The Land of Footprints
by Stewart Edward White
I. ON BOOKS OF
III. THE CENTRAL
IV. THE FIRST
V. MEMBA SASA
VI. THE FIRST
VII. ON THE
VIII. THE RIVER
IX. THE FIRST
XI. LIONS AGAIN
XII. MORE LIONS
XIII. ON THE
MANAGING OF A
XIV. A DAY ON
XV. THE LION
XVIII. IN THE
JUNGLE (a) THE
MARCH TO MERU
XIX. THE TANA
XXIII. THE HIPPO
XXVII. A VISIT
I. ON BOOKS OF ADVENTURE
Books of sporting, travel, and adventure in countries little known
to the average reader naturally fall in two classes-neither, with a
very few exceptions, of great value. One class is perhaps the logical
result of the other.
Of the first type is the book that is written to make the most of
far travels, to extract from adventure the last thrill, to impress
the awestricken reader with a full sense of the danger and hardship
the writer has undergone. Thus, if the latter takes out quite an
ordinary routine permit to go into certain districts, he makes the
most of travelling in "closed territory," implying that he has
obtained an especial privilege, and has penetrated where few have gone
before him. As a matter of fact, the permit is issued merely that the
authorities may keep track of who is where. Anybody can get one. This
class of writer tells of shooting beasts at customary ranges of four
and five hundred yards. I remember one in especial who airily and as a
matter of fact killed all his antelope at such ranges. Most men have
shot occasional beasts at a quarter mile or so, but not airily nor as
a matter of fact: rather with thanksgiving and a certain amount of
surprise. The gentleman of whom I speak mentioned getting an eland at
seven hundred and fifty yards. By chance I happened to mention this to
a native Africander.
"Yes," said he, "I remember that; I was there."
This interested me-and I said so.
"He made a long shot," said I.
"A GOOD long shot," replied the Africander.
"Did you pace the distance?"
He laughed. "No," said he, "the old chap was immensely delighted.
'Eight hundred yards if it was an inch!' he cried."
"How far was it?"
"About three hundred and fifty. But it was a long shot, all
And it was! Three hundred and fifty yards is a very long shot. It
is over four city blocks-New York size. But if you talk often enough
and glibly enough of "four and five hundred yards," it does not sound
like much, does it?
The same class of writer always gets all the thrills. He speaks of
"blanched cheeks," of the "thrilling suspense," and so on down the
gamut of the shilling shocker. His stuff makes good reading; there is
no doubt of that. The spellbound public likes it, and to that extent
it has fulfilled its mission. Also, the reader believes it to the
letter-why should he not? Only there is this curious result: he
carries away in his mind the impression of unreality, of a country
impossible to be understood and gauged and savoured by the ordinary
human mental equipment. It is interesting, just as are historical
novels, or the copper-riveted heroes of modern fiction, but it has no
real relation with human life. In the last analysis the inherent
untruth of the thing forces itself on him. He believes, but he does
not apprehend; he acknowledges the fact, but he cannot grasp its human
quality. The affair is interesting, but it is more or less concocted
of pasteboard for his amusement. Thus essential truth asserts its
All this, you must understand, is probably not a deliberate
attempt to deceive. It is merely the recrudescence under the stimulus
of a brand-new environment of the boyish desire to be a hero. When a
man jumps back into the Pleistocene he digs up some of his ancestors'
cave-qualities. Among these is the desire for personal adornment. His
modern development of taste precludes skewers in the ears and polished
wire around the neck; so he adorns himself in qualities instead. It is
quite an engaging and diverting trait of character. The attitude of
mind it both presupposes and helps to bring about is too complicated
for my brief analysis. In itself it is no more blameworthy than the
small boy's pretence at Indians in the back yard; and no more
praiseworthy than infantile decoration with feathers.
In its results, however, we are more concerned. Probably each of
us has his mental picture that passes as a symbol rather than an idea
of the different continents. This is usually a single picture-a deep
river, with forest, hanging snaky vines, anacondas and monkeys for the
east coast of South America, for example. It is built up in youth by
chance reading and chance pictures, and does as well as a pink place
on the map to stand for a part of the world concerning which we know
nothing at all. As time goes on we extend, expand, and modify this
picture in the light of what knowledge we may acquire. So the reading
of many books modifies and expands our first crude notions of
Equatorial Africa. And the result is, if we read enough of the sort I
describe above, we build the idea of an exciting, dangerous,
extra-human continent, visited by half-real people of the texture of
the historical-fiction hero, who have strange and interesting
adventures which we could not possibly imagine happening to
This type of book is directly responsible for the second sort. The
author of this is deadly afraid of being thought to brag of his
adventures. He feels constantly on him the amusedly critical eye of
the old-timer. When he comes to describe the first time a rhino dashed
in his direction, he remembers that old hunters, who have been so
charged hundreds of times, may read the book. Suddenly, in that light,
the adventure becomes pitifully unimportant. He sets down the fact
that "we met a rhino that turned a bit nasty, but after a shot in the
shoulder decided to leave us alone." Throughout he keeps before his
mind's eye the imaginary audience of those who have done. He writes
for them, to please them, to convince them that he is not "swelled
head," nor "cocky," nor "fancies himself," nor thinks he has done,
been, or seen anything wonderful. It is a good, healthy frame of mind
to be in; but it, no more than the other type, can produce books that
leave on the minds of the general public any impression of a country
in relation to a real human being.
As a matter of fact, the same trouble is at the bottom of both
failures. The adventure writer, half unconsciously perhaps, has been
too much occupied play-acting himself into half-forgotten boyhood
heroics. The more modest man, with even more self-consciousness, has
been thinking of how he is going to appear in the eyes of the expert.
Both have thought of themselves before their work. This aspect of the
matter would probably vastly astonish the modest writer.
If, then, one is to formulate an ideal toward which to write, he
might express it exactly in terms of man and environment. Those
readers desiring sheer exploration can get it in any library: those
in search of sheer romantic adventure can purchase plenty of it at any
book-stall. But the majority want something different from either of
these. They want, first of all, to know what the country is like-not
in vague and grandiose "word paintings," nor in strange and foreign
sounding words and phrases, but in comparison with something they
know. What is it nearest like-Arizona? Surrey? Upper New York? Canada?
Mexico? Or is it totally different from anything, as is the Grand
Canyon? When you look out from your camp-any one camp-how far do you
see, and what do you see?-mountains in the distance, or a screen of
vines or bamboo near hand, or what? When you get up in the morning,
what is the first thing to do? What does a rhino look like, where he
lives, and what did you do the first time one came at you? I don't
want you to tell me as though I were either an old hunter or an
admiring audience, or as though you were afraid somebody might think
you were making too much of the matter. I want to know how you REALLY
felt. Were you scared or nervous? or did you become cool? Tell me
frankly just how it was, so I can see the thing as happening to a
common everyday human being. Then, even at second-hand and at ten
thousand miles distance, I can enjoy it actually, humanly, even though
vicariously, speculating a bit over my pipe as to how I would have
liked it myself.
Obviously, to write such a book the author must at the same time
sink his ego and exhibit frankly his personality. The paradox in this
is only apparent. He must forget either to strut or to blush with
diffidence. Neither audience should be forgotten, and neither should
be exclusively addressed. Never should he lose sight of the wholesome
fact that old hunters are to read and to weigh; never should he for a
moment slip into the belief that he is justified in addressing the
expert alone. His attitude should be that many men know more and have
done more than he, but that for one reason or another these men are
not ready to transmit their knowledge and experience.
To set down the formulation of an ideal is one thing: to fulfil it
is another. In the following pages I cannot claim a fulfilment, but
only an attempt. The foregoing dissertation must be considered not as
a promise, but as an explanation. No one knows better than I how
limited my African experience is, both in time and extent, bounded as
it is by East Equatorial Africa and a year. Hundreds of men are better
qualified than myself to write just this book; but unfortunately they
will not do it.
In looking back on the multitudinous pictures that the word Africa
bids rise in my memory, four stand out more distinctly than the
others. Strangely enough, these are by no means all pictures of
average country-the sort of thing one would describe as typical.
Perhaps, in a way, they symbolize more the spirit of the country to
me, for certainly they represent but a small minority of its
infinitely varied aspects. But since we must make a start somewhere,
and since for some reason these four crowd most insistently in the
recollection it might be well to begin with them.
Our camp was pitched under a single large mimosa tree near the
edge of a deep and narrow ravine down which a stream flowed. A
semicircle of low mountains hemmed us in at the distance of several
miles. The other side of the semicircle was occupied by the upthrow of
a low rise blocking off an horizon at its nearest point but a few
hundred yards away. Trees marked the course of the stream; low
scattered bushes alternated with open plain. The grass grew high. We
had to cut it out to make camp.
Nothing indicated that we were otherwise situated than in a very
pleasant, rather wide grass valley in the embrace of the mountains.
Only a walk of a few hundred yards atop the upthrow of the low rise
revealed the fact that it was in reality the lip of a bench, and that
beyond it the country fell away in sheer cliffs whose ultimate drop
was some fifteen hundred feet. One could sit atop and dangle his feet
over unguessed abysses.
For a week we had been hunting for greater kudu. Each day Memba
Sasa and I went in one direction, while Mavrouki and Kongoni took
another line. We looked carefully for signs, but found none fresher
than the month before. Plenty of other game made the country
interesting; but we were after a shy and valuable prize, so dared not
shoot lesser things. At last, at the end of the week, Mavrouki came in
with a tale of eight lions seen in the low scrub across the stream.
The kudu business was about finished, as far as this place went, so we
decided to take a look for the lions.
We ate by lantern and at the first light were ready to start. But
at that moment, across the slope of the rim a few hundred yards away,
appeared a small group of sing-sing. These are a beautiful big beast,
with widespread horns, proud and wonderful, like Landseer's stags, and
I wanted one of them very much. So I took the Springfield, and dropped
behind the line of some bushes. The stalk was of the ordinary sort.
One has to remain behind cover, to keep down wind, to make no quick
movements. Sometimes this takes considerable manoeuvring; especially,
as now, in the case of a small band fairly well scattered out for
feeding. Often after one has succeeded in placing them all safely
behind the scattered cover, a straggler will step out into view. Then
the hunter must stop short, must slowly, oh very, very slowly, sink
down out of sight; so slowly, in fact, that he must not seem to move,
but rather to melt imperceptibly away. Then he must take up his
progress at a lower plane of elevation. Perhaps he needs merely to
stoop; or he may crawl on hands and knees; or he may lie flat and
hitch himself forward by his toes, pushing his gun ahead. If one of
the beasts suddenly looks very intently in his direction, he must
freeze into no matter what uncomfortable position, and so remain an
indefinite time. Even a hotel-bred child to whom you have rashly made
advances stares no longer nor more intently than a buck that cannot
make you out.
I had no great difficulty with this lot, but slipped up quite
successfully to within one hundred and fifty yards. There I raised my
head behind a little bush to look. Three does grazed nearest me, their
coats rough against the chill of early morning. Up the slope were two
more does and two funny, fuzzy babies. An immature buck occupied the
extreme left with three young ladies. But the big buck, the leader,
the boss of the lot, I could not see anywhere. Of course he must be
about, and I craned my neck cautiously here and there trying to make
Suddenly, with one accord, all turned and began to trot rapidly
away to the right, their heads high. In the strange manner of
animals, they had received telepathic alarm, and had instantly
obeyed. Then beyond and far to the right I at last saw the beast I
had been looking for. The old villain had been watching me all the
The little herd in single file made their way rapidly along the
face of the rise. They were headed in the direction of the stream.
Now, I happened to know that at this point the stream-canyon was
bordered by sheer cliffs. Therefore, the sing-sing must round the
hill, and not cross the stream. By running to the top of the hill I
might catch a glimpse of them somewhere below. So I started on a jog
trot, trying to hit the golden mean of speed that would still leave me
breath to shoot. This was an affair of some nicety in the tall grass.
Just before I reached the actual slope, however, I revised my
schedule. The reason was supplied by a rhino that came grunting to his
feet about seventy yards away. He had not seen me, and he had not
smelled me, but the general disturbance of all these events had
broken into his early morning nap. He looked to me like a person who
is cross before breakfast, so I ducked low and ran around him. The
last I saw of him he was still standing there, quite disgruntled, and
evidently intending to write to the directors about it.
Arriving at the top, I looked eagerly down. The cliff fell away at
an impossible angle, but sheer below ran out a narrow bench fifty
yards wide. Around the point of the hill to my right-where the herd
had gone-a game trail dropped steeply to this bench. I arrived just in
time to see the sing-sing, still trotting, file across the bench and
over its edge, on some other invisible game trail, to continue their
descent of the cliff. The big buck brought up the rear. At the very
edge he came to a halt, and looked back, throwing his head up and his
nose out so that the heavy fur on his neck stood forward like a ruff.
It was a last glimpse of him, so I held my little best, and pulled
This happened to be one of those shots I spoke of-which the
perpetrator accepts with a thankful and humble spirit. The sing-sing
leaped high in the air and plunged over the edge of the bench. I
signalled the camp-in plain sight-to come and get the head and meat,
and sat down to wait. And while waiting, I looked out on a scene that
has since been to me one of my four symbolizations of Africa.
The morning was dull, with gray clouds through which at wide
intervals streamed broad bands of misty light. Below me the cliff
fell away clear to a gorge in the depths of which flowed a river.
Then the land began to rise, broken, sharp, tumbled, terrible, tier
after tier, gorge after gorge, one twisted range after the other,
across a breathlessly immeasurable distance. The prospect was full of
shadows thrown by the tumult of lava. In those shadows one imagined
stranger abysses. Far down to the right a long narrow lake inaugurated
a flatter, alkali-whitened country of low cliffs in long straight
lines. Across the distances proper to a dozen horizons the tumbled
chaos heaved and fell. The eye sought rest at the bounds usual to its
accustomed world-and went on. There was no roundness to the earth, no
grateful curve to drop this great fierce country beyond a healing
horizon out of sight. The immensity of primal space was in it, and the
simplicity of primal things-rough, unfinished, full of mystery. There
was no colour. The scene was done in slate gray, darkening to the
opaque where a tiny distant rain squall started; lightening in the
nearer shadows to reveal half-guessed peaks; brightening unexpectedly
into broad short bands of misty gray light slanting from the gray
heavens above to the sombre tortured immensity beneath. It was such a
thing as Gustave Dore might have imaged to serve as an abiding place
for the fierce chaotic spirit of the African wilderness.
I sat there for some time hugging my knees, waiting for the men to
come. The tremendous landscape seemed to have been willed to
immobility. The rain squalls forty miles or more away did not appear
to shift their shadows; the rare slanting bands of light from the
clouds were as constant as though they were falling through cathedral
windows. But nearer at hand other things were forward. The birds,
thousands of them, were doing their best to cheer things up. The
roucoulements of doves rose from the bushes down the face of the
cliffs; the bell bird uttered his clear ringing note; the chime bird
gave his celebrated imitation of a really gentlemanly sixty-horse
power touring car hinting you out of the way with the mellowness of a
chimed horn; the bottle bird poured gallons of guggling essence of
happiness from his silver jug. From the direction of camp, evidently
jumped by the boys, a steinbuck loped gracefully, pausing every few
minutes to look back, his dainty legs tense, his sensitive ears
pointed toward the direction of disturbance.
And now, along the face of the cliff, I make out the flashing of
much movement, half glimpsed through the bushes. Soon a fine old-man
baboon, his tail arched after the dandified fashion of the baboon
aristocracy stepped out, looked around, and bounded forward. Other old
men followed him, and then the young men, and a miscellaneous lot of
half-grown youngsters. The ladies brought up the rear, with the
babies. These rode their mothers' backs, clinging desperately while
they leaped along, for all the world like the pathetic monkey
"jockeys" one sees strapped to the backs of big dogs in circuses. When
they had approached to within fifty yards, remarked "hullo!" to them.
Instantly they all stopped. Those in front stood up on their hind
legs; those behind clambered to points of vantage on rocks and the
tops of small bushes: They all took a good long look at me. Then they
told me what they thought about me personally, the fact of my being
there, and the rude way I had startled them. Their remarks were
neither complimentary nor refined. The old men, in especial, got
quite profane, and screamed excited billingsgate. Finally they all
stopped at once, dropped on all fours, and loped away, their
ridiculous long tails curved in a half arc. Then for the first time I
noticed that, under cover of the insults, the women and children had
silently retired. Once more I was left to the familiar gentle bird
calls, and the vast silence of the wilderness beyond.
The second picture, also, was a view from a height, but of a
totally different character. It was also, perhaps, more typical of a
greater part of East Equatorial Africa. Four of us were hunting lions
with natives-both wild and tame-and a scratch pack of dogs. More of
that later. We had rummaged around all the morning without any
results; and now at noon had climbed to the top of a butte to eat
lunch and look abroad.
Our butte ran up a gentle but accelerating slope to a peak of big
rounded rocks and slabs sticking out boldly from the soil of the
hill. We made ourselves comfortable each after his fashion. The
gunbearers leaned against rocks and rolled cigarettes. The savages
squatted on their heels, planting their spears ceremonially in front
of them. One of my friends lay on his back, resting a huge telescope
over his crossed feet. With this he purposed seeing any lion that
moved within ten miles. None of the rest of us could ever make out
anything through the fearsome weapon. Therefore, relieved from
responsibility by the presence of this Dreadnaught of a 'scope, we
loafed and looked about us. This is what we saw:
Mountains at our backs, of course-at some distance; then plains in
long low swells like the easy rise and fall of a tropical sea, wave
after wave, and over the edge of the world beyond a distant horizon.
Here and there on this plain, single hills lay becalmed, like ships at
sea; some peaked, some cliffed like buttes, some long and low like the
hulls of battleships. The brown plain flowed up to wash their bases,
liquid as the sea itself, its tides rising in the coves of the hills,
and ebbing in the valleys between. Near at hand, in the middle
distance, far away, these fleets of the plain sailed, until at last
hull-down over the horizon their topmasts disappeared. Above them
sailed too the phantom fleet of the clouds, shot with light, shining
like silver, airy as racing yachts, yet casting here and there
exaggerated shadows below.
The sky in Africa is always very wide, greater than any other
skies. Between horizon and horizon is more space than any other world
contains. It is as though the cup of heaven had been pressed a little
flatter; so that while the boundaries have widened, the zenith, with
its flaming sun, has come nearer. And yet that is not a constant
quantity either. I have seen one edge of the sky raised straight up a
few million miles, as though some one had stuck poles under its
corners, so that the western heaven did not curve cup-wise over to the
horizon at all as it did everywhere else, but rather formed the
proscenium of a gigantic stage. On this stage they had piled great
heaps of saffron yellow clouds, and struck shafts of yellow light, and
filled the spaces with the lurid portent of a storm-while the twenty
thousand foot mountains below, crouched whipped and insignificant to
We sat atop our butte for an hour while H. looked through his
'scope. After the soft silent immensity of the earth, running away to
infinity, with its low waves, and its scattered fleet of hills, it was
with difficulty that we brought our gaze back to details and to things
near at hand. Directly below us we could make out many different-hued
specks. Looking closely, we could see that those specks were game
animals. They fed here and there in bands of from ten to two hundred,
with valleys and hills between. Within the radius of the eye they
moved, nowhere crowded in big herds, but everywhere present. A band of
zebras grazed the side of one of the earth waves, a group of gazelles
walked on the skyline, a herd of kongoni rested in the hollow between.
On the next rise was a similar grouping; across the valley a new
variation. As far as the eye could strain its powers it could make
out more and ever more beasts. I took up my field glasses, and brought
them all to within a sixth of the distance. After amusing myself for
some time in watching them, I swept the glasses farther on. Still the
same animals grazing on the hills and in the hollows. I continued to
look, and to look again, until even the powerful prismatic glasses
failed to show things big enough to distinguish. At the limit of
extreme vision I could still make out game, and yet more game. And as
I took my glasses from my eyes, and realized how small a portion of
this great land-sea I had been able to examine; as I looked away to
the ship-hills hull-down over the horizon, and realized that over all
that extent fed the Game; the ever-new wonder of Africa for the
hundredth time filled my mind-the teeming fecundity of her bosom.
"Look here," said H. without removing his eye from the 'scope,
"just beyond the edge of that shadow to the left of the bushes in the
donga-I've been watching them ten minutes, and I can't make 'em out
yet. They're either hyenas acting mighty queer, or else two
We snatched our glasses and concentrated on that important detail.
To catch the third experience you must have journeyed with us
across the "Thirst," as the natives picturesquely name the waterless
tract of two days and a half. Our very start had been delayed by a
breakage of some Dutch-sounding essential to our ox wagon, caused by
the confusion of a night attack by lions: almost every night we had
lain awake as long as we could to enjoy the deep-breathed grumbling or
the vibrating roars of these beasts. Now at last, having pushed
through the dry country to the river in the great plain, we were able
to take breath from our mad hurry, and to give our attention to
affairs beyond the limits of mere expediency. One of these was getting
Billy a shot at a lion.
Billy had never before wanted to shoot anything except a python.
Why a python we could not quite fathom. Personally, I think she had
some vague idea of getting even for that Garden of Eden affair. But
lately, pythons proving scarcer than in that favoured locality, she
had switched to a lion. She wanted, she said, to give the skin to her
sister. In vain we pointed out that a zebra hide was very decorative,
that lions go to absurd lengths in retaining possession of their own
skins, and other equally convincing facts. It must be a lion or
nothing; so naturally we had to make a try.
There are several ways of getting lions, only one of which is at
all likely to afford a steady pot shot to a very small person trying
to manipulate an over-size gun. That is to lay out a kill. The idea is
to catch the lion at it in the early morning before he has departed
for home. The best kill is a zebra: first, because lions like zebra;
second, because zebra are fairly large; third, because zebra are very
Accordingly, after we had pitched camp just within a fringe of
mimosa trees and of red-flowering aloes near the river; had eaten
lunch, smoked a pipe and issued necessary orders to the men, C. and I
set about the serious work of getting an appropriate bait in an
The plains stretched straight away from the river bank to some
indefinite and unknown distance to the south. A low range of
mountains lay blue to the left; and a mantle of scrub thornbush
closed the view to the right. This did not imply that we could see
far straight ahead, for the surface of the plain rose slowly to the
top of a swell about two miles away. Beyond it reared a single butte
peak at four or five times that distance.
We stepped from the fringe of red aloes and squinted through the
dancing heat shimmer. Near the limit of vision showed a very faint
glimmering whitish streak. A newcomer to Africa would not have looked
at it twice: nevertheless, it could be nothing but zebra. These
gaudily marked beasts take queer aspects even on an open plain. Most
often they show pure white; sometimes a jet black; only when within a
few hundred yards does one distinguish the stripes. Almost always they
are very easily made out. Only when very distant and in heat shimmer,
or in certain half lights of evening, does their so-called "protective
colouration" seem to be in working order, and even then they are
always quite visible to the least expert hunter's scrutiny.
It is not difficult to kill a zebra, though sometimes it has to be
done at a fairly long range. If all you want is meat for the porters,
the matter is simple enough. But when you require bait for a lion,
that; is another affair entirely. In the first place, you must be able
to stalk within a hundred yards of your kill without being seen; in
the second place, you must provide two or three good lying-down places
for your prospective trophy within fifteen yards of the carcass-and no
more than two or three; in the third place, you must judge the
direction of the probable morning wind, and must be able to approach
from leeward. It is evidently pretty good luck to find an
accommodating zebra in just such a spot. It is a matter of still
greater nicety to drop him absolutely in his tracks. In a case of
porters' meat it does not make any particular difference if he runs a
hundred yards before he dies. With lion bait even fifty yards makes
all the difference in the world.
C. and I talked it over and resolved to press Scallywattamus into
service. Scallywattamus is a small white mule who is firmly convinced
that each and every bush in Africa conceals a mule-eating rhinoceros,
and who does not intend to be one of the number so eaten. But we had
noticed that at times zebra would be so struck with the strange sight
of Scallywattamus carrying a man, that they would let us get quite
close. C. was to ride Scallywattamus while I trudged along under his
lee ready to shoot.
We set out through the heat shimmer, gradually rising as the plain
slanted. Imperceptibly the camp and the trees marking the river's
course fell below us and into the heat haze. In the distance, close to
the stream, we made out a blurred, brown-red solid mass which we knew
for Masai cattle. Various little Thompson's gazelles skipped away to
the left waggling their tails vigorously and continuously as Nature
long since commanded "Tommies" to do. The heat haze steadied around
the dim white line, so we could make out the individual animals. There
were plenty of them, dozing in the sun. A single tiny treelet broke
the plain just at the skyline of the rise. C. and I talked low-voiced
as we went along. We agreed that the tree was an excellent landmark to
come to, that the little rise afforded proper cover, and that in the
morning the wind would in all likelihood blow toward the river. There
were perhaps twenty zebra near enough to the chosen spot. Any of them
But the zebra did not give a hoot for Scallywattamus. At five
hundred yards three or four of them awoke with a start, stared at us
a minute, and moved slowly away. They told all the zebra they happened
upon that the three idiots approaching were at once uninteresting and
dangerous. At four hundred and fifty yards a half dozen more made off
at a trot. At three hundred and fifty yards the rest plunged away at a
canter-all but one. He remained to stare, but his tail was up, and we
knew he only stayed because he knew he could easily catch up in the
next twenty seconds.
The chance was very slim of delivering a knockout at that
distance, but we badly needed meat, anyway, after our march through
the Thirst, so I tried him. We heard the well-known plunk of the
bullet, but down went his head, up went his heels, and away went he.
We watched him in vast disgust. He cavorted out into a bare open space
without cover of any sort, and then flopped over. I thought I caught a
fleeting grin of delight on Mavrouki's face; but he knew enough
instantly to conceal his satisfaction over sure meat.
There were now no zebra anywhere near; but since nobody ever
thinks of omitting any chances in Africa, I sneaked up to the tree
and took a perfunctory look. There stood another, providentially
We got that one. Everybody was now happy. The boys raced over to
the first kill, which soon took its dismembered way toward camp. C.
and I carefully organized our plan of campaign. We fixed in our
memories the exact location of each and every bush; we determined
compass direction from camp, and any other bearings likely to prove
useful in finding so small a spot in the dark. Then we left a boy to
keep carrion birds off until sunset; and returned home.
We were out in the morning before even the first sign of dawn.
Billy rode her little mule, C. and I went afoot, Memba Sasa
accompanied us because he could see whole lions where even C.'s
trained eye could not make out an ear, and the syce went along to
take care of the mule. The heavens were ablaze with the thronging
stars of the tropics, so we found we could make out the skyline of
the distant butte over the rise of the plains. The earth itself was a
pool of absolute blackness. We could not see where we were placing our
feet, and we were continually bringing up suddenly to walk around an
unexpected aloe or thornbush. The night was quite still, but every
once in a while from the blackness came rustlings, scamperings, low
calls, and once or twice the startled barking of zebra very near at
hand. The latter sounded as ridiculous as ever. It is one of the many
incongruities of African life that Nature should have given so large
and so impressive a creature the petulant yapping of an exasperated
Pomeranian lap dog. At the end of three quarters of an hour of more or
less stumbling progress, we made out against the sky the twisted
treelet that served as our landmark. Billy dismounted, turned the mule
over to the syce, and we crept slowly forward until within a guessed
two or three hundred yards of our kill.
Nothing remained now but to wait for the daylight. It had already
begun to show. Over behind the distant mountains some one was
kindling the fires, and the stars were flickering out. The splendid
ferocity of the African sunrise was at hand. Long bands of slate dark
clouds lay close along the horizon, and behind them glowed a heart of
fire, as on a small scale the lamplight glows through a metal-worked
shade. On either side the sky was pale green-blue, translucent and
pure, deep as infinity itself. The earth was still black, and the top
of the rise near at hand was clear edged. On that edge, and by a
strange chance accurately in the centre of illumination, stood the
uncouth massive form of a shaggy wildebeeste, his head raised, staring
to the east. He did not move; nothing of that fire and black world
moved; only instant by instant it changed, swelling in glory toward
some climax until one expected at any moment a fanfare of trumpets,
the burst of triumphant culmination.
Then very far down in the distance a lion roared. The wildebeeste,
without moving, bellowed back an answer or a defiance. Down in the
hollow an ostrich boomed. Zebra barked, and several birds chirped
strongly. The tension was breaking not in the expected fanfare and
burst of triumphal music, but in a manner instantly felt to be more
fitting to what was indeed a wonder, but a daily wonder for all that.
At one and the same instant the rim of the sun appeared and the
wildebeeste, after the sudden habit of his kind, made up his mind to
go. He dropped his head and came thundering down past us at full
speed. Straight to the west he headed, and so disappeared. We could
hear the beat of his hoofs dying into the distance. He had gone like a
Warder of the Morning whose task was finished. On the knife-edged
skyline appeared the silhouette of slim-legged little Tommies,
flirting their rails, sniffing at the dewy grass, dainty, slender,
confiding, the open-day antithesis of the tremendous and awesome lord
of the darkness that had roared its way to its lair, and to the
massive shaggy herald of morning that had thundered down to the west.
III. THE CENTRAL PLATEAU
Now is required a special quality of the imagination, not in
myself, but in my readers, for it becomes necessary for them to grasp
the logic of a whole country in one mental effort. The difficulties to
me are very real. If I am to tell you it all in detail, your mind
becomes confused to the point of mingling the ingredients of the
description. The resultant mental picture is a composite; it mixes
localities wide apart; it comes out, like the
snake-creeper-swamp-forest thing of grammar-school South America, an
unreal and deceitful impression. If, on the other hand, I try to give
you a bird's-eye view-saying, here is plain, and there follows upland,
and yonder succeed mountains and hills-you lose the sense of breadth
and space and the toil of many days. The feeling of onward outward
extending distance is gone; and that impression so indispensable to
finite understanding-"here am I, and what is beyond is to be measured
by the length of my legs and the toil of my days." You will not stop
long enough on my plains to realize their physical extent nor their
influence on the human soul. If I mention them in a sentence, you
dismiss them in a thought. And that is something the plains themselves
refuse to permit you to do. Yet sometimes one must become a
guide-book, and bespeak his reader's imagination.
The country, then, wherein we travelled begins at the sea. Along
the coast stretches a low rolling country of steaming tropics, grown
with cocoanuts, bananas, mangoes, and populated by a happy, half-naked
race of the Swahilis. Leaving the coast, the country rises through
hills. These hills are at first fertile and green and wooded. Later
they turn into an almost unbroken plateau of thorn scrub, cruel,
monotonous, almost impenetrable. Fix thorn scrub in your mind, with
rhino trails, and occasional openings for game, and a few rivers
flowing through palms and narrow jungle strips; fix it in your mind
until your mind is filled with it, until you are convinced that
nothing else can exist in the world but more and more of the
monotonous, terrible, dry, onstretching desert of thorn.
Then pass through this to the top of the hills inland, and journey
over these hills to the highland plains.
Now sense and appreciate these wide seas of and the hills and
ranges of mountains rising from them, and their infinite diversity of
country-their rivers marked by ribbons of jungle, their scattered-bush
and their thick-bush areas, their grass expanses, and their great
distances extending far over exceedingly wide horizons. Realize how
many weary hours you must travel to gain the nearest butte, what days
of toil the view from its top will disclose. Savour the fact that you
can spend months in its veriest corner without exhausting its
possibilities. Then, and not until then, raise your eyes to the low
rising transverse range that bands it to the west as the thorn desert
bands it to the east.
And on these ranges are the forests, the great bewildering
forests. In what looks like a grove lying athwart a little hill you
can lose yourself for days. Here dwell millions of savages in an
apparently untouched wilderness. Here rises a snow mountain on the
equator. Here are tangles and labyrinths, great bamboo forests lost in
folds of the mightiest hills. Here are the elephants. Here are the
swinging vines, the jungle itself.
Yet finally it breaks. We come out on the edge of things and look
down on a great gash in the earth. It is like a sunken kingdom in
itself, miles wide, with its own mountain ranges, its own rivers, its
own landscape features. Only on either side of it rise the escarpments
which are the true level of the plateau. One can spend two months in
this valley, too, and in the countries south to which it leads. And on
its farther side are the high plateau plains again, or the forests, or
the desert, or the great lakes that lie at the source of the Nile.
So now, perhaps, we are a little prepared to go ahead. The
guide-book work is finished for good and all. There is the steaming
hot low coast belt, and the hot dry thorn desert belt, and the varied
immense plains, and the high mountain belt of the forests, and again
the variegated wide country of the Rift Valley and the high plateau.
To attempt to tell you seriatim and in detail just what they are like
is the task of an encyclopaedist. Perhaps more indirectly you may be
able to fill in the picture of the country, the people, and the
IV. THE FIRST CAMP
Our very first start into the new country was made when we piled
out from the little train standing patiently awaiting the good
pleasure of our descent. That feature strikes me with ever new
wonder-the accommodating way trains of the Uganda Railway have of
waiting for you. One day, at a little wayside station, C. and I were
idly exchanging remarks with the only white man in sight, killing time
until the engine should whistle to a resumption of the journey. The
guard lingered about just out of earshot. At the end of five minutes
C. happened to catch his eye, whereupon he ventured to approach.
"When you have finished your conversation," said he politely, "we
are all ready to go on."
On the morning in question there were a lot of us to disembark-one
hundred and twenty-two, to be exact-of which four were white. We were
not yet acquainted with our men, nor yet with our stores, nor with the
methods of our travel. The train went off and left us in the middle of
a high plateau, with low ridges running across it, and mountains in
the distance. Men were squabbling earnestly for the most convenient
loads to carry, and as fast as they had gained undisputed possession,
they marked the loads with some private sign of their own. M'ganga,
the headman, tall, fierce, big-framed and bony, clad in fez, a long
black overcoat, blue puttees and boots, stood stiff as a ramrod,
extended a rigid right arm and rattled off orders in a high dynamic
voice. In his left hand he clasped a bulgy umbrella, the badge of his
dignity and the symbol of his authority. The four askaris, big men
too, with masterful high-cheekboned countenances, rushed here and
there seeing that the orders were carried out. Expostulations,
laughter, the sound of quarrelling rose and fell. Never could the
combined volume of it all override the firecracker stream of M'ganga's
We had nothing to do with it all, but stood a little dazed,
staring at the novel scene. Our men were of many tribes, each with
its own cast of features, its own notions of what befitted man's
performance of his duties here below. They stuck together each in its
clan. A fine free individualism of personal adornment characterized
them. Every man dressed for his own satisfaction solely. They hung all
sorts of things in the distended lobes of their ears. One had
succeeded in inserting a fine big glittering tobacco tin. Others had
invented elaborate topiary designs in their hair, shaving their heads
so as to leave strange tufts, patches, crescents on the most
unexpected places. Of the intricacy of these designs they seemed
absurdly proud. Various sorts of treasure trove hung from them-a bunch
of keys to which there were no locks, discarded hunting knives, tips
of antelope horns, discharged brass cartridges, a hundred and one
valueless trifles plucked proudly from the rubbish heap. They were all
clothed. We had supplied each with a red blanket, a blue jersey, and
a water bottle. The blankets they were twisting most ingeniously into
turbans. Beside these they sported a great variety of garments.
Shooting coats that had seen better days, a dozen shabby
overcoats-worn proudly through the hottest noons-raggety breeches and
trousers made by some London tailor, queer baggy homemades of the same
persuasion, or quite simply the square of cotton cloth arranged
somewhat like a short tight skirt, or nothing at all as the man's
taste ran. They were many of them amusing enough; but somehow they did
not look entirely farcical and ridiculous, like our negroes putting on
airs. All these things were worn with a simplicity of quiet confidence
in their entire fitness. And beneath the red blanket turbans the
half-wild savage faces peered out.
Now Mahomet approached. Mahomet was my personal boy. He was a
Somali from the Northwest coast, dusky brown, with the regular
clear-cut features of a Greek marble god. His dress was of neat
khaki, and he looked down on savages; but, also, as with all the
dark-skinned races, up to his white master. Mahomet was with me
during all my African stay, and tested out nobly. As yet, of course,
I did not know him.
"Chakula taiari," said he.
That is Swahili. It means literally "food is ready." After one has
hunted in Africa for a few months, it means also "paradise is opened,"
"grief is at an end," "joy and thanksgiving are now in order," and
similar affairs. Those two words are never forgotten, and the veriest
beginner in Swahili can recognize them without the slightest effort.
We followed Mahomet. Somehow, without orders, in all this
confusion, the personal staff had been quietly and efficiently busy.
Drawn a little to one side stood a table with four chairs. The table
was covered with a white cloth, and was set with a beautiful white
enamel service. We took our places. Behind each chair straight as a
ramrod stood a neat khaki-clad boy. They brought us food, and
presented it properly on the left side, waiting like well-trained
butlers. We might have been in a London restaurant. As three of us
were Americans, we felt a trifle dazed. The porters, having finished
the distribution of their loads, squatted on their heels and watched
And then, not two hundred yards away, four ostriches paced slowly
across the track, paying not the slightest attention to us-our first
real wild ostriches, scornful of oranges, careless of tourists, and
rightful guardians of their own snowy plumes. The passage of these
four solemn birds seemed somehow to lend this strange open-air meal an
exotic flavour. We were indeed in Africa; and the ostriches helped us
to realize it.
We finished breakfast and arose from our chairs. Instantly a half
dozen men sprang forward. Before our amazed eyes the table service,
the chairs and the table itself disappeared into neat packages.
M'ganga arose to his feet.
"Bandika!" he cried.
The askaris rushed here and there actively.
"Bandika! bandika! bandika!" they cried repeatedly.
The men sprang into activity. A struggle heaved the varicoloured
multitude-and, lo! each man stood upright, his load balanced on his
head. At the same moment the syces led up our horses, mounted and
headed across the little plain whence had come the four ostriches. Our
African journey had definitely begun.
Behind us, all abreast marched the four gunbearers; then the four
syces; then the safari single file, an askari at the head bearing
proudly his ancient musket and our banner, other askaris flanking,
M'ganga bringing up the rear with his mighty umbrella and an
unsuspected rhinoceros-hide whip. The tent boys and the cook scattered
along the flank anywhere, as befitted the free and independent who had
nothing to do with the serious business of marching. A measured sound
of drumming followed the beating of loads with a hundred sticks; a
wild, weird chanting burst from the ranks and died down again as one
or another individual or group felt moved to song. One lot had a
formal chant and response. Their leader, in a high falsetto, said
"Kuna koma kuno,"
and all his tribesmen would follow with a single word in a deep
All of which undoubtedly helped immensely.
The country was a bully country, but somehow it did not look like
Africa. That is to say, it looked altogether too much like any amount
of country at home. There was nothing strange and exotic about it. We
crossed a little plain, and up over a small hill, down into a shallow
canyon that seemed to be wooded with live oaks, across a grass valley
or so, and around a grass hill. Then we went into camp at the edge of
another grass valley, by a stream across which rose some ordinary low
That is the disconcerting thing about a whole lot of this
country-it is so much like home. Of course, there are many wide
districts exotic enough in all conscience-the jungle beds of the
rivers, the bamboo forests, the great tangled forests themselves, the
banana groves down the aisles of which dance savages with shields-but
so very much of it is familiar. One needs only church spires and a
red-roofed village or so to imagine one's self in Surrey. There is any
amount of country like Arizona, and more like the uplands of Wyoming,
and a lot of it resembling the smaller landscapes of New England. The
prospects of the whole world are there, so that somewhere every
wanderer can find the countryside of his own home repeated. And, by
the same token, that is exactly what makes a good deal of it so
startling. When a man sees a file of spear-armed savages, or a pair of
snorty old rhinos, step out into what has seemed practically his own
back yard home, he is even more startled than if he had encountered
them in quite strange surroundings.
We rode into the grass meadow and picked camp site. The men
trailed in and dumped down their loads in a row.
At a signal they set to work. A dozen to each tent got them up in
a jiffy. A long file brought firewood from the stream bed. Others
carried water, stones for the cook, a dozen other matters. The tent
boys rescued our boxes; they put together the cots and made the beds,
even before the tents were raised from the ground. Within an
incredibly short space of time the three green tents were up and
arranged, each with its bed made, its mosquito bar hung, its personal
box open, its folding washstand ready with towels and soap, the table
and chairs unlimbered. At a discreet distance flickered the cook
campfire, and at a still discreeter distance the little tents of the
men gleamed pure white against the green of the high grass.
V. MEMBA SASA
I wish I could plunge you at once into the excitements of big game
in Africa, but I cannot truthfully do so. To be sure, we went hunting
that afternoon, up over the low cliffs, and we saw several of a very
lively little animal known as the Chandler's reedbuck. This was not
supposed to be a game country, and that was all we did see. At these
we shot several times-disgracefully. In fact, for several days we
could not shoot at all, at any range, nor at anything. It was very
sad, and very aggravating. Afterward we found that this is an
invariable experience to the newcomer. The light is new, the air is
different, the sizes of the game are deceiving. Nobody can at first
hit anything. At the end of five days we suddenly began to shoot our
normal gait. Why, I do not know.
But in this afternoon tramp around the low cliffs after the
elusive reedbuck, I for the first time became acquainted with a man
who developed into a real friend.
His name is Memba Sasa. Memba Sasa are two Swahili words meaning
"now a crocodile." Subsequently, after I had learned to talk Swahili,
I tried to find out what he was formerly, before he was a crocodile,
but did not succeed.
He was of the tribe of the Monumwezi, of medium height, compactly
and sturdily built, carried himself very erect, and moved with a
concentrated and vigorous purposefulness. His countenance might be
described as pleasing but not handsome, of a dark chocolate brown,
with the broad nose of the negro, but with a firm mouth, high
cheekbones, and a frowning intentness of brow that was very fine. When
you talked to him he looked you straight in the eye. His own eyes were
shaded by long, soft, curling lashes behind which they looked steadily
and gravely-sometimes fiercely-on the world. He rarely smiled-never
merely in understanding or for politeness' sake-and never laughed
unless there was something really amusing. Then he chuckled from deep
in his chest, the most contagious laughter you can imagine. Often we,
at the other end of the camp, have laughed in sympathy, just at the
sound of that deep and hearty ho! ho! ho! of Memba Sasa. Even at
something genuinely amusing he never laughed much, nor without a very
definite restraint. In fact, about him was no slackness, no sprawling
abandon of the native in relaxation; but always a taut efficiency and
a never-failing self-respect.
Naturally, behind such a fixed moral fibre must always be some
moral idea. When a man lives up to a real, not a pompous, dignity
some ideal must inform it. Memba Sasa's ideal was that of the Hunter.
He was a gunbearer; and he considered that a good gunbearer stood
quite a few notches above any other human being, save always the
white man, of course. And even among the latter Memba Sasa made great
differences. These differences he kept to himself, and treated all
with equal respect. Nevertheless, they existed, and Memba Sasa very
well knew that fact. In the white world were two classes of masters:
those who hunted well, and those who were considered by them as their
friends and equals. Why they should be so considered Memba Sasa did
not know, but he trusted the Hunter's judgment. These were the bwanas,
or masters. All the rest were merely mazungos, or, "white men." To
their faces he called them bwana, but in his heart he considered them
Observe, I say those who hunted well. Memba Sasa, in his
profession as gunbearer, had to accompany those who hunted badly. In
them he took no pride; from them he held aloof in spirit; but for them
he did his conscientious best, upheld by the dignity of his
For to Mamba Sasa that profession was the proudest to which a
black man could aspire. He prided himself on mastering its every
detail, in accomplishing its every duty minutely and exactly. The
major virtues of a gunbearer are not to be despised by anybody; for
they comprise great physical courage, endurance, and loyalty: the
accomplishments of a gunbearer are worthy of a man's best faculties,
for they include the ability to see and track game, to take and
prepare properly any sort of a trophy, field taxidermy, butchering
game meat, wood and plainscraft, the knowledge of how properly to care
for firearms in all sorts of circumstances, and a half hundred other
like minutiae. Memba Sasa knew these things, and he performed them
with the artist's love for details; and his keen eyes were always
spying for new ways.
At a certain time I shot an egret, and prepared to take the skin.
Memba Sasa asked if he might watch me do it. Two months later, having
killed a really gaudy peacocklike member of the guinea fowl tribe, I
handed it over to him with instructions to take off the breast
feathers before giving it to the cook. In a half hour he brought me
the complete skin, I examined it carefully, and found it to be well
done in every respect. Now in skinning a bird there are a number of
delicate and unusual operations, such as stripping the primary quills
from the bone, cutting the ear cover, and the like. I had explained
none of them; and yet Memba Sasa, unassisted, had grasped their method
from a single demonstration and had remembered them all two months
later! C. had a trick in making the second skin incision of a trophy
head that had the effect of giving a better purchase to the knife. Its
exact description would be out of place here, but it actually
consisted merely in inserting the point of the knife two inches away
from the place it is ordinarily inserted. One day we noticed that
Memba Sasa was making his incisions in that manner. I went to Africa
fully determined to care for my own rifle. The modern high-velocity
gun needs rather especial treatment; mere wiping out will not do. I
found that Memba Sasa already knew all about boiling water, and the
necessity for having it really boiling, about subsequent metal
sweating, and all the rest. After watching him at work I concluded,
rightly, that he would do a lot better job than I.
To the new employer Memba Sasa maintained an attitude of strict
professional loyalty. His personal respect was upheld by the
necessity of every man to do his job in the world. Memba Sasa did
his. He cleaned the rifles; he saw that everything was in order for
the day's march; he was at my elbow all ways with more cartridges and
the spare rifle; he trailed and looked conscientiously. In his
attitude was the stolidity of the wooden Indian. No action of mine, no
joke on the part of his companions, no circumstance in the varying
fortunes of the field gained from him the faintest flicker of either
approval, disapproval, or interest. When we returned to camp he
deposited my water bottle and camera, seized the cleaning implements,
and departed to his own campfire. In the field he pointed out game
that I did not see, and waited imperturbably the result of my shot.
As I before stated, the result of that shot for the first five
days was very apt to be nil. This, at the time, puzzled and grieved
me a lot. Occasionally I looked at Memba Sasa to catch some sign of
sympathy, disgust, contempt, or-rarely-triumph at a lucky shot.
Nothing. He gently but firmly took away my rifle, reloaded it, and
handed it back; then waited respectfully for my next move. He knew no
English, and I no Swahili.
But as time went on this attitude changed. I was armed with the
new Springfield rifle, a weapon with 2,700 feet velocity, and with a
marvellously flat trajectory. This commanding advantage, combined with
a very long familiarity with firearms, enabled me to do some fairish
shooting, after the strangeness of these new conditions had been
mastered. Memba Sasa began to take a dawning interest in me as a
possible source of pride. We began to develop between us a means of
communication. I set myself deliberately to learn his language, and
after he had cautiously determined that I really meant it, he took the
greatest pains-always gravely-to teach me. A more human feeling sprang
up between us.
But we had still the final test to undergo-that of danger and the
In close quarters the gunbearer has the hardest job in the world.
I have the most profound respect for his absolute courage. Even to a
man armed and privileged to shoot and defend himself, a charging lion
is an awesome thing, requiring a certain amount of coolness and
resolution to face effectively. Think of the gunbearer at his elbow,
depending not on himself but on the courage and coolness of another.
He cannot do one solitary thing to defend himself. To bolt for the
safety of a tree is to beg the question completely, to brand himself
as a shenzi forever; to fire a gun in any circumstances is to beg the
question also, for the white man must be able to depend absolutely on
his second gun in an emergency. Those things are outside
consideration, even, of any respectable gunbearer. In addition, he
must keep cool. He must see clearly in the thickest excitement; must
be ready unobtrusively to pass up the second gun in the position most
convenient for immediate use, to seize the other and to perform the
finicky task of reloading correctly while some rampageous beast is
raising particular thunder a few yards away. All this in absolute
dependence on the ability of his bwana to deal with the situation. I
can confess very truly that once or twice that little unobtrusive
touch of Memba Sasa crouched close to my elbow steadied me with the
thought of how little right I-with a rifle in my hand-had to be
scared. And the best compliment I ever received I overheard by chance.
I had wounded a lion when out by myself, and had returned to camp for
a heavier rifle and for Memba Sasa to do the trailing. From my tent I
overheard the following conversation between Memba Sasa and the cook:
"The grass is high," said the cook. "Are you not afraid to go
after a wounded lion with only one white man?"
"My one white man is enough," replied Memba Sasa.
It is a quality of courage that I must confess would be quite
beyond me-to depend entirely on the other fellow, and not at all on
myself. This courage is always remarkable to me, even in the case of
the gunbearer who knows all about the man whose heels he follows. But
consider that of the gunbearer's first experience with a stranger. The
former has no idea of how the white man will act; whether he will get
nervous, get actually panicky, lose his shooting ability, and
generally mess things up. Nevertheless, he follows his master in, and
he stands by. If the hunter fails, the gunbearer will probably die. To
me it is rather fine: for he does it, not from the personal affection
and loyalty which will carry men far, but from a sheer sense of duty
and pride of caste. The quiet pride of the really good men, like Memba
Sasa, is easy to understand.
And the records are full of stories of the white man who has not
made good: of the coward who bolts, leaving his black man to take the
brunt of it, or who sticks but loses his head. Each new employer must
be very closely and interestedly scrutinized. In the light of
subsequent experience, I can no longer wonder at Memba Sasa's first
detached and impersonal attitude.
As time went on, however, and we grew to know each other better,
this attitude entirely changed. At first the change consisted merely
in dropping the disinterested pose as respects game. For it was a
pose. Memba Sasa was most keenly interested in game whenever it was an
object of pursuit. It did not matter how common the particular species
might be: if we wanted it, Memba Sasa would look upon it with eager
ferocity; and if we did not want it, he paid no attention to it at
all. When we started in the morning, or in the relaxation of our
return at night, I would mention casually a few of the things that
might prove acceptable.
"To-morrow we want kongoni for boys' meat, or zebra; and some meat
for masters-Tommy, impala, oribi," and Memba Sasa knew as well as I
did what we needed to fill out our trophy collection. When he caught
sight of one of these animals his whole countenance changed. The lines
of his face set, his lips drew back from his teeth, his eyes fairly
darted fire in the fixity of their gaze. He was like a fine pointer
dog on birds, or like the splendid savage he was at heart.
"M'palla!" he hissed; and then after a second, in a restrained
fierce voice, "Na-ona? Do you see?"
If I did not see he pointed cautiously. His own eyes never left
the beast. Rarely he stayed put while I made the stalk. More often he
glided like a snake at my heels. If the bullet hit, Memba Sasa always
exhaled a grunt of satisfaction-"hah!"-in which triumph and
satisfaction mingled with a faint derision at the unfortunate beast.
In case of a trophy he squatted anxiously at the animal's head while I
took my measurements, assisting very intelligently with the tape line.
When I had finished, he always looked up at me with wrinkled brow.
"Footie n'gapi?" he inquired. This means literally, "How many
feet?", footie being his euphemistic invention of a word for the
tape. I would tell him how many "footie" and how many "inchie" the
measurement proved to be. From the depths of his wonderful memory he
would dig up the measurements of another beast of the same sort I had
killed months back, but which he had remembered accurately from a
The shooting of a beast he always detailed to his few cronies in
camp: the other gunbearers, and one or two from his own tribe. He
always used the first person plural, "we" did so and so; and took an
inordinate pride in making out his bwana as being an altogether
superior person to any of the other gunbearer's bwanas. Over a miss he
always looked sad; but with a dignified sadness as though we had met
with undeserved misfortune sent by malignant gods. If there were any
possible alleviating explanation, Memba Sasa made the most of it,
provided our fiasco was witnessed. If we were alone in our disgrace,
he buried the incident fathoms deep. He took an inordinate pride in
our using the minimum number of cartridges, and would explain to me in
a loud tone of voice that we had cartridges enough in the belt. When
we had not cartridges enough, he would sneak around after dark to get
some more. At times he would even surreptitiously "lift" a few from
When in camp, with his "cazi" finished, Memba Sasa did fancy work!
The picture of this powerful half-savage, his fierce brows bent over a
tiny piece of linen, his strong fingers fussing with little stitches,
will always appeal to my sense of the incongruous. Through a piece of
linen he punched holes with a porcupine quill. Then he "buttonhole"
stitched the holes, and embroidered patterns between them with fine
white thread. The result was an openwork pattern heavily encrusted
with beautiful fine embroidery. It was most astounding stuff, such as
you would expect from a French convent, perhaps, but never from an
African savage. He did a circular piece and a long narrow piece. They
took him three months to finish, and then he sewed them together to
form a skull cap. Billy, entranced with the lacelike delicacy of the
work, promptly captured it; whereupon Memba Sasa philosophically
By this time he had identified himself with my fortunes. We had
become a firm whose business it was to carry out the affairs of a
single personality-me. Memba Sasa, among other things, undertook the
dignity. When I walked through a crowd, Memba Sasa zealously kicked
everybody out of my royal path. When I started to issue a command,
Memba Sasa finished it and amplified it and put a snapper on it. When
I came into camp, Memba Sasa saw to it personally that my tent went up
promptly and properly, although that was really not part of his "cazi"
at all. And when somewhere beyond my ken some miserable boy had
committed a crime, I never remained long in ignorance of that fact.
Perhaps I happened to be sitting in my folding chair idly smoking
a pipe and reading a book. Across the open places of the camp would
stride Memba Sasa, very erect, very rigid, moving in short indignant
jerks, his eye flashing fire. Behind him would sneak a very hang-dog
boy. Memba Sasa marched straight up to me, faced right, and drew one
side, his silence sparkling with honest indignation.
"Just look at THAT!" his attitude seemed to say, "Could you
believe such human depravity possible? And against OUR authority?"
He always stood, quite rigid, waiting for me to speak.
"Well, Memba Sasa?" I would inquire, after I had enjoyed the show
In a few restrained words he put the case before me, always
briefly, always with a scornful dignity. This shenzi has done
We will suppose the case fairly serious. I listened to the man's
story, if necessary called a few witnesses, delivered judgment. All
the while Memba Sasa stood at rigid attention, fairly bristling
virtue, like the good dog standing by at the punishment of the bad
dogs. And in his attitude was a subtle triumph, as one would say: "You
see! Fool with my bwana, will you! Just let anybody try to get funny
with US!" Judgment pronounced-we have supposed the case serious, you
remember-Memba Sasa himself applied the lash. I think he really
enjoyed that; but it was a restrained joy. The whip descended
deliberately, without excitement.
The man's devotion in unusual circumstances was beyond praise.
Danger or excitement incite a sort of loyalty in any good man; but
humdrum, disagreeable difficulty is a different matter.
One day we marched over a country of thorn-scrub desert. Since two
days we had been cut loose from water, and had been depending on a
small amount carried in zinc drums. Now our only reasons for faring
were a conical hill, over the horizon, and the knowledge of a river
somewhere beyond. How far beyond, or in what direction, we did not
know. We had thirty men with us, a more or less ragtag lot, picked up
anyhow in the bazaars. They were soft, ill-disciplined and uncertain.
For five or six hours they marched well enough. Then the sun began to
get very hot, and some of them began to straggle. They had, of course,
no intention of deserting, for their only hope of surviving lay in
staying with us; but their loads had become heavy, and they took too
many rests. We put a good man behind, but without much avail. In open
country a safari can be permitted to straggle over miles, for always
it can keep in touch by sight; but in this thorn-scrub desert, that
looks all alike, a man fifty yards out of sight is fifty yards lost.
We would march fifteen or twenty minutes, then sit down to wait until
the rearmost men had straggled in, perhaps a half hour later. And we
did not dare move on until the tale of our thirty was complete. At
this rate progress was very slow, and as the fierce equatorial sun
increased in strength, became always slower still. The situation
became alarming. We were quite out of water, and we had no idea where
water was to be found. To complicate matters, the thornbrush thickened
to a jungle.
My single companion and I consulted. It was agreed that I was to
push on as rapidly as possible to locate the water, while he was to
try to hold the caravan together. Accordingly, Memba Sasa and I
marched ahead. We tried to leave a trail to follow; and we hoped
fervently that our guess as to the stream's course would prove to be a
good one. At the end of two hours and a half we found the water-a
beautiful jungle-shaded stream-and filled ourselves up therewith. Our
duty was accomplished, for we had left a trail to be followed.
Nevertheless, I felt I should like to take back our full canteens to
relieve the worst cases. Memba Sasa would not hear of it, and even
while I was talking to him seized the canteens and disappeared.
At the end of two hours more camp was made, after a fashion; but
still four men had failed to come in. We built a smudge in the hope
of guiding them; and gave them up. If they had followed our trail,
they should have been in long ago; if they had missed that trail,
heaven knows where they were, or where we should go to find them. Dusk
was falling, and, to tell the truth, we were both very much done up by
a long day at 115 degrees in the shade under an equatorial sun. The
missing men would climb trees away from the beasts, and we would
organize a search next day. As we debated these things, to us came
"I want to take 'Winchi,'" said he. "Winchi" is his name for my
"Why?" we asked.
"If I can take Winchi, I will find the men," said he.
This was entirely voluntary on his part. He, as well as we, had
had a hard day, and he had made a double journey for part of it. We
gave him Winchi and he departed. Sometime after midnight he returned
with the missing men.
Perhaps a dozen times all told he volunteered for these special
services; once in particular, after a fourteen-hour day, he set off
at nine o'clock at night in a soaking rainstorm, wandered until two
o'clock, and returned unsuccessful, to rouse me and report gravely
that he could not find them. For these services he neither received
nor expected special reward. And catch him doing anything outside his
strict "cazi" except for US.
We were always very ceremonious and dignified in our relations on
such occasions. Memba Sasa would suddenly appear, deposit the rifle
in its place, and stand at attention.
"Well, Memba Sasa?" I would inquire.
"I have found the men; they are in camp."
Then I would give him his reward. It was either the word
"assanti," or the two words "assanti sana," according to the
difficulty and importance of the task accomplished. They mean simply
"thank you" and "thank you very much."
Once or twice, after a particularly long and difficult month or
so, when Memba Sasa has been almost literally my alter ego, I have
called him up for special praise. "I am very pleased with you, Memba
Sasa," said I. "You have done your cazi well. You are a good man."
He accepted this with dignity, without deprecation, and without
the idiocy of spoken gratitude. He agreed perfectly with everything I
said! "Yes" was his only comment. I liked it.
On our ultimate success in a difficult enterprise Memba Sasa set
great store; and his delight in ultimate success was apparently quite
apart from personal considerations. We had been hunting greater kudu
for five weeks before we finally landed one. The greater kudu is, with
the bongo, easily the prize beast in East Africa, and very few are
shot. By a piece of bad luck, for him, I had sent Memba Sasa out in a
different direction to look for signs the afternoon we finally got
one. The kill was made just at dusk. C. and I, with Mavrouki, built a
fire and stayed, while Kongoni went to camp after men. There he broke
the news to Memba Sasa that the great prize had been captured, and he
absent. Memba Sasa was hugely delighted, nor did he in any way show
what must have been a great disappointment to him. After repeating the
news triumphantly to every one in camp, he came out to where we were
waiting, arrived quite out of breath, and grabbed me by the hand in
Memba Sasa went in not at all for personal ornamentation, any more
than he allowed his dignity to be broken by anything resembling
emotionalism. No tattoo marks, no ear ornaments, no rings nor
bracelets. He never even picked up an ostrich feather for his head. On
the latter he sometimes wore an old felt hat; sometimes, more
picturesquely, an orange-coloured fillet. Khaki shirt, khaki "shorts,"
blue puttees, besides his knife and my own accoutrements: that was
all. In town he was all white clad, a long fine linen robe reaching to
his feet; and one of the lacelike skull caps he was so very skilful at
That will do for a preliminary sketch. If you follow these pages,
you will hear more of him; he is worth it.
VI. THE FIRST GAME CAMP
In the review of "first" impressions with which we are concerned,
we must now skip a week or ten days to stop at what is known in our
diaries as the First Ford of the Guaso Nyero River.
These ten days were not uneventful. We had crossed the wide and
undulating plains, had paused at some tall beautiful falls plunging
several hundred feet into the mysteriousness of a dense forest on
which we looked down. There we had enjoyed some duck, goose and snipe
shooting; had made the acquaintance of a few of the Masai, and had
looked with awe on our first hippo tracks in the mud beside a tiny
ditchlike stream. Here and there were small game herds. In the light
of later experience we now realize that these were nothing at all; but
at the time the sight of full-grown wild animals out in plain sight
was quite wonderful. At the close of the day's march we always
wandered out with our rifles to see what we could find. Everything was
new to us, and we had our men to feed. Our shooting gradually improved
until we had overcome the difficulties peculiar to this new country
and were doing as well as we could do anywhere.
Now, at the end of a hard day through scrub, over rolling bold
hills, and down a scrub brush slope, we had reached the banks of the
At this point, above the junction of its principal tributary
rivers, it was a stream about sixty or seventy feet wide, flowing
swift between high banks. A few trees marked its course, but nothing
like a jungle. The ford was in swift water just above a deep still
pool suspected of crocodiles. We found the water about waist deep,
stretched a rope across, and forcibly persuaded our eager boys that
one at a time was about what the situation required. On the other side
we made camp on an open flat. Having marched so far continuously, we
resolved to settle down for a while. The men had been without
sufficient meat; and we desired very much to look over the country
closely, and to collect a few heads as trophies.
Perhaps a word might not come amiss as to the killing of game. The
case is here quite different from the condition of affairs at home.
Here animal life is most extraordinarily abundant; it furnishes the
main food supply to the traveller; and at present is probably
increasing slightly, certainly holding its own. Whatever toll the
sportsman or traveller take is as nothing compared to what he might
take if he were an unscrupulous game hog. If his cartridges and his
shoulder held out, he could easily kill a hundred animals a day
instead of the few he requires. In that sense, then, no man slaughters
indiscriminately. During the course of a year he probably shoots from
two hundred to two hundred and fifty beasts, provided he is travelling
with an ordinary sized caravan. This, the experts say, is about the
annual toll of one lion. If the traveller gets his lion, he plays
even with the fauna of the country; if he gets two or more lions, he
has something to his credit. This probably explains why the game is
still so remarkably abundant near the road and on the very outskirts
of the town.
We were now much in need of a fair quantity of meat, both for
immediate consumption of our safari, and to make biltong or jerky.
Later, in like circumstances, we should have sallied forth in a
businesslike fashion, dropped the requisite number of zebra and
hartebeeste as near camp as possible, and called it a job. Now,
however, being new to the game, we much desired good trophies in
variety. Therefore, we scoured the country far and wide for desirable
heads; and the meat waited upon the acquisition of the trophy.
This, then, might be called our first Shooting Camp. Heretofore we
had travelled every day. Now the boys settled down to what the native
porter considers the height of bliss: a permanent camp with plenty to
eat. Each morning we were off before daylight, riding our horses, and
followed by the gunbearers, the syces, and fifteen or twenty porters.
The country rose from the river in a long gentle slope grown with low
brush and scattered candlestick euphorbias. This slope ended in a
scattered range of low rocky buttes. Through any one of the various
openings between them, we rode to find ourselves on the borders of an
undulating grass country of low rounded hills with wide valleys
winding between them. In these valleys and on these hills was the
Daylight of the day I would tell about found us just at the edge
of the little buttes. Down one of the slopes the growing half light
revealed two oryx feeding, magnificent big creatures, with straight
rapier horns three feet in length. These were most exciting and
desirable, so off my horse I got and began to sneak up on them through
the low tufts of grass. They fed quite calmly. I congratulated myself,
and slipped nearer. Without even looking in my direction, they trotted
away. Somewhat chagrined, I returned to my companions, and we rode on.
Then across a mile-wide valley we saw two dark objects in the tall
grass; and almost immediately identified these as rhinoceroses, the
first we had seen. They stood there side by side, gazing off into
space, doing nothing in a busy morning world. After staring at them
through our glasses for some time, we organized a raid. At the bottom
of the valley we left the horses and porters; lined up, each with his
gunbearer at his elbow; and advanced on the enemy. B. was to have the
shot According to all the books we should have been able, provided we
were downwind and made no noise, to have approached within fifty or
sixty yards undiscovered. However, at a little over a hundred yards
they both turned tail and departed at a swift trot, their heads held
well up and their tails sticking up straight and stiff in the most
ridiculous fashion. No good shooting at them in such circumstances, so
we watched them go, still keeping up their slashing trot, growing
smaller and smaller in the distance until finally they disappeared
over the top of a swell.
We set ourselves methodically to following them. It took us over
an hour of steady plodding before we again came in sight of them.
They were this time nearer the top of a hill, and we saw instantly
that the curve of the slope was such that we could approach within
fifty yards before coming in sight at all. Therefore, once more we
dismounted, lined up in battle array, and advanced.
Sensations? Distinctly nervous, decidedly alert, and somewhat
self-congratulatory that I was not more scared. No man can predicate
how efficient he is going to be in the presence of really dangerous
game. Only the actual trial will show. This is not a question of
courage at all, but of purely involuntary reaction of the nerves. Very
few men are physical cowards. They will and do face anything. But a
great many men are rendered inefficient by the way their nervous
systems act under stress. It is not a matter for control by will power
in the slightest degree. So the big game hunter must determine by
actual trial whether it so happens that the great excitement of danger
renders his hand shaky or steady. The excitement in either case is the
same. No man is ever "cool" in the sense that personal danger is of
the same kind of indifference to him as clambering aboard a street
car. He must always be lifted above himself, must enter an extra
normal condition to meet extra normal circumstances. He can always
control his conduct; but he can by no means always determine the way
the inevitable excitement will affect his coordinations. And
unfortunately, in the final result it does not matter how brave a man
is, but how closely he can hold. If he finds that his nervous
excitement renders him unsteady, he has no business ever to tackle
dangerous game alone. If, on the other hand, he discovers that
IDENTICALLY THE SAME nervous excitement happens to steady his front
sight to rocklike rigidity-a rigidity he could not possibly attain in
normal conditions-then he will probably keep out of trouble.
To amplify this further by a specific instance: I hunted for a
short time in Africa with a man who was always eager for exciting
encounters, whose pluck was admirable in every way, but whose nervous
reaction so manifested itself that he was utterly unable to do even
decent shooting at any range. Furthermore, his very judgment and power
of observation were so obscured that he could not remember afterward
with any accuracy what had happened-which way the beast was pointing,
how many there were of them, in which direction they went, how many
shots were fired, in short all the smaller details of the affair. He
thought he remembered. After the show was over it was quite amusing to
get his version of the incident. It was almost always so wide of the
fact as to be little recognizable. And, mind you, he was perfectly
sincere in his belief, and absolutely courageous. Only he was quite
unfitted by physical make-up for a big game hunter; and I was relieved
when, after a short time, his route and mine separated.
Well, we clambered up that slope with a fine compound of tension,
expectation, and latent uneasiness as to just what was going to
happen, anyway. Finally, we raised the backs of the beasts, stooped,
sneaked a little nearer, and finally at a signal stood upright perhaps
forty yards from the brutes.
For the first time I experienced a sensation I was destined many
times to repeat-that of the sheer size of the animals. Menagerie
rhinoceroses had been of the smaller Indian variety; and in any case
most menagerie beasts are more or less stunted. These two, facing us,
their little eyes blinking, looked like full-grown ironclads on dry
land. The moment we stood erect B. fired at the larger of the two.
Instantly they turned and were off at a tearing run. I opened fire,
and B. let loose his second barrel. At about two hundred and fifty
yards the big rhinoceros suddenly fell on his side, while the other
continued his flight. It was all over-very exciting because we got
excited, but not in the least dangerous.
The boys were delighted, for here was meat in plenty for
everybody. We measured the beast, photographed him, marvelled at his
immense size, and turned him over to the gunbearers for treatment. In
half an hour or so a long string of porters headed across the hills in
the direction of camp, many miles distant, each carrying his load
either of meat, or the trophies. Rhinoceros hide, properly treated,
becomes as transparent as amber, and so from it can be made many very
beautiful souvenirs, such as bowls, trays, paper knives, table tops,
whips, canes, and the like. And, of course, the feet of one's first
rhino are always saved for cigar boxes or inkstands.
Already we had an admiring and impatient audience. From all
directions came the carrion birds. They circled far up in the
heavens; they shot downward like plummets from a great height with an
inspiring roar of wings; they stood thick in a solemn circle all
around the scene of the kill; they rose with a heavy flapping when we
moved in their direction. Skulking forms flashed in the grass, and
occasionally the pointed ears of a jackal would rise inquiringly.
It was by now nearly noon. The sun shone clear and hot; the heat
shimmer rose in clouds from the brown surface of the hills. In all
directions we could make out small gameherds resting motionless in the
heat of the day, the mirage throwing them into fantastic shapes. While
the final disposition was being made of the defunct rhinoceros I
wandered over the edge of the hill to see what I could see, and fairly
blundered on a herd of oryx at about a hundred and fifty yards range.
They looked at me a startled instant, then leaped away to the left at
a tremendous speed. By a lucky shot, I bowled one over. He was a
beautiful beast, with his black and white face and his straight
rapierlike horns nearly three feet long, and I was most pleased to get
him. Memba Sasa came running at the sound of the shot. We set about
preparing the head.
Then through a gap in the hills far to the left we saw a little
black speck moving rapidly in our direction. At the end of a minute
we could make it out as the second rhinoceros. He had run heaven knows
how many miles away, and now he was returning; whether with some idea
of rejoining his companion or from sheer chance, I do not know. At any
rate, here he was, still ploughing along at his swinging trot. His
course led him along a side hill about four hundred yards from where
the oryx lay. When he was directly opposite I took the Springfield and
fired, not at him, but at a spot five or six feet in front of his
nose. The bullet threw up a column of dust. Rhino brought up short
with astonishment, wheeled to the left, and made off at a gallop. I
dropped another bullet in front of him. Again he stopped, changed
direction, and made off. For the third time I hit the ground in front
of him. Then he got angry, put his head down and charged the spot.
Five more shots I expended on the amusement of that rhinoceros;
and at the last had run furiously charging back and forth in a
twenty-yard space, very angry at the little puffing, screeching
bullets, but quite unable to catch one. Then he made up his mind and
departed the way he had come, finally disappearing as a little rapidly
moving black speck through the gap in the hills where we had first
caught sight of him.
We finished caring for the oryx, and returned to camp. To our
surprise we found we were at least seven or eight miles out.
In this fashion days passed very quickly. The early dewy start in
the cool of the morning, the gradual grateful warming up of sunrise,
and immediately after, the rest during the midday heats under a shady
tree, the long trek back to camp at sunset, the hot bath after the
toilsome day-all these were very pleasant. Then the swift falling
night, and the gleam of many tiny fires springing up out of the
darkness; with each its sticks full of meat roasting, and its little
circle of men, their skins gleaming in the light. As we sat smoking,
we would become aware that M'ganga, the headman, was standing silent
awaiting orders. Some one would happen to see the white of his eyes,
or perhaps he might smile so that his teeth would become visible.
Otherwise he might stand there an hour, and no one the wiser, for he
was respectfully silent, and exactly the colour of the night.
We would indicate to him our plans for the morrow, and he would
disappear. Then at a distance of twenty or thirty feet from the front
of our tents a tiny tongue of flame would lick up. Dark figures could
be seen manipulating wood. A blazing fire sprang up, against which we
could see the motionless and picturesque figure of Saa-sita (Six
o'Clock), the askari of the first night watch, leaning on his musket.
He was a most picturesque figure, for his fancy ran to original
headdresses, and at the moment he affected a wonderful upstanding
structure made of marabout wings.
At this sign that the night had begun, we turned in. A few hyenas
moaned, a few jackals barked: otherwise the first part of the night
was silent, for the hunters were at their silent business, and the
hunted were "layin' low and sayin' nuffin'."
Day after day we rode out, exploring the country in different
directions. The great uncertainty as to what of interest we would
find filled the hours with charm. Sometimes we clambered about the
cliffs of the buttes trying to find klipspringers; again we ran miles
pursuing the gigantic eland. I in turn got my first rhinoceros, with
no more danger than had attended the killing of B.'s. On this
occasion, however, I had my first experience of the lightning skill of
the first-class gunbearer. Having fired both barrels, and staggered
the beast, I threw open the breech and withdrew the empty cartridges,
intending, of course, as my next move to fish two more out of my belt.
The empty shells were hardly away from the chambers, however, when a
long brown arm shot over my right shoulder and popped two fresh
cartridges in the breech. So astonished was I at this unexpected
apparition, that for a second or so I actually forgot to close the
VII. ON THE MARCH
After leaving the First Game Camp, we travelled many hours and
miles over rolling hills piling ever higher and higher until they
broke through a pass to illimitable plains. These plains were mantled
with the dense scrub, looking from a distance and from above like the
nap of soft green velvet. Here and there this scrub broke in round or
oval patches of grass plain. Great mountain ranges peered over the
edge of a horizon. Lesser mountain peaks of fantastic shapes-sheer
Yosemite cliffs, single buttes, castles-had ventured singly from
behind that same horizon barricade. The course of a river was marked
by a meandering line of green jungle.
It took us two days to get to that river. Our intermediate camp
was halfway down the pass. We ousted a hundred indignant
straw-coloured monkeys and twice as many baboons from the tiny flat
above the water hole. They bobbed away cursing over their shoulders at
us. Next day we debouched on the plains. They were rolling, densely
grown, covered with volcanic stones, swarming with game of various
sorts. The men marched well. They were happy, for they had had a week
of meat; and each carried a light lunch of sun-dried biltong or jerky.
Some mistaken individuals had attempted to bring along some "fresh"
meat. We found it advisable to pass to windward of these; but they
themselves did not seem to mind.
It became very hot; for we were now descending to the lower
elevations. The marching through long grass and over volcanic stones
was not easy. Shortly we came out on stumbly hills, mostly rock, very
dry, grown with cactus and discouraged desiccated thorn scrub. Here
the sun reflected powerfully and the bearers began to flag.
Then suddenly, without warning, we pitched over a little rise to
No more marvellous contrast could have been devised. From the
blasted barren scrub country we plunged into the lush jungle. It was
not a very wide jungle, but it was sufficient. The trees were large
and variegated, reaching to a high and spacious upper story above the
ground tangle. From the massive limbs hung vines, festooned and looped
like great serpents. Through this upper corridor flitted birds of
bright hue or striking variegation. We did not know many of them by
name, nor did we desire to; but were content with the impression of
vivid flashing movement and colour. Various monkeys swung, leaped and
galloped slowly away before our advance; pausing to look back at us
curiously, the ruffs of fur standing out all around their little black
faces. The lower half of the forest jungle, however, had no
spaciousness at all, but a certain breathless intimacy. Great leaved
plants as tall as little trees, and trees as small as big plants,
bound together by vines, made up the "deep impenetrable jungle" of our
childhood imagining. Here were rustlings, sudden scurryings,
half-caught glimpses, once or twice a crash as some greater animal
made off. Here and there through the thicket wandered well beaten
trails, wide, but low, so that to follow them one would have to bend
double. These were the paths of rhinoceroses. The air smelt warm and
moist and earthy, like the odour of a greenhouse.
We skirted this jungle until it gave way to let the plain down to
the river. Then, in an open grove of acacias, and fairly on the
river's bank, we pitched our tents.
These acacia trees were very noble big chaps, with many branches
and a thick shade. In their season they are wonderfully blossomed
with white, with yellow, sometimes even with vivid red flowers.
Beneath them was only a small matter of ferns to clear away.
Before us the sodded bank rounded off ten feet the river itself.
At this point far up in its youth it was a friendly river. Its noble
width ran over shallows of yellow sand or of small pebbles. Save for
unexpected deep holes one could wade across it anywhere. Yet it was
very wide, with still reaches of water, with islands of gigantic
papyrus, with sand bars dividing the current, and with always the
vista for a greater or lesser distance down through the jungle along
its banks. From our canvas chairs we could look through on one side to
the arid country, and on the other to this tropical wonderland.
Yes, at this point in its youth it was indeed a friendly river in
every sense of the word. There are three reasons, ordinarily, why one
cannot bathe in the African rivers. In the first place, they are
nearly all disagreeably muddy; in the second place, cold water in a
tropical climate causes horrible congestions; in the third place they
swarm with crocodiles and hippos. But this river was as yet unpolluted
by the alluvial soil of the lower countries; the sun on its shallows
had warmed its waters almost to blood heat; and the beasts found no
congenial haunts in these clear shoals. Almost before our tents were
up the men were splashing. And always my mental image of that river's
beautiful expanse must include round black heads floating like gourds
where the water ran smoothest.
Our tents stood all in a row facing the stream, the great trees at
their backs. Down in the grove the men had pitched their little white
shelters. Happily they settled down to ease. Settling down to ease, in
the case of the African porter, consists in discarding as many clothes
as possible. While on the march he wears everything he owns; whether
from pride or a desire to simplify transportation I am unable to say.
He is supplied by his employer with a blanket and jersey. As
supplementals he can generally produce a half dozen white man's
ill-assorted garments: an old shooting coat, a ragged pair of khaki
breeches, a kitchen tablecloth for a skirt, or something of the sort.
If he can raise an overcoat he is happy, especially if it happen to be
a long, thick WINTER overcoat. The possessor of such a garment will
wear it conscientiously throughout the longest journey and during the
hottest noons. But when he relaxes in camp, he puts away all these
prideful possessions and turns out in the savage simplicity of his red
blanket. Draped negligently, sometimes very negligently, in what may
be termed semi-toga fashion, he stalks about or squats before his
little fire in all the glory of a regained savagery. The contrast of
the red with his red bronze or black skin, the freedom and grace of
his movements, the upright carriage of his fine figure, and the
flickering savagery playing in his eyes are very effective.
Our men occupied their leisure variously and happily. A great deal
of time they spent before their tiny fires roasting meat and talking.
This talk was almost invariably of specific personal experiences. They
bathed frequently and with pleasure. They slept. Between times they
fashioned ingenious affairs of ornament or use: bows and arrows,
throwing clubs, snuff-boxes of the tips of antelope horns, bound
prettily with bright wire, wooden swords beautifully carved in exact
imitation of the white man's service weapon, and a hundred other such
affairs. At this particular time also they were much occupied in
making sandals against the thorns. These were flat soles of rawhide,
the edges pounded to make them curl up a trifle over the foot,
fastened by thongs; very ingenious, and very useful. To their task
they brought song. The labour of Africa is done to song; weird minor
chanting starting high in the falsetto to trickle unevenly down to the
lower registers, or where the matter is one of serious effort, an
antiphony of solo and chorus. From all parts of the camp come these
softly modulated chantings, low and sweet, occasionally breaking into
full voice as the inner occasion swells, then almost immediately
falling again to the murmuring undertone of more concentrated
The red blanket was generally worn knotted from one shoulder or
bound around the waist Malay fashion. When it turned into a cowl,
with a miserable and humpbacked expression, it became the Official
Badge of Illness. No matter what was the matter that was the proper
thing to do-to throw the blanket over the head and to assume as
miserable a demeanour as possible. A sore toe demanded just as much
concentrated woe as a case of pneumonia. Sick call was cried after the
day's work was finished. Then M'ganga or one of the askaris lifted up
"N'gonjwa! n'gonjwa!" he shouted; and at the shout the red cowls
gathered in front of the tent. Three things were likely to be the
matter: too much meat, fever, or pus infection from slight wounds. To
these in the rainy season would be added the various sorts of colds.
That meant either Epsom salts, quinine, or a little excursion with the
lancet and permanganate. The African traveller gets to be heap big
medicine man within these narrow limits.
All the red cowls squatted miserably, oh, very miserably, in a
row. The headman stood over them rather fiercely. We surveyed the lot
contemplatively, hoping to heaven that nothing complicated was going
to turn up. One of the tent boys hovered in the background as
"Well," said F. at last, "what's the matter with you?"
The man indicated pointed to his head and the back of his neck and
groaned. If he had a slight headache he groaned just as much as though
his head were splitting. F. asked a few questions, and took his
temperature. The clinical thermometer is in itself considered big
medicine, and often does much good.
"Too much meat, my friend," remarked F. in English, and to his boy
in Swahili, "bring the cup."
He put in this cup a triple dose of Epsom salts. The African
requires three times a white man's dose. This, pathologically, was
all that was required: but psychologically the job was just begun.
Your African can do wonderful things with his imagination. If he
thinks he is going to die, die he will, and very promptly, even though
he is ailing of the most trivial complaint. If he thinks he is going
to get well, he is very apt to do so in face of extraordinary odds.
Therefore the white man desires not only to start his patient's
internal economy with Epsom salts, but also to stir his faith. To this
end F. added to that triple dose of medicine a spoonful of Chutney,
one of Worcestershire sauce, a few grains of quinine, Sparklets water
and a crystal or so of permanganate to turn the mixture a beautiful
pink. This assortment the patient drank with gratitude-and the tears
running down his cheeks.
"He will carry a load to-morrow," F. told the attentive M'ganga.
The next patient had fever. This one got twenty grains of quinine
"This man carries no load to-morrow," was the direction, "but he
must not drop behind."
Two or three surgical cases followed. Then a big Kavirondo rose to
"Nini?" demanded F.
"Homa-fever," whined the man.
F. clapped his hand on the back of the other's neck.
"I think," he remarked contemplatively in English, "that you're a
liar, and want to get out of carrying your load."
The clinical thermometer showed no evidence of temperature.
"I'm pretty near sure you're a liar," observed F. in the
pleasantest conversational tone and still in English, "but you may be
merely a poor diagnostician. Perhaps your poor insides couldn't get
away with that rotten meat I saw you lugging around. We'll see."
So he mixed a pint of medicine.
"There's Epsom salts for the real part of trouble," observed F.,
still talking to himself, "and here's a few things for the fake."
He then proceeded to concoct a mixture whose recoil was the exact
measure of his imagination. The imagination was only limited by the
necessity of keeping the mixture harmless. Every hot, biting, nauseous
horror in camp went into that pint measure.
"There," concluded F., "if you drink that and come back again
to-morrow for treatment, I'll believe you ARE sick."
Without undue pride I would like to record that I was the first to
think of putting in a peculiarly nauseous gun oil, and thereby
acquired a reputation of making tremendous medicine.
So implicit is this faith in white man's medicine that at one of
the Government posts we were approached by one of the secondary
chiefs of the district. He was a very nifty savage, dressed for
calling, with his hair done in ropes like a French poodle's, his skin
carefully oiled and reddened, his armlets and necklets polished, and
with the ceremonial ball of black feathers on the end of his long
spear. His gait was the peculiar mincing teeter of savage conventional
society. According to custom, he approached unsmiling, spat carefully
in his palm, and shook hands. Then he squatted and waited.
"What is it?" we asked after it became evident he really wanted
something besides the pleasure of our company.
"N'dowa-medicine," said he.
"Why do you not go the Government dispensary?" we demanded.
"The doctor there is an Indian; I want REAL medicine, white man's
medicine," he explained.
Immensely flattered, of course, we wanted further to know what
"Nothing," said he blandly, "nothing at all; but it seemed an
excellent chance to get good medicine."
After the clinic was all attended to, we retired to our tents and
the screeching-hot bath so grateful in the tropics. When we emerged,
in our mosquito boots and pajamas, the daylight was gone. Scores of
little blazes licked and leaped in the velvet blackness round about,
casting the undergrowth and the lower branches of the trees into flat
planes like the cardboard of a stage setting. Cheerful, squatted
figures sat in silhouette or in the relief of chance high light. Long
switches of meat roasted before the fires. A hum of talk, bursts of
laughter, the crooning of minor chants mingled with the crackling of
thorns. Before our tents stood the table set for supper. Beyond it lay
the pile of firewood, later to be burned on the altar of our safety
against beasts. The moonlight was casting milky shadows over the river
and under the trees opposite. In those shadows gleamed many
fireflies. Overhead were millions of stars, and a little breeze that
wandered through upper branches.
But in Equatorial Africa the simple bands of velvet black, against
the spangled brightnesses that make up the visual night world, must
give way in interest to the other world of sound. The air hums with an
undertone of insects; the plain and hill and jungle are populous with
voices furtive or bold. In daytime one sees animals enough, in all
conscience, but only at night does he sense the almost oppressive
feeling of the teeming life about him. The darkness is peopled. Zebra
bark, bucks blow or snort or make the weird noises of their respective
species; hyenas howl; out of an immense simian silence a group of
monkeys suddenly break into chatterings; ostriches utter their deep
hollow boom; small things scurry and squeak; a certain weird bird of
the curlew or plover sort wails like a lonesome soul. Especially by
the river, as here, are the boomings of the weirdest of weird
bullfrogs, and the splashings and swishings of crocodile and
hippopotamus. One is impressed with the busyness of the world
surrounding him; every bird or beast, the hunter and the hunted, is
the centre of many important affairs. The world swarms.
And then, some miles away a lion roars, the earth and air
vibrating to the sheer power of the sound. The world falls to a blank
dead silence. For a full minute every living creature of the jungle or
of the veldt holds its breath. Their lord has spoken.
After dinner we sat in our canvas chairs, smoking. The guard fire
in front of our tent had been lit. On the other side of it stood one
of our askaris leaning on his musket. He and his three companions,
turn about, keep the flames bright against the fiercer creatures.
After a time we grew sleepy. I called Saa-sita and entrusted to
him my watch. On the crystal of this I had pasted a small piece of
surgeon's plaster. When the hour hand reached the surgeon's plaster,
he must wake us up. Saa-sita was a very conscientious and careful man.
One day I took some time hitching my pedometer properly to his belt: I
could not wear it effectively myself because I was on horseback. At
the end of the ten-hour march it registered a mile and a fraction.
Saa-sita explained that he wished to take especial care of it, so he
had wrapped it in a cloth and carried it all day in his hand!
We turned in. As I reached over to extinguish the lantern I issued
my last command for the day.
"Watcha kalele, Saa-sita," I told the askari; at once he lifted up
his voice to repeat my words. "Watcha kalele!" Immediately from the
Responsible all over camp the word came back-from gunbearers, from
M'ganga, from tent boys-"kalele! kalele! kalele!"
Thus commanded, the boisterous fun, the croon of intimate talk,
the gently rising and falling tide of melody fell to complete
silence. Only remained the crackling of the fire and the innumerable
voices of the tropical night.
VIII. THE RIVER JUNGLE
We camped along this river for several weeks, poking indefinitely
and happily around the country in all directions to see what we could
see. Generally we went together, for neither B. nor myself had been
tried out as yet on dangerous game-those easy rhinos hardly
counted-and I think we both preferred to feel that we had backing
until we knew what our nerves were going to do with us. Nevertheless,
occasionally, I would take Memba Sasa and go out for a little
purposeless stroll a few miles up or down river. Sometimes we skirted
the jungle, sometimes we held as near as possible to the river's bank,
sometimes we cut loose and rambled through the dry, crackling scrub
over the low volcanic hills of the arid country outside.
Nothing can equal the intense interest of the most ordinary walk
in Africa. It is the only country I know of where a man is thoroughly
and continuously alive. Often when riding horseback with the dogs in
my California home I have watched them in envy of the keen, alert
interest they took in every stone, stick, and bush, in every sight,
sound, and smell. With equal frequency I have expressed that envy, but
as something unattainable to a human being's more phlegmatic make-up.
In Africa one actually rises to continuous alertness. There are dozy
moments-except you curl up in a safe place for the PURPOSE of dozing;
again just like the dog! Every bush, every hollow, every high tuft of
grass, every deep shadow must be scrutinized for danger. It will not
do to pass carelessly any possible lurking place. At the same time
the sense of hearing must be on guard; so that no break of twig or
crash of bough can go unremarked. Rhinoceroses conceal themselves most
cannily, and have a deceitful habit of leaping from a nap into their
swiftest stride. Cobras and puff adders are scarce, to be sure, but
very deadly. Lions will generally give way, if not shot at or too
closely pressed; nevertheless there is always the chance of cubs or
too close a surprise. Buffalo lurk daytimes in the deep thickets, but
occasionally a rogue bull lives where your trail will lead. These
things do not happen often, but in the long run they surely do happen,
and once is quite enough provided the beast gets in.
At first this continual alertness and tension is rather
exhausting; but after a very short time it becomes second nature. A
sudden rustle the other side a bush no longer brings you up all
standing with your heart in your throat; but you are aware of it, and
you are facing the possible danger almost before your slower brain has
issued any orders to that effect.
In rereading the above, I am afraid that I am conveying the idea
that one here walks under the shadow of continual uneasiness. This is
not in the least so. One enjoys the sun, and the birds and the little
things. He cultivates the great leisure of mind that shall fill the
breadth of his outlook abroad over a newly wonderful world. But
underneath it all is the alertness, the responsiveness to quick
reflexes of judgment and action, the intimate correlations to
immediate environment which must characterize the instincts of the
higher animals. And it is good to live these things.
Along the edge of that river jungle were many strange and
beautiful affairs. I could slip along among the high clumps of the
thicker bushes in such a manner as to be continually coming around
unexpected bends. Of such maneouvres are surprises made. The graceful
red impalla were here very abundant. I would come on them, their heads
up, their great ears flung forward, their noses twitching in inquiry
of something they suspected but could not fully sense. When slightly
alarmed or suspicious the does always stood compactly in a herd, while
the bucks remained discreetly in the background, their beautiful,
branching, widespread horns showing over the backs of their harems.
The impalla is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and graceful
of the African bucks, a perpetual delight to watch either standing or
running. These beasts are extraordinarily agile, and have a habit of
breaking their ordinary fast run by unexpectedly leaping high in the
air. At a distance they give somewhat the effect of dolphins at sea,
only their leaps are higher and more nearly perpendicular. Once or
twice I have even seen one jump over the back of another. On another
occasion we saw a herd of twenty-five or thirty cross a road of which,
evidently, they were a little suspicious. We could not find a single
hoof mark in the dust! Generally these beasts frequent thin brush
country; but I have three or four times seen them quite out in the
open flat plains, feeding with the hartebeeste and zebra. They are
about the size of our ordinary deer, are delicately fashioned, and can
utter the most incongruously grotesque of noises by way of calls or
The lack of curiosity, or the lack of gallantry, of the impalla
bucks was, in my experience, quite characteristic. They were almost
always the farthest in the background and the first away when danger
threatened. The ladies could look out for themselves. They had no
horns to save; and what do the fool women mean by showing so little
sense, anyway! They deserve what they get! It used to amuse me a lot
to observe the utter abandonment of all responsibility by these
handsome gentlemen. When it came time to depart, they departed. Hang
the girls! They trailed along after as fast as they could.
The waterbuck-a fine large beast about the size of our caribou, a
well-conditioned buck resembling in form and attitude the finest of
Landseer's stags-on the other hand, had a little more sense of
responsibility, when he had anything to do with the sex at all. He was
hardly what you might call a strictly domestic character. I have
hunted through a country for several days at a time without seeing a
single mature buck of this species, although there were plenty of
does, in herds of ten to fifty, with a few infants among them just
sprouting horns. Then finally, in some small grassy valley, I would
come on the Men's Club. There they were, ten, twenty, three dozen of
them, having the finest kind of an untramelled masculine time all by
themselves. Generally, however, I will say for them, they took care of
their own peoples. There would quite likely be one big old fellow, his
harem of varying numbers, and the younger subordinate bucks all
together in a happy family. When some one of the lot announced that
something was about, and they had all lined up to stare in the
suspected direction, the big buck was there in the foreground of
inquiry. When finally they made me out, it was generally the big buck
who gave the signal. He went first, to be sure, but his going first
was evidently an act of leadership, and not merely a disgraceful
desire to get away before the rest did.
But the waterbuck had to yield in turn to the plains gazelles;
especially to the Thompson's gazelle, familiarly-and
affectionately-known as the "Tommy." He is a quaint little chap,
standing only a foot and a half tall at the shoulder, fawn colour on
top, white beneath, with a black, horizontal stripe on his side, like
a chipmunk, most lightly and gracefully built. When he was first made,
somebody told him that unless he did something characteristic, like
waggling his little tail, he was likely to be mistaken by the
undiscriminating for his bigger cousin, the Grant's gazelle. He has
waggled his tail ever since, and so is almost never mistaken for a
Grant's gazelle, even by the undiscriminating. Evidently his religion
is Mohammedan, for he always has a great many wives. He takes good
care of them, however. When danger appears, even when danger
threatens, he is the last to leave the field. Here and there he dashes
frantically, seeing that the women and children get off. And when the
herd tops the hill, Tommy's little horns bring up the rear of the
procession. I like Tommy. He is a cheerful, gallant, quaint little
person, with the air of being quite satisfied with his own solution of
this complicated world.
Among the low brush at the edge of the river jungle dwelt also the
dik-dik, the tiniest miniature of a deer you could possibly imagine.
His legs are lead pencil size, he stands only about nine inches tall,
he weighs from five to ten pounds; and yet he is a perfect little
antelope, horns and all. I used to see him singly or in pairs standing
quite motionless and all but invisible in the shade of bushes; or
leaping suddenly to his feet and scurrying away like mad through the
dry grass. His personal opinion of me was generally expressed in a
loud clear whistle. But then nobody in this strange country talks the
language you would naturally expect him to talk! Zebra bark, hyenas
laugh, impallas grunt, ostriches boom like drums, leopards utter a
plaintive sigh, hornbills cry like a stage child, bushbucks sound
like a cross between a dog and a squawky toy-and so on. There is only
one safe rule of the novice in Africa: NEVER BELIEVE A WORD THE JUNGLE
AND VELDT PEOPLE TELL YOU.
These two-the impalla and the waterbuck-were the principal buck we
would see close to the river. Occasionally, however, we came on a few
oryx, down for a drink, beautiful big antelope, with white and black
faces, roached manes, and straight, nearly parallel, rapier horns
upward of three feet long. A herd of these creatures, the light
gleaming on their weapons, held all at the same slant, was like a
regiment of bayonets in the sun. And there were also the rhinoceroses
to be carefully espied and avoided. They lay obliterated beneath the
shade of bushes, and arose with a mighty blow-off of steam. Whereupon
we withdrew silently, for we wanted to shoot no more rhinos, unless we
Beneath all these obvious and startling things, a thousand other
interesting matters were afoot. In the mass and texture of the jungle
grew many strange trees and shrubs. One most scrubby, fat and leafless
tree, looking as though it were just about to give up a discouraged
existence, surprised us by putting forth, apparently directly from its
bloated wood, the most wonderful red blossoms. Another otherwise
self-respecting tree hung itself all over with plump bologna sausages
about two feet long and five inches thick. A curious vine hung like a
rope, with Turk's-head knots about a foot apart on its whole length,
like the hand-over-hand ropes of gymnasiums. Other ropes were studded
all over with thick blunt bosses, resembling much the outbreak on one
sort of Arts-and-Crafts door: the sort intended to repel Mail-clad
The monkeys undoubtedly used such obvious highways through the
trees. These little people were very common. As we walked along, they
withdrew before us. We could make out their figures galloping hastily
across the open places, mounting bushes and stubs to take a satisfying
backward look, clambering to treetops, and launching themselves across
the abysses between limbs. If we went slowly, they retired in silence.
If we hurried at all, they protested in direct ratio to the speed of
our advance. And when later the whole safari, loads on heads, marched
inconsiderately through their jungle! We happened to be hunting on a
parallel course a half mile away, and we could trace accurately the
progress of our men by the outraged shrieks, chatterings, appeals to
high heaven for at least elemental justice to the monkey people.
Often, too, we would come on concourses of the big baboons. They
certainly carried on weighty affairs of their own according to a
fixed polity. I never got well enough acquainted with them to master
the details of their government, but it was indubitably built on
patriarchal lines. When we succeeded in approaching without being
discovered, we would frequently find the old men baboons squatting on
their heels in a perfect circle, evidently discussing matters of
weight and portent. Seen from a distance, their group so much
resembled the council circles of native warriors that sometimes, in a
native country, we made that mistake. Outside this solemn council, the
women, young men and children went about their daily business,
whatever that was. Up convenient low trees or bushes roosted
We never remained long undiscovered. One of the sentinels barked
sharply. At once the whole lot loped away, speedily but with a
curious effect of deliberation. The men folks held their tails in a
proud high sideways arch; the curious youngsters clambered up bushes
to take a hasty look; the babies clung desperately with all four feet
to the thick fur on their mothers' backs; the mothers galloped along
imperturbably unheeding of infantile troubles aloft. The side hill was
bewildering with the big bobbing black forms.
In this lower country the weather was hot, and the sun very
strong. The heated air was full of the sounds of insects; some of
them comfortable, like the buzzing of bees, some of them strange and
unusual to us. One cicada had a sustained note, in quality about like
that of our own August-day's friend, but in quantity and duration as
the roar of a train to the gentle hum of a good motor car. Like all
cicada noises it did not usurp the sound world, but constituted itself
an underlying basis, so to speak. And when it stopped the silence
seemed to rush in as into a vacuum!
We had likewise the aeroplane beetle. He was so big that he would
have made good wing-shooting. His manner of flight was the
straight-ahead, heap-of-buzz, plenty-busy,
don't-stop-a-minute-or-you'll-come-down method of the aeroplane; and
he made the same sort of a hum. His first-cousin, mechanically, was
what we called the wind-up-the-watch insect. This specimen possessed a
watch-an old-fashioned Waterbury, evidently-that he was continually
winding. It must have been hard work for the poor chap, for it sounded
like a very big watch.
All these things were amusing. So were the birds. The African bird
is quite inclined to be didactic. He believes you need advice, and he
means to give it. To this end he repeats the same thing over and over
until he thinks you surely cannot misunderstand. One chap especially
whom we called the lawyer bird, and who lived in the treetops, had
four phrases to impart. He said them very deliberately, with due pause
between each; then he repeated them rapidly; finally he said them all
over again with an exasperated bearing-down emphasis. The joke of it
is I cannot now remember just how they went! Another feathered
pedagogue was continually warning us to go slow; very good advice
near an African jungle. "Poley-poley! Poley-poley!" he warned again
and again; which is good Swahili for "slowly! slowly!" We always
minded him. There were many others, equally impressed with their own
wisdom, but the one I remember with most amusement was a dilatory
person who apparently never got around to his job until near sunset.
Evidently he had contracted to deliver just so many warnings per diem;
and invariably he got so busy chasing insects, enjoying the sun,
gossiping with a friend and generally footling about that the late
afternoon caught him unawares with never a chirp accomplished. So he
sat in a bush and said his say over and over just as fast as he could
without pause for breath or recreation. It was really quite a feat.
Just at dusk, after two hours of gabbling, he would reach the end of
his contracted number. With final relieved chirp he ended.
It has been said that African birds are "songless." This is a
careless statement that can easily be read to mean that African birds
are silent. The writer evidently must have had in mind as a criterion
some of our own or the English great feathered soloists. Certainly the
African jungle seems to produce no individual performers as sustained
as our own bob-o-link, our hermit thrush, or even our common robin.
But the African birds are vocal enough, for all that. Some of them
have a richness and depth of timbre perhaps unequalled elsewhere. Of
such is the chime-bird with his deep double note; or the bell-bird
tolling like a cathedral in the blackness of the forest; or the bottle
bird that apparently pours gurgling liquid gold from a silver jug. As
the jungle is exceedingly populous of these feathered specialists, it
follows that the early morning chorus is wonderful. Africa may not
possess the soloists, but its full orchestrial effects are superb.
Naturally under the equator one expects and demands the "gorgeous
tropical plumage" of the books. He is not disappointed. The sun-birds
of fifty odd species, the brilliant blue starlings, the various
parrots, the variegated hornbills, the widower-birds, and dozens of
others whose names would mean nothing flash here and there in the
shadow and in the open. With them are hundreds of quiet little bodies
just as interesting to one who likes birds. >From the trees and bushes
hang pear-shaped nests plaited beautifully of long grasses, hard and
smooth as hand-made baskets, the work of the various sorts of
weaver-birds. In the tops of the trees roosted tall marabout storks
like dissipated, hairless old club-men in well-groomed, correct
And around camp gathered the swift brown kites. They were robbers
and villains, but we could not hate them. All day long they sailed
back and forth spying sharply. When they thought they saw their
chance, they stooped with incredible swiftness to seize a piece of
meat. Sometimes they would snatch their prize almost from the hands of
its rightful owner, and would swoop triumphantly upward again pursued
by polyglot maledictions and a throwing stick. They were very skilful
on their wings. I have many times seen them, while flying, tear up and
devour large chunks of meat. It seems to my inexperience as an aviator
rather a nice feat to keep your balance while tearing with your beak
at meat held in your talons. Regardless of other landmarks, we always
knew when we were nearing camp, after one of our strolls, by the
gracefully wheeling figures of our kites.
IX. THE FIRST LION
One day we all set out to make our discoveries: F., B., and I with
our gunbearers, Memba Sasa, Mavrouki, and Simba, and ten porters to
bring in the trophies, which we wanted very much, and the meat, which
the men wanted still more. We rode our horses, and the syces followed.
This made quite a field force-nineteen men all told. Nineteen white
men would be exceedingly unlikely to get within a liberal half mile of
anything; but the native has sneaky ways.
At first we followed between the river and the low hills, but when
the latter drew back to leave open a broad flat, we followed their
line. At this point they rose to a clifflike headland a hundred and
fifty feet high, flat on top. We decided to investigate that mesa,
both for the possibilities of game, and for the chance of a view
The footing was exceedingly noisy and treacherous, for it was
composed of flat, tinkling little stones. Dried-up, skimpy bushes
just higher than our heads made a thin but regular cover. There
seemed not to be a spear of anything edible, yet we caught the flash
of red as a herd of impalla melted away at our rather noisy approach.
Near the foot of the hill we dismounted, with orders to all the men
but the gunbearers to sit down and make themselves comfortable. Should
we need them we could easily either signal or send word. Then we set
ourselves toilsomely to clamber up that volcanic hill.
It was not particularly easy going, especially as we were trying
to walk quietly. You see, we were about to surmount a skyline.
Surmounting a skyline is always most exciting anywhere, for what lies
beyond is at once revealed as a whole and contains the very essence of
the unknown; but most decidedly is this true in Africa. That mesa
looked flat, and almost anything might be grazing or browsing there.
So we proceeded gingerly, with due regard to the rolling of the loose
rocks or the tinkling of the little pebbles.
But long before we had reached that alluring skyline we were
halted by the gentle snapping of Mavrouki's fingers. That, strangely
enough, is a sound to which wild animals seem to pay no attention, and
is therefore most useful as a signal. We looked back. The three
gunbearers were staring to the right of our course. About a hundred
yards away, on the steep side hill, and partly concealed by the brush,
stood two rhinoceroses.
They were side by side, apparently dozing. We squatted on our
heels for a consultation.
The obvious thing, as the wind was from them, was to sneak quietly
by, saying nuffin' to nobody. But although we wanted no more rhino, we
very much wanted rhino pictures. A discussion developed no really good
reason why we should not kodak these especial rhinos-except that there
were two of them. So we began to worm our way quietly through the
bushes in their direction.
F. and B. deployed on the flanks, their double-barrelled rifles
ready for instant action. I occupied the middle with that dangerous
weapon the 3A kodak. Memba Sasa followed at my elbow, holding my big
Now the trouble with modern photography is that it is altogether
too lavish in its depiction of distances. If you do not believe it,
take a picture of a horse at as short a range as twenty-five yards.
That equine will, in the development, have receded to a respectable
middle distance. Therefore it had been agreed that the advance of the
battle line was to cease only when those rhinoceroses loomed up
reasonably large in the finder. I kept looking into the finder, you
may be sure. Nearer and nearer we crept. The great beasts were
evidently basking in the sun. Their little pig eyes alone gave any
sign of life. Otherwise they exhibited the complete immobility of
something done in granite. Probably no other beast impresses one with
quite this quality. I suppose it is because even the little motions
peculiar to other animals are with the rhinoceros entirely lacking. He
is not in the least of a nervous disposition, so he does not stamp his
feet nor change his position. It is useless for him to wag his tail;
for, in the first place, the tail is absurdly inadequate; and, in the
second place, flies are not among his troubles. Flies wouldn't bother
you either, if you had a skin two inches thick. So there they stood,
inert and solid as two huge brown rocks, save for the deep, wicked
twinkle of their little eyes.
Yes, we were close enough to "see the whites of their eyes," if
they had had any: and also to be within the range of their limited
vision. Of course we were now stalking, and taking advantage of all
Those rhinoceroses looked to me like two Dreadnaughts. The African
two-horned rhinoceros is a bigger animal anyway than our circus
friend, who generally comes from India. One of these brutes I measured
went five feet nine inches at the shoulder, and was thirteen feet six
inches from bow to stern. Compare these dimensions with your own
height and with the length of your motor car. It is one thing to take
on such beasts in the hurry of surprise, the excitement of a charge,
or to stalk up to within a respectable range of them with a gun at
ready. But this deliberate sneaking up with the hope of being able to
sneak away again was a little too slow and cold-blooded. It made me
nervous. I liked it, but I knew at the time I was going to like it a
whole lot better when it was triumphantly over.
We were now within twenty yards (they were standing starboard side
on), and I prepared to get my picture. To do so I would either have to
step quietly out into sight, trusting to the shadow and the slowness
of my movements to escape observation, or hold the camera above the
bush, directing it by guess work. It was a little difficult to decide.
I knew what I OUGHT to do-
Without the slightest premonitory warning those two brutes snorted
and whirled in their tracks to stand facing in our direction. After
the dead stillness they made a tremendous row, what with the jerky
suddenness of their movements, their loud snorts, and the avalanche of
echoing stones and boulders they started down the hill.
This was the magnificent opportunity. At this point I should
boldly have stepped out from behind my bush, levelled my trusty 3A,
and coolly snapped the beasts, "charging at fifteen yards." Then, if
B.'s and F.'s shots went absolutely true, or if the brutes didn't
happen to smash the camera as well as me, I, or my executors as the
case might be, would have had a fine picture.
But I didn't. I dropped that expensive 3A Special on some hard
rocks, and grabbed my rifle from Memba Sasa. If you want really to
know why, go confront your motor car at fifteen or twenty paces,
multiply him by two, and endow him with an eagerly malicious
They advanced several yards, halted, faced us for perhaps five or
six seconds, uttered snort, whirled with the agility of polo ponies,
departed at a swinging trot and with surprising agility along the
steep side hill.
I recovered the camera, undamaged, and we continued our climb.
The top of the mesa was disappointing as far as game was
concerned. It was covered all over with red stones, round, and as
large as a man's head. Thornbushes found some sort of sustenance in
But we had gained to a magnificent view. Below us lay the narrow
flat, then the winding jungle of our river, then long rolling desert
country, gray with thorn scrub, sweeping upward to the base of
castellated buttes and one tremendous riven cliff mountain, dropping
over the horizon to a very distant blue range. Behind us eight or ten
miles away was the low ridge through which our journey had come. The
mesa on which we stood broke back at right angles to admit another
stream flowing into our own. Beyond this stream were rolling hills,
and scrub country, the hint of blue peaks and illimitable distances
falling away to the unknown Tara Desert and the sea.
There seemed to be nothing much to be gained here, so we made up
our minds to cut across the mesa, and from the other edge of it to
overlook the valley of the tributary river. This we would descend
until we came to our horses.
Accordingly we stumbled across a mile or so of those round and
rolling stones. Then we found ourselves overlooking a wide flat or
pocket where the stream valley widened. It extended even as far as the
upward fling of the barrier ranges. Thick scrub covered it, but
erratically, so that here and there were little openings or thin
places. We sat down, manned our trusty prism glasses, and gave
ourselves to the pleasing occupation of looking the country over inch
This is great fun. It is a game a good deal like puzzle pictures.
Re-examination generally develops new and unexpected beasts. We
repeated to each other aloud the results of our scrutiny, always
without removing the glasses from our eyes.
"Oryx, one," said F.; "oryx, two."
"Giraffe," reported B., "and a herd of impalla."
I saw another giraffe, and another oryx, then two rhinoceroses.
The three bearers squatted on their heels behind us, their fierce
eyes staring straight ahead, seeing with the naked eye what we were
finding with six-power glasses.
We turned to descend the hill. In the very centre of the deep
shade of a clump of trees, I saw the gleam of a waterbuck's horns.
While I was telling of this, the beast stepped from his concealment,
trotted a short distance upstream and turned to climb a little ridge
parallel to that by which we were descending. About halfway up he
stopped, staring in our direction, his head erect, the slight ruff
under his neck standing forward. He was a good four hundred yards
away. B., who wanted him, decided the shot too chancy. He and F.
slipped backward until they had gained the cover of the little ridge,
then hastened down the bed of the ravine. Their purpose was to follow
the course already taken by the waterbuck until they should have
sneaked within better range. In the meantime I and the gunbearers sat
down in full view of the buck. This was to keep his attention
We sat there a long time. The buck never moved but continued to
stare at what evidently puzzled him. Time passes very slowly in such
circumstances, and it seemed incredible that the beast should continue
much longer to hold his fixed attitude. Nevertheless B. and F. were
working hard. We caught glimpses of them occasionally slipping from
bush to bush. Finally B. knelt and levelled his rifle. At once I
turned my glasses on the buck. Before the sound of the rifle had
reached me, I saw him start convulsively, then make off at the tearing
run that indicates a heart hit. A moment later the crack of the rifle
and the dull plunk of the hitting bullet struck my ear.
We tracked him fifty yards to where he lay dead. He was a fine
trophy, and we at once set the boys to preparing it and taking the
meat. In the meantime we sauntered down to look at the stream. It was
a small rapid affair, but in heavy papyrus, with sparse trees, and
occasional thickets, and dry hard banks. The papyrus should make a
good lurking place for almost anything; but the few points of access
to the water failed to show many interesting tracks. Nevertheless we
decided to explore a short distance.
For an hour we walked among high thornbushes, over baking hot
earth. We saw two or three dik-dik and one of the giraffes. At that
time it had become very hot, and the sun was bearing down on us as
with the weight of a heavy hand. The air had the scorching, blasting
quality of an opened furnace door. Our mouths were getting dry and
sticky in that peculiar stage of thirst on which no luke-warm canteen
water in necessarily limited quantity has any effect. So we turned
back, picked up the men with the waterbuck, and plodded on down the
little stream, or, rather, on the red-hot dry valley bottom outside
the stream's course, to where the syces were waiting with our horses.
We mounted with great thankfulness. It was now eleven o'clock, and we
considered our day as finished.
The best way for a distance seemed to follow the course of the
tributary stream to its point of junction with our river. We rode
along, rather relaxed in the suffocating heat. F. was nearest the
stream. At one point it freed itself of trees and brush and ran
clear, save for low papyrus, ten feet down below a steep eroded bank.
F. looked over and uttered a startled exclamation. I spurred my horse
forward to see.
Below us, about fifteen yards away, was the carcass of a waterbuck
half hidden in the foot-high grass. A lion and two lionesses stood
upon it, staring up at us with great yellow eyes. That picture is a
very vivid one in my memory, for those were the first wild lions I had
ever seen. My most lively impression was of their unexpected size.
They seemed to bulk fully a third larger than my expectation.
The magnificent beasts stood only long enough to see clearly what
had disturbed them, then turned, and in two bounds had gained the
shelter of the thicket.
Now the habit in Africa is to let your gunbearers carry all your
guns. You yourself stride along hand free. It is an English idea, and
is pretty generally adopted out there by every one, of whatever
nationality. They will explain it to you by saying that in such a
climate a man should do only necessary physical work, and that a good
gunbearer will get a weapon into your hand so quickly and in so
convenient a position that you will lose no time. I acknowledge the
gunbearers are sometimes very skilful at this, but I do deny that
there is no loss of time. The instant of distracted attention while
receiving a weapon, the necessity of recollecting the nervous
correlations after the transfer, very often mark just the difference
between a sure instinctive snapshot and a lost opportunity. It reasons
that the man with the rifle in his hand reacts instinctively, in one
motion, to get his weapon into play. If the gunbearer has the gun, HE
must first react to pass it up, the master must receive it properly,
and THEN, and not until then, may go on from where the other man
began. As for physical labour in the tropics: if a grown man cannot
without discomfort or evil effects carry an eight-pound rifle, he is
too feeble to go out at all. In a long Western experience I have
learned never to be separated from my weapon; and I believe the
continuance of this habit in Africa saved me a good number of chances.
At any rate, we all flung ourselves off our horses. I, having my
rifle in my hand, managed to throw a shot after the biggest lion as
he vanished. It was a snap at nothing, and missed. Then in an opening
on the edge a hundred yards away appeared one of the lionesses. She
was trotting slowly, and on her I had time to draw a hasty aim. At the
shot she bounded high in the air, fell, rolled over, and was up and
into the thicket before I had much more than time to pump up another
shell from the magazine. Memba Sasa in his eagerness got in the
way-the first and last time he ever made a mistake in the field.
By this time the others had got hold of their weapons. We fronted
the blank face of the thicket.
The wounded animal would stand a little waiting. We made a wide
circle to the other side of the stream. There we quickly picked up
the trail of the two uninjured beasts. They had headed directly over
the hill, where we speedily lost all trace of them on the flint-like
surface of the ground. We saw a big pack of baboons in the only likely
direction for a lion to go. Being thus thrown back on a choice of a
hundred other unlikely directions, we gave up that slim chance and
returned to the thicket.
This proved to be a very dense piece of cover. Above the height of
the waist the interlocking branches would absolutely prevent any
progress, but by stooping low we could see dimly among the simpler
main stems to a distance of perhaps fifteen or twenty feet. This
combination at once afforded the wounded lioness plenty of cover in
which to hide, plenty of room in which to charge home, and placed us
under the disadvantage of a crouched or crawling attitude with limited
vision. We talked the matter over very thoroughly. There was only one
way to get that lioness out; and that was to go after her. The job of
going after her needed some planning. The lion is cunning and
exceeding fierce. A flank attack, once we were in the thicket, was as
much to be expected as a frontal charge.
We advanced to the thicket's edge with many precautions. To our
relief we found she had left us a definite trail. B. and I kneeling
took up positions on either side, our rifles ready. F. and Simba
crawled by inches eight or ten feet inside the thicket. Then, having
executed this manoeuvre safely, B. moved up to protect our rear while
I, with Memba Sasa, slid down to join F.
>From this point we moved forward alternately. I would crouch, all
alert, my rifle ready, while F. slipped by me and a few feet ahead.
Then he get organized for battle while I passed him. Memba Sasa and
Simba, game as badgers, their fine eyes gleaming with excitement,
their faces shining, crept along at the rear. B. knelt outside the
thicket, straining his eyes for the slightest movement either side of
the line of our advance. Often these wily animals will sneak back in a
half circle to attack their pursuers from behind. Two or three of the
bolder porters crouched alongside B., peering eagerly. The rest had
quite properly retired to the safe distance where the horses stood.
We progressed very, very slowly. Every splash of light or mottled
shadow, every clump of bush stems, every fallen log had to be
examined, and then examined again. And how we did strain our eyes in
a vain attempt to penetrate the half lights, the duskinesses of the
closed-in thicket not over fifteen feet away! And then the movement
forward of two feet would bring into our field of vision an entirely
new set of tiny vistas and possible lurking places.
Speaking for myself, I was keyed up to a tremendous tension. I
stared until my eyes ached; every muscle and nerve was taut.
Everything depended on seeing the beast promptly, and firing quickly.
With the manifest advantage of being able to see us, she would spring
to battle fully prepared. A yellow flash and a quick shot seemed about
to size up that situation. Every few moments, I remember, I
surreptitiously held out my hand to see if the constantly growing
excitement and the long-continued strain had affected its steadiness.
The combination of heat and nervous strain was very exhausting.
The sweat poured from me; and as F. passed me I saw the great drops
standing out on his face. My tongue got dry, my breath came
laboriously. Finally I began to wonder whether physically I should be
able to hold out. We had been crawling, it seemed, for hours. I dared
not look back, but we must have come a good quarter mile. Finally F.
"I'm all in for water," he gasped in a whisper.
Somehow that confession made me feel a lot better. I had thought
that I was the only one. Cautiously we settled back on our heels.
Memba Sasa and Simba wiped the sweat from their faces. It seemed that
they too had found the work severe. That cheered me up still more.
Simba grinned at us, and, worming his way backward with the
sinuousity of a snake, he disappeared in the direction from which we
had come. F. cursed after him in a whisper both for departing and for
taking the risk. But in a moment he had returned carrying two canteens
of blessed water. We took a drink most gratefully.
I glanced at my watch. It was just under two hours since I had
fired my shot. I looked back. My supposed quarter mile had shrunk to
not over fifty feet!
After resting a few moments longer, we again took up our
systematic advance. We made perhaps another fifty feet. We were
ascending a very gentle slope. F. was for the moment ahead. Right
before us the lion growled; a deep rumbling like the end of a great
thunder roll, fathoms and fathoms deep, with the inner subterranean
vibrations of a heavy train of cars passing a man inside a sealed
building. At the same moment over F.'s shoulder I saw a huge yellow
head rise up, the round eyes flashing anger, the small black-tipped
ears laid back, the great fangs snarling. The beast was not over
twelve feet distant. F. immediately fired. His shot, hitting an
intervening twig, went wild. With the utmost coolness he immediately
pulled the other trigger of his double barrel. The cartridge snapped.
"If you will kindly stoop down-" said I, in what I now remember to
be rather an exaggeratedly polite tone. As F.'s head disappeared, I
placed the little gold bead of my 405 Winchester where I thought it
would do the most good, and pulled trigger. She rolled over dead.
The whole affair had begun and finished with unbelievable
swiftness. From the growl to the fatal shot I don't suppose four
seconds elapsed, for our various actions had followed one another
with the speed of the instinctive. The lioness had growled at our
approach, had raised her head to charge, and had received her
deathblow before she had released her muscles in the spring. There
had been no time to get frightened.
We sat back for a second. A brown hand reached over my shoulder.
"Mizouri-mizouri sana!" cried Memba Sasa joyously. I shook the
"Good business!" said F. "Congratulate you on your first lion."
We then remembered B., and shouted to him that all was over. He
and the other men wriggled in to where we were lying. He made this
distance in about fifteen seconds. It had taken us nearly an hour.
We had the lioness dragged out into the open. She was not an
especially large beast, as compared to most of the others I killed
later, but at that time she looked to me about as big as they made
them. As a matter of fact she was quite big enough, for she stood
three feet two inches at the shoulder-measure that against the
wall-and was seven feet and six inches in length. My first bullet had
hit her leg, and the last had reached her heart.
Every one shook me by the hand. The gunbearers squatted about the
carcass, skilfully removing the skin to an undertone of curious
crooning that every few moments broke out into one or two bars of a
chant. As the body was uncovered, the men crouched about to cut off
little pieces of fat. These they rubbed on their foreheads and over
their chests, to make them brave, they said, and cunning, like the
We remounted and took up our interrupted journey to camp. It was a
little after two, and the heat was at its worst. We rode rather
sleepily, for the reaction from the high tension of excitement had
set in. Behind us marched the three gunbearers, all abreast, very
military and proud. Then came the porters in single file, the one
carrying the folded lion skin leading the way; those bearing the
waterbuck trophy and meat bringing up the rear. They kept up an
undertone of humming in a minor key; occasionally breaking into a
short musical phrase in full voice.
We rode an hour. The camp looked very cool and inviting under its
wide high trees, with the river slipping by around the islands of
papyrus. A number of black heads bobbed about in the shallows. The
small fires sent up little wisps of smoke. Around them our boys
sprawled, playing simple games, mending, talking, roasting meat. Their
tiny white tents gleamed pleasantly among the cool shadows.
I had thought of riding nonchalantly up to our own tents, of
dismounting with a careless word of greeting-
"Oh, yes," I would say, "we did have a good enough day. Pretty
hot. Roy got a fine waterbuck. Yes, I got a lion." (Tableau on part
But Memba Sasa used up all the nonchalance there was. As we
entered camp he remarked casually to the nearest man.
"Bwana na piga simba-the master has killed a lion."
The man leaped to his feet.
"Simba! simba! simba!" he yelled. "Na piga simba!"
Every one in camp also leaped to his feet, taking up the cry.
>From the water it was echoed as the bathers scrambled ashore. The
camp broke into pandemonium. We were surrounded by a dense struggling
mass of men. They reached up scores of black hands to grasp my own;
they seized from me everything portable and bore it in triumph before
me-my water bottle, my rifle, my camera, my whip, my field glasses,
even my hat, everything that was detachable. Those on the outside
danced and lifted up their voices in song, improvised for the most
part, and in honor of the day's work. In a vast swirling, laughing,
shouting, triumphant mob we swept through the camp to where Billy-by
now not very much surprised-was waiting to get the official news. By
the measure of this extravagant joy could we gauge what the killing
of a lion means to these people who have always lived under the dread
of his rule.
A very large lion I killed stood three feet and nine inches at the
withers, and of course carried his head higher than that. The top of
the table at which I sit is only two feet three inches from the floor.
Coming through the door at my back that lion's head would stand over a
foot higher than halfway up. Look at your own writing desk; your own
door. Furthermore, he was nine feet and eleven inches in a straight
line from nose to end of tail, or over eleven feet along the contour
of the back. If he were to rise on his hind feet to strike a man down,
he would stand somewhere between seven and eight feet tall, depending
on how nearly he straightened up. He weighed just under six hundred
pounds, or as much as four well-grown specimens of our own "mountain
lion." I tell you this that you may realize, as I did not, the size to
which a wild lion grows. Either menagerie specimens are stunted in
growth, or their position and surroundings tend to belittle them, for
certainly until a man sees old Leo in the wilderness he has not
understood what a fine old chap he is.
This tremendous weight is sheer strength. A lion's carcass when
the skin is removed is a really beautiful sight. The great muscles
lie in ropes and bands; the forearm thicker than a man's leg, the
lithe barrel banded with brawn; the flanks overlaid by the long thick
muscles. And this power is instinct with the nervous force of a highly
organized being. The lion is quick and intelligent and purposeful; so
that he brings to his intenser activities the concentration of vivid
passion, whether of anger, of hunger or of desire.
So far the opinions of varied experience will jog along together.
At this point they diverge.
Just as the lion is one of the most interesting and fascinating of
beasts, so concerning him one may hear the most diverse opinions. This
man will tell you that any lion is always dangerous. Another will hold
the king of beasts in the most utter contempt as a coward and a
In the first place, generalization about any species of animal is
an exceedingly dangerous thing. I believe that, in the case of the
higher animals at least, the differences in individual temperament are
quite likely to be more numerous than the specific likenesses. Just as
individual men are bright or dull, nervous or phlegmatic, cowardly or
brave, so individual animals vary in like respect. Our own hunters
will recall from their personal experiences how the big bear may have
sat down and bawled harmlessly for mercy, while the little
unconsidered fellow did his best until finished off: how one buck
dropped instantly to a wound that another would carry five miles: how
of two equally matched warriors of the herd one will give way in the
fight, while still uninjured, before his perhaps badly wounded
antagonist. The casual observer might-and often does-say that all
bears are cowardly, all bucks are easily killed, or the reverse,
according as the god of chance has treated him to one spectacle or the
other. As well try to generalize on the human race-as is a certain
ecclesiastical habit-that all men are vile or noble, dishonest or
upright, wise or foolish.
The higher we go in the scale the truer this individualism holds.
We are forced to reason not from the bulk of observations, but from
their averages. If we find ten bucks who will go a mile wounded to two
who succumb in their tracks from similar hurts, we are justified in
saying tentatively that the species is tenacious of life. But as
experience broadens we may modify that statement; for strange indeed
are runs of luck.
For this reason a good deal of the wise conclusion we read in
sportsmen's narratives is worth very little. Few men have experience
enough with lions to rise to averages through the possibilities of
luck. ESPECIALLY is this true of lions. No beast that roams seems to
go more by luck than felis leo. Good hunters may search for years
without seeing hide nor hair of one of the beasts. Selous, one of the
greatest, went to East Africa for the express purpose of getting some
of the fine beasts there, hunted six weeks and saw none. Holmes of the
Escarpment has lived in the country six years, has hunted a great deal
and has yet to kill his first. One of the railroad officials has for
years gone up and down the Uganda Railway on his handcar, his rifle
ready in hopes of the lion that never appeared; though many are there
seen by those with better fortune. Bronson hunted desperately for this
great prize, but failed. Rainsford shot no lions his first trip, and
ran into them only three years later. Read Abel Chapman's description
of his continued bad luck at even seeing the beasts. MacMillan, after
five years' unbroken good fortune, has in the last two years failed to
kill a lion, although he has made many trips for the purpose. F. told
me he followed every rumour of a lion for two years before he got one.
Again, one may hear the most marvellous of yarns the other way
about-of the German who shot one from the train on the way up from
Mombasa; of the young English tenderfoot who, the first day out, came
on three asleep, across a river, and potted the lot; and so on. The
point is, that in the case of lions the element of sheer chance seems
to begin earlier and last longer than is the case with any other
beast. And, you must remember, experience must thrust through the luck
element to the solid ground of averages before it can have much value
in the way of generalization. Before he has reached that solid ground,
a man's opinions depend entirely on what kind of lions he chances to
meet, in what circumstances, and on how matters happen to shape in the
But though lack of sufficiently extended experience has much to do
with these decided differences of opinion, I believe that
misapprehension has also its part. The sportsman sees lions on the
plains. Likewise the lions see him, and promptly depart to thick cover
or rocky butte. He comes on them in the scrub; they bound hastily out
of sight. He may even meet them face to face, but instead of attacking
him, they turn to right and left and make off in the long grass. When
he follows them, they sneak cunningly away. If, added to this, he has
the good luck to kill one or two stone dead at a single shot each, he
begins to think there is not much in lion shooting after all, and goes
home proclaiming the king of beasts a skulking coward.
After all, on what grounds does he base this conclusion? In what
way have circumstances been a test of courage at all? The lion did
not stand and fight, to be sure; but why should he? What was there in
it for lions? Behind any action must a motive exist. Where is the
possible motive for any lion to attack on sight? He does not-except in
unusual cases-eat men; nothing has occurred to make him angry. The
obvious thing is to avoid trouble, unless there is a good reason to
seek it. In that one evidences the lion's good sense, but not his lack
of courage. That quality has not been called upon at all.
But if the sportsman had done one of two or three things, I am
quite sure he would have had a taste of our friend's mettle. If he
had shot at and even grazed the beast; if he had happened upon him
where an exit was not obvious; or IF HE HAD EVEN FOLLOWED THE LION
UNTIL THE LATTER HAD BECOME TIRED OF THE ANNOYANCE, he would very soon
have discovered that Leo is not all good nature, and that once on his
courage will take him in against any odds. Furthermore, he may be
astonished and dismayed to discover that of a group of several lions,
two or three besides the wounded animal are quite likely to take up
the quarrel and charge too. In other words, in my opinion, the lion
avoids trouble when he can, not from cowardice but from essential
indolence or good nature; but does not need to be cornered* to fight
to the death when in his mind his dignity is sufficiently assailed.
*This is an important distinction in estimating the inherent
courage of man or beast. Even a mouse will fight when cornered.
For of all dangerous beasts the lion, when once aroused, will
alone face odds to the end. The rhinoceros, the elephant, and even
the buffalo can often be turned aside by a shot. A lion almost always
charges home.* Slower and slower he comes, as the bullets strike; but
he comes, until at last he may be just hitching himself along, his
face to the enemy, his fierce spirit undaunted. When finally he rolls
over, he bites the earth in great mouthfuls; and so passes fighting to
the last. The death of a lion is a fine sight.
*I seem to be generalizing here, but all these conclusions must be
understood to take into consideration the liability of individual
No, I must confess, to me the lion is an object of great respect;
and so, I gather, he is to all who have had really extensive
experience. Those like Leslie Tarleton, Lord Delamere, W. N.
MacMillan, Baron von Bronsart, the Hills, Sir Alfred Pease, who are
great lion men, all concede to the lion a courage and tenacity
unequalled by any other living beast. My own experience is of course
nothing as compared to that of these men. Yet I saw in my nine months
afield seventy-one lions. None of these offered to attack when
unwounded or not annoyed. On the other hand, only one turned tail once
the battle was on, and she proved to be a three quarters grown
lioness, sick and out of condition.
It is of course indubitable that where lions have been much shot
they become warier in the matter of keeping out of trouble. They
retire to cover earlier in the morning, and they keep more than a
perfunctory outlook for the casual human being. When hunters first
began to go into the Sotik the lions there would stand imperturbable,
staring at the intruder with curiosity or indifference. Now they have
learned that such performances are not healthy-and they have probably
satisfied their curiosity. But neither in the Sotik, nor even in the
plains around Nairobi itself, does the lion refuse the challenge once
it has been put up to him squarely. Nor does he need to be cornered.
He charges in quite blithely from the open plain, once convinced that
you are really an annoyance.
As to habits! The only sure thing about a lion is his originality.
He has more exceptions to his rules than the German language. Men who
have been mighty lion hunters for many years, and who have brought to
their hunting close observation, can only tell you what a lion MAY do
in certain circumstances. Following very broad principles, they may
even predict what he is APT to do, but never what he certainly WILL
do. That is one thing that makes lion hunting interesting.
In general, then, the lion frequents that part of the country
where feed the great game herds. From them he takes his toll by
night, retiring during the day into the shallow ravines, the brush
patches, or the rocky little buttes. I have, however, seen lions miles
from game, slumbering peacefully atop an ant hill. Indeed,
occasionally, a pack of lions likes to live high in the tall-grass
ridges where every hunt will mean for them a four- or five-mile jaunt
out and back again. He needs water, after feeding, and so rarely gets
farther than eight or ten miles from that necessity.
He hunts at night. This is as nearly invariable a rule as can be
formulated in regard to lions. Yet once, and perhaps twice, I saw
lionesses stalking through tall grass as early as three o'clock in
the afternoon. This eagerness may, or may not, have had to do with the
possession of hungry cubs. The lion's customary harmlessness in the
daytime is best evidenced, however, by the comparative indifference of
the game to his presence then. From a hill we watched three of these
beasts wandering leisurely across the plains below. A herd of kongonis
feeding directly in their path, merely moved aside right and left,
quite deliberately, to leave a passage fifty yards or so wide, but
otherwise paid not the slightest attention. I have several times seen
this incident, or a modification of it. And yet, conversely, on a
number of occasions we have received our first intimation of the
presence of lions by the wild stampeding of the game away from a
However, the most of his hunting is done by dark. Between the
hours of sundown and nine o'clock he and his comrades may be heard
uttering the deep coughing grunt typical of this time of night. These
curious, short, far-sounding calls may be mere evidences of intention,
or they may be a sort of signal by means of which the various hunters
keep in touch. After a little they cease. Then one is quite likely to
hear the petulant, alarmed barking of zebra, or to feel the vibrations
of many hoofs. There is a sense of hurried, flurried uneasiness abroad
on the veldt.
The lion generally springs on his prey from behind or a little off
the quarter. By the impetus his own weight he hurls his victim
forward, doubling its head under, and very neatly breaking its neck. I
have never seen this done, but the process has been well observed and
attested; and certainly, of the many hundreds of lion kills I have
taken the pains to inspect, the majority had had their necks broken.
Sometimes, but apparently more rarely, the lion kills its prey by a
bite in the back of the neck. I have seen zebra killed in this
fashion, but never any of the buck. It may be possible that the lack
of horns makes it more difficult to break a zebra's neck because of
the corresponding lack of leverage when its head hits the ground
sidewise; the instances I have noted may have been those in which the
lion's spring landed too far back to throw the victim properly; or
perhaps they were merely examples of the great variability in the
habits of felis leo.
Once the kill is made, the lion disembowels the beast very neatly
indeed, and drags the entrails a few feet out of the way. He then
eats what he wants, and, curiously enough, seems often to be very
fond of the skin. In fact, lacking other evidence, it is occasionally
possible to identify a kill as being that of a lion by noticing
whether any considerable portion of the hide has been devoured. After
eating he drinks. Then he is likely to do one of two things: either he
returns to cover near the carcass and lies down, or he wanders slowly
and with satisfaction toward his happy home. In the latter case the
hyenas, jackals, and carrion birds seize their chance. The astute
hunter can often diagnose the case by the general actions and
demeanour of these camp followers. A half dozen sour and disgusted
looking hyenas seated on their haunches at scattered intervals, and
treefuls of mournfully humpbacked vultures sunk in sadness, indicate
that the lion has decided to save the rest of his zebra until
to-morrow and is not far away. On the other hand, a grand flapping,
snarling Kilkenny-fair of an aggregation swirling about one spot in
the grass means that the principal actor has gone home.
It is ordinarily useless to expect to see the lion actually on his
prey. The feeding is done before dawn, after which the lion enjoys
stretching out in the open until the sun is well up, and then retiring
to the nearest available cover. Still, at the risk of seeming to be
perpetually qualifying, I must instance finding three lions actually
on the stale carcass of a waterbuck at eleven o'clock in the morning
of a piping hot day! In an undisturbed country, or one not much
hunted, the early morning hours up to say nine o'clock are quite
likely to show you lions sauntering leisurely across the open plains
toward their lairs. They go a little, stop a little, yawn, sit down a
while, and gradually work their way home. At those times you come upon
them unexpectedly face to face, or, seeing them from afar, ride them
down in a glorious gallop. Where the country has been much hunted,
however, the lion learns to abandon his kill and seek shelter before
daylight, and is almost never seen abroad. Then one must depend on
happening upon him in his cover.
In the actual hunting of his game the lion is apparently very
clever. He understands the value of cooperation. Two or more will
manoeuvre very skilfully to give a third the chance to make an
effective spring; whereupon the three will share the kill. In a rough
country, or one otherwise favourable to the method, a pack of lions
will often deliberately drive game into narrow ravines or cul de sacs
where the killers are waiting.
At such times the man favoured by the chance of an encampment
within five miles or so can hear a lion's roar.
Otherwise I doubt if he is apt often to get the full-voiced,
genuine article. The peculiar questioning cough of early evening is
resonant and deep in vibration, but it is a call rather than a roar.
No lion is fool enough to make a noise when he is stalking. Then
afterward, when full fed, individuals may open up a few times, but
only a few times, in sheer satisfaction, apparently, at being well
fed. The menagerie row at feeding time, formidable as it sounds within
the echoing walls, is only a mild and gentle hint. But when seven or
eight lions roar merely to see how much noise they can make, as when
driving game, or trying to stampede your oxen on a wagon trip, the
effect is something tremendous. The very substance of the ground
vibrates; the air shakes. I can only compare it to the effect of a
very large deep organ in a very small church. There is something
genuinely awe-inspiring about it; and when the repeated volleys rumble
into silence, one can imagine the veldt crouched in a rigid terror
that shall endure.
XI. LIONS AGAIN
As to the dangers of lion hunting it is also difficult to write.
There is no question that a cool man, using good judgment as to just
what he can or cannot do, should be able to cope with lion situations.
The modern rifle is capable of stopping the beast, provided the bullet
goes to the right spot. The right spot is large enough to be easy to
hit, if the shooter keeps cool. Our definition of a cool man must
comprise the elements of steady nerves under super-excitement, the
ability to think quickly and clearly, and the mildly strategic quality
of being able to make the best use of awkward circumstances. Such a
man, barring sheer accidents, should be able to hunt lions with
absolute certainty for just as long as he does not get careless,
slipshod or over-confident. Accidents-real accidents, not merely
unexpected happenings-are hardly to be counted. They can occur in your
But to the man not temperamentally qualified, lion shooting is
dangerous enough. The lion, when he takes the offensive, intends to
get his antagonist. Having made up his mind to that, he charges home,
generally at great speed. The realization that it is the man's life or
the beast's is disconcerting. Also the charging lion is a spectacle
much more awe-inspiring in reality than the most vivid imagination can
predict. He looks very large, very determined, and has uttered certain
rumbling, blood-curdling threats as to what he is going to do about
it. It suddenly seems most undesirable to allow that lion to come any
closer, not even an inch! A hasty, nervous shot misses-
An unwounded lion charging from a distance is said to start rather
slowly, and to increase his pace only as he closes. Personally I have
never been charged by an unwounded beast, but I can testify that the
wounded animal comes very fast. Cuninghame puts the rate at about
seven seconds to the hundred yards. Certainly I should say that a man
charged from fifty yards or so would have little chance for a second
shot, provided he missed the first. A hit seemed, in my experience, to
the animal, by sheer force of impact, long enough to permit me to
throw in another cartridge. A lioness thus took four frontal bullets
starting at about sixty yards. An initial miss would probably have
permitted her to close.
Here, as can be seen, is a great source of danger to a flurried or
nervous beginner. He does not want that lion to get an inch nearer; he
fires at too long a range, misses, and is killed or mauled before he
can reload. This happened precisely so to two young friends of
MacMillan. They were armed with double-rifles, let them off hastily as
the beast started at them from two hundred yards, and never got
another chance. If they had possessed the experience to have waited
until the lion had come within fifty yards they would have had the
almost certainty of four barrels at close range. Though I have seen a
lion missed clean well inside those limits.
>From such performances are so-called lion accidents built. During
my stay in Africa I heard of six white men being killed by lions, and
a number of others mauled. As far as possible I tried to determine the
facts of each case. In every instance the trouble followed either
foolishness or loss of nerve. I believe I should be quite safe in
saying that from identically the same circumstances any of the good
lion men-Tarleton, Lord Delamere, the Hills, and others-would have
extricated themselves unharmed.
This does not mean that accidents may not happen. Rifles jam, but
generally because of flurried manipulation! One may unexpectedly meet
the lion at too close quarters; a foot may slip, or a cartridge prove
defective. So may one fall downstairs or bump one's head in the dark.
Sufficient forethought and alertness and readiness would go far in
either case to prevent bad results.
The wounded beast, of course, offers the most interesting problem
to the lion hunter. If it sees the hunter, it is likely to charge him
at once. If hit while making off, however, it is more apt to take
cover. Then one must summon all his good sense and nerve to get it
out. No rules can be given for this; nor am I trying to write a text
book for lion hunters. Any good lion hunter knows a lot more about it
than I do. But always a man must keep in mind three things: that a
lion can hide in cover so short that it seems to the novice as though
a jack-rabbit would find scant concealment there; that he charges like
lightning, and that he can spring about fifteen feet. This spring,
coming unexpectedly from an unseen beast, is about impossible to
avoid. Sheer luck may land a fatal shot; but even then the lion will
probably do his damage before he dies. The rush from a short distance
a good quick shot ought to be able to cope with.
Therefore the wise hunter assures himself of at least twenty
feet-preferably more-of neutral zone all about him. No matter how
long it takes, he determines absolutely that the lion is not within
that distance. The rest is alertness and quickness.
As I have said, the amount of cover necessary to conceal a lion is
astonishingly small. He can flatten himself out surprisingly; and his
tawny colour blends so well with the brown grasses that he is
practically invisible. A practised man does not, of course, look for
lions at all. He is after unusual small patches, especially the black
ear tips or the black of the mane. Once guessed at, it is interesting
to see how quickly the hitherto unsuspected animal sketches itself out
in the cover.
I should, before passing on to another aspect of the matter,
mention the dangerous poisons carried by the lion's claws. Often men
have died from the most trivial surface wounds. The grooves of the
claws carry putrefying meat from the kills. Every sensible man in a
lion country carries a small syringe, and either permanganate or
carbolic. And those mild little remedies he uses full strength!
The great and overwhelming advantage is of course with the hunter.
He possesses as deadly a weapon: and that weapon will kill at a
distance. This is proper, I think. There are more lions than hunters;
and, from our point of view, the man is more important than the beast.
The game is not too hazardous. By that I mean that, barring sheer
accident, a man is sure to come out all right provided he does
accurately the right thing. In other words, it is a dangerous game of
skill, but it does not possess the blind danger of a forest in a
hurricane, say. Furthermore, it is a game that no man need play unless
he wants to. In the lion country he may go about his business-daytime
business-as though he were home at the farm.
Such being the case, may I be pardoned for intruding one of my own
small ethical ideas at this point, with the full realization that it
depends upon an entirely personal point of view. As far as my own case
goes, I consider it poor sportsmanship ever to refuse a lion-chance
merely because the advantages are not all in my favour. After all,
lion hunting is on a different plane from ordinary shooting: it is a
challenge to war, a deliberate seeking for mortal combat. Is it not
just a little shameful to pot old felis leo at long range, in the
open, near his kill, and wherever we have him at an advantage-nine
times, and then to back out because that advantage is for once not so
marked? I have so often heard the phrase, "I let him (or them) alone.
It was not good enough," meaning that the game looked a little risky.
Do not misunderstand. I am not advising that you bull ahead into
the long grass, or that alone you open fire on a half dozen lions in
easy range. Kind providence endowed you with strategy, and certainly
you should never go in where there is no show for you to use your
weapon effectively. But occasionally the odds will be against you and
you will be called upon to take more or less of a chance. I do not
think it is quite square to quit playing merely because for once your
opponent has been dealt the better cards. If here are too many of them
see if you cannot manoeuvre them; if the grass is long, try every
means in your power to get them out. Stay with them. If finally you
fail, you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that
circumstances alone have defeated you. If you do not like that sort of
a game, stay out of it entirely.
XII. MORE LIONS
Nor do the last remarks of the preceding chapter mean that you
shall not have your trophy in peace. Perhaps excitement and a slight
doubt as to whether or not you are going to survive do not appeal to
you; but nevertheless you would like a lion skin or so. By all means
shoot one lion, or two, or three in the safest fashion you can. But
after that you ought to play the game.
The surest way to get a lion is to kill a zebra, cut holes in him,
fill the holes with strychnine, and come back next morning. This
method is absolutely safe.
The next safest way is to follow the quarry with a pack of
especially trained dogs. The lion is so busy and nervous over those
dogs that you can walk up and shoot him in the ear. This method has
the excitement of riding and following, the joy of a grand and noisy
row, and the fun of seeing a good dog-fight. The same effect can be
got chasing wart-hogs, hyenas, jackals-or jack-rabbits. The objection
is that it wastes a noble beast in an inferior game. My personal
opinion is that no man is justified in following with dogs any large
animal that can be captured with reasonable certainty without them.
The sport of coursing is another matter; but that is quite the same in
essence whatever the size of the quarry. If you want to kill a lion or
so quite safely, and at the same time enjoy a glorious and exciting
gallop with lots of accompanying row, by all means follow the sport
with hounds. But having killed one or two by that method, quit. Do not
go on and clean up the country. You can do it. Poison and hounds are
the SURE methods of finding any lion there may be about; and AFTER THE
FIRST FEW, one is about as justifiable as the other. If you want the
undoubtedly great joy of cross country pursuit, send your hounds in
after less noble game.
The third safe method of killing a lion is nocturnal. You lay out
a kill beneath a tree, and climb the tree. Or better, you hitch out a
pig or donkey as live bait. When the lion comes to this free lunch,
you try to see him; and, if you succeed in that, you try to shoot him.
It is not easy to shoot at night; nor is it easy to see in the dark.
Furthermore, lions only occasionally bother to come to bait. You may
roost up that tree many nights before you get a chance. Once up, you
have to stay up; for it is most decidedly not safe to go home after
dark. The tropical night in the highlands is quite chilly. Branches
seem to be quite as cramping and abrasive under the equator as in the
temperate zones. Still, it is one method.
Another is to lay out a kill and visit it in the early morning.
There is more to this, for you are afoot, must generally search out
your beast in nearby cover, and can easily find any amount of
excitement in the process.
The fourth way is to ride the lion. The hunter sees his quarry
returning home across the plains, perhaps; or jumps it from some
small bushy ravine. At once he spurs his horse in pursuit. The lion
will run but a short distance before coming to a stop, for he is not
particularly long either of wind or of patience. From this stand he
almost invariably charges. The astute hunter, still mounted, turns and
flees. When the lion gets tired of chasing, which he does in a very
short time, the hunter faces about. At last the lion sits down in the
grass, waiting for the game to develop. This is the time for the
hunter to dismount and to take his shot. Quite likely he must now
stand a charge afoot, and drop his beast before it gets to him.
This is real fun. It has many elements of safety, and many of
To begin with, the hunter at this game generally has companions to
back him: often he employs mounted Somalis to round the lion up and
get it to stand. The charging lion is quite apt to make for the
conspicuous mounted men-who can easily escape-ignoring the hunter
afoot. As the game is largely played in the open, the movements of the
beast are easily followed.
On the other hand, there is room for mistake. The hunter, for
example, should never follow directly in the rear of his lion, but
rather at a parallel course off the beast's flank. Then, if the lion
stops suddenly, the man does not overrun before he can check his
mount. He should never dismount nearer than a hundred and fifty yards
from the embayed animal; and should never try to get off while the
lion is moving in his direction. Then, too, a hard gallop is not
conducive to the best of shooting. It is difficult to hold the front
bead steady; and it is still more difficult to remember to wait, once
the lion charges, until he has come near enough for a sure shot. A
neglect in the inevitable excitement of the moment to remember these
and a dozen other small matters may quite possibly cause trouble.
Two or three men together can make this one of the most exciting
mounted games on earth; with enough of the give and take of real
danger and battle to make it worth while. The hunter, however, who
employs a dozen Somalis to ride the beast to a standstill, after which
he goes to the front, has eliminated much of the thrill. Nor need that
man's stay-at-home family feel any excessive uneasiness over Father
Killing Lions in Africa.
The method that interested me more than any other is one
exceedingly difficult to follow except under favourable
circumstances. I refer to tracking them down afoot. This requires
that your gunbearer should be an expert trailer, for, outside the
fact that following a soft-padded animal over all sorts of ground is a
very difficult thing to do, the hunter should be free to spy ahead. It
is necessary also to possess much patience and to endure under many
disappointments. But on the other hand there is in this sport a
continuous keen thrill to be enjoyed in no other; and he who single
handed tracks down and kills his lion thus, has well earned the title
of shikari-the Hunter.
And the last method of all is to trust to the God of Chance. The
secret of success is to be always ready to take instant advantage of
what the moment offers.
An occasional hunting story is good in itself: and the following
will also serve to illustrate what I have just been saying.
We were after that prize, the greater kudu, and in his pursuit had
penetrated into some very rough country. Our hunting for the time
being was over broad bench, perhaps four or five miles wide, below a
range of mountains. The bench itself broke down in sheer cliffs some
fifteen hundred feet, but one did not appreciate that fact unless he
stood fairly on the edge of the precipice. To all intents and purposes
we were on a rolling grassy plain, with low hills and cliffs, and a
most beautiful little stream running down it beneath fine trees.
Up to now our hunting had gained us little beside information:
that kudu had occasionally visited the region, that they had not been
there for a month, and that the direction of their departure had been
obscure. So we worked our way down the stream, trying out the
possibilities. Of other game there seemed to be a fair supply:
impalla, hartebeeste, zebra, eland, buffalo, wart-hog, sing-sing, and
giraffe we had seen. I had secured a wonderful eland and a very fine
impalla, and we had had a gorgeous close-quarters fight with a
cheetah.* Now C. had gone out, a three weeks' journey, carrying to
medical attendance a porter injured in the cheetah fracas. Billy and I
were continuing the hunt alone.
*This animal quite disproved the assertion that cheetahs never
assume the aggressive. He charged repeatedly.
We had marched two hours, and were pitching camp under a single
tree near the edge of the bench. After seeing everything well under
way, I took the Springfield and crossed the stream, which here ran in
a deep canyon. My object was to see if I could get a sing-sing that
had bounded away at our approach. I did not bother to take a
gunbearer, because I did not expect to be gone five minutes.
The canyon proved unexpectedly deep and rough, and the stream up
to my waist. When I had gained the top, I found grass growing
patchily from six inches to two feet high; and small, scrubby trees
from four to ten feet tall, spaced regularly, but very scattered.
These little trees hardly formed cover, but their aggregation at
sufficient distance limited the view.
The sing-sing had evidently found his way over the edge of the
bench. I turned to go back to camp. A duiker-a small grass
antelope-broke from a little patch of the taller grass, rushed, head
down headlong after their fashion, suddenly changed his mind, and
dashed back again. I stepped forward to see why he had changed his
mind-and ran into two lions!
They were about thirty yards away, and sat there on their
haunches, side by side, staring at me with expressionless yellow
eyes. I stared back. The Springfield is a good little gun, and three
times before I had been forced to shoot lions with it, but my real
"lion gun" with which I had done best work was the 405 Winchester. The
Springfield is too light for such game. Also there were two lions,
very close. Also I was quite alone.
As the game stood, it hardly looked like my move; so I held still
and waited. Presently one yawned, they looked at each other, turned
quite leisurely, and began to move away at a walk.
This was a different matter. If I had fired while the two were
facing me, I should probably have had them both to deal with. But now
that their tails were turned toward me, I should very likely have to
do with only the one: at the crack of the rifle the other would run
the way he was headed. So I took a careful bead at the lioness and let
My aim was to cripple the pelvic bone, but, unfortunately, just as
I fired, the beast wriggled lithely sidewise to pass around a tuft of
grass, so that the bullet inflicted merely a slight flesh wound on the
rump. She whirled like a flash, and as she raised her head high to
locate me, I had time to wish that the Springfield hit a trifle harder
blow. Also I had time to throw another cartridge in the barrel.
The moment she saw me she dropped her head and charged. She was
thoroughly angry and came very fast. I had just enough time to steady
the gold bead on her chest and to pull trigger.
At the shot, to my great relief, she turned bottom up, and I saw
her tail for an instant above the grass-an almost sure indication of
a bad hit. She thrashed around, and made a tremendous hullabaloo of
snarls and growls. I backed out slowly, my rifle ready. It was no
place for me, for the grass was over knee high.
Once at a safe distance I blazed a tree with my hunting knife and
departed for camp, well pleased to be out of it. At camp I ate lunch
and had a smoke; then with Memba Sasa and Mavrouki returned to the
scene of trouble. I had now the 405 Winchester, a light and handy
weapon delivering a tremendous blow.
We found the place readily enough. My lioness had recovered from
the first shock and had gone. I was very glad I had gone first.
The trail was not very plain, but it could be followed a foot or
so at a time, with many faults and casts back. I walked a yard to one
side while the men followed the spoor. Owing to the abundance of cover
it was very nervous work, for the beast might be almost anywhere, and
would certainly charge. We tried to keep a neutral zone around
ourselves by tossing stones ahead of and on both sides of our line of
advance. My own position was not bad, for I had the rifle ready in my
hand, but the men were in danger. Of course I was protecting them as
well as I could, but there was always a chance that the lioness might
spring on them in such a manner that I would be unable to use my
weapon. Once I suggested that as the work was dangerous, they could
quit if they wanted to.
"Hapana!" they both refused indignantly.
We had proceeded thus for half a mile when to our relief, right
ahead of us, sounded the commanding, rumbling half-roar, half-growl
of the lion at bay.
Instantly Memba Sasa and Mavrouki dropped back to me. We all
peered ahead. One of the boys made her out first, crouched under a
bush thirty-two yards away. Even as I raised the rifle she saw us and
charged. I caught her in the chest before she had come ten feet. The
heavy bullet stopped her dead. Then she recovered and started forward
slowly, very weak, but game to the last. Another shot finished her.
The remarkable point of this incident was the action of the little
Springfield bullet. Evidently the very high velocity of this bullet
from its shock to the nervous system had delivered a paralyzing blow
sufficient to knock out the lioness for the time being. Its damage to
tissue, however, was slight. Inasmuch as the initial shock did not
cause immediate death, the lioness recovered sufficiently to be able,
two hours later, to take the offensive. This point is of the greatest
interest to the student of ballistics; but it is curious to even the
That is a very typical example of finding lions by sheer chance.
Generally a man is out looking for the smallest kind of game when he
runs up against them. Now happened to follow an equally typical
example of tracking.
The next day after the killing of the lioness Memba Sasa, Kongoni
and I dropped off the bench, and hunted greater kudu on a series of
terraces fifteen hundred feet below. All we found were two rhino, some
sing-sing, a heard of impalla, and a tremendous thirst. In the
meantime, Mavrouki had, under orders, scouted the foothills of the
mountain range at the back. He reported none but old tracks of kudu,
but said he had seen eight lions not far from our encounter of the day
Therefore, as soon next morning as we could see plainly, we again
crossed the canyon and the waist-deep stream. I had with me all three
of the gun men, and in addition two of the most courageous porters to
help with the tracking and the looking.
About eight o'clock we found the first fresh pad mark plainly
outlined in an isolated piece of soft earth. Immediately we began
that most fascinating of games-trailing over difficult ground. In
this we could all take part, for the tracks were some hours old, and
the cover scanty. Very rarely could we make out more than three
successive marks. Then we had to spy carefully for the slightest
indication of direction. Kongoni in especial was wonderful at this,
and time and again picked up a broken grass blade or the minutest
inch-fraction of disturbed earth. We moved slowly, in long hesitations
and castings about, and in swift little dashes forward of a few feet;
and often we went astray on false scents, only to return finally to
the last certain spot. In this manner we crossed the little plain with
the scattered shrub trees and arrived at the edge of the low bluff
above the stream bottom.
This bottom was well wooded along the immediate bank of the stream
itself, fringed with low thick brush, and in the open spaces grown to
the edges with high, green, coarse grass.
As soon as we had managed to follow without fault to this grass,
our difficulties of trailing were at an end. The lions' heavy bodies
had made distinct paths through the tangle. These paths went forward
sinuously, sometimes separating one from the other, sometimes
intertwining, sometimes combining into one for a short distance. We
could not determine accurately the number of beasts that had made
"They have gone to drink water," said Memba Sasa.
We slipped along the twisting paths, alert for indications; came
to the edge of the thicket, stooped through the fringe, and descended
to the stream under the tall trees. The soft earth at the water's edge
was covered with tracks, thickly overlaid one over the other. The boys
felt of the earth, examined, even smelled, and came to the conclusion
that the beasts must have watered about five o'clock. If so, they
might be ten miles away, or as many rods.
We had difficulty in determining just where the party left this
place, until finally Kongoni caught sight of suspicious indications
over the way. The lions had crossed the stream. We did likewise,
followed the trail out of the thicket, into the grass, below the
little cliffs parallel to the stream, back into the thicket, across
the river once more, up the other side, in the thicket for a quarter
mile, then out into the grass on that side, and so on. They were
evidently wandering, rather idly, up the general course of the stream.
Certainly, unlike most cats, they did not mind getting their feet wet,
for they crossed the stream four times.
At last the twining paths in the shoulder-high grass fanned out
separately. We counted.
"You were right, Mavrouki," said I, "there were eight."
At the end of each path was a beaten-down little space where
evidently the beasts had been lying down. With an exclamation the
three gunbearers darted forward to investigate. The lairs were still
warm! Their occupants had evidently made off only at our approach!
Not five minutes later we were halted by a low warning growl right
ahead. We stopped. The boys squatted on their heels close to me, and
we consulted in whispers.
Of course it would be sheer madness to attack eight lions in grass
so high we could not see five feet in front of us. That went without
saying. On the other hand, Mavrouki swore that he had yesterday seen
no small cubs with the band, and our examination of the tracks made in
soft earth seemed to bear him out. The chances were therefore that,
unless themselves attacked or too close pressed, the lions would not
attack us. By keeping just in their rear we might be able to urge them
gently along until they should enter more open cover. Then we could
Therefore we gave the owner of that growl about five minutes to
forget it, and then advanced very cautiously. We soon found where the
objector had halted, and plainly read by the indications where he had
stood for a moment or so, and then moved on. We slipped along after.
For five hours we hung at the heels of that band of lions, moving
very slowly, perfectly willing to halt whenever they told us to, and
going forward again only when we became convinced that they too had
gone on. Except for the first half hour, we were never more than
twenty or thirty yards from the nearest lion, and often much closer.
Three or four times I saw slowly gliding yellow bodies just ahead of
me, but in the circumstances it would have been sheer stark lunacy to
have fired. Probably six or eight times-I did not count-we were
commanded to stop, and we did stop.
It was very exciting work, but the men never faltered. Of course I
went first, in case one of the beasts had the toothache or otherwise
did not play up to our calculations on good nature. One or the other
of the gunbearers was always just behind me. Only once was any comment
made. Kongoni looked very closely into my face.
"There are very many lions," he remarked doubtfully.
"Very many lions," I agreed, as though assenting to a mere
statement of fact.
Although I am convinced there was no real danger, as long as we
stuck to our plan of campaign, nevertheless it was quite interesting
to be for so long a period so near these great brutes. They led us for
a mile or so along the course of the stream, sometimes on one side,
sometimes on the other. Several times they emerged into better cover,
and even into the open, but always ducked back into the thick again
before we ourselves had followed their trail to the clear.
At noon we were halted by the usual growl just as we had reached
the edge of the river. So we sat down on the banks and had lunch.
Finally our chance came. The trail led us, for the dozenth time,
from the high grass into the thicket along the river. We ducked our
heads to enter. Memba Sasa, next my shoulder, snapped his fingers
violently. Following the direction of the brown arm that shot over my
shoulder, I strained my eyes into the dimness of the thicket. At first
I could see nothing at all, but at length a slight motion drew my eye.
Then I made out the silhouette of a lion's head, facing us steadily.
One of the rear guard had again turned to halt us, but this time where
he and his surroundings could be seen.
Luckily I always use a Sheard gold bead sight, and even in the
dimness of the tree-shaded thicket it showed up well. The beast was
only forty yards away, so I fired at his head. He rolled over without
We took the usual great precautions in determining the genuineness
of his demise, then carried him into the open. Strangely enough the
bullet had gone so cleanly into his left eye that it had not even
broken the edge of the eyelid; so that when skinned he did not show a
mark. He was a very decent maned lion, three feet four inches at the
shoulder, and nine feet long as he lay. We found that he had indeed
been the rear guard, and that the rest, on the other side of the
thicket, had made off at the shot. So in spite of the APPARENT danger
of the situation, our calculations had worked out perfectly. Also we
had enjoyed a half day's sport of an intensity quite impossible to be
extracted from any other method of following the lion.
In trying to guess how any particular lions may act, however, you
will find yourself often at fault. The lion is a very intelligent and
crafty beast, and addicted to tricks. If you follow a lion to a small
hill, it is well to go around that hill on the side opposite to that
taken by your quarry. You are quite likely to meet him for he is
clever enough thus to try to get in your rear. He will lie until you
have actually passed him before breaking off. He will circle ahead,
then back to confuse his trail. And when you catch sight of him in the
distance, you would never suspect that he knew of your presence at
all. He saunters slowly, apparently aimlessly, along pausing often,
evidently too bored to take any interest in life. You wait quite
breathlessly for him to pass behind cover. Then you are going to make
a very rapid advance, and catch his leisurely retreat. But the moment
old Leo does pass behind the cover, his appearance of idle stroller
vanishes. In a dozen bounds he is gone.
That is what makes lion hunting delightful. There are some
regions, very near settlements, where it is perhaps justifiable to
poison these beasts. If you are a true sportsman you will confine your
hound-hunting to those districts. Elsewhere, as far as playing fair
with a noble beast is concerned, you may as well toss a coin to see
which you shall take-your pack or a strychnine bottle.
XIII. ON THE MANAGING OF A SAFARI
We made our way slowly down the river. As the elevation dropped,
the temperature rose. It was very hot indeed during the day, and in
the evening the air was tepid and caressing, and musical with the hum
of insects. We sat about quite comfortably in our pajamas, and took
our fifteen grains of quinine per week against the fever.
The character of the jungle along the river changed imperceptibly,
the dhum palms crowding out the other trees; until, at our last camp,
were nothing but palms. The wind in them sounded variously like the
patter or the gathering onrush of rain. On either side the country
remained unchanged, however. The volcanic hills rolled away to the
distant ranges. Everywhere grew sparsely the low thornbrush, opening
sometimes into clear plains, closing sometimes into dense thickets.
One morning we awoke to find that many supposedly sober-minded trees
had burst into blossom fairly over night. They were red, and yellow
and white that before were green, a truly gorgeous sight.
Then we turned sharp to the right and began to ascend a little
tributary brook coming down the wide flats from a cleft in the hills.
This was prettily named the Isiola, and, after the first mile or so,
was not big enough to afford the luxury of a jungle of its own. Its
banks were generally grassy and steep, its thickets few, and its
little trees isolated in parklike spaces. To either side of it, and
almost at its level, stretched plains, but plains grown with scattered
brush and shrubs so that at a mile or two one's vista was closed. But
for all its scant ten feet of width the Isiola stood upon its dignity
as a stream. We discovered that when we tried to cross. The men
floundered waist-deep on uncertain bottom; the syces received much
unsympathetic comment for their handling of the animals, and we had
to get Billy over by a melodramatic "bridge of life" with B., F.,
myself, and Memba Sasa in the title roles.
Then we pitched camp in the open on the other side, sent the
horses back from the stream until after dark, in fear of the deadly
tsetse fly, and prepared to enjoy a good exploration of the
neighbourhood. Whereupon M'ganga rose up to his gaunt and terrific
height of authority, stretched forth his bony arm at right angles, and
uttered between eight and nine thousand commands in a high dynamic
monotone without a single pause for breath. These, supplemented by
about as many more, resulted in (a) a bridge across the stream, and
(b) a banda.
A banda is a delightful African institution. It springs from
nothing in about two hours, but it takes twenty boys with a vitriolic
M'ganga back of them to bring it about. Some of them carry huge
backloads of grass, or papyrus, or cat-tail rushes, as the case may
be; others lug in poles of various lengths from where their comrades
are cutting them by means of their panga. A panga, parenthetically, is
the safari man's substitute for axe, shovel, pick, knife, sickle,
lawn-mower, hammer, gatling gun, world's library of classics, higher
mathematics, grand opera, and toothpicks. It looks rather like a
machete with a very broad end and a slight curved back. A good man can
do extraordinary things with it. Indeed, at this moment, two boys are
with this apparently clumsy implement delicately peeling some of the
small thorn trees, from the bared trunks of which they are stripping
long bands of tough inner bark.
With these three raw materials-poles, withes, and grass-M'ganga
and his men set to work. They planted their corner and end poles,
they laid their rafters, they completed their framework, binding all
with the tough withes; then deftly they thatched it with the grass.
Almost before we had settled our own affairs, M'ganga was standing
before us smiling. Gone now was his mien of high indignation and
"Banda naquisha," he informed us.
And we moved in our table and our canvas chairs; hung up our water
bottles; Billy got out her fancy work. Nothing could be pleasanter nor
more appropriate to the climate than this wide low arbour, open at
either end to the breezes, thatched so thickly that the fierce sun
could nowhere strike through.
The men had now settled down to a knowledge of what we were like;
and things were going smoothly. At first the African porter will try
it on to see just how easy you are likely to prove. If he makes up his
mind that you really are easy, then you are in for infinite petty
annoyance, and possibly open mutiny. Therefore, for a little while, it
is necessary to be extremely vigilant, to insist on minute performance
in all circumstances where later you might condone an omission. For
the same reason punishment must be more frequent and more severe at
the outset. It is all a matter of watching the temper of the men. If
they are cheerful and willing, you are not nearly as particular as you
would be were their spirit becoming sullen. Then the infraction is not
so important in itself as an excuse for the punishment. For when your
men get sulky, you watch vigilantly for the first and faintest EXCUSE
to inflict punishment.
This game always seemed to me very fascinating, when played right.
It is often played wrong. People do not look far enough. Because they
see that punishment has a most salutary effect on morale, and is
sometimes efficacious in getting things done that otherwise would lag,
they jump to the conclusion that the only effective way to handle a
safari is by penalties. By this I do not at all mean that they act
savagely, or punish to brutal excess. Merely they hold rigidly to the
letter of the work and the day's discipline. Because it is sometimes
necessary to punish severely slight infractions when the men's tempers
need sweetening, they ALWAYS punish slight infractions severely.
And in ordinary circumstances this method undoubtedly results in a
very efficient safari. Things are done smartly, on time, with a snap.
The day's march begins without delay; there is a minimum of
straggling; on arrival the tents are immediately got up and the wood
and water fetched. But in a tight place, men so handled by invariable
rule are very apt to sit down apathetically, and put the whole thing
up to the white man. When it comes time to help out they are not
there. The contrast with a well-disposed safari cannot be appreciated
by one who has not seen both.
The safari-man loves a master. He does not for a moment understand
any well-meant but misplaced efforts on your part to lighten his work
below the requirements of custom. Always he will beg you to ease up on
him, to accord him favour; and always he will despise you if you
yield. The relations of man to man, of man to work, are all long since
established by immemorial distauri-custom-and it is not for you or him
to change them lightly. If you know what he should or can do, and hold
him rigidly to it, he will respect and follow you.
But in order to keep him up to the mark, it is not always
advisable to light into him with a whip, necessary as the whip often
is. If he is sullen, or inclined to make mischief, then that is the
crying requirement. But if he is merely careless, or a little slow, or
tired, you can handle him in other ways. Ridicule before his comrades
is very effective: a sort of good-natured guying, I mean. "Ah! very
tired!" uttered in the right tone of voice has brought many a loiterer
to his feet as effectively as the kick some men feel must always be
bestowed, and quite without anger, mind you! For days at a time we
have kept our men travelling at good speed by commenting, as though by
the way, after we had arrived in camp, on which tribe happened to
come in at the head.
"Ah! Kavirondos came in first to-night," we would remark. "Last
night the Monumwezis were ahead."
And once, actually, by this method we succeeded in working up such
a feeling of rivalry that the Kikuyus, the unambitious, weak and
despised Kikuyus, led the van!
But the first hint of insubordination, of intended insolence, of
willful shirking must be met by instant authority. Occasionally, when
the situation is of the quick and sharp variety, the white man may
have to mix in the row himself. He must never hesitate an instant; for
the only reason he alone can control so many is that he has always
controlled them. F. had a very effective blow, or shove, which I found
well worth adopting. It is delivered with the heel of the palm to the
man's chin, and is more of a lifting, heaving shove than an actual
blow. Its effect is immediately upsetting. Impertinence is best dealt
with in this manner on the spot. Evidently intended slowness in coming
when called is also best treated by a flick of the whip-and
forgetfulness. And so with a half dozen others. But any more serious
matter should be decided from the throne of the canvas chair, witness
should be heard, judgment formally pronounced, and execution intrusted
to the askaris or gunbearers.
It is, as I have said, a most interesting game. It demands three
sorts of knowledge: first what a safari man is capable of doing;
second, what he customarily should or should not do; third, an
ability to read the actual intention or motive back of his actions.
When you are able to punish or hold your hand on these principles, and
not merely because things have or have not gone smoothly or right,
then you are a good safari manager. There are mighty few of them.
As for punishment, that is quite simply the whip. The average
writer on the country speaks of this with hushed voice and averted
face as a necessity but as something to be deprecated and passed over
as quickly as possible. He does this because he thinks he ought to. As
a matter of fact, such an attitude is all poppycock. In the flogging
of a white man, or a black who suffers from such a punishment in his
soul as well as his body, this is all very well. But the safari man
expects it, it doesn't hurt his feelings in the least, it is ancient
custom. As well sentimentalize over necessary schoolboy punishment, or
over father paddy-whacking little Willie when little Willie has been a
bad boy. The chances are your porter will leap to his feet, crack his
heels together and depart with a whoop of joy, grinning from ear to
ear. Or he may draw himself up and salute you, military fashion, again
with a grin. In any case his "soul" is not "scared" a little bit, and
there is no sense in yourself feeling about it as though it were.
At another slant the justice you will dispense to your men differs
from our own. Again this is because of the teaching long tradition has
made part of their mental make-up. Our own belief is that it is better
to let two guilty men go than to punish one innocent. With natives it
is the other way about. If a crime is committed the guilty MUST be
punished. Preferably he alone is to be dealt with; but in case it is
impossible to identify him, then all the members of the first
inclusive unit must be brought to account. This is the native way of
doing things; is the only way the native understands; and is the only
way that in his mind true justice is answered. Thus if a sheep is
stolen, the thief must be caught and punished. Suppose, however it is
known to what family the thief belongs, but the family refuses to
disclose which of its members committed the theft: then each member
must be punished for sheep stealing; or, if not the family, then the
tribe must make restitution. But punishment MUST be inflicted.
There is an essential justice to recommend this, outside the fact
that it has with the native all the solidity of accepted ethics, and
it certainly helps to run the real criminal to earth. The innocent
sometimes suffers innocently, but not very often; and our own records
show that in that respect with us it is the same. This is not the
place to argue the right or wrong of the matter from our own
standpoint but to recognize the fact that it is right from theirs, and
to act accordingly. Thus in cast of theft of meat, or something that
cannot be traced, it is well to call up the witnesses, to prove the
alibis, and then to place the issue squarely up to those that remain.
There may be but two, or there may be a dozen.
"I know you did not all steal the meat," you must say, "but I know
that one of you did. Unless I know which one that is by to-morrow
morning, I will kiboko all of you. Bass!"
Perhaps occasionally you may have to kiboko the lot, in the full
knowledge that most are innocent. That seems hard; and your heart
will misgive you. Harden it. The "innocent" probably know perfectly
well who the guilty man is. And the incident builds for the future.
I had intended nowhere to comment on the politics or policies of
the country. Nothing is more silly than the casual visitor's snap
judgments on how a country is run. Nevertheless, I may perhaps be
pardoned for suggesting that the Government would strengthen its
hand, and aid its few straggling settlers by adopting this native
view of retributions. For instance, at present it is absolutely
impossible to identify individual sheep and cattle stealers. They
operate stealthily and at night. If the Government cannot identify
the actual thief, it gives the matter up. As a consequence a great
hardship is inflicted on the settler and an evil increases. If,
however, the Government would hold the village, the district, or the
tribe responsible, and exact just compensation from such units in
every case, the evil would very suddenly come to an end. And the
native's respect for the white man would climb in the scale.
Once the safari man gets confidence in his master, that confidence
is complete. The white man's duties are in his mind clearly defined.
His job is to see that the black man is fed, is watered, is taken care
of in every way. The ordinary porter considers himself quite devoid of
responsibility. He is also an improvident creature, for he drinks all
his water when he gets thirsty, no matter how long and hot the journey
before him; he eats his rations all up when he happens to get hungry,
two days before next distribution time; he straggles outrageously at
times and has to be rounded up; he works three months and, on a whim,
deserts two days before the end of his journey, thus forfeiting all
his wages. Once two porters came to us for money.
"What for?" asked C.
"To buy a sheep," said they.
For two months we had been shooting them all the game meat they
could eat, but on this occasion two days had intervened since the
last kill. If they had been on trading safari they would have had no
meat at all. A sheep cost six rupees in that country, and they were
getting but ten rupees a month as wages. In view of the circumstances,
and for their own good, we refused. Another man once insisted on
purchasing a cake of violet-scented soap for a rupee. Their chief idea
of a wild time in Nairobi, after return from a long safari, is to SIT
IN A CHAIR and drink tea. For this they pay exorbitantly at the Somali
so-called "hotels." It is a strange sight. But then, I have seen
cowboys off the range or lumberjacks from the river do equally
extravagant and foolish things.
On the other hand they carry their loads well, they march
tremendously, they know their camp duties and they do them. Under
adverse circumstances they are good-natured. I remember C. and I,
being belated and lost in a driving rain. We wandered until nearly
midnight. The four or five men with us were loaded heavily with the
meat and trophy of a roan. Certainly they must have been very tired;
for only occasionally could we permit them to lay down their loads.
Most of the time we were actually groping, over boulders, volcanic
rocks, fallen trees and all sorts of tribulation. The men took it as a
huge joke, and at every pause laughed consumedly.
In making up a safari one tries to mix in four or five tribes.
This prevents concerted action in case of trouble, for no one tribe
will help another. They vary both in tribal and individual
characteristics, of course. For example, the Kikuyus are docile but
mediocre porters; the Kavirondos strong carriers but turbulent and
difficult to handle. You are very lucky if you happen on a camp
jester, one of the sort that sings, shouts, or jokes while on the
march. He is probably not much as a porter, but he is worth his wages
nevertheless. He may or may not aspire to his giddy eminence. We had
one droll-faced little Kavirondo whose very expression made one laugh,
and whose rueful remarks on the harshness of his lot finally ended by
being funny. His name got to be a catchword in camp.
"Mualo! Mualo!" the men would cry, as they heaved their burdens to
their heads; and all day long their war cry would ring out, "Mualo!"
followed by shrieks of laughter.
Of the other type was Sulimani, a big, one-eyed Monumwezi, who had
a really keen wit coupled with an earnest, solemn manner. This man was
no buffoon, however; and he was a good porter, always at or near the
head of the procession. In the great jungle south of Kenia we came
upon Cuninghame. When the head of our safari reached the spot Sulimani
left the ranks and, his load still aloft danced solemnly in front of
Cuninghame, chanting something in a loud tone of voice. Then with a
final deep "Jambo!" to his old master he rejoined the safari. When the
day had stretched to weariness and the men had fallen to a sullen
plodding, Sulimani's vigorous song could always set the safari sticks
tapping the sides of the chop boxes.
He carried part of the tent, and the next best men were entrusted
with the cook outfit and our personal effects. It was a point of
honour with these men to be the first in camp. The rear, the very
extreme and straggling rear, was brought up by worthless porters with
loads of cornmeal-and the weary askaris whose duty it was to keep
astern and herd the lot in.
XIV. A DAY ON THE ISIOLA
Early one morning-we were still on the Isiola-we set forth on our
horses to ride across the rolling, brush-grown plain. Our intention
was to proceed at right angles to our own little stream until we had
reached the forest growth of another, which we could dimly make out
eight or ten miles distant. Billy went with us, so there were four
a-horseback. Behind us trudged the gunbearers, and the syces, and
after them straggled a dozen or fifteen porters.
The sun was just up, and the air was only tepid as yet. From
patches of high grass whirred and rocketed grouse of two sorts. They
were so much like our own ruffed grouse and prairie chicken that I
could with no effort imagine myself once more a boy in the coverts of
the Middle West. Only before us we could see the stripes of trotting
zebra disappearing; and catch the glint of light on the bayonets of
the oryx. Two giraffes galumphed away to the right. Little grass
antelope darted from clump to clump of grass. Once we saw gerenuk-oh,
far away in an impossible distance. Of course we tried to stalk them;
and as usual we failed. The gerenuk we had come to look upon as our
The beast is a gazelle about as big as a black-tailed deer. His
peculiarity is his excessively long neck, a good deal on the giraffe
order. With it he crops browse above high tide mark of other animals,
especially when as often happens he balances cleverly on his hind
legs. By means of it also he can, with his body completely concealed,
look over the top of ordinary cover and see you long before you have
made out his inconspicuous little head. Then he departs. He seems to
have a lamentable lack of healthy curiosity about you. In that respect
he should take lessons from the kongoni. After that you can follow him
as far as you please; you will get only glimpses at three or four
We remounted sadly and rode on. The surface of the ground was
rather soft, scattered with round rocks the size of a man's head, and
full of pig holes.
"Cheerful country to ride over at speed," remarked Billy. Later in
the day we had occasion to remember that statement.
The plains led us ever on. First would be a band of scattered
brush growing singly and in small clumps: then a little open prairie;
then a narrow, long grass swale; then perhaps a low, long hill with
small single trees and rough, volcanic footing. Ten thousand things
kept us interested. Game was everywhere, feeding singly, in groups, in
herds, game of all sizes and descriptions. The rounded ears of jackals
pointed at us from the grass. Hundreds of birds balanced or fluttered
about us, birds of all sizes from the big ground hornbill to the
littlest hummers and sun birds. Overhead, across the wonderful
variegated sky of Africa the broad-winged carrion hunters and birds of
prey wheeled. In all our stay on the Isiola we had not seen a single
rhino track, so we rode quite care free and happy.
Finally, across a glade, not over a hundred and fifty yards away,
we saw a solitary bull oryx standing under a bush. B. wanted an oryx.
We discussed this one idly. He looked to be a decent oryx, but nothing
especial. However, he offered a very good shot; so B., after some
hesitation, decided to take it. It proved to be by far the best
specimen we shot, the horns measuring thirty-six and three fourths
inches! Almost immediately after, two of the rather rare striped
hyenas leaped from the grass and departed rapidly over the top of a
hill. We opened fire, and F. dropped one of them. By the time these
trophies were prepared, the sun had mounted high in the heavens, and
it was getting hot.
Accordingly we abandoned that still distant river and swung away
in a wide circle to return to camp.
Several minor adventures brought us to high noon and the heat of
the day. B. had succeeded in drawing a prize, one of the Grevy's or
mountain zebra. He and the gunbearers engaged themselves with that,
while we sat under the rather scanty shade of a small thorn tree and
had lunch. Here we had a favourable chance to observe that very
common, but always wonderful phenomenon, the gathering of the carrion
birds. Within five minutes after the stoop of the first vulture above
the carcass, the sky immediately over that one spot was fairly
darkened with them. They were as thick as midges-or as ducks used to
be in California. All sizes were there from the little carrion crows
to the great dignified vultures and marabouts and eagles. The small
fry flopped and scolded, and rose and fell in a dense mass; the
marabouts walked with dignified pace to and fro through the grass all
about. As far as the eye could penetrate the blue, it could make out
more and yet more of the great soarers stooping with half bent wings.
Below we could see uncertainly through the shimmer of the mirage the
bent forms of the men.
We ate and waited; and after a little we dozed. I was awakened
suddenly by a tremendous rushing roar, like the sound of a not too
distant waterfall. The group of men were plodding toward us carrying
burdens. And like plummets the birds were dropping straight down from
the heavens, spreading wide their wings at the last moment to check
their speed. This made the roaring sound that had awakened me.
A wide spot in the shimmer showed black and struggling against the
ground. I arose and walked over, meeting halfway B. and the men
carrying the meat. It took me probably about two minutes to reach the
place where the zebra had been killed. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
the great birds were standing idly about; a dozen or so were flapping
and scrambling in the centre. I stepped into view. With a mighty
commotion they all took wing clumsily, awkwardly, reluctantly. A
trampled, bloody space and the larger bones, picked absolutely clean,
was all that remained! In less than two minutes the job had been done!
"You're certainly good workmen!" I exclaimed, "but I wonder how
you all make a living!"
We started the men on to camp with the meat, and ourselves rested
under the shade. The day had been a full and interesting one; but we
considered it as finished. Remained only the hot journey back to camp.
After a half hour we mounted again and rode on slowly. The sun was
very strong and a heavy shimmer clothed the plain. Through this
shimmer we caught sight of something large and black and flapping. It
looked like a crow-or, better, a scare-crow-crippled, half flying,
half running, with waving wings or arms, now dwindling, now gigantic
as the mirage caught it up or let it drop. As we watched, it
developed, and we made it out to be a porter, clad in a long, ragged
black overcoat, running zigzag through the bushes in our direction.
The moment we identified it we spurred our horses forward. As my
horse leaped, Memba Sasa snatched the Springfield from my left hand
and forced the 405 Winchester upon me. Clever Memba Sasa! He no more
than we knew what was up, but shrewdly concluded that whatever it was
it needed a heavy gun.
As we galloped to meet him, the porter stopped. We saw him to be a
very long-legged, raggedy youth whom we had nicknamed the Marabout
because of his exceedingly long, lean legs, the fact that his breeches
were white, short and baggy, and because he kept his entire head
shaved close. He called himself Fundi, which means The Expert, a
sufficient indication of his confidence in himself.
He awaited us leaning on his safari stick, panting heavily, the
sweat running off his face in splashes. "Simba!"* said he, and
immediately set off on a long, easy lope ahead of us. We pulled down
to a trot and followed him.
At the end of a half mile we made out a man up a tree. Fundi, out
of breath, stopped short and pointed to this man. The latter, as soon
as he had seen us, commenced to scramble down. We spurred forward to
find out where the lions had been last seen.
Then Billy covered herself with glory by seeing them first. She
apprised us of that fact with some excitement. We saw the long,
yellow bodies of two of them disappearing in the edge of the brush
about three hundred yards away. With a wild whoop we tore after them
at a dead run.
Then began a wild ride. Do you remember Billy's remark about the
nature of the footing? Before long we closed in near enough to catch
occasional glimpses of the beasts, bounding easily along. At that
moment B.'s horse went down in a heap. None of us thought for a moment
of pulling up. I looked back to see B. getting up again, and thought I
caught fragments of encouraging-sounding language. Then my horse went
down. I managed to hold my rifle clear, and to cling to the reins. Did
you ever try to get on a somewhat demoralized horse in a frantic
hurry, when all your friends were getting farther away every minute,
and so lessening your chances of being in the fun? I began to
understand perfectly B.'s remarks of a moment before. However, on I
scrambled, and soon overtook the hunt.
We dodged in and out of bushes, and around and over holes. Every
few moments we would catch a glimpse of one of those silently
bounding lions, and then we would let out a yell. Also every few
moments one or the other of us would go down in a heap, and would
scramble up and curse, and remount hastily. Billy had better luck.
She had no gun, and belonged a little in the rear anyway, but was
coming along game as a badger for all that.
My own horse had the legs of the others quite easily, and for that
reason I was ahead far enough to see the magnificent sight of five
lions sideways on, all in a row, standing in the grass gazing at me
with a sort of calm and impersonal dignity. I wheeled my horse
immediately so as to be ready in case of a charge, and yelled to the
others to hurry up. While I sat there, they moved slowly off one after
the other, so that by the time the men had come, the lions had gone.
We now had no difficulty in running into them again. Once more my
better animal brought me to the lead, so that for the second time I
drew up facing the lions, and at about one hundred yards range. One by
one they began to leave as before, very leisurely and haughtily, until
a single old maned fellow remained. He, however, sat there, his great
round head peering over the top of the grass.
"Well," he seemed to say, "here I am, what do you intend to do
The others arrived, and we all dismounted. B. had not yet killed
his lion, so the shot was his. Billy very coolly came up behind and
held his horse. I should like here to remark that Billy is very
terrified of spiders. F. and I stood at the ready, and B. sat down.
Riding fast an exciting mile or so, getting chucked on your head
two or three times, and facing your first lion are none of them
conducive to steady shooting. The first shot therefore went high, but
the second hit the lion square in the chest, and he rolled over dead.
We all danced a little war dance, and congratulated B. and turned
to get the meaning of a queer little gurgling gasp behind us. There
was Fundi! That long-legged scarecrow, not content with running to get
us and then back again, had trailed us the whole distance of our mad
chase over broken ground at terrific speed in order to be in at the
death. And he was just about all in at the death. He could barely gasp
his breath, his eyes stuck out; he looked close to apoplexy.
"Bwana! bwana!" was all he could say. "Master! master!"
We shook hands with Fundi.
"My son," said I, "you're a true sport, and you'll surely get
He did not understand me, but he grinned. The gunbearers began to
drift in, also completely pumped. They set up a feeble shout when
they saw the dead lion. It was a good maned beast, three feet six
inches at the shoulder, and nine feet long.
We left Fundi with the lion, instructing him to stay there until
some of the other men came up. We remounted and pushed on slowly in
hopes of coming on one of the others.
Here and there we rode, our courses interweaving, looking eagerly.
And lo! through a tiny opening in the brush we espied one of those
elusive gerenuk standing not over one hundred yards away. Whereupon I
dismounted and did some of the worst shooting I perpetrated in Africa,
for I let loose three times at him before I landed. But land I did,
and there was one Lesser Hoodoo broken. Truly this was our day.
We measured him and started to prepare the trophy, when to us came
Mavrouki and a porter, quite out of breath, but able to tell us that
they had been scouting around and had seen two of the lions. Then,
instead of leaving one up a tree to watch, both had come pell-mell to
tell us all about it. We pointed this out to them, and called their
attention to the fact that the brush was wide, that lions are not
stationary objects, and that, unlike the leopard, they can change
their spots quite readily. However, we remounted and went to take a
Of course there was nothing. So we rode on, rather aimlessly,
weaving in and out of the bushes and open spaces. I think we were all
a little tired from the long day and the excitement, and hence a bit
listless. Suddenly we were fairly shaken out of our saddles by an
angry roar just ahead. Usually a lion growls, low and thunderous, when
he wants, to warn you that you have gone about far enough; but this
one was angry all through at being followed about so much, and he just
plain yelled at us.
He crouched near a bush forty yards away, and was switching his
tail. I had heard that this was a sure premonition of an instant
charge, but I had not before realized exactly what "switching the
tail" meant. I had thought of it as a slow sweeping from side to
side, after the manner of the domestic cat. This lion's tail was
whirling perpendicularly from right to left, and from left to right
with the speed and energy of a flail actuated by a particularly
instantaneous kind of machinery. I could see only the outline of the
head and this vigorous tail; but I took instant aim and let drive. The
whole affair sank out of sight.
We made a detour around the dead lion without stopping to examine
him, shouting to one of the men to stay and watch the carcass. Billy
alone seemed uninfected with the now prevalent idea that we were
likely to find lions almost anywhere. Her skepticism was justified. We
found no more lions; but another miracle took place for all that. We
ran across the second imbecile gerenuk, and B. collected it! These two
were the only ones we ever got within decent shot of, and they
sandwiched themselves neatly with lions. Truly, it WAS our day.
After a time we gave it up, and went back to measure and
photograph our latest prize. It proved to be a male, maneless, two
inches shorter than that killed by B., and three feet five and one
half inches tall at the shoulder. My bullet had reached the brain just
over the left eye.
Now, toward sunset, we headed definitely toward camp. The long
shadows and beautiful lights of evening were falling across the hills
far the other side the Isiola. A little breeze with a touch of
coolness breathed down from distant unseen Kenia. We plodded on
through the grass quite happily, noting the different animals coming
out to the cool of the evening. The line of brush that marked the
course of the Isiola came imperceptibly nearer until we could make out
the white gleam of the porters' tents and wisps of smoke curling
Then a small black mass disengaged itself from the camp and came
slowly across the prairie in our direction. As it approached we made
it out to be our Monumwezis, twenty strong. The news of the lions had
reached them, and they were coming to meet us. They were huddled in a
close knot, their heads inclined toward the centre. Each man carried
upright a peeled white wand. They moved in absolute unison and rhythm,
on a slanting zigzag in our direction: first three steps to the right,
then three to the left, with a strong stamp of the foot between. Their
bodies swayed together. Sulimani led them, dancing backward, his wand
"Sheeka!" he enunciated in a piercing half whistle.
And the swaying men responded in chorus, half hushed, rumbling,
with strong aspiration.
"Goom zoop! goom zoop!"
When fifty yards from us, however, the formation broke and they
rushed us with a yell. Our horses plunged in astonishment, and we had
hard work to prevent their bolting, small blame to 'em! The men
surrounded us, shaking our hands frantically. At once they
appropriated everything we or our gunbearers carried. One who got
left otherwise insisted on having Billy's parasol. Then we all broke
for camp at full speed, yelling like fiends, firing our revolvers in
the air. It was a grand entry, and a grand reception. The rest of the
camp poured out with wild shouts. The dark forms thronged about us,
teeth flashing, arms waving. And in the background, under the shadows
of the trees were the Monumwezis, their formation regained, close
gathered, heads bent, two steps swaying to the right-stamp! two steps
swaying to the left-stamp!-the white wands gleaming, and the rumble of
their lion song rolling in an undertone:
"Goom zoop! goom zoop!"
XV. THE LION DANCE
We took our hot baths and sat down to supper most gratefully, for
we were tired. The long string of men, bearing each a log of wood,
filed in from the darkness to add to our pile of fuel. Saa-sita and
Shamba knelt and built the night fire. In a moment the little flame
licked up through the carefully arranged structure. We finished the
meal, and the boys whisked away the table.
Then out in the blackness beyond our little globe of light we
became aware of a dull confusion, a rustling to and fro. Through the
shadows the eye could guess at movement. The confusion steadied to a
kind of rhythm, and into the circle of the fire came the group of
Monumwezis. Again they were gathered together in a compact little
mass; but now they were bent nearly double, and were stripped to the
red blankets about their waists. Before them writhed Sulimani, close
to earth, darting irregularly now to right, now to left, wriggling,
spreading his arms abroad. He was repeating over and over two phrases;
or rather the same phrase in two such different intonations that they
seemed to convey quite separate meanings.
"Ka soompeele?" he cried with a strongly appealing interrogation.
"Ka soompeele!" he repeated with the downward inflection of
And the bent men, their dark bodies gleaming in the firelight,
stamping in rhythm every third step, chorused in a deep rumbling
"Goom zoop! goom zoop!"
Thus they advanced; circled between us and the fire, and withdrew
to the half darkness, where tirelessly they continued the same
Hardly had they withdrawn when another group danced forward in
their places. These were the Kikuyus. They had discarded completely
their safari clothes, and now came forth dressed out in skins, in
strips of white cloth, with feathers, shells and various ornaments.
They carried white wands to represent spears, and they sang their
tribal lion song. A soloist delivered the main argument in a high
wavering minor and was followed by a deep rumbling emphatic chorus of
repetition, strongly accented so that the sheer rhythm of it was most
"An-gee a Ka ga An-gee a Ka ga An-gee a Ka ga Ki ya Ka ga Ka ga an
Solemnly and loftily, their eyes fixed straight before them they
made the circle of the fire, passed before our chairs, and withdrew
to the half light. There, a few paces from the stamping, crouching
Monumwezis, they continued their performance.
The next to appear were the Wakambas. These were more histrionic.
They too were unrecognizable as our porters, for they too had for the
lion discarded their work-a-day garments in favour of savage. They
produced a pantomime of the day's doings, very realistic indeed,
ending with a half dozen of dark swaying bodies swinging and
shuddering in the long grass as lions, while the "horses" wove in and
out among the crouching forms, all done to the beat of rhythm. Past us
swept the hunt, and in its turn melted into the half light.
The Kavirondos next appeared, the most fantastically caparisoned
of the lot, fine big black men, their eyes rolling with excitement.
They had captured our flag from its place before the big tent, and
were rallied close about this, dancing fantastically. Before us they
leaped and stamped and shook their spears and shouted out their
full-voiced song, while the other three tribes danced each its
specialty dimly in the background.
The dance thus begun lasted for fully two hours. Each tribe took a
turn before us, only to give way to the next. We had leisure to
notice minutiae, such as the ingenious tail one of the "lions" had
constructed from a sweater. As time went on, the men worked themselves
to a frenzy. From the serried ranks every once in a while one would
break forth with a shriek to rush headlong into the fire, to beat the
earth about him with his club, to rush over to shake one of us
violently by the hand, or even to seize one of our feet between his
two palms. Then with equal abruptness back he darted to regain his
place among the dancers. Wilder and wilder became the movements,
higher rose the voices. The mock lion hunt grew more realistic, and
the slaughter on both sides something tremendous. Lower and lower
crouched the Monumwezi, drawing apart with their deep "goom"; drawing
suddenly to a common centre with the sharp "zoop!" Only the Kikuyus
held their lofty bearing as they rolled forth their chant, but the
mounting excitement showed in their tense muscles and the rolling of
their eyes. The sweat glistened on naked black and bronze bodies.
Among the Monumwezi to my astonishment I saw Memba Sasa, stripped like
the rest, and dancing with all abandon. The firelight leaped high
among the logs that eager hands cast on it; and the shadows it threw
from the swirling, leaping figures wavered out into a great, calm
The night guard understood a little of the native languages, so he
stood behind our chairs and told us in Swahili the meaning of some of
the repeated phrases.
"This has been a glorious day; few safaris have had so glorious a
"The masters looked upon the fierce lions and did not run away."
"Brave men without other weapons will nevertheless kill with a
"The masters' mothers must be brave women, the masters are so
"The white woman went hunting, and so were many lions killed."
The last one pleased Billy. She felt that at last she was
We sat there spellbound by the weird savagery of the spectacle-the
great licking fire, the dancing, barbaric figures, the rise and fall
of the rhythm, the dust and shuffle, the ebb and flow of the dance,
the dim, half-guessed groups swaying in the darkness-and overhead the
calm tropic night.
At last, fairly exhausted, they stopped. Some one gave a signal.
The men all gathered in one group, uttered a final yell, very like a
cheer, and dispersed.
We called up the heroes of the day-Fundi and his companion-and
made a little speech, and bestowed appropriate reward. Then we turned
Fundi, as I have suggested, was built very much on the lines of
the marabout stork. He was about twenty years old, carried himself
very erect, and looked one straight in the eye. His total assets when
he came to us were a pair of raggedy white breeches, very baggy, and
an old mesh undershirt, ditto ditto. To this we added a jersey, a red
blanket, and a water bottle. At the first opportunity he constructed
himself a pair of rawhide sandals.
Throughout the first part of the trip he had applied himself to
business and carried his load. He never made trouble. Then he and his
companion saw five lions; and the chance Fundi had evidently long been
awaiting came to his hand. He ran himself almost into coma, exhibited
himself game, and so fell under our especial and distinguished notice.
After participating whole-heartedly in the lion dance he and his
companion were singled out for Our Distinguished Favour, to the extent
of five rupees per. Thus far Fundi's history reads just like the
history of any ordinary Captain of Industry.
Next morning, after the interesting ceremony of rewarding the
worthy, we moved on to a new camp. When the line-up was called for,
lo! there stood Fundi, without a load, but holding firmly my
double-barrelled rifle. Evidently he had seized the chance of
favour-and the rifle-and intended to be no longer a porter but a
This looked interesting, so we said nothing. Fundi marched the day
through very proudly. At evening he deposited the rifle in the proper
place, and set to work with a will at raising the big tent.
The day following he tried it again. It worked. The third day he
marched deliberately up past the syce to take his place near me. And
the fourth day, as we were going hunting, Fundi calmly fell in with
the rest. Nothing had been said, but Fundi had definitely grasped his
chance to rise from the ranks. In this he differed from his companion
in glory. That worthy citizen pocketed his five rupees and was never
heard from again; I do not even remember his name nor how he looked.
I killed a buck of some sort, and Memba Sasa, as usual, stepped
forward to attend to the trophy. But I stopped him.
"Fundi," said I, "if you are a gunbearer, prepare this beast."
He stepped up confidently and set to work. I watched him closely.
He did it very well, without awkwardness, though he made one or two
minor mistakes in method.
"Have you done this before?" I inquired.
"How did you learn to do it?"
"I have watched the gunbearers when I was a porter bringing in
*Except in the greatest emergencies a gunbearer would never think
of carrying any sort of a burden.
This was pleasing, but it would never do, at this stage of the
game, to let him think so, neither on his own account nor that of the
"You will bring in meat today also," said I, for I was indeed a
little shorthanded, "and you will learn how to make the top incision
When we had reached camp I handed him the Springfield.
"Clean this," I told him.
He departed with it, returning it after a time for my inspection.
It looked all right. I catechized him on the method he had
employed-for high velocities require very especial treatment-and
found him letter perfect.
"You learned this also by watching?"
"Yes, bwana, I watched the gunbearers by the fire, evenings."
Evidently Fundi had been preparing for his chance.
Next day, as he walked alongside, I noticed that he had not
removed the leather cap, or sight protector, that covers the end of
the rifle and is fastened on by a leather thong. Immediately I called
"Fundi," said I, "do you know that the cover should be in your
pocket? Suppose a rhinoceros jumps up very near at hand: how can you
get time to unlace the thong and hand me the rifle?"
He thrust the rifle at me suddenly. In some magical fashion the
sight cover had disappeared!
"I have thought of this," said he, "and I have tied the thong, so,
in order that it come away with one pull; and I snatch it off, so,
with my left hand while I am giving you the gun with my right hand. It
seemed good to keep the cover on, for there are many branches, and the
sight is very easy to injure."
Of course this was good sense, and most ingenious; Fundi bade fair
to be quite a boy, but the native African is very easily spoiled.
Therefore, although my inclination was strongly to praise him, I did
nothing of the sort.
"A gunbearer carries the gun away from the branches," was my only
Shortly after occurred an incident by way of deeper test. We were
all riding rather idly along the easy slope below the foothills. The
grass was short, so we thought we could see easily everything there
was to be seen; but, as we passed some thirty yards from a small tree,
an unexpected and unnecessary rhinoceros rose from an equally
unexpected and unnecessary green hollow beneath the tree, and charged
us. He made straight for Billy. Her mule, panic-stricken, froze with
terror in spite of Billy's attack with a parasol. I spurred my own
animal between her and the charging brute, with some vague idea of
slipping off the other side as the rhino struck. F. and B. leaped from
their own animals, and F., with a little .28 calibre rifle, took a
hasty shot at the big brute. Now, of course a .28 calibre rifle would
hardly injure a rhino, but the bullet happened to catch his right
shoulder just as he was about to come down on his right foot. The
shock tripped him up as neatly as though he had been upset by a rope.
At the same instant Billy's mule came to its senses and bolted,
whereupon I too jumped off. The whole thing took about two finger
snaps of time. At the instant I hit the ground, Fundi passed the
double rifle across the horse's back to me.
Note two things to the credit of Fundi: in the first place, he had
not bolted; in the second place, instead of running up to the left
side of my mount and perhaps colliding with and certainly confusing
me, he had come up on the right side and passed the rifle to me ACROSS
the horse. I do not know whether or not he had figured this out
beforehand, but it was cleverly done.
The rhinoceros rolled over and over, like a shot rabbit, kicked
for a moment, and came to his feet. We were now all ready for him, in
battle array, but he had evidently had enough. He turned at right
angles and trotted off, apparently-and probably-none the worse for the
little bullet in his shoulder.
Fundi now began acquiring things that he supposed befitting to his
dignity. The first of these matters was a faded fez, in which he stuck
a long feather. From that he progressed in worldly wealth. How he got
it all, on what credit, or with what hypnotic power, I do not know.
Probably he hypothecated his wages, certainly he had his five rupees.
At any rate he started out with a ragged undershirt and a pair of
white, baggy breeches. He entered Nairobi at the end of the trip with
a cap, a neat khaki shirt, two water bottles, a cartridge belt, a sash
with a tasseI, a pair of spiral puttees, an old pair of shoes, and a
personal private small boy, picked up en route from some of the savage
tribes, to carry his cooking pot, make his fires, draw his water, and
generally perform his lordly behests. This was indeed
>From now on Fundi considered himself my second gunbearer. I had
no use for him, but Fundi's development interested me, and I wanted
to give him a chance. His main fault at first was eagerness. He had to
be rapped pretty sharply and a good number of times before he
discovered that he really must walk in the rear. His habit of calling
my attention to perfectly obvious things I cured by liberal sarcasm.
His intense desire to take his own line as perhaps opposed to mine
when we were casting about on trail, I abated kindly but firmly with
the toe of my boot. His evident but mistaken tendency to consider
himself on an equality with Memba Sasa we both squelched by giving him
the hard and dirty work to do. But his faults were never those of
voluntary omission, and he came on surprisingly; in fact so
surprisingly that he began to get quite cocky over it. Not that he was
ever in the least aggressive or disrespectful or neglectful-it would
have been easy to deal with that sort of thing-but he carried his
head pretty high, and evidently began to have mental reservations.
Fundi needed a little wholesome discipline. He was forgetting his
porter days, and was rapidly coming to consider himself a full-fledged
The occasion soon arose. We were returning from a buffalo hunt and
ran across two rhinoceroses, one of which carried a splendid horn. B.
wanted a well developed specimen very much, so we took this chance.
The approach was easy enough, and at seventy yards or so B. knocked
her flat with a bullet from his .465 Holland. The beast was
immediately afoot, but was as promptly smothered by shots from us all.
So far the affair was very simple, but now came complication. The
second rhinoceros refused to leave. We did not want to kill it, so we
spent a lot of time and pains shooing it away. We showered rocks and
clods of earth in his direction; we yelled sharply and whistled
shrilly. The brute faced here and there, his pig eyes blinking, his
snout upraised, trying to locate us, and declining to budge. At length
he gave us up as hopeless, and trotted away slowly. We let him go, and
when we thought he had quite departed, we approached to examine B.'s
Whereupon the other craftily returned; and charged us, snorting
like an engine blowing off steam. This was a genuine premeditated
charge, as opposed to a blind rush, and it is offered as a good
example of the sort.
The rhinoceros had come fairly close before we got into action. He
headed straight for F. and myself, with B. a little to one side.
Things happened very quickly. F. and I each planted a heavy bullet in
his head; while B. sent a lighter Winchester bullet into the ribs. The
rhino went down in a heap eleven yards away, and one of us promptly
shot him in the spine to finish him.
Personally I was entirely concentrated in the matter at hand-as is
always the way in crises requiring action-and got very few impressions
from anything outside. Nevertheless I imagined, subconsciously that I
had heard four shots. F. and B. disclaimed more than one apiece, so I
concluded myself mistaken, exchanged my heavy rifle with Fundi for the
lighter Winchester, and we started for camp, leaving all the boys to
attend to the dead rhinos. At camp I threw down the lever of my
Winchester-and drew out an exploded shell!
Here was a double crime on Fundi's part. In the first place, he
had fired the gun, a thing no bearer is supposed ever to do in any
circumstances short of the disarmament and actual mauling of his
master. Naturally this is so, for the white man must be able in an
emergency to depend ABSOLUTELY on his second gun being loaded and
ready for his need. In the second place, Fundi had given me an empty
rifle to carry home. Such a weapon is worse than none in case of
trouble; at least I could have gone up a tree in the latter case. I
would have looked sweet snapping that old cartridge at anything
Therefore after supper we stationed ourselves in a row before the
fire, seated in our canvas chairs, and with due formality sent word
that we wanted all the gunbearers. They came and stood before us.
Memba Sasa erect, military, compact, looking us straight in the eye;
Mavrouki slightly bent forward, his face alive with the little crafty,
calculating smile peculiar to him; Simba, tall and suave, standing
with much social ease; and Fundi, a trifle frightened, but uncertain
as to whether or not he had been found out.
We stated the matter in a few words.
"Gunbearers, this man Fundi, when the rhinoceros charged, fired
Winchi. Was this the work of a gunbearer?"
The three seasoned men looked at each other with shocked
astonishment that such depravity could exist.
"And being frightened, he gave back Winchi with the exploded
cartridge in her. Was that the work of a gunbearer?"
"No, bwana," said Fundi humbly.
"You, the gunbearers, have been called because we wish to know
what should be done with this man Fundi."
It should be here explained that it is not customary to kiboko, or
flog, men of the gunbearer class. They respect themselves and their
calling, and would never stand that sort of punishment. When one
blunders, a sarcastic scolding is generally sufficient; a more serious
fault may be punished on the spot by the white man's fist; or a really
bad dereliction may cause the man's instant degradation from the post.
With this in mind we had called the council of gunbearers. Memba Sasa
"Bwana," said he, "this man is not a true gunbearer. He is no
longer a true porter. He carries a gun in the field, like a
gunbearer; and he knows much of the duty of gunbearer. Also he does
not run away nor climb trees. But he carries in the meat; and he is
not a real gunbearer. He is half porter and half gunbearer."
"What punishment shall he have?"
"Kiboko," said they.
"Thank you. Bass!"
They went, leaving Fundi. We surveyed him, quietly.
"You a gunbearer!" said we at last. "Memba Sasa says you are half
gunbearer. He was wrong. You are all porter; and you know no more
than they do. It is in our mind to put you back to carrying a load.
If you do not wish to taste the kiboko, you can take a load
"The kiboko, bwana," pleaded Fundi, very abashed and humble.
"Furthermore," we added crushingly, "you did not even hit the
So with all ceremony he got the kiboko. The incident did him a lot
of good, and toned down his exuberance somewhat. Nevertheless he still
required a good deal of training, just as does a promising bird dog in
its first season. Generally his faults were of over-eagerness. Indeed,
once he got me thoroughly angry in face of another rhinoceros by
dancing just out of reach with the heavy rifle, instead of sticking
close to me where I could get at him. I temporarily forgot the rhino,
and advanced on Fundi with the full intention of knocking his fool
head off. Whereupon this six feet something of most superb and
insolent pride wilted down to a small boy with his elbow before his
"Don't hit, bwana! Don't hit!" he begged.
The whole thing was so comical, especially with Memba Sasa
standing by virtuous and scornful, that I had hard work to keep from
laughing. Fortunately the rhinoceros behaved himself.
The proud moment of Fundi's life was when safari entered Nairobi
at the end of the first expedition. He had gone forth with a load on
his head, rags on his back, and his only glory was the self-assumed
one of the name he had taken-Fundi, the Expert. He returned carrying a
rifle, rigged from top to toe in new garments and fancy accoutrements,
followed by a toro, or small boy, he had bought from some of the
savage tribes to carry his blanket and cooking pot for him. To the
friends who darted out to the line of march, he was gracious, but he
held his head high, and had no time for mere persiflage.
I did not take Fundi on my second expedition, for I had no real
use for a second gunbearer. Several times subsequently I saw him on
the streets of Nairobi. Always he came up to greet me, and ask
solicitously if I would not give him a job. This I was unable to do.
When we paid off, I had made an addition to his porter's wages, and
had written him a chit. This said that the boy had the makings of a
gunbearer with further training. It would have been unfair to possible
white employers to have said more. Fundi was, when I left the country,
precisely in the position of any young man who tries to rise in the
world. He would not again take a load as porter, and he was not yet
skilled enough or known enough to pick up more than stray jobs as
gunbearer. Before him was struggle and hard times, with a certainty of
a highly considered profession if he won through. Behind him was
steady work without outlets for ambition. It was distinctly up to him
to prove whether he had done well to reach for ambition, or whether he
would have done better in contentment with his old lot. And that is
in essence a good deal like our own world isn't it?
Up to this time, save for a few Masai at the very beginning of our
trip, we had seen no natives at all. Only lately, the night of the
lion dance, one of the Wanderobo-the forest hunters-had drifted in to
tell us of buffalo and to get some meat. He was a simple soul, small
and capable, of a beautiful red-brown, with his hair done up in a
tight, short queue. He wore three skewers about six inches long thrust
through each of his ears, three strings of blue beads on his neck, a
bracelet tight around his upper arm, a bangle around his ankle, a pair
of rawhide sandals, and about a half yard of cotton cloth which he
hung from one shoulder. As weapons he carried a round-headed, heavy
club, or runga, and a long-bladed spear. He led us to buffalo,
accepted a thirty-three cent blanket, and made fire with two sticks in
about thirty seconds. The only other evidences of human life we had
come across were a few beehives suspended in the trees. These were
logs, bored hollow and stopped at either end. Some of them were very
quaintly carved. They hung in the trees like strange fruits.
Now, however, after leaving the Isiola, we were to quit the game
country and for days travel among the swarming millions of the
A few preliminary and entirely random observations may be
permitted me by way of clearing the ground for a conception of these
people. These observations do not pretend to be ethnological, nor even
The first thing for an American to realize is that our own negro
population came mainly from the West Coast, and differed utterly from
these peoples of the highlands in the East. Therefore one must first
of all get rid of the mental image of our own negro "dressed up" in
savage garb. Many of these tribes are not negro at all-the Somalis,
the Nandi, and the Masai, for example-while others belong to the
negroid and Nilotic races. Their colour is general cast more on the
red-bronze than the black, though the Kavirondos and some others are
black enough. The texture of their skin is very satiny and wonderful.
This perfection is probably due to the constant anointing of the body
with oils of various sorts. As a usual thing they are a fine lot
physically. The southern Masai will average between six and seven feet
in height, and are almost invariably well built. Of most tribes the
physical development is remarkably strong and graceful; and a great
many of the women will display a rounded, firm, high-breasted physique
in marked contrast to the blacks of the lowlands. Of the different
tribes possibly the Kikuyus are apt to count the most weakly and
spindly examples: though some of these people, perhaps a majority, are
Furthermore, the native differentiates himself still further in
impression from our negro in his carriage and the mental attitude
that lies behind it. Our people are trying to pattern themselves on
white men, and succeed in giving a more or less shambling imitation
thereof. The native has standards, ideas, and ideals that perfectly
satisfy him, and that antedated the white man's coming by thousands of
years. The consciousness of this reflects itself in his outward
bearing. He does not shuffle; he is not either obsequious or impudent.
Even when he acknowledges the white man's divinity and pays it
appropriate respect, he does not lose the poise of his own
well-worked-out attitude toward life and toward himself.
We are fond of calling these people primitive. In the world's
standard of measurement they are primitive, very primitive indeed.
But ordinarily by that term, we mean also undeveloped, embryonic. In
that sense we are wrong. Instead of being at the very dawn of human
development, these people are at the end-as far as they themselves are
concerned. The original racial impulse that started them down the
years toward development has fulfilled its duty and spent its force.
They have worked out all their problems, established all their
customs, arranged the world and its phenomena in a philosophy to their
complete satisfaction. They have lived, ethnologists tell us, for
thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, just as we find
them to-day. From our standpoint that is in a hopeless intellectual
darkness, for they know absolutely nothing of the most elementary
subjects of knowledge. From their standpoint, however, they have
reached the highest DESIRABLE pinnacle of human development. Nothing
remains to be changed. Their customs, religions, and duties have been
worked out and immutably established long ago; and nobody dreams of
questioning either their wisdom or their imperative necessity. They
are the conservatives of the world.
Nor must we conclude-looking at them with the eyes of our own
civilization-that the savage is, from his standpoint, lazy and idle.
His life is laid out more rigidly than ours will be for a great many
thousands of years. From childhood to old age he performs his every
act in accord with prohibitions and requirements. He must remember
them all; for ignorance does not divert consequences. He must observe
them all; in pain of terrible punishments. For example, never may he
cultivate on the site of a grave; and the plants that spring up from
it must never be cut.* He must make certain complicated offerings
before venturing to harvest a crop. On crossing the first stream of a
journey he must touch his lips with the end of his wetted bow, wade
across, drop a stone on the far side, and then drink. If he cuts his
nails, he must throw the parings into a thicket. If he drink from a
stream, and also cross it, he must eject a mouthful of water back into
the stream. He must be particularly careful not to look his
mother-in-law in the face. Hundreds of omens by the manner of their
happening may modify actions, as, on what side of the road a
woodpecker calls, or in which direction a hyena or jackal crosses the
path, how the ground hornbill flies or alights, and the like. He must
notice these things, and change his plans according to their
occurrence. If he does not notice them, they exercise their influence
just the same. This does not encourage a distrait mental attitude.
Also it goes far to explain otherwise unexplainable visitations.
Truly, as Hobley says in his unexcelled work on the A-Kamba, "the life
of a savage native is a complex matter, and he is hedged round by all
sorts of rules and prohibitions, the infringement of which will
probably cause his death, if only by the intense belief he has in the
rules which guide his life."
*Customs are not universal among the different tribes. I am merely
For these rules and customs he never attempts to give a reason.
They are; and that is all there is to it. A mere statement: "This is
the custom" settles the matter finally. There is no necessity, nor
passing thought even, of finding any logical cause. The matter was
worked out in the mental evolution of remote ancestors. At that time,
perhaps, insurgent and Standpatter, Conservative and Radical fought
out the questions of the day, and the Muckrakers swung by their tails
and chattered about it. Those days are all long since over. The
questions of the world are settled forever. The people have passed
through the struggles of their formative period to the ultimate
highest perfection of adjustment to material and spiritual environment
of which they were capable under the influence of their original
Parenthetically, it is now a question whether or not an added
impulse can be communicated from without. Such an impulse must (a)
unsettle all the old beliefs, (b) inspire an era of skepticism, (c)
reintroduce the old struggle of ideas between the Insurgent and the
Standpatter, and Radical and the Conservative, (d) in the meantime
furnish, from the older civilization, materials, both in the
thought-world and in the object-world, for building slowly a new set
of customs more closely approximating those we are building for
ourselves. This is a longer and slower and more complicated affair
than teaching the native to wear clothes and sing hymns; or to build
houses and drink gin; but it is what must be accomplished step by step
before the African peoples are really civilized. I, personally, do not
think it can be done.
Now having, a hundred thousand years or so ago, worked out the
highest good of the human race, according to them, what must they say
to themselves and what must their attitude be when the white man has
come and has unrolled his carpet of wonderful tricks? The dilemma is
evident. Either we, as black men, must admit that our
hundred-thousand-year-old ideas as to what constitutes the highest
type of human relation to environment is all wrong, or else we must
evolve a new attitude toward this new phenomena. It is human nature to
do the latter. Therefore the native has not abandoned his old gods;
nor has he adopted a new. He still believes firmly that his way is the
best way of doing things, but he acknowledges the Superman.
To the Superman, with all races, anything is possible. Only our
Superman is an idea, and ideal. The native has his Superman before
him in the actual flesh.
We will suppose that our own Superman has appeared among us,
accomplishing things that apparantly contravene all our established
tenets of skill, of intellect, of possibility. It will be readily
acknowledged that such an individual would at first create some
astonishment. He wanders into a crowded hotel lobby, let us say,
evidently with the desire of going to the bar. Instead of pushing
laboriously through the crowd, he floats just above their heads, gets
his drink, and floats out again! That is levitation, and is probably
just as simple to him as striking a match is to you and me. After we
get thoroughly accustomed to him and his life, we are no longer vastly
astonished, though always interested, at the various manifestations of
his extraordinary powers. We go right along using the marvellous
wireless, aeroplanes, motor cars, constructive machinery, and the like
that make us confident-justly, of course-in that we are about the
smartest lot of people on earth. And if we see red, white, and blue
streamers of light crossing the zenith at noon, we do not manifest any
very profound amazement. "There's that confounded Superman again," we
mutter, if we happen to be busy. "I wonder what stunt he's going to do
A consideration of the above beautiful fable may go a little way
toward explaining the supposed native stolidity in the face of the
white man's wonders. A few years ago some misguided person brought a
balloon to Nairobi. The balloon interested the white people a lot, but
everybody was chiefly occupied wondering what the natives would do
when they saw THAT! The natives did not do anything. They gathered in
large numbers, and most interestedly watched it go up, and then went
home again. But they were not stricken with wonder to any great
extent. So also with locomotives, motor cars, telephones,
phonographs-any of our modern ingenuities. The native is pleased and
entertained, but not astonished. "Stupid creature, no imagination,"
say we, because our pride in showing off is a wee bit hurt.
Why should he be astonished? His mental revolution took place when
he saw the first match struck. It is manifestly impossible for any one
to make fire instantaneously by rubbing one small stick. When for the
first time he saw it done, he was indeed vastly astounded. The
immutable had been changed. The law had been transcended. The
impossible had been accomplished. And then, as logical sequence, his
mind completed the syllogism. If the white man can do this
impossibility, why not all the rest? To defy the laws of nature by
flying in the air or forcing great masses of iron to transport one, is
no more wonderful than to defy them by striking a light. Since the
white man can provedly do one, what earthly reason exists why he
should not do anything else that hits his fancy? There is nothing to
get astonished at.
This does not necessarily mean that the native looks on the white
man as a god. On the contrary, your African is very shrewd in the
reading of character. But indubitably white men possess great magic,
uncertain in its extent.
That is as far as I should care to go, without much deeper
acquaintance, into the attitude of the native mind toward the whites.
A superficial study of it, beyond the general principals I have
enunciated, discloses many strange contradictions. The native respects
the white man's warlike skill, he respects his physical prowess, he
certainly acknowledges tacitly his moral superiority in the right to
command. In case of dispute he likes the white man's adjudication; in
case of illness the man's medicine; in case of trouble the white man's
sustaining hand. Yet he almost never attempts to copy the white man's
appearance or ways of doing things. His own savage customs and habits
he fulfils with as much pride as ever in their eternal fitness. Once
I was badgering Memba Sasa, asking him whether he thought the white
skin or the black skin the more ornamental. "You are not white," he
retorted at last. "That," pointing to a leaf of my notebook, "is
white. You are red. I do not like the looks of red people."
They call our speech the "snake language," because of its hissing
sound. Once this is brought to your attention, indeed, you cannot
help noticing the superabundance of the sibilants.
A queer melange the pigeonholes of an African's brain must
contain-fear and respect, strongly mingled with clear estimate of
intrinsic character of individuals and a satisfaction with his own
Nor, I think, do we realize sufficiently the actual fundamental
differences between the African and our peoples. Physically they must
be in many ways as different from our selves as though they actually
belonged to a different species. The Masai are a fine big race,
enduring, well developed and efficient. They live exclusively on cow's
milk mixed with blood; no meat, no fruit, no vegetables, no grain;
just that and nothing more. Obviously they must differ from us most
radically, or else all our dietetic theories are wrong. It is a
well-known fact that any native requires a triple dose of white man's
medicine. Furthermore a native's sensitiveness to pain is very much
less than the white man's. This is indubitable. For example, the
Wakamba file-or, rather, chip, by means of a small chisel-all their
front teeth down to needle points, When these happen to fall out, the
warrior substitutes an artificial tooth which he drives down into the
socket. If the savage got the same effects from such a performance
that a white man's dental system would arouse, even "savage stoicism"
would hardly do him much good. There is nothing to be gained by
multiplying examples. Every African traveller can recall a thousand.
Incidentally, and by the way, I want to add to the milk-and-blood
joke on dietetics another on the physical culturists. We are all
familiar with the wails over the loss of our toe nails. You know what
I mean; they run somewhat like this: shoes are the curse of
civilization; if we wear them much longer we shall not only lose the
intended use of our feet, but we shall lose our toe nails as well; the
savage man, etc. , etc. , etc. Now I saw a great many of said savage
men in Africa, and I got much interested in their toe nails, because I
soon found that our own civilized "imprisoned" toe nails were very
much better developed. In fact, a large number of the free and
untramelled savages have hardly any toe nails at all! Whether this
upsets a theory, nullifies a sentimental protest, or merely stands as
an exception, I should not dare guess. But the fact is indubitable.
XVIII. IN THE JUNGLE (a) THE MARCH TO MERU
Now, one day we left the Isiola River and cut across on a long
upward slant to the left. In a very short time we had left the
plains, and were adrift in an ocean of brown grass that concealed all
but the bobbing loads atop the safari, and over which we could only
see when mounted. It was glorious feed, apparently, but it contained
very few animals for all that. An animal could without doubt wax fat
and sleek therein: but only to furnish light and salutary meals to
beasts of prey. Long grass makes easy stalking. We saw a few
ostriches, some giraffe, and three or four singly adventurous oryx.
The ripening grasses were softer than a rippling field grain; and even
more beautiful in their umber and browns. Although apparently we
travelled a level, nevertheless in the extreme distance the plains of
our hunting were dropping below, and the far off mountains were slowly
rising above the horizon. On the other side were two very green hills,
looking nearly straight up and down, and through a cleft the
splintered snow-clad summit of Mt. Kenia.
At length this gentle foothill slope broke over into rougher
country. Then, in the pass, we came upon many parallel beaten paths,
wider and straighter than the game trails-native tracks. That night we
camped in a small, round valley under some glorious trees, with green
grass around us; a refreshing contrast after the desert brown. In the
distance ahead stood a big hill, and at its base we could make out
amid the tree-green, the straight slim smoke of many fires and the
threads of many roads.
We began our next morning's march early, and we dropped over the
hill into a wide, cultivated valley. Fields of grain, mostly rape,
were planted irregularly among big scattered trees. The morning air,
warming under the sun, was as yet still, and carried sound well. The
cooing, chattering and calling of thousands of birds mingled with
shouts and the clapping together of pieces of wood. As we came closer
we saw that every so often scaffolds had been erected overlooking the
grain, and on these scaffolds naked boys danced and yelled and worked
clappers to scare the birds from the crops. They seemed to put a great
deal of rigour into the job; whether from natural enthusiasm or
efficient direful supervision I could not say. Certainly they must
have worked in watches, however; no human being could keep up that row
continuously for a single day, let alone the whole season of ripening
grain. As we passed they fell silent and stared their fill.
On the banks of a boggy little stream that we had to flounder
across we came on a gentleman and lady travelling. They were a tall,
well formed pair, mahogany in colour, with the open, pleasant
expression of most of these jungle peoples. The man wore a string
around his waist into which was thrust a small leafy branch; the woman
had on a beautiful skirt made by halving a banana leaf, using the stem
as belt, and letting the leaf part hang down as a skirt. Shortly after
meeting these people we turned sharp to the right on a well beaten
For nearly two weeks we were to follow this road, so it may be as
well to get an idea of it. Its course was a segment of about a sixth
of the circle of Kenia's foothills. With Kenia itself as a centre,
this road swung among the lower elevations about the base of that
great mountain. Its course was mainly down and up hundreds of the
canyons radiating from the main peak, and over the ridges between
them. No sooner were we down, than we had to climb up; and no sooner
were we up, than once more down we had to plunge. At times, however,
we crossed considerable plateaus. Most of this country was dense
jungle, so dense that we could not see on either side more than
fifteen or twenty feet. Occasionally, atop the ridges, however, we
would come upon small open parks. In these jungles live millions of
At once, as soon as we had turned into the main road, we began to
meet people. In the grain fields of the valley we saw only the
elevated boys, and a few men engaged in weaving a little house
perched on stilts. We came across some of these little houses all
completed, with conical roofs. They were evidently used for
granaries. As we mounted the slope on the other side, however, the
trees closed in, and we found ourselves marching down the narrow aisle
of the jungle itself.
It was a dense and beautiful jungle, with very tall trees and the
deepest shade; and the impenetrable tangle to the edge of the track.
Among the trees were the broad leaves of bananas and palms, the fling
of leafy vines. Over the track these leaned, so that we rode through
splashing and mottling shade. Nothing could have seemed wilder than
this apparently impenetrable and yet we had ridden but a short
distance before we realized that we were in fact passing through
cultivated land. It was, again, only a difference in terms. Native
cultivation in this district rarely consists of clearing land and
planting crops in due order, but in leaving the forest proper as it
is, and in planting foodstuffs haphazard wherever a tiny space can be
made for even three hills of corn or a single banana. Thus they add to
rather than subtract from the typical density of the jungle. At first,
we found, it took some practice to tell a farm when we saw it.
>From the track narrow little paths wound immediately out of
sight. Sometimes we saw a wisp of smoke rising above the undergrowth
and eddying in the tops of the trees. Long vine ropes swung from point
to point, hung at intervals with such matters as feathers, bones,
miniature shields, carved sticks, shells and clappers: either as magic
or to keep off the birds. From either side the track we were conscious
always of bright black eyes watching us. Sometimes we caught a glimpse
of their owners crouched in the bush, concealed behind banana leaves,
motionless and straight against a tree trunk. When they saw themselves
observed they vanished without a sound.
The upper air was musical with birds, and bright with the flutter
of their wings. Rarely did we see them long enough to catch a fair
idea of their size and shape. They flashed from shade to shade,
leaving only an impression of brilliant colour. There were some
exceptions: as the widower-bird, dressed all in black, with long
trailing wing-plumes of which he seemed very proud; and the various
sorts of green pigeons and parrots. There were many flowering shrubs
and trees, and the air was laden with perfume. Strange, too, it seemed
to see tall trees with leaves three or four feet long and half as many
We were riding a mile or so ahead of the safari. At first we were
accompanied only by our gunbearers and syces. Before long, however,
we began to accumulate a following.
This consisted at first of a very wonderful young man, probably a
chief's son. He carried a long bright spear, wore a short sword
thrust through a girdle, had his hair done in three wrapped queues,
one over each temple and one behind, and was generally brought to a
high state of polish by means of red earth and oil. About his knee he
wore a little bell that jingled pleasingly at every step. From one
shoulder hung a goat-skin cloak embroidered with steel beads. A small
package neatly done up in leaves probably contained his lunch. He
teetered along with a mincing up and down step, every movement, and
the expression of his face displaying a fatuous self-satisfaction.
When we looked back again this youth had magically become two. Then
appeared two women and a white goat. All except the goat were dressed
for visiting, with long chains of beads, bracelets and anklets, and
heavy ornaments in the distended ear lobes. The manner people sprang
apparently out of the ground was very disconcerting. It was a good
deal like those fairy-story moving pictures where a wave of the wand
produces beautiful ladies. By half an hour we had acquired a long
retinue-young warriors, old men, women and innumerable children.
After we had passed, the new recruits stepped quietly from the shadow
of the jungle and fell in. Every one with nothing much to do evidently
made up his mind he might as well go to Meru now as any other time.
Also we met a great number of people going in the other direction.
Women were bearing loads of yams. Chiefs' sons minced along, their
spears poised in their left hands at just the proper angle, their
bangles jingling, their right hands carried raised in a most affected
manner. Their social ease was remarkable, especially in contrast with
the awkwardness of the lower poverty-stricken or menial castes. The
latter drew one side to let us pass, and stared. Our chiefs' sons, on
the other hand, stepped springingly and beamingly forward; spat
carefully in their hands (we did the same); shook hands all down the
line: exchanged a long-drawn "moo-o-ga!" with each of us; and departed
at the same springing rapid gait. The ordinary warriors greeted us,
but did not offer to shake hands, thank goodness! There were a great
many of them. Across the valleys and through the open spaces the sun,
as it struck down the trail, was always flashing back from distant
spears. Twice we met flocks of sheep being moved from one point to
another. Three or four herdsmen and innumerable small boys seemed to
be in charge. Occasionally we met a real chief or headman of a
village, distinguished by the fact that he or a servant carried a
small wooden stool. With these dignitaries we always stopped to
exchange friendly words.
These comprised the travelling public. The resident public also
showed itself quite in evidence. Once our retainers had become
sufficiently numerous to inspire confidence, the jungle people no
longer hid. On the contrary, they came out to the very edge of the
track to exchange greetings. They were very good-natured, exceedingly
well-formed, and quite jocular with our boys. Especially did our suave
and elegant Simba sparkle. This resident public, called from its daily
labours and duties, did not always show as gaudy a make-up as did the
dressed-up travelling public. Banana leaves were popular wear, and
seemed to us at once pretty and fresh. To be sure some had rather
withered away; but even wool will shrink. We saw some grass skirts,
like the Sunday-school pictures.
At noon we stopped under a tree by a little stream for lunch.
Before long a dozen women were lined up in front of us staring at
Billy with all their might. She nodded and smiled at them. Thereupon
they sent one of their number away. The messenger returned after a few
moments carrying a bunch of the small eating bananas which she laid at
our feet. Billy fished some beads out of her saddle bags, and
presented them. Friendly relations having been thus fully established,
two or three of the women scurried hastily away, to return a few
moments later each with her small child. To these infants they
carefully and earnestly pointed out Billy and her wonders, talking in
a tongue unknown to us. The admonition undoubtedly ran something like
"Now, my child, look well at this: for when you get to be a very
old person you will be able to look back at the day when with your
own eyes you beheld a white woman. See all the strange things she
wears-and HASN'T she a funny face?"
We offered these bung-eyed and totally naked youngsters various
bribes in the way of beads, the tinfoil from chocolate, and even a
small piece of the chocolate itself. Most of them howled and hid their
faces against their mothers. The mothers looked scandalized, and
hypocritically astounded, and mortified.
They made remarks, still in an unknown language, but which much
past experience enabled me to translate very readily:
"I don't know what has got into little Willie," was the drift of
it. "I have never known him to act this way before. Why, only
yesterday I was saying to his father that it really seemed as though
that child NEVER cried-"
It made me feel quite friendly and at home.
Now at last came two marvellous and magnificent personages before
whom the women and children drew back to a respectful distance. These
potentates squatted down and smiled at us engagingly. Evidently this
was a really important couple, so we called up Simba, who knew the
language, and had a talk.
They were old men, straight, and very tall, with the hawk-faced,
high-headed dignity of the true aristocrat. Their robes were
voluminous, of some short-haired skins, beautifully embroidered.
Around their arms were armlets of polished buffalo horn. They wore
most elaborate ear ornaments, and long cased marquise rings extending
well beyond the first joints of the fingers. Very fine old gentlemen.
They were quite unarmed.
After appropriate greetings, we learned that these were the chief
and his prime minister of a nearby village hidden in the jungle. We
exchanged polite phrases; then offered tobacco. This was accepted.
From the jungle came a youth carrying more bananas. We indicated our
pleasure. The old men arose with great dignity and departed, sweeping
the women and children before them.
We rode on. Our acquired retinue, which had waited at a respectful
distance, went on too. I suppose they must have desired the prestige
of being attached to Our Persons. In the depths of the forest Billy
succumbed to the temptation to bargain, and made her first trade. Her
prize was a long water gourd strapped with leather and decorated with
cowry shells. Our boys were completely scandalized at the price she
paid for it, so I fear the wily savage got ahead of her.
About the middle of the afternoon we sat down to wait for the
safari to catch up. It would never do to cheat our boys out of their
anticipated grand entrance to the Government post at Meru. We finally
debouched from the forest to the great clearing at the head of a most
impressive procession, flags flying, oryx horns blowing, boys chanting
and beating the sides of their loads with the safari sticks. As there
happened to be gathered, at this time, several thousand of warriors
for the purpose of a council, or shauri, with the District
Commissioner we had just the audience to delight our barbaric hearts.
The Government post at Meru is situated in a clearing won from the
forest on the first gentle slopes of Kenia's ranges. The clearing is
a very large one, and on it the grass grows green and short, like a
lawn. It resembles, as much as anything else, the rolling, beautiful
downs of a first-class country club, and the illusion is enhanced by
the Commissioner's house among some trees atop a hill. Well-kept
roadways railed with rustic fences lead from the house to the native
quarters lying in the hollow and to the Government offices atop
another hill. Then also there are the quarters of the Nubian troops;
round low houses with conical grass roofs.
These, and the presence everywhere of savages, rather take away
from the first country-club effect. A corral seemed full of a
seething mob of natives; we found later that this was the market, a
place of exchange. Groups wandered idly here and there across the
greensward; and other groups sat in circles under the shade of trees,
each man's spear stuck in the ground behind him. At stated points were
the Nubians, fine, tall, black, soldierly men, with red fez, khaki
shirt, and short breeches, bare knees and feet, spiral puttees, and a
broad red sash of webbing. One of these soldiers assigned us a place
to camp. We directed our safari there, and then immediately rode over
to pay our respects to the Commissioner.
The latter, Horne by name, greeted us with the utmost cordiality,
and offered us cool drinks. Then we accompanied him to a grand shauri
or council of chiefs.
Horne was a little chap, dressed in flannels and a big slouch hat,
carrying only a light rawhide whip, with very little of the dignity
and "side" usually considered necessary in dealing with wild natives.
The post at Meru had been established only two years, among a people
that had always been very difficult, and had only recently ceased open
hostilities. Nevertheless in that length of time Horne's personal
influence had won them over to positive friendliness. He had,
moreover, done the entire construction work of the post itself; and
this we now saw to be even more elaborate than we had at first
realized. Irrigating ditches ran in all directions brimming with clear
mountain water; the roads and paths were rounded, graded and
gravelled; the houses were substantial, well built and well kept;
fences, except of course the rustic, were whitewashed; the native
quarters and "barracks" were well ranged and in perfect order. The
place looked ten years old instead of only two.
We followed Horne to an enclosure, outside the gate of which were
stacked a great number of spears. Inside we found the owners of those
spears squatted before the open side of a small, three-walled building
containing a table and a chair. Horne placed himself in the chair,
lounged back, and hit the table smartly with his rawhide whip. From
the centre of the throng an old man got up and made quite a long
speech. When he had finished another did likewise. All was carried out
with the greatest decorum. After four or five had thus spoken, Horne,
without altering his lounging attitude, spoke twenty or thirty words,
rapped again on the table with his rawhide whip, and immediately came
over to us.
"Now," said he cheerfully, "we'll have a game of golf."
That was amusing, but not astonishing. Most of us have at one time
or another laid out a scratch hole or so somewhere in the vacant lot.
We returned to the house, Horne produced a sufficiency of clubs, and
we sallied forth. Then came the surprise of our life! We played
eighteen holes-eighteen, mind you-over an excellently laid-out and
kept-up course! The fair greens were cropped short and smooth by a
well-managed small herd of sheep; the putting greens were rolled, and
in perfect order; bunkers had been located at the correct distances;
there were water hazards in the proper spots. In short, it was a
genuine, scientific, well-kept golf course. Over it played Horne,
solitary except on the rare occasions when he and his assistant
happened to be at the post at the same time. The nearest white man was
six days' journey; the nearest small civilization 196 miles.* The
whole affair was most astounding.
*Which was, in turn, over three hundred miles from the next.
Our caddies were grinning youngsters a good deal like the Gold
Dust Twins. They wore nothing but our golf bags. Afield were other
supernumerary caddies: one in case we sliced, one in case we pulled,
and one in case we drove straight ahead. Horne explained that
unlimited caddies were easier to get than unlimited golf balls. I can
well believe it.
F. joined forces with Horne against B. and me for a grand
international match. I regret to state that America was defeated by
We returned to find our camp crowded with savages. In a short time
we had established trade relations and were doing a brisk business.
Two years before we should have had to barter exclusively; but now,
thanks to Horne's attempt to collect an annual hut tax, money was some
good. We had, however, very good luck with bright blankets and cotton
cloth. Our beads did not happen here to be in fashion. Probably three
months earlier or later we might have done better with them. The
feminine mind here differs in no basic essential from that of
civilization. Fashions change as rapidly, as often and as completely
in the jungle as in Paris. The trader who brings blue beads when blue
beads have "gone out" might just as well have stayed at home. We
bought a number of the pretty "marquise" rings for four cents apiece
(our money), some war clubs or rungas for the same, several spears,
armlets, stools and the like. Billy thought one of the short, soft
skin cloaks embroidered with steel beads might be nice to hang on the
wall. We offered a youth two rupees for one. This must have been a
high price, for every man in hearing of the words snatched off his
cloak and rushed forward holding it out. As that reduced his costume
to a few knick-knacks, Billy retired from the busy mart until we could
We dined with Horne. His official residence was most interesting.
The main room was very high to beams and a grass-thatched roof, with
a well-brushed earth floor covered with mats. It contained comfortable
furniture, a small library, a good phonograph, tables, lamps and the
like. When the mountain chill descended, Horne lit a fire in a
coal-oil can with a perforated bottom. What little smoke was produced
by the clean burning wood lost itself far aloft. Leopard skins and
other trophies hung on the wall. We dined in another room at a
well-appointed table. After dinner we sat up until the unheard of hour
of ten o'clock discussing at length many matters that interested us.
Horne told us of his personal bodyguard consisting of one son from
each chief of his wide district. These youths were encouraged to make
as good an appearance as possible, and as a consequence turned out in
the extreme of savage gorgeousness. Horne spoke of them carelessly as
a "matter of policy in keeping the different tribes well disposed,"
but I thought he was at heart a little proud of them. Certainly, later
and from other sources, we heard great tales of their endurance,
devotion and efficiency. Also we heard that Horne had cut in half his
six months' leave (earned by three years' continuous service in the
jungle) to hurry back from England because he could not bear the
thought of being absent from the first collection of the hut tax! He
is a good man.
We said good-night to him and stepped from the lighted house into
the vast tropical night. The little rays of our lantern showed us the
inequalities of the ground, and where to step across the bubbling,
little irrigation streams. But thousands of stars insisted on a
simplification. The broad, rolling meadows of the clearing lay half
guessed in the dim light; and about its edge was the velvet band of
the forest, dark and mysterious, stretching away for leagues into the
jungle. From it near at hand, far away, came the rhythmic beating of
solemn great drums, and the rising and falling chants of the savage
(C) THE CHIEFS
We left Meru well observed by a very large audience, much to the
delight of our safari boys, who love to show off. We had acquired
fourteen more small boys, or totos, ranging in age from eight to
twelve years. These had been fitted out by their masters to alleviate
their original shenzi appearance of savagery. Some had ragged
blankets, which they had already learned to twist turban wise around
their heads; others had ragged old jerseys reaching to their knees, or
the wrecks of full-grown undershirts; one or two even sported baggy
breeches a dozen sizes too large. Each carried his little load,
proudly, atop his head like a real porter, sufurias or cooking pots,
the small bags of potio, and the like. Inside a mile they had
gravitated together and with the small boy's relish for imitation and
for playing a game, had completed a miniature safari organization of
their own. Thenceforth they marched in a compact little company, under
orders of their "headman." They marched very well, too, straight and
proud and tireless. Of course we inspected their loads to see that
they were not required to carry too much for their strength; but, I am
bound to say, we never discovered an attempt at overloading. In fact,
the toto brigade was treated very well indeed. M'ganga especially took
great interest in their education and welfare. One of my most vivid
camp recollections is that of M'ganga, very benign and didactic,
seated on a chop box and holding forth to a semicircle of totos
squatted on the ground before him. On reaching camp totos had several
clearly defined duties: they must pick out good places for their
masters' individual camps, they must procure cooking stones, they must
collect kindling wood and start fires, they must fill the sufurias
with water and set them over to boil. In the meantime, their masters
were attending to the pitching of the bwana's camp. The rest of the
time the toto played about quite happily, and did light odd jobs, or
watched most attentively while his master showed him small details of
a safari-boy's duty, or taught him simple handicraft. Our boys seemed
to take great pains with their totos and to try hard to teach them.
Also at Meru we had acquired two cocks and four hens of the
ridiculously small native breed. These rode atop the loads: their
feet were tied to the cords and there they swayed and teetered and
balanced all day long, apparently quite happy and interested. At each
new camp site they were released and went scratching and clucking
around among the tents. They lent our temporary quarters quite a
settled air of domesticity. We named the cocks Gaston and Alphonse and
somehow it was rather fine, in the blackness before dawn, to hear
these little birds crowing stout-heartedly against the great African
wilderness. Neither Gaston, Alphonse nor any of their harem were
killed and eaten by their owners; but seemed rather to fulfil the
function of household pets.
Along the jungle track we met swarms of people coming in to the
post. One large native safari composed exclusively of women were
transporting loads of trade goods for the Indian trader. They carried
their burdens on their backs by means of a strap passing over the top
of the head; our own "tump line" method. The labour seemed in no way
to have dashed their spirits, for they grinned at us, and joked
merrily with our boys. Along the way, every once in a while, we came
upon people squatted down behind small stocks of sugarcane, yams,
bananas, and the like. With these our boys did a brisk trade. Little
paths led mysteriously into the jungle. Down them came more savages to
greet us. Everybody was most friendly and cheerful, thanks to Horne's
personal influence. Two years before this same lot had been hostile.
From every hidden village came the headmen or chiefs. They all wanted
to shake hands-the ordinary citizen never dreamed of aspiring to that
honour-and they all spat carefully into their palms before they did
so. This all had to be done in passing; for ordinary village headmen
it was beneath Our Dignity to draw rein. Once only we broke over this
rule. That was in the case of an old fellow with white hair who
managed to get so tangled up in the shrubbery that he could not get to
us. He was so frantic with disappointment that we made an exception
About three miles out, we lost one of our newly acquired totos.
Reason: an exasperated parent who had followed from Meru for the
purpose of reclaiming his runaway offspring. The latter was dragged
off howling. Evidently he, like some of his civilized cousins, had
"run away to join the circus." As nearly as we could get at it, the
rest of the totos, as well as the nine additional we picked up before
we quitted the jungle, had all come with their parents' consent. In
fact, we soon discovered that we could buy any amount of good sound
totos, not house broke however, for an average of half a rupee (16-1/2
The road was very much up and down hill over the numerous ridges
that star-fish out from Mt. Kenia. We would climb down steep trails
from 200 to 800 feet (measured by aneroid), cross an excellent
mountain stream of crystalline dashing water, and climb out again. The
trails of course had no notion of easy grades. It was very hard work,
especially for men with loads; and it would have been impossible on
account of the heat were it not for the numerous streams. On the
slopes and in the bottoms were patches of magnificent forest; on the
crests was the jungle, and occasionally an outlook over extended
views. The birds and the strange tropical big-leaved trees were a
constant delight-exotic and strange. Billy was in a heaven of joy, for
her specialty in Africa was plants, seeds and bulbs, for her
California garden. She had syces, gunbearers and tent boys all
climbing, shaking branches, and generally pawing about.
This idiosyncracy of Billy's puzzled our boys hugely. At first
they tried telling her that everything was poisonous; but when that
did not work, they resigned themselves to their fate. In fact, some of
the most enterprising like Memba Sasa, Kitaru, and, later, Kongoni
used of their own accord to hunt up and bring in seeds and blossoms.
They did not in the least understand what it was for; and it used to
puzzle them hugely until out of sheer pity for their uneasiness, I
implied that the Memsahib collected "medicine." That was rational, so
the wrinkled brow of care was smoothed. From this botanical trait,
Billy got her native name of "Beebee Kooletta"-"The Lady Who Says: Go
Get That." For in Africa every white man has a name by which he is
known among the native people. If you would get news of your friends,
you must know their local cognomens-their own white man names will not
do at all. For example, I was called either Bwana Machumwani or Bwana
N'goma. The former means merely Master Four-eyes, referring to my
glasses. The precise meaning of the latter is a matter much disputed
between myself and Billy. An N'goma is a native dance, consisting of
drum poundings, chantings, and hoppings around. Therefore I translate
myself (most appropriately) as the Master who Makes Merry. On the
other hand, Billy, with true feminine indirectness, insists that it
means "The Master who Shouts and Howls." I leave it to any fairminded
About the middle of the morning we met a Government runner, a
proud youth, young, lithe, with many ornaments and bangles; his red
skin glistening; the long blade of his spear, bound around with a red
strip to signify his office, slanting across his shoulder; his buffalo
hide shield slung from it over his back; the letter he was bearing
stuck in a cleft stick and carried proudly before him as a priest
carries a cross to the heathen-in the pictures. He was swinging along
at a brisk pace, but on seeing us drew up and gave us a smart military
At one point where the path went level and straight for some
distance, we were riding in an absolute solitude. Suddenly from the
jungle on either side and about fifty yards ahead of us leaped a dozen
women. They were dressed in grass skirts, and carried long narrow
wooden shields painted white and brown. These they clashed together,
shrieked shrilly, and charged down on us at full speed. When within a
few yards of our horses noses they came to a sudden halt, once more
clashed their shields, shrieked, turned and scuttled away as fast as
their legs could carry them. At a hundred yards they repeated the
performance; and charged back at us again. Thus advancing and
retreating, shrieking high, hitting the wooden shields with resounding
crash, they preceded our slow advance for a half mile or so. Then at
some signal unperceived by us they vanished abruptly into the jungle.
Once more we rode forward in silence and in solitude. Why they did it
I could not say.
Of this tissue were our days made. At noon our boys plucked us
each two or three banana leaves which they spread down for us to lie
on. Then we dozed through the hot hours in great comfort, occasionally
waking to blue sky through green trees, or to peer idly into the
tangled jungle. At two o'clock or a little later we would arouse
ourselves reluctantly and move on. The safari we had dimly heard
passing us an hour before. In this country of the direct track we did
not attempt to accompany our men.
The end of the day's march found us in a little clearing where we
could pitch camp. Generally this was atop a ridge, so that the boys
had some distance to carry water; but that disadvantage was outweighed
by the cleared space. Sometimes we found ourselves hemmed in by a wall
of jungle. Again we enjoyed a broad outlook. One such in especial took
in the magnificent, splintered, snow-capped peak of Kenia on the
right, a tremendous gorge and rolling forested mountains straight
ahead, and a great drop to a plain with other and distant mountains to
the left. It was as fine a panoramic view as one could imagine.
Our tents pitched, and ourselves washed and refreshed, we gave
audience to the resident chief, who had probably been waiting. With
this potentate we conversed affably, after the usual expectoratorial
ceremonies. Billy, being a mere woman, did not always come in for
this; but nevertheless she maintained what she called her "quarantine
gloves," and kept them very handy. We had standing orders with our
boys for basins of hot water to be waiting always behind our tents.
After the usual polite exchanges we informed the chief of our
needs-firewood, perhaps, milk, a sheep or the like. These he
furnished. When we left we made him a present of a few beads, a knife,
a blanket or such according to the value of his contribution.
To me these encounters were some of the most interesting of our
many experiences, for each man differed radically from every other in
his conceptions of ceremony, in his ideas, and in his methods. Our
coming was a good deal of an event, always, and each chief, according
to his temperament and training, tried to do things up properly. And
in that attempt certain basic traits of human nature showed in the
very strongest relief. Thus there are three points of view to take in
running any spectacle: that of the star performer, the stage manager,
or the truly artistic. We encountered well-marked specimens of each. I
will tell you about them.
The star performer knew his stagecraft thoroughly; and in the
exposition of his knowledge he showed incidentally how truly basic
are the principles of stagecraft anywhere.
We were seated under a tree near the banks of a stream eating our
lunch. Before us appeared two tall and slender youths, wreathed in
smiles, engaging, and most attentive to the small niceties of
courtesy. We returned their greeting from our recumbent positions,
whereupon they made preparation to squat down beside us.
"Are you sultans?" we demanded sternly, "that you attempt to sit
in Our Presence," and we lazily kicked the nearest.
Not at all abashed, but favourably impressed with our transcendent
importance-as we intended-they leaned gracefully on their spears and
entered into conversation. After a few trifles of airy persiflage they
got down to business.
"This," said they, indicating the tiny flat, "is the most
beautiful place to camp in all the mountains."
We doubted it.
"Here is excellent water."
We agreed to that.
"And there is no more water for a journey."
"You are liars," we observed politely.
"And near is the village of our chief, who is a great warrior, and
will bring you many presents; the greatest man in these parts."
"Now you're getting to it," we observed in English; "you want
trade." Then in Swahili, "We shall march two hours longer."
After a few polite phrases they went away. We finished lunch,
remounted, and rode up the trail. At the edge of the canyon we came
to a wide clearing, at the farther side of which was evidently the
village in question. But the merry villagers, down to the last toro,
were drawn up at the edge of the track in a double line through which
we rode. They were very wealthy savages, and wore it all. Bright neck,
arm, and leg ornaments, yards and yards of cowry shells in strings,
blue beads of all sizes (blue beads were evidently "in"), odd scraps
and shapes of embroidered skins, clean shaves and a beautiful polish
characterized this holiday gathering. We made our royal progress
between the serried ranks. About eight or ten seconds after we had
passed the last villager-just the proper dramatic pause, you
observe-the bushes parted and a splendid, straight, springy young man
came into view and stepped smilingly across the space that separated
us. And about eight or ten seconds after his emergence-again just the
right dramatic pause-the bushes parted again to give entrance to four
of the quaintest little dolls of wives. These advanced all abreast,
parted, and took up positions two either side the smiling chief. This
youth was evidently in the height of fashion, his hair braided in a
tight queue bound with skin, his ears dangling with ornaments, heavy
necklaces around his neck, and armlets etc., ad lib. His robe was of
fine monkey skin embroidered with rosettes of beads, and his spear was
very long, bright and keen. He was tall and finely built carried
himself with a free, lithe swing. As the quintette came to halt, the
villagers fell silent and our shauri began.
We drew up and dismounted. We all expectorated as gentlemen.
"These," said he proudly, "are my beebees."
We replied that they seemed like excellent beebees and politely
inquired the price of wives thereabout, and also the market for
totos. He gave us to understand that such superior wives as these
brought three cows and twenty sheep apiece, but that you could get a
pretty good toto for half a rupee.
"When we look upon our women," he concluded grandly, "we find them
good; but when we look upon the white women they are as nothing!" He
completely obliterated the poor little beebees with a magnificent
gesture. They looked very humble and abashed. I was, however, a bit
uncertain as to whether this was intended as a genuine tribute to
Billy, or was meant to console us for having only one to his four.
Now observe the stagecraft of all this: entrance of diplomats,
preliminary conversation introducing the idea of the greatness of
N'Zahgi (for that was his name), chorus of villagers, and, as climax,
dramatic entrance of the hero and heroines. It was pretty well done.
Again we stopped about the middle of the afternoon in an opening
on the rounded top of a hill. While waiting for the safari to come
up, Billy wandered away fifty or sixty yards to sit under a big tree.
She did not stay long. Immediately she was settled, a dozen women and
young girls surrounded her. They were almost uproariously
good-natured, but Billy was probably the first white woman they had
ever seen, and they intended to make the most of her. Every item of
her clothes and equipment they examined minutely, handled and
discussed. When she told them with great dignity to go away, they
laughed consumedly, fairly tumbling into each other's arms with excess
of joy. Billy tried to gather her effects for a masterly retreat, but
found the press of numbers too great. At last she had to signal for
help. One of us wandered over with a kiboko with which lightly he
flicked the legs of such damsels as he could reach. They scattered
like quail, laughing hilariously. Billy was escorted back to safety.
Shortly after the Chief and his Prime Minister came in. He was a
little old gray-haired gentleman, as spry as a cricket, quite
nervous, and very chatty. We indicated our wants to him, and he
retired after enunciating many words. The safari came in, made camp.
We had tea and a bath. The darkness fell; and still no Chief, no milk,
no firewood, no promises fulfilled. There were plenty of natives
around camp, but when we suggested that they get out and rustle on our
behalf, they merely laughed good-naturedly. We seriously contemplated
turning the whole lot out of camp.
Finally we gave it up, and sat down to our dinner. It was now
quite dark. The askaris had built a little campfire out in front.
Then, far in the distance of the jungle's depths, we heard a faint
measured chanting as of many people coming nearer. From another
direction this was repeated. The two processions approached each
other; their paths converged; the double chanting became a chorus that
grew moment by moment. We heard beneath the wild weird minors the
rhythmic stamping of feet, and the tapping of sticks. The procession
debouched from the jungle's edge into the circle of the firelight. Our
old chief led, accompanied by a bodyguard in all the panoply of war:
ostrich feather circlets enclosing the head and face, shields of
bright heraldry, long glittering spears. These were followed by a
dozen of the quaintest solemn dolls of beebees dressed in all the
white cowry shells, beads and brass the royal treasury afforded, very
earnest, very much on inspection, every little head uplifted, singing
away just as hard as ever they could. Each carried a gourd of milk, a
bunch of bananas, some sugarcane, yams or the like. Straight to the
fire marched the pageant. Then the warriors dividing right and left,
drew up facing each other in two lines, struck their spears upright in
the ground, and stood at attention. The quaint brown little women
lined up to close the end of this hollow square, of which our group
was, roughly speaking, the fourth side. Then all came to attention.
The song now rose to a wild and ecstatic minor chanting. The beebees,
still singing, one by one cast their burdens between the files and at
our feet in the middle of the hollow square. Then they continued their
chant, singing away at the tops of their little lungs, their eyes and
teeth showing, their pretty bodies held rigidly upright. The warriors,
very erect and military, stared straight ahead.
And the chief? Was he the centre of the show, the important
leading man, to the contemplation of whom all these glories led? Not
at all! This particular chief did not have the soul of a leading man,
but rather the soul of a stage manager. Quite forgetful of himself and
his part in the spectacle, his brow furrowed with anxiety, he was
flittering from one to another of the performers. He listened
carefully to each singer in turn, holding his hand behind his ear to
catch the individual note, striking one on the shoulder in admonition,
nodding approval at another. He darted unexpectedly across to
scrutinize a warrior, in the chance of catching a flicker of the
eyelid even. Nary a flicker! They did their stage manager credit, and
stood like magnificent bronzes. He even ran across to peer into our
own faces to see how we liked it.
With a sudden crescendo the music stopped. Involuntarily we broke
into handclapping. The old boy looked a bit startled at this, but we
explained to him, and he seemed very pleased. We then accepted
formally the heap of presents, by touching them-and in turn passed
over a blanket, a box of matches, and two needles, together with beads
for the beebees. Then F., on an inspiration, produced his flashlight.
This made a tremendous sensation. The women tittered and giggled and
blinked as its beams were thrown directly into their eyes; the chief's
sons grinned and guffawed; the chief himself laughed like a pleased
schoolboy, and seemed never to weary of the sudden shutting on and off
of the switch. But the trusty Spartan warriors, standing still in
their formation behind their planted spears, were not to be shaken.
They glared straight in front of them, even when we held the light
within a few inches of their eyes, and not a muscle quivered!
"It is wonderful! wonderful!" the old man repeated. "Many
Government men have come here, but none have had anything like that!
The bwanas must be very great sultans!"
After the departure of our friends, we went rather grandly to bed.
We always did after any one had called us sultans.
But our prize chief was an individual named M'booley.* Our camp
here also was on a fine cleared hilltop between two streams. After we
had traded for a while with very friendly and prosperous people
M'booley came in. He was young, tall, straight, with a beautiful
smooth lithe form, and his face was hawklike and cleverly intelligent.
He carried himself with the greatest dignity and simplicity, meeting
us on an easy plane of familiarity. I do not know how I can better
describe his manner toward us than to compare it to the manner the
member of an exclusive golf club would use to one who is a stranger,
but evidently a guest. He took our quality for granted; and supposed
we must do the same by him, neither acting as though he considered us
"great white men," nor yet standing aloof and too respectful. And as
the distinguishing feature of all, he was absolutely without personal
*Pronounce each o separately.
Pause for a moment to consider what a real advance in esthetic
taste that one little fact stands for. All M'booley's attendants were
the giddiest and gaudiest savages we had yet seen, with more colobus
fur, sleighbells, polished metal, ostrich plumes, and red paint than
would have fitted out any two other royal courts of the jungle. The
women too were wealthy and opulent without limit. It takes
considerable perception among our civilized people to realize that
severe simplicity amid ultra magnificence makes the most effective
distinguishing of an individual. If you do not believe it, drop in at
the next ball to which you are invited. M'booley had fathomed this,
and what was more he had the strength of mind to act on it. Any savage
loves finery for its own sake. His hair was cut short, and shaved away
at the edges to leave what looked like an ordinary close-fitting skull
cap. He wore one pair of plain armlets on his left upper arm and small
simple ear-rings. His robe was black. He had no trace of either oil or
paint, nor did he even carry a spear.
He greeted us with good-humoured ease, and inquired
conversationally if we wanted anything. We suggested wood and milk,
whereupon still smiling, he uttered a few casual words in his own
language to no one in particular. There was no earthly doubt that he
was chief. Three of the most gorgeous and haughty warriors ran out of
camp. Shortly long files of women came in bringing loads of firewood;
and others carrying bananas, yams, sugarcane and a sheep. Truly
M'booley did things on a princely scale. We thanked him. He accepted
the thanks with a casual smile, waved his hand and went on to talk of
something else. In due order our M'ganga brought up one of our best
trade blankets, to which we added a half dozen boxes of matches and a
Now into camp filed a small procession: four women, four children,
and two young men. These advanced to where M'booley was standing
smoking with great satisfaction one of B's tailor-made cigarettes.
M'booley advanced ten feet to meet them, and brought them up to
introduce them one by one in the most formal fashion. These were of
course his family, and we had to confess that they "saw" N'Zahgi's
outfit of ornaments and "raised" him beyond the ceiling. We gave them
each in turn the handshake of ceremony, first with the palms as we do
it, and then each grasping the other's upright thumb. The "little
chiefs" were proud, aristocratic little fellows, holding themselves
very straight and solemn. I think one would have known them for
It was quite a social occasion. None of our guests was in the
least ill at ease; in fact, the young ladies were quite coy and
flirtatious. We had a great many jokes. Each of the little ladies
received a handful of prevailing beads. M'booley smiled benignly at
these delightful femininities. After a time he led us to the edge of
the hill and showed us his houses across the cation, perched on a flat
about halfway up the wall. They were of the usual grass-thatched
construction, but rather larger and neater than most. Examining them
through the glasses we saw that a little stream had been diverted to
flow through the front yard. M'booley waved his hand abroad and gave
us to understand that he considered the outlook worth looking at. It
was; but an appreciation of that fact is foreign to the average
native. Next morning, when we rode by very early, we found the little
flat most attractively cleared and arranged. M'booley was out to shake
us by the hand in farewell, shivering in the cold of dawn. The
flirtatious and spoiled little beauties were not in evidence.
One day after two very deep canyons we emerged from the forest
jungle into an up and down country of high jungle bush-brush. >From
the top of a ridge it looked a good deal like a northern cut-over pine
country grown up very heavily to blackberry vines; although, of
course, when we came nearer, the "blackberry vines" proved to be ten
or twenty feet high. This was a district of which Horne had warned us.
The natives herein were reported restless and semi-hostile; and in
fact had never been friendly. They probably needed the demonstration
most native tribes seem to require before they are content to settle
down and be happy. At any rate safaris were not permitted in their
district; and we ourselves were allowed to go through merely because
we were a large party, did not intend to linger, and had a good
reputation with natives.
It is very curious how abruptly, in Central Africa, one passes
from one condition to another, from one tribe or race to the next.
Sometimes, as in the present case, it is the traversing of a deep
cation; at others the simple crossing of a tiny brook is enough.
Moreover the line of demarcation is clearly defined, as boundaries
elsewhere are never defined save in wartime.
Thus we smiled our good-bye to a friendly numerous people,
descended a hill, and ascended another into a deserted track. After a
half mile we came unexpectedly on to two men carrying each a load of
reeds. These they abandoned and fled up the hillside through the
jungle, in spite of our shouted assurances. A moment later they
reappeared at some distance above us, each with a spear he had
snatched from somewhere; they were unarmed when we first caught sight
of them. Examined through the glasses they proved to be sullen looking
men, copper coloured, but broad across the cheekbones, broad in the
forehead, more decidedly of the negro type than our late hosts.
Aside from these two men we travelled through an apparently
deserted jungle. I suspect, however, that we were probably well
watched; for when we stopped for noon we heard the gunbearers beyond
the screen of leaves talking to some one. On learning from our boys
that these were some of the shenzis, we told them to bring the savages
in for a shauri; but in this our men failed, nor could they themselves
get nearer than fifty yards or so to the wild people. So until evening
our impression remained that of two distant men, and the indistinct
sound of voices behind a leafy screen.
We made camp comparatively early in a wide open space surrounded
by low forest. Almost immediately then the savages commenced to drift
in, very haughty and arrogant. They were fully armed. Besides the
spear and decorated shield, some of them carried the curious small
grass spears. These are used to stab upward from below, the wielder
lying flat in the grass. Some of these men were fantastically painted
with a groundwork ochre, on which had been drawn intricate wavy
designs on the legs, like stockings, and varied stripes across the
face. One particularly ingenious individual, stark naked, had outlined
a roughly entire skeleton! He was a gruesome object! They stalked here
and there through the camp, looking at our men and their activities
with a lofty and silent contempt.
You may be sure we had our arrangements, though they did not
appear on the surface. The askaris, or native soldiers, were posted
here and there with their muskets; the gunbearers also kept our spare
weapons by them. The askaris could not hit a barn, but they could make
a noise. The gunbearers were fair shots.
Of course the chief and his prime minister came in. They were
evil-looking savages. To them we paid not the slightest attention,
but went about our usual business as though they did not exist. At the
end of an hour they of their own initiative greeted us. We did not
hear them. Half an hour later they disappeared, to return after an
interval, followed by a string of young men bearing firewood.
Evidently our bearing had impressed them, as we had intended. We then
unbent far enough to recognize them, carried on a formal conversation
for a few moments, gave them adequate presents and dismissed them.
Then we ordered the askaris to clear camp and to keep it clear. No
women had appeared. Even the gifts of firewood had been carried by
men, a most unusual proceeding.
As soon as dark fell the drums began roaring in the forest all
about our clearing, and the chanting to rise. We instructed our men
to shoot first and inquire afterward, if a shenzi so much as showed
himself in the clearing. This was not as bad as it sounded; the shenzi
stood in no immediate danger. Then we turned in to a sleep rather
light and broken by uncertainty. I do not think we were in any
immediate danger of a considered attack, for these people were not
openly hostile; but there was always a chance that the savages might
by their drum pounding and dancing work themselves into a frenzy. Then
we might have to do a little rapid shooting. Not for one instant the
whole night long did those misguided savages cease their howling and
dancing. At any rate we cost them a night's sleep.
Next morning we took up our march through the deserted tracks once
more. Not a sign of human life did we encounter. About ten o'clock we
climbed down a tremendous gash of a box canyon with precipitous
cliffs. From below we looked back to see, perched high against the
skyline, the motionless figures of many savages watching us from the
crags. So we had had company after all, and we had not known it. This
canyon proved to be the boundary line. With the same abruptness we
passed again into friendly country.
(d) OUT THE OTHER SIDE
We left the jungle finally when we turned on a long angle away
from Kenia. At first the open country of the foothills was closely
cultivated with fields of rape and maize. We saw some of the people
breaking new soil by means of long pointed sticks. The plowmen quite
simply inserted the pointed end in the ground and pried. It was very
slow hard work. In other fields the grain stood high and good. From
among the stalks, as from a miniature jungle, the little naked totos
stared out, and the good-natured women smiled at us. The magnificent
peak of Kenia had now shaken itself free of the forests. On its snow
the sunrises and sunsets kindled their fires. The flames of grass
fires, too, could plainly be made out, incredible distances away, and
at daytime, through the reek, were fascinating suggestions of distant
rivers, plains, jungles, and hills. You see, we were still practically
on the wide slope of Kenia's base, though the peak was many days
away, and so could look out over wide country.
The last half day of this we wandered literally in a rape field.
The stalks were quite above our heads, and we could see but a few
yards in any direction. In addition the track had become a footpath
not over two feet wide. We could occasionally look back to catch
glimpses of a pack or so bobbing along on a porter's head. From our
own path hundreds of other paths branched; we were continually taking
the wrong fork and moving back to set the safari right before it could
do likewise. This we did by drawing a deep double line in the earth
across the wrong trail. Then we hustled on ahead to pioneer the way a
little farther; our difficulties were further complicated by the fact
that we had sent our horses back to Nairobi for fear of the tsetse
fly, so we could not see out above the corn. All we knew was that we
ought to go down hill.
At the ends of some of our false trails we came upon fascinating
little settlements: groups of houses inside brush enclosures, with
low wooden gateways beneath which we had to stoop to enter. Within
were groups of beehive houses with small naked children and perhaps an
old woman or old man seated cross-legged under a sort of veranda. From
them we obtained new-and confusing- directions.
After three o'clock we came finally out on the edge of a cliff
fifty or sixty feet high, below which lay uncultivated bottom lands
like a great meadow and a little meandering stream. We descended the
cliff, and camped by the meandering stream.
By this time we were fairly tired from long walking in the heat,
and so were content to sit down under our tent-fly before our little
table, and let Mahomet bring us sparklets and lime juice. Before us
was the flat of a meadow below the cliffs and the cliffs themselves.
Just below the rise lay a single patch of standing rape not over two
acres in extent, the only sign of human life. It was as though this
little bit had overflowed from the countless millions on the plateau
above. Beyond it arose a thin signal of smoke.
We sipped our lime juice and rested. Soon our attention was
attracted by the peculiar actions of a big flock of very white birds.
They rose suddenly from one side of the tiny rape field, wheeled and
swirled like leaves in the wind, and dropped down suddenly on the
other side the patch. After a few moments they repeated the
performance. The sun caught the dazzling white of their plumage. At
first we speculated on what they might be, then on what they were
doing, to behave in so peculiar a manner. The lime juice and the
armchair began to get in their recuperative work. Somehow the distance
across that flat did not seem quite as tremendous as at first. Finally
I picked up the shotgun and sauntered across to investigate. The cause
of action I soon determined. The owner of that rape field turned out
to be an emaciated, gray-haired but spry old savage. He was armed with
a spear; and at the moment his chief business in life seemed to be
chasing a large flock of white birds off his grain. Since he had no
assistance, and since the birds held his spear in justifiable contempt
as a fowling piece, he was getting much exercise and few results. The
birds gave way before his direct charge, flopped over to the other
side, and continued their meal. They had already occasioned
considerable damage; the rape heads were bent and destroyed for a
space of perhaps ten feet from the outer edge of the field. As this
grain probably constituted the old man's food supply for a season, I
did not wonder at the vehemence with which he shook his spear at his
enemies, nor the apparent flavour of his language, though I did marvel
at his physical endurance. As for the birds, they had become cynical
and impudent; they barely fluttered out of the way.
I halted the old gentleman and hastened to explain that I was
neither a pirate, a robber, nor an oppressor of the poor. This as
counter-check to his tendency to flee, leaving me in sole charge. He
understood a little Swahili, and talked a few words of something he
intended for that language. By means of our mutual accomplishment in
that tongue, and through a more efficient sign language, I got him to
understand the plan of campaign. It was very simple. I squatted down
inside the rape, while he went around the other side to scare them up.
The white birds uttered their peculiarly derisive cackle at the
old man and flapped over to my side. Then they were certainly an
astonished lot of birds. I gave them both barrels and dropped a pair;
got two more shots as they swung over me and dropped another pair, and
brought down a straggling single as a grand finale. The flock, with
shrill, derogatory remarks, flew in an airline straight away. They
never deviated, as far as I could follow them with the eye. Even after
they had apparently disappeared, I could catch an occasional flash of
white in the sun.
Now the old gentleman came whooping around with long, undignified
bounds to fall on his face and seize my foot in an excess of
gratitude. He rose and capered about, he rushed out and gathered in
the slain one by one and laid them in a pile at my feet. Then he
danced a jig-step around them and reviled them, and fell on his face
once more, repeating the word "Bwana! bwana! bwana!" over and
over-"Master! master! master!" We returned to camp together, the old
gentleman carrying the birds, and capering about like a small boy,
pouring forth a flood of his sort of Swahili, of which I could
understand only a word here and there. Memba Sasa, very dignified and
scornful of such performances, met us halfway and took my gun. He
seemed to be able to understand the old fellow's brand of Swahili, and
said it over again in a brand I could understand. From it I gathered
that I was called a marvellously great sultan, a protector of the
poor, and other Arabian Nights titles.
The birds proved to be white egrets. Now at home I am strongly
against the killing of these creatures, and have so expressed myself
on many occasions. But, looking from the beautiful white plumage of
these villainous mauraders, to the wrinkled countenance of the
grateful weary old savage, I could not fan a spark of regret. And from
the straight line of their retreating flight I like to think that the
rest of the flock never came back, but took their toll from the wider
fields of the plateau above.
Next day we reentered the game-haunted wilderness, nor did we see
any more native villages until many weeks later we came into the
country of the Wakamba.
XIX. THE TANA RIVER
Our first sight of the Tana River was from the top of a bluff. It
flowed below us a hundred feet, bending at a sharp elbow against the
cliff on which we stood. Out of the jungle it crept sluggishly and
into the jungle it crept again, brown, slow, viscid, suggestive of the
fevers and the lurking beasts by which, indeed, it was haunted. From
our elevation we could follow its course by the jungle that grew along
its banks. At first this was intermittent, leaving thin or even open
spaces at intervals, but lower down it extended away unbroken and very
tall. The trees were many of them beginning to come into flower.
Either side of the jungle were rolling hills. Those to the left
made up to the tremendous slopes of Kenia. Those to the right ended
finally in a low broken range many miles away called the Ithanga
Hills. The country gave one the impression of being clothed with
small trees; although here and there this growth gave space to wide
grassy plains. Later we discovered that the forest was more apparent
than real. The small trees, even where continuous, were sparse enough
to permit free walking in all directions, and open enough to allow
clear sight for a hundred yards or so. Furthermore, the shallow wide
valleys between the hills were almost invariably treeless and grown to
very high thick grass.
Thus the course of the Tana possessed advantages to such as we. By
following in general the course of the stream we were always certain
of wood and water. The river itself was full of fish-not to speak of
hundreds of crocodiles and hippopotamuses. The thick river jungle gave
cover to such animals as the bushbuck, leopard, the beautiful colobus,
some of the tiny antelope, waterbuck, buffalo and rhinoceros. Among
the thorn and acacia trees of the hillsides one was certain of
impalla, eland, diks-diks, and giraffes. In the grass bottoms were
lions, rhinoceroses, a half dozen varieties of buck, and thousands and
thousands of game birds such as guinea fowl and grouse. On the plains
fed zebra, hartebeeste, wart-hog, ostriches, and several species of
the smaller antelope. As a sportsman's paradise this region would be
hard to beat.
We were now afoot. The dreaded tsetse fly abounded here, and we
had sent our horses in via Fort Hall. F. had accompanied them, and
hoped to rejoin us in a few days or weeks with tougher and less
valuable mules. Pending his return we moved on leisurely, camping long
at one spot, marching short days, searching the country far and near
for the special trophies of which we stood in need.
It was great fun. Generally we hunted each in his own direction
and according to his own ideas. The jungle along the river, while not
the most prolific in trophies, was by all odds the most interesting.
It was very dense, very hot, and very shady. Often a thorn thicket
would fling itself from the hills right across to the water's edge,
absolutely and hopelessly impenetrable save by way of the rhinoceros
tracks. Along these then we would slip, bent double, very quietly and
gingerly, keeping a sharp lookout for the rightful owners of the
trail. Again we would wander among lofty trees through the tops of
which the sun flickered on festooned serpentlike vines. Every once in
a while we managed a glimpse of the sullen oily river through the
dense leaf screen on its banks. The water looked thick as syrup, of a
deadly menacing green. Sometimes we saw a loathsome crocodile lying
with his nose just out of water, or heard the snorting blow of a
hippopotamus coming up for air. Then the thicket forced us inland
again. We stepped very slowly, very alertly, our ears cocked for the
faintest sound, our eyes roving. Generally, of course, the creatures
of the jungle saw us first. We became aware of them by a crash or a
rustling or a scamper. Then we stood stock listening with all our ears
for some sound distinguishing to the species. Thus I came to recognize
the queer barking note of the bushbuck, for example, and to realize
how profane and vulgar that and the beautiful creature, the impalla,
can be when he forgets himself. As for the rhinoceros, he does not
care how much noise he makes, nor how badly he scares you.
Personally, I liked very well to circle out in the more open
country until about three o'clock, then to enter the river jungle and
work my way slowly back toward camp. At that time of day the shadows
were lengthening, the birds and animals were beginning to stir about.
In the cooling nether world of shadow we slipped silently from thicket
to thicket, from tree to tree; and the jungle people fled from us, or
withdrew, or gazed curiously, or cursed us as their dispositions
While thus returning one evening I saw my first colobus. He was
swinging rapidly from one tree to another, his long black and white
fur shining against the sun. I wanted him very much, and promptly let
drive at him with the 405 Winchester. I always carried this heavier
weapon in the dense jungle. Of course I missed him, but the roar of
the shot so surprised him that he came to a stand. Memba Sasa passed
me the Springfield, and I managed to get him in the head. At the shot
another flashed into view, high up in the top of a tree. Again I aimed
and fired. The beast let go and fell like a plummet. "Good shot," said
I to myself. Fifty feet down the colobus seized a limb and went
skipping away through the branches as lively as ever. In a moment he
stopped to look back, and by good luck I landed him through the body.
When we retrieved him we found that the first shot had not hit him at
At the time I thought he must have been frightened into falling;
but many subsequent experiences showed me that this sheer
let-go-all-holds drop is characteristic of the colobus and his mode
of progression. He rarely, as far as my observation goes, leaps out
and across as do the ordinary monkeys, but prefers to progress by a
series of slanting ascents followed by breath-taking straight drops to
lower levels. When closely pressed from beneath, he will go as high as
he can, and will then conceal himself in the thick leaves.
B. and I procured our desired number of colobus by taking
advantage of this habit-as soon as we had learned it. Shooting the
beasts with our rifles we soon found to be not only very difficult,
but also destructive of the skins. On the other hand, a man could not,
save by sheer good fortune, rely on stalking near enough to use a
shotgun. Therefore we evolved a method productive of the maximum
noise, row, barked shins, thorn wounds, tumbles, bruises-and colobus!
It was very simple. We took about twenty boys into the jungle with us,
and as soon as we caught sight of a colobus we chased him madly. That
was all there was to it.
And yet this method, simple apparently to the point of imbecility,
had considerable logic back of it after all; for after a time somebody
managed to get underneath that colobus when he was at the top of a
tree. Then the beast would hide.
Consider then a tumbling riotous mob careering through the jungle
as fast as the jungle would let it, slipping, stumbling, falling
flat, getting tangled hopelessly, disentangling with profane remarks,
falling behind and catching up again, everybody yelling and shrieking.
Ahead of us we caught glimpses of the sleek bounding black and white
creature, running up the long slanting limbs, and dropping like a
plummet into the lower branches of the next tree. We white men never
could keep up with the best of our men at this sort of work, although
in the open country I could hold them well enough. We could see them
dashing through the thick cover at a great rate of speed far ahead of
us. After an interval came a great shout in chorus. By this we knew
that the quarry had been definitely brought to a stand. Arriving at
the spot we craned our heads backward, and proceeded to get a crick
in the neck trying to make out invisible colobus in the very tops of
the trees above us. For gaudily marked beasts the colobus were
extraordinarily difficult to see. This was in no sense owing to any
far-fetched application of protective colouration; but to the
remarkable skill the animals possessed in concealing themselves
behind apparently the scantiest and most inadequate cover.
Fortunately for us our boys' ability to see them was equally
remarkable. Indeed, the most difficult part of their task was to
point the game out to us. We squinted, and changed position, and
tried hard to follow directions eagerly proffered by a dozen of the
men. Finally one of us would, by the aid of six power-glasses, make
out, or guess at a small tuft of white or black hair showing beyond
the concealment of a bunch of leaves. We would unlimber the shotgun
and send a charge of BB into that bunch. Then down would plump the
game, to the huge and vociferous delight of all the boys. Or, as
occasionally happened, the shot was followed merely by a shower of
leaves and a chorus of expostulations indicating that we had mistaken
the place, and had fired into empty air.
In this manner we gathered the twelve we required between us. At
noon we sat under the bank, with the tangled roots of trees above us,
and the smooth oily river slipping by. You may be sure we always
selected a spot protected by very shoal water, for the crocodiles were
numerous. I always shot these loathsome creatures whenever I got a
chance, whenever the sound of a shot would not alarm more valuable
game. Generally they were to be seen in midstream, just the tip of
their snouts above water, and extraordinarily like anything but
crocodiles. Often it took several close scrutinies through the glass
to determine the brutes. This required rather nice shooting. More
rarely we managed to see them on the banks, or only half submerged. In
this position, too, they were all but undistinguishable as living
creatures. I think this is perhaps because of their complete
immobility. The creatures of the woods, standing quite still, are
difficult enough to see; but I have a notion that the eye, unknown to
itself, catches the sum total of little flexings of the muscles,
movements of the skin, winkings, even the play of wind and light in
the hair of the coat, all of which, while impossible of analysis,
together relieve the appearance of dead inertia. The vitality of a
creature like the crocodile, however, seems to have withdrawn into the
inner recesses of its being. It lies like a log of wood, and for a log
of wood it is mistaken.
Nevertheless the crocodile has stored in it somewhere a fearful
vitality. The swiftness of its movements when seizing prey is most
astonishing; a swirl of water, the sweep of a powerful tail, and the
unfortunate victim has disappeared. For this reason it is especially
dangerous to approach the actual edge of any of the great rivers,
unless the water is so shallow that the crocodile could not possibly
approach under cover, as is its cheerful habit. We had considerable
difficulty in impressing this elementary truth on our hill-bred totos
until one day, hearing wild shrieks from the direction of the river, I
rushed down to find the lot huddled together in the very middle of a
sand spit that-reached well out into the stream. Inquiry developed
that while paddling in the shallows they had been surprised by the
sudden appearance of an ugly snout and well drenched by the sweep of
an eager tail. The stroke fortunately missed. We stilled the tumult,
sat down quietly to wait, and at the end of ten minutes had the
satisfaction of abating that croc.
Generally we killed the brutes where we found them and allowed
them to drift away with the current. Occasionally however we wanted a
piece of hide, and then tried to retrieve them. One such occasion
showed very vividly the tenacity of life and the primitive nervous
systems of these great saurians.
I discovered the beast, head out of water, in a reasonable sized
pool below which were shallow rapids. My Springfield bullet hit him
fair, whereupon he stood square on his head and waved his tail in the
air, rolled over three or four times, thrashed the water, and
disappeared. After waiting a while we moved on downstream. Returning
four hours later I sneaked up quietly. There the crocodile lay sunning
himself on the sand bank. I supposed he must be dead; but when I
accidentally broke a twig, he immediately commenced to slide off into
the water. Thereupon I stopped him with a bullet in the spine. The
first shot had smashed a hole in his head, just behind the eye, about
the size of an ordinary coffee cup. In spite of this wound, which
would have been instantly fatal to any warm-blooded animal, the
creature was so little affected that it actually reacted to a slight
noise made at some distance from where it lay. Of course the wound
would probably have been fatal in the long run.
The best spot to shoot at, indeed, is not the head but the spine
immediately back of the head.
These brutes are exceedingly powerful. They are capable of taking
down horses and cattle, with no particular effort. This I know from
my own observation. Mr. Fleischman, however, was privileged to see the
wonderful sight of the capture and destruction of a full-grown
rhinoceros by a crocodile. The photographs he took of this most
extraordinary affair leave no room for doubt. Crossing a stream was
always a matter of concern to us. The boys beat the surface of the
water vigorously with their safari sticks. On occasion we have even
let loose a few heavy bullets to stir up the pool before venturing in.
A steep climb through thorn and brush would always extricate us
from the river jungle when we became tired of it. Then we found
ourselves in a continuous but scattered growth of small trees.
Between the trunks of these we could see for a hundred yards or so
before their numbers closed in the view. Here was the favourite haunt
of numerous beautiful impalla. We caught glimpses of them, flashing
through the trees; or occasionally standing, gazing in our direction,
their slender necks stretched high, their ears pointed for us. These
curious ones were generally the does. The bucks were either more
cautious or less inquisitive. A herd or so of eland also liked this
covered country; and there were always a few waterbuck and
rhinoceroses about. Often too we here encountered stragglers from the
open plains-zebra or hartebeeste, very alert and suspicious in
A great deal of the plains country had been burned over; and a
considerable area was still afire. The low bright flames licked their
way slowly through the grass in a narrow irregular band extending
sometimes for miles. Behind it was blackened soil, and above it rolled
dense clouds of smoke. Always accompanied it thousands of birds
wheeling and dashing frantically in and out of the murk, often fairly
at the flames themselves. The published writings of a certain worthy
and sentimental person waste much sympathy over these poor birds
dashing frenziedly about above their destroyed nests. As a matter of
fact they are taking greedy advantage of a most excellent opportunity
to get insects cheap. Thousands of the common red-billed European
storks patrolled the grass just in front of the advancing flames, or
wheeled barely above the fire. Grasshoppers were their main object,
although apparently they never objected to any small mammals or
reptiles that came their way. Far overhead wheeled a few thousand more
assorted soarers who either had no appetite or had satisfied it.
The utter indifference of the animals to the advance of a big
conflagration always impressed me. One naturally pictures the beasts
as fleeing wildly, nostrils distended, before the devouring element.
On the contrary I have seen kongoni grazing quite peacefully with
flames on three sides of them. The fire seems to travel rather slowly
in the tough grass; although at times and for a short distance it will
leap to a wild and roaring life. Beasts will then lope rapidly away to
right or left, but without excitement.
On these open plains we were more or less pestered with ticks of
various sizes. These clung to the grass blades; but with no
invincible preference for that habitat; trousers did them just as
well. Then they ascended looking for openings. They ranged in size
from little red ones as small as the period of a printed page to big
patterned fellows the size of a pea. The little ones were much the
most abundant. At times I have had the front of my breeches so covered
with them that their numbers actually imparted a reddish tinge to the
surface of the cloth. This sounds like exaggeration, but it is a
measured statement. The process of de-ticking (new and valuable word)
can then be done only by scraping with the back of a hunting knife.
Some people, of tender skin, are driven nearly frantic by these
pests. Others, of whom I am thankful to say I am one, get off
comparatively easy. In a particularly bad tick country, one generally
appoints one of the youngsters as "tick toto." It is then his job in
life to de-tick any person or domestic animal requiring his services.
His is a busy existence. But though at first the nuisance is
excessive, one becomes accustomed to it in a remarkably short space of
time. The adaptability of the human being is nowhere better
exemplified. After a time one gets so that at night he can remove a
marauding tick and cast it forth into the darkness without even waking
up. Fortunately ticks are local in distribution. Often one may travel
weeks or months without this infliction.
I was always interested and impressed to observe how indifferent
the wild animals seem to be to these insects. Zebra, rhinoceros and
giraffe seem to be especially good hosts. The loathsome creatures
fasten themselves in clusters wherever they can grip their fangs. Thus
in a tick country a zebra's ears, the lids and corners of his eyes,
his nostrils and lips, the soft skin between his legs and body, and
between his hind legs, and under his tail are always crusted with
ticks as thick as they can cling. One would think the drain on
vitality would be enormous, but the animals are always plump and in
condition. The same state of affairs obtains with the other two beasts
named. The hartebeeste also carries ticks but not nearly in the same
abundance; while such creatures as the waterbuck, impalla, gazelles
and the smaller bucks seem either to be absolutely free from the
pests, or to have a very few. Whether this is because such animals
take the trouble to rid themselves, or because they are more immune
from attack it would be difficult to say. I have found ticks clinging
to the hair of lions, but never fastened to the flesh. It is probable
that they had been brushed off from the grass in passing. Perhaps
ticks do not like lions, waterbuck, Tommies, et al., or perhaps only
big coarse-grained common brutes like zebra and rhinos will stand them
XX. DIVERS ADVENTURES ALONG THE TANA
Late one afternoon I shot a wart-hog in the tall grass. The beast
was an unusually fine specimen, so I instructed Fundi and the porters
to take the head, and myself started for camp with Memba Sasa. I had
gone not over a hundred yards when I was recalled by wild and agonized
appeals of "Bwana! bwana!" The long-legged Fundi was repeatedly
leaping straight up in the air to an astonishing height above the long
grass, curling his legs up under him at each jump, and yelling like a
steam-engine. Returning promptly, I found that the wart-hog had come
to life at the first prick of the knife. He was engaged in charging
back and forth in an earnest effort to tusk Fundi, and the latter was
jumping high in an equally earnest effort to keep out of the way.
Fortunately he proved agile enough to do so until I planted another
bullet in the aggressor.
These wart-hogs are most comical brutes from whatever angle one
views them. They have a patriarchal, self-satisfied, suburban manner
of complete importance. The old gentleman bosses his harem
outrageously, and each and every member of the tribe walks about with
short steps and a stuffy parvenu small-town self-sufficiency. One is
quite certain that it is only by accident that they have long tusks
and live in Africa, instead of rubber-plants and self-made business
and a pug-dog within commuters' distance of New York. But at the
slightest alarm this swollen and puffy importance breaks down
completely. Away they scurry, their tails held stiffly and straightly
perpendicular, their short legs scrabbling the small stones in a
frantic effort to go faster than nature had intended them to go. Nor
do they cease their flight at a reasonable distance, but keep on going
over hill and dale, until they fairly vanish in the blue. I used to
like starting them off this way, just for the sake of contrast, and
also for the sake of the delicious but impossible vision of seeing
their human prototypes do likewise.
When a wart-hog is at home, he lives down a hole. Of course it has
to be a particularly large hole. He turns around and backs down it. No
more peculiar sight can be imagined than the sardonically toothsome
countenance of a wart-hog fading slowly in the dimness of a deep
burrow, a good deal like Alice's Cheshire Cat. Firing a revolver,
preferably with smoky black powder, just in front of the hole annoys
the wart-hog exceedingly. Out he comes full tilt, bent on damaging
some one, and it takes quick shooting to prevent his doing so.
Once, many hundreds of miles south of the Tana, and many months
later, we were riding quite peaceably through the country, when we
were startled by the sound of a deep and continuous roaring in a small
brush patch to our left. We advanced cautiously to a prospective lion,
only to discover that the roaring proceeded from the depths of a
wart-hog burrow. The reverberation of our footsteps on the hollow
ground had alarmed him. He was a very nervous wart-hog.
On another occasion, when returning to camp from a solitary walk,
I saw two wart-hogs before they saw me. I made no attempt to conceal
myself, but stood absolutely motionless. They fed slowly nearer and
nearer until at last they were not over twenty yards away. When
finally they made me out, their indignation and amazement and utter
incredulity were very funny. In fact, they did not believe in me at
all for some few snorty moments. Finally they departed, their absurd
tails stiff upright.
One afternoon F. and I, hunting along one of the wide grass bottom
lands, caught sight of a herd of an especially fine impalla. The
animals were feeding about fifty yards the other side of a small
solitary bush, and the bush grew on the sloping bank of the slight
depression that represented the dry stream bottom. We could duck down
into the depression, sneak along it, come up back of the little bush,
and shoot from very close range. Leaving the gunbearers, we proceeded
to do this.
So quietly did we move that when we rose up back of the little
bush a lioness lying under it with her cub was as surprised as we
Indeed, I do not think she knew what we were, for instead of
attacking, she leaped out the other side the bush, uttering a
startled snarl. At once she whirled to come at us, but the brief
respite had allowed us to recover our own scattered wits. As she
turned I caught her broadside through the heart. Although this shot
knocked her down, F. immediately followed it with another for safety's
sake. We found that actually we had just missed stepping on her tail!
The cub we caught a glimpse of. He was about the size of a setter
dog. We tried hard to find him, but failed. The lioness was an
unusually large one, probably about as big as the female ever grows,
measuring nine feet six inches in length, and three feet eight inches
tail at the shoulder.
Billy had her funny times housekeeping. The kitchen department
never quite ceased marvelling at her. Whenever she went to the
cook-camp to deliver her orders she was surrounded by an attentive
and respectful audience. One day, after holding forth for some time in
Swahili, she found that she had been standing hobnailed on one of the
"Why, Mahomet!" she cried. "That must hurt you! Why didn't you
"Memsahib," he smiled politely, "I think perhaps you move some
On another occasion she was trying to tell the cook, through
Mahomet as interpreter, that she wanted a tough old buffalo steak
pounded, boarding-house style. This evidently puzzled all hands. They
turned to in an earnest discussion of what it was all about, anyway.
Billy understood Swahili well enough at that time to gather that they
could not understand the Memsahib's wanting the meat
"kibokoed"-FLOGGED. Was it a religious rite, or a piece of revenge?
They gave it up.
"All right," said Mahomet patiently at last. "He say he do it.
WHICH ONE IS IT?"
Part of our supplies comprised tins of dehydrated fruit. One
evening Billy decided to have a grand celebration, so she passed out
a tin marked "rhubarb" and some cornstarch, together with suitable
instructions for a fruit pudding. In a little while the cook returned.
"Nataka m'tund-I want fruit," said he.
Billy pointed out, severely, that he already had fruit. He went
away shaking his head. Evening and the pudding came. It looked good,
and we congratulated Billy on her culinary enterprise. Being hungry,
we took big mouthfuls. There followed splutterings and investigations.
The rhubarb can proved to be an old one containing heavy gun grease!
When finally we parted with our faithful cook we bought him a
really wonderful many bladed knife as a present. On seeing it he
slumped to the ground-six feet of lofty dignity-and began to weep
violently, rocking back and forth in an excess of grief.
"Why, what is it?" we inquired, alarmed.
"Oh, Memsahib!" he wailed, the tears coursing down his cheeks, "I
wanted a watch!"
One morning about nine o'clock we were riding along at the edge of
a grass-grown savannah, with a low hill to our right and another
about four hundred yards ahead. Suddenly two rhinoceroses came to
their feet some fifty yards to our left out in the high grass, and
stood looking uncertainly in our direction.
"Look out! Rhinos!" I warned instantly.
"Why-why!" gasped Billy in an astonished tone of voice, "they have
In some concern for her sanity I glanced in her direction. She was
staring, not to her left, but straight ahead. I followed the direction
of her gaze, to see three lions moving across the face of the hill.
Instantly we dropped off our horses. We wanted a shot at those
lions very much indeed, but were hampered in our efforts by the two
rhinoceroses, now stamping, snorting, and moving slowly in our
direction. The language we muttered was racy, but we dropped to a
kneeling position and opened fire on the disappearing lions. It was
most distinctly a case of divided attention, one eye on those menacing
rhinos, and one trying to attend to the always delicate operation of
aligning sights and signalling from a rather distracted brain just
when to pull the trigger. Our faithful gunbearers crouched by us, the
heavy guns ready.
One rhino seemed either peaceable or stupid. He showed no
inclination either to attack or to depart, but was willing to back
whatever play his friend might decide on. The friend charged toward us
until we began to think he meant battle, stopped, thought a moment,
and then, followed by his companion, trotted slowly across our bows
about eighty yards away, while we continued our long range practice at
the lions over their backs.
In this we were not winning many cigars. F. had a 280-calibre
rifle shooting the Ross cartridge through the much advertised
grooveless oval bore. It was little accurate beyond a hundred yards.
Memba Sasa had thrust the 405 into my hand, knowing it for the "lion
gun," and kept just out of reach with the long-range Springfield. I
had no time to argue the matter with him. The 405 has a trajectory
like a rainbow at that distance, and I was guessing at it, and not
making very good guesses either. B. had his Springfield and made
closer practice, finally hitting a leg of one of the beasts. We saw
him lift his paw and shake it, but he did not move lamely afterward,
so the damage was probably confined to a simple scrape. It was a good
shot anyway. Then they disappeared over the top of the hill.
We walked forward, regretting rhinos. Thirty yards ahead of me
came a thunderous and roaring growl, and a magnificent old lion
reared his head from a low bush. He evidently intended mischief, for
I could see his tail switching. However, B. had killed only one lion
and I wanted very much to give him the shot. Therefore, I held the
front sight on the middle of his chest, and uttered a fervent wish to
myself that B. would hurry up. In about ten seconds the muzzle of his
rifle poked over my shoulder, so I resigned the job.
At B.'s shot the lion fell over, but was immediately up and trying
to get at us. Then we saw that his hind quarters were paralyzed. He
was a most magnificent sight as he reared his fine old head, roaring
at us full mouthed so that the very air trembled. Billy had a good
look at a lion in action. B. took up a commanding position on an ant
hill to one side with his rifle levelled. F. and I advanced slowly
side by side. At twelve feet from the wounded beast stopped, F.
unlimbered the kodak, while I held the bead of the 405 between the
lion's eyes, ready to press trigger at the first forward movement,
however slight. Thus we took several exposures in the two cameras.
Unfortunately one of the cameras fell in the river the next day. The
other contained but one exposure. While not so spectacular as some of
those spoiled, it shows very well the erect mane, he wicked narrowing
of the eyes, the flattening of the ears of an angry lion. You must
imagine, furthermore, the deep rumbling diapason of his growling.
We backed away, and B. put in the finishing shot. The first
bullet, we then found, had penetrated the kidneys, thus inflicting a
When we came to skin him we found an old-fashioned lead bullet
between the bones of his right forepaw. The entrance wound had so
entirely healed over that hardly the trace of a scar remained. >From
what I know of the character of these beasts, I have no doubt that
this ancient injury furnished the reason for his staying to attack us
instead of departing with the other three lions over the hill.
Following the course of the river, we one afternoon came around a
bend on a huge herd of mixed game that had been down to water. The
river, a quite impassable barrier lay to our right, and an equally
impassable precipitous ravine barred their flight ahead. They were
forced to cross our front, quite close, within the hundred yards. We
stopped to watch them go, a seemingly endless file of them, some very
much frightened, bounding spasmodically as though stung; others more
philosophical, loping easily and unconcernedly; still others to a
few-even stopping for a moment to get a good view of us. The very
young creatures, as always, bounced along absolutely stiff-legged,
exactly like wooden animals suspended by an elastic, touching the
ground and rebounding high, without a bend of the knee nor an apparent
effort of the muscles. Young animals seem to have to learn how to
bend their legs for the most efficient travel. The same is true of
human babies as well. In this herd were, we estimated, some four or
five hundred beasts.
While hunting near the foothills I came across the body of a large
eagle suspended by one leg from the crotch of a limb. The bird's talon
had missed its grip, probably on alighting, the tarsus had slipped
through the crotch beyond the joint, the eagle had fallen forward, and
had never been able to flop itself back to an upright position!
XXI. THE RHINOCEROS
The rhinoceros is, with the giraffe, the hippopotamus, the
gerenuk, and the camel, one of Africa's unbelievable animals. Nobody
has bettered Kipling's description of him in the Just-so Stories: "A
horn on his nose, piggy eyes, and few manners." He lives a
self-centred life, wrapped up in the porcine contentment that broods
within nor looks abroad over the land. When anything external to
himself and his food and drink penetrates to his intelligence he makes
a flurried fool of himself, rushing madly and frantically here and
there in a hysterical effort either to destroy or get away from the
cause of disturbance. He is the incarnation of a living and perpetual
Generally he lives by himself, sometimes with his spouse, more
rarely still with a third that is probably a grown-up son or
daughter. I personally have never seen more than three in company.
Some observers have reported larger bands, or rather collections, but,
lacking other evidence, I should be inclined to suspect that some
circumstances of food or water rather than a sense of gregariousness
had attracted a number of individuals to one locality.
The rhinoceros has three objects in life: to fill his stomach with
food and water, to stand absolutely motionless under a bush, and to
imitate ant hills when he lies down in the tall grass. When disturbed
at any of these occupations he snorts. The snort sounds exactly as
though the safety valve of a locomotive had suddenly opened and as
suddenly shut again after two seconds of escaping steam. Then he puts
his head down and rushes madly in some direction, generally upwind. As
he weighs about two tons, and can, in spite of his appearance, get
over the ground nearly as fast as an ordinary horse, he is a truly
imposing sight, especially since the innocent bystander generally
happens to be upwind, and hence in the general path of progress. This
is because the rhino's scent is his keenest sense, and through it he
becomes aware, in the majority of times, of man's presence. His sight
is very poor indeed; he cannot see clearly even a moving object much
beyond fifty yards. He can, however, hear pretty well.
The novice, then, is subjected to what he calls a "vicious charge"
on the part of the rhinoceros, merely because his scent was borne to
the beast from upwind, and the rhino naturally runs away upwind. He
opens fire, and has another thrilling adventure to relate. As a matter
of fact, if he had approached from the other side, and then aroused
the animal with a clod of earth, the beast would probably have
"charged" away in identically the same direction. I am convinced from
a fairly varied experience that this is the basis for most of the
thrilling experiences with rhinoceroses.
But whatever the beast's first mental attitude, the danger is
quite real. In the beginning he rushes, upwind in instinctive
reaction against the strange scent. If he catches sight of the man at
all, it must be after he has approached to pretty close range, for
only at close range are the rhino's eyes effective. Then he is quite
likely to finish what was at first a blind dash by a genuine charge.
Whether this is from malice or from the panicky feeling that he is now
too close to attempt to get away, I never was able determine. It is
probably in the majority of cases the latter. This seems indicated by
the fact that the rhino, if avoided in his first rush, will generally
charge right through and keep on going. Occasionally, however, he will
whirl and come back to the attack. There can then be no doubt that he
actually intends mischief.
Nor must it be forgotten that with these animals, AS WITH ALL
OTHERS, not enough account is taken of individual variation. They, as
well as man, and as well as other animals, have their cowards, their
fighters, their slothful and their enterprising. And, too, there seem
to be truculent and peaceful districts. North of Mt. Kenia, between
that peak and the Northern Guaso Nyero River, we saw many rhinos, none
of which showed the slightest disposition to turn ugly. In fact, they
were so peaceful that they scrabbled off as fast as they could go
every time they either scented, heard, or SAW us; and in their flight
they held their noses up, not down. In the wide angle between the
Tana and Thika rivers, and comprising the Yatta Plains, and in the
thickets of the Tsavo, the rhinoceroses generally ran nose down in a
position of attack and were much inclined to let their angry passions
master them at the sight of man. Thus we never had our safari
scattered by rhinoceroses in the former district, while in the latter
the boys were up trees six times in the course of one morning! Carl
Akeley, with a moving picture machine, could not tease a charge out of
a rhino in a dozen tries, while Dugmore, in a different part of the
country, was so chivied about that he finally left the district to
avoid killing any more of the brutes in self-defence!
The fact of the matter is that the rhinoceros is neither animated
by the implacable man-destroying passion ascribed to him by the
amateur hunter, nor is he so purposeless and haphazard in his rushes
as some would have us believe. On being disturbed his instinct is to
get away. He generally tries to get away in the direction of the
disturbance, or upwind, as the case may be. If he catches sight of the
cause of disturbance he is apt to try to trample and gore it, whatever
it is. As his sight is short, he will sometimes so inflict punishment
on unoffending bushes. In doing this he is probably not animated by a
consuming destructive blind rage, but by a naturally pugnacious desire
to eliminate sources of annoyance. Missing a definite object, he
thunders right through and disappears without trying again to discover
what has aroused him.
This first rush is not a charge in the sense that it is an attack
on a definite object. It may not, and probably will not, amount to a
charge at all, for the beast will blunder through without ever
defining more clearly the object of his blind dash. That dash is
likely, however, at any moment, to turn into a definite charge should
the rhinoceros happen to catch sight of his disturber. Whether the
impelling motive would then be a mistaken notion that on the part of
the beast he was so close he had to fight, or just plain malice, would
not matter. At such times the intended victim is not interested in the
rhino's mental processes.
Owing to his size, his powerful armament, and his incredible
quickness the rhinoceros is a dangerous animal at all times, to be
treated with respect and due caution. This is proved by the number of
white men, out of a sparse population, that are annually tossed and
killed by the brutes, and by the promptness with which the natives
take to trees-thorn trees at that!-when the cry of faru! is raised. As
he comes rushing in your direction, head down and long weapon pointed,
tail rigidly erect, ears up, the earth trembling with his tread and
the air with his snorts, you suddenly feel very small and ineffective.
If you keep cool, however, it is probable that the encounter will
result only in a lot of mental perturbation for the rhino and a bit
of excitement for yourself. If there is any cover you should duck down
behind it and move rapidly but quietly to one side or another of the
line of advance. If there is no cover, you should crouch low and hold
still. The chances are he will pass to one side or the other of you,
and go snorting away into the distance. Keep your eye on him very
closely. If he swerves definitely in your direction, AND DROPS HIS
HEAD A LITTLE LOWER, it would be just as well to open fire. Provided
the beast was still far enough away to give me "sea-room," I used to
put a small bullet in the flesh of the outer part of the shoulder. The
wound thus inflicted was not at all serious, but the shock of the
bullet usually turned the beast. This was generally in the direction
of the wounded shoulder, which would indicate that the brute turned
toward the apparent source of the attack, probably for the purpose of
getting even. At any rate, the shot turned the rush to one side, and
the rhinoceros, as usual, went right on through. If, however, he
seemed to mean business, or was too close for comfort, the point to
aim for was the neck just above the lowered horn.
In my own experience I came to establish a "dead line" about
twenty yards from myself. That seemed to be as near as I cared to let
the brutes come. Up to that point I let them alone on the chance that
they might swerve or change their minds, as they often did. But inside
of twenty yards, whether the rhinoceros meant to charge me, or was
merely running blindly by, did not particularly matter. Even in the
latter case he might happen to catch sight of me and change his mind.
Thus, looking over my notebook records, I find that I was "charged"
forty odd times-that is to say, the rhinoceros rushed in my general
direction. Of this lot I can be sure of but three, and possibly four,
that certainly meant mischief. Six more came so directly at us, and
continued so to come, that in spite of ourselves we were compelled to
kill them. The rest were successfully dodged.
As I have heard old hunters of many times my experience, affirm
that only in a few instances have they themselves been charged
indubitably and with malice aforethought, it might be well to detail
my reasons for believing myself definitely and not blindly attacked.
The first instance was that when B. killed his second trophy
rhinoceros. The beast's companion refused to leave the dead body for
a long time, but finally withdrew. On our approaching, however, and
after we had been some moments occupied with the trophy, it returned
and charged viciously. It was finally killed at fifteen yards.
The second instance was of a rhinoceros that got up from the grass
sixty yards away, and came headlong in my direction. At the moment I
was standing on the edge of a narrow eroded ravine, ten feet deep,
with perpendicular sides. The rhinoceros came on bravely to the edge
of this ravine-and stopped. Then he gave an exhibition of unmitigated
bad temper most amusing to contemplate-from my safe position. He
snorted, and stamped, and pawed the earth, and tramped up and down at
a great rate. I sat on the opposite bank and laughed at him. This did
not please him a bit, but after many short rushes to the edge of the
ravine, he gave it up and departed slowly, his tail very erect and
rigid. >From the persistency with which he tried to get at me, I
cannot but think he intended something of the sort from the first.
The third instance was much more aggravating. In company with
Memba Sasa and Fundi I left camp early one morning to get a
waterbuck. Four or five hundred yards out, however, we came on fresh
buffalo signs, not an hour old. To one who knew anything of buffaloes'
habits this seemed like an excellent chance, for at this time of the
morning they should be feeding not far away preparatory to seeking
cover for the day. Therefore we immediately took up the trail.
It led us over hills, through valleys, high grass, burned country,
brush, thin scrub, and small woodland alternately. Unfortunately we
had happened on these buffalo just as they were about changing
district, and they were therefore travelling steadily. At times the
trail was easy to follow and at other times we had to cast about very
diligently to find traces of the direction even such huge animals had
taken. It was interesting work, however, and we drew on steadily,
keeping a sharp lookout ahead in case the buffalo had come to a halt
in some shady thicket out of the sun. As the latter ascended the
heavens and the scorching heat increased, our confidence in nearing
our quarry ascended likewise, for we knew that buffaloes do not like
great heat. Nevertheless this band continued straight on its way. I
think now they must have got scent of our camp, and had therefore
decided to move to one of the alternate and widely separated feeding
grounds every herd keeps in its habitat. Only at noon, and after six
hours of steady trailing, covering perhaps a dozen miles, did we catch
>From the start we had been bothered with rhinoceroses. Five times
did we encounter them, standing almost squarely on the line of the
spoor we were following. Then we had to make a wide quiet circle to
leeward in order to avoid disturbing them, and were forced to a very
minute search in order to pick up the buffalo tracks again on the
other side. This was at once an anxiety and a delay, and we did not
love those rhino.
Finally, at the very edge of the Yatta Plains we overtook the
herd, resting for noon in a scattered thicket. Leaving Fundi, I, with
Memba Sasa, stalked down to them. We crawled and crept by inches flat
to the ground, which was so hot that it fairly burned the hand. The
sun beat down on us fiercely, and the air was close and heavy even
among the scanty grass tufts in which we were trying to get cover. It
was very hard work indeed, but after a half hour of it we gained a
thin bush not over thirty yards from a half dozen dark and
indeterminate bodies dozing in the very centre of a brush patch.
Cautiously I wiped the sweat from my eyes and raised my glasses. It
was slow work and patient work, picking out and examining each
individual beast from the mass. Finally the job was done. I let fall
"Monumookee y'otey-all cows," I whispered to Memba Sasa.
We backed out of there inch by inch, with intention of circling a
short distance to the leeward, and then trying the herd again lower
down. But some awkward slight movement, probably on my part, caught
the eye of one of those blessed cows. She threw up her head; instantly
the whole thicket seemed alive with beasts. We could hear them
crashing and stamping, breaking the brush, rushing headlong and
stopping again; we could even catch momentary glimpses of dark bodies.
After a few minutes we saw the mass of the herd emerge from the
thicket five hundred yards away and flow up over the hill. There were
probably a hundred and fifty of them, and, looking through my glasses,
I saw among them two fine old bulls. They were of course not much
alarmed, as only the one cow knew what it was all about anyway, and I
suspected they would stop at the next thicket.
We had only one small canteen of water with us, but we divided
that. It probably did us good, but the quantity was not sufficient to
touch our thirst. For the remainder of the day we suffered rather
severely, as the sun was fierce.
After a short interval we followed on after the buffaloes. Within
a half mile beyond the crest of the hill over which they had
disappeared was another thicket. At the very edge of the thicket,
asleep under an outlying bush, stood one of the big bulls!
Luck seemed with us at last. The wind was right, and between us
and the bull lay only four hundred yards of knee-high grass. All we
had to do was to get down on our hands and knees, and, without further
precautions, crawl up within range and pot him. That meant only a bit
of hard, hot work.
When we were about halfway a rhinoceros suddenly arose from the
grass between us and the buffalo, and about one hundred yards away.
What had aroused him, at that distance and upwind, I do not know.
It hardly seemed possible that he could have heard us, for we were
moving very quietly, and, as I say, we were downwind. However, there
he was on his feet, sniffing now this way, now that, in search for
what had alarmed him. We sank out of sight and lay low, fully
expecting that the brute would make off.
For just twenty-five minutes by the watch that rhinoceros looked
and looked deliberately in all directions while we lay hidden waiting
for him to get over it. Sometimes he would start off quite confidently
for fifty or sixty yards, so that we thought at last we were rid of
him, but always he returned to the exact spot where we had first seen
him, there to stamp, and blow. The buffalo paid no attention to these
manifestations. I suppose everybody in jungleland is accustomed to
rhinoceros bad temper over nothing. Twice he came in our direction,
but both times gave it up after advancing twenty-five yards or so. We
lay flat on our faces, the vertical sun slowly roasting us, and cursed
Now the significance of this incident is twofold: first, the fact
that, instead of rushing off at the first intimation of our presence,
as would the average rhino, he went methodically to work to find us;
second, that he displayed such remarkable perseverance as to keep at
it nearly a half hour. This was a spirit quite at variance with that
finding its expression in the blind rush or in the sudden passionate
attack. From that point of view it seems to me that the interest and
significance of the incident can hardly be overstated.
Four or five times we thought ourselves freed of the nuisance, but
always, just as we were about to move on, back he came, as eager as
ever to nose us out. Finally he gave it up, and, at a slow trot,
started to go away from there. And out of the three hundred and sixty
degrees of the circle where he might have gone he selected just our
direction. Note that this was downwind for him, and that rhinoceroses
usually escape upwind.
We laid very low, hoping that, as before, he would change his mind
as to direction. But now he was no longer looking, but travelling.
Nearer and nearer he came. We could see plainly his little eyes, and
hear the regular swish, swish, swish of his thick legs brushing
through the grass. The regularity of his trot never varied, but to me
lying there directly in his path, he seemed to be coming on altogether
too fast for comfort. From our low level he looked as big as a barn.
Memba Sasa touched me lightly on the leg. I hated to shoot, but
finally when he loomed fairly over us I saw it must be now or never.
If I allowed him to come closer, he must indubitably catch the first
movement of my gun and so charge right on us before I would have time
to deliver even an ineffective shot. Therefore, most reluctantly, I
placed the ivory bead of the great Holland gun just to the point of
his shoulder and pulled the trigger. So close was he that as he
toppled forward I instinctively, though unnecessarily of course,
shrank back as though he might fall on me. Fortunately I had picked
my spot properly, and no second shot was necessary. He fell just
twenty-seven feet-nine yards -from where we lay!
The buffalo vanished into the blue. We were left with a dead
rhino, which we did not want, twelve miles from camp, and no water.
It was a hard hike back, but we made it finally, though nearly
perished from thirst.
This beast, be it noted, did not charge us at all, but I consider
him as one of the three undoubtedly animated by hostile intentions.
Of the others I can, at this moment, remember five that might or might
not have been actually and maliciously charging when they were killed
or dodged. I am no mind reader for rhinoceros. Also I am willing to
believe in their entirely altruistic intentions. Only, if they want to
get the practical results of their said altruistic intentions they
must really refrain from coming straight at me nearer than twenty
yards. It has been stated that if one stands perfectly still until the
rhinoceros is just six feet away, and then jumps sideways, the beast
will pass him. I never happened to meet anybody who had acted on this
theory. I suppose that such exist: though I doubt if any persistent
exponent of the art is likely to exist long. Personally I like my own
method, and stoutly maintain that within twenty yards it is up to the
rhinoceros to begin to do the dodging.
XXII. THE RHINOCEROS-(continued)
At first the traveller is pleased and curious over rhinoceros.
After he has seen and encountered eight or ten, he begins to look
upon them as an unmitigated nuisance. By the time he has done a week
in thick rhino-infested scrub he gets fairly to hating them.
They are bad enough in the open plains, where they can be seen and
avoided, but in the tall grass or the scrub they are a continuous
anxiety. No cover seems small enough to reveal them. Often they will
stand or lie absolutely immobile until you are within a very short
distance, and then will outrageously break out. They are, in spite of
their clumsy build, as quick and active as polo ponies, and are the
only beasts I know of capable of leaping into full speed ahead from a
recumbent position. In thorn scrub they are the worst, for there, no
matter how alert the traveller may hold himself, he is likely to come
around a bush smack on one. And a dozen times a day the
throat-stopping, abrupt crash and smash to right or left brings him up
all standing, his heart racing, the blood pounding through his veins.
It is jumpy work, and is very hard on the temper. In the natural
reaction from being startled into fits one snaps back to profanity.
The cumulative effects of the epithets hurled after a departing and
inconsiderately hasty rhinoceros may have done something toward
ruining the temper of the species. It does not matter whether or not
the individual beast proves dangerous; he is inevitably most
startling. I have come in at night with my eyes fairly aching from
spying for rhinos during a day's journey through high grass.
And, as a friend remarked, rhinos are such a mussy death. One poor
chap, killed while we were away on our first trip, could not be moved
from the spot where he had been trampled. A few shovelfuls of earth
over the remains was all the rhinoceros had left possible.
Fortunately, in the thick stuff especially, it is often possible
to avoid the chance rhinoceros through the warning given by the
rhinoceros birds. These are birds about the size of a robin that
accompany the beast everywhere. They sit in a row along his back
occupying themselves with ticks and a good place to roost. Always
they are peaceful and quiet until a human being approaches. Then they
flutter a few feet into the air uttering a peculiar rapid chattering.
Writers with more sentiment than sense of proportion assure us that
this warns the rhinoceros of approaching danger! On the contrary, I
always looked at it the other way. The rhinoceros birds thereby warned
ME of danger, and I was duly thankful.
The safari boys stand quite justly in a holy awe of the rhino. The
safari is strung out over a mile or two of country, as a usual thing,
and a downwind rhino is sure to pierce some part of the line in his
rush. Then down go the loads with a smash, and up the nearest trees
swarm the boys. Usually their refuges are thorn trees, armed, even on
the main trunk, with long sharp spikes. There is no difficulty in
going up, but the gingerly coming down, after all the excitement has
died, is a matter of deliberation and of voices uplifted in woe.
Cuninghame tells of an inadequate slender and springy, but solitary,
sapling into which swarmed half his safari on the advent of a
rambunctious rhino. The tree swayed and bent and cracked alarmingly,
threatening to dump the whole lot on the ground. At each crack the
boys yelled. This attracted the rhinoceros, which immediately charged
the tree full tilt. He hit square, the tree shivered and creaked, the
boys wound their arms and legs around the slender support and howled
frantically. Again and again rhinoceros drew back to repeat his
butting of that tree. By the time Cuninghame reached the spot, the
tree, with its despairing burden of black birds, was clinging to the
soil by its last remaining roots.
In the Nairobi Club I met a gentleman with one arm gone at the
shoulder. He told his story in a slightly bored and drawling voice,
picking his words very carefully, and evidently most occupied with
neither understating nor overstating the case. It seems he had been
out, and had killed some sort of a buck. While his men were occupied
with this, he strolled on alone to see what he could find. He found a
rhinoceros, that charged viciously, and into which he emptied his gun.
"When I came to," he said, "it was just coming on dusk, and the
lions were beginning to grunt. My arm was completely crushed, and I
was badly bruised and knocked about. As near as I could remember I was
fully ten miles from camp. A circle of carrion birds stood all about
me not more than ten feet away, and a great many others were flapping
over me and fighting in the air. These last were so close that I could
feel the wind from their wings. It was rawther gruesome." He paused
and thought a a moment, as though weighing his words. "In fact," he
added with an air of final conviction, "it was QUITE gruesome!"
The most calm and imperturbable rhinoceros I ever saw was one that
made us a call on the Thika River. It was just noon, and our boys were
making camp after a morning's march. The usual racket was on, and the
usual varied movement of rather confused industry. Suddenly silence
fell. We came out of the tent to see the safari gazing spellbound in
one direction. There was a rhinoceros wandering peaceably over the
little knoll back of camp, and headed exactly in our direction. While
we watched, he strolled through the edge of camp, descended the steep
bank to the river's edge, drank, climbed the bank, strolled through
camp again and departed over the hill. To us he paid not the slightest
attention. It seems impossible to believe that he neither scented nor
saw any evidences of human life in all that populated flat, especially
when one considers how often these beasts will SEEM to become aware of
man's presence by telepathy.* Perhaps he was the one exception to the
whole race, and was a good-natured rhino.
*Opposing theories are those of "instinct," and of slight causes,
such a grasshoppers leaping before the hunter's feet, not noticed by
the man approaching.
The babies are astonishing and amusing creatures, with blunt noses
on which the horns are just beginning to form, and with even fewer
manners than their parents. The mere fact of an 800-pound baby does
not cease to be curious. They are truculent little creatures, and
sometimes rather hard to avoid when they get on the warpath.
Generally, as far as my observation goes, the mother gives birth to
but one at a time. There may be occasional twin births, but I happen
never to have met so interesting a family.
Rhinoceroses are still very numerous-too numerous. I have seen as
many as fourteen in two hours, and probably could have found as many
more if I had been searching for them. There is no doubt, however,
that this species must be the first to disappear of the larger African
animals. His great size combined with his 'orrid 'abits mark him for
early destruction. No such dangerous lunatic can be allowed at large
in a settled country, nor in a country where men are travelling
constantly. The species will probably be preserved in appropriate
restricted areas. It would be a great pity to have so perfect an
example of the Prehistoric Pinhead wiped out completely. Elsewhere he
will diminish, and finally disappear.
For one thing, and for one thing only, is the traveller indebted
to the rhinoceros. The beast is lazy, large, and has an excellent eye
for easy ways through. For this reason, as regards the question of
good roads, he combines the excellent qualities of Public Sentiment,
the Steam Roller, and the Expert Engineer. Through thorn thickets
impenetrable to anything less armoured than a Dreadnaught like himself
he clears excellent paths. Down and out of eroded ravines with
perpendicular sides he makes excellent wide trails, tramped hard, on
easy grades, often with zigzags to ease the slant. In some of the high
country where the torrential rains wash hundreds of such gullies
across the line of march it is hardly an exaggeration to say that
travel would be practically impossible without the rhino trails
wherewith to cross. Sometimes the perpendicular banks will extend for
miles without offering any natural break down to the stream-bed. Since
this is so I respectfully submit to Government the following
(a) That a limited number of these beasts shall be licensed as
Trail Rhinos; and that all the rest shall be killed from the settled
and regularly travelled districts.
(b) That these Trail Rhinos shall be suitably hobbled by short
(c) That each Trail Rhino shall carry painted conspicuously on his
side his serial number.
(d) That as a further precaution for public safety each Trail
Rhino shall carry firmly attached to his tail a suitable red warning
flag. Thus the well-known habit of the rhinoceros of elevating his
tail rigidly when about to charge, or when in the act of charging,
will fly the flag as a warning to travellers.
(e) That an official shall be appointed to be known as the
Inspector of Rhinos whose duty it shall be to examine the hobbles,
numbers and flags of all Trail Rhinos, and to keep the same in due
working order and repair.
And I do submit to all and sundry that the above resolutions have
as much sense to them as have most of the petitions submitted to
Government by settlers in a new country.
XXIII. THE HIPPO POOL
For a number of days we camped in a grove just above a dense
jungle and not fifty paces from the bank of a deep and wide river. We
could at various points push through light low undergrowth, or stoop
beneath clear limbs, or emerge on tiny open banks and promontories to
look out over the width of the stream. The river here was some three
or four hundred feet wide. It cascaded down through various large
boulders and sluiceways to fall bubbling and boiling into deep water;
it then flowed still and sluggish for nearly a half mile and finally
divided into channels around a number of wooded islands of different
sizes. In the long still stretch dwelt about sixty hippopotamuses of
During our stay these hippos led a life of alarmed and angry care.
When we first arrived they were distributed picturesquely on banks or
sandbars, or were lying in midstream. At once they disappeared under
water. By the end of four or five minutes they began to come to the
surface. Each beast took one disgusted look, snorted, and sank again.
So hasty was his action that he did not even take time to get a full
breath; consequently up he had to come in not more than two minutes,
this time. The third submersion lasted less than a minute; and at the
end of half hour of yelling we had the hippos alternating between the
bottom of the river and the surface of the water about as fast as they
could make a round trip, blowing like porpoises. It was a comical
sight. And as some of the boys were always out watching the show,
those hippos had no respite during the daylight hours. From a short
distance inland the explosive blowing as they came to the surface
sounded like the irregular exhaust of a steam-engine.
We camped at this spot four days; and never, in that length of
time, during the daytime, did those hippopotamuses take any
recreation and rest. To be sure after a little they calmed down
sufficiently to remain on the surface for a half minute or so,
instead of gasping a mouthful of air and plunging below at once; but
below was where they considered they belonged most of the time. We got
to recognize certain individuals. They would stare at us fixedly for a
while; and then would glump down out of sight like submarines.
When I saw them thus floating with only the very top of the head
and snout out of water, I for the first time appreciated why the
Greeks had named them hippopotamuses-the river horses. With the heavy
jowl hidden; and the prominent nostrils, the long reverse-curved nose,
the wide eyes, and the little pointed ears alone visible, they
resembled more than a little that sort of conventionalized and noble
charger seen on the frieze of the Parthenon, or in the prancy
paintings of the Renaissance.
There were hippopotamuses of all sizes and of all colours. The
little ones, not bigger than a grand piano, were of flesh pink. Those
half-grown were mottled with pink and black in blotches. The adults
were almost invariably all dark, though a few of them retained still a
small pink spot or so-a sort of persistence in mature years of the
eternal boy-, I suppose. All were very sleek and shiny with the wet;
and they had a fashion of suddenly and violently wiggling one or the
other or both of their little ears in ridiculous contrast to the fixed
stare of their bung eyes. Generally they had nothing to say as to the
situation, though occasionally some exasperated old codger would utter
a grumbling bellow.
The ground vegetation for a good quarter mile from the river bank
was entirely destroyed, and the earth beaten and packed hard by these
animals. Landing trails had been made leading out from the water by
easy and regular grades. These trails were about two feet wide and
worn a foot or so deep. They differed from the rhino trails, from
which they could be easily distinguished, in that they showed
distinctly two parallel tracks separated from each other by a slight
ridge. In other words, the hippo waddles. These trails we found as far
as four and five miles inland. They were used, of course, only at
night; and led invariably to lush and heavy feed. While we were
encamped there, the country on our side the river was not used by our
particular herd of hippos. One night, however, we were awakened by a
tremendous rending crash of breaking bushes, followed by an instant's
silence and then the outbreak of a babel of voices. Then we heard a
prolonged sw-i-sh-sh-sh, exactly like the launching of a big boat. A
hippo had blundered out the wrong side the river, and fairly into our
In rivers such as the Tana these great beasts are most
extraordinarily abundant. Directly in front of our camp, for example,
were three separate herds which contained respectively about sixty,
forty, and twenty-five head. Within two miles below camp were three
other big pools each with its population; while a walk of a mile above
showed about as many more. This sort of thing obtained for practically
the whole length of the river-hundreds of miles. Furthermore, every
little tributary stream, no matter how small, provided it can muster a
pool or so deep enough to submerge so large an animal, has its
faithful band. I have known of a hippo quite happily occupying a ditch
pool ten feet wide and fifteen feet long. There was literally not
room enough for the beast to turn around; he had to go in at one end
and out at the other! Each lake, too, is alive with them; and both
lakes and rivers are many.
Nobody disturbs hippos, save for trophies and an occasional supply
of meat for the men or of cooking fat for the kitchen. Therefore they
wax fat and sassy, and will long continue to flourish in the land.
It takes time to kill a hippo, provided one is wanted. The mark is
small, and generally it is impossible to tell whether or not the
bullet has reached the brain. Harmed or whole the beast sinks anyway.
Some hours later the distention of the stomach will float the body.
Therefore the only decent way to do is to take the shot, and then wait
a half day to see whether or not you have missed. There are always
plenty of volunteers in camp to watch the pool, for the boys are
extravagantly fond of hippo meat. Then it is necessary to manoeuvre a
rope on the carcass, often a matter of great difficulty, for the other
hippos bellow and snort and try to live up to the circus posters of
the Blood-sweating Behemoth of Holy Writ, and the crocodiles like dark
meat very much. Usually one offers especial reward to volunteers, and
shoots into the water to frighten the beasts. The volunteer dashes
rapidly across the shallows, makes a swift plunge, and clambers out on
the floating body as onto a raft.
Then he makes fast the rope, and everybody tails on and tows the
whole outfit ashore. On one occasion the volunteer produced a fish
line and actually caught a small fish from the floating carcass! This
sounds like a good one; but I saw it with my own two eyes.
It was at the hippo pool camp that we first became acquainted with
Funny Face was the smallest, furriest little monkey you ever saw.
I never cared for monkeys before; but this one was altogether
engaging. He had thick soft fur almost like that on a Persian cat,
and a tiny human black face, and hands that emerged from a ruff; and
he was about as big as old-fashioned dolls used to be before they
began to try to imitate real babies with them. That is to say, he was
that big when we said farewell to him. When we first knew him, had he
stood in a half pint measure he could just have seen over the rim. We
caught him in a little thorn ravine all by himself, a fact that
perhaps indicates that his mother had been killed, or perhaps that he,
like a good little Funny Face, was merely staying where he was told
while she was away. At any rate he fought savagely, according to his
small powers. We took him ignominiously by the scruff of the neck,
haled him to camp, and dumped him down on Billy. Billy constructed him
a beautiful belt by sacrificing part of a kodak strap (mine), and tied
him to a chop box filled with dry grass. Thenceforth this became Funny
Face's castle, at home and on the march.
Within a few hours his confidence in life was restored. He
accepted small articles of food from our hands, eyeing us intently,
retired and examined them. As they all proved desirable, he rapidly
came to the conclusion that these new large strange monkeys, while not
so beautiful and agile as his own people, were nevertheless a good
sort after all. Therefore he took us into his confidence. By next day
he was quite tame, would submit to being picked up without struggling,
and had ceased trying to take an end off our various fingers. In fact
when the finger was presented, he would seize it in both small black
hands; convey it to his mouth; give it several mild and gentle
love-chews; and then, clasping it with all four hands, would draw
himself up like a little athlete and seat himself upright on the
outspread palm. Thence he would survey the world, wrinkling up his
This chastened and scholarly attitude of mind lasted for four or
five days. Then Funny Face concluded that he understood all about it,
had settled satisfactorily to himself all the problems of the world
and his relations to it, and had arrived at a good working basis for
life. Therefore these questions ceased to occupy him. He dismissed
them from his mind completely, and gave himself over to light-hearted
His disposition was flighty but full of elusive charm. You
deprecated his lack of serious purpose in life, disapproved heartily
of his irresponsibility, but you fell to his engaging qualities. He
was a typical example of the lovable good-for-naught. Nothing retained
his attention for two consecutive minutes. If he seized a nut and
started for his chop box with it, the chances were he would drop it
and forget all about it in the interest excited by a crawling ant or
the colour of a flower. His elfish face was always alight with the
play of emotions and of flashing changing interests. He was greatly
given to starting off on very important errands, which he forgot
before he arrived.
In this he contrasted strangely with his friend Darwin. Darwin was
another monkey of the same species, caught about a week later.
Darwin's face was sober and pondering, and his methods direct and
effective. No side excursions into the brilliant though evanescent
fields of fancy diverted him from his ends. These were, generally, to
get the most and best food and the warmest corner for sleep. When he
had acquired a nut, a kernel of corn, or a piece of fruit, he sat him
down and examined it thoroughly and conscientiously and then,
conscientiously and thoroughly, he devoured it. No extraneous interest
could distract his attention; not for a moment. That he had sounded
the seriousness of life is proved by the fact that he had observed
and understood the flighty character of Funny Face. When Funny Face
acquired a titbit, Darwin took up a hump-backed position near at hand,
his bright little eyes fixed on his friend's activities. Funny Face
would nibble relishingly at his prune for a moment or so; then an
altogether astonishing butterfly would flitter by just overhead. Funny
Face, lost in ecstasy would gaze skyward after the departing marvel.
This was Darwin's opportunity. In two hops he was at Funny Face's
side. With great deliberation, but most businesslike directness,
Darwin disengaged Funny Face's unresisting fingers from the prune,
seized it, and retired. Funny Face never knew it; his soul was far
away after the blazoned wonder, and when it returned, it was not to
prunes at all. They were forgotten, and his wandering eye focussed
back to a bright button in the grass. Thus by strict attention to
business did Darwin prosper.
Darwin's attitude was always serious, and his expression grave.
When he condescended to romp with Funny Face one could see that it
was not for the mere joy of sport, but for the purposes of relaxation.
If offered a gift he always examined it seriously before finally
accepting it, turning it over and over in his hands, and considering
it with wrinkled brow. If you offered anything to Funny Face, no
matter what, he dashed up, seized it on the fly, departed at speed
uttering grateful low chatterings; probably dropped and forgot it in
the excitement of something new before he had even looked to see what
"These people," said Darwin to himself, "on the whole, and as an
average, seem to give me appropriate and pleasing gifts. To be sure,
it is always well to see that they don't try to bunco me with olive
stones or such worthless trash, but still I believe they are worth
cultivating and standing in with."
""It strikes me," observed Funny Face to himself, "that my
adorable Memsahib and my beloved bwana have been very kind to me
to-day, though I don't remember precisely how. But I certainly do
We cut good sized holes on each of the four sides of their chop
box to afford them ventilation on the march. The box was always
carried on one of the safari boy's heads: and Funny Face and Darwin
gazed forth with great interest. It was very amusing to see the big
negro striding jauntily along under his light burden; the large brown
winking eyes glued to two of the apertures. When we arrived in camp
and threw the box cover open, they hopped forth, shook themselves,
examined their immediate surroundings and proceeded to take a little
exercise. When anything alarmed them, such as the shadow of a passing
hawk, they skittered madly up the nearest thing in sight-tent pole,
tree, or human form- and scolded indignantly or chittered in a low
tone according to the degree of their terror. When Funny Face was very
young, indeed, the grass near camp caught fire. After the excitement
was over we found him completely buried in the straw of his box,
crouched, and whimpering like a child. As he could hardly, at his
tender age, have had any previous experience with fire, this
instinctive fear was to me very interesting.
The monkeys had only one genuine enemy. That was an innocent plush
lion named Little Simba. It had been given us in joke before we left
California, we had tucked it into an odd corner of our trunk, had
discovered it there, carried it on safari out of sheer idleness, and
lo! it had become an important member of the expedition. Every morning
Mahomet or Yusuf packed it-or rather him-carefully away in the tin
box. Promptly at the end of the day's march Little Simba was haled
forth and set in a place of honour in the centre of the table, and
reigned there-or sometimes in a little grass jungle constructed by his
faithful servitors-until the march was again resumed. His job in life
was to look after our hunting luck. When he failed to get us what we
wanted, he was punished; when he procured us what we desired he was
rewarded by having his tail sewed on afresh, or by being presented
with new black thread whiskers, or even a tiny blanket of Mericani
against the cold. This last was an especial favour for finally getting
us the greater kudu. Naturally as we did all this in the spirit of an
idle joke our rewards and punishments were rather desultory. To our
surprise, however, we soon found that our boys took Little Simba quite
seriously. He was a fetish, a little god, a power of good or bad luck.
We did not appreciate this point until one evening, after a rather
disappointing day, Mahomet came to us bearing Little Simba in his
"Bwana," said he respectfully, "is it enough that I shut Simba in
the tin box, or do you wish to flog him?"
On one very disgraceful occasion, when everything went wrong, we
plucked Little Simba from his high throne and with him made a
beautiful drop-kick out into the tall grass. There, in a loud tone of
voice, we sternly bade him lie until the morrow. The camp was
bung-eyed. It is not given to every people to treat its gods in such
fashion: indeed, in very deed, great is the white man! To be fair,
having published Little Simba's disgrace, we should publish also
Little Simba's triumph: to tell how, at the end of a certain very
lucky three months' safari he was perched atop a pole and carried into
town triumphantly at the head of a howling, singing procession of a
hundred men. He returned to America, and now, having retired from
active professional life, is leading an honoured old age among the
trophies he helped to procure.
Funny Face first met Little Simba when on an early investigating
tour. With considerable difficulty he had shinnied up the table leg,
and had hoisted himself over the awkwardly projecting table edge. When
almost within reach of the fascinating affairs displayed atop, he
looked straight up into the face of Little Simba! Funny Face shrieked
aloud, let go all holds and fell off flat on his back. Recovering
immediately, he climbed just as high as he could, and proceeded,
during the next hour, to relieve his feelings by the most insulting
chatterings and grimaces. He never recovered from this initial
experience. All that was necessary to evoke all sorts of monkey talk
was to produce Little Simba. Against his benign plush front then broke
a storm of remonstrance. He became the object of slow advances and
sudden scurrying, shrieking retreats, that lasted just as long as he
stayed there, and never got any farther than a certain quite
conservative point. Little Simba did not mind. He was too busy being
The Cape Buffalo is one of the four dangerous kinds of African big
game; of which the other three are the lion, the rhinoceros, and the
elephant. These latter are familiar to us in zoological gardens,
although the African and larger form of the rhinoceros and elephant
are seldom or never seen in captivity. But buffaloes are as yet
unrepresented in our living collections. They are huge beasts,
tremendous from any point of view, whether considered in height, in
mass, or in power. At the shoulder they stand from just under five
feet to just under six feet in height; they are short legged, heavy
bodied bull necked, thick in every dimension. In colour they are black
as to hair, and slate gray as to skin; so that the individual
impression depends on the thickness of the coat. They wear their horns
parted in the middle, sweeping smoothly away in the curves of two
great bosses either side the head. A good trophy will measure in
spread from forty inches to four feet. Four men will be required to
carry in the head alone. As buffaloes when disturbed or suspicious
have a habit of thrusting their noses up and forward, that position
will cling to one's memory as the most typical of the species.
A great many hunters rank the buffalo first among the dangerous
beasts. This is not my own opinion, but he is certainly dangerous
enough. He possesses the size, power, and truculence of the
rhinoceros, together with all that animal's keenness of scent and
hearing but with a sharpness of vision the rhinoceros has not. While
not as clever as either the lion or the elephant, he is tricky enough
when angered to circle back for the purpose of attacking his pursuers
in the rear or flank, and to arrange rather ingenious ambushes for the
same purpose. He is rather more tenacious of life than the rhinoceros,
and will carry away an extraordinary quantity of big bullets. Add to
these considerations the facts that buffaloes go in herds; and that,
barring luck, chances are about even they will have to be followed
into the thickest cover, it can readily be seen that their pursuit is
The problem would be simplified were one able or willing to slip
into the thicket or up to the grazing herd and kill the nearest beast
that offers. As a matter of fact an ordinary herd will contain only
two or three bulls worth shooting; and it is the hunter's delicate
task to glide and crawl here and there, with due regard for sight,
scent and sound, until he has picked one of these from the scores of
undesirables. Many times will he worm his way by inches toward the
great black bodies half defined in the screen of thick undergrowth
only to find that he has stalked cows or small bulls. Then inch by
inch he must back out again, unable to see twenty yards to either
side, guiding himself by the probabilities of the faint chance breezes
in the thicket. To right and left he hears the quiet continued crop,
crop, crop, sound of animals grazing. The sweat runs down his face in
streams, and blinds his eyes, but only occasionally and with the
utmost caution can he raise his hand-or, better, lower his head-to
clear his vision. When at last he has withdrawn from the danger zone,
he wipes his face, takes a drink from the canteen, and tries again.
Sooner or later his presence comes to the notice of some old cow.
Behind the leafy screen where unsuspected she has been standing comes
the most unexpected and heart-jumping crash! Instantly the jungle all
about roars into life. The great bodies of the alarmed beasts hurl
themselves through the thicket, smash! bang! crash! smash! as though a
tornado were uprooting the forest. Then abruptly a complete silence!
This lasts but ten seconds or so; then off rushes the wild stampede in
another direction; only again to come to a listening halt of
breathless stillness. So the hunter, unable to see anything, and
feeling very small, huddles with his gunbearers in a compact group,
listening to the wild surging short rushes, now this way, now that,
hoping that the stampede may not run over him. If by chance it does,
he has his two shots and the possibility of hugging a tree while the
rush divides around him. The latter is the most likely; a single
buffalo is hard enough to stop with two shots, let alone a herd. And
yet, sometimes, the mere flash and noise will suffice to turn them,
provided they are not actually trying to attack, but only rushing
indefinitely about. Probably a man can experience few more thrilling
moments than he will enjoy standing in one of the small leafy rooms of
an African jungle while several hundred tons of buffalo crash back and
forth all around him.
In the best of circumstances it is only rarely that having
identified his big bull, the hunter can deliver a knockdown blow. The
beast is extraordinarily vital, and in addition it is exceedingly
difficult to get a fair, open shot. Then from the danger of being
trampled down by the blind and senseless stampede of the herd he
passes to the more defined peril from an angered and cunning single
animal. The majority of fatalities in hunting buffaloes happen while
following wounded beasts. A flank charge at close range may catch the
most experienced man; and even when clearly seen, it is difficult to
stop. The buffalo's wide bosses are a helmet to his brain, and the
body shot is always chancy. The beast tosses his victim, or tramples
him, or pushes him against a tree to crush him like a fly.
He who would get his trophy, however, is not always-perhaps is not
generally-forced into the thicket to get it. When not much disturbed,
buffaloes are in the habit of grazing out into the open just before
dark; and of returning to their thicket cover only well after sunrise.
If the hunter can arrange to meet his herd at such a time, he stands a
very good chance of getting a clear shot. The job then requires merely
ordinary caution and manoeuvring; and the only danger, outside the
ever-present one from the wounded beast, is that the herd may charge
over him deliberately. Therefore it is well to keep out of sight.
The difficulty generally is to locate your beasts. They wander all
night, and must be blundered upon in the early morning before they
have drifted back into the thickets. Sometimes, by sending skilled
trackers in several directions, they can be traced to where they have
entered cover. A messenger then brings the white man to the place, and
every one tries to guess at what spot the buffaloes are likely to
emerge for their evening stroll. It is remarkably easy to make a wrong
guess, and the remaining daylight is rarely sufficient to repair a
mistake. And also, in the case of a herd ranging a wide country with
much tall grass and several drinking holes, it is rather difficult,
without very good luck, to locate them on any given night or morning.
A few herds, a very few, may have fixed habits, and so prove easy
These difficulties, while in no way formidable, are real enough in
their small way; but they are immensely increased when the herds have
been often disturbed. Disturbance need not necessarily mean shooting.
In countries unvisited by white men often the pastoral natives will so
annoy the buffalo by shoutings and other means, whenever they appear
near the tame cattle, that the huge beasts will come practically
nocturnal. In that case only the rankest luck will avail to get a man
a chance in the open. The herds cling to cover until after sundown and
just at dusk; and they return again very soon after the first streaks
of dawn. If the hunter just happens to be at the exact spot, he may
get a twilight shot when the glimmering ivory of his front sight is
barely visible. Otherwise he must go into the thicket.
As an illustration of the first condition might be instanced an
afternoon on the Tana. The weather was very hot. We had sent three
lots of men out in different directions, each under the leadership of
one of the gunbearers, to scout, while we took it easy in the shade of
our banda, or grass shelter, on the bank of the river. About one
o'clock a messenger came into camp reporting that the men under
Mavrouki had traced a herd to its lying-down place. We took our heavy
guns and started.
The way led through thin scrub up the long slope of a hill that
broke on the other side into undulating grass ridges that ended in a
range of hills. These were about four or five miles distant, and
thinly wooded on sides and lower slopes with what resembled a small
live-oak growth. Among these trees, our guide told us, the buffalo had
first been sighted.
The sun was very hot, and all the animals were still. We saw
impalla in the scrub, and many giraffes and bucks on the plains.
After an hour and a half's walk we entered the parklike groves at the
foot of the hills, and our guide began to proceed more cautiously. He
moved forward a few feet, peered about, retraced his steps. Suddenly
his face broke into a broad grin. Following his indication we looked
up, and there in a tree almost above us roosted one of our boys sound
asleep! We whistled at him. Thereupon he awoke, tried to look very
alert, and pointed in the direction we should go. After an interval we
picked up another sentinel, and another, and another until, passed on
thus from one to the next, we traced the movements of the herd.
Finally we came upon Mavrouki and Simba under a bush. From them, in
whispers, we learned that the buffalo were karibu sana-very near; that
they had fed this far, and were now lying in the long grass just
ahead. Leaving the men, we now continued our forward movement on
hands and knees, in single file. It was very hot work, for the sun
beat square down on us, and the tall grass kept off every breath of
air. Every few moments we rested, lying on our faces. Occasionally,
when the grass shortened, or the slant of ground tended to expose us,
we lay quite flat and hitched forward an inch at a time by the
strength of our toes. This was very severe work indeed, and we were
drenched in perspiration. In fact, as I had been feeling quite ill all
day, it became rather doubtful whether I could stand the pace.
However after a while we managed to drop down into an eroded deep
little ravine. Here the air was like that of a furnace, but at least
we could walk upright for a few rods. This we did, with the most
extraordinary precautions against even the breaking of a twig or the
rolling of a pebble. Then we clambered to the top of the bank, wormed
our way forward another fifty feet to the shelter of a tiny bush, and
stretched out to recuperate. We lay there some time, sheltered from
the sun. Then ahead of us suddenly rumbled a deep bellow. We were
fairly upon the herd!
Cautiously F., who was nearest the centre of the bush, raised
himself alongside the stem to look. He could see where the beasts
were lying, not fifty yards away, but he could make out nothing but
the fact of great black bodies taking their ease in the grass under
the shade of trees. So much he reported to us; then rose again to keep
Thus we waited the rest of the afternoon. The sun dipped at last
toward the west, a faint irregular breeze wandered down from the
hills, certain birds awoke and uttered their clear calls, an
unsuspected kongoni stepped from the shade of a tree over the way and
began to crop the grass, the shadows were lengthening through the
trees. Then ahead of us an uneasiness ran through the herd. We in the
grass could hear the mutterings and grumblings of many great animals.
Suddenly F. snapped his fingers, stooped low and darted forward. We
scrambled to our feet and followed.
Across a short open space we ran, bent double to the shelter of a
big ant hill. Peering over the top of this we found ourselves within
sixty yards of a long compact column of the great black beasts, moving
forward orderly to the left, the points of the cow's horns, curved up
and in, tossing slowly as the animals walked. On the flank of the herd
was a big gray bull.
It had been agreed that B. was to have the shot. Therefore he
opened fire with his 405 Winchester, a weapon altogether too light
for this sort of work. At the shot the herd dashed forward to an open
grass meadow a few rods away, wheeled and faced back in a compact
mass, their noses thrust up and out in their typical fashion, trying
with all their senses to locate the cause of the disturbance.
Taking advantage both of the scattered cover, and the half light
of the shadows we slipped forward as rapidly and as unobtrusively as
we could to the edge of the grass meadow. Here we came to a stand
eighty yards from the buffaloes. They stood compactly like a herd of
cattle, staring, tossing their heads, moving slightly, their wild eyes
searching for us. I saw several good bulls, but always they moved
where it was impossible to shoot without danger of getting the wrong
beast. Finally my chance came; I planted a pair of Holland bullets in
the shoulder of one of them.
The herd broke away to the right, sweeping past us at close range.
My bull ran thirty yards with them, then went down stone dead. When we
examined him we found the hole made by B.'s Winchester bullet; so that
quite unintentionally and by accident I had fired at the same beast.
This was lucky. The trophy, by hunter's law, of course, belonged to B.
Therefore F. and I alone followed on after the herd. It was now
coming on dusk. Within a hundred yards we began to see scattered
beasts. The formation of the herd had broken. Some had gone on in
flight, while others in small scattered groups would stop to stare
back, and would then move slowly on for a few paces before stopping
again. Among these I made out a bull facing us about a hundred and
twenty-five yards away, and managed to stagger him, but could not
bring him down.
Now occurred an incident which I should hesitate to relate were it
not that both F. and myself saw it. We have since talked it over,
compared our recollections, and found them to coincide in every
As we moved cautiously in pursuit of the slowly retreating herd
three cows broke back and came running down past us. We ducked aside
and hid, of course, but noticed that of the three two were very young,
while one was so old that she had become fairly emaciated, a very
unusual thing with buffaloes. We then followed the herd for twenty
minutes, or until twilight, when we turned back. About halfway down
the slope we again met the three cows, returning. They passed us
within twenty yards, but paid us no attention whatever. The old cow
was coming along very reluctantly, hanging back at every step, and
every once in a while swinging her head viciously at one or the other
of her two companions. These escorted her on either side, and a little
to the rear. They were plainly urging her forward, and did not
hesitate to dig her in the ribs with their horns whenever she turned
especially obstinate. In fact they acted exactly like a pair of
cowboys HERDING a recalcitrant animal back to its band and I have no
doubt at all that when they first by us the old lady was making a
break for liberty in the wrong direction, AND THAT THE TWO YOUNGER
COWS WERE TRYING TO ROUND HER BACK! Whether they were her daughters or
not is problematical; but it certainly seemed that they were taking
care of her and trying to prevent her running back where it was
dangerous to go. I never heard of a similar case. though Herbert Ward*
mentions, without particulars that elephants AND BUFFALOES will assist
each other WHEN WOUNDED.
*A Voice from the COngo.
After passing these we returned to where B. and the men, who had
now come up, had prepared the dead bull for transportation. We
started at once, travelling by the stars, shouting and singing to
discourage the lions, but did not reach camp until well into the
XXV. THE BUFFALO-continued
Some months later, and many hundreds of miles farther south, Billy
and I found ourselves alone with twenty men, and two weeks to pass
until C.-our companion at the time-should return from a long journey
out with a wounded man. By slow stages, and relaying back and forth,
we landed in a valley so beautiful in every way that we resolved to
stay as long as possible. This could be but five days at most. At the
end of that time we must start for our prearranged rendezvous with C.
The valley was in the shape of an ellipse, the sides of which were
formed by great clifflike mountains, and the other two by hills lower,
but still of considerable boldness and size. The longest radius was
perhaps six or eight miles, and the shortest three or four. At one end
a canyon dropped away to a lower level, and at the other a pass in the
hills gave over to the country of the Narassara River. The name of the
valley was Lengeetoto.
>From the great mountains flowed many brooks of clear sparkling
water, that ran beneath the most beautiful of open jungles, to unite
finally in one main stream that disappeared down the canyon. Between
these brooks were low broad rolling hills, sometimes grass covered,
sometimes grown thinly with bushes. Where they headed in the
mountains, long stringers of forest trees ran up to blocklike groves,
apparently pasted like wafers against the base of the cliffs, but in
reality occupying spacious slopes below them.
We decided to camp at the foot of a long grass slant within a
hundred yards of the trees along one of the small streams. Before us
we had the sweep of brown grass rising to a clear cut skyline; and all
about us the distant great hills behind which the day dawned and fell.
One afternoon a herd of giraffes stood silhouetted on this skyline
quite a half hour gazing curiously down on our camp. Hartebeeste and
zebra swarmed in the grassy openings; and impalla in the brush. We saw
sing-sing and steinbuck, and other animals, and heard lions nearly
every night. But principally we elected to stay because a herd of
buffaloes ranged the foothills and dwelt in the groves of forest trees
under the cliffs. We wanted a buffalo; and as Lengeetoto is
practically unknown to white men, we thought this a good chance to
get one. In that I reckoned without the fact that at certain seasons
the Masai bring their cattle in, and at such times annoy the buffalo
all they can.
We started out well enough. I sent Memba Sasa with two men to
locate the herd. About three o'clock a messenger came to camp after
me. We plunged through our own jungle, crossed a low swell, traversed
another jungle, and got in touch with the other two men. They reported
the buffalo had entered the thicket a few hundred yards below us.
Cautiously reconnoitering the ground it soon became evident that we
would be forced more definitely to locate the herd. To be sure, they
had entered the stream jungle at a known point, but there could be no
telling how far they might continue in the thicket, nor on what side
of it they would emerge at sundown. Therefore we commenced cautiously
and slowly follow the trail.
The going was very thick, naturally, and we could not see very far
ahead. Our object was not now to try for a bull, but merely to find
where the herd was feeding, in order that we might wait for it to come
out. However, we were brought to a stand, in the middle of a jungle of
green leaves, by the cropping sound of a beast grazing just the other
side of a bush. We could not see it, and we stood stock still in the
hope of escaping discovery ourselves. But an instant later a sudden
crash of wood told us we had been seen. It was near work. The
gunbearers crouched close to me. I held the heavy double gun ready. If
the beast had elected to charge I would have had less than ten yards
within which to stop it. Fortunately it did not do so. But instantly
the herd was afoot and off at full speed. A locomotive amuck in a
kindling pile could have made no more appalling a succession of
rending crashes than did those heavy animals rushing here and there
through the thick woody growth. We could see nothing. Twice the rush
started in our direction, but stopped as suddenly as it had begun, to
be succeeded by absolute stillness when everything, ourselves
included, held its breath to listen. Finally, the first panic over,
the herd started definitely away downstream. We ran as fast as we
could out of the jungle to a commanding position on the hill. Thence
we could determine the course of the herd. It continued on downstream
as far as we could follow the sounds in the convolutions of the hills.
Realizing that it would improbably recover enough from its alarmed
condition to resume its regular habits that day, we returned to camp.
Next morning Memba Sasa and I were afield before daylight. We took
no other men. In hunting I am a strong disbeliever in the common habit
of trailing along a small army. It is simple enough, in case the kill
is made, to send back for help. No matter how skilful your men are at
stalking, the chances of alarming the game are greatly increased by
numbers; while the possibilities of misunderstanding the plan of
campaign, and so getting into the wrong place at the wrong time, are
infinite. Alone, or with one gunbearer, a man can slip in and out a
herd of formidable animals with the least chances of danger. Merely
going out after camp meat is of course a different matter.
We did not follow in the direction taken by the herd the night
before, but struck off toward the opposite side of the valley. For
two hours we searched the wooded country at the base of the cliff
mountains, working slowly around the circle, examining every inlet,
ravine and gully. Plenty of other sorts of game we saw, including
elephant tracks not a half hour old; but no buffalo. About eight
o'clock, however, while looking through my glasses, I caught sight of
some tiny chunky black dots crawling along below the mountains
diagonally across the valley, and somewhat over three miles away. We
started in that direction as fast as we could walk. At the end of an
hour we surmounted the last swell, and stood at the edge of a steep
drop. Immediately below us flowed a good-sized stream through a high
jungle over the tops of which we looked to a triangular gentle slope
overgrown with scattered bushes and high grass. Beyond this again ran
another jungle, angling up hill from the first, to end in a forest of
trees about thirty or forty acres in extent. This jungle and these
trees were backed up against the slope of the mountain. The buffaloes
we had first seen above the grove: they must now have sought cover
among either the trees or the lower jungle, and it seemed reasonable
that the beasts would emerge on the grass and bush area late in the
afternoon. Therefore Memba Sasa and I selected good comfortable
sheltered spots, leaned our backs against rocks, and resigned
ourselves to long patience. It was now about nine o'clock in the
morning, and we could not expect our game to come out before half past
three at earliest. We could not, however, go away to come back later
because of the chance that the buffaloes might take it into their
heads to go travelling. I had been fooled that way before. For this
reason, also, it was necessary, every five minutes or so, to examine
carefully all our boundaries; lest the beasts might be slipping away
through the cover.
The hours passed very slowly. We made lunch last as long as
possible. I had in my pocket a small edition of Hawthorne's "The
House of the Seven Gables," which I read, pausing every few minutes
to raise my glasses for the periodical examination of the country. The
mental focussing back from the pale gray half light of Hawthorne's New
England to the actuality of wild Africa was a most extraordinary
Through the heat of the day the world lay absolutely silent. At
about half-past three, however, we heard rumblings and low bellows
from the trees a half mile away. I repocketed Hawthorne, and aroused
myself to continuous alertness.
The ensuing two hours passed more slowly than all the rest of the
day, for we were constantly on the lookout. The buffaloes delayed
most singularly, seemingly reluctant to leave their deep cover. The
sun dropped behind the mountains, and their shadow commenced to climb
the opposite range. I glanced at my watch. We had not more than a half
hour of daylight left.
Fifteen minutes of this passed. It began to look as though our
long and monotonous wait had been quite in vain; when, right below
us, and perhaps five hundred yards away, four great black bodies fed
leisurely from the bushes. Three of them we could see plainly. Two
were bulls of fair size. The fourth, half concealed in the brush, was
by far the biggest of the lot.
In order to reach them we would have to slip down the face of the
hill on which we sat, cross the stream jungle at the bottom, climb
out the other side, and make our stalk to within range. With a half
hour more of daylight this would have been comparatively easy, but in
such circumstances it is difficult to move at the same time rapidly
and unseen. However, we decided to make the attempt. To that end we
disencumbered ourselves of all our extras-lunch box, book, kodak,
glasses, etc.-and wormed our way as rapidly as possible toward the
bottom of the hill. We utilized the cover as much as we were able, but
nevertheless breathed a sigh of relief when we had dropped below the
line of the jungle. We wasted very little time crossing the latter,
save for precautions against noise. Even in my haste, however, I had
opportunity to notice its high and austere character, with the
arching overhead vines, and the clear freedom from undergrowth in its
heart. Across this cleared space we ran at full speed, crouching below
the grasp of the vines, splashed across the brook and dashed up the
other bank. Only a faint glimmer of light lingered in the jungle. At
the upper edge we paused, collected ourselves, and pushed cautiously
through the thick border-screen of bush.
The twilight was just fading into dusk. Of course we had taken our
bearings from the other hill; so now, after reassuring ourselves of
them, we began to wriggle our way at a great pace through the high
grass. Our calculations were quite accurate. We stalked successfully,
and at last, drenched in sweat, found ourselves lying flat within ten
yards of a small bush behind which we could make out dimly the black
mass of the largest beast we had seen from across the way.
Although it was now practically dark, we had the game in our own
hands. From our low position the animal, once it fed forward from
behind the single small bush, would be plainly outlined against the
sky, and at ten yards I should be able to place my heavy bullets
properly, even in the dark. Therefore, quite easy in our minds, we lay
flat and rested. At the end of twenty seconds the animal began to step
forward. I levelled my double gun, ready to press trigger the moment
the shoulder appeared in the clear. Then against the saffron sky
emerged the ugly outline and two upstanding horns of a rhinoceros!
"Faru!" I whispered disgustedly to Memba Sasa. With infinite pains
we backed out, then retreated to a safe distance. It was of course now
too late to hunt up the three genuine buffaloes of this ill-assorted
In fact our main necessity was to get through the river jungle
before the afterglow had faded from the sky, leaving us in pitch
darkness. I sent Memba Sasa across to pick up the effects we had left
on the opposite ridge, while I myself struck directly across the flat
I had plunged ahead thus, for two or three hundred yards, when I
was brought up short by the violent snort of a rhinoceros just off
the starboard bow. He was very close, but I was unable to locate him
in the dusk. A cautious retreat and change of course cleared me from
him, and I was about to start on again full speed when once more I was
halted by another rhinoceros, this time dead ahead. Attempting to back
away from him, I aroused another in my rear; and as though this were
not enough a fourth opened up to the left.
It was absolutely impossible to see anything ten yards away unless
it happened to be silhouetted against the sky. I backed cautiously
toward a little bush, with a vague idea of having something to dodge
around. As the old hunter said when, unarmed, he met the bear,
"Anything, even a newspaper, would have come handy." To my great joy I
backed against a conical ant hill four or five feet high. This I
ascended and began anti-rhino demonstrations. I had no time to fool
with rhinos, anyway. I wanted to get through that jungle before the
leopards left their family circles. I hurled clods of earth and
opprobrious shouts and epithets in the four directions of my four
obstreperous friends, and I thought I counted four reluctant
departures. Then, with considerable doubt, I descended from my ant
hill and hurried down the slope, stumbling over grass hummocks,
colliding with bushes, tangling with vines, but progressing in a
gratifyingly rhinoless condition. Five minutes cautious but rapid
feeling my way brought me through the jungle. Shortly after I raised
the campfires; and so got home.
The next two days were repetitions, with slight variation, of this
experience, minus the rhinos! Starting from camp before daylight we
were only in time to see the herd-always aggravatingly on the other
side of the cover, no matter which side we selected for our approach,
slowly grazing into the dense jungle. And always they emerged so late
and so far away that our very best efforts failed to get us near them
before dark. The margin always so narrow, however, that our hopes were
On the fourth day, which must be our last in Longeetoto, we found
that the herd had shifted to fresh cover three miles along the base
of the mountains. We had no faith in those buffaloes, but about
half-past three we sallied forth dutifully and took position on a hill
overlooking the new hiding place. This consisted of a wide grove of
forest trees varied by occasional open glades and many dense thickets.
So eager were we to win what had by now developed into a contest that
I refused to shoot a lioness with a three-quarters-grown cub that
appeared within easy shot from some reeds below us.
Time passed as usual until nearly sunset. Then through an opening
into one of the small glades we caught sight of the herd travelling
slowly but steadily from right to left. The glimpse was only
momentary, but it was sufficient to indicate the direction from which
we might expect them to emerge. Therefore we ran at top speed down
from our own hill, tore through the jungle at its foot, and hastily,
but with more caution, mounted the opposite slope through the
scattered groves and high grass. We could hear occasionally
indications of the buffaloes' slow advance, and we wanted to gain a
good ambuscade above them before they emerged. We found it in the
shape of a small conical hillock perched on the side hill itself, and
covered with long grass. It commanded open vistas through the
scattered trees in all directions. And the thicket itself ended not
fifty yards away. No buffalo could possibly come out without our
seeing him; and we had a good half hour of clear daylight before us.
It really seemed that luck had changed at last.
We settled ourselves, unlimbered for action, and got our breath.
The buffaloes came nearer and nearer. At length, through a tiny
opening a hundred yards away, we could catch momentary glimpses of
their great black bodies. I thrust forward the safety catch and
waited. Finally a half dozen of the huge beasts were feeding not six
feet inside the circle of brush, and only thirty-odd yards from where
And they came no farther! I never passed a more heart-breaking
half hour of suspense than that in which little by little the
daylight and our hopes faded, while those confounded buffaloes moved
slowly out to the very edge of the thicket, turned, and moved as
slowly back again. At times they came actually into view. We could see
their sleek black bodies rolling lazily into sight and back again,
like seals on the surface of water, but never could we make out more
than that. I could have had a dozen good shots, but I could not even
guess what I would be shooting at. And the daylight drained away and
the minutes ticked by!
Finally, as I could see no end to this performance save that to
which we had been so sickeningly accustomed in the last four days, I
motioned to Memba Sasa, and together we glided like shadows into the
There it was already dusk. We sneaked breathlessly through the
small openings, desperately in a hurry, almost painfully on the
alert. In the dark shadow sixty yards ahead stood a half dozen
monstrous bodies all facing our way. They suspected the presence of
something unusual, but in the darkness and the stillness they could
neither identify it nor locate it exactly. I dropped on one knee and
snatched my prism glasses to my eyes. The magnification enabled me to
see partially into the shadows. Every one of the group carried the
sharply inturned points to the horns: they were all cows!
An instant after I had made out this fact, they stampeded across
our face. The whole band thundered and crashed away.
Desperately we sprang after them, our guns atrail, our bodies
stooped low to keep down in the shadow of the earth. And suddenly,
without the slightest warning we plumped around a bush square on top
of the entire herd. It had stopped and was staring back in our
direction. I could see nothing but the wild toss of a hundred pair of
horns silhouetted against such of the irregular saffron afterglow as
had not been blocked off by the twigs and branches of the thicket. All
below was indistinguishable blackness.
They stood in a long compact semicircular line thirty yards away,
quite still, evidently staring intently into the dusk to find out
what had alarmed them. At any moment they were likely to make another
rush; and if they did so in the direction they were facing, they would
most certainly run over us and trample us down.
Remembering the dusk I thought it likely that the unexpected vivid
flash of the gun might turn them off before they got started.
Therefore I raised the big double Holland, aimed below the line of
heads, and was just about to pull trigger when my eye caught the
silhouette of a pair of horns whose tips spread out instead of turning
in. This was a bull, and I immediately shifted the gun in his
direction. At the heavy double report, the herd broke wildly to right
and left and thundered away. I confess I was quite relieved.
A low moaning bellow told us that our bull was down. The last few
days' experience at being out late had taught us wisdom so Memba Sasa
had brought a lantern. By the light of this, we discovered our bull
down, and all but dead. To make sure, I put a Winchester bullet into
We felt ourselves legitimately open to congratulations, for we had
killed this bull from a practically nocturnal herd, in the face of
considerable danger and more than considerable difficulty. Therefore
we shook hands and made appropriate remarks to each other, lacking
anybody to make them for us.
By now it was pitch dark in the thicket, and just about so
outside. We had to do a little planning. I took the Holland gun, gave
Memba Sasa the Winchester, and started him for camp after help. As he
carried off the lantern, it was now up to me to make a fire and to
make it quickly.
For the past hour a fine drizzle had been falling; and the whole
country was wet from previous rains. I hastily dragged in all the
dead wood I could find near, collected what ought to be good
kindling, and started in to light a fire. Now, although I am no Boy
Scout, I have lit several fires in my time. But never when I was at
the same time in such a desperate need and hurry; and in possession of
such poor materials. The harder I worked, the worse things sputtered
and smouldered. Probably the relief from the long tension of the
buffalo hunt had something to do with my general piffling
inefficiency. If I had taken time to do a proper job once instead of a
halfway job a dozen times, as I should have done and usually would
have done, I would have had a fire in no time. I imagine I was
somewhat scared. The lioness and her hulking cub had smelled the
buffalo and were prowling around. I could hear them purring and
uttering their hollow grunts. However, at last the flame held. I fed
it sparingly, lit a pipe, placed the Holland gun next my hand, and
resigned myself to waiting. For two hours this was not so bad. I
smoked, and rested up, and dried out before my little fire. Then my
fuel began to run low. I arose and tore down all the remaining dead
limbs within the circle of my firelight. These were not many, so I
stepped out into the darkness for more. Immediately I was warned back
by a deep growl!
The next hour was not one of such solid comfort. I began to get
parsimonious about my supply of firewood, trying to use it in such a
manner as to keep up an adequate blaze, and at the same time to make
it last until Memba Sasa should return with the men. I did it, though
I got down to charred ends before I was through. The old lioness hung
around within a hundred yards or so below, and the buffalo herd,
returning, filed by above, pausing to stamp and snort at the fire.
Finally, about nine o'clock, I made out two lanterns bobbing up to me
through the trees.
The last incident to be selected from many experiences with
buffaloes took place in quite an unvisited district over the
mountains from the Loieta Plains. For nearly two months we had ranged
far in this lovely upland country of groves and valleys and wide grass
bottoms between hills, hunting for greater kudu. One day we all set
out from camp to sweep the base of a range of low mountains in search
of a good specimen of Newman's hartebeeste, or anything else
especially desirable that might happen along. The gentle slope from
the mountains was of grass cut by numerous small ravines grown with
low brush. This brush was so scanty as to afford but indifferent cover
for anything larger than one of the small grass antelopes. All the
ravines led down a mile or so to a deeper main watercourse paralleling
the mountains. Some water stood in the pools here; and the cover was
a little more dense, but consisted at best of but a "stringer" no
wider than a city street. Flanking the stringer were scattered high
bushes for a few yards; and then the open country. Altogether as
unlikely a place for the shade-loving buffalo as could be imagined.
We collected our Newmanii after rather a long hunt; and just at
noon, when the heat of the day began to come on, we wandered down to
the water for lunch. Here we found a good clear pool and drank. The
boys began to make themselves comfortable by the water's edge; C. went
to superintend the disposal of Billy's mule. Billy had sat down
beneath the shade of the most hospitable of the bushes a hundred feet
or so away, and was taking off her veil and gloves. I was carrying to
her the lunch box. When I was about halfway from where the boys were
drinking at the stream's edge to where she sat, a buffalo bull thrust
his head from the bushes just the other side of her. His head was
thrust up and forward, as he reached after some of the higher tender
leaves on the bushes. So close was he that I could see plainly the
drops glistening on his moist black nose. As for Billy, peacefully
unwinding her long veil, she seemed fairly under the beast.
I had no weapon, and any moment might bring some word or some
noise that would catch the animal's attention. Fortunately, for the
moment, every one, relaxed in the first reaction after the long
morning, was keeping silence. If the buffalo should look down, he
could not fail to see Billy; and if he saw her, he would indubitably
As has been explained, snapping the fingers does not seem to reach
the attention of wild animals. Therefore I snapped mine as vigorously
as I knew how. Billy heard, looked toward me, turned in the direction
of my gaze, and slowly sank prone against the ground. Some of the boys
heard me also, and I could see the heads of all of them popping up in
interest from the banks of the stream. My cautious but very frantic
signals to lie low were understood: the heads dropped back. Mavrouki,
a rifle in each hand, came worming his way toward me through the grass
with incredible quickness and agility. A moment later he thrust the
405 Winchester into my hand.
This weapon, powerful and accurate as it is, the best of the lot
for lions, was altogether too small for the tremendous brute before
me. However, the Holland was in camp; and I was very glad in the
circumstances to get this. The buffalo had browsed slowly forward into
the clear, and was now taking the top off a small bush, and facing
half away from us. It seemed to me quite the largest buffalo I had
ever seen, though I should have been willing to have acknowledged at
that moment that the circumstances had something to do with the
estimate. However, later we found that the impression was correct. He
was verily a giant of his kind. His height at the shoulder was five
feet ten inches; and his build was even chunkier than the usual solid
robust pattern of buffaloes. For example, his neck, just back of the
horns, was two feet eight inches thick! He weighed not far from three
Once the rifle was in my hands I lost the feeling of utter
helplessness, and began to plan the best way out of the situation. As
yet the beast was totally unconscious of our presence; but that could
not continue long. There were too many men about. A chance current of
air from any one of a half dozen directions could not fail to give him
the scent. Then there would be lively doings. It was exceedingly
desirable to deliver the first careful blow of the engagement while he
was unaware. On the other hand, his present attitude-half away from
me-was not favourable; nor, in my exposed position dared I move to a
better place. There seemed nothing better than to wait; so wait we
did. Mavrouki crouched close at my elbow, showing not the faintest
indication of a desire to be anywhere but there.
The buffalo browsed for a minute or so; then swung slowly
broadside on. So massive and low were the bosses of his horns that
the brain shot was impossible. Therefore I aimed low in the shoulder.
The shock of the bullet actually knocked that great beast off his
feet! My respect for the hitting power of the 405 went up several
notches. The only trouble was that he rebounded like a rubber ball.
Without an instant's hesitation I gave him another in the same place.
This brought him to his knees for an instant; but he was immediately
afoot again. Billy had, with great good sense and courage, continued
to lie absolutely flat within a few yards of the beast, Mavrouki and I
had kept low, and C. and the men were out of sight. The buffalo
therefore had seen none of his antagonists. He charged at a guess, and
guessed wrong. As he went by I fired at his head, and, as we found out
afterward, broke his jaw. A moment later C.'s great elephant gun
roared from somewhere behind me as he fired by a glimpse through the
brush at the charging animal. It was an excellent snapshot, and landed
back of the ribs.
When the buffalo broke through the screen of brush I dashed after
him, for I thought our only chance of avoiding danger lay in keeping
close track of where that buffalo went. On the other side the bushes I
found a little grassy opening, and then a small but dense thicket into
which the animal had plunged. To my left, C. was running up, followed
closely by Billy, who, with her usual good sense, had figured out the
safest place to be immediately back of the guns. We came together at
the thicket's edge.
The animal's movements could be plainly followed by the sound of
his crashing. We heard him dash away some distance, pause, circle a
bit to the right, and then come rushing back in our direction.
Stooping low we peered into the darkness of the thicket. Suddenly we
saw him, not a dozen yards away. He was still afoot, but very slow. I
dropped the magazine of five shots into him as fast as I could work
the lever. We later found all the bullet-holes in a spot as big as the
palm of your hand. These successive heavy blows delivered all in the
same place were too much for even his tremendous vitality; and slowly
he sank on his side.
Most people have heard of Juja, the modern dwelling in the heart
of an African wilderness, belonging to our own countryman, Mr. W. N.
McMillan. If most people are as I was before I saw the place, they
have considerable curiosity and no knowledge of what it is and how it
We came to Juja at the end of a wide circle that had lasted three
months, and was now bringing us back again toward our starting point.
For five days we had been camped on top a high bluff at the junction
of two rivers. When we moved we dropped down the bluff, crossed one
river, and, after some searching, found our way up the other bluff.
There we were on a vast plain bounded by mountains thirty miles away.
A large white and unexpected sign told us we were on Juja Farm, and
warned us that we should be careful of our fires in the long grass.
For an hour we plodded slowly along. Herds of zebra and
hartebeeste drew aside before us, dark heavy wildebeeste-the
gnu-stood in groups at a safe distance their heads low, looking
exactly like our vanished bison; ghostlike bands of Thompson's
gazelles glided away with their smooth regular motion. On the vast
and treeless plains single small objects standing above the general
uniformity took an exaggerated value; so that, before it emerged from
the swirling heat mirage, a solitary tree might easily be mistaken for
a group of buildings or a grove. Finally, however, we raised above the
horizon a dark straight clump of trees. It danced in the mirage, and
blurred and changed form, but it persisted. A strange patch of white
kept appearing and disappearing again. This resolved itself into the
side of a building. A spider-legged water tower appeared above the
Gradually we drew up on these. A bit later we swung to the right
around a close wire fence ten feet high, passed through a gate, and
rode down a long slanting avenue of young trees. Between the trees
were century plants and flowers, and a clipped border ran before them.
The avenue ended before a low white bungalow, with shady verandas all
about it, and vines. A formal flower garden lay immediately about it,
and a very tall flag pole had been planted in front. A hundred feet
away the garden dropped off steep to one of the deep river canyons.
Two white-robed Somalis appeared on the veranda to inform us that
McMillan was off on safari. Our own boys approaching at this moment,
we thereupon led them past the house, down another long avenue of
trees and flowers, out into an open space with many buildings at its
edges, past extensive stables, and through another gate to the open
plains once more. Here we made camp. After lunch we went back to
Juja is situated on the top of a high bluff overlooking a river.
In all directions are tremendous grass plains. Donya Sabuk-the
Mountain of Buffaloes-is the only landmark nearer than the dim
mountains beyond the edge of the world, and that is a day's journey
away. A rectangle of possibly forty acres has been enclosed on three
sides by animal-proof wire fence. The fourth side is the edge of the
bluff. Within this enclosure have been planted many trees, now of good
size; a pretty garden with abundance of flowers, ornamental shrubs, a
sundial, and lawns. In the river bottom land below the bluff is a very
extensive vegetable and fruit garden, with cornfields, and
experimental plantings of rubber, and the like. For the use of the
people of Juja here are raised a great variety and abundance of
vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Juja House, as has been said, stands back a hundred feet from a
bend in the bluffs that permits a view straight up the river valley.
It is surrounded by gardens and trees, and occupies all one end of the
enclosed rectangle. Farther down and perched on the edge of a bluff,
are several pretty little bungalows for the accommodation of the
superintendent and his family, for the bachelors' mess, for the farm
offices and dispensary, and for the dairy room, the ice-plant and the
post-office and telegraph station. Back of and inland from this row on
the edge of the cliff, and scattered widely in open space, are a large
store stocked with everything on earth, the Somali quarters of low
whitewashed buildings, the cattle corrals, the stables, wild animal
cages, granaries, blacksmith and carpenter shops, wagon sheds and the
like. Outside the enclosure, and a half mile away, are the conical
grass huts that make up the native village. Below the cliff is a
concrete dam, an electric light plant, a pumping plant and a few
details of the sort.
Such is a relief map of Juja proper. Four miles away, and on
another river, is Long Juja, a strictly utilitarian affair where grow
ostriches, cattle, sheep, and various irrigated things in the bottom
land. All the rest of the farm, or estate, or whatever one would call
it, is open plain, with here and there a river bottom, or a trifle of
brush cover. But never enough to constitute more than an isolated and
Before leaving London we had received from McMillan earnest
assurances that he kept open house, and that we must take advantage
of his hospitality should we happen his way. Therefore when one of his
white-robed Somalis approached us to inquire respectfully as to what
we wanted for dinner, we yielded weakly to the temptation and told
him. Then we marched us boldly to the house and took possession.
All around the house ran a veranda, shaded bamboo curtains and
vines, furnished with the luxurious teakwood chairs of the tropics of
which you can so extend the arms as to form two comfortable and
elevated rests for your feet. Horns of various animals ornamented the
walls. A megaphone and a huge terrestrial telescope on a tripod stood
in one corner. Through the latter one could examine at favourable
times the herds of game on the plains.
And inside-mind you, we were fresh from three months in the
wilderness-we found rugs, pictures, wall paper, a pianola, many
books, baths, beautiful white bedrooms with snowy mosquito curtains,
electric lights, running water, and above all an atmosphere of
homelike comfort. We fell into easy chairs, and seized books and
magazines. The Somalis brought us trays with iced and fizzy drinks in
thin glasses. When the time came we crossed the veranda in the rear to
enter a spacious separate dining-room. The table was white with
napery, glittering with silver and glass, bright with flowers. We ate
leisurely of a well-served course dinner, ending with black coffee,
shelled nuts, and candied fruit. Replete and satisfied we strolled
back across the veranda to the main house. F. raised his hand.
"Hark!" he admonished us.
We held still. From the velvet darkness came the hurried petulant
barking of zebra; three hyenas howled.
XXVII. A VISIT AT JUJA
Next day we left all this; and continued our march. About a month
later, however, we encountered McMillan himself in Nairobi. I was
just out from a very hard trip to the coast-Billy not with me-and
wanted nothing so much as a few days' rest. McMillan's cordiality was
not to be denied, however, so the very next day found us tucking
ourselves into a buckboard behind four white Abyssinian mules.
McMillan, some Somalis and Captain Duirs came along in another similar
rig. Our driver was a Hottentot half-caste from South Africa. He had a
flat face, a yellow skin, a quiet manner, and a competent hand. His
name was Michael. At his feet crouched a small Kikuyu savage, in
blanket ear ornaments and all the fixings, armed with a long lashed
whip and raucous voice. At any given moment he was likely to hop out
over the moving wheel, run forward, bat the off leading mule, and hop
back again, all with the most extraordinary agility. He likewise
hurled what sounded like very opprobrious epithets at such natives as
did not get out the way quickly enough to suit him. The expression of
his face, which was that of a person steeped in woe, never changed.
We rattled out of Nairobi at a great pace, and swung into the Fort
Hall Road. This famous thoroughfare, one of the three or four made
roads in all East Africa, is about sixty miles long. It is a strategic
necessity but is used by thousands of natives on their way to see the
sights of the great metropolis. As during the season there is no water
for much of the distance, a great many pay for their curiosity with
their lives. The road skirts the base of the hills, winding in and out
of shallow canyons and about the edges of rounded hills. To the right
one can see far out across the Athi Plains.
We met an almost unbroken succession of people. There were long
pack trains of women, quite cheerful, bent over under the weight of
firewood or vegetables, many with babies tucked away in the folds of
their garments; mincing dandified warriors with poodle-dog hair,
skewers in their ears, their jewelery brought to a high polish a
fatuous expression of self-satisfaction on their faces, carrying each
a section of sugarcane which they now used as a staff but would later
devour for lunch; bearers, under convoy of straight soldierly
red-sashed Sudanese, transporting Government goods; wild-eyed staring
shenzis from the forest, with matted hair and goatskin garments,
looking ready to bolt aside at the slightest alarm; coveys of
marvellous and giggling damsels, their fine-grained skin anointed and
shining with red oil, strung with beads and shells, very coquettish
and sure of their feminine charm; naked small boys marching solemnly
like their elders; camel trains from far-off Abyssinia or Somaliland
under convoy of white-clad turbaned grave men of beautiful features;
donkey safaris in charge of dirty degenerate looking East Indians
carrying trade goods to some distant post-all these and many more,
going one way or the other, drew one side, at the sight of our white
faces, to let us pass.
About two o'clock we suddenly turned off from the road, apparently
quite at random, down the long grassy interminable incline that dipped
slowly down and slowly up again over great distance to form the Athi
Plains. Along the road, with its endless swarm of humanity, we had
seen no game, but after a half mile it began to appear. We encountered
herds of zebra, kongoni, wildebeeste, and "Tommies" standing about or
grazing, sometimes almost within range from the moving buckboard.
After a time we made out the trees and water tower of Juja ahead; and
by four o'clock had turned into the avenue of trees. Our approach had
been seen. Tea was ready, and a great and hospitable table of
bottles, ice, and siphons.
The next morning we inspected the stables, built of stone in a
hollow square, like a fort, with box stalls opening directly into the
courtyard and screened carefully against the deadly flies. The horses,
beautiful creatures, were led forth each by his proud and anxious
syce. We tried them all, and selected our mounts for the time of our
stay. The syces were small black men, lean and well formed, accustomed
to running afoot wherever their charges went, at walk, lope or gallop.
Thus in a day they covered incredible distances over all sorts of
country; but were always at hand to seize the bridle reins when the
master wished to dismount. Like the rickshaw runners in Nairobi, they
wore their hair clipped close around their bullet heads and seemed to
have developed into a small compact hard type of their own. They ate
and slept with their horses.
Just outside the courtyard of the stables a little barred window
had been cut through. Near this were congregated a number of Kikuyu
savages wrapped in their blankets, receiving each in turn a portion of
cracked corn from a dusty white man behind the bars. They were a
solemn, unsmiling, strange type of savage, and they performed all the
manual work within the enclosure, squatting on their heels and pulling
methodically but slowly at the weeds, digging with their pangas,
carrying loads: to and fro, or solemnly pushing a lawn mower, blankets
wrapped shamelessly about their necks. They were harried about by a
red-faced beefy English gardener with a marvellous vocabulary of
several native languages and a short hippo-hide whip. He talked
himself absolutely purple in the face without, as far as my
observation went, penetrating an inch below the surface. The Kikuyus
went right on doing what they were already doing in exactly the same
manner. Probably the purple Englishman was satisfied with that, but I
am sure apoplexy of either the heat or thundering variety has him by
Before the store building squatted another group of savages.
Perhaps in time one of the lot expected to buy something; or possibly
they just sat. Nobody but a storekeeper would ever have time to find
out. Such is the native way. The storekeeper in this case was named
John. Besides being storekeeper, he had charge of the issuing of all
the house supplies, and those for the white men's mess; he must do all
the worrying about the upper class natives; he must occasionally kill
a buck for the meat supply; and he must be prepared to take out any
stray tenderfeet that happen along during McMillan's absence, and
persuade them that they are mighty hunters. His domain was a
fascinating place, for it contained everything from pianola parts to
patent washstands. The next best equipped place of the kind I know of
is the property room of a moving picture company.
We went to mail a letter, and found the postmaster to be a
gentle-voiced, polite little Hindu, who greeted us smilingly, and
attempted to conceal a work of art. We insisted; whereupon he
deprecatingly drew forth a copy of a newspaper cartoon having to do
with Colonel Roosevelt's visit. It was copied with mathematical
exactness, and highly coloured in a manner to throw into profound
melancholy the chauffeur of a coloured supplement press. We admired
and praised; whereupon, still shyly, he produced more, and yet again
more copies of the same cartoon. When we left, he was reseating
himself to the painstaking valueless labour with which he filled his
days. Three times a week such mail as Juja gets comes in via native
runner. We saw the latter, a splendid figure, almost naked, loping
easily, his little bundle held before him.
Down past the office and dispensary we strolled, by the
comfortable, airy, white man's clubhouse. The headman of the native
population passed us with a dignified salute; a fine upstanding
deep-chested man, with a lofty air of fierce pride. He and his handful
of soldiers alone of the natives, except the Somalis and syces, dwelt
within the compound in a group of huts near the gate. There when off
duty they might be seen polishing their arms, or chatting with their
women. The latter were ladies of leisure, with wonderful chignons,
much jewelery, and patterned Mericani wrapped gracefully about their
By the time we had seen all these things it was noon. We ate
lunch. The various members of the party decided to do various things.
I elected to go out with McMillan while he killed a wildebeeste, and I
am very glad I did. It was a most astonishing performance.
You must imagine us driving out the gate in a buckboard behind
four small but lively white Abyssinian mules. In the front seat were
Michael, the Hottentot driver, and McMillan's Somali gunbearer. In the
rear seat were McMillan and myself, while a small black syce perched
precariously behind. Our rifles rested in a sling before us. So we
jogged out on the road to Long Juju, examining with a critical eye the
herds of game to right and left of us. The latter examined us,
apparently, with an eye as critical. Finally, in a herd of zebra, we
espied a lone wildebeeste.
The wildebeeste is the Jekyll and Hyde of the animal kingdom. His
usual and familiar habit is that of a heavy, sluggish animal, like
our vanished bison. He stands solid and inert, his head down; he plods
slowly forward in single file, his horns swinging, each foot planted
deliberately. In short, he is the personification of dignity, solid
respectability, gravity of demeanour. But then all of a sudden, at any
small interruption, he becomes the giddiest of created beings. Up goes
his head and tail, he buck jumps, cavorts, gambols, kicks up his
heels, bounds stiff-legged, and generally performs like an
irresponsible infant. To see a whole herd at once of these grave and
reverend seigneurs suddenly blow up into such light-headed capers goes
far to destroy one's faith in the stability of institutions.
Also the wildebeeste is not misnamed. He is a conservative, and he
sees no particular reason for allowing his curiosity to interfere with
his preconceived beliefs. The latter are distrustful. Therefore he and
his females and his young-I should say small-depart when one is yet
far away. I say small, because I do not believe that any wildebeeste
is ever young. They do not resemble calves, but are exact replicas of
the big ones, just as Niobe's daughters are in nothing childlike, but
merely smaller women.
When we caught sight of this lone wildebeeste among the zebra, I
naturally expected that we would pull up the buckboard, descend, and
approach to within some sort of long range. Then we would open fire.
Barring luck, the wildebeeste would thereupon depart "wilder and
beestier than ever," as John McCutcheon has it. Not at all! Michael,
the Hottentot, turned the buckboard off the road, headed toward the
distant quarry, and charged at full speed! Over stones we went that
sent us feet into the air, down and out of shallow gullies that seemed
as though they would jerk the pole from the vehicle with a grand
rattlety-bang, every one hanging on for his life. I was entirely
occupied with the state of my spinal column and the retention of my
teeth, but McMillan must have been keeping his eye on the game. One
peculiarity of the wildebeeste is that he cannot see behind him, and
another is that he is curious. It would not require a very large bump
of curiosity, however, to cause any animal to wonder what all the row
was about. There could be no doubt that this animal would sooner or
later stop for an instant to look for the purpose of seeing what was
up in jungleland; and just before doing so he would, for a few steps,
slow down from a gallop to a trot. McMillan was watching for this
"Now!" he yelled, when he saw it.
Instantly Michael threw his weight into the right rein and against
the brake. We swerved so violently to the right and stopped so
suddenly that I nearly landed on the broad prairies. The manoeuvre
fetched us up broadside. The small black syce-and heaven knows how HE
had managed to hang on-darted to the heads of the leading mules. At
the same moment the wildebeeste turned, and stopped; but even before
he had swung his head, McMillan had fired. It was extraordinarily
good, quick work, the way he picked up the long range from the spurts
of dust where the bullets hit. At the third or fourth shots he landed
one. Immediately the beast was off again at a tearing run pursued by a
rapid fusillade from the remaining shots. Then with a violent jerk and
a wild yell we were off again.
This time, since the animal was wounded, he made for rougher
country. And everywhere that wildebeeste went we too were sure to go.
We hit or shaved boulders that ought to have smashed a wheel, we tore
through thick brush regardless. Twice we charged unhesitatingly over
apparent precipices. I do not know the name of the manufacturer of the
buckboard. If I did, I should certainly recommend it here. Twice more
we swerved to our broadside and cut loose the port batteries. Once
more McMillan hit. Then, on the fourth "run," we gained perceptibly.
The beast was weakening. When he came to a stumbling halt we were not
over a hundred yards from him, and McMillan easily brought him down.
We had chased him four or five miles, and McMillan had fired nineteen
shots, of which two had hit. The rifle practice throughout had been
remarkably good, and a treat to watch. Personally, besides the fun of
attending the show, I got a mighty good afternoon's exercise.
We loaded the game aboard and jogged slowly back to the house, for
the mules were pretty tired. We found a neighbour, Mr. Heatley of
Kamiti Ranch who had "dropped down" twelve miles to see us. On account
of a theft McMillan now had all the Somalis assembled for
interrogation on the side verandas. The interrogation did not amount
to much, but while it was going on the Sudanese headman and his
askaris were quietly searching the boys' quarters. After a time they
appeared. The suspected men had concealed nothing, but the searchers
brought with them three of McMillan's shirts which they had found
among the effects of another, and entirely unsuspected, boy named
"How is this, Abadie?" demanded McMillan sternly.
Abadie hesitated. Then he evidently reflected that there is slight
use in having a deity unless one makes use of him.
"Bwana," said he with an engaging air of belief and candour, "God
must have put them there!"
That evening we planned a "general day" for the morrow. We took
boys and buckboards and saddle-horses, beaters, shotguns, rifles, and
revolvers, and we sallied forth for a grand and joyous time. The day
from a sporting standpoint was entirely successful, the bag consisting
of two waterbuck, a zebra, a big wart-hog, six hares, and six grouse.
Personally I was a little hazy and uncertain. By evening the fever had
me, and though I stayed at Juja for six days longer, it was as a
patient to McMillan's unfailing kindness rather than as a participant
in the life of the farm.
XXVIII. A RESIDENCE AT JUJA
A short time later, at about middle of the rainy season, McMillan
left for a little fishing off Catalina Island. The latter is some
fourteen thousand miles of travel from Juja. Before leaving on this
flying trip, McMillan made us a gorgeous offer.
"If," said he, "you want to go it alone, you can go out and use
Juja as long as you please."
This offer, or, rather, a portion of it, you may be sure, we
accepted promptly. McMillan wanted in addition to leave us his
servants; but to this we would not agree. Memba Sasa and Mahomet
were, of course, members of our permanent staff. In addition to them
we picked up another house boy, named Leyeye. He was a Masai. These
proud and aristocratic savages rarely condescend to take service of
any sort except as herders; but when they do they prove to be
unusually efficient and intelligent. We had also a Somali cook, and
six ordinary bearers to do general labour. This small safari we
started off afoot for Juja. The whole lot cost us about what we would
pay one Chinaman on the Pacific Coast.
Next day we ourselves drove out in the mule buckboard. The rains
were on, and the road was very muddy. After the vital tropical
fashion the grass was springing tall in the natural meadows and on
the plains and the brief-lived white lilies and an abundance of ground
flowers washed the slopes with colour. Beneath the grass covering, the
entire surface of the ground was an inch or so deep in water. This was
always most surprising, for, apparently, the whole country should have
been high and dry. Certainly its level was that of a plateau rather
than a bottom land; so that one seemed always to be travelling at an
elevation. Nevertheless walking or riding we were continually
splashing, and the only dry going outside the occasional rare
"islands" of the slight undulations we found near the very edge of the
bluffs above the rivers. There the drainage seemed sufficient to carry
off the excess. Elsewhere the hardpan or bedrock must have been
exceptionally level and near the top of the ground.
Nothing nor nobody seemed to mind this much. The game splashed
around merrily, cropping at the tall grass; the natives slopped
indifferently, and we ourselves soon became so accustomed to two or
three inches of water and wet feet that after the first two days we
never gave those phenomena a thought.
The world above at this season of the year was magnificent. The
African heavens are always widely spacious, but now they seemed to
have blown even vaster than usual. In the sweep of the vision four or
five heavy black rainstorms would be trailing their skirts across an
infinitely remote prospect; between them white piled scud clouds and
cumuli sailed like ships; and from them reflected so brilliant a
sunlight and behind all showed so dazzling a blue sky that the general
impression was of a fine day. The rainstorms' gray veils slanted;
tremendous patches of shadow lay becalmed on the plains; bright
sunshine poured abundantly its warmth and yellow light.
So brilliant with both direct and reflected light and the values
of contrast were the heavens, that when one happened to stand within
one of the great shadows it became extraordinarily difficult to make
out game on the plains. The pupils contracted to the brilliancy
overhead. Often too, near sunset, the atmosphere would become suffused
with a lurid saffron light that made everything unreal and ghastly. At
such times the game seemed puzzled by the unusual aspect of things.
The zebra especially would bark and stamp and stand their ground, and
even come nearer out of sheer curiosity. I have thus been within fifty
yards of them, right out in the open. At such times it was as though
the sky, instead of rounding over in the usual shape, had been thrust
up at the western horizon to the same incredible height as the
zenith. In the space thus created were piled great clouds through
which slanted broad bands of yellow light on a diminished world.
It rained with great suddenness on our devoted heads, and with a
curious effect of metamorphoslng the entire universe. One moment all
was clear and smiling, with the trifling exception of distant rain
squalls that amounted to nothing in the general scheme. Then the
horizon turned black, and with incredible swiftness the dark clouds
materialized out of nothing, rolled high to the zenith like a wave,
blotted out every last vestige of brightness. A heavy oppressive still
darkness breathed over the earth. Then through the silence came a
faraway soft drumming sound, barely to be heard. As we bent our ears
to catch this it grew louder and louder, approaching at breakneck
speed like a troop of horses. It became a roar fairly terrifying in
its mercilessly continued crescendo. At last the deluge of rain burst
actually as a relief.
And what a deluge! Facing it we found difficulty in breathing. In
six seconds every stitch we wore was soaked through, and only the
notebook, tobacco, and matches bestowed craftily in the crown of the
cork helmet escaped. The visible world was dark and contracted. It
seemed that nothing but rain could anywhere exist; as though this
storm must fill all space to the horizon and beyond. Then it swept on
and we found ourselves steaming in bright sunlight. The dry flat
prairie (if this was the first shower for some time) had suddenly
become a lake from the surface of which projected bushes and clumps of
grass. Every game trail had become the water course of a swiftly
But most pleasant were the evenings at Juja, when, safe indoors,
we sat and listened to the charge of the storm's wild horsemen, and
the thunder of its drumming on the tin roof. The onslaughts were as
fierce and abrupt as those of Cossacks, and swept by as suddenly. The
roar died away in the distance, and we could then hear the steady
musical dripping of waters.
Pleasant it was also to walk out from Juja in almost any
direction. The compound, and the buildings and trees within it, soon
dwindled in the distances of the great flat plain. Herds of game were
always in sight, grazing, lying down, staring in our direction. The
animals were incredibly numerous. Some days they were fairly tame, and
others exceedingly wild, without any rhyme or reason. This shyness or
the reverse seemed not to be individual to one herd; but to be
practically universal. On a "wild day" everything was wild from the
Lone Tree to Long Juju. It would be manifestly absurd to guess at the
reason. Possibly the cause might be atmospheric or electrical;
possibly days of nervousness might follow nights of unusual activity
by the lions; one could invent a dozen possibilities. Perhaps the
kongonis decided it.
At Juja we got to know the kongonis even better than we had
before. They are comical, quizzical beasts, with long-nosed humorous
faces, a singularly awkward construction, a shambling gait; but with
altruistic dispositions and an ability to get over the ground at an
extraordinary speed. Every move is a joke; their expression is always
one of grieved but humorous astonishment. They quirk their heads
sidewise or down and stare at an intruder with the most comical air of
skeptical wonder. "Well, look who's here!" says the expression.
"Pooh!" says the kongoni himself, after a good look, "pooh! pooh!"
with the most insulting inflection.
He is very numerous and very alert. One or more of a grazing herd
are always perched as sentinels atop ant hills or similar small
elevations. On the sIightest intimation of danger they give the
alarm, whereupon the herd makes off at once, gathering in all other
miscellaneous game that may be in the vicinity. They will go out of
their way to do this, as every African hunter knows. It immensely
complicates matters; for the sportsman must not only stalk his quarry,
but he must stalk each and every kongoni as well. Once, in another
part of the country, C. and I saw a kongoni leave a band of its own
species far down to our right, gallop toward us and across our front,
pick up a herd of zebra we were trying to approach and make off with
them to safety. We cursed that kongoni, but we admired him, for he
deliberately ran out of safety into danger for the purpose of warning
those zebra. So seriously do they take their job as policemen of the
plains that it is very common for a lazy single animal of another
species to graze in a herd of kongonis simply for the sake of
protection. Wildebeeste are much given to this.
The kongoni progresses by a series of long high bounds. While in
midair he half tucks up his feet, which gives him the appearance of
an automatic toy. This gait looks deliberate, but is really quite
fast, as the mounted sportsman discovers when he enters upon a vain
pursuit. If the horse is an especially good one, so that the kongoni
feels himself a trifle closely pressed, the latter stops bouncing and
runs. Then he simply fades away into the distance.
These beasts are also given to chasing each other all over the
landscape. When a gentleman kongoni conceives a dislike for another
gentleman kongoni, he makes no concealment of his emotions, but
marches up and prods him in the ribs. The ensuing battle is usually
fought out very stubbornly with much feinting, parrying, clashing of
the lyre-shaped horns; and a good deal of crafty circling for a
favourable opening. As far as I was ever able to see not much real
damage is inflicted; though I could well imagine that only skilful
fence prevented unpleasant punctures in soft spots. After a time one
or the other feels himself weakening. He dashes strongly in, wheels
while his antagonist is braced, and makes off. The enemy pursues.
Then, apparently, the chase is on for the rest of the day. The victor
is not content merely to drive his rival out of the country; he wants
to catch him. On that object he is very intent; about as intent as the
other fellow is of getting away. I have seen two such beasts almost
run over a dozen men who were making no effort to keep out of sight.
Long after honour is satisfied, indeed, as it seems to me, long after
the dictates of common decency would call a halt that persistent and
single-minded pursuer bounds solemnly and conscientiously along in the
wake of his disgusted rival.
These and the zebra and wildebeeste were at Juja the most
conspicuous game animals. If they could not for the moment be seen
from the veranda of the house itself, a short walk to the gate was
sufficient to reveal many hundreds. Among them fed herds of the
smaller Thompson's gazelle, or "Tommies." So small were they that only
their heads could be seen above the tall grass as they ran.
To me there was never-ending fascination in walking out over those
sloppy plains in search of adventure, and in the pleasure of watching
the beasts. Scarcely less fascination haunted a stroll down the river
canyons or along the tops of the bluffs above them. Here the country
was broken into rocky escarpments in which were caves; was clothed
with low and scattered brush; or was wooded in the bottom lands.
Naturally an entirely different set of animals dwelt here; and in
addition one was often treated to the romance of surprise. Herds of
impalla haunted these edges; graceful creatures, trim and pretty with
wide horns and beautiful glowing red coats. Sometimes they would
venture out on the open plains, in a very compact band, ready to break
back for cover at the slightest alarm; but generally fed inside the
fringe of bushes. Once from the bluff above I saw a beautiful herd of
over a hundred pacing decorously along the river bottom below me,
single file, the oldest buck at the head, and the miscellaneous small
buck bringing up the rear after the does. I shouted at them.
Immediately the solemn procession broke. They began to leap, springing
straight up into the air as though from a released spring, or diving
forward and upward in long graceful bounds like dolphins at sea. These
leaps were incredible. Several even jumped quite over the backs of
others; and all without a semblance of effort.
Along the fringe of the river, too, dwelt the lordly waterbuck,
magnificent and proud as the stags of Landseer; and the tiny
steinbuck and duiker, no bigger than jack-rabbits, but perfect little
deer for all that. The incredibly plebeian wart-hog rooted about; and
down in the bottom lands were leopards. I knocked one off a rock one
day. In the river itself dwelt hippopotamuses and crocodiles. One of
the latter dragged under a yearling calf just below the house itself,
and while we were there. Besides these were of course such affairs as
hyenas and jackals, and great numbers of small game: hares, ducks,
three kinds of grouse, guinea fowl, pigeons, quail, and jack snipe,
not to speak of a variety of plover.
In the drier extents of dry grass atop the bluffs the dance birds
were especially numerous; each with his dance ring nicely trodden
out, each leaping and falling rhythmically for hours at a time.
Toward sunset great flights of sand grouse swarmed across the
yellowing sky from some distant feeding ground.
Near Juja I had one of the three experiences that especially
impressed on my mind the abundance of African big game. I had stalked
and wounded a wildebeeste across the N'derogo River, and had followed
him a mile or so afoot, hoping to be able to put in a finishing shot.
As sometimes happens the animal rather gained strength as time went
on; so I signalled for my horse, mounted, and started out to run him
down. After a quarter mile we began to pick up the game herds. Those
directly in our course ran straight away; other herds on either side,
seeing them running, came across in a slant to join them. Inside of a
half mile I was driving before me literally thousands of head of game
of several varieties. The dust rose in a choking cloud that fairly
obscured the landscape, and the drumming of the hooves was like the
stampeding of cattle. It was a wonderful sight.
On the plains of Juja, also, I had my one real African Adventure,
when, as in the Sunday Supplements, I Stared Death in the Face-also
everlasting disgrace and much derision. We were just returning to the
farm after an afternoon's walk, and as we approached I began to look
around for much needed meat. A herd of zebra stood in sight; so
leaving Memba Sasa I began to stalk them. My usual weapon for this
sort of thing was the Springfield, for which I carried extra
cartridges in my belt. On this occasion, however, I traded with Memba
Sasa for the 405, simply for the purpose of trying it out. At a few
paces over three hundred yards I landed on the zebra, but did not
knock him down. Then I set out to follow. It was a long job and took
me far, for again and again he joined other zebra, when, of course, I
could not tell one from t'other. My only expedient was to frighten the
lot. There upon the uninjured ones would distance the one that was
hurt. The latter kept his eye on me. Whenever I managed to get within
reasonable distance, I put up the rear sight of the 405, and let
drive. I heard every shot hit, and after each hit was more than a
little astonished to see the zebra still on his feet, and still able
to wobble on.* The fifth shot emptied the rifle. As I had no more
cartridges for this arm, I approached to within sixty yards, and
stopped to wait either for him to fall, or for a very distant Memba
Sasa to come up with more cartridges. Then the zebra waked up. He put
his ears back and came straight in my direction. This rush I took for
a blind death flurry, and so dodged off to one side, thinking that he
would of course go by me. Not at all! He swung around on the circle
too, and made after me. I could see that his ears were back, eyes
blazing, and his teeth snapping with rage. It was a malicious charge,
and, as such, with due deliberation, I offer it to sportsman's annals.
As I had no more cartridges I ran away as fast as I could go.
Although I made rather better time than ever I had attained to
before, it was evident that the zebra would catch me; and as the
brute could paw, bite, and kick, I did not much care for the
situation. Just as he had nearly reached me, and as I was trying to
figure on what kind of a fight I could put up with a clubbed rifle
barrel, he fell dead. To be killed by a lion is at least a dignified
death; but to be mauled by a zebra!
I am sorry I did not try out this heavy-calibred rifle oftener at
long range. It was a marvellously effective weapon at close quarters;
but I have an idea-but only a tentative idea-that above three hundred
yards its velocity is so reduced by air resistance against the big
blunt bullet as greatly to impair its hitting powers.
We generally got back from our walks or rides just before dark to
find the house gleaming with lights, a hot bath ready, and a tray of
good wet drinks next the easy chairs. There, after changing our
clothes, we sipped and read the papers-two months off the press, but
fresh arrived for all that-until a white-robed, dignified figure
appeared in the doorway to inform us that dinner was ready. Our ways
were civilized and soft, then, until the morrow when once again,
perhaps, we went forth into the African wilderness.
Juja is a place of startling contrasts-of naked savages clipping
formal hedges, of windows opening from a perfectly appointed
brilliantly lighted dining-room to a night whence float the lost
wails of hyenas or the deep grumbling of lions, of cushioned
luxurious chairs in reach of many books, but looking out on hills
where the game herds feed, of comfortable beds with fine linen and
soft blankets where one lies listening to the voices of an African
night, or the weirder minor house noises whose origin and nature no
man could guess, of tennis courts and summer houses, of lawns and
hammocks, of sundials and clipped hedges separated only by a few
strands of woven wire from fields identical with those in which roamed
the cave men of the Pleistocene. But to Billy was reserved the most
ridiculous contrast of all. Her bedroom opened to a veranda a few feet
above a formal garden. This was a very formal garden, with a sundial,
gravelled walks, bordered flower beds, and clipped border hedges. One
night she heard a noise outside. Slipping on a warm wrap and seizing
her trusty revolver she stole out on the veranda to investigate. She
looked over the veranda rail. There just below her, trampling the
flower beds, tracking the gravel walks, endangering the sundial, stood
We had neighbours six or seven miles away. At times they came down
to spend the night and luxuriate in the comforts of civilization. They
were a Lady A., and her nephew, and a young Scotch acquaintance the
nephew had taken into partnership. They had built themselves circular
houses of papyrus reeds with conical thatched roofs and earth floors,
had purchased ox teams and gathered a dozen or so Kikuyus, and were
engaged in breaking a farm in the wilderness. The life was rough and
hard, and Lady A. and her nephew gently bred, but they seemed to be
having quite cheerfully the time of their lives. The game furnished
them meat, as it did all of us, and they hoped in time that their
labours would make the land valuable and productive. Fascinating as
was the life, it was also one of many deprivations. At Juja were a
number of old copies of Life, the pretty girls in which so fascinated
the young men that we broke the laws of propriety by presenting them,
though they did not belong to us. C., the nephew, was of the finest
type of young Englishman, clean cut, enthusiastic, good looking, with
an air of engaging vitality and optimism. His partner, of his own age,
was an insufferable youth. Brought up in some small Scottish valley,
his outlook had never widened. Because he wanted to buy four oxen at a
cheaper price, he tried desperately to abrogate quarantine
regulations. If he had succeeded, he would have made a few rupees, but
would have introduced disease in his neighbours' herds. This
consideration did not affect him. He was much given to sneering at
what he could not understand; and therefore, a great deal met with his
disapproval. His reading had evidently brought him down only to about
the middle sixties; and affairs at that date were to him still burning
questions. Thus he would declaim vehemently over the Alabama claims.
"I blush with shame," he would cry, "when I think of England's
attitude in that matter."
We pointed out that the dispute had been amicably settled by the
best minds of the time, had passed between the covers of history, and
had given way in immediate importance to several later topics.
"This vacillating policy," he swept on, "annoys me. For my part, I
should like to see so firm a stand taken on all questions that in any
part of the world, whenever a man, and wherever a man, said 'I am an
Englishman? everybody else would draw back!'"
He was an incredible person. However, I was glad to see him; he
and a few others of his kind have consoled me for a number of
Americans I have met abroad. Lady A., with the tolerant philosophy of
her class, seemed merely amused. I have often since wondered how this
ill-assorted partnership turned out.
Two other neighbours of ours dropped in once or twice-twenty-six
miles on bicycles, on which they could ride only a portion of the
distance. They had some sort of a ranch up in the Ithanga Hills; and
were two of the nicest fellows one would want to meet, brimful of
energy, game for anything, and had so good a time always that the
grumpiest fever could not prevent every one else having a good time
too. Once they rode on their bicycles forty miles to Nairobi, danced
half the night at a Government House ball, rode back in the early
morning, and did an afternoon's plowing! They explained this feat by
pointing out most convincingly that the ground was just right for
plowing, but they did not want to miss the ball!
Occasionally a trim and dapper police official would drift in on
horseback looking for native criminals; and once a safari came by.
Twelve miles away was the famous Kamiti Farm of Heatly, where
Roosevelt killed his buffalo; and once or twice Heatly himself, a
fine chap, came to see us. Also just before I left with Duirs for a
lion hunt on Kapiti, Lady Girouard, wife of the Governor, and her
nephew and niece rode out for a hunt. In the African fashion, all
these people brought their own personal servants. It makes
entertaining easy. Nobody knows where all these boys sleep; but they
manage to tuck away somewhere, and always show up after a mysterious
system of their own whenever there is anything to be done.
We stayed at Juja a little over three weeks. Then most reluctantly
said farewell and returned to Nairobi in preparation for a long trip
to the south.
XXIX. CHAPTER THE LAST
With our return from Juja to Nairobi for a breathing space, this
volume comes to a logical conclusion. In it I have tried to give a
fairly comprehensive impression-it could hardly be a picture of so
large a subject-of a portion of East Equatorial Africa, its animals,
and its people. Those who are sufficiently interested will have an
opportunity in a succeeding volume of wandering with us even farther
afield. The low jungly coast region; the fierce desert of the
Serengetti; the swift sullen rhinoceros-haunted stretches of the
Tsavo; Nairobi, the strangest mixture of the twentieth centuries A.D.
and B.C.; Mombasa with its wild, barbaric passionate ebb and flow of
life, of colour, of throbbing sound, the great lions of the Kapiti
Plains, the Thirst of the Loieta, the Masai spearmen, the long chase
for the greater kudu; the wonderful, high unknown country beyond the
Narossara and other affairs will there be detailed. If the reader of
this volume happens to want more, there he will find it.
Most people are very much interested in how hot it gets in such
tropics as we traversed. Unfortunately it is very difficult to tell
them. Temperature tables have very little to do with the matter, for
humidity varies greatly. On the Serengetti at lower reaches of the
Guaso Nyero I have seen it above 110 degrees. It was hot, to be sure,
but not exhaustingly so. On the other hand, at 90 or 95 degrees the
low coast belt I have had the sweat run from me literally in streams;
so that a muddy spot formed wherever I stood still. In the highlands,
moreover, the nights were often extremely cold. I have recorded night
temperatures as low as 40 at 7000 feet of elevation; and noon
temperatures as low 65.
Of more importance than the actual or sensible temperature of the
air is the power of the sun's rays. At all times of year this is
practically constant; for the orb merely swings a few degrees north
and south of the equator, and the extreme difference in time between
its risings or settings is not more than twenty minutes. This power is
also practically constant whatever the temperature of the air and is
dangerous even on a cloudy day, when the heat waves are effectually
screened off, but when the actinic rays are as active as ever. For
this reason the protection of helmet and spine pad should never be
omitted, no matter what the condition of the weather, between nine
o'clock and four. A very brief exposure is likely to prove fatal. It
should be added that some people stand these actinic rays better than
Such being the case, mere temperature tables could have little
interest to the general reader. I append a few statistics, selected
from many, and illustrative of the different conditions.
Locality. Elevation 6am noon 8pm Apparent conditions
Coast --- 80 90 76 Very hot and sticky
Isiola River 2900 65 94 84 Hot but not exhausting
Tans River 3350 68 98 79 Hot but not exhausting
Near Meru 5450 62 80 70 Very pleasant
Serengetti Plains 2200 78 106 86 Hot and humid
Narossara River 5450 54 89 69 Very pleasant
Narossara Mts. 7400 42 80 50 Chilly
Narossara Mts. 6450 40 62 52 Cold
GAME ANIMALS COLLECTED
Lion Bush pig Grant's gazelle
Serval cat Baboon Thompson's gazelle
Cheetah Colobus Gerenuk gazelle
Black-backed jackal Hippopotamus Coke's hartebeests
Silver jackal Rhinoceros Jackson's hartebeests
Striped hyena Crocodile Neuman's hartebeests
Spotted hyena Python Chandler's reedbuck
Fennec fox Ward's zebra Bohur reedbuck
Honey badger Grevy's zebra Beisa ox
Aardewolf Notata gazelle Fringe-eared oryx
Wart-hog Roberts' gazelle Duiker
Waterbuck Klipspringer Harvey's duiker
Sing-sing Dik-dik Greater kudu
Oribi (3 varieties) Wildebeeste Lesser kudu
Eland Roosevelt's wildebeests Sable antelope
Roan antelope Buffalo
Total, fifty-four kinds
GAME BIRDS COLLECTED
Marabout Gadwall Lesser bustard
Egret European stork Guinea fowl
Glossy ibis Quail Giant guinea fowl
Egyptian goose Sand grouse Green pigeon
White goose Francolin Blue pigeon
English snipe Spur fowl Dove (2 species)
Mallard duck Greater bustard
Total, twenty-two kinds
For the benefit of the sportsman and gun crank who want plain
facts and no flapdoodle, the following statistics are offered. To the
lay reader this inclusion will be incomprehensible; but I know my gun
crank as I am one myself!
Army Springfield, model 1903 to take the 1906 cartridge, shooting
the Spitzer sharp point bullet. Stocked to suit me by Ludwig
Wundhammer, and fitted with Sheard gold bead front sight and Lyman
aperture receiver sight. With this I did most my shooting, as the
trajectory was remarkably good, and the killing power remarkable.
Tried out both the old-fashioned soft point bullets and the sharp
Spitzer bullets, but find the latter far the more effective. In fact
the paralyzing shock given by the Spitzer is almost beyond belief.
African animals are notably tenacious of life; but the Springfield
dropped nearly half the animals dead with one shot; a most unusual
record, as every sportsman will recognize. The bullets seemed on
impact always to flatten slightly at the base, the point remaining
intact-to spin widely on the axis, and to plunge off at an angle. This
action of course depended on the high velocity. The requisite
velocity, however seemed to keep up within all shooting ranges. A
kongoni I killed at 638 paces (measured), and another at 566 paces
both exhibited this action of the bullet. I mention these ranges
because I have seen the statement in print that the remaining velocity
beyond 350 yards would not be sufficient in this arm to prevent the
bullet passing through cleanly. I should also hasten to add that I do
not habitually shoot at game at the above ranges; but did so in these
two instances for the precise purpose of testing the arm. Metal
fouling did not bother me at all, though I had been led to expect
trouble from it. The weapon was always cleaned with water so boiling
hot that the heat of the barrel dried it. When occasionally flakes of
metal fouling became visible a Marble brush always sufficed to remove
enough of it. It was my habit to smear the bullets with mobilubricant
before placing them in the magazine. This was not as much of a
nuisance as it sounds. A small tin box about the size of a pill box
lasted me the whole trip; and only once did I completely empty the
magazine at one time. On my return I tested the rifle very thoroughly
for accuracy. In spite of careful cleaning the barrel was in several
places slightly corroded. For this the climate was responsible. The
few small pittings, however, did not seem in any way to have affected
the accuracy, as the rifle shot the following groups: 3-1/2 inches at
200 yards; 7-1/4 inches at 300 yards; and 11-1/2 inches at 500 yards.*
*It shot one five-shot 1-2/3 inch group at 200 yds., and several
others at all distances less than the figures given, but I am
convinced these must have been largely accidental.
These groups were not made from a machine rest, however; as none
was available. The complete record with this arm for my whole stay in
Africa was 307 hits out of 395 cartridges fired, representing 185 head
of game killed. Most of this shooting was for meat and represented
also all sorts of "varmints" as well.
The 405 Winchester. This weapon was sighted like the Springfield,
and was constantly in the field as my second gun. For lions it could
not be beaten; as it was very accurate, delivered a hard blow, and
held five cartridges. Beyond 125 to 150 yards one had to begin to
guess at distance, so for ordinary shooting I preferred the
Springfield. In thick brush country, however, where one was likely to
come suddenly on rhinoceroes, but where one wanted to be ready always
for desirable smaller game, the Winchester was just the thing. It was
short, handy, and reliable. One experience with a zebra 300-350 yards
has made me question whether at long (hunting) ranges the remaining
velocity of the big blunt nosed bullet is not seriously reduced; but
as to that I have not enough data for a final conclusion. I have no
doubt, however, that at such ranges, and beyond, the little
Springfield has more shocking power. Of course at closer ranges the
Winchester is by far the more powerful. I killed one rhinoceros with
the 405, one buffalo and one hippo; but should consider it too light
for an emergency gun against the larger dangerous animals, such as
buffalo and rhinoceros. If one has time for extreme accuracy, and can
pick the shot, it is plenty big; but I refer now to close quarters in
a hurry. I had no trouble whatever with the mechanism of this arm; nor
have I ever had trouble with any of the lever actions, although I have
used them for many years. As regards speed of fire the controversy
between the lever and bolt action advocates seems to me foolish in the
extreme. Either action can be fired faster than it should be fired in
the presence of game. It is my belief that any man, no matter how
practised or how cool, can stampede himself beyond his best accuracy
by pumping out his shots too rapidly. This is especially true in the
face of charging dangerous game. So firmly do I believe this that I
generally take the rifle from my shoulder between each shot. Even
aimed rapid fire is of no great value as compared with better aimed
slower fire. The first bullet delivers to an animal's nervous system
about all the shock it can absorb. If the beast is not thereby knocked
down and held down, subsequent shots can accomplish that desirable
result only by reaching a vital spot or by tearing tissue. As an
example of this I might instance a waterbuck into which I saw my
companion empty five heavy 465 and double 500 bullets from cordite
rifles before it fell! Thus if the game gets to its feet after the
first shock, it is true that the hunter will often empty into it six
or seven more bullets without apparent result, unless he aims
carefully for a centrally vital point. It follows that therefore a
second shot aimed with enough care to land it in that point is worth a
lot more than a half dozen delivered in three or four seconds with
only the accuracy necessary to group decently at very short range,
even if all of them hit the beast. I am perfectly aware that this view
will probably be disputed; but it is the result of considerable
experience, close observation and real interest in the game. The whole
record of the Winchester was 56 hits out of 70 cartridges fired;
representing 27 head of game.
The 465 Holland Holland double cordite rifle. This beautiful
weapon, built and balanced like a fine hammerless shotgun, was fitted
with open sights. It was of course essentially a close range emergency
gun, but was capable of accurate work at a distance. I killed one
buffalo dead with it, across a wide canyon, with the 300-yard leaf up
on the back sight. Its game list however was limited to rhinoceroses,
hippopotamuses, buffaloes and crocodiles. The recoil in spite of its
weight of twelve and one half pounds, was tremendous; but unnoticeable
when I was shooting at any of these brutes. Its total record was 31
cartridges fired with 29 hits representing 13 head of game.
The conditions militating against marksmanship are often severe.
Hard work in the tropics is not the most steadying regime in the
world, and outside a man's nerves, he is often bothered by queer
lights, and the effects of the mirage that swirls from the sun-heated
plain. The ranges, too, are rather long. I took the trouble to pace
out about every kill, and find that antelope in the plains averaged
245 yards; with a maximum of 638 yards, while antelope in covered
country averaged 148 yards, with a maximum of 311.
APPENDIX IV. THE AMERICAN IN AFRICA
IN WHICH HE APPEARS AS DIFFERENT FROM THE ENGLISHMAN
It is always interesting to play the other fellow's game his way,
and then, in light of experience, to see wherein our way and his way
modify each other.
The above proposition here refers to camping. We do considerable
of it in our country, especially in our North and West. After we have
been at it for some time, we evolve a method of our own. The basis of
that method is to do without; to GO LIGHT. At first even the best of
us will carry too much plunder, but ten years of philosophy and
rainstorms, trails and trials, will bring us to an irreducible
minimum. A party of three will get along with two pack horses, say;
or, on a harder trip, each will carry the necessities on his own back.
To take just as little as is consistent with comfort is to play the
game skilfully. Any article must pay in use for its transportation.
With this ideal deeply ingrained by the test of experience, the
American camper is appalled by the caravan his British cousins
consider necessary for a trip into the African back country. His said
cousin has, perhaps, very kindly offered to have his outfit ready for
him when he arrives. He does arrive to find from one hundred to one
hundred and fifty men gathered as his personal attendants.
"Great Scot!" he cries, "I want to go camping; I don't want to
invade anybody's territory. Why the army?"
He discovers that these are porters, to carry his effects.
"What effects?" he demands, bewildered. As far as he knows, he has
two guns, some ammunition, and a black tin box, bought in London, and
half-filled with extra clothes, a few medicines, a thermometer, and
some little personal knick-knacks. He has been wondering what else he
is going to put in to keep things from rattling about. Of course he
expected besides these to take along a little plain grub, and some
blankets, and a frying pan and kettle or so.
The English friend has known several Americans, so he explains
"I know this seems foolish to you," he says, "but you must
remember you are under the equator and you must do things differently
here. As long as you keep fit you are safe; but if you get run down a
bit you'll go. You've got to do yourself well, down here, rather
better than you have to in any other climate. You need all the comfort
you can get; and you want to save yourself all you can."
This has a reasonable sound and the American does not yet know the
game. Recovering from his first shock, he begins to look things over.
There is a double tent, folding camp chair, folding easy chair,
folding table, wash basin, bath tub, cot, mosquito curtains, clothes
hangers; there are oil lanterns, oil carriers, two loads of mysterious
cooking utensils and cook camp stuff; there is an open fly, which his
friend explains is his dining tent; and there are from a dozen to
twenty boxes standing in a row, each with its padlock. "I didn't go in
for luxury," apologizes the English friend. "Of course we can easily
add anything you want but I remember you wrote me that you wanted to
"What are those?" our American inquires, pointing to the locked
He learns that they are chop boxes, containing food and supplies.
At this he rises on his hind legs and paws the air.
"Food!" he shrieks. "Why, man alive, I'm alone, and I am only
going to be out three months! I can carry all I'll ever eat in three
months in one of those boxes."
But the Englishman patiently explains. You cannot live on "bacon
and beans" in this country, so to speak. You must do yourself rather
well, you know, to keep in condition. And you cannot pack food in
bags, it must be tinned. And then, of course, such things as your
sparklet siphons and lime juice require careful packing-and your
"Champagne," breathes the American in awestricken tones.
"Exactly, dear boy, an absolute necessity. After a touch of sun
there's nothing picks you up better than a mouthful of fizz. It's
used as a medicine, not a drink, you understand."
The American reflects again that this is the other fellow's game,
and that the other fellow has been playing it for some time, and that
he ought to know. But he cannot yet see why the one hundred and fifty
men. Again the Englishman explains. There is the Headman to run the
show. Correct: we need him. Then there are four askaris. What are
they? Native soldiers. No, you won't be fighting anything; but they
keep the men going, and act as sort of sub-foremen in bossing the
complicated work. Next is your cook, and your own valet and that of
your horse. Also your two gunbearers.
"Hold on!" cries our friend. "I have only two guns, and I'm going
to carry one myself."
But this, he learns, is quite impossible. It is never done. It is
absolutely necessary, in this climate, to avoid all work.
That makes how many? Ten already, and there seem to be three tent
loads, one bed load, one chair and table load, one lantern load, two
miscellaneous loads, two cook loads, one personal box, and fifteen
chop boxes-total twenty-six, plus the staff, as above, thirty-six. Why
all the rest of the army?
Very simple: these thirty-six men have, according to regulation,
seven tents, and certain personal effects, and they must have "potio"
or a ration of one and a half pounds per diem. These things must be
carried by more men.
"I see," murmurs the American, crushed, "and these more men have
more tents and more potio, which must also be carried. It's like the
House that Jack Built."
So our American concludes still once again that the other fellow
knows his own game, and starts out. He learns he has what is called a
"modest safari"; and spares a fleeting wonder as to what a really
elaborate safari must be. The procession takes the field. He soon sees
the value of the four askaris-the necessity of whom he has secretly
doubted. Without their vigorous seconding the headman would have a
hard time indeed. Also, when he observes the labour of tent-making,
packing, washing, and general service performed by his tent boy, he
abandons the notion that that individual could just as well take care
of the horse as well, especially as the horse has to have all his
grass cut and brought to him. At evening our friend has a hot bath, a
long cool fizzly drink of lime juice and soda; he puts on the clean
clothes laid out for him, assumes soft mosquito boots, and sits down
to dinner. This is served to him in courses, and on enamel ware. Each
course has its proper-sized plate and cutlery. He starts with soup,
goes down through tinned whitebait or other fish, an entree, a roast,
perhaps a curry, a sweet, and small coffee. He is certainly being
"done well," and he enjoys the comfort of it.
There comes a time when he begins to wonder a little. It is all
very pleasant, of course, and perhaps very necessary; they all tell
him it is. But, after all, it is a little galling to the average man
to think that of him. Your Englishman doesn't mind that; he enjoys
being taken care of: but the sportsman of American training likes to
stand on his own feet as far as he is able and conditions permit.
Besides, it is expensive. Besides that, it is a confounded nuisance,
especially when potio gives out and more must be sought, near or far.
Then, if he is wise, he begins to do a little figuring on his own
My experience was very much as above. Three of us went out for
eleven weeks with what was considered a very "modest" safari indeed.
It comprised one hundred and eighteen men. My fifth and last trip,
also with two companions, was for three months. Our personnel
consisted, all told, forty men.
In essentials the Englishman is absolutely right. One cannot camp
in Africa as one would at home. The experimenter would be dead in a
month. In his application of that principle, however, he seems to the
American point of view to overshoot. Let us examine his proposition in
terms of the essentials-food, clothing, shelter. There is no doubt but
that a man must keep in top condition as far as possible; and that, to
do so, he must have plenty of good food. He can never do as we do on
very hard trips at home: take a little tea, sugar, coffee, flour,
salt, oatmeal. But on the other hand, he certainly does not need a
five-course dinner every night, nor a complete battery of cutlery,
napery and table ware to eat it from. Flour, sugar, oatmeal, tea and
coffee, rice, beans, onions, curry, dried fruits, a little bacon, and
some dehydrated vegetables will do him very well indeed-with what he
can shoot. These will pack in waterproof bags very comfortably. In
addition to feeding himself well, he finds he must not sleep next to
the ground, he must have a hot bath every day, but never a cold one,
and he must shelter himself with a double tent against the sun.
Those are the absolute necessities of the climate. In other words,
if he carries a double tent, a cot, a folding bath; and gives a little
attention to a properly balanced food supply, he has met the
If, in addition, he takes canned goods, soda siphons, lime juice,
easy chairs and all the rest of the paraphernalia, he is merely using
a basic principle as an excuse to include sheer luxuries. In further
extenuation of this he is apt to argue that porters are cheap, and
that it costs but little more to carry these extra comforts. Against
this argument, of course, I have nothing to say. It is the inalienable
right of every man to carry all the luxuries he wants. My point is
that the average American sportsman does not want them, and only takes
them because he is overpersuaded that these things are not luxuries,
but necessities. For, mark you, he could take the same things into
the Sierras or the North-by paying; but he doesn't.
I repeat, it is the inalienable right of any man to travel as
luxuriously as he pleases. But by the same token it is not his right
to pretend that luxuries are necessities. That is to put himself into
the same category with the man who always finds some other excuse for
taking a drink than the simple one that he wants it.
The Englishman's point of view is that he objects to "pigging it,"
as he says. "Pigging it" means changing your home habits in any way.
If you have been accustomed to eating your sardines after a meal, and
somebody offers them to you first, that is "pigging it." In other
words, as nearly as I can make out, "pigging it" does not so much mean
doing things in an inadequate fashion as DOING THEM DIFFERENTLY.
Therefore, the Englishman in the field likes to approximate as closely
as may be his life in town, even if it takes one hundred and fifty men
to do it. Which reduces the "pigging it" argument to an attempt at
condemnation by calling names.
The American temperament, on the contrary, being more experimental
and independent, prefers to build anew upon its essentials. Where the
Englishman covers the situation blanket-wise with his old
institutions, the American prefers to construct new institutions on
the necessities of the case. He objects strongly to being taken care
of too completely. He objects strongly to losing the keen enjoyment of
overcoming difficulties and enduring hardships. The Englishman by
habit and training has no such objections. He likes to be taken care
of, financially, personally, and everlastingly. That is his ideal of
life. If he can be taken care of better by employing three hundred
porters and packing eight tin trunks of personal effects-as I have
seen it done-he will so employ and take. That is all right: he likes
But the American does not like it. A good deal of the fun for him
is in going light, in matching himself against his environment. It is
no fun to him to carry his complete little civilization along with
him, laboriously. If he must have cotton wool, let it be as little
cotton wool as possible. He likes to be comfortable; but he likes to
be comfortable with the minimum of means. Striking just the proper
balance somehow adds to his interest in the game. And how he DOES
object to that ever-recurring thought-that he is such a helpless
mollusc that it requires a small regiment to get him safely around the
Both means are perfectly legitimate, of course; and neither view
is open to criticism. All either man is justified in saying is that
he, personally, wouldn't get much fun out of doing it the other way.
As a matter of fact, human nature generally goes beyond its
justifications and is prone to criticise. The Englishman waxes a
trifle caustic on the subject of "pigging it"; and the American
indulges in more than a bit of sarcasm on the subject of "being led
about Africa like a dog on a string."
By some such roundabout mental process as the above the American
comes to the conclusion that he need not necessarily adopt the other
fellow's method of playing this game. His own method needs
modification, but it will do. He ventures to leave out the tables and
easy chair, takes a camp stool and eats off a chop box. To the best of
his belief his health does not suffer from this. He gets on with a
camper's allowance of plate, cup and cutlery, and so cuts out a load
and a half of assorted kitchen utensils and table ware. He even does
without a tablecloth and napkins! He discards the lime juice and
siphons, and purchases a canvas evaporation bag to cool the water. He
fires one gunbearer, and undertakes the formidable physical feat of
carrying one of his rifles himself. And, above all, he modifies that
grub list. The purchase of waterproof bags gets rid of a lot of tin:
the staple groceries do quite as well as London fancy stuff. Golden
syrup takes the place of all the miscellaneous jams, marmalades and
other sweets. The canned goods go by the board. He lays in a stock of
dried fruit. At the end, he is possessed of a grub list but little
different from that of his Rocky Mountain trips. Some few items he has
cut down; and some he has substituted; but bulk and weight are the
same. For his three months' trip he has four or five chop boxes all
And then suddenly he finds that thus he has made a reduction all
along the line. Tent load, two men; grub and kitchen, five men;
personal, one man; bed, one man; miscellaneous, one or two. There is
now no need for headmen and askaris to handle this little lot. Twenty
more to carry food for the men-he is off with a quarter of the number
of his first "modest safari."
You who are sportsmen and are not going to Africa, as is the case
with most, will perhaps read this, because we are always interested
in how the other fellow does it. To the few who are intending an
exploration of the dark continent this concentration of a year's
experience may be valuable. Remember to sleep off the ground, not to
starve yourself, to protect yourself from the sun, to let negroes do
all hard work but marching and hunting. Do these things your own way,
using your common-sense on how to get at it. You'll be all right.
That, I conceive, covers the case. The remainder of your equipment
has to do with camp affairs, and merely needs listing. The question
here is not of the sort to get, but of what to take. The tents,
cooking affairs, etc., are well adapted to the country. In selecting
your tent, however, you will do very well to pick out one whose
veranda fly reaches fairly to the ground, instead of stopping halfway.
1 tent and ground sheet
1 folding cot and cork mattress,
1 pillow, 3 single blankets
1 combined folding bath and ashstand ("X" brand)
1 camp stool
3 folding candle lanterns
1 gallon turpentine
3 lbs. alum
1 river rope
Sail needles and twine
3 pangas (native tools for chopping and digging)
Cook outfit (select these yourself, and cut out the extras)
2 axes (small)
Plenty laundry soap
10 yards cotton cloth ("Mericani")
These things, your food, your porters' outfits and what trade
goods you may need are quite sufficient. You will have all you want,
and not too much. If you take care of yourself, you ought to keep in
good health. Your small outfit permits greater mobility than does that
of the English cousin, infinitely less nuisance and expense.
Furthermore, you feel that once more you are "next to things," instead
of "being led about Africa like a dog on a string."
APPENDIX V. THE AMERICAN IN AFRICA
WHAT HE SHOULD TAKE
Before going to Africa I read as many books as I could get hold of
on the subject, some of them by Americans. In every case the authors
have given a chapter detailing the necessary outfit. Invariably they
have followed the Englishman's ideas almost absolutely. Nobody has
ventured to modify those ideas in any essential manner. Some have
deprecatingly ventured to remark that it is as well to leave out the
tinned carfare-if you do not like carfare; but that is as far as they
care to go. The lists are those of the firms who make a business of
equipping caravans. The heads of such firms are generally old African
travellers. They furnish the equipment their customers demand; and as
English sportsmen generally all demand the same thing, the firms end
by issuing a printed list of essentials for shooting parties in
Africa, including carfare. Travellers follow the lists blindly, and
later copy them verbatim into their books. Not one has thought to
empty out the whole bag of tricks, to examine them in the light of
reason, and to pick out what a man of American habits, as contrasted
to one of English habits, would like to have. This cannot be done a
priori; it requires the test of experience to determine how to meet,
in our own way, the unusual demands of climate and conditions.
And please note, when the heads of these equipment firms, these
old African travellers, take the field for themselves, they pay no
attention whatever to their own printed lists of "essentials."
Now, premising that the English sportsman has, by many years'
experience, worked out just what he likes to take into the field; and
assuring you solemnly that his ideas are not in the least the ideas of
American sportsman, let us see if we cannot do something for
At present the American has either to take over in toto the
English idea, which is not adapted to him, and is-TO HIM-a nuisance,
or to go it blind, without experience except that acquired in a
temperate climate, which is dangerous. I am not going to copy out the
English list again, even for comparison. I have not the space; and if
curious enough, you can find it in any book on modern African travel.
Of course I realize well that few Americans go to Africa; but I also
realize well that the sportsman is a crank, a wild and eager
enthusiast over items of equipment anywhere. He-and I am thinking
emphatically of him-would avidly devour the details of the proper
outfit for the gentle art of hunting the totally extinct whiffenpoof.
Let us begin, first of all, with:
Personal Equipment Clothes. On the top of your head you must have
a sun helmet. Get it of cork, not of pith. The latter has a habit of
melting unobtrusively about your ears when it rains. A helmet in brush
is the next noisiest thing to a circus band, so it is always well to
have, also, a double terai. This is not something to eat. It is a wide
felt hat, and then another wide felt hat on top of that. The
vertical-rays-of-the-tropical-sun (pronounced as one word to save time
after you have heard and said it a thousand times) are supposed to get
tangled and lost somewhere between the two hats. It is not, however, a
good contraption to go in all day when the sun is strong.
As underwear you want the lightest Jaeger wool. Doesn't sound well
for tropics, but it is an essential. You will sweat enough anyway,
even if you get down to a brass wire costume like the natives. It is
when you stop in the shade, or the breeze, or the dusk of evening,
that the trouble comes. A chill means trouble, SURE. Two extra suits
are all you want. There is no earthly sense in bringing more. Your
tent boy washes them out whenever he can lay hands on them-it is one
of his harmless manias.
Your shirt should be of the thinnest brown flannel. Leather the
shoulders, and part way down the upper arm, with chamois. This is to
protect your precious garment against the thorns when you dive through
them. On the back you have buttons sewed wherewith to attach a spine
pad. Before I went to Africa I searched eagerly for information or
illustration of a spine pad. I guessed what it must be for, and to an
extent what it must be like, but all writers maintained a conservative
reticence as to the thing itself. Here is the first authorized
description. A spine pad is a quilted affair in consistency like the
things you are supposed to lift hot flat-irons with. On the outside it
is brown flannel, like the shirt; on the inside it is a gaudy orange
colour. The latter is not for aesthetic effect, but to intercept
actinic rays. It is eight or ten inches wide, is shaped to button
close up under your collar, and extends halfway down your back. In
addition it is well to wear a silk handkerchief around the neck; as
the spine and back of the head seem to be the most vulnerable to the
For breeches, suit yourself as to material. It will have to be
very tough, and of fast colour. The best cut is the "semi-riding,"
loose at the knees, which should be well faced with soft leather, both
for crawling, and to save the cloth in grass and low brush. One pair
ought to last four months, roughly speaking. You will find a thin pair
of ordinary khaki trousers very comfortable as a change for wear about
camp. In passing I would call your attention to "shorts." Shorts are
loose, bobbed off khaki breeches, like knee drawers. With them are
worn puttees or leather leggings, and low boots. The knees are bare.
They are much affected by young Englishmen. I observed them carefully
at every opportunity, and my private opinion is that man has rarely
managed to invent as idiotically unfitted a contraption for the
purpose in hand. In a country teeming with poisonous insects, ticks,
fever-bearing mosquitoes; in a country where vegetation is unusually
well armed with thorns, spines and hooks, mostly poisonous; in a
country where, oftener than in any other a man is called upon to get
down on his hands and knees and crawl a few assorted abrading miles,
it would seem an obvious necessity to protect one's bare skin as much
as possible. The only reason given for these astonishing garments is
that they are cooler and freer to walk in. That I can believe. But
they allow ticks and other insects to crawl up, mosquitoes to bite,
thorns to tear, and assorted troubles to enter. And I can vouch by
experience that ordinary breeches are not uncomfortably hot or tight.
Indeed, one does not get especially hot in the legs anyway. I noticed
that none of the old-time hunters like Cuninghame or Judd wore shorts.
The real reason is not that they are cool, but that they are
picturesque. Common belief to the contrary, your average practical,
matter-of-fact Englishman loves to dress up. I knew one engaged in
farming-picturesque farming-in our own West, who used to appear at
afternoon tea in a clean suit of blue overalls! It is a harmless
amusement. Our own youths do it, also, substituting chaps for shorts,
perhaps. I am not criticising the spirit in them; but merely trying to
keep mistaken shorts off you.
For leg gear I found that nothing could beat our American
combination of high-laced boots and heavy knit socks. Leather
leggings are noisy, and the rolled puttees hot and binding. Have your
boots ten or twelve inches high, with a flap to buckle over the tie of
the laces, with soles of the mercury-impregnated leather called "elk
hide," and with small Hungarian hobs. Your tent boy will grease these
every day with "dubbin," of which you want a good supply. It is not my
intention to offer free advertisements generally, but I wore one pair
of boots all the time I was in Africa, through wet, heat, and long,
long walking. They were in good condition when I gave them away
finally, and had not started a stitch. They were made by that
excellent craftsman, A. A. Cutter, of Eau Claire, Wis., and he
deserves and is entirely welcome to this puff. Needless to remark, I
have received no especial favours from Mr. Cutter.
Six pairs of woollen socks, knit by hand, if possible-will be
enough. For evening, when you come in, I know nothing better than a
pair of very high moosehide moccasins. They should, however, be
provided with thin soles against the stray thorn, and should reach
well above the ankle by way of defence against the fever mosquito.
That festive insect carries on a surreptitious guerrilla warfare low
down. The English "mosquito boot" is simply an affair like a riding
boot, made of suede leather, with thin soles. It is most comfortable.
My objection is that it is unsubstantial and goes to pieces in a very
brief time even under ordinary evening wear about camp.
You will also want a coat. In American camping I have always
maintained the coat is a useless garment. There one does his own work
to a large extent. When at work or travel the coat is in the way. When
in camp the sweater or buckskin shirt is handier, and more easily
carried. In Africa, however, where the other fellow does most of the
work, a coat is often very handy. Do not make the mistake of getting
an unlined light-weight garment. When you want it at all, you want it
warm and substantial. Stick on all the pockets possible, and have them
For wet weather there is nothing to equal a long and voluminous
cape. Straps crossing the chest and around the waist permit one to
throw it off the shoulders to shoot. It covers the hands, the
rifle-most of the little horses or mules one gets out there. One can
sleep in or on it, and it is a most effective garment against heavy
winds. One suit of pajamas is enough, considering your tent boy's
commendable mania for laundry work. Add handkerchiefs and you are
You will wear most of the above, and put what remains in your
"officer's box." This is a thin steel, air-tight affair with a wooden
bottom, and is the ticket for African work.
Sporting. Pick out your guns to suit yourself. You want a light
one and a heavy one.
When I came to send out my ammunition, I was forced again to take
the other fellow's experience. I was told by everybody that I should
bring plenty, that it was better to have too much than too little,
etc. I rather thought so myself, and accordingly shipped a trifle over
1,500 rounds of small bore cartridges. Unfortunately, I never got into
the field with any of my numerous advisers on this point, so cannot
state their methods from first-hand information. Inductive reasoning
leads me to believe that they consider it unsportsmanlike to shoot at
a standing animal at all, or at one running nearer than 250 yards.
Furthermore, it is etiquette to continue firing until the last cloud
of dust has died down on the distant horizon. Only thus can I conceive
of getting rid of that amount of ammunition. In eight months of steady
shooting, for example-shooting for trophies, as well as to feed a
safari of fluctuating numbers, counting jackals, marabout and such
small trash-I got away with 395 rounds of small bore ammunition and
about 100 of large. This accounted for 225 kills. That should give one
an idea. Figure out how many animals you are likely to want for ANY
purpose, multiply by three, and bring that many cartridges.
To carry these cartridges I should adopt the English system of a
stout leather belt on which you slip various sized pockets and loops
to suit the occasion. Each unit has loops for ten cartridges. You
rarely want more than that; and if you do, your gunbearer is supplied.
In addition to the loops, you have leather pockets to carry your
watch; your money, your matches and tobacco, your compass-anything you
please. They are handy and safe. The tropical climate is too "sticky"
to get much comfort, or anything else, out of ordinary pockets.
In addition, you supply your gunbearer with a cartridge belt, a
leather or canvas carrying bag, water bottle for him and for
yourself, a sheath knife and a whetstone. In the bag are your camera,
tape line, the whetstone, field cleaners and lunch. You personally
carry your field glasses, sun glasses, a knife, compass, matches,
police whistle and notebook. The field glasses should not be more than
six power; and if possible you should get the sort with detachable
prisms. The prisms are apt to cloud in a tropical climate, and the
non-detachable sort are almost impossible for a layman to clean. Hang
these glasses around your neck by a strap only just long enough to
permit you to raise them to your eyes. The best notebook is the
"loose-leaf" sort. By means of this you can keep always a fresh leaf
on top; and at night can transfer your day's notes to safe keeping in
your tin box. The sun glasses should not be smoked or dark-you can do
nothing with them-but of the new amberol, the sort that excludes the
ultra-violet rays, but otherwise makes the world brighter and gayer.
Spectacle frames of non-corrosive white metal, not steel, are the
To clean your guns you must supply plenty of oil, and then some
more. The East African gunbearer has a quite proper and gratifying,
but most astonishing horror for a suspicion of rust; and to use oil
any faster he would have to drink it.
Other Equipment. All this has taken much time to tell about, it
has not done much toward filling up that tin box. Dump in your toilet
effects and a bath towel, two or three scalpels for taxidermy, a ball
of string, some safety-pins, a small tool kit, sewing materials, a
flask of brandy, kodak films packed in tin, a boxed thermometer, an
aneroid (if you are curious as to elevations), journal, tags for
labelling trophies, a few yards of gun cloth, and the medicine kit.
The latter divides into two classes: for your men and for
yourself. The men will suffer from certain well defined troubles:
"tumbo," or overeating; diarrhaea, bronchial colds, fever and various
small injuries. For "tumbo" you want a liberal supply of Epsom's
salts; for diarrhaea you need chlorodyne; any good expectorant for the
colds; quinine for the fever; permanganate and plenty of bandages for
the injuries. With this lot you can do wonders. For yourself you need,
or may need, in addition, a more elaborate lot: Laxative, quinine,
phenacetin, bismuth and soda, bromide of ammonium, morphia,
camphor-ice, and asperin. A clinical thermometer for whites and one
for blacks should be included. A tin of malted milk is not a bad thing
to take as an emergency ration after fever.
By this time your tin box is fairly well provided. You may turn to