaying lithely
in alternation as they threw their weight against the light ropes. Other
blacks, in the long white robes and exquisitely worked white skull caps
of the Swahili, glided noiselessly on bare feet, serving.

After dinner we sat out until midnight in the teakwood chairs of the
upper gallery, staring through the arches into the black, mysterious
night, for it was very hot, and we rather dreaded the necessary mosquito
veils as likely to prove stuffy. The mosquitoes are few in Mombasa, but
they are very deadly--very. At midnight the thermometer stood 87 deg. F.

Our premonitions as to stuffiness were well justified. After a restless
night we came awake at daylight to the sound of a fine row of some sort
going on outside in the streets. Immediately we arose, threw aside the
lattices, and hung out over the sill.

The chalk-white road stretched before us. Opposite was a public square,
grown with brilliant flowers, and flowering trees. We could not doubt
the cause of the trouble. An Indian on a bicycle, hurrying to his
office, had knocked down a native child. Said child, quite naked, sat
in the middle of the white dust and howled to rend the heavens--whenever
he felt himself observed. If, however, the attention of the crowd
happened for the moment to be engrossed with the babu, the injured one
sat up straight and watched the row with interested, rolling, pickaninny
eyes. A native policeman made the centre of a whirling, vociferating
group. He was a fine-looking chap, straight and soldierly, dressed in
red tarboosh, khaki coat bound close around the waist by yards and yards
of broad red webbing, loose, short drawers of khaki, bare knees and
feet, and blue puttees between. His manner was inflexible. The babu
jabbered excitedly; telling, in all probability, how he was innocent of
fault, was late for his work, etc. In vain. He had to go; also the kid,
who now, seeing himself again an object of interest, recommenced his
howling. Then the babu began frantically to indicate members of the
crowd whom he desired to retain as witnesses. Evidently not pleased with
the prospect of appearing in court, those indicated promptly ducked and
ran. The policeman as promptly pursued and collared them one by one. He
was a long-legged policeman, and he ran well. The moment he laid hands
on a fugitive, the latter collapsed; whereupon the policeman dropped him
and took after another. The joke of it was that the one so abandoned did
not try again to make off, but stayed as though he had been tagged at
some game. Finally the whole lot, still vociferating, moved off down the
white road.

For over an hour we hung from our window sill, thoroughly interested and
amused by the varied life that deployed before our eyes. The morning
seemed deliciously cool after the hot night, although the thermometer
stood high. The sky was very blue, with big piled white clouds down near
the horizon. Dazzling sun shone on the white road, the white buildings
visible up and down the street, the white walls enclosing their gardens,
and the greenery and colours of the trees within them. For from what we
could see from our window we immediately voted tropical vegetation quite
up to advertisement: whole trees of gaudy red or yellow or bright orange
blossoms, flowering vines, flowering shrubs, peered over the walls or
through the fences; and behind them rose great mangoes or the slenderer
shafts of bananas and cocoanut palms.

Up and down wandered groups of various sorts of natives. A month later
we would have been able to identify their different tribes and to know
more about them; but now we wondered at them, as strange and
picturesque peoples. They impressed us in general as being a fine lot of
men, for they were of good physique, carried themselves well, and looked
about them with a certain dignity and independence, a fine free pride of
carriage and of step. This fact alone differentiated them from our own
negroes; but, further, their features were in general much finer, and
their skins of a clear mahogany beautiful in its satiny texture.
Most--and these were the blackest--wore long white robes and fine
openwork skull caps. They were the local race, the Swahili, had we but
known it; the original "Zanzibari" who furnished Livingstone, Stanley,
Speke, and the other early explorers with their men. Others, however,
were much less "civilized." We saw one "Cook's tour from the jungle"
consisting of six savages, their hair twisted into innumerable points,
their ear lobes stretched to hang fairly to their shoulders, wearing
only a rather neglectful blanket, adorned with polished wire, carrying
war clubs and bright spears. They followed, with eyes and mouths open, a
very sophisticated-looking city cousin in the usual white garments,
swinging a jaunty, light bamboo cane. The cane seems to be a
distinguishing mark of the leisured class. It not only means that you
are not working, but also that you have no earthly desire to work.

About this time one of the hotel boys brought the inevitable
chota-hazri--the tea and biscuits of early morning. For this once it was
very welcome.

Our hotel proved to be on the direct line of freighting. There are no
horses or draught animals in Mombasa; the fly is too deadly. Therefore
all hauling is done by hand. The tiny tracks of the unique street car
system run everywhere any one would wish to go; branching off even into
private grounds and to the very front doors of bungalows situated far
out of town. Each resident owns his own street car, just as elsewhere a
man has his own carriage. There are, of course, public cars also, each
with its pair of boys to push it; and also a number of rather decrepit
rickshaws. As a natural corollary to the passenger traffic, the
freighting also is handled by the blacks on large flat trucks with short
guiding poles. These men are quite naked save for a small loin cloth;
are beautifully shaped; and glisten all over with perspiration shining
in the sun. So fine is the texture of their skins, the softness of their
colour--so rippling the play of muscles--that this shining perspiration
is like a beautiful polish. They rush from behind, slowly and steadily,
and patiently and unwaveringly, the most tremendous loads of the
heaviest stuffs. When the hill becomes too steep for them, they turn
their backs against the truck; and by placing one foot behind the other,
a few inches at a time, they edge their burden up the slope.

The steering is done by one man at the pole or tongue in front. This
individual also sets the key to the song by which in Africa all heavy
labour is carried forward. He cries his wavering shrill-voiced chant;
the toilers utter antiphony in low gruff tones. At a distance one hears
only the wild high syncopated chanting; but as the affair draws slowly
nearer, he catches the undertone of the responses. These latter are cast
in the regular swing and rhythm of effort; but the steersman throws in
his bit at odd and irregular intervals. Thus:

Headman (shrill): "Hay, ah mon!"

Pushers (gruff in rhythm): "Tunk!--tunk!--tunk!--" or:

Headman (and wavering minor chant): "Ah--nah--nee--e-e-e!"

Pushers (undertone): "Umbwa--jo-e! Um-bwa--jo--e!"

These wild and barbaric chantings--in the distance; near at hand; dying
into distance again--slow, dogged, toilsome, came to be to us one of the
typical features of the place.

After breakfast we put on our sun helmets and went forth curiously to
view the town. We found it roughly divided into four quarters--the old
Portuguese, the Arabic, the European, and the native. The Portuguese
comprises the outer fringe next the water-front of the inner bay. It is
very narrow of street, with whitewashed walls, balconies, and wonderful
carven and studded doors. The business of the town is done here. The
Arabic quarter lies back of it--a maze of narrow alleys winding
aimlessly here and there between high white buildings, with occasionally
the minarets and towers of a mosque. This district harboured, besides
the upper-class Swahilis and Arabs, a large number of East Indians.
Still back of this are thousands of the low grass, or mud and wattle
huts of the natives, their roofs thatched with straw or palm. These are
apparently arranged on little system. The small European population
lives atop the sea bluffs beyond the old fort in the most attractive
bungalows. This, the most desirable location of all, has remained open
to them because heretofore the fierce wars with which Mombasa, "the
Island of Blood," has been swept have made the exposed seaward lands
impossible.

No idle occupation can be more fascinating than to wander about the
mazes of this ancient town. The variety of race and occupation is
something astounding. Probably the one human note that, everywhere
persisting, draws the whole together is furnished by the water-carriers.
Mombasa has no water system whatever. The entire supply is drawn from
numberless picturesque wells scattered everywhere in the crowded centre,
and distributed mainly in Standard Oil cans suspended at either end of a
short pole. By dint of constant daily exercise, hauling water up from a
depth and carrying it various distances, these men have developed the
most beautifully powerful figures. They proceed at a half trot, the
slender poles, with forty pounds at either end, seeming fairly to cut
into their naked shoulders, muttering a word of warning to the loiterers
at every other breath--semeelay! semeelay! No matter in what part of
Mombasa you may happen to be, or at what hour of the day or night, you
will meet these industrious little men trotting along under their
burdens.

Everywhere also are the women, carrying themselves proudly erect, with a
free swing of the hips. They wear invariably a single sheet of cotton
cloth printed in blue or black with the most astonishing borders and
spotty designs. This is drawn tight just above the breasts, leaving the
shoulders and arms bare. Their hair is divided into perhaps a dozen
parts running lengthwise of the head from the forehead to the nape of
the neck, after the manner of the stripes on a watermelon. Each part
then ends in a tiny twisted pigtail not over an inch long. The lobes of
their ears have been stretched until they hold thick round disks about
three inches in diameter, ornamented by concentric circles of different
colours, with a red bull's eye for a centre. The outer edges of the ears
are then further decorated with gold clasps set closely together. Many
bracelets, necklaces, and armlets complete the get-up. They are big
women, with soft velvety skins and a proud and haughty carriage--the
counterparts of the men in the white robes and caps.

By the way, it may be a good place here to remark that these garments,
and the patterned squares of cloth worn by the women, are invariably
most spotlessly clean.

These, we learned, were the Swahilis, the ruling class, the descendants
of the slave traders. Beside them are all sorts and conditions. Your
true savage pleased his own fancy as to dress and personal adornment.
The bushmen generally shaved the edges of their wool to leave a nice
close-fitting natural skull cap, wore a single blanket draped from one
shoulder, and carried a war club. The ear lobe seemed always to be
stretched; sometimes sufficiently to have carried a pint bottle. Indeed,
white marmalade jars seemed to be very popular wear. One ingenious
person had acquired a dozen of the sort of safety pins used to fasten
curtains to their rings. These he had snapped into the lobes, six on a
side.

We explored for some time. One of the Swahilis attached himself to us so
unobtrusively that before we knew it we had accepted him as guide. In
that capacity he realized an ideal, for he never addressed a word to us,
nor did he even stay in sight. We wandered along at our sweet will,
dawdling as slowly as we pleased. The guide had apparently quite
disappeared. Look where we would we could in no manner discover him. At
the next corner we would pause, undecided as to what to do; there, in
the middle distance, would stand our friend, smiling. When he was sure
we had seen him, and were about to take the turn properly, he would
disappear again. Convoyed in this pleasant fashion we wound and twisted
up and down and round and about through the most appalling maze. We saw
the native markets with their vociferating sellers seated cross-legged
on tables behind piles of fruit or vegetables, while an equally
vociferating crowd surged up and down the aisles. Gray parrots and
little monkeys perched everywhere about. Billy gave one of the monkeys a
banana. He peeled it exactly as a man would have done, smelt it
critically, and threw it back at her in the most insulting fashion. We
saw also the rows of Hindu shops open to the street, with their gaudily
dressed children of blackened eyelids, their stolid dirty proprietors,
and their women marvellous in bright silks and massive bangles. In the
thatched native quarter were more of the fine Swahili women sitting
cross-legged on the earth under low verandas, engaged in different
handicrafts; and chickens; and many amusing naked children. We made
friends with many of them, communicating by laughter and by signs, while
our guide stood unobtrusively in the middle distance waiting for us to
come on. Just at sunset he led us out to a great open space, with a tall
palm in the centre of it and the gathering of a multitude of people. A
mollah was clambering into a high scaffold built of poles, whence
shortly he began to intone a long-drawn-out "Allah! Allah! il Allah!"
The cocoanut palms cut the sunset, and the boabab trees--the fat, lazy
boababs--looked more monstrous than ever. We called our guide and
conferred on him the munificent sum of sixteen and a half cents; with
which, apparently much pleased, he departed. Then slowly we wandered
back to the hotel.




PART II.

THE SHIMBA HILLS.






IX.

A TROPICAL JUNGLE.


Many months later, and after adventures elsewhere described,[3] besides
others not relevant for the moment, F., an Englishman, and I returned to
Mombasa. We came from some hundred odd miles in the interior where we
had been exploring the sources and the course of the Tsavo River. Now
our purpose was to penetrate into the low, hot, wooded country along the
coast known as the Shimba Hills in quest of a rare beast called the
sable antelope.

These hills could be approached in one of two ways--by crossing the
harbour, and then marching two days afoot; or by voyaging up to the very
end of one of the long arms of the sea that extend many miles inland.
The latter involved dhows, dependence on uncertain winds, favourable
tides, and a heap of good luck. It was less laborious but most
uncertain. At this stage of the plan the hotel manager came forward with
the offer of a gasoline launch, which we gladly accepted.

We embarked about noon, storing our native carriers and effects aboard a
dhow hired for the occasion. This we purposed towing. A very neatly
uniformed Swahili bearing on his stomach a highly-polished brass label
as big as a door plate--"Harbour Police"--threw duck fists over what he
called overloading the boat. He knew very little about boats, but threw
very competent duck fists. As we did know something about boats, we
braved unknown consequences by disregarding him utterly. No consequences
ensued--unless perhaps to his own health. When everything was aboard,
that dhow was pretty well down, but still well afloat. Then we white men
took our places in the launch.

This was a long narrow affair with a four-cylinder thirty-horsepower
engine. As she possessed no speed gears, she had either to plunge ahead
full speed or come to a stop; there were no compromises. Her steering
was managed by a tiller instead of a wheel, so that a mere touch
sufficed to swerve her ten feet from her course. As the dhow was in no
respects built on such nervous lines, she did occasionally some fancy
and splashing curves.

The pilot of the launch turned out to be a sandy-haired Yankee who had
been catching wild animals for Barnum and Bailey's circus. While waiting
for his ship, he, being a proverbial handy Yankee, had taken on this
job. He became quite interested in telling us this, and at times forgot
his duties at the tiller. Then that racing-launch would take a wild
swoop; the clumsy old dhow astern would try vainly, with much spray and
dangerous careening, to follow; the compromise course would all but
upset her; the spray would fly; the safari boys would take their
ducking; the boat boys would yell and dance and lean frantically against
the two long sweeps with which they tried to steer. In this wild and
untrammelled fashion we careered up the bay, too interested in our own
performances to pay much attention to the scenery. The low shores, with
their cocoanut groves gracefully rising above the mangrove tangle,
slipped by, and the distant blue Shimba Hills came nearer.

After a while we turned into a narrower channel with a good many curves
and a quite unknown depth of water. Down this we whooped at the full
speed of our thirty-horsepower engine. Occasional natives, waist deep
and fishing, stared after us open-eyed. The Yankee ventured a guess as
to how hard she would hit on a mudbank. She promptly proved his guess a
rank underestimate by doing so. We fell in a heap on the bottom. The
dhow bore down on us with majestic momentum. The boat boys leaned
frantically on their sweeps, and managed just to avoid us. The dhow also
rammed the mudbank. A dozen reluctant boys hopped overboard and pushed
us off. We pursued our merry way again. On either hand now appeared fish
weirs of plaited coco fibre; which, being planted in the shallows,
helped us materially to guess at the channel. Naked men, up to their
shoulders in the water, attended to some mysterious need of the nets, or
emerged dripping and sparkling from the water with baskets of fish atop
their heads. The channel grew even narrower, and the mudbanks more
frequent. We dodged a dozen in our headlong course. Our local guide, a
Swahili in tarboosh and a beautiful saffron robe, showed signs of strong
excitement. We were to stop, he said, around the next bend; and at this
rate we never could stop. The Yankee remarked, superfluously, that it
would be handy if this dod-blistered engine had a clutch; adding, as an
afterthought, that no matter how long he stayed in the tropics his nose
peeled. We asked what we should do if we over-carried our prospective
landing-place. He replied that the dod-blistered thing did have a
reverse. While thus conversing we shot around a corner into a complete
cul-de-sac! Everything was shut off hastily, and an instant later we and
the dhow smashed up high and dry on a cozy mud beach! We drew a deep
breath and looked around us.

Mangrove thicket to the edge of the slimy ooze; trees behind--that was
all we could see. We gave our attention to the business of getting our
men, our effects, and ourselves ashore. The ooze proved to be just above
knee deep. The porters had a fearful and floundering time, and received
much obvious comment from us perched in the bow of the launch. Finally
everything was debarked. F. and I took off our boots; but our gunbearers
expressed such horror at the mere thought of our plunging into the mud,
that we dutifully climbed them pick-a-back and were carried. The hard
shell beach was a hundred feet away, occupying a little recess where the
persistent tough mangroves drew back. From it led a narrow path through
the thicket. We waved and shouted a farewell to the crews of the launch
and the dhow.

The path for a hundred feet was walled in by the mangroves through which
scuttled and rattled the big land crabs. Then suddenly we found
ourselves in a story-book tropical paradise. The tall coco palms rose
tufted above everything; the fans of the younger palms waved below;
bananas thrust the banners of their broad leaves wherever they could
find space; creepers and vines flung the lush luxuriance of their
greenery over all the earth and into the depths of all the half-guessed
shadows. In no direction could one see unobstructed farther than twenty
feet, except straight up; and there one could see just as far as the
tops of the palms. It was like being in a room--a green, hot, steamy,
lovely room. Very bright-coloured birds that ought really to have been
at home in their cages fluttered about.

We had much vigorous clearing to do to make room for our tents. By the
time the job was finished we were all pretty hot. Several of the boys
made vain attempts to climb for nuts, but without success. We had
brought them with us from the interior, where cocoanuts do not grow; and
they did not understand the method. They could swarm up the tall slim
stems all right, but could not manage to get through the
downward-pointing spikes of the dead leaves. F. tried and failed, to the
great amusement of the men, but to the greater amusement of myself. I
was a wise person, and lay on my back on a canvas cot, so it was not
much bother to look up and enjoy life. Not to earn absolutely the stigma
of laziness, I tried to shoot some nuts down. This did not work either,
for the soft, spongy stems closed around the bullet holes. Then a little
wizened monkey of a Swahili porter, having watched our futile
performances with interest, nonchalantly swarmed up; in some mysterious
manner he wriggled through the defences, and perched in the top, whence
he dropped to us a dozen big green nuts. Our men may not have been much
of a success at climbing for nuts; but they were passed masters at the
art of opening them. Three or four clips from their awkward swordlike
pangas, and we were each presented with a clean, beautiful, natural
goblet brimming full of a refreshing drink.

About this time a fine figure of a man drifted into camp. He was very
smooth-skinned, very dignified, very venerable. He was pure Swahili,
though of the savage branch of that race, and had none of the negro
type of countenance. In fact, so like was he in face, hair, short square
beard and genial dignity to a certain great-uncle of mine that it was
very hard to remember that he had on only a small strip of cloth, that
he was cherishing as a great treasure a piece of soap box he had
salvaged from the shore, and that his skin was red chocolate. I felt
inclined to talk to him as to an intellectual equal, especially as he
had a fine resonant bass voice that in itself lent his remarks some
importance. However, I gave him two ordinary wood screws, showed him how
they screwed in and out, and left him happy.

After supper the moon rose, casting shadows of new and unknown shapes
through this strangely new and unknown forest. A thin white mist
ascending everywhere from the soil tempered but could not obscure the
white brilliance. The thermometer stood now only at 82 deg., but the
dripping tropical sweat-bath in which our camp was pitched considerably
raised the sensible heat. A bird with a most diabolical shrieking note
cursed in the shadows. Another, a pigeon-like creature, began softly,
and continued to repeat in diminishing energy until it seemed to have
run down, like a piece of clockwork.

Our way next morning led for some time through this lovely but damp
jungle. Then we angled up the side of a hill to emerge into the
comparatively open country atop what we Westerners would call a "hog's
back"--a long narrow spurlike ridge mounting slowly to the general
elevation of the main hills. Here were high green bushes, with little
free open passages between them, and occasionally meadow-like openings
running down the slopes on one side or the other. Before us, some miles
distant, were the rounded blue hills.

We climbed steadily. It was still very early morning, but already the
day was hot. Pretty soon we saw over the jungle to the gleaming waters
of the inlet, and then to the sea. Our "hog's back" led us past a ridge
of the hills, and before we knew it we had been deposited in a shallow
valley three or four miles wide between parallel ridges; the said valley
being at a considerable elevation, and itself diversified with rolling
hills, ravines, meadow land, and wide flats. On many of the ridges were
scattered cocoanut palms, and occasional mango groves, while many smokes
attested the presence of natives.

These we found in shambas or groups of little farms, huddled all
together, with wilderness and brush and trees, or the wide open green
grass lawn between. The houses were very large and neat-looking. They
were constructed quite ingeniously from coco branches. Each branch made
one mat. The leaves were all brought over to the same side of the stem,
and then plaited. The resulting mat was then six or seven feet long by
from twelve to sixteen inches broad, and could be used for a variety of
purposes. Indeed, we found Melville's chapter in "Typhee" as to the
various uses of the cocoanut palm by no means exaggerated. The nuts,
leaves, and fibre supplied every conceivable human want.

The natives were a pleasant, friendly, good-looking lot. In fact, so
like was their cast of countenance to that of the white-skinned people
we were accustomed to see that we had great difficulty in realizing that
they were mere savages, costume--or lack of it--to the contrary
notwithstanding. Under a huge mango tree two were engaged in dividing a
sheep. Sixty or seventy others stood solemnly around watching. It may
have been a religious ceremony, for all I know; but the affair looked to
be about two parts business to sixty of idle and cheerful curiosity. We
stopped and talked to them a little, chaffed the pretty girls--they were
really pretty--and marched on.

About noon our elegant guide stopped, struck an attitude, and pointed
with his silver-headed rattan cane.

"This," said he, "is where we must camp."

We marched through a little village. A family party sat beneath the
veranda of a fine building--a very old wrinkled couple; two stalwart
beautiful youths; a young mother suckling her baby; two young girls; and
eight or ten miscellaneous and naked youngsters. As the rest of the
village appeared to be empty, I imagined this to be the caretaker's
family, and the youngsters to belong to others. We stopped and spoke,
were answered cheerfully, suggested that we might like to buy chickens,
and offered a price. Instantly with a whoop of joy the lot of them were
afoot. The fowl waited for no further intimations of troublous times,
but fled squawking. They had been there before. So had our hosts; for
inside a minute they had returned, each with a chicken--and a broad
grin.

After due payment we proceeded on a few hundred yards, and pitched camp
beneath two huge mango trees.

Besides furnishing one of the most delicious of the tropical fruits,
the mango is also one of the most beautiful of trees. It is tall,
spreads very wide, and its branches sweep to within ten feet of the
ground. Its perfect symmetry combined with the size and deep green of
its leaves causes it to resemble, from a short distance, a beautiful
green hill. Beneath its umbrella one finds dense shade, unmottled by a
single ray of sunlight, so that one can lie under it in full confidence.
For, parenthetically, even a single ray of this tropical sunlight is to
the unprotected a very dangerous thing. But the leaves of the mango have
this peculiarity, which distinguishes it from all other trees--namely,
that they grow only at the very ends of the small twigs and branches. As
these, of course, grow only at the ends of the big limbs, it follows
that from beneath the mango looks like a lofty green dome, a veritable
pantheon of the forest.

We made our camp under one of these trees; gave ourselves all the space
we could use; and had plenty left over--five tents and a cook camp, with
no crowding. It was one of the pleasantest camps I ever saw. Our green
dome overhead protected us absolutely from the sun; high sweet grass
grew all about us; the breeze wandered lazily up from the distant
Indian Ocean. Directly before our tent door the slope fell gently away
through a sparse cocoanut grove whose straight stems panelled our view,
then rose again to the clear-cut outline of a straight ridge opposite.
The crest of this was sentinelled by tall scattered cocoanut trees, the
"bursting star" pyrotechnic effect of their tops being particularly fine
against the sky.

After a five hours' tropical march uphill we were glad to sit under our
green dome, to look at our view, to enjoy the little breeze, and to
drink some of the cocoanuts our friends the villagers brought in.

FOOTNOTES:

[3] "The Land of Footprints."




X.

THE SABLE.


About three o'clock I began to feel rested and ambitious. Therefore I
called up our elegant guide and Memba Sasa, and set out on my first hunt
for sable. F. was rather more done up by the hard morning, and so did
not go along. The guide wore still his red tarboosh, his dark short
jacket, his saffron yellow nether garment--it was not exactly a
skirt--and his silver-headed rattan cane. The only change he made was to
tuck up the skirt, leaving his long legs bare. It hardly seemed
altogether a suitable costume for hunting; but he seemed to know what he
was about.

We marched along ridges, and down into ravines, and across gulleys
choked with brush. Horrible thickets alternated with and occasionally
surrounded open green meadows hanging against the side hills. As we
proceeded, the country became rougher, the ravines more precipitous. We
struggled up steep hills, fairly bucking our way through low growth that
proved all but impenetrable. The idea was to find a sable feeding in one
of the little open glades; but whenever I allowed myself to think of the
many adverse elements of the game, the chances seemed very slim. It took
a half-hour to get from one glade to the next; there were thousands of
glades. The sable is a rare shy animal that likes dense cover fully as
well if not better than the open. Sheer rank bull luck alone seemed the
only hope. And as I felt my strength going in that vicious struggle
against heavy brush and steep hills, I began to have very strong doubts
indeed as to that sable.

For it was cruel, hard work. In this climate one hailed a car or a
rickshaw to do an errand two streets away, and considered oneself quite
a hero if one took a leisurely two-mile stroll along the cliff heads at
sunset. Here I was, after a five-hour uphill march, bucking into brush
and through country that would be considered difficult going even in
Canada. At the end of twenty minutes my every garment was not wringing
but dripping wet, so that when I carried my rifle over my arm water ran
down the barrel and off the muzzle in a steady stream. After a bit of
this my knees began to weaken; and it became a question of saving
energy, of getting along somehow, and of leaving the actual hunting to
Memba Sasa and the guide. If they had shown me a sable, I very much
doubt if I could have hit it.

However, we did not see one, and I staggered into camp at dusk pretty
well exhausted. From the most grateful hot bath and clean clothes I
derived much refreshment. Shortly I was sitting in my canvas chair,
sipping a cocoanut, and describing the condition of affairs to F., who
was naturally very curious as to how the trick was done.

"Now," I concluded, "I know just about what I can and what I cannot do.
Three days more of this sort of work will feed me up. If we do not run
across a sable in that time, I'm afraid we don't get any."

"Two days will do for me," said he.

We called up the guide and questioned him closely. He seemed quite
confident; and asserted that in this country sable were found, when they
were found at all, which was not often. They must be discovered in the
small grassy openings. We began to understand why so very few people get
sable.

We dismissed the guide, and sat quietly smoking in the warm soft
evening. The air was absolutely still save for various night insects and
birds, and the weird calling of natives across the valleys. Far out
towards the sea a thunderstorm flashed; and after a long interval the
rumblings came to us. So very distant was it that we paid it little
attention, save as an interesting background to our own still evening.
Almost between sentences of our slow conversation, however, it rushed up
to the zenith, blotting out the stars. The tall palms began to sway and
rustle in the forerunning breeze. Then with a swoop it was upon us, a
tempest of fury. We turned in; and all night long the heavy deluges of
rain fell, roaring like surf on an unfriendly coast.

By morning this had fallen to a light, steady drizzle in which we
started off quite happily. In this climate one likes to get wet. The
ground was sodden and deep with muck. Within a mile of camp we saw many
fresh buffalo tracks.

This time we went downhill and still downhill through openings among
batches of great forest trees. The new leaves were just coming out in
pinks and russets, so that the effect at a little distance was almost
precisely that of our autumn foliage in its duller phases. So familiar
were made some of the low rounded knolls that for an instant we were
respectively back in the hills of Surrey or Michigan, and told each
other so.

Thus we moved slowly out from the dense cover to the grass openings. Far
over on another ridge F. called my attention to something jet-black and
indeterminate. In another country I should have named it as a charred
log on an old pine burning, for that was precisely what it looked like.
We glanced at it casually through our glasses. It was a sable buck lying
down right out in the open. He was black and sleek, and we could make
out his sweeping scimitar horns.

Memba Sasa and the Swahili dropped flat on their faces while F. and I
crawled slowly and cautiously through the mud until we had gained the
cover of a shallow ravine that ran in the beast's general direction.
Noting carefully a certain small thicket as landmark, we stooped and
moved as fast as we could down to that point of vantage. There we
cautiously parted the grasses and looked. The sable had disappeared. The
place where he had been lying was plainly to be identified, and there
was no cover save a tiny bush between two and three feet high. We were
quite certain he had neither seen nor winded us. Either he had risen
and fled forward into the ravine up which we had made our stalk, or else
he had entered the small thicket. F. agreed to stay on watch where he
was, while I slipped back and examined the earth to leeward of the
thicket.

I had hardly crawled ten yards, however, before the gentle snapping of
F.'s fingers recalled me to his side.

"He's behind that bush," he whispered in my ear.

I looked. The bush was hardly large enough to conceal a setter dog, and
the sable is somewhat larger than our elk. Nevertheless F. insisted that
the animal was standing behind it, and that he had caught the toss of
its head. We lay still for some time, while the soft, warm rain drizzled
down on us, our eyes riveted on the bush. And then we caught the
momentary flash of curved horns as the sable tossed his head. It seemed
incredible even then that the tiny bush should conceal so large a beast.
As a matter of fact we later found that the bush grew on a slight
elevation, behind which was a depression. In this the sable stood,
patiently enduring the drizzle.

We waited some time in hopes he would move forward a foot or so; but
apparently he had selected his loafing place with care, and liked it.
The danger of a shift of wind was always present. Finally I slipped back
over the brink of the ravine, moved three yards to the left, and crawled
up through the tall dripping grass to a new position behind a little
bush. Cautiously raising my head, I found I could see plainly the
sable's head and part of his shoulders. My position was cramped and out
of balance for offhand shooting; but I did my best, and heard the loud
plunk of the hit. The sable made off at a fast though rather awkward
gallop, wheeled for an instant a hundred yards farther on, received
another bullet in the shoulder, and disappeared over the brow of the
hill. We raced over the top to get in another shot, and found him stone
dead.

He was a fine beast, jet-black in coat, with white markings on the face,
red-brown ears, and horns sweeping up and back scimitar fashion. He
stood four feet and six inches at the shoulder, and his horns were the
second best ever shot in British East Africa. This beast has been
described by Heller as a new subspecies, and named Rooseveltii. His
description was based upon an immature buck and a doe shot by Kermit
Roosevelt. The determination of subspecies on so slight evidence seems
to me unscientific in the extreme. While the immature males do exhibit
the general brown tone relied on by Mr. Heller, the mature buck differs
in no essential from the tropical sable. I find the alledged subspecies
is not accepted by European scientists.




XI.

A MARCH ALONG THE COAST.


With a most comfortable feeling that my task was done, that suddenly the
threatening clouds of killing work had been cleared up, I was now
privileged to loaf and invite my soul on this tropical green hilltop
while poor F. put in the days trying to find another sable. Every
morning he started out before daylight. I could see the light of his
lantern outside the tent; and I stretched myself in the luxurious
consciousness that I should hear no deprecating but insistent "hodie"
from my boy until I pleased to invite it. In the afternoon or evening F.
would return, quite exhausted and dripping, with only the report of new
country traversed. No sable; no tracks of sable; no old signs, even, of
sable. Gradually it was borne in on me how lucky I was to have come upon
my magnificent specimen so promptly and in such favourable
circumstances.

A leisurely breakfast alone, with the sun climbing; then the writing of
notes, a little reading, and perhaps a stroll to the village or along
the top of the ridge. At the heat of noon a siesta with a cool cocoanut
at my elbow. The view was beautiful on all sides; our great tree full of
birds; the rising and dying winds in the palms like the gathering
oncoming rush of the rains. From mountain to mountain sounded the wild,
far-carrying ululations of the natives, conveying news or messages
across the wide jungle. Towards sunset I wandered out in the groves,
enjoying the many bright flowers, the tall, sweet grasses, and the
cocoa-palms against the sky. Piles of cocoanuts lay on the ground,
covered each with a leaf plaited in a peculiarly individual manner to
indicate ownership. Small boys, like little black imps, clung naked
half-way up the slim trunks of the palms, watching me bright-eyed above
the undergrowth. In all directions, crossing and recrossing, ran a maze
of beaten paths. Each led somewhere, but it would require the memory
of--well, of a native, to keep all their destinations in mind.

I used to follow some of them to their ending in little cocoa-leaf
houses on the tops of knolls or beneath mangoes; and would talk with the
people. They were very grave and very polite, and seemed to be living
out their lives quite correctly according to their conceptions. Again,
it was borne in on me that these people are not stumbling along the
course of evolution in our footsteps, but have gone as far in their path
as we have in ours; that they have reached at least as complete a
correspondence with their environment as we with our own.[4]

If F. had not returned by the time I reached camp, I would seat myself
in my canvas chair, and thence dispense justice, advice, or medical
treatment. If none of these things seemed demanded, I smoked my pipe. To
me one afternoon came a big-framed, old, dignified man, with the heavy
beard, the noble features, the high forehead, and the blank statue eyes
of the blind Homer. He was led by a very small, very bright-eyed naked
boy. At some twenty feet distance he squatted down cross-legged before
me. For quite five minutes he sat there silent, while I sat in my camp
chair, smoked and waited. At last he spoke in a rolling deep bass voice
rich and vibrating--a delight to hear.

"Jambo (greeting)!" said he.

"Jambo!" I replied mildly.

Again a five-minute silence. I had begun reading, and had all but
forgotten his presence.

"Jambo bwana (greeting, master)!" he rolled out.

"Jambo!" I repeated.

The same dignified, unhasting pause.

"Jambo bwana m'kubwa (greeting, great master)!"

"Jambo!" quoth I, and went on reading. The sun was dropping, but the old
man seemed in no hurry.

"Jambo bwana m'kubwa sana (greeting, most mighty master)!" he boomed at
last.

"Jambo!" said I.

This would seem to strike the superlative, and I expected now that he
would state his business, but the old man had one more shot in his
locker.

"Jambo bwana m'kubwa kabeesa sana (greeting, mightiest possible
master)!" it came.

Then in due course he delicately hinted that a gift of tobacco would not
come amiss.

F. returned a trifle earlier than usual, to admit that his quest was
hopeless, that his physical forces were for the time being at an end,
and that he was willing to go home.

Accordingly very early next morning we set out by the glimmer of a
lantern, hoping to get a good start on our journey before the heat of
the day became too severe. We did gain something, but performed several
unnecessary loops and semicircles in the maze of beaten paths before we
finally struck into one that led down the slope towards the sea. Shortly
after the dawn came up "like thunder" in its swiftness, followed almost
immediately by the sun.

Our way now led along the wide flat between the seashore and the Shimba
Hills, in which we had been hunting. A road ten feet wide and innocent
of wheels ran with obstinate directness up and down the slight contours
and through the bushes and cocoanut groves that lay in its path. So
mathematically straight was it that only when perspective closed it in,
or when it dropped over the summit of a little rise, did the eye lose
the effect of its interminability. The country through which this road
led was various--open bushy veld with sparse trees, dense jungle,
cocoanut groves, tall and cool. In the shadows of the latter were the
thatched native villages. To the left always ran the blue Shimba Hills;
and far away to the right somewhere we heard the grumbling of the sea.

Every hundred yards or so we met somebody. Even thus early the road was
thronged. By far the majority were the almost naked natives of the
district, pleasant, brown-skinned people with good features. They
carried things. These things varied from great loads balanced atop to
dainty impromptu baskets woven of cocoa-leaves and containing each a
single cocoanut. They smiled on us, returned our greeting, and stood
completely aside to let us pass. Other wayfarers were of more
importance. Small groups of bearded dignitaries, either upper-class
Swahili or pure Arabs, strolled slowly along, apparently with limitless
leisure, but evidently bound somewhere, nevertheless. They replied to
our greetings with great dignity. Once, also, we overtook a small
detachment of Sudanese troops moving. They were scattered over several
miles of road. A soldier, most impressive and neat in khaki and red
tarboosh and sash; then two or three of his laughing, sleek women, clad
in the thin, patterned "'Mericani," glittering with gold ornaments; then
a half dozen ragged porters carrying official but battered painted
wooden kit boxes, or bags, or miscellaneous curious plunder; then more
troopers; and so on for miles. They all drew aside for us most
respectfully; and the soldiers saluted, very smart and military.

Under the broad-spreading mangoes near the villages we came upon many
open markets in full swing. Each vendor squatted on his heels behind his
wares, while the purchasers or traders wandered here and there making
offers. The actual commerce compared with the amount of laughing,
joking, shrieking joy of the occasion as one to a thousand.

Generally three or four degenerate looking dirty East Indians slunk
about, very crafty, very insinuating, very ready and skilful to take
what advantages they could. I felt a strong desire to kick every one of
them out from these joyful concourses of happy people. Generally we sat
down for a while in these markets, and talked to the people a little,
and perhaps purchased some of the delicious fruit. They had a small
delicate variety of banana, most wonderful, the like of which I have
seen nowhere else. We bought forty of these for a coin worth about eight
cents. Besides fruit they offered cocoanuts in all forms, grain, woven
baskets, small articles of handicraft--and fish. The latter were farther
from the sea than they should have been! These occasional halts greatly
refreshed us for more of that endless road.

For all this time we were very hot. As the sun mounted, the country
fairly steamed. From the end of my rifle barrel, which I carried across
my forearm, a steady trickle of water dripped into the road. We neither
of us had a dry stitch on us, and our light garments clung to us
thoroughly wet through. At first we tried the military method, and
marched fifty minutes to rest ten, but soon discovered that twenty-five
minutes' work to five minutes off was more practical. The sheer weight
of the sun was terrific; after we had been exposed to it for any great
length of time--as across several wide open spaces--we entered the
steaming shade of the jungle with gratitude. At the end of seven hours,
however, we most unexpectedly came through a dense cocoanut grove plump
on the banks of the harbour at Kilindini.

Here, after making arrangements for the transport of our safari, when it
should arrive, we entrusted ourselves to a small boy and a cranky boat.
An hour later, clad in tropical white, with cool drinks at our elbows,
we sat in easy-chairs on the veranda of the Mombasa Club.

The clubhouse is built on a low cliff at the water's edge. It looks
across the blue waters of the bay to a headland crowned with
cocoa-palms, and beyond the headland to the Indian Ocean. The cool
trades sweep across that veranda. We idly watched a lone white oarsman
pulling strongly against the wind through the tide rips, evidently bent
on exercise. We speculated on the incredible folly of wanting exercise;
and forgot him. An hour later a huge saffron yellow squall rose from
China 'cross the way, filled the world with an unholy light, lashed the
reluctant sea to white-caps, and swooped screaming on the cocoa-palms.
Police boats to rescue the idiot oarsman! Much minor excitement! Great
rushing to and fro! We continued to sit in our lounging chairs, one hand
on our cool long drinks.

FOOTNOTES:

[4] For a fuller discussion, see "The Land of Footprints."




XII.

THE FIRE.


We were very tired, so we turned in early. W Unfortunately, our rooms
were immediately over the billiard room, where a bibulous and
cosmopolitan lot were earnestly endeavouring to bolster up by further
proof the fiction that a white man cannot retain his health in the
tropics. The process was pretty rackety, and while it could not keep us
awake, it prevented us from falling thoroughly asleep. At length, and
suddenly, the props of noise fell away from me, and I sank into a
grateful, profound abyss.

Almost at once, however, I was dragged back to consciousness. Mohammed
stood at my bedside.

"Bwana," he proffered to my rather angry inquiry, "all the people have
gone to the fire. It is a very large fire. I thought you would like to
see it."

I glanced out of the window at the reddening sky, thrust my feet into a
pair of slippers, and went forth in my pyjamas to see what I could see.

We threaded our way through many narrow dark and deserted streets,
beneath balconies that overhung, past walls over which nodded tufted
palms, until a loud and increasing murmuring told us we were nearing the
centre of disturbance. Shortly, we came to the outskirts of the excited
crowd, and beyond them saw the red furnace glow.

"Semeelay! Semeelay!" warned Mohammed authoritatively; and the
bystanders, seeing a white face, gave me passage.

All of picturesque Mombasa was afoot--Arabs, Swahilis, Somalis, savages,
Indians--the whole lot. They moved restlessly in the narrow streets;
they hung over the edges of balconies; they peered from barred windows;
interested dark faces turned up everywhere in the flickering light. One
woman, a fine, erect, biblical figure, stood silhouetted on a flat
housetop and screamed steadily. I thought she must have at least one
baby in the fire, but it seems she was only excited.

The fire was at present confined to two buildings, in which it was
raging fiercely. Its spread, however, seemed certain; and, as it was
surrounded by warehouses of valuable goods, moving was in full swing. A
frantic white man stood at the low doorway of one of these dungeon-like
stores hastening the movements of an unending string of porters. As each
emerged bearing a case on his shoulder, the white man urged him to a
trot. I followed up the street to see where these valuables were being
taken, and what were the precautions against theft. Around the next
corner, it seemed. As each excited perspiring porter trotted up, he
heaved his burden from his head or his shoulders, and promptly scampered
back for another load. They were loyal and zealous men; but their
headpieces were deficient inside. For the burdens that they saved from
the fire happened to be cases of gin in bottles. At least, it was in
bottles until the process of saving had been completed. Then it trickled
merrily down the gutter. I went back and told the frantic white man
about it. He threw up both hands to heaven and departed.

By dodging from street to street Mohammed and I succeeded in circling
the whole disturbance, and so came at length to a public square. Here
was a vast throng, and a very good place, so I climbed atop a rescued
bale of cotton the better to see.

Mombasa has no water system, but a wonderful corps of water-carriers.
These were in requisition to a man. They disappeared down through the
wide gates of the customs enclosure, their naked, muscular, light-brown
bodies gleaming with sweat, their Standard Oil cans dangling merrily at
the ends of slender poles. A moment later they emerged, the cans full of
salt water from the bay, the poles seeming fairly to butt into their
bare shoulders as they teetered along at their rapid, swaying, burdened
gait.

The moment they entered the square they were seized upon from a dozen
different sides. There was no system at all. Every owner of property was
out for himself, and intended to get as much of the precious water as he
could. The poor carriers were pulled about, jerked violently here and
there, besought, commanded, to bring their loads to one or the other of
the threatened premises. Vociferations, accusations, commands arose to
screams. One old graybeard occupied himself by standing on tiptoe and
screeching, "Maji! maji! maji!" at the top of his voice, as though that
added anything to the visible supply. The water-carrier of the moment
disappeared in a swirl of excited contestants. He was attending strictly
to business, looking neither to right nor to left, pushing forward as
steadily as he could, gasping mechanically his customary warning,
"Semeelay! Semeelay!" Somehow, eventually, he and his comrades must have
got somewhere; for after an interval he returned with empty buckets.
Then every blessed fool of a property owner took a whack at his bare
shoulders as he passed, shrieking hysterically, "Haya! haya! pesi!
pesi!" and the like to men already doing their best. It was a grand
sight!

In the meantime the fire itself was roaring away. The old graybeard
suddenly ceased crying "maji," and darted forward to where I stood on
the bale of cotton. With great but somewhat flurried respect he begged
me to descend. I did so, somewhat curious as to what he might be up to,
for the cotton was at least two hundred feet from the fire. Immediately
he began to tug and heave; the bale was almost beyond his strength; but
after incredible exertions he lifted one side of it, poised it for a
moment, got his shoulder under it, and rolled it over once. Then he
darted away and resumed his raucous cry for water. I climbed back again.
Thrice more, at intervals, he repeated this performance. The only result
was to daub with mud every possible side of that bale. I hope it was his
property.

You must remember that I was observing the heavy artillery of the attack
on the conflagration. Individual campaigns were everywhere in progress.
I saw one man standing on the roof of a threatened building. He lowered
slowly, hand over hand, a small tea-kettle at the end of a string. This
was filled by a friend in the street, whereupon the man hauled it up
again, slowly, hand over hand, and solemnly dashed its contents into the
mouth of the furnace. Thousands of other men on roofs, in balconies, on
the street, were doing the same thing. Some had ordinary cups which they
filled a block away! The limit of efficiency was a pail. Nobody did
anything in concert with anybody else. The sight of these thousands of
little midgets each with his teacup, or his teapot, or his tin pail,
throwing each his mite of water--for which he had to walk a street or
so--into the ravening roaring furnace of flame was as pathetic or as
comical as you please. They did not seem to have a show in the world.

Nevertheless, to my vast surprise, the old system of the East triumphed
at last. The system of the East is that if you get _enough_ labour you
can accomplish anything. Little by little those thousands of tea kettles
of water had their aggregate effect. The flames fed themselves out and
died down leaving the contiguous buildings unharmed save for a little
scorching. In two hours all was safe, and I returned to the hotel,
having enjoyed myself hugely. I had, however, in the interest and
excitement, forgotten how deadly is the fever of Mombasa. Midnight in
pyjamas did the business; and shortly I paid well for the fun.




PART III.

NAIROBI.






XIII.

UP FROM THE COAST.


Nairobi is situated at the far edge of the great Athi Plains and just
below a range of hills. It might about as well have been anywhere else,
and perhaps better a few miles back in the higher country. Whether the
funny little narrow-gauge railroad exists for Nairobi, or Nairobi for
the railroad, it would be difficult to say. Between Mombasa and this
interior placed-to-order town, certainly, there is nothing, absolutely
nothing, either in passengers or freight, to justify building the line.
That distance is, if I remember it correctly, about three hundred and
twenty miles. A dozen or so names of stations appear on the map. These
are water tanks, telegraph stations, or small groups of tents in which
dwell black labourers--on the railroad.

The way climbs out from the tropical steaming coast belt to and across
the high scrub desert, and then through lower rounded hills to the
plains. On the desert is only dense thorn brush--and a possibility that
the newcomer, if he looks very closely, may to his excitement see his
first game in Africa. This is a stray duiker or so, tiny grass antelopes
a foot high. Also in this land is thirst; so that alongside the
locomotives, as they struggle up grade, in bad seasons, run natives to
catch precious drops.[5] An impalpable red dust sifts through and into
everything. When a man descends at Voi for dinner he finds his
fellow-travellers have changed complexion. The pale clerk from indoor
Mombasa has put on a fine healthy sunburn; and the company in general
present a rich out-of-doors bloom. A chance dab with a white napkin
comes away like fresh paint, however.

You clamber back into the compartment, with its latticed sun shades and
its smoked glass windows; you let down the narrow canvas bunk; you
unfold your rug, and settle yourself for repose. It is a difficult
matter. Everything you touch is gritty. The air is close and stifling,
like the smoke-charged air of a tunnel. If you try to open a window you
are suffocated with more of the red dust. At last you fall into a doze;
to awaken nearly frozen! The train has climbed into what is, after weeks
of the tropics, comparative cold; and if you have not been warned to
carry wraps, you are in danger of pneumonia.

The gray dawn comes, and shortly, in the sudden tropical fashion, the
full light. You look out on a wide smiling grass country, with dips and
swales, and brushy river bottoms, and long slopes and hills thrusting up
in masses from down below the horizon, and singly here and there in the
immensities nearer at hand. The train winds and doubles on itself up the
gentle slopes and across the imperceptibly rising plains. But the
interest is not in these wide prospects, beautiful and smiling as they
may be, but in the game. It is everywhere. Far in the distance the herds
twinkle, half guessed in the shimmer of the bottom lands or dotting the
sides of the hills. Nearer at hand it stares as the train rumbles and
sways laboriously past. Occasionally it even becomes necessary to
whistle aside some impertinent kongoni that has placed himself between
the metals! The newcomer has but a theoretical knowledge at best of all
these animals; and he is intensely interested in identifying the various
species. The hartebeeste and the wildebeeste he learns quickly enough,
and of course the zebra and the giraffe are unmistakable; but the
smaller gazelles are legitimate subjects for discussion. The wonder of
the extraordinary abundance of these wild animals mounts as the hours
slip by. At the stops for water or for orders the passengers gather from
their different compartments to detail excitedly to each other what they
have seen. There is always an honest superenthusiast who believes he has
seen rhinoceroses, lions, or leopards. He is looked upon with envy by
the credulous, and with exasperation by all others.

So the little train puffs and tugs along. Suddenly it happens on a
barbed wire fence, and immediately after enters the town of Nairobi. The
game has persisted right up to that barbed wire fence.

The station platform is thronged with a heterogeneous multitude of
people. The hands of a dozen raggetty black boys are stretched out for
luggage. The newcomer sees with delight a savage with a tin can in his
stretched ear lobe; another with a set of wooden skewers set fanwise
around the edge of the ear; he catches a glimpse of a beautiful naked
creature very proud, very decorated with beads and heavy polished wire.
Then he is ravished away by the friend, or agent, or hotel
representative who has met him, and hurried out through the gates
between the impassive and dignified Sikh sentries to the cab. I believe
nobody but the newcomer ever rides in the cab; and then but once, from
the station to the hotel. After that he uses rickshaws. In fact it is
probable that the cab is maintained for the sole purpose of giving the
newcomer a grand and impressive entrance. This brief fleeting quarter
hour of glory is unique and passes. It is like crossing the Line, or the
first kiss, something that in its nature cannot be repeated.

The cab was once a noble vehicle, compounded of opulent curves, with a
very high driver's box in front, a little let-down bench, and a deep,
luxurious, shell-shaped back seat, reclining in which one received the
adulation of the populace. That was in its youth. Now in its age the
varnish is gone; the upholstery of the back seat frayed; the upholstery
of the small seat lacking utterly, so that one sits on bare boards. In
place of two dignifiedly spirited fat white horses, it is drawn by two
very small mules in a semi-detached position far ahead. And how it
rattles!

Between the station and the hotel at Nairobi is a long straight wide
well-made street, nearly a mile long, and bordered by a double row of
young eucalyptus. These latter have changed the main street of Nairobi
from the sunbaked array of galvanized houses described by travellers of
a half dozen years back to a thoroughfare of great charm. The iron
houses and stores are now in a shaded background; and the attention is
freed to concentrate on the vivid colouring, the incessant movement, the
great interest of the people moving to and fro. When I left Nairobi the
authorities were considering the removal of these trees, because one row
of them had been planted slightly within the legal limits of the street.
What they could interfere with in a practically horseless town I cannot
imagine, but I trust this stupidity gave way to second thought.

The cab rattles and careers up the length of the street, scattering
rickshaws and pedestrians from before its triumphant path. To the left
opens a wide street of little booths under iron awnings, hung with gay
colour and glittering things. The street is thronged from side to side
with natives of all sorts. It whirls past, and shortly after the cab
dashes inside a fence and draws up before the low stone-built,
wide-verandahed hotel.

FOOTNOTES:

[5] The Government does much nowadays by means of tank cars.




XIV.

A TOWN OF CONTRASTS.


It has been, as I have said, the fashion to speak of Nairobi as an ugly
little town. This was probably true when the first corrugated iron
houses huddled unrelieved near the railway station. It is not true now.
The lower part of town is well planted, and is always picturesque as
long as its people are astir. The white population have built in the
wooded hills some charming bungalows surrounded by bright flowers or
lost amid the trunks of great trees. From the heights on which is
Government House one can, with a glass, watch the game herds feeding on
the plains. Two clubs, with the usual games of golf, polo,
tennis--especially tennis--football and cricket; a weekly hunt, with
jackals instead of foxes; a bungalow town club on the slope of a hill;
an electric light system; a race track; a rifle range; frilly parasols
and the latest fluffiest summer toilettes from London and Paris--I
mention a few of the refinements of civilization that offer to the
traveller some of the most piquant of contrasts.

For it must not be forgotten that Nairobi, in spite of these things--due
to the direct but slender thread of communication by railroad and
ships--is actually in the middle of an African wilderness--is a black
man's town, as far as numbers go.[6]

The game feeds to its very outskirts, even wanders into the streets at
night.[7] Lions may be heard roaring within a mile or so of town; and
leopards occasionally at night come on the verandas of the outlying
dwellings. Naked savages from the jungle untouched by civilization in
even the minutest particular wander the streets unabashed.

It is this constantly recurring, sharply drawn contrast that gives
Nairobi its piquant charm. As one sits on the broad hotel veranda a
constantly varied pageant passes before him. A daintily dressed,
fresh-faced Englishwoman bobs by in a smart rickshaw drawn by two
uniformed runners; a Kikuyu, anointed, curled, naked, brass adorned,
teeters along, an expression of satisfaction on his face; a horseman,
well appointed, trots briskly by followed by his loping syce; a string
of skin-clad women, their heads fantastically shaved, heavily
ornamented, lean forward under the burden of firewood for the market; a
beautiful baby in a frilled perambulator is propelled by a tall, solemn,
fine-looking black man in white robe and cap; the driver of a high cart
tools his animal past a creaking, clumsy, two-wheeled wagon drawn by a
pair of small humpbacked native oxen. And so it goes, all day long,
without end. The public rickshaw boys just across the way chatter and
game and quarrel and keep a watchful eye out for a possible patron on
whom to charge vociferously and full tilt. Two or three old-timers with
white whiskers and red faces continue to slaughter thousands and
thousands and thousands of lions from the depths of their easy chairs.

The stone veranda of that hotel is a very interesting place. Here gather
men from all parts of East Africa, from Uganda, and the jungles of the
Upper Congo. At one time or another all the famous hunters drop into its
canvas chairs--Cunninghame, Allan Black, Judd, Outram, Hoey, and the
others; white traders with the natives of distant lands; owners of farms
experimenting bravely on a greater or lesser scale in a land whose
difficulties are just beginning to be understood; great naturalists and
scientists from the governments of the earth, eager to observe and
collect this interesting and teeming fauna; and sportsmen just out and
full of interest, or just returned and modestly important. More
absorbing conversation can be listened to on this veranda than in any
other one place in the world. The gathering is cosmopolitan; it is
representative of the most active of every social, political, and racial
element; it has done things; it contemplates vital problems from the
vantage ground of experience. The talk veers from pole to pole--and
returns always to lions.

Every little while a native--a raw savage--comes along and takes up a
stand just outside the railing. He stands there mute and patient for
five minutes--a half hour--until some one, any one, happens to notice
him.

"N'jo!--come here!" commands this person.

The savage silently proffers a bit of paper on which is written the name
of the one with whom he has business.

"Nenda officie!" indicates the charitable person waving his hand
towards the hotel office.

Then, and not until this permission has been given by some one, dares
the savage cross the threshold to do his errand.

If the messenger happens to be a trained houseboy, however, dressed in
his uniform of khaki or his more picturesque white robe and cap, he is
privileged to work out his own salvation. And behind the hotel are rows
and rows of other boys, each waiting patiently the pleasure of his
especial bwana lounging at ease after strenuous days. At the drawling
shout of "boy!" one of them instantly departs to find out which
particular boy is wanted.

The moment any white man walks to the edge of the veranda a half-dozen
of the rickshaws across the street career madly around the corners of
the fence, bumping, colliding, careening dangerously, to drop
beseechingly in serried confusion close around the step. The rickshaw
habit is very strong in Nairobi. If a man wants to go a hundred yards
down the street he takes a rickshaw for that stupendous journey. There
is in justification the legend that the white man should not exert
himself in the tropics. I fell into the custom of the country until I
reflected that it would hardly be more fatal to me to walk a half-hour
in the streets of Nairobi than to march six or seven hours--as I often
did--when on safari or in the hunting field. After that I got a little
exercise, to the vast scandal of the rickshaw boys. In fact, so unusual
was my performance that at first I had fairly to clear myself a way with
my kiboko. After a few experiences they concluded me a particularly
crazy person and let me alone.

Rickshaws, however, are very efficient and very cheap. The runners, two
in number, are lithe little round-headed Kavirondos, generally, their
heads shaved to leave a skull cap, clad in scant ragged garments, and
wearing each an anklet of little bells. Their passion for ornament they
confine to small bright things in their hair and ears. They run easily,
with a very long stride. Even steep hills they struggle up somehow,
zigzagging from one side of the road to the other, edging along an inch
or so at a time. In such places I should infinitely have preferred to
have walked, but that would have lost me caste everywhere. There are
limits even to a crazy man's idiosyncrasies. For that reason I never
thoroughly enjoyed rickshaws, save along the level ways with bells
jingling and feet patpatting a rapid time. Certainly I did not enjoy
them going down the steep hills. The boy between the shafts in front
hits the landscape about every forty feet. I do not really object to
sudden death, but this form of it seemed unfair to some poor hungry
lion.

However, the winding smooth roads among the forested, shaded bungalows
of the upper part of town were very attractive, especially towards
evening. At that time the universal sun-helmet or double terai could be
laid aside for straw hats, cloth caps, or bare heads. People played the
more violent games, or strolled idly. At the hotel there was now a good
deal of foolish drinking; foolish, because in this climate it is very
bad for the human system, and in these surroundings of much interest and
excitement the relief of its exaltation from monotony or ennui or
routine could hardly be required.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] Fifteen hundred whites to twelve thousand natives, approximately.

[7] This happened twice while I was in the country.




XV.

PEOPLE.


Considered as a class rather than as individuals, the dark-skinned
population is easily the more interesting. Considered as individuals,
the converse is true. Men like Sir Percy Girouard, Hobley, Jackson, Lord
Delamere, McMillan, Cunninghame, Allan Black, Leslie Tarleton,
Vanderweyer, the Hill cousins, Horne, and a dozen others are nowhere
else to be met in so small a community. But the whites have developed
nothing in their relations one to another essentially different. The
artisan and shopkeeping class dwell on the flats; the Government people
and those of military connections live on the heights on one side of the
little stream; the civil service and bigger business men among the hills
on the other. Between them all is a little jealousy, and contempt, and
condescension; just as there is jealousy, and contempt, and
condescension elsewhere. They are pleasant people, and hospitable, and
some of them very distinguished in position or achievement; and I am
glad to say I have good friends among them.

But the native is the joy, and the never-ceasing delight. For his
benefit is the wide, glittering, colourful, insanitary bazaar, with its
dozens of little open-air veranda shops, its "hotels" where he can sit
in a real chair and drink real tea, its cafes, and the dark mysteries of
its more doubtful amusements. The bazaar is right in the middle of town,
just where it ought not to be, and it is constantly being quarantined,
and threatened with removal. It houses a large population mysteriously,
for it is of slight extent. Then on the borders of town are the two
great native villages--one belonging to the Somalis, and the other
hospitably accommodating the swarms of caravan porters and their
families. For, just as in old days Mombasa and Zanzibar used to be the
points from which caravans into the interior would set forth, now
Nairobi outfits the majority of expeditions. Probably ten thousand
picked natives of various tribes are engaged in the profession. Of
course but a small proportion of this number is ever at home at any one
time; but the village is a large one. Both these villages are built in
the native style, of plaster and thatch; have their own headman
government--under supervision--and are kept pretty well swept out and
tidy. Besides these three main gathering places are many camps and
"shambas"[8] scattered everywhere; and the back country counts millions
of raw jungle savages, only too glad to drift in occasionally for a look
at the metropolis.

At first the newcomer is absolutely bewildered by the variety of these
peoples; but after a little he learns to differentiate. The Somalis are
perhaps the first recognizable, with their finely chiselled,
intelligent, delicate brown features, their slender forms, and their
strikingly picturesque costumes of turbans, flowing robes, and
embroidered sleeveless jackets. Then he learns to distinguish the savage
from the sophisticated dweller of the town. Later comes the
identification of the numerous tribes.

The savage comes in just as he has been for, ethnologists alone can
guess, how many thousands of years. He is too old an institution to have
been affected as yet by this tiny spot of modernity in the middle of the
wilderness. As a consequence he startles the newcomer even more than
the sight of giraffes on the sky-line.

When the shenzi--wild man--comes to town he gathers in two or three of
his companions, and presents himself as follows: His hair has been grown
quite long, then gathered in three tight pigtails wound with leather,
one of which hangs over his forehead, and the other two over his ears.
The entire head he has then anointed with a mixture of castor oil and a
bright red colouring earth. This is wiped away evenly all around the
face, about two inches below the hair, to leave a broad, bandlike
glistening effect around the entire head. The ears are most marvellous.
From early youth the lobes have been stretched, until at last they have
become like two long elastic loops, hanging down upon the shoulder, and
capable of accommodating anything up to and including a tomato can. When
in fatigue uniform these loops are caught up over the tops of the ears,
but on dress parade they accommodate almost anything considered
ornamental. I have seen a row of safety pins clasped in them or a number
of curtain rings; or a marmalade jar, or the glittering cover of a
tobacco tin. The edges of the ears, all around to the top, are then
pierced. Then the insertion of a row of long white wooden skewers gives
one a peculiarly porcupinish look; or a row of little brass danglers
hints of wealth. Having thus finished off his head, your savage clasps
around his neck various strings of beads; or collars of iron or copper
wire, polished to the point of glitter; puts on a half-dozen armlets and
leglets of the same; ties on a narrow bead belt, in which is thrust a
short sword; anoints himself all over with reddened castor oil until he
glistens and shines in the sun; rubs his legs with white clay and traces
patterns therein; seizes his long-bladed spear, and is ready for the
city. Oh, no! I forgot--and he probably came near doing so--his strip of
'Mericani.[9] This was originally white, but constant wear over castor
oil has turned it a uniform and beautiful brown.

The purpose of this is ornament, and it is so worn. There has been an
attempt, I understand, to force these innocent children to some sort of
conventional decency while actually in the streets of Nairobi. It was
too large an order. Some bring in clothes, to be sure, because the white
man asks it; but why no sensible man could say. They are hung from one
shoulder, flap merrily in the breeze, and are always quite frankly
tucked up about the neck or under the arms when the wearer happens to be
in haste. As a matter of fact these savages are so beautifully and
smoothly formed; their red-brown or chocolate-brown skin is so fine in
texture, and their complete unconsciousness so genuine that in an hour
the newcomer is quite accustomed to their nakedness.

These proud youths wander mincingly down the street with an expression
of the most fatuous and good-natured satisfaction with themselves. To
their minds they have evidently done every last thing that human
ingenuity or convention could encompass.

These young men are the dandies, the proud young aristocracy of wealth
and importance; and of course they may differ individually or tribally
from the sample I have offered. Also there are many other social grades.
Those who care less for dress or have less to get it with can rub along
very cheaply. The only real essentials are (_a_) something for the
ear--a tomato can will do; (_b_) a trifle for clothing--and for that a
scrap of gunny sacking will be quite enough.

The women to be seen in the streets of Nairobi are mostly of the Kikuyu
tribe. They are pretty much of a pattern. Their heads are shaven,
either completely or to leave only ornamental tufts; and are generally
bound with a fine wire fillet so tightly that the strands seem to sink
into the flesh. A piece of cotton cloth, dyed dark umber red, is belted
around the waist, and sometimes, but not always, another is thrown about
the shoulder. They go in for more hardware than do the men. The entire
arms and the calves of the legs are encased in a sort of armour made of
quarter-inch wire wound closely, and a collar of the same material
stands out like a ruff eight or ten inches around the neck. This is
wound on for good; and must be worn day and night and all the time, a
cumbersome and tremendously heavy burden. A dozen large loops of
coloured beads strung through the ears, and various strings and
necklaces of beads, cowrie shells, and the like finish them out in all
their gorgeousness. They would sink like plummets. Their job in life,
besides lugging all this stuff about, is to carry in firewood and
forage. At any time of the day long files of them can be seen bending
forward under their burdens. These they carry on their backs by means of
a strap across the tops of their heads; after the fashion of the
Canadian tump line.

The next cut above the shenzi, or wild man, is the individual who has
been on safari as carrier, or has otherwise been much employed around
white men. From this experience he has acquired articles of apparel and
points of view. He is given to ragged khaki, or cast-off garments of all
sorts, but never to shoes. This hint of the conventional only serves to
accent the little self-satisfied excursions he makes into barbarism. The
shirt is always worn outside, the ear ornaments are as varied as ever,
the head is shaved in strange patterns, a tiny tight tuft on the crown
is useful as fastening for feathers or little streamers or anything else
that will wave or glitter. One of these individuals wore a red label he
had, with patience and difficulty, removed from one of our trunks. He
had pasted it on his forehead; and it read "Baggage Room. Not Wanted."
These people are, after all, but modified shenzis. The modification is
nearly always in the direction of the comic.

Now we step up to a class that would resent being called shenzis as it
would resent an insult. This is the personal servant class. The members
are of all tribes, with possibly a slight preponderance of Swahilis and
Somalis. They are a very clean, well-groomed, self-respecting class,
with a great deal of dignity, and a great deal of pride in their
bwanas. Also they are exceedingly likely to degenerate unless ruled with
a firm hand and a wise head. Very rarely are they dishonest as respects
the possessions of their own masters. They understand their work
perfectly, and the best of them get the equivalent of from eight to ten
dollars a month. Every white individual has one or more of them; even
the tiny children with their ridiculous little sun helmets are followed
everywhere by a tall, solemn, white-robed black. Their powers of
divination approach the uncanny. About the time you begin to think of
wanting something, and are making a first helpless survey of a boyless
landscape, your own servant suddenly, mysteriously, and unobtrusively
appears from nowhere. Where he keeps himself, where he feeds himself,
where he sleeps you do not know. These beautifully clean, trim,
dignified people are always a pleasant feature in the varied picture.

The Somalis are a clan by themselves. A few of them condescend to
domestic service, but the most prefer the free life of traders, horse
dealers, gunbearers, camel drivers, labour go-betweens, and similar
guerrilla occupations. They are handsome, dashing, proud, treacherous,
courageous, likeable, untrustworthy. They career around on their high,
short-stirruped saddles; they saunter indolently in small groups; they
hang about the hotel hoping for a dicker of some kind. There is nothing
of the savage about them, but much of the true barbarism, with the
barbarian's pride, treachery, and love of colour.

FOOTNOTES:

[8] Native farmlets, generally temporary.

[9] White cotton cloth.




XVI.

RECRUITING.


To the traveller Nairobi is most interesting as the point from which
expeditions start and to which they return. Doubtless an extended stay
in the country would show him that problems of administration and
possibilities of development could be even more absorbing; but such
things are very sketchy to him at first.

As a usual thing, when he wants porters he picks them out from the
throng hanging around the big outfitters' establishments. Each man is
then given a blanket--cotton, but of a most satisfying red--a tin water
bottle, a short stout cord, and a navy blue jersey. After that ceremony
he is yours.

But on the occasion of one three months' journey into comparatively
unknown country we ran up against difficulties. Some two weeks before
our contemplated start two or three cases of bubonic plague had been
discovered in the bazaar, and as a consequence Nairobi was quarantined.
This meant that a rope had been stretched around the infected area, that
the shops had been closed, and that no native could--officially--leave
Nairobi. The latter provision affected us; for under it we should be
unable to get our bearers out.

As a matter of fact, the whole performance--unofficially--was a farce.
Natives conversed affably at arm's length across the ropes; hundreds
sneaked in and out of town at will; and from the rear of the infected
area I personally saw beds, chests, household goods, blankets, and
clothes passed to friends outside the ropes. When this latter condition
was reported, in my presence, to the medical officers, they replied that
this was a matter for police cognizance! But the brave outward show of
ropes, disinfectants, gorgeous sentries--in front--and official
inspection went solemnly on. Great, even in Africa, is the god of red
tape.

Our only possible plan, in the circumstances, was to recruit the men
outside the town, to camp them somewhere, march them across country to a
way station, and there embark them. Our goods and safari stores we
could then ship out to them by train.

Accordingly we rode on bicycles out to the Swahili village.

This is, as I have said, composed of large "beehive" houses thatched
conically with straw. The roofs extend to form verandas beneath which
sit indolent damsels, their hair divided in innumerable tiny parts
running fore and aft like the stripes on a water melon; their figured
'Mericani garments draped gracefully. As befitted the women of
plutocrats, they wore much jewellery, some of it set in their noses.
Most of them did all of nothing, but some sat half buried in narrow
strips of bright-coloured tissue paper. These they were pasting together
like rolls of tape, the coloured edges of the paper forming concentric
patterns on the resultant discs--an infinite labour. The discs, when
completed, were for insertion in the lobes of the ears.

When we arrived the irregular "streets" of the village were nearly
empty, save for a few elegant youths, in long kanzuas, or robes of
cinnamon colour and spotless white, on their heads fezzes or turbans, in
their hands slender rattan canes. They were very busy talking to each
other, and of course did not notice the idle beauties beneath the
verandas.

Hardly had we appeared, however, when mysteriously came forth the
headman--a bearded, solemn, Arab-like person with a phenomenally ugly
face but a most pleasing smile. We told him we wanted porters. He
clapped his hands. To the four young men who answered this summons he
gave a command. From sleepy indolence they sprang into life. To the four
cardinal points of the compass they darted away, running up and down the
side streets, beating on the doors, screaming at the tops of their lungs
the word "Cazi"[10] over and over again.

The village hummed like a wasps' nest. Men poured from the huts in
swarms. The streets were filled; the idle sauntering youths were
swamped, and sunk from view. Clamour and shouting arose where before had
been a droning silence. The mob beat up to where we stood, surrounding
us, shouting at us. From somewhere some one brought an old table and two
decrepit chairs, battered and rickety in themselves, but symbols of
great authority in a community where nobody habitually used either. Two
naked boys proudly took charge of our bicycles.

We seated ourselves.

"Fall in!" we yelled.

About half the crowd fell into rough lines. The rest drew slightly to
one side. Nobody stopped talking for a single instant.

We arose and tackled our job. The first part of it was to segregate the
applicants into their different tribes.

"Monumwezi hapa!" we yelled; and the command was repeated and repeated
again by the headman, by his four personal assistants, by a half-dozen
lesser headmen. Slowly the Monumwezi drew aside. We impressed on them
emphatically they must stay thus, and went after, in turn, the Baganda,
the Wakamba, the Swahilis, the Kavirondo, the Kikuyu. When we had them
grouped, we went over them individually. We punched their chests, we ran
over all their joints, we examined their feet, we felt their muscles.
Our victims stood rigidly at inspection, but their numerous friends
surrounded us closely, urging the claims of the man to our notice. It
was rather confusing, but we tried to go at it as though we were alone
in a wilderness. If the man passed muster we motioned him to a rapidly
growing group.

When we had finished we had about sixty men segregated. Then we went
over this picked lot again. This time we tried not only to get good
specimens, but to mix our tribes. At last our count of twenty-nine was
made up, and we took a deep breath. But to us came one of them
complaining that he was a Monumwezi, and that we had picked only three
Monumwezi, and--We cut him short. His contention was quite correct. A
porter tent holds five, and it does not do to mix tribes.
Reorganization! Cut out two extra Kavirondos, and include two more
Monumwezi. "Bass! finished! Now go get your effects. We start
immediately."

As quickly as it had filled, the street cleared. The rejected dived back
into their huts, the newly enlisted carriers went to collect their
baggage. Only remained the headman and his fierce-faced assistants, and
the splendid youths idling up and down--none of them had volunteered,
you may be sure--and the damsels of leisure beneath the porticos. Also
one engaging and peculiar figure hovering near.

This individual had been particularly busy during our recruiting. He had
hustled the men into line, he had advised us for or against different
candidates, he had loudly sung my praises as a man to work for,
although, of course, he knew nothing about me. Now he approached,
saluted, smiled. He was a tall, slenderly-built person, with
phenomenally long, thin legs, slightly rounded shoulders, a forward
thrust, keen face, and remarkably long, slim hands. With these he
gesticulated much, in a right-angled fashion, after the manner of
Egyptian hieroglyphical figures. He was in no manner shenzi. He wore a
fez, a neat khaki coat and shorts, blue puttees and boots. Also a belt
with leather pockets, a bunch of keys, a wrist watch, and a seal ring.
His air was of great elegance and social ease. We took him with us as
C.'s gunbearer. He proved staunch, a good tracker, an excellent hunter,
and a most engaging individual. His name was Kongoni, and he was a
Wakamba.

But now we were confronted with a new problem: that of getting our
twenty-nine chosen ones together again. They had totally disappeared. In
all directions we had emissaries beating up the laggards. As each man
reappeared carrying his little bundle, we lined him up with his
companions. Then when we turned our backs we lost him again; he had
thought of another friend with whom to exchange farewells. At the long
last, however, we got them all collected. The procession started, the
naked boys proudly wheeling our bikes alongside. We saw them fairly
clear of everything, then turned them over to Kongoni, while we returned
to Nairobi to see after our effects.

FOOTNOTES:

[10] Work.




PART IV. A LION HUNT ON KAPITI.




XVII.

AN OSTRICH FARM AT MACHAKOS.


This has to do with a lion hunt on the Kapiti Plains. On the veranda at
Nairobi I had some time previous met Clifford Hill, who had invited me
to visit him at the ostrich farm he and his cousin were running in the
mountains near Machakos. Some time later, a visit to Juja Farm gave me
the opportunity. Juja is only a day's ride from the Hills'. So an
Africander, originally from the south, Captain D., and I sent across a
few carriers with our personal effects, and ourselves rode over on
horseback.

Juja is on the Athi Plains. Between the Athi and Kapiti Plains runs a
range of low mountains around the end of which one can make his way as
around a promontory. The Hills' ostrich farm was on the highlands in the
bay on the other side of the promontory.

It was towards the close of the rainy season, and the rivers were up.
We had to swim our horses within a half-mile of Juja, and got pretty
wet. Shortly after crossing the Athi, however, five miles on, we emerged
on the dry, drained slopes from the hills. Here the grass was long, and
the ticks plentiful. Our horses' legs and chests were black with them;
and when we dismounted for lunch we ourselves were almost immediately
alive with the pests. In this very high grass the game was rather
scarce, but after we had climbed by insensible grades to the shorter
growth we began to see many hartebeeste, zebra, and gazelles, and a few
of the wildebeeste, or brindled gnus. Travel over these great plains and
through these leisurely low hills is a good deal like coastwise
sailing--the same apparently unattainable landmarks which, nevertheless,
are at last passed and left astern by the same sure but insensible
progress. Thus we drew up on apparently continuous hills, found wide
gaps between them, crossed them, and turned to the left along the other
side of the promontory. About five o'clock we came to the Hills'.

The ostrich farm is situated on the very top of a conical rise that
sticks up like an island close inshore to the semicircle of mountains in
which end the vast plains of Kapiti. Thus the Hills have at their backs
and sides these solid ramparts and face westward the immensities of
space. For Kapiti goes on over the edge of the world to unknown,
unguessed regions, rolling and troubled like a sea. And from that
unknown, on very still days, the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro peers out,
sketched as faintly against the sky as a soap bubble wafted upward and
about to disappear. Here and there on the plains kopjes stand like
islands, their stone tops looking as though thrust through the smooth
prairie surface from beneath. To them meandered long, narrow ravines
full of low brush, like thin, wavering streaks of gray. On these
kopjes--each of which had its name--and in these ravines we were to hunt
lions.

We began the ascent of the cone on which dwelt our hosts. It was one of
those hills that seem in no part steep, and yet which finally succeed in
raising one to a considerable height. We passed two ostrich herds in
charge of savages, rode through a scattered native village, and so came
to the farm itself, situated on the very summit.

The house consisted of three large circular huts, thatched neatly with
papyrus stalks, and with conical roofs. These were arranged as a
triangle, just touching each other; and the space between had been
roofed over to form a veranda. We were ushered into one of these
circular rooms. It was spacious and contained two beds, two chairs, a
dresser, and a table. Its earth floor was completely covered by the
skins of animals. In the corresponding room, opposite, slept our hosts;
while the third was the living and dining room. A long table, raw-hide
bottomed chairs, a large sideboard, bookcases, a long easy settee with
pillows, gun racks, photographs in and out of frames, a table with
writing materials, and books and magazines everywhere--not to speak of
again the skins of many animals completely covering the floor. Out
behind, in small, separate buildings, laboured the cook, and dwelt the
stores, the bath-tub, and other such necessary affairs.

As soon as we had consumed the usual grateful lime juice and sparklets,
we followed our hosts into the open air to look around.

On this high, airy hill top the Hills some day are going to build them a
real house. In anticipation they have laid out grounds and have planted
many things. In examining these my California training stood by me. Out
there, as here, one so often examines his own and his neighbours'
gardens, not for what they are but for what they shall become. His
imagination can exalt this tiny seedling to the impressiveness of
spreading noontime shade; can magnify yonder apparent duplicate to the
full symmetry of a shrub; can ruthlessly diminish the present importance
of certain grand and lofty growths to its true status of flower or
animal. So from a dead uniformity of size he casts forward in the years
to a pleasing variation of shade, of jungle, of open glade, of flowered
vista; and he goes away full of expert admiration for "X.'s bully
garden." With this solid training beneath me I was able on this occasion
to please immensely.

From the house site we descended the slope to where the ostriches and
the cattle and the people were in the late sunlight swarming upward from
the plains pastures below. These people were, to the chief extent,
Wakamba, quite savage, but attracted here by the justness and fair
dealing of the Hills. Some of them farmed on shares with the Hills, the
white men furnishing the land and seed, and the black men the labour;
some of them laboured on wage; some few herded cattle or ostriches; some
were hunters and took the field only when, as now, serious business was
afoot. They had their complete villages, with priests, witch doctors,
and all; and they seemed both contented and fond of the two white men.

As we walked about we learned much of the ostrich business; and in the
course of our ten days' visit we came to a better realization of how
much there is to think of in what appears basically so simple a
proposition.

In the nesting time, then, the Hills went out over the open country,
sometimes for days at a time, armed with long high-power telescopes.
With these fearsome and unwieldy instruments they surveyed the country
inch by inch from the advantage of a kopje. When thus they discovered a
nest, they descended and appropriated the eggs. The latter, hatched at
home in an incubator, formed the nucleus of a flock.

Pass the raising of ostrich chicks to full size through the difficulties
of disease, wild beasts, and sheer cussedness. Of the resultant thirty
birds or so of the season's catch, but two or three will even promise
good production. These must be bred in captivity with other likely
specimens. Thus after several years the industrious ostrich farmer may
become possessed of a few really prime birds. To accumulate a proper
flock of such in a new country is a matter of a decade or so. Extra
prime birds are as well known and as much in demand for breeding as any
blood horse in a racing country. Your true ostrich enthusiast, like the
Hills, possesses trunks full of feathers not good commercially, but
intensely interesting for comparison and for the purposes of prophecy.
While I stayed with them came a rumour of a very fine plucking a distant
neighbour had just finished from a likely two-year-old. The Hills were
manifestly uneasy until one of them had ridden the long distance to
compare this newcomer's product with that of their own two-year-olds.
And I shall never forget the reluctantly admiring shake of the head with
which he acknowledged that it was indeed a "very fine feather!"

But getting the birds is by no means all of ostrich farming, as many
eager experimenters have discovered to their cost. The birds must have a
certain sort of pasture land; and their paddocks must be built on an
earth that will not soil or break the edges of the new plumes.

And then there is the constant danger of wild beasts. When a man has
spent years in gathering suitable flocks, he cannot be blamed for wild
anger when, as happened while I was in the country, lions kill sixty or
seventy birds in a night. The ostrich seems to tempt lions greatly. The
beasts will make their way through and over the most complicated
defences. Any ostrich farmer's life is a constant warfare against them.
Thus the Hills had slain sixty-eight lions in and near their farm--a
tremendous record. Still the beasts continued to come in. My hosts
showed me, with considerable pride, their arrangements finally evolved
for night protection.

The ostriches were confined in a series of heavy corrals, segregating
the birds of different ages. Around the outside of this group of
enclosures ran a wide ring corral in which were confined the numerous
cattle; and as an outer wall to this were built the huts of the Wakamba
village. Thus to penetrate to the ostriches the enterprising lion would
have to pass both the people, the cattle, and the strong thorn and log
structures that contained them.

This subject brings me to another set of acquaintances we had already
made--the dogs.

These consisted of an Airedale named Ruby; two setters called Wayward
and Girlie; a heavy black mongrel, Nero; ditto brindle, Ben; and a
smaller black and white ditto, Ranger. They were very nice friendly
doggy dogs, but they did not look like lion hunters. Nevertheless, Hill
assured us that they were of great use in the sport, and promised us
that on the following day we should see just how.




XVIII

THE FIRST LIONESS.


At an early hour we loaded our bedding, food, tents, and camp outfit on
a two-wheeled wagon drawn by four of the humpbacked native oxen, and
sent it away across the plains, with instructions to make camp on a
certain kopje. Clifford Hill and myself, accompanied by our gunbearers
and syces, then rode leisurely down the length of a shallow brushy canon
for a mile or so. There we dismounted and sat down to await the arrival
of the others. These--including Harold Hill, Captain D., five or six
Wakamba spearmen, our own carriers, and the dogs--came along more
slowly, beating the bottoms on the off chance of game.

The sun was just warming, and the bees and insects were filling the air
with their sleepy droning sounds. The hillside opposite showed many
little outcrops of rocks so like the hills of our own Western States
that it was somewhat difficult to realize that we were in Africa. For
some reason the delay was long. Then suddenly all four of us
simultaneously saw the same thing. A quarter-mile away and on the
hillside opposite a magnificent lioness came loping easily along through
the grass. She looked very small at that distance, like a toy, and quite
unhurried. Indeed, every few moments she paused to look back in an
annoyed fashion over her shoulder in the direction of the row behind
her.

There was nothing to do but sit tight and wait. The lioness was headed
exactly to cross our front; nor, except at one point, was she at all
likely to deviate. A shallow tributary ravine ran into our own about two
hundred yards away. She might possibly sneak down the bed of this. It
seemed unlikely. The going was bad, and in addition she had no idea as
yet that she had been sighted. Indeed, the chances were that she would
come to a definite stop before making the crossing, in which case we
would get a shot.

"And if she does go down the donga," whispered Hill, "the dogs will
locate her."

Sitting still while things approach is always exciting. This is true of
ducks; but when you multiply ducks by lions it is still more true. We
all crouched very low in the grass. She leapt without hesitation into
the ravine--and did not emerge.

This was a disappointment. We concluded she must have entered the stream
bottom, and were just about to move when Memba Sasa snapped his fingers.
His sharp eyes had discovered her sneaking along, belly to the ground,
like the cat she was. The explanation of this change in her gait was
simple. Our companions had rounded the corner of the hill and were
galloping in plain view a half-mile away. The lioness had caught sight
of them.

She was gliding by, dimly visible, through thick brush seventy yards
distant. Now I could make out a tawny patch that faded while I looked;
now I could merely guess at a melting shadow.

"Stir her up," whispered Hill. "Never mind whether you hit. She'll sneak
away."

At the shot she leaped fully out into the open with a snarl. Promptly I
planted a Springfield bullet in her ribs. She answered slightly to the
hit, but did not shift position. Her head up, her tail thrashing from
side to side, her ears laid back, she stood there looking the landscape
over carefully point by point. She was searching for us, but as yet
could not locate us. It was really magnificent.

I attempted to throw in another cartridge, but because of my desire to
work the bolt quietly, in order not to attract the lioness's attention,
I did not pull it back far enough, and the cartridge jammed in the
magazine. As evidence of Memba Sasa's coolness and efficiency, it is to
be written that he became aware of this as soon as I did. He thrust
the.405 across my right side, at the same time withdrawing the
Springfield on the left. The motion was slight, but the lioness caught
it. Immediately she dropped her head and charged.

For the next few moments, naturally, I was pretty intent on lions.
Nevertheless a corner of my mind was aware of Memba Sasa methodically
picking away at the jammed rifle, and paying no attention whatever to
the beast. Also I heard Hill making picturesque remarks about his
gunbearer, who had bolted with his second gun.

The lioness charged very fast, but very straight, about in the tearing,
scrambling manner of a terrier after a thrown ball. I got in the first
shot as she came, the bullet ranging back from the shoulder, and Hill
followed it immediately with another from his.404 Jeffrey. She growled
at the bullets, and checked very slightly as they hit, but gave no other
sign. Then our second shots hit her both together. The mere shock
stopped her short, but recovering instantly, she sprang forward again.
Hill's third shot came next, and perceptibly slowed and staggered, but
did not stop her. By this time she was quite close, and my own third
shot reached her brain. She rolled over dead.

Decidedly she was a game beast, and stood more hammering than any other
lion I killed or saw killed. Before the final shot in the brain she had
taken one light bullet and five heavy ones with hardly a wince. Memba
Sasa uttered a loud grunt of satisfaction when she went down for good.
He had the Springfield reloaded and cocked, right at my elbow.

Hill's gunboy hovered uncertainly some distance in the rear. The sight
of the charging lioness had been too much for him and he had bolted. He
was not actually up a tree; but he stood very near one. He lost the gun
and acquired a swift kick.

Our friends and the men now came up. The dogs made a great row over the
dead lioness. She was measured and skinned to accompaniment of the usual
low-hummed chantings. We had with us a small boy of ten or twelve years
whose job it was to take care of the dogs and to remove ticks. In fact
he was known as the Tick Toto. As this was his first expedition afield,
his father took especial pains to smear him with fat from the lioness.
This was to make him brave. I am bound to confess the effect was not
immediate.




XIX.

THE DOGS.


I soon discovered that we were hunting lions with the assistance of the
dogs; not that the dogs were hunting lions. They had not lost any lions,
not they! My mental pictures of the snarling, magnificent king of beasts
surrounded by an equally snarling, magnificent pack vanished into thin
air.

Our system was to cover as much likely country as we could, and to let
the dogs have a good time. As I have before indicated, they were
thoroughly doggy dogs, and interested in everything--except able-bodied
lions. None of the stick-at-your-heels in their composition. They ranged
far and wide through all sorts of cover, seeking what they could find in
the way of porcupines, mongoose, hares, birds, cats, and whatever else
should interest any healthy-minded dog. If there happened to be any
lions in the path of these rangings, the dogs retired rapidly,
discreetly, and with every symptom of horrified disgust. If a dog came
sailing out of a thicket, ki-yi-ing agitatedly, and took up his
position, tail between his legs, behind his master, we knew there was
probably a lion about. Thus we hunted lions with dogs.

But in order to be fair to these most excellent canines, it should be
recorded that they recovered a certain proportion of their nerve after a
rifle had been fired. They then returned warily to the--not
attack--reconnaissance. This trait showed touching faith, and was a real
compliment to the marksmanship of their masters. Some day it will be
misplaced. A little cautious scouting on their part located the wounded
beast; whereupon, at a respectful distance, they lifted their voices. As
a large element of danger in case of a wounded lion is the uncertainty
as to his whereabouts, it will be seen that the dogs were very valuable
indeed. They seemed to know exactly how badly hit any animal might
happen to be, and to gauge their distance accordingly, until at last,
when the quarry was hammered to harmlessness, they closed in and began
to worry the nearly lifeless carcass. By this policy the dogs had a lot
of fun hunting on their own hook, preserved their lives from otherwise
inevitable extinction, and were of great assistance in saving their
masters' skins.

One member of the pack, perhaps two, were, however, rather pathetic
figures. I refer to the setters, Wayward and Girlie. Ranger, Ruby, Ben,
and Nero scampered merrily over the landscape after anything that
stirred, from field mice to serval cats. All was game to their catholic
tastes; and you may be sure, in a country like Africa, they had few dull
moments. But Wayward and Girlie had been brought up in a more exclusive
manner. Their early instincts had been supplemented by a rigorous early
training. Game to them meant birds, and birds only. Furthermore, they
had been solemnly assured by human persons in whom they had the utmost
confidence, that but one sequence of events was permissible or even
thinkable in the presence of game. The Dog at first intimation by scent
must convey the fact to the Man, must proceed cautiously to locate
exactly, must then stiffen to a point which he must hold staunchly, no
matter how distracting events might turn out, or how long an interval
might elapse. The Man must next walk up the birds; shoot at them,
perhaps kill one, then command the Dog to retrieve. The Dog must on no
account move from his tracks until such command is given. All the affair
is perfectly simple; but quite inflexible. Any variation in this
procedure fills the honest bird dog's mind with the same horror and
dismay experienced by a well-brought-up young man who discovers that he
has on shoes of the wrong colour. It isn't done, you know.

Consider, then, Wayward and Girlie in a country full of game birds. They
quarter wide to right, then cross to left, their heads high, their
feather tails waving in the most approved good form. When they find
birds they draw to their points in the best possible style; stiffen
out--and wait. It is now, according to all good ethics, up to the Man.
And the Man and his companions go right on by, paying absolutely no
attention either to the situation or one's own magnificent piece of
work! What is one to conclude? That our early training is all wrong?
that we are at one experience to turn apostate to the settled and only
correct order of things? Or that our masters are no gentlemen? That is a
pretty difficult thing, an impossible thing, to conclude of one's own
master. But it leaves one in a fearful state mentally; and one has no
idea of what to do!

Wayward was a perfect gentleman, and he played the game according to
the very best traditions. He conscientiously pointed every bird he could
get his nose on. Furthermore he was absolutely staunch, and held his
point even when the four non-bird dogs rushed in ahead of him. The
expression of puzzlement, grief, shock, and sadness in his eyes deepened
as bird after bird soared away without a shot. Girlie was more
liberal-minded. She pointed her birds, and backed Wayward at need, but
when the other dogs rushed her point, she rushed too. And when we swept
on by her, leaving her on point, instead of holding it quixotically, as
did Wayward, until the bird sneaked away, she merely waited until we
were out of sight, and then tried to catch it. Finally Captain D.
remarked that, lions or no lions, he was not going to stand it any
longer. He got out a shotgun, and all one afternoon killed grouse over
Wayward, to the latter's intense relief. His ideals had been
rehabilitated.




XX.

BONDONI.


We followed many depressions, in which might be lions, until about three
o'clock in the afternoon. Then we climbed the gently-rising long slope
that culminated, far above the plains, in the peak of a hill called
Bondoni. From a distance it was steep and well defined; but, like most
of these larger kopjes, its actual ascent, up to the last few hundred
feet, was so gradual that we hardly knew we were climbing. At the summit
we found our men and the bullock cart. There also stood an oblong
blockhouse of stone, the walls two feet thick and ten feet high. It was
entered only by a blind angle passage, and was strong enough,
apparently, to resist small artillery. This structure was simply an
ostrich corral, and bitter experience had shown the massive construction
absolutely necessary as adequate protection, in this exposed and
solitary spot, against the lions.

We had some tea and bread and butter, and then Clifford Hill and I set
out afoot after meat. Only occasionally do these hard-working settlers
get a chance for hunting on the plains so near them; and now they had
promised their native retainers that they would send back a treat of
game. To carry this promised luxury, a number of the villagers had
accompanied the bullock wagon. As we were to move on next day, it became
very desirable to get the meat promptly while still near home.

We slipped over to the other side, and by good fortune caught sight of a
dozen zebras feeding in scrub half-way down the hill. They were out of
their proper environment up there, but we were glad of it. Down on our
tummies, then, we dropped, and crawled slowly forward through the high,
sweet grasses. We were in the late afternoon shadow of the hill, and we
enjoyed the mild skill of the stalk. Taking advantage of every cover,
slipping over into little ravines, lying very flat when one of the
beasts raised his head, we edged nearer and nearer. We were already well
within range, but it amused us to play the game. Finally, at one hundred
yards, we came to a halt. The zebra showed very handsome at that range,
for even their smaller leg stripes were all plainly visible. Of course
at that distance there could be small chance of missing, and we owned
one each. The Wakamba, who had been watching eagerly, swarmed down,
shouting.

We dined just at sunset under a small tree at the very top of the peak.
Long bars of light shot through the western clouds; the plain turned
from solid earth to a mysterious sea of shifting twilights; the buttes
stood up, wrapped in veils of soft desert colours; Kilimanjaro hung
suspended like a rose-coloured bubble above the abyss beyond the world.




XXI.

RIDING THE PLAINS.


From the mere point of view of lions, lion A hunting was very slow work
indeed. It meant riding the whole of long days, from dawn until dark,
investigating miles of country that looked all alike and in which we
seemed to get nowhere. One by one the long billows of plain fell behind,
until our camp hill had turned blue behind us, and we seemed to be out
in illimitable space, with no possibility, in an ordinary lifetime, of
ever getting in touch with anything again. What from above had looked as
level as a floor now turned into a tremendously wide and placid ground
swell. As a consequence we were always going imperceptibly up and up and
up to a long-delayed sky-line, or tipping as gently down the other side
of the wave. From crest to crest of these long billows measured two or
three miles. The vertical distance in elevation from trough to top was
perhaps not over fifty to one hundred feet.

Slowly we rode along the shallow grass and brush ravines in the troughs
of the low billows, while the dogs worked eagerly in and out of cover,
and our handful of savages cast stones and shouted. Occasionally we
divided forces, and beat the length of a hill, two of us lying in wait
at one end for the possible lion, the rest sweeping the sides and
summits. Many animals came bounding along, but no lions. Then Harold
Hill, unlimbering a huge, many-jointed telescope, would lie flat on his
back, and sight the fearsome instrument over his crossed feet, in a
general bird's-eye view of the plains for miles around. While he was at
it we were privileged to look about us, less under the burden of
responsibility. We could make out the game as little, light-coloured
dots and speckles, thousands upon thousands of them, thicker than cattle
ever grazed on the open range, and as far as the eye could make them
out, and then a glance through our glasses picked them up again for mile
after mile. Even the six-power could go no farther. The imagination was
left the vision of more leagues of wild animals even to the half-guessed
azure mountains--and beyond. I had seen abundant game elsewhere in
Africa, but nothing like the multitudes inhabiting the Kapiti Plains at
that time of year. In other seasons this locality is comparatively
deserted.

The glass revealing nothing in our line, we rode again to the lower
levels, and again took up our slow, painstaking search.

But although three days went by in this manner without our getting a
glimpse of lions, they were far from being days lost. Minor adventure
filled our hours. What elsewhere would be of major interest and strange
and interesting experience met us at every turn. The game, while
abundant, was very shy. This had nothing to do with distrust of hunters,
but merely with the fact that it was the season of green grass. We liked
to come upon animals unexpectedly, to see them buck-jump and cavort.

Otherwise we rode in a moving space cleared of animals, the beasts
unobtrusively giving way before us, and as unobtrusively closing in
behind. The sun flashed on the spears of savages travelling single file
across the distance. Often we stopped short to gaze upon a wild and
tumbled horizon of storm that Gustave Dore might have drawn.

The dogs were always joyously routing out some beast, desirable from
their point of view, and chasing it hopelessly about, to our great
amusement. Once they ran into a giant porcupine-about the size a setter
would be, with shorter legs-which did not understand running away. They
came upon it in a dense thicket, and the ensuing row was unholy. They
managed to kill the porcupine among them, after which we plucked barbed
quills from some very grieved dogs. The quills were large enough to make
excellent penholders. The dogs also swore by all canine gods that they
wouldn't do a thing to a hyena, if only they could get hold of one. They
never got hold of one, for the hyena is a coward. His skull and teeth,
however, are as big and powerful as those of a lioness; so I do not know
which was luckier in his avoidance of trouble--he or the dogs.

Nor from the shooting standpoint did we lack for sport. We had to shoot
for our men, and we occasionally needed meat ourselves. It was always
interesting, when such necessities arose, to stalk the shy buck and do
long-range rifle practice. This shooting, however, was done only after
the day's hunt was over. We had no desire to spoil our lion chances.

The long circle towards our evening camp always proved very long indeed.
We arrived at dusk to find supper ready for us. As we were old
campaigners we ate this off chop boxes as tables, and sat on the ground.
It was served by a Wakamba youth we had nicknamed Herbert Spencer, on
account of his gigantic intellect. Herbert meant well, but about all he
succeeded in accomplishing was a pathetically wrinkled brow of care and
scared eyes. He had never been harshly treated by any of us, but he
acted as though always ready to bolt. If there were twenty easy right
methods of doing a thing and one difficult wrong method, Herbert would
get the latter every time. No amount of experience could teach him the
logic of our simplest ways. One evening he brought a tumbler of mixed
water and condensed milk. Harold Hill glanced into the receptacle.

"Stir it," he commanded briefly.

Herbert Spencer obeyed. We talked about something else. Some five or ten
minutes later one of us noticed that Herbert was still stirring, and
called attention to the fact. When the latter saw our eyes were on him
he speeded up until the spoon fairly rattled in the tumbler. Then, when
he thought our attention had relaxed again, he relaxed also his
efforts--the spoon travelled slower and slower in its dreamy circle. We
amused ourselves for some time thus. Then we became so weak from
laughter that we fell backward off our seats, and some one gasped a
command that Herbert cease.

I am afraid, after a little, that we rather enjoyed mildly tormenting
poor Herbert Spencer. He tried so hard, and looked so scared, and was so
unbelievably stupid! Almost always he had to pick his orders word by
word from a vast amount of high-flown, unnecessary English.

"O Herbert Spencer," the command would run, "if you would condescend to
bend your mighty intellect to the lowly subject of maji, and will snatch
time from your profound cerebrations to assure its being moto sans, I
would esteem it infinite condescension on your part to let pesi pesi."

And Herbert, listening to all this with a painful, strained intensity,
would catch the six-key words, and would falter forth a trembling "N'dio
bwana."

Somewhere down deep within Herbert Spencer's make up, however, was a
sense of moral duty. When we finally broke camp for good, on the great
hill of Lucania, Herbert Spencer, relieved from his job, bolted like a
shot. As far as we could see him he was running at top speed. If he had
not possessed a sense of duty, he would have done this long ago.

We camped always well up on some of the numerous hills; for, although
anxious enough to find lions in the daytime, we had no use for them at
all by night. This usually meant that the boys had to carry water some
distance. We kept a canvas bath-tub full for the benefit of the dogs,
from which they could drink at any time. This necessary privilege after
a hard day nearly drove Captain D. crazy. It happened like this:

We were riding along the slope of a hillside, when in the ravine, a half
mile away and below us, we saw something dark pop up in sight and then
down again. We shouted to some of the savage Wakamba to go and
investigate. They closed in from all sides, their long spears poised to
strike. At the last moment out darted, not an animal, but a badly
frightened old man armed with bow and arrow. He dashed out under the
upraised spears, clasped one of the men around the knees, and implored
protection. Our savages, their spears ready, glanced over their
shoulders for instruction. They would have liked nothing better than to
have spitted the poor old fellow.

We galloped down as fast as possible to the rescue. With reluctance our
spearmen drew back, releasing their prize. We picked up his scattered
bows and arrows, restored them to him, and uttered many reassurances. He
was so badly frightened that he could not stand for the trembling of his
knees. Undoubtedly he thought that war had broken out, and that he was
the first of its unconscious victims. After calming him down, we told
him what we were doing, and offered to shoot him meat if he cared to
accompany us. He accepted the offer with joy. So pleased and relieved
was he, that he skipped about like a young and nimble goat. His hunting
companion, who all this time had stood atop of a hill at a safe
distance, viewed these performances with concern. Our captive shouted
loudly for him to come join us and share in the good fortune. Not he! He
knew a trap when he saw one! Not a bit disturbed by the tales this man
would probably carry back home, our old fellow attached himself to us
for three days!

Near sundown, to make our promise good, and also to give our own men a
feast, I shot two hartebeeste near camp.

The evening was beautiful. The Machakos Range, miles distant across the
valley, was mantled with thick, soft clouds. From our elevation we could
see over them, and catch the glow of moonlight on their upper surfaces.
We were very tired, so we turned in early and settled ourselves for a
good rest.

Outside our tent the little "Injun fire" we had built for our own
comfort died down to coals. A short distance away, however, was a huge
bonfire around which all the savages were gathered. They squatted
comfortably on their heels, roasting meat. Behind each man was planted
his glittering long-bladed spear. The old man held the place of honour,
as befitted his flirtation with death that morning. Everybody was
absolutely happy--a good fire, plenty of meat, and strangers with whom
to have a grand "shauri." The clatter of tongues was a babel, for almost
every one talked at once and excitedly. Those who did not talk crooned
weird, improvised chants, in which they detailed the doings of the camp.

We fell very quickly into the half doze of too great exhaustion. It
never became more than a half doze. I suppose every one who reads this
has had at some time the experience of dropping asleep to the
accompaniment of some noise that ought soon to cease--a conversation in
the next room, singing, the barking of a dog, the playing of music, or
the like. The fact that it ought soon to cease, permits the falling
asleep. When, after an interval, the subconsciousness finds the row
still going on, inexcusable and unabated, it arouses the victim to
staring exasperation. That was our case here. Those natives should have
turned in for sleep after a reasonable amount of pow-wow. They did
nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I dragged reluctantly back to
consciousness and the realization that they had quite happily settled
down to make a night of it. I glanced across the little tent to where
Captain D. lay on his cot. He was staring straight upward, his eyes wide
open.

After a few seconds he slipped out softly and silently. Our little fire
had sunk to embers. A dozen sticks radiated from the centre of coals.
Each made a firebrand with one end cool to the grasp. Captain D. hurled
one of these at the devoted and unconscious group.

It whirled through the air and fell plunk in the other fire, scattering
sparks and coals in all directions. The second was under way before the
first had landed. It hit a native with similar results, plus astonished
and grieved language. The rest followed in rapid-magazine-fire. Every
one hit its mark fair and square. The air was full of sparks exploding
in all directions. The brush was full of Wakamba, their blankets
flapping in the breeze of their going. The convention was adjourned.
There fell the sucking vacuum of a great silence. Captain D., breathing
righteous wrath, flopped heavily and determinedly down on his cot. I
caught a faint snicker from the tent next door.

Captain D. sighed deeply, turned over, and prepared to sleep. Then one
of the dogs uprose--I think it was Ben--stretched himself, yawned,
approached deliberately, and began to drink from the canvas bath-tub
just outside. He drank--lap, lap, lap, lap--for a very long time. It
seemed incredible that any mere dog--or canvas bath-tub--could hold so
much water. The steady repetition of this sound long after it should
logically have ceased was worse than the shenzi gathering around the
fire. Each lap should have been the last, but it was not. The shenzi
convention had been abated with firebrands, but the dog was strictly
within his rights. The poor pups had had a long day with little water,
and they could hardly be blamed for feeling a bit feverish now. At last
Ben ceased. Next morning Captain D. claimed vehemently that he had drunk
two hours forty-nine minutes and ten seconds. With a contented sigh Ben
lay down. Then Ruby got up, shook herself, and yawned. A bright idea
struck her. She too went over and had a drink. After that I, personally,
went to sleep. But in the morning I found Captain D. staring-eyed and
strung nearly to madness, trying feverishly to calculate how seven dogs
drinking on an average of three hours apiece could have finished by
morning. When Harold Hill innocently asked if he had slept well, the
captain threw the remaining but now extinct firebrand at him.

One of the safari boys, a big Baganda, had twisted his foot a little,
and it had swelled up considerably. In the morning he came to have it
attended to. The obvious treatment was very hot water and rest; but it
would never do to tell him so. The recommendation of so simple a remedy
would lose me his faith. So I gave him a little dab of tick ointment
wrapped in a leaf.

"This," said I, "is most wonderful medicine; but it is also most
dangerous. If you were to rub it on your foot or your hand or any part
of you, that part would drop off. But if you wash the part in very hot
water continuously for a half hour, and then put on the medicine, it is
good, and will cure you very soon." I am sure I do not know what they
put in tick ointment; nor, for the purpose, did it greatly matter. That
night, also, Herbert Spencer reached the climax of his absurdities. The
chops he had cooked did not quite suffice for our hunger, so we
instructed him to give us some of the leg. By this we meant steak, of
course. Herbert Spencer was gone so long a time that finally we went to
see what possibly could be the matter. We found him trying desperately
to cook the whole leg in a frying-pan!




XXII.

THE SECOND LIONESS.


Now our luck changed most abruptly. We had been riding since early
morning over the wide plains. By and by we came to a wide, shallow,
flood-water course carpeted with lava boulders and scant, scattered
brush. Two of us took one side of it, and two the other. At this we were
just within hailing distance. The boys wandered down the middle.

Game was here very abundant, and in this broken country proved quite
approachable. I saw one Grant's gazelle head, in especial, that greatly
tempted me; but we were hunting lions, and other shooting was out of
place. Also the prospects for lions had brightened, for we were
continually seeing hyenas in packs of from three to six. They lay among
the stones, but galloped away at our approach. The game paid not the
slightest attention to these huge, skulking brutes. One passed within
twenty feet of a hartebeeste; the latter hardly glanced at him. As the
hyena is lazy as well as cowardly, and almost never does his killing, we
inferred a good meat supply to gather so many of them in one place. From
a tributary ravine we flushed nineteen!

Harold Hill was riding with me on the right bank. His quick eye caught a
glimpse of something beyond our companions on the left side. A glance
through the glasses showed me that it was a lion, just disappearing over
the hill. At once we turned our horses to cross. It was a heavy job. We
were naturally in a tremendous hurry; and the footing among those
boulders and rounded rocks was so vile that a very slow trot was the
best we could accomplish. And that was only by standing in our stirrups,
and holding up our horses' heads by main strength. We reached the
sky-line in time to see a herd of game stampeding away from a depression
a half-mile away. We fixed our eyes on that point, and a moment later
saw the lion or lioness, as it turned out, leap a gully and come out the
other side.

The footing down this slope, too, was appalling, consisting mainly of
chunks of lava interspersed with smooth, rounded stones and sparse tufts
of grass. In spite of the stones we managed a sort of stumbling gallop.
Why we did not all go down in a heap I do not know. At any rate we had
no chance to watch our quarry, for we were forced to keep our eyes
strictly to our way. When finally we emerged from that tumble of rocks,
she had disappeared.

Either she had galloped out over the plains, or she had doubled back to
take cover in the ravine. In the latter case she would stand. Our first
job, therefore, was to determine whether she had escaped over the open
country. To this end we galloped our horses madly in four different
directions, pushing them to the utmost, swooping here and there in wide
circles. That was an exhilarating ten minutes until we had surmounted
every billow of the plain, spied in all directions, and assured
ourselves beyond doubt that she had not run off. The horses fairly flew,
spurning the hard sod, leaping the rock dikes, skipping nimbly around
the pig holes, turning like cow-ponies under pressure of knee and rein.
Finally we drew up, converged, and together jogged our sweating horses
back to the ravine. There we learned from the boys that nothing more had
been seen of our quarry.

We dismounted, handed our mounts to their syces, and prepared to make
afoot a clean sweep of the wide, shallow ravine. Here was where the dogs
came in handy. We left a rearguard of two men, and slowly began our
beat.

The ravine could hardly be called a ravine; rather a shallow depression
with banks not over a foot high, and with a varying width of from two to
two hundred feet. The grass grew very patchy, and not very high; in
fact, it seemed hardly tall enough to conceal anything as large as a
lioness. We men walked along the edge of this depression, while the dogs
ranged back and forth in its bottom.

We had gone thus a quarter-mile when one of the rearguard came running
up.

"Bwana," said he, "we have seen the lioness. She is lying in a patch of
grass. After you had passed, we saw her raise her head."

It seemed impossible that she should have escaped both our eyes and the
dogs' noses, but we returned. The man pointed out a thin growth of
dried, yellow grass ten feet in diameter. Then it seemed even more
incredible. Apparently we could look right through every foot of it. The
man persisted, so we advanced in battle array. At thirty yards Captain
D. saw the black tips of her ears. We all looked hard, and at last made
her out, lying very flat, her head between her paws. Even then she was
shadowy and unreal, and, as I have said, the cover did not look thick
enough to conceal a good-sized dog.

As though she realized she had been sighted, she at this moment leapt to
her feet. Instantly I put a.405 bullet into her shoulder. Any other lion
I ever saw or heard of would in such circumstances and at such a
distance immediately have charged home. She turned tail and ran away. I
missed her as she ran, then knocked her down with a third shot. She got
up again, but was immediately hit by Captain D.'s.350 Magnum and brought
to a halt. The dogs, seeing her turn tail and hearing our shots, had
scrambled madly after her. We dared not shoot again for fear of hitting
one of them, so we dashed rapidly into the grass and out the other side.
Before we could get to her, she had sent Ruby flying through the air,
and had then fallen over dead. Ruby got off lucky with only a deep gash
the length of her leg.

This was the only instance I experienced of a wounded lion showing the
white feather. She was, however, only about three-quarters grown, and
was suffering from diarrhoea.




XXIII.

THE BIG LION.


The boys skinned her while we ate lunch. Then we started several of them
back towards camp with the trophy, and ourselves cut across country to a
small river known as the Stony Athi. There we dismounted from our
horses, and sent them and the boys atop the ridge above the stream,
while we ourselves explored afoot the hillside along the river.

This was a totally different sort of country from that to which we had
been accustomed. Imagine a very bouldery hillside planted thickly with
knee-high brambles and more sparsely with higher bushes. They were not
really brambles, of course, but their tripping, tangling, spiky
qualities were the same. We had to force our way through these, or step
from boulder to boulder. Only very rarely did we get a little rubbly
clear space to walk in, and then for only ten or twenty feet. We tried
in spaced intervals to cover the whole hillside. It was very hard work.
The boys, with the horses, kept pace with us on the sky-line atop, and
two or three hundred yards away.

We had proceeded in this fashion for about a mile, when suddenly, and
most unexpectedly, the biggest lion I ever saw leapt straight up from a
bush twenty-five yards in front of me, and with a tremendous roar
vanished behind another bush. I had just time to throw up the.405
shotgun-fashion and let drive a snapshot. Clifford Hill, who was ten
yards to my right, saw the fur fly, and we all heard the snarl as the
bullet hit. Naturally we expected an instant charge, but, as things
turned out, it was evident the lion had not seen us at all. He had leapt
at the sight of our men and horses on the sky-line, and when the bullet
hit he must have ascribed it to them. At any rate, he began to circle
through the tangled vines in their direction.

From their elevation they could follow his movements. At once they set
up howls of terror and appeals for help. Some began frantically to run
back and forth. None of them tried to run away; there was nowhere to go!
The only thing that saved them was the thick and spiky character of the
cover. The lion, instead of charging straight and fast, was picking an
easy way.

We tore directly up hill as fast as we were able, leaping from rock to
rock, and thrusting recklessly through the tangle. About half-way up I
jumped to the top of a high, conical rock, and thence by good luck
caught sight of the lion's great yellow head advancing steadily about
eighty yards away. I took as good a sight as I could and pulled trigger.
The recoil knocked me clear off the boulder, but as I fell I saw his
tail go up and knew that I had hit. At once Clifford Hill and I jumped
up on the rock again, but the lion had moved out of sight. By this time,
however, the sound of the shots and the smell of blood had caused the
dogs to close in. They did not, of course, attempt to attack the lion,
nor even to get very near him, but their snarling and barking showed us
the beast's whereabouts. Even this much is bad judgment on their part,
as a number of them have been killed at it. The thicket burst into an
unholy row.

We all manoeuvred rapidly for position. Again luck was with me, for
again I saw his great head, the mane standing out all around it; and
for the second time I planted a heavy bullet square in his chest. This
stopped his advance; he lay down. His head was up and his eyes glared,
as he uttered the most reverberating and magnificent roars and growls.
The dogs leapt and barked around him. We came quite close, and I planted
my fourth bullet in his shoulder. Even this was not enough. It took a
fifth in the same place to finish him, and he died at last biting great
chunks of earth.

The howls from the hill top ceased. All gathered to marvel at the lion's
immense size. He measured three feet nine inches at the shoulder, and
nine feet eleven inches between stakes, or ten feet eleven inches along
contour. This is only five inches under record. We weighed him
piecemeal, after a fashion, and put him between 550 and 600 pounds.

But these are only statistics, and mean little unless a real attempt is
made to visualize them. As a matter of fact, his mere height--that of a
medium-size zebra-was little unless accented by the impression of his
tremendous power and quickness.

We skinned him, and then rode four long hours to camp. We arrived at
dark, and at once set to work preparing the trophy. A dozen of us
squatted around the skin, working by lantern light. Memba Sasa had had
nothing to eat since before dawn, but in his pride and delight he
refused to touch a mouthful until the job was finished. Several times we
urged him to stop long enough for even a bite. He steadily declined, and
whetted his knife, his eyes gleaming with delight, his lips crooning one
of his weird Monumwezi songs. At eleven o'clock the task was done. Then
I presented Memba Sasa with a tall mug of coffee and lots of sugar. He
considered this a great honour.




XXIV.

THE FIFTEEN LIONS.


Two days before Captain D. and I were to return to Juja we approached,
about eleven o'clock in the morning, a long, low, rugged range of hills
called Lucania. They were not very high, but bold with cliffs, buttes,
and broken rocky stretches. Here we were to make our final hunt.

We led our safari up to the level of a boulder flat between two deep
canons that ran down from the hills. Here should be water, so we
gathered under a lone little tree, and set about directing the simple
disposition of our camp. Herbert Spencer brought us a cold lunch, and we
sat down to rest and refreshment before tackling the range.

Hardly had we taken the first mouthfuls, however, when Memba Sasa,
gasping for breath, came tearing up the slope from the canon where he
had descended for a drink. "Lions!" he cried, guardedly. "I went to
drink, and I saw four lions. Two were lying under the shade, but two
others were playing like puppies, one on its back."

While he was speaking a lioness wandered out from the canon and up the
opposite slope. She was somewhere between six and nine hundred yards
away, and looked very tiny; but the binoculars brought us up to her with
a jump. Through them she proved to be a good one. She was not at all
hurried, but paused from time to time to yawn and look about her. After
a short interval, another, also a lioness, followed in her footsteps.
She too had climbed clear when a third, probably a full-grown but still
immature lion, came out, and after him the fourth.

"You were right," we told Memba Sasa, "there are your four."

But while we watched, a fifth, again at the spaced interval, this time a
maned lion, clambered leisurely up in the wake of his family; and after
him another, and another, and yet another! We gasped, and sat down, the
better to steady our glasses with our knees. There seemed no end to
lions. They came out of that apparently inexhaustible canon bed one at a
time and at the same regular intervals; perhaps twenty yards or so
apart. It was almost as though they were being released singly. Finally
we had _fifteen_ in sight.

It was a most magnificent spectacle, and we could enjoy it unhurried by
the feeling that we were losing opportunities. At that range it would be
silly to open fire. If we had descended to the canon in order to follow
them out the other side, they would merely have trotted away. Our only
chance was to wait until they had disappeared from sight, and then to
attempt a wide circle in order to catch them from the flank. In the
meantime we had merely to sit still.

Therefore we stared through our glasses, and enjoyed to the full this
most unusual sight. There were four cubs about as big as setter dogs,
four full-grown but immature youngsters, four lionesses, and three male
lions. They kept their spaced, single file formation for two-thirds the
ascent of the hill--probably the nature of the ground forced them to
it--and then gradually drew together. Near the top, but still below the
summit, they entered a jumble of boulders and stopped. We could make out
several of them lying down. One fine old yellow fellow stretched himself
comfortably atop a flat rock, in the position of a bronze lion on a
pedestal. We waited twenty minutes to make sure they were not going to
move. Then, leaving all our men except the gunbearers under the tree, we
slipped back until out of sight, and began to execute our flank
movement. The chances seemed good. The jumble of boulders was surrounded
by open country, and it was improbable the lions could leave it without
being seen. We had arranged with our men a system of signals.

For two hours we walked very hard in order to circle out of sight, down
wind, and to gain the other side of the ridge back of the lions. We
purposed slipping over the ridge and attacking from above. Even this was
but a slight advantage. The job was a stiff one, for we might expect
certainly the majority to charge.

Therefore, when we finally deployed in skirmish order and bore down on
that patch of brush and boulders, we were braced for the shock of
battle. We found nothing. Our men, however, signalled that the lions had
not left cover. After a little search, however, we discovered a very
shallow depression running slantwise up the hill and back of the cover.
So slight it was that even the glasses had failed to show it from below.
The lions had in all probability known about us from the start, and
were all the time engaged in withdrawing after their leisurely fashion.

Of course we hunted for them; in fact, we spent two days at it; but we
never found trace of them again. The country was too hard for tracking.
They had left Lucania. Probably by the time we had completed our two
hours of flanking movement they were five miles away. The presence of
cubs would account for this. In ordinary circumstances we should have
had a wonderful and exciting fight. But the sight of those fifteen great
beasts was one I shall never forget.

After we had hunted Lucania thoroughly we parted company with the Hills,
and returned to Juja Farm.




PART V.

THE TSAVO RIVER.






XXV.

VOI.


Part way up the narrow-gauge railroad from the coast is a station called
Voi. On his way to the interior the traveller stops there for an evening
meal. It is served in a high, wide stone room by white-robed Swahilis
under command of a very efficient and quiet East Indian. The voyager
steps out into the darkness to look across the way upon the outlines of
two great rounded hills against an amethyst sky. That is all he ever
sees of Voi, for on the down trip he passes through it about two o'clock
in the morning.

At that particularly trying hour F. and I descended, and attempted, by
the light of lanterns, to sort out twenty safari boys strange to us, and
miscellaneous camp stores. We did not entirely succeed. Three men were
carried on down the line, and the fly to our tent was never seen again.

The train disappeared. Our boys, shivering, crept into corners. We took
possession of the dak-bungalow maintained by the railroad for just such
travellers as ourselves. It was simply a high stone room, with three
iron beds, and a corner so cemented that one could pour pails of water
over one's self without wetting the whole place. The beds were supplied
with mosquito canopies and strong wire springs. Over these we spread our
own bedding, and thankfully resumed our slumbers.

The morning discovered to us Voi as the station, the district
commissioner's house on a distant side hill, and a fairly extensive East
Indian bazaar. The keepers of the latter traded with the natives.
Immediately about the station grew some flat shady trees. All else was
dense thorn scrub pressing close about the town. Opposite were the tall,
rounded mountains.

Nevertheless, in spite of its appearance, Voi has its importance in the
scheme of things. From it, crossing the great Serengetti desert, runs
the track to Kilimanjaro and that part of German East Africa. The
Germans have as yet no railroad; so they must perforce patronize the
British line thus far, and then trek across. As the Kilimanjaro
district is one rich in natives and trade, the track is well used. Most
of the transport is done by donkeys--either in carts or under the pack
saddle. As the distance from water to water is very great, the journey
is a hard one. This fact, and the incidental consideration that from fly
and hardship the mortality in donkeys is very heavy, pushes the freight
rates high. And that fact accounts for the motor car, which has been my
point of aim from the beginning of this paragraph.

The motor car plies between Voi and the German line at exorbitant rates.
Our plan was to have it take us and some galvanized water tanks out into
the middle of the desert and dump us down there. So after breakfast we
hunted up the owner.

He proved to be a very short, thick-set, blond German youth who
justified Weber and Fields. In fact, he talked so exactly like those
comedians that my task in visualizing him to you is somewhat lightened.
If all, instead of merely a majority of my readers, had seen Weber and
Fields that task would vanish.

We explained our plan, and asked him his price.

"Sefen hundert and feefty rupees,"[11] said he uncompromisingly.

He was abrupt, blunt, and insulting. As we wanted transportation very
much--though not seven hundred and fifty rupees' worth--we persisted. He
offered an imperturbable take-it-or-leave-it stolidity. The motor truck
stood near. I said something technical about the engine; then something
more. He answered these remarks, though grudgingly. I suggested that it
took a mighty good driver to motor through this rough country. He
mentioned a particular hill. I proposed that we should try the station
restaurant for beer while he told me about it. He grunted, but headed
for the station.

For two hours we listened to the most blatant boasting. He was a great
driver; he had driven for M., the American millionaire; for the Chinese
Ambassador to France; for Grand-Duke Alexis; for the Kaiser himself! We
learned how he had been the trusted familiar of these celebrities, how
on various occasions--all detailed at length--he had been treated by
them as an equal; and he told us sundry sly, slanderous, and disgusting
anecdotes of these worthies, his forefinger laid one side his nose.
When we finally got him worked up to the point of going to get some
excessively bad photographs, "I haf daken myself!" we began to have
hopes. So we tentatively approached once more the subject of
transportation.

Then the basis of the trouble came out. One Davis, M.P. from England,
had also dealt with our friend. Davis, as we reconstructed him, was of
the blunt type, with probably very little feeling of democracy for those
in subordinate positions, and with, most certainly, a good deal of
insular and racial prejudice. Evidently a rather vague bargain had been
struck, and the motor had set forth. Then ensued financial wranglings
and disputes as to terms. It ended by useless hauteur on Davis's part,
and inexcusable but effective action by the German. For Davis found
himself dumped down on the Serengetti desert and left there.

We heard all this in excruciatingly funny Weberandfieldese, many times
repeated. The German literally beat his breast and cried aloud against
Davis. We unblushingly sacrificed a probably perfectly worthy Davis to
present need, and cried out against him too.

"Am I like one dog?" demanded the German fervently.

"Certainly not," we cried with equal fervour. We both like dogs.

Then followed wearisomely reiterated assurances that we, at least, knew
how a gentleman should be treated, and more boasting of proud
connections in the past. But the end of it was a bargain of reasonable
dimensions for ourselves, our personal boys, and our loads. Under plea
of starting our safari boys off we left him, and crept, with shattered
nerves, around the corner of the dak-bungalow. There we lurked, busy at
pretended affairs, until our friend swaggered away to the Hindu
quarters, where, it seems, he had his residence.

About ten o'clock a small safari marched in afoot. It had travelled all
of two nights across the Thirst, and was glad to get there. The single
white man in charge had been three years alone among the natives near
Kilimanjaro, and he was now out for a six months' vacation at home. Two
natives in the uniform of Sudanese troops hovered near him very
sorrowful. He splashed into the water of the dak-bungalow, and then
introduced himself. We sat in teakwood easy-chairs and talked all day.
He was a most interesting, likeable, and cordial man, at any stage of
the game. The game, by means of French vermouth--of all
drinks!--progressed steadily. We could hardly blame him for celebrating.
By the afternoon he wanted to give things away. So insistent was he that
F. finally accepted an ebony walking-stick, and I an ebony knife inset
with ivory. If we had been the least bit unscrupulous, I am afraid the
relatives at home would have missed their African souvenirs. He went out
_via_ freight car, all by himself, seated regally in a steamer chair
between two wide-open side doors, one native squatted on either side to
see that he did not lurch out into the landscape.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Fifty pounds.




XXVI.

THE FRINGE-EARED ORYX.


At ten o'clock the following morning we started. On the high front seat,
under an awning, sat the German, F., and I. The body of the truck was
filled with safari loads, Memba Sasa, Simba Mohammed, and F.'s boy,
whose name I have forgotten. The arrangement on the front seat was due
to a strike on the part of F.

"Look here," said he to me, "you've got to sit next that rotter. We want
him to bring us back some water from the other side, and I'd break his
neck in ten minutes. You sit next him and give him your motor car
patter."

Therefore I took the middle seat and played chorus. The road was not a
bad one, as natural mountain roads go; I have myself driven worse in
California. Our man, however, liked to exaggerate all the difficulties,
and while doing it to point to himself with pride as a perfect wonder.
Between times he talked elementary mechanics.

"The inflammation of the sparkling plugs?" was one of his expressions
that did much to compensate.

The country mounted steadily through the densest thorn scrub I have ever
seen. It was about fifteen feet high, and so thick that its penetration,
save by made tracks, would have been an absolute impossibility. Our road
ran like a lane between two spiky jungles. Bold bright mountains cropped
up, singly and in short ranges, as far as the eye could see them.

This sort of thing for twenty miles--more than a hard day's journey on
safari. We made it in a little less than two hours; and the breeze of
our going kept us reasonably cool under our awning. We began to
appreciate the real value of our diplomacy.

At noon we came upon a series of unexpectedly green and clear small
hills just under the frown of a sheer rock cliff. This oasis in the
thorn was occupied by a few scattered native huts and the usual squalid
Indian dukka, or trading store. At this last our German friend stopped.
From under the seat he drew out a collapsible table and a basket of
provisions. These we were invited to share. Diplomacy's highest triumph!

After lunch we surmounted our first steep grade to the top of a ridge.
This we found to be the beginning of a long elevated plateau sweeping
gently downward to a distant heat mist, which later experience proved a
concealment to snowcapped Kilimanjaro. This plateau also looked to be
covered with scrub. As we penetrated it, however, we found the bushes
were more or less scattered, while in the wide, shallow dips between the
undulations were open grassy meadows. There was no water. Isolated
mountains or peaked hills showed here and there in the illimitable
spaces, some of them fairly hull down, all of them toilsomely distant.
This was the Serengetti itself.

In this great extent of country somewhere were game herds. They were
exceedingly migratory, and nobody knew very much about them. One of the
species would be the rare and localized fringe-eared oryx. This beast
was the principal zoological end of our expedition; though, of course,
as always, we hoped for a chance lion. Geographically we wished to find
the source of the Swanee River, and to follow that stream down to its
joining with the Tsavo. About half-past one we passed our safari boys.
We had intended to stop and replenish their canteens from our
water-drums; but they told us they had encountered a stray and
astonishing shower, and did not need more. We left them trudging
cheerfully across the desert. They had travelled most of the night
before, would do the same in the night to come, and should reach our
camping-place about noon of the next day.

We ourselves stopped about four o'clock. In a few hours we had come a
hard three days' march. Over the side went our goods. We bade the German
a very affectionate farewell; for he was still to fill our drums from
one of the streams out of Kilimanjaro and deliver them to us on his
return trip next day. We then all turned to and made camp. The scrub
desert here was exactly like the scrub desert for the last sixty miles.

The next morning we were up and off before sunrise. In this job time was
a very large element of the contract. We must find our fringe-eared oryx
before our water supply gave out. Therefore we had resolved not to lose
a moment.

The sunrise was most remarkable--lace work, flat clouds, with burnished
copper-coloured clouds behind glowing through the lace. We admired it
for some few moments. Then one of us happened to look higher. There,
above the sky of the horizon, apparently suspended in mid-air half-way
to the zenith, hung like delicate bubbles the double snow-cloud peaks of
Kilimanjaro. Between them and the earth we could apparently see clear
sky. It was in reality, of course, the blue-heat haze that rarely leaves
these torrid plains. I have seen many mountains in all parts of the
world, but none as fantastically insubstantial; as wonderfully lofty; as
gracefully able to yield, before clouds and storms and sunrise glows,
all the space in infinity they could possibly use, and yet to tower
above them serene in an upper space of its own. Nearly every morning of
our journey to come we enjoyed this wonderful vision for an hour or so.
Then the mists closed in. The rest of the day showed us a grayish sky
along the western horizon, with apparently nothing behind it.

In the meantime we were tramping steadily ahead over the desert;
threading the thorn scrub, crossing the wide shallow grass-grown swales;
spying about us for signs of game. At the end of three or four miles we
came across some ostrich and four hartebeeste. This encouraged us to
think we might find other game soon, for the hartebeeste is a gregarious
animal. Suddenly we saw a medium-sized squat beast that none of us
recognized, trundling along like a badger sixty yards ahead. Any
creature not easily identified is a scientific possibility in Africa.
Therefore we fired at once. One of the bullets hit his foreleg paw.
Immediately this astonishing small creature turned and charged us! If
his size had equalled his ferocity, he would have been a formidable
opponent. We had a lively few minutes. He rushed us again and again,
uttering ferocious growls. We had to step high and lively to keep out of
his way. Between charges he sat down and tore savagely at his wounded
paw. We wanted him as nearly perfect a specimen as possible, so tried to
rap him over the head with a club. Owing to remarkably long teeth and
claws, this was soon proved impracticable; so we shot him. He weighed
about fifty pounds, and we subsequently learned that he was a honey
badger, an animal very rarely captured.

We left the boys to take the whole skin and skull of this beast, and
strolled forward slowly. The brush ended abruptly in a wide valley. It
had been burnt over, and the new grass was coming up green. We gave one
look, and sank back into cover.

The sparse game of the immediate vicinity had gathered to this fresh
feed. A herd of hartebeeste and gazelle were grazing, and five giraffe
adorned the sky-line. But what interested us especially was a group of
about fifty cob-built animals with the unmistakable rapier horns of the
oryx. We recognized them as the rarity we desired.

The conditions were most unfavourable. The cover nearest them gave a
range of three hundred yards, and even this would bring them directly
between us and the rising sun. There was no help for it, however. We
made our way to the bushes nearest the herd, and I tried to align the
blurs that represented my sights. At the shot, ineffective, they raced
to the right across our front. We lay low. As they had seen nothing they
wheeled and stopped after two hundred yards of flight. This shift had
brought the light into better position. Once more I could define my
sights. From the sitting position I took careful aim at the largest
buck. He staggered twenty feet and fell dead. The distance was just 381
paces. This shot was indeed fortunate, for we saw no more fringe-eared
oryx.




XXVII.

ACROSS THE SERENGETTI.


We arrived in camp about noon, almost exhausted with the fierce heat and
a six hours' tramp, to find our German friend awaiting us. By an irony
of fate the drums of water he had brought back with him were now
unnecessary; we had our oryx. However, we wearily gave him lunch and
listened to his prattle, and finally sped him on his way, hoping never
to see him again.

About three o'clock our men came in. We doled out water rations, and
told them to rest in preparation for the morrow.

Late that night we were awakened by a creaking and snorting and the
flash of torches passing. We looked out, to see a donkey transport
toiling slowly along, travelling thus at night to avoid the terrific day
heats. The two-wheeled carts with their wild and savage drivers looked
very picturesque in the flickering lights. We envied them vaguely their
defined route that permitted night travel, and sank to sleep.

In the morning, however, we found they had left with us new
responsibilities in the shape of an elderly Somali, very sick, and down
with the fever. This was indeed a responsibility. It was manifestly
impossible for us to remain there with him; we should all die of thirst.
It was equally impossible to take him with us, for he was quite unfit to
travel under the sun. Finally, as the best solution of a bad business,
we left him five gallons of water, some food, and some quinine, together
with the advice to rest until night, and then to follow his companions
along the beaten track. What between illness and wild beasts his chances
did not look very good, but it was the best we could do for him. This
incident exemplifies well the cruelty of this singular people. They
probably abandoned the old man because his groans annoyed them, or
because one of them wanted to ride in his place on the donkey cart.[12]

We struck off as early as possible through the thorn scrub on a compass
bearing that we hoped would bring us to a reported swamp at the head of
the Swanee River. The Swanee River was one of the sources of the Tsavo.
Of course this was guesswork. We did not know certainly the location of
the swamp, its distance from us, nor what lay between us and it.
However, we loaded all our transportable vessels with water, and set
forth.

The scrub was all alike; sometimes thinner, sometimes thicker. We
marched by compass until we had raised a conical hill above the horizon,
and then we bore just to the left of that. The surface of the ground was
cut by thousands of game tracks. They were all very old, however, made
after a rain; and it was evident the game herds venture into this
country only when it contains rainwater. After two hours, however, we
did see one solitary hartebeeste, whom we greeted as an old friend in
desolation. Shortly afterwards we ran across one oribi, which I shot for
our own table.

At the end of two hours we sat down. The safari of twenty men was a very
miscellaneous lot, consisting of the rag-tag-and-bobtail of the bazaars
picked up in a hurry. They were soft and weak, and they straggled badly.
The last weakling--prodded along by one of our two askaris--limped in
only at the end of half an hour. Then we took a new start.

The sun was by now up and hot. The work was difficult enough at best,
but the weight of the tropics was now cast in the scale. Twice more
within the next two hours we stopped to let every one catch up. Each
time this required a longer interval. In the thorn it was absolutely
essential to keep in touch with every member of the party. A man once
lost would likely remain so, for we could not afford to endanger all for
the sake of one.

Time wore on until noon. Had it not been for a thin film of haze that
now overspread the sky, I think the sun would have proved too much for
some of the men. Four or five straggled so very badly that we finally
left them in charge of one of our two askaris, with instructions to
follow on as fast as they could. In order to make this possible, we were
at pains to leave a well-marked trail.

After this fashion, slowly, and with growing anxiety for some of the
men, we drew up on our landmark hill. There our difficulties increased;
the thorn brush thickened. Only by a series of short zigzags, and by
taking advantage of every rhino trail going in our direction, could we
make our way through it at all; while to men carrying burdens on their
heads the tangle aloft must have been fairly maddening. So slow did our
progress necessarily become, and so difficult was it to keep in touch
with everybody, that F. and I finally halted for consultation. It was
decided that I should push on ahead with Memba Sasa to make certain that
we were not on the wrong line, while F. and the askaris struggled with
the safari.

Therefore I took my compass bearing afresh, and plunged into the scrub.
The sensation was of hitting solid ground after a long walk through
sand. We seemed fairly to shoot ahead and out of sight. Whenever we came
upon earth we marked it deeply with our heels; we broke twigs downwards,
and laid hastily-snatched bunches of grass to help the trail we were
leaving for the others to follow. This, in spite of our compass, was a
very devious track. Besides, the thorn bushes were patches of spiky aloe
coming into red flower, and the spears of sisal.

After an hour's steady, swift walking the general trend of the country
began to slope downwards. This argued a watercourse between us and the
hills around Kilimanjaro. There could be no doubt that we would cut it;
the only question was whether it, like so many desert watercourses,
might not prove empty. We pushed on the more rapidly. Then we caught a
glimpse through a chance opening, of the tops of trees below us. After
another hour we suddenly burst from the scrub to a strip of green grass
beyond which were the great trees, the palms, and the festooned vines of
a watercourse. Two bush bucks plunged into the thicket as we approached,
and fifteen or twenty mongooses sat up as straight and stiff as so many
picket pins the better to see us.

For a moment my heart sank. The low undergrowth beneath the trees
apparently swept unbroken from where we stood to the low bank opposite.
It was exactly like the shallow, damp but waterless ravines at home,
filled with black berry vines. We pushed forward, however, and found
ourselves looking down on a smooth, swift flowing stream.

It was not over six feet wide, grown close with vines and grasses, but
so very deep and swift and quiet that an extraordinary volume of water
passed, as through an artificial aqueduct. Furthermore, unlike most
African streams, it was crystal clear. We plunged our faces and wrists
in it, and took long, thankful draughts. It was all most grateful after
the scorching desert. The fresh trees meeting in canopy overhead were
full of monkeys and bright birds; festooned vines swung their great
ropes here and there; long heavy grass carpeted underfoot.

After we had rested a few minutes we filled our empty canteens, and
prepared to start back for our companions. But while I stood there,
Memba Sasa--good, faithful Memba Sasa--seized both canteens and darted
away.

"Lie down!" he shouted back at me, "I will go back."

Without protest--which would have been futile anyway--I sank down on the
grass. I was very tired. A little breeze followed the watercourse; the
grass was soft; I would have given anything for a nap. But in wild
Africa a nap is not healthy; so I drowsily watched the mongooses that
had again come out of seclusion, and the monkeys, and the birds. At the
end of a long time, and close to sundown, I heard voices. A moment later
F., Memba Sasa, and about three-quarters of the men came in. We all,
white and black, set to work to make camp. Then we built smudges and
fired guns in the faint hope of guiding in the stragglers. As a matter
of fact we had not the slightest faith in these expedients. Unless the
men were hopelessly lost they should be able to follow our trail. They
might be almost anywhere out in that awful scrub. The only course open
to them would be to climb thorn trees for the night. Next day we would
organize a formal search for them.

In the meantime, almost dead from exhaustion, we sprawled about
everywhere. The men, too dispirited even to start their own camp-fires,
sat around resting as do boxers between rounds. Then to us came Memba
Sasa, who had already that day made a double journey, and who should
have been the most tired of all.

"Bwana," said he, "if you will lend me Winchi,[13] and a lantern, I will
bring in the men."

We lent him his requirements, and he departed. Hours later he returned,
carefully leaned "Winchi" in the corner of the tent, deposited the
lantern, and stood erect at attention.

"Well, Memba Sasa," I inquired.

"The men are here."

"They were far?"

"Very far."

"Verna, Memba Sasa, assanti sana."[14]

That was his sole--and sufficient--reward.

FOOTNOTES:

[12] I have just heard that this old man survived, and has been singing
our praises in Nairobi as the saviour of his life.

[13] His name for the.405 Winchester.

[14] "Very good, Memba Sasa, thanks very much."




XXVIII.

DOWN THE RIVER.


Relieved now of all anxiety as to water, we had merely to make our way
downstream. First, however, there remained the interesting task of
determining its source.

Accordingly next day we and our gunbearers left the boys to a
well-earned rest, and set out upstream. At first we followed the edge of
the river jungle, tramping over hard hot earth, winding in and out of
growths of thorn scrub and brilliant aloes. We saw a herd of impallas
gliding like phantoms; and as we stood in need of meat, I shot at one of
them but missed. The air was very hot and moist. At five o'clock in the
morning the thermometer had stood at 78 degrees; and by noon it had
mounted to 106 degrees. In addition the atmosphere was filled with the
humidity that later in the day was to break in extraordinary deluges.
We moved slowly, but even then our garments were literally dripping wet.

At the end of three miles the stream bed widened. We came upon
beautiful, spacious, open lawns of from eighty to one hundred acres
apiece, separated from each other by narrow strips of tall forest trees.
The grass was high, and waved in the breeze like planted grain; the
boundary trees resembled artificial wind-breaks of eucalyptus or
Normandy poplar. One might expect a white ranch house beyond some low
clump of trees, and chicken runs, and corrals.

Along these apparent boundaries of forest trees our stream divided, and
divided again, so that we were actually looking upon what we had come to
seek--the source of the Swanee branch of the Tsavo River. In these
peaceful, protected meadows was it cradled. From them it sprang full
size out into the African wilderness.

A fine impalla buck grazed in one of these fields. I crept as near him
as I could behind one of the wind-break rows of trees. It was not very
near, and for the second time I missed. Thereupon we decided two things:
that we were not really meat hungry, and that yesterday's hard work was
not conducive to to-day's good shooting.

Having thus accomplished the second object of our expedition, we
returned to camp. From that time begins a regular sequence of events on
which I look back with the keenest of pleasure. The two constant factors
were the river and the great dry country on either side. Day after day
we followed down the one, and we made brief excursions out into the
other. Each night we camped near the sound of the swift running water,
where the winds rustled in the palms, the acacias made lacework across
the skies, and the jungle crouched in velvet blackness close to earth
like a beast.

Our life in its routine was regular; in its details bizarre and full of
the unexpected. Every morning we arose an hour before day, and ate by
lantern light and the gleam of fires. At the first gray we were afoot
and on the march. F. and I, with our gunbearers, then pushed ahead down
the river, leaving the men to come along as fast or as slowly as they
pleased. After about six hours or so of marching, we picked out a good
camp site, and lay down to await the safari. By two o'clock in the
afternoon camp was made. Also it was very hot. After a light lunch we
stripped to the skin, lay on our cots underneath the mosquito canopies,
and tried to doze or read. The heat at this time of day was blighting.
About four o'clock, if we happened to be inspired by energy, one or the
other of us strolled out at right angles to the stream to see what we
could see. The evening was tepid and beautiful. Bathed and pyjama-clad
we lolled in our canvas chairs, smoking, chatting or listening to the
innumerable voices of the night.

Such was the simple and almost invariable routine of our days. But
enriching it, varying it, disguising it even--as rain-squalls, sunshine
cloud shadow, and unexpected winds modify the landscape so well known
from a study window--were the incredible incidents and petty adventures
of African travel.

The topography of the river itself might be divided very roughly into
three: the headwater country down to its junction with the Tsavo the
palm-elephant-grass stretch, and the gorge and hill district just before
it crosses the rail road.

The headwater country is most beautiful The stream is not over ten feet
wide, but very deep, swift, and clear. It flows between defined banks
and is set in a narrow strip of jungle. In places the bed widens out to
a carpet of the greenest green grass sown with flowers; at other places
it offers either mysterious thickets, spacious cathedrals, or snug
bowers. Immediately beyond the edge of this river jungle begins the
thorn scrub, more or less dense. Distant single mountains or buttes
serve as landmarks in a brush-grown, gently rising, strongly rolling
country. Occasional alluvial flats draw back to low cliffs not over
twenty feet high.

After the junction of the Tsavo, palms of various sorts replace to a
large extent the forest trees. Naturally also the stream widens and
flows more slowly. Outside the palms grow tall elephant-grass and bush.
Our marching had generally to be done in the narrow, neutral space
between these two growths. It was pleasant enough, with the river
snatching at the trailing branches, and the birds and animals rustling
away. Beyond the elephant-grass flats low ridges ran down to the river,
varying in width, but carrying always with them the dense thorn. Between
them ran recesses, sometimes three or four hundred acres in extent, high
with elephant-grass or little trees like alders. So much for the
immediate prospect on our right as we marched. Across the river to our
left were huge riven mountains, with great cliffs and canons. As we
followed necessarily every twist and turn of the river, sometimes these
mountains were directly ahead of us, then magically behind, so that we
thought we had passed them by. But the next hour threw them again across
our trail. The ideal path would, of course, have cut across all the
bends and ridges; but the thorn of the ridges and the elephant-grass of
the flats forbade it. So we marched ten miles to gain four.

After days of struggle and deception we passed those mountains. Then we
entered a new type of country where the Tsavo ran in canons between
hills. The high cliffs often towered far above us; we had to pick our
way along narrow river ledges; again the river ran like a trout stream
over riffles and rapids, while we sauntered along cleared banks beneath
the trees. Had we not been making a forced march under terrific heat at
just that time, this last phase of the river might have been the
pleasantest of all.

Throughout the whole course of our journey the rhinoceros was the most
abundant of the larger animals. The indications of old tracks proved
that at some time of the year, or under some different conditions, great
herds of the more gregarious plains antelope and zebra visited the
river, but at the time of our visit they were absent. The rhinoceroses,
however, in incredible numbers came regularly to water. Paradoxically,
we saw very few of them, and enjoyed comparative immunity from their
charges. This was due to the fact that their habits and ours swung in
different orbits. The rhinoceros, after drinking, took to the hot, dry
thorn scrub in the low hills; and as he drank at night, we rarely
encountered him in the river bottoms where we were marching. This was
very lucky, for the cover was so dense that a meeting must necessarily
be at close quarters. Indeed these large and truculent beasts were
rather a help than a hindrance, for we often made use of their wide,
clear paths to penetrate some particularly distressing jungle. However,
we had several small adventures with them: just enough to keep us alert
in rounding corners or approaching bushes--and nine-tenths of our travel
was bushes and corners. The big, flat footsteps, absolutely fresh in the
dust, padded methodically ahead of us down the only way until it seemed
that we could not fail to plump upon their maker around the next bend.
We crept forward foot by foot, every sense alert, finger on trigger.
Then after a time the spoor turned off to the right, towards the hills.
We straightened our backs and breathed a sigh of relief. This happened
over and over again. At certain times of year also elephants frequent
the banks of the Tsavo in considerable numbers We saw many old signs,
and once came upon the fresh path of a small herd. The great beasts had
passed by that very morning. We gazed with considerable awe on limbs
snatched bodily from trees; on flat-topped acacias a foot in diameter
pulled up by the roots and stood up side down; on tree trunks twisted
like ropes.

Of the game by far the most abundant were the beautiful red impalla. We
caught glimpses of their graceful bodies gliding in and out of sight
through the bushes; or came upon them standing in small openings, their
delicate ears pointed to us. They and the tiny dikdik furnished our
table; and an occasional water-buck satisfied the men. One day we came
on one of the latter beasts sound asleep in a tiny open space. He was
lying down, and his nose rested against the earth just like a very old
family horse in a paddock.

Besides these common species were bush-buck wart-hog, lesser kudu,
giraffe, and leopard. The bush-buck we jumped occasionally quite near at
hand. They ducked their heads low and rushed tearingly to the next
cover. The leopard was heard sighing every night, and saw their pad
marks next day; but only twice did we catch glimpses of them. One
morning we came upon the fresh-killed carcass of a female lesser kudu
from which, evidently, we had driven the slayer.

These few species practically completed the game list. They were
sufficient for our needs; and the lesser kudu was a prize much desired
for our collection. But by far the most interesting to me were the
smaller animals, the birds, and the strange, innumerable insects.

We saw no natives in the whole course of our journey.

The valley of the river harboured many monkeys. They seemed to be of two
species, blue and brown, but were equally noisy and amusing. They
retired ahead of our advance with many remarks, or slipped past us to
the rear without any comments whatever. When we made camp they retired
with indignant protests, and when we had quite settled down they
returned as near as they dared.

One very hot afternoon I lay on my canvas cot in the open, staring
straight upward into the overarching greenery of the trees. This is a
very pleasant thing to do. The beautiful up-spreading, outstretching of
the tree branches and twigs intrigue the eye; the leaves make
fascinating, hypnotically waving patterns against a very blue sky; and
in the chambers and galleries of the upper world the birds and insects
carry on varied businesses of their own. After a time the corner of my
eye caught a quick movement far to the left and in a shadow. At once I
turned my attention that way. After minute scrutiny I at length made out
a monkey. Evidently considering himself quite unobserved, he was slowly
and with great care stalking our camp. Inch by inch he moved, taking
skilful advantage of every bit of cover, flattening himself along the
limbs, hunching himself up behind bunches of leaves, until he had gained
a big limb directly overhead. There he stretched flat, staring down at
the scene that had so strongly aroused his curiosity. I lay there for
over two hours reading and dozing. My friend aloft never stirred. When
dusk fell he was still there. Some time after dark he must have regained
his band, for in the morning the limb was vacant.

Now comes the part of this story that really needs a witness, not to
veracity perhaps, but to accuracy of observations. Fortunately I have F.
About noon next day the monkey returned to his point of observation. He
used the same precautions as to concealment; he followed his route of
the day before; he proceeded directly to his old conning tower on the
big limb. It did not take him quite so long to get there, for he had
already scouted out the trail. _And close at his heels followed two
other monkeys_! They crawled where he crawled; they crouched where he
crouched; they hid where he hid; they flattened themselves out by him on
the big limb, and all three of them passed the afternoon gazing down on
the strange and fascinating things below. Whether these newcomers were
part of the first one's family out for a treat, or whether they were
Cook's Tourists of the Jungle in charge of my friend's competence as a
guide, I do not know.

Farther down the river F. and I stopped for some time to watch the
crossing of forty-odd of the little blue monkeys. The whole band
clambered to near the top of a tall tree growing by the water's edge.
There, one by one, they ran out on a straight overhanging limb and cast
themselves into space. On the opposite bank of the river, and leaning
well out, grew a small springy bush. Each monkey landed smash in the
middle of this, clasped it with all four hands, swayed alarmingly,
recovered, and scampered ashore. It was rather a nice problem in
ballistics this, for a mistake in calculation of a foot in distance or
a pound in push would land Mr. Monkey in the water. And the joke of it
was that directly beneath that bush lay two hungry-looking crocodiles!
As each tiny body hurtled through the air I'll swear a look of hope came
into the eyes of those crocs. We watched until the last had made his
leap. There were no mistakes. The joke was against the crocodiles.

We encountered quite a number of dog-faced baboons. These big apes
always retreated very slowly and noisily. Scouts in the rearguard were
continually ascending small trees or bushes for a better look at us,
then leaping down to make disparaging remarks. One lot seemed to show
such variation in colour from the usual that we shot one. The distance
was about two hundred and fifty yards. Immediately the whole band--a
hundred or so strong--dropped on all fours and started in our direction.
This was rather terrifying. However, as we stood firm, they slowly came
to a halt at about seventy yards, barked and chattered for a moment,
then hopped away to right and left.




XXIX.

THE LESSER KUDU.


About eight o'clock, the evening of our first day on the Swanee, the
heat broke in a tropical downpour. We heard it coming from a long
distance, like the roar of a great wind. The velvet blackness, star
hung, was troubled by an invisible blurring mist, evidenced only through
a subtle effect on the subconsciousness. Every leaf above us, in the
circle of our firelight, depended absolutely motionless from its stem.
The insects had ceased their shrilling; the night birds their chirping;
the animals, great and small, their callings or their stealthy rustling
to and fro. Of the world of sound there remained only the crackling of
our fires, the tiny singing of the blood in our ears, and that far-off
portentous roar. Our simple dispositions were made. Trenches had been
dug around the tents; the pegs had been driven well home; our stores had
been put in shelter. We waited silently, puffing away our pipes.

The roaring increased in volume. Beneath it we began to hear the long,
rolling crash of thunder. Overhead the stars, already dimmed, were
suddenly blotted from existence. Then came the rain, in a literal
deluge, as though the god of floods had turned over an entire reservoir
with one twist of his mighty hand. Our fire went out instantly; the
whole world went out with it. We lay on our canvas cots unable to see a
foot beyond our tent opening; unable to hear anything but the insistent,
terrible drumming over our heads; unable to think of anything through
the tumult of waters. As a man's body might struggle from behind a
waterfall through the torrents, so our imaginations, half drowned,
managed dimly to picture forth little bits--the men huddled close in
their tiny tents, their cowled blankets over their heads. All the rest
of the universe had gone.

After a time the insistent beat and rush of waters began to wear through
our patience. We willed that this wracking tumult should cease; we
willed it with all the force that was in us. Then, as this proved vain,
we too humped our spiritual backs, cowled our souls with patience, and
waited dumbly for the force of the storm to spend itself. Our faculties
were quite as effectually drowned out by the unceasing roar and crash of
the waters as our bodily comfort would have been had we lacked the
protection of our tent.

Abruptly the storm passed. It did not die away slowly in the diminuendo
of ordinary storms. It ceased as though the reservoir had been tipped
back again. The rapid _drip_, _drip_, _drip_ of waters now made the
whole of sound; all the rest of the world lay breathless. Then, inside
our tent, a cricket struck up bravely.

This homely, cheerful little sound roused us. We went forth to count
damages and to put our house in order. The men hunted out dry wood and
made another fire; the creatures of the jungle and the stars above them
ventured forth.

Next morning we marched into a world swept clean. The ground was as
smooth as though a new broom had gone over it. Every track now was
fresh, and meant an animal near at hand. The bushes and grasses were
hung with jewels. Merry little showers shook down from trees sharing a
joke with some tiny wind. White steam rose from a moist, fertile-looking
soil. The smell of greenhouses was in the air. Looking back, we were
stricken motionless by the sight of Kilimanjaro, its twin peaks
suspended a clean blue sky, fresh snow mantling its shoulders.

This day, so cheeringly opened, was destined to fulfil its promise. In
the dense scrub dwell a shy and rare animal called the lesser kudu
specimens of which we greatly desired. The beast keeps to the thickest
and driest cove where it is impossible to see fifty yards ahead but
where the slightest movement breaks the numberless dry interlacements of
which the place seems made. To move really quietly one could not cover
over a half-mile in an hour. As the countryside extends a thousand
square miles or more, and the lesser kudu is rare, it can be seen that
hunting them might have to be a slow and painful process. We had twice
seen the peculiar tracks.

On this morning, however, we caught a glimpse of the beast itself. A
flash of gray, with an impression of the characteristic harness-like
stripes--that was all. The trail, in the ground, was of course very
plain. I left the others and followed it into the brush. As usual the
thorn scrub was so thick that I had to stoop and twist to get through it
at all, and so brittle that the least false move made a crackling like a
fire. The rain of the night before had, however, softened the _debris_
lying on the ground. I moved forward as quickly as I could, half
suffocated in the steaming heat of the dense thicket. After three or
four hundred yards the beast fell into a walk, so I immediately halted.
I reasoned that after a few steps at this gait he would look back to see
whether or not he was followed. If his scouting showed him nothing he
might throw off suspicion. After ten minutes I crept forward again. The
spoor showed my surmises to be correct, for I came to where the animal
had turned, behind a small bush, and had stood for a few minutes. Taking
up the tracks from this point, I was delighted to find that the kudu had
forgotten its fear, and was browsing. At the end of five minutes more of
very careful work, I was fortunate enough to see it, feeding from the
top of a small bush thirty-five yards away. The raking shot from the
Springfield dropped it in its tracks.

It proved to be a doe, a great prize of course, but not to be compared
with the male. We skinned her carefully, and moved on, delighted to have
the species.

Our luck was not over, however. At the end of six hours we picked our
camp in a pretty grove by the swift-running stream. There we sat down
to await the safari. The tree-tops were full of both the brown and blue
monkeys, baboons barked at us from a distance, the air was musical with
many sweet birds. Big thunder-clouds were gathering around the horizon.

The safari came in. Mohammed immediately sought us out to report, in
great excitement, that he had seen five kudu across the stream. He
claimed to have watched them even after the safari had passed, and that
they had not been alarmed. The chance was slight that the kudu could be
found, but still it was a chance. Accordingly we rather reluctantly gave
up our plans for a loaf and a nap. Mohammed said the place was an hour
back; we had had six hours march already. However, about two o'clock we
set out. Before we had arrived quite at the spot we caught a glimpse of
the five kudu as they dashed across a tiny opening ahead of us. They had
moved downstream and crossed the river.

It seemed rather hopeless to follow them into that thick country once
they had been alarmed, but the prize was great. Therefore Memba Sasa and
I took up the trail. We crept forward a mile, very quiet, very
tense--very sweaty. Then simultaneously, through a chance opening and a
long distance away, we caught a patch of gray with a single transverse
white stripe. There was no chance to ascertain the sex of the beast, nor
what part of its anatomy was thus exposed. I took a bull's eye chance on
that patch of gray; had the luck to hit it in the middle. The animal
went down. Memba Sasa leapt forward like a madman; I could not begin to
keep pace with him. When I had struggled through the thorn, I found him
dancing with delight.

"Monuome, bwana! buck, master!" he cried as soon as he saw me, and made
a spiral gesture in imitation of the male's beautiful corkscrew horns.

While the men prepared the trophy, F. and I followed on after the other
four to see what they would do, and speedily came to the conclusion that
we were lucky to land two of the wily beasts. The four ran compactly
together and in a wide curve for several hundred yards. Then two faced
directly back, while the other two, one on either side, made a short
detour out and back to guard the flanks.

We did not get back to camp until after dark. A tremendous pair of
electric storms were volleying and roaring at each other across the
space of night; leopards were crying; a pack of wild dogs were barking
vociferously. The camp, as we approached it, was a globe of light in a
bower of darkness. The fire, shining and flickering on the under sides
of the leaves, lent them a strangely unreal stage-like appearance; the
porters, their half-naked bodies and red blankets catching the blaze,
roasted huge chunks of meat over little fires.

We ate a belated supper in comfort, peace, and satisfaction. Then the
storms joined forces and fell upon us.




XXX.

ADVENTURES BY THE WAY.


We journeyed slowly on down the stream. Interesting things happened to
us. The impressions of that journey are of two sorts: the little
isolated details and the general background of our day's routine, with
the gray dawn, the great heats of the day, the blessed evening and its
fireflies; the thundering of heaven's artillery, and the downpour of
torrents; the hot, high, crackling thorn scrub into which we made
excursions; the swift-flowing river with its palms and jungles;
outleaning palms trailing their fronds just within the snatch of the
flood waters; wide flats in the embrace of the river bends, or extending
into the low hills, grown thick with lush green and threaded with
rhinoceros paths; the huge sheer cliff mountains over the way; distant
single hills far down. The mild discomfort of the start before daylight
clearly revealed the thorns and stumbling blocks; the buoyant
cheerfulness of the first part of the day, with the grouse rocketing
straight up out of the elephant grass, the birds singing everywhere, and
the beasts of the jungle still a-graze at the edges; the growing weight
of the sun, as though a great pressing hand were laid upon the
shoulders; the suffocating, gasping heat of afternoon, and the;
gathering piling black and white clouds; the cool evening in pyjamas
with the fireflies flickering; among the bushes, the river singing, and
little; breezes wandering like pattering raindrops in the dry palm
leaves--all these, by repetition of main elements, blend in my memory to
form a single image. To be sure each day the rock pinnacles over the way
changed slightly their compass bearings, and little variations of
contour lent variety to the procession of days. But in essentials they
were of one kin.

But here and there certain individual scenes and incidents stand out
clearly and alone. Without reference to my notebook I could not tell you
their chronological order, nor the days of their happening. They
occurred, without correlation.

Thus one afternoon at the loafing hour, when F. was sound asleep under
his mosquito bar, and I in my canvas chair was trying to catch the
breeze from an approaching deluge, to me came a total stranger in a
large turban. He was without arms or baggage of any sort, an alien in a
strange and savage country.

"Jambo, bwana m'kubwa (greeting, great master)!" said he.

"Jambo," said I, as though his existence were not in the least
surprising, and went on reading. This showed him that I was indeed a
great master.

After a suitable interval I looked up.

"Wataka neenee (what do you want)?" I demanded.

"Nataka sema qua heri (I want to say good-bye)," said this astonishing
individual.

I had, until that moment, been quite unaware of his existence. As he had
therefore not yet said "How do you do," I failed to fathom his reasons
for wanting to say "good-bye." However, far be it from me to deny any
one innocent pleasure, so I gravely bade him good-bye, and he
disappeared into the howling wilderness whence he had come.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon we came upon two lemurs seated gravely side by side on a
horizontal limb ten feet up a thorn tree. They contemplated us with the
preternatural gravity of very young children, and without the slightest
sign of fear. We coveted them as pets for Billy, but soon discovered
that their apparent tameness was grounded on good, solid common sense.
The thorns of that thorn tree! We left them sitting upright, side by
side.

A little farther on, and up a dry earthy hillside, a medium-sized beast
leapt from an eroded place fairly under my feet and made off with a
singularly familiar kiyi. It was a strange-looking animal, apparently
brick red in colour. When I had collected myself I saw it was a wild
dog. It had been asleep in a warm hollow of red clay, and had not
awakened until I was fairly upon it. We had heard these beasts nearly
every night, but this was the first we had seen. Some days later we came
upon the entire pack drinking at the river. They leapt suddenly across
our front eighty yards away, their heads all turned towards us
truculently, barking at us like so many watch dogs. They made off, but
not as though particularly alarmed.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon I had wounded a good wart-hog across the river, and had
gone downstream to find a dry way over. F., more enthusiastic, had
plunged in and promptly attacked the wart-hog. He was armed with the
English service revolver shooting the.455 Ely cartridge. It is a very
short, stubby bit of ammunition. I had often cast doubt on its driving
power as compared to the.45 Colt, for example. F., as a loyal
Englishman, had, of course, defended his army's weapon. When I reached
the centre of disturbance I found that F. had emptied his revolver three
times--eighteen shots--into the head and forequarters of that wart-hog
without much effect. Incidentally the wart-hog had given him a good
lively time, charging again and again. The weapon has not nearly the
shock power of even our.38 service--a cartridge classified as too light
for serious business.

       *       *       *       *       *

One afternoon I gave my shotgun to one of the porters to carry afield,
remarking facetiously to all and sundry that he looked like a gunbearer.
After twenty minutes we ran across a rhinoceros. I spent some time
trying to manoeuvre into position for a photograph of the beast.
However, the attempt failed. We managed to dodge his rush. Then, after
the excitement had died, we discovered the porter and the shotgun up a
tree. He descended rather shamefaced. Nobody said anything about it. A
half-hour later we came upon another rhinoceros. The beast was visible
at some distance, and downhill. Nevertheless the porter moved a little
nearer a tree. This was too much for Memba Sasa. All the rest of the
afternoon he "ragged" that porter in much the same terms we would have
employed in the same circumstances.

"That place ahead," said he, "looks like a good place for rhinoceros.
Perhaps you'd better climb a tree."

"There is a dikdik; a bush is big enough to climb for him."

"Are you afraid of jackals, too?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The fireflies were our regular evening companions. We caught one or two
of them for the pleasure of watching them alternately igniting and
extinguishing their little lamps. Even when we put them in a bottle they
still kept up their performance bravely.

But besides them we had an immense variety of evening visitors. Beetles
of the most inconceivable shapes and colours, all sorts of moths, and
numberless strange things--leaf insects, walking-stick insects (exactly
like dry twigs), and the fierce, tall, praying mantis with their mock
air of meekness and devotion. Let one of the other insects stray within
reach and their piety was quickly enough abandoned! One beetle about
three-eighths of an inch across was oblong in shape and of pure
glittering gold. His wing covers, on the other hand, were round and
transparent. The effect was of a jewel under a tiny glass case. Other
beetles were of red dotted with black, or of black dotted with red; they
sported stripes, or circles of plain colours; they wore long, slender
antennae, or short knobby horns; they carried rapiers or pinchers, long
legs or short. In fact they ran the gamut of grace and horror, so that
an inebriate would find here a great rest for the imagination.

After we had gone to bed we noticed more pleasantly our cricket. He
piped up, you may remember, the night of the first great storm. That
evening he took up his abode in some fold or seam of our tent, and there
stayed throughout all the rest of the journey. Every evening he tuned up
cheerfully, and we dropped to sleep to the sound of his homelike piping.
We grew very fond of him, as one does of everything in this wild and
changing country that can represent a stable point of habitude.

Nor must I forget one evening when all of a sudden out of the darkness
came a tremendous hollow booming, like the beating of war drums or the
bellowing of some strange great beast. At length we identified the
performer as an unfamiliar kind of frog!




XXXI.

THE LOST SAFARI.


We were possessed of a map of sorts, consisting mostly of wide blank
spaces, with an occasional tentative mountain, or the probable course of
streams marked thereon. The only landmark that interested us was a
single round peak situated south of our river and at a point just before
we should cross the railroad at Tsavo Station. There came a day when,
from the top of a hill where we had climbed for the sake of the outlook,
we thought we recognized that peak. It was about five miles away as the
crow flies.

Then we returned to camp and made the fatal mistake of starting to
figure. We ought to cover the distance, even with the inevitable twists
and turns, in a day; the tri-weekly train passed through Tsavo the
following night; if we could catch that we would save a two days' wait
for the next train. You follow the thought. We arose very early the
next morning to get a good start on our forced march.

There is no use in spinning out a sad tale. We passed what we thought
must be our landmark hill just eleven times. The map showed only one
butte; as a matter of fact there were dozens. At each disappointment we
had to reconstruct our theories. It is the nature of man to do this
hopefully--Tsavo Station must be just around the _next_ bend. We marched
six hours without pause; then began to save ourselves a little. By all
the gods of logical reasoning we _proved_ Tsavo just beyond a certain
fringe of woods. When we arrived we found that there the river broke
through a range of hills by way of a deep gorge. It was a change from
the everlasting scrub, with its tumbling waters, its awful cliffs, its
luxuriant tropical growths; but it was so much the more difficult to
make our way through. Beyond the gorge we found any amount of hills,
kopjes, buttes, sugar loaves, etc., each isolated from its fellows, each
perfectly competent to serve as the map's single landmark.

We should have camped, but we were very anxious to catch that train; and
we were convinced that now, after all that work, Tsavo could not be far
away. It would be ridiculous and mortifying to find we had camped
almost within sight of our destination!

The heat was very bad and the force of the sun terrific. It seemed to
possess actual physical weight, and to press us down from above. We
filled our canteens many times at the swift-running stream, and emptied
them as often. By two o'clock F. was getting a little wobbly from the
sun. We talked of stopping, when an unexpected thunder shower rolled out
from behind the mountains, and speedily overcast the entire heavens.
This shadow relieved the stress. F., much revived, insisted that we
proceed. So we marched and passed many more hills.

In the meantime it began to rain, after the whole-hearted tropical
fashion. In two minutes we were drenched to the skin. I kept my matches
and notebook dry by placing them in the crown of my cork helmet. After
the intense heat this tepid downpour seemed to us delicious.

And then, quite unexpectedly, of course, we came around a bend to make
out through the sheets of rain the steel girders of the famous Tsavo
bridge.[15]

We clambered up a steep, slippery bank to the right-of-way, along which
we proceeded half a mile to the station. This consisted of two or three
native huts, a house for the East Indian in charge, and the station
building itself. The latter was a small frame structure with a narrow
floorless veranda. There was no platform. Drawing close on all sides was
the interminable thorn scrub. Later, when the veil of rain had been
drawn aside, we found that Tsavo, perched on a hillside, looked abroad
over a wide prospect. For the moment all we saw was a dark, dismal,
dripping station, wherein was no sign of life.

We were beginning to get chilly, and we wanted very much some tea, fire,
a chance to dry, pending the arrival of our safari. We jerked open the
door and peered into the inky interior.

"Babu!" yelled F., "Babu!"

From an inner back room came the faint answer in most precise English,--

"I can-not come; I am pray-ing."

There followed the sharp, quick tinkle of a little bell--the Indian
manner of calling upon the Lord's attention.

We both knew better than to hustle the institutions of the East; so we
waited with what patience we had, listening to the intermittent
tinkling of the little bell. At the end of fully fifteen minutes the
devotee appeared. He proved to be a mild, deprecating little man, very
eager to help, but without resources. He was a Hindu, and lived mainly
on tea and rice. The rice was all out, but he expected more on the night
train. There was no trading store here. He was the only inhabitant.
After a few more answers he disappeared, to return carrying two pieces
of letter paper on which were tea and a little coarse native sugar.
These, with a half-dozen very small potatoes, were all he had to offer.

It did not look very encouraging. We had absolutely nothing in which to
boil water. Of course we could not borrow of our host; caste stood in
the way there. If we were even to touch one of his utensils, that
utensil was for him defiled for ever. Nevertheless, as we had eaten
nothing since four o'clock that morning, and had put a hard day's work
behind us, we made an effort. After a short search we captured a savage
possessed of a surfuria, or native cooking pot. Memba Sasa scrubbed this
with sand. First we made tea in it, and drank turn about, from its wide
edge. This warmed us up somewhat. Then we dumped in our few potatoes and
a single guinea fowl that F. had decapitated earlier in the day. We
ate; and passed the pot over to Memba Sasa.

So far, so good; but we were still very wet, and the uncomfortable
thought would obtrude itself that the safari might not get in that day.
It behoved us at least to dry what we had on. I hunted up Memba Sasa,
whom I found in a native hut. A fire blazed in the middle of the floor.
I stooped low to enter, and squatted on my heels with the natives.
Slowly I steamed off the surface moisture. We had rather a good time
chatting and laughing. After a while I looked out. It had stopped
raining. Therefore I emerged and set some of the men collecting
firewood. Shortly I had a fine little blaze going under the veranda roof
of the station. F. and I hung out our breeches to dry, and spread the
tails of our shirts over the heat. F. was actually the human chimney,
for the smoke was pouring in clouds from the breast and collar of his
shirt. We were fine figures for the public platform of a railway
station!

We had just about dried off and had reassumed our thin and scanty
garments, when the babu emerged. We stared in drop-jawed astonishment.
He had muffled his head and mouth in a most brilliant scarf, as if for
zero weather; although dressed otherwise in the usual pongee. Under one
arm he carried a folded clumsy cotton umbrella; around his waist he had
belted a huge knife; in his other hand he carried his battle-axe. I mean
just that--his battle-axe. We had seen such things on tapestries or in
museums, but did not dream that they still existed out of captivity.
This was an Oriental looking battle-axe with a handle three feet long, a
spike on top, a spike out behind, and a half-moon blade in front. The
babu had with a little of his signal paint done the whole thing, blade
and all, to a brilliant window-shutter green.

As soon as we had recovered our breath, we asked him very politely the
reason for these stupendous preparations. It seemed that it was his
habit to take a daily stroll just before sunset, "for the sake of the
health," as he told us in his accurate English.

"The bush is full of bad men," he explained, "who would like to kill me;
but when they see this axe and this knife they say to each other, 'There
walks a very bad man. We dare not kill him.'"

He marched very solemnly a quarter-mile up the track and back, always in
plain view. Promptly on his return he dived into his little back room
where the periodic tinkling of his praying bell for some time marked his
gratitude for having escaped the "bad men."

The bell ceased. Several times he came to the door, eyed us timidly, and
bolted back into the darkness. Finally he approached to within ten feet,
twisted his hands and giggled in a most deprecating fashion.

"What is the use of this killing game?" he gabbled as rapidly as he
could. "Man should not destroy what man cannot first create." After
which he giggled again and fled.

His conscience, evidently, had driven him to this defiance of our high
mightinesses against his sense of politeness and his fears.

About this time my boy Mohammed and the cook drifted in. They reported
that they had left the safari not far back. Our hopes of supper and
blankets rose. They declined, however, with the gathering darkness, and
were replaced by wrath against the faithless ones. Memba Sasa, in spite
of his long day, took a gun and disappeared in the darkness. He did not
get back until nine o'clock, when he suddenly appeared in the doorway to
lean the gun in the corner, and to announce, "Hapana safari."

We stretched ourselves on a bench and a table--the floor was
impossible--and took what sleep we could. In the small hours the train
thundered through, the train we had hoped to catch!

FOOTNOTES:

[15] This is the point at which construction was stopped by man-eating
lions. See Patterson's "The Man-eaters of Tsavo."




XXXII.

THE BABU.


We stretched ourselves stiffly in the first gray of dawn, wondering
where we could get a mouthful of breakfast. On emerging from the station
a strange and gladsome sight met our eyes--namely, chop boxes and gun
cases belonging to some sportsman not yet arrived. Necessity knows no
law; so we promptly helped ourselves to food and gun-cleaning
implements. Much refreshed, we lit our pipes and settled ourselves to
wait for our delinquents.

Shortly after sunrise an Indian track inspector trundled in on a handcar
propelled by two natives. He was a suave and corpulent person with a
very large umbrella and beautiful silken garments. The natives upset the
handcar off the track, and the newcomer settled himself for an enjoyable
morning. He and the babu discussed ethics and metaphysical philosophy
for three solid hours. Evidently they came from different parts of
India, and their only common language was English. Through the thin
partition in the station building we could hear plainly every word. It
was very interesting. Especially did we chortle with delight when the
inspector began one of his arguments somewhat as follows:--

"Now the two English who are here. They possess great sums of
wealth"--F. nudged me delightedly--"and they have weapons to kill, and
much with which to do things, yet their savage minds--"

It was plain, rank, eavesdropping, but most illuminating, thus to get at
first hand the Eastern point of view as to ourselves; to hear the
bloodless, gentle shell of Indian philosophy described by believers.
They discussed the most minute and impractical points, and involved
themselves in the most uncompromising dilemmas.

Thus the gist of one argument was as follows: "All sexual intercourse is
sin, but the race must go forward by means of sexual intercourse;
therefore the race is conceived in sin and is sinful; but it is a great
sin for me, as an individual, not to carry forward the race, since the
Divine Will decrees that in some way the race is necessary to it.
_Therefore_ it would seem that man is in sin whichever way you look at
it--"

"But," interposes the inspector firmly but politely, "is it not possible
that sexual sin and the sin of opposing Divine Will may be of balance in
the spirit, so that in resisting one sort a man acquires virtue to
commit the other without harm--" And so on for hours.

At twelve-thirty the safari drifted in. Consider that fact and what it
meant. The plain duty of the headman was, of course, to have seen that
the men followed us in the day before. But allowing, for the sake of
argument, that this was impossible, and that the men had been forced by
the exhaustion of some of their number to stop and camp, if they had
arisen betimes they should have completed the journey in two hours at
most. That should have brought them in by half-past seven or eight
o'clock. But a noon arrival condemned them without the necessity of
argument. They had camped early, had risen very, very late, and had
dawdled on the road.

We ourselves gave the two responsible headmen twenty lashes apiece; then
turned over to them the job of thrashing the rest. Ten per man was the
allotment. They expected the punishment; took it gracefully. Some even
thanked us when it was over! The babu disappeared in his station.

About an hour later he approached us, very deprecating, and handed us a
telegram. It was from the district commissioner at Voi ordering us to
report for flogging "porters on the Tsavo Station platform."

"I am truly sorry, I am truly sorry," the babu was murmuring at our
elbows.

"What does this mean?" we demanded of him.

He produced a thick book.

"It is in here--the law," he explained. "You must not flog men on the
station platform. It was my duty to report."

"How did we know that? Why didn't you tell us?"

"If you had gone there"--he pointed ten feet away to a spot exactly like
all other spots--"it would have been off the platform. Then I had
nothing to say."

We tried to become angry.

"But why in blazes couldn't you have told us of that quietly and
decently? We'd have moved."

"It is the law" He tapped his thick book.

"But we cannot be supposed to know by heart every law in that book. Why
didn't you warn us before reporting?" we insisted.

"I am truly sorry," he repeated. "I hope and trust it will not prove
serious. But it is in the book."

We continued in the same purposeless fashion for a moment or so longer.
Then the babu ended the discussion thus,--

"It was my duty. I am truly sorry. Suppose I had not reported and should
die to-day, and should go to heaven, and God should ask me, 'Have you
done your duty to-day?' what should I say to Him?"

We gave it up; we were up against Revealed Religion.

So that night we took a freight train southward to Voi, leaving the babu
and his prayer-bell, and his green battle-axe and his conscience alone
in the wilderness. We had quite a respect for that babu.

The district commissioner listened appreciatively to our tale.

"Of course I shall not carry the matter further," he told us, "but
having known the babu, you must see that once he had reported to me I
was compelled to order you down here. I am sorry for the inconvenience."

And when we reflected on the cataclysmic upheaval that babu would have
undergone had we not been summoned after breaking one of The Laws in the
Book, we had to admit the district commissioner was right.






PART VI.

IN MASAILAND.






XXXIII.

OVER THE LIKIPIA ESCARPMENT.


Owing to an outbreak of bubonic plague, and consequent quarantine, we
had recruited our men outside Nairobi, and had sent them, in charge of
C., to a little station up the line.

Billy and I saw to the loading of our equipment on the train, and at two
o'clock, in solitary state, set forth. Our only attendants were Mohammed
and Memba Sasa, who had been fumigated and inoculated and generally
Red-Crossed for the purpose.

The little narrow-gauge train doubled and twisted in its climb up the
range overlooking Nairobi and the Athi Plains. Fields of corn grew so
tall as partially to conceal villages of round, grass-thatched huts with
conical roofs; we looked down into deep ravines where grew the
broad-leaved bananas; the steep hillsides had all been carefully
cultivated. Savages leaning on spears watched us puff heavily by.
Women, richly ornamented with copper wire or beads, toiled along bent
under loads carried by means of a band across the top of the head.[16]
Naked children rushed out to wave at us. We were steaming quite
comfortably through Africa as it had been for thousands of years before
the white man came.

At Kikuyu Station we came to a halt. Kikuyu Station ordinarily embarks
about two passengers a month, I suppose. Now it was utterly swamped with
business, for on it had descended all our safari of thirty-nine men and
three mules. Thirty of the thirty-nine yelled and shrieked and got in
the wrong place, as usual. C. and the train men and the stationmaster
and our responsible boys heaved and tugged and directed, ordered,
commanded. At length the human element was loaded to its places and
locked in. Then the mules had to be urged up a very narrow gang-lank
into a dangerous-looking car. Quite sensibly they declined to take
chances. We persuaded them. The process was quite simple. Two of the men
holding the ends at a safe distance stretched a light strong cord across
the beasts' hind legs, and sawed it back and forth.

We clanged the doors shut, climbed aboard, and the train at last
steamed on. Now bits of forest came across our way, deep, shaded, with
trailing curtain vines, and wide leaves as big as table tops, and high,
lush, impenetrable undergrowth full of flashing birds, fathomless
shadows, and inquisitive monkeys. Occasionally we emerged to the edge of
a long oval meadow, set in depressions among hills, like our Sierra
meadows. Indeed so like were these openings to those in our own wooded
mountains that we always experienced a distinct shock of surprise as the
familiar woods parted to disclose a dark solemn savage with flashing
spear.

We stopped at various stations, and descended and walked about in the
gathering shadows of the forest. It was getting cool. Many little things
attracted our attention, to remain in our memories as isolated pictures.
Thus I remember one grave savage squatted by the track playing on a sort
of mandoline-shaped instrument. It had two strings, and he twanged these
alternately, without the slightest effort to change their pitch by
stopping with his fingers. He bent his head sidewise, and listened with
the meticulous attention of a connoisseur. We stopped at that place for
fully ten minutes, but not for a second did he leave off twanging his
two strings, nor did he even momentarily relax his attention.

It was now near sundown. We had been climbing steadily. The train
shrieked twice, and unexpectedly slid out to the edge of the Likipia
Escarpment. We looked down once more into the great Rift Valley.

The Rift Valley is as though a strip of Africa--extending half the
length of the continent--had in time past sunk bodily some thousands of
feet, leaving a more or less sheer escarpment on either side, and
preserving intact its own variegated landscape in the bottom. We were on
the Likipia Escarpment. We looked across to the Mau Escarpment, where
the country over which our train had been travelling continued after its
interruption by the valley. And below us were mountains, streams,
plains. The westering sun threw strong slants of light down and across.

The engine shut off its power, and we slid silently down the rather
complicated grades and curves of the descent. A noble forest threw its
shadows over us. Through the chance openings we caught glimpses of the
pale country far below. Across high trestle bridges we rattled, and
craned over to see the rushing white water of the mountain torrents a
hundred feet down. The shriek of our engine echoed and re-echoed
weirdly from the serried trunks of trees and from the great cliffs that
seemed to lift themselves as we descended.

We debarked at Kijabe[17] well after dark. It is situated on a ledge in
the escarpment, is perhaps a quarter-mile wide, and includes nothing
more elaborate than the station, a row of Indian dukkas, and two houses
of South Africans set back towards the rise in the cliffs. A mile or so
away, and on a little higher level, stand the extensive buildings of an
American mission. It is, I believe, educational as well as sectarian, is
situated in one of the most healthful climates of East Africa, and is
prosperous.

At the moment we saw none of these things. We were too busy getting men,
mules, and equipment out of the train. Our lanterns flared in the great
wind that swept down the defile; and across the track little fires
flared too. Shortly we made the acquaintance of the South Africander who
furnished us our ox teams and wagon; and of a lank, drawling youth who
was to be our "rider." The latter was very anxious to get started, so we
piled all our stores and equipment but those immediately necessary for
the night aboard the great wagon. Then we returned to the dak-bungalow
for a very belated supper. While eating this we discussed our plans.

These were in essence very simple. Somewhere south of the Great Thirst
of the Sotik a river called the Narossara. Back of the river were high
mountains, and down the river were benches dropping off by thousands of
feet to the barren country of Lake Magahdi. Over some of this country
ranged the Greater Kudu, easily the prize buck of East Africa. We
intended to try for a Greater Kudu.

People laughed at us. The beast is extremely rare; it ranges over a wide
area; it inhabits the thickest sort of cover in a sheer mountainous
country; its senses are wonderfully acute; and it is very wary. A man
_might_, once in a blue moon, get one by happening upon it accidentally,
but deliberately to go after it was sheer lunacy. So we were told. As a
matter of fact, we thought so ourselves, but Greater Kudu was as good an
excuse as another.

The most immediate of our physical difficulties was the Thirst. Six
miles from Kijabe we would leave the Kedong River. After that was no
more water for two days and nights. During that time we should be forced
to travel and rest in alternation day and night, with a great deal of
travel and very little rest. We should be able to carry for the men a
limited amount of water on the ox wagon, but the cattle could not drink.
It was a hard, anxious grind. A day's journey beyond the first water
after the Thirst we should cross the Southern Guaso Nyero River.[18]
Then two days should land us at the Narossara. There we must leave our
ox wagon and push on with our tiny safari. We planned to relay back for
porters from our different camps.

That was our whole plan. Our transport rider's object in starting this
night was to reach the Kedong River, and there to outspan until our
arrival next day. The cattle would thus get a good feed and rest. Then
at four in the afternoon we would set out to conquer the Thirst. After
that it would be a question of travelling to suit the oxen.

Next morning, when we arose, we found one of the wagon Kikuyus awaiting
us. His tale ran that after going four miles, the oxen had been
stampeded by lions. In the mix-up the dusselboom had been broken. He
demanded a new dusselboom. I looked as wise as though I knew just what
that meant; and told him largely, to help himself. Shortly he departed
carrying what looked to be the greater part of a forest tree.

We were in no hurry, so we did not try to get our safari under way
before eight o'clock. It consisted of twenty-nine porters, the
gunbearers, three personal boys, three syces, and the cook. Of this lot
some few stand out from the rest, and deserve particular attention.

Of course I had my veterans, Memba Sasa and Mohammed. There was also
Kongoni, gunbearer, elsewhere described. The third gunbearer was
Marrouki, a Wakamba. He was the personal gunbearer of a Mr. Twigg, who
very courteously loaned him for this trip as possessing some knowledge
of the country. He was a small person, with stripes about his eyes;
dressed in a Scotch highland cap, khaki breeches, and a shooting coat
miles too big for him. His soul was earnest, his courage great, his
training good, his intelligence none too brilliant. Timothy, our cook,
was pure Swahili. He was a thin, elderly individual, with a wrinkled
brow of care. This represented a conscientious soul. He tried hard to
please, but he never could quite forget that he had cooked for the
Governor's safari. His air was always one of silent disapproval of our
modest outfit. So well did he do, however, often under trying
circumstances, that at the close of the expedition Billy presented him
with a very fancy knife. To her vast astonishment he burst into violent
sobs.

"Why, what is it?" she asked.

"Oh, memsahib," he wailed, "I wanted a watch!"

As personal boy Billy had a Masai named Geyeye.[19] The members of this
proud and aristocratic tribe rarely condescend to work for the white
man; but when they do, they are very fine servants, for they are highly
intelligent. Geyeye was short and very, very ugly. Perhaps this may
partly explain his leaving tribal life, for the Masai generally are over
six feet.

C.'s man was an educated Coast Swahili named Abba Ali. This individual
was very smart. He wore a neatly-trimmed Vandyke beard, a flannel
boating hat, smart tailored khakis, and carried a rattan cane. He was
alert, quick, and intelligent. His position was midway between that of
personal boy and headman.

Of the rank and file we began with twenty-nine. Two changed their minds
before we were fairly started, and departed in the night. There was no
time to get regular porters; but fortunately a Kikuyu chief detailed two
wild savages from his tribe to act as carriers. These two children of
nature drifted in with pleasant smiles and little else save
knick-knacks. From our supplies we gave them two thin jerseys, reaching
nearly to the knees. Next day they appeared with broad tucks sewed
around the middle! They looked like "My Mama didn't use wool soap." We
then gave it up, and left them free and untrammelled.

They differed radically. One was past the first enthusiasms and vanities
of youth. He was small, unobtrusive, unornamented. He had no possessions
save the jersey, the water-bottle, and the blanket we ourselves
supplied. The blanket he crossed bandolier fashion on one shoulder. It
hung down behind like a tasselled sash. His face was little and wizened
and old. He was quiet and uncomplaining, and the "easy mark" for all the
rest. We had constantly to be interfering to save him from imposition as
to too heavy loads, too many jobs, and the like. Nearing the close of
the long expedition, when our loads were lighter and fewer, one day C.
spoke up.

"I'm going to give the old man a good time," said he. "I doubt if he's
ever had one before, or if he ever will again. He's that sort of a meek
damnfool."

So it was decreed that Kimau[20] should carry nothing for the rest of
the trip, was to do no more work, was to have all he wanted to eat. It
was a treat to see him. He accepted these things without surprise,
without spoken thanks; just as he would have accepted an increased
supply of work and kicks. Before his little fire he squatted all day,
gazing vacantly off into space, or gnawing on a piece of the meat he
always kept roasting on sticks. He spoke to no one; he never smiled or
displayed any obvious signs of enjoyment; but from him radiated a
feeling of deep content.

His companion savage was a young blood, and still affected by the
vanities of life. His hair he wore in short tight curls, resembling the
rope hair of a French poodle, liberally anointed with castor-oil and
coloured with red-paint clay. His body, too, was turned to bronze by the
same method, so that he looked like a beautiful smooth metal statue come
to life. To set this quality off he wore glittering collars, bracelets,
and ear ornaments of polished copper and brass. When he joined us his
sole costume was a negligent two-foot strip of cotton cloth. After he
had received his official jersey, he carefully tied the cloth over his
wonderful head; nor as far as we knew did he again remove it until the
end of the expedition. All his movements were inexpressibly graceful.
They reminded one somehow of Flaxman's drawings of the Greek gods. His
face, too, was good-natured and likeable. A certain half feminine, wild
grace, combined with the queer effect of his headgear, caused us to name
him Daphne. At home he was called Kingangui. At first he carried his
burden after the fashion of savages--on the back; and kept to the rear
of the procession; and at evening consorted only with old Lightfoot. As
soon as opportunity offered, he built himself a marvellous iridescent
ball of marabout feathers. Each of these he split along the quill, so
that they curled and writhed in the wind. This picturesque charm he
suspended from a short pole in front of his tent. Also, he belonged to
the Kikuyu tribe; he ate no game meat, but confined his diet to cornmeal
porridge. We were much interested in watching Daphne's gradual
conversion from savage ways to those of the regular porter. Within two
weeks he was carrying his load on his head or shoulder, and trying to
keep up near the head of the safari. The charm of feathers disappeared
shortly after, I am sorry to say. He took his share of the meat. Within
two months Daphne was imitating as closely as possible the manners and
customs of his safari mates. But he never really succeeded in looking
anything but the wild and graceful savage he was.

FOOTNOTES:

[16] After the fashion of the Canadian tump line.

[17] Pronounce all the syllables.

[18] An entirely different stream from that flowing north of Mt. Kenia.

[19] Pronounce _every_ syllable.

[20] His official name was Lightfoot, Queen of the Fairies, because of
his ballet-like costume.




XXXIV.

TO THE KEDONG.


For four hours we descended the valley through high thorn scrub or the
occasional grassy openings. We were now in the floor of the Rift Valley,
and both along the escarpments and in the floor of the great blue valley
itself mountains were all about us. Most of the large ones were
evidently craters; and everywhere were smaller kopjes or buttes, that in
their day had also served as blow holes for subterranean fires.

At the end of this time we arrived at the place where we were supposed
to find the wagon. No wagon was there.

The spot was in the middle of a level plain on which grew very scattered
bushes, a great deal like the sparser mesquite growths of Arizona.
Towards the Likipia Escarpment, and about half-way to its base, a line
of trees marked the course of the Kedong River. Beyond that, fairly
against the mountain, we made out a settler's house.

Leaving Billy and the safari, C. and I set out for this house. The
distance was long, and we had not made half of it before thunder clouds
began to gather. They came up thick and black behind the escarpment, and
rapidly spread over the entire heavens. We found the wagon shortly,
still mending its dusselboom, or whatever the thing was. Leaving
instructions for it to proceed to a certain point on the Kedong River,
we started back for our safari.

It rained. In ten minutes the dusty plains, as far as the eye could
reach, were covered with water two or three inches deep, from which the
sparse bunches of grasses grew like reeds in a great marshy lake. We
splashed along with the water over our ankles. The channels made by the
game trails offered natural conduits, and wherever there was the least
grade they had become rushing brooks. We found the safari very
bedraggled. Billy had made a mound of valuables, atop which she perched,
her waterproof cape spread as wide as possible, a good deal like a
brooding hen. We set out for the meeting-point on the Kedong. In half an
hour we had there found a bit of higher ground and had made camp.

As suddenly as they had gathered the storm clouds broke away. The
expiring sun sent across the valley a flood of golden light, that gilded
the rugged old mountain of Suswa over the way.

"Directly on the other side of Suswa," C. told me, "there is a 'pan' of
hard clay. This rain will fill it, and we shall find water there. We can
take a night's rest, and set off comfortably in the morning."

So the rain that had soaked us so thoroughly was a blessing after all.
While we were cooking supper the wagon passed us, its wheels and frame
creaking, its great whip cracking like a rifle, its men shrieking at the
imperturbable team of eighteen oxen. It would travel until the oxen
wanted to graze, or sleep, or scratch an ear, or meditate on why is a
Kikuyu. Thereupon they would be outspanned and allowed to do it,
whatever it was, until they were ready to go on again. Then they would
go on. These sequences might take place at any time of the day or night,
and for greater or lesser intervals of time. That was distinctly up to
the oxen; the human beings had mighty little to say in the matter. But
transport riding, from the point of view of the rank outsider, really
deserves a chapter of its own.




XXXV.

THE TRANSPORT RIDER.


The wagon is one evolved in South Africa--a long, heavily-constructed
affair, with ingenious braces and timbers so arranged as to furnish the
maximum clearance with the greatest facility for substitution in case
the necessity for repairs might arise. The whole vehicle can be
dismounted and reassembled in a few hours; so that unfordable streams or
impossible bits of country can be crossed piecemeal. Its enormous wheels
are set wide apart. The brake is worked by a crank at the rear, like a
reversal of the starting mechanism of a motor car. Bolted to the frame
on either side between the front and rear wheels are capacious
cupboards, and two stout water kegs swing to and fro when the craft is
under way. The net carrying capacity of such a wagon is from three to
four thousand pounds.

This formidable vehicle, in our own case, was drawn by a team of
eighteen oxen. The biggest brutes, the wheelers, were attached to a
tongue, all the others pulled on a long chain. The only harness was the
pronged yoke that fitted just forward of the hump. Over rough country
the wheelers were banged and jerked about savagely by the tongue; they
did not seem to mind it but exhibited a certain amount of intelligence
in manipulation.

To drive these oxen we had one white man named Brown, and two small
Kikuyu savages. One of these worked the brake crank in the rear while
the other preceded the lead cattle. Brown exercised general supervision,
a long-lashed whip and Boer-Dutch expletives and admonitions.

In transport riding, as this game is called, there is required a great
amount of especial skill though not necessarily a high degree of
intelligence. Along the flats all goes well enough, but once in the
unbelievable rough country of a hill trek the situation alters. A man
must know cattle and their symptoms. It is no light feat to wake up
eighteen sluggish bovine minds to the necessity for effort, and then to
throw so much dynamic energy into the situation that the whole eighteen
will begin to pull at once. That is the secret, unanimity; an ox is the
most easily discouraged working animal on earth. If the first three
couples begin to haul before the others have aroused to their effort,
they will not succeed in budging the wagon an inch, but after a moment's
struggle will give up completely. By that time the leaders respond to
the command and throw themselves forward in the yoke. In vain. They
cannot pull the wagon and their wheel comrades too. Therefore they give
up. By this time, perhaps, the lash has aroused the first lot to another
effort. And so they go, pulling and hauling against each other, getting
nowhere, until the end is an exhausted team, a driver half insane, and a
great necessity for unloading.

A good driver, on the other hand, shrieks a few premonitory Dutch
words--and then! I suppose inside those bovine heads the effect is
somewhat that of a violent electric explosion. At any rate it hits them
all at once, and all together, in response, they surge against their
yokes. The heavily laden wagon creaks, groans, moves forward. The
hurricane of Dutch and the volleys of whip crackings rise to a
crescendo. We are off!

To perform just this little simple trick of getting the thing started
requires not only a peculiar skill or gift, but also lungs of brass and
a throat of iron. A transport rider without a voice is as a tenor in the
same fix. He may--and does--get so hoarse that it is a pain to hear him;
but as long as he can croak in good volume he is all right. Mere
shouting will not do. He must shriek, until to the sympathetic bystander
it seems that his throat must split wide open. Furthermore, he must
shriek the proper things. It all sounds alike to every one but transport
riders and oxen; but as a matter of fact it is Boer-Dutch, nicely
assorted to suit different occasions. It is incredible that oxen should
distinguish; but, then, it is also incredible that trout should
distinguish the nice differences in artificial flies.

After the start has been made successfully, the craft must be kept under
way. To an unbiassed bystander the whole affair looks insane. The wagon
creaks and sways and groans and cries aloud as it bumps over great
boulders in the way; the leading Kikuyu dances nimbly and shrills
remarks at the nearest cattle; the tail Kikuyu winds energetically back
and forth on his little handle, and tries to keep his feet. And Brown!
he is magnificent! His long lash sends out a volley of rifle reports,
down, up, ahead, back; his cracked voice roars out an unending stream
of apparent gibberish. Back and forth along the line of the team he
skips nimbly, the sweat streaming from his face. And the oxen plod
along, unhasting, unexcited, their eyes dreamy, chewing the cud of
yesterday's philosophic reflections. The situation conveys the general
impression of a peevish little stream breaking against great calm
cliffs. All this frantic excitement and expenditure of energy is so
apparently purposeless and futile, the calm cattle seem so aloof and
superior to it all, so absolutely unaffected by it. They are going
slowly, to be sure; their gait may be maddeningly deliberate, but
evidently they do not intend to be hurried. Why not let them take their
own speed?

But all this hullabaloo means something after all. It does its business,
and the top of the boulder-strewn hill is gained. Without it the whole
concern would have stopped, and then the wagon would have to be unloaded
before a fresh start could have been made. Results with cattle are not
shown by facial expression nor by increased speed, but simply by
continuance. They will plod up steep hills or along the level at the
same placid gait. Only in the former case they require especial
treatment.

In case the wagon gets stuck on a hill, as will occasionally happen, so
that all the oxen are discouraged at once, we would see one of the
Kikuyus leading the team back and forth, back and forth, on the side
hill just ahead of the wagon. This is to confuse their minds, cause them
to forget their failure, and thus to make another attempt.

At one stretch we had three days of real mountains. N'gombe[21] Brown
shrieked like a steam calliope all the way through. He lasted the
distance, but had little camp-fire conversation even with his beloved
Kikuyus.

When the team is outspanned, which in the waterless country of forced
marches is likely to be almost any time of the day or night, N'gombe
Brown sought a little rest. For this purpose he had a sort of bunk that
let down underneath the wagon. If it were daytime, the cattle were
allowed to graze under supervision of one of the Kikuyus. If it was
night time they were tethered to the long chain, where they lay in a
somnolent double row. A lantern at the head of the file and one at the
wagon's tail were supposed to discourage lions. In a bad lion country
fires were added to these defences.

N'gombe Brown thus worked hard through varied and long hours in strict
intimacy with stupid and exasperating beasts. After working hours he
liked to wander out to watch those same beasts grazing! His mind was as
full of cattle as that! Although we offered him reading matter, he never
seemed to care for it, nor for long-continued conversation with white
people not of his trade. In fact the only gleam of interest I could get
out of him was by commenting on the qualities or peculiarities of the
oxen. He had a small mouth-organ on which he occasionally performed, and
would hold forth for hours with his childlike Kikuyus. In the
intelligence to follow ordinary directions he was an infant. We had to
iterate and reiterate in words of one syllable our directions as to
routes and meeting-points, and then he was quite as apt to go wrong as
right. Yet, I must repeat, he knew thoroughly all the ins and outs of a
very difficult trade, and understood, as well, how to keep his cattle
always fit and in good condition. In fact he was a little hipped on what
the "dear n'gombes" should or should not be called upon to do.

One incident will illustrate all this better than I could explain it.
When we reached the Narossara River we left the wagon and pushed on
afoot. We were to be gone an indefinite time, and we left N'gombe Brown
and his outfit very well fixed. Along the Narossara ran a pleasant shady
strip of high jungle; the country about was clear and open; but most
important of all, a white man of education and personal charm occupied a
trading boma, or enclosure, near at hand. An accident changed our plans
and brought us back unexpectedly at the end of a few weeks. We found
that N'gombe Brown had trekked back a long day's journey, and was
encamped alone at the end of a spur of mountains. We sent native runners
after him. He explained his change of base by saying that the cattle
feed was a little better at his new camp! Mind you this: at the
Narossara the feed was quite good enough, the oxen were doing no work,
there was companionship, books, papers, and even a phonograph to while
away the long weeks until our return. N'gombe Brown quite cheerfully
deserted all this to live in solitude where he imagined the feed to be
microscopically better!

FOOTNOTES:

[21] N'gombe = oxen.




XXXVI.

ACROSS THE THIRST.


We were off, a bright, clear day after the rains. Suswa hung grayish
pink against the bluest of skies. Our way slanted across the Rift Valley
to her base, turned the corner, and continued on the other side of the
great peak until we had reached the rainwater "pan" on her farther side.
It was a long march.

The plains were very wide and roomy. Here and there on them rose many
small cones and craters, lava flows and other varied evidences of recent
volcanic activity. Geologically recent, I mean. The grasses of the
flowing plains were very brown, and the molehill craters very dark; the
larger craters blasted and austere; the higher escarpment in the
background blue with a solemn distance. The sizes of things were not
originally fitted out for little tiny people like human beings. We
walked hours to reach landmarks apparently only a few miles away.

In this manner we crept along industriously until noon, by which time we
had nearly reached the shoulder of Suswa, around which we had to double.
The sun was strong, and the men not yet hardened to the work. We had
many stragglers. After lunch Memba Sasa and I strolled along on a route
flanking that of the safari, looking for the first of our meat supply.
Within a short time I had killed a Thompson's gazelle. Some solemn
giraffes looked on at the performance, and then moved off like
mechanical toys.

The day lengthened. We were in the midst of wonderful scenery. Our
objection grew to be that it took so long to put any of it behind us.
Insensibly, however, we made progress. Suddenly, as it seemed, we found
ourselves looking at the other side of Suswa, and various brand-new
little craters had moved up to take the places of our old friends. At
last, about half-past four, we topped the swell of one of the numerous
and interminable land billows that undulate across all plains countries
here, and saw a few miles away the wagon outspanned. We reached it about
sunset, to be greeted by the welcome news that there was indeed water in
the pan.

We unsaddled just before dark, and I immediately started towards the
game herds, many of which were grazing a half-mile away. The gazelle
would supply our own larder, but meat for hard-worked man was very
desirable. I shot a hartebeeste, made the prearranged signal for men to
carry meat, and returned to camp.

Even yet the men were not all in. We took lanterns and returned along
the road, for the long marches under a desert sun are no joke. At last
we had accounted for all but two. These we had to abandon. Next day we
found their loads, but never laid eyes on them again. Thus early our
twenty-nine became twenty-seven.

About nine o'clock, just as we were turning, a number of lions began to
roar. Usually a lion roars once or twice by way of satisfaction after
leaving a kill. These, however, were engaged in driving game, and hence
trying to make as much noise as possible. We distinguished plainly seven
individuals, perhaps more. The air trembled with the sound as to the
deepest tones of a big organ, only the organ is near and enclosed, while
these vibrations were in the open air and remote. For a few moments the
great salvos would boom across the veld, roll after roll of thunder;
then would ensue a momentary dead silence; then a single voice would
open, to be joined immediately by the others.

We awoke next day to an unexpected cold drizzle. This was a bit
uncomfortable, from one point of view, and most unusual, but it robbed
the thirst of its terrors. We were enabled to proceed leisurely, and to
get a good sleep near water every night. The wagon had, as usual, pulled
out some time during the night.

Our way led over a succession of low rolling ridges each higher than its
predecessor. Game herds fed in the shallow valleys between. At about ten
o'clock we came to the foot of the Mau Escarpment, and also to the
unexpected sight of the wagon outspanned. N'gombe Brown explained to us
that the oxen had refused to proceed farther in face of a number of
lions that came around to sniff at them. Then the rain had come on, and
he had been unwilling to attempt the Mau while the footing was slippery.
This sounded reasonable; in fact, it was still reasonable. The grass was
here fairly neck high, and we found a rain-filled water-hole. Therefore
we decided to make camp. C. and I wandered out in search of game. We
tramped a great deal of bold, rugged country, both in canon bottoms and
along the open ridges, but found only a rhinoceros, one bush-buck and a
dozen hartebeeste. African game, as a general rule, avoids a country
where the grass grows very high. We enjoyed, however, some bold and
wonderful mountain scenery, and obtained glimpses through the flying
murk of the vast plains and the base of Suswa. On a precipitous canon
cliff we found a hanging garden of cactus and of looped cactus-like
vines that was a marvel to behold. We ran across the hartebeeste on our
way home. Our men were already out of meat; the hartebeeste of yesterday
had disappeared. These porters are a good deal like the old-fashioned
Michigan lumberjacks--they take a good deal of feeding for the first few
days. When we came upon the little herd in the neck-high grass, I took a
shot. At the report the animal went down flat. We wandered over slowly.
Memba Sasa whetted his knife and walked up. Thereupon Mr. Hartebeeste
jumped to his feet, flirted his tail gaily, and departed. We followed
him a mile or so, but he got stronger and gayer every moment, until at
last he frisked out of the landscape quite strong and hearty. In all my
African experience I lost only six animals hit by bullets, as I took
infinite pains and any amount of time to hunt down wounded beasts. This
animal was, I think, "creased" by too high a shot. Certainly he was not
much injured; but certainly he got a big shock to start with.

The little herd had gone on. I got down and crawled on hands and knees
in the thick grass. It was slow work, and I had to travel by landmarks.
When I finally reckoned I had about reached the proper place, I stood up
suddenly, my rifle at ready. So dense was the cover and so still the air
that I had actually crawled right into the middle of the band! While we
were cutting up the meat the sun broke through strongly.

Therefore the wagon started on up the Mau at six o'clock. Twelve hours
later we followed. The fine drizzle had set in again. We were very glad
the wagon had taken advantage of the brief dry time.

From the top of the sheer rise we looked back for the last time over the
wonderful panorama of the Rift Valley. Before us were wide rounded hills
covered with a scattered small growth that in general appearance
resembled scrub oak. It sloped away gently until it was lost in mists.
Later, when these cleared, we saw distant blue mountains across a
tremendous shallow basin. We were nearly on a level with the summit of
Suswa itself, nor did we again drop much below that altitude. After
five or six miles we overtook the wagon outspanned. The projected
all-night journey had again been frustrated by the lions. These beasts
had proved so bold and menacing that finally the team had been forced to
stop in sheer self-defence. However, the day was cool and overcast, so
nothing was lost.

After topping the Mau we saw a few gazelle, zebra, and hartebeeste, but
soon plunged into a bush country quite destitute of game. We were
paralleling the highest ridge of the escarpment, and so alternated
between the crossing of canons and the travelling along broad ridges
between them. In lack of other amusement for a long time I rode with the
wagon. The country was very rough and rocky. Everybody was excited to
the point of frenzy, except the wagon. It had a certain Dutch stolidity
in its manner of calmly and bumpily surmounting such portions of the
landscape as happened in its way.

After a very long, tiresome march we camped above a little stream.
Barring our lucky rain this would have been the first water since
leaving the Kedong River. Here were hundreds of big blue pigeons
swooping in to their evening drink.

For two days more we repeated this sort of travel, but always with good
camps at fair-sized streams. Gradually we slanted away from the main
ridge, though we still continued cross-cutting the swells and ravines
thrown off its flanks. Only the ravines hour by hour became shallower,
and the swells lower and broader. On their tops the scrub sometimes gave
way to openings of short grass. On these fed a few gazelle of both
sorts, and an occasional zebra or so. We saw also four topi, a beast
about the size of our wapiti, built on the general specifications of a
hartebeeste, but with the most beautiful iridescent plum-coloured coat.
This quartette was very wild. I made three separate stalks on them, but
the best I could do was 360 paces, at which range I missed.

Finally we surmounted the last low swell to look down a wide and sloping
plain to the depression in which flowed the principal river of these
parts, the Southern Guaso Nyero. Beyond it stretched the immense
oceanlike plains of the Loieta, from which here and there rose isolated
hills, very distant, like lonesome ships at sea. A little to the left,
also very distant, we could make out an unbroken blue range of
mountains. These were our ultimate destination.




XXXVII.

THE SOUTHERN GUASO NYERO.


The Southern Guaso Nyero, unlike its northern namesake, is a sluggish,
muddy stream, rather small, flowing between abrupt clay banks. Farther
down it drops into great canons and eroded abysses, and acquires a
certain grandeur. But here, at the ford of Agate's Drift, it is
decidedly unimpressive. Scant greenery ornaments its banks. In fact, at
most places they run hard and baked to a sheer drop-off of ten or
fifteen feet. Scattered mimosa trees and aloes mark its course. The
earth for a mile or so is trampled by thousands of Masai cattle that at
certain seasons pass through the funnel of this, the only ford for
miles. Apparently insignificant, it is given to sudden, tremendous
rises. These originate in the rainfalls of the upper Mau Escarpment,
many miles away. It behooves the safari to cross promptly if it can,
and to camp always on the farther bank.

This we did, pitching our tents in a little opening, between clumps of
pretty flowering aloes and the mimosas. Here, as everywhere in this
country, until we had passed the barrier of the Narossara mountains, the
common horseflies were a plague. They follow the Masai cattle. I can
give you no better idea of their numbers than to tell you two isolated
facts: I killed twenty-one at one blow; and in the morning, before
sunrise, the apex of our tent held a solid black mass of the creatures
running the length of the ridge pole, and from half an inch to two
inches deep! Every pack was black with them on the march, and the wagon
carried its millions. When the shadow of a branch would cross that
slowly lumbering vehicle, the swarm would rise and bumble around
distractedly for a moment before settling down again. They fairly made a
nimbus of darkness.

After we had made camp we saw a number of Masai warriors hovering about
the opposite bank, but they did not venture across. Some of their women
did, however, and came cheerily into camp. These most interesting people
are worth more than a casual word, so I shall reserve my observations
on them until a later chapter. One of our porters, a big Baganda named
Sabakaki, was suffering severely from pains in the chest that
subsequently developed into pleurisy. From the Masai women we tried to
buy some of the milk they carried in gourds; at first they seemed not
averse, but as soon as they realized the milk was not for our own
consumption, they turned their backs on poor Sabakaki and refused to
have anything more to do with us.

These Masai are very difficult to trade with. Their only willing barter
is done in sheep. These they seem to consider legitimate objects of
commerce. A short distance from our camp stood three whitewashed round
houses with thatched, conical roofs, the property of a trader named
Agate. He was away at the time of our visit.

After an early morning, but vain, attempt to get Billy a shot at a
lion[22] we set out for our distant blue mountains. The day was a
journey over plains of great variegation. At times they were covered
with thin scrub; at others with small groves; or again, they were open
and grassy. Always they undulated gently, so from their tops one never
saw as far as he thought he was going to see. As landmark we steered by
a good-sized butte named Donga Rasha.

Memba Sasa and I marched ahead on foot. In this thin scrub we got
glimpses of many beasts. At one time we were within fifty yards of a
band of magnificent eland. By fleeting glimpses we saw also many
wildebeeste and zebra, with occasionally one of the smaller grass
antelope. Finally, in an open glade we caught sight of something tawny
showing in the middle of a bush. It was too high off the ground to be a
buck. We sneaked nearer. At fifty yards we came to a halt, still
puzzled. Judging by its height and colour, it should be a lion, but try
as we would we could not make out what part of his anatomy was thus
visible. At last I made up my mind to give him a shot from the
Springfield, with the .405 handy. At the shot the tawny patch heaved and
lay still. We manoeuvred cautiously, and found we had killed stone dead
not a lion, but a Bohur reed-buck lying atop an ant hill concealed in
the middle of the bush. This accounted for its height above the ground.
As it happened, I very much wanted one of these animals as a specimen,
so everybody was satisfied.

Shortly after, attracted by a great concourse of carrion birds, both on
trees and in the air, we penetrated a thicket to come upon a full-grown
giraffe killed by lions. The claw marks and other indications were
indubitable. The carcass had been partly eaten, but was rapidly
vanishing under the attacks of the birds.

Just before noon we passed Donga Rasha and emerged on the open plains.
Here I caught sight of some Roberts' gazelle, a new species to me, and
started alone in pursuit. They, as usual, trotted over the nearest rise,
so with due precautions I followed after. At the top of that rise I lay
still in astonishment. Before me marched solemnly an unbroken single
file of game, reaching literally to my limit of vision in both
directions. They came over the land swell a mile to my left, and they
were disappearing over another land swell a mile and a half to my right.
It was rigidly single file, except for the young; the nose of one beast
fairly touching the tail of the one ahead, and it plodded along at a
businesslike walk. There were but three species represented--the gnu,
the zebra, and the hartebeeste. I did not see the head of the
procession, for it had gone from sight before I arrived; nor did I ever
see the tail of it either, for the safari appearing inopportunely broke
its continuance. But I saw two miles and a half, solid, of big game. It
was a great and formal trek, probably to new pastures.

Then I turned my attention to the Roberts' gazelle, and my good luck
downed a specimen at 273 yards. This, with the Bohur reed-buck, made the
second new species for the day. Our luck was not yet over, however. We
had proceeded but a few miles when Kongoni discovered a herd of topi.
The safari immediately lay down, while I went ahead. There was little
cover, and I had a very hard time to get within range, especially as a
dozen zebras kept grazing across the line of my stalks. The topi
themselves were very uneasy, crossing and recrossing and looking
doubtfully in my direction. I had a number of chances at small bucks,
but refused them in my desire to get a shot at the big leader of the
herd. Finally he separated from the rest and faced in my direction at
just 268 yards. At the shot he fell dead.

For the first time we had an opportunity to admire the wonderful pelt.
It is beautiful in quality, plum colour, with iridescent lights and wavy
"water marks" changing to pearl colour on the four quarters, with black
legs. We were both struck with the gorgeousness of a topi motor-rug made
of three skins, with these pearl spots as accents in the corners. To
our ambitions and hopes we added more topi.

Our journey to the Narossara River lasted three days in all. We gained
an outlying spur of the blue mountains, and skirted their base. The
usual varied foothill country led us through defiles, over ridges, and
by charming groves. We began to see Masai cattle in great herds. The
gentle humpbacked beasts were held in close formation by herders afoot,
tall, lithe young savages with spears. In the distance and through the
heat haze the beasts shimmered strangely, their glossy reds and whites
and blacks blending together. In this country of wide expanses and clear
air we could thus often make out a very far-off herd simply as a speck
of rich colour against the boundless rolling plains.

Here we saw a good variety of game. Zebras, of course, and hartebeeste;
the Roberts' gazelle, a few topi, a good many of the gnu or wildebeeste
discovered and named by Roosevelt; a few giraffes, klipspringer on the
rocky buttes, cheetah, and the usual jackals, hyenas, etc. I killed one
very old zebra. So ancient was he that his teeth had worn down to the
level of the gums, which seemed fairly on the point of closing over.
Nevertheless he was still fat and sleek. He could not much longer have
continued to crop the grass. Such extreme age in wild animals is, in
Africa at least, most remarkable, for generally they meet violent deaths
while still in their prime.

About three o'clock of the third afternoon we came in sight of a long
line of forest trees running down parallel with the nearest mountain
ranges. These marked the course of the Narossara, and by four o'clock we
were descending the last slope.

FOOTNOTES:

[22] See "The Land of Footprints."




XXXVIII.

THE LOWER BENCHES.


The Narossara is really only about creek size, but as it flows the whole
year round it merits the title of river. It rises in the junction of a
long spur with the main ranges, cuts straight across a wide inward bend
of the mountains, joins them again, plunges down a deep and tremendous
canon to the level of a second bench below great cliffs, meanders
peacefully in flowery meadows and delightful glades for some miles, and
then once more, and most unexpectedly, drops eighteen hundred feet by
waterfall and precipitous cascade to join the Southern Guaso Nyero. The
country around this junction is some of the roughest I saw in Africa.

We camped at the spot where the river ran at about its maximum distance
from the mountains. Our tents were pitched beneath the shade of tall and
refreshing trees.

A number of Masai women visited us, laughing and joking with Billy in
their quizzically humorous fashion. Just as we were sitting down at
table an Englishman wandered out of the greenery and approached. He was
a small man with a tremendous red beard, wore loose garments and tennis
shoes, and strolled up, his hands in his pockets and smoking a
cigarette. This was V., a man of whom we had heard. A member of a
historical family, officer in a crack English regiment, he had resigned
everything to come into this wild country. Here he had built a boma, or
enclosed compound, and engaged himself in acquiring Masai sheep in
exchange for beads, wire, and cloth. Obviously the profits of such
transactions could not be the temptation. He liked the life, and he
liked his position of influence with these proud and savage people.
Strangely enough, he cared little for the sporting possibilities of the
country, though of course he did a little occasional shooting; but was
quite content with his trading, his growing knowledge of and intimacy
with the Masai, and his occasional tremendous journeys. To the casual
and infrequent stranger his attitude was reported most uncertain.

We invited him to tea, which he accepted, and we fell into
conversation. He and C. were already old acquaintances. The man, I
found, was shy about talking of the things that interested him; but as
they most decidedly interested us also we managed to convey an
impression of our sincerity. Thereafter he was most friendly. His
helpfulness, kindness, and courtesy could not have been bettered. He
lent us his own boy as guide down through the canons of the Narossara to
the Lower Benches, where we hoped to find kudu; he offered store-room to
such of our supplies as we intended holding in reserve; he sent us sheep
and eggs as a welcome variety to our game diet; and in addition he gave
us Masai implements and ornaments we could not possibly have acquired in
any other way. It is impossible to buy the personal belongings of this
proud and independent people at any price. The price of a spear
ordinarily runs about two rupees' worth, when one trades with any other
tribe. I know of a case where a Masai was offered fifty rupees for his
weapon, but refused scornfully. V. acquired these things through
friendship; and after we had gained his, he was most generous with them.
Thus he presented us with a thing almost impossible to get and seen
rarely outside of museums--the Masai war bonnet, made of the mane of a
lion. It is in shape and appearance, though not in colour, almost
exactly like the grenadier's shako of the last century. In addition to
this priceless trophy, V. also gave us samples of the cattle bells, both
wooden and metal, ivory ear ornaments, bead bracelets, steel collars,
circumcision knives, sword belts, and other affairs of like value. But I
think that the _apogee_ of his kindliness was reached when much later he
heard from the native tribes that we were engaged in penetrating the
defiles of the higher mountains. Then he sent after us a swift Masai
runner bearing to us a bottle of whisky and a message to the effect that
V. was afraid we would find it very cold up there! Think of what that
meant; turn it well over in your mind, with all the circumstances of
distance from supplies, difficulty of transportation and all! We none of
us used whisky in the tropics, so we later returned it with a suitable
explanation and thanks as being too good to waste.

Next morning, under guidance of our friend's boy, we set out for the
Lower Benches, leaving N'gombe Brown and his outfit to camp indefinitely
until we needed him for the return journey.

The whole lie of the land hereabout is, roughly speaking, in a series of
shelves. Behind us were the high mountains--the Fourth Bench; we had
been travelling on the plateau of the Loieta--the Third Bench; now we
were to penetrate some apparently low hills down an unexpected thousand
feet to the Second Bench. This was smaller, perhaps only five miles at
its widest. Its outer rim consisted also of low hills concealing a drop
of precipitous cliffs. There were no passes nor canons here--the streams
dropped over in waterfalls--and precarious game trails offered the only
chance for descent. The First Bench was a mere ledge, a mile or so wide.
From it one looked down into the deep gorge of the Southern Guaso Nyero,
and across to a tangle of eroded mountains and malpais that filled the
eye. Only far off in an incredible distance were other blue mountains
that marked the other side of the great Rift Valley.

Our present task was to drop from the Third Bench to the Second. For
some distance we followed the Narossara; then, when it began to drop
into its tremendous gorge, we continued along the hillsides above it
until, by means of various "hogs' backs" and tributary canons, we were
able to regain its level far below. The going was rough and stony, and
hard on the porters, but the scenery was very wild and fine. We met the
river bottom again in the pleasantest oval meadow with fine big trees.
The mountains quite surrounded us, towering imminent above our heads.
Ahead of us the stream broke through between portals that rose the full
height of the ranges. We followed it, and found ourselves on the Second
Bench.

Here was grass, high grass in which the boys were almost lost to sight.
Behind us the ramparts rose sheer and high, and over across the way were
some low fifty-foot cliffs that marked a plateau land. Between the
plateau and the ranges from which we had descended was a sort of slight
flat valley through which meandered the forest trees that marked the
stream.

We turned to the right and marched an hour. The river gradually
approached the plateau, thus leaving between it and the ramparts a
considerable plain, and some low foothills. These latter were reported
to be one of the feeding grounds of the greater kudu.

We made a most delightful camp at the edge of great trees by the stream.
The water flowed at the bottom of a little ravine, precipitous in most
places, but with gently sloping banks at the spot we had chosen. It
flowed rapidly over clean gravel, with a hurrying, tinkling sound. A
broad gravel beach was spread on the hither side of it, like a spacious
secret room in the jungle. Here too was a clear little slope on which to
sit, with the thicket all about, the clean, swift little stream below,
the high forest arches above, and the inquisitive smaller creatures
hovering near. Others had been here before us, the wild things, taking
advantage of the easy descent to drinking water--eland, buffalo,
leopard, and small bucks. The air was almost cloyingly sweet with a
perfume like sage-brush honey.

Our first task was to set our boys to work clearing a space; the grass
was so high and rank that mere trampling had little effect on it. The
Baganda, Sabakaki, we had been compelled to leave with the ox team. So
our twenty-seven had become twenty-six.

Next morning C. and I started out very early with one gunbearer. The
direction of the wind compelled us to a two hours' walk before we could
begin to hunt. The high grass was soaked with a very heavy dew, and
shortly we were as wet as though we had fallen into the river. A number
of hornbills and parrots followed us for some distance, but soon left us
in peace. We saw the Roberts' gazelle and some hartebeeste.

When we had gained a point of vantage, we turned back and began to work
slowly along the base of the mountains. We kept on a general level a
hundred feet or so up their slope, just high enough to give us a point
of overlook for anything that might stir either in the flat plateau
foothills or the plains. We also kept a sharp lookout for signs.

We had proceeded in this manner for an hour when in an opening between
two bushes below us, and perhaps five hundred yards away, we saw a
leopard standing like a statue, head up, a most beautiful spectacle.
While we watched her through the glasses, she suddenly dropped flat out
of sight. The cause we discovered to be three hartebeeste strolling
sociably along, stopping occasionally to snatch a mouthful, but headed
always in the direction of the bushes behind which lay the great cat.
Much interested, we watched them. They disappeared behind the screen. A
sudden flash marked the leopard's spring. Two badly demoralized
hartebeeste stamped out into the open and away; two only. The kill had
been made.

We had only the one rifle with us, for we were supposed to be out after
kudu only, and were travelling as light as possible. No doubt the
Springfield would kill a leopard, if the bullet landed in the right
place. We discussed the matter. It ended, of course, in our sneaking
down there; I with the Springfield, and C. with his knife unsheathed.
Our precautions and trepidations were wasted. The leopard had carried
the hartebeeste bodily some distance, had thrust it under a bush, and
had departed. C. surmised it would return towards evening.

Therefore we continued after kudu. We found old signs, proving that the
beasts visited this country, but nothing fresh. We saw, however, the
first sing-sing, some impalla, some klipspringer, and Chanler's
reed-buck.

At evening we made a crafty stalk atop the mesa-like foothills to a
point overlooking the leopard's kill. We lay here looking the place over
inch by inch through our glasses, when an ejaculation of disgust from
Kongoni called our attention. There at another spot that confounded
beast sat like a house cat watching us cynically. Either we had come too
soon, or she had heard us and retired to what she considered a safe
distance. There was of course no chance of getting nearer; so I sat
down, for a steadier hold, and tried her anyway. At the shot she leaped
high in the air, rolled over once, then recovered her feet and streaked
off at full speed. Just before disappearing over a slight rise, she
stopped to look back. I tried her again. We concluded this shot a miss,
as the distance and light were such that only sheer luck could have
landed the bullet. However, that luck was with us. Later developments
showed that both shots had hit. One cut a foreleg, but without breaking
a bone, and the other had hit the paunch. One was at 380 paces and the
other at 490.

We found blood on the trail, and followed it a hundred yards and over a
small ridge to a wide patch of high grass. It was now dark, the grass
was very high, and the animal probably desperate. The situation did not
look good to us, badly armed as we were. So we returned to camp,
resolved to take up the trail again in the morning.

Every man in camp turned out next day to help beat the grass. C., with
the .405, stayed to direct and protect the men; while I, with the
Springfield, sat down at the head of the ravine. Soon I could hear the
shrieks, rattles, shouts, and whistles of the line of men as they beat
through the grass. Small grass bucks and hares bounded past me; birds
came whirring by. I sat on a little ant hill spying as hard as I could
in all directions. Suddenly the beaters fell to dead silence. Guessing
this as a signal to me that the beast had been seen, I ran to climb a
higher ant hill to the left. From there I discerned the animal plainly,
sneaking along belly to earth, exactly in the manner of a cat after a
sparrow. It was not a woods-leopard, but the plains-leopard, or cheetah,
supposed to be a comparatively harmless beast.

At my shot she gave one spring forward and rolled over into the grass.
The nearest porters yelled, and rushed in. I ran, too, as fast as I
could, but was not able to make myself heard above the row. An instant
later the beast came to its feet with a savage growl and charged the
nearest of the men. She was crippled, and could not move as quickly as
usual, but could hobble along faster than her intended victim could run.
This was a tall and very conceited Kavirondo. He fled, but ran around in
circles in and out of his excited companions. The cheetah followed him,
and him only, with most single-minded purpose.

I dared not shoot while men were in the line of fire even on the other
side of the cheetah, for I knew the high-power bullet would at that
range go right on through, and I fairly split my throat trying to clear
the way. It seemed five minutes, though it was probably only as many
seconds, before I got my chance. It was high time. The cheetah had
reared to strike the man down.[23] My shot bowled her over. She jumped
to her feet again, made another dash at the thoroughly scared Kavirondo,
and I killed her just at his coat-tails.

The cheetahs ordinarily are supposed to be cowards, although their size
and power are equal to that of other leopards. Nobody is afraid of them.
Yet this particular animal charged with all the ferocity and
determination of the lion, and would certainly have killed or badly
mauled my man.[24] To be sure it had been wounded, and had had all night
to think about it.

In the relief from the tension we all burst into shrieks of laughter;
all except the near-victim of the scrimmage, who managed only a sickly
smile. Our mirth was short. Out from a thicket over a hundred yards away
walked one of the men, who had been in no way involved in the fight,
calmly announcing that he had been shot. We were sceptical, but he
turned his back and showed us the bullet hole at the lower edge of the
ribs. One of my bullets, after passing through the cheetah, had
ricocheted and picked this poor fellow out from the whole of an empty
landscape. And this after I had delayed my rescue fairly to the point of
danger in order to avoid all chance of hurting some one!

We had no means of telling how deeply the bullet had penetrated; so we
reassured the man, and detailed two men to assist him back to camp by
easy stages. He did not seem to be suffering much pain, and he had lost
little strength.

At camp, however, we found that the wound was deep. C. generously
offered to make a forced march in order to get the boy out to a
hospital. By hitting directly across the rough country below the benches
it was possible to shorten the journey somewhat, provided V. could
persuade the Masai to furnish a guide. The country was a desert, and the
water scarce. We lined up our remaining twenty-six men and selected the
twelve best and strongest. These we offered a month and a half's extra
wages for the trip. We then made a hammock out of one of the ground
cloths, and the same afternoon C. started. I sent with him four of my
own men as far as the ox-wagon for the purpose of bringing back more
supplies. They returned the next afternoon bringing also a report from
C. that all was well so far, and that he had seen a lion. He made the
desert trip without other casualty than the lost of his riding mule, and
landed the wounded man in the hospital all right. In spite of C.'s
expert care on the journey out, and the best of treatment later, the
boy, to my great distress, died eleven days after reaching the hospital.
C. was gone just two weeks.

In the meantime I sent out my best trackers in all directions to look
for kudu signs, conceiving this the best method of covering the country
rapidly. In this manner I shortly determined that chances were small
here, and made up my mind to move down to the edge of the bench where
the Narossara makes its plunge. Before doing so, however, I hunted for
and killed a very large eland bull reported by Mavrouki. This beast was
not only one of the largest I ever saw, but was in especially fine coat.
He stood five feet six inches high at the shoulder; was nine feet eight
inches long, without the tail; and would weigh twenty-five hundred
pounds. The men were delighted with this acquisition. I now had fourteen
porters, the three gunbearers, the cook, and the two boys. They
surrounded each tiny fire with switches full of roasting meat; they cut
off great hunks for a stew; they made quantities of biltong, or jerky.

Next day I left Kongoni and one porter at the old camp, loaded my men
with what they could carry, and started out. We marched a little over
two hours; then found ourselves beneath a lone mimosa tree about a
quarter-mile from the edge of the bench. At this point the stream drops
into a little canon preparatory to its plunge; and the plateau rises
ever so gently in tremendous cliffs. I immediately dispatched the
porters back for another load. A fine sing-sing lured me across the
river. I did not get the sing-sing, but had a good fight with two lions,
as narrated elsewhere.[A]

In this spot we camped a number of days; did a heap of hard climbing and
spying; killed another lion out of a band of eight;[25] thoroughly
determined that we had come at the wrong time for kudu, and decided on
another move.

This time our journey lasted five hours, so that our relaying consumed
three days. We broke back through the ramparts, by means of another
pass we had discovered when looking for kudu, to the Third Bench again.
Here we camped in the valley of Lengeetoto.

This valley is one of the most beautiful and secluded in this part of
Africa. It is shaped like an ellipse, five or six miles long by about
three miles wide, and is completely surrounded by mountains. The
ramparts of the western side--those forming the walls of the Fourth
Bench--rise in sheer rock cliffs, forest crowned. To the east, from
which direction we had just come, were high, rounded mountains. At
sunrise they cut clear in an outline of milky slate against the sky.

The floor of this ellipse was surfaced in gentle undulations, like the
low swells of a summer sea. Between each swell a singing, clear-watered
brook leapt and dashed or loitered through its jungle. Into the
mountains ran broad upward-flung valleys of green grass; and groves of
great forest trees marched down canons and out a short distance into the
plains. Everything was fresh and green and cool. We needed blankets at
night, and each morning the dew was cool and sparkling, and the sky very
blue. Underneath the forest trees of the stream beds and the canon were
leafy rooms as small as a closet, or great as cathedral aisles. And in
the short brush dwelt rhinoceros and impalla; in the jungles were
buffalo and elephant; on the plains we saw giraffe, hartebeeste, zebra,
duiker; and in the bases of the hills we heard at evening and early
morning the roaring of lions.

In this charming spot we lingered eight days. Memba Sasa and I spent
most of our time trying to get one of the jungle-dwelling buffalo
without his getting us. In this we were finally successful.[26] Then, as
it was about time for C. to return, we moved back to V.'s boma on the
Narossara; relaying, as usual, the carrying of our effects. At this time
I had had to lay off three more men on account of various sorts of
illness, so was still more cramped for transportation facilities. As we
were breaking camp a lioness leaped to her feet from where she had been
lying under a bush. So near was it to camp that I had not my rifle
ready. She must have been lying there within two hundred yards of our
tents, watching all our activities.

We drew into V.'s boma a little after two o'clock. The man in charge of
our tent did not put in an appearance until next day. Fortunately V. had
an extra tent, which he lent us. We camped near the river, just outside
the edge of the river forest. The big trees sent their branches out over
us very far above, while a winding path led us to the banks of the river
where was a dingle like an inner room. After dark we sat with V. at our
little camp fire. It was all very beautiful--the skyful of tropical
stars, the silhouette of the forest shutting them out, the velvet
blackness of the jungle flickering with fireflies, the purer outlines of
the hilltops and distant mountains to the left, the porters' tiny fires
before the little white tents; and in the distance, from the direction
of V.'s boma, the irregular throb of the dance drum and the occasional
snatch of barbaric singing borne down on the night wind from where his
Wakambas were holding an n'goma. A pair of ibis that had been ejected
when we made camp contributed intermittent outraged and raucous squawks
from the tiptop of some neighbouring tree.

FOOTNOTES:

[23] This is an interesting fact--that she reared to strike instead of
springing.

[24] It must be remembered that this beast had the evening before killed
a 350-pound hartebeeste with ease.

[25] "The Land of Footprints."

[26] "The Land of Footprints."




XXXIX.

NOTES ON THE MASAI.


It is in no way my intention to attempt a comprehensive description of
this unique people. My personal observation is, of course, inadequate to
that task, and the numerous careful works on the subject are available
to the interested reader.

The southern branch of the race, among whom we were now travelling, are
very fine physically. Men close to seven feet in height are not at all
uncommon, and the average is well above six. They are strongly and
lithely made. Their skins are a red-brown or bronze, generally brought
to a high state of polish by liberal anointing. In feature they resemble
more the Egyptian or Abyssinian than the negro cast of countenance. The
women are tall and well formed, with proud, quaintly quizzical faces.
Their expressions and demeanour seem to indicate more independence and
initiative than is usual with most savage women, but whether this is
actually so or not I cannot say.

On this imposing and pleasing physical foundation your true Masai is
content to build a very slight superstructure of ornament. His ear-lobes
are always stretched to hang down in long loops, in which small medals,
ornaments, decorated blocks of wood, or the like, are inserted. Long,
heavy ovals of ivory, grooved to accommodate the flesh loop, very finely
etched in decorative designs, are occasionally worn as "stretchers."
Around the neck is a slender iron collar, and on the arms are one or two
glittering bracelets. The sword belt is of leather heavily beaded, with
a short dangling fringe of steel beads. Through this the short blade is
thrust. When in full dress the warrior further sports a hollow iron knee
bell, connected with the belt by a string of cowrie shells or beads.
Often is added a curious triangular strip of skin fitting over the
chest, and reaching about to the waist. A robe or short cloak of
short-haired sheepskin is sometimes carried for warmth, but not at all
for modesty. The weapons are a long, narrow-bladed heavy spear, the
buffalo hide shield, the short sword, and the war club or rungs. The
women are always shaven-headed, wear voluminous robes of soft leather,
and carry a great weight of heavy wire wound into anklets and stockings,
and brought to a high state of polish. So extensive are these
decorations that they really form a sort of armour, with breaks only for
the elbow and the knee joints. The married women wear also a great
outstanding collar.

The Masai are pastoral, and keep immense herds and flocks. Therefore
they inhabit the grazing countries, and are nomadic. Their villages are
invariably arranged in a wide circle, the low huts of mud and wattles
facing inwards. The spaces between the huts are filled in with thick
dense thorn brush, thus enclosing a strong corral, or boma. These
villages are called manyattas. They are built by the women in an
incredibly brief space of time. Indeed, an overchief stopping two days
at one place has been known to cause the construction of a complete
village, to serve only for that period. He then moved on, and the
manyatta was never used again! Nevertheless these low rounded huts, in
shape like a loaf of bread, give a fictitious impression of great
strength and permanency. The smooth and hardened mud resembles masonry
or concrete work. As a matter of fact it is the thinnest sort of a shell
over plaited withies. The single entrance to this compound may be
closed by thorn bush, so that at night, when the lions are abroad, the
Masai and all his herds dwell quite peaceably and safely inside the
boma. Twelve to twenty huts constitute a village.

When the grass is fed down, the village moves to a new location. There
is some regulation about this, determined by the overchiefs, so that one
village does not interfere with another. Beside the few articles of
value or of domestic use, the only things carried away from an old
village are the strongly-woven shield-shaped doors. These are strapped
along the flanks of the donkeys, while the other goods rest between. A
donkey pack, Masai fashion, is a marvellous affair that would not stay
on ten minutes for a white man.

The Masai perform no agriculture whatever, nor will they eat game meat.
They have no desire whatever for any of the white man's provisions
except sugar. In fact; their sole habitual diet is mixed cow's blood and
milk--no fruits, no vegetables, no grains, rarely flesh; a striking
commentary on extreme vegetarian claims. The blood they obtain by
shooting a very sharp-pointed arrow into the neck vein of the cow. After
the requisite amount has been drained, the wound is closed and the
animal turned into the herd to recuperate. The blood and milk are then
shaken together in long gourds. Certainly the race seems to thrive on
this strange diet. Only rarely, on ceremonial occasions or when
transportation is difficult, do they eat mutton or goat flesh, but never
beef.

Of labour, then, about a Masai village, it follows that there is
practically none. The women build the manyattas; there is no cooking, no
tilling of the soil, no searching for wild fruits. The herd have to be
watched by day, and driven in at the fall of night; that is the task of
the boys and the youths who have not gone through with the quadriennial
circumcision ceremonies and become El-morani, or warriors. Therefore the
grown men are absolutely and completely gentlemen of leisure. In
civilization, the less men do the more important they are inclined to
think themselves. It is so here. Socially the Masai consider themselves
several cuts above anybody else in the country. As social superiority
lies mostly in thinking so hard enough--so that the inner belief
expresses itself in the outward attitude and manner--the Masai carry it
off. Their haughtiness is magnificent. Also they can look as unsmiling
and bored as anybody anywhere. Consequently they are either greatly
admired, or greatly hated and feared, as the case happens to be, by all
the other tribes. The Kikuyu young men frankly ape the customs and
ornaments of their powerful neighbours. Even the British Government
treats them very gingerly indeed, and allows these economically useless
savages a latitude the more agricultural tribes do not enjoy. Yet I
submit that any people whose property is in immense herds can more
easily be brought to terms than those who have nothing so valuable to
lose.

As a matter of fact the white man and the Masai have never had it out.
When the English, a few years since, were engaged in opening the country
they carried on quite a stoutly contested little war with the Wakamba.
These people put up so good a fight that the English anticipated a most
bitter struggle with the Masai, whose territory lay next beyond. To
their surprise the Masai made peace.

"We have watched the war with the Wakamba," they said, in effect, "and
we have seen the Wakamba kill a great many of your men. But more of your
men came in always, and there were no more Wakamba to come in and take
the places of those who were killed. We are not afraid. If we should war
with you, we would undoubtedly kill a great many of you, and you would
undoubtedly kill a great many of us. But there can be no use in that. We
want the ranges for our cattle; you want a road. Let us then agree."

The result is that to-day the Masai look upon themselves as an
unconquered people, and bear themselves--_towards the other
tribes_--accordingly. The shrewd common sense and observation evidenced
above must have convinced them that war now would be hopeless.

This acute intelligence is not at all incompatible with the rather
bigoted and narrow outlook on life inevitable to a people whose ideals
are made up of fancied superiorities over the rest of mankind. Witness,
the feudal aristocracies of the Middle Ages.

With this type the underlying theory of masculine activity is the
military. Some outlet for energy was needed, and in war it was found.
Even the ordinary necessities of primitive agriculture and of the chase
were lacking. The Masai ate neither vegetable, grain, nor wild game. His
whole young manhood, then, could be spent in no better occupation than
the pursuit of warlike glory--and cows.

On this rested the peculiar social structure of the people. In perusing
the following fragmentary account the reader must first of all divest
his mind of what he would, according to white man's standards, consider
moral or immoral. Such things must be viewed from the standpoint of the
people believing in them. The Masai are moral in the sense that they
very rigorously live up to their own customs and creeds. Their women are
strictly chaste in the sense that they conduct no affairs outside those
permitted within the tribe. No doubt, from the Masai point of view, we
are ourselves immoral.

The small boy, as soon as he is big enough to be responsible--and that
is very early in life--is given, in company with others, charge of a
flock of sheep. Thence he graduates to the precious herds of cows. He
wears little or nothing; is armed with a throwing club (a long stick),
or perhaps later a broad-bladed, short-headed spear of a pattern
peculiar to boys and young men. His life is thus over the free open
hills and veld until, somewhere between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-one, the year of the circumcision comes. Then he enters on the
long ceremonies that initiate him into the warrior class. My knowledge
of the details of this subject is limited; for while I had the luck to
be in Masailand on the fourth year, such things are not exhibited
freely. The curious reader can find more on the subject in other books;
but as this is confined to personal experiences I will tell only what I
have myself elicited.

The youth's shaved head is allowed to grow its hair. He hangs around his
brow a dangling string of bright-coloured bird skins stuffed out in the
shape of little cylinders, so that at a short distance they look like
curls. For something like a month of probation he wears these, then
undergoes the rite. For ten days thereafter he and his companions, their
heads daubed with clay and ashes, clad in long black robes, live out in
the brush. They have no provision, but are privileged to steal what they
need. At the end of the ten days they return to the manyattas. A
three-day n'goma, or dance, now completes their transformation to the
El-morani class. It finishes by an obscene night dance, in the course of
which the new warriors select their partners.

For ten or twelve years these young men are El-morani. They dwell in a
separate manyatta. With them dwell promiscuously all the young unmarried
women of the tribe. There is no permanent pairing off, no individual
property, no marriage. Nor does this constitute flagrant immorality,
difficult as it may be for us to see that fact. The institution, like
all national institutions, must have had its origin in a very real need
and a very practical expediency. The fighting strength of the tribe must
be kept up, and by the young and vigorous stock. On the other hand,
every man of military age must be foot free to serve in the constant
wars and forays. This institution is the means. And, mind you,
unchastity in the form of illicit intercourse outside the manyatta of
the El-morani, whether with her own or another tribe, subjects the women
to instant death.

The El-morani in full fighting rig are imposing. They are, as I have
explained, tall and of fine physique. The cherished and prized weapon is
the long, narrow-bladed spear. This is five and six feet long, with a
blade over three feet by as many inches, and with a long iron shoe. In
fact, only a bare hand-hold of wood is provided. It is of formidable
weight, but so well balanced that a flip cast with the wrist will drive
it clear through an enemy. A short sword and a heavy-headed war club
complete the offensive weapons. The shield is of buffalo hide, oval in
shape, and decorated with a genuine heraldry, based on genealogy. A
circlet of black ostrich feathers in some branches surrounds the face
and stands high above the head. In the southern districts the warriors
wear two single black ostrich plumes tied one either side the head, and
slanting a little backwards. They walk with a mincing step, so that the
two feathers bob gently up and down like the waving of the circus
equestrienne's filmy skirts.

Naturally the Masai with the Zulu were the most dreaded of all the
tribes of Africa. They were constantly raiding in all directions as far
as their sphere of operations could reach, capturing cattle and women as
the prizes of war. Now that the white man has put a stop to the
ferocious intertribal wars, the El-morani are out of a job. The military
organization is still carried on as before. What will happen to the
morals of the people it would be difficult to say. The twelve years of
imposed peace have not been long enough seriously to deteriorate the
people; but, inevitably, complete idleness will tell. Either the people
must change their ideals and become industrious--which is extremely
unlikely--or they will degenerate.

As a passing thought, it is a curious and formidable fact that the
prohibition of intertribal wars and forays all through East Central
Africa had already permitted the population to increase to a point of
discomfort. Many of the districts are becoming so crowded as to
overflow. What will happen in the long run only time can tell--famines
are weakening things, while war at least hardens a nation's fibre. This
is not necessarily an argument for war. Only everywhere in the world the
white man seems, with the best of intentions, to be upsetting natural
balances without substituting anything for them. We are better at
preventing things than causing them.

At the age of thirty, or thereabout, the El-morani becomes an Elder. He
may now drink and smoke, vices that in the Spartan days of his military
service were rigorously denied him. He may also take a wife or wives,
according to his means, and keep herds of cattle. His wives he purchases
from their parents, the usual medium of payment being cows or sheep. The
young women who have been living in the El-morani village are considered
quite as desirable as the young virgins. If there are children, these
are taken over by the husband. They are considered rather a
recommendation than a detriment, for they prove the girl is fruitful.

Relieved of all responsibility, the ex-warrior now has full leisure to
be a gentleman. He drinks a fermented liquor made from milk; he takes
snuff or smokes the rank native tobacco; he conducts interminable
diplomatic negotiations; he oversees minutely the forms of ceremonials;
he helps to shape the policies of his manyatta, and he gives his
attention to the accumulation of cows.

The cow is the one thing that arouses the Masai's full energies. He will
undertake any journey, any task, any danger, provided the reward
therefor is horned cattle. And a cow is the one thing he will on no
account trade, sell, destroy. A very few of them he milks, and a very
few of them he periodically bleeds; but the majority, to the numbers of
thousands upon thousands, live uselessly until they die of old age. They
are branded, generally on the flanks or ribs, with strange large brands,
and are so constantly handled that they are tamer and more gentle than
sheep. I have seen upwards of a thousand head in sole charge of two old
women on foot. These ancient dames drove the beasts in a long file to
water, then turned them quite easily and drove them back again. Opposite
our camp they halted their charges and came to make us a long visit. The
cattle stood in their tracks until the call was over; not one offered
even to stray off the baked earth in search of grasses.

The Masai cattle king knows his property individually. Each beast has
its name. Some of the wealthier are worth in cattle, at settler's
prices, close to a hundred thousand dollars. They are men of importance
in their own council huts, but they lack many things dear to the savage
heart simply because they are unwilling to part with a single head of
stock in order to procure them.

In the old days forays and raids tended more or less to keep the stock
down. Since the White Man's Peace the herds are increasing. In the
country between the Mau Escarpment and the Narossara Mountains we found
the feed eaten down to the earth two months before the next rainy
season. In the meantime the few settlers are hard put to it to buy
cattle at any price wherewith to stock their new farms. The situation is
an anomaly which probably cannot continue. Some check will have
eventually to be devised, either limiting the cattle, or compelling an
equitable sale of the surplus. Certainly the present situation
represents a sad economic waste--of the energies of a fine race
destined to rust away, and of the lives of tens of thousands of valuable
beasts brought into existence only to die of old age. If these matchless
herders and cattle breeders could be brought into relation with the
world's markets everybody would be the better.

Besides his sacred cattle the Masai raises also lesser herds of the
hairy sheep of the country. These he used for himself only on the rare
occasions of solitary forced marches away from his herds, or at the
times of ceremony. Their real use is as a trading medium--for more
cattle! Certain white men and Somalis conduct regular trading
expeditions into Masailand, bringing in small herds of cows bought with
trade goods from the other tribes. These they barter with the Masai for
sheep. In Masai estimation a cow is the most valuable thing on earth,
while a sheep is only a medium of exchange. With such notions it is easy
to see that the white man can make an advantageous exchange, in spite of
the Masai's well-known shrewdness at a bargain. Each side is satisfied.
There remains only to find a market for the sheep--an easy matter. A
small herd of cows will, in the long run, bring quite a decent profit.

The Masai has very little use for white man's products. He will trade
for squares of cloth, beads of certain kinds and in a limited quantity,
brass and iron wire of heavy gauge, blankets and sugar. That, barring
occasional personal idiosyncrasy, is about all. For these things he will
pay also in sheep. Masai curios are particularly difficult to get hold
of. I rather like them for their independence in that respect. I
certainly should refuse to sell my tennis shoes from my feet merely
because some casual Chinaman happened to admire them!

The women seem to occupy a position quite satisfactory to themselves. To
be sure they do the work; but there is not much work! They appear to be
well treated; at least they are always in good spirits, laughing and
joking with each other, and always ready with quick repartee to remarks
flung at them by the safari boys. They visited camp freely, and would
sit down for a good lively afternoon of joking. Their expressions were
quizzical, with a shy intelligent humour. In spite of the apparent
unabashed freedom of their deportment they always behaved with the
utmost circumspection; nor did our boys ever attempt any familiarity.
The unobtrusive lounging presence in the background of two warriors
with long spears may have had something to do with this.

The Masai government is centred in an overlord or king. His orders
seemed to be implicitly obeyed. The present king I do not know, as the
old king, Lenani, had just died at an advanced age. In former days the
traveller on entering Masailand was met by a sub-chief. This man planted
his long spear upright in the ground, and the intending traveller flung
over it coils of the heavy wire. A very generous traveller who
completely covered the spear then had no more trouble. One less lavish
was likely to be held up for further impositions as he penetrated the
country. This tax was called the honga.

The Masai language is one of the most difficult of all the native
tongues. In fact, the white man is almost completely unable even to
pronounce many of the words. V., who is a "Masai-man," who knows them
intimately, and who possesses their confidence, does not pretend to talk
with them in their own tongue, but employs the universal Swahili.




XL.

THROUGH THE ENCHANTED FOREST.


We delayed at V.'s boma three days, waiting for C. to turn up. He
maintained a little force of Wakamba, as the Masai would not take
service. The Wakamba are a hunting tribe, using both the spear and the
poisoned arrow to kill their game. Their bows are short and powerful,
and the arrows exceedingly well fashioned. The poison is made from the
wood of a certain fat tree, with fruit like gigantic bologna sausages.
It is cut fine, boiled, and the product evaporated away until only a
black sticky substance remains. Into this the point of the arrow is
dipped; and the head is then protected until required by a narrow strip
of buckskin wound around and around it. I have never witnessed the
effects of this poison; but V. told me he had seen an eland die in
twenty-two minutes from so slight a wound in the shoulder that it ran
barely a hundred yards before stopping. The poison more or less loses
its efficiency, however, after the sticky, tarlike substance has dried
out.

I offered a half-rupee as a prize for an archery competition, for I was
curious to get a view of their marksmanship. The bull's-eye was a piece
of typewriter paper at thirty paces.[27] This they managed to puncture
only once out of fifteen tries, though they never missed it very widely.
V. seemed quite put out at this poor showing, so I suppose they can
ordinarily do better; but I imagine they are a good deal like our
hunting Indians--poor shots, but very skilful at stalking close to a
beast.

Our missing porter, with the tent, was brought in next afternoon by
Kongoni, who had gone in search of him. The man was a big, strong
Kavirondo. He was sullen, and merely explained that he was "tired." This
excuse for a five hours' march after eight days' rest! I fined him eight
rupees, which I gave Kongoni, and ordered him twenty-five lashes. Six
weeks later he did the same trick. C. allotted him fifty lashes, and had
him led thereafter by a short rope around the neck. He was probably
addicted to opium. This was the only man to be formally kibokoed on the
whole trip--a good testimony at once to C.'s management, the
discrimination we had used in picking them out, and the settled
reputations we had by now acquired.

After C.'s return we prepared to penetrate straight back through the
great rampart of mountains to the south and west.

We crossed the bush-grown plains, and entered a gently rising long canon
flanked on either side by towering ranges that grew higher and higher
the farther we proceeded. In the very centre of the mountains,
apparently, this canon ended in a small round valley. There appeared to
be no possible exit, save by the way we had come, or over the almost
perpendicular ridges a thousand feet or more above. Nevertheless, we
discovered a narrow ravine that slanted up into the hills to the left.
Following it we found ourselves very shortly in a great forest on the
side of a mountain. Hanging creepers brushed our faces, tangled vines
hung across our view, strange and unexpected openings offered themselves
as a means through which we could see a little closer into the heart of
mystery. The air was cool and damp and dark. The occasional shafts of
sunlight or glimpses of blue sky served merely to accentuate the soft
gloom. Save that we climbed always, we could not tell where we were
going.

The ascent occupied a little over an hour. Then through the tree trunks
and undergrowth we caught the sky-line of the crest. When we topped this
we took a breath, and prepared ourselves for a corresponding descent.
But in a hundred yards we popped out of the forest to find ourselves on
a new level. The Fourth Bench had been attained.

It was a grass country of many low, rounded hills and dipping valleys,
with fine isolated oaklike trees here and there in the depressions, and
compact, beautiful oaklike groves thrown over the hills like blankets.
Well-kept, green, trim, intimate, it should have had church spires and
gray roofs in appropriate spots. It was a refreshment to the eye after
the great and austere spaces among which we had been dwelling, repose to
the spirit after the alert and dangerous lands. The dark-curtained
forest seemed, fancifully, an enchantment through which we had gained to
this remote smiling land, nearest of all to the blue sky.

We continued south for two days; and then, as the narrative will show,
were forced to return. We found it always the same type; pleasant sleepy
little valleys winding around and between low hills crowned with soft
groves and forests. It was for all the world like northern Surrey, or
like some of the live oak country of California. Only this we soon
discovered: in spite of the enchantment of the magic-protecting forest,
the upper benches too were subject to the spell that lies over all
Africa. These apparently little valleys were in reality the matter of an
hour's journey to cross; these rounded hills, to all seeming only two
good golf strokes from bottom to top, were matters of serious climbing;
these compact, squared groves of oaklike trees were actually great
forests of giants in which one could lose one's self for days, in which
roamed herds of elephant and buffalo. It looked compact because we could
see all its constituent elements. As a matter of fact, it was neat and
tidy; only we were, as usual, too small for it.

At the end of two hours' fast marching we had made the distance, say,
from the clubhouse to the second hole. Then we camped in a genuinely
little grove of really small trees overlooking a green valley bordered
with wooded hills. The prospect was indescribably delightful; a sort of
Sunday-morning landscape of groves and green grass and a feeling of
church bells.

Only down the valley, diminished by distance, all afternoon Masai
warriors, in twos and threes, trooped by, mincing along so that their
own ostrich feathers would bob up and down, their spears held aslant.

We began to realize that we were indeed in a new country when our noon
thermometer registered only 66 degrees, and when at sunrise the
following morning it stood at 44 degrees. To us, after eight months
under the equator, this was bitter weather!

FOOTNOTES:

[27] Eight by ten and a half inches.




XLI.

NAIOKOTUKU.


Next morning we marched on up the beautiful valley through shoulder-high
grasses wet with dew. At the end of two hours we came to the limit of
Leyeye's knowledge of the country. It would now be necessary to find
savage guides.

Accordingly, while we made camp, C., with Leyeye as interpreter,
departed in search of a Masai village. So tall and rank grew the grass,
that we had to clear it out as one would clear brushwood in order to
make room for our tents.

Several hours later C. returned. He had found a very large village; but
unfortunately the savages were engaged in a big n'goma which could not
be interrupted by mere business. However, the chief was coming to make a
friendly call. When the n'goma should be finished, he would be
delighted to furnish us with anything we might desire.

Almost on the heels of this the chief arrived. He was a fine old savage,
over six feet tall, of well proportioned figure, and with a shrewd,
intelligent face. The n'goma had him to a limited extent, for he
stumbled over tent ropes, smiled a bit uncertainly, and slumped down
rather suddenly when he had meant to sit. However, he stumbled, smiled,
and slumped with unassailable dignity.

From beneath his goatskin robe he produced a long ornamented gourd, from
which he offered us a drink of fermented milk. He took our refusal
good-naturedly. The gourd must have held a gallon, but he got away with
all of its contents in the course of the interview; also several pints
of super-sweetened coffee which we doled out to him a little at a time,
and which he seemed to appreciate extravagantly.

Through Leyeye we exchanged the compliments of the day, and, after the
African custom, told each other how important we were. Our visitor
turned out to be none other than the brother of Lenani, the paramount
chief of all the Masai. I forget what I was, either the brother of King
George or the nephew of Theodore Roosevelt--the only two white men
_every_ native has heard of. It may be that both of us were mistaken,
but from his evident authority over a very wide district we were
inclined to believe our visitor.

We told him we wanted guides through the hills to the southward. He
promised them in a most friendly fashion.

"I do not know the white man," said he. "I live always in these
mountains. But my brother Lenani told me ten years ago that some day the
white man would come into my country. My brother told me that when the
white man came travelling in my country I must treat him well, for the
white man is a good friend but a bad enemy. I have remembered my brother
Lenani's words, though they were spoken a long time ago. The white man
has been very long in coming; but now he is here. Therefore I have
brought you milk to-day, and to-morrow I will send you sheep; and later
I will send young men who know the hills to take you where you wish to
go."

We expressed gratification, and I presented him with a Marble fish
knife. The very thin blade and the ingenious manner in which the two
halves of the handle folded forward over it pleased him immensely.

"No one but myself shall ever use this knife," said he.

He had no pockets, but he tucked it away in his armpit, clamped the
muscles down over it, and apparently forgot it. At least he gave it no
further attention, used his hands as usual, but retained it as securely
as in a pocket.

"To-morrow," he promised at parting, "very early in the morning, I will
send my own son and another man to guide you; and I will send a sheep
for your meat."

We arose "very early," packed our few affairs, picked out four
porters--and sat down to wait. Our plan was to cruise for five days with
as light and mobile an outfit as possible, and then to return for fresh
supplies. Billy would take charge of the main camp during our absence.
As advisers, we left her Abba Ali, Memba Sasa, and Mohammed.

At noon we were still waiting. The possibility of doing a full day's
journey was gone, but we thought we might at least make a start. At one
o'clock, just as we had about given up hope, the Masai strolled in. They
were beautiful, tall, straight youths, finely formed, with proud
features and a most graceful carriage. In colour they were as though
made of copper bronze, with the same glitter of high lights from their
fine-textured skins. Even in this chilly climate they were nearly naked.
One carried a spear, the other a bow and arrow.

Joyously we uprose--and sat down again. We had provided an excellent
supply of provisions for our guides; but on looking over the lot they
discovered nothing--absolutely nothing--that met their ideas.

"What _do_ they want?" we asked Leyeye in despair.

"They say they will eat nothing but sheep," he reported.

We remembered old Naiokotuku's promise of sending us sheep, sneered
cynically at the faith of savages, and grimly set forth to see what we
could buy in the surrounding country. But we wronged the old man. Less
than a mile from camp we met men driving in as presents not one, but
_two_ sheep. So we abandoned our shopping tour and returned to camp. By
the time one of the sheep had been made into mutton it was too late to
start. The Masai showed symptoms of desiring to go back to the village
for the night. This did not please us. We called them up, and began
extravagantly to admire their weapons, begging to examine them. Once we
had them in our hands we craftily discoursed as follows:--

"These are beautiful weapons, the most beautiful we have ever seen.
Since you are going so spend the night in our camp, and since we greatly
fear that some of our men might steal these beautiful weapons, we will
ourselves guard them for you carefully from theft until morning."

So saying, we deposited them inside the tent. Then we knew we had our
Masai safe. They would never dream of leaving while the most cherished
of their possessions were in hostage.




XLII.

SCOUTING IN THE ELEPHANT FOREST.


Here we were finally off at dawn. It was a very chilly, wet dawn, with
the fog so thick that we could see not over ten feet ahead. We had four
porters, carrying about twenty-five pounds apiece of the bare
necessities, Kongoni, and Leyeye. The Masai struck confidently enough
through the mist. We crossed neck-deep grass flats--where we were
thoroughly soaked--climbed hills through a forest, skirted apparently
for miles an immense reed swamp. As usual when travelling strange
country in a fog, we experienced that queer feeling of remaining in the
same spot while fragments of near-by things are slowly paraded by. When
at length the sun's power cleared the mists, we found ourselves in the
middle of a forest country of high hills.

Into this forest we now plunged, threading our way here and there where
the animal trails would take us, looking always for fresh elephant
spoor. It would have been quite impossible to have moved about in any
other fashion. The timber grew on hillsides, and was very lofty and
impressive; and the tropical undergrowth grew tall, rank, and
impenetrable. We could proceed only by means of the kind assistance of
the elephant, the buffalo, and the rhinoceros.

Elephant spoor we found, but none made later than three weeks before.
The trails were broad, solid paths through the forest, as ancient and
beaten as though they had been in continuous use for years. Unlike the
rhino and buffalo trails, they gave us head room and to spare. The great
creatures had by sheer might cut their way through the dense, tough
growth, leaving twisted, splintered, wrecked jungle behind them, but no
impediment.

By means of these beautiful trails we went quietly, penetrating farther
and farther into the jungle. Our little procession of ten made no noise.
If we should strike fresh elephant tracks, thus would we hunt them, with
all our worldly goods at our backs, so that at night we could camp right
on the trail.

The day passed almost without incident.

Once a wild crash and a snort told of a rhinoceros, invisible, but very
close. We huddled together, our rifles ready, uncertain whether or not
the animal would burst from the leafy screen at our very faces. The
Masai stood side by side, the long spear poised, the bow bent, fine,
tense figures in bronze.

Near sundown we found ourselves by a swift little stream in the bottom
of a deep ravine. Here we left the men to make camp, and ourselves
climbed a big mountain on the other side. It gave us a look abroad over
a wilderness of hills, forested heavily, and a glimpse of the landfall
far away where no white man had ever been. This was as far south as we
were destined to get, though at the time we did not know it. Our plan
was to push on two days more. Near the top of the ridge we found the
unmistakable tracks of the bongo. This is interesting to zoologists in
that it extends the southward range of this rare and shy beast.

Just at dark we regained our camp. It was built California fashion--for
the first and last time in Africa: blankets spread on canvas under the
open sky and a gipsy fire at our feet, over which I myself cooked our
very simple meal. As we were smoking our pipes in sleepy content,
Leyeye and the two Masai appeared for a shauri. Said the Masai,--

"We have taken you over the country we know. There are elephants there
sometimes, but there are no elephants there now. We can take you
farther, and if you wish us to do so, we will do so; but we know no more
of the country than you do. But now if we return to the manyatta
to-morrow, we can march two hours to where are some Wanderobo; and the
Wanderobo know this country and will take you through it. If it pleases
you, one of us will go get the Wanderobo, and the other will stay with
you to show good faith."

We rolled our eyes at each other in humorous despair. Here at the very
beginning of the reconnaissance we had run against the stone wall of
African indirectness and procrastination. And just as we thought we had
at last settled everything!

"Why," we inquired, "were not the Wanderobo sent at first, instead of
yourselves?"

"Because," they replied, with truly engaging frankness, "our chief,
Naiokotuku, thought that perhaps we might find elephant here in the
country we know; and then we should get for ourselves all the presents
you would give for finding elephant. But the elephant are not here now,
so the Wanderobo will get part of the present."

That was certainly candid. After some further talk we decided there was
no help for it; we must return to camp for a new start.

At this decision the Masai brightened. They volunteered to set off early
with Leyeye, to push ahead of us rapidly, and to have the Wanderobo in
camp by the time we reached there. We concealed somewhat cynical smiles,
and agreed.

The early start was made, but when we reached camp we found, not the
Wanderobo, but Leyeye and the Masai huddled over a fire. This was
exasperating, but we could not say much. After all, the whole matter was
no right of ours, but a manifestation of friendship on the part of
Naiokotuku. In the early afternoon the sky cleared, and the ambassadors
departed, promising faithfully to be back before we slept. We spent the
day writing and in gazing at the vivid view of the hillside, the forest,
and the distant miniature prospect before us. Finally we discovered what
made it in essence so strangely familiar. In vividness and clarity--even
in the crudity of its tones--it was exactly like a coloured photograph!

Of course the savages did not return that evening, nor did we really
expect them. Just as a matter of form we packed up the next morning, and
sat down to wait. Shortly before noon Leyeye and the Masai returned,
bringing with them two of the strange, shy, forest hunters.

But by this time we had talked things over thoroughly. The lure of the
greater kudu was regaining the strength it had lost by a long series of
disappointments. We had not time left for both a thorough investigation
of the forests and a raid in the dry hills of the west after kudu.
Mavrouki said he knew of a place where that animal ranged. So we had
come to a decision.

We called the Masai and Wanderobo before us. They squatted in a row,
their spears planted before them. We sat in canvas chairs. Leyeye
standing, translated. The affair was naturally of the greatest
deliberation. In the indirect African manner we began our shauri.

We asked one simple question at a time, dealing with one simple phase of
the subject. This phase we treated from several different points of
view, in order to be absolutely certain that it was understood. To these
questions we received replies in this manner:--

"Yes, the Wanderobo told us," they knew the forest; they knew how to go
about in the forest; they understood how to find their way in the
forest. They knew the elephant; they had seen the elephant many times in
the forest; they knew where the elephant ranged in the forest--and so on
through every piece of information we desired. It is the usual and only
sure way of questioning natives.

Thus we learned that the elephant range extended south through the
forests for about seven days' travel; that at this time of year the
beasts might be anywhere on that range. This confirmed our decision.
Then said we to Leyeye:--

"Tell the Masai that the bwana m'kubwa is most pleased with them, and
that he is pleased with the way they have worked for him, and that he is
pleased with the presents they have brought him. Tell them that he has
no goods here with him, but that he has sent men back to the boma of
bwana Kingozi[28] for blankets and wire and cloth, and when those men
return he will make a good present to these Masai and to Naiokotuku,
their chief.

"Tell the Wanderobo that the bwana m'kubwa is pleased with them, and
that he thanks them for coming so far to tell him of the elephant, and
that he believes they have told him the truth. Tell them the bwana
m'kubwa will not fight the elephant now, because he has not the time,
but must go to attend to his affairs. But later, when two years have
gone, he will make another safari, and will come back to this country,
and will again ask these men to lead him out where he can fight the
elephant. And in the meantime he will give them rupees with which to pay
their hut tax to the Government."

After various compliments the sitting rose. Then we packed up for a few
hours' march. In a short time we passed the chief's village. He came out
to say good-bye. A copper bronze youth accompanied him, lithe as a
leopard.

"My men have told me your words," said he. "I live always in these
mountains, and my young men will bring me word when you return. I am
glad the white men have come to see me. I shall have the Wanderobo ready
to take you to fight the elephant when you return."

He then instructed the young man to accompany us for the purpose of
bringing back the presents we had promised. We shook hands in farewell,
and so parted from this friendly and powerful chief.

FOOTNOTES:

[28] V.'s native name--the Master with the Red Beard.




XLIII.

THE TOPI CAMP.


At the next camp we stayed for nearly a week.

The country was charming. Mountains surrounded the long ellipse, near
one edge of which we had pitched our tents. The ellipse was some ten
miles long by four or five wide, and its surface rolled in easy billows
to a narrow neck at the lower end. There we could just make out in the
far distance a conical hill partly closing the neck. Atop the hill was a
Masai manyatta, very tiny, with indistinct crawling red and brown
blotches that meant cattle and sheep. Beyond the hill, and through the
opening in the ellipse, we could see to another new country of hills and
meadows and forest groves. In this clear air they were microscopically
distinct. No blue of atmosphere nor shimmer of heat blurred their
outlines. They were merely made small.

Our camp was made in the open above a tiny stream. We saw wonderful
sunrises and sunsets, and always spread out before us was the sweep of
our plains and the unbroken ramparts that hemmed us in. From these
mountains meandered small stream-ways marked by narrow strips of trees
and brush, but the most of the valley was of high green grass.
Occasional ant hills ten feet tall rose conical from the earth; and the
country was pleasingly broken and modelled, so that one continually
surmounted knolls, low, round ridges, and the like. Of such conditions
are surprises made.

The elevation here was some 7,000 feet, so that the nights were cold and
the days not too warm. Our men did not fancy this change of weather. A
good many of them came down with the fever always latent in their
systems, and others suffered from bronchial colds.

At one time we had down sick eleven men out of our slender total.
However, I believe, in spite of these surface symptoms, that the cold
air did them good. It certainly improved our own appetites and staying
power.

In the thirty or forty square miles of our valley were many herds of
varied game. We here for the first time found Neuman's hartebeeste. The
type at Narossara, and even in Lengetto, was the common Coke's
hartebeeste, so that between these closely allied species there
interposes at this point only the barriers of a climb and a forest.
These animals and the zebra were the most plentiful of the game. The
zebra were brilliantly white and black, with magnificent coats.
Thompson's and Roberts' gazelles were here in considerable numbers,
eland, Roosevelt's wildebeeste, giraffe, the smaller grass antelopes,
and a fair number of topi. In the hills we saw buffalo sign, several
cheetah, and heard many lions.

It had been our first plan that C. should return immediately to V.'s
boma after supplies, but in view of the abundance of game we decided to
wait over a day. We much desired to get four topi, and this seemed a
good chance to carry some of them out. Also we wished to decide for
certain whether or not the hartebeeste here was really of the Neuman
variety.

We had great luck. Over the very first hill from camp we came upon a
herd of about a dozen topi, feeding on a hill across the way. I knocked
down the first one standing at just 250 paces. The herd then split and
broke to right and left. By shooting very carefully and steadily I
managed to kill three more before they were out of range. The last shot
was at 325 paces. In all I fired seven shots, and hit six times. This
was the best shooting I did in Africa--or anywhere else--and is a
first-rate argument for the Springfield and the high velocity,
sharp-pointed bullet.

Overjoyed at our luck in collecting these animals so promptly, so near
camp, and at a time so very propitious for handling the trophies, we set
to the job of skinning and cutting up. The able-bodied men all came out
from camp to carry in the meat. They appeared, grinning broadly, for
they had had no meat since leaving the Narossara. C. and I saw matters
well under way, and then went on to where I had seen a cheetah the day
before. Hardly were we out of sight when two lions sauntered over the
hill and proceeded to appropriate the meat! The two men in charge
promptly withdrew. A moment later a dozen porters on their way out from
camp topped the hill and began to yell at the lions. The latter then
slowly and reluctantly retreated.

We were very sorry we had not stayed. The valley seemed populated with
lions, but in general they were, for some reason, strictly nocturnal.
By day they inhabited the fastnesses of the mountain ranges. We never
succeeded in tracing them in that large and labyrinthine country; nor at
any time could we induce them to come to kills. Either their natural
prey was so abundant that they did not fancy ready-killed food; or, what
is more likely, the cold nights prevented the odour of the carcasses
from carrying far. We heard lions every night; and every morning we
conscientiously turned out before daybreak to crawl up to our bait
through the wet, cold grass, but with no results. That very night we
were jerked from a sound sleep by a tremendous roar almost in camp. So
close was it that it seemed to each of us but just outside the tent. We
came up all standing. The lion, apparently, was content with that
practical joke, for he moved off quietly. Next morning we found where
the tracks had led down to water, not ten yards away.

We spent the rest of that day spying on the game herds. It is
fascinating work, to lie belly down on a tall ant hill, glasses steadied
by elbows, picking out the individual animals and discussing them
low-voiced with a good companion. C. and I looked over several hundred
hartebeeste, trying to decide their identity. We were neither of us
familiar with the animal, and had only recollections of the book
distinctions. Finally I picked out one that seemed to present the most
marked characteristics--and missed him clean at 280 yards. Then I took
three shots at 180 yards to down a second choice. The poor shooting was
forgotten, however, in our determination that this was indeed Neumanii.

A vain hunt for lions occupied all the next day. The third morning C.
started for the boma, leaving Billy and me to look about us as we
willed. Shortly after he had departed a delegation of Masai came in,
dressed in their best, and bearing presents of milk. Leyeye was summoned
as interpreter.

The Masai informed us that last night a lion had leapt the thorn walls
of their boma, had pressed on through the fires, had seized a
two-year-old steer, and had dragged the beast outside. Then the pursuit
with spears and firebrands had become too hot for him, so that he had
dropped his victim and retired. They desired (_a_) medicine for the
steer, (_b_) magic to keep that lion away, (_c_) that I should assist
them in hunting the lion down.

I questioned them closely, and soon discovered both that the lion must
have been very bold, and also that he had received a pretty lively
reception. Magic to keep him away seemed like a safe enough proposition,
for the chances were he would keep himself away.

Therefore I filled a quart measure with clear water, passed my hand
across its untroubled surface--and lo! it turned a clear bright pink!

Long-drawn exclamations of "Eigh! Eigh!" greeted this magic, performed
by means of permanganate crystals held between the fingers.

"With this bathe the wounds of your steer. Then sprinkle the remainder
over your cattle. The lion will not return," said I. Then reflecting
that I was to be some time in the country, and that the lion might get
over his scare, I added, "The power of this magic is three days."

They departed very much impressed. A little later Memba Sasa and I
followed them. The manyatta was most picturesquely placed atop the
conical hill at the foot of the valley. From its elevation we could see
here and there in the distance the variegated blotches of red and white
and black that represented the cattle herds. Innumerable flocks of sheep
and goats, under charge of the small boys and youths, fed nearer at
hand. The low smooth-plastered huts, with their abattis of thorn bush
between, crowned the peak like a chaplet. Outside it sat a number of
elders sunning themselves, and several smiling, good-natured young
women, probably the spoiled darlings of these plutocrats. One of these
damsels spake Swahili, so we managed to exchange compliments. They told
us exactly when and how the lion had gone. Three nimble old gentlemen
accompanied us when we left. They were armed with spears; and they
displayed the most extraordinary activity, skipping here and there
across the ravines and through the brush, casting huge stones into
likely cover, and generally making themselves ubiquitous. However, we
did not come up with the lion.

In our clinic that evening appeared one of the men claiming to suffer
from rheumatism. I suspected him, and still suspect him, of malingering
in advance in order to get out of the hard work we must soon undertake,
but had no means of proving my suspicion. However, I decided to
administer asperin. We possessed only the powdered form of the drug. I
dumped about five grains on his tongue, and was about to proffer him the
water with which to wash it down--when he inhaled sharply! I do not know
the precise effect of asperin in the windpipe, but it is not pleasant.
The boy thought himself bewitched. His eyes stuck out of his head; he
gasped painfully; he sank to the ground; he made desperate efforts to
bolt out into the brush. By main strength we restrained him, and forced
him to swallow the water. Little by little he recovered. Next night I
missed him from the clinic, and sent Abba Ali in search. The man assured
Abba Ali most vehemently that the medicine was wonderful, that every
trace of rheumatism had departed, that he never felt better in his life,
and that (important point) he was perfectly able to carry a load on the
morrow.




XLIV.

THE UNKNOWN LAND.


C. returned the next day from V.'s boma, bringing more potio and some
trade goods. We sent a good present back to Naiokotuku, and prepared for
an early start into the new country.

We marched out of the lower end of our elliptical valley towards the
miniature landscape we had seen through the opening. But before we
reached it we climbed sharp to the right around the end of the
mountains, made our way through a low pass, and so found ourselves in a
new country entirely. The smooth, undulating green-grass plains were now
superseded by lava expanses grown with low bushes. It was almost exactly
like the sage-brush deserts of Arizona and New Mexico--the same coarse
sand and lava footing, the same deeply eroded barrancas, the same
scattered round bushes dotted evenly over the scene. We saw here very
little game. Across the way lay another range of low mountains clothed
darkly with dull green, like the chaparral-covered coast ranges of
California. In one place was a gunsight pass through which we could see
other distant blue mountains. We crossed the arid plain and toiled up
through the notch pass.

The latter made very difficult footing indeed, for the entire surface of
the ground was covered with smooth, slippery boulders and rocks of iron
and quartz. What had so smoothed them I do not know, for they seemed to
be ill-placed for water erosion. The boys with their packs atop found
this hard going, and we ourselves slipped and slid and bumped in spite
of our caution.

Once through the pass we found ourselves overlooking a wide prospect of
undulating thorn scrub from which rose occasional bushy hills, solitary
buttes, and bold cliffs. It was a thick-looking country to make a way
through.

Nevertheless somewhere here dwelt the Kudu, so in we plunged. The rest
of the day--and of days to follow--we spent in picking a way through the
thorn scrub and over loose rocks and shifting stones. A stream bed
contained an occasional water hole. Tall aloes were ablaze with red
flowers. The country looked arid, the air felt dry, the atmosphere was
so clear that a day's journey seemed--usually--but the matter of a few
hours. Only rarely did we enjoy a few moments of open travel. Most of
the time the thorns caught at us. In the mountain passes were sometimes
broad trails of game or of the Masai cattle. The country was harsh and
dry and beautiful with the grays and dull greens of arid-land brush, or
with the soft atmospheric tints of arid-land distances. Game was fairly
common, but rather difficult to find. There were many buffalo, a very
few zebra, leopards, hyenas, plenty of impalla, some sing-sing, a few
eland, abundant wart-hog, Thompson's gazelle, and duiker. We never
lacked for meat when we dared shoot it, but we were after nobler game.
The sheep given us by Naiokotuku followed along under charge of the
syces.

When we should run quite out of meat, we intended to eat them. We
delayed too long, however. One evening the fool boy tied them to a thorn
bush; one of them pulled back, the thorns bit, and both broke loose and
departed into the darkness. Of course everybody pursued, but we could
not recapture them. Ten minutes later the hyenas broke into the most
unholy laughter. We could not blame them; the joke was certainly on us.

In passing, the cachinnations of the laughing hyena are rather a series
of high-voiced self-conscious titters than laughter. They sound like the
stage idea of a lot of silly and rather embarrassed old maids who have
been accused by some rude man of "taking notice." This call is rarely
used; indeed, I never heard it but the once. The usual note is a sort of
moaning howl, impossible to describe, but easy to recognize.

Thus we penetrated gradually deeper and deeper into this wild country;
through low mountains, over bush-clad plains, into thorn jungles, down
wide valleys, over hill-divided plateaus. Late in the afternoon we would
make camp. Sometimes we had good water; more often not. In the evening
the throb of distant drums and snatches of intermittent wailing song
rose and fell with the little night breezes.




XLV.

THE ROAN.


Our last camp, before turning back, we pitched about two o'clock one
afternoon. Up to this time we had marched steadily down wide valleys,
around the end of mountain ranges, moving from one room to the other of
this hill-divided plateau. At last we ended on a slope that descended
gently to water. It was grown sparingly with thorn trees, among which we
raised our tents. Over against us, and across several low swells of
grass and scrub-grown hills, was a range of mountains. Here, Mavrouki
claimed, dwelt roan antelope.

We settled down quite happily. The country round about was full of game;
the weather was cool, the wide sweeps of country, the upward fling of
mountains and buttes were much like some parts of our great West. Almost
every evening the thunderstorms made gorgeous piled effects in the
distance. At night the lions and hyenas roared or howled, and some of
the tiny fever owls impudently answered them back.

Various adventures came our way, some of which have been elsewhere
narrated. Here we killed the very big buffalo that nearly got Billy.[29]
In addition, we collected two more specimens of the Neuman's
hartebeeste, and two Chanler's reed buck.

But Mavrouki's glowing predictions as to roan were hardly borne out by
facts. According to him the mountains simply swarmed with them--he had
seen thirty-five in one day, etc. Of course we had discounted this, but
some old tracks had to a certain extent borne out his statement.

Lunch time one day, however, found us on top of the highest ridge. Here
we hunted up a bit of shade, and spent two hours out of the noon sun.
While we lay there the sky slowly overcast, so that when we aroused
ourselves to go on, the dazzling light had softened. As time was getting
short, we decided to separate. Memba Sasa and Mavrouki were to go in one
direction, while C., Kongoni and I took the other.

Before we started I remarked that I was offering two rupees for the
capture of a roan.

We had not gone ten minutes when Kongoni turned his head cautiously and
grinned back at us.

"My rupees," said he.

A fine buck roan stood motionless beneath a tree in the valley below us.
He was on the other side of the stream jungle, and nearly a mile away.
While we watched him, he lay down.

Our task now was to gain the shelter of the stream jungle below without
being seen, to slip along it until opposite the roan, and then to
penetrate the jungle near enough to get a shot. The first part of this
contract seemed to us the most difficult, for we were forced to descend
the face of the hill, like flies crawling down a blackboard, plain for
him to see.

We slid cautiously from bush to bush; we moved by imperceptible inches
across the numerous open spaces. About half-way down we were arrested by
a violent snort ahead. Fifteen or twenty zebras nooning in the brush
where no zebras were supposed to be, clattered down the hill like an
avalanche. We froze where we were. The beasts ran fifty yards, then
wheeled, and started back up the hill, trying to make us out. For twenty
minutes all parties to the transaction remained stock still, the zebras
staring, we hoping fervently they would decide to go down the valley and
not up it, the roan dozing under his distant tree.

By luck our hopes were fulfilled. The zebra turned downstream, walking
sedately away in single file. When we were certain they had all quite
gone, we resumed our painful descent.

At length we dropped below the screen of trees, and could stand upright
and straighten the kinks out of our backs. But now a new complication
arose. The wind, which had been the very basis of our calculations,
commenced to chop and veer. Here it blew from one quarter, up there on
the side hill from another, and through the bushes in quite another
direction still. Then without warning they would all shift about. We
watched the tops of the grasses through our binoculars, hoping to read
some logic into the condition. It was now four o'clock--our stalk had
thus far consumed two hours--and the roan must soon begin to feed. If we
were going to do anything, we must do it soon.

Therefore we crept through a very spiky, noisy jungle to its other edge,
sneaked along the edge until we could make out the tree, and raised
ourselves for a look. Through the glass I could just make out the
roan's face stripe. He was still there!

Quite encouraged, I instantly dropped down and crawled to within range.
When again I raised my head the roan had disappeared. One of these
aggravating little side puffs of breeze had destroyed our two hours'
work.

The outlook was not particularly encouraging. We had no means of telling
how far the animal would go, nor into what sort of country; and the hour
was well advanced toward sunset. However, we took up the track, and
proceeded to follow it as well as we could. That was not easy, for the
ground was hard and stony. Suddenly C. threw himself flat. Of course we
followed his example. To us he whispered that he thought he had caught a
glimpse of the animal through an opening and across the stream bed. We
stalked carefully, and found ourselves in the middle of a small herd of
topis, one of which, half concealed in the brush, had deceived C. This
consumed valuable time. When again we had picked up the spoor, it was
agreed that I was to still-hunt ahead as rapidly as I could, while C.
and Kongoni would puzzle out the tracks as far as possible before dark.

Therefore I climbed the little rocky ridge on our left, and walked
along near its crest, keeping a sharp lookout over the valley
below--much as one would hunt August bucks in California. After two or
three hundred yards I chanced on a short strip of soft earth in which
the fresh tracks of the roan going uphill were clearly imprinted. I
could not without making too much noise inform the others that I had cut
in ahead of them; so I followed the tracks as cautiously and quietly as
I could. On the very top of the hill the roan leapt from cover fifty
yards away, and with a clatter of rocks dashed off down the ridge. The
grass was very high, and I could see only his head and horns, but I
dropped the front sight six inches and let drive at a guess. The guess
happened to be a good one, for he turned a somersault seventy-two yards
away.

C. and Kongoni came up. The sun had just set. In fifteen minutes it
would be pitch dark. We dispatched Kongoni for help and lanterns, and
turned to on the job of building a signal fire and skinning the trophy.

The reason for our strangely chopping wind now became apparent. From our
elevation we could see piled thunder-clouds looming up from the west.
They were spreading upward and outward in the swift, rushing manner of
tropic storms; and I saw I must hustle if I was to get my fire going at
all. The first little blaze was easy, and after that I had to pile on
quantities of any wood I could lay my hands to. The deluge blotted out
every vestige of daylight and nearly drowned out my fire. I had started
to help C. with the roan, but soon found that I had my own job cut out
for me, and so went back to nursing my blaze. The water descended in
sheets. We were immediately soaked through, and very cold. The surface
of the ground was steep and covered with loose round rocks, and in my
continuous trips for firewood I stumbled and slipped and ran into thorns
miserably.[30]

After a long interval of this the lanterns came bobbing through the
darkness, and a few moments later the dim light revealed the shining
rain-soaked faces of our men.

We wasted no time in the distribution of burdens. C. with one of the
lanterns brought up the rear, while I with the other went on ahead.

Now as Kongoni had but this minute completed the round trip to camp, we
concluded that he would be the best one to give us a lead. This was a
mistake. He took us out of the hills well enough, and a good job that
was, for we could not see the length of our arms into the thick, rainy
blackness, and we had to go entirely by the slants of the country. But
once in the more open, sloping country, with its innumerable bushy or
wooded ravines, he began to stray. I felt this from the first; but
Kongoni insisted strongly he was right, and in the rain and darkness we
had no way of proving him wrong. In fact I had no reason for thinking
him wrong; I only felt it. This sense of direction is apparently a fifth
wheel or extra adjustment some people happen to possess. It has nothing
to do with acquired knowledge, as is very well proved by the fact that
in my own case it acts only as long as I do not think about it. As soon
as I begin consciously to consider the matter I am likely to go wrong.
Thus many, many times I have back-tracked in the dark over ground I had
traversed but once before, and have caught myself turning out for bushes
or trees I could not see, but which my subconscious memory recalled.
This would happen only when I would think of something besides the way
home. As soon as I took charge, I groped as badly as the next man. It is
a curious and sometimes valuable extra, but by no means to be depended
upon.

Now, however, as I was following Kongoni, this faculty had full play,
and it assured me vehemently that we were wrong. I called C. up from the
rear for consultation. Kongoni was very positive he was right; but as we
had now been walking over an hour, and camp should not have been more
than three miles from where we had killed the roan, we were inclined
towards my instinct. So we took the compass direction, in order to
assure consistency at least, and struck off at full right angles to the
left.

So we tramped for a long time. Every few moments Kongoni would want
another look at that compass. It happened that we were now going due
north, and his notion was that the needle pointed the way to camp. We
profoundly hoped that his faith in white man's magic would not be
shattered. At the end of an hour the rain let up, and it cleared
sufficiently to disclose some of the mountain outlines. They convinced
us that we were in the main right; though just where, to the north, camp
now lay was beyond our power to determine. Kongoni's detour had been
rather indeterminate in direction and distance.

The country now became very rough, in a small way. The feeble light of
our leading lantern revealed only ghosts and phantoms and looming,
warning suggestions of things which the shadows confused and shifted.
Heavily laden men would have found it difficult travelling by prosaic
daylight; but now, with the added impossibility of picking a route
ahead, we found ourselves in all sorts of trouble. Many times we had to
back out and try again. The ghostly flickering tree shapes against the
fathomless black offered us apparently endless aisles that nevertheless
closed before us like the doors of a trap when we attempted to enter
them.

We kept doggedly to the same general northerly direction. When you are
lost, nothing is more foolish than to make up your mind hastily and
without due reflection; and nothing is more foolish than to change your
mind once you have made it up. That way vacillation, confusion, and
disaster lie. Should you decide, after due consideration of all the
elements of the problem, that you should go east, then east you go, and
nothing must turn you. You may get to the Atlantic Ocean if nothing
else. And if you begin to modify your original plan, then you begin to
circle. Believe me; I know.

Kongoni was plainly sceptical, and said so until I shut him up with
some rather peremptory sarcasm. The bearers, who had to stumble in the
dark under heavy burdens, were good-natured and joking. This we
appreciated. One can never tell whether or not he is popular with a
native until he and the native are caught in a dangerous or disagreeable
fix.

We walked two hours as in a treadmill. Then that invaluable though
erratic sixth sense of mine awoke. I stopped short.

"I believe we've come far enough," I shouted back to C., and fired my
rifle.

We received an almost immediate answer from a short distance to the
left. Not over two hundred yards in that direction we met our camp men
bearing torches, and so were escorted in triumph after a sixteen-hour
day.

FOOTNOTES:

[29] "The Land of Footprints."

[30] Six months after I had reached home, one of these thorns worked its
way out of the calf of my leg.




XLVI.

THE GREATER KUDU.


Next morning, in a joking manner, I tried to impress Kongoni with a
sense of delinquency in not knowing better his directions, especially as
he had twice traversed the route. He declined to be impressed.

"It is not the business of man to walk at night," he replied with
dignity.

And when you stop to think of it, it certainly is not--in Africa.

At this camp we lingered several days. The great prize of our journeying
was still lacking, and, to tell the truth, we had about given up hope,
if not our efforts. Almost we had begun to believe our friends in
Nairobi who had scoffed at the uselessness of our quest. Always we
conscientiously looked over good kudu country, hundreds of miles of it,
and always with the same lack of result, or even of encouragement. Other
game we saw in plenty, of a dozen different varieties, large and small;
but our five weeks' search had thus far yielded us only the sight of the
same old, old sign, made many months before. If you had stood with us
atop one of the mountains, and with us had looked abroad on the
countless leagues of rolling brush-clothed land, undulating away in all
directions over a far horizon, you must with us have estimated as very
slight the chances of happening on the exact pin point where the kudu at
that moment happened to be feeding. For the beast is shy, it inhabits
the densest, closest mountain cover, it possesses the keen eyesight and
sense of smell of the bush-dwelling deer and antelope, and more than the
average sense of hearing. There are very few of him. But the chief
discouragement is that arising from his roaming tendencies. Other rare
animals are apt to "use" about one locality, so that once the hunter
finds tracks, new or old, his game is one of patient, skilful search.
The greater kudu, however, seems in this country at least to be a
wanderer. He is here to-day and gone to-morrow. Systematic search seems
as foolish as in the case of the proverbial needle in the haystack. The
only method is to sift constantly, and trust to luck. One cannot catch
fish with the fly in the book, but one has at least a chance if one
keeps it on the water.

Mavrouki was the only one among us who had the living faith that comes
from having seen the animal in the flesh. That is a curious bit of
hunter psychology. When a man is out after a species new to him, it is
only by the utmost stretch of the imagination that he is able to realize
that such an animal can exist at all. He cannot prefigure it, somehow.
He generally exaggerates to himself the difficulty of making it out, of
approaching it, of getting his shot; until at last, if he happens to
have hunted some time in vain, the beast becomes almost mythical and
unbelievable. Once he has seen the animal, whether he gets a shot or
not, all this vanishes. The strain on faith relaxes. He knows what to
look for, and what to expect; and even if he sees no other specimen for
a month, he nevertheless goes about the business with a certain
confidence.

One afternoon we had been hunting carefully certain low mountains, and
were headed for camp, walking rather carelessly along the bed of a
narrow, open valley below the bush-covered side hills. The sun had
disappeared behind the ranges, and the dusk of evening was just
beginning to rise like a mist from the deeps of the canons. We had
ceased hunting--it was time to hurry home--and happened not to be
talking only because we were tired. By sheerest idle luck I chanced to
look up to the densely covered face of the mountain. Across a single
tiny opening in the tall brush five or six hundred yards away, I caught
a movement. Still idly I lifted my glasses for a look at what I thought
would prove the usual impalla or sing-sing, and was just in time to
catch the spirals of a magnificent set of horns. It was the greater kudu
at last!

I gave a little cluck of caution; and instantly, without question, after
the African fashion, the three men ahead of me sank to the ground. C.
looked at me inquiringly. I motioned with my eyes. He raised his glasses
for one look.

"That's the fellow," he said quietly.

The kudu, as though he had merely stepped into the opening to give us a
sight of him, melted into the brush.

It was magnificent and exciting to have seen this wonderful beast after
so long a quest, but by the same token it was not very encouraging for
all that. If we had had all the daylight we needed, and unlimited time,
it would have been quite a feat to stalk the wary beast in that thick,
noisy cover. Now it was almost dark, and would be quite dark within the
half-hour. The kudu had moved out of sight. Whether he had gone on some
distance, or whether he still lingered near the edge of the tiny opening
was another matter to be determined, and to be determined quickly.

Leaving Kongoni and Mavrouki, C. and I wriggled pantingly up the hill,
as fast and at the same time as cautiously as we could. At the edge of
the opening we came to a halt, belly down, and began eagerly to
scrutinize the brush across the way. If the kudu still lingered we had
to find it out before we ventured out of cover to take up his trail.
Inch by inch we scrutinized every possible concealment. Finally C.
breathed sharp with satisfaction. He had caught sight of the tip of one
horn. With some difficulty he indicated to me where. After staring long
enough, we could dimly make out the kudu himself browsing, from the
tender branch-ends.

All we could do was to lie low. If the kudu fed on out of sight into the
cover, we could not possibly get a shot; if he should happen again to
cross the opening, we would get a good shot. No one but a hunter can
understand the panting, dry-mouthed excitement of those minutes; five
weeks' hard work hung in the balance. The kudu did neither of these
things; he ceased browsing, took three steps forward, and stood.

The game seemed blocked. The kudu had evidently settled down for a
snooze; it was impossible, in the situation, to shorten the distance
without being discovered; the daylight was almost gone; we could make
out no trace of him except through our glasses. Look as hard as we
could, we could see nothing with the naked eye. Unless something
happened within the next two minutes, we would bring nothing into camp
but the memory of a magnificent beast. And next day he would probably be
inextricably lost in the wilderness of mountains.[31]

It was a time for desperate measures, and, to C.'s evident doubtful
anxiety, I took them. Through the glasses the mane of the kudu showed as
a dim gray streak. Carefully I picked out two twigs on a bush fifteen
feet from me, and a tuft of grass ten yards on, all of which were in
line with where the shoulder of the kudu ought to be. Then I lowered my
glasses. The gray streak of the kudu's mane had disappeared in the
blending twilight, but I could still see the tips of the twigs and the
tuft of grass. Very carefully I aligned the sights with these; and, with
a silent prayer to the Red Gods, loosed the bullet into the darkness.

At the crack of the rifle the kudu leapt into plain sight.

"Hit!" rasped C. in great excitement.

I did not wait to verify this, but fired four times more as fast as I
could work the bolt. Three of the bullets told. At the last shot he
crumpled and came rolling down the slope. We both raised a wild whoop of
triumph, which was answered at once by the expectant gunbearers below.

The finest trophy in Africa was ours!

FOOTNOTES:

[31] Trailing for any distance was impossible on account of the stony
soil.




XLVII.

THE MAGIC PORTALS CLOSE.


It seemed hopeless to try for a picture. Nevertheless I opened wide my
lens, steadied the camera, and gave it a half-second. The result was
fairly good. So much for a high grade lens. We sent Kongoni into camp
for help, and ourselves proceeded to build up the usual fire for signal
and for protection against wild beasts. Then we sat down to enjoy the
evening, while Mavrouki skinned the kudu.

We looked abroad over a wide stretch of country. Successive low ridges
crossed our front, each of a different shade of slate gray from its
neighbours, and a gray half-luminous mist filled the valley between
them. The edge of the world was thrown sharp against burnished copper.
After a time the moon rose.

Memba Sasa arrived before the lanterns, out of breath, his face
streaming with perspiration. Poor Memba Sasa! this was almost the only
day he had not followed close at my heels, and on this day we had
captured the Great Prize. No thought of that seemed to affect the
heartiness of his joy. He rushed up to shake both my hands; he examined
the kudu with an attention that was held only by great restraint; he let
go that restrain to shake me again enthusiastically by the hands. After
him, up the hill, bobbed slowly the lanterns. The smiling bearers
shouldered the trophy and the meat, and we stumbled home through the
half shadows and the opalescences of the moonlight.

Our task in this part of the country was now finished. We set out on the
return journey. The weather changed. A beautiful, bright-copper sunset
was followed by a drizzle. By morning this had turned into a heavy rain.
We left the topi camp, to which we had by now returned, cold and
miserable. C. and I had contributed our waterproofs to protect the
precious trophies, and we were speedily wet through. The grass was long.
This was no warm and grateful tropical rain, but a driving, chilling
storm straight out from the high mountains.

We marched up the long plain, we turned to the left around the base of
the ranges, we mounted the narrow grass valley, we entered the
forest--the dark, dripping, and unfriendly forest. Over the edge we
dropped and clambered down through the hanging vines and the sombre
trees. By-and-by, we emerged on the open plains below, the plains on the
hither side of the Narossara, the Africa we had known so long. The rain
ceased. It was almost as though a magic portal had clicked after us.
Behind it lay the wonderful secret upper country of the unknown.




XLVIII.

THE LAST TREK.


Some weeks later we camped high on the slopes of Suswa, the great
mountain of the Rift Valley, only one day's march from the railroad.
After the capture of the kudu Africa still held for us various
adventures--a buffalo, a go of fever, and the like--but the culmination
had been reached. We had lingered until the latest moment, reluctant to
go. Now in the gray dawn we were filing down the slopes of the mountains
for the last trek. A low, flowing mist marked the distant Kedong; the
flames of an African sunrise were revelling in the eastern skies. All
our old friends seemed to be bidding us good-bye. Around the shoulder of
the mountains a lion roared, rumble upon rumble. Two hyenas leapt from
the grass, ran fifty yards, and turned to look at us.

"Good-bye, simba! good-bye, fice!" we cried to them sadly.

A little farther we saw zebra, and the hartebeeste, and the gazelles.
One by one appeared and disappeared again the beasts with which we had
grown so familiar during our long months in the jungle. So remarkable
was the number of species that we both began to comment upon the fact,
to greet the animals, to bid them farewell, as though they were
reporting in order from the jungle to bid us God-speed. Half in earnest
we waved our hands to them and shouted our greetings to them in the
native--punda milia, kongoni, pa-a, fice, m'pofu, twiga, simba,
n'grooui, and the rest. Before our eyes the misty ranges hardened and
stiffened under the fierce sun. Our men marched steadily, cheerfully,
beating their loads in rhythm with their safari sticks, crooning under
their breaths, and occasionally breaking into full-voiced chant. They
were glad to be back from the long safari, back from across the Thirst,
from the high, cold country, from the dangers and discomforts of the
unknown. We rode a little wistfully, for these great plains and
mysterious jungles, these populous, dangerous, many-voiced nights, these
flaming, splendid dawnings and day-falls, these fierce, shimmering noons
we were to know no more.

Two days we had in Nairobi before going to the coast. There we paid off
and dismissed our men, giving them presents according to the length and
faithfulness of their service. They took them and departed, eagerly, as
was natural, to the families and the pleasures from which they had been
so long separated. Mohammed said good-bye, and went, and was sorry;
Kongoni departed, after many and sincere protestations; quiet little
Mavrouki came back three times to shake hands again, and disappeared
reluctantly--but disappeared; Leyeye went; Abba Ali followed the service
of his master, C.; "Timothy" received his present--in which he was
disappointed--and departed with salaams. Only Memba Sasa remained. I
paid him for his long service, and I gave him many and rich presents,
and bade farewell to him with genuine regret and affection.

Memba Sasa had wives and a farm near town, neither of which possessions
he had seen for a very long while. Nevertheless he made no move to see
them. When our final interview had terminated with the usual "Bags" (It
is finished), he shook hands once more and withdrew, but only to take
his position across the street. There he squatted on his heels, fixed
his eyes upon me, and remained. I went down town on business. Happening
to glance through the office window I caught sight of Memba Sasa again
across the street, squatted on his heels, his gaze fixed unwaveringly on
my face. So it was for two days. When I tried to approach him, he glided
away, so that I got no further speech with him; but always, quietly and
unobtrusively, he returned to where he could see me plainly. He
considered that our interview had terminated our official relations, but
he wanted to see the last of the bwana with whom he had journeyed so
far.

One makes many acquaintances as one knocks about the world; and once in
a great many moons one finds a friend--a man the mere fact of whose
existence one is glad to realize, whether one ever sees him again or
not. These are not many, and they are of various degree. Among them I am
glad to number this fierce savage. He was efficient, self-respecting,
brave, staunch, and loyal with a great loyalty. I do not think I can
better end this book than by this feeble tribute to a man whose
opportunities were not many, but whose soul was great.


THE END




     BOOKS BY STEWART EDWARD WHITE.


     "_Mr. Stewart Edward White is a Thomas Hardy, so to
     speak, of the primeval forests of the Far West, and of the
     great rivers that run out of them over the brink of evening.
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     THE LAND OF FOOTPRINTS  2s. net.

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